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.

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.

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.

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

beer, History

West Virginia : Wild and Wonderful

In June of 1863, the United States added the state of West Virginia to its ranks, growing to 35 states since Delaware became the first state in 1787. West Virginia was part of the state of Virginia up until April 1861, when West Virginia became the only state in the Union to secede from a Confederate state. The capital of West Virginia is the city of Charleston, however this was not always the case. The first state capital was the city of Wheeling, a city that held the title of state capital twice in the span of 22 years.

Wheeling has a rich brewing history. During the late 1800’s, the city was home to over 20 breweries, with the oldest and largest, Reymann, starting prior to statehood, when the region was still part of Virginia. However as we have seen, week after week with these posts, the brewing industry in West Virginia feel to its demise with the passing of Yost’s Law in 1914.

Yost’s Law was named after Lenna Lowe Yost. As the president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Yost “proposed the 1913 enforcement act of the state’s 1912 prohibition amendment.” With the passing of Yost’s law, all of West Virginia’s breweries were either shutdown, or transformed to produce other goods, leaving a brewing void in Wheeling until the 1990s.

While the prohibition of the manufacturing and sale of liquor was repealed in 1934, the wording in the state Constitution is strange at best, ending with:

…any law authorizing the sale of [intoxicating] liquors shall forbid and penalize the consumption and the sale thereof for consumption in a saloon or other public place.

As a result, while beer was allowed to be sold in privately owned retail stores, a creative workaround was required to allowed the sale of beer in bars and restaurants.  This workaround came about in 1937 when the definition of standard beer was changed to non-intoxicating beer. No longer considered an intoxicating liquor, beer sales in public places was again permitted. To this day, all beer sold in West Virginia is sold as non-intoxicating beer, with one minor change. In 2009, the definition of non-intoxicating beer was changed from having a cap on ABV of 6% to a new cap of 12% ABV, allowing many more craft beers into the state, including the one we have for this week.

Breweries are now back up and running in the state. And with the ABV raised from 6% to 12%, they have the potential to produce some interesting and creative brews. However, West Virginia does not export any beer out of the state (that I could find), so we had to look into alternative means for getting our beer this week. Last January, as I was setting the staging for this project, I called a few breweries in West Virginia as I was cruising along Interstate 81 in Virginia. I figured if I had any chance of getting beer it would be while I was skirting the border. It was through these conversations that I learned about the limited distribution in the state, and that most of the beer wasn’t even bottled, but was draft only. But I did not give up.

When I got back to New England, and was explaining this issue to a friend, he quickly mentioned that he had a client that split his time between West Virginia and our little New England town. He said that this client would be more than willing to help out with this crazy adventure. After a few email exchanges with James, things were not looking good.

I am not having much luck finding bottles or cans of beer from any  West Virginia Craft Brewery. I am finding that most offer their beer in Kegs only. The one Brewery that I found that offers bottles, Mountaineer Brewing Co, closed its doors last Wednesday and is for sale.   — email on February 14, 2013

I continued to call around and email breweries in West Virginia, maintaining hope. In April, I got a reply from Bridge Brew Works.

Try the grape and grain in Martinsburg WV – they may be temporarily out.

Lucky for me, James not only lived near Martinsburg, but happened to be heading to that town that afternoon. A few minutes later, I got another email from James:  

I called Grapes & Grains, they do have a limited amount of Bridge Brew Works Beer on hand.

The quest was over. Towards the end of April, James was in New England with a few bombers from Bridge Brew Works. There is more to the story about Grapes & Grains, and the visit by James, but we will leave that for our Idaho post.

So this week, we have an Belgian-Style Tripel from Bridge Brew Works located in Fayetteville, West Virginia. Fayetteville is home to an impressive steel arch bridge, the New River Gorge Bridge which is also prominently featured on the Bridge Brew Works bottle.

West Virginia Craft Beer

Bridge Brew Works Ale

According to the Oxford Companion to Beer, a Tripel should show dense and mousse-like foam, bright burnished golden color, and complex spicy, floral, orange, banana, and citrus notes. This beer was a slight bit darker, and had a sweet smell and taste to it. I was clearly in the minority for this beer, as all of the others around the table didn’t really enjoy it, with some claiming it had a strange after taste. A quick search of previous posts shows that the Tripel style (New Jersey and Pennsylvania) was never really a hit.

The conversation quickly turned to the Labor Day events, and the ushering in of fall. But we all agreed:

No Octoberfest beer until the middle of September!

Thanks again to Peter for getting me in touch with James, and to James for helping keep the project continuing without missing a week. And with that beer from West Virginia, we are now at 35 consecutive weeks. Come back next week for a taste of some beer from Nevada.

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.




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.

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.

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

beer, History

Wisconsin: Live like you mean it

There was in the United States, in the beer age, no more delightful a city than Milwaukee in which to spend a day, a year or a life.1

By the time Wisconsin gained statehood in 1848, it was already well on its way to becoming a major brewing center. Eight years prior to statehood, the Lake Brewery in Milwaukee began brewing traditional English ales and porters. While these styles were well loved among the English, their sweet taste and murky color were not what the German’s called beer. Within a year, the Germans would get their beer, when a German immigrant named Reuthlisberger founded the lager beer industry in Milwaukee, setting the course of the city for years to come.

The Germans brought with them their love of relaxation, beer and talk.1

Around 1844, the first big wave of German immigrants started migrating to the United States, with many of them settling in region that would become Wisconsin. One of the newly transplanted was Jacob Best. Prior to coming across the Atlantic, Jacob ran a small brewery in Germany, so when he arrived in Wisconsin, he picked up right where he left off by founding the Empire Brewery which later became the Pabst Brewing Company. Quickly, other beer barons with names like Schlitz and Blatz also set up shop brewing lager, making the city Milwaukee synonymous with the word beer.

Pour beer out upon a locality and it won’t be long till the ground is dotted with gardens. They will grow and bloom so long as the beer continues to nourish them.1

Along with the their love of lager, the German immigrants also brought another facet of home with them, the beer garden, a gathering place for all.  One of the most famous beer gardens not only in Milwaukee, but in the entire United States at one point in time, was the Schlitz Palm Garden. Opened in 1896, The Schlitz Garden, built when “The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous” was sweeping the land, quickly became a major tourist attraction for the city, including a visit from Woodrow Wilson on his first presidential nomination campaign.

Beer and wine make for conversation. There is in liquors of mild alcoholic persuasion that which quickens the flow of the thoughts in a man’s cranium, loosens a notch the belt about his reticence and releases upon his tongue the fruits of his meditations1

While the German’s were busying putting their own mark on Milwaukee with the introduction of lager beer and beer gardens, there was a steadily growing temperance movement sweeping across the U.S., and within Wisconsin, that would bring about another, much resisted, change to the city.

Wisconsin to the average American unacquainted with actual conditions therein, is commonly regarded as a Gibraltar of the wets — sort of a Utopia where everybody drinks their fill and John Barlycorn still holds forth in splendor2

Prohibition in the United States lasted from 1920 to 1933 with some areas embracing it more than others. Wisconsin was not one of the more embracing states. In 1931, just two years shy of the 21st Amendment, The Treasury Department conducted a survey of Prohibition enforcement in the state of Wisconsin and found that a majority of the state was doing little to uphold the federal law. In most instances, the enforcement of Prohibition was just theater as indicated by this paragraph in the report: The writer attended police court in Superior and observed the daily collection therein from proprietors of such establishments. The line formed on the right. The violator stepped up to the judge, was asked whether he pleaded guilty or not guilty to the sale of intoxicating liquor in his particular soft-drink establishment. Before the judge had finished with the above question, the proprietor in each case would reach into his pocket, extract therefrom a roll of bills, plead guilty, and place $200 on the desk. This is the standard penalty for liquor transgressions in the city of Superior.2

However, even with flagrant disregard of the law in many parts of the state, Prohibition still made its mark. Just one year into Prohibition, the Schlitz Garden closed, ending a 25 year run of the most successful beer garden in the United States.

Once prohibition ended, the major players bounced back and regained their foothold,  quickly regaining their leading positions of producers of beer in the country. While Wisconsin was once the home to many major national breweries, things appear to be different these days, as we were only able to get our hands on one craft brewery here in Massachusetts for this weeks tasting: Lakefront Brewery.

From Lakefront Brewery, we tried 5 different styles.

Wisconsin Craft Beer

Wisconsin Craft Beer

We opened the Fixed Gear, an American Red Ale, to start the evening.

Brewed in Milwaukee for people who like beer

This beer had a deep red color when poured in the glass. The taste was caramel, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Nothing off putting at all. This beer won two awards, The Regional Champion at the Winter U.S. Beer Tasting Championship and the Silver Medal at the Los Angels International Commercial Beer Competition, and I am not surprised. This was a nice, solid beer and I would drink it again.

Wisconsin Craft Beer

Lakefront Brewery Wisonsinite

After the Fixed Gear, we opened the Wisconsinite, a summer Weiss. The concept of this beer, brewed with 100 percent Wisconsin grown ingredients intrigued me. This is an idea I have always been curious about, can a beer have a sense of place? Do the locally grown ingredients give the beer a regional taste that can not be reproduced when using the same ingredients in a different area. In wine and coffee, this is referred to as terroir, and the debate still carries on about terroir in beer.

In the glass, this beer was a light golden color. The aroma had a slight banana characteristic, which is expected in a hefeweizen. The aroma stems from the yeast used to brew the beer which produces the same esters found in bananas.

When drank, this beer didn’t really have anything that made it standout. No flavors jumped out at me, and I was left wanting of a description. This beer reminded me of a session beer, and with its 4.4 ABV, it meets the criteria. While not a bad beer, it was just not loaded with the flavors that we have often encountered over the past year, but as a session beer, I could handle a few of these.

Our next beer was the Cream City Pale Ale. Milwaukee is nicknamed the Cream City for the cream colored bricks used as a common building material in the area. The color of this beer was golden honey (not cream!), and the beer had a slightly bitter aftertaste. Other than that, there were no other descriptives I could come up with for this beer.

Finishing up the Cream City, we moved to the IPA and followed that with the IBA.

Wisconsin Craft Beer

Lakefront IPA

The IPA, while not emitting much of a smell, had that nice, enjoyable bitter taste expected in an IPA. I felt the carbonation of this beer overpowered the ability to get any aroma from it, otherwise, this was a typical, good IPA.

The IBA (Black IPA) was a nice, roasted dark color and wasn’t as bitter as the IPA. With its roasted tastes and bitter hops, this was my favorite beer of the night.

In the end, I enjoyed the Fixed Gear and the IBA the best. The others were fine, but they seemed lacking in character and didn’t have the uniqueness that some of the beers we have encountered on this journey have exhibited. Overall, another successful week was had putting us at 136 beers from 30 states in 30 weeks.

Next week, California. Thanks for reading.