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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 beerterroir@gmail.com.

So for starters, uniquely American beers:

Choc
* Classic American Pilsner
Steam
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:

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

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Hops: Now you see them, now you don’t

No, this post is not about the impending, or not impending, hop shortage. One of the reasons I went to Michigan over the Labor Day weekend was to see the three-level drying system at Hop Head Farms in action. As far as I know it is the only German-style one being used in the United States.

Not every farm in Germany employs this system (some have belt dryers, more common in the Czech Republic), but it works well on smaller farms. The average farm size in Germany is about 34 acres, compared to more than 500 acres in the American Northwest, and considerably more in the Yakima Valley. (Roy Farms and Wyckoff Farms each grow hops on more than 3,500 acres, each producing more hops than all but four countries.) The first two levels of the kiln have louvered floors, so hops drop from one level to the next. Fresh hops are loaded onto the top tier (shown in the video) each time that dry hops are removed from the bottom tier (a drawer that pulls out).

German hop kiln
Illustration courtesy of The German Hop Research Center Hüll

The drying system at Hop Head can process about 80 to 100 acres a harvest season (Jeff and Bonnie Steinman have 30 acres on their property and will dry about another 30 acres of hops for other farmers, so it will be another season before Jeff can be certain about the capacity). Kilns are much different in the Northwest, where farmers may process 100 acres in a day. They are basically giant sheds with multiple sections, called floors.

Yakima Valley hop kiln

Hops are spread 8 to 14 inches deep in the German system, 24 to 36 inches deep in the U.S. Heated air, forced through the bed from the bottom, dries the hops. Tom Nielsen of Sierra Nevada Brewing writes about kilning in the September issue of Beer Advocate and the new attention on preserving the quality and quantity of essential oils for brewers, and ultimately beer drinkers. Bitch all you want about the IPA-ing of America, but this emphasis is improving the quality of hops used in all beers.

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How do I ‘adopt’ a row of hops?

Top photo from Oregon, bottom one from England (via Twitter). Goschie Farms is a prominent hop grower in the Willamette Valley, supporting its community in a variety of ways. As noted just yesterday, British hop acreage has long been shrinking. It will take the support of the British brewing community to change that.

Goschie Farms 'Adopt-A-Road'


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Session #91 wrapped up, #92 announced

The SessionTwenty-four beer bloggers from 6 different countries and 3 different continents participated in The Session #91: My First Belgian. Breandán Kearney at Belgian Smaak has the roundup.

And host Jeremy Short has announced the theme for The Session #92: “I Made This.” “The idea of this session is how making something changes your relationship with it,” he explains. “For example, when I first started homebrewing I wasn’t a big fan of lagers. After learning to brew I realized how complex and particular lagers were and I came to love them because of that.” This theme is particularly homebrewer friendly, although Short doesn’t want to make it exclusive. Here are a few of his suggestions.

For the homebrewer:

– How did homebrewing change your view of beer? Do you like beers now that you didn’t before? Do you taste beer differently? Does homebrewing turn you into a pretentious asshole?

For the I only homebrewed once crowd:

– What was the experience like? Did you enjoy it? Hate it? Did you think about beer differently afterwards.

For the I have never homebrewed crowd:

– Maybe you had an experience at a brewery you would like to share? Maybe your toured a brewery and learned and experienced the making of beer that impacted the way you think of beer? Or maybe you’ve brewed in a professional setting?

For the I hate homebrewing crowd:

– Why? Why do you hate us so?

Session #92 is schedule for Oct. 3.

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