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Hop links, news & myths

- “It’s wonderful that hops have become the subject of so much writing and discussion. It’s just unfortunate that in the process so many (false) myths are being passed on – in countless forums and blogs, on Facebook and even in conversations. So let’s do some spring cleaning and do away with some of these myths.”

The Barth-Haas Group plans to update its new Hop Flavour Blog each Monday. The quote above is from a post about hop myths. Not the sort of historical ones Martyn Cornell tries to rid us of in the appendix to “Beer: The Story of the Pint.” Instead, these set the record straight on brewing matters. For instance, “Myth No. 4: Hop varieties are easily interchangeable. Hop oil contains more than 400 aroma compounds in different concentrations and combinations, and these substances additionally produce synergistic effects. It is therefore very difficult to swap hop varieties.” Indeed.

– ADHA483 (Azacca), ADHA881 (Jarrylo), ADHA871 (Pekko), ADHA527, ADHA529, and ADHA484, oh my! I suspect it will be possible to drink a beer brewed with a relatively new hop or an experimental one (probably only with a number as a name) about every five minutes for three straight days during the upcoming Craft Brewers Conference in Portland. But the most public tasting will be one featuring varieties from the American Dwarf Hop Association’s breeding program at Apex Bar April 17. Among the breweries that made beers using the ADHA hops are Bagby Brewing, Alagash Brewing, Bear Republic Brewing, Three Floyds Brewing, Founders Brewing, you get the idea. First beers will be tapped at 2 p.m.

Hallertau Mittelfruh

– A crew from Simply Hops (part of the English branch of Barth Haas) tweeted their away across Germany last week. Interesting tour, including a stop inside of the -35° C chamber where Type 45 pellets are processed. But I was struck more than anything by this description of Hallertau Mittelfrüh: “Full of grapefruit!”

– It sure looks like 2015 will be a breakout year for German-grown Mandarina Bavaria, introduced in 2012 (in time to be described in “For the Love of Hops” although there was little available for brewing). German farmers harvested 100 metric tons (a metric ton is about 2,200 pounds) of Mandaria Bavaria in 2014, compared to 19 in 2013. That crop is sold out, but acreage will double this year. Mandarina is prominent in Firestone Walker’s Easy Jack, which is one reason that brewmaster Matt Brynildson spent a chunk of time in Bavaria during the 2014 harvest. He writes about it in travelogue Firestone Walker has created and included plenty of photos (aka hop porn).

– Jeff Alworth writes about brewing with Latir, one of the hops Todd Bates bred in New Mexico from different neomexicanus plants collected in the wild and now grown by the monks at Christ in the Desert monastery north of Abiquiu, N.M. He promised to save me a bottle, so I will report back after CBC.


Working with a living beer community

Tiah Edmunson-Morton, Oregon Hops & Brewing ArchivesThe March/April edition of DRAFT magazine has a lovely little story about Tiah Edmunson-Morton and the Oregon Hops & Brewing Archives. (Full disclosure: I wrote it.)

I’ve pointed to her Tumblr blog on several occasions, first because I thought you might be interested, and second, perhaps selfishly, because we need to encourage this sort of activity. In one sense it is easier to collect history as it is happening; in another it is harder because you don’t know necessarily know what is going to be important.

Yesterday Alan McLeod wrote, “The interesting thing about the early bits of anything is how little data there is to work with.” Indeed.

So a couple of quotes from Edmunson-Morton (in case your copy of DRAFT hasn’t arrive in the mail):

“The ultimate irony is you can digitize it all, but how to you make sense out of it?”

“You are no longer dealing with people how have died and left their nice box of stuff. You are working with a living community. The power is not just records, but people’s memories. One person fills in a blank here, another person there.”

As I wrote in the story, OHBA makes too much sense to be one of a kind. But, to repeat myself, we need to encourage this sort of activity. Edmunson-Morton is already practicing what Paul Eisloeffel of the Nebraska State Historical Society calls holistic collecting, “thinking outside of the archives box” and gathering artifacts as well as historical documents. This doesn’t necessarily come naturally.

“Dealing with artifacts has always been a problem for standalone archives,” he said. He’s a proponent of the sort of proactive collecting Edmunson-Morton has begun. “It is important for archivists to be able to look at what’s happening in a culture and start collecting now. I really applaud her.”


More hops, because, maybe, more West Coast IPAs


Procedural note. We are on holiday. This was written last week (so pardon any overlaps with Boak & Bailey) and appears today through the wonders of technology. I have turned comments off because although I trust that everybody would remain civil in my absence maybe I don’t, really.

Heaps more hops.
Hops Products Australia is going to spend about $10 million US to expand production by 50 percent over the next three years. Every hop helps, but some perspective: Australian farmers harvested just north of 1,000 acres last year, so if all of Australian production were to grow 50 percent that would be 500 more acres. Farmers in the American Northwest are adding more than 5,000 acres in 2015, and it will cost a lot more than $10 million. No flag waving here, just noting how fast demand for “aroma” hops has exploded. This is HPA’s “first significant capital investment in land, plant and equipment in 20 years” simply because demand didn’t warrant it before. Australians grow some lovely hops. I’ve only had the newest, Enigma, in a couple of beers, but it seems to have a bright future. [Via The Crafty Pint]

Young and Old – How We’ve Grown: The Darwin Link pt II.
The Pub: Where Grown-Ups Make Friends.
New York: Last Bar Seat, Allen Street Pub, Albany.
Snugs. Taprooms. Dark milds. Sitting among houses on a side street. Friends made. These things all still exist. [Via Beer Compurgation, Boak & Bailey, A Good Beer Blog]

Understanding farmhouse ale.
I was already thinking Lars should write the “Indigenous Beer: Brittany to the lower Volga, from the Alps to the Arctic Circle” book. “Beer in the farmhouse context was a lot more than just an alcoholic drink, in that it played a number of deeply important roles in social and religious life.” Video above a fascinating look at farmhouse brewing in Russia. [Via Larsblog]

You’re drinking your beer too cold – and here’s why.
Long time ago, like before Miller Lite was available nationally, when I worked nights about once a week we’d leave the office for our mid-shift meal. When we went to a place that served beer, which was likely Pabst, one member of our group would immediately order two beers after he was seated. He did not do this so the second beer would be at a proper temperature — an approach suggested in this story — but because in his experience it always took too long for the second beer to arrive. In fact, I’m pretty sure his second never had time to reach the “proper” drinking temperature. [Via Chicago Tribune]

A Disruptive Influence?
Ah, yes. The elephant in the room. Cue Jason Isbell.
[Via Boak & Bailey]

How the West Coast-Style IPA Conquered the World.
Stories like this always make me wonder where Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, first brewed in 1992, fits in the converstation. And reminds me that Bell’s brewed a beer it called Big Head for the 2008 Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego and called it a “San Diego Ale.” [Via First We Feast]

German Craft Beer at the Crossroads? Beer Observations 2015.
If Germany really is at a crossroads, then it all happened much faster than here in the US. My guess is the conversation has just started. Oh, yeah, and I found this thought particularly interesting, “Hamburg is steadily approaching equal footing with Berlin quantitatively, and in qualitative terms may even have already nosed ahead.” [Via Mixology]

Full Sail Sells to Private Equity Firm — What Does it Mean?
A bit of logistics I hadn’t considered: the fact that a private equity firm bought Full Sail meant there was no brewery (as there would be if a large entity like Anheuser-Busch had come knocking) “means that they need all our employees.” There are multiple big pictures to consider, including the future of good size brewing companies (like Full Sail). But one picture should be clear. Local breweries are not in danger. One hundred and fifty-nine brewpubs opened nationwide last year, the most since 1997. Private equity firms are not going to be taking them over. They are often small, and some will go out of business because local businesses do. Kind of like hamburger joints (threw that one in for Joe Stange). But others will open. [Via All About Beer]

How Lagunitas dodged a drug bust to become a craft beer powerhouse.
A lovely long read, and just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. [Via Mashable]

The ‘sweetening’ of American IPA


Last week I promised to find links related to actually drinking beer. Plenty to choose from if you pay a bit of attention.

No Man Loves Life Like Him That’s Growing Old.
“The back room and bar were heaving when we arrived and squeezed into the hatched snug on the right as you enter. It gives you a kind of railway tunnel view of proceedings. There was a geriatric karaoke in full swing. At the far end an oldish guy on an electronic music box was squeezing out old time tunes accompanied by even older types giving it laldy on the microphone.” [Via Tandleman’s Beer Blog]

Changing tastes of IPA.
“But after sinking my first half pint of Beavertown’s uber-fresh Bloody ‘Ell on its launch day, something crystallised in my mind immediately. US IPAs are very sweet.” And, “The more I reflect on the beers I had in DC last month, the more I realised that the majority of them had so much of that sickly barley sugar flavour in the background, in some cases it was almost overwhelming the hops despite the beers being fresh.”

I’m not sure everybody would describe such beers as sweet, but myself I share the anti-crystal bias. And I think back to 2006 and Vinnie Cilurzo talking about when the Russian River Brewing production facility would come on line. He said that anybody who worked for him must “understand the beers are defined and have our signature. They must be bone dry – that can’t change. The new brewer suggests adding crystal, ‘You’re fired!'” That was before fruit-forward hops such as Citra, Mosaic and El Dorado hops were available. Alone they don’t have to make a beer sweet, but couple them with a bit too much crystal and a lack of firm bitterness and you get sweet. However, that’s only some American IPAs. Not La Cumbre Brewing Elevated IPA, Fat Heads Head Hunter, Firestone Walker Union Jack, Russian River Blind Pig, Schlafly AIPA, Half Acre Senit. The list of firmly bitter beers is pretty long. [Via Crema’s Beer Odyssey, h/T Boak & Bailey]

The beer that changed my life.
“The golden liquid was strangely bitter to my inexperienced palate, but there was a rich sweetness to it as well. The taste grew on me, litre by litre, until by the end of the trip I was a lager drinker. I remember carrying ten bottles home in my luggage.” [Via I might have a glass of beer]

Up and coming beer destinations?
Lars Marius Garshol picks Vilnius. “To most people, farmhouse ale is the same as saison and biere de garde. Two hours in Vilnius is enough to destroy that illusion for ever. Uniquely in the world, apart from Belgium, Lithuania has not just preserved its ancient farmhouse brewing culture, but managed to commercialize it. There are at least 15 breweries in Lithuania brewing beers that are either real farmhouse ale in the Lithuanian tradition, or to some degree commercialized versions of farmhouse ale.” [Via larsblog]

The Craft Beer Series.
“I’m stuck in two beer series right now: Bell’s Planetary series and Victory’s Moving Parts. When a new component of either series pops up on the shelf, I buy it. Neither series is wowing me in the way Lilyhammer did in the beginning of season 2 with its pop cultural references (Animal House, Godfather). Neither series has me wondering how it will all wrap up in the end as we debated Breaking Bad’s conclusion (we knew, though, that Walter White would go down in a glorious manner; we just didn’t know how). Still, I can’t quit the series. I’ve started it. I’m a part of it. I have to see it through.” [Make Mine Potato]

An Overflowing River Of New York Beer.
“I had 15 beers across 12 breweries in three different NY beer bars and one bottle shop. I had beers from big breweries, small breweries, new breweries and old(er) breweries.” {Via BeerGraphs]

Luck of the draw.
“Definitely a mixed bag, then. Proof that raffles are not the ideal way to source new beers.” [Via The Beer Nut]


Next week, links about actually drinking beer


Organizing the links this week I figured out what was missing.

Making & selling beer

Inside The Ram Brewery.
Whoa! There’s a nanobrewery inside the Ram Brewery, the place where Young’s and Co, made beer 1831 and 2006. Here’s the tour: “We’re shown a set of cast iron grain hoppers, over a century old. These barley grains have sat in this chamber since the 1970s.” [Via Londonist, h/T Stonch]

Houston’s craft beer king opens up on staying relevant, the Sam Adams controversy and a greedy new wave.
A lengthy interview with Saint Arnold Brewing co-founder Brock Wagner delivers all that’s promised in the headline and more. Right up front, Wagner says, “We also don’t believe that our being here for 20 years is particularly relevant to the craft beer drinker.” I don’t know if it is a left brain/right brain thing, but he’s an MBA/homebrew enthusiast, so properly practical but with an appreciation for a business that makes it something beyond selling more beer than last year. [Via Culture Map]

Making diastatic brown malt.
This is Ed Wray’s contribution to Boak & Bailey’s call for #beerylongreads (the last round, for a while, at least). The others mostly appeal to a wider audience but I point to this one because it is authoritative. After I recommended Randy Mosher’s “Mastering Homebrew” I noticed a review at Amazon that concluded, “The advance brewer is likely to find a few things that s/he did not know but that can be found in web sources as well.” Not to come across as an author defending his turf (“You can’t trust what you read on the internet — buy the dang book”), but when you are following somebody else’s instructions on how to do something you really appreciate it when they are authoritative. Sorry, I don’t have a perfect way to sort out what is and is not. But this is. So there you have it. [Via Ed’s Beer Site]

Why Greene King doesn’t care that the haters hate its IPA.
A) This is how the beer market works. B) “A small rant directed at all those idiots who keep chuntering on about how Greene King IPA is ‘not an India Pale Ale’ and how IPA has to be ‘strong and strongly hopped’, so it would survive the long journey to the Indian sub continent, over 200 years ago. You don’t have a clue what you are talking about.” And C) 97 comments. [Via Zythophile]

Seminary students make beer-making part of daily work.
Brother Albert Marie Curtis, 21, is in charge of the brewing. “He learned from another brother for a year, then took over the operation himself. Since he’s nearing the end of his time at the seminary, he is now training two other brothers to brew.” [Via LaCrosse Tribune]

Growing beer

Michigan’s hops acres to double.
What does it mean when an investment group that typically invests in commercial real estate plan to start 400-acre hop farm? It’s happening in Michigan, which already had more acres of hops under trellis than any other state outside the hop-rich Northwest. “It’s all about economies of scale,” Jason Warren, president of the investment group, said. “If you’re going to do it in a meaningful way you have to set yourself up for this size of a farming operation.” Farmers in the Northwest do operate on a larger scale, but the approach for the revived hop industry elsewhere has been to follow the German model. There the average farm has 34 acres under trellis. [Via Traverse City Record-Eagle]

Brewer’s Choice, SMaSH Beers, and NY Agriculture.
In this case SMaSH stands for State Malt and State Hops. Here’s what the Farm Brewery license does: it that allows breweries to sell beer by the glass at their own facility and elsewhere, including farmers markets. To qualify for the permit at least 20 percent of the hops and 20 percent of all other ingredients a brewery uses must be grown or produced in New York State. That percentage increases to 60 percent in 2018 and 90 percent in 2024. Those are going to be tough numbers to reach. [Via BeerGraphs]

R.I.P. Acadian Farms & Brewery has Closed.
But you can own it for $275,000, one-barrel brewing system included. [Via The New School]

Writing about beer

“Click Bait!” Not Really Code For Good Beer Criticism.
And don’t miss the Pete Brown’s comment. Having watched this from a distance for several days I have concluded I have nothing to add. [Via a Good Beer Blog]


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