Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Lew Bryson is Smiling Right Now

Has anybody else noticed this—the ever increasing number of session IPA that have come out in the last few months?

Just this week I've come across three—Saranac's Session IPA, Founder's All-Day IPA and Middle Ages' 17th Anniversary Session IPA. I've seen a few Belgian-inspired session ales as well.Sam Adams released their Belgian Session last year and Victory has out their Swing Session Saison (which is fantastic by the way.) But, it looks like IPA has become the go-to in the world of American session brews. Ratebeer lists 57 of them, and Beeradvocate claims 30. That's a far cry from the thousands of "regular" IPAs that both sites list, but I'd garner a bet that we'll see those first numbers rise, on both sites, over the next few months.

I will admit, it does seem like there was a meeting of the Loyal Order of Water Buffaloes, and everybody got together and said, "Let's all make a session IPA. Are you in?", but I think IPA is a logical choice to session-ize. It's a gateway beer, and IPAs sell well.

It's actually pretty tough to make a good, low strength brew. There's not a whole lot to work with in a beer under 5% ABV. Session brews—at least American styles of session brews, like IPA and Pales—have a tendency to sacrifice body for lower strength. I think people might be able to overlook that if the brew can pull off that classic American IPA, hoppy zip and bitterness.

There has been some dissension amongst the ranks. I have heard a few folks state that IPAs can never be session-able because IPAs have to be 5%, or above—therefore making them ineligible for session status and unable to play under NCAA regulations. Of course, IPAs can be stronger, no objections there—because as we all know, IPA was brewed strong and heavily hopped to survive the trip to India*—but not weaker. That would be a crime against man and nature. It's like that old saying from the 19th-century: Pizza can't be pizza unless it's round. Right?

But, I digress.

While I'm happy to see more and more of these session IPA, (because who doesn't want a a bunch of IPAs to drink-on all the livelong day?) especially now that the weather has begun to break; but I've always thought a session strength brewery would be a great idea—a place that makes nothing but under 5% ABV beer. Think about it. The line-up could include a 3.5% Brown Ale or Dark Mild, a low 4s Märzen, an "Imperial"Stout topping the chart near 5, a peppery Saison coming in at around 4 and a half, and of course the now-more-recently-popular, low-balled IPA. What's not to love about that? 

You could call it Small Time Ale and Lager Company. 

There you go. I just did all the work for you. Go make your millions—just send me beer. 

And a check for 15% of your earnings in the first five years.

*This whole sentence, nay, the whole paragraph, is horse shit.

Friday, April 26, 2013

News from Portlandia

Have you read Jeff Alworth's blog Beervana?

If YES — The manuscript for his newest book, The Beer Bible, will be done next week, and it's set for release next fall (2014). It's a comprehensive tome on all things beer, conceived by Workman Publishing, the folks behind the über-selling The Wine Bible. Jeff has been tapping away at his keyboard and chipping away at the book since mid-2011, collecting information on beer history, regions, techniques, characteristics and just about every other nuanced area of beer and brewing you can think of—he even included a blurb on Albany Ale!

Jeff's previous foray into the beery book world was his early 2012 released Beer Tasting Tool Kit, published by Chronicle Books and available at Powell's,  IndieBound and Amazon.

If NO — Get thee to Beervana.blogspot.com forthwith! Seriously, Jeff is without-a-doubt one the best beer writers on "the scene" today (not like the schlock that oozes from this portal). Originally conceived as a Portland-based beer blog, Jeff has transcended that city—and quite honestly the Pacific Northwest, as a whole. He is one of the most informed beer writers I've ever read. What I greatly appreciate most, however, is that he hasn't drank the craft beer Kool-Aide. Of course he writes about it, but he doesn't evangelize it. Jeff writes about beer—good or bad, macro or craft, old and new—beer in all its forms.

Truthfully, Jeff is the kind of writer that I aspire to be and Beervana is the kind of blog I hope drinkdrank will become.

So, go and read his blog.

Buy his books, too.

Monday, April 22, 2013

A Hoppin' Party in the Valley


I mean wow.

I don't know what else to say about the Hudson Valley Hops event at the Albany Institute of History & Art. From the nearly three hundred people in attendance—a 290% increase from last year—to the great beer offered by the seven or eight breweries in attendance, and the history steeped venue, it was truly a fantastic event.

I was amazed at the diversity of people that attended, as well. Of course the beer geeks were there, the
Carrie B. and Kevin sampling Chatham Brewing's wares.
Photo courtesy of Chatham Brewing
home brewers and beer lovers, but a great cross-section of non-beery Albanians showed up, too—and of all ages, from the just-legal 21, to a good number well into their eighties. In fact, I overheard one beautiful white-haired woman say that she'd never been to something like the event before, but she likes beer and history, so she thought "why not?"

While the thongs of thirsty patrons arrived, I waited, nervously, to start my presentation on Albany Ale and the history of brewing in this fair city. I made small talk with the owner of Chatham Brewery, Tom Crowell, and his wife, and with my lovely Amy in tow, I sampled their spiced, and slightly smokey Chatham OC Blonde, and IPA and waited for H-Hour.

The presentation went smooth—granted, I was a bit nervous at first. The highlight of the talk came at the very end, when I mentioned that William Newman had operated a brewery in Albany during the early 1980s—arguably the first craft brewery on the east coast. Simply saying "I've never met Bill, and I'm not sure if he's even still alive..." was answered by someone in the room with, "He's standing in the back of the room!" Sure enough, Bill, a thin, silver haired gentleman, modestly raised his hand—a gesture not unlike a retired ballplayer might give on the return to the playing field of his glory years.

Bill Newman and some other fool.
After my presentation, Kathy Quinn—a descendant of the Quinn and Nolan Brewery Quinn's—spoke of her family's involvement with Albany Ale and their subsequent move to the west to open a silver mine. Kathy's family tree—a maze of like-named Quinns—would lead her back to Albany, it's beery past, and eventually the Albany Institute and its Curator of History, Doug McCombs—who also happen to be the evening's MC.

To be farm-brewer, hop grower, and my hop scrounging partner Dieter Ghering took the podium next and gave the ins-and-outs of his culitvar— the Helderberg hop—and also announced that the venerable apple orchard and pumpkin patch, Indian Ladder Farms will, in the near future, not only begin growing hops and barley but also brewing its own beer as the Indian Ladder Farmstead Brewery. Dieter is a good friend and I'm really excited about this new venture.

With Mr. Ghering's lead-in, Russell Savoy, of The Homebrew Emporium, presented on the history New York's hop industry, followed by Sam Filler updating everyone on New York State's new proposals for craft brewing and farm brewing.

I will admit, as much as I would have loved to hear the full width and breadth of all the talks I did get swept way amid a crowd of handshakes and questions after my talk. Everyone was amazingly friendly, asking everything from where the breweries were located to where they could get a recipe. Between questions I did grab a few samples—Brown's Brewing Company Oatmeal Stout, and a cask offering from Crossroads, dry-hopped with the last bit of Dieter's Helderberg hops, from last year's harvest.

This was a big night for me—solidified first, by the offer of Neil Evans, proprietor of C.H. Evans Brewing Co. and the Albany Pump Station—the city's only brew pub (actually the only brewing facility of any kind)—to recreate Albany Ale. That offer has been a dream of mine since this whole thing started, and now it looks like it's actually going to happen. More importantly, though the night was big for me because of the support given to me by my wife, Amy, and by my great friends— The Albany Institute and Doug McCombs (especially since it was his idea to invite me in the first place!) Carrie Bernardi, Kevin Flanagan, Dieter, David "Gravey" Kennedy, Paul Quirk, Carl Marrone, and last but not least, Jerry Aumand, and John Mead the owner and manager of the Lionheart Pub, respectively. While I appreciate everyone who attended the event and my talk, it's those people I am especially grateful for.

I do have one regret. I do very much wish Alan could have been here to see it. Alan has been my partner in the Albany Ale Project, a good friend, and, honestly, the reason I began writing in the first place. To him I owe a debt of gratitude. He's had a tough go of it recently and I hope he realizes that the results and successes of Saturday night are as much his as they are mine.

Above everything else, however, what I think is most important about the Hops in the Hudson Valley event, is that it is good for beer in Albany. I say the more beer and beer-related happenings in Albany the better, and this event is proof of that statement. The event bridges past and present by showing what Albany's beery past was like and what a great beer town it has become. It brings new opportunities to capitalize on old ideas. It's cultural and educational, but at the same time fun.

In the end, that's what's important, having fun. Without that, beer is just a beverage.

Check out Chad Polenz's take on the event at his new gig at the TUs Beer Nut blog!       

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Waxing Nostalgic

I'm not an overly sentimental sort, but once in a while I come across something that tug at my heart strings. It's usually the low string, those that play the "what was once is now gone" kind of tunes.

The T-Shoppe at 4154 Fremont Avenue, in Minneapolis
StarTribune/Tom Wallace
Ward does a fantastic job of telling the tales of the T-Shoppe—a neighborhood tavern in the Camden area of Minneapolis—one of just two 3.2 bars left in the Twin Cities of Minnesota.


3.2% alcohol by weight—the strongest beer sold in most of Minneapolis* from the end of the 19th- century to 1974. Way back in the 1880s, the city put a law on the books allowing for full strength beer and liquor to be sold in only two "liquor patrol areas." Even after the repeal of that law, low-strength beer bars flourished in town. While most states eliminated 3.2 blue-laws after Prohibition, according to the article, as late as 1997 there were 56 bars and taverns selling 3.2 in Minneapolis. Ten years later, in 2007, only 15 remained.

These hold-outs of an earlier time have faced some significant hindrances over the last few years—the least of which is the craft beer boom. The T-Shoppe's owners, Joe and Marion Abell, estimate that the smoking ban that went into effect in 2005, has cost the tavern around 30 percent of its business. The City's revision of zoning laws hasn't help the 3.2s, either.

Reading this article and seeing the photos, saddens me. Which is almost ridiculous. New York did away with "three-two" laws before my father stared drinking—so I have no real connection to it. Regardless, as much as American, non-craft beer is disparaged, it's still part of our history, and these little neighborhood haunts and dives—bastions of 3.2—are dying off like veterans of long forgotten wars. Are these hole-in-the-walls that different from those cozy little pubs across the pond? Those places have a whole, acronymed organization dedicate to preserving pub culture and its beer. 3.2 bars aren't about the beer, they're about the people who stop into the bar on the way from work; the silly conversations over half drank pints; or a juke box playing that one perfect tune.

As much as I love craft beer—be it a zingy IPA or a funky Saison—I sometimes think we might be a bit quick to divorce ourselves from the beery culture of our past—the beery culture of our father and grandfathers.

Sometimes, I suppose, beer isn't always about beer. 

*Actually, the Land of 1000 Lakes isn't alone in this idea. Four other states—Colorado, Utah, Kansas and Oklahoma also sell 3.2.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Enough About You, Let's Talk About Me

Lord knows I love a little gratuitous self-promotion, so here goes:

This Thursday the Times Union, will be featuring an article (both in print and on-line) about Albany Ale, written by the paper's venerable restaurants and arts writer, Steve Barnes. I bored Steve for 40 minutes during a phone interview last week, knowing full well, he's going to have to hear the whole thing again during my talk at the Hudson Valley Hops event at the Albany Institute of History & Art.

Good sport, that Mr. Barnes.

Placing second after Steve—in terms of those needing your pity—comes Bob Barrett, a long-time voice on WAMC/Northeast Public Radio. Bob was also subjected to my blatherings about Albany Ale during an interview I did with him for Midday Magazine, this past Friday. In my defense, they asked me—they'll never make that mistake again, but it was them who asked.

For those of you living in the WAMC/Northeast Public Radio listening area, keep your ears on (as the gear jammers say) this upcoming Saturday, between noon and 1 p.m, for that little gem. It'll be on their website after that as well—because you'll want to hear it four or five times in a row.

Lastly, there are still tickets available for the Hudson Valley Hops event at the Albany Institute of History & Art—they can be purchased for $25 on the Institute's website. Please do not bring tomatoes to throw, and there will be no refunds given, regardless of how badly I go down in flames. There will, however, be beer, so there's that.

Follow me on twitter @drinkdrank1 and on Facebook/drinkdrankblog. Check The Albany Ale Project on FB, too.

Okay, I'm done promoting.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

No Can Do

I have become increasingly confused by the re-design and re-development of the beer can. I had always thought the genius of the beer can lie in its simplicity.

Apparently I was wrong.

As a side note, I once cut the piss out of my hand (between my left thumb and index finger) on a cat food can lid, that looked suspiciously like the discarded lid in the picture.

Just sayin’

By the way, isn’t this opening the floodgates for bee infested barbecue and picnic beer?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Not Quite Right

I don't usually like to use this blog as a forum to say, "No, you're wrong", but since the Internet Know-it-all Act of 2011 was passed, I'm obligated to do so bi-annually. Since were nearly a quarter through 2013, I might as well get to it.

In honor of the most auspicious of holidays, National Beer Day, The Huffington Post put up an info graphic, on Friday, titled 24 Things You Didn't Know About Beer. Unfortunately there are few things they don't know about beer. Maybe a little more stringent fact checking should have been employed by the folks at HuffPost.com.

Let's review, shall we?

1. (It's not a great sign when the first item on the list is wrong, is it?) "Beer is Proof that God loves us." -Benjamin Franklin

Franklin's now-famous misquote refers to wine, rather than beer. What Franklin actually wrote—in a 1779 letter to the French economist André Morellet—was:
Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.

8. Beer gone bad. When British brewers tried to send their pale ales over to India, the beer would go bad during the long ocean voyage. Beer makers began to add extra alcohol and hops to help with the preservation. This inadvertently created a new style of extra bitter, extra powerful beers called India Pale Ales (IPAs). 

There is nothing accurate in that statement. They could have said IPA was first found in craters of green cheese on the moon, collected by space monkeys, then sold at church pot lucks, and it would be just as true.

9. There are 400 types of beer. Belgium has the most individual beer brands in the world.   

I might be splitting hairs, but I'd say that there are two types of beer—top, warm fermenting beers and cold, bottom fermenting beers—maybe, a third type if you include hybrid beers.

12. More beer please! The agricultural revolution was started because people needed a way to make more beer. This led to inventions such as the plow wheel and irrigation systems.

This is a gross exaggeration. The transition of human society from small nomadic bands of hunter-gathers to those settled in fixed locations was brought about by the invention of the plow and the domestication of animals, which allowed for large scale farming. Those factors led to the development of permanent agrarian societies. Let's not let all this beer saved civilization stuff go to our heads. Saying beer started the agricultural revolution is like saying the internet was created or beer blogs—and we all know the real credit goes to porn.

13. Beer made with spit: Ancient Incan girls age 8-10 would chew corn into a pulp like consistency in their mouths, then spit the pulp into huge vats of warm water to sit for several weeks. The viscous, cloudy, lumpy spit filled mixture would be later strained. 

Chicha—which, by the way, is still made throughout Central and South America—is not beer. Granted, it is a fermented beverage, but it is no more "beer" than wine, brandy, cider, perry, tepache, gouqi iu, pito, kefir, or mead. A drag queen may have tits, but that does not make him a woman.

15. Beer for health. Beer contains almost all of the minerals we need to survive. It was a staple of many diets during the European Middle Ages, when good nutrition was rare. You drank beer to survive. Drinking wasn't just for adults. Children also consumed beer as a source of energy and nutrients.

This one isn't technically wrong, but they've neglected to include the main reason beer was drank—because most water was not potable for much of human history. Equating beer as a nutrition source would have been so far over the heads of those living in the European dark ages, you might as well have been trying to explain Quantum theory to a 4-year-old. Boiling is an effective way of killing coliform bacterial contamination in water, and beer needs to be boiled. Viola—the boiling of beer in the brewing process made it safe to drink, while regular water was not.

24. 6 packs to go. The first beer cans were produced in 1935. Drinkers were no longer going to taverns, and breweries needed to get beer into homes. The smaller packages made it much easier to get beer home.

The first beer cans were produced prior to 1935, but Newark New Jersey's Gottfried Krueger Brewing Company, was the first to sell canned beer at the beginning of that year. The rest of the statement doesn't hold water for two reasons. Drinkers may not have been frequenting pubs and taverns in the U.S. due to Prohibition (not legally anyhow), but they sure were in the rest of the world. I also suspect that U.S. breweries weren't hard-up to sell beer less than two years after a thirteen-year dry spell.   Secondly, breweries had been bottling "smaller packages" of beer for for centuries, so that theory goes out the window.

Seven wrong out of twenty four. That works out to a 70, if this were an exam—solid D work (not much worse than my work in high school—so I can't poke too much fun.) Maybe they can just re-title the graphic. How's this for an alternate:
24 Things You Didn't Know About Beer although 7 Aren't Really True, but 24 Sounds Better Than 17.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Albany Ale: The Lager Boom?

It's amazing to me when I come across new things in books that I've looked through hundreds of times. I'm talking about those little bits of information that have always been there, but simply haven't caught my eye. Then all of a sudden, there they are—like the glow skittering under a closed door of a dark room when a hall light is switched on. This very phenomenon happened to me today.
The following statement shows the number of barrels of ale and lager beer manufactured in Albany for the years ending April 30, 1883 and April 30, 1884.
1883......................236,491 barrels
1884......................263,459 "
Increase, 26,968 barrels

                LAGER BEER. 
1883.......................95,743 barrels
1884.......................94,475 "
Decrease, 1,268 barrels

Bi-centenial History of Albany: History of the County of Albany, N.Y., From 1609 to 1886" by George Rogers Howell and Jonathan Tenney, 1886, page 557.

1884 was smack in the middle of lager's meteoric rise—the height of the boom—wasn't it? The inevitable result of the mass influx of German immigration into the United States. 

It's funny though that ale had an 11% increase in production, while lager had a 1% decrease within a single year. If lager was dominating the beer market—the national drink, as it were—shouldn't that be the other way around?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Boy, Are They In For an Earful

Someone wants me to give a presentation on Albany Ale. I swear this isn't a belated April Fools Day joke.


In front of actual, living people, no less.

The Albany Institute of History & Art has asked me to speak at their second annual Hudson Valley Hops fundraiser, on Saturday April 20. The event—in connection with Albany's Times Union.com—will feature samples from Adirondack Brewery, Brown's Brewing Company, Brewery Ommegang, Chatham Brewing, C.H. Evans Brewing, Crossroads Brewery and Keegan Ales. My pal Dieter Ghering will be giving a talk on heritage hops, and Kathy Quinn, a decendent of the Quinn & Nolan Quinns, will also be speaking.

The event runs from 4 to 7 p.m, and the price per ticket is $25—you can purchase them here. You can also contact Eileen at the Institute at (518) 463-4478 x408 for more information.

Courtesy of the Albany Institute of History & Art

Now all I need to do is figure out a way to squeeze 400 years of brewing history into 20 minutes.

UPDATE: In a little bit of cross-promotion, the Lionheart Pub will be serving some of the same brews being offered as samples at the Hudson Valley Hops event. Stop by the pub that night and buy me a pint for blowing your mind.