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

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.

 

 

 

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beer, History

Wisconsin: Live like you mean it

There was in the United States, in the beer age, no more delightful a city than Milwaukee in which to spend a day, a year or a life.1

By the time Wisconsin gained statehood in 1848, it was already well on its way to becoming a major brewing center. Eight years prior to statehood, the Lake Brewery in Milwaukee began brewing traditional English ales and porters. While these styles were well loved among the English, their sweet taste and murky color were not what the German’s called beer. Within a year, the Germans would get their beer, when a German immigrant named Reuthlisberger founded the lager beer industry in Milwaukee, setting the course of the city for years to come.

The Germans brought with them their love of relaxation, beer and talk.1

Around 1844, the first big wave of German immigrants started migrating to the United States, with many of them settling in region that would become Wisconsin. One of the newly transplanted was Jacob Best. Prior to coming across the Atlantic, Jacob ran a small brewery in Germany, so when he arrived in Wisconsin, he picked up right where he left off by founding the Empire Brewery which later became the Pabst Brewing Company. Quickly, other beer barons with names like Schlitz and Blatz also set up shop brewing lager, making the city Milwaukee synonymous with the word beer.

Pour beer out upon a locality and it won’t be long till the ground is dotted with gardens. They will grow and bloom so long as the beer continues to nourish them.1

Along with the their love of lager, the German immigrants also brought another facet of home with them, the beer garden, a gathering place for all.  One of the most famous beer gardens not only in Milwaukee, but in the entire United States at one point in time, was the Schlitz Palm Garden. Opened in 1896, The Schlitz Garden, built when “The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous” was sweeping the land, quickly became a major tourist attraction for the city, including a visit from Woodrow Wilson on his first presidential nomination campaign.

Beer and wine make for conversation. There is in liquors of mild alcoholic persuasion that which quickens the flow of the thoughts in a man’s cranium, loosens a notch the belt about his reticence and releases upon his tongue the fruits of his meditations1

While the German’s were busying putting their own mark on Milwaukee with the introduction of lager beer and beer gardens, there was a steadily growing temperance movement sweeping across the U.S., and within Wisconsin, that would bring about another, much resisted, change to the city.

Wisconsin to the average American unacquainted with actual conditions therein, is commonly regarded as a Gibraltar of the wets — sort of a Utopia where everybody drinks their fill and John Barlycorn still holds forth in splendor2

Prohibition in the United States lasted from 1920 to 1933 with some areas embracing it more than others. Wisconsin was not one of the more embracing states. In 1931, just two years shy of the 21st Amendment, The Treasury Department conducted a survey of Prohibition enforcement in the state of Wisconsin and found that a majority of the state was doing little to uphold the federal law. In most instances, the enforcement of Prohibition was just theater as indicated by this paragraph in the report: The writer attended police court in Superior and observed the daily collection therein from proprietors of such establishments. The line formed on the right. The violator stepped up to the judge, was asked whether he pleaded guilty or not guilty to the sale of intoxicating liquor in his particular soft-drink establishment. Before the judge had finished with the above question, the proprietor in each case would reach into his pocket, extract therefrom a roll of bills, plead guilty, and place $200 on the desk. This is the standard penalty for liquor transgressions in the city of Superior.2

However, even with flagrant disregard of the law in many parts of the state, Prohibition still made its mark. Just one year into Prohibition, the Schlitz Garden closed, ending a 25 year run of the most successful beer garden in the United States.

Once prohibition ended, the major players bounced back and regained their foothold,  quickly regaining their leading positions of producers of beer in the country. While Wisconsin was once the home to many major national breweries, things appear to be different these days, as we were only able to get our hands on one craft brewery here in Massachusetts for this weeks tasting: Lakefront Brewery.

From Lakefront Brewery, we tried 5 different styles.

Wisconsin Craft Beer

Wisconsin Craft Beer

We opened the Fixed Gear, an American Red Ale, to start the evening.

Brewed in Milwaukee for people who like beer

This beer had a deep red color when poured in the glass. The taste was caramel, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. Nothing off putting at all. This beer won two awards, The Regional Champion at the Winter U.S. Beer Tasting Championship and the Silver Medal at the Los Angels International Commercial Beer Competition, and I am not surprised. This was a nice, solid beer and I would drink it again.

Wisconsin Craft Beer

Lakefront Brewery Wisonsinite

After the Fixed Gear, we opened the Wisconsinite, a summer Weiss. The concept of this beer, brewed with 100 percent Wisconsin grown ingredients intrigued me. This is an idea I have always been curious about, can a beer have a sense of place? Do the locally grown ingredients give the beer a regional taste that can not be reproduced when using the same ingredients in a different area. In wine and coffee, this is referred to as terroir, and the debate still carries on about terroir in beer.

In the glass, this beer was a light golden color. The aroma had a slight banana characteristic, which is expected in a hefeweizen. The aroma stems from the yeast used to brew the beer which produces the same esters found in bananas.

When drank, this beer didn’t really have anything that made it standout. No flavors jumped out at me, and I was left wanting of a description. This beer reminded me of a session beer, and with its 4.4 ABV, it meets the criteria. While not a bad beer, it was just not loaded with the flavors that we have often encountered over the past year, but as a session beer, I could handle a few of these.

Our next beer was the Cream City Pale Ale. Milwaukee is nicknamed the Cream City for the cream colored bricks used as a common building material in the area. The color of this beer was golden honey (not cream!), and the beer had a slightly bitter aftertaste. Other than that, there were no other descriptives I could come up with for this beer.

Finishing up the Cream City, we moved to the IPA and followed that with the IBA.

Wisconsin Craft Beer

Lakefront IPA

The IPA, while not emitting much of a smell, had that nice, enjoyable bitter taste expected in an IPA. I felt the carbonation of this beer overpowered the ability to get any aroma from it, otherwise, this was a typical, good IPA.

The IBA (Black IPA) was a nice, roasted dark color and wasn’t as bitter as the IPA. With its roasted tastes and bitter hops, this was my favorite beer of the night.

In the end, I enjoyed the Fixed Gear and the IBA the best. The others were fine, but they seemed lacking in character and didn’t have the uniqueness that some of the beers we have encountered on this journey have exhibited. Overall, another successful week was had putting us at 136 beers from 30 states in 30 weeks.

Next week, California. Thanks for reading.

1 http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/turningpoints/search.asp?id=1270
2 http://content.wisconsinhistory.org/cdm/ref/collection/tp/id/48320

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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

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

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

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

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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beer, History

Indiana: Restart Your Engines

This week, we are commemorating the December 11, 1816 admittance of Indiana into the union as the 19th state.

Prohibition was hard on the brewing industry. After the repeal of prohibition, only about 300 out of 1100 breweries remained in operation. Then to make things worse, the years after prohibition saw mergers creating huge brew houses while shrinking the number of breweries even further to about 50 breweries operating by 1980. This era lead to a mass market beer that was void of quality and character. And it would take a grassroots initiated resurgence in the late 1970s to slowly turn things around.

This turn around has its roots in the homebrewing revolution. Fed up with the state of American brewing, and a longing for beer styles no longer available, homebrewers started to experiment on their own. By relearning the skills once prevalent in our towns and communities prior to prohibition, the homebrewing movement slowly reintroduced the American public to long lost styles of beer full of flavors and characteristics unlike anything the industry was producing at the time.

Another factor considered as a major influence to the craft beer revolution was the advent of affordable airfare. When air travel became accessible to more people in the late 70s and early 80s, Americans were bringing back knowledge, and more importantly, a desire for the great food and beer they discovered and enjoyed during their European travels.

As the homebrewing movement spread across the country, each state slowly lifted old prohibition laws that made homebrewing illegal.

With the passing of the 21st amendment to the Constitution, prohibition was repealed in 1933. However that amendment did not repeal the prohibition of homebrewing that was written into the 18th amendment, where homebrewing was made illegal. It wasn’t until 1978, when President Carter signed new legislation allowing beer production for personal and family use that homebrewing was again legal at a federal level.

While now legal at a federal level, as part of the 21st amendment, each state held the final word on alcohol regulation. As a result, the ability to (legally) home brew beer has slowly progressed from state to state since 1978. In Indiana, beer enthusiasts would have to wait until 1985 for home brewing to become legal in their state. (While 7 years might seem like a long time, it wasn’t until last week that Alabama made homebrewing legal, bring all states into the homebrewing era.)

At the time of homebrewing legalization, Indiana had two breweries in operation, however since 1985, we would see that number grow to more than 38 operational breweries today. By allowing individuals the ability to practice and hone their craft without legal ramifications, an entire industry has sprung to life again, producing new and interesting beer for a welcoming audience.

Part of this homebrew enthusiast turned brewing entrepreneur is Three Floyds Brewing in Munster Indiana. Setting out … to be a departure from the fairly bleak craft brewing scene in the region, Three Floyds has developed a reputation for brewing high quality, highly sought out beer. If you look at the Beer Advocate Top 250 Beers list, Three Floyds has two entries in the top 10. Or if you prefer the RateBeer Top 50 list, they have three brews in the top 10. Very Impressive, and we were fortunate to get our hands on one of these brews for this week.

This week was a week were I couldn’t locate any beer locally. Getting beer from Indiana in Massachusetts is apparently not possible. So I went the trading route, and received a nice selection of beer from Upland Brewing, Oaken Barrel Brewing, New Albanian and Three Floyds to represent Indiana.

Indiana Craft Beer

Indiana Craft Beer

We started this week with a Helios Pale Ale from Upland Brewing. Located in Bloomington, Upland has been in the business of brewing beer since 1998. Named after the sun god Helios, this Pale Ale from Upland was well liked across the group. With “a slight bitterness to the taste, but nothing off-putting“, in the glass this beer was “more golden than expected” for one taster, but over all, it was a keeper. I could sit back and enjoy this beer at anytime.

From the Helios, we moved on to the Indiana Amber from Oaken Barrel Brewing. Listed as “Indiana’s premier, must-visit brewpub“, Oaken Barrel, located in Greenwood has been producing craft beer for 14 years now. The Indiana Amber is an American Amber that truly lives up to its name. With a deep amber color, this beer had a nice, sweet caramel smell in the glass. The caramel smell, from the malt, transferred straight into the taste of this beer, where there was a nice combination of hoppy bitterness with sweet caramel undertones.

Strange mix of caramel and bitter, but it works!

The next beer up in the queue was from Three Floyds. Typically, we do these tastings on a Friday evening, however due to a Little League game and a few missed text messages, this weeks tasting didn’t happen until Saturday afternoon. Because of that missed opportunity, I spent Friday night reading the lastest issue of Beer Advocate. In this issue, there is an article by Martin Cizmar about his attempt to try all of the top 250 beers on the Beer Advocate list. The article was an enjoyable read, and while I often frequent the Beer Advocate site for references while writing these posts, I somehow never managed to stumble on the top list. Until Friday night. What was somewhat surprising to me was that I had not had any of the beer in the top 100, though I have heard of many. The second big surprise came to me as I was scanning the list. Thanks to Redditor Zugunfall, I had in my possession, two bottles of Zombie Dust from Three Floyds brewing. This beer is currently sitting at number 7 on the top 250 list, and I didn’t even know what I had.

Indiana Craft Beer

Three Floyds Zombie Dust

With its comic book inspired label, a quick search of the beer trade forums will show you that this is a much sought after beer. Listed by the brewer as an “intensely hopped and gushing undead pale ale,” this beer would be the final beer of our afternoon. The others would have to wait until Sunday.

Right from the pour, I knew this was a special beer. It had a wonderful citrus and pine smell that immediately put me back at our mini-beer summit and the opening of the bottle of Treehouse IPA. This beer was Delicious. With its wonderful aroma, and excellent taste, this beer was an excellent end to a great tasting. There have been many great words already crafted about this beer, and I would have to agree with them all. This was one of the best beers of this project so far.

 

On the following day, over an inspired mothers day meal (including mussels steams in Abita Amber,) we had a Komodo Dragon Black IPA and a Double Dragon Fly Imperial IPA, both from Upland. Again two really enjoyable beers, showing that Indiana is here to play in the craft beer world.

Next week, we head south to Mississippi.

 

 

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