beer, History

Kansas : as big as you think

This week is 34 of this project, and with that, we are covering the 34th state of the Union, Kansas. Kansas joined the United States in 1861, having been a US territory since 1854.

When it comes to beer history and Kansas, there is a big hole. An almost 67 year hole to be exact. This hole exists because Kansas had one of the longest prohibition periods in the country. Starting in 1881, a full 38 years before the national Prohibition and lasting until 1948, Kansas was dry for a full 67 years. Even with the lifting of prohibition in 1948, it still took another 39 years for citizens of Kansas to have the opportunity to experience a brew-pub in their own state.

In 1987 Kansas law was relaxed to allow “brew-pubs,” and in 1989 Free State Brewing Company opened as Kansas’ first licensed brewery since state prohibition. source

Kansas was a critical player of the temperance movement and was also the state where Carrie Nation came to fame. Responding to a call from God, she started smashing up saloons, first with rocks and then with her trademark hatchet, with what became known as hatchetations.

Given the state of beer and brewing in Kansas, it is no surprise that acquiring beer from that state is still hard. However we were able to coming across a 4 pack of beer from Tallgrass brewing company. This beer, named the official beer of retro-gamers, is a pale ale called 8-Bit. With the label commemorating the 8-Bit graphics of our favorite classic video games, this is one colorful can. The can is so fun that there are even people selling (and buying?) empties on eBay.

One of the more interesting items I discovered while researching the history of beer in Kansas, was a story about brewers clogs. During the brewing process, malt is cooked in a large vat and then spread out on the floor to cool. As the workers spread the malt out on the floor, they wore wooden shoes that were cleaned daily. These shoes were called brewers clogs. As part of the Kansas Historical Society collection, they posses a pair of brewers clogs worn by brewer Theodore Weichselbaum in Ogden, Kansas, were he owned and operated a brewery from 1871 until 1881, when prohibition kicked in.

So, in a tribute to Theodore, this week we will model some shoes with our sampled beer.

kansas craft beer

8-bit Pale Ale, and some shoes.

This 8-Bit ale was a fun and enjoyable beer. It was light and refreshing and everyone quickly went back for more. An all around favorite. If you happen to get the chance, get yourself one.

As we have discovered, while Kansas brewers had to wait for their government to change ways, they quickly stepped up with some wonderful beer. Sure we only have one data point, but this one point was enjoyable.

Thanks for reading. Next week, West Virginia.




beer, History

Tennessee – America at its best

When North Carolina gained statehood, it ceded its western territory to the Federal Government where it was designated as the Southwest Territory by Congress. Within just 5 years, a census would reveal a sufficient population in the territory to form a state, and on June 1st, 1796, the first official U.S. territory would become the state Tennessee, and the 16th state of the union.

I have been to Tennessee a few times. I have walked down Beale Street, seen a New Years Eve concert at the Ryman, and passed through the mountains of Chattanooga multiple times. While I had various opportunities to drink a beer in this state, I never encountered any craft brew in the places I visited. I still recall the first beer I had in Nashville, a Guinness. Not quite a regional product.  So when I set out to find a Tennessee brewed beer, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for or what I would end up with. But fear not, because the Tennessee craft beer industry is alive and well, and we were able to get our hands on three different beer styles this week.

Tennessee Craft Beer

Selection of Craft Beer from Tennessee

During the big collecting run, which feels like a long time ago now, beer from Tennessee was a target. Since the drive passed straight through Bristol, Knoxville, and Chattanooga, there was little concern about locating a Tennessee brewed product. On the south bound journey, we spotted a beer distributor from the highway. While potentially a good sign, a beer distributor is actually not a place to purchase a beer.

When the 3 tier system was established after prohibition, a layer between the brewer and the retailer was created. This layer was the distribution layer. A beer distributor provides transportation, refrigeration, and maintenance for beer from the time it leaves the brewery until the time it arrives at a retailer.  Distributors do not sell beer. So, on our northern journey back home, we would have to do some more scouting.

When passing through the Chattanooga area of Tennessee, you are also skirting along the northern Georgia border, and according to a search on Beer Advocate, Fort Oglethorpe, GA is home to a excellent beer store. So we made quick stop at Beverage World, where we successfully acquired many of the beers reviewed to date on this adventure. However one of the states we could not get beer from was Tennessee. Even though we could throw a rock across the border from the stores parking lot, due to laws (either Tennessee or Georgia, it wasn’t clear), they were not legally allowed to sell Tennessee beer. However, the fine folks of Beverage World gave us a much unexpected lead – Whole Foods.

The Whole Foods in Chattanooga, just a few miles up the road would have Tennessee craft beer. Once there, we found products from two different Nashville Tennessee breweries. Blackstone Brewery and Yazoo Brewing Company.

Tennessee Craft Beer

Blackstone Brewery Nut Brown Ale

The first beer we sampled this week was Blackstone Breweries Nut Brown Ale, and this was a great start to the evening. This beer was very flavorful and well loved among all 4 tasters. Definitely one of the best brown ales we have encountered on this project, this beer had a wonderful, nutty aroma. The taste wasn’t bland like some ales could be, it had a wonderful character. A few weeks back, at the mini craft beer summit, we discussed brown ales and how they are a hard beer. That they get little respect. For me,  this brown ale earned plenty of respect, because it was enjoyable.

Moving up the flavor scale, the next beer we sampled was a Pale Ale from Yazoo brewing. Another Nashville Brewery, the founder of Yazoo got his start brewing beer from a homekit in college. Now Yazoo has a product line of 8 different styles of beer available throughout a good portion of the southeast. The one we grabbed for our sampling was their Pale Ale. When I poured this beer, I could immediately smell the citrus hops flavor typical of a pale ale (others in the tasting

Tennessee Craft Beer

Yazoo Pale Ale

disagreed with the hops smell). The mouth feel of this beer was clean, and the taste was slightly hoppy, but seemed to derive more of its flavor from the various malts used during the brewing process. While well enjoyed, it was described as a beer that started great but faded fast.

The final beer of the night was another style from Blackstone Brewery, the St. Charles Porter. While I really enjoyed this beer, among the group it was the least favorite of the three. When poured, it had a sweet aroma, described as mollasses. Another described it as tasting like a coffee beer.

Overall, another great week in the books. So far, as we have worked across the southern states, the beer has been remarkably good. I am not sure why I have been so surprised at this. Maybe it has to do with the souths late entry into the craft brewing game. But what I think is often overlooked with this nieve assessment is that while the southern states took their time reversing the laws of prohibition, many of the residents were quietly (and often illegally) perfecting their craft at home, waiting for their opportunity to show the world their skills.

Next week, Ohio.

beer, History

South Carolina: Smiling Faces, Beautiful Places

1788 was a big year for the US, adding 8 states, the most of any year. One of those states was South Carolina, which became the 8th state to join the Union on May 23. South Carolina is also famous as being the first state to secede from the union in 1860, leading to the civil war. Finding historical beer information pertaining to South Carolina has been slow going (and I can imagine it will only get worse from here out), but I did run across a book: Charleston Beer, that had some interesting, albiet more chronological state specific beer history, gleaned from old newspapers. In glancing through the book, looking for a topic for this post, I honed in on a reference to various colonial beer styles. In Beer in America, there were many references to colonial beer, and one of the main points often mentioned is that a modern beer drinker would not recognize the beer styles of the colonial times, both in quality and in ingredients.

In the Charleston book, they reference a newspaper advertisement from 1766 that listed: Double brewed Spruce Beer, table and small beer. So far this year, we have had a table beer, and talked about small beer, but Spruce Beer is a new topic for us. Spruce, often used as a substitute for other ingredients during colonial times and brewed with molasses, was also employed by ship captains to ward off scurvy, however modern science has now cast doubt that enough of the vitamin C remained through the brewing process to aid the sailors. Had we done our research, we could have tried it back when we passed through Pennsylvania, oh well, add it to a future list, as we do not have any spruce beer from South Carolina this week.

Instead, we will be sampling two interesting beers from South Carolina, both of them brewed at the same brewery, but not by the same brewer. The first beer is from Westbrook Brewing in Mt. Pleasant, SC, called White Thai. The second beer, originally brewed in Denmark, under the name Williamsburg Hipster, is now called Hipster Ale, from Evil Twin Brewing.

South Carolina Beer

South Carolina Beer

Our first beer was the White Thai. The brewers website says:

This beer, inspired by the flavors of Southeast Asian cuisine, is a twist on the classic Belgian witbier style. Instead of the traditional coriander and orange peel spicing regimen, we add fresh lemongrass, ginger root, and a dash of Sorachi Ace hops. The result is a wonderfully refreshing ale with notes of lemon candy, citrus fruit, and a slight spiciness from the ginger. Best served at 45˚F in a tulip or wine glass.

It might not be spruce, but this beer does contain fresh lemongrass (vitamin C) and ginger root which makes it pretty unique, and so far I have not come down with scurvy this week.

Westbrook - White Thai

Westbrook – White Thai

This beer also contains a dash of Sorachi Ace hops. Named after an adminstrative division, or subprefecture, in Japan, this hops was developed in the 1970s for Sapporo Breweries, but was not made commercially available until 2006. When used as part of the brewing process, the resulting product will add a lemon aroma and taste to the beer, which sounds like it will complement the Southeast Asian cuisine theme quite well.

I drank this beer straight from the fridge, which was about 35 degrees, not quite the recommended 45° from the brewer. (I didn’t see the recommendation until later). In the glass, this beer had a slight floral smell, that became more apparent as the beer warmed in the glass. With the inclusion of lemongrass and Sorachi Ace, I was looking for a lemon smell and taste in this beer, however I didn’t pick up any lemon. The taste and the mouthfeel of this beer was nice, light and refreshing. This beer had hints of spice, but it was not overpowering. In the end I enjoyed this beer, but not sure if I could drink too many (its the spice thing). I will have to try it again as recommended by the brewer, at 45° and in a wine glass. Maybe with some spicy Pad Thai.

The next beer of the week has an interesting heritage, and depending on the rules you care to establish, it may or may not be considered a South Carolina beer. Brewed by Evil Twin Brewery, Hipster Ale was the second and final beer of the evening. Evil Twin brewery started in Copenhagen and now also lists an office in New York. However the Hipster Ale was brewed, and canned, at Westbrook Brewery in South Carolina.

Evil Twin - Hipster Ale

Evil Twin – Hipster Ale

The first thing you will notice when you reach for a can of Hipster Ale, is the eye catching pattern, with its patchwork of multi-colored triangles.  In the glass, this beer looks wonderful. It has a very nice honey color and a beautiful head. This beer is an American Pale Ale, a style of beer that highlights the citrus flavors of US hops, and that is clearly the case with this beer, with its strong citrus and piney aroma. The mouthfeel and taste of this beer was excellent, with a slight bitterness, but not an IPA bitterness. It is very enjoyable and I have found myself going back for this beer often. I am still struggling with the name of this beer. I would be shocked to see a beer of this quality with so much character replacing the slot usually held by a PBR in the hands of a hipster. But do not let the name deter you, this is a wonderful beer worthy of space in anyones refrigerator.

See you next week, as we are allowed to live free and die in New Hampshire.