Book recommendation: American Sour Beers

As the interest in homebrewing has bloomed Internet discussion boards have turned into a (at least sometimes) valuable tool. That’s certainly true in Brazil. However, regulars in these groups can get bored answering the same newbie questions time after time. As a result some of them have taking to replying to questions asked the eighth, ninth and fifty-third times they are asked by typing, “Read the $#@&*% Palmer.”

Ronaldo Dutra Ferreira explained that the quote was created and posted in English as something of an inside joke for those who have leaned heavily on the book from Brewers Publications, of course including John Palmer’s “How to Brew.”

This story is funnier when you are riding in a van full of Brazilian homebrewers, who use the phrase often with the expected expletive rather than keyboard symbols, and John Palmer is in the backseat. But I’ve got another point. I often receive questions about brewing sour beers, generally ones that are above my level of expertise. I am delighted that although the premise is different — in this case, not referring to questions I find simple and repetitive, but ones that should be answered by somebody who knows what he is talking about — that now I can reply, “Read the $#&*% Tonsmire.”

Michael Tonsmire has written a book — “American Sour Beers” — that somebody who knew better probably wouldn’t have attempted. The subject is dynamic, which can be a bit terrifying. But “American Sours” is wonderfully complete, both the way Tonsmire presents the process involved in conjuring up such beers, the science behind them, and the number of breweries, each of them taking a slightly different approach.

Here’s an example of one of many charts, this one detailing the production of Cambridge Cerise Cassée (one of my favorite beers):

Cambridge Brewing souring process

“Wild Brews” remains an essential resource for those interested in wild or sour beers, but “American Sour Beers” basically picks up where it left off (in 2005).

Want a better idea of the scope of the book? Read the table of contents. It is a “complete guide,” well organized, easy to read, and — I’m going to have to consider another job if I keep typing this — another book I wish I’d written.

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Stone & place; Grodziskie & poppycock


Based only on what I read in the blogs I subscribe to and my Twitter feed Stone Brewing’s crowdfunding campaign was the worst idea since Miller Lite (Exhibit 1: Crowd-Funded Brewery Campaigns Are Bullshit; Exhibit 2: On Rich and Successful People Wanting Free Money). I didn’t see a whole lot positive, except for the very basic fact that plenty of people are happily signing up for the Stone program.

I’m more interested in the potential impact of Stone’s brewery in Berlin — if and how Stone’s presence changes beer in Germany and Europe, and if and how Stone’s beers change when they are brewed in an entirely different geographical and cultural place. Better to wait and see rather than guess.

Craft Breweries Scale Up But Keep It Real. This Wall Street Journal article blurs the facts here and there, but ventures into total bullshit when referring to a collaboration beer produced by New Belgium Brewing and 3 Floyds Brewing: “Their latest joint effort resuscitated a once-forgotten wheat beer called Grätzer, introducing drinkers to an ancient style and an unfamiliar brewer at the same time.” Poppycock. Polish homebrewers deserve credit for reviving Grodziskie (Grätzer is German name). That the article overlooks the fact the collaboration differs in character from traditional Grodziskie in several different ways isn’t what bugs me the most. It’s the insinuation that “America craft beer will save the world.”

[Via The Wall Street Journal]

The (Non) Beer Bubble, Part Deux. Interesting math and some smart thinking from Bart Watson at the Brewers Association. What it doesn’t address — hey, it’s not his job — is the aspirations of these brewery owners, if their business plans are realistic. I’d ramble on, but we’re in Oregon right now, part of summer travel that has included visiting schools our daughter, Sierra, might want to attend. Were I much younger and thinking about starting a brewery (I’m never going to be again and I’m not about to) then paying college tuition x number of years down the road would be part of the equation. I’m not sure it is for many of these Sierra Nevada wannabes.

[Via the Brewers Association]

Governor Cuomo Announces Formation of NY Craft Brewer Workgroup. Here’s one paragraph from the press release: “The workgroup will help coordinate and improve communication between all segments of the craft brew industry and state government. Members will also work together to identify emerging needs, including research on new varieties of hops and barley, production methods and consumer trends; as well as making sure that the state has the infrastructure in place for this growing industry.” Promising.

[Via a press release.]

Second thoughts on the mysterious origins of AK. Your beer history fix of the week.

[Via Zythophile (Martyn Cornell)]

Bootleg Biology’s “Chief Yeast Wrangler” Talks Delicious Science. Meet Jeff Mello. Your beer geek fix of the week.

[Via Epicurious]

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Friday beer: Peach Pie Heffy

Peach Pie Heffy from Laht Neppur Brewing was not the best beer I sampled Wednesday at the Oregon Brewers Festival, but it was worth thinking about and a perfectly pleasant three-ounce experience.

In fact, it does taste like peach pie, with a bit of crust — reminiscent of Key Lime Pie from Short’s Brewing. Jeff Alworth said it didn’t taste like beer. I understand his thinking but I suspect that the underlying beer character — mouthfeel, some balancing non-sweetness from hops and fermentation byproducts — helped make it something I was happy that I tried.

Jeff said that he and his friends, who gather annually for the OBF experience as much as the beer and mostly avoid overthinking beer, had once played a game where they’d get a sample and then classify it as “beer” or “not beer.” Those conversations are not uncommon at OBF.

I amused myself a while Wednesday by eavesdropping on people discussing Peach Pie Heffy or just thinking about trying it.

“Oooh, that sounds gross.”

“Those guys make some good beers. They should have brought one of those.”

“This would be good on a hot day.” (It was pouring rain at the time.)

Beer? Not beer? I guess it depends who you ask.


Related post: Shock Top Twisted Pretzel Wheat.

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When cultures collide

About to order a beer at Festival Birofilia

Meant to post this photo taken last month at Festiwal Birofilia in Zywiec right after returning home from Poland, but failed.

It was a hoot eavesdropping on the conversation, all in Polish and pretty much none of which I understood except the part where the person selling beer tried to teach this fellow how to say “ee-pa.”

The look on his face after he tried the beer suggested he wished he’d made another choice.

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Beer history according to John Laffler


Guinness, Pilsner Urquell and the beer spectrum. Chris Hall writes, “On some imaginary sliding scale of corporateness and craftness, with Guinness at the corporate end, and a microbrewery that started yesterday at the craft end, Pilsner perhaps sits closer to, say, Sierra Nevada or Brooklyn Brewery.” In the comments section, the discussion is about Guinness and PU, rather than the question I think Alan McLeod would ask: Where do Sierra Nevada and Brooklyn Brewery sit on that scale?”

[Via The Beer Diary]

Part of a balanced diet. Inspired in part by a thought from the afformentioned Mr. McLeod, Boak & Bailey suggest components for a healthy beer market: a broad choice of good quality “normal” beers; some cheap-but-drinkable beers for those on a budget; and on the fringes, some weird stuff for special occasions and novelty-seekers. Much discussion follows.

[Via Boak & Bailey's Beer Blog]

“Are these beers not ultimately the wolf in sheep’s clothing?” “Craft versus crafty” — German style.

Via Berlin Craft Beer

What do we really taste when we drink wine? Or drink orange juice, or taste strawberries, or taste peaches, or drink beer? Lots to think about:

Expectations, argued the neuroscientists Lauren Atlas and Tor Wager in a recent review, can influence our experience in two interrelated ways. There is the conscious influence, or those things we are knowingly aware of: I’ve had this wine before and liked or hated it; I’ve been to this vineyard; I love this grape; the color reminds me of a wine I had earlier that was delicious. As our experience grows, so do our expectations. Every time we have a wine, we taste everything we know about it and other related wines. Then there are the unconscious factors: the weather is getting on our nerves, or our dining companion is; we’ve loved or hated this restaurant before; I’m mad at my boss over something he said this morning; the music is too loud, and the room is too cold. These can all affect taste, too, even though they are unrelated to the wine itself.

[Via The New Yorker]

“Genuineness will be the next crisis in craft brewing.” Several quotes from John Laffler (Off Color Brewing) showed up in my Twitter feed last week, including “Everybody else makes IPA, so why would we?” He had a lot to say in a two-part interview [Part I - Part II]. Not wandering down the slippery genuineness/authenticity slope today, and instead musing on just how much fun Laffler had saying sometimes outlandish things that ended up verbatim in print. So much for fact checking.

Witbier, for example, was a near-extinct beer in the 70s until Pierre Celis thought, ‘This beer tastes good, why isn’t anybody else making it?’ and started making Blue Moon. Now Hoegaarden makes how many millions of barrels a year?

[Via The Chicago Reader]

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