What makes a beer a Lager, or a Pale Ale, or a Pilsner, or Porter or a Stout? Why do some beer styles taste similar but have different classifications? What’s a seasonal ale? Why are some released only in a limited number? And who makes all these decisions?
The answer is not as simple as you might think. Who makes all of the decisions is the person brewing the beer, but even then circumstances beyond their control can change everything.
To answer the other questions, lets start with another… What is beer?
Answer: Approximately 95% water, the other 5% consisting of alcohol derived from boiled grains whose sugars have been converted by yeast and flavored with another agent, usually hops.
Those four simple ingredients and the varied multitudes they come in create the thousands of varieties of beers available.
Now, I know what you’re saying, water is water. Wrong! The water in Belgium that is used to make farmhouse ales and the oh so delicious Belgian style ales has a different mineral content than the water from Bavaria, which is obviously influenced by the nearby Alps. The varied topography of America makes it’s a really rich variety just based on water alone.
Grains are usually barley based, but can contain adjuncts like corn and rice, particularly if it is a lager. Wheat, Wit, Hefeweizen, all are wheat grain-based beers. Roasted barley gives you the darker colors associated with Porters and Stouts, and some Stouts use oats as well for the smooth milky texture. Rye used for Reds and other darker colors. And in Barley alone there are different varieties available, Two-row, Six-row and others. Rice that is brewed and fermented is usually Sake, which is a whole other topic (and coincidently a post). These same grains when distilled will give you whiskies (bourbon, scotch, whiskey, etc.).
Yeast is a funny little creature… Yes, I said creature. They are single cell organisms which are used to convert the sugars from steeped grains into alcohol. There are various strains and they are used in the making of Wine, Whiskies, Beers, Kombuchas, Sakes, probably some others that you my not have heard of. Basically they are a fungus. But don’t think about that. This about the lovely work they do creating some of our favorite beverages. And when converting those sugars into alcohol they create carbon dioxide and they leave a signature flavor behind when they do. There are two main types: Top Fermenting yeast which is used to makes Ales, and Bottom Fermenting Yeast which is used to make lagers. And within these two types there are many different varieties. There are also a yeast type called Spontaneous Fermentation, which occurs when vats of prepared wort are left open to the surrounding environment to allow naturally occurring yeast strains to work on the sugars and convert them.
And this brings us to the hops. This funny little green budding plant (not too dissimilar to Mary Jane both in appearance and genetic structure) emits specific types of oils on their bud leaves when in bloom. There are three categories of hops consumed for making most beers (Bittering Hops, Aroma Hops, and Dual-Purpose Hops), and within those categories there are over 80 varieties currently being harvested for production. Hops not only brings bitterness and flavoring to counterbalance the sweetness of beer, but it also adds a preservative value.
So let’s say we only have 10 different varieties of water, not true as there are many more, but let’s just say that. Multiply that by the 10 grain varieties. Then multiply that by let’s just say 20 strains of yeast. Then we will multiply that by the 80 varieties of hops currently available. That’s 160,000 varieties of beer available. And this doesn’t include all of the water combinations, yeast strains and unknown hop varieties. Then let’s throw in the mix of the brewer’s preference of how long he let’s the grains seep, how long of a boil he uses and how many varieties of hops he adds, and then just for fun let’s and blending into the mix. The amount of different varieties of beer that have yet to be discovered is staggering. If you drank ten different beers a day from the age of 21 to 91 and never repeated a beer, that would be over 250,000 different beers. I still don’t think you could sample them all.
The opportunities are endless. Why? To paraphrase an old movie, “Because Allah (or Yahweh, or God) in His infinite wisdom loves wonderous variety.”
Macro vs. Micro; Craft vs. Big Beer; Local vs. National; Independent vs. Investor owned… How can anyone find their way through this maze of us vs. them? How do we know which beers we can enjoy and which to avoid? And why should we avoid any?
To understand this terrain, we need to look back through beer history to see where we were and then we can follow the paths that were taken to get where we are today. Don’t worry it won’t be that long of a trip.
Before America was even discovered by European explorers, the beer landscape was much simpler. There was no beer in America and in Europe it was dominated by Ales, not Lagers. Lager beers were still in their infancy stage and wouldn’t explode until the mid 19th century.
When European settlers came to America in the 1600’s they brought with them the more common style of beer at the time, which were Ales, specifically Pale Ales and Porters. The first President of the United States, George Washington, brewed his own beer and was found of a Porter brewed with Molasses.
During the mid 1800’s and later, specifically after Lagers had begun spreading in Europe, they came with the German immigrants who came to the America’s. And while they were slowing spreading across the European landscape, they transformed a bit and blossomed in the Americas. The different barleys used, the addition of adjuncts like rice and corn, which was plentiful in America, and the lower hop levels made this lager a style all it’s own. And it began to spread pretty well, though traditional ales and lager styles were still in existence.
It wasn’t until the dark days of prohibition in the early 1920s, when all beer brewing ceased, that lager got it’s chance to take over the American landscape. During the three years that prohibition was enacted most breweries were unable to keep their businesses going. The only ones that did were the larger ones who could adapt their businesses into producing other products. These same breweries came back into service when prohibition ended and the dominance of Pale American Lager began.
For almost 100 years, the American Beer scene has been dominated by Pale Lagers. Whole generations of Americans lived and died not knowing that other beers had ever existed in America. And the large brewing companies not only specialized in brewing lagers, they also began specializing in marketing their products. So much so that other American industries started using their marketing tactics to push their products onto the public.
In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a law allowing homebrewing to expand, which opened the door for a whole new generation of entrepreneurs. Before then there were only 89 breweries in the US. Now, there are over 7,450 breweries in the U.S. The majority of that growth has been in the last ten years.
The growth of Craft or Independent Breweries has not been without consequences. While craft has been growing by leaps and bounds, and capturing more of the market. The larger Macro breweries that took over the American beer market have been losing ground. They have not only seen no growth but are losing customers. This had led to various clumsy attempts at creating their own craft styles beers which has generally failed. When that didn’t work they began investing in or buying out whole smaller craft breweries to try and recapture the market. That has had some small success with the craft drinking public who were unaware or didn’t care so much.
But those in the know have raised a voice ringing throughout the beer landscape. Craft brewing doesn’t work as well under the Macro Beer business structure. Craft brewing isn’t about profits maximizing profits with lower quality ingredients. It’s about maximizing quality with by experimenting with ingredients and processes and being agile enough to change with the customer demand. Macro cannot handle that.
Now that you have had the layout of the landscape explained to you, perhaps your navigation through the quagmire that is Craft Beer will be easier. Perhaps you are concerned about who makes your beer.
Or perhaps not… If you aren’t and you are more than satisfied with the fallacy of beer that has been pawned off on the American public for the last 90 plus years then I hope you enjoy what you are drinking.
If, however, you are like me, and your mind and your taste buds have been exposed to wonderful array of aromas and flavors that make up the products of Independent brewing, then please join me in support your locals brewers. Stop by the local tap room/ tasting room, walk past the cheap section of the beer aisle in your local store and continue to support the newest American entrepreneurs in their efforts to give us back what we lost.
If you are familiar with Pasteurization then you may or may not know that most bottled and canned beers, at least those brewed by the big Macro Beer companies, go through a pasteurization process. This is done so that the beers can sit on a shelf in a stores somewhere longer than they normally could without the process, and can shipped over greater distances. Beers stored in kegs are intended to be consumed faster and therefore are not pasteurized.
Another reason that a lot of craft brewers do not pasteurize is that many of their beers in bottles are bottle conditioned. The beers go through a secondary fermentation process in the bottle. Pasteurization would kill that process. Also, craft brewers don’t make a lot of excess beer and their market share is more local and smaller. Their product is consumed faster so the need for pasteurization is not as great as it is for Macro brewers whose product can sit on a store shelf for much longer periods of time.
Non-pasteurized beer will also retain a lot more healthy pro-biotics and nutrients that Mr. Pasteur’s process will kill off. So be an informed supper of suds and choose the beer that best fits your needs.
Which leads me to the second part of this epistle… the Craft Beer Life… as in lifestyle.
Just for clarity’s sake this is not a reference to the Facebook page of the same name. Which from what I can tell has had no activity on it in a couple of years. This means are you living a lifestyle that revolves around Craft Beer? Is it just a passing fancy for you or is Craft Beer your go to beverage of choice? Do you shun Macro Manufactured beers whenever you see them?
Example: I recently visited San Antonio, Texas, for a work-related conference. The first night included a reception where you could mingle with others and network. The beverages beings served were soft drinks, wines and beers. The beers being offered were Bud Light, Miller Light, Coors Light, Corona Light, Michelob Ultra and Shiner Bock. If you are living the Craft Beer Life then really the only beer there was Shiner Bock. Coincidently, a little later one of the beverage bars brought out a locally brewed IPA which I switched to after the Shiner.
So how do you know if you are living the Craft Beer Life? Maybe if you answer “Yes” to any of the following questions you are:
1. Do the employees at the local craft beer establishments know your name?
2. Do you attend more than one Craft Beer Festival in any given year?
3. Do you plan vacations or weekend trips around craft breweries or craft beer bars?
4. Do you have an App on your phone for tracking your beers?
5. Do you buy or get free craft beer swag on-line, at bars, breweries or craft beer festivals?
6. Do you work at a Craft Brewery?
7. Do you subscribe to any Craft Beer related magazine (ex. – Craft Beer & Brewing)?
8. Do you own multiple styles of beer glasses so that you can drink any beer in it’s proper serving container to get the best taste profile from it?
9. Does your social life revolve around local brewery events (i.e. – Fund raisers, trivia games, food pairings, etc.)
10. Can you tell the difference between a Pilsner, a Pale Ale and a Lager just by taste?
11. Do you brew your own craft beer?
12. When someone uses the words Brettanomyces, Wort, Spurge, or Barrel-Aged do your ears perk up?
13. Do you and your friends swap craft beers that you pick up on trips?
14. Do you write a blog based on Craft Beer?
To be honest, the first two could apply and you may still not be living the Craft Beer Life… you may be just a college kid or an alcoholic. And number six is not a prerequisite. But to be honest if you are working at a craft beer brewery and your not living the craft beer life then what the hell are you doing there??!!
Just an FYI – Except for number six I answered yes to all of them. But I do have plans to cross that one off the list someday.
So, if you’re reading this you’re obviously a Craft Beer fan. Coincidently, I have noticed a high correlation between craft beer fans and Game of Thrones fans. One of my favorite and more commented on favorite beerfest tees is the one that quotes Tyrion Lannister when he says, “That’s what I do. I drink and I know things.”
Am I the only one who is a member of both categories that isn’t a little more than pissed about the Bud Light/GoT commercial that aired during the Superbowl. I was already more than bored with the whole “Dilly Dilly” thing and while I don’t drink and could never stand Bud Light, I was hoping for an entertaining commercial.
I was actually very encouraged to see the Mountain walk into the scene and start tearing apart the Bud Knight. And loved it when the Dragon flew down from the sky and started burning everything. But then nothing else.
Where the hell was the plug for Ommegang??!!
In case anybody has missed it, Ommegang Brewing has been putting out a line of GoT inspired ales over the last several years that have been some of the best ales out there. Each ale was inspired by a different GoT aspect or theme and the flavor was an attempt to reflect that. The result has been some very tasty limited releases. And if you missed out on them, it really was your loss. Out of the 13 available I have only been able to sample 9. The 14th will be available soon and I can only hope it will find its way to a local store or bar.
I think what ticked me off about the commercial was the lack of acknowledgement by HBO producers to pull in their fan base with an even better version of the commercial. After all, they already have an agreement with Ommegang to produce these ales with the GoT theme. Why not tie in those ales with this commercial? I’m sure ABInBev would have objected. But of course, HBO went with the beer producer who has a bigger budget. Sell-outs!!
It my version of the commercial, I would have continued a little bit more with someone running around screaming “The King is dead! The King is dead!” then cut to the Mountain swigging back a bottle of Ommegang then bring up the “#FORTHETHRONE” which would advertise both the last season of the series and put in a plug for Ommegang’s next release of the Game of Thrones series.
That would have been a much more satisfying commercial. And while they would still tick off some of the Bud Light fan base who are already ticked about killing off their favorite mascot, it would bolster both the GoT fans and craft beer fans who wouldn’t touch Bud Light if they were on fire. And how do I know that?
Because… That’s what I do. I drink and I know things.
Back when the Craft Beer movement was in its infancy and the possibilities endless, there were many folks who dreamed of making their love of beer into a business. Luckily, for us, a lot of them succeeded.
There are currently more breweries in the United States then there have ever been. That is actually no small feat. Almost 100 years ago evil-doers succeeded in banning beer production (along with all other alcoholic beverages) in the United States. For 3 long sober years, legal brewing was banned. Eventually the consequences of the mistake made became evident and Prohibition was repealed in 1923. But by then the damage had been done and where we had once over 4000 breweries only a handful were able to recover and start producing again.
Those breweries survived by changing their production to something that was legal. They adapted to their environment by changing their business strategy.
When Craft Beer started booming around the beginning of the 21st Century, the business strategies that were employed were as varied as the number of breweries. A lot of Craft Brewers started out as Home Brewers. They learned the basics of brewing in their garages and sheds and tried perfecting their recipes there. As their skills improved they would get feedback from folks, usually friends that their creations were good enough to put on the market. So they ventured out and began breweries.
Some started small at the microbrewery/brew pub level, some started in the mid-range at a small production level (kegs only), and others started at a more robust level (bottling along with kegs). Not all of them succeeded. A common factor for all of those who failed was using a bad business strategy, or having no strategy at all.
So the need for a business strategy for any brewery, no matter the size, is evident. But as you can see from what happened with Prohibition, the need to be able to adapt that strategy to changing circumstances is also necessary. While it is unlikely that Prohibition will come again, at least in our life-time, it is quite possible that some other event that is capable of disrupting the business could occur. And you need to be able to adjust any business strategy to account for growth and expansion. Any strategy you develop needs to be able to address or adapt to changes that can and likely will occur.
The following are simple points that need to be addressed with any brewery business, as well as many other businesses, in order to be successful.
1. Capital – No matter what level of brewing you are going to start out at you are going to need funding. You’re not making five gallon batches in your garage anymore. And your friends are no longer your only patrons. You need to be able to produce enough product to serve to patrons. You will need equipment to make that product as well as staffing to not only produce and package it, but also to serve it depending on your business plan. You will need a new location, whether you purchase the property or lease it and that will definitely require some renovation if not brand new construction. You need to establish a supply chain with Vendors who can guarantee a reliable supply of the grains, yeasts, and hops you need to make your product. All of that is going to require funding to purchase. And you need to be able to sustain your business through at least the first year. Until you can garner a regular customer base and have a steady income from that.
2. Location – Since you aren’t in your garage anymore, you need to think about what kind of plan you are going to establish and use that to determine a location. Do you want to stay small or do you plan to expand in the future? If you are a production brewery you need to think about truck access. You also need to take into account the water supply to your new facility. Beer is approximately 95% water. You need to have a clean reliable source of water to make your product. Will it be piped in from a municipality or utility or will you dig your own well? And if you have a serving room or are going the microbrewery/pub route what is a good location for your business? Will it have good exposure in a high traffic setting? Do you have enough parking for your patrons?
3. Economies of Scale – As I said earlier, you are no longer making five gallon batches in your garage. You are going to be making larger batches which will require increasing the quantities of your ingredients. But changing the size of your batches can affect the flavor. You should allow for some initial test batches once you have equipment in place. Then you can tweak it as needed to achieve the flavor profile you are expecting. And while I mentioned water above, another aspect to take into account is the quality of water you are receiving. The pipes or well that you are receiving the water from now will be different. Do you have the water processing equipment in place to treat the water to achieve the formula you need for the style you are brewing?
4. Market – So you can brew good beer. So what? So can a lot of other people who may already be established in your area. What will differentiate your brand from theirs? Is the area you want to establish your business in already saturated? Are you going to specialize in certain types of beers or have flagships ales with specialty beers based on the season? Will you have guest taps for selling other breweries offerings? If you establish a pub or tasting room, will you serve food as well? What will the menu be? Who will cook it? What will be your hours of operation? All of this needs to be thought of and prepared for before you begin building/renovating.
The breweries I mentioned previously that failed, didn’t take these and/or other factors into account when they tried to start. They leapt full force into making the beer because that is the part of the business they thought they knew, and forgot that at the end of the day, it still has to be a business that can sustain itself. And like a lot of American businesses that don’t have a good business strategy they failed to adapt.
A good business strategy will begin with knowing how much operating capital you will have. Then as your business becomes more established and you have your business practices in place, you need to evaluate how those will work if you expand. Will they work on a larger scale? Or do you need to change them so that you can adapt to growth?
Some breweries, even more now than before, start as simple microbreweries or brew pubs with no intentions of expanding. They are targeting a specific market or a niche in a market. Doing this will eliminate headaches that a larger brewery will encounter. They don’t have to deal with the stranglehold that the Big Beer makers have over the distribution system. They also are only worried about local competition, not Regional or National competitors.
The onslaught of new brewery openings has slowed over the last couple of years. While there is still growth, it has slowed to less than 5%, whereas only a few years ago the growth rate was into the 70 percentile range. And the number of production breweries has slowed even more. A larger number of the newer openings are microbreweries or brew pubs.
But the one thing that any craft brewery needs to succeed is true no matter the size…
Half the battle of really getting the flavor out of your beer, no matter the style or brand, is serving it in the proper glass. Using a glass specifically designed for the liquid you are consuming has been a standard for wines, liquors and cocktails for almost a century.
It took the craft beer revolution for Americans to be awakened to the idea of proper glassware for beer. The reason for this, of course, is the inferior flavor of the current (and if I may add, waning) reigning American Light Lagers. That and the co-opting of American bars by the U.S. Beer Distributors.
For many years now, the Big Beer brewers have been pushing the beer logo -emblazoned pint glasses on to bars so that they can get their names out in front of the customers. The problem is that the glass they decided to use is, of course, the least expensive to produce. But it’s not even a proper beer glass. The pint glass (in America often called the “Shaker” and in the UK the “Nonic”) does nothing for any of the beers styles served in it. It often causes the beer to lose flavor and carbonation sooner than it should. The Shaker was originally a bar glass used for mixing cocktails (thus the name “Shaker”) and was repurposed for serving beers by many bars for the cost efficiency as well as the ability it has for easy stacking.
In the ‘70s and prior, most bars would serve beer in mugs, chalices or pilsner style glasses. But thanks to the commercialism of Big Beer and their associated Distributors, we now have an entire generation that is ignorant of proper beer serving techniques.
So, let us review the Do’s and Don’ts, the rules of proper beer serving and the correct glassware for your favorite craft beers. We’ll start with the Don’ts!
Don’t drink it from the can or bottle whenever possible!
a) Always try to serve in a glass, even if you have to use a plastic Dixie cup. Drinking from the bottle or can doesn’t give you two essential benefits of drinking good beer:
i. If you don’t pour the beer you don’t create the head of the beer and therefore are missing out on the aromas that enhance a good beer.
ii. If you don’t pour the beer the carbonation is still trapped in the liquid. This means you are swallowing carbon dioxide, which can lead to indigestion and affect the aftertaste of the beer.
Don’t pour beer into a pitcher!!
a) Pouring beer into a pitcher starts the process of it losing its effervescence and flavor. So, by the time you reach the bottom of the picture you have stale, flat beer. Then we abuse this poor liquid even further by adding a bag of ice or some other artificial cooling apparatus to it in hopes of keeping it cold. Which in turn adds the condensation of the cooling object into the beer further diluting it. In reality, this should be unnecessary as Good beer not only can stand a little warming but will even release other characteristics as it warms. This leads me to the next topic…
No. No! NO chilled glasses!! Ever!!
a) How many reasons can I point out why we shouldn’t chill a beer glass? Let’s count shall we…
i. Chilling any liquid changes the flavor. More bitter and unpleasant notes and flavors become clearer as the liquid begins to warm. This is true of wines, liquors and beers. That is why brandy drinkers will swirl the brandy around in their snifter while letting the bowl rest in their palm. The heat from the hand warms the liquid releasing additional flavors and scents they can enjoy. If you prefer the beer to be just above freezing in order to drink it then you are likely masking unpleasant ingredients. Wouldn’t it be better just to start with a better beer?
ii. Dipping a glass in water then sticking it in the freezer means you are coating the glass with water. When you pour the beer into the glass you are actually watering it down.
iii. Chilling the beer not hampers the flavor but the scents of the beer, which in turn affects the overall tasting experience.
iv. It only delays the inevitable. And if you have to have your beer ice cold then you need to drink it fast in order to avoid drinking it warm.
v. It’s a trick! Bars and breweries that practice this do so to hide the real flavor of bad beer.
b) If you read my last article then you read that while in Austin at the hotel bar I asked for a non-chilled glass so I could properly drink a breakfast stout. The look of shock on the bartender’s face was such that you would have thought I asked her to remove her clothes! Another victim of the Big Beer and Beer Distribution campaign against proper beer serving!
That’s enough for the “Don’ts”… Let’s talk about some “Do’s”!
Make sure any glass you serve in has been properly cleaned. And when I say clean I also mean properly rinsed. Soap on the glass can be just as detrimental, maybe more so than any previous liquid contaminants. Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to tell how clean a glass may be is to look at how the suds slide down the glass. If you have a fairly even recline in the way they slide down the glass wall then the glass is clean. But if you see suds clinging more so to one area than another, it is likely there is at the least some residue, whether it is soap or something else.
When pouring a beer, whether out of a can, bottle or keg, tilt the glass slightly so the beer pours down the side of the glass until the glass is about half full. Then straighten the glass and let the beer pour into the center. This will begin releasing some carbonation and help to form a good foamy head without it being too big.
And lastly, please select the glass that best fits the beer style you are serving. Below is a list of the some of those glass types and the beer styles that are best served in them. We have already discussed and discredited the pint glass and though it is the most utilized glass style we will not include that in the discussion.
a. Flute – This glass, similar to a champagne glass, helps to show off and retain carbonation but also help to release aromatics which lambics and fruit beers are known for, which is what you would ideally serve it this. You can serve the beer styles listed below:
• American Wild Ale
• Bière de Champagne / Bière Brut
• Czech Pilsener
• Dortmunder / Export Lager
• Euro Strong Lager
• Flanders Oud Bruin
• Flanders Red Ale
• German Pilsener
• Lambic – Fruit
• Lambic – Unblended
• Maibock / Helles Bock
• Munich Dunkel Lager
• Munich Helles Lager
• Vienna Lager
b. Goblet or Chalice – This style allows for head retention and allows for big sips. It is intended for beers with a higher ABV.
• Belgian IPA
• Belgian Strong Dark Ale
• Berliner Weisse
c. Mug – This came to live in German to replace the Stein. It featured thick glassware for both durability and assistance in keeping a beer cool. Serve with mostly lagers and other German style beers:
• American Ales
• American Lagers
• German Ales
• German Lagers
d. Stein – Originally made of glass, clay or wood. During the middle ages they began to feature a lid to help keep pests out of the beer.
• American Ales
• American Lagers
• German Ales
• German Lagers
e. Pilsner Glass – Intended for use with it’s namesake this glass feature a conical shape with no curvature to the sides. It is intended to showcase the color of the beer and help to retain the head.
• American Pilsner
• Baltic Pilsner
• Czech Pilsner
• German Pilsner
• Light Lagers
f. Snifter – This wide bowl shaped glass allows aromatics and volatiles to be released and like it’s cousin used for brandy will allow the heat from the users hand to warm the beer. This is primarily intended for beers with a higher ABV.
• Belgian Triples
• Belgian Quads
• Double Bocks
• Imperial Ales
• Imperial Stouts
• Strong Ales
• Scotch Ales (substitute for thistle glass)
• Most beers with over 7% abv.
g. Stange – German meaning “Rod”this cylindrical glass shape is meant for lower capacity and lighter beers.
• German Kolsch
h. Tulip – Bowl shaped at the bottom with a mouth that flares out this glass is great for strong aromatic beers with a lot of hops.
• Belgian Ales
• Biere de Garde
• India Pale Ales (IPAs)
• Pale Ales
• Scotch Ale AKA Wee Heavy (substitute for thistle glass)
• Strong Ales
i. Thistle – a Scottish cousin to the tulip is intended for
• Scotch Ale AKA Wee Heavy
j. Weizen – sometimes confused as a pilsner glass this glass is actually much larger and has a curved shape to the upper glass that helps with head retention. Its a tapered glass with the narrow bottom that helps to trap yeast. It is intended strictly for wheat beer.
• All Wheat Beers
• White Ales
• Belgian Wit (substitution for tumbler)
• Pilsner (substitution for pilsner glass or pokal glass)
k. Over-sized Wine Glass – It is a wine glass that is used for serving stronger flavored and higher ABV beers.
• Double IPA
• Belgian Doubles
• Triples and Quads
• Strong Ales
• Most high gravity (ABV) or big beers
Boots – Called so for their familiar shape, this glass is more of a novelty because air can become trapped in the toe of the boot and when the air pocket releases it can cause a splash on the drinker. Thought to be of German origin and German style beers are typically served in it.
Yard – Another novelty glass, it is thought to have originated in England where stage coach drivers were not allowed to leave the carriage while their passengers patronized a road house. This long glass was invented so that the driver could refresh himself while the patrons were busy inside
And that brings to close the proper etiquette associated with beer glasses…
It’s been a few months since my last post and to be honest I’ve been so busy at work that taking the time write an epistle was not a priority. Ironically, it took a work-related event in the form of a conference to cause me to stop… take a breath… and realize how much time has passed since I had flexed my blogging muscles.
I will not go into conference details as, unless you using SAP as your ERP system, then you are not likely to find any interest in that aspect of the story. But I will highlight some of my exposure to Austin’s food and craft beer cultures.
My arrival on Monday the 26th included an afternoon session, after which I met up with colleagues from other companies as well as a my coworkers who also attended including a former colleague who was working in a related but different industry and was there for the conference. The meet-n-greet included free alcoholic beverages so I took the opportunity to begin sampling some of Austin’s craft beer. My intro was a Pilsner from Austin Beerworks.
It had a good Pils flavor though it was slightly stronger in the hops arena. My only complaint was that they did not include a glass to serve it in. I would like to have seen how the beer clung to a clean glass and what kind of head it produced.
After the meet-n-greet my colleagues and I took a stroll across the Congress Avenue Bridge and headed north toward the Capitol, until we got to 6th Street, then we turned right and went another block and entered BD Riley’s Pub just on the left.
BD Riley’s is an Irish Pub to be clear but it’s an Irish Pub in Texas. So the Blues music cultural is definitely alive and well there (see link below).
While there I started with a really good Pecan Porter from (512) Brewing Company. It has a really great flavor and look to it. And it went well with the Appetizer Sampler platter we ordered. The wings had good heat the fried dill pickle slices were tasty and the chicken planks weren’t bad. I didn’t have any stuffed potato skins but I was told there were delicious.
For my main course I ordered the Chicken Newton. Which contains pulled chicken breast, crisp bacon and tangy green apples chopped and topped with a four-cheese blend then skewered on Texas Toast quarters. I paired that with an Axis IPA from Real Ale Brewing. Both were very good and satisfying.
We headed back to our hotel after dinner and awaited the next day’s sessions of conference presentations.
After all of the speaking and mingling of the day, we met up with a mix of other utility companies at a social dinner sponsored by one of the Vendors at the conference. It was a good mix of discussions about our day to day activities as well as comparisons of how each company handles their own tasks. We also ventured off into other avenues of interest which included travel, foods and craft beers (for some of us). It was good to meet people from other areas who shared my interest in Craft. The dinner was held at Zax Restaurant & Bar, a short walking distance from the Hyatt Regency.
They had us segmented away in a corner of the restaurant and rightfully so as there were about 30 or more of us. I walked back toward the bar to view the display of beer taps and see what the fare was. I was surprised to find that most of the taps were local brands, and only a few were more well known (Lone Star, Shiner).
I started out with a Kolsch named All Call from Lakewood Brewing. Very nice Kolsch flavor and it re-enforced the reputation that a lot of breweries in Texas are specializing in Lagers, Pilsners and other German based brews.
As the evening went on and discussions carried forward we began placing our orders for dinner. When I did I also put in an order for what they called their “Austin Flight” which was an all Austin based sampling of beers.
This included a Pilsner, an IPA, a Vienna Lager and an Amber Ale. I wish I could tell you the breweries but I wasn’t fast enough to write them down, much less hear them correctly with the background chatter surrounding me. I can say they were all good examples of each style and very tasty. They also complemented the dinner of Tilapia served with capers on linguine and mixed veggies.
And I have to give a mention to the delicious Blackberry Ginger Cheesecake that was made on site. A very tasty dessert.
That evening drew to a close and we went into the last day of the conference with all of the associated sessions. By 5 PM the conference was ended and many folks had gone on their way to their respective destinations. My colleagues and I weren’t returning until the next day, so we spent Wednesday evening with one last journey into the Austin air. We decided to follow a recommendation (from several sources) for local BBQ, Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, located on Congress Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets. Being a short walking distance from the hotel didn’t hurt.
We arrived just before the customary line out the door started. In fact, it started forming behind us as there was a small line to get in to put your order inside. While waiting on the inside line I ordered another local beer, National Park Hefeweizen from Big Bend Brewing.
This was a very tasty Hefe and paired well with the BBQ Pork Ribs and Brisket I ordered for my meal. It also went well with the cole slaw, grilled corn on the cob, and the jalapeno-bacon-mac & cheese that I had for the sides.
That was some of the best BBQ I have had at a restaurant ever! I highly recommend this place if you find yourself in Austin. Not only is the BBQ very good but the beer selection is great as well. There are two levels of seating as well as outdoor seating and they were filling up by the time we left.
We decided to take a stroll and found ourselves heading north for the Capitol building. Unknown to me until informed by the Supershuttle driver who brought me from the Airport, the Capitol in Austin is the largest Capitol in the US. And after having seen it in person I believe her (see pics below).
After walking to the Capitol and making our way back to the hotel, I decided one final draft was in order, so I went to the hotel bar and ordered a perfect dessert beer to top off the evening, the Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout from Independence Brewing.
This smooth coffee/chocolate/oatmeal flavored stout was the perfect cap to an evening
In the morning, I arose and showered then began to pack and decided to get breakfast at the hotel. The view was cloudy but pretty and the breakfast was a tex/mex fave of mine, Huevos Rancheros.
The layer of beans covered with sausage and a couple over easy eggs, topped with avocado and a grilled jalapeno was a perfect “I’m going to be traveling all day and don’t know when I will eat.” type of breakfast. A good final meal to say goodbye to Texas with.
My only complaint about the trip would be how beer is served in Austin, and this may be true throughout Texas. I don’t like drinking from a can. No matter how good the packaging technology may be, psychologically I still taste metal. And I don’t like that they serve their beers in frosted glasses. In fact, when I asked for a non-frosted glass the bar person looked at me like I was crazy. They obviously haven’t been taught in Texas that frosting the beer glass masks the flavor of the beer. And while the beers I had tasted good, I really didn’t get their true flavor because they were all masked. That is a bit disappointing in a town that pride’s itself on craft beer.
I would like to add that I have been to Texas many times in the past, (San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and parts in between) and none of those visits has been as rewarding as this one. I would readily take a trip to Austin again, whether on business or as a vacation destination. I cannot say that of the other parts of Texas I have been to.
A no-show of a co-pilot delayed my connecting flight in Atlanta by about a hour and half so I didn’t get back into Gainesville until after 8 PM that Thursday. So I was unable to pick-up Tucker from the Doctor’s house until the next day. Luckily for me, the Doctor was able to keep Tucker entertained while I was away.
So much so that he slept well while he was there.
So now I am home and spending my Easter with my little beer hound. I hope all of you are getting to spend Easter with your loved ones and enjoying the day.
Maybe you’re hunting for eggs or for a new tradition that seems to catching on beers.
Most of all I hope you’re enjoying the holiday meals that have been prepared, both the traditional and non-traditional.
However you are spending the day, whether based in faith, or in spending time with family and/or friends, or both I hope you enjoy the colors and flavors of the day and match them up well with your favorite ale!
Welcome to the unofficial State of the Union of Craft Beer (or Independent Beer or Micro Beer or whatever someone decides to name this movement next)!
I call it unofficial because I am certainly not the President of this beer culture. I’m not even a Congressman or Senator. I am simply an amateur brewer, blogger and beer aficionado. But I love great tasting beer and have done so for 36 years now. Spending 36 years doing anything gives you a little bit of license when it comes to speaking about the subject. So, I am going to give you my observations about this last year and a little bit of what I see happening this coming year. Again, these are my opinions, or better yet, my conclusions as I will list some facts to back them up.
As was predicted last year, the Macro Beer companies (ABInBev, Molson-Coors, Heineken and Constellation Brands) continued their campaign of acquisitioning craft breweries instead of actually developing good beer.
ABInBev placed both Wicked Weed from Asheville, NC, and Breckinridge Brewery of Breckinridge, CO, under their umbrella to join Goose Island, Land Shark and Leffe as well as 13 others that make up their High End Division.
Molson-Coors acquired Terrapin Brewing of Athens, GA, because they didn’t have the ability to match Terrapin’s skills with their 97 other brands.
Constellation Brands, while not a big beer player and specializing more in wine and spirits, decided they needed to acquire California based Ballast Point Brewing to go along with their smaller stable of 9 brands. Then later in the year, they also acquired Funky Buddha Brewing of Boca Raton, FL.
And Heineken International, with its stable of 119 brands had to add one more so they went after and acquired Lagunitas Brewing, also California based.
All of these Craft Brewer’s were excellent examples of companies who excelled at what they were doing but in order to do more they needed investors. Which is where Big Beer came in and gobbled up opportunities. Only time will tell if their accepting the offers from Macro Beer companies will be harmful or beneficial.
In protest of Big Beer purchasing these companies I, along, I am sure, with many other Beer Snobs, have abstained from sampling or purchasing any of these former greats products. Another form of protest appeared in late October, in the form of the TakeCraftBack Campaign (see add below).
This Don Quixote-ish attempt to buy out Macro Beer, while hinting at David versus Goliath proportions was actually done in jest. But I believe it did bring to light the practices that ABInBev and others use daily to keep craft beer from obtaining more of the market. And while thousands of Craft Beer fans (including yours truly) pledged more the $3,000,000 to buy out Big Beer the goal of 213 Billion plus was laughably unobtainable. But everyone knew that going in.
And at the tale end of the year some good news appeared in the form of legislation that would lighten the tax burden of many breweries making it easier for them to purchase each other’s beers and spread across the tap rooms of America.
While this legislation benefits all commercial brewers big and small, Big Beer factors the taxes they were paying into their production costs. Smaller breweries may also do that, but smaller breweries are more likely to take that added available funding and experiment more with making different styles of beers. You’ve already seen that Macro Companies prefer to buy already perfected formulas than to develop new ones.
2017 saw a slowdown in new Brewery openings. In fact, many industry insiders are predicting that the trend going forward will be Micro Breweries or brew pubs. The brewery market is becoming over-filled with the number of brands and styles to choose from. So local pubs which may brew their own and bring guest taps will be where you see the growth.
2017 also saw more loss of market share by Big Beer to craft beer, wine and whiskeys. A trend which will probably continue this next year despite Big Beers efforts to buy up market share. Of the $107,000,000,000+ in revenue generated by the Beer Industry in America in 2016, about $23,000,000,000 of that was from Craft Beer, an increase of 10% from the previous years.
Which brings us to now and the future, or at least 2018.
I think you will see a reduction of buy-outs by Big Beer. The amount of dollars invested in craft Breweries does not equal the amount lost in market share, though that may vary from company to company.
I do believe there will be an increase in Brew Pubs and Micro-breweries though even that will slow down compared to the last few years.
I would not be surprised to see Big Beers change tactics and begin investing more in the retail end of the Beer industry, opening their own brew pubs in large populated cities where they can lock out their competitors. But that will only work if they can bring a good offering of cuisine to accompany their products. Otherwise it will be money down the drain.
I would also not be surprised to see Big Beer begin head-hunting for brewing talent and begin expanding their capabilities for experimenting with new styles.
It’s for sure that their current modus-operandi is not working.
Whatever happens, I encourage everyone to continue to support their local breweries and try new beers as often as possible.
Today is my Dad’s 75th birthday. Or it would be if he were still with us. He passed away in ’98 and since then I have taken this day to drink a beer with him. I don’t know if it’s to make up for all those I didn’t get to drink with him or just my way of remembering him, but wherever I am I hunt down his beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and drink it in his remembrance. Today I picked Gainesville House of Beer for this annual event.
Most of us probably learned about beer from our Dad’s. Even though there are lot more female beer drinkers today than have been (at least in the US) in the last couple hundred years, I would bet even most of them learned about beer from their Dad’s. The same way we learn a lot of things from our fathers, they do, we watch, we repeat.
I can remember as a kid helping Dad work on the car or some other work around the house and he would take a break and crack open a bottle or snap open a can, then slowly pour back the container and let it roll down then would stop and tip his head back up and slowly let the beer roll around on his tongue before he swallowed it. Then I would hear the inevitable, yet interesting “Aaaaaaahhh!”
I may not have known what he was having the first time I heard that sound but I certainly knew he was enjoying it. I catch myself doing the same thing occasionally. It’s that sound you make when you feel that quench being satisfied or the pang being quelled.
I just finished his PBR and am moving on to 3 Daughters Key Lime Cider because in Florida in July light and refreshing is the way to finish on a hot day. Having said that while it did help cleanse my pallet it was not quite the “Aaaaaahhh!” I was hoping for.
You see there a couple others things I learned from Dad. He wasn’t afraid to try something new.. at least not when it came to beer. After I got back from the Air Force or any time I went up to PA on vacation we made it a point to at least go out to a bar together at least once and have at least one beer. And it was always a draft, never a bottle or can. I learned from him that draft beers usually taste better than packaged, something that usually still holds true today. At least for me. We also tried to find a beer that we hadn’t had before.
More than a few people have asked me if I thought my Dad would have liked Craft Beer or stuck with his go to. I can answer that easily. His go to beer was for sitting around the house on the weekend and doing odd chores like working on the car or helping relatives build something, or having with a family picnic. But whenever he and I went to a bar together we would always have something different. I get the tendency for that from him.
Rowdy came in and joined me when the cider hit the bar in front of me. She stuck around and we philosphied a bit while supping suds. When I finished the cider I ordered an Old Rasputin Nitro, which I had had before but not as a nitro, which changes the texture of the beer certainly, but the flavor a little bit too.
I like the coffee flavor of Old Rasputin tempered slightly with the hint of chocolate, but when you add the nitro you take what could be to some a heavy feeling beer and add a nice malty feel to it. Now that’s the “Aaaaaaahhhhh!!!’ I was looking for.
So, Dad, I started this out with your go-to Macro beer, but ended up finishing it with a great Craft Beer I think you would have enjoyed trying with me. Order another round at that bar in the sky and give Mom a hug from me. Cheers!!
So part of my July 4th weekend was spent doing the usual, grilling food and spending time with friends and family. Part of this involved visiting a couple of new places in Gainesville as well as some of our regular haunts.
On Friday, June 30th, the Maestro and I met up at First Magnitude to begin Supping back some Suds and begin some earnest Philosophying. I started off with their Dunkulla Weizenbock which was a great example of a good roasty Weizenbock flavor. I also sampled their Kemp’s Ridley Radler and it tasted good but sweeter than I expected. But the highlight for me at First Mag that evening was their New England Style IPA Trop Hop, which had strong citrus and floral notes in the nose but a great IPA flavor with a clean finish, a very refreshing beer.
While there, the Maestro and I started up a conversation with two other gents, both Gator Alumni and one was visiting for the first time in many years. We discussed a lot of the changes that had happened around town since he had been here last. Then they eventually told us they had just left another brewery called Cypress & Grove Brewing that had just opened up.
Now I knew there was a new brewery opening, that was originally going to be called Rainstorm Brewing but they had to do a name change for some reason, but I never heard the new name. But when these gents told us where it was located I knew it was the same place. So the Maestro and I wrapped our conversation and decided to head over there and see what offerings they had available.
In the interim, Rowdy and the Cooler had texted us to see if we were still at First Mag so we told them where we were headed and said to meet us there.
Cypress & Grove has only had a soft opening so far and is still undergoing some construction. For instance the AC was not installed yet the night we went and they have a large game area where they will probably have Corn Hole games and other games set-up. But without the AC it was very hot in that section as well.
They had a small list of beers available, but they also had a wine and some of their own seltzer water with flavoring for any young ones. The beers listed included a Blonde, a Pale Ale, an IPA and a Stout. They haven’t come up with any catchy names yet so if you go to look the beers up on Untappd it’s just under the brewery name for now.
I started out with their IPA which had a pretty good flavor and finish. I would definitely order it again. The Maestro said they same about their Pale Ale. My second glass was their Stout which had a traditional Stout flavor and reminded me of a Guinness. I have to be careful when trying Stouts anymore as more and more folks are putting out Chocolate Stouts and Barrel-Aged Stouts and a normal Stout really doesn’t compare to those. But if you like Guinness you will probably like this one.
I asked some folks on the staff and the Grand Opening will be in August sometime. By then I suspect they will have the AC in place. But if you can take the heat I would recommend stopping by and trying some of their fare.
After our second beer there I was hungry and suggested we adjourn to Satchel’s for dinner, which the Maestro, Rowdy and the Cooler all agreed was a good idea.
Our wait at Satchel’s was short and we were shown to a table pretty quickly for a Friday evening. We decided to share a small house salad and do a Democratic large pizza. I call it Democratic because it includes 4 toppings and there were four of us present so we each got to pick a topping and each had a veto power over a topping. Democracy in action on a holiday weekend celebrating our liberty’s….
Sorry, I just felt a lump forming in my throat.
To accompany the pizza I ordered the Big John’s Apricot Wheat from Bold City Brewing. I gotta tell you I love Satchel’s, but that night the pizza, salad and beer combination really hit the spot. I left completely sated.
The second part of this blog story takes place the Monday after this visit on July 3rd. I worked that day and had a cold come back on me over the weekend so plans I had to visit a new Ice Cream shop over the weekend had been delayed. I was originally going to try and bring my sister, her husband and the kids with me, but since I didn’t go out on the weekend and this is kind of on my way home, I decided instead to see if they offered to-go quarts, which they do.
Indigo’s Homemade hasn’t been open a year yet and I actually discovered them through Twitter. But I have to say, when you first walk in the door it’s got a very nostalgic feel to it. The décor is definitely 50’s style with that old soda shop look to it. In the background you hear music from the 50’s/60’s and can see the accompanying videos on a couple of flat screen TVs.
The ice cream is in large container’s under a glass display where you can easily see them. I don’t remember the exact number but I am guessing they had 24 different flavors of ice cream to choose from. They have a waffle iron on the back counter where they make their own waffle cones. And they have enough homemade syrups and toppings to make any dish served very personally tailored.
I talked with the lady behind the counter while she filled my quarts and found out that the ice cream is made locally by a company in Tampa, but it is fresh made and uses local ingredients, except for the Caramel which comes from Peru and the chocolate in the Dutch Chocolate, which is one of the quarts I ordered. The other two were Vanilla and Strawberry Cheescake. The service was great and the décor was very well done.
The real test though came later that night after dinner. I decided again to play Democracy and give every flavor a chance at impressing me. Unfortunately, it is next to impossible for me to try and have something like ice cream without Tucker catching wind of it, no matter how hard I try. So the entire time I was scooping and sampling he was right there watching.
Now some of you may ask with 24 flavors available why I would order Vanilla. I like Vanilla, particularly good Vanilla. And I have to tell you this is good Vanilla. Really good flavor and the texture is very smooth and that buttery-creamy texture that homemade ice cream should have. It was sweet without having that over-sweet flavor that a lot of store bought ice cream has.
The Strawberry Cheesecake doesn’t just taste like strawberry cheesecake, it has chucks of strawberries and cheesecake in it. And the Dutch Chocolate doesn’t taste like store-bought milk chocolate ice cream, but dark chocolate from the Black Forest Region of Germany. Rich flavor without being sickeningly sweet with a creamy texture. I gotta say I loved all three and am looking forward to another bowl this evening.
I definitely recommend stopping by Indigo’s Homemade. I certainly will again and the next time I want one of their homemade waffle cones.
Just an FYI I couldn’t resist letting Tucker lick the bowl. And he wants more too.