beer, History

Washington : Say WA!

While digging around the web to find something to put in this weeks post, I came upon the story of Bert Grant. Grant is credited with starting the first post-prohibition brewpub in the United States, back in 1982. Born in Scotland, Grant spent his formative years in Canada where he stared working in a brewery at the age of 16. Arriving in Yakima in 1967, Grant helped design and build a pelletizing operation for hops, before he finally opened his own brewery 15 years later. This pelletizing process was important for this region, and the craft beer industry.

Prior to the development of hops pellets, brewers had to rely on bales of whole hops. These bales were large and susceptible to spoilage. With the advent of the pellet, brewers could more easily store the hops, and had their brewing opportunities opened with the introduction of mixed hops pellets.

Washington presents as a craft beer state. From its Yakima valley, which comprising 75% of the total hops acreage in the U.S. and is one of the most productive hops production regions in the world, to its ranking of 8th nationally for breweries per capita. However when it came to locating beer from Washington, it was much harder than I expected. Because of that, we only had two different styles of beer to try  for this week.

washington craft beer

Two craft beers from Washington

 

The first beer of the evening was an Imperial IPA from Pyramid brewing called Outburst. Imperial, now a vague term meant to imply a stronger than normal beer, was originally intended for beer brewed for the crown heads of Europe. This beer, with its dark, golden honey color emitted a very sweet smell that carried over into its taste. In fact, it was one of the more sweeter IPAs we had this year.

The next, and final beer we cracked up was a barley wine. Known as the strongest of beers, barley wines are often 10% ABV and higher, and the one we had, Pike Old Bawdy, fell right on the mark with an ABV of 10%. With its Dark Red color, this beer was imposing. But the smell was even sweeter than the Outburst. With its thick mouth feel and sweet flavors, this beer was not something you would sit down and drink a glass of. It was a beer that would better complement a nice dessert.

With only two samples, we were presented with a really sweet introduction to the craft beer of Washington state. Given its strong history and importance to the brewing industry, getting the chance to try some beer from Washington was a fun experience.

Thanks for reading. Next post is Idaho.

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beer, History

Montana : Big Sky Country

November 1889 was a big month for the growing United States, with the addition of 4 states in just 10 days. We already covered two of those states, North Dakota and South Dakota. This week, we will cover Montana. Known for its mountain ranges, and famous parks, Montana is ranked 48th in population density,  with only Wyoming and Alaska having fewer residents. But that low density ranking isn’t reflected in the brewers currently operating in the state. In fact, Montana came in 3rd on 2012 for capita per brewery, with a total of 36 breweries operating in the state at that time.

The history of Montana brewing is long, going all the way back to the Gilbert Brewery in 1863 (a full 26 years before statehood) which still stands today. Gilbert Brewery produced beer for 57 years, until the onset of Prohibition forced the company to switch to brewing sodas and non-alcoholic beverages. Like many of the other breweries of its time, this product transition did not bode well, and by the time prohibition was repealed, the brewery was no longer savable.

In fact none of the early breweries successfully made it out the other side of Prohibition, as can been seen in the chart here. Of all the currently operating breweries, Bayern Brewing is the oldest. Opened in Missoula in 1987, Bayern is “Proud to be the only German Brewery in the Rocky Mountains.”

Montana Craft Beer

Big Sky Brewery

We were not fortunate enough to get our hands on any beer from Bayern,  but we did get beer from another Missoula craft brewer — Big Sky Brewing. Inspired by what Bayern was doing in Missoula, Big Sky felt there was room in Missoula for another brewer, and since their speciality was English ales, they knew there was no conflict with their neighbor.

The first beer from Montana that we opened was an IPA called Big Sky I.P.A. This IPA, with its caramel color and sweet smell didn’t resemble a typical IPA, so we were not sure what to expect. The taste was surprising. The sweetness, that was apparent in the up front smell mixed perfect with the bitterness of the hops to help mellow out all of the flavors and make this an easy beer to drink. Overall, this was listed as a good IPA that we would all go back and have another.

After the Big Sky, we opened a brown ale called Moose Drool. Since early in the project we have developed a curiosity towards brown ales, so weird name and all, we were looking forward to trying this one out. In the glass, this beer had the smell of smoky, which quickly turned off a few of the tasters. However 2 others stuck with it, and the interesting characteristics of these elusive brown ales started to shine through. The malty taste, with the slight smoky after tones all made this a beer that was enjoyed by half of the party.

The final beer of the evening, Brush Tail,  was Big Sky’s take on a traditional farmhouse saison. In retrospect, this probably should have been the first beer opened for the evening, but, well, the order got messed up, and this is how it ended up. This beer, with its high level of carbonation, had a distinct fruity smell and a light colored head that made it look enjoyable. This beer was light and crisp, and the carbonation lent to a clean mouthfeel. Overall a great beer, enjoyed by all.

In the end, Montana did us right. We enjoyed all three brews, and would love to someday venture westward to take in some of these brews in their natural habitat.

Next up. Washington.

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beer, History

South Dakota : Great Faces. Great Places

Did you know that North Dakota and South Dakota became states on the same day? Me either. It was the only time in U.S. history that two news states joined the Union on the same day: November 2, 1889. Both of these states came from the Dakota Territory which formed in 1861.

While the brewing industry was sparse in North Dakota, its souther sister state had a much different story. The first records of breweries operating in South Dakota appear 12 years prior to statehood, in the town of Deadwood. Quickly growing to a population of 5000 people, after the discovery of gold, Deadwood also attracted entrepreneurs looking to capitalize on the needs of the prospectors.  With 23 saloons operating during the 1870s, there were multiple breweries satisfying their needs, such as Lead City, Black Hills and Central City to name just a few.

While South Dakota had a bustling pre-statehood brewing industry, one of the first laws passed in the new state was prohibition. This early attempt at prohibition lasted for 7 years, but it did little to stop the production and consumption of beer throughout the Black Hills. Because of this lack of enforcement, when the National Prohibition rolled around, the brewers expected the same level of enforcement. This was not the case however, and upon learning that they were about to get shutdown and had to dump their stock, one brewer took a proactive stance:

The manager, Schlichting, quickly alerted the area that drinks were “on the house.”  After giving away case after case of bottled beer, and allowing patrons to drink all they could, numerous kegs of beer still remained. So, they dumped the beer into Deadwood Creek. To this day, folks tell of the time the creek flowed with a foamy head. (source)

 

To commemorate the 40th state of the Union, we were able to try two different brews from Crow Peak Brewing in the city of Spearfish.

South Dakota Craft Beer

Crow Peak Brewing Co. Canyon Cream Ale and 11th Hour IPA

The first beer of the evening was a Canyon Cream Ale. This beer, which was very light in color, is listed on the brewers site as a light bodied ale, malty dominated with a slight sweet flavor. While I didn’t get the sweetness, which comes from local honey, I did enjoy the light and creamy taste of this beer. There wasn’t any one flavor that over powered this beer, making it something enjoyable and fun to drink. In fact, I just grabbed another one to keep me company as I write this post.

The second and final beer of the evening was also from Crow Peak. This beer was an IPA called the 11th Hour. This beer was quite hoppy, with a slight bitterness that remained for a bit after each sip. This beer too was well received for the evening.

In the end, we had a great time with these selections from South Dakota. And it was great learning a few things about the state along the way.

Short post this week, thanks for reading.

Next state is Montana.

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beer, History

North Dakota : Legendary

As we approach the end of the year (and the end of this project), the official statehood date for each of the remaining states drifts further away from the founding days of our country. As a result, the beer industry history for these states becomes sparse, with a more modern focus. As Prohibition approached, it became harder for each new state to make a mark in brewing history.

For the states that had a well established pre-Probition brewing industry, the ability to restart at the end of prohibition was an easier task. However, for those states that did not have an established brewing industry, there were few influences  to help reverse the laws after the passing of the 21st amendment. For these states, the effects of Prohibition often lived on much longer than the law itself.

This week, we are celebrating the beer of North Dakota, a state that joined the Union in 1889. To put that into perspective, Adolphus Bush began brewing a light Bohemian lager called Budweiser 13 years earlier.

For North Dakota, the most noted early brewery in the state was the Dakota Malting and Brewing Company which operated from 1961 through 1965. At that point, the brewing industry in the country was transforming into a few large brewers.

When the Dakota Malting and Brewing Company closed up shop in 1965, no other brewer operated in the state until 2011. Issues such as distribution fees, production maximums, and residents (lack of) taste for craft beer were all major factors in this beer drought.  However a few intrepid home brewers decided end this era and share their hobby with the public.

One of those home brewers was Mike Frohlich, the co-owner of Laughing Sun Brewery which we were very lucky to have the opportunity to experience some beer from this week. Also joining us this week were some other folks also on a quest for the 50 state experience.

North Dakota Craft Beer

Laughing Sun does not bottle their beer, so this week you are reprieved from bad photos of beer bottles.

The first beer we cracked into was called Sinister Pear. Earlier in the year, we had a Prickly Pear beer from Shiner, but a prickly pear is a cactus, not a tree fruit, so this would be the first pear beer of the project. And the first pear beer anyone of us ever tried. In the glass, this beer was light golden and cloudy. The flavor was nicely balanced, with a slight hint of fruitiness from the pear. I was expecting a more powerful fruit taste, and was pleasantly surprised with subtleness of fruit in this beer. While it wasn’t a beer that you would sit around a fire and drink a six pack of (meaning it did not pass Dawne’s  Solo cup test), it was an interesting beer that was full of character.

Moving on from the Pear, we opened a Pale Ale called the 109. This beer was a golden honey color in the glass, a bit darker than I expected for a Pale Ale. It was also hoppier than a typical Pale Ale, which wasn’t a problem, but it was different. I would describe this beer as a typical ale that has a slight bitter finish. I really enjoyed it, would have drank more if I had it.

Very strawberry forward and wheat at the end

Next we tried a Strawberry Wheat. In the glass, this beer was really pale, and it had a distinct strawberry nose. This beer had mixed reactions around the table. Everyone enjoyed it, but there were comments that it reminded some folks (including me) of a childhood cereal. In the end, we deduced it might have been from the combination of the strawberry flavor mixed with the wheat. Two common cereal ingredients.

After the Strawberry Wheat, we opened up a Sultan’s Revenge. This beer, with its nice caramel color, was loaded with a piney hops smell. It was a very enjoyable beer that while super hoppy left no bitter after-taste. It was an all around favorite among the group.

And, we finished off the evening with a Porter called Black Shox Porter. This beer was all about the malt. It was the first thing you could smell in the glass, and it was right in front for the flavor. Presenting itself as a flavor mix of chocolate and coffee, this beer was mild but full of character and enjoyable flavors. There was no after-taste at all with this beer, making it rather pleasant to drink. More please.

North Dakota Craft Beer

Laughing Sun Brewery

In the end, we really enjoyed the beer from North Dakota, and are pulling for the craft beer industry in the state. Thanks for Eliane and Lee for joining us this week, we really enjoyed your company, and hope we furthered your quest for 50 states by a few more beers. Thanks to all the readers for tagging along again this week, and special thanks to the folks at Laughing Sun Brewery for making an enjoyable beer. We really enjoyed them.

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beer, History

Colorado : Enter a Higher State

As the California gold rush died down, and the prospectors headed back east with their heads hanging low, rumors persisted of untold wealth of gold in the Rocky Mountains. A few of the traveling parties stopped on their way through, panning areas around the South Platte River, and Cherry Creek, but little was found.

However, persistence paid off for one man, William Greeneberry Russell. William had gold in his blood. When he was just a boy at 10 years of age, his father packed up the family and moved them from South Carolina to Georgia for the Georgia Gold Rush. Growing up in a mining town, William often heard the stories of wealth of gold on the west coast and eventually formed a team to try and capture some of that wealth.

Part of William’s team was a group of Cherokee, and while his success in California did not lead to untold wealth, he did become close to the Cherokee tribe which led him to the Territory of Colorado, chasing another story of wealth in the hills.

Making their way to what is now Confluence Park, Denver, Russell’s team panned for almost a month without success. Most of the team gave up, but William and his brothers persisted, and just a few weeks later, they discovered gold. As news of the discovery got out, the Pikes Peak Gold rush started, and soon an estimated 100000 people, in search of their fortune were working the rivers and streams of this soon-to-be state.

But not everyone came to find their fortunes in gold. In November 1859, two German born immigrants,  Fred Z. Salomon and Charles Tascher, saw an opportunity, and with that vision the first brewery in Colorado, the Rocky Mountain Brewery, was born. While the partnership of Salomon and Tascher  quickly fizzled, the Rocky Mountain Brewery endured until 1898, making it the longest running brewery in Gilpin County.

A combination of dwindling gold and the onset of prohibition put a damper on the brewing industry in Colorado for some time, but it wouldn’t stay down for long. After prohibition, the big brewers, including one in Colorado, gobbled up the smaller brewers across the country, where they all started to produce a bland, boring product. Feed up with the industry, a few intrepid individuals started experimenting with brewing on their own, looking to bring back the variety and flavor to beer. One of those individuals was Charlie Papazian. After honing his brewing skills while in college, Charlie started to teach the craft to others in Boulder and from this, the American Homebrewers Association was born.

The combination this association and the passing of homebrewing legislation by President Carter, quickly opened opportunities, and in 1979, the Boulder Beer Company  introduced commercially brewed craft beer to the state of Colorado.

Colorado Craft Beer

A Fine Selection from Left Hand Brewing

While the options for craft beer from Colorado are great, this week, for no particular reason, we stuck with a selection from Left Hand Brewing, and we enjoyed it.

 I don’t have nasty things to say about this state
Colorado Craft Beer

Polestar Pilsner from Left Hand Brewing

We started the evening out with a Pilsner called Polestar. This beer, light in both color and body, was very drinkable. This wasn’t a beer you were going to run to for crazy flavors, but if you wanted to enjoy 1, 2 or more, this is your beer.

It does not demand that I sift through the cabinets to find something to make it palatable

After the Pils, we opened a bottle of Oktoberfest. This beer was not like the Octoberfest brews I am used to having. This beer had the expected nice, red hue but the smell was different. This one was sweet, and there wasn’t much of a flavor. It was there, but not bold and strong like others. It was a good beer, but it really messed with our expectations of an Octoberfest.

Our next beer was a Milk Stout. This aroma of this beer was chocolate and malt, and it had a real smokey flavor. I really enjoyed this beer. It was, like the Octoberfest, different than what I expected from Milk Stout. In the end, 2 out of the 4 people liked this beer.

Colorado Craft Beer

Left Hand Brewing Milk Stout

Our final beer of the evening was another Milk Stout. This one was the exact same brew as the previous beer, but this one used Nitrogen and is called Milk Stout Nitro. I found this beer very drinkable. It reminded of a Guinness in its smoothness, but this one had more flavor.

Shocking Difference

Even though this was the same beer as the previous one, that  taste was completely different. Along with the smoother mouthfeel, from the nitrogen, this one didn’t give off as much as a smoke flavor. Overall it was a great beer.

This week, Left Hand did not disappoint. We really enjoyed our Colorado experience. Next week, we venture northward to the state of North Dakota.

Thanks for reading.

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beer, History

Nebraska : Possibilities … Endless

Nebraska as a state was admitted to the Union  in 1867, almost three years after Nevada. Created as a territory at the same time as Kansas, Nebraska saw most of its settlers arrive as part of the Homestead act. By the time the thousands of new settlers arrived, Nebraska already had a few breweries up and running, ready for their business.

When you search on Nebraska Beer History, you will quickly encounter the term “Big 4”. This refers to four breweries: KrugStorzWillow Springs and Metz,  that were the start of brewing in Nebraska. Each of these breweries formed around the same time in the late 1850s, and were the biggest brewery operations in the state until Prohibition took hold and, as we expect, destroyed their businesses. Of the Big 4, Willow Springs was mostly a distillery, however they were able to hobble through prohibition by brewing near beer and soda. Storz also relied on the near beer, soda and ice during the prohibition era.

Finding information on the styles of beer brewed at these breweries has been hard going, but I would expect that in the early years, they brewed either ales or steam beer. I wouldn’t expect the plains region to be a good area for lagering.

Since there is little information online about Nebraska brewing, I will end the history with a quote I found on the Wikipedia page for Krug:

You wouldn’t believe there was such difference in beers until you use one Krug’s popular brands. They are uniform perfectly brewed and well-aged absolutely pure and leave no bad after effects. The kind of beer that acts as a tonic and a system builder. Order a trial case and begin to enjoy. – Text from a 1910 advertisement by Fred Krug Brewing Company.

Oh, and check out this great sign, also from the Krug Brewery. Everyone could use some liquid sunshine.

This week, we experienced Nebraska through two great brews from Nebraska Brewing Company. Located in Papillion, on the southern side of Omaha, the Nebraska Brewing Company is a brewpub that also makes one fine bottle of beer.

All of the beer available in New England from Nebraska Brewing comes from their Reserve Series. Barrel aged, and bottle conditioned, these beers took some time to brew.

nebraska craft beer

Nebraska Brewing Apricot Au Poivre Saison

We started the night off with an Apricot and pepper Saison called Apricot Au Poivre Saison. Aged for 6 months in Chardonnay barrels, this beer was delightful. I am not typically a fan of fruit beers, but this one was different. When poured, this beer had a distinct fruity, apricot smell. The mouthfeel was very sparkly and tingly, with a light body and wonderful taste. It reminded me of a champagne. This was definitely the best apricot beer I ever had. The other tasters agreed.

Nebraska Craft Beer

Nebraska Brewing Melange A Trois

After the experience of the Apricot, we decided we needed another brew from this brewery, so a quick trip to our local beer shop and we had a bottle of Melange A Trios. The beer had the smell of grapes, clearly something it picked up during the aging process. In the glass, the beer was light in color but the mouthfeel was completely different, with a more thick body which gave this beer a surprising twist.

Both of these brews from Nebraska were not cheap, but considering the time it took to make them, it should not be surprising. If you have not tried anything from this brewery, I recommend you check them out, they are more than worth the price.

That covers our 37th state. Next week, we dip southwest into the state of Colorado.

Thanks for reading.

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beer, History

Nevada : Wide Open

On October 31, 1864, eight days before Abraham Lincoln was re-elected for a second term, Nevada became the 36th state, and this week we will be celebrating the 36th state with some beer from Tenaya Creek Brewery.

Nevada Craft Beer

Nevada Craft Beer — Tenaya Creek

The first known brewery in Nevada, the Carson City Brewing Company was established in 1860. Originally brewing steam beer, the brewery switched to brewing lager in 1913. But that wouldn’t last long, as the state of Nevada started prohibition in 1919, killing most of the breweries in the state. But Carson City Brewing was able to stay afloat during the prohibition years brewing near beer. At the end of Prohibition, Carson City Brewing was back up and running, and they would continue brewing their famous lager Tahoe Beer until 1948 when the brewery finally succumbed to the competition of the much larger national brewers that were taking over the industry.

Another brewery, the Reno Brewing Company would hold off the National brands for another nine years, producing its last batch of beer 1957. It would take 30 years for another brewery to open in Nevada, with the Union Brewery, opening in 1987 paving the way for a new era of beer and brewing in the state.

To experience what is going on in Nevada, we got our hands on two bottles of beer from Tenaya Creek Brewery. The first bottle came from The Beer Babe, the other was from an old high school friend who now lives in Arizona.

Nevada Craft Beer

Tenaya Creek Imperial Stout

The first beer we opened from Tenaya Creek was an Imperial Stout. This stout, originally brewed in London for export to the Russia and Baltic countries was the beer provided to the imperial court of Catherine the Great, where it gained its Imperial moniker.

Our stout, a limited special release, was bottled on 12/12/12. Aged! This bottle was protected with a thick wax seal that took some effort to get opened, but the end result was well worth it. With its chocolate smell, and taste, mixed with some great malty flavors, this was a great beer. There was a hint of bitterness on the tail end, a product of the large amount of hops typically used in this style of beer. Joel rated it as a top 10 for the year on his list, and I totally agree.

After the Imperial Stout, we opened the Old Jackalope, a limited release barley wine. In the glass, this beer had a very sweet smell. The taste was sweet too, maybe a little too sweet. Of course, anything following that Imperial Stout was in for trouble.

In the end, we really enjoyed Tenaya Creek, and if I ever get to Vegas, I will be sure to pick up a few more selections from this brewery.

Thanks again to Beer Babe and Matt for getting us some beer from Nevada. We appreciated it.

Thanks for reading. Next week we will be drinking some beer from Nebraska.

Since we opened with a link to Abraham Lincoln, we will end with a quote from him.

 I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts, and beer.
— Abraham Lincoln

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