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Hawaii : The Islands of Aloha

On August 21st, 1959, the United States admitted Hawaii to the Union, growing to its present size of 50 states. And with that, we are wrapping up 50 weeks of drinking beer from each of the 50 states.

This week, we close out the project with two brews, a lager and an ale from a Hawaiian brewery, Kona Brewing Company.  One of the goals of this project was to see what beer from each state was available to me, here in New England. And if it wasn’t available, what steps were required to get my hands on beer from the state.

As has been chronicled here, some states required more work than others, and as we discovered over the course of the year, there are still some prohibition era distribution laws in place that prevent wide spread distribution for many brewers. The store in Georgia that can see the Tennessee border from their front window, but can not bring Tennessee beer across the state line springs to mind.

But these laws are not the only issues limiting access to beer. There is also supply and demand issues. Some breweries are small shops with a fervent local customer base. These breweries do not have to bother with getting wide spread distribution. They can focus on making a fresh product that is often picked up right at the brewery. An other issue is distribution costs. It is not cheap to move a product across the country. And that brings us to this weeks selection.

After much thought, I decided to use Kona as the final brewery in the project. Kona Brewery is located in Kailua-Kona and has been in operation for almost 20 years now and produces a nice line of beer. But what makes Kona different from every other beer consumed this year is that our beer was not actually brewed on the Big Island, or on any other Hawaiian island. If fact it was brewed right here in New England, 20 minutes from my house.

Our Kona beer is contract brewed. A quick search of the web will produce many articles (pro and con) about contract brewing. I would recommend starting here to learn more. Basically, contract brewing allows brewers to find a regional brewery that can produce, package and distribute their product, using the original recipe. For Kona, getting their product across the mainland is a daunting task without a system like contract brewing. By hiring a few regional breweries to make their product, they can reduce their costs while attaining a wider distribution market. My opinion is that this is a good thing.

Hawaii Craft Beer

Longboard Island Lager from Kona Brewing Company

The first beer we hand from Kona was the Longboard Island Lager. This beer had island all over it. From its light color and body, it was a beer that needed to be drank on a sunny beach, not in snowy New England. The first comment on this beer was that it tasted like Pilsner Urquell. Which was interesting, because this beer is a lager and not a pilsner. This brew did not have the big over the top flavors we came to expect over the course of the year. Instead, this was a fun, grab a six pack and hit the beach beer. Everyone enjoyed it.

Hawaii Craft Beer

Big Wave Golden Lager from Kona Brewing Company

The next beer we tried was actually the first beer brewed by Kona back in 1995. This Beer was a golden ale called Big Wave. Unlike the Longboard, this beer had more of a nose,  emitting a nice fruity smell. This beer was also slightly darker in the glass than the longboard. This was my favorite beer of the two, but I would not turn down either beer.

Would the beer have tasted different if it was brewed with Hawaiian water? Maybe. Could there have been something in the Hawaiian air that changed the flavor and characteristics of these beers? Do they lack Terroir? Possibly. These are debates that will rage on, but in the meantime, grab yourself a Kona and enjoy the day. To better locate Kona at your local hangouts, study their tap handles at this cool beer tap handle blog.

Thanks for joining this adventure. It is hard to believe 50 weeks have come and gone. Drinking a beer from each state over the course of 50 weeks was an interesting task, and I learned plenty. Over the course of the next 2-3 weeks, I am going to work on a summary post, so keep your eyes out for that, and have a happy New Year.

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beer, History

Alaska : North to the Future

From Alaska, we were able to get our hands on 3 different brews, all from Anchorage Brewing Company, and each of these brews were unique in their own way.

Alaska Craft Beer

Bitter Monk, Belgian Style IPA from Anchorage Brewing Company

The first beer we had from Alaska was called a Belgian IPA called Bitter Monk. This was the first IPA we had that was brewed with Brettanomyces, and it was amazing. This beer started with a huge citrus smell, like a glass of grapefruit juice, and it tasted amazing. At first I was worried. Between the Brettanomyces, the Belgian-style IPA and its aging in Chardonnay barrels, there were many places for this beer to go wrong, but it never did. Instead, it was an incredibly unique beer that I will not forget anytime soon.

Moving on from the Bitter Monk, we opened another bomber from Anchorage Brewing. This one an Imperial Stout called Darkest Hour. This is another beer that appears to have had the kitchen sink thrown at it.

Alaska Craft Beer

Darkest Hour Imperial Stout from Anchorage Brewing

Triple fermented, aged in two different barrels, first a Pinot Noir barrel, then a Rye whiskey barrel, and finally bottle conditioned with a wine yeast. Again, like the Bitter Monk, this beer had plenty of opportunities to go wrong, and just like the Bitter Monk it never did.

From the bottle to the glass, this beer poured like syrup. It was dark in color and smelled of chocolate and coffee, with hints of rye and pinot noir from the barrels. With its strong chocolate and coffee flavors, this beer is clearly a coffee beer. It was very sweet tasting, with a slight grainy mouthfeel reminiscent of Mexican chocolate. The character of this beer was amazing, and the flavors were complex. The only issue we kept coming back to was the smell. There was something strange with the mixture of all that was going on that interfered with everything else, keeping us from truly loving this brew. Still, it was one of the best beers of the year.

Alaska Craft Beer

Anadromous Black Sour Ale from Anchorage Brewing

The final beer from Anchorage brewing was a Black Sour Ale called Anadromous. Wow, this was yet another amazing beer from Anchorage. I loved the sour taste, and the complex fruit flavors.

This week, we got our hands on three different brews from Anchorage, and they were all special. There is clearly something amazing going on up in Alaska.

One more post, and 50 states have been covered. Next up Hawaii.

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beer, History

Arizona: The Grand Canyon State

Arizona was the 48th state of the United States, attaining statehood in 1912, and just 3 years later, a state-wide prohibition was in effect. As if brewing in the desert wasn’t hard enough. Ed Sipos explains in his book Brewing Arizona, that early Arizona brewers had to overcome many obstacles, such as poor water quality, lack of proper ingredients and temperatures not conducive to brewing. Now add to that, a fast growing temperance movement and it is easy to see that the early Arizona brewers were fighting an up hill battle from the start.

Luckily for us, there were people in Arizona that persisted and fought the good fight to keep brewing alive. While none of those early brewers are around today, there are a few micro-brewers operating in the state today, and we were fortunate to get our hands on some.

Arizona Craft Beer

Grand Canyon Brewery

The first, and arguably only beer we had from Arizona was from Grand Canyon Brewing, located on historic Route 66 in Williams Arizona. Grand Canyon lists 13 different styles of beer in their stable, including a Pale Ale that features the cattle skull that symbolizes Arizona on its tap handle.

The beer we had from Grand Canyon was, you guessed it, an IPA, making it the 45th IPA of this project — Almost 1 IPA per state!

The Black Iron IPA was another sweet IPA. Starting from the initial pour, the sweetness was apparent, and that sweetness carried through in the flavor, giving it a more malty, than hoppy taste. Not my favorite trait in an IPA.

The next beer was a Novelty Beer, and is typically the case with novelty items, quality is

Arizona Craft Beer

Arizona Novelty Beer

always an after thought. This beer is such a novelty, that I can not even find a reference to it online. The novelty is that the labels, which contain photos of 1980s era women with big hair and lots of makeup, have a opaque scratch-off over their breasts. This beer was, hands down the worst beer of this project, and after one sip, quickly found itself unscratched in the recycling bin.

That concludes Arizona. Next up, we head northward to the state of Alaska.

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beer, History

New Mexico : Red or Green

This is the second week in a row that we only had one beer to represent the state. But one is better than none! We are now 47 weeks into the project, and we are drinking beer from the 47th state of the union, New Mexico.

New Mexico Craft Beer

IPA from Marble Brewery

Our beer from New Mexico was an IPA from Marble Brewery. Marble is located in Albuquerque, the largest city in the state of New Mexico. Opened in 2008, Marble provided Albuquerque with a beer garden and on-site tasting room just blocks from the historic Southwestern Brewery. Now defunct, the Southwestern Brewery was once the one of the largest employers of the Albuquerque, and a provider of beer through out the soiuthwest. Southwestern suffered the fate of many other early brewers, with the onset of Prohibition, their business model was decimated. While they survived through the sale of ice during that period, they never retained their status in the beer world. However their original building still stands today as one of the only 19th century commercial buildings in the city.

Marble is keeping the tradition alive in the downtown area, and we were lucky enough to get to try one of their brews. This beer, an IPA,  was really cloudy in the glass and had a distinct citrus fruity smell. It had a mild carbonation that was complimented with a smooth taste that made this a really drinkable beer. This was an enjoyable IPA, however the IPA category is a broad and deep, requiring something special to really stand out. While I recall not disliking this beer, it is hard for me to recall specific characteristics at this point to help it stand out from the many others I have tried over the year.

Thats all for New Mexico, next up is Arizona.

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beer, History

Oklahoma : Native America

This week, we are drinking a beer from Choc Brewing in  Oklahoma. As the 46th state, Oklahoma was entered the union in 1907 as a prohibition state. But even as a prohibition state, there were select restaurants that illegally sold choc beer to their loyal and trusted customers.

Choc beer is shorthand for Choctaw Beer, a home-brew that was prevalent throughout Oklahoma during its prohibition years. Because of its home brew nature, there is no standard recipe for choc beer like there is for other styles of beer. Instead, each individual brewer customized the brew to match their style, with each brewer adding their own ingredients including fruits, rice, barley, oats and sometimes tobacco.

In one account recorded by the Oklahoma Historical Society, an early brewer of choc beer stated: “It won’t hurt nobody cause fruit’s good for ya, but it’ll make you drunker than a fool. Don’t put snuff in it, that would kill a dog! As good as it is, every body should have two or three glasses a day. My family always felt good. (src)”

 

oklahoma craft beer

Brewmasters Signature Dubbel

Our beer this week is not actually a choc beer, but it comes from a brewer named after this historical Oklahoma brew. From Choc Brewing, we had a Belgian-style Dubbel Ale. A Dubbel is a style of brown ale that was first brewed at the Trappist brewery Westmalle in 1926.

A Dubbel brown ale differs from other brown ales in the way it gains its brown color. Most brown ales rely on the roasted malts to provide their color, but a dubbel uses a caramelized sugar syrup called candi sugar. It is this syrup that gives the dubbel its brown color and sweet, raisin taste.

Oklahoma craft beer

Check out the head on that thing!

These traits were front and present in our beer. The sweetness came out in both the smell and taste of the beer. In fact, the beer was probably too sweet. While there were hints of malt in the flavor, it was overpowered from the sweetness of the sugars. This beer also was highly carbonated and had a huge head, which is also a trait of belgian beers.

In the end, this beer was “not undrinkable”, however the high level of sweetness made it hard to drink more than a glass.

Thats all for Oklahoma, next up New Mexico.

 

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beer, History

Utah : This is Still the Right Place

Week 45 of this project, and we are trying some beer from Utah. Admitted to the union in 1896, Utah has a rich history in brewing, with many brewers setting up shop to cater to the burgeoning mining industry. While the onset of Prohibition killed off commercial brewing, just like all the other states, Utah provided the final vote ratifying the 21st Amendment. After a few starts and stops, the Utah brewing industry regained steam again in the mid 1980s, growing into what today is a large and successful craft brewing industry.

This week, there were three different selections from Utah. The first one we opened was a Nut Brown Ale from Red Rock Brewery called Bobcat.  Located in Salt Lake City, Red Rock Brewing opened in 1994 in what was at the time, the red light district of the city. Since then, the area around the brewery has become one of the hottest places in the city, and Red Rock has expanded their selection to over 45 different brews.

Utah Craft Beer

Bobcat Nut Brown Ale

The Bobcat was a very effervescent beer with lots of head that didn’t have any distinct taste. I find that the more effervescent beers loose their flavors to the carbon dioxide. Generally, when seeking out a flavorful beer, I tend to go for a lower carbonated beer. This beer was a fine beer, and better than many of the beer sampled over the course of this year, but it didn’t have any hooks to pull me into its world, leaving it slipping into the sea of other ok beers encountered during the project.

The next Utah beer we opened was an IPA. Over the course of the year, we encountered many different styles of IPAs. From the extremely hoppy almost undrinkable, to the more caramel and malty tasting breed, where the hops was just a subtle side note. This beer, a Double IPA called Hop Rising, from Squatters Brewery, fell into the latter category. Being a double, I was expecting a big hop flavor. Instead, this beer was sweet and loaded with caramel. Always surprising in an IPA.

Utah Craft Beer

Hop Rising Double IPA

The final beer of the evening was an Imperial Stout from Epic Brewing. Epic has three series of beers: The Classic series, a basic series of brews designed to introduce people to craft beer. An Elevated series that is their showcase series, demonstrating the talents of the brewer. And finally, the Exponential series, a special line of beer designed for the ever-curious. Our Imperial Stout was part of the Exponential series, and was definitely the standout of the evening. Full of chocolate flavors, this beer was rich in taste.

Utah Craft Beer

Imperial Stout from Epic Brewing

While in the glass, it was very flat looking, the sweet but complex smell quickly pulled you in, letting you know that this beer was going to be fun. In the end, this was my favorite beer of the night.

In the end, our little sampling of beer from Utah was pretty impressive, and gave us a nice peak into what is going on in Utah, and it tastes good.

Next post Oklahoma.

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beer, History

Wyoming: Like No Place on Earth

Seven days after Idaho gained statehood in 1890, the United States increased by one again, with the admission of Wyoming. Not much information exists on the web about the early breweries in Wyoming. The first brewery in the state, Sweetwater Brewery, opened in 1872, years before statehood and changed hands multiple times before the start of Prohibition.

While the history of beer and brewing in the state is sparse, it appears the modern industry is doing just fine, and when it came to beer from Wyoming, we got our hands on two different selections from Snake River Brewing and two from Wind River.

Wyoming Craft Beer

Wind River Brewing Pale Ale

The first Wyoming beer we opened was a Pale Ale from Wind River Brewing. This Pale Ale was very fruity smelling and had a stronger bitter after-taste that I would have typically expected for its style. It was an enjoyable beer, and it went down well.

After the Pale Ale, we cracked open an IPA from Snake River Brewing called Pako’s.

Wyoming Craft Beer

Panko IPA from Snake River Brewing

This IPA had a grapefruit citrus smell, that made it a really enjoyable beer on a nice afternoon. The flavor wasn’t anything distinct, and the after-taste was slightly bitter, but nothing out of the ordinary for an IPA.

wyoming craft beer

Snake River Zonker

After the IPA, we opened our final Wyoming beer of the evening, a Stout from Snake River called Zonker. This was a typical stout. There was nothing extra special about it. Enjoyable, and something I would drink again.

Overall, I was surprised with the quality of beer from Wyoming. From what I have been reading, there are many new breweries popping up in Wyoming, and it sounds like a fun place to go and check out the growing beer seen.

Next post, Utah.

 

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