beer, History

Arkansas: The Natural State

Who would have thought an Arkansas beer would be better than a British beer

On June 15, 1836 Arkansas became the 25th state of the United States.

Prohibition was an issue in Arkansas well before statehood. In 1832, a grand jury attempted to invoke a law prohibiting the production and sale of alcohol. However, that ordinance could not be enforced, and it would take a more organized effort from the temperance movement to get the state legislature to pass the first alcohol ban in the early 1850s. Luckily for breweries, these early attempts at prohibition were geared towards whiskey and other ‘hard’ liquors,” leaving beer consumption untouched until the national Prohibition.

While the temperance movement was busy lobbying the state legislature, the first known brewery in Arkansas was started by a German immigrant named Joseph Knoble. Settling in Fort Smith Arkansas somewhere between 1848 and 1851, Joseph Knoble constructed a three-story brewery that still stands today and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Knoble Brewery operated until Joseph died in 1881. With the end of the Knoble Brewery, Arkansas would have to wait until after Prohibition to see another brewery operating in the state.

After a few failed attempts in the 1950s and again in the 1990s, it would take the turn of a new century to see a true revival of the beer scene in Arkansas. Now, 80 years after the repealing of the 21st Amendment, Arkansas has nine operating breweries, with more on the way. And this week, we had the opportunity to sample a beer from Core Brewing in Springdale thanks to the great folks at the Arkansas Beer Blog.

A few years before Joseph Knoble set up shop in Arkansas, John Fuller, Henry Smith, and John Turner started the Fuller Smith & Turner Brewery just outside of London, UK. Still in operation today, Fuller’s has a well established, easily accessible line of beer, including a beer introduced in 1971, the original ESB. With its profusion of rich malt, orangey fruit, and peppery hops, the Fuller’s ESB is an award winning beer. However, it wasn’t winning any awards this week, as we used it to compare against an excellent ESB brewed far from London.

Arkansas Craft Beer

Core Brewing ESB with Fuller’s ESB

For this weeks tasting, we had a welcome guest, Walt, who happened to be visiting one of our chief samplers. It was Walt, visiting New England from Sunny Florida, that provided that excellent quote at the beginning of this post.

Knowing that we only had one beer to sample this week, and having access to the original of the style, I decided it would be interesting to try them side-by-side to see how they stack up. So, on a beautiful, sunny New England day, we gathered around the table in the backyard to try some beer.

Arkansas Craft Beer

Core Brewery ESB

From the glass, the Core was a dark gold color with a thick head and had a nice fruity aroma. At the first sip, the aroma transformed into a pleasant nutty and caramel taste, finishing with a nice bitter dry mouthfeel. What a wonderful beer.

After polishing off the Core, we opened a bottle of Fuller’s ESB to try the original. Right from the start, it was obvious these two beers were not the same. The Fuller’s was lighter in color and  much sweeter, lacking that bitter finish that stood out with the Core. Overall, this beer was considered too sweet and  “kind of wimpy.”

To be fair, the American version of an ESB has derived from that original, evolving into its own distinct incarnation, however at the end of the day, put that Fuller’s back on the shelf and treat yourself to a Core.

Again, thanks to Jonas at the Arkansas Beer Blog (check out their site), for hooking us up with a great beer for this weeks tasting. Well done Arkansas!

Thanks for reading. Next week Michigan.

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beer, History

Missouri : Close to Home. Far from ordinary.

Johnny Hymer was a miner always on the job,
Johnny loved his lager like a sailor loves his grog.
One day his foreman told him that this country would go dry,
John threw his tools upon the ground,
You should have heard him cry.
No Beer, No Work. 1919

In 1803, Thomas Jefferson made the largest land grab in United States history when he completed the Louisiana Purchase. Part of that acquisition was a block of land that is now the state of Missouri. Known as the Gateway to the West, Missouri, was the starting point for western exploration, including the Louis and Clark Expedition. Eighteen years after the Louisiana Purchase, Missouri would become the 24th state, and this week’s featured state.

In the early 1930s, a St. Louis lawyer named Luther Ely Smith, wanting to commemorate St. Louis’ role in westward expansion, pitched an idea for a memorial. Over the course of the next 30 years, The Gateway Arch would come to fruition, and in the process become the largest man-made monument in the United States. Located on the west bank of the Mississippi River, which played a critical role in western expansion, The Gateway Arch also has a physical connection to American brewing history.

In 1838, a German immigrant, Johann Adam Lemp came to St. Louis and opened a grocery store. In addition to groceries, Lemp, a master brewer back in Germany, sold his own brewed beer and vinegar. It wasn’t long before beer became his primary product, and in 1840, the Lemp Brewery was established. Starting out brewing ales, the brewery soon took advantage of the natural caves around St. Louis perfect for lagering, and became the first commercial lager brewer in the country.

St. Louis is also know for another national brewer, Anheuser-Busch. Started about a decade after Lemp, Anheuser-Busch quickly grew through multiple acquisitions and various price fixing schemes. And it wouldn’t take long for this fast growing brewery to eclipse Lemp Brewery. However Lemp and Anheuser-Busch remained the most prominent brewers in the state for a few decades, producing a majority of the 61 million gallons of beer brewed in St. Louis in 1892.

The Lemp Brewing Company would not survive prohibition, and by the 1960s, Anheuser-Busch would become one of the few operating breweries in the United States. But the Lemp brewing legacy will always live on in Missouri, as part of the land acquired for building the Arch was also the site of the original Lemp brewery.

While Anheuser-Busch would continue to dominate the St. Louis beer scene throughout the 60s and 70s, during the 1980s American would start to see a new growth in the beer industry. One of those new companies looking to reintroduce flavorful beer to the country is Boulevard Brewing Company. Founded in 1989, Boulevard has grown from its original business plan of 6000 barrels a year to a current 600,000 barrels a year. This week, we will be sampling a very small portion of those 600k barrels in the form of 5 different and interesting styles.

Missouri Craft Beer - Boulvard Brewing

Missouri Craft Beer – Boulvard Brewing

Boulevard is not the only brewery operating in Missouri today, but they are the only brewery I have easy access to here in New England. Their Tank 7 and The Sixth Glass are common sights on the shelves of many local beer stores, so we grabbed a bottle of each, and found a few others, and set out for a celebration of Missouri.

We started the evening off with Tank 7, a Saison, or Farmhouse Ale. In the glass, this beer was slightly cloudy, with a nice pale straw color. It just called out as light and refreshing, with its Amarillo hops exuding a nice, citrus aroma. The taste of this beer, slightly bitter with a dry finish, was well loved by everyone at the tasting party. While not the best Saison I have ever had, it sure is up their in the rankings, making this a beer I would come back to again.

After the Tank 7, we switched to a beer named The Sixth Glass, named after a Hans Christian Anderson Story.

The sixth glass! In that sits Satan himself—a well-dressed, conversable, lively, fascinating little man—who never contradicts you, allows that you are always in the right—in fact, seems quite to adopt all your opinions.
                                        Olê, the Watchman of the Tower

Missouri Craft Beer

Boulevard, The Sixth Glass

In the glass, The Sixth Glass looked beautiful, with its frothy head, and nice, caramel color. The aroma of this beer was sweet and fruity, with a slight burnt smell. While this beer presented well across the group, the taste was not enjoyed as much. Two of the four people participating, opted out of finishing this beer. One taster even went so far as calling it flabby.

From The Sixth Glass, we moved into the IPAs, the first being Boulevard’s Single Wide. Containing six varieties of hops, this beer has a lot going on. Each taster got a different aroma profile from this beer. Some picking up the citrus aromas of the Cascade hops, while others quickly detected the piney aromas of the Simcoe hops. In the glass, this beer has a nice, pale gold color with a bubbly, carbonated body. The aftertaste of this beer was clearly hops, which was expected given the number of varieties used in this brew. Overall, this beer was well liked.

The next beer of the evening was another IPA, this one called Double Wide. A Double IPA, we expected the hops in this beer to come off much stronger than the Single Wide. However we were wrong in that assumption. This beer, also brewed with 5 different varieties of hops, was darker than the Single Wide. And that darker color came through in the flavor as well, dampening the hops, and letting the malty caramel flavors come forward. In an IPA, I prefer hops, from start to finish. So with this beer, it was unexpected to have the more caramel malt taste dominate the palate. In that respect, I didn’t enjoy this beer as much as the Single Wide.

Missouri Craft Beer

Boulevard Coffee Ale

The final beer of the night was a Coffee Ale. A limited release beer, this brew joins the ranks of the coffee beers that have been one of the pleasant surprises of this project. We have been surprised at the number of beer / coffee collaborations we have encountered this year, with each one presenting a unique character. The Coffee Ale was no different. As with all of the coffee beers we have sampled this year, this beer has a nice spicy, coffee aroma. Everyone loved this beer. It tastes just like coffee! and it quickly generated ideas for recipes. This would make a great Red-eye gravy! In the end, this was another well loved beer, rounding out another great tasting week.

Thanks Boulevard, and Missouri for keeping the craft beer tradition alive.

Next week, Arkansas.

 

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beer, History

Maine : The Way Life Should Be

100 bottles of beer on the wall….

When I started this project my focus was on trying beer from each of the 50 states, on a weekly basis. I didn’t have any other goals in mind. When it came to beer selection, I decided it would be nice to have more than one brewery representing the state, but it wasn’t necessary. I wanted the blogs focus to be about the state and their brewing scene, and not a specific brewery. As a result, I never considered how many different brands and styles of beer would become part of this project. But as often happens in life, while we are focused on one goal, we encounter (and sometimes overlook) other significant milestones along the way.

100 bottles of beer…

With this post, Maine is the featured state, and I am now 23 states into the project. Almost halfway done, and so far I have managed to acquire beer from each state, and get up a blog post about it in a timely fashion. But with this week, Maine brings with it a milestone that I never considered. This week, we sampled our 100th beer of the project. So, as we take a moment to celebrate this milestone, I would like to thank everyone that has been part of the project so far, and with that…

Take one down, pass it around….

On March 15, 1820, Maine, officially seceded from Massachusetts to become the 23rd state of the United States.

The largest city in Maine is the costal city of Portland, and in 1851, Portland had a mayor named Neal S. Dow. Mayor Dow was a prohibitionist that is famous for securing the passage of prohibition in the state of Maine, making it the first dry state in the United States. Known as The Maine Law, this prohibition of the sale of all alcoholic beverages quickly spread to twelve other states and became the start of the temperance movement that over the course of the next 70 years would grow into the 18th Amendment.

Luckily for us, Maine has changed its view towards brewing and today there are a number of great breweries operating in the state, and this week, we will sample beer from four of them.

Maine Craft Beer

Maine Beer Company, Mean Old Tom

The first beer of the night was Stout from the Maine Beer Company called Mean Old Tom. This beer received a big like from everyone around the table. The taste was slight burnt and nutty. Burnt, but in the way that char tastes good. The mouthfeel was smooth, and refreshing. The label for this beer says it is a “Stout aged on natural vanilla beans,” and for me that is often a flag, but for this beer, the vanilla wasn’t overpowering. It was subtle and complemented the malt perfectly making this a beer worth checking out.

When I was purchasing beer for this week, I was also on the hunt for a big Stout to complete a trade for an upcoming state. I was recommended a beer from Gritty McDuff’s that was specially brewed as part of Gritty’s 25th “beerthday”. A limited run, Special Oatmeal Stout that is higher in ABV, with rich, complex, full flavors, would fit that bill well, and they only had one bottle left. That was too good to pass up, and frankly, potentially too good to trade as well.

So instead of going out for trading, this beer became the 100th beer of this project.

Maine Craft Beer

Gritty McDuff’s SOS Special Oatmeal Stout

After opening the gold foil wrap and pouring this beer, we were greeted with a sweet, almost banana like smell. I was quickly reminded of BB Bats taffy chew lollipops that were a staple of birthday parties and halloween candy when I was growing up. With a mouth feel thicker than the previous stout, and slightly more bitter, the taste, was completely different from the smell. Overall, this beer was ok, but it wasn’t as good as the previous Stout.

For the next beer, we switched gears and went to a Hefeweizen from Rising Tide Brewery called Spinnaker. I chose this beer because of its unique yeast characteristics. Last fall, I was at a local craft beer tasting and Rising Tide was there. Off all their great brews, the Spinnaker stood out to me because the yeast used produced a distinct banana smell. I had no idea before I made my purchases that the previous Stout would also have a banana smell. Like the previous beer, luckily, the smell and the taste differ, however one of the tasters did not like this beer at all. Having issues with the outré end of the taste. With some discussion, it was agreed that this would be a great summer beer enjoyed with some grilled Plantains and maybe a hammock.

Maine Craft Beer

Gritty McDuff’s Stouts

Moving on from the Spinnaker, we came back to another Stout from Gritty McDuff’s called the Black Fly Stout. This Stout did not have as burnt of a taste as the previous Gritty’s Stout and was more carbonated. But when it came to smell, this beer was the most unique of the day. Right from the start, I recognized a unique smell for this beer, and it took some time to place it. It took a minute or two, but then it hit. This beer had the distinct smell of dried cow manure. Normally a smell that doesn’t bother me, but in a beer, it isn’t a characteristic I would seek out.

The final beer of the night came in a can. From Baxter Brewing, Maine’s first brewery all can brewery, we went with the always good Stowaway I.P.A. With its sweet citrus smells, this beer is distinctive and enjoyable. With just enough hops to quench the thirst, I always enjoy this beer, and it was a great way to wrap up the state of Maine.

Maine Craft Beer

Baxter Brewing, Stowaway IPA

Next week, Missouri.

 

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beer, History

Alabama: Share The Wonder

Formed into 1817 and already surrounded by states on all of its borders, the Alabama Territory lasted just two years before becoming the 22nd state on December 14, 1819. However it would take 65 years for Alabama to see its first brewery.

In 1883, Philip Schillinger, a German immigrant, moved his family from Kentucky to Birmingham Alabama with the intent of establishing a brewery in this fast growing city. Philip already had experience as a brewer. While living in Kentucky, he and two partners created the largest brewery in Kentucky at the time, and it didn’t take long for him to repeat his success in the Magic City.

In 1884, Philip created the Birmingham Brewery and introduced fresh brewed lager to the state of Alabama, and demand of the product quickly followed. The Birmingham Brewery continued to grow until 1893, when a economic downturn combined with a coal miner strike caused the company to slip into bankruptcy. Coming out of bankruptcy as the Alabama Brewing Company, production increased until 1907 when Jefferson County, home of Birmingham voted to become a dry county, starting the battle against brewing in the state of Alabama that is still affecting the industry today.

Much like Mississippi, Alabama introduced Prohibition prior to the federal amendment, and continued to enforce the law well beyond the repeal of 18th Amendment, with some counties still dry today. The state did eventually loosen its grip on alcohol control, but it didn’t fully let go. So in 2004, the organization Free the Hops was formed to try to change the laws that restricted the making and purchasing of craft beer in Alabama.

The first challenge Free the Hops took on was increasing the legal limit for alcohol content in beer. Like many other southern states, Alabama had a law that prevented beer from having an ABV greater than 6%. And as we mentioned before, that prevents many styles of craft beer from ever entering the state. Free the Hops won, and in 2009, the Gourmet Beer Bill was passed, allowing beer up to 13.9% ABV. A huge success for the group.

After that success, they didn’t stop. There was still work to do. Alabama still had many restrictions, such as limiting bottle sizes to 16oz (changed to 25.4 oz in 2012), preventing home brewing (made legal in 2013). And many more that prevented the successful running of a craft brewery or brewpub in the state.

As the laws slowly change, brewers are also making their way back into the state after a long hiatus. And this week, we have a few selections from the state to try.

Alabama Craft Beer

Back Forty Beer Company, Kudzu Porter

The first beer we tried was Kudzu Porter from the Back Forty Beer Company. Located in Gadsden Alabama, Back Forty brewed its first production batch of beer in January 2012, and with that first batch came Kudzu Porter.

We held the Alabama tasting on Memorial Day, which was a beautiful day here in New England. While sitting in the backyard, enjoying the sun, I found the Kudzu to be a nice light porter. Nothing overwhelming in flavor department, but refreshing. Perfect for enjoying on a summer day. I continued to go back to this beer a few more times during the week, and it grew on me more each time I had it. The slogan on the bottle says Careful, It will grow on you! which is a play on the characteristics of the plant Kudzu. An invasive plant introduced to the U.S. in the late 1800s, this plant now dominates the sides of roads throughout the south, enveloping the rest of the landscape. For this beer, the slogan fits, as it did grown on me.

Another beer we tried from Back Forty was their Freckle Belly IPA. This beer also rolled off the production line in January 2012, and while very young in the beer world, this was an enjoyable IPA. Right from the opening of the bottle, we could smell the hops in this beer. It wasn’t the best IPA we have had on this project, but it was an enjoyable beer, with all but one of the tasters enjoying it.

Alabama Craft Beer

Back Forty Freckle Belly and Blue Pants Knickerbocker

Back Forty isn’t the only brewery working to fill the void in Alabama. Blue Pants Brewery out of Madison is another craft brewery helping to change the beer drinking scene in Alabama. From Blue Pants, we got our hands on a bottle of Knickerbocker Red Ale. Listed as their flagship beer, the Knickerbocker was an interesting beer. In the glass, it was dark red, almost caramel in color, and it was full of carbonation with a biting aftertaste. A little too much for my liking, but others in the party loved it. 

Alabama Craft Beer

Good People Brewery, Snake Handler

The final beer of the evening came in a can. Brewed by Good People Brewing, in Birmingham, we ended the tasting with a double IPA called Snake Handler. Printed around the top of the can, Snake Handler can says “Legally Brewed Since 2008″, a play on both the slow to change laws of the state and the notion of backwoods illegally brewed concoctions. Like the Freckle Belly before it, this beer was hoppy, and I really liked it. In the heat of the day, it went down well. The bitterness of the hops really helped to cut through the thirst. This beer was well loved across the tasting party. We could have used about 6 more.

In the end, it is nice to see how much the beer scene in Alabama has changed since we had our wedding there in 2001. At that time, all we could get for the reception party were flavorless beer made by big national brands. There was no craft beer scene at that time. But things are changing for the better and we had the privilege to try three different breweries that are working on putting Alabama on the craft brewing map.

Next week, check back for Maine, and a huge milestone for 50 states of beer.

 

 

 

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