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Beer made by walking: Indigenous?

Scratch Brewing, Ava, Illinois

The Great American Beer Festival has an “Indigenous/Regional Beers” category.1 I should have mentioned that last week when I asked for reader help in understanding what makes a beer indigenous.

I figured that out Saturday when a) Alan McLeod added a rather long comment (long enough to turn into a post of his own), and b) we hung out at Scratch Brewing after a pleasant bit of bike riding in the not-too-hilly roads around Ava, Illinois.

Foraged ingredients ready to go into Scratch Brewing beerLast year at the Great American Beer Festival founder/brewers Marika Josephson, Aaron Kleidon and Ryan Tockstein decided if they were going to return this year they would do it the “Scratch way.” They are and they are. Scratch will be pouring five beers made with foraged ingredients and without hops. They call these gruits, which could lead to a whole other discussion that is best considered another time. The point, related to last week’s question, is that they are using indigenous ingredients.

One of the beers, called 105 is made with 105 (of course) plants and funghi from the surrounding area. To brew the beer they split the ingredients into three piles, one for bittering, one for flavoring and one for aroma, mostly flowers and leaves. (Hickory leaves add bitterness and tannins. “I had to cut down a hickoy tree that day,” Kleidon said.) The beer was fermented with Perennial Ales house yeast (technically one of their house strains, I guess), itself sourced from a Belgian saison brewery. I’ll keep the tasting note short: nicely balanced, well integrated, good. And spicy.

They’ll also be serving it at the Beer Made By Walking Festival on Oct. 3 at Wynkoop Brewing (so Friday afternoon, before the GABF evening session). It appears that tickets are still avaiable. Eric Steen, who teaches art at Portland State University and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, started BMBW in Colorado Springs in 2011 (just as we were moving from New Mexico and before I could head north on I-25 to get a closer look). It’s an intriguing concept. Invites brewers to go on nature hikes and make new beers that are inspired by plants from the trail.

More than 20 of the beers at the festival were made specifically for this event from Colorado breweries that have collaborated with BMBW. They’ve also added a “foraged and indigenous” component to our festival this year. These are beers from brewers not part of the original Beers Made By Walking program that use foraged, wild, and indigenous ingredients to create “place-based beers.” The five breweries participating are Scratch, Fullsteam, Fonta Flora, Ladyface, and Wicked Weed.

The afternoon should provide a good opportunity to consider what constitutes an indigenous beer.


1 Here are the GABF guidelines: Indigenous/Regional Beers are any range of color. Clear, hazy or cloudy appearance is acceptable depending on style. Malt sweetness will vary dramatically depending on overall balance desired. Hop bitterness is very low to very high, and may be used for highlighting desired characters. This beer style commemorates combinations of ingredients and techniques adopted by or unique to a brewery’s particular region and differentiated from ingredients and techniques commonly used by brewers throughout the world. For the purpose of defining this style, uniqueness of ingredients, regional heritage, technical brewing skill, balance of character, background story defines the intent of this category. The use of hops, yeast, water, malt, or any raw grain regardless of origin does not by itself qualify beers as an Indigenous/Regional Beer. Body is variable with style. “Indigenous/Regional Beers” that are not represented elsewhere in these guidelines by a defined style could possibly be entered in such categories as Experimental, Herb & Spice, Field Beer, etc. but by choice a brewer may categorize (and enter) their beer as Indigenous/Regional Beer. Beers that represent established historical traditions should be entered in “Historical Beers” or other categories and should not be entered in Indigenous/Regional Beer category.

To allow for accurate judging the brewer must provide additional information about the entry including primarily the unique ingredients used and/
or processing which contribute to the unique qualities of the style, and information describing the beer style being emulated. This information will
help provide a basis for comparison between highly diverse entries. The information must not reveal the identity of the entering brewery. Entries not
accompanied by this information will be at a disadvantage during judging.


Ein, zwei, Oktoberfest

Cannstatter Volkfest

Oktoberfest begins in Munich on Saturday, as well as in Cincinnati, Denver, Mount Angel, Brooklyn, St. Louis and various other locations. They keep coming throughout the next month.

The photo at the top was taken in Stuttgart six years ago at Cannstatter Volkfest (imagine the Wisconsin State Fair without the agricultural displays but a lot more beer). I’ve written about it before.

The fests in Munich and Stuttgart last as long as a state fair, while those in the United States generally are a weekend affair. Bucket list versus everyday pleasure, I guess. In any event, much preferred to St. Patrick’s Day.


What if New Belgium had beat Bud Light to Crested Butte?


What Happens When Bud Light Takes Over Your Town for a Weekend. After all the hoopla before Bud Light’s “Whatever, U.S.A.” takeover of Crested Butte, Colorado, I was disappointed in the days after the event by the lack of stories about how it went (other than the one, repeated over and over, describing how hard it was for people to get flights home). But then I came across this account from a local in Vanity Fair.,

… anyone who says you can’t get drunk on light beer clearly hasn’t witnessed 1,000 twentysomethings flown from sea level to the mountains and pumped with an endless supply of cheap lager. Illuminated by blinding set lights and stumbling along streets paved in blue, partygoers had an eerie, zombie-like glow about them.

In the aftermath I remembered a story heard long ago at New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins. Kim Jordan and Jeff Lebesch seriously considered starting their brewery in Crested Butte — well known for its skiing, mountain biking, and wildflowers in the spring — rather than Fort Collins. PR director Bryan Simpson confirmed that it was once on the short list but was eliminated because shipping logistics were “challenging.” If you’ve ever driven there from just about any direction you are entitled to add an expletive before “challenging.”

But think about it. Had New Belgium located instead in Crested Butte maybe it would not have become “Whatever, U.S.A.” But of course New Belgium might not have become New Belgium.
[Via Vanity Fair]

Hegra maltøl at Granås Gård. One pleasant result last week when I solicited input on what constitutes an “indigenous beer” (and input is still welcome) was Boak & Bailey pointed me to Lars Marius Garshol’s series on farmhouse ales and I discovered that my feed reader hadn’t been collecting the latest posts from Larsblog for quite a while. I’ve had some catching up to do. This entry stands nicely on its own, but you might want to set aside some time for several of them.
[Via Larsblog]

A trip to Jester King Brewing

[Via Its Okay to be Smart]

Why pubs are a bit like bananas. Just go read it.
[Via beersoakedboy, H/T Boak & Bailey]

Bohemian Lagers of the 1880’s and 1890’s and The Ease of Misunderstanding Czech Beer. A) The numbers from Ron Pattinson, and B) and first post in a series from Jeff Alworth that, if he succeeds, will result in people throwing their hands in the air, shouting “Why am I satisfied only reading about this?” and booking a trip to the Czech Republic.
[Via Shut up About Barclay Perkins and Beervana]

Here’s How A Six-Pack Of Craft Beer Ends Up Costing $12. This is being shared all over the Internet and on the whole nicely done, giving consumers insight into why beer costs what it does. Thus I don’t want to seem like a picky curmudgeon when I point out an error of fact. However, the story suggests that large breweries use a pound of hops in each barrel they brew and mentions that craft brewers may add up to 4 pounds. Well, the Brewers Association has surveyed members and they average 1.3 pounds, and that’s one key number. More important, brewers worldwide add between 2 and 3 ounces per barrel. If they used a pound we’d be headed for a hop shortage, as Peter Venkman once said, “of biblical proportions.” (“What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor, real wrath-of-God type stuff!”)
[Via Huffington Post]

Garage science: High school teacher opens brewery. Of course this would happen in a garage in Burlington, Vermont.
[Via Burlington Free Press]


Comment about indigenous beer; win a book

Earlier this week, Boak & Bailey pointed to a couple of other posts and offered a thought and a question about “Native or Local?”

First, the thought. “It seems that native style, then, might be a more important idea than local manufacture.”

Second, the question. “Thought experiment: if you were to visit Berlin, would you feel you’d had a more authentic experience drinking American-brewed Berliner Weisse, or locally made Cascade-hopped IPA?”

Maybe it was the word “native” that caught my attention. Or the question John Holl asked about if beer were invented today was still rattling around in my head. Anyway, this is something that’s been on my mind for a while — what makes a beer indigenous and what belongs on the official indigenous beer list?

Yes, there might be a book in the works, which I’d like to help make better. So I’ve been building a bit of a list of what might be called “indigenous beers.” You can help improve it and in return you might win a book. I’ve had several show up at my door, so will reward one contributor an opportunity to pick from them.

To win, add a beer to this list. Or provide meaningful details about one of the beers already here. Or add something to the “What the heck is indigenous?” conversation. For instance: New Glarus Brewing uses the phrase “Drink Indigenous” on its logo. The brewery is Wisconsin through and through, but what does that mean for its beers?

The prize winner will be drawn from those who comment or — for those feeling shy — email suggestions to

So for starters, uniquely American beers:

* Classic American Pilsner
Kentucky Common
American colonial ales

* And then there is the question, does this beer really belong on the list?

And (this list is woefully short) the rest of the world:

Keptinis Alus
Heather ale
Eqyptian Bouza
Mesopotanium ale
African sorghum beers (there are enough perhaps they should be considered individually)


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