beer, History

Iowa : Fields of Opportunities

Iowa became the 29th state in 1846, and less than a year later, a temperance movement was starting to gain traction in the state. Over the course of the next 70 years, various levels of prohibition existed in the state, until 1916 when a statewide prohibition took effect, two years prior to the national prohibition.

While Iowa battled on and off with a ban on alcohol, a few intrepid (and a few corrupt) individuals paved a path to brewing in the state. In 1859, John Kohl, along with two partners built the Minnie Creek Brewery in Anamosa city, with a statewide prohibition having ended just two years prior. The building still stands today and is listed in the National Historic Register as one of the few remaining example of early Iowan industry.

Like the rest of the country, Iowa has come around on its stand towards prohibition. After leading the way to Prohibition, the residents of the state voted for the repeal of the 18th Amendment in 1933. Today, craft beer is a part of the Iowan culture, with a craft beer tent now part of the Iowa State Fair.

This week, in the middle of our second heatwave in 3 weeks, we were able to get a slight break in a nice air conditioned space while we sampled 4 different brews from Iowa. One from Peace Tree Brewing, 1 from Backpocket Brewing, and 2 from Millstream Brewing.

Iowa Craft Beer

Iowa Craft Beer

We started the night off with the flagship brew from Millstream Brewery,  a Schild Brau Amber. This beer is a Lager “brewed in the style of a Vienna Lager“, a style that originated in Austria, but is more prominently made in North America with Sam Adams Boston Lager and Dos Equis leading the pack.

In the glass, the Schild Brau Amber was a nice golden honey / copper color, typical for this style of beer. Initially, the aroma was lacking, however after it warmed up a bit, I was getting hints of some interesting spices that reminded me of celery seeds. The taste of this beer was interesting and had more character than some of the leaders of this style. While it had a slightly sweet taste, it wasn’t too much and it didn’t linger, making this a sort of refreshing beer.

Iowa Craft Beer

Backpocket Brewery Slingshot

Moving on from the lager, we next opened the Slingshot Dunkel from Backpocket Brewing.

In 1516, the German Purity Law, or Reinheitsgebot originated, restricting the ingredients of beer to: water, barley and hops (in the 1800s, yeast was included). The Slingshot Dunkel, a dark German lager, adheres to the Reinheitsgebot.

Dunkel means dark in German, and in the glass, this beer lives up to its name. This beer had a minimal noise, with no distinguishing characteristics, and the taste was slightly smokey. Generating comments like, “this would be good with food” and “needs a Brat on the grill”, this beer was enjoyable, but felt more like a fall beer, not something to drink on a hot day. 

This beer won for the best label of the day. With its matte finish and simple color scheme, this label was one of the best we have seen recently and we were interested in seeing what else this brewery had.

From the Slingshot, we went back to another beer from Millstream Brewery, this time a

Iowa Craft Beer

Millstream Brewery Back Road Stout

stout. The Back Road Stout is brewed with 5% oatmeal in the milled grain, or grist, and that oatmeal stands out in the mouthfeel of this beer giving it a thick, roasted taste. The color of this beer was typical dark stout and it had a nice sweet and smokey aroma. Over this course of this project, I have enjoyed many nice stouts, and this one is up there with the enjoyable ones.

The final beer of the night was from Peace Tree Brewing. Named after a 500 year old Sycamore tree, near the town of Red Rock, Peace Tree has a line of 4 regular brews and we had their Hop Wrangler. The Hop Wrangler is a multinational take on an IPA. This beer had a real heady pour, and was dark for an IPA. In the glass, it had a real fruity smell, with hints of lemons, oranges and tangerines. On the tongue, this beer was all carbonation. Too much carbonation for my taste. The finish was quite bitter. Starting off with an interesting aroma full of multiple citrus flavors, this beer was a let down with its over carbonation and bitter aftertaste.

Overall, we enjoyed our little voyage into Iowa without have to leave New England. From our little sampling, it is clear there is some interesting brewing occurring in the state and I look forward to experiencing more. Come back next week for Wisconsin.

Iowa Craft Beer

Peace Tree Hop Wrangler

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beer, History

Texas : It’s Like a Whole Other Country

He likes beer
He likes Texas
He likes Texas beer

Redneck Mother
Ray Wylie Hubbard

In 1837, the Republic of Texas made its first attempt at statehood, and after several failed attempts, it finally succeeded in 1845, making Texas the 28th state of the United States.

Sixty four years later, a group of German and Czech businessmen hired brewmaster Herman Weiss, and with that, the Spoetzl Brewery, home to Shiner beer, Texas’ oldest brewery was born.

Shiner is a Texas legend. There are coffee table books about it, movie placements, and even mentions in Breaking Bad. But the reference that seems to occur most often is in lyrics, where it holds yet another legendary status. In 2012, Georgia country artist Jason Aldean signed a promotional deal with Coors which resulted in his changing of a song lyric from grab a little Shiner Bock to grab a couple Rocky Tops.

2 6 packs of Shiner
99 cent butane lighter
Lucky Strikes and a fifth of Patrón
Ice down that Igloo cooler
Tank of gas that oughta do her
I can feel a good one coming on

Good One Comin’ On
Blackberry Smoke

Texas musicians have always liked to sing about their beer. In fact, the Spotzel brewery sponsored its own band, the Shiner Hobo Band, with the band getting paid 1 keg per performance. In 1947, Bob Willis and his Texas Playboys first recorded the song Bubbles in My Beer which was performed by many Texas musicians, including George Jones and Willie Nelson.

On his Live In Aught-Three album, Texas musician James McMurtry starts No More Buffalo with “…I used to think I was an artist. Come to find out I’m a beer salesman.”  Understanding that the link between musician’s and beer is strong, Shiner has been a long supporter of the Texas music scene and still sponsors a music festival (albeit it is in Colorado, not in Texas.)

Today, we skipped the Patrón and went with our 1 six pack of Shiner, the family pack, and to show off some other beer from the state, we also grabbed some Buried Hatchet Stout from Southern Star Brewing Company.

My first experiences with Shiner were on the Riverwalk in San Antonio. On two different trips there, I had a nice portion of Shiner Bock. Finding Texas beer in New England is hit or miss. More on the miss side for me, so during the planning stages, I brought back a six pack of Shiner Family Reunion from Alabama.

Texas craft beer

Shiner Family Reunion

This six pack contained one each of: Bock, Black Lager, Kosmos, Blonde, Hefewiezen, and Brewers Pride selection. We started the tasting with the Brewers Pride selection. Part of a limited series batch, this selection was a special brew with a locally sourced ingredient: Prickly Pear. Moving on from that, we tried the Black Lager. Next in the tasting series came the Blonde, followed by the Kosmos and finally the Hefewiezen. Since I have had the Bock before, I donated my only bottle towards some future good will for the blog.

Texas Craft Beer

Shinerr Prickly Pear

The Prickly Pear beer was different. I was expecting something similar to a fruit beer, or maybe a lambic, but this was neither of those. Cactus Fruit is said to taste like a watermelon, or maybe a kiwi, however I got none of that. The smell was sweet, but the taste was neither sweet nor sour, and it definitely wasn’t the taste of beer. Other tasters described it as a non-sweet fruit juice, and the lower carbonation sure gave off that look. This was not my favorite of the weekend, but two other tasters wanted more.

The Black Lager, and frankly the Blonde, Kosmos were pretty status quo. They were all fine beers, but they lacked character. The Black Lager, my favorite of the three was fine, but it wasn’t a standout. It had a slight malty taste, but it wasn’t at the levels I would have preferred. Others stated that maybe this was a fall beer and would taste better when the air was crisp, and a fire was going. The Blonde was more champagne like, with its higher carbonation. Unlike the Black Lager, this beer was described as a refreshing beer in the heat, but nothing [flavor-wise] jumps out. The Kosmos was probably the least liked of the bunch. It has a slight sour smell and taste that didn’t mix well with the caramel-ness of the malt.

Texas Craft Beer

Texas Beer Selection

The final Shiner of the weekend was the Hefewiezen. Again, this beer wasn’t anything I would be clamoring for anytime soon. A good beer, but maybe after all of these weeks of interesting, sometimes experimental, brews, I have come to cherish the unique and distinct characteristics that have become prevalent in American craft beer. An interesting experiment might have been to compare this Hefewiezen. with something a bit more mass market, like a Harpoon UFO.

Texas Craft Beer

Southern Star Brewing Buried Hatchet Stout

After all of the Shiner was opened, we cracked open a can of Buried Hatchet Stout. This beer was different. It had that distinct smell of roasted malt, grains and coffee, a characteristic that has been popping up over the weeks on this project. The taste was sweet and coffee-like, and it had a thick mouthfeel. Not maple syrup thick, but it wasn’t a light beer. While well liked, this beer was described as Tastes better than it smells. and Not sure I could drink a whole can of this.

That concludes Texas. And while we enjoyed the tasting, we were not enamored with the beer from Shiner. Except for two tasters that will take more of that Prickly Pear if you have it.

Thanks for reading. Next week Iowa.

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beer, History

Florida : Sunshine State

What better way to celebrate our country’s birthday than with some U.S. brewed beer?

This week, on the 4th of July, we are covering the 27th United State state, Florida. Gaining statehood in 1845, Florida was the first part of the continental United States to be settled by Europeans when the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon first landed in 1513. For most of its 330 years of European occupation prior to statehood, Florida was controlled by Spain. There is no historical record of these early Spanish settlers brewing beer in their newly claimed territory, so Florida would have to wait for another Spanish immigrant, Vicente Martinez Ybor, to build that first brewery in 1896.

Ybor, who left Spain for Cuba in 1832, founded a very successful cigar company which he eventually moved to the Tampa area in 1885. In Tampa, Ybor built a cigar factory that was the largest in the world at the time. To keep his employees from moving back to Cuba, Ybor also built a community around the factory that included housing, a hotel and the Florida Brewing Company.

Opened in 1896, the Florida Brewing Company, at 6 stories tall, was, and still is, the tallest building in Ybor City. The height of the building was essential for the gravity-fed brewing process where the raw grain material entered on the top floor, with the resulting finished product stored in tanks on the bottom floor. Brewing both La Tropical Ale and Bock, the Florida Brewing Company was very successful and soon became the leading exporter of beer to Cuba.

However, as we have witnessed in other states, with the national prohibition on the horizon, challenges would soon arrive. Florida enacted prohibition in 1918, two years prior to the national prohibition. Prohibition was detrimental to most of the smaller breweries, with the larger ones scraping by. In Jacksonville, Jax Brewery, which opened just 5 years prior, switched their business to ice and near beer which helped them survive. Florida Brewing Company had  a different strategy, as stated here: “Florida Brewing Company took a different approach: ignoring the law. In fact, the brewery kept making beer up until 1927 when they were finally raided and shut down.”

The period after prohibition was the same for Florida brewers as it was across the country. Many brewers started, operated for a few years and closed. This pattern continued until the 1960’s when two big national brewers moved into the Florida scene. With the arrival of Anhueser Busch (and their marketing theme park) and Schlitz, it became increasing harder for the smaller breweries to compete.

To make things worse for small brewers was the passing of a strange bottle-size law by an angry group of law makers. In the mid 1960s, Miller changed their mind about building a brewery in Florida, instead choosing Georgia. This change angered state lawmakers, and with the backing of Anhueser Busch, they passed a law restricting beer bottle sizes to 8, 12, 16 and 32 ounces. This law was a direct assault at Miller and their 7oz “pony” bottles. However this law also prevented 22 oz bottles, the common bomber size used by craft brewers as well as the well loved 64 oz growlers.

With the bottle-size law changed in 2001, opportunities for craft beer are opening in Florida. However, even with these constraints, a few intrepid breweries, starting with Dunedin Brewery have helped to turn around the Florida beer scene.

This week, thanks to Walt (remember Walt from our Arkansas tasting), we have beer from two of these Florida craft brewers: Tampa Bay Brewing Company and Cigar City Brewing.

The Florida tasting was held on Independence Day, without which, 50 states of beer would not exist. And on this beautiful afternoon, we settled into three different selections, two from Cigar City and one from Tampa Bay Brewing.

Florida Craft Beer

Cigar City Maduro Brown Ale

We started the evening off with a brown ale from Cigar City called Maduro. As Walt tells it: Cigar City is much newer [than Tampa Bay Brewery]. Owner Joey Redner is trying to get out from under his infamous father’s reputation as Tampa’s best-know strip club owner. Joe Redner Sr. has battled city hall for years over his nude dance clubs.

From our view up here in the Northeast, Joey Redner is succeeding in changing the family reputation starting with two gold metal winning brews. The Maduro Brown was a fun beer. With its dark color and malty aromas, one taster described its sweet taste as Roasted peanuts. This beer started up a conversation over the caramel smell and taste that was a distinctive characteristic of this brew. At one point, I mentioned to first time 50 states participant, Erin, that she was allowed to dump any beer she did like. No requirement to finish. On the Maduro, she responded with a hearty: It’s not dump-able.

The Cigar City Maduro had a taste of roasted peanuts.

After the Maduro, we switched over to an IPA from the Tampa Bay Brewing Company called Old Elephant Foot. Tampa Bay Brewing has been in business longer than Cigar City, and again from Walt:

Tampa Bay Brewing Company’s Old Elephant Foot is a local favorites. TBBC has been around for years and until recently you could only get the beer on tap at the restaurant. They make a great stout and a lighter beer (One Night Stand).  Vicki, the owner, is from Wales and did stunt work on the British series “The Prisoner” made back in the 1960s (when she was a teen barmaid at a Wales pub).  My son was an assistant chef at TBBC a few years back. They serve a great beer soaked meatloaf.

Florida Craft Beer

Tampa Bay Brewing, Old Elephant Foot IPA

Surprisingly, with it combination of Northern Brewer, Centennial and Cascade hops, this beer didn’t have the hops aroma we have come to expect from an IPA. It was also a bit lacking in the flavor department too. While it was a very enjoyable beer, it didn’t stand up to some of the more interesting IPAs we have encountered on this journey. While I didn’t mind this IPA, and will grab one the next time I am at the Tampa airport, one of the non-IPA drinking tasters described the Old Elephants Foot as “tasted like that [an old elephants foot].” 

We finished off this 4th of July tasting with another beer from Cigar City. This beer, another IPA, is called Jai Alai. The name Jai Alai, a game from the Basque region of Spain, brought up a discussion of the intro sequence to Miami Vice, where there is a quick clip of the game being played. Then the conversation moved to Mad Men, and the attempted Jai Alai television special plot line. Once everyone was up to speed on Jai Alai in popular culture, we moved to tasting the beer. This IPA was all about the aroma, with its nice piney, grassy, citrus smell. The taste was similar for this beer, and it had an enjoyable sweet finish. This was another enjoyable IPA, but not the best of the year. Given the amount of IPAs getting produced these days, and the number we have tried, it is quickly becoming a category that requires something special to stand out for our tasting party. Then, before we wrapped up for the evening, this beer started yet another conversation about the can and its resemblance to a 1970s soda can. With all the reminiscing done, we declared Florida a success.

Florida Craft Beer

Cigar City Jai Alai

In the end, I enjoyed all three brews from Florida, but the Maduro was definitely my favorite of the evening. Again, thanks to Walt for providing this week’s beer and brewery backstories.

Next week we will be deep in the heart of Texas.

 

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beer, History

Michigan : Say Yes to Michigan

While settlers have been living in Michigan for many years, starting with the French in the wary 1600’s, it would be many years before Michigan became an state. When Michigan did enter the union as the 26th state, the United States was already over 60 years old. Even with this long settler history, the first records of brewing in the state show that it was the British settlers of the 1800’s, with their introduction of ale. This timeframe coinesides with the completion of the Erie Canal, a newly constructed water route connecting the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean. The introduction of this canal made it easier for immigrants to settle in the western territories like Michigan.

Not far behind the British were the German immigrants, and with them came lager beer. As was the case with many other states in the 1840-50s, lager was quickly become the beer of choice. In fact, lager became so dominant in Michigan that in the years between 1862 and 1882 the number of ale brewers in the city of Detroit dropped from 28 to 4.

One of the newly dominant lager brewers in Michigan was a guy named Bernhard Stroh. Having learned the art from his father back in Germany, Bernhard setup his own brewery in Detroit in 1850 and quickly started brewing pilsner, a pale lager style. When Bernhard first started his operation, he relied on a door-to-door sales approach, hawking his goods from a wheelbarrow.

There were no wheelbarrows involved with my acquisition of beer for this weeks tasting, but that would have been fun. Instead, I relied on some of the dwindling stock from the start of this project that included two different styles from Bell’s Brewery, and some beer from Founders, which has recently started to appear in the state and is now readily available.

So, with a nice break in the rain, and a gathering of friends in the backyard, we set about sampling, and then drinking a variety of beer from Michigan.

 

Michigan craft beer

Bell’s and Founders, Two of the many craft brewers in Michigan

When I setup tastings, I prefer to leave the IPAs until the end. With their hop kick, it usually makes it harder to get anything out of the following samples. However, more often than not lately, we have been encountering situations where it is unclear which beer to start with. With this project, the beer is not grouped by style, or year, like other tastings. Instead the beer is geographically grouped, and that often results in some strange combinations. And this week is a perfect example. We had two stouts: Expedition Stout and Breakfast Stout, and we had IPAs: Two Hearted Ale, All Day IPA and Centennial IPA.

So, sticking with the IPAs last, we kicked off with the stouts. Maybe not the best decision of the night, be we had to start somewhere.

The first stout of the night was the Expedition Stout from Bell Brewery.

Michigan Craft Beer

Expedition Stout from Bell’s Brewery

Known as the oldest craft brewer east of Colorado, Bells has been honing their craft for more than 25 years now. Starting with a 15-gallon stock pot operation in 1985, Bells has grown to a 200-barrel brewhouse today. One of the beers that comes from that brewhouse is a Russian Imperial Stout called Expedition Stout. In the glass, this beer was dark. It looked like 40 weight motor oil, and it had a really nice, sweet aroma. The mouthfeel was all malt, and it was enjoyable, placing this beer in the upper echelon for the year. After all the others were sampled, this was the first beer everyone went back for seconds.

Following the Expedition Stout, we moved to a Breakfast Stout from Founder’s Brewery. While as dark and malty as the Expedition, this beer was not as thick, and felt lacking in character. I think if I had this beer stand-alone, it would have been just fine, and even well liked. But when compared with the Expedition, it didn’t.

Michigan Craft Beer

Bell’s Brewery, Two Hearted Ale

Now here is why I think the ordering was wrong. The third beer was Two-Hearted Ale from Bells. The first time I had this beer, I was floored. It was flavorful, and very enjoyable. I wished I had easier access to it, because it was unlike anything I have had before. Now maybe after trying a few different beers on this project I have come to discover more beer like the Two-Hearted ale and it lost some of its magic, but I would like to think it was the ordering of the samples. As I have come to expect from this beer, the aroma was a rich bouquet of various hops. The color, was typical of its style, with a slightly cloudy appearance in the glass. On the tongue, the taste was very mild. This is most likely due to the two previous stouts. In the end, I will always enjoy this beer, and it does hold a special place for anyone that has tried it. Just a mention of Bell’s, and the first response is usually Two-Hearted Ale.

After the Two-Hearted Ale, we had two more selections from Founders, and we started with the All Day IPA. This beer started with “Smells like someone just mowed the lawn” and ended with “All day IPA, I don’t think so.” With its truly distinct aroma, I was expecting to really like this beer, but the finish was off. Very bitter, and not in the good way. Overall, this was not a favorite of the night.

We capped the tasting off with a Centennial IPA from Founders. I enjoyed this beer more than the All Day (Disclaimer: That one grew on me too over the evening,) as I enjoy the piney aroma from the Centennial hops. It also had a nicer finish, not as bitter. I think this was my favorite Founders of the evening.

Michigan Craft Beer

Founders Brewery, All Day IPA and Centennial IPA

At the end of the sampling, everyone went to the cooler to grab a bottle of their favorite of the evening, and we all settled in to enjoy some conversation and a beautiful evening.

Thanks for all the participants this week. It was fun.

Next week. Florida.

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beer, History

Arkansas: The Natural State

Who would have thought an Arkansas beer would be better than a British beer

On June 15, 1836 Arkansas became the 25th state of the United States.

Prohibition was an issue in Arkansas well before statehood. In 1832, a grand jury attempted to invoke a law prohibiting the production and sale of alcohol. However, that ordinance could not be enforced, and it would take a more organized effort from the temperance movement to get the state legislature to pass the first alcohol ban in the early 1850s. Luckily for breweries, these early attempts at prohibition were geared towards whiskey and other ‘hard’ liquors,” leaving beer consumption untouched until the national Prohibition.

While the temperance movement was busy lobbying the state legislature, the first known brewery in Arkansas was started by a German immigrant named Joseph Knoble. Settling in Fort Smith Arkansas somewhere between 1848 and 1851, Joseph Knoble constructed a three-story brewery that still stands today and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Knoble Brewery operated until Joseph died in 1881. With the end of the Knoble Brewery, Arkansas would have to wait until after Prohibition to see another brewery operating in the state.

After a few failed attempts in the 1950s and again in the 1990s, it would take the turn of a new century to see a true revival of the beer scene in Arkansas. Now, 80 years after the repealing of the 21st Amendment, Arkansas has nine operating breweries, with more on the way. And this week, we had the opportunity to sample a beer from Core Brewing in Springdale thanks to the great folks at the Arkansas Beer Blog.

A few years before Joseph Knoble set up shop in Arkansas, John Fuller, Henry Smith, and John Turner started the Fuller Smith & Turner Brewery just outside of London, UK. Still in operation today, Fuller’s has a well established, easily accessible line of beer, including a beer introduced in 1971, the original ESB. With its profusion of rich malt, orangey fruit, and peppery hops, the Fuller’s ESB is an award winning beer. However, it wasn’t winning any awards this week, as we used it to compare against an excellent ESB brewed far from London.

Arkansas Craft Beer

Core Brewing ESB with Fuller’s ESB

For this weeks tasting, we had a welcome guest, Walt, who happened to be visiting one of our chief samplers. It was Walt, visiting New England from Sunny Florida, that provided that excellent quote at the beginning of this post.

Knowing that we only had one beer to sample this week, and having access to the original of the style, I decided it would be interesting to try them side-by-side to see how they stack up. So, on a beautiful, sunny New England day, we gathered around the table in the backyard to try some beer.

Arkansas Craft Beer

Core Brewery ESB

From the glass, the Core was a dark gold color with a thick head and had a nice fruity aroma. At the first sip, the aroma transformed into a pleasant nutty and caramel taste, finishing with a nice bitter dry mouthfeel. What a wonderful beer.

After polishing off the Core, we opened a bottle of Fuller’s ESB to try the original. Right from the start, it was obvious these two beers were not the same. The Fuller’s was lighter in color and  much sweeter, lacking that bitter finish that stood out with the Core. Overall, this beer was considered too sweet and  “kind of wimpy.”

To be fair, the American version of an ESB has derived from that original, evolving into its own distinct incarnation, however at the end of the day, put that Fuller’s back on the shelf and treat yourself to a Core.

Again, thanks to Jonas at the Arkansas Beer Blog (check out their site), for hooking us up with a great beer for this weeks tasting. Well done Arkansas!

Thanks for reading. Next week Michigan.

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beer, History

Missouri : Close to Home. Far from ordinary.

Johnny Hymer was a miner always on the job,
Johnny loved his lager like a sailor loves his grog.
One day his foreman told him that this country would go dry,
John threw his tools upon the ground,
You should have heard him cry.
No Beer, No Work. 1919

In 1803, Thomas Jefferson made the largest land grab in United States history when he completed the Louisiana Purchase. Part of that acquisition was a block of land that is now the state of Missouri. Known as the Gateway to the West, Missouri, was the starting point for western exploration, including the Louis and Clark Expedition. Eighteen years after the Louisiana Purchase, Missouri would become the 24th state, and this week’s featured state.

In the early 1930s, a St. Louis lawyer named Luther Ely Smith, wanting to commemorate St. Louis’ role in westward expansion, pitched an idea for a memorial. Over the course of the next 30 years, The Gateway Arch would come to fruition, and in the process become the largest man-made monument in the United States. Located on the west bank of the Mississippi River, which played a critical role in western expansion, The Gateway Arch also has a physical connection to American brewing history.

In 1838, a German immigrant, Johann Adam Lemp came to St. Louis and opened a grocery store. In addition to groceries, Lemp, a master brewer back in Germany, sold his own brewed beer and vinegar. It wasn’t long before beer became his primary product, and in 1840, the Lemp Brewery was established. Starting out brewing ales, the brewery soon took advantage of the natural caves around St. Louis perfect for lagering, and became the first commercial lager brewer in the country.

St. Louis is also know for another national brewer, Anheuser-Busch. Started about a decade after Lemp, Anheuser-Busch quickly grew through multiple acquisitions and various price fixing schemes. And it wouldn’t take long for this fast growing brewery to eclipse Lemp Brewery. However Lemp and Anheuser-Busch remained the most prominent brewers in the state for a few decades, producing a majority of the 61 million gallons of beer brewed in St. Louis in 1892.

The Lemp Brewing Company would not survive prohibition, and by the 1960s, Anheuser-Busch would become one of the few operating breweries in the United States. But the Lemp brewing legacy will always live on in Missouri, as part of the land acquired for building the Arch was also the site of the original Lemp brewery.

While Anheuser-Busch would continue to dominate the St. Louis beer scene throughout the 60s and 70s, during the 1980s American would start to see a new growth in the beer industry. One of those new companies looking to reintroduce flavorful beer to the country is Boulevard Brewing Company. Founded in 1989, Boulevard has grown from its original business plan of 6000 barrels a year to a current 600,000 barrels a year. This week, we will be sampling a very small portion of those 600k barrels in the form of 5 different and interesting styles.

Missouri Craft Beer - Boulvard Brewing

Missouri Craft Beer – Boulvard Brewing

Boulevard is not the only brewery operating in Missouri today, but they are the only brewery I have easy access to here in New England. Their Tank 7 and The Sixth Glass are common sights on the shelves of many local beer stores, so we grabbed a bottle of each, and found a few others, and set out for a celebration of Missouri.

We started the evening off with Tank 7, a Saison, or Farmhouse Ale. In the glass, this beer was slightly cloudy, with a nice pale straw color. It just called out as light and refreshing, with its Amarillo hops exuding a nice, citrus aroma. The taste of this beer, slightly bitter with a dry finish, was well loved by everyone at the tasting party. While not the best Saison I have ever had, it sure is up their in the rankings, making this a beer I would come back to again.

After the Tank 7, we switched to a beer named The Sixth Glass, named after a Hans Christian Anderson Story.

The sixth glass! In that sits Satan himself—a well-dressed, conversable, lively, fascinating little man—who never contradicts you, allows that you are always in the right—in fact, seems quite to adopt all your opinions.
                                        Olê, the Watchman of the Tower

Missouri Craft Beer

Boulevard, The Sixth Glass

In the glass, The Sixth Glass looked beautiful, with its frothy head, and nice, caramel color. The aroma of this beer was sweet and fruity, with a slight burnt smell. While this beer presented well across the group, the taste was not enjoyed as much. Two of the four people participating, opted out of finishing this beer. One taster even went so far as calling it flabby.

From The Sixth Glass, we moved into the IPAs, the first being Boulevard’s Single Wide. Containing six varieties of hops, this beer has a lot going on. Each taster got a different aroma profile from this beer. Some picking up the citrus aromas of the Cascade hops, while others quickly detected the piney aromas of the Simcoe hops. In the glass, this beer has a nice, pale gold color with a bubbly, carbonated body. The aftertaste of this beer was clearly hops, which was expected given the number of varieties used in this brew. Overall, this beer was well liked.

The next beer of the evening was another IPA, this one called Double Wide. A Double IPA, we expected the hops in this beer to come off much stronger than the Single Wide. However we were wrong in that assumption. This beer, also brewed with 5 different varieties of hops, was darker than the Single Wide. And that darker color came through in the flavor as well, dampening the hops, and letting the malty caramel flavors come forward. In an IPA, I prefer hops, from start to finish. So with this beer, it was unexpected to have the more caramel malt taste dominate the palate. In that respect, I didn’t enjoy this beer as much as the Single Wide.

Missouri Craft Beer

Boulevard Coffee Ale

The final beer of the night was a Coffee Ale. A limited release beer, this brew joins the ranks of the coffee beers that have been one of the pleasant surprises of this project. We have been surprised at the number of beer / coffee collaborations we have encountered this year, with each one presenting a unique character. The Coffee Ale was no different. As with all of the coffee beers we have sampled this year, this beer has a nice spicy, coffee aroma. Everyone loved this beer. It tastes just like coffee! and it quickly generated ideas for recipes. This would make a great Red-eye gravy! In the end, this was another well loved beer, rounding out another great tasting week.

Thanks Boulevard, and Missouri for keeping the craft beer tradition alive.

Next week, Arkansas.

 

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beer, History

Maine : The Way Life Should Be

100 bottles of beer on the wall….

When I started this project my focus was on trying beer from each of the 50 states, on a weekly basis. I didn’t have any other goals in mind. When it came to beer selection, I decided it would be nice to have more than one brewery representing the state, but it wasn’t necessary. I wanted the blogs focus to be about the state and their brewing scene, and not a specific brewery. As a result, I never considered how many different brands and styles of beer would become part of this project. But as often happens in life, while we are focused on one goal, we encounter (and sometimes overlook) other significant milestones along the way.

100 bottles of beer…

With this post, Maine is the featured state, and I am now 23 states into the project. Almost halfway done, and so far I have managed to acquire beer from each state, and get up a blog post about it in a timely fashion. But with this week, Maine brings with it a milestone that I never considered. This week, we sampled our 100th beer of the project. So, as we take a moment to celebrate this milestone, I would like to thank everyone that has been part of the project so far, and with that…

Take one down, pass it around….

On March 15, 1820, Maine, officially seceded from Massachusetts to become the 23rd state of the United States.

The largest city in Maine is the costal city of Portland, and in 1851, Portland had a mayor named Neal S. Dow. Mayor Dow was a prohibitionist that is famous for securing the passage of prohibition in the state of Maine, making it the first dry state in the United States. Known as The Maine Law, this prohibition of the sale of all alcoholic beverages quickly spread to twelve other states and became the start of the temperance movement that over the course of the next 70 years would grow into the 18th Amendment.

Luckily for us, Maine has changed its view towards brewing and today there are a number of great breweries operating in the state, and this week, we will sample beer from four of them.

Maine Craft Beer

Maine Beer Company, Mean Old Tom

The first beer of the night was Stout from the Maine Beer Company called Mean Old Tom. This beer received a big like from everyone around the table. The taste was slight burnt and nutty. Burnt, but in the way that char tastes good. The mouthfeel was smooth, and refreshing. The label for this beer says it is a “Stout aged on natural vanilla beans,” and for me that is often a flag, but for this beer, the vanilla wasn’t overpowering. It was subtle and complemented the malt perfectly making this a beer worth checking out.

When I was purchasing beer for this week, I was also on the hunt for a big Stout to complete a trade for an upcoming state. I was recommended a beer from Gritty McDuff’s that was specially brewed as part of Gritty’s 25th “beerthday”. A limited run, Special Oatmeal Stout that is higher in ABV, with rich, complex, full flavors, would fit that bill well, and they only had one bottle left. That was too good to pass up, and frankly, potentially too good to trade as well.

So instead of going out for trading, this beer became the 100th beer of this project.

Maine Craft Beer

Gritty McDuff’s SOS Special Oatmeal Stout

After opening the gold foil wrap and pouring this beer, we were greeted with a sweet, almost banana like smell. I was quickly reminded of BB Bats taffy chew lollipops that were a staple of birthday parties and halloween candy when I was growing up. With a mouth feel thicker than the previous stout, and slightly more bitter, the taste, was completely different from the smell. Overall, this beer was ok, but it wasn’t as good as the previous Stout.

For the next beer, we switched gears and went to a Hefeweizen from Rising Tide Brewery called Spinnaker. I chose this beer because of its unique yeast characteristics. Last fall, I was at a local craft beer tasting and Rising Tide was there. Off all their great brews, the Spinnaker stood out to me because the yeast used produced a distinct banana smell. I had no idea before I made my purchases that the previous Stout would also have a banana smell. Like the previous beer, luckily, the smell and the taste differ, however one of the tasters did not like this beer at all. Having issues with the outré end of the taste. With some discussion, it was agreed that this would be a great summer beer enjoyed with some grilled Plantains and maybe a hammock.

Maine Craft Beer

Gritty McDuff’s Stouts

Moving on from the Spinnaker, we came back to another Stout from Gritty McDuff’s called the Black Fly Stout. This Stout did not have as burnt of a taste as the previous Gritty’s Stout and was more carbonated. But when it came to smell, this beer was the most unique of the day. Right from the start, I recognized a unique smell for this beer, and it took some time to place it. It took a minute or two, but then it hit. This beer had the distinct smell of dried cow manure. Normally a smell that doesn’t bother me, but in a beer, it isn’t a characteristic I would seek out.

The final beer of the night came in a can. From Baxter Brewing, Maine’s first brewery all can brewery, we went with the always good Stowaway I.P.A. With its sweet citrus smells, this beer is distinctive and enjoyable. With just enough hops to quench the thirst, I always enjoy this beer, and it was a great way to wrap up the state of Maine.

Maine Craft Beer

Baxter Brewing, Stowaway IPA

Next week, Missouri.

 

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beer, History

Alabama: Share The Wonder

Formed into 1817 and already surrounded by states on all of its borders, the Alabama Territory lasted just two years before becoming the 22nd state on December 14, 1819. However it would take 65 years for Alabama to see its first brewery.

In 1883, Philip Schillinger, a German immigrant, moved his family from Kentucky to Birmingham Alabama with the intent of establishing a brewery in this fast growing city. Philip already had experience as a brewer. While living in Kentucky, he and two partners created the largest brewery in Kentucky at the time, and it didn’t take long for him to repeat his success in the Magic City.

In 1884, Philip created the Birmingham Brewery and introduced fresh brewed lager to the state of Alabama, and demand of the product quickly followed. The Birmingham Brewery continued to grow until 1893, when a economic downturn combined with a coal miner strike caused the company to slip into bankruptcy. Coming out of bankruptcy as the Alabama Brewing Company, production increased until 1907 when Jefferson County, home of Birmingham voted to become a dry county, starting the battle against brewing in the state of Alabama that is still affecting the industry today.

Much like Mississippi, Alabama introduced Prohibition prior to the federal amendment, and continued to enforce the law well beyond the repeal of 18th Amendment, with some counties still dry today. The state did eventually loosen its grip on alcohol control, but it didn’t fully let go. So in 2004, the organization Free the Hops was formed to try to change the laws that restricted the making and purchasing of craft beer in Alabama.

The first challenge Free the Hops took on was increasing the legal limit for alcohol content in beer. Like many other southern states, Alabama had a law that prevented beer from having an ABV greater than 6%. And as we mentioned before, that prevents many styles of craft beer from ever entering the state. Free the Hops won, and in 2009, the Gourmet Beer Bill was passed, allowing beer up to 13.9% ABV. A huge success for the group.

After that success, they didn’t stop. There was still work to do. Alabama still had many restrictions, such as limiting bottle sizes to 16oz (changed to 25.4 oz in 2012), preventing home brewing (made legal in 2013). And many more that prevented the successful running of a craft brewery or brewpub in the state.

As the laws slowly change, brewers are also making their way back into the state after a long hiatus. And this week, we have a few selections from the state to try.

Alabama Craft Beer

Back Forty Beer Company, Kudzu Porter

The first beer we tried was Kudzu Porter from the Back Forty Beer Company. Located in Gadsden Alabama, Back Forty brewed its first production batch of beer in January 2012, and with that first batch came Kudzu Porter.

We held the Alabama tasting on Memorial Day, which was a beautiful day here in New England. While sitting in the backyard, enjoying the sun, I found the Kudzu to be a nice light porter. Nothing overwhelming in flavor department, but refreshing. Perfect for enjoying on a summer day. I continued to go back to this beer a few more times during the week, and it grew on me more each time I had it. The slogan on the bottle says Careful, It will grow on you! which is a play on the characteristics of the plant Kudzu. An invasive plant introduced to the U.S. in the late 1800s, this plant now dominates the sides of roads throughout the south, enveloping the rest of the landscape. For this beer, the slogan fits, as it did grown on me.

Another beer we tried from Back Forty was their Freckle Belly IPA. This beer also rolled off the production line in January 2012, and while very young in the beer world, this was an enjoyable IPA. Right from the opening of the bottle, we could smell the hops in this beer. It wasn’t the best IPA we have had on this project, but it was an enjoyable beer, with all but one of the tasters enjoying it.

Alabama Craft Beer

Back Forty Freckle Belly and Blue Pants Knickerbocker

Back Forty isn’t the only brewery working to fill the void in Alabama. Blue Pants Brewery out of Madison is another craft brewery helping to change the beer drinking scene in Alabama. From Blue Pants, we got our hands on a bottle of Knickerbocker Red Ale. Listed as their flagship beer, the Knickerbocker was an interesting beer. In the glass, it was dark red, almost caramel in color, and it was full of carbonation with a biting aftertaste. A little too much for my liking, but others in the party loved it. 

Alabama Craft Beer

Good People Brewery, Snake Handler

The final beer of the evening came in a can. Brewed by Good People Brewing, in Birmingham, we ended the tasting with a double IPA called Snake Handler. Printed around the top of the can, Snake Handler can says “Legally Brewed Since 2008″, a play on both the slow to change laws of the state and the notion of backwoods illegally brewed concoctions. Like the Freckle Belly before it, this beer was hoppy, and I really liked it. In the heat of the day, it went down well. The bitterness of the hops really helped to cut through the thirst. This beer was well loved across the tasting party. We could have used about 6 more.

In the end, it is nice to see how much the beer scene in Alabama has changed since we had our wedding there in 2001. At that time, all we could get for the reception party were flavorless beer made by big national brands. There was no craft beer scene at that time. But things are changing for the better and we had the privilege to try three different breweries that are working on putting Alabama on the craft brewing map.

Next week, check back for Maine, and a huge milestone for 50 states of beer.

 

 

 

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beer, History

Illinois: Right Here. Right Now.

From its German immigrants bringing their desire for and ability to brew lager, and the origin of powerful prohibition era organized crime families, to what is and isn’t a craft beer, Illinois has a deep history with beer.

In 1818, Illinois became the 21st state, and just 19 years later, Chicago was incorporated. Chicago was the fastest growing city in the world at the time, and is now the third largest in the U.S. A major influence on its was the influx of Irish and German immigrants and it wasn’t long before these new residents clashed with the growing temperance movement that was sweeping the nation.

This first big clash started in the early 1850s. Disguised as prohibition, an anti-immigration platform was emerging, and Illinois had a staring role. As Maureen Ogle writes in Ambitious Brew:

Such was the case in Chicago after voters filled city hall with pro-temperance, anti-immigrant officials and the new mayor ordered a ban on Sunday drinking. The mostly native-born police force closed the city’s foreign-owned beer gardens, beerhalls, and taverns but turned a blind eye to “American” taverns that stayed open in violation of the law.

This ban inspired protests, which escalated into violence resulted in the Lager Beer Riot. In the end, the immigrants prevailed and it wasn’t long before the demand for beer quickly outpaced supply. And then, making things worse, the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 destroyed 19 breweries. But it wasn’t long before the brewers bounced back and Chicago quickly became a major player in the nation’s brewing scene.

Then came the Chicago Beer Wars of the roaring 20s, ushering in a violent era of organized crime that created mobsters such as Johnny Torrio and Al Capone.

From day one, Prohibition was not a widely supported cause. It was a war in its own right between rural Protestants and the nation’s urban (immigrant) citizens who were viewed as a threat. So, when prohibition came into effect, organized crime quickly stepped in to fill the void, resulting in powerful organizations that made a fortune bootlegging alcohol throughout the prohibition era. The organized crime speakeasy scene was so prolific during prohibition that at one point, Al Capone purchased more than 250,000 tapping heads from Anheuser-Busch.

With the repeal of prohibition, the state of brewing in Illinois remained status-quo for a few decades, with big nation breweries absorbing the smaller ones. Then came businessman John Hall in 1988 with a new brewpub, Goose Island. John Hall wanted to bring flavorful European beer to Chicago, and that desire has led to Chicago’s oldest brewing organization and eventually the next riot involving Chicago brewing.

When Goose Island first opened, they knew they had their work cut out for them. During the 1980s, the American public were not accustomed to the complex and flavorful beers typical of Europe. One of this blog’s collaborators was in Chicago when Goose Island opened:

I was working in Chicago when Goose Island opened, at the forefront of the great brewpub trend. It was a major event, beer people felt our day had come, although the brews at Goose Island and other brewpubs then were simple and straightforward compared to today’s
@jbnbpt

It didn’t take long for interest in Goose Island to establish a reputation of successful craft beer that allowed them to expand beyond the basics and continue their reach into brews with tradition and character. Their reputation of quality craft beer would continue for almost 25 years until March 28, 2011 when the company was sold to Anheuser-Busch, an event that quickly turned the wrath of the craft beer world onto one of its own.

One doesn’t have to look far to find articles about people up in arms over the Goose Island sale. While both good and bad opinions exist most trend to the bad, with the controversy boiling down to the definition of craft beer. According to the Brewers Association, a craft brewer is Small, independent and traditional. Because Goose Island is no longer independent, they no longer fit the definition, yet they still produce their own take on traditional beer, and their volume is up, but only to 2.1 million cases. Also, a review of the top 250 beers list shows Goose Island holding 2 of the top 15 spots, indicating that they are making coveted beer despite the controversy.

Eschewing all the controversy, this week, we are all in with Goose Island. From their stable, we will be sampling five different brews, 4 Vintage ales, and 1 Bourbon County.

Illinois Beer

Goose Island

Two of the most common brews available from Goose Island are their India Pale Ale, and the Honkers Ale. However with its purchase by InBev, these two lines are no longer brewed in Chicago, instead they are brewed by Anheuser-Busch in upstate New York. So we set our sights on some of their more interesting products that are actually brewed in Illinois.

The first beer we will sample this week is a beer called Sofie, one of the brews in Goose Island’s vintage line. Right from the start, this beer reminded me of champagne. It had a sweet and fruity smell with a very light body and a higher carbonation than most beers. One of the party classified it as “Looks and smells better than it tastes,” and another stated that “It would be great with spicy food.”

Illinois Beer

Goose Island Sofie

This beer, like the rest of the beers in the vintage line, seems to be marketed like a wine. The labels are clean and basic, and all use fonts that implies sophistication. The label for each brew in this series has a name, style and year, prominently displayed. In an era where the mass market beers are focusing on drink-by dates, it is nice to see a different kind of date on the label.

The next beer from the Vintage line that we sampled was the Pere Jacques. This beer was more caramel in color than the Sofie, and also had a sweet caramel smell to it. Tasting wise, this was the least-liked beer of the day, triggering comments like “Not into this” and “Tastes like burnt varnish.” Overall not an enjoyable beer, and it was quickly disposed of for the next sample.

Moving down the line, we opened the Matilda. This beer is brewed with the wild yeast strain Brettanomyces, so right from the start we knew this was going to be different. This beer was quickly pronounced the best of the three so far sampled. It had really interesting character and the use of the Brett was perfectly executed. Just enough to make it unique and interesting.

Illinois Beer

Goose Island Pepe Nero

The final beer in the vintage line for us was the Pepe Nero. Listed on the brewers website as having an aroma of roasted chestnuts, I found no distinguishable smell for this beer, however the flavor was great. 2 out of 4 of the party really enjoyed this beer and were quickly reaching for a second sample.

Prior to the invention of the stainless steel keg, all beer was brewed and shipped in wooden barrels. At that time, the brewers took extensive measures to ensure the barrels were free of any influencing flavors that could leak into the beer. Lately, the craft beer world has been taking barrel brewing in new directions, and trying to leverage the potential residue from the previous contents of the barrel. It is not uncommon to see beer aged in wine barrels, or bourbon barrels, both from varying amounts of time, allowing unique character and flavor to develop.

When I was purchasing the beer for this week, I was talking to the owner of the liquor store about Goose Island. Just as I was about to leave, he asked if I ever had Bourbon County. This is a brew that as of this writing is sitting at number 13 on the Beer Advocate top 250 beers list. I said that I have not, as it is really hard to find. With a wave of his hand, he summoned one of his employees to the back room and out came a single bottle. After paying more than I ever have for 10 oz. of beer, I was heading home with a bottle of Bourbon County Stout, our final sample of the week.

One sip has more flavor than your average case of beer

Illinois Beer

Bourbon County

“Wow, look at the legs!”, was the first comment as this beer was getting poured. Black as tar, with a viscosity of 50 weight motor oil, this beer had all the signs of something unique. The aroma was sweet, dessert sweet. The mouth feel was thick. Not maple syrup thick, but thicker than any other beer of the day, and by far the most interesting beer of the day. Quickly we heard “This needs chocolate,” and a block of 60% dark was chopped up and placed on the table. With that simple addition, the character of this beer quickly changed, and I now understood why this beer is so coveted.

Before the chocolate, this was a top 20ish beer, after the chocolate, a top 5.

In the end, Goose Island did us no wrong. Say what you about about what is or is not a craft beer, this week we sampled 5 different brews that were something special.

Next week, we head south to Alabama.

 

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beer, History

Mississippi : Feels Like Coming Home

For most of the country, prohibition lasted for 13 years. From January 17, 1920 until April 7, 1933, the sale, production and transportation of alcohol was prohibited across the nation. However for some states, this period lasted much longer. Mississippi was one of a handful of states that enacted prohibition in 1907, a full 13 years prior to the national ban. And it didn’t end there. After the passing of the twenty-first Amendment, Mississippi still enforced prohibition laws until 1966. As the last state to repeal prohibition, Mississippians lived under prohibition laws for lengthy 59 years.

Even with the repealing of prohibition, it would take another 37 years for a brewery to operate within Mississippi. As Mississippi’s first brewery in almost 100 years, Lazy Magnolia Brewing Company, started in 2003, is also Mississippi’s oldest brewery.

We however only had to get 20 weeks into this project to experience Lazy Magnolia as Mississippi joins the United States as the 20th state in December 1817.

As mentioned previous on this blog, the federal prohibition decimated the brewing industry in the U.S. While some brewers scratched by making near beer or producing malt extract, most could not sustain viable income to endure the 13 years. But when it ended, most states started to see a slow come back to their brewing industry. One by one, craft brewers started bringing back old favorites, and developing new products for a growing consumer base. And while the craft beer explosion was occurring, during the 1980’s and into the 1990’s, beer lovers in Mississippi did not have a brewery to call their own.

Thanks to Lazy Magnolia that has now changed. As they went about blazing this path through the brewing frontier, Lazy Magnolia has kept their southern roots in check with our first sample of the week: Southern Pecan.

Mississippi Craft Beer

Lazy Magnolia

There are items that elicit memories of the southern U.S., and the pecan is high on that list. A species of hickory native the south-central North American, pecan means a nut requiring a stone to crack in Algonquian. Typically known as the key ingredient in Pecan pie, Lazy Magnolia used this nut as the key ingredient for a beer. Listed as the first pecan nut brown ale in the world, this beer was a fun find.

Much like a good Pecan pie, this beer was sweet. Even the color exuded a sweetness, with its deep red hues. But the sweetness wasn’t overwhelming. The beer was enjoyable. And while it didn’t have the distinct pecan taste, there was definitely a nutty taste that made this an enjoyable beer. It would have been interesting to try it with some good cheese that would complement the sweetness.

One of the tasters loved the diner menu, vintage look to the label on this beer. It definitely had a nice clean look to it, unlike many of the labels we have encountered so far on this project.

When Mississippi lifted prohibition in 1966, that wasn’t the end of the story for slow to change alcohol related laws in the state. In fact it wasn’t until March of this year that Mississippi legalized home brewing. And while that law had a tangential effect on the states brewing industry, another recently changed law had a much larger impact. From the time prohibition was lifted in the 60’s, until July of 2012, brewers in the state were not allowed to produce a beer with more than 5% ABW. To put that into perspective, only 7 of the 89 beers sampled so far on this project were less that 5%.

Mississippi Craft Beer

Lazy Magnolia

Expecting this law to change, Lazy Magnolia had our next beer, Timber Beast queued up and ready to roll on June 30th. Coming in at 9% ABV, at the time of its brewing, the Timber Beast was an illegal beer. However with the change of an old law, this beer was allowed out into the world, and we were fortunate enough to get our hands on some.

This beer was very enjoyable. Using Zythos hops, an IPA style hops blend, Lazy Magnolia went with a recipe inspired by the complex and beautiful flavors of Mississippi. This hops led to an interesting taste that I had not experienced in other IPAs over the course of this project. This hops had a more bitter characteristic that was enjoyable. While the bitterness hung around long after the beer was gone, this wasn’t a bad thing. Everyone tasting this beer really loved it.

With Mississippi, we have seen the craziest alcohol laws to date for this project. However we have also seen how a company like Lazy Magnolia can overcome those obstacles to create an enjoyable product.

Tune in next week for Illinois

 

 

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