Of beer and land

CRAFT by UMH (Under My Host. Even I only slightly get the name) is a new digital magazine by a very enthusiastic publisher named Cori Paige. She’s got the kind of enthusiasm that when she reached out to me via the FB to ask if I might muse about beer for her new digimag, I’d have had to have been some kind of putz to say no.

Since I can’t find the link to the first story I did for Craft, which was a fun exercise in pairing songs about beer with a beer each, here’s the most recent one published online. And I somehow got to put my Religious Studies major (A: don’t ask. B: I double majored.) to work. For the “agrarian issue,” I wrote about the link between brewing and the development of human society through the lands, ages, and religions.

New Wave Funk

BeerAdvcoate, the online forum turned magazine, doesn’t republish the print zine’s content online, but if you have #87, there’s my beer story on some of the next wave of funky brewers such as Cellarmaker (San Francisco), Side Project (St. Louis), J. Wakefield Brewing (Miami), and Crooked Stave (Denver), but being the contrarian that I am, I managed to make it center around one of the first to ride the wave, New Glarus’s Dan Carey. I also worked in some P-Funk, but that got cut out of the story, so I’ve taken the liberty of posting the first few grafs of the story below pre-edits:

The future of American sour beers started, in part, back in 1994 when New Glarus Brewing brewmaster Dan Carey developed a spontaneously fermented wild ale in the Flemish Oud Bruin style. He said it was probably a decade ago when he kegged some of that sour brown ale to the Great American Beer Festival. “I was particularly proud of this one and called it New Glarus Sour Brown Ale. But some people just wanted to try ‘the brown ale.’ One attendee in particular, whom I envision him doing a comical spit-take, exclaimed to Carey’s face, “Dude! This beer is spoiled; you have to take this off.”

I bet that same guy today brags about sampling said brown, since as P-Funk maestro George Clinton once said: “Just by getting a little taste of funk, you’re going to be hooked.” New Glarus, like Parliament Funkadelic, have always been ahead of their time.

Carey relayed his story of visiting the Belgian Trappist brewery, Orval, where brewmaster Jean-Marie Rock beseeched Cary, “Why do all of you American brewers copy me?” Arguably one of the greatest beers in the world could be described as simply a Belgian pale ale with an element of Brettanomyces, but there’s nothing simple about it. Unlike the brewers yeast that most breweries propagate, Saccharomyces cerevisiae, “Brett” is not so easily controlled and is a distinguishing character in many of the best Belgian brews beyond Orval including sour Flemish ales and Lambics. Rock continued, “Why don’t you make your own beers?” New Glarus has always excelled at doing just that, making their own beers, and Carey shared some thoughts on the notion of American breweries doing telltale, Belgian-style beers. “Our technology, temperament, and terroir are different. Frankly, if you were going hire a band for an event, if you could afford it you’d prefer to pay a band that plays original music and not a cover band. Rodenbach already exists,” said Carey referencing the notorious Flemish brewery. “Every musician is inspired, but I’m not a cover band.” Call his sour, frequently-fruited beers “lambic style” if you must, but Carey fervently calls them “American sour ales.”

An Oral History of BridgePort India Pale Ale

This is the second installment of this type of oral history of a Portland beer that would go onto help shape not only the Portland beer scene, but impact the national beer climate as well. Crazy to think that before this beer debuted in 1996, most beer drinkers in America had no clue what an India Pale Ale was.

Image courtesy BridgePort

Image courtesy BridgePort

Pop Art: Craft Soda is Fizzing Over

sidebarSoda water dates back to the 18th century, and many of America’s most popular pop brands emerged in the late 19th century. Today, business is bubbling among craft soft drink producers. It’s no surprise that many flavorful soda concoctions hail from craft brewers…Look for sodas with fresh fruits, hand-squeezed juices and spices like coriander, cardamom and capsicum—creative, full-flavored beverages even a beer geek can get behind.

An Oral History of Widmer Hefeweizen

Edit: This story was awarded 2nd place in the “Brewspaper” category at the inaugural North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW) awards in October 2013)

When Willy Week resurrected the Beer Guide, I was tasked with writing the oral history, as it were, of one of this city’s most seminal beer offerings: Widmer Brothers’ Hefeweizen. It has protagonists, controversy, some romance, and pretty much everything needed for a Hollywood blockbuster save for a rando choreographed fight or homecoming dance scene. Oh, this story also netted me a 2nd place finish in the inaugural award ceremony of the North American Guild of Beer Writers!

Image courtesy Widmer Bros.

Image courtesy Widmer Bros.

Beertown USA: New Orleans

That I love beer is a given. So when I get to write about beer in combo with my other favorite things, it’s sheer joy. The first time I went to New Orleans I was just 22 years old and happened to discover Dixie Blackened Voodoo, the heritage brewery’s first all-malt beer, just a year earlier. But at 22, my focus on exploring the Big Easy was anything but craft beer-oriented. After visiting again in 2001 to attend Jazz Fest, that’s when my love affair began and it turned into an annual pilgrimage. In fact, I typically find myself there twice a year. I LOVE NEW ORLEANS. Greatest American city! But I felt I may never get to write about it in the context of a beer story until, to use a very poor metaphor given its history, the tide started rising post-Katrina, sparked in some ways as a means of economic recovery. I know that was NOLA’s (New Orleans Lagers & Ales) impetus and they’ve grown into the city (that care forgot)’s largest brewer.

From DRAFT (vol 8.1, 2013), Laissez les bons temps brewler (let the good times brew).

Modern Cider

AAB 33.3

AAB 33.3

Modern Cider is the cover story of AAB Vol. 33, Iss. 3, 2012. It’s, as their title puts it, “Not your father’s hard cider” (for the record, don’t call it hard cider to folks in the industry; it’s cider–that “soft” stuff is juice since you don’t call grape juice wine.). Today it gets barrel-aged, Brett-o-mized and sake’d out.

Beer in La La Land

imgresBeer West (nee Beer Northwest) had a short but sweet life as a regional beer magazine for which I contributed just a few stories. One of the first was this cover story on the LA beer scene, warts and all. Somewhere online there’s a fantastically long response it got from an area brewer who wasn’t a fan of the reporting. And somewhere else is my fantastically longer rebuttal.

Hop Forward

AAB 32.2

AAB 32.5

This cover story in All About Beer (Vol. 32, Iss. 5, 2011) was rooted in some of the entries I wrote for the Oxford Companion to Beer on hop varietals and really learning how long it takes for a new hop to go from a little-hope experiment to A-list hop, essentially, getting to know tomorrow’s hops today. Hop Forward is one of my favorite stories I’ve ever researched’n’written as a beer writer.

Dr. Shaun Townshend of Oregon State University amidst offspring from the 2010 breeding crosses, grown in partnership with Indie Hops.

Dr. Shaun Townshend of Oregon State University amidst offspring from the 2010 breeding crosses, grown in partnership with Indie Hops.

#Nips!

Variety pack of 18 cl bottles. Photo: Brian Yaeger

Variety pack of 18 cl bottles. Photo: Brian Yaeger

I don’t recall the catalyst, but starting in 2011 I rapidly took up the mantle in support of small (AAB, Vol. 32, Iss. 2) forming something of a Nip Bottle Preservation Society (an army of one). Nips, typically those diminutive packages that offer a scant 250ml (about 7 fl. oz.) aren’t just cute, they’re great for myriad reasons. And I got to explore them even more beyond the feature story for a triptych of 3 posts in All About Beer’s then-blog, Beer Soup, for which I’d started blogging in early 2011.

Everybody Wants Some. Smaller portions of limited volume means more consumers get to try the beer (even if they get less liquid than they may like,)

Does this beer make me look fat? Sorry fellas, but beer’s not exactly dietetic. If we’re all about quality not quantity, maybe smaller portions aren’t such a bad thing.

It’s the economy, genius. Nips and splits are the answer to the “problem” of the rising cost of rare beer. I’d rather spend $16 for a 375ml than $30 for a 750.

But I didn’t stop there. I went on to launch www.WeLoveNips.com and you can follow our exploits on #Twitter at @welovenips.

Remember, less is more.