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Archive | June, 2012

Take a deep breath, hops lovers

For the Love of HopsThe Boston Beer Company is sharing hops (again)1, this time some of those that many brewers, and drinkers, are absolutely crying for — Citra and Simcoe. And they are selling them at their cost.

You can read about it at the Samuel Adams website, but you need to be an brewery operator to buy the hops.

Three quick thoughts:

– This is quite generous.

– They can do this because the forward contract for hops, something any size brewery can do.

– This does not guarantee there will be “plenty” of Simcoe, Citra and Ahtanum (the other hop for sale, and like Simcoe one of five hops in Latitude 48 IPA) after the 2012 harvest. But it likely means those want to contract for them will be able to.

These are strange hop times. There’s a glut of “alpha” available, meaning those only interested in hops for bittering purposes (even though may be very low, as in less than 8 IBU) can pick it up cheap. But the exotic varieties are in short supply.

For instance, it is nearly impossible to find Riwaka from New Zealand. Doug Donelan, New Zealand Hops spokesman explained when in an email: “Riwaka is a high demand variety with limited volume currently in production we need to rationalise distibution to ensure current users aren’t disadvantaged while trying to expand acreage. The US is only a small market for Riwaka with only one brewer currently using any significant volume. Existing users will continue to be supplied we are just limiting our expansion for the time being.”

He pointed to the importance of planning ahead. Contracting. A brewery doesn’t have to be as big as Boston Beer to do that.

“We grew 90 (metric tons) in 2012 all of which was forward sold so brewers attempting to buy high demand hops on spot markets need to re-think their purchasing strategy. Nelson Sauvin has been in volume growth for the past few years and will continue for the forseeable future,” he wrote. “Hops aren’t something you just turn a tap on with. We grow a wide mix of varieties so expansion needs to managed due to several factors. In time we will increase acreage of several high demand varieties but this also needs to be balanced with other contracaual commitments and release of newer types as well.”

1 Boston Beer also shared hops during the 2008 “hop crisis.” The hops were Hallertau Mittelfrüh and Golding, because Boston Beer used almost exclusively continental and UK hops at the time. BBC founder Jim Koch quite candidly admitted he didn’t care for American hops. He’s come around.

New Crustacean? A beer made with yeast from John Maier’s beard?

John Maier, beard beerI looked at the calendar. It says we are nowhere near April 1. So I pass along this information from Rogue Wire Service. I hope that I don’t arrive in the Northwest tomorrow to be told I’ve fallen for a hoax.

The press release says that Rogue Ales collected three samples from the brewery’s hop yard north of Corvallis and sent them to White Labs in San Diego. None of them provided a yeast strain suitable for brewing.

As a joke, nine beard follicles from brewmaster John Maier’s beard were next sent for testing. They produced a yeast perfect for use in brewing. White conducted more tests to make sure it wasn’t Rogue’s “Pac Man” yeast, some of which obviously could have ended up on Maier’s beard. Nope.

So the beard yeast is currently being used in test batches to determine a style it will work best in. Once that is settled Maier will brew New Crustacean (Rogue’s barleywine is called Old Crustacean) for release in 2013.

Oh, and the press release also says that when Maier learned about the discovery he said, “It was in front of me the whole time and it only took two centuries and five decades to grow.”

Update: John Maier, who seems to have become a regular at the National Homebrew Conference, confirmed that he really is at work on a beer brewed with yeast harvested (if that is the right word) from his beard.

4 days in Poland; now off to Seattle

X KPD winner in Poland

A couple of years ago I linked to a video that featured Polish homebrewers in their own words. This past weekend I met some of those very homebrewers and drank their beer.

It was good.

I was there to judge in the X-th Konkurs Piw Domowych (National Homebrew Competition), which was held at the Zywiec Brewery as a part of the Birofilia Festival.

I judged American IPA and California Common as well as the Grand Champion, which meant another duty was mispronouncing too many names (sorry homebrewers, and for the dirty thoughts I had about all those grade school teacher who mangled mine) while handing out awards. I shook hands, and when the winner was a woman kissing was also involved. The photo of Gabriela Bujok accepting the certificate for second in California Common is courtesy of Volker R. Quante.

There’s much more to report, both about homebrewing in Poland and the beer culture. But right now I have to finish up a presentation about hops for the National Homebrew Conference in Seattle.

The Session #65 announced: Drinking alone

The SessionFor The Session #65 Nate Southwood asks that we write about going to the pub, or bar, alone.

Immediately brings about some interesting questions. I typed the headline for this, Drinking alone, before the post. But is going to the pub alone the same as drinking alone? It is surely different than drinking alone at home.

The way I see it is that I love beer and pubs and I don’t see why I should only go to the pub when I’m with other people.

Am I weird for going to the pub alone?

How do you feel about going to the pub alone? Do you feel it’s necessary to be around friends to spend time in a pub?

The next Session is July 6.

What do beer bloggers need to know (more) about?

Where in the beer world?

As Alan reported, Elle Potter has been sending out very nice personal invitations to bloggers who have not yet signed up to attend the third Beer Bloggers Conference next month in Indianapolis.

Way back when the BBC was picking the host city for the 2012 I recall indicating that I would attend a conference in St. Louis, Austin (because I told one of the potential local hosts I’d speak, they have barbecue and we can visit relatives) or Indianapolis (only 250 miles, more relatives, who might even let me bring a sleeping bag and toss it on the floor at Sun King Brewing). But then they scheduled it at a time we already have plans, making my decision easy.

However, since Elle wrote “having your feedback what might be keeping you from joining this year helps us as we grow with the beer blogging community’s needs in mind” I took a look at the agenda. It’s obviously a great party, and that’s good enough reason to go. But I don’t see much in those content sessions that might improve the quality of the content that appears here. Call me old fashioned but that’s how I’d justify signing up for the party.

So my question for you, although I’m not sure I actually expect any answers, is what should beer bloggers learn in order to get better at blogging? Not better at making money from blogging, or at least scoring free beer. Not better at organizing beer events. Better at regularly publishing posts you want to read.

(OK, the photo has next to nothing to do with the post, but I was looking for a quick party image and this photo taken at the cafe across from the Achouffe brewery in Belgium filled the bill.)

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