beer, History

Alaska : North to the Future

From Alaska, we were able to get our hands on 3 different brews, all from Anchorage Brewing Company, and each of these brews were unique in their own way.

Alaska Craft Beer

Bitter Monk, Belgian Style IPA from Anchorage Brewing Company

The first beer we had from Alaska was called a Belgian IPA called Bitter Monk. This was the first IPA we had that was brewed with Brettanomyces, and it was amazing. This beer started with a huge citrus smell, like a glass of grapefruit juice, and it tasted amazing. At first I was worried. Between the Brettanomyces, the Belgian-style IPA and its aging in Chardonnay barrels, there were many places for this beer to go wrong, but it never did. Instead, it was an incredibly unique beer that I will not forget anytime soon.

Moving on from the Bitter Monk, we opened another bomber from Anchorage Brewing. This one an Imperial Stout called Darkest Hour. This is another beer that appears to have had the kitchen sink thrown at it.

Alaska Craft Beer

Darkest Hour Imperial Stout from Anchorage Brewing

Triple fermented, aged in two different barrels, first a Pinot Noir barrel, then a Rye whiskey barrel, and finally bottle conditioned with a wine yeast. Again, like the Bitter Monk, this beer had plenty of opportunities to go wrong, and just like the Bitter Monk it never did.

From the bottle to the glass, this beer poured like syrup. It was dark in color and smelled of chocolate and coffee, with hints of rye and pinot noir from the barrels. With its strong chocolate and coffee flavors, this beer is clearly a coffee beer. It was very sweet tasting, with a slight grainy mouthfeel reminiscent of Mexican chocolate. The character of this beer was amazing, and the flavors were complex. The only issue we kept coming back to was the smell. There was something strange with the mixture of all that was going on that interfered with everything else, keeping us from truly loving this brew. Still, it was one of the best beers of the year.

Alaska Craft Beer

Anadromous Black Sour Ale from Anchorage Brewing

The final beer from Anchorage brewing was a Black Sour Ale called Anadromous. Wow, this was yet another amazing beer from Anchorage. I loved the sour taste, and the complex fruit flavors.

This week, we got our hands on three different brews from Anchorage, and they were all special. There is clearly something amazing going on up in Alaska.

One more post, and 50 states have been covered. Next up Hawaii.

Advertisements
Standard
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.

Standard
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.

Standard
beer, Special Report

Aw Naw–a Blog Hijack

Apologies to the state of Colorado, and to blog readers, for this hijacking,  but “50StatesofBeer” misquoted me, his wife. It’s a tiny correction, but an omission that gets at the heart of what I love and hate about craft beer. When we first sipped Polestar Pilsner, taster number one said it was unremarkable. My response was fierce disagreement. It tasted just fine. Moreover, it did not demand that I sift through the fucking cabinets to find food that would render the beer more palatable. It’s a distinction I make for two reasons: 1) Beer that makes enormous demands on the palate undercuts, for me, what I used to love about the beverage; and 2) Craft beer gets us in a froth.

Let me begin with a forthright assessment of Polestar Pilsner. It was eminently drinkable. One could consume many bottles of Polestar Pilsner without seeking a block of dark chocolate to hold simultaneously on the tongue so the palate discovers some unanticipated, alchemical magic. (We did this with a coffee stout one week. If high-quality, European-imported dark chocolate need be consumed in tandem, there’s a problem with the beer).

Now, I like food, I like beer, I like food-beer pairings. But I prefer to like each element on its own. And we’ve had many a beverage during this adventure that required a chef’s attention to make one sip go down well.

Remember when a draw on a Camel paired well with an uncomplicated pale amber liquid in a red solo cup? I do.

Perhaps I’m just nostalgic for my first memorable food pairing–tobacco. Remember when a draw on an aromatic Camel paired well with an uncomplicated pale amber liquid in a red Solo cup?

Red Solo cup

Hell, yeah.

I do. This brings me to the Milk Stout we sampled from Left Hand Brewing: I loved the hint of smokiness in this beer. I liked that flavoring in the “In-Tents” from Base Camp of Oregon, which advertises itself for campfire consumption in the wilderness. I argued on the margins of the Oregon-beer tasting that the place and time of a beer’s consumption affected our like or dislike. Now I’m wondering if my enjoyment of the smoky flavor derived from roasted malts isn’t reminiscent of a place far removed from a campfire –the bar scene of my youth. Everyone smoked. The low-roofed joints hadn’t experienced fresh air since Eisenhower left office. After a night out, I remember stripping off clothes and leaving them outside my bedroom door because the  smell was too overwhelming.

Stripping off clothes–ah yes,–that brings me to another point about craft beer and its fussiness. There was a time when beer offered a logistical path for navigating a way out of a corset-tight, straight-laced, proper southern girlhood. Let me say to the craft beer world, some of your products have the opposite libidinal affect, particularly beers that can be described as “viscous.” These are beers with an effervescence that makes the mouth feel full. It’s reminiscent to me of how the body feels the instant before regurgitation. It’s such an off-putting sensation, I have often stepped away from the beer tasting all together, and gone to bed with a morally complex novel full of ambiguity.

Perhaps, dear reader, you will argue that my thoughts about exquisite craft beer would be better paired with a shot of Patron.

Perhaps, dear reader, you will argue that my thoughts about exquisite craft beer would be better paired with a shot of Patron. In the world of country music top 100 hits,  tequila now occupies the rabble-rousing, good-times that the consumption of beer once did. Am I just feeling middle-aged? It’s just hard to imagine someone ordering up one more round of “Sour in the Rye” to keep the party going.

Being on the front tasting line of America’s latest beverage craze has been as enraging as it has been congenial. Craft brewers often mistake the “fun” I associate with beer for “misogyny.” The number of labels depicting women bare-shouldered, bare-breasted, or straddling some engineering contraption while raising a glass of cascade-hopped, roasted-malt brew has been absurd. More often, these beers have made me furious.

So I’ll end by thanking Left Hand Brewing for avoiding this pitfall. I enjoyed everything except the Oktoberfest. We’ll talk off-line about that one…

Standard
beer, History

Ohio: Birthplace of Aviation

Ohio was approved as a state in 1803, however at the time Congress never passed a resolution to admit Ohio into the union, and it wasn’t until 1953 that the oversight was discovered and Ohio was retroactively admitted as the 17th state.

Ohio Craft Beer

Ohio Craft Beer

When I started on this project, my goal was (and still is) to try beer from a different state each week for 50 weeks. I knew it wouldn’t be an easy task, but I mentally bound myself to the week idea and specified Saturday as my end day for the week. So each week could, in theory kick off on a Sunday and run through until the following Saturday. In reality, most of the tastings occur on either the Friday or Saturday evenings at the end of the week. And I then try to get the post up on Sunday, time permitting. So when we were at the middle of last week and I had no idea if I would have beer for this week, I was starting to get nervous, and thinking the project goal was going to fail at Ohio.

In New England, beer from Ohio is scarce. I have seen mention of some beer, mainly from Hoppin’ Frog Brewery available in a few places, but it wasn’t guaranteed. So I decided it was time to look at alternative means for this week. On the original purchase run back in December, my sister-in-law (let’s call her Heather) was doing the drive with me. As I was explaining the potential difficulties of Ohio, she mentioned that she had contacts that would help. And, Ohio being a border state, her contact could also take care of Indiana (two weeks away) as well. So, for this week we would be moving into the social aspect of the project.

When you set goals for yourself, as I did with this weekly requirement, you don’t expect others to feel obligated to bind to your rules. So when I relied on social networks (friend of friend, not Facebook) to get beer, I knew that issues could arise with meeting my goals. When Thursday rolled into Friday and I was still without beer from Ohio, I was concerned and felt I had to take control of my own goals. I had word from Heather that her contact Corey shipped the beer, but it might not arrive until Monday. Not good for my goal. Thus, on Friday, I set out to try and cover myself for the week and rely on the shipment as an addendum to the post. I knew my best chance of beer from Ohio would be Hoppin’ Frog, and I set my sights there. My first stop at a neighborhood beer store didn’t have anything, so I had one more potential resource. Upon arrival at New England Wine and Spirits, I asked if they had anything from Hoppin’ Frog, and was welcomed with a “Yes, I think we have two different styles actually.

The streak was alive. I had two bottles of beer in hand, bought in my town from Ohio. That evening, the usual clan of tasters arrived at 5, and we set about sampling Hoppin’ Frog Bodacious Black and Tan as well as Hoppin’ Frog Hop Heathen.

Ohio Craft Beer

Hoppin’ Frog Bodacious Black and Tan

I have to admit I am puzzled by Black and Tan in a bottle. Sure, there are some good ones out there, but I always associated a Black and Tan with the experience. The two layers of beer in the glass, and as Joel put it “Having to get the green card Irish guy to pour it for you.” So we set about this beer biased out of the gate. The beer had a nice smell in the glass, tasted fine, but there was a weird after-taste. The reports were about equal across the group, with “For a Friday afternoon sippin’, this is fine.” But it was “Nothing special.” In the final pour from the bottle, there was plenty of sediment, as can been seen in the top right corner of the collage photo.

Ohio Craft Beer

Hoppin’ Frog Hop Heathen

The next beer we moved on to was called Hop Heathen, an Imperial Black Ale. The bottle for this beer was imprinted with text describing the beer, including something about an uncivilized amount of hops. We have had our share of over hopped beer during this project, and this bottle did not join that unique class of beer, however I liked this beer. It has a nice, malty flavor. It wasn’t the best Black Ale in the world, but it was not bad at all. With no smell or taste of the hops, we ended with “The only thing uncivilized on this beer is the horrible label.” With two bottles from Ohio in the books, I felt relaxed that the goal lived for another week.

A major goal in manufacturing is the reduction of product inventory. From this goal arrived the idea of Just in Time Inventory (JIT). Under the just in time inventory system, “shipments are made within rigidly enforced time windows.” A fact I left out earlier is that both Heather and Corey are engineers, and well versed in the JIT model. So, on the last day of the ‘project week’, I opened my door to a box from Ohio that contained, nine, yes nine different bottles of beer from Ohio (and a few from Indiana too). This arrival turned Saturday evening into a second tasting for Ohio, and our second largest covering for the year. So a big shout out to Corey for helping us maintain our goal for yet another week.

For our tasting on Saturday, we had:

Ohio Craft Beer

Ohio Craft Beer Selection

  •  Hoppin’ Frog Silk Porter
  •  Hoppin’ Frog Belgian-style Double IPA
  •  Rivertown, Barrel Aged Series, Old Sour Cherry Porter
  •  Quaff Bros., Barrel Aged Ale, Savage Blank
  •  Listermann Brewing, Friar Bacon Smoked Bock
  •  The Brew Kettle, Old 21
  •  Rivertown Brewing, Hop Bomber
  •  Moerlien Brewing, Northern Liberties IPA
  •  Moerlien Brewing, Barbarossa Double Dark Lager

A lot to cover, but I found people who were up for the task.

I started by rounding up the usual suspects for an initial tasting, then it would be concluded around a fire pit Saturday night with my auxiliary tasters. Going with out established axiom that “The best things so far have come in big brown bottles”, we set our sights in the big ones.

We started with Savage Blank, a Barrel Aged Ale from Quaff Bros. Specializing in limited edition single barrel ales, Quaff Bros. attempts to capture the passion of homebrewing and the essence of microbrewing. The Savage Blank that we had is:

A Belgian Golden Ale brewed with Sauvignon Blanc grape juice, aged in four different Bourbon barrels and blended together.

This beer had a strong smell of grapes. And the taste was a unanimous dislike from everyone that tried it (5 people total). Wine has its time and place, as does beer. Let’s keep them separate.

Ohio Craft Beer

Rivertown Brewery Old Sour Cherry Porter

The next big, brown that we moved into was from Rivertown Brewery located in Lockland Ohio. Part of their Barrel Aged Series, the Old Sour Cherry Porter was released in the Spring of 2013. Listed as an Imperial porter aged in bourbon barrels with dark Michigan cherries and lactobacillus delbrueckii (a Belgian souring bacteria).

I didn’t read the description for this beer until writing this post, but during the tasting, I referred to this beer as tasting like a lambic. The sour was definitely there, and the cherry taste was strong, but not discouraging. I enjoyed this beer, and everyone else that tasted it agreed. Not something you would want in large quantities, but for a single glass, this was nice.

Next up was a beer with an interesting label. From Listermann Brewing Company in Cincinnati, we had a bottle of their specialty brew: Smoked Bock Beer. The label gave this beer some serious potential, but unfortunately the potential ended there. This beer smelled and tasted like liquid smoke. That is not a good quality in a beer. With quotes from the samplers like “What would you put a label on that.” it wasn’t well received across the group.

However the selection from Corey turned a corner after that and we all enjoyed everything else. Partly because we moved into the IPA area, and most of the tasters are fans of a good IPA, but the Silk Porter from Hoppin’ Frog, with its chocolate aromas, was a great beer too.

A quick summary follows.

The Hop Master’s Abbey, a Double IPA from Hoppin’ Frog had a big citrus nose and taste. A very enjoyable beer.

The Old 21 from Brew Kettle was wonderful, with its bouquet of pine, this beer, compared to the previous IPA, was an excellent example of the characteristics different types of hops, in this case the Simcoe,  bring to a finished product.

The Barbarossa Double Dark Larger from Christian Moerlein Brewing (techincally brewed in PA, but we let that slide), had an interesting carmel taste. It drew up conversation of early days of beer experimentation, when products like Becks Dark were considered extreme.

Another beer from Christian Moerlein was the Northern Liberties IPA. This beer was fine, but not the best IPA of the evening. On its own, without having previously had the Hop Master’s Abbey or the Old 21, I would have really enjoyed this beer.

We ended the sampling with another beer from Rivertown Brewery called Hop Bomber. At this point in the tasting, I was a bit over hopped from the three previous IPAs, so I mostly picked up a bitter taste. However I think I was mentally mislead by the name. I was expecting a strongly hopped beer akin to a Dogfish Head. But reviewing the brewers website, I can see that is not the intended case.

An American pale ale named after the famous B-24 Liberator Bomber. This beer has a wonderful malt backbone from the use of dark english crystal malt and spicy fresh rye malt. It is dry hopped with two varieties of American hops for a crisp refreshing flavor.

This is a beer would like to get my hands on again, with a fresh palate.

After starting with a nervous feeling of missing my goal, Ohio proved to be an exciting week. I never expected such a wide variety and interesting beers to arrive on my doorstep. Once again, a huge thanks to Corey for the great beer selection for the week.

Next week, back south for Louisiana.

Standard