2015 is barely four weeks old, and already we’ve seen the craft beer scene light up with plenty of fireworks. Perplexingly, Tony Magee of Lagunitas filed a trademark lawsuit against Sierra Nevada, only to back down after being “seriously schooled” by the good folks on Twitter. About a week before that hue and cry, a blogger in the New York State capitol region ignited a firestorm of his own, claiming that “[f]lights are dumb, and you’re dumb if you like them.” Needless to say, not everyone agreed. Just last week, news broke that Anheuser-Busch InBev has continued its craft beer shopping spree, scooping up Seattle’s Elysian a mere three months after the ink had dried on its deal to acquire 10 Barrel Brewing of Bend, Oregon. I suppose Elysian will have to quietly discontinue its Loser Pale Ale, or at least erase the “Corporate Beer Still Sucks” tagline from the packaging.
10. Straight to Ale Laika Russian Imperial Stout City: Huntsville, AL ABV: 9.75% Key ingredient: Perfectly controlled fermentation Perfect for: After-dinner holiday dessert The verdict: A delicious and unique offering, this Alabama brewery’s imperial stout packs intense fruity overtones of raspberry and cherry which immediately make it stand out. The fruit plays very nicely with heavy, charred roastiness, giving a great contrast. If you love dark chocolate-dipped raspberry/cherry, this is the one for you. Booziness only adds to and amplifies those flavors—this one runs a little hot, despite being lower in ABV than some of the others on the table. Regardless, these memorable flavors helped it rise above the pack and make us very excited to try some of the barrel-aged variants in our next tasting.
9. Clown Shoes Blaecorn Unidragon City: Ipswich, MA ABV: 12.5% Key ingredient: Malt out the wazoo Perfect for: Enjoying once you have conquered your enemies and secured your legacy. The verdict: Clown Shoes is simply a brewery that gets big stouts, whether they’re American, Russian, smoked, barrel-aged, chile-infused or any combination of the above. This one is just a classic Russian imperial stout, on steroids, super roasty but with a milk sugar-like sweetness backing it up, chased by dark chocolate and a fleeting hit of hops. This is another beer you could serve someone as a template to what a “Russian imperial stout” actually entails. In a crowded style, this is still an exemplary beer.
Straight to Ale, 3200 Leeman Ferry Road, Huntsville, AL 35801
(Behind the Matrix gym) straighttoale.com
(Hence, at his house, being “taken to the woodshed” in those days was a good thing!)
In the 80s, between the record industry, and various radio stations, I transferred expensive cars, occasionally taking one to Huntsville, Alabama. One gig I had was driving a street sweeper there then waiting for the engine to be serviced. I’m fond of saying I spent a century: one week, in Huntsville. At the time it was far more sleepy and had poor public transportation. From outside my motel room I would occasionally gaze to the east at the hills and wonder if the villagers were also getting angry at the company for taking so long fixing their street sweepers. Mad locals would break in and find them working on a monster instead…
Sometimes I imagine the best small craft breweries are being run by mad scientists brewing Frankenstein beers that the townsfolk, visitors and many others love. Years ago when Miller and Bud pretty much ruled America those beers may have been treated like the misunderstood monster in Shelley’s Frankenstein, but I think folks are more understanding these days. Well, some. The dedicated Miller Lite drinker? Maybe not so much.
But craft brewers and home brewers are doing an incredible job educating all palates. Continue reading “Brew Biz: Werts and All… Straight to Ale, BIG Plans and BIG Beer, Part One”
Homebrewers love hops—it’s no secret. You will always remember the first time you smelled those powerful pellets drop into the kettle. The little bitter cones give beer life, personality and uncanny edginess. Without them, beer would often times be unbalanced, overly sweet and uninteresting.
Hops are so important, some people devote their entire lives to the plant—hop fascination transformed into obsession.
The “hop heads” out there, like Tom Lewis from Cheshire, England, are always looking for ways to push the hoppy envelope in their homebrews. A hopback is the perfect way to infuse fresh-hop character in beer just before it hits your glass. Check out Tom’s easy-to-build hopback project below!
Hi, everyone and cheers! Today I am drinking Ithaca Beer’s first seasonal release of this year. Daydreamer. They called it a “Kolsch” and so I bought it but when I got home I noticed that the beer is 7 %. Gee. 7%? Now the Imperial Kolsch may sound impressive but the style is actually defined by a low abv and I hope to tell you why .
The style guidelines define not only the nitty gritty measurable characteristics of the beer but also the spirit of the drink as well. To me the kolsch beer style means elan, finesse, restraint and the understanding of brewing. It’s character is subtle and delicate yet it’s pretty vivacious. It is breadier than you might have guessed from the way enthusiasts talk about it, and the the beer showcases the “ester” from yeast by showing you it’s delicate yet pertinent begining. That’s all it is in the beer. An almost imperceptible fruity sweetness. Like a white wine twang. This beer is subtle. All of the beers character, all it’s identity rests on the fact that it is low alcohol. 4.5%. The pils malt in the kolsch is bready but is more a golden sweetness. Fine flour that has been toasted golden. And different brewers will evoke subtle differences in that malt . It’s soft and seems to just melt on the tongue and is dry. Also because it has no wild rampant flavors to carry you away you can sometimes taste a mineral quality or a yeast character that gives the beer a slight pucker in the finish. A ‘tang” if you will.
SO – as a low abv style it is going to be crisp. A higher abv adds sweetness, and body to a beer. It also can be anti-crisp and complicate things further by augmenting flavors.
Ithaca’s beer is 7% alcohol. And while it is acceptable to use up to 20% wheat in the kolsch Ithaca has added Vienna malt. Some recipes for kolsch allow for up to 15% vienna malt. I would say already that it is not a kolsch. Hmmmmm . . . Lots of brewers do variations or interpretations on a style. Put their “spin”on the traditional beer. Ithaca has made two other kolsches according to Beer Advocate and both had an abv above 6%. However I am pretty sure this is the first that they have bottled.
Daydreamer pours a a darker shade of yellow gold than the average light or pale straw color. The addition of Vienna malt has given it a rather orange hue and in indirect light the beer is pretty orange. Slight haze and a fingers worth of white creamy foam that lasted.
The nose is very strong. Apple, pear & white fruit. Heavier graham cracker and some breaddier malt and some earthiness. A sweetness from alcohol and a bit of hop floral (or maybe that floral is from the alcohol) to lift that up even more.
Taste is fruity. Pear, apple and white fruit. Ithaca said pineapple and my son said banana peel. Cloying sweetness. Esters from alcohol and a sweeter breaddier malt that tastes of graham cracker. Finishes with a slight taste of hop herbal and no hop bitterness. The kolsch should be dry and it is but it also has a dryness from alcohol on the tongue that does not belong in the kolsch. It’s too fruity, it’s too sweet, it’s too rich it’s too heavy. It does not drink like a kolsch and because it is 7% (which is on it’s way to tripel) it will sit in the glass and open up plenty.
(2.8 but the professor decided to average it out to 3.)
Welcome to the PGA beer rating system: one beer “Don’t bother.” Two: Eh, if someone gives it to you, drink. Three: very good, go ahead and seek it out, but be aware there is at least one problem. Four: seek it out. Five: pretty much “perfecto.”
Maria Devan lives in Ithaca, New York with her son. She writes great reviews for PGA and other web sites, reviews brews on the web and You Tube with other homebrewers and craft beer lovers from all over the country. Maris also gets a LOT of great exercise walking up, and down, up, and down, up and down, the hill near where she lives!
John Kimmich, the mastermind behind The Alchemist brewery and Heady Topper double IPA—the world’s number 1 beer (according to Beeradvocate.com)—has little interest in joining discussions about hypothetical differences between IPAs or Double IPAs brewed on the East Coast and the West Coast. “I’ve got to say, I think that [East vs. West] is outdated at this point.” However, the “best IPA” debate does provide context for something more relevant—the effect that yeast selection has on hops aroma and flavor, particularly when it comes to the new “impact” or “flavor” hops.
Kimmich acquired the Alchemist house yeast strain, known as “Conan” as well as VPB1188, when he worked at Vermont Pub and Brewery. Over time it evolved into his own, just as Vermont Pub and Brewery founder Greg Noonan made it his own after acquiring it from English sources. Kimmich particularly likes the apricot and tropical fruit aromas that this strain produces, a combination of the esters that result after yeast creates alcohol and the hops-derived aroma compounds that evolve during the fermentation process (called biotransformations by brewing scientists).
Mixed-culture fermentation has a long history in North America stretching back to the days prior to Prohibition. Brewers with British roots arriving in the great port cities of the east fanned out across the continent, some of them continuing the tradition of tart, oak-aged stock ales. German immigrants also left their mark, not only in the form of Pabst, Coors, and Anheuser-Busch. In the late nineteenth century, Baltimore was a thriving center of Berliner Weisse production.
This post could probably run on to book length, with as much as my stunned brain – abruptly informed of the sale of Elysian Brewing to AB/InBev yesterday as I was busy with something else – has churned up in the hours (many of them sleepless and dead quiet) since I received this…this gut-punch.
Seattle’s Elysian Brewing has been sold to the Great Satan of the beer world, Belgium/Brazil’s AB/InBev, a soulless, bean-countin’, avaricious, cut-throat, amoral international conglomerate that has gobbled up many of the world’s great breweries and now has its sights set on the craft beer movement here in the US.