beer, History

Oklahoma : Native America

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

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

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

 

oklahoma craft beer

Brewmasters Signature Dubbel

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

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

Oklahoma craft beer

Check out the head on that thing!

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

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

Thats all for Oklahoma, next up New Mexico.

 

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beer, History

Utah : This is Still the Right Place

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

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

Utah Craft Beer

Bobcat Nut Brown Ale

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

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

Utah Craft Beer

Hop Rising Double IPA

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

Utah Craft Beer

Imperial Stout from Epic Brewing

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

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

Next post Oklahoma.

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beer, History

Wyoming: Like No Place on Earth

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

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

Wyoming Craft Beer

Wind River Brewing Pale Ale

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

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

Wyoming Craft Beer

Panko IPA from Snake River Brewing

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

wyoming craft beer

Snake River Zonker

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

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

Next post, Utah.

 

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beer, History

Idaho : Great Potatoes. Tasty Destinations

Idaho, commonly known for its potatoes, has a rich mining tradition. Almost every important mineral except oil, gas and coal can be found in Idaho. And it is this rich supply of minerals that brought migrants to the state in the mid 1800s. By the 1860s, Idaho was producing 19% of the gold in the United States. With this burgeoning mining industry came services to support the miners. These services included not only banks, bakers and hardware stores, but also brewers. By the time Idaho became a state in 1890, there were at least 33 breweries operating across the new state. The brewing industry lasted in the state until the onset of Prohibition, which came to Idaho in 1916. By 1933, when the dark cloud of Prohibition was lifted, no breweries remained in the state.

These days, the brewing tradition has returned to the state, and we were able to get our hands on a few selections from one of these new brewers. This week from Idaho, we had three different Imperial beers from Laughing Dog Brewing.

idaho craft beer

This weeks selection from Idaho consisted of three Imperial brews from Laughing Dog.

The first beer was an Imperial IPA called Sneaky Pete. This beer was very sweet and fruity with a bitter after-taste. What was interesting, was that for an IPA, the malt was the dominant smell, not the hops, making it unique in that respect.

After the IPA, we opened an Imperial Stout called The Dogfather. This stout poured like tar, and for me, that is a good thing. I really enjoy a thick, hearty stout. This beer was dark too, almost black, and it had a sweet malty taste that reminded one of the tasters of root beer. I too got that hint of root beer, but I also tasted hints of bourbon, from the barrel aged, but the bourbon was not as strong as previous beers. The after-taste of this beer was sweet chocolate.

The final beer of the evening, also from Laughing Dog was an Imperial Coffee Porter called Anubis. This beer had a slight sour smell and was much more mellow than the stout.

Again, another great week was had, and Idaho represented well. Next post is Wyoming.

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beer, History

Washington : Say WA!

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

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

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

washington craft beer

Two craft beers from Washington

 

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. Next post is Idaho.

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beer, History

Montana : Big Sky Country

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

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

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

Montana Craft Beer

Big Sky Brewery

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

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

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

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

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

Next up. Washington.

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beer, History

South Dakota : Great Faces. Great Places

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

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

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

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

 

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

South Dakota Craft Beer

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

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

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

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

Short post this week, thanks for reading.

Next state is Montana.

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