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Postmodern beer, *that* root beer & The Murky


The Good, the Bad & the Murky — Brew Britannia: One Year On.
Boak & Bailey are taking off the rest of July after posting this epic (11,000 words) look at the British beer world since their wonderful book, “Brew Britannia,” came out last year. If you find sentences like this seductive (I do) you need to set aside some time: “When we can buy a bottle of London murky brewed in Berlin, Barcelona or San Diego, then we’ll know for sure it has become ‘a thing’, as London porter did centuries before.” [Via Boak & Baley’s Beer Blog]

Toward sincere beer.
I wish I’d written this. The first chapter of the book that was going to be called “Indigenous Beer” and now might be called “Brewing Local” will be about place and, ahem, terroir. That means trying to sort out post-industrial, postmodern, and post-Fordist beer. This really smart writing from Joe Stange increases the chance I might make sense. [Via DRAFT]

It was going to be a long night at U Fleku…
Here’s the first chapter of a beer book “that would fuse travel, history and beer” Adrian Tierney-Jones was thinking he’d like to write. The book is on hold for now, and it might take on a radically different form should it spring back to life, so Tierney-Jones writes we should consider this a first draft. In any event, another one for Pocket. [Via Called to the Bar]

The story behind Not Your Father’s Root Beer.
Geez, this alcoholic beverage sure pisses off some people on my Twitter feed. I’ve succeeded so far in paying a minimum of attention, but this story from Don Russell is too interesting to pass on. [Via Joe Sixpack]

Is New York in Danger of Losing Its Most Interesting Beer Boutiques?
If so, why? [Via Grub Street]

The Haight.
Ron Pattinson was in California last month, among other things selling what he calls his “proper” book— “Home Brewer’s Guide to Vintage Beer.” But he has many more to choose from. Reading about adventures in and about The Haight reminded me of some of the travel-oriented ones, of which “Trips (South)” is my favorite. [Via Shut Up About Barclay Perkins]

Seventeen Go To Berlin And Have A Really Good Time.
Road trip. [Via Total Ales]


Small is the new IPA

Earlier today Brewers Association economist Bart Watson tweeted this:

“Small breweries are small. Looking at CA 2014 data: Breweries < 100 bbls = 144. 100 < breweries < 1,000 = 209. Breweries > 1,000 = only 122.”

If you break down the percentages that’s 30% under 100 barrels, 44% between 100 and 1,000, and 26% at 1,000 or more.

What does this mean? I don’t know. I’m not sure how much context taking a look at numbers from way back adds, but since I totaled them up . . .

In 1879 California had 195 brewers, with 24 selling less than 100 barrels, 118 between 100 and 1,000, and 53 more than 1,000. The percentages: 12%, 61%, 27%.

Of course, brewing was pretty new in California, less than 30 years old. New York breweries went much further back and there were more of them than in any other state.

So New York in 1879: 30 breweries under 100 barrels, 116 between 100 and 1,000, 219 above 1,000. That’s 60% of the breweries selling more than 1,000 barrels and almost 100 more than California today. Only 8% of New York breweries made less than 100 barrels, 32% between 100 and 1,000.

Could food trucks make that much difference?


Have beer links, will read


Does It Matter Where Your Beer Is Brewed?
This is one of several stories that followed the announcement that Anheuser-Busch InBev has struck a deal to compensate the drinkers who thought they were getting German-brewed Becks when the beer was in fact brewed in St. Louis. It illustrates how business-oriented people think about beer. The way I view it: One of the attractive things about (well brewed) beer from a smallish, local brewery making unfiltered, unpasteurized beer is that it becomes something else when it leaves home, something else not as good. Put another way, to understand the power of local taste the beer where it’s not local. [Via the Wall Street Journal]

Lagunitas to build 3rd brewery in Azusa, CA.
Last week Lagunitas founder Tony Magee announced on Twitter (he is @LaguntiasT) plans to open a third brewery, this one in southern California. On Thursday he added details and context with this post at Among (many) other things he writes: “Some serious-minded beer lovers and some brewers have a legitimate idea that growing in a modest way is the ‘correct’ way. But that is pious thinking if it excludes other approaches to salvation. Small is great and big, if done thoughtfully and without compromise, is beautiful too.” He obviously leans toward big, very big. I’ve cited a quote from Peter Bouckaert of New Belgium Brewing more than once, but here you go again. “Brewing is a compromise. You have to take into account so many factors,” he said, in this case talking about the actual brewing process. “It’s an interaction. You need to see any beer you create as a holistic thing.” But to move beyond the brewhouse and to elaborate on the previous musing, brewery owners decide how big they want their brewery to grow and at some point “without compromise” becomes, let’s say, challenging. [Via Beer Advocate]

In Pursuit of Impartiality.
I don’t agree with everything here — as noted above, I don’t think “drink local” is a crock — but credit to Alistair for giving Budweiser an unbiased tasting. Extra credit for not claiming it tastes of corn. [Via Fuggled]

Bavarian Beer Trail Cycle: Gears and beers.
“It’s a ride on which I’ll need to pace myself, not so much on the bike, but in the breweries.” [Via Stuff]

The Story Behind That Photograph.
Part confession and part plea: There are stock photos out there I swear I’ve been looking at for 30 years. I might have gone too far down the rabbit hole. But please publishers, if it appeared in Michael Jackson’s “World Beer Guide” don’t use it. Now to the point, a lovely story. [Via Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog]

A visit to Orval brewery.
Ed Wray visits Brasserie Orval, takes lots of photos and collects plenty of information. Much has changed since I wrote “Brew Like A Monk.” That shouldn’t be a shock — one of the points I make over and over is that change if constant, if not dramatic, even at Trappist breweries. It might be the use of a different barley variety or a tweak in the process. At Orval, for instance, they changed the way they add Brettanomyces not long after I wrote BLAM, dosing Brett inline at bottling rather than during the secondary fermentation. These days Orval is dry hopped with French Strisselspalt rather than Styrian Goldings (what I saw when I visited). This must be pretty exciting for French hop farmers, because Strisselspalt acreage has shrunk considerably since Anheuser-Busch began dialing back what it bought in 2008. [Via Ed’s Beer Site]

Duluth blasts St. Paul for billboard’s beer boast.
Who can’t love talking trash in Minnesota? One more reason for me to look forward to visiting Duluth next month for All Pints North. [Via Pioneer Press]

Southern Brewing Co. Takes Local to the Next Level.
Ingredient of the week: beets (in a Kölsch). [Via flagpole, h/T @austinlouisray]

Coriander, soap and science
My friend Yvan De Baets has been known to describe beers brewed with too much coriander (cilantro) as “coriander soup.” This video indicates that maybe he should be saying “coriander soap.”


Hopstate NY: 2015, not 1879

Imagine Iowa without corn, or Illinois without soybeans.

That’s what it would have been like in the 1870s to think of New York without hops. By 1879 New York grew 80 percent of American hops. Four years later, The Western Brewer provided an industry overview: “It will be seen that in 1850 hops were raised in 33 States and Territories; in 1860, in 37; in 1870 in 36; in 1880 but 18. … It remains to be seen whether California, Oregon, and Washington Territory will increase their production; or, in a few years, drop off as so many others have done. It is probable that New York will always remain the banner hop state.”

Instead, within 10 years the Pacific Coast produced more hops than New York, and by the time Prohibition began New York farmers grew less than 4 percent of the national crop. This happened for multiple reasons: lower yields in New York than on he West Coast, hop disease issues, higher labor costs, and small inefficient operations.

Hop Growers of America estimates New York farmers strung 250 acres of hops in 2015, two-thirds more than in 2014. That’s considerably less than the 39,072 acres in 1879, when 10,000 New York farmers harvested 21.6 million pounds, but the pace of expansion has picked up. The first commercial field to operate since 1954 was planted in 1999, but 11 years later farmers harvested only 15 acres.

“We have a real mix of people,” said Steve Miller, hired by the Cornell Cooperative Extension in 2011 as the state’s first hop specialist. “There are only a couple of growers who’ve had hops in for more than 10 years in the state. The vast majority of growers have only had them in for a year or two.”

Last year, Miller estimated there are now about 75 farmers there with two to five acres of hops, and most have the potential to expand. Yields on farms with mature plants have topped 1,500 pounds per acre. In 1879 the average was 554. “It’s based on people becoming growers, not hobbyists,” Miller said. “People who have knowledge and equipment and barns.”

The state of New York supports this revival in a variety of ways, including funding Miller’s research. So has Brewery Ommegang outside of Cooperstown. From the time Ommegang opened in 1996 its press releases mentioned it is located in the former center of U.S. hop growing. This always seemed a bit curious, because at the time nobody in New York was growing hops and you wouldn’t describe any of Ommegang’s beers as hop focused. Although the brewery recently released its first IPA and brews a range of hop forward pale ales, hops still aren’t what you think of first when somebody says Ommegang.

Ommegang posted the photo above last month, showing the small hop yard at the brewery. It is growing test varieties for the Cornell Extension program and will trial them in beers. The brewery also bought one and a half tons of New York hops last year. A good portion of those went into Hopstate NY, a pale ale released only in New York state a couple of weeks ago. It is brewed with Cascade, Nugget and Chinook hops, so it is brimming with citrus aroma and flavor, its resin character lingering beyond the finish.

No melon or blueberry or other exotic New New World aromas or flavors, but something different than New York hops offered in 1879.

A bit of disclosure: We don’t live in New York. I was able to taste the beer because the brewery sent me some. I certainly would buy it if I lived in New York. I won’t claim that at first sip, or third for fourth, that I thought, “Oh, this tastes of New York” (or the rolling hills around Coopertown, of which I am quite fond). But I could see it becoming a familar taste. One of place.

Last month when I was in California I had a lengthy — rambling, you might say — conversation with Brian Hunt at Monnlight Brewing about what makes a beer relevant. I’m going to be a while sorting that out, but I’m pretty sure than Hopstate NY is an example of relevant.


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