Are Sours the New Black?

Lindemans Brewery

Written by Tom Becham for

Are Sour Beers the New Black?

As a beer geek friend of mine said to me recently, “You know what sour beers and World Cup Soccer have in common? Americans discovered they kinda liked both of them in 2010.”

It’s true. Sour beers have become a big trend in craft beer circles. If you’ve never had a sour beer (well, a GOOD sour beer), you may wonder why that is so.

A typical sour beer (they are always ales; lagers do NOT make for good sour beers) can be anywhere from pilsner-yellow to stout-black in color. The taste of sour beers has been described as acidic, acetic, vinegar-like and vinous. All of those descriptors can be true, but if you’ve never actually had a decent sour, then the words won’t mean a thing to you. Sour beers are also some of the most useful beers to convert wine lovers into craft beer lovers. Anyone who loves a brightly tannic red wine will also likely appreciate a sour beer.


What makes an ale sour? Well, there are a couple of things that can. First is a “wild” yeast, usually of the Brettanomyces strain. Of course, now these yeasts can be cultivated and used deliberately instead of just resulting from a “spontaneous fermentation”. Second is any range of bacteria, from lactobacillus (the stuff that sours milk) to pediococcus. Again, these bacteria are now frequently introduced into beers, though the randomness of barrel aging still seems to produce better results.
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Iron Age Honey Mead

Written by Kevin M. Cullen (Archaeologist: Discovery World: Milwaukee WI)

The recipe that we chose to brew for this special program was an Iron Age honey mead, found in a bronze cauldron at the foot of a Celtic chieftain who was buried in a central burial chamber, beneath an earthen mound near the village of Hochdorf in southwestern Germany. Excavations led by Dr. Jörg Biel in 1978-79 revealed that this elite male was buried around 550 BCE. To discover an intact burial chamber from this period was a rarity, as most were looted over the centuries. Included in the burial was a wagon with nine bronze plates and three bronze serving platters. Nine large gold decorated drinking horns, likely aurochs horns. Eight of them could hold 1 liter of liquid, yet the largest horn which hung above the chieftain’s head could hold a 10 pint (5 liter) capacity (that’s a “power drinker”). Additionally, a very large Greek-imported bronze cauldron with a capacity of 70 gallons (ca. 265 liters) was placed at the chieftain’s feet. Upon analysis of the desiccated remains, it was determined to have once been mead (honey wine). Such a volume of mead was quite an extravagance and very expensive to obtain, particularly considering the Celts did not have formalized apiculture.

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Alabama Beer Lovers Wait for Action on Brew Bills

Written by Andy Brownfield for The Gadsden Times and AP

Alabama beer lovers are pleased that the state Legislature passed a measure to allow beer to be sold in larger containers, but they’re still awaiting the fate of a measure to legalize home brewing.

The Legislature sent the bill to allow larger bottles to Gov. Bentley’s desk on May 9. A Bentley spokeswoman said he’s still reviewing the proposal and hasn’t decided whether to sign it.

The bill that would make Alabama the 49th state to allow home brewing – Mississippi would be the final holdout – was passed by the House on May 8 and is awaiting Senate action. The chair of the Senate committee that decides which bills make it to the floor could not be reached for comment.

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Beer Profile: Saranac White IPA

Profiled by Ken Carman for

The nose is almost pure Citra, with a hint of malt. For some reason the spices didn’t make it into the nose, though the Citra and orange peel could be working in tandem. Slight fruity, yeast driven, nose… tad grapefruit-y.

Hazy. Hey! It’s a wheat beer, what did you expect? Nice big head with fine, tiny, tiny bubbles with some pillow. SRM almost 1! Maybe 2-3: at best. Bubble cling to glass.

The mouthfeel is perfect: a light wheat and spice sense. Slight coriander and orange peel in back ground: roof of mouth cling to spices.
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Hill Farmstead (Brewery in VT) Q&A With Shaun Hill

Written by Brandon Jones for

So I’m reading over the finished Q&A thinking about how to intro this interview and the song Doowutchyalike by Digital Underground keeps popping into my head. While it might be a stretch, Shaun Hill of Hill Farmstead is doing what he likes, having fun and batting pretty close to 1000 while he’s at it. Hill Farmstead is doing what I think is the perfect brewing dream: brewing phenomenal beer in a farmhouse setting… the way he wants to on family land that looks like something out of a painting. In between making the beer that sees a lot of “ISO” on many websites Shaun sat down for a Q&A with me….

ETF- What beer was your sour or brett beer epiphany?

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Brew Biz: Werts and All

This week’s topic: Judging Specialty Wonderful-Weird vs. Specialty Slightly Abnormal

“Whose brain did you get?”

“Somebody named Abby Normal.”

“You’re telling me we gave him an… ABNORMAL BRAIN???”

-paraphrased exchange between I-Gor and young Victor Frankenstein; or “steen” as he preferred at first, the movie and the musical

Yes, maybe I was the one who got Abby Normal’s brain when it comes to judging what some may consider “Abby Normal beer.” Apologies to fans of Christopher Moore and homebrewers like myself who love to brew “Abby Normal” beers, braggots and explore other fermented concoctions, perhaps, even more odd.

A topic came up on JudgeNet, a Yahoo group, and I immediately went where no one else has gone before. Or maybe I just have a slightly off kilter look at Specialty brews…

(Hmm… “Off Kilt-er Kolsch?” I’d better get to brewing another Specialty!)

A brewer wanted to enter a Session IPA and thought maybe he/she should enter it as Specialty. I’m sure some judges are traditionalists: it’s neither an APA or an IPA, so Specialty should do. Others thought the category for APA would be better.
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Bubble Has Not Burst on Craft Beer

Written by Greg Kitsock for The Washington Post

(Who says it HAS TO BE a “bubble?”-PGA)

“The world almost seems flipped on its side — a revolution has happened,” reported Benj Steinman, president of the trade publication Beer Marketer’s Insight, in assessing the state of craft brewing.

Craft Brewer's Conference
Steinman was addressing a crowd at the 2012 Craft Brewers Conference that unfolded May 2-5 amidst the gentle sea breezes and swaying palms of San Diego. Most of the news from the conference was good, often spectacularly so. Craft beer finished 2011 up 13 percent in volume and 15 percent in dollars, according to Paul Gatza, president of the Brewers Association, which organized the event. There were 250 openings and only 37 closings last year, pushing the total number of breweries in the United States to 1,989. That figure has now exceeded 2,000, he added, joking that another two nanobreweries probably went online during his turn at the podium.

Under the circumstances, keynote speaker Steve Hindy, former AP Middle East correspondent and co-founder of the Brooklyn Brewery, could be forgiven a little boasting. “I’m sure you all had someone walk into your brewery and ask, ‘Did you ever imagine it getting this big?’ I answer, ‘Hell, yes!’”

The disturbing news was that, according to Gatza, there are currently 1,119 additional breweries in the planning stage.


There is fear within the industry that there might be a bubble about to burst, that the burgeoning number of new brands could push distribution channels to the breaking point. It scares at least one Mid-Atlantic brewer, who nevertheless was planning an expansion to keep apace with the competition.

But those worries didn’t spoil the party.

The BrewExpo Trade Show was rife with innovations in packaging, including a disposable clear plastic keg; a growler that resembles a milk carton; and a spout-top can with a resealable screw-on cap. The latter is “great for kickball; you can knock it over and not spill any,” said Chad Melis, spokesman for the Colorado-based Oskar Blues brewery.

Oskar Blues was certainly the biggest newsmaker of the conference, announcing that it’s opening an East Coast branch in Brevard, N.C. It will thus become the third western brewer, after Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, to move into the Tarheel State. The new facility, said Melis, will become operational later this year and be capable of churning out 40,000 barrels right from the start. It will include a restaurant and feature live music.

Local beermaker DC Brau made a splash by winning a “Canny” award (second place, best overall design) for its Corruption IPA. This beauty contest for aluminum containers was sponsored by the Ball Corp., worldwide manufacturer of beverage cans, and several other industry suppliers of packaging and machinery.

(Incidentally, there are now 179 craft brewers canning beers, stated Gatza. “A decade ago, there were zero.”)

The conference drew a record 4,500 attendees. Apparently none of the San Diego breweries could accommodate a crowd that size, so the BA held the opening reception at the San Diego Zoo. On subsequent nights, guests could slake their thirst at a gazebo outside the convention site offering 140 draft beers.

Washington D.C., which will host the Craft Brewers Conference next year, has a tough act to follow.

Postscript: Every other year, the CBC hosts the World Beer Cup, an international judging that this year attracted a record 3,921 beers from 54 countries competing for medals in 95 categories. Among the winners, posted during the wee hours of Sunday (it takes a while to read out 284 award recipients), was Vienna Lager from Devils Backbone Brewing Co. in Roseland, Va. The malt-accented amber lager, recently introduced into Northern Virginia, was the gold medalist in the Vienna-style lager niche.

Arlington’s Rock Bottom Brewery snagged a bronze in the coffee beer category for its Coffee Stout. Two other Virginia breweries with a local presence took home a silver: Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton for its Blue Reserve (American-Belgo-style ale) and Sweetwater Tavern in Centreville for its GAR Pale Ale (extra special bitter). Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick also earned a silver in the aged beer slot for its Vintage Horn Dog barley wine.

Beer-Chugging Black Bear Visits Bar, Roams Florida Town

Written by Larry McShane for The New York Daily News

A thirsty 300-pounder black bear is wandering the streets near a Florida marina, chug-a-lugging beers found on back porches and popping in at the Happy Snapper Tiki Bar in Debary, Fla.

Customers stood and stared when the wild creature arrived at the waterfront bar, according to eyewitness Sandy Harvey.

“We all rushed over and we call watched the bear just meander all around,” she told FOX 35-TV.

Other local residents report the bear tearing into a case of beer — shredding the cans to get a taste — and knocking around in the middle of the night.
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Facing the Loss of a Tax Exemption, Lawmakers, Brewers Craft a Solution

Written by By Pervaiz Shallwani for The Wall Street Journal

State and federal lawmakers said Sunday they have brewed a way to keep local craft beermakers’ profits from going flat.

(The question being: what is the favorite quaff of a black bear? -PGA)

A March 28 New York state court ruling declared unconstitutional a law that had exempted local brewers from a state excise tax and registration fees. Under the ruling, all distributors now have to pay a 14 cent per gallon in state tax and an additional 12 cents per gallon for beer sold in New York City.

Losing the exemption would mean a $434,000 cost increase for a craft brewer that produces 100,000 barrels of beer a year, said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer during a news conference Sunday.

“That’s a staggering amount that could make it difficult for these burgeoning, wonderful businesses to stay in business,” Mr. Schumer said.

State lawmakers announced Sunday a bill that would partially solve the problem, giving New York’s craft brewers—those that produce less than 6 million barrels a year—a 14 cent per gallon tax credit on the first 200,000 barrels produced.

The bill is backed by Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, a Democrat from Brooklyn, and state Sen. Lee Zeldin, a Long Island Republican. Both have notable craft breweries in their districts.

“We have to take action against” the ruling, Mr. Lentol said.

A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said in an email that “different proposals” were being considered to address the court ruling.

“It’s a shame that in state small brewers could be hurt because of this decision,” the spokesman said.

New York brewers would get most of the monetary value of the old exemption back if the state legislation is passed and coupled with a federal proposal introduced in March that would cut federal excise taxes on brewers that make less than 1.9 million barrels a year.

Mr. Schumer is co-sponsoring that bill.

State brewers and bar owners had complained that the court ruling threatened to stunt a booming industry in New York. Bars said it would force them to raise the cost on pints, and brewers said they may move some of their operations to neighboring states.

But the Shelton Brothers, a Massachusetts-based distribution company that brought the lawsuit, had complained the tax exemption and fees were putting out-of-state brewers at an unfair disadvantage.

Shelton Brothers President Daniel Shelton said the move by lawmakers was what he expected. “It’s going to be the same effect, but it’s clear the instate people are supposed to pay the tax the same way we are, but the state has made a decision to give it back to in-state brewers,” he said.

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