Just a few weeks ago, I wrote a thing in The Pour Fool about seeking out smaller, less celebrated (or even downright obscure) breweries, wineries, and distilleries in your own area. Around the Seattle/Tacoma area, names like Top Down Brewing Company in Sumner, Olalla Vineyard & Winery, off state route 16, Wind Rose Cellars, in Sequim, Old Soldier Distillery of Tacoma, and Yoked Farmhouse & Brewery, in Purdy, come to mind.
Many producers like these are punished because they have sinned: they have the audacity to start a business outside the Cluster and breweries and wineries BOTH cluster like mad. There is, for lack of a better term, a Force at work in this. This Force repels people away from the very real fact that, given all the remote breweries being built and started, every year, a few WILL, inevitably, be objectively better than the buzz-worthy ones that inhabit those urban Clusters. It doesn’t happen frequently but it does happen. Breweries in Washington that are not in Seattle suffer tangibly because they are Over There. Some overcome that. Bale Breaker Brewing Company, Iron Horse Brewery, Dwinell Country Ales, and Echoes Brewing of Poulsbo are just a few of my own local examples.
There is a growing, well, for lack of a better term, “substratum” of US craft beer that’s been labeled “convenience store only”. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably seen some of ’em: tall, 19.2 ounce cans, usually cartoon or otherwise attention-grabbing artwork, and the message “9%” large and unmistakable, there on the front.
As one of those tiresome beer snots who does NOT, like EVER, buy his beer in a convenience store, I didn’t find out about these beers for a very long time. But we were taking one of our frequent day trips around this magical state of Washington, one sunny afternoon in late spring, and found ourselves in a line for a ferry, with maybe an hour to kill. As we were hungry and, on this unseasonably warm afternoon, THIRSTY, I walked out of the ferry lot to a nearby independent market and looked in their beer cooler and…it was like looking through Stargate. A whole new world was there, clearly visible…and a bit frightening.
got this sample from the folks at Double Mountain Brewery & Cidery, located in the absurdly, other-worldly gorgeous Columbia River Gorge, in quaint-but-JUMPIN’ Hood River, Oregon, and groaned audibly when I opened it and saw the label.
“What’s wrong?” asked my darlin’ new bride.
“I’ve just been PUN-ished by Double Mountain Brewing,” I replied, proud of myself, with what I felt was a justified twinkle in my eye.
“Why?” she scowled, “What did you do to them?“
I ADORE my wife, in a way that I never expected I was even capable of. But the woman is where Jokes Go To Die; the rocky shoal on which the little boat of humor runs aground. She is inadvertently funny. (Listening to her learn to pronounce “gewurztraminer” was ten days of riotous fun) And wickedly smart but not inclined to whimsy…
“Edinburgh, where have you been all of my life?” That was my very first thought when I stepped off the train at Haymarket Station on that sunny autumn day. The stone buildings, bustling thoroughfares, and convivial pub terraces overflowing with people reminded me of London. But the further I got from Haymarket Station, the more Edinburgh revealed its own unique charms, by turns cosmopolitan and whimsical.
dinburgh’s narrow wynds, vaulted stairways, and covered alleys are like a cross between going down Alice in Wonderland’s rabbit hole and entering J.K. Rowling’s Diagon Alley. You’d half expect to meet a wizard down one of those lanes after a few too many pints at the pub.
As for those pubs, Edinburgh’s drinking establishments are a testament to when the city was one of the world’s premier brewing centers. Edinburgh boasted around 280 breweries in its heyday during the early/mid-nineteenth century.
Salt was once white gold in the region spanning southern Bavaria and northern Austria. Like Salzburg and Hallstatt, like Bad Reichenhall and Traunstein, Berchtesgaden was built on a mountain of revenue from the salt trade. Founded in 1102 as an Augustine monastery and raised to the status of a market town in 1328, Berchtesgaden changed hands several times over the centuries. Back and forth Berchtesgaden and its hinterland went between the Archbishop of Salzburg and the Wittelsbachs until, in 1810, the area definitively became a part of Bavaria.
Nowadays, Berchtesgadener Land lies in the far southeast of Bavaria, like an arrowhead jutting into Austria just west of Salzburg. Salt has faded from view, replaced by tourism in the late nineteenth century as the region’s main industry. First came the painters and literary figures, then came the cityfolk along the railways, all drawn by the sublime and wild landscape.
WHY is bemoaning the decline and doom of craft brewing such an all-consuming obsession to so many people? Beer pundits used to be content with debating attenuation and mash temperatures and when to hop the ales. But, in increasing numbers, for AT LEAST the past fifteen years, I read this stuff about how “Craft beer is DOOMED!“, “The Craft Boom is OVER!“, “The consumers are turning away!“. EASILY fifteen years, now, and I probably missed a few of these screeds.
Here’s what’s REALLY happening: Craft beer BOOMED, in a way virtually unprecedented in American business, since the end of the 80s, when brewery numbers started to climb stratospherically. In the beginning, the craft community was insanely close and tightly knit. Everyone involved knew and took to heart that a rising tide floats all boats. Cooperation was a given. People shared ideas and methods and equipment and sometimes even labor. It was hippie-ish in its aura. Yeah, breweries failed but usually because they were run by people unprepared to run businesses at all. And the Boom went on for a LONG time.
Let’s start with Wieninger’s Schwabenbräu Wirtshaus, an inn with colourful paintings (Lüftlmalerei) depicting a mélange of religious, chivalric, and culinary images splashed across its façade. The interior is suitably rustic, but it’s the beer garden that drew my attention on that warm and sunny afternoon. This is one of those “klein aber fein” (small but fine) beer gardens with all the trappings you’d expect from larger affairs, but with one slightly different touch: grapevines round out the shade provided by horse chestnut trees.
It’s Friday afternoon, the day after our homebrew club’s St. Paddy’s Day Potluck.
It’s also been a long stretch without a break from translation projects and beer writing projects, a few of which you’ll soon see in print.
And it’s been quite some time now since I posted a recipe. The last time was just as the pandemic hit, when I wrote an article about fermenting cabbage into sauerkraut.
So it’s nice to take a break from writing by … writing. Writing about something completely different for change is actually quite relaxing.
And today’s actually St. Patrick’s Day, so there’s that, too. If you’re like me and have left your food plans till the last minute, you might just get this recipe in time for your St. Paddy’s Day festivities over the weekend. In this case, fortune favours the procrastinators. Even if you don’t cook this for dinner this weekend, it’s still stew season for at least another month.
*I’ve included a number of tips below. These are helpful for any stew you’ll make, from goulash to stoofvlees (Flemish stew).
The Bavarian Brewing Co., Inc., was once the largest brewer in the state of Kentucky and the largest employer in Covington, KY. Out of dozens of breweries that operated during the 19th and 20th centuries in the Cincinnati area, it’s the only one with a remaining structure that was used for former Brew and Mill Houses. This edifice is visible and easily accessible off I-75 at the 12th Street Exit in Covington. (See a location map to visit.) It was formerly Brew Works and Jillian’s, and was re-purposed in 2019 for office use as the Kenton County Government Center. There is also a Bavarian Brewery Exhibit that explores the history of the brewery and it buildings, accompanied with artifacts and Breweriana items on display. A Riedlin – Schott Room (named after the families who owned and operated the brewery), is available for community activities, meetings and events. This room and the exhibit (including the display areas), will be used for brewery tours featuring the history of the brewery. In addition, this website will help augment the brewery’s history, while also documenting the progression of inventions and events that impacted the broader brewing industry.
If you go, chasing rabbits, may you find yourself in a new realm wonderland juicy-hop filled bliss. Feed your head with this Transcendent IPA using Cascade, Cashmere, Mosaic,
Azacca and Citra hops along with the new Thiol-active Star Party yeast designed to provide an atomic burst of Passion fruit, Pineapple, and Tangerine juiciness that will blow your mind… go ask Alice, I think she’ll know.
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