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The good, the bad and the feel good

The good

First we’ve got the Chicago Tribune update: “The world of Chicago-made beer is expanding so quickly — at a rate unseen in the lives of modern-day beer lovers — that new entries arrive almost monthly.” A complete rundown.

There’s there’s the Boston Globe: “Region awash in new wave of niche breweries.” Includes the big question (and no answer), “How many will survive the long haul? No one knows.”

The other day I had a quick keep-it-to-less-than-140-characters exchange with a professional brewer not in St. Louis. He asked, in view of the number of relatively new breweries and additional ones about to open here, how many I think the region can support. I copped out and answered I’m too new to town to guess.

The answer is that a lot more [xxx]¹ beer is going to be sold annually. Will it be more Stone beers (just came into town with lots of fanfare), more Perennial beers (not open yet), more Schlafly (celebrating its 20th anniversary), more Urban Chestnut, Boulevard, Green Flash, beers imported by Shelton Brothers? Can’t tell you, but it will be a lot more. I hope quality makes a difference, but that won’t be the only factor.

¹ Insert whatever term you want: craft, boutique, microbrewed.

The bad

“America’s Finest Beer Festival” in San Diego was canceled rather last minute. There’s a joke in there involving the word “finest” but I sense some people might have got screwed here. A strange story.

The feel good

Stone Brewing has guaranteed that the Japanese Red Cross Society will receive at least $50,000 from its latest collaboration beer, Baird/Ishii/Stone Japanese Green Tea IPA. Toshi Ishii — a former intern-then-brewer at Stone and now owner of Ishii Brewing in Guam — contacted Stone brewmaster Mitch Stone Steele after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami disaster about brewing a beer that would aid the recovery effort. Bryan Baird of Baird Brewing in Numazu made it a threesome.

The beer is “‘dry-hopped’ with Sencha, a variety of whole-leaf Japanese green tea.” Details are at the Stone Blog, but between the tea and various hops the beer certainly makes a green, herbal impression.

Beyond the obvious relief for Japan, hop growers in France may also benefit. After France lost Alsace-Lorraine to German in 1871 and nearly until World War I the region was second only to Bavaria in hop production in the Germany empire. Not all the hops grown in the Alsace had a great reputation, but Strisselspalter (or Strisselspalt, depending on the catalog you are using) is wonderfully aromatic and spicy.

Strisselspalter accounted for 82% of the hops grown in the Alsace in 2008, and production dove 53% in 2009. There are a variety reasons, one of which is that it’s a low alpha hop. Even at a time when [xxx]¹ brewers put a growing premium on aroma quality they want more alpha than the hop provides.

Aramis is a new variety from the growers in the Alsace, with about twice the alpha acids (8 AAUs, so not a heavyweight) and many of the same flavor and aroma qualities as Strisselspalter. According to the Stone Blog this might be the first commercial beer made with Aramis. Given the complex hop recipe and presence of green tea you wouldn’t call it a showcase for Aramis, but you gotta think it’s going to start showing up in other beers. Reason for hop growers in the Alsace to hope.

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