beer, History

South Carolina: Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places

1788 was a big year for the US, adding 8 states, the most of any year. One of those states was South Carolina, which became the 8th state to join the Union on May 23. South Carolina is also famous as being the first state to secede from the union in 1860, leading to the civil war. Finding historical beer information pertaining to South Carolina has been slow going (and I can imagine it will only get worse from here out), but I did run across a book: Charleston Beer, that had some interesting, albiet more chronological state specific beer history, gleaned from old newspapers. In glancing through the book, looking for a topic for this post, I honed in on a reference to various colonial beer styles. In Beer in America, there were many references to colonial beer, and one of the main points often mentioned is that a modern beer drinker would not recognize the beer styles of the colonial times, both in quality and in ingredients.

In the Charleston book, they reference a newspaper advertisement from 1766 that listed: Double brewed Spruce Beer, table and small beer. So far this year, we have had a table beer, and talked about small beer, but Spruce Beer is a new topic for us. Spruce, often used as a substitute for other ingredients during colonial times and brewed with molasses, was also employed by ship captains to ward off scurvy, however modern science has now cast doubt that enough of the vitamin C remained through the brewing process to aid the sailors. Had we done our research, we could have tried it back when we passed through Pennsylvania, oh well, add it to a future list, as we do not have any spruce beer from South Carolina this week.

Instead, we will be sampling two interesting beers from South Carolina, both of them brewed at the same brewery, but not by the same brewer. The first beer is from Westbrook Brewing in Mt. Pleasant, SC, called White Thai. The second beer, originally brewed in Denmark, under the name Williamsburg Hipster, is now called Hipster Ale, from Evil Twin Brewing.

South Carolina Beer

South Carolina Beer

Our first beer was the White Thai. The brewers website says:

This beer, inspired by the flavors of Southeast Asian cuisine, is a twist on the classic Belgian witbier style. Instead of the traditional coriander and orange peel spicing regimen, we add fresh lemongrass, ginger root, and a dash of Sorachi Ace hops. The result is a wonderfully refreshing ale with notes of lemon candy, citrus fruit, and a slight spiciness from the ginger. Best served at 45˚F in a tulip or wine glass.

It might not be spruce, but this beer does contain fresh lemongrass (vitamin C) and ginger root which makes it pretty unique, and so far I have not come down with scurvy this week.

Westbrook - White Thai

Westbrook – White Thai

This beer also contains a dash of Sorachi Ace hops. Named after an adminstrative division, or subprefecture, in Japan, this hops was developed in the 1970s for Sapporo Breweries, but was not made commercially available until 2006. When used as part of the brewing process, the resulting product will add a lemon aroma and taste to the beer, which sounds like it will complement the Southeast Asian cuisine theme quite well.

I drank this beer straight from the fridge, which was about 35 degrees, not quite the recommended 45° from the brewer. (I didn’t see the recommendation until later). In the glass, this beer had a slight floral smell, that became more apparent as the beer warmed in the glass. With the inclusion of lemongrass and Sorachi Ace, I was looking for a lemon smell and taste in this beer, however I didn’t pick up any lemon. The taste and the mouthfeel of this beer was nice, light and refreshing. This beer had hints of spice, but it was not overpowering. In the end I enjoyed this beer, but not sure if I could drink too many (its the spice thing). I will have to try it again as recommended by the brewer, at 45° and in a wine glass. Maybe with some spicy Pad Thai.

The next beer of the week has an interesting heritage, and depending on the rules you care to establish, it may or may not be considered a South Carolina beer. Brewed by Evil Twin Brewery, Hipster Ale was the second and final beer of the evening. Evil Twin brewery started in Copenhagen and now also lists an office in New York. However the Hipster Ale was brewed, and canned, at Westbrook Brewery in South Carolina.

Evil Twin - Hipster Ale

Evil Twin – Hipster Ale

The first thing you will notice when you reach for a can of Hipster Ale, is the eye catching pattern, with its patchwork of multi-colored triangles.  In the glass, this beer looks wonderful. It has a very nice honey color and a beautiful head. This beer is an American Pale Ale, a style of beer that highlights the citrus flavors of US hops, and that is clearly the case with this beer, with its strong citrus and piney aroma. The mouthfeel and taste of this beer was excellent, with a slight bitterness, but not an IPA bitterness. It is very enjoyable and I have found myself going back for this beer often. I am still struggling with the name of this beer. I would be shocked to see a beer of this quality with so much character replacing the slot usually held by a PBR in the hands of a hipster. But do not let the name deter you, this is a wonderful beer worthy of space in anyones refrigerator.

See you next week, as we are allowed to live free and die in New Hampshire.

 

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beer, History

Maryland: Maryland Of Opportunity

Maryland Craft Beer

Maryland Craft Beer

Maryland

Week 7, brings the Province of Maryland into the United States on April 28th, 1788, just 5 years after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, declaring the end of the Revolutionary War. It would be only another 24 years before Maryland found itself as a major player in yet another international war, this time the War of 1812. For most people, the War of 1812 is known by a famous song. No not this one, this one! That’s right, during the defense of Fort McHenry in Baltimore, Francis Scott Key wrote the poem that would become our national anthem. Observing the battle, Key was inspired by the large American flag called the Star Spangled Banner, flying over the Fort. In anticipation of the forthcoming battle, military leaders asked Mary Young Pickersgill, a Baltimore flag maker to make a flag to fly over the Fort. The resulting flag 30 ft by 42 ft in size. It was so large that she didn’t have the space to make it in her house, so she used the malthouse floor of the nearby Brown’s Brewery to assemble the flag. 

Brown’s Brewery, founded in 1783, was preceded by a few other production breweries in Maryland, such as the Fordham Brewing company, which opened its doors in 1703. However Brown’s had a good run, remaining in operation for 96 years and at its peak in 1850, it was the largest brewery in Baltimore producing 50k barrels of beer. However like in so many other states, prohibition decimated the brewery businesses. Some stayed alive with the production of near beer, while others closed up shop. In Maryland, fewer than half of the pre-prohibition breweries survived. One of those survivors was another Baltimore company, National Brewery Company. Started in 1872, the brewery modernized and reopened after the forced prohibition shutdown, and it wasn’t long before they were selling upwards of 230K barrels a year and in the late 1940s became the first brewery in the nation to sell beer in six-pack cans. While no longer in operation, shutdown due the the mergers that effected many American breweries of the 1960s and 70s, one of National Brewing’s products is still available due to mergers and acquisitions and is currently brewed by Pabst. In 1963, the Baltimore Colts had a running back named Jerry Hill, and he was number 45. It was his team number and affilation that led to the beer Colt 45.

No longer brewed in the state, Colt 45 is alive and well, and so is the Maryland brewing industry. Clawing its way back from the horrible bad beer years that American suffered through, Maryland is now home to quite a few unique and successful craft brewers. This week, there will be four different beers from three different breweries (and not one is a Colt 45!).

Stillwater Artisanal Ales, Baltimore Maryland

The first beer of the evening is a Belgian Pale Ale called Beer Table – Table Beer from Stillwater Artisanal Ales in Baltimore. Table beers are a style of beer that are low in alcohol. Real low, like 1-2.5%. However in this case, the ABV was a bit higher, ringing in at 4.7%, pushing the boundaries of table beer a bit. One of the more interesting components of this beer is the inclusion of Brettanomyces yeast, also referred to as Brett in the craft brewing world. Brett is a strain of yeast often called a wild yeast in that it has the ability to introduce off putting aromas, such as a barnyard or a wet blanket to the beer. And when not purposely used, the beer is often considered contaminated. However some beers, such as Belgian Ales rely on Brett for creating their unique flavors.

Beer Table - Table Beer

Stillwater Artisanal Ales, Beer Table – Table Beer

In the glass, this beer was nice and light, with a decent amount of carbonation. I could smell hints of a barnyard, or maybe a horse, but it wasn’t off putting. I enjoyed this beer, but the distinct taste of the Brett was very noticeable and took some work to get used to. Someone in the tasting party described it as Having a nice bite, woody and pleasant. Overall this was a fun beer and once all of the sampling was done, this was the first bottle grabbed for a second pour.

Heavy Seas Brewery, Halethorpe, Maryland

Based in Halethorpe, Heavy Seas Brewery mission is:

… an attitude of risk-taking, a touch of the playful rogue, a desire to stretch the boundaries, all wrapped in an appealing costume of possible impropriety with a twinkle in the eye. I believe this is an attitude that we can all embrace …

The first beer from Heavy Seas is their flagship beer, an IPA called Loose Cannon. Made with a blend of four different types of hops:

Heavy Seas - Loose Cannon

Heavy Seas – Loose Cannon

Warrior, Simcoe, Palisade and Centennial, added at three different times during the brewing process, thus earning its nickname Hop³. I felt that Loose Cannon has an interesting flavor and a distinct bitterness that hung around long after the drink. It wasn’t bad, but it was there. During the tasting, this beer was described as pleasing and good. 

Flying Dog, Fredrick, Maryland

Now based in Fredrick, Flying Dog originally started as a Colorado brewery. From their stable, we will be trying an American IPA called Raging Bitch. One of the more interesting components of Flying Dog is the Ralph Steadman art for all of their labels.

Flying Dog - Raging Bitch

Flying Dog – Raging Bitch

This was the least liked beer of the evening. The taste was different, and I couldn’t place it. The hops gave off a noticeable citrus smell, but overall, this wasn’t that great of a beer and didn’t generate much commentary other than whats next?

The final Maryland beer of the night is another beer from Heavy Seas, a Imperial Chocolate Stout called Siren Noire. On their website, they list three categories for their beer: Year round, Seasonal, and Uncharted Waters — the Siren Noire is currently the only beer in the Uncharted category. Aged for three weeks in bourbon barrels, they claim it is chocolately, due to triple the amount of chocolate nibs (crushed raw or slightly roasted cocoa) without the sweetness and has notes of black currant. And to round it all off, a vanilla bean is added to the mix.  

Heavy Seas - Siren Noire

Heavy Seas – Siren Noire

This beer was nice in the glass, dark with a nice white head and had an aroma and taste of dark chocolate. We quickly described this as a dessert beer, if there was such a category. It was looking for accompaniment, like a nice slice of pie, or maybe a cheesecake. I enjoyed this beer, but it should be reserved for special occasions. If I were planning a beer meal, with a different beer for each course, this is my go to for dessert.

Next week, we dive a bit deeper into the south to visit South Carolina. Be sure to grab a glass of your favorite beer and join.

(Note: I have been trying to use the State slogan for the blog title, and with this week, I am starting to realize, some slogan are pretty horrible. Seriously, what does that even mean?)

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beer, History

Massachusetts… Make It Yours

Massachusetts

January is gone and we are now entering February and 225 years ago from this week, on February 9th, 1788, Massachusetts became the sixth state in the Union.

From the Mayflower landing at Plymouth because of low beer supplies on the ship (a storyline left out of the Charlie Brown special), to the meetings of the Sons of Liberty at the Green Dragon Tavern in Boston, as they planned the start of the Revolution, Massachusetts has maintained a healthy relationship with beer.

Well known as the start of the American Revolution, Massachusetts,  it could be argued, was also the start of the extreme beer movement. As early as 1622, brewers in Massachusetts, dealing with a shortage of traditional supplies such as malt, turned to local ingredients, like Indian corn to produce beer. That being said, we didn’t dive too deep into the extreme beer this week, instead keeping it a bit more traditional. Due to an up coming special Massachusetts post later this month, the samplings for this week were indented to be keep short, however a Blizzard, and a few hours of snow removal might have voided that goal.

For this week, our Massachusetts beer come from a variety of brewers, some small and local, others more well known. The first beer is from

Massachusetts Craft Beer

Berkshire Brewing Company – Dean’s Beans Coffeehouse Porter

the west-central region of the state, a Porter from Berkshire Brewery. Two weeks ago, we had a coffee Porter from Georgia, and again this week, another coffee Porter joins us. Dean’s Beans Coffeehouse Porter is a blend between a Berkshire Brewery Porter and coffee from an organic coffee maker in Orange, Massachusetts, Dean’s Beans. In the glass, this beer was nice and dark with a thin light brown head. The taste, with its clean mouth feel, resembled that of the Terrapin Stout from Georgia, but in this beer, the hot pepper taste didn’t linger and wasn’t as prominent, making this a very flavorful and enjoyable beer to drink.

The next Massachusetts beer of the week comes from Notch Brewing, located on the eastern edge of the state. Notch Brewing has an interesting model for a brewer in that they have no physical space, instead, they use the resources of other breweries to make their products. Since the brewery they use for making their bottles is just three towns away, I discovered this brewer pretty quick, and loved them from day one.

Massachusetts Craft Beer

Notch Saison

The beer I chose for this week, was their Saison. Saison is considered a farmhouse beer. Originally brewed by French farmers for consumption while working the fields, a Saison (saison is French for season) served three major purposes: Provide beer for the field hands as they tended to the farm duties, Provide work for the farmhands in the winter months brewing the beer, and producing feed for the livestock from the spent grain of the brewing process. As anyone that has been around a farm can attest, as a farmer, you make due with what you have, and the brewing process of the Saison was no different. As a result, providing a strict definition of a Saison is very hard to do, however in the craft beer world, it has evolved into a beer that is fruity in character with high carbonation and often produce a dry mouth feel. This beer from Notch captures all of these characteristics quite well. In the glass, the beer has a nice, light color, slightly lighter than an IPA, and a totally different taste. While hoppy in nature, the dry mouth feel makes this really unique. This is a fun beer and worth checking out anytime.

In the early days of colonization, breweries were very regional. Because of the lack of refrigeration, and other modern conveniences that we take for granted today, brewers back then didn’t have the resources to distribute their product over large distances, as a result it was very common to have a local brewer that everyone frequented. Riverwalk Brewery is just that for me. With their operations only about a mile, at most, from my house, they have become one of my favorite local beers. Brewing only growlers at the moment, Riverwalk currently has three different styles of beer available. I have a hard time making a choice when  I stop in on a Friday night growler hour, however for this week, I went with the Gnomad, a Belgian Style Ale. This beer is very flavorful, with a fruity, almost citrus smell and a slight IPAish mouthfeel, from the hops. In the glass it has beautiful colors and a nice head. All around a wonderful beer, and don’t be too concerned about where to store that growler, because it will not last long.

Massachusetts Craft Beer

Element Brewing – Red Giant

At the end of this week, Massachusetts got hit with a Blizzard, and it kept everyone busy for most of the weekend, digging out cars, and clearing walkways. So after a days worth of snow blowing, I opened a bottle of Red Giant from Element Brewing. This was an interesting beer. In the glass, it was almost a honey color and due to the high carbonation, had a really thick head. There wasn’t much of an aroma for this beer, but that might have been due to the temperature, it was very cold when it was opened. The taste of this beer was clearly that of hops, with a strong hoppy bitterness. I really enjoyed this beer, and even when I came back to it after it had some time to warm up, it was very complex in flavors, and an enjoyable ale.

Since there was plenty of snow to move, the Red Giant needed some company, and that company was the final beer of the week, a Wheat Wine Ale from Mystic Brewery called Old Powderhouse. This beer is part of their 24° series, and it was definitely the most extreme of the week. In the glass, it was a nice amber color with not much of a noticeable head. The mouth feel on this beer thick, that of syrup. The beer let off fruity aromas, and had a taste much better than I ever expected. In the end, I enjoyed this beer. I knew going in that it wasn’t something to be consumed in large quantities, but when slowly consumed over the course of dinner, it was a pleasant beer.

This week, there was so much to choose from, I didn’t even know where to begin. As a result, I just grabbed a few that looked interesting and enjoyed the adventure. I still have some Harpoon Directors Cut in the fridge, that didn’t make it for this post, but I have heard great things and look forward to checking it out.

Next week, we head slightly south again, into Maryland.

 

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Connecticut: We’re full of surprises

Connecticut

Just four days after Georgia, in January 1788, Connecticut ratified the Constitution,  becoming the 5th state in the Union and week five of our adventure.

When I was first drafting the idea of this year long project, I envisioned it as a travel story in reverse. I would be visiting each state of the union through the beer brewed from that state, and thinking about how that beer travelled to me. Of course there was some, and probably will be physical travel, but in the end, the beer will be doing the majority of the travel, not me. Travel is synonymous with adventure. When people talk about travel, they often focus on the adventure of the trip, the challenges and risks they experienced, and overcame. In that respect, this blog, so far, has been an adventure. I have experienced flavors and styles of beer beyond anything previously consumed — and lived to talk about it. I had put on my explorer hat, and surf the web for places to purchase beer. And perused the shelves at stores, longingly looking for that one beer from a needed state. And so far, it has been educational, and more importantly fun. Lets hope the adventure continues.

Another component associated with adventure is mythologies and legends. There are many ancient legends of travel and adventure, from Odysseus to Ishmael. Beer is not exempt from the world of mythology. With myths such as the Finnish epic Kalevala devoting more lines to the origin of beer and brewing than to the origin of mankind, and the mythical Flemish king Gambrinus who is sometimes credited with inventing beer, one doesn’t have to look far to find mythology in beer.

And that brings us to this weeks tasting, and the legend of the Sea Hag.

This week, we will sample beer form two different Connecticut breweries. Early in the project, I was exchanging messages with a friend and he told me about a beer from Connecticut that I must include in my tasting. And it just so happened, he was going to be driving to Massachusetts from Connecticut and we could meet up for an exchange. When we met, he brought along two different IPAs from Connecticut, one from New England Brewing and another from Two Roads Brewing. Given that Connecticut is just one border away, I wanted to round out the selection with maybe something from Thomas Hooker, so I headed over to the Craft Beer Cellar in Belmont, and to my surprise, they did not have anything at all from the state of Connecticut. This came as a shock to me. I assumed the western states would be hard to acquire during this project, but I never thought I would have an issue getting beer from our neighbor. So, thanks to Matt S., Connecticut was saved and the project lives for another week.

In the late 1700′s or early 1800′s, a traveler and charlatan named Robert Henway came to New Haven in search of his latest business exploit. While there, he married a young beautiful local named Molly. As Henway’s business prospects soured, he abandoned Molly and boarded a ship to a distant location. Molly, impassioned by her love (and possibly fury) for Henway, stowed away on the ship in pursuit of her husband. During the voyage, Molly mysteriously disappeared. Her spirit returned to New Haven to haunt the port city.

New England Brewing – Sea Hag IPA

Connecticut Craft Beer

New England Brewing – Sea Hag IPA

The first beer of the night is an IPA from New England Brewing, located in South Norwalk. In operation since 1989, New England Brewing produces three different types of beer, an Amber, a Lager and an IPA. For this week, we are tasting their Sea Hag IPA. This beer is named after the legend of the Sea Hag, and old Connecticut sea myth.

During my research for this post, I was looking for some more information about the Sea Hag myth, another beer mythology link was worth investigating. I found this blog, where the quote above is from, but that was the only info I could find. There wasn’t even a wikipedia page, and that set off an alarm bell. A few more creative wikipedia searches turned up a deleted page about the Sea Hag, and in the comments section, I found a link to this story from CNN which goes on to explain how that Sea Hag myth was started as a guerrilla marketing campaign by New England Brewing to market their new IPA. Now considered one of their best selling beers, the myth generation apparently worked.

As far as taste, this beer generated many comments. Overall, it was a well received beer. For an IPA, it was much lighter in color than what I would typically expect, but it had a nice mild hoppy taste. “A decent IPA, one I would be happy to drink again.”

Two Roads Brewing – Double IPA

Connecticut Craft Beer

Two Roads Brewing – Road 2 Ruin

The next beer in the selection was a double IPA from Two Roads Brewing in Stratford called Road to Ruin. This IPA was a bit darker than the Sea Hag, and also had a bit more hops kick. The smell was a nice citrus smell. I enjoyed this beer, but when drank with the Sea Hag, they both blended together into a non distinct flavor. Everyone in the drinking party enjoyed this beer, but nobody was completely floored.

In the end, I enjoyed both beers from Connecticut. They were drinkable and enjoyable. I could easily revisit either beer at anytime. However I was surprised at how hard it was to come across beer from Connecticut when we are border states.

Next week, bringing it local for Massachusetts.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

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