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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

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Big craft just keeps getting bigger

MONDAY BEER LINKS, MUSING 04.13.15

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 Smithsonian.com, 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: Herestobeer.com 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]

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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.

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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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The importance of being the local beer

MONDAY BEER LINKS, LIMITIED MUSING 04.06.15

Loving Local Beer.
Brewers Association economist Bart Watson writes: “Typically, I cite studies that suggest the flavor/variety dimension as the primary driver, with local taking an important, albeit secondary role. But there is increasing evidence that local may be rivaling flavor as a motivating factor for craft beer buyers.” And he cites figures from a Nielsen survey that indicate that local is more important for beer drinkers than wine drinkers, and that this is more pronounced for younger drinkers (that makes it an important Trend with a capital T).

Before reflecting on the sea change this represents, Watson suggests the beer/wine part shouldn’t be surprising, given that two thirds of the wineries in the United States are located in three West Coast states. But that’s two thirds of more than 8,000 wineries; there are more than 100 wineries in each of ten states beyond California, Washington and Oregon. There might be another reason that beer does better on the “buy local” front. Either there some stronger connections local brewers are making with consumers or they have done a better job convincing drinkers what they are serving is as good as the drink from elsewhere (the cachet of French and California grapes cannot be discounted). Or both. Probably both. [Via Brewers Association}

Local and variety work well together. [Via Twitter]

Why People are Still Mad at 10 Barrel, Why That’s OK, and Why It’s Also OK to Still Drink Their Beer.
The headline pretty much summarizes what the post is about. But consider this thought that I’ve seen written many times before: “Craft beer culture is not like tech start-up culture or fashion culture, or any of the other businesses where start-ups are expected to work to build something worth being acquired by a larger corporate entity. There are a lot of reasons for that—enough to fill a book—but I think the biggest ones are that American craft beer culture has always defined itself as a group of outsiders.” I’m not sure how that works when these beers constitute 20 percent of the market. [Via Willamette Weekly]

Good things in small packages?
Back in 2007 when The Session began part of the idea was that posts would include, but not be limited to, conversation about specific beers, what some would calling drinking notes or tasting notes. Friday was the 98th gathering of The Session — pretty amazing, but you’ll also notice a host is needed for May — and you’ll not find many drinking notes these days. But you can always count on The Beer Nut for notes done well. [Via The Beer Nut]

The Impending Death of the Beer Festival (as we know it).
Ryan Hannigan worries about the “massive influx of corporate-style beer fests” in Colorado. And that, “Essentially, it’s the suburbanization of beer festivals. Every one looks and feels the same.” [Via Focus on the Beer]

The Wit and Wisdom of Shaun Hill.
Shaun Hill is not simply a brewing savant; lots of interesting stuff in these outtakes gathered reporting another story. But this bothers me:

“The thing is now—with this modern light-speed dissemination of information with the Internet—is that nobody wants to just learn something for themselves. They want you to tell them. ‘What’s going to happen if I do this, this, and this?’ My response is always, ‘I don’t know. Let me know.’ The only time I really discuss that stuff is with friends like Chad Yakobson from Crooked Stave, Gabe Fletcher at Anchorage, or John Kimmich. Friends. We’re working off each other. It’s a give and take. It’s not just a take. If you have something to give me, yeah, I’ll share with you.”

There’s much truth there. The best way to find out what might result when you add x ingredient or try y process is to actually do it. That’s called learning. And part of being smart about brewing is understanding that not everything happens exactly the same way in every brewery. But whatever it is you are particularly liking in the beers you are drinking today — aromas that result from dry hopping, flavors the result from understanding the critters inside barrels, even the subtle cracker-like texture of a spot-on pale lager — there’s every chance that the brewer who made that beer learned a few things directly from another brewer. Or to put it another way, the second brewed shared something with the first without considering the quid pro quo. [Via Boston Magazine]

CAMRA – Heading for a High Wall?
A view from the inside. ([Via Tandleman’s Beer Blog]

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