The Past, Present, and Yes, Future of the Hops Industry: NY

The Seeb kilnNearly everyone has heard of the legendary upstate New York hops industry. While many people cite “the blight” as the cause for its demise, they are unaware of other more important factors which also contributed. Lately, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding the possibility of growing hops again in this area, with many people asking if it can be done, and if so, how? The answer to that important question is yes, but to be successful, an entirely new approach must be taken. Fortunately, there are people willing to pursue that different angle, and in doing so, they are helping to both preserve hops history and plant economic seeds for the future.

To plan for the future, we must first try to understand the past. The rise and fall of the hops industry reads like an Old Testament narrative. Hops first came to America from Europe around 1630. Small crops were produced for many years, probably to supply small breweries and taverns, and began to emerge as a major crop in New York around 1830. By mid-century, due to excellent yields and good market prices, hop production assumed feverish proportions. By 1849 New York had attained the national leadership in the production of hops, and by 1855 the region was raising well over three million pounds annually.

Hop growing predominated in the area contiguous to what is now Route 20, running from Sharon Springs to Cazenovia, with a north-south axis of this belt extending approximately 20 miles in either direction. The major producing counties were Otsego, Oneida, Madison, Schoharie, and Montgomery. In those days, good, properly brewed beer was a favorite beverage and fields all over the United States bloomed with hop-bearing vines. Even though hops from England and Germany were in great demand, the Otsego County hop was considered the best in America, and the equal of any in the world.

Want to read more? Please click…


Stroh’s death knell rang in Bell’s Brewery and era of craft beer

Stroh Brewery Co. announced 30 years ago it would raze its 1 million-square-foot brewery, bottling and warehouse buildings on Gratiot Avenue at I-75. The late Peter Stroh, chairman of the iconic Detroit beer company, said no amount of investment could save the brewery in the face of a declining beer audience — which dropped from 31 million barrels to 24 million barrels annually.

That year, 1985, marked the beginning of the end of Stroh and a culture shift for Michigan beer drinkers as a small-time home brewer took his craft legal.

Larry Bell, Bell’s Brewery founder

Larry Bell founded Kalamazoo-based Bell’s Brewery Inc. the same year Stroh’s was razed and today is one of the largest local beer producers — expected to produce 410,000 barrels of craft beer in 2015.

Michigan craft beer accounted for only 6 percent of beer sold in the state in 2013, but it is growing at a clip that’s forced the industry to mature, has attracted financiers and is ripe for expansion and consolidation.

Beer giants Anheuser-Busch InBev NV and MillerCoors LLC continue to dominate beer sales in the U.S., with a 75 percent market share, but craft brewers cut into that margin every year.

Want to read more? Please click…


Anheuser-Busch interested in buying Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing

Cigar City Brewing produces such craft beers as Jai Alai IPA, Improv Oatmeal Rye India-Style Brown Ale and Cubano-Style Espresso Brown Ale. Owner Joey Redner says Anheuser-Busch has inquired about buying the business.

TAMPA — If you can’t beat ’em, buy’ em.

Despite its snarky Budweiser ad during the Super Bowl poking fun at craft beer, Anheuser-Busch has been steadily buying craft breweries around the country.

Could Tampa’s own Cigar City Brewing be next?

Founder and owner Joey Redner on Friday confirmed that the beer company’s representatives have reached out to him about buying his Tampa-based business.

Anheuser-Busch has a long history in the Tampa Bay area, having once operated a brewery and the Busch Gardens theme park here. The brewery closed in 1995, and the beer maker sold the park to investors in 2009.

Want to read more? Please click…


Tasting Against the Canonical Craft Beer Grain

Written by Franz Hofer for A Tempest in a Tankard

IMG_1078What do we taste when we drink a glass of beer or wine?

Are we imbibing the liquid itself? Or is there more to it?

What about the conditions under which we consume the beer? Are we with friends at a pub? Is the beer part of a sumptuous meal? Or does the beer conceal its identity as part of a blind tasting? Are we consuming an aura? The reputation of a brewery? A BeerAdvocate or RateBeer score? Hype? Marketing?

Want to read more? Please click…


Tom Becham on Firestone Walker


Written by Tom Becham

Paso Robles brewery for Firestone's web site
Paso Robles brewery for Firestone’s web site
An interesting history here. Firestone Walker holds a special place In my heart for a couple of reasons. First, it is reasonably local to me (about a 2 hour drive). Second, it has been a fixture in craft beer since the second wave of craft in recent years. Finally, they’ve won the “Best Mid-Size Brewery” Award several years now at the GABF. Clearly, they have the chops.

Firestone’s Velvet Merlin, their mass-marketed Oatmeal Stout, has a storied history. It originated in an Imperial Stout called Velvet Merkin, which they’ve used for years as a blend in their anniversary ales, in their taproom, and just recently released in the_brewery_peopleMattbottles. There was a bit of an uproar about the name (You may want to pause and Google “merkin”. NO, SERIOUSLY, DO IT.). And according to a brief conversation I had with FW Brewmaster Matt Brynildson at a beer festival a few years back, the good folks at Firestone weren’t too aware of the meaning of merkin when they named that beer. Continue reading “Tom Becham on Firestone Walker”

Technical Notes on Fermentability

Wheat malt run through my mill.


Wort fermentability can be a confusing topic. In a simple sense, base malts, toasted specialty malts, and unmalted adjuncts contribute long chains of sugar molecules (i.e., starches). The enzymes contributed by the base malt clip chains of sugar molecules of various lengths from the starches. Shorter chains are fermentable sugars, slightly longer ones are unfermentable dextrins.

The saccharification rest temperature is the simplest variable to adjust to alter the percentage of carbohydrates in the wort that will be short enough for brewer’s yeast to ferment. This is because the enzyme (alpha amylase) that works most effectively at the upper end of the standard 140-160°F range produces both sugars and dextrins, while the enzyme (beta amylase) that works best at the lower end of the range produces maltose, which is easily fermentable by brewer’s yeast. At lower temperatures especially, allowing more time for the beta amylase to work also boosts fermentability (if you only mash for 10 minutes at 142°F, the result will not be a very dry beer). Not much controversy there I hope.
Want to read more? Please click…


Beer Snob vs. Beer Fan


Perhaps the greatest misconception of better beer is that craft beer fans are all a bunch of beer snobs. Elitist pricks certainly walk among us, but they are actually few and far between. It is an annoyingly persistent stereotype that really needs to be put to bed. There is a big difference between a snob and an enthusiast, and that goes for all products and interests. Beer snobs are an unfortunate nuisance in the world of craft beer and enthusiasts despise them just as much as novices do. With that in mind, let’s take some time to note the differences.

Want to read more? Please click…


UK Company Creates Guinness Flavored Chips

With all the crazy, delicious chip flavors being concocted lately, we should have known that beer flavored chips would eventually hit the shelves. UK-based chip company, Burts Potato Chips, has combined the familiar chocolaty flavor of Guinness with thick cut crisps to create Guinness-flavored potato chips.

Burts currently has two varieties of Guinness chips to choose from. The first is the original, flavored with “a unique blend of roasted barley and hops.” The other choice is Rich Beef Chilli. Burts has taken “fresh jalapeno chilies and juicy succulent beef flavors,” and infused them with Guinness to come up with this concoction.
Want to read more? Please click…