beer, History

North Dakota : Legendary

As we approach the end of the year (and the end of this project), the official statehood date for each of the remaining states drifts further away from the founding days of our country. As a result, the beer industry history for these states becomes sparse, with a more modern focus. As Prohibition approached, it became harder for each new state to make a mark in brewing history.

For the states that had a well established pre-Probition brewing industry, the ability to restart at the end of prohibition was an easier task. However, for those states that did not have an established brewing industry, there were few influences  to help reverse the laws after the passing of the 21st amendment. For these states, the effects of Prohibition often lived on much longer than the law itself.

This week, we are celebrating the beer of North Dakota, a state that joined the Union in 1889. To put that into perspective, Adolphus Bush began brewing a light Bohemian lager called Budweiser 13 years earlier.

For North Dakota, the most noted early brewery in the state was the Dakota Malting and Brewing Company which operated from 1961 through 1965. At that point, the brewing industry in the country was transforming into a few large brewers.

When the Dakota Malting and Brewing Company closed up shop in 1965, no other brewer operated in the state until 2011. Issues such as distribution fees, production maximums, and residents (lack of) taste for craft beer were all major factors in this beer drought.  However a few intrepid home brewers decided end this era and share their hobby with the public.

One of those home brewers was Mike Frohlich, the co-owner of Laughing Sun Brewery which we were very lucky to have the opportunity to experience some beer from this week. Also joining us this week were some other folks also on a quest for the 50 state experience.

North Dakota Craft Beer

Laughing Sun does not bottle their beer, so this week you are reprieved from bad photos of beer bottles.

The first beer we cracked into was called Sinister Pear. Earlier in the year, we had a Prickly Pear beer from Shiner, but a prickly pear is a cactus, not a tree fruit, so this would be the first pear beer of the project. And the first pear beer anyone of us ever tried. In the glass, this beer was light golden and cloudy. The flavor was nicely balanced, with a slight hint of fruitiness from the pear. I was expecting a more powerful fruit taste, and was pleasantly surprised with subtleness of fruit in this beer. While it wasn’t a beer that you would sit around a fire and drink a six pack of (meaning it did not pass Dawne’s  Solo cup test), it was an interesting beer that was full of character.

Moving on from the Pear, we opened a Pale Ale called the 109. This beer was a golden honey color in the glass, a bit darker than I expected for a Pale Ale. It was also hoppier than a typical Pale Ale, which wasn’t a problem, but it was different. I would describe this beer as a typical ale that has a slight bitter finish. I really enjoyed it, would have drank more if I had it.

Very strawberry forward and wheat at the end

Next we tried a Strawberry Wheat. In the glass, this beer was really pale, and it had a distinct strawberry nose. This beer had mixed reactions around the table. Everyone enjoyed it, but there were comments that it reminded some folks (including me) of a childhood cereal. In the end, we deduced it might have been from the combination of the strawberry flavor mixed with the wheat. Two common cereal ingredients.

After the Strawberry Wheat, we opened up a Sultan’s Revenge. This beer, with its nice caramel color, was loaded with a piney hops smell. It was a very enjoyable beer that while super hoppy left no bitter after-taste. It was an all around favorite among the group.

And, we finished off the evening with a Porter called Black Shox Porter. This beer was all about the malt. It was the first thing you could smell in the glass, and it was right in front for the flavor. Presenting itself as a flavor mix of chocolate and coffee, this beer was mild but full of character and enjoyable flavors. There was no after-taste at all with this beer, making it rather pleasant to drink. More please.

North Dakota Craft Beer

Laughing Sun Brewery

In the end, we really enjoyed the beer from North Dakota, and are pulling for the craft beer industry in the state. Thanks for Eliane and Lee for joining us this week, we really enjoyed your company, and hope we furthered your quest for 50 states by a few more beers. Thanks to all the readers for tagging along again this week, and special thanks to the folks at Laughing Sun Brewery for making an enjoyable beer. We really enjoyed them.

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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.

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