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Dispatches from the brewing local front


Fullsteam Brewery in North Carolina has made a small change in the signage it uses at beer festivals.

A line that previously read “AUTUMN LAGER festbier, 6% ABV, 99% local” now reads “AUTUMN LAGER festbier, 6% ABV, 99% L.”

Fullsteam founder Sean Lilly Wilson explained why in the brewery’s newsletter.

The goal is two-fold: first, to intentionally have people ask “What is “L?”” That question provides an opportunity for dialogue. It allows us to share what we mean by local and why we believe it matters.

Secondly, the effort is to ultimately normalize it. Why waste time on IBUs when it’s a meaningless measurement of perceived bitterness? Why bother with SRM (a color metric) when you generally know a pils is going to be light and a porter dark?

L matters to us and to a growing number of breweries. L to us means Southern-sourced (overwhelmingly North Carolina) from independent farmers, foragers, maltsters, and tree growers.

Ultimately, we want customers to care more about origin and how buying local can strengthen the state’s agricultural sector. For us and a number of L-centric breweries, that matters more than specious statistics and formulas.

Truly local beer is a metric worth measuring. But in a No Laws When You’re Drinking Claws era, we have to find new ways to make it matter.”

Fullsteam has spent more than a half million dollars on local ingredients — local being Southern states, mostly North Carolina — since opening in 2010. “I hope to ramp that up each year, to where that $500k isn’t over nine years, but every year!” Wilson wrote via email.

The ingredients and where they come from:
Malted corn: From Riverbend Malt House in Asheville and Epiphany Craft Malt in Durham.
Malted barley: Foundation, Ruby and Vienna from Epiphany.
Malted triticale: From Epiphany.
Hops: Aramis from France and Saaz from Germany.
Yeast: House lager yeast (not of North Carolina origin).


Via Josh Chapman at Black Narrows Brewing Co.




Russian River Brewing ‘bugs’ circa 2006

Russian River Brewing microbes - parts of original mixed cultureBarrel room, Russian River brewpub, Santa RosaThe carboys at the top contain many of the microbes that became part of the “Russian River bacteria blend” that contributes to the unique character of beers such as Temptation and Supplication. Details are in a story posted at Good Beer Hunting.

The photo was taken in 2006 in the barrel room of the Russian River Brewing Co. pub (at the time, its only brewery) in Santa Rosa, Calif. These days, hundreds — heck, maybe thousands — of brewers ferment beers with that they call their own unique mixed cultures. This is relatively new.

(Some might even suggest so new that we should wait to be sure the aren’t racing ahead a bit quickly.)

For “Still Friends After All These Years” I talked with brewers who have kept in touch with the same microbes (known affectionately as bugs or critters) that soured their beers for the past 15 years, and sometimes longer. Included are a few beers you may have forgotten, or perhaps never heard off.

The carboys in the photo are long gone. The blend of microbes Russian River co-founder Vinnie Cilurzo settled on is stored in plastic totes today, although he is using a new process to make Temptation and other brands these days.

He has been, and still is, generous about sharing these Russian River bugs with homebrewers. Twice he has taken wood chips aged along with Damnation, something Russian River does every twenty-third batch, and soaked them in Beatification or Sonambic, then given away “dime bags” of the chips at conferences. He also provides More Beer, a homebrew supply store, with Cabernet Sauvignon barrels that were used to make Consecration. The supplier cuts those into chunks it sells as part of a kit.


A few words about words about beer

The Unicode Technical Committee recently announced it would not add a white-wine emoji to Unicode’s standard emoji mix, despite a 19-page proposal and well-organized petition campaign supported by winemaker Kendall-Jackson.

“If certain news outlets are to be believed, white-wine drinkers everywhere were devastated,” Stephen Harrison wrote in Slate. He doesn’t particularly care one way or another, and instead poses a question “. . . more philosophical in nature, namely, whether emoji are supposed to represent broad emotions and concepts or something more specific.”

Coincidentally, last week Jonny Garrett traced “the origins of beer language, from Michael Jackson to emojis” at Good Beer Hunting.

So what changed since Heinrich Knaust wrote Funff Bücher, von der Göttlichen und Edlenn Gabe, der Philosophischen, hochthewren and wunderbaren Kunst, Bier zu brawen in 1573? (Plenty was written about beer centuries before that, but this is a blog not a complete history of beer writing, and Richard Unger calls Knaust’s book the first extensive and comprehensive work on brewing.)
Continue Reading →


Monday beer briefing: Provide your own commentary


Cedric Burnside, Wildwood Revival 2019We spent Friday through Sunday listening to live music at a delightful festival south of Athens (Georgia). It was terrific. Cedric Burnside, pictured above, was particularly excellent. Here are links to some excellent beer reading.

1) Ambitious Brew! Revised!
        Highly recommended. *****

2) Tracing the Origins of Beer Language, from Michael Jackson to Emojis.
        I’ll have more to say about this soon, perhaps Wednesday.

3) The Original Originals — In the Czech Republic, the Budweiser War Opens an Eastern Front

4) The Coziness of a Belgian Cafe.

5) Now Rising to the Top of the Beer World: Foam.

6) Start drinking up now, please.

7) Thirty Years of Beer at Pike Brewing.

8) Why Oh Why Is the Good Beer Guide Still Getting British Beer Styles So Totally, Shambolically Wrong?

9) German Court Says a Hangover Is an Illness.


10) The mysterious and not fully understandable wine defect popping up in natural wines: mouse.
        The beery companion: Cereal Killer — Why THP is Bad for Beer and What You Can Do About It.


ReadBeer, every day.
Daily newsletter: Inside Beer.
Alan McLeod, most Thursdays.
Good Beer Hunting’s Read Look Drink, most Fridays.
Boak & Bailey, most Saturdays.


Monday beer briefing: Storytelling, tribes & what is this about sheep?


1) Ken Burns’ Soft-Focus Look at Country Music.
2) Ken Burns’ New Documentary Is in Love With Country’s Myths, Not Its Music
These two reviews do not reflect how well Country Music has been received. The series is very entertaining and mostly loved. As a consequence, it acts an advertisement for country music, and I’ve already read stories about how one result will be still more tourism in Nashville. That’s fine, but Stephen Thomas Erlewine and Carl Wilson point to what was not included, and how the series could have been better.

Last month, Jeff Alworth wrote about the importance of storytelling to breweries. This includes recruiting others, writers or customers are both welcome, to tell the stories. But the tales the breweries would like repeated pretty much word for word may not be the ones folks such as Erlewine or Wilson end up reporting. That’s why it is called reporting.

When I gave the keynote at the Beer Bloggers Conference (now called Beer Now) a few years ago I opened it by playing a clip from James McMurtry’s “Life in Aught-Three.” It begins, “Not that I advocate drinking or nothing. It’s just my job you see. I used to think I was an artist. Come to find out I’m a beer salesman.”

Just a few things I thought about as I assembled links this week.

3) Making sense of rival tribes.
Mike Veseth writes about Wagnerians and Martians and conflicting ideas of wine in America. Wagner believed that wine should be an affordable part of ordinary life and a constant companion at mealtime. The Martian view is that “…anything less than superlative was unworthy, that no price could be too high, and that the enjoyment of wine required rigorous preparation.”

The price question is a constant in beer circles (and pops up pretty much every day). But it is one that brewers must continue to consider if they are serious about inclusivity.

There was plenty of good reading and interesting news last week, so I will leave it to you without comment. Other than suggesting you don’t go directly No. 12, skipping the rest, because the headline is so seductive.

4) Do Electric Sheep Dream of Pilsner? — Halfway Crooks Beer in Atlanta, GA.
5) Riding the Rails: NY Hudson Valley Breweries Near the Metro North Train Line.
6) The Adventures of Nelson and Goldy — Employees of the Month — Pellicle.
7) Under the influence – the empowerment of female beer influencers.
8) The Future of Cask Ale.
9) Why Traditional Cask Ale is Making a Comeback.
10) Craft and local – with Jordi Sánchez Puig of Lupulina.
11) Dixie Brewery rebirth update.
12) Two Amish men escape police after being pulled over for drinking and driving their horse and buggy.


13) On music and wine.
There are many sections of this article where is would be easy to hit search (wine) and replace (beer). For instance, this, “WineBeer is a multi-sensory experience. We smell it. We taste it. We see it shimmer in the glass, and we feel it wash across our palates. The only sense we don’t use when evaluating wine is hearing.” Oops. Bad choice, because Fred Eckhardt taught us to listen to our beer.

So try this, “Comparing winebeer to music also helps us grasp the importance of complexity beyond flavor. Of course, a great wine will taste of many things from fruit to flowers, soil to spice. But, what keeps us engaged is the order in which these layers of flavors present themselves and how they transform on the tongue.” That works.



ReadBeer, every day.
Daily newsletter: Inside Beer.
Alan McLeod, most Thursdays.
Good Beer Hunting’s Read Look Drink, most Fridays.
Boak & Bailey, most Saturdays.


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