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Session #98: Cans, bottles or aroma?

The SessionHost Nathan Pierce has asked contributors to write about Cans or Bottles for The Session #98?

A dozen years ago Oscar Blues founder Dale Katechis was pretty much out their on his own, advocating that small breweries could package their beers in cans. His was Dale’s Pale Ale. He turned out to be right and his empire just keeps growing.

At the time, I had this question for him: “What about the aroma (hops and malt) you that we expect and enjoy from a beer like this?”

And he had this answer: “Well, no, not directly from the can. I tell people, when I drink a LaChouffe, I don’t drink it right from a bottle. I pour it into a glass. People see the can and think they need to drink right from it. You’d never drink a full-flavored beer from a bottle. This is a better, safer package than a bottle. It’s draft beer in a mini-keg, and you don’t drink draft beer right from a full-size keg.”

It hasn’t exactly worked out like that. People drink Heady Topper and La Cumbre Elevated IPA directly from cans. I’m a fan of beer in cans done right (they still don’t make bad beer or badly packaged beer better) for all the reasons you are bound to see elsewhere today. But I’m also a fan of beer aroma, and I’m not inclined to want to stick my nose up to that half-inch wide opening in the can and inhale deeply. That would definitely be fussing.

Granted, hop aromas (citrus, resiny, fresh berries) burst out of that opening when you pop open 21st Amendment’s Down to Earth Session IPA. It tastes fine right out of the can. But it has more aroma and flavor poured into a glass. It is more complex, yet at the same time seems less demanding. That makes for a good session beer, with aroma and flavor when you want to pay attention, but not so needy that you can’t keep paying attention and instead can do something else, like engage in conversation.


Acres and acres of hops, oh my!


Processing hops, Yakima Valley

I don’t expect to make “all hops all the time” a weekly feature, but perhaps a regular one.

Yakima Valley hops acreage grows with demand.
The question recently has not been whether more acres are needed, but where they might be planted. Despite interest across the country (see below) in growing hops, the Northwest is where it is happening right now. This project — a collaboration between Congdon Orchards and Virgil Gamache Farms of Toppenish, one of the Valley’s longtime hop growing businesses — returns hops to an area where they were produced a century ago but not recently. One point of order: the story reports “growers expect to plant a record 41,000 acres, up from 38,011 acres last year and surpassing the previous record of 2008.” In fact, some estimates are acreage in the Northwest could reach 43,000, but that still wouldn’t be a record. Modern day acres peaked at 44,161 in 1996. According to the 1913 Joh. Barth and Sohn Hop Report farmers in the United States and Canada grew hops on almost 54,000 acres in 1913.

Idaho hop acres expected to increase by almost 1,100.
That would be a 29 percent increase. Oregon growers are expected to add a more modest 500 to 600 acres.

In Michigan. The Great Lakes Hop and Barley Conference is next week. Michigan currently has the most acres under wire outside of the Northwest, and that’s about to double.

In Ohio. Last year was the first time since Prohibition the state reported hop production: 100 acres planted and 30 acres harvested. In February, about 500 people attended the second Hops Growers Conference in Wooster.

In Virginia. Over the past two years, the Old Dominion Hops Co-operative has grown from about two dozen members to more than 80. And in November, the governor’s office approved a $40,000 grant to help Black Hops Farm in Loudoun County open a processing facility that promises to buy up to 60 percent of its product from Virginia growers.

In Minnesota. In case you were wondering about the challenges of growing “an unfamiliar crop.”

In New York. Brewery Ommegang will release a pale ale this summer made using all New York state hops. Hop State New York will be available only in New York. Ommegang, known for its Belgian-inspired beers, purchased hops from eight different New York farms to use for the pale ale, according to Mike McManus, innovation manager at Ommegang. Some of those hops will also be used in another beer. “It’s something we want to support,” McManus said. “It is going to be one part, a small part, of our hop usage. We’re going to do whatever we can to support the industry.” That’s the sort of backing new hop growers are going to need. Maybe breweries, or groups of them, need to establish regional “adopt a hop farm” programs.


The 20 largest breweries, 50 years later

The Brewers Association has released its lists of the nation’s largest brewing companies and the largest companies it classifies as craft breweries. Those are 50 deep, and you can find them many places, including the BA website. There they also list what brands are made by each company, like that Craft Brew Alliance includes includes Kona, Omission, Red Hook, and Widmer Brothers brands.

Two breweries listed were in the top 10 both in 2015 and 50 years ago, but one of them — Pabst — brews none of its own beers today. You might say things have changed. And you might think about what the list will look like in 50 more years.

2Miller CoorsSchlitz
4D.G. Yuengling & SonFalstaff
5Boston BeerCarling
6North American BreweriesSchaefer
7Sierra NevadaBallantine
8New BelgiumRheingold
9Craft Brew AlliancePfeiffer
18Duvel MoortgatLucky Lager
19Dogfish headGenesee

Before you ask, Yuengling was No. 72 in 1965 and Anchor Brewing was No. 121.


Loading up the Beer Ark with this week’s links


Two by two …

Highland Park Brewery brews Yard Beer from backyard ingredients.
On terroir, and the vine’s microbiome.
Foraging for brewing ingredients in southern Illinois or in the middle of North Carolina is relatively easy to imagine. But in Los Angeles? That’s why Bob Kunz at highland Park Brewery offers a lineup of “predictable” and “unpredictable” beers. I think there’s more to the notion of place-based beers than how terroir may affect the flavor of hops, peaches or cucumbers grown in California versus Missouri, but the new study by the American Society for Microbiology (as described by Steve Heimoff) surely has implications for beer. [Via Los Angeles Times and Steve Heimoff]

This New Feminist Beer Is Waging A Battle Against Sexism In Advertising.
Does craft beer have a sexism problem? Binny’s rejects Happy Ending.
The “big picture” story of the week. Still important. Still not going away. [Via Fast Company and Chicago Tribune]

Going Blind with Pliny the Elder.
Pliny The Elder And Blind Pig: Trophy Beers Within Everyone’s Grasp.
Tasting blind — be it beer, wine or smoked meat — tells us something we may not know about what we are tasting and also about ourselves. However, most of the time when I drink beer knowing where it was brewed and who brewed it enhances the experience. That may be true if you are pursuing the rare and exotic or if you are content with the familiar. [Via All About Beer and The Concourse]

How to Beer Blog.
The Secrets of Book Publishing.
Inside baseball, and well done. Your mileage may vary. You don’t really have to be as focused to blog as Boak & Baley suggest — at least I hope not, because I’m not — but it helps. And, thankfully, my experience with book publishing has been less stressful than Jeff Alworth’s.
[Via Boak & Bailey, and Beervana]

How to Make Your First Commercial Batch of Beer in 75 Easy Steps.
“56: Why did it just shut off? Why did it just stop and shut off?”
The second list here could be any of several “best” compilations published last week. I might have come to peace with the fact these lists exist but it doesn’t mean I am inclined to link to one. [Via Beer Flavored Ales]


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.


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