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Archive | March, 2010

What would you ask a hop queen?

Mona EuringerNo, seriously.

Next week judges stream into Chicago to taste their way through 3,500 or so entrants in the World Beer Cup and soon they will be joined by thousands of brewing industry members for the Craft Brewers Conference.

I expect only the toughest will make it up Saturday morning for “Brewing Belgian White and Wit Beers,” the panel I’ll be moderating. Fortunately there will be many more exciting moments. First up, Wednesday afternoon is a chance to meet the Hallertau hop queen, Mona Euringer. She’ll be in Chicago along with members of the German Hop Growers Association.

She’ll give a brief talk about life on a hop farm and also be around for the trade show Thursday and Friday. Last year the hop growers caught some grief when it was suggested Nicol Frankl, the previous hop queen, was invited along only because she has a pretty face.

Not true. “To be elected hop queen, you have to have grown up and helped work on a hop farm all of your life, you have to know hops, hop farming, and all the machinery involved,” said Eric Toft, brewmaster at Private Landbrauerei Schönram, who doubles as a representative of the hop growers.

I promise to find out just how much she knows. So if you have a question you want asked please leave it as a comment. As long as it’s not rude I’ll ask her.

The hop growers will also be serving a variety of beers. Toft wrote the recipes and Victory Brewing in Pennsylvania made the beers. They will include three different Belgian-style pale ales — each brewed with a single German aroma hop varieties: Hallertauer Mittelfruh, Smaragd, Hersbrucker — a new Bavarian-style pale ale, and a tripel hopped with Saphir.

I promise to ask questions first and drink beers later.

Waiting for RSBS

Belgian lacingWith apologies to Samuel Beckett . . .

The current, but perhaps not ongoing, demise of really simple BEER syndication has been noted in comments here and in a devoted post by Alan McLeod. For those of you don’t know, it is a site that aggregates the latest rss feeds from hundreds of beer blogs.

Jonathan Surratt invented both RSBS and The Beer Mapping Project, another free web utility that has improved the quality of our beer drinking lives. He wrote in an email that Twitter now works for him much as RSBS did before, but he’s not ready to let it pass. He’s got a lot going on — he’s the web director for Draft Magazine and devotes (gives away) time to various other projects — so cut him some slack.

When I started this blog I did a lot more pointing to “good reads,” but between RSBS and bloggers discovering how to use Twitter and Facebook to promote their posts that seemed redundant. I figured, probably incorrectly but I’ve learned to live with such ignorance, that if I was seeing three to five notifications every time a new beer post went up that you were seeing at least one.

I wouldn’t begin to attempt to replicate the service RSBS provides, with sometimes more than 100 posts a day, but here are a half dozen recent posts you might have missed and should read while waiting for RSBS.

  • The first ever reference to IPA. You shouldn’t need more than the headline to motivate you. But just in case, it’s a Martyn Cornell post.
  • What’s a pilsner? “Should Pilsener be considered a beer made with Saaz or Hallertauer or other noble hops only, or even be reserved for beers that actually come from Plzen?”
  • Take that, Philadelphia. “A unique blend of climate and tradition make the Great Lakes region the best in the country for beer brewers and drinkers.”
  • San Francisco versus Portland. Because they aren’t aware that the Great Lakes region is really No. 1.
  • Reviews for something that doesn’t exist. What if Schrute Farms B&B were a beer?
  • Now this is just stupid. Pilsner Urquell versus tiny Pivovar Kout na Sumave. I point you to this not only because I’m a big fan of Kout na Sumave (despite the fact I can’t get WordPress to show the various marks above the S and e correctly), because you must read the story at the end.
  • I am not a brewery

    Requests like this seem to arrive in cycles and unfortunately we’re in an up cycle.

    So I thought I’d pass one of them along, in this case with the name and contact information removed. The subject line is “My Home Museum Beer.” I’m not trying to be anti-social but the PS tickled me (I don’t usually read that far).

    My name is [removed]. I the citizen of the Ukraine. I the big admirer and the collector of Beer and beermats. I have my own family collection.
    In addition to beer and beermats I collect any information concerning alcoholic production and alcoholic manufacture.
    Now I work as that that I collect the catalogue of brands various alcoholic drinks from all world.
    I plan to write the book – the catalogue about the description of drinks, the companies, and features of cocktails. I hope for the big circulation and popularity of this book.
    If it probably I like to ask from you the information on your company and about beer made by your company.
    From myself personally I would like to ask and to you would be grateful for what or a souvenir with a logo of your brewery in my collection.
    I hope I have not taken away from you a lot of time the request.
    Yours faithfully [name removed].

    My adress:
    [details removed]
    P.S.: Perhaps you have received many requests for souvenirs from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and probably faced with such people as lovers freebies. I am very ashamed of these people. Please do not ignore my message.

    See, I didn’t.

    Numbers don’t lie, but they may seduce

    Seduced by numbersSouthern Star Brewing in Texas basically doubled production from 2008 to 2009 and expects to do the same again this year, according to a story last week in the Houston Chronicle.

    Curiously, a the manager at a Houston bar says the founders are smart to grow the brewery “at a slow, deliberate pace.” One hundred percent hardly sounds slow, but obviously he remembers that past performance is no guarantee of future results.

    Because of a story (for print) I just finished I happen to have an example at my fingertips.

    From 1991 through 1997 the number of brewpubs in the United States increased from 155 to 845 (growing about 5.5 fold). Those pubs brewed 112,154 barrels of beer in 1991 and 691,879 in 1997 (increasing 6.2 times over).

    What would have happened had they done the same during the next six years (until 2003) and then again for the next six?

    Goodness. There would have been more than 25,000 brewpubs in the country in 2009 brewing 26.5 million barrels. And that was just brewpubs, which produced 12.5 percent of craft beer in 1997 and make a little less than 8 percent today.

    We knew that wasn’t going to happen. In fact brewpub production turned flat in 1998 and has remained pretty much the same since. Craft beer sales kept climbing, reaching 9.1 million barrels . . . but who knows when they will hit 26 million?

    Does anybody read beer blogs?

    Tom Johnson makes a flat-out statement in the Palate Press: Nobody reads wine blogs.

    A year ago I was an unsuccessful political blogger, entertaining myself and almost no one else. Now, I’m a wine blogger doing largely the same thing, except that no one calls me a Nazi in comments anymore. Though my wine blog’s audience is only a tenth the size of my failed political blog’s audience, I’m informed by people-who-know that I am on the cusp of great success.

    There’s no way to sugar coat this: wine blogging is failing its readers.

    The evidence for that failure: with very few exceptions, wine blogs don’t even have readers.

    The baseline numbers are appalling. Using traffic data aggregated by Cellarer and traffic rankings provided by Truth Laid Bear, the top 100 wine blogs combined would be the 280th most popular blog in the country.

    Even looking at wine blogging as a niche product, we’re a disaster.

    He explains why, so amble on over Palate Press and read the whole thing, then continue to Steve Heimhoff’s blog, where he asks if wine blogs are an endangered species.

    I haven’t seen similar metrics for beer sites (although Martyn Cornell did something along those lines last month, limiting it to UK blogs, and 47 comments followed). Based upon sparse numbers I have seen the best read wine blogs draw more traffic than the best read beer blogs.

    Does that mean beer blogs are particularly influential? Not compared to Rate Beer and Beer Advocate, I’d say.

    Blogging about blogging seems way too much like navel-gazing — and certainly limits the potential audience &#151 but what I’m really interested in is the future of a) journalism and b) beer journalism. That raises a couple more questions I’m not going to try to answer now, because then we’d be into serious navel-gazing. What is beer journalism (or is there even such a thing)? And what is beer news?

    Will it happen in the form of blogs or some other way online? Make no mistake. The stories you repeat to friends over a pint will be reported first online. Will they arrive 140 characters at a time? Will you read them primarily on your phone? Will there be a tasting app on your iPad? Some of these questions are related to how and some to what.

    I don’t think there are answers to either yet.

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