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From deep in the belly of craft beer


During the opening session of the Craft Brewers Conference last week Brewers Assocation board chair Gary Fish said that, at least for the week, Portland, Oregon, was the “epicenter of craft beer.” I can neither confirm nor deny that. I spent my week among the trees, specific trees as a matter of fact, because I was in information collecting mode. And, I figured out over the weekend as I tried to catch up with Twitter and Feedly, pretty disconnected from the rest of the beer world.

Amidst all the high-fiving about how terrific beer in Portland is and what a fine job the city did hosting the convention there was this:

Trying to provide context via Twitter can be maddening. My suggestion is to visit Carla Jean Lauter’s Twitter feed (@beerbabe) read through her tweets and also the replies that followed. Here’s an essential one:

And in the midst of this Heather Vandenengal added more context with “A quick note on sexism and the beer industry.”

Twenty years ago, when Daria and I first visited the Oregon Brewers Festival, that a group of brewers assembled after a day’s work to head off together to a local strip club that had scores of beers on tap was pointed to with a sense of pride. It was another sign how far ahead of the beer curve Portland was — even the strip clubs have better beer. Maybe it is because strip clubs are as much a part of the Portland culture as beer variety, but nobody seemed to be bothered that not all of us are comfortable with treating women as objects.

To be clear, this isn’t a discussion primarily about strip clubs in Portland. All About Beer provided a guide to spots to look for before CBC began. And in the midst of the conversation Lauter started there was this from @SamuraiArtist:

This is a discussion about awareness. There’s been an ongoing conversation about sexism in beer and it needs to continue. In the midst of all those tweets somebody suggested “someone will still find a reason to be upset” and that is true. But some things should be obvious. “I sell beer. I want more women to buy it. I’d like more women to feel comfortable working in my industry.” The next thought should not be “Benjamin Braddock got the girl in the end, so I’ll ask these women to join me at a strip club.”

What do these exchanges on Twitter, and in actual one-on-one conversations, tell us about this entity broadly labeled craft beer? That it is as flawed as society itself? Or that we expect to it be somehow special, less flawed?

Vandenengal wrote, “The reality is that dealing with casually and overtly sexist men who don’t respect women is something that all women of all industries and backgrounds deal with all the time, in both their personal and professional lives. It’s no different in craft beer.”

Not a cheery thought to begin Monday with, but a fact. [Via Twitter, Heather Vandenengal]

Returning to our regularly scheduled program . . .

Critical Drinking — The Craft Brewers Conference + Getting Weird — Good Beer Hunting.
Later this weeks I’ll post some thoughts from the view from 20 feet (in other words, all about hops), but if you’d like more big picture thinking (the view from 20,000 feet) start here. [Via Good Beer Hunting]

Popularity, personal tastes and beer culture.
Is it possible that “local beer cultures do not exist, that they’re only a myth; something artificially preserved for tourists and romantics?”
[Via Pivní Filosof – Beer Philosopher]

What do you really think of that wine? Ask your brain.
If you are going to call somebody a hophead, or hop head, then an MRI kind of makes senses, doesn’t it? [Via Palate Press]

Science Has Not Really Spoken (On The Study Of Big Flavor Wines).
A discussion about wine that is just as relevant to beer. [Via 1 Wine Dude]

And to finish off with a smile, back to Twitter.


Out with the corn, in with the hops

You likely don’t remember, but the top photo first appeared here in September of 2014, when I spotted corn growing where god obviously meant for there to be hops. It is a field near the entrance to Mount Angel Abbey in Oregon.

The second photo is what that field looked like yesterday, almost ready for hops to pop up from the soil climb to the top of the 18-foot trellises. String has been strung throughout much of the Willamette Valley. The string is apparent in the photo at the bottom, taken from the north end of the hop field looking back toward the monastery.

Hop fields, Mount Angel, Oregon

Hop fields, Mount Angel, Oregon

Preparing hop yard for a new season, Mount Angel, Oregon


Big craft just keeps getting bigger


Newly Formed Craft Consortium Enjoy Beer LLC Eyes Acquisitions, IPO.
Honestly, I wouldn’t pretend to understand all the implications for “an acquisition vehicle and craft beer consortium,” which is how Enjoy Beer is described. But it must be big business because founder Rich Doyle says he “hopes to have five craft beer breweries under the Enjoy Beer umbrella before 2020, at which point the company may consider an IPO.” This certainly means more of what Alan McLeod has been calling “big craft” or “national craft” for about four years. Abita Brewing CEO David Blossman, whose brewery is the first to enter into a deal with Enjoy Beer, told the Boston Globe: “We’re not losing our heart and soul. We turned down lots of other opportunities because we wanted to remain rooted in our local community and culture.” But he also wants his coming to keep expanding.

That’s not a particularly bad thing, at least that’s the view from here, nor is it necessarily a good thing. It simply is. There are going to be more breweries shipping more beer farther from where it is brewed. It may be harder for them to act as autonomously as they once did or to appear as warm and cuddly. This won’t bother most of the drinkers who buy their beers. But if it does, here’s the thing, there will still be more local, quite often pretty small, definitely independent breweries in America than since, well, probably ever. [Via Brewbound]

In which I give more badly written beer history a good kicking.
Marytn Cornell goes to work on “How the India Pale Ale Got Its Name” at, which carries a certain cachet when it comes to history. But Cornell calls the article “one of the worst I have ever read on the subject, crammed with at least 25 errors of fact and interpretation.” [Via Zythophile]

Nano Breweries: The Art (and Economics) of Brewing at Tiny Scales. Small. “Success is contextual.” [Via Paste]

Let’s Grab a Beer… With A-B InBev.
Big. Curious fact: will redirect you to what appears to be a sign in page. But if you really want to see what the site looked like back in 2007 or so use the Wayback Machine. [Via Advertising Age]

The Growing Future of Local Hops.
Noteworthy here is that the Hop Growers of America has added an at-large director to its board, so that for the first time there’s a board member from outside the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Tom Britz of Montana is also chairing the Small Growers Council, which will address “the very different business model and challenges of small growers across the country who have no infrastructure, no multi-generational institutional knowledge, and no economies of scale.” Just to be clear, three Northwestern states will continue to supply almost all the hops in the country. We don’t know how things will work out trying to grow hops many places where they eventually failed before. But nobody will succeed without putting the infrastructure for picking, drying and processing in place. This is another sign that is happening. [Via Flathead Beacon]

Brewery has enough water to make beer for the year.
The local water district in Redding, Calif., lets Wildcard Brewing in Redding know just how much water it can use during 2015. [Via KRCR]

The Lesser-Spotted True Red Lion.
Maybe the beer culture always looks a greener on the other side of the Atlantic, but — dang — a true inn that offers beer and lodging, and also the village shop and post office. Plus a backyard that comes “closer to the feel of a Bavarian beer garden than anywhere else we’ve been in Britain and yet, at the same time, could not be anywhere but in England.” [Via Boak & Bailey]

Brewery re-imagines flagship beer.
An announcement from Stone Brewing not long ago that it was replacing Ruination IPA with Ruination generated the usual Stone related chatter on the Internet. New Holland Brewing in Michigan is taking a different approach — simply stating it is changing the recipe on Mad Hatter IPA and throwing a little party. The change includes using Michigan-grown hops, not available when the beer was first sold in 1998, and a hop variety, Citra, that also wasn’t available. [Via Grand Rapids Business Journal]

How Cans turned Craft into Crass.
This would have made an interesting addition to The Session #98, although it’s about something more basic than cans versus bottles. “I’ve said before how I dream of a day where a brewery releases its beers in cans for the first time and there isn’t a gratuitous Twitter frenzy worked up where people admit they’ve masturbated five times that morning because a beer that more often than not has already been available for 12 months is now going to be a million times better because its changing vessel. I’d like to think such a day will come. I fear it shall not for many a year.” [Via Beer Compurgation]


Session #99 topic announced: Localising Mild

The SessionHost Allstair Reese has announced the topic for Session #99: Localising Mild. Or “Localizing Mild” depending on what is local for you.

He explains:

“Each May CAMRA in the UK encourages drinkers to get out and drink Mild Ales. This May is the first, as far as I am aware, American Mild Month, which has 45 breweries, so far, committed to brewing mild ales. Of those 45 breweries some are brewing the traditional English dark and pale mild styles, while a couple have said they will brew an ‘American Mild’, which American Mild Month describes as:

“a restrained, darkish ale, with gentle hopping and a clean finish so that the malt and what hops are present, shine through

“An essential element of the American Mild is that it uses American malts, hops, and the clean yeast strain that is commonly used over here. Like the development of many a beers style around the world, American Mild is the localisation of a beer from elsewhere, giving a nod to the original, but going its own way.

“That then is the crux of the theme for The Session in May, how would you localise mild? What would an Irish, Belgian, Czech, or Australian Mild look like? Is anyone in your country making such a beer? For homebrewers, have you dabbled in cross-cultural beer making when it comes to mild?”

The Session #99 will be called to order May 1.


Continuing beer education

The sap buckets were hung by the birch trees with care.

Harvesting birch sap for Scratch Brewing beer

This was the view yesterday in a stand of woods outside of Ava, Illinois. Those are birch trees. If you look carefully in the photo below you will see a bit of sap falling from the tap into a bucket.

That sap will end up in a beer made at Scratch Brewing. As will toasted bark from the trees and Chaga, a crazy an intense smelling, parasitic mushroom that grows on the trees. Chaga is known by the Siberians as “Gift from God” and the “Mushroom of Immortality.”

Visiting Scratch is like enrolling in a Continuing Education class.

Birch sap tapped - will end up in Scratch Brewing beer


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