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Archive | September, 2011

Psst, a few GABF ‘sleepers’

RIP, Beermapping Project Great American Beer Festival Fantasy Draught. Jonathan Surratt has come to his senses and let the crazy-to-administrate beast ride into the sunset after four fun-filled years.

But a new game has arrived to fill the void, the FBAG 2011 Brewery Pick’em Contest. So put down that beer judging glass, Jay Brooks, and get your entry in before the Thursday deadline.

Although the rules for the FBAG 2011 Brewery Pick’em Contest look a little scary I like the “here’s what you have to spend” concept (probably taken from some sports related competition I’ve never seen). This way everybody who wants to can own Jeff Bagby. Not just the player lucky enough to get him via draft.

I won’t be participating (having retired after Bagby and Flying Dog ran roughshod in 2009) so I’ll pass along two quick suggestions for filling out a roster after spending $26-$30 upfront. AC Golden hardly qualifies as a sleeper after four medals the last two years, but the small brewery inside of Coors’ giant brewery has expanded its lineup. And how can Sun King (winner at the World Beer Cup and GABF last year) still be only a buck?

Also, I stand by last night’s tweet. If Marble Brewery (which has to break through one of these years) or Urban Chestnut Brewing (new this year, and in judging only) were on the list they’d make great $1 choices.

Some days the internet is more useful that others

When maps merge . . .

Good analysis may follow.

Now, just on the basis of this — ignoring all the other evidence, ignoring that the industrial revolution started in Scotland, ignoring that many of these breweries are nearer to sources of coal than sources of peat, ignoring that we know for a fact that several of the largest breweries made their own malt on site, ignoring that they used a lot of imported malt anyway … just on the basis of this map, exactly how likely do you think it would be that the beer from these breweries would have a peaty influence?

Of course this doesn’t happen if Ron Pattinson doesn’t compile the list of Scottish breweries in 1837 and build a map. Allowing Bam to take it a step further.

It starts with good, old-fashioned research. Often involving information you can’t just Google (or couldn’t until these guys did the work).

Breeding hops suddenly hip

Peter DarbyThe lead story in the latest issue of All About Beer magazine is titled “Hop Forward: Breeding Tomorrow’s Hops Today.” The current Brew Your Own magazine has an article on “Aroma Hop Breeding.” Earlier this year, Beer Advocate magazine put “The Future of Hops” on its cover.

And yesterday, Tony Magee at Lagunitas tweeted: “Who would u guess 2 be the most important person n US craft brewing? A brewer..? Think again. He’s a Hop grower named Jason Perrault! Word.”

Perrault is the face of Hop Breeding Company, which owns the patent on popular hop varieties such as Citra, Simcoe and the hop-to-be-named-later-currently-known-as-369.

But change is ongoing outside the United States as well (and Brian Yaeger’s story in AABM includes that). Breeders, growers, brokers who sell hops and brewers are having conversations they didn’t before. Sometimes even consumers. “As a breeder and a grower it is fun to talk to drinkers about varieties,” Perrault said last week, following with a story about sitting in a bar and hearing a customer ask the bartender if he had any beer brewed with Simcoe hops.

So meet Peter Darby, who breeds hops in England. That’s him at the top. When the hop breeding program that operated at Wye College for 100 years (1906-2006) closed the National Hop Association of England set up Wye Hops, just outside of Canterbury. There he continues the work started by E.S. Salmon, then carried on by Ray Neve (starting in 1953) and himself (1984).

Heirloom hops kept at Wye HopsWye Hops is actually located on China Farm, one of several operated by Tony Redsell, probably England’s best known hop grower.

Thus shortly before harvest began in August both hops in the Wye “library” (some listed on the right) and those being trialed were surrounded by hops that soon would be ready for beer.

On one side of the path a field full of Northdown hops — with Northdown Hill in the distance, as a matter of fact — and on the other a test field with hundreds of crosses, maybe even the next “great hop.”

“On this side consistency,” Darby said, gesturing with his left hand. “On the other diversity.”

He was talking about genetic diversity, but he still sounded a lot like a modern day brewer to me.

The conversation over beer doesn’t have to be about beer

The fifth edition of The Cask Report is out today. As author Pete Brown explains, “It’s primarily aimed at publicans who may (or may not) be interested in stocking cask ale, but some of it may be of interest to others who write about beer, or are interested in it.”

He also provides a quick summary in his blog:

  • Cask ale drinkers are more than twice as likely to go to the pub regularly as drinkers who don’t drink cask ale
  • The number of cask ale drinkers has fallen overall – but the number of young people drinking it (18-24) has risen for the second year running
  • This represents a broader recruitment trend – of all people who say they drink cask ale, 10% of them started drinking in the last year. 37% started drinking it in the last ten years. Cask ale drinkers are leaving the market at one end, but they are entering it at the other – a clear sign of the revival of interest in cask ale
  • 2500 more pubs are stocking cask ale this year
  • Cask ale’s share of on-trade beer has increased to 15% – getting on for one in six pints served in the pub
  • He’s got more bullet points, including that “for most drinkers, the dynamic in the market is about ‘familiar’ versus ‘unfamiliar’ beers.” An important lesson for those selling beer; maybe even those writing about beer. But prefaced with a observation worth remembering: “Only the beer industry and beer geeks debate the merits of micros versus big regional brewers.”

    Seems to me you could substitute other topics that are non-issues for most beer drinkers. Like the differences between “microbrews,” craft and faux craft. Or between porter and stout. Of course, I’m hardly one to talk (or write). This blog is for people fully engaged with beer, and not unlike conversations I might have over beer. But is something to remember when my family lets me go out in public.

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