beer

I’m not afraid of the dark!

This weekend I picked up my second beer in the Throwback Brewery Unafraid of the Dark IV program. Every January, Throwback releases a new, unique dark beer every two weeks. Each of these brews are made with one or more local ingredient. This program has two subscription levels, a full growler, or a half-growler (growlette) of each new brew.

I am in the growlette program, so every two weeks, I get my hands on a liter of great beer. The first beer in the series was a stout called Tangled up in Blueberry. This stout was brewed with 60 pounds of New Hampshire grown blueberries, and it was good.

Tangled up in Blueberries StoutUnlike a typical fruit beer, where the fruit flavor is strong and prominent, here the blueberries were a subtle addition, complementing the chocolate flavors in the stout. Or, as the brewer said “resulting in undertones of chocolate covered berries.”

The next beer in the program is a milk stout called The Invisible Yam. This beer is brewed with 50 pounds of cooked sweet potatoes and includes allspice, vanilla and nutmeg. Surprisingly, there was no sweet potato taste in the beer. I was expecting a sweet tasting beer, something like a sweet potato pie. Instead, it was a wonderful, roasted malty flavor, with a hint of spiciness on the finish. All of the ingredients in the brew were of perfect proportion, allowing each to complement the flavor without taking over the beer.

So far both of these stouts have been excellent, and worthy of checking out. Each time I went to pickup my “share”, the brewery had the brew available for general purchase in their tasting room. If you are in the area, I highly recommend you get to the brewery in try the latest batch. However with the quality of these beers, I do not imagine they last long.

 

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beer, product review

The Bottle Opener

In 1892, an Baltimore inventor named William Painter introduced two patents that greatly transformed the beer industry, starting with the invention of the crown cork.

The crown cork, or cap, is something we all known well. Given the name crown because of its jagged crown-like rim, this cap provided a cheap and effective method for creating an air-tight seal on the bottle. And, unlike previous bottle closures (typically cork stoppers), the crown cap promoted more effective storage, was easily removed and most importantly, disposable. All of these benefits added up to an invention that quickly took the world by storm.

In 1892, William Painter filed a patent for the crown cap.

When Painter filed his patent application, he foreshadowed his followup invention:

 It will be obvious that while some special form of opener may be required for detaching caps with the greatest possible convenience any thin-edged tool or a knife may be readily applied to the projecting edge for detaching a cap…

And a year later his next patent was filed for the “Capped-Bottle Opener”.

In mechanical terms, a bottle opener is one of the six classical simple machines known as a lever.  A lever is just a rigid structure that relies on a force and a fulcrum to perform a task. In this case, the task is opening a cold beer. Because of its simplicity, few people ever give thought to the bottle opener, or the success of this invention.

The initial patent for the capped-bottle opener

It didn’t take long for the bottle opener to become ubiquitous, and serve multiple purposes. Because of its simple design the bottle opener, one of the most utilitarian items in the beverage world, was, and still is, a cheap and effective method for displaying a logo to market a product. This simple invention in-turn lead to collectors, and books on and about the collection of these openers. These days, a quick Internet search will turn up many antique and novelty bottle openers.

For me, I have some breweriana, mostly stickers and a few bottles, like Zombie Dust. However I never gave much thought about my bottle openers. The ones I have usually came in a package of other kitchen utensils, or were promotional give aways at various events. When I did have to purchase an opener, I would often look for the cheapest one, after all it is just an opener. So when I was asked if I wanted to try out a $28 opener made by a Brooklyn based men’s accessory store called Owen and Fred, I was a bit hesitant. My first thought was about the amount of nice craft beer I could buy for that money, why would I waste it on an opener? Eventually, I decided that I should check it out and see it in action.

A few days after I agreed, a box arrived in the mail containing a 1/2 pound brass bottle opener called the “You Earned It“. My initial concern for this opener was its size. All of my other openers are small and easy to handle. This one, I expected, not so much. Did I mention it is a 1/2 pound of brass? But those concerns quickly went away as soon as I got this thing in my hand. It is impressive, with its polished edges and finely pointed lip for quickly and easily grasping the bottom of the cap to pry it off, it quickly became my go to opener.

The You Earned It Bottle Opener

The You Earned It Bottle Opener

But I really wanted to see how I would like it over time, and to see how others would react to it, so I left it in easy access for the past few weeks and observed. This opener has become the most talked about utensil in my kitchen. Everyone who sees it, grabs it, comments on how cool and impressive it is, and then after using it, they proceed to play with it as long as it is within arms reach. I have often found myself just holding the opener, feeling the smooth cool brass while enjoying a nice beer, something I have never done with any of my other openers.

opener_a

After a few weeks with this thing, I will say it is a keeper. I love having it around, not only is it a conversation piece, it is also an excellent opener. The gap is perfect, allowing for the quick, no slip opening of bottles, unlike some cheap openers I have had in the past. The lip is pointed enough to easily slip under the crown, without being too sharp to cause injury. And the mass, the 1/2 pounds of brass, is just plain fun.

If I have any complaints about the opener it is that it doesn’t have a hole to lock it down, because everyone that holds it, wants it. Before I used the “You Earned It”, I never understood why someone would buy an expensive opener when you could get one for less than a dollar at your local beverage store. But that sentiment has changed, and I recommend that you treat yourself (or someone else) to this impressive product, which you can find here, and tell them we sent you.

Thanks for reading.

 

 

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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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