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Beer history according to John Laffler


Guinness, Pilsner Urquell and the beer spectrum. Chris Hall writes, “On some imaginary sliding scale of corporateness and craftness, with Guinness at the corporate end, and a microbrewery that started yesterday at the craft end, Pilsner perhaps sits closer to, say, Sierra Nevada or Brooklyn Brewery.” In the comments section, the discussion is about Guinness and PU, rather than the question I think Alan McLeod would ask: Where do Sierra Nevada and Brooklyn Brewery sit on that scale?”

[Via The Beer Diary]

Part of a balanced diet. Inspired in part by a thought from the afformentioned Mr. McLeod, Boak & Bailey suggest components for a healthy beer market: a broad choice of good quality “normal” beers; some cheap-but-drinkable beers for those on a budget; and on the fringes, some weird stuff for special occasions and novelty-seekers. Much discussion follows.

[Via Boak & Bailey's Beer Blog]

“Are these beers not ultimately the wolf in sheep’s clothing?” “Craft versus crafty” — German style.

Via Berlin Craft Beer

What do we really taste when we drink wine? Or drink orange juice, or taste strawberries, or taste peaches, or drink beer? Lots to think about:

Expectations, argued the neuroscientists Lauren Atlas and Tor Wager in a recent review, can influence our experience in two interrelated ways. There is the conscious influence, or those things we are knowingly aware of: I’ve had this wine before and liked or hated it; I’ve been to this vineyard; I love this grape; the color reminds me of a wine I had earlier that was delicious. As our experience grows, so do our expectations. Every time we have a wine, we taste everything we know about it and other related wines. Then there are the unconscious factors: the weather is getting on our nerves, or our dining companion is; we’ve loved or hated this restaurant before; I’m mad at my boss over something he said this morning; the music is too loud, and the room is too cold. These can all affect taste, too, even though they are unrelated to the wine itself.

[Via The New Yorker]

“Genuineness will be the next crisis in craft brewing.” Several quotes from John Laffler (Off Color Brewing) showed up in my Twitter feed last week, including “Everybody else makes IPA, so why would we?” He had a lot to say in a two-part interview [Part I - Part II]. Not wandering down the slippery genuineness/authenticity slope today, and instead musing on just how much fun Laffler had saying sometimes outlandish things that ended up verbatim in print. So much for fact checking.

Witbier, for example, was a near-extinct beer in the 70s until Pierre Celis thought, ‘This beer tastes good, why isn’t anybody else making it?’ and started making Blue Moon. Now Hoegaarden makes how many millions of barrels a year?

[Via The Chicago Reader]

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Friday beer: So this is where all the Cascade hops are going

Heineken Light slim canThe question came up Wednesday if really big breweries were buying up hop varieties previously used mostly by smaller breweries.

First, three very big breweries funded the development of Citra — and each eventually rejected it because it didn’t seem suitable for the beers they brew. That’s why it so many brewers can use the variety today.

Second, Heineken began using Cascade in Heineken Light relatively recently. They may have already been boasted about this in advertising — I’m pretty oblivious — but if not this item today in Shanken News Daily indicates they are now:

Heineken USA has launched a new campaign to support its recently-reformulated Heineken Light label. The effort, which seeks to capitalize on Heineken Light’s ‘Best Tasting Low Calorie Lager’ award from the 2013 World Beer Championships, stars actor Neil Patrick Harris and puts the focus on Heineken Light’s new taste and package.

The label’s update includes the addition of Cascade hops, which give the 99-calorie brew a more IPA-like flavor and finish, as well as the introduction of a taller, slimmer-necked bottle and a new 8.5-ounce ‘slim can’ format. The ‘Best Tasting Light Beer’ campaign is currently running across TV advertising, digital, and other platforms.

About that “slim can.” Heineken first introduced a 12-ounce slim can for Heineken Premium Light in 2007. (That’s the one in the picture here. I’d be curious to see what the smaller one looks like.) At the time the goal was to overcome the “Heineken Hurdle” — a perception among light beer drinkers who previously have tasted Heineken that HPL would be too robust for them.

Now there’s a hint, although the one YouTube commercial I looked at doesn’t mention hops, the beer may have a “more IPA-like” flavor. Apparently not a hurdle, although maybe why they’ve limited the dose size to 8.5 ounces.

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‘What beer is all about’


The Jim Koch magic eat-yeast-and-don’t-get-drunk trick revisited. NPR’s The Salt invests a lot of time and more than 1,000 words before concluding, “we didn’t learn the ultimate trick to drinking without getting drunk, but we did enjoy monitoring our experience of intoxication.” Including the “sweet spot” for getting buzzed. (0.04 BAC if you are too lazy to read that far.)

[Via NPR]

“All in all, the BJCP system rewards conformity and ‘cloning’ while punishing creativity.” OK, that’s a little bit provocative, but Boak and Bailey put it in boldface midway through their post “On Judging” – so give it a read and see what you think.

[Via Boak & Bailey's Beer Blog]

Saison. Saison. Saison. In a rather strange post at Slate, Pete Mortensen offers major beer producers suggestions what they should be brewing, including “tart saisons.” Jeff Alworth is not impressed with Mortensen’s thinking, but “here’s the thing: he may very well have a point.” And although the headline reads, “Why We Should Take Beer Styles Less Seriously” Derek Dellinger is really talking about saison(s). I’m a sucker for any posts that concludes, “…. Okay, maybe all I’m really saying here is, if I ever have kids, I want them to grow up having very strong opinions about the microbial content of saisons.”

[Via Slate, Beervana, and Bear Flavored Ales]

Why bars charge what they do for beer. Which is different than why you are willing (or not) to pay the markup.

[Via serious eats]

Mexican Logger: Simply What Beer Is All About. My favorite post of the week, and the thought I want to leave you with.

I’ve had Double Black IPA’s aged in oak barrels, beers with two adjunct ingredients for every color in the rainbow, IPA’s steeped in hops in a french-press, sours that are fermented with 100% Brett yeasts, pumpkin beers that bring in money for local non-profits, beers aged in rum barrels, beers made with ingredients from local hikes, I’ve had beers that are taken and aged five different ways, beers that were a collaboration between over ten Colorado breweries, and I’ve had some of the tastiest cask beers ever (I never did get to try those mushroom beers though). The beer that stands out above them all is Ska Brewing’s Mexian Logger. To put it plainly, it’s the only one that made me realize that sometimes in my effort to try everything that is new and special, I miss out on the great beers that I can drink repeatedly, all night long while hanging out with my pals. This beer reminded me that sometimes beer is simply about drinking with friends, relaxing, and enjoying the end of a long day.

[Via Focus on the Beer]

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‘England’s Franconia’ – Is there a better endorsement for a beer drinking region?


England’s Franconia. Add Dudley and the Black Country to the list of must visit destinations in England. Next time somebody asks for an example of beer from a place I’m pointing to this URL.

[Via I Might Have a Glass of Beer]

Why Beer History? Tom Cizauskas turned his blog over to historian Maureen O’Prey for The Session (it was Friday; I lose blogging karma points because things were silent here). She sets the bar high, “As a historian, my mandate is to unearth the accounts of these brewers and share them with the world. Every brewer’s story should be documented, however grand, or seemingly inconsequential.”

[Via Yours for Good Fermentables]

The Art of Craft Beer. Who is Art Larrance (other than the buy who started the Oregon Brewers Festival)? A profile.

[Via Oregon Beer Growler]

Cal Poly Pomona to offer new beer brewing class, build microbrewery on campus. I’m passing this along mostly because I didn’t know that California was considering a “sip and spit” law that allows students younger than 21 to taste beer (and wine) when they take particular college course. But it also reminds me of a question that Dr. Michael Lewis (who started the brewing program at UC-Davis before Sierra Nevada Brewing was even open) asked at the Craft Brewers Conference: Who will be accrediting the institutions that are accrediting the brewers?

[Via San Gabriel Valley Tribune]

Anthony Bourdain’s Theory on the Foodie Revolution. What if you replaced the words food, cooking and eating with beer, brewing and drinking in the first paragraph? “It won’t be surprising if cultural historians look back on the first two decades of this century as The Era of Crazed Oral Gratification. I’m speaking of the fetishization of food, of cooking and eating, of watching other people cooking and eating, that has become omnipresent across all platforms, all media, all screens and all palates in our great nation.”

And that’s before Bourdain cuts loose.

[Via Smithsonian magazine]

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While I was gone: ‘Craft’ and ‘IPA’ redux

MONDAY BEER LINKS, MUSING 06.23.14 & 6.30.14

OK, it’s Wednesday, not Monday, but I have some catching up to do.

First, a quick combination from print. In the July issue of Beer Advocate magazine Andy Crouch writes “We are unquestionably in the Age of IPA” and suggests that there is “some hazard in letting a single style define craft beer so completely.” I don’t think that’s going to be a problem, in part because of what he hits on at the end. Flavor is driving escalating sales of beers with flavor. That reads a little simplistic, I know, but the point is we’re talking about new flavors, not just hop aromas and flavors. Meanwhile, Josh Bernstein writes about the evolution of IPA in Imbibe magazine (linked because it is online, but you might want to buy the magazine to get the nice timeline that accompanies the story).

Now, two weeks worth of links and a minimum of musing.

Is Sam Adams Too Big to Be Craft Beer? I missed the press release while we were in Poland, but apparently Tony Magee of Lagunitas is now in charge of determining what constitutes “craft beer.” From the article: “Magee said that Sam Adams has ‘so little to do with what beer is doing today.’ In other words, Sam Adams may have once been craft, but its size and lack of innovation mean it can no longer qualify.” Enos Sarris, who wrote the article, apparently agrees, concluding, “It started a craft beer revolution, and then craft beer’s evolution passed it by.” Musing: Bullshit. [Via FiveThirtyEight]

When Craft Beer Becomes a Commodity and Big Brewers Making Specialty Beer: Lessons from MillerCoors. A combination from Jeff Alworth meant to be read in combination. Musing: Sierra Nevada Brewing will make more than one million barrels (as much as the entire “craft” segment minus contract-brewed Samuel Adams and Pete’s Wicked Ales just 20 years ago) this year. Friday night at The Second City in Chicago I expect to have a hard choice to make between drinking Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and locally brewed Half Acre Daisy Cutter Pale Ale. They are not interchangeable. [Via Beervana]

Is Sierra Nevada Overvalued? The Curious Case of the “Boring” Beer. Musing: See above. [Via This Is Why I'm Drunk]

Style from Adrian Tierney-Jones provokes What Are the Elements of Style? from Alan McLeod. Musing: Strunk and White would be proud. [Via A Good Beer Blog]

Rising Hops Prices Make Craft Brewers Jumpy and The real value of hops. The first one is behind a firewall, so if the link doesn’t work be creative. The second provides perspective. Musing: Things are just starting to get interesting. [Via Wall Street Journal and Brewer's Guardian]

Your Favorite Local Brewery is Not Selling Out. Musing: I expected more after seeing the headline, but the comments add another layer of persepctive. [Via The Full Pint]

Blind Tasting: Unreliable but Necessary. “That is one of the most useful features of blind tasting: to be disturbed. To ask yourself, do I really like what I like? Or do I like it because I think I should?” Musing: I drink plenty of beer “blind” because I judge beer, and I usually don’t end up knowing what those beers were. I find myself less interested these days in learning what I might in a blind tasting than I will seeing, and learning about, just what I am drinking. [Via Palate Press]

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