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The tribute beer we need in 2013

My, time flies, and faster the older you get. Back in 1997, my wife, Daria Labinsky, and I wrote a story that appeared in All About Beer magazine in the early days of 1998. It was called “The Class of ’88” and examined several brewpubs that opened ten years before and their influence.

Now Deschutes Brewery, one of those featured in 1998, has announced it will collaborate with four other breweries that opened in 1988 to create commemorative beers to celebrate their shared 25th anniversary.

So it’s been 15 years since we wrote that story about places that were 10 years old. (That’s what I mean about time.) It may be a little dated, but I added it to the archives here. And not only because it provides an excuse to repeat a great quote from the late Greg Noonan:

“When the homebrewers stop entering the profession, and the backyard breweries are squeezed out, then it will become stagnant. You gotta keep getting the guys who say, ‘Cool, I can sell the beer I make. I can do it.’ ”

You may not know you miss Greg Noonan, but you do.

Anyway, the skinny for the Deschutes press release:

Brewery Partners: North Coast Brewing Company (Ft. Bragg, CA) & Rogue Ales (Newport, OR)
Beer Style: Barley Wine
Planned Release Date: March 2013

Story: In the same year these breweries were born, renowned beer connoisseur Fred Eckhardt published The Essentials of Beer Style which included a barley wine style guideline which will provide the basis for this collaboration. All three versions of the barley wines that will result from this unique collaboration will be packaged in 22-ounce and 750 ml bottles, plus draft.

Brewery Partner: Great Lakes Brewing Company (Cleveland, OH)
Beer Style: Smoked Imperial Porter
Planned Release Date: May 2013

Story: Building on a history of great porters – Great Lakes Brewing Company’s Edmund Fitzgerald and Deschutes Brewery’s Black Butte Porter – this Smoked Imperial Porter promises to be exceptional. Both beer versions will be available for a limited time in 22-ounce bottles and draft.

Brewery Partner: Goose Island Beer Company (Chicago, IL)
Beer Style: Belgian-Style Strong Golden Ale
Planned Release Date: Q4 2013

Story: Brewers and owners are still working out the details on this beer, which they plan to brew with Riesling juice and Pinot Noir grapes. It will be aged in barrels that previously held Muscat wine in them for 10 years. Again, each brewery will produce its own version of the brew in bottles and draft.

I’ll buy those beers.

But — attn. anybody at Wynkoop Brewing (Marty Jones, Andy Brown, and even Colorado governor John Hickenlooper) or Vermont Pub & Brewery (and that could include you, John Kimmich or Peter Egleston) — the commemorative 25th anniversary beer I want to drink in 2013 is the one that Russell Schehrer and Greg Noonan could have, should have, would have brewed together.

Small, the New Big – and beer

The cover story of February’s Inc. magazine tells us “Small is the New Big,” a phrase that’s been batted around for the last year, meaning small can be part of a successful business model.

Given the recent success of small-batch breweries versus larger mainstream brewers it would seem that idea extends to beer.

Sure enough, the Inc. article is adapted from the book Small Giants, and one of 14 businesses featured in the book is Anchor Brewing. In the sidebar, author Bo Burlingham writes:

With another capacity crisis looming in the early 1990s, (founder Fritz) Maytag made plans to raise capital for expansion by taking the company public, but he pulled back at the last moment. “I realized we were doing the IPO out of desperation – because we thought we had to grow,” Maytag recalls.

“It occurred to me that you could have a small prestigious, profitable business, and it would be all right. Like a restaurant. Just because it’s the best around doesn’t mean you have to franchise or even expand. You can stay as you are and have a business that’s profitable and rewarding and a source of great pride. So we made a decision not to grow. This was not going to be a giant company – not on my watch.”

As a bit of background, here’s more about Small is the new big.

When it comes to beer there are practical reasons to wonder about small and big. Fred Eckhardt wrote a wonderful column for All About Beer magazine about 10 years ago where he asked “What is craft beer?”

Among the answers was one from author-brewpub pioneer Greg Noonan of Vermont Pub & Brewery:

“Craft brewed (should) mean pure, natural beer brewed in a nonautomated brewery of less than 50-barrel brew length, using traditional methods and premium, whole, natural ingredients, and no flavor- lessening adjuncts or extracts, additives or preservatives.”

Is that true today?

Pig out: Still more beer and cheese

Another story about pairing beer and cheese, this time from Vermont.

In this one, Greg Noonan of Vermont Pub & Brewery (only two years from its 20th anniversary – just in case you want to make travel plans now), picks seven of his beers to match with the cheeses.

“Cheeses and beers tend to have fruity flavors that are good matches,” Noonan said. “They both have some amount of sweetness. And the maltiness and caramel flavors of beer complement the dairy flavors of cheese.”

You’ll wish you were there for this. Sally Pollak writes:

The cheese, Constant Bliss, was made at Jasper Hill Farm in Greensboro. Its beer mate, Burly Irish Ale, was made on the premises in the basement brewery.

Constant Bliss is a semi-soft, bloomy-rind cheese — its rind made from the blooms of diverse molds. It is formed into a high mound that brings to mind Barr Hill, a gentle rise in the cheesemakers’ hometown. Constant Bliss, a raw-milk cheese, has a subtle but rich flavor, with a touch of sweetness. It goes down easy and leaves you licking your fingers, wanting more.

Matching it with an Irish ale was a “no-brainer,” Noonan said. Made from milk produced by Jasper Hill’s Ayrshires, Constant Bliss is named for a revolutionary war scout. The latter-day cheese saint met his death on a Greensboro road in 1781, killed by American Indians.

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