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Archive | April, 2011

Brewing naked, ‘trading up’ and a ‘super boil’

Ancient recipe for beer

This is a “map cartouche of one of the Western Hemisphere’s earliest recorded recipes (for a form of beer).” It was taken from from America, a map by Jodocus Hondius (Amsterdam, 1606). Seems like a poster that would sell well in homebrew shops.

You’ll find it here, along with dozens of other images from the Clements Library at the University of Michigan, and more about the growing American culinary history collection at the library.

* Trading up to beer (and then to wine). A working paper from the American Association of Wine Economists exams the evolution of beer consumption between countries and over time. Parts are easier to understand if you have an Economics to English dictionary at your side.

Although the focus is on economics, the authors look at all the factors that determine what makes a “beer drinking nation.” In doing so, they track how consumption in those nations has changed dramatically in the past 50 years and ask why. Their findings, in economic speak:

Our first important result is that we do indeed find an inverted-U shaped relation between income and per capita beer consumption in all pooled OLS ánd fixed effects specifications. From the pooled OLS regressions (Table 3), we find that countries with higher levels of income initially consume more beer. Yet, the second order coefficient on income is negative, indicating that from a certain income level onwards, higher incomes lead to lower per capita beer consumption. The first and second order effects for income are strongly significant and the coefficients are quite robust across the different specifications.

The fixed effects regression results confirm this (Table 4), so the non-linear relationship for income holds not only between countries, but also within individual countries over time. As a country becomes richer, beer consumption rises, but when incomes continue to grow, beer consumption starts to decline at some income level. We calculated the turning point, i.e. the point where beer consumption starts declining with growing incomes, to be approximately 22,000 US dollars per capita.

So you get a graph that looks like this, with beer sales soaring in emerging economies — quite obviously China, but also Russia, Brazil and India.

World beer consumption 1961-2007

What the wine economists want to know is “what’s next?” As consumers grow richer will they spend more money on wine (and less on beer)? The Chinese effect has already boosted prices of high-end French wines. Most predict something similar with wines across all prices categories, although that might be 20 years off.

What the study doesn’t consider at all is “beer different,” as in not a commodity, the beers drinkers are “trading up” to on a regular basis, in just about any country where they can find them.

* ‘Extreme’ boiling. Port Brewing/Lost Abbey has begun a “behind the scenes” video series, the first featuring how it makes Hot Rocks Lager. This is an Old World beer, certainly not “extreme.” But the process is a little out of the ordinary, and might just be what it looks like to make beer in Hell. Tomme Arthur calls it a “super boil,” and it is. Pay close attention beginning about 1:40 into the video.


Beer or wine: Telling the truth a good place to start

Curious timing. Today Evan Benn (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) asks the question, “What’s in your beer? Labels should tell you.” And at the Wine Spectator website columnist Matt Kramer asks something that it turns out to be related: “If You Owned a Winery … What would you do differently?”

Benn looks at a government proposal for beer labels that small brewery owners don’t like. He’s not buying their objections. Good for him. Granted, it’s complicated, there may be issues I don’t know about and the whole “standard-drink” discussion confuses it further.

However, even though Kramer writes about wine, his discussion about labels is just a relevant to beer. Take a quick look at this photo (from shortly after La Cumbre Brewing in Albuquerque opened in December).

What's on tap at La Cumbre Brewing in Albuquerque

A lot of facts, stuff that a lot of people don’t care about. Ask the person pouring beer a question and he or she may provide even more information — about the ingredients, or about process, or just what the brewer was thinking. Again, stuff of interest to a relative few. But if you do want to know you can find out. Labels should provide useful information and honest stories. And QR codes further extend that opportunity.

Here’s the CliffNotes version of Kramer’s list. You should be able to figure out where to plug in the word beer.

* I Would Tell the Truth.
“This may seem overly simplistic. But I’m here to testify that it’s nothing less than astonishing to see the number of times a winery sidesteps, obfuscates, or flat-out lies about its practices in the winery or its reasons for pursuing a particular course of action.”

* I Would Speak Up.
“The key point is not to hamstring yourself, but rather differentiate yourself from those who want your artisanal image but are not willing to pay your price.”

* I Would Recognize That My Label Is Really a Portal.
“I would redesign it in recognition that the label is—or should be—an invitation to the prospective customer to acquire yet more information about what’s inside the bottle.”

* I Would Always Hire Wine People.
“There’s a trend, especially among very big wineries or small producers seeking to break into the luxury category, to hire people from fields other than wine.”

* I Would Ask Myself, “Am I A Me-Too Winery?”
“The only way to become above-average is to impose a demand that what you offer is indeed superior.”

Greg Koch = Jerry Lee Lewis or Lindsay Lohan?

Midweek catching up (from various blogs and press releases):

  • Stone Brewing beers arrived in Missouri this week and you’d think there was a royal wedding about. Stone co-founder Greg Koch was signing bottles and such yesterday in Kansas City and makes a similar splash in St. Louis tomorrow.

    Leading to this fabulous sentence from the KC Beer Blog: “If you’re not aware of Greg Koch, you will be. He’s the Jerry Lee Lewis to Sam Calagione’s Pat Boone, or for a more current reference, he’s Lindsay Lohan to Calagione’s Raven Symone.”

  • Vanberg and Dewulf will begin importing a beer called Monk’s Stout from Brasserie Dupont later this year. It seems Dupont also brewed this beer in the 1950s. Which explains why we came across this case in the window of a Brussels beer shop in 2008:

    DuPont Monk's Stout

  • Alan’s question of the week: Why Is Britain Creating Beer Blogging Celebrities? As he writes, and we’ve witnessed here, discussions about beer writing often may help cure insomnia. But give it a look anyway.
  • The publican as writer. Where does such a being fit in? I have printed copies of the newsletter Roger Baylor used to assemble squirreled away somewhere, from the days when beer writing intended to satisfy your soul came via postal carrier instead of an rss feed. He notes he’s founder of Rich O’s Public House at the top of his blog, The Potable Curmudgeon, but now he also runs a brewery.

    So that’s the background. And here’s a bit of what he had to write in “Avery joins flight from Indiana; Publican yawns.”

    You could hear the sounds of furtive sourcing as shelves emptied of valuable brands. The wails of lamentation kept me awake at night as craft beer fans weaned on the tender mercies of Beer Advocate and Rate Beer vented their despair.

    They should have been asking: Should one’s go-to beer come from another time zone?

    And: Your forefathers had it far tougher, whiner.

    Me? I shrugged, yawned and filled a growler of fresh local beer.

    There’s more, of course, because he has to guide his story to its closing lines: “Just remember: I used to walk ten miles in waist-deep snow just to score a six-pack of Sierra. Your troubles are miniscule by comparison.”

  • Was I snoozing when this was was announced? Stone Brewing has a page where you can report “out of code” beer, that is beer that isn’t as fresh a Stone’s brewers would like it to be when you drink it. Most of the regular beers should be consumed within 90 days.
  • I had some other good beers Saturday . . .

    Albuquerque Blues & Brews

    The plan Saturday was no thinking about the forest. No wringing of hands while considering the BIG PICTURE, stuff like Anheuser-Busch InBev buying Goose Island or those breweries leaving markets they previously shipped beers to. Instead it was supposed to be a day to focus on the trees. In other words, what’s in the glass. Chat with friends, listen to a little music.

    And that’s what I did for the most part. However standing in the 27,000-square foot ballroom of the Sandia Resort & Casino during Albuquerque Blues and Brews, watching it quickly fill and then hearing a brewer — who at the time was pouring two-ounce servings as fast as he could — say that all the tickets were gone I couldn’t help but think the pace of change, at least in New Mexico, seems to have accelerated.

    The people pouring beer, particularly those who work for breweries, certainly were surprised. And smiling a lot. Somewhere north of 30 breweries served beer, as well as Dukes of Ale homebrew club (four beers). Counting is a little tricky because do you consider Rio Grande and Sierra Blanca one brewery or two (two brands from the same brewery, so I’d say one)?

    And it’s a scene now being played out every week across the country. Anyway, enough forest. A few observations and a bit of news (none of which will be of much interest unless you live in New Mexico):

    * Same, but different I. It’s nice to have Il Vicino Wet Mountain IPA back. The brewery quit producing last summer while it moved its equipment to a new location, and only recently resumed brewing. There is no shortage of IPAs these days (more IPAs than breweries on Saturday if you count amped up versions; four pilsners), but Wet Mountain is part of the local landscape.

    Albuquerque Blues & Brews

    This is a beer with a pedigree. It won the gold medal at the 1996 World Beer Cup, when the second and third place beer were were Blind Pig IPA (Vinnie Cilurzo was brewing in Temecula) and Avery IPA. Of course it is a different beer today than in 1996. Still begins with Centennial hops, lots of grapefruit, and Cascade — a bright “wake up, time for breakfast” nose — but now brewed with Simcoe hops. More pine, with herbal notes often described as “dank.”

    * Same, but different II. If there is such a color as twice white then it fairly describes the latest vintage of Marble Double White (a seasonal beer just returning). Classic Belgian White/Wit milkish white color that shimmers in the glass. What’s different this year is Ted Rice has changed the yeast strain used to make the beer, seeking to replace notes of clove (technically a fermentation compound called 4-vinyl guaiacol) with notes of pepper (same compound, not as noisy).

    I probably shouldn’t have spent the morning working in the yard, inhaling a toxic combination of pollen and sand, then headed to a beer festival. That could be the reason I thought I might sneeze when I smelled the beer. Or maybe it was the hint of white pepper.

    * Bad is bad. After surveying the Bad Ass Brewery selection from a distance I asked some drinkers who’d sampled beers from this new “nano-brewery” what they’d recommend. “Not this one” was the most popular answer. I ordered the obnoxiously named European Whore after the person pouring beers told me it was a golden ale fermented with Belgian yeast.

    It smelled of band aids and loaded baby diaper (I originally referred to “the ugly smell of . . . ” but realized this combination could never be pretty). Sorry, I can’t tell you what it tasted like. I had no urge to explore further. In all fairness, good brewers occasionally make bad beers. Many breweries get better as they mature. I’m moving, so somebody else will have to tell me how this turns out.

    * Blame the people at the bar. It’s been four months since La Cumbre Brewing opened in Albuquerque, but you pretty much have to go to the brewery to find its beers. That’s because people keep showing up at 313 Girard Boulevard NE to drink it first. Jeff Erway can brew more beer, but he has needs more tanks to ferment it in. He has both fermentation and serving tanks on the way, along with additional kegs, but — given that he was wrapping up a 100-hour work week and had to leave the festival to deal with a problem at the brewery — Saturday didn’t seem like the time to ask him about his plans to package beer in cans.

    * The monks are learning to brew. The small brewery at Monastery of Christ in the Desert is ready for action. In fact, several of the monks are learning how to operate the equipment. However, they can only brew and dump test batches until the process of transferring the brewing license from the monastery in the Pecos is complete.

    They will make only small specialty batches, leaving Sierra Blanca Brewing to brew Monks’ Ale and Monks’ Wit under contract.


    A second second set of eyes: The Albuquerque Beer Geek reports from the festival.

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