DRAFT (vol. 7.4, 2012) turned the spotlight on breweries far away from any big city’s bright lights. The intro in this story on true farmhouse breweries to Logsdon Farmhouse Ales was a great excuse to finally pay this pioneering brewer’s new venture in Hood River a visit.
Charlie Papazian’s now-extinct Beer Town USA online poll, by virtue of the name, excluded foreign cities. Otherwise people might vote for Munich or London, or probably Brussels. But there’s a pretty strong argument that they’d all be dead wrong. The answer may very well be Copenhagen. No longer are the Danish merely famous for their, uh, Danishes…the craft beer movement is gaining traction throughout Scandinavia and credit goes to Mikkel Borg Bjergsø—known to beer geeks the world over—is the mind behind the Mikkeller brand.
This blurb from a larger feature on awesome places to drink (DRAFT, vol. 6.5, 2011) emanated from a bizarre trip to Death Valley (all trips to Death Valley end up being bizarre) and staying at a hotel/campground a friend recommended because they stocked tons of craft beer. Talk about an oasis.
For this first-person-account-as-written-by-third-party profile, I got to interview this guy in Colorado who’d been doing his graduate thesis on Brettanomyces. It turned into an open forum and from there, the student, Chad Yakobson, had just launched Crooked Stave, an all-Brett all-the-time brewery. Jump forward ahead just a few years and Crooked Stave is the all the rave. I’m happy to say I was able to enjoy his first couple of releases to help get his story straight;-)
Well, I pitched this story to Draft (vol 6.1, 2011) as an intro to the trend of educational beers. Yes, beers that teach the consumer (and usually the brewer in the process) something such as releasing a series of beers with a control and one variable distinguishing the other iterations. In other words, a pale ale each hopped with a different, single varietal, or a stout and a series of that same batch aged in one differing spent barrel each. The king of these–they’re certainly not vertical tastings which takes one beer as sampled at once over several vintages so instead I call it horizontal tastings–is Mikkeller from Denmark. Dark Horse, one of my favorite Michigan breweries, had a different sort of horse in this race.
A recurring feature in DRAFT is “BeerMe,” a first-person narrative about a brewer, but one that’s sometimes told to and written by a third party. In this case, the subject is a guy named Yuri Green who was about to launch a brewery initially called Cherry Voodoo (and later launched as Triple Voodoo. Without Yuri. This story (vol. 5.6, 2010) may or may not have something to do with that.) Did I write this as a dark comedy? You bet! But was what I wrote built around actual quotes and approved by the subject? Yeppers.
I only knew of Charbay Distillery since they make the best infused vodkas–flavors like green tea–so while I don’t recall how I first heard about their experimental whiskey made from distilled pilsner, I knew I had to try it and get the story (for DRAFT, vol 5.5, 2010). Days after reaching out to them, I found myself on their Napa Valley property, talking to the father-son duo of Miles and Marko Karakasevic, master distillers, and, yes, sampling an array of beers spun into golden whiskeys (and some white ones).
Thinking back, I honestly don’t remember how Tom Griffin, aka the Barrel Guy, even landed on my radar. He flies under almost every radar. This one guy–he doesn’t like the term barrel broker because spent barrels are more like a canvas to him than a commodity–helped shift the direction of the craft beer business in the 21st century but no one outside the brewers really knew about it. Certainly no one had written about him. Nor was he trying to be written about. I think it was an off-handed comment by Matt Brynildson, Firestone-Walker’s brewmaster, where I casually heard his name and some time later that set me off looking for him, but he doesn’t have a website or anything. That’s why how we first met face to face is part of this story, my first for DRAFT Magazine (vol. 5.4, July, 2010). Of course, it’s just the tip of the iceberg, but this remains one of my favorite stories.
Cheers to Tom, wherever he may presently be driving.