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A gose. w/ cactus. in a can. from Sierra Nevada.

Sierra Nevad Otra Vez

Remember back in the day when you said “We’ll see Ballast Point sell for a billion bucks before Sierra Nevada releases a gose-style beer made with prickly pear and grapefruit and packages it in a can?”

Put that prediction in the loss column.

Otra Vez will be available year round beginning in January. In case you are curious, it means “another time.” And I thought it meant “alternative universe.”

(Photo courtesy Sierra Nevada Brewing)


Ales Through the Ages, March 18-20

Ales Through The AgesA weekend of beer and history in Colonial Williamsburg, with a speaker lineup that includes Randy Mosher, Martyn Cornell, Ron Pattinson, Mitch Steele, Tom Kehoe and other people more interesting than you realize (plus me, so there’s the disclaimer).

You need to need more? “Ales through the Ages offers a journey through the history of beer with some of the world’s top beer scholars. We will explore ancient ales and indigenous beers of the past, examine the origins and consequences of industrial brewing, discover the ingredients brewers have used through time, and share a toast to brewers past.”

I’m not sure where else on earth you’ll be able to see Martyn Cornell, Mitch Steele, and Ron Pattinson give presentations on a Sunday morning. (Here’s the whole program.)

So pardon the plug for an event I’m speaking at. Even though it’s not until March 18-20 I thought you’d want to know about it. Registration is already open.


What if [fill in the beer blank] never happened?

This bit of speculation from W. Blake Gray hit my radar too late to appear in the Monday links: “The Judgment of Paris tasting was the single most important event in the history of wine. In a 1976 blind tasting, French judges chose Napa Valley wines over the best of Bordeaux and Burgundy. The repercussions still echo to this day. But what if it never happened?”

His speculation — starting from a slightly different but important perspective, that the tasting happened, but Time magazine never reported it — is both amusing and illuminating. There must be a beer doppelgänger out there, right? Maybe we’re looking at a Session topic. Even though no beer event, event, incident, development, whatever, resonates like “Judgment of Paris” there’s got to be a starting point. What would it be?

Three quick contenders . . .

What if Fritz Maytag had not bought Anchor Brewing in 1965?

What if the committee charged in 1906 with interpreting the meaning of the Pure Food and Drug Act had decided to implement some sort of legal differentiation between all malt and adjunct beer, or enacted a proposal that lager beer be required to lager at least three months? (Both were considered and rejected.)

What if the USDA had not released the Cascade hop variety in 1972? The story.


The last days of lager beer in St. Louis

A story about sales of lager beer in St. Louis ending for the year in September of 1854 was repeated in numerous newspapers, and later in a variety of books. It was a reminder that at the time lager beer was seasonal and it also served as a benchmark when measuring future lager sales, including in comparison to what was referred to as common beer.

The other day I found the original story in the Daily Missouri Republican, and although it doesn’t include any facts not otherwise reported it does add wonderful context. It seems that back before there were imperial stouts brewed under a full moon and aged along with the cremated remains of John Wayne in the wagon he drove in Stagecoach to stand in line for there were, well, lagers.

So here’s the report:

“‘The last days of Pompeii’ is a romance of Belwer [Edward Bulwer-Lytton], known to the world; but ‘the last days of Lager Beer in St. Louis,’ is a romance yet to be written. We certainly will not pretend to write it, for we claim no merit as a novelist; but we will give facts, plain facts, and if any one feels interest enough in them to use them for a theme of romantic literature, we most cordially allow him the privilege of doing so.

“With last Sunday, September 17th, the last drop of Lager Beer in St. Louis went down to – posterity. It was, and is no more. During the past extremely hot summer, it must have been some sort of gratification to our German population to have resorted to a good glass of Lager Beer, and freely did they make use of it. At places where, as we are told, the best of that article was kept, scarcely enough hands could be procured to serve the daily increasing number of consumers. But the extraordinary demand, occasioned by the extraordinary heat, soon exhausted the supply. One house after the other announced to its customers, that next day ‘the last barrel of Lager Beer’ would be tapped. This direful news brought grief unto many, and not a few were this person: stopped at street corners by inquisitive friend, with the often-repeated query ‘Where is good Lager Beer yet to be had?’ At last, two places only remained where the needful could be got – one, a spacious bar room, was the Mecca, during the day; the other, being a garden, in the evening. But days hurried on. The demand, having been concentrated to these two places, was too great for their supply, and finally, the bar room gave out. Matter now seemed to wear a gloomy appearance. ‘Mr. K. has shut his house,’ was sad tiding indeed. However, the consolation remained. The delicious fluid could yet be obtained at the garden, as so it went on for a few days. But, alas, only for a few days. One fine morning, as a social company were gathered under the beautiful acacia trees in that garden, the otherwise very kind and affable host, with one glass full of Lager Beer, in his left ‘fist,’ advanced toward the company, and handing, it to one of them, pronounced it to be positively, ‘the last drop of our last barrel!’ Great consternation followed this announcement, because it then became evident that the days of Lager Beer in St. Louis for this summer were numbered. But soon a report was spread, that a certain Mr. G. had two kegs of needful yet left for his particular friends. It did not take long for that report to make the round of the particular friends of this benevolent gentleman, numerous as they are, but it embraced even foes, and the two kegs had only a bare existence, for soon after they were tapped a deep, hollow sound, in answer to a nick at the bottom, gave satisfactory evidence that they were empty.

“In the afternoon of that very same day it was discovered – how we cannot tell – that at a certain brewery downtown, a few barrels were still left to satisfy the wishes of our German community; and, in pursuance of this information, a perfect migration of our German citizens took place to the popular spot. But there, as we are informed, the Lager Beer is also gone ! and so we have record ‘the last days of Lager Beer in St. Louis.'”

An Indian beer story too good to be true?

Sometimes you come across a random story that has a bit of what you know to be a true, but also surprising facts introduced into evidence that have never appeared any place else. So before presenting this article that appeared in the St. Louis Republic in January of 1909, three simple questions that came immediately to mind:

– Where did the Choctaw get malted barley and hops?
– Could the “native” renowned for his brewing skill be am immigrant miner? (Because by all accounts the miners, or more accurately their wives, were the ones making Choc at the outset of the twentieth century.)
– What’s the source for this bit? “In earliest days of the serving of Choctaw beer was an act of hospitality, few Indian homes in rural districts being without supply.” Is the writer aware that the Choctaw did not arrive in what is now Oklahoma until 1832?

Guthrie OK, Jan 9 – State-wide prohibition in Oklahoma has given impetus to a native industry of Indian origin that flourished in many localities of the original Indian Territory long before the Civil War. It is the making of Choctaw beer, which got its name from the Choctaw Indians, in whose county the liquor is supposed to first have been brewed.

There are hospitable natives who will tell the stranger the Choctaw beer is as harmless as milk or spring water, and that there is nothing in it that “biteth like a serpent and stingeth like an adder.” There is gross deception in this assurance. There may have been men in the ancient days of the Choctaws whose heads were strong enough to resist the effects of Choctaw beer, but they cannot be found in these later days.

A native of Choctaw territory renowned for his skill in making of this native “beverage,” gives this recipe for its preparation: For a brew of sixteen gallons take one peck of barley malt, two quarter-pound cakes of hops, 50 cents of granulated sugar and one small cake of yeast.

On an open fire place the water in a big kettle and in it boil the malt and hops until their strength has been taken. When the liquid is milk-warm put in the sugar and yeast. Let the brew stand all night. The next morning it should be covered with four inches of foam.

The liquid should now be put into a strong keg and the bung hole left open for twelve hours, and then corked. The keg should be strong and the cork securely fastened. In four days the beer is ready for use. In winter keep the beer in a warm place and in summer in a cool place. Should it become stale, new life can be given by adding more sugar.

The native drinker is confident that Choctaw beer is ruined by putting ice in it. Bottled Choctaw beer a year old is described by Choctaw tipplers as being indescribably delightful.

For more than half a century the Federal Government enforced a prohibition in Indian Territory, this being a treaty provision with the government of
the Five Civilized Tribes. The native citizen did not wish to run the risk of undertaking the more laborious work of making moonshine wiskey and turned his attention to Choctaw beer.

The strength of the beer can be made greater by increasing the amount of malt, hops, etc., the rule being that twice the amount of these ingredients would give twice the strength. One insurmountable drawback to copious libation of Choctaw beer is the fact that the “morning after” is a time of unutterable woe.

In earliest days of the serving of Choctaw beer was an act of hospitality, few Indian homes in rural districts being without supply. Many housewives were known for their superior skill in making it. Choctaw beer was served free to known guests at country hotels.

The unadulterated beer is a pleasing beverage when its strength is mild. In other forms it has been the cause of much lawlessness. When sold for commercial purposes, which has always been a violation of the law, cocaine and other injurious drugs were added to it.

The Indian is a harmless citizen when sober, but when drunk he “sees red.” Crazed with drugged Choctaw beer, Indians have run amuck with pistols and Winchesters in the towns of old Indian territory. In the mining region many of the miners are Hungarian, Poles, Irish, Italians and Mexicans. They like Choctaw beer and often drink it to excess. If the beer is of the drugged kind fights soon start.

Perhaps this story was written under the influence of Choctaw beer.

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