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Hop harvest has begun, and talk of a ‘hops bubble’

Hop farmers haven’t started harvesting in the American Northwest, various parts of Germany, or the Czech Repubic, where most of the world’s hops are grown, but they have some places. Thus this picture from Indiana.

So let’s begin this hops link-o-rama with a story from Indiana and go from there.

Indiana Hops Farmers Pin Financial Hopes To Craft Beer Trend
“Small farms are not gonna be able to make it on corn and soybeans,” said Purdue horticulture professor Lori Hoagland, who advises hops farmers for the school extension. “So diversifying into some of these more niche crops is gonna be important.”

As Michigan adds hop acreage, concerns of oversupply emerge
How fast is this happening? There’s already talk of a Hops Bubble™. In Michigan, acreage is growing so fast the state may soon have more land devote to hops than countries such as Belgium and New Zealand. And Brian Tennis, I think the first guy in the state to establish a commercial hop farm, suggests some caution may be in order. “Hops are still risky. It’s an agricultural crop and it depends on what the price is at,” he told MiBiz. And Rob Sirrine of the Michigan State University Extension says this “will serve as a telling year” for the state’s processing infrastructure.

Despite craft beer boom, not much hoppin’ on Illinois farms
“In Illinois, unlike in neighboring Michigan, there’s no state university-coordinated effort among brewers and growers to break down potential barriers to business. There’s no research underway to determine the best varieties for Illinois farmers to grow that might give them a competitive edge.”

German hop growers target the massive Chinese beer market
Beer production and consumption in China continues to grow, but hop acreage is shrinking. Seems to be an opportunity here.

Craft beer craze drives demand for hops in Australia
Craft beer boom brews expansion for Australian hop farmers in Tasmania, Victoria
Harvest down under wrapped up months ago. There’s more demand for hops both within the country and from elsewhere, Hop Products Australia is increasing its hop fields by half.

Hops take off in Ontario thanks to booming craft beer market
There are 80 hop yards in Ontario. Four years ago there were only five.

Pacific Northwest crop update
An optimistic report from YCHHOPS.

The Most Popular Beer Hops of July 2016
From hoplist and based on one set of criteria, but you will recognize the names.


Literary bars

Twitter just told me this is National Book Lovers Day. So I drug this column Daria and I wrote for All About Beer magazine off of the storage drive it was sleeping on. It went to print in May 2000, and a few things may have changed.

When the Blue Moon Tavern in Seattle, Wash., celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1984 the bar sponsored a bathroom graffiti contest as part of the celebration. The winning entry read “Some nights the wolves are silent and the moon howls.”

Customers visit the Moon for many reasons: to pick from a solid selection of Northwest craft beer on tap, to listen to live and loud music, to play pool, and even to gain inspiration to write such graffiti. They sit on barstools where Pulitzer Prize winners once carried on and listen to poetry from a stage where anybody is welcome the first Wednesday of each month.

We’re pretty sure we can call the Blue Moon a literary bar.

It is much easier to define a brewpub or sports bar than a literary bar. Some — like the White Horse Tavern in Manhattan, where Dylan Thomas was a regular customer and probably took his last drink — promote links to specific writers. Others — like Dressel’s Pub in St. Louis, where the logo shows Beethoven, Louis Armstrong, Emily Dickinson and Mark Twain hanging out together — celebrate respect for the arts.

Quite simply, they have beer and books in common. Beer and books may not be featured together in beer commercials on TV. Books don’t make anybody’s “hot” list when it comes to bar trends or theme bars. However, books and beer do go nicely together and the places where that happens particularly well should be treasured.

The most noteworthy literary bars have the advantage of history, but there are plenty of newer places that understand the connection. Many brewpubs and bars host poetry slams and set aside evenings for the spoken word. Sometimes the names make them easy to spot, although figuring out about the beer is a little more difficult. The Library on Austin’s famous Sixth Street draws a student crowd for pretty routine beer, but the Library Ale House in Santa Monica is a Mecca in the Los Angeles area.

Then there is the Library Restaurant and Brewing Co. in Laramie, Wyo. The restaurant and brewery are in what used to be a domed mall. Now the walls are lined with bookshelves and the dome gives the place a genuine library reading room feel. The bar area, which draws a student crowd and can get noisy, is separate.

Afterwords, a cafe with a small bar area, is different still. It is connected to Kramerbooks, a great and popular bookstore in Dupont Circle. It’s actually a full restaurant with excellent food and a fine patio and the bar has a dozen taps with imports and craft beers. The bar is literally a step away from shelves of books. The bookstore itself is a popular singles hangout and particularly crowded on weekend nights; it didn’t need the additional fame that Monica Lewinsky brought by shopping there.

To the Moon

The Blue Moon opened in 1934 and poet Carolyn Kizer, who helped make it famous with an article in The Nation magazine in 1955, described it as “a grubby oasis just outside the University’s one-mile-limit Sahara.” For a long time after the end of Prohibition, bars were not allowed to operate within a mile of the University of Washington campus. After Jack David bought the place in the 1950s it morphed from being a student hangout into a gathering place for intellectuals.

One Moon regular, Joe Butterworth, reportedly lost his UW professor’s job after being named a Communist during the Red Scare of the 1950s. He sat in the Blue Moon after his dismissal and translated the Communist Manifesto into Old English, occasionally entertaining friends with dirty limericks.

Dylan Thomas, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac all drank there. Later Ken Kesey stopped in. Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Theodore Roethke was a regular and celebrated his 1954 Pulitzer for poetry there.

“All those poets and writers came in and did their work there while drinking beer,” said Jim David, who briefly partnered with his brother at the bar and often served drinks.

Novelist Tom Robbins was another regular, and reportedly once tried to place a phone call from the Blue Moon to artist Pablo Picasso in Spain. Robbins captured the essence of the Moon as well as anyone can in a sentence when he called it “a frenzy of distorted joy spinning just outside the reach of bourgeois horrors.”

We visited on a summer Sunday afternoon and although school was not in session it was quite crowded. Some patrons sat with their backs to the windows, books cradled in their laps, pint glasses on the tables in front of them. A man with a beard and a ponytail offered to juggle just about anything other customers gave him, meanwhile carrying on a loud conversation about baseball with the bartender.

We grabbed one Deschutes Mirror Pond Ale and one Grant’s Imperial Stout and settled into a high-backed wooden booth decorated with carved initials. The table also had been initialed, worn and carved into again. The walls are covered with posters, many of them mounted years ago. Bumper stickers may be contemporary (“No Newts”) or for the ages (“Kill your television”). On the wall behind our booth was a 1939 map that picture the Holy Roman Empire during the 10th and 11 centuries. Beside that was a picture of Jerry Garcia and beside that a Grateful Dead poster from 1979.

Sunday nights are still for the Grateful Dead, while live music performances are common on Saturday nights. Wednesday continues to be for poetry readings and open-mike nights. On occasion, the stage is turned over to the “Deaf Poets Society” and its members sign their work to the audience.

Call of the wild

Jack London not only frequented Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon in Oakland, Calif., he studied there as a youth and then wrote notes for The Sea Wolf and Call of the Wild at his favorite table.

Other times he’d sit quietly and listen to sailors’ tales, and many of the tales and the tellers later appeared in his books. Heinold and the saloon are referred to 17 times in his novels John Barleycorn and The Tales of the Fish Patrol. The cabin he lived in during the 1897 Yukon Gold Rush is right outside in Jack London Square.

The tavern was built in 1883 from the timbers of old whaling ships. It’s a tiny place (five stools at the bar, three tables) but attracted many notables in serving the Port of Oakland. Robert Louis Stevenson spent time while waiting for his ship to be outfitted for his final cruise to Samoa. Erskine Caldwell, Robert Service, Ambrose Bierce and even President William Howard Taft drank at Heinold’s.

It took the name First and Last Chance because it was the last bar a ferry passenger, and later a serviceman, could drink in before boarding ship, and the first one to greet him upon his return. As a good-luck talisman, servicemen would leave money on the walls, ensuring they would be able to buy a drink when they landed back on shore. Tragically, much of it was never reclaimed.

The 1906 earthquake that destroyed San Francisco left the bar permanently tilted. It also caused an old clock to stop, and it still registers the time the quake struck.

‘Do not go gentle …’

The White Horse Tavern, which has been around since 1880, emphasizes its link with poet Dylan Thomas rather than the plethora of other writers who also hung out there in the 1950s. Thomas came to the United States in the late ’40s to travel the college circuit and made his home in New York City. Because it was (and is) very publike it is said that it reminded Thomas of his hometown of Swansea, Wales, and it soon became his local.

He did not drink alone. Writer Vance Bourajaily chaired Sunday afternoon roundtables, with regulars like Norman Mailer, John Clellon Holmes and Herman Wouk. Kerouac and Ginsberg also stopped in at times.

Thomas, who died of alcohol abuse in 1953 at the age of 39, probably drank his last whiskey at the White Horse. He attempted to set some sort of record one night, reportedly downing 19 whiskies in 90 minutes, perhaps starting at nearby Chumley’s but definitely finishing at the White Horse. Legend has it that Thomas walked out of the White Horse and dropped dead. Actually, he returned to the White Horse for a few beers the next day before heading home and collapsing into a coma. He died five days later from alcohol abuse and diabetes rather than a single binge.

The White Horse has a Dylan Thomas room complete with a Dylan Thomas table and a variety of Thomas pictures and other items on the walls. The time to see them is during the week, because the weekend tourist crowd can be rowdier.

The beer at Chumley’s (22 taps) is more interesting, although it too can get crowded on weekends, when a younger crowd is drawn to the former speakeasy. Just like in the 1920s, the entrance is only marked by a number above an unmarked door at 86 Bedford Street. The owners like to promote using a secret knock and password (although all you have to do is open the door). There’s another entrance off 58 Barrow Street, through a courtyard called Chumley’s Mews and an unmarked wooden door that opens into the bar area.

Chumley’s pays homage to the writers who drank there by putting framed covers of their books on the walls, prominently featuring Kerouac, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway and Edna Ferber. F. Scott Fitzgerald allegedly wrote part of The Great Gatsby in a corner booth. Also, Robert Kennedy is said to have written a speech there.

Where the boxes never juke

A sign outside Dressel’s warns this is a pub “where the boxes never juke.” The background music includes classical and opera, and the walls bear pictures of famous composers and writers, and posters in Welsh. One large section is devoted to Dylan Thomas, and others on the wall include Ernest Hemingway and James Baldwin. Surprisingly it is one of two Welsh pubs in St. Louis’ Central West End. Llywelyn’s Pub, right around the corner, is a little larger and has more of an American feel. Both have been serving Washington University students and faculty for nearly 20 years.

Dressel’s also draws a post-theater crowd, when you might have to wait for a serving of the Bavarian Chips, an exquisite mating of potato chips and French fries. Warmly lit with a string of gold lights glowing around the top of the tile-topped, oval bar, the décor features light colored wood paneling and brick walls. The pub towels are from the Felinfoel Brewery and the stained-glass windows have the Welsh dragon on them. Beer, mostly from the U.K., is served in Imperial pints filled to the brim. It also offers an extensive menu of single malts, ports and cognacs and has a separate upstairs bar.

What’s not to like about Dressel’s? We don’t think we’d feel comfortable scribbling graffiti on the bathroom walls.


IPAs, dive bars, a craft definition & more beery links


We Changed The World … For This?
[Via All About Beer]
An American Story.
IPAs as National Tradition.
[Both via Beervana]
I pointed to all of these Friday during The Session, when the topic was pilsners. But this is also about place. Hops might be an American story, but let’s not forget the Albuquerque story or the Bucyrus story.

What makes a dive bar?
The Real Drinker’s Guide to St. Louis’ Best Dive Bars.
[Via Riverfront Times]
Maybe the Riverfront Times doesn’t answer Joe Stange’s question, but it does provide 63 examples. I particularly recommend the photo from the San Bar Tavern on page 4 of this epic.

Stop the presses: the definition of craft beer.
Before you think “here we go again” scroll down to the comments to find an up-to-date definition: “craft beer n. orig. N. Amer. a beer made in a traditional or non-mechanized way by an individual or a small brewery.” So simple it is elegant. [Via Pete Brown]

The secrets to Cloudwater’s success.
A long, long read, as in north of 9,000 words. “Settle down with a beer,” Martyn Cornell writes. It may take two. And there is this candid thought, “It’s clear why they are so popular: almost all were sharply focused, clear, clean and faultless. Faultless to a fault, almost: ‘beautiful’ is not the same as ‘characterful’. But I need to drink more Cloudwater brews over more evenings to decide if this is a valid criticism.” [Via Zythophile]

The tale of two Stone Go To IPAs
The Haze and the Hops — A Tale of Two Go To IPAs.
Fascinating story and splendid reporting from John Verive. However, if big chain markets are such a bad place to buy beer why do breweries continue to sell their beer there? [Via the Full Pint – Photo by John Verive]

The Beer Museum, Where Brewery Meets History, Opens in Austin.
For now its a pop up museum, but they have plans … [Via]


Stability of olfactory ability over time.
Really interesting questions posed here that are obviously relevant to beer as well. And one more thought (from the first chapter of “For The Love of Hops”): Although olfactory skills begin to deteriorate when most people are in their forties, many perfumers get better as they age. So it is not inevitable. [Via jamie goode’s wine blog]

Scientists Get Closer to Harnessing the Health Benefits of Red Wine.
The key point here is that it will take a pill to make this work. Because the daily dose it takes to be effective against Alzheimer’s is equivalent to about 1,000 bottles of red wine. It’s the same as those stories about how compounds in hops may have health benefits. Yes, but there are obvious side effects when you have to drink 1,000 beers a day to enjoy them. [Via Wall Street Journal]

America’s First Drinks Writer: G. Selmer Fougner.
Frank Prial also wrote about Fougner in Decantations, including that Fougner calculated he replied to 300,000 mail queries in eight years. [Via The Daily Beast]

Donald Trump’s World Atlas of Wine.
Pardon the instrusion of politics, but this is Ron Washam (the HoseMaster) at his funniest. [Via Tim Atkin MW]


So you think you want to be a hop farmer …

And if you somehow missed this …


The Session #114: A St. Louis pilsner

The SessionWe Changed The World … For This?
[Via All About Beer]
An American Story.
IPAs as National Tradition.
[Both via Beervana]

Whoa! What’s all of this have to do with The Session #114, given that Alistair Reece has asked us to write about pilsners? But what Jeff Alworth has to say about the use of American hops and about how American brewers, and now brewers around the world who are mimicking them, is relevant.

Urban Chestnut Brewing Forest Park PilsnerThere is such a thing as an Americanized pilsner out there that has nothing to do with Miller Lite. Who You Callin’ Wussie from Arrogant Brewing* is an example. It is a well made flavorful beer, brimming with lots of aromas and flavors, some of which you won’t find in an old world pilsner. Basically, it’s kind of loud and it bangs into the furniture. That’s OK, as long as it is adding diversity, not eliminating choice. These are the sorts of things you should be thinking about when you read Lew Bryson’s column in All About Beer.

*Yes, this is the same brewery as Stone, although I find the explanation exhausting.

I’m not sure any beer can get inside your bones like certain music — let’s say just about any song from Son Volt’s Trace — but one like Stammtisch from Urban Chestnut Brewing just up the road from us, or Live Oak Pilz, or Marble Pils, has a better chance than any IPA I can think of. Or a pilsner like Wussie, which ranked seventh in a blind tasting of pilsners conducted by Paste magazine. Stammtisch was first, and Pilz and Pils apparently were not tasted.

Paste praises Urban Chestnut for brewing “superlative German beer styles.” I understand this, but maybe because I’ve been in St. Louis almost as long as Urban Chestnut (and Daria has been here longer) I figure I’m drinking St. Louis beer, not German beer. Part of the attraction of Stammtisch is that it has become a familiar flavor, just as Trace is familiar. Oh, and that drinking a liter isn’t a challenge. It’s more like humming along when Jay Farrar sings, “Ste. Genevieve can hold back the water, but saints don’t bother with a tear stained eye.”


The beer in the photo is Urban Chestnut’s Forest Park Pilsner, which is brewed with six-row barley malt, corn, and Cluster hops. I wrote about in the August/September issue of Craft Beer & Brewing.


Step one: Heat 800 pounds of rocks

Six brewers and 800 pound of rocks. There was no efficiency on display Monday at Scratch Brewing outside of Ava, Illinois.

Visitors from Jester King Brewing inn Texas — co-founder Jeff Stuffings, head brewer Garrett Crowell, and production manager Averie Swanson — joined Marika Josephson, Aaron Kleidon, and Frank Wesseln of Scratch to make 60 gallons of wort. It is fermenting now in a used wine barrel and soon will be beer. Details later, beyond the facts that is was mashed in a barrel and filtered through cedar branches, boiled in barrels, contains a variety of botanicals, and is fermenting with Scratch’s sourdough bread yeast.

Any single one of these things would make a beer unique, but the true inefficiencies are realized by bringing wort to a boil with rocks. It is like viewing history live, but makes it clear people must really have wanted to drink beer when it took this much work to make.

Building a fire to make stone beer (stein bier) at Scratch Brewing
Step 1: Bury stones in a pile of scrap wood and set it afire.

Jeff Stuffings delivers hot stones to boiling barrel at Scratch Brewing
Step 2: Haul heated stones, one at a time, to the boiling barrel.

Lower hot stones into wort at Scratch Brewing

Lower hot stones into wort at Scratch Brewing

Lower hot stones into wort at Scratch Brewing
Steps 3-4-5: Submerge stone.
Stein bier (stone beer) boil over at Scratch Brewing
Step 6: Watch for boil overs. Oops.


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