Unsung Brewers

Beer magazines are really good at making sure that they cover more than just beer; they shine a spotlight on the men and women who actually make it. Y’know, the hands in the whole “hand-crafted” thing. I got to do a li’l spotlighting of my own on Allagash’s Jason Perkins (who makes some of my favorite sour cherry beers) in Portland, ME, Duck Rabbit’s Paul Philippon (who keeps the light shining on dark beers) in Farmville, NC, & Carton’s Pete Dickson (who, sorry, prefers to be out of the spotlight) in Atlantic Highlands

 

Cucumber beers. Yep, that’s a thing.

Move over hops?

Trinity Brewing’s Elektrick Cukumbuhh, which won a bronze medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival, is brewed with 700 lbs. of organic, hand-peeled cucumbers

Photo courtesy Trinity Brewing

Yes, there are oddball adjuncts appearing in beers today—Stilton cheese culture and beard cultures, civet poop coffee and elephant poop coffee, bull testicles and dung-smoked whale testicles—but as much as cucumbers seem weird to throw in a beer, once shock wears off, deft and delicious beer remains.

I’m not sure which is more astonishing: that there are several beers made with this vegetable or the fact that cucumbers aren’t veggies at all.

For Members Only

The inspiration behind this story was actually heading home for the holidays and having my cousin pour me some geeky, ultra-unobtainable bottles

Rare bottles of The Bruery Hoarders Society release for All About Beer Magazine

The Bruery offers limited bottles through its Preservation Society, Reserve Society and Hoarders Society. (Photo courtesy The Bruery)

. I definitely enjoyed getting to drink some of these beers, but wondered how it was that those were the types of beers he typically drinks instead of, like me, on special occasions.

Some beers get fussed over. Some are downright coveted. Rarely are such specimens found perched on the shelf of your local grocer or even in the chiller at your nearest bottle shop. It wasn’t terribly long ago that interesting beer was hard to find on supermarket shelves. Now, the more rare the beer, the faster it disappears from said real estate. Increasingly, smaller breweries are turning to pricey memberships to get their most artful expressions straight to the mouths of devout fans.

Luxembourg

Sometimes I give myself little challenges. Sneak a certain impertinent word into a story. Sneak it into three stories. Spin gravitas out of pop culture. Or give myself the task of writing a travel story about hitting all the breweries in an entire country. In a weekend. I ruled out Liechtenstein because it doesn’t have breweries. It has A brewery. But, since I was already living in Amsterdam at the time being, the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg made perfect sense. And I know just a few basic phrases in French and German to have gotten me around the Luxembourgish countryside that led to this story in All About Beer.

36-1_A Closer Look

All About Portland Beer

All About Portland Beer and Boobs

As the Beer Traveler columnist for All About Beer Magazine, I’ve gotten to write about myriad far flung places. This time, I got to write about home–Portland (Link coming soon). This coincided with the issue that streeted during the annual Craft Brewers Conference which took place in the Rose City this year. As such, I was also assigned a story on the best bars craft beer is served. Correction: the best nudie bars craft beer is served.

India Silly Ales

IPA or India Silly Ale beer label from All About Beer

ISA label by Brian Devine for All About Beer.

Edit: This story was awarded 3rd place in the “Best Humor/Editorial” category at the 2015 North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW) awards. This same year my book, Oregon Breweries, also earned bronze in the travel writing category.)

Larger breweries get to experiment with new flavors in IPAs all the time in the form of testing new hop varietals, such as Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Harvest series, which recently featured wild hops from New Mexico and ones with good potential from Idaho. An experimental recipe designed to get consumers to try the beer once has done its job after one festival-sized sample. I think the mark of a successful recipe is one that gets consumers to crave the beer and quaff it by the glassful, repeatedly. Neither the brewers nor the consumers want to stop having fun.

But at some point, it gets a bit…silly.

Beer Traveler: European Christmas Markets & 2014/2013 archives (and dinosaurs)

In my attempt to make this site a fairly comprehensive archive of published stories, I’m going to slap a bunch of hyperlinks in this post to round-up the “Beer Traveler” column I get to do for All About Beer Magazine. The one currently on better magazine racks around the country is on festive holiday markets in awesome European destinations. Christmas, on the whole, is much less commercialized overseas. Dry cleaners don’t paint Santa Claus getting his reindeers’ coats dry cleaned on the windows. They don’t pipe x-mas carols by pop stars cashing in on the season over their P.A.s. And you won’t find a single egg nog latte at any cafe that isn’t a Starbucks. But you do find outdoor markets–weather be damned–in city centers from France to Belgium to Germany to…Spain.

Before that I wrote one based on my experiences in and around Copenhagen during CBC (Copenhagen Beer Celebration). As a fun counterweight, I included Oklahoma City. OKC is essentially the CPH of the USA, right?

Earlier, I tackled the surprising yet obvious connections between Berlin and Los Angeles. No wonder they’re sister cities. And verily, they’re both supporting some hometown beer cultures again.

To kick off 2014, we explored cask ale destinations for Real Ale lovers in North America: NYC and Victoria, BC along with Central Oregon, Baltimore, Cambridge, Mass., and NC’s Triangle.

OK, this is getting too long. So I’ll include just one more. Dinosaurs! Yes, I managed to pull off a travel story in a beer magazine by unearthing some beer towns for dino-enthusiasts. Oh yes I did.

Beer Traveler: Amsterdam

Brouwerij 't IJ in a former bathhouse beneath Amsterdam's tallest windmill.

Brouwerij ‘t IJ in a former bathhouse beneath Amsterdam’s tallest windmill.

“Beer” and “Traveler.” Inherent in each word is a sense of adventure. Where does the beer/travel begin? Where will it take you? Will you enjoy it? Will it be relaxing or will it challenge you? Ideally, you go into each with expectations, yes, but also with an open mind. Furthermore, once they’re done, those things have somehow changed you, shown you something exciting and enjoyable, and affected the way you participate in future beers/travels the next round. Best of all, there’s always a next round/go-around. That’s what I signed up for when the company my wife works for offered to relocate us to Amsterdam. New travels and new beers. New adventures and opportunities.

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Brouwerij De Prael in the Red Light District. It lives up to it’s folk music theme.

This installment of my column (AAB vol. 35.2, 2014) is 90% guide, 10% impressions of our new if temporary home in the Netherlands’ world-famous city of Amsterdam that’s still trying to develop a world-class beer culture. If I may quote myself from this story: “To be honest, I expected that this country—one that shares borders only with Belgium and Germany—would have a robust brewing culture. There is absolutely some great beer being made here, but you have to really dig deep to find it.”

Overall, it’s a beautiful city with some watering holes that are downright gezellig. My top recs for tasting rooms, breweries, and other spots to taste the local flavor will be missed once we head back home.

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Obituary: Rogue Ales founder Jack Joyce

At first I was inclined to not post this In Memoriam I penned following the loss of craft brewing industry pioneer Jack Joyce. He co-founded one of Oregon’s oldest and largest breweries in Rogue. Then I figured that A) I’m honored to be able to continue to pay respects to him and B) I write about all facets of the brewing world, namely the people who populate it, and death is a fact of life that, as the industry and its pioneers age, will become more of an issue. It’s even possible in the future that beer publications will have to start an obit section seeing how many thousands of people are employed by the industry.

Bonus hyperlink alert: One little-known fact about me is that the first brewer-related story I ever had published was an obituary for Karl Strauss, the legendary Pabst brewmaster and namesake of San Diego’s first microbrewery. It appeared in the Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles.

The Social Brew Work

I first dipped my pen in the quill of writing about crowdfunding (namely Kickstarter) in the the brewing industry with this blog post (July, 2011) and not only does it remain a viable force in the realm of funding these frothy startups, but it has spun off its own platform, CrowdBrewed. For better, for worse, and for big bucks, welcome to the Social Brew Work.