beer, History

Ohio: Birthplace of Aviation

Ohio was approved as a state in 1803, however at the time Congress never passed a resolution to admit Ohio into the union, and it wasn’t until 1953 that the oversight was discovered and Ohio was retroactively admitted as the 17th state.

Ohio Craft Beer

Ohio Craft Beer

When I started on this project, my goal was (and still is) to try beer from a different state each week for 50 weeks. I knew it wouldn’t be an easy task, but I mentally bound myself to the week idea and specified Saturday as my end day for the week. So each week could, in theory kick off on a Sunday and run through until the following Saturday. In reality, most of the tastings occur on either the Friday or Saturday evenings at the end of the week. And I then try to get the post up on Sunday, time permitting. So when we were at the middle of last week and I had no idea if I would have beer for this week, I was starting to get nervous, and thinking the project goal was going to fail at Ohio.

In New England, beer from Ohio is scarce. I have seen mention of some beer, mainly from Hoppin’ Frog Brewery available in a few places, but it wasn’t guaranteed. So I decided it was time to look at alternative means for this week. On the original purchase run back in December, my sister-in-law (let’s call her Heather) was doing the drive with me. As I was explaining the potential difficulties of Ohio, she mentioned that she had contacts that would help. And, Ohio being a border state, her contact could also take care of Indiana (two weeks away) as well. So, for this week we would be moving into the social aspect of the project.

When you set goals for yourself, as I did with this weekly requirement, you don’t expect others to feel obligated to bind to your rules. So when I relied on social networks (friend of friend, not Facebook) to get beer, I knew that issues could arise with meeting my goals. When Thursday rolled into Friday and I was still without beer from Ohio, I was concerned and felt I had to take control of my own goals. I had word from Heather that her contact Corey shipped the beer, but it might not arrive until Monday. Not good for my goal. Thus, on Friday, I set out to try and cover myself for the week and rely on the shipment as an addendum to the post. I knew my best chance of beer from Ohio would be Hoppin’ Frog, and I set my sights there. My first stop at a neighborhood beer store didn’t have anything, so I had one more potential resource. Upon arrival at New England Wine and Spirits, I asked if they had anything from Hoppin’ Frog, and was welcomed with a “Yes, I think we have two different styles actually.

The streak was alive. I had two bottles of beer in hand, bought in my town from Ohio. That evening, the usual clan of tasters arrived at 5, and we set about sampling Hoppin’ Frog Bodacious Black and Tan as well as Hoppin’ Frog Hop Heathen.

Ohio Craft Beer

Hoppin’ Frog Bodacious Black and Tan

I have to admit I am puzzled by Black and Tan in a bottle. Sure, there are some good ones out there, but I always associated a Black and Tan with the experience. The two layers of beer in the glass, and as Joel put it “Having to get the green card Irish guy to pour it for you.” So we set about this beer biased out of the gate. The beer had a nice smell in the glass, tasted fine, but there was a weird after-taste. The reports were about equal across the group, with “For a Friday afternoon sippin’, this is fine.” But it was “Nothing special.” In the final pour from the bottle, there was plenty of sediment, as can been seen in the top right corner of the collage photo.

Ohio Craft Beer

Hoppin’ Frog Hop Heathen

The next beer we moved on to was called Hop Heathen, an Imperial Black Ale. The bottle for this beer was imprinted with text describing the beer, including something about an uncivilized amount of hops. We have had our share of over hopped beer during this project, and this bottle did not join that unique class of beer, however I liked this beer. It has a nice, malty flavor. It wasn’t the best Black Ale in the world, but it was not bad at all. With no smell or taste of the hops, we ended with “The only thing uncivilized on this beer is the horrible label.” With two bottles from Ohio in the books, I felt relaxed that the goal lived for another week.

A major goal in manufacturing is the reduction of product inventory. From this goal arrived the idea of Just in Time Inventory (JIT). Under the just in time inventory system, “shipments are made within rigidly enforced time windows.” A fact I left out earlier is that both Heather and Corey are engineers, and well versed in the JIT model. So, on the last day of the ‘project week’, I opened my door to a box from Ohio that contained, nine, yes nine different bottles of beer from Ohio (and a few from Indiana too). This arrival turned Saturday evening into a second tasting for Ohio, and our second largest covering for the year. So a big shout out to Corey for helping us maintain our goal for yet another week.

For our tasting on Saturday, we had:

Ohio Craft Beer

Ohio Craft Beer Selection

  •  Hoppin’ Frog Silk Porter
  •  Hoppin’ Frog Belgian-style Double IPA
  •  Rivertown, Barrel Aged Series, Old Sour Cherry Porter
  •  Quaff Bros., Barrel Aged Ale, Savage Blank
  •  Listermann Brewing, Friar Bacon Smoked Bock
  •  The Brew Kettle, Old 21
  •  Rivertown Brewing, Hop Bomber
  •  Moerlien Brewing, Northern Liberties IPA
  •  Moerlien Brewing, Barbarossa Double Dark Lager

A lot to cover, but I found people who were up for the task.

I started by rounding up the usual suspects for an initial tasting, then it would be concluded around a fire pit Saturday night with my auxiliary tasters. Going with out established axiom that “The best things so far have come in big brown bottles”, we set our sights in the big ones.

We started with Savage Blank, a Barrel Aged Ale from Quaff Bros. Specializing in limited edition single barrel ales, Quaff Bros. attempts to capture the passion of homebrewing and the essence of microbrewing. The Savage Blank that we had is:

A Belgian Golden Ale brewed with Sauvignon Blanc grape juice, aged in four different Bourbon barrels and blended together.

This beer had a strong smell of grapes. And the taste was a unanimous dislike from everyone that tried it (5 people total). Wine has its time and place, as does beer. Let’s keep them separate.

Ohio Craft Beer

Rivertown Brewery Old Sour Cherry Porter

The next big, brown that we moved into was from Rivertown Brewery located in Lockland Ohio. Part of their Barrel Aged Series, the Old Sour Cherry Porter was released in the Spring of 2013. Listed as an Imperial porter aged in bourbon barrels with dark Michigan cherries and lactobacillus delbrueckii (a Belgian souring bacteria).

I didn’t read the description for this beer until writing this post, but during the tasting, I referred to this beer as tasting like a lambic. The sour was definitely there, and the cherry taste was strong, but not discouraging. I enjoyed this beer, and everyone else that tasted it agreed. Not something you would want in large quantities, but for a single glass, this was nice.

Next up was a beer with an interesting label. From Listermann Brewing Company in Cincinnati, we had a bottle of their specialty brew: Smoked Bock Beer. The label gave this beer some serious potential, but unfortunately the potential ended there. This beer smelled and tasted like liquid smoke. That is not a good quality in a beer. With quotes from the samplers like “What would you put a label on that.” it wasn’t well received across the group.

However the selection from Corey turned a corner after that and we all enjoyed everything else. Partly because we moved into the IPA area, and most of the tasters are fans of a good IPA, but the Silk Porter from Hoppin’ Frog, with its chocolate aromas, was a great beer too.

A quick summary follows.

The Hop Master’s Abbey, a Double IPA from Hoppin’ Frog had a big citrus nose and taste. A very enjoyable beer.

The Old 21 from Brew Kettle was wonderful, with its bouquet of pine, this beer, compared to the previous IPA, was an excellent example of the characteristics different types of hops, in this case the Simcoe,  bring to a finished product.

The Barbarossa Double Dark Larger from Christian Moerlein Brewing (techincally brewed in PA, but we let that slide), had an interesting carmel taste. It drew up conversation of early days of beer experimentation, when products like Becks Dark were considered extreme.

Another beer from Christian Moerlein was the Northern Liberties IPA. This beer was fine, but not the best IPA of the evening. On its own, without having previously had the Hop Master’s Abbey or the Old 21, I would have really enjoyed this beer.

We ended the sampling with another beer from Rivertown Brewery called Hop Bomber. At this point in the tasting, I was a bit over hopped from the three previous IPAs, so I mostly picked up a bitter taste. However I think I was mentally mislead by the name. I was expecting a strongly hopped beer akin to a Dogfish Head. But reviewing the brewers website, I can see that is not the intended case.

An American pale ale named after the famous B-24 Liberator Bomber. This beer has a wonderful malt backbone from the use of dark english crystal malt and spicy fresh rye malt. It is dry hopped with two varieties of American hops for a crisp refreshing flavor.

This is a beer would like to get my hands on again, with a fresh palate.

After starting with a nervous feeling of missing my goal, Ohio proved to be an exciting week. I never expected such a wide variety and interesting beers to arrive on my doorstep. Once again, a huge thanks to Corey for the great beer selection for the week.

Next week, back south for Louisiana.

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beer, History

Tennessee – America at its best

When North Carolina gained statehood, it ceded its western territory to the Federal Government where it was designated as the Southwest Territory by Congress. Within just 5 years, a census would reveal a sufficient population in the territory to form a state, and on June 1st, 1796, the first official U.S. territory would become the state Tennessee, and the 16th state of the union.

I have been to Tennessee a few times. I have walked down Beale Street, seen a New Years Eve concert at the Ryman, and passed through the mountains of Chattanooga multiple times. While I had various opportunities to drink a beer in this state, I never encountered any craft brew in the places I visited. I still recall the first beer I had in Nashville, a Guinness. Not quite a regional product.  So when I set out to find a Tennessee brewed beer, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for or what I would end up with. But fear not, because the Tennessee craft beer industry is alive and well, and we were able to get our hands on three different beer styles this week.

Tennessee Craft Beer

Selection of Craft Beer from Tennessee

During the big collecting run, which feels like a long time ago now, beer from Tennessee was a target. Since the drive passed straight through Bristol, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, there was little concern about locating a Tennessee brewed product. On the south bound journey, we spotted a beer distributor from the highway. While potentially a good sign, a beer distributor is actually not a place to purchase a beer.

When the 3 tier system was established after prohibition, a layer between the brewer and the retailer was created. This layer was the distribution layer. A beer distributor provides transportation, refrigeration, and maintenance for beer from the time it leaves the brewery until the time it arrives at a retailer.  Distributors do not sell beer. So, on our northern journey back home, we would have to do some more scouting.

When passing through the Chattanooga area of Tennessee, you are also skirting along the northern Georgia border, and according to a search on Beer Advocate, Fort Oglethorpe, GA is home to a excellent beer store. So we made quick stop at Beverage World, where we successfully acquired many of the beers reviewed to date on this adventure. However one of the states we could not get beer from was Tennessee. Even though we could throw a rock across the border from the stores parking lot, due to laws (either Tennessee or Georgia, it wasn’t clear), they were not legally allowed to sell Tennessee beer. However, the fine folks of Beverage World gave us a much unexpected lead – Whole Foods.

The Whole Foods in Chattanooga, just a few miles up the road would have Tennessee craft beer. Once there, we found products from two different Nashville Tennessee breweries. Blackstone Brewery and Yazoo Brewing Company.

Tennessee Craft Beer

Blackstone Brewery Nut Brown Ale

The first beer we sampled this week was Blackstone Breweries Nut Brown Ale, and this was a great start to the evening. This beer was very flavorful and well loved among all 4 tasters. Definitely one of the best brown ales we have encountered on this project, this beer had a wonderful, nutty aroma. The taste wasn’t bland like some ales could be, it had a wonderful character. A few weeks back, at the mini craft beer summit, we discussed brown ales and how they are a hard beer. That they get little respect. For me,  this brown ale earned plenty of respect, because it was enjoyable.

Moving up the flavor scale, the next beer we sampled was a Pale Ale from Yazoo brewing. Another Nashville Brewery, the founder of Yazoo got his start brewing beer from a homekit in college. Now Yazoo has a product line of 8 different styles of beer available throughout a good portion of the southeast. The one we grabbed for our sampling was their Pale Ale. When I poured this beer, I could immediately smell the citrus hops flavor typical of a pale ale (others in the tasting

Tennessee Craft Beer

Yazoo Pale Ale

disagreed with the hops smell). The mouth feel of this beer was clean, and the taste was slightly hoppy, but seemed to derive more of its flavor from the various malts used during the brewing process. While well enjoyed, it was described as a beer that started great but faded fast.

The final beer of the night was another style from Blackstone Brewery, the St. Charles Porter. While I really enjoyed this beer, among the group it was the least favorite of the three. When poured, it had a sweet aroma, described as mollasses. Another described it as tasting like a coffee beer.

Overall, another great week in the books. So far, as we have worked across the southern states, the beer has been remarkably good. I am not sure why I have been so surprised at this. Maybe it has to do with the souths late entry into the craft brewing game. But what I think is often overlooked with this nieve assessment is that while the southern states took their time reversing the laws of prohibition, many of the residents were quietly (and often illegally) perfecting their craft at home, waiting for their opportunity to show the world their skills.

Next week, Ohio.

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beer, History

Kentucky: Unbridled Spirit

This week was a big week for Kentucky, and I am not talking about the basketball win earlier in the week. I am talking about the fact that this week marks the 15th week of this little project, and Kentucky is the 15th state of the United States.

Prior to becoming a state, Kentucky was a county of Virginia. After some petitioning by the residents, On June 1st 1792, Kentucky separated from Virginia to become its own state.

When it comes to Kentucky, most people think bourbon, not beer, and for good reason. Bourbon is considered to have its origins in Kentucky. There is also the association of derby’s, elaborate hats and Mint juleps. While bourbon is probably the dominant drink of the state, beer has been brewed in the state almost since its founding, and this week we get to sample two different styles of beer from a Kentucky brewer.

Located in Lexington, the second largest city in Kentucky, is the Alltech Lexington Brewing Company. Founded in 1794, The Lexington Brewing company was once the largest building in the city of Lexington, however it failed to navigate prohibition era successfully, and as a result lost its pre-prohibition era dominance. It appears that the company limped along in some form until 1999 (but I can’t find details), when the company was reestablished by Dr. Pearse Lyons, a man with a deep family relationship to the brewing and distilling industry. Since its rebirth, the Lexington Brewing Company has been working to produce a high quality product while maintaining its Kentucky roots.

Kentucky Craft Beer

Kentucky Brewing Company

The first beer sampled from Kentucky was the Kentucky Ale, a marriage of an English Pale Ale and an Irish Red Ale. One thing I am learning about myself from this project is that I prefer beer styles that have stronger (but not too strong) characteristics. I like the hoppiness of an IPA, the smells that clearly stand out as soon as you pour it in the glass. Because of that, I have been struggling with ales. Not because they are not good, but because they are hard to describe.

This ale looked great in the glass, but there was no distinct smell or flavor that I could latch onto in an attempt to help describe the beer to somebody. It was definitely better that anything you will see mass produced across the U.S., but why you should drop everything and find a bottle of this, I am not capable of providing that information.

If you are a fan of some of the more well known Irish Reds that have been on the market for years now, you will probably love this beer as it does have more character than those. But as I continue on my quest to understand and appreciate the ale style, this beer has not helped me answer any questions quite yet.

During my research on Kentucky, I stumbled upon a new set of terms and vocabulary pertaining to alcohol laws. We have previously mentioned encountering dry counties, but Kentucky takes it to another level. According to this wikipedia page, there are 7 different classifications of a county’s alcohol law status. This is quite detailed for a state that prides itself on being the largest producer of bourbon in the world. In fact they claim to produce 98% of the bourbon in the world, and linking that strong bourbon heritage to beer, the next beer we sampled from Kentucky was a Bourbon Barrel Ale.

Kentucky Craft Beer

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

Considered their flagship beer, the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, is aged for six weeks in the freshly decanted bourbon barrels, and that is clear right from the opening of the bottle. The first impression you get is bourbon, and it is amazing how the beer picks up the smell and flavor of the bourbon from the barrels. If you are a fan of bourbon, you should try this beer, as it was probably the best bourbon beer I have tried on this project. But I would classify this as a sipping beer, not something you would take to a Super Bowl party.

The benchmark of late for this blog has been the fire pit beer. What beer could you enjoy more than one of while sitting around a fire pit. This beer would be hard to have on my fire pit list. Instead, this is a beer that I would enjoy with a nice meal. Or since I am not a big fan of straight bourbon, I might have this on hand for myself when hanging out with friends that do like their bourbon, straight.

That concludes this week, next week, we move into Tennessee.

 

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beer, History

Vermont: The Green Mountain State

Vermont

During the Colonial days, taverns were to the citizens what the internet is today. They were a place to check in on what was going on in town. A place to learn about the weather, hear the latest news, or play a quick game with friends. All while grabbing a beer, glass of rum, or some food.

Taverns were an essential component to the community as they were a place where local governments organized, formed and conducted business. Because of this, many taverns hold an important role in the history of the United States, like the Windsor tavern in Vermont. Now called The Constitution House, The Windsor tavern is where a group or representatives met in 1777 to adopt the name Vermont and to also create the states constitution.

Fourteen years after the crafting of the constitution, Vermont became the 14th state in the union, and our sampling state of the week.

When I mention to friends that lived in the state that this week was Vermont, the first thing they say is, “what beer is from Vermont other than Catamount?”  And the answer to that is, there are a few breweries and Catamount isn’t any of them! In fact, the Catamount brewery closed down in 2000 and the building is now owned an operated by Harpoon.

One of the easily accessible breweries (at least in my area) from Vermont is Otter Creek. A few months back, one of my local beer stores hosted a craft beer night, and while there I had a few people tell me that I had to check out the Otter Creek Black IPA, it was good stuff. But this week I went with their staple, easy to find Copper Ale.

Vermont Craft Beer

Otter Creek Copper Ale

In the wild world of beer, there are generally two major classifications, Ales and Lagers, and these classifications are established by the type of yeast used to make the beer, either top-fermenting (Ales) or bottom fermenting (Lagers). However, like anything else, the details are much more complex and placing all beer into two large classification buckets doesn’t come close to addressing all of the styles and creations that are coming out of the craft breweries today.

Classification of beer into styles based on fermentation is a relativity new phenomena. And with Ales, this is no different. For a style of beer that is considered older than England, The Oxford Companion to Beer states that the term “ale” only began to become synonymous with top-fermented beers generally as late as the 1980s.

Even within the Ale category, further classification continues, with Pale Ales, Amber Ales, and the list goes on, to include Copper Ales. Finding a definition of a Copper Ale required some digging. My typical source (OCB) has no mention of the style. There are questions on some internet brewing forums about the style, and I also ran across this definition

Copper Ale: This is an ale which is aged in oak casks to obtain its beautiful copper color and its unique wine-like taste. Primarily produced in Belgium.

Since the Otter Creek website is under construction, I was not able to verify if this beer was aged in a oak cask like the definition suggests. However I did not get any unique wine-like taste from the beer. In the glass, this beer has a nice copper color. As has been typical with most of the six-pack bottled beers sampled on this adventure, there was little to no head. This beer is good, but there isn’t anything special about it. The smell was slightly fruity, but it didn’t have any unique characteristics that made it easy to refer to. That taste was the same. It wasn’t boring like a big, mass produced beer, but it also didn’t have any distinguishing characteristics that have been observed in other beer this year. Overall, this is a beer I will buy again, but if you are looking for something that has unique character, this isn’t it.

Other beer from Vermont this week is another ale from The Shed which I just discovered is now part of Otter Creek. The beer, called Mountain Ale is a typical brown ale, in taste and color.

Vermont Craft Beer

The Shed – Mountain Ale

Brown Ales are a style that I have a hard time extracting descriptives for. They seem to rely more on the malt to carry their flavor, and I appear to be better at discerning the hops flavors. I think because of that I have spent more time this week with the Mountain Ale and the previous Copper Ale, trying to develop my tasting for this different malt styles.

So, as I develop my tasting palate for a malt, I would place the Mountain Ale in the same category as the Copper Ale. I like it, I will go back to it, but at the moment, I am struggling to better describe these styles of beer.

In the late 1990s, there was a popular sitcom on television. While this show took place in Ohio, not Vermont, it did prominently feature a tavern called the Warsaw tavern. That show was The Drew Carey Show. One of the plot lines from the show was the formation of a brewery in the garage of the central character, Drew Carey. The beer the brewed was called Buzz Beer and it was unique in that it was brewed with coffee. With a slogan of “Stay up and get drunk all over again,” the idea of a coffee beer hybrid provided for great comedy. Now, just nine years after the end of the show, actual coffee beer seems to be trending. And continuing with that trend, we will wrap up this week with another coffee beer (I think that makes 4 for the year now?).

Vermont Craft Beer

Long Trail Coffee Stout

The Coffee Stout from Long Trail was a nice find. A part of their brew master series, this was not on my radar when was out getting beer for this week. Each coffee beer we have tried this year have been fun, and each had a unique characteristic, like the pepper aftertaste of the Wake ‘N Bake. To date, I think the overall favorite was the coffee beer from Berkshire Brewery in Massachusetts.

Well, there is a new king in town. This coffee stout was great. The mix of coffee and stout was perfect, with neither stealing the show. According to a story earlier this year in the WSJ about coffee beer, getting the coffee to beer ratio is a critical factor in the success of this brew. I would say Long Trail nailed it. Get yourself a bottle of this beer as soon as you can, it is worth it. But don’t rely on this beer to help you “stay up and get drunk all over,” because coffee beer has less caffeine than a cup of decaf.

Last night while chatting over the Coffee Stout, Joel said it best The best beer so far have come from big brown bottles. While we have had some great stuff from the traditional six pack sized bottle, and cans are all the rage this year, it has been the growlers and the 22 ounce bottles that have left us excited at the end of most weeks. We will see how that plays out for the rest of the year, but at the moment, it is something to think about the next time you are in the market to try something new and exciting.

 

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beer, History

Rhode Island: Unwind the Ocean State

Rhode Island

In 1790, Rhode Island was the last of the original 13 colonies to ratify the Constitution, and the next state up on our beer adventure.

For this week, there are three different beers on the tasting table. Two from Providence, and one from, well, we will get to that.

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the United States, yet in 1914, it was home to the largest lager brewery in New England, The Narragansett Brewery. However as was more than common around that time, Narragansett fell victim to the

Rhode Island Craft Beer

Narragansett Bock

devastating effects of prohibition and barely made it out the other side. When prohibition did finally end, Narragansett was in financial distress, however with some help, the company came back and by 1955 it was once again the largest selling beer in New England. However after a series of mergers and acquisitions, typical of the industry during the late 60’s and early 70’s, Narragansett closed its doors in 1981. The early 1980s was a rough time for breweries in America, with about 100 breweries existing nationwide at that time, the lowest number in the history of the country, including the prohibition era.

It is a hard concept to grasp that the post World War II era was more devastating to the brewing industry than the Prohibition era. The blame for this devastation could easily be placed on the big national brewers that were growing fast at the time, and while partly responsible, the story is more complicated. Another factor that contributed to the decline was the change in the way consumers purchased their beer. Prior to the war most beer was purchased and consumed at local taverns and pubs, however post WWII, home refrigeration became more prevalent and the ability to bottle and can beer became more economical resulting in a decline of draft sales.

Thankfully, we have gotten beyond the low point of the 80s, and the beer industry is once again booming with each state providing a variety of choices from multiple breweries. Included in the list of thriving breweries is the reincarnated Narragansett brewery.

Rhode Island Craft BeerIn 2005, The Narragansett name was revived by a group of Rhode Island investors, and seven unique products are now available for consumers. Of those, two were part of our tasting this week, and that gets us back to the origin of this weeks selections. From ‘Gansett, The Lager and Bock were selected.  Narragansett is currently a contract brewery, and that means they are not brewing their beer in Rhode Island. According to their website, the Lager is currently brewed in Rochester, New York, and the Bock is brewed in Providence, Rhode Island. So, we can count one of the two as being from Rhode Island, same situation as we encountered in New Hampshire.

Each of these beers are what I would consider a summer, backyard, fire pit beer. They are not packed with the complex flavors and character as seen in other craft beers. To me, they are just typical beer. They are good but if I am looking for a single beer to enjoy with a meal, or to unwind with, this is not where I am going. However if I have to hang out after a long day of working in the yard, I wouldn’t mind a nice can of Lager or Bock.

The other beer from Rhode Island was an IPA from Trinity Brewhouse. I couldn’t find any history about the Trinity Brewhouse online. This is a beer that I picked up at the Craft Beer Cellar because it was from Rhode Island and it was all they had (other than

Rhode Island Craft Beer

Trinity IPA

Narragansett) from the state. This beer was also ok, but it wasn’t anywhere near as good as other IPAs encountered during this project. It was just a typical, highly hopped bitterness, without the lovely citrus or piney smells and tastes characteristic of a better IPA.

Being a border state to Massachusetts  I was once again surprised at the limited availability of beer from Rhode Island. However with only 6 breweries in the state, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.

Next week, we are still in New England, with Vermont.

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