Top Menu

Archive | Beers of conviction

Pabst IPA: Welcome to 2014

Ballantine IPAOK, officially, we’re talking about the return of Ballatine India Pale Ale. But Pabst owns the brand and here’s a key quote from Pabst brewmaster Greg Deuhs: “We are hoping that the current (Pabst Blue Ribbon) consumers will embrace the Ballantine IPA.” So I think there’s merit in the headline.

In any event, very good news, given that now perhaps more people will give this underappreciated India Pale Ale style a try.

News so big it warranted a story in USA TODAY with this headline: “Going hipster, Pabst resurrecting Ballantine IPA.”

Enough silliness. Ballantine India Pale Ale has an important place in American brewing history. Mitch Steele provides the details in IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale. A press release announcing the revival indicates the new version will be 7.2% alcohol and contain 70 IBU. That’s pretty close to what it was right after Prohibition (7.2%, 60 IBU) and unlike what it was by the 1970s (6.7%, 45 IBU, less as the decade went on).

Also in the press release, Beuhs says: “I began this project with a simple question: How would Peter Ballantine make his beer today? There wasn’t a ‘secret formula’ in anyone’s basement we could copy, so I conducted extensive research looking for any and all mentions of Ballantine India Pale Ale, from the ale’s processing parameters, aroma and color, alcohol and bitterness specifications. Many brewers and craft beer drinkers would be impressed that the Ballantine India Pale Ale of the 1950s and ’60s would rival any craft IPA brewed today.”

He brewed more than two dozen five-gallon test batches at home.

“Unlike recreating a lost brew from long ago, I had the advantage of actually being able to speak with people who drank Ballantine back in the day,” he said for the press release. “Their feedback was crucial to ensuring that the hoppy, complex flavor that was revered for over a hundred years was front and center in my recipe.”

The new version is made with eight different hop varieties, although it isn’t clear what they are. After Prohibition the brewers distilled the oils from Bullion hops at the brewery and added them to storage tanks, its aroma making it as unique among American beers as its alcoholic strength and bitterness. Later, they ran Bullion, Brewer’s Gold or American Yakima through a hammer mill before dry hopping, grinding them to “a consistency that was a cross between corn flakes and sawdust.”

Here’s what Michael Jackson wrote about Ballantine IPA in his 1982 Pocket Guide to Beer: “Like a half-forgotten celebrity, thought by some admirers to have retired and by other to be dead, Ballantine’s has been living in quiet obscurity in Rhode island. Now, it is making something of a comeback.” He notes that brewers added Yakima and Brewer’s Gold hops in the kettle. “IPA’s colour is a rich copper in the British tradition, its head thick and rocky, its nose and palate intensely aromatic, and its body firm and full.”

Although Pabst later made a beer it called Ballantine IPA, the version served at the Great American Beer Festival in the mid-1990s did not resemble the one Jackson described. The 2014 Ballantine India Pale Ale surely will taste more like it did in 1955 than in 1995, but the IPA field is a little more crowded now. And if it really is to taste “genuine” how prominent should the citrus-pine-fruity-maybe-pungent aromas and flavors that pretty much define American IPA be? Those were not desirable back then.

Farmers didn’t begin growing the Cascade hop, the first to come out of an American hop breeding program, until 1972. Centennial was released in 1990 (although available earlier — that’s a blog post in itself), Chinook in 1985, Simcoe in 2000, Citra in 2008, El Dorado in 2011, Mosaic in 2012, Lemondrop in 2014, Equinox in 2014 — notice a trend? Ballantine IPA is stepping out of a time machine into an entirely different hop world.

23

Citra hops were here

Oakham Ales Brewery, Peterborough

Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker has won Champion Beer of Britain. Boak & Bailey offer some thoughts.

Oakham Ales Citra captured the silver. The picture at the top was taken at Oakham’s brewery in Peterborough last year and I wrote about the hop dust then. I don’t have anything to add, nor would I even try to match Ben McFarland’s ode to Citra.

Here’s how McFarland described the beer last October:

In a derelict warehouse somewhere in Peterborough sits the Citra hop, its arms strapped behind its back, its feet shackled to a chair built from pale malt and wheat. Surrounding it, their eyes a maniacal mix of menace and madness, are Oakham’s brewers going to work with hacksaws and hammers in each hand, the Citra squealing gooseberry, greengage and grapefruit. A superb single-hop beer.

Makes figure Boltmaker must be pretty good.

1

Local beer: 63105

Beamer Eisele of Modern Brewery hard at work

More than an hour into the Modern Brewery’s launch party Friday at Craft Beer Cellar Clayton CEO/president Beamer Eisele was still in the store cooler, struggling to get a third keg of the brewery’s beer online. He’d already been back to the brewery to pick up the proper equipment.

“Now I can enjoy the party,” he said after the final beer was flowing. A few minutes later he and partner Ronnie Fink (that’s Eisele above and Fink below) looked at the line for beer at the rather small tasting bar in the back of the store and at friends and CBC customers pretty much filling up the place. Eisele sighed, then headed back to the brewery, this time to pick up another keg.

Ronnie Fink of Modern Brewery talks with a customer

Now that Modern Brewery is officially open there are four breweries within four miles of our house. When we moved to Clayton (ZIP Code 63105) three years ago there was one.

Clayton CBC, the western-most outpost of a chain that started in Massachusetts, just opened in May. It’s a 15-minute walk from there to The Wine and Cheese Place, the best retail store in Missouri, according to Rate Beer members and many others. For its weekly tasting Friday, Wine and Cheese was pouring Cathedral Square Ave Maria Bourbon Barrel Aged, Alpha Brewing Lapsided, Summit Brewing Sparkling Ale, Brasserie La Goutte D’Or La Mome Saison Orientale, and Brouwerij Verhaeghe Barbe Ruby Kriek.

Last month, Book & Bailey wrote that “For some, local is enough.” Local is important to me. It really does make a beer taste better (no I’m not suggesting it is something that might be replicated in a blind taste test). I’m pretty sure that it is “enough” to build a business on, but that “enough” must includes a decent level of skill in the brewhouse. There are too many quality beers, local and not-so-local, close at hand not to notice when others don’t measure up.

2

When cultures collide

About to order a beer at Festival Birofilia

Meant to post this photo taken last month at Festiwal Birofilia in Zywiec right after returning home from Poland, but failed.

It was a hoot eavesdropping on the conversation, all in Polish and pretty much none of which I understood except the part where the person selling beer tried to teach this fellow how to say “ee-pa.”

The look on his face after he tried the beer suggested he wished he’d made another choice.

Friday beer: Two Jokers Double-Wit

Boulevard Two Jokers Double-WitSo you bought the first edition of “1001 Beers You Must Taste Before You Die” and worked your way through the first 1,000 before you realized that blankety-blanket so and so Stan Hieronymus* suggested a beer you couldn’t find. Now you can die in peace — Two Jokers Double-Wit is back.

It would seem not everybody was as impressed with Two Jokers as I was when it was released in 2009. As a result, Boulevard Brewing did not brew it beer in 2012, or 2013. It’s back now, as a seasonal, familiar and convivial. At the risk of repeating myself, here’s what I wrote in 2009:

“It makes sense that Boulevard Brewing, located in America’s bread basket, would include wheat as a major ingredient in seventy percent of the beers it brews. Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat, a 4.4 percent beer perfect for humid nights in Boulevard’s home of Kansas City, accounts for most of that, but the brewery makes a full spectrum of wheat-based beers, including Two Jokers Double Wit. ‘The beer and the name are based on duality,’ said Boulevard brewmaster Steven Pauwels. ‘On one side you have the old-school way of making a tart white beer while on the other side you have the U.S. craft beer movement to make everything bigger, more complex. This beer is an approach to overcome these differences.’

“He uses what brewers call a ‘sour mash’ to create much of the tartness in this beer, a method employed in Belgium at the beginning of the twentieth century instead of using ‘wild’ yeast. ‘I like the idea of tartness in white beers,’ said Pauwels, who is Belgian-born and trained. ‘Nowadays we tend to over spice these beer to reach that goal, while they were pretty simple beers at that time (in the nineteenth century).’ The recipe for Two Jokers includes both malted and unmalted wheat and a bit of oats. It is spiced with coriander, orange peel, lavender, cardamom and grains of paradise, but none in quantities that make them easy to pick out.

DRINKING NOTE
Pours hazy orange with an off-white head. Citrus and spices jump from the glass, followed by sweet notes of cotton candy. Tart on the tongue, pleasantly grainy, with refreshing orange and lemon zest flavors. Complex and lively.”

*****

* Full disclosure: I was paid to contribute 51 entries to the book. So Two Jokers and I have a working relationship, even following each other on Twitter.

Powered by WordPress