beer, History

Kansas : as big as you think

This week is 34 of this project, and with that, we are covering the 34th state of the Union, Kansas. Kansas joined the United States in 1861, having been a US territory since 1854.

When it comes to beer history and Kansas, there is a big hole. An almost 67 year hole to be exact. This hole exists because Kansas had one of the longest prohibition periods in the country. Starting in 1881, a full 38 years before the national Prohibition and lasting until 1948, Kansas was dry for a full 67 years. Even with the lifting of prohibition in 1948, it still took another 39 years for citizens of Kansas to have the opportunity to experience a brew-pub in their own state.

In 1987 Kansas law was relaxed to allow “brew-pubs,” and in 1989 Free State Brewing Company opened as Kansas’ first licensed brewery since state prohibition. source

Kansas was a critical player of the temperance movement and was also the state where Carrie Nation came to fame. Responding to a call from God, she started smashing up saloons, first with rocks and then with her trademark hatchet, with what became known as hatchetations.

Given the state of beer and brewing in Kansas, it is no surprise that acquiring beer from that state is still hard. However we were able to coming across a 4 pack of beer from Tallgrass brewing company. This beer, named the official beer of retro-gamers, is a pale ale called 8-Bit. With the label commemorating the 8-Bit graphics of our favorite classic video games, this is one colorful can. The can is so fun that there are even people selling (and buying?) empties on eBay.

One of the more interesting items I discovered while researching the history of beer in Kansas, was a story about brewers clogs. During the brewing process, malt is cooked in a large vat and then spread out on the floor to cool. As the workers spread the malt out on the floor, they wore wooden shoes that were cleaned daily. These shoes were called brewers clogs. As part of the Kansas Historical Society collection, they posses a pair of brewers clogs worn by brewer Theodore Weichselbaum in Ogden, Kansas, were he owned and operated a brewery from 1871 until 1881, when prohibition kicked in.

So, in a tribute to Theodore, this week we will model some shoes with our sampled beer.

kansas craft beer

8-bit Pale Ale, and some shoes.

This 8-Bit ale was a fun and enjoyable beer. It was light and refreshing and everyone quickly went back for more. An all around favorite. If you happen to get the chance, get yourself one.

As we have discovered, while Kansas brewers had to wait for their government to change ways, they quickly stepped up with some wonderful beer. Sure we only have one data point, but this one point was enjoyable.

Thanks for reading. Next week, West Virginia.

 

 

 

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beer, History

Oregon : We Love Dreamers

The Pacific Northwest’s first European explorers (Spanish) arrived in 1543, followed by the British in 1778. Other explorers, including Lewis and Clark who spent the 1805-1806 winter near the mouth of the Columbia River were also part of the early non-native visitors to the region.

But it would take the establishment of the Oregon Trail to bring more than explorers and traders to the region with the Great Migration of 1843 depositing 700-1000 new emigrants in the region. With this new influx of settlers, it wasn’t long before the first brewery opened in the region. The introduction of beer and brewing into a region usually coincided with the arrival of Europeans. Or, more specifically, as we have seen over the course of this blog, the arrival of Germans. The region of the Pacific northwest that we now know as Oregon is no different, with the German Henry Saxer establishing the first brewery, Liberty Brewery in 1852, seven years before Oregon became the 33rd state. However it was a different Henry from Germany, Henry Weinhard that would take control of the brewing industry and grow production in the Pacific Northwest to 100,000 barrels by the year 1890.

But Henry’s production levels would only last for 24 years, with the state approving a ban on the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquor in 1914, five years prior to the national prohibition. Like many other breweries of the time, Weinhard’s brewery made it through prohibition brewing near-bear, syrups and sodas. After prohibition the brewery was merged and sold multiple times, finally brewing its last beer in 1999, as part of the Miller Brewing Company.

While Oregon may have lost its early brewery to the mergers and acquisitions during the bad years in American brewing, it still retains a healthily number of local breweries. So many in fact, that Portland Oregon is considered to have more breweries within the city limits than any city in the world, and thats not all. Oregon has also become a critical component in the brewing process. With its Willamette Valley producing 4% of the worlds hops crop and the entire state producing almost 9% of the U.S. barley crop each year. With contributions like those, Oregon is definitely a beer healthy state.

Given the number of breweries in the state, it is not unexpected that finding Oregon beer in my part of New England requires little effort. Beer from breweries such as Rouge Widmer Brothers and Deschutes frequent the shelves. As a result, I wasn’t being too particular in my selection and quickly grabbed three bottles from two different brewers. One from Oakshire Brewing and two from Base Camp Brewing Company.

Oregon Craft Beer

This weeks selection from Oregon

Both of the bottles from Base Camp were actually metal cans, and play on the Oregon, outdoors feel. They both featured topographic map backgrounds and contained text relevant to the outdoors life style, such as references to streams, and packs and hiking. This led one of our tasters to refer to the bottles as having an Eddie Bauer feel. I didn’t mind them, and enjoyed their rustic feel.

We started the evening off with a Rye Pilsner called Ripstop (a type of fabric often used in outdoor gear.) I found this to be a fun beer, and would happily toss it in my pack. It had a nice, but not over powering, hoppy taste.

Oregon Craft Beer

Base Camp Ripstop

In the glass, this beer was light in color. I couldn’t get much of an aroma from the the beer, but that probably had to due with the just out of the fridge, cold nature of the beer.

After the Ripstop, we moved on to the next bottle can, this one, an  India Pale Lager called In-Tents. The brewer says this beer aged on an in-house toasted blend of white and red oaks, and that taste was hard for me to get over.

In the glass, this beer was darker than the Pilsner and had a nice hoppy smell. But I kept coming back to that smoked oak taste. This beer reminded me of some of the Kentucky beer, with its oak barrel aging coming through in the flavor, but others actually enjoyed those barrel aged beers and felt this one had something slightly off.

The final beer of the evening was a seasonal from Oakshire called O’Dark:30. The name, derived from the dark malt ingredient, mixed with a pre-dawn brewing, pays homage to the slang beer 30, but it also reminded one taster of the movie Zero Dark Thirty.

Oregon Craft Beer

Oakshire O’Dark:30

In the glass, this beer was dark, with a clean distinct head, and had a wonderful smell. Always a fan of a dark ale, I was looking forward to this beer, and was not let down. It was full of rich flavors and had a clean, smooth finish. Definitely my favorite of the night.

That wraps up Oregon and week 33. Next week, we head back eastwards to the state of Kansas.

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beer, History

Minnesota : Land of 10,000 Lakes

This week, the 32nd week of this project brings the state of Minnesota into the United States, almost a full 8 years after the previous state, California. Prior to statehood, the capital of Minnesota, St. Paul existed as part of the Territory of Minnesota, and in 1849, Anthony Yoerg started the first brewery in the soon to be state. To help lager his beer, Anthony excavated cellars into the sandstone bluffs, and those cellars still exist today.

Another Minnesota brewery started around the birth of the new state was the August Schell Brewery. Founded in 1860, in New Ulm, the Schell Brewing Company is still operating today, as the 2nd oldest operating family brewery in the United States.

While Minnesota now has a wide variety of craft breweries, there is no access to any Minnesota beer in my state, so I had to resort to some trading to get my hands on some. After a successful trade, I was able to get myself four different beers from the state. Two from Surley Brewing and two from Summit Brewing Company.

Minnesota Craft Beer

Surly Brewing Cynic Ale

The first beer of the week was a Cynic Ale from Surley Brewing. This beer comes in a can, and the rim of the can says “Beer for a Glass, from a Can“. Poured in glass, this beer had a floral aroma that was not off putting. The taste was slightly sweet, and reminded me of a Fuller’s ESB, but not as sweet.

Minnesota Craft Beer

Summit Horizon Red Ale

After the Cynic Ale, I had two different selections from Summit Brewing Company. First was a Horizon Red Ale. This beer was a nice reddish color in the glass. The smell was fruity, and it had a hoppy taste, with a clean finish. This was a great beer, I would take more.

Next was a Summit Sága IPA. This beer had a strong pine aroma, and taste. It also had a strong, bitter aftertaste that wasn’t all that refreshing. Probably a great beer, but when drank alongside the Horizon, it didn’t stand up.

The final beer of the week was another brew from Surly. This one a coffee beer aptly named Coffee Bender. I really enjoyed this beer. The smell was distinctly of coffee, and the taste had a slight burnt taste to it, but it wasn’t a bad burnt taste. It was interesting and added to the overall character of the beer.

That wraps up week 32 and the state of Minnesota. Short post this week. Vacation week. Thanks for reading. Next week, Oregon.

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beer, History

California : The Golden State

As the United States was one year shy of its Dodranscentennial, the area we now know as California became the 31st state in September, 1850. At the time of statehood, the brewing industry was well on its way, with the Adam Schuppert Brewery already established in the San Francisco region of the soon to be state. Supporting the onslaught of forty niners coming to the area to pan gold, San Francisco quickly became a brewing hotbed, and by 1852, the valley contained more than 350 operational bars and pubs1

Also around that time, California was establishing itself as a major supplier of hops for the brewing industry, and prior to the destruction of prohibition, Sonoma County was a major hops supplier. While now know better as a wine region, this county is still an important player in the beer ingredient chain.

Beer ingredients isn’t the only thing California is known for, it also holds claim to another beer history first. During the booming years of the early 1850s, lager beer was also sweeping across the country. In areas like St. Louis, and Wisconsin, brewers leveraged the geographical features (caves) of those areas to assist with the lagering process. However California does not have access to the caves that are under St. Louis, and with the advent of refrigeration for beer production still a few years away, California brewers had to make some adjustments. Using the bottom fermenting lager yeast, but allowing fermentation to occur at temperatures more common for ales, a new style of beer was born: Steam beer. These days, steam beer is associated with Anchor Brewing (due to trademark,) but there are others out there, brewed under the category of California common beer.

This week, we didn’t have any common beer in our tasting selection, but we did have a nice (very small) variety of beer from the state. Many of them very interesting.

California Craft Beer

We started the week off with an Hop Ottin’ IPA from Anderson Valley Brewing Company. This beer we drank straight from the can, and it was good. The day was hot, not too hot, but hot enough to really enjoy an IPA, and this one did the trick. It had a really nice hoppy flavor and finished slightly bitter, but the bitter quickly went away, leaving no bitter aftertaste. I would buy this beer again.

California Craft BeerKeeping the week rolling, a few days later, we opened a Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA. This beer had a piney aroma when opened, and it was stronger hopped than their more popular Pale Ale. This was my first time drinking this beer, and I liked it. It was well received across the tasting party, and our special guest Pete gave it two thumbs up. I wouldn’t be surprised if he buys it again.

Moving on from the Torpedo, we ventured into more extreme waters. Much like the wide ranging state they represent, the California beers of the day covered a variety of styles and flavors.

We started our extreme adventure with a beer from The Bruery in Orange County. From The Bruery, we had a beer from their special collection called Sour in the Rye. An

California craft beer

The Bruery, Sour in the Rye

unfiltered, bottle-conditioned brew, this one generated some commentary. In the glass, this beer was a nice honey color and had a sweet aroma. The taste was unique. With a strong lemon finish, and sour notes throughout, everyone had something to say about this beer. While we were tasting, I read out loud the description from the brewers website:

We brewed this ale with around 40% rye as a base malt and let our sour yeast and bacteria eat away at it in oak barrels for over a year creating a sour ale with a complex character of rye spice, oak and a subtle funk.

and quickly got the response of: “Not sure the funk is all that subtle!” We also tried this beer with some spicy food, and found it really changed the flavor of the beer, but for me, it also damped down the interesting flavors and wasn’t as enjoyable. This brewery is going on my watch list. I must try more of their stuff.

Between the Sour in the Rye and the next beer, Joel commented that this year, we have encountered three different types of beer:

  • Good
  • Industrial
  • Different

I think I agree, and we are about to add another to the different category. Following the Sour in the Rye, we opened a beer from 21st Amendment called Monks Blood (no link on the brewers site).

California Craft Beer

Monks Blood

This beer, brewed with figs, oak chips, vanilla and cinnamon, was the most unique of the night. I really enjoyed this beer, but I was alone in that group. This is not a beer you are going to sit and drink 2 or 3 of. With its thick mouthfeel and sweet smell, this is something you sip over a duration. Others felt it was a dessert beer, and I could see that. The fig taste was subtle, and the tail end of the taste. Unique and full of character.

Keeping the day rolling, we opened a Lagunitas Lucky 13 and a Cappuccino Stout.

California craft beer

Selection of Lagunita’s beer

The Lucky 13 had a strong piney smell as Joel described “Beat over the head with the pine.” This was true. I enjoyed the pine at first, but after a few sips, the pine overpowered everything else and took over the beer. The Cappuccino Stout was a nice, well rounded stout. It had a distinct chocolate smell and a wonderful coffee taste. Another great coffee beer.

Later in the week, I discovered a Stone RuinTen in my stock. That was a nice surprise, for a mid-week beer.

That wraps up a (late) California post. Next week, Minnesota.

1 The Oxford Companion to Beer

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