Saturday, March 26, 2016

Pic(k) of the Week: An orgy of orchids

An orgy of orchids

19 February 2016:
Orchid Daze, at Atlanta Botanical Garden, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Thoughts and support for the victims and families of Tuesday's terror horror in Brussels, Belgium. More on how to help: here.

Sveiki Sulaukę Velykų


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Saving Mr. Heurich's Lager

For much of the first half of the 20th century, the largest employer and largest property owner in Washington, D.C. —not called the United States government— was ... a brewery. But few D.C.-area 'craft' beer fans, today, know about this.

That may soon change. Here's how a homebrewer, a Washington, D.C. brewery, and a museum have resurrected a long-lost beer.

Christian Heurich Brewing Co.

Christian Heurich

In 1872, a young German immigrant named Christian Heurich arrived in Washington, D.C. He would soon purchase the Schnell Brewery and Tavern, at 20th and M streets NW, a small, struggling brewery that had opened during the Civil War in 1862, and whose brewmaster at the time was an African-American. Heurich enlarged the operations and renamed the brewery eponymously.

Fire was a constant threat at breweries before the widespread adoption of electricity and fire-retardent materials. And, indeed, a fire would devastate that facility. Heurich, undaunted, would build yet again, this time, a state-of-the-art concrete-and-steel brewery near 26th and D Streets NW, along the Potomac River, where the Kennedy Center now stands. Heurich would remain as active brewmaster until his death in 1945, at the age of 102. (Beer is good for you, anyone?)

There was one structure on the grounds, however, that was not fire-resistant: the building that housed all of the brewing records was built of wood. In 1935, it burned to the ground, destroying an entire history of brewing recipes and procedures. The rest of the brewery would continue operations until it was finally closed in 1956, with an annual capacity of over 500,000 barrels. The Christian Heurich Brewery had been the nation's capital's largest brewery, and it would be its last brewery, for decades.

The grandson

In 1986, thirty-years later, Christian Heurich's grandson, Gary Heurich, a successful Washington, D.C. real estate businessperson, revived the beers, if not using historic materials, at least designing the beers in the style of the original beer. He arranged to have the F.X. Matt Brewing Company (now popularly known as Saranac) in Utica, New York, contract brew Old Heurich beer. The Maerzen, and the later, Foggy Bottom brands, were, for a time, the de facto hometown D.C. beers.

Old Georgetown

In 2005, when professional baseball would return to Washington, D.C. after a thirty-one year hiatus, Olde Heurich had a prominent $750,000 concession on the main promenade of RFK Stadium. The venture, however, had been ahead of its time, and the following year, Gary Heurich ended its production.

Reviving Heurich

Archives and legacy

Fast forward to 2013.

Homebrewer Mike Stein, whose master's thesis involved brewing history, had been searching the National Archives for clues about the original Heurich's beers. He discovered, not recipes, but actual receipts of Heurich brewery transactions. Using those —and indeed surviving recipes of other U.S. breweries of the time— he and fellow homebrewers —Joshua H. Hubner and Pete Jones— created a recipe, and home-brewed it.

When the Christian Heurich Brewery closed, the family and operating board donated the extant Heurich family house, a Victorian-style mansion popularly known as the Brewmaster's Castle, at 22nd and M Streets NW, to the Historical Society of Washington, D.C.. Now a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places, the house was built in 1892 of poured concrete and reinforced steel, the city’s first fireproof house. In 2003, upkeep of the building was ceded to the non-profit Heurich House Museum,, which maintains it today.

Heurich House, by night

As kismet would have it, Stein was recreating Heurich's recipe, at the same time that Kim Bender, executive director of the Heurich House Museum, was looking for a brewing partner to recreate the beer of the namesake brewery. She and the Museum's board tasted his beer and enthusiastically approved. Local 'craft' brewery, DC Brau (itself the first production brewery in the city since Heurich's demise), scaled up the recipe, and brewed a small, one-off batch. Heurich's Lager debuted during DC Beer Week of that year.

Heurich's Lager returns

Thursday night, 24 March 2016, liquid history repeated itself.

Heurich's Lager (label)

DC Brau has again brewed a small, thirty-barrel batch of Heurich's Lager. It will be released tonight at the Heurich House at a special celebration and fundraiser for the museum. After that, cans and kegs of the beer will be distributed throughout the city, while, as they say, supplies last.

What is the beer like? Jeff Hancock, DC Brau's brewmaster, filled me in on the details.

For this iteration, he turned to research by the late Professor George Fix. To a grist of Czech pilsner malted barley, Hancock added American flaked maize and rice. He infused the wort with Czech Žatec hops (known, in German, as Saaz: hops that Stein had determined to be in the original recipe) in the kettle, achieving about 40 International Bittering Units (IBUs). He fermented the result with a Bavarian-sourced yeast, and lagered —that is, stored cold— the finished beer for three weeks. (Lager is the German word "to store." Extensive lagering is an essential process for producing a traditional lager.) The beer was partially carbonated, also in the German-style, by closing the tank when fermentation was nearly concluded, trapping residual yeast-produced carbon dioxide. To get to the desired level of bubbles, he topped off the beer with additional CO2.

Hancock was enthusiastic about the results.

The alcohol level is about 7% by-volume, he told me. The beer appears light gold in color, with a crackly white head of foam. Filtered, it has a brilliant see-through clarity, just as contemporary reports had acclaimed Heurich's Lager of half-a-century-ago to appear. The flavor is medium-bodied and malt-accented, with floral and spicy hop characters, and sweet grain aromas. The corn, Hancock pointed out, added a depth of flavor, something he had anticipated from his research.

Praise the maize

For many years 'craft' beer drinkers have spurned beer made with corn, perhaps spurred on by the [U.S.] Brewers Association, which defined 'craft' beer, in part, by the absence of "adjuncts" such as corn. This amounted to blaming the ingredient rather than its misuse by macro-industrial breweries. Should Belgian beers be damned for use of brewing sugars? Should German hefeweizens be eschewed for use of wheat over barley? Many would disagree. Likewise, praise the maize: it has been a traditional ingredient in American beers, ales and lagers.

DC Brau has produced approximately 1,000 gallons of Heurich's Lager: half the run packaged in kegs, and the other half, about 150 cases, in 12-ounce aluminum cans. It'll be available at the DC Brau's tasting room, and in shops and pubs, but only in Washington, D.C. The label, based on a late 1930s design from the Heurich House archive, was created by artist Graham Jackson, who has designed other labels for DC Brau.

It's not much. Will there be another batch of Heurich's Lager? Maybe.

When the Christian Heurich Brewery ceased operations in 1956, its trademarks, through disuse, expired. Gary Heurich would trademark "Olde Heurich" and his own, "Foggy Bottom," but those rights have lapsed, as well. Today, the Heurich House has the trademarks to "Heurich's Lager," the "Christian Heurich Brewing Company," and "Senate Beer," another of the orignal brewery's brands. DC Brau paid Heurich House for one-time use of the rights to the first two, as a contribution, in kind, to the non-profit.

DC Brau expands

Part of the difficulty that small 'craft' breweries encounter when producing lagers is the lagering itself. Storing beer for weeks or months requires tank space, a precious commodity.

To that end, DC Brau is expanding. Founded five years ago (in fact, its first beers were released 15 April 2011), the brewery currently sells its beer in Washington, D.C. (of course), adjoining Virginia and Maryland, and New Jersey and Connecticut. Coming soon is a brewery expansion from 30,000 square feet to nearly 50,000, a doubling of its brew-length to sixty barrels, a new, state-of-the-art German-manufactured 4-vessel automated brewhouse, and a new canning line increasing packaging yield from the current 35 cans per minute to 250.

DC Brau tee

"Yes," Hancock told me. "More lagering capacity could be in the cards."

Craft Lager returns?

Prohibition came early to Washington, D.C.: it was established in the city, by Congress, in 1916, whereas, nationally, not until 1920. To his credit, Christian Heurich would survive that seventeen-year drought, and reestablish his brewery ... in his age 90s. In most other cities, Ms. Bender reminded me, a story like Heurich's would be remembered well, but in Washington, where history focuses on the federal side, there are large gaps in the narrative. The Heurich House is an intact Victorian-era house, the home of an important historical figure. The Heurich House Museum helps keep that story alive.

Are the lagers of pre and post Prohibition, returning into favor? In the end, should we think that beers like Heurich's might be the tip of an emerging 'craft' lager iceberg? As JP Williams, brewmaster of Van Trapp Brewing — a 'craft' brewery in Vermont (yes, Sound of Music Van Trapp)— was quoted, in the Winter 2016 issue of American Brewer:
A lot of people are getting over the idea that if the other person drinks an IPA, I should drink it as well. Pilsner will have a big renaissance, in my opinion.

But drinking your well-made 'craft' lager ice-cold, like a macro-lager swill? No, not so much. In his day, Brewmaster Heurich was known to warm his lager on a radiator to get it to that just right not-too-cold not-too-warm temperature. Just like a latter-day 'craft' IPA ... if not on a radiator.

Hancock told me that 'craft' beer drinkers have been calling the brewery since news of Heurich's Lager was first reported. "We thought you were the first brewery in D.C.," they've told him, confused. The history of beer in Washington, D.C., the history of 'craft' beer, the history of American beer: it's something that goes way back, and it's something we would all be well served to learn, and celebrate.

Thursday night, Heurich's Lager was re-released at the Heurich House, and, in Christian Heurich's honor, Ms. Bender promised that the Heurich House would "party like it's 1916."


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 9/10, 2016.

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundup
A bi-weekly, non-comprehensive roundup
of news of beer and other things.

Weeks 9/10
28 February - 12 March 2016

  • 10 March 2016
    The state of Georgia to allow brewpubs (not production breweries) to sell growlers. Mississippi now only state in the United States to forbid the practice at both production breweries and brewpubs.
    —Via Beer Guys Radio.

  • 9 March 2016
    Alcohol-beverage maker Constellation Brands (based in New York state) recalls some batches of Corona Extra bottles because of possibility of glass particles. Second recall for the Mexican beer brand in the past two years.
    —Via Fortune Magazine.

  • 9 March 2016
    A professor at Virginia State University believes that Southern Brewer hops from South Africa would grow well in the humid climate of Virginia (and thus, by extension, southeastern United States].
    —Via Richmond Style Weekly.

  • 9 March 2016
    "The 5th Beatle," Sir George Martin, the music producer who signed The Beatles in 1962, has died at age 90.
    —Via NPR.

  • 9 March 2016
    The U.S. 'craft' beer industry as a whole used over half a million tons of US barley in 2014 and if (or when) craft beer reaches a 20% market share, annual consumption will pass 1 million tons of barley. Current opinion in the industry is that this will happen by 2020.
    —Via Total Ales.

  • 7 March 2016
    All eight major MillerCoors breweries in U.S. have achieved 99.8% landfill-free waste. Its Trenton, New Jersey, brewery has reduced its water usage by about 18 percent since 2011. In 2016, it is targeting an average 2.97 barrels of water used to make one barrel of beer, which is below the MillerCoors average, and below the average of 'craft' beer.
    —Via Dayton Daily News.

  • 6 March 2016
    Ray Tomlinson, the creator of email (in 1971), has died at age 74.
    —Via CNN.

  • 6 March 2016
    Peyton Manning, one of NFL professional football's all-time great quarterbacks, retires.
    —Via Bleacher Report.

  • 6 March 2016
    The case of the Apple iPhone (and the 4th amendment) vs. the FBI (and terrorists).
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 6 March 2016
    “Wine people call it terroir. We call it flavor of the field.” In 2010, there were five small-scale 'craft' maltsters in the United States; in 2016, thirty-six, with fifty more in planning.
    —Via Watertown Daily Times.

  • 3 March 2016
    After presidential debate in which penis size was discussed, we also know that Donald Trump owns a winery: Trump Winery, in Virginia.
    —Via Variety.

  • 3 March 2016
    What did astronaut Scott Kelly want after his U.S.-record setting one-year in space? Apple pie and beer.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 3 March 2016
    Statue of Frederic Lauer, in Reading, Pennsylvania, vandalized. 19th century U.S. brewing pioneer; first president of the United States Brewers Association. The current [U.S.] Brewers Association contributes to restoration effort.
    —Via Brewers Association.

  • 2 March 2016
    One of the hottest and driest places on Earth, Death Valley, California, has wildflower blooms every year, but an unusual series of storms in October 2015 has triggered what some call a “super bloom” of yellow, pink and purple wildflowers, in early March 2016. This is the biggest bloom Death Valley has seen in a decade.
    —Via National Geographic.

  • 1 March 2016
    American IPAs are evolving from hop bitterness predominance toward emphasis on hop flavor and aroma emphasis.
    —Via Jeff Alworth at Beervana.

  • 1 March 2016
    British beer writer, Mark Dredge, identifies eleven styles of American IPA.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 1 March 2016
    'Craft' breweries are appending a new style moniker to murky hoppy ales: New England-style IPA. [Or should that be New England Hop Chowder?]
    —Via Westword.

  • 29 February 2016
    Napa Valley grapevine budbreak is twenty-one days ahead of normal this year, the earliest ever for the wine industry there. Global warming?
    —Via The Gray Report.

  • 29 February 2016
    Pumpkin beer sales go flat in 2015; leftovers lingering on shelves through 2016.
    —Via Forbes.

  • 29 February 2016
    Twenty years ago Anheuser-Busch put craft beer in a "100% share of mind" distribution vise. The trend may be repeating, as its successor, Anheuser-Busch InBev, buys distributors and 'craft' breweries.
    —Via Tom Acitelli at All About Beer.

  • Beer & Food Course
  • 28 February 2016
    The [U.S.] Brewers Association released its Professional Beer & Food Course as a free download: an introduction to the beverage of 'craft' beer, pairing beer with food, and how to pour and present beer at the table.
    —Via Craft Beer.

  • 28 February 2016
    Four years after liquor privatization in Washington state: greater availability but higher prices, fewer choices, and inducements for large chain stores.
    —Via The Columbian.

  • 28 February 2016
    As brewery taprooms thrive, restaurants and bars wonder why breweries receive easier regulatory treatment and lower fees.
    —Via Portland Press Herald.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Pic(k) of the Week: Bullsh*t!

Language alert!


The neon sign behind the bar was shining, "Bullshit," but I couldn't hear what the two customers were animatedly discussing, under its glow.

As seen, on 19 February 2016, at the Northside Tavern, a long-standing blues bar, located in Atlanta, Georgia's westside.

Northside Tavern (03)


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

The State of the 'Craft' Beer Nation 2015.

NBWA logo The NBWA (National Beer Wholesalers Association) has released its initial analysis of the state of the United States beer industry in 2015, as prepared by its chief economist, Lester Jones.

By the numbers, here's a short summary:

  • In 2015, total beer sales in the U.S. saw no appreciable increase over 2014, remaining at approximately 2.9 billion CEs (case equivalents). *
  • 2.5% of all beer sales shifted from the 'macro' segment to 'craft' and imports.
  • 'Craft' beer sales were up 15% in the U.S. in 2015 (over 2014), increasing from 284.8 CEs to 327.5 million CEs, an increase from 10% of the market to 11.5%.
  • 'Macro' beer sales decreased 3.1% (share decreasing from 75.8% to 73.4%).
  • Imports increased 6.2% (their share increasing from 14.2% to 15.1% of all beer sold).
  • Beer packaged in cans has increased its market share, versus bottles and kegs, every year since 2010, from 52.8% then to 55.5% in 2015. Draft beer has remained steady (or flat, depending on your point-of-view) at approximately 10%.
Pint of Draft Punk (02)

Here are a few more fun facts on the U.S. beer industry, as compiled by the NBWA:
  • In 2014, the U.S. beer industry shipped (sold) 206 million barrels of beer – equivalent to more than 2.8 billion cases.
  • In 2014, 86 percent of all beer was domestically produced, and 14 percent was imported from more than 100 different countries around the world.
  • Based on beer shipment data and U.S. Census population statistics, U.S. consumers 21 years and older consumed 27.5 gallons of beer per person during 2014.
  • The U.S. beer industry sells more than $100 billion in beer and malt-based beverages to U.S. consumers each year.
Total Malt Beverage Sales in U.S. in 2015

Things might not be 100% rosy, however. Jones notes that there are indications that the rate of 'craft' beer growth for January/February of this year was not as robust as it had been during those two months last year. But we're yet to hear from the [U.S.] Brewers Association, which, for several years now, has released its annual data concurrent with the Craft Brewers Conference. This year, that is scheduled for 3-6 May, in Philadephia, Pennsylvania.

Hang on, stay tuned, and brew forth.


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Pic(k) of the Week: Conversation amidst the barrels

Conversation amidst the barrels

There is beer in these oak barrels, but these are not beer barrels. Very few breweries today employ coopers to craft their own. And, I don't believe that there are any American 'craft' breweries which do so.

More and more breweries, however, are re-purposing wood (usually oak) barrels which had been used, at some earlier point, to hold other alcoholic beverages, such as whiskey, rum, wine, etc. Especially bourbon barrels —fifty-three gallons apiece— each of which, by U.S. law, can only be used once to make bourbon (but no law as to how often a brewery can brew into them).

Re-use them after that, and there'll be diminishing returns from bourbon flavor, but increasing influences of flavor of the oak itself, and micro-oxygenation, maturation, or, possibly and often intentionally, 'wild' fermentation from resident or ambient yeast and bacteria.

The couple above was deep in conversation, at Wild Heaven Craft Beers, a production brewery in Avondale Estates, Georgia, a small city, just outside of Atlanta, as seen on 25 February 2016. Behind them were rows of (former) bourbon oak-barrels, now containing maturing beer. The brewery specializes in Belgian-style and, of course, barrel-aged beers.


Monday, March 07, 2016

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 7/8, 2016.

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundup
A bi-weekly, non-comprehensive roundup
of news of beer and other things.

Weeks 7/8
14 - 27 February 2016

  • 27 February 2016
    The Kansas Supreme Court rules arrests for refusal to submit to DUI breath or blood tests, without warrants, to be unconstitutional. In its 6-1 ruling, the court found that the tests were in effect searches. The U.S. Supreme Court is currently considering cases from other states on the same issue.
    —Via Kansas City Star.

  • 24 February 2016
    President Obama nominates Carla D. Hayden, past president of American Library Association, to be the 14th Librarian of Congress. If confirmed, Hayden would be that post's first woman and first African-American.
    —Via WAMU.

  • Brewers Association Board of Directors 2016 Rob Todd, center, front row
  • 24 February 2016
    The [U.S.] Brewers Association seats its new Board of Directors for 2016. Rob Todd, president/founder of Allagash Brewing (Maine) elected chairman.
    —Via [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 23 February 2016
    Utah will allow national coffee-shop chain Starbucks to serve beer and wine in its shops in the state. But the liquor dispensing area — marvelously known as a Zion Curtain ­ — where alcohol is stored and dispensed, must be kept out of sight of customers.
    —Via Salt Lake Tribune.

  • 22 February 2016
    The evolution of beer blogs (and blogs, in general) versus that of social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), a decade ago versus now.
    Social media does a great job of recreating a virtual water cool; it's crap at recreating a virtual newspaper. Longer pieces, more thoughtful pieces, analytical pieces--these are what people now go to blogs for.
    —Via Jeff Alworth, commenting on a decade of blogging at Beervana.

  • 22 February 2016
    Two new studies published by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences fine seas are rising at the fastest rate in the last 2,800 years. Roughly three-quarters of the tidal flood days now occurring in towns along the U.S. East Coast would not be happening in the absence of the rise in the sea level caused by human emissions.
    —Via New York Times.

  • © Eric Risberg, Associated Press
  • 20 February 2016
    Peter Mondavi, Napa Valley wine pioneer and innovator, dies at 101.
    The first in Napa to introduce French oak barrels for wine aging, in 1963, and the first to employ cold sterile filtration to prevent wine spoilage. His work with cold fermentation made it possible for Napa vintners to produce crisp white wines that wouldn’t oxidize. His acquisition of 800 acres of vineyard land in the 1960s and 1970s helped to usher in a new standard for estate-grown wines in Napa. He was among the first to recognize Napa’s Carneros region — formerly dominated by dairy cows — as a prime spot for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
    —Via San Francisco Gate.

  • 18 February 2016
    FBI wants data access to an American terrorist's cellphone. Apple refuses on 4th and 5th Amendment grounds.
    —Via Forbes.

  • 17 February 2016
    Whereas restaurants, in general, have only a 40% success rate after three or years of operation, brewpubs see a 54% success rate.
    Smaller brewpubs (fewer than 1,000 barrels) derived 26.8 percent of their sales from house beers, and larger brewpubs (more than 1,000 barrels) derived 46.3 percent of their sales from house beers. Roughly a third of sales stems from a product that averages gross margins that can reach more than $800 per barrel depending on the business model and beer style.
    —Via Bart Watson, economist for [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 22 February 2016
    Conundrum for big 'craft' beer:
    Craft drinkers are more likely to try new products than Budweiser drinkers. If the competition grows at a 10% clip per year and drinkers have no loyalty to any brands, this is a recipe for market share losses.
    From an analysis of Boston Beer’s fourth quarter of 2015, which showed a net revenue decrease of $2.7 million or 1 percent, to $215.1 million, versus the fourth quarter of 2014. (Boston Beer's net revenue for all of 2015, however, was up 6% over 2014.)
    —Via Craft Brewing Business.

  • 19 February 2016
    Anheuser-Busch InBev completes its purchase of Goose Island Brewing's properties begun in 2011, purchases the brewery's original brewpub.
    —Via Brookston Beer Bulletin.

  • Coffee Roaster at Spoons (01)
  • 18 February 2016
    A study at Southampton University in the U.K. study finds that drinking two additional cups of coffee a day is linked to a 44 percent lower risk of developing liver cirrhosis.
    —Via New York Post.

  • 17 February 2016
    The Food and Drug Aministration (FDA) reverses course, grants GRAS (generally recognized as safe) status to the use of vegetable ash in cheese, and defacto allows raw milk cheese, by pausing its aggressive testing. Both practices are traditional methods of cheese-making.
    —Via Janet Fletcher's Planet Cheese.

  • 17 February 2016
    Brewer’s yeasts (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) survive the cold of winter, in part, by hibernating and mating inside the intestines of wasps. The gut environment could propagate hybrid strains that wouldn’t otherwise occur, say researchers at University of Florence in Italy.
    —Via Science Magazine.

  • 16 February 2016
    Craft beer drinkers acting childishly at limited-beer releases, creating disturbances. Say it ain't so!
    —Via Daily Beast.

  • 16 February 2016
    In the first 'craft' beer deal of 2016, Victory Brewing Company (of Pennsylvania) is merging with Southern Tier (of New York) and a private venture firm to form Artisanal Brewing Ventures.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 16 February 2016
    Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Egyptian diplomat who helped negotiate peace deal with Israel, and was the first United Nations secretary general from the African continent (during the early 1990s), has died at age 93.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • Leo Van Munching Jr., left, with Alfred Heineken.
  • 14 February 2016
    Leo Van Munching, a pioneer of U.S. beer importing, has died at 89. Van munching oversaw Heineken's rise to “America's No. 1-selling imported beer, ” by the 1980s.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 14 February 2016
    How British public health authorities manipulated the facts about moderate alcohol consumption versus abstinence.
    34 prospective epidemiological studies collected data on how much people drank over a period of years with a view to seeing if they die and what they died of. The risk of death declines substantially at low levels of alcohol consumption and then rises, but it does not reach the level of a teetotaller until the person is consuming somewhere between 40 and 60 grams of alcohol a day, which is to say between 35 and 50 units a week.
    —Via The Spectator.

  • 14 February 2016
    The Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission rules that one of the state's 'craft' beer distributors, Craft Brewers Guild, spent
    approximately $120,000 to pay kickbacks to 12 retail licensees throughout the Boston area, and went to great lengths to hide its knowingly unlawful conduct.
    The commission suspends the distributor's business license for 90 days, and also charges five bars with violating pay-to-play regulations for improperly accepting payments.
    —Via Boston Globe.

  • 14 February 2016
    The Small Brewers Caucus of the United States House of Representatives has asked the Justice Department to review Anheuser-Busch InBev's "massive merger" with SABMiller, and expresses concerns about the merger’s potentially damaging effects on small and independent brewers.
    The House Small Brewers Caucus primary concern is ABI’s increased leverage on all aspects of the U.S. beer industry, particularly distribution. If the merger proceeds, the combined new company would represent 58 percent of global beer profits. The deal would make ABI the major supplier to independent distributors. If ABI were to pressure independent distributors to abandon the distribution of non-ABI brands—including a significant number of craft brands—those brewers will have only one viable distribution option in those markets, further limiting many U.S. markets that are currently only served by two major beer distributors. Small brewers also fear that the ABI acquisition of SABMiller would affect the pricing and availability of supplies needed to make their product, such as hops and barley.
    —Via Representative Peter DeFazio.

  • 14 February 2016
    The Washington Nationals baseball team has booted MillerCoors as beer supplier for its ballpark; gives contract to Anheuser-Busch InBev. Carts offering locally-brewed beers —District Drafts— expected to remain.
    —Via Washington Business Journal.

  • A sweet food pairing for Black Ops (02)
  • 14 February 2016
    An obligatory beer-with-chocolate photo for Valentines Day.
    —Via YFGF.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Pic(k) of the Week: Please don't kink the hose.

A Pic(k) of the Week only a brewer could love.

Please don't kink the hose.

Hoses are the essential flexible pipelines of brewing. Through them, brewsters transfer unfinished and finished beer. If they become kinked or nicked, beware: they can offer safe harbor for unwanted wild yeasts and bacteria. Infected beer! To ward off those nefarious microbes, smart brewers store their (cleaned and sanitized) hoses coiled gently or spread out horizontally, but always off the floor.

Like so ...

... at Fair Winds Brewing Company, in Lorton (Fairfax County), Virginia, as seen on 9 October 2015.


Friday, March 04, 2016

In Praise of Porter. (The Session: Beer Blogging Friday.)

Session 109: Porter The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community, begun in March of 2007 by Stan Hieronymus of Appellation Beer and Jay Brooks of the Brookston Beer Bulletin.

On the first Friday of every month, a pre-determined beer blogger hosts The Session: Beer Blogging Friday. He or she chooses a specific, beer-related topic, invites all bloggers to write on it, and posts a roundup of all the responses received. For more information, or to ask to host, go to the home page.

For The Session: Beer Blogging Friday #109, Mark Lindner —of By the Barrel: The Bend Beer Librarian— is the host.

For The Session 109—my first as host—I would like us to discuss porter. It seems that this highly variable style has not been done in The Session before.

“The history of porter and the men who made it is fascinating, for it deals with the part that beer has played in the development of Western Culture. Conversely, of course, much of porter’s growth was the result of profound changes in the nature of British society. It is also a microcosm of how our industries have developed; events in porter’s history explain the structure of the modern brewing industry, not only in Britain, but in the other major Western countries.

Porter is intimately tied in with the Industrial Revolution, in which Britain led the world. Through the growth it enabled the brewers to achieve, it was instrumental in the development and technological application of a number of important scientific advances.” (Foster, Terry. Porter. Brewers Publications. P. 17).

I am not talking about your long dead relative’s porter—although you might be—but about all of the variations currently and previously available. Hey, feel free to write about the porter of the future or some as-yet-unrecognized sub-style of porter.

I am not a librarian, and none of my long-departed relatives ever owned breweries (that I know of). But I believe that the history of our heritage —whether beer or otherwise— can show us our common roots and point to our common (or uncommon) futures. Beer as liquid history? To repeat, yet again, this trope: well, yes.

As to porter substyles, I believe there is porterPlatonic or 'I can't define it but I know it when I taste it'— and then there are other things, infused with kitchen-sink ephemera. Give 'em a great name, like Double Imperial Coconut Killer ale, but, please, be honest and respectful: not porter. Modifiers heaped upon modifiers yield differences of kind not degree.

I began brewing at home in the late 1980s. Porter was my go-to brew. In 1992, I trepidatiously entered an enth-generation batch in the Spirit of Free Beer, a contest organized by B.U.R.P.Brewers United for Real Potables— a Washington, D.C.-area home brew club.

1992 Porter (01)

The recipe was not complex —especially as contrasted with today's so-called 'extreme' beers of high alcoholic strength and exotic procedures— but, at 5.5% alcohol by volume, it was flavorful enough to garner a silver medal.

I went on to brew professionally, but porter would remain insinuated in my soul. That bakers chocolate nose; whiff of dark fruit and pine cone; chocolate-malted body; more-ish but not boozy; that brisk slap of a finish.

At the risk of sounding elegiac: is porter dying in the U.S.? I find it harder and harder to find examples on tap or in bottle. If so, that would be a shame: a neglect of tradition and a loss of a delicious thing.

But, then, when I can still drink something sublime like this, I smile, mollified.

Port City is the American Small Brewery of the Year, 2015.
Porter from Port City Brewing (of Alexandria, Virginia) won Silver Medal at 2015 Great American Beer Festival, at which the brewery took top honors as Small Brewery of Year.


Tuesday, March 01, 2016

The 11 styles of American IPA?

The Best Beer In The World (front cover)

On the back cover of The Best Beer In The World, a new book by British beer writer Mark Dredge, a copy editor at Ryland Peter & Small Ltd. publishing house has written this whopper of a misplaced modifier:
Part travelogue, part city guide, and part reference book, Mark takes you on a journey around the globe through great beers, bars, and brewer, immersing you in the best stories along the way.

Mark Dredge is not a reference book. I'm fairly certain that he is a real person. His book, however, is indeed "part travelogue, part city guide, and part reference book."

Will Mr. Dredge answer the book's title question? As above, that claim may have been an editor's fancy. The Best Beer In The World, as I'm reading it so far, seems more about finding good beers in many places than stalking a golden grail. But done so, written entertainingly and discussion-provokingly.

On page 144, for example, Mr. Dredge engages in an interesting exercise. He attempts to place American IPAs in ten style categories.
  • 1. The original American IPA
    Mid-1990s onward
    Toffee-like malt in the background with a burst of floral, grapefruity hops in the aroma and the flavor. The moderately high bitterness is balanced against the malt sweetness, though still punches hard. These are the early defining American IPAs, and still stand up today.
    Try: Lagunitas IPA; Bear Republic Racer 5.

  • 2. West Coast IPA: the early years
    The hugest of hop hits, resinous, pithy, citrusy, with a very high bitterness, often completely unbalanced. The use of caramel and crystal malts bulks out the body but you probably won't notice more than the brutal hops. Try: Green Flash Palate Wrecker; Stone IPA

  • 3. West Coast IPA: the less-bitter middle years
    circa 2007-onward
    The huge hop aroma remains, it still gives all the qualities you expect, with lots of dank pine and citrus pitch, only now, there's some balance in the beers, even at the extreme top end —less bitterness, less malt, but still some toasty sweetness.
    Try: Ballast Point Sculpin IPA; Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA

  • 4. West Coast IPA: the next years
    circa 2010-onward
    Seemingly the hops have shifted from being the bittering addition and have instead been added as late or dry-hops. Bodies have slimmed, bitterness reduced, aromas use more recent hop varieties (Mosaic, Citra, etc.) than the classic C-hops [Cascade, Centennial, Chinook, etc.], but flavors are still big and bold.
    Try: Stone Enjoy By IPA; Societe The Pupil

  • 5. East Coast IPA
    circa 2010-onward
    An early form of the style, but still around today. These are maltier than the West, some caramel and toasty depth, less of the harsher malts, more floral and grapefruity instead of resinous and juicy (maybe from British hops), rounder mouthfeel, and less pronounced bitterness.
    Try: Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA; Brooklyn East India IPA

  • 6. Northwest IPA
    These are all about the hop aroma and flavor where the beers are top-heavy with fruity, citrusy, piney hops. Importantly, they are alos often unfiltered which adds to the simple grain bill and gives body and a general malt richness without sweetness.
    Try: Deschutes Freshly Squeezed; Gigantic IPA

  • 7. Midwest IPA
    Think oranges, marmalade, orange soda, and floral, where a sweetness of malt gives a caramel richness to the brew and balances the bitterness. These likely use the classic American C-hops rather than newer varieties.
    Try: Bell's Two Hearted IPA; Goose Island IPA

  • 8. Colorado IPA
    Lots of caramel malts pack the body with a lip-sticking sweetness and a toasty, toffee-ish flavor, while the hops aggressively come in to balance that bitterness and then throw out some dank, pithy aroma.
    Try: Oskar Blues Gubna; SKA Modus Operandi

  • 9. Vermont IPA
    Similar to Northwest IPAs, these are very aromatic, fruity with citrus and tropical, lots of floral aroma, and the hop flavor is loaded throughout. Expect a hazy and relatively full body because they're unfiltered, where there's a juicy mix of hop and malt to balance the brews.
    Try: The Alchemist Heady Topper; Fiddlehead IPA

  • Respect your (Pliny the) Elder
  • 10. Russian River IPA
    This arguably stands alone as one brewery's defining impact on the style. Loads of hop aroma, zesty and fresh, piney and floral, citrus, then a very dry, pale, clean body of malt. In many ways, this type of beer is becoming the standard of American IPA today and reflects back to the current West Coast IPA.
    Try: Russian River Blind Pig; Russian River Pliny the Elder

Mr. Dredge does not mention historical American IPAs, such as Ballantine (even though Pabst, of all breweries, has recently resuscitated it). Even so, such a cataloging might be an ever-fungible task. IPA, as Mr. Dredge points out, has become the defacto flagship of all 'craft' beer. Just a month after his book's publication, he added an eleventh paradigm, at his blog, Pencil and Spoon, an IPA-type he called Fresh Tropical Fruit Juice IPA.
These new IPAs are unfiltered (sometimes hazy, sometimes properly murky) and very pale in colour. The intensity bitterness is low and character malts are non-existent. The time of them being super-dry and bitter has shifted towards softer, rounder bodies with some residual sweetness, though you don’t immediately notice that texture because the hop aroma is so dominant, so powerfully wowing, with the aroma sticking to the subtle sweetness in the beer, and giving the unmistakable qualities of fresh fruit juice – pineapple, mango, peaches, melon, papaya, lychee. There’s also a new focus on freshness to capture those aromas at their very juicy best – two weeks old is becoming too old (don’t underestimate this and it's not like these enjoy before they die IPAs: the draft-only, local-only – perhaps brewery-bar-only – hyper fresh IPA is nearby).

Mr. Dredge notes that Black IPA — a jumble of hops and dark malt, ill-begotten to begin with (my thoughts, not his)— is a dying 'subcategory,' as is White IPA — a mash-up of a spiced wheat ale with a hoppy ale.

But not so, the so-called Session IPA, or, as I refer to it, VHPA (Very Hoppy Pale Ale). Really just a subset of any of the above eleven styles but brewed to a lower alcohol level (and that percentage varies brewer to brewer), Session IPA is currently enjoying a me-too rage. As are fruited IPAs, which, contrary to Mr. Dredge's assertion, are still sprouting like over-ripe fruits at farmers' markets.

Mark Dredge's Linnaeic attempt could be considered futile or valiant, but it might stand as a useful reference snapshot of what (American) IPAs are now. As he wrote at his blog:
One thing this change is doing is re-focusing on the American IPA. In the last five years we’ve seen the IPA-ification of all beers ...

... a practice which, now running amok, debases IPAs' very identity. American India Pale Ale? India has little to do with it.

  • The Best Beer In The World
    One Man's Global Search for the Perfect Pint

    Hardcover: 224 pages
    Publisher: Ryland Peters & Small Ltd. (U.K., October 2015)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 1909313718
    ISBN-13: 978-1909313712
  • Mark Dredge on Twitter: @MarkDredge
  • Mark Dredge blog: Pencil and Spoon.

  • Hours after I posted here, Oregon beer writer Jeff Alworth published a piece, at his blog Beervana, on how American IPAs have been evolving from hop bitterness predominance toward hop flavor and aroma emphasis.
  • It reminded me of something I had written ... in 1998:
    At the Mid-Atlantic Beer and Food Festival, at least 40% of the attendees were women. This a proportion that had been growing at this festival since its inception five years earlier. For the most part, these women were bucking the conventional wisdom that women only drink sweet, flavored, or fruit beers. They were sampling all of the beers. (This illogic, unfortunately being practiced by some craft breweries, of pandering to the least common denominator, is similar to the process that led the big American brewers to dumb down their offerings.)

    Particularly intriguing was a conversation between two women who appeared to be just past the minimum age. They were standing in line, eagerly waiting to receive refills of Hop Devil Ale, an India Pale Ale, brewed in Pennsylvania by the Victory Brewing Company, that is big, bold, very bitter, and very aromatic. These women, however, were not remarking upon the bitterness of the beer, but, rather, upon its hoppiness, that is, its fresh herbal aromatics.

    Too often, many of us refer only to bitterness when we talk of hop quality, as in the macho muscling in of as much 'hair-on-your-chest' bittering as possible. We forget about the appealing bouquet that hops impart to beer. Hops are herbs, after all. In cooking, spices such as allspice or cinnamon are thought of as sweet spices. They aren't sweet, per se, but, rather, confer a sweet character to the foods in which they used. Similarly, the aromatic character of hops lends a fruity, herbal character to a beer quite distinct from maltiness. This is especially true when dry-hopping with fresh hop blossoms. Compare this process to adding fresh herbs to a meal, after cooking.

  • For more from YFGF: