Friday, February 18, 2011

Quiet Riot: Our Revolution: Viva La Craft Beer

Friday, the beacon of light to beer drinkers across the 
world.  The notion that friday is rolling around, and the 
possibility to explore new and exciting brews that our great 
liquid revolution has to offer lays before us.  These pints 
of perfection possibly rival any great work of art offered
up by the greats, Warhol, Beethoven and Da Vinci.  The 
difference with these works of art is that they are 
temporary installations.   The best part is that you are 
able to enjoy different masterpieces again and again with 
only the time it takes your local sud slinger to provide it.  
The challenge is not to get stuck in old habits and challenge ourselves to break boundaries and push ourselves 
to trying something new.  
The three major beer brands in the US—Budweiser, Miller and 
Coors take a staggering 78 percent market share.  This only 
leaves 22 percent to the rest of the brewers.  Of that left-
over 22 percent, craft beers made up just 4.3 percent of 
U.S. beer sales volume in 2009, according to the Boulder, 
Colo.-based Brewers Association.   These numbers are 
staggering considering that the american beer market is 
approximately $101 billion.  78 percent of this 101 billion >
ends up in the hands of the big three breweries, Budweiser, 
Miller and Coors. And in my opinion what they serve up meets 
the classification of beer, but  to be perfectly honest I 
hesitate to even call them breweries at all.  They should be 
referred to as corporations that literally pump product out 
with no regard to the art of it, dollars and cents are all 
that matter at the end of the day.  It actually makes me 
want to "stand up and shout"  (in the great words of Mark 
Wahlberg in the movie Rock Star).  I feel like all the things that beer stands for has been warped by marketing and 
the push for the mighty dollar.  Beer has deep history with 
humanity.  We have relied on it to make water sources safe, 
forms of currency, and created all sorts of events just so 
we could consume beer.  It is not all about the silver 
bullet, draft horses and being the champaign of beers.  When 
did we lose a sight of quality over quantity.  I think it is 
up to our generation to take a step back and slow things 
down a little.  Bigger is not always better.  Love and care 
should be what we strive for in every batch of beer.  When a 
brewer creates a tasty brew, and he or she watches that 
first pint being consumed by someone, all we should see is a 
huge smile from that brewer in anticipation of the reaction.  
I don't like to push one brewery over another, because this 
is not what this blog is about, but I think a very good 
example of the kind of brewers I am looking for is Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish Head Brewery.  I use him as 
an example because I was able to watch him in Brewmasters 
and really see his zeal and love for the industry.  I have 
also read countless articles on him and his journey through 
the craft beer world. Sam receives a gold star for his&nbp;
commitment to pushing the boundaries of the beer industry. I 
know there are countless brewery owners and consumers who 
share his enthusiasm, without this community, craft beer 
would not exist.  So, to all of the countless people out 
there I say thank you for not laying down and letting others 
tell you what beer is or should be.
If options are what you are worried about, there are over 
1,500 craft breweries operating in the US.  Every state 
offers at least one, as well as the fact that many craft 
brewery beers are distributed nationally.  This being said, 
even though we are already in the midst of a quiet riot, our 
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liquid revolution, we still need to push ourselves not to 
settle.  Meaning, don't stop when you find the one brand of 
craft beer that you like.  Try others, make the brewers be 
innovative and show them that we are not mindless propaganda 
following zombies.  I promise you will like what you find.  

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Beer review on: Cold Hop.

Nothing beats sitting down and enjoying a quality craft beer. And that is just what I did last night when I tried Boulder Beer Company's, Cold Hop.  Hailed as a British style Ale, Cold Hop is one of four year round beers that Boulder Beer Company offers.  They also offer seven different seasonal brews and one brewers choice (only offered in their bar).  

I am going to offer the stats on beers now.  I have to admit, I saw the stats on the web site for Boulder Brewing Company and I thought that it was a good idea.  So now, when available  I will post these as well.

Grains:  Maris Otter Pale Malt.  Honey Malt, 10-15 Crystal Malt

Kettle Hops:  Willamette, Czech Saaz, Hallertau and Hercules

Dry Hop:  Nelson Sauvin From New Zealand

ABV (Alcohol By Volume: 6.3%

IBU's (International Bittering Units. This is a measure of the actual bitterness of a beer as contributed by the alpha acid from hops) :  46

Just so everyone knows, I purchased this beer not knowing anything about this particular brew nor the brewery that was responsible for my liquid libation.  So I had little to no expectation.  I was going in blind.

When I first poured Cold Hop it had a clouded hazy appearance, with an orange to copper color.  This ale boasted a nice white thick head.  As time told, the head fizzled out, but left behind some nice lacing. 

When I took a sniff of this brew, I was hit with a little caramel aroma, floral hops, but most of all a fruit overtone.

Upon tasting, I was pleasantly surprised.  I tasted a truly enjoyable blend of fruit, maybe pineapple, floral hops (less than in the aroma), and a slight bitter aftertaste.  Making Cold Hop a smooth ride, and leaving me wanting more.

For some reason this seemed to be a good balance for my palate, and recommend it for sure.

For an overall score I give Cold Hop an A-.  I know what you are thinking,  an A-?  I just said it was well balanced and that I recommend it.  While I enjoyed Cold Hop, it did not let me know that I could lay down and die, since I had just tasted perfection. What it did do was make my mouth a happy place and earned the first grade in the A family!!

Till next time, enjoy life and good beer!!!  Prosit!!!


Monday, February 7, 2011

Beer Styles (Bohemian Pilsner)

Now that we have figured out that beer falls into one of two categories ( Ale or Lager), I am going to tackle the huge task of talking about as many styles of beer as possible.  I will not do this all in one post, it will take several posts and over many months. Since I like to keep each entry short, so I don't lose your interest, I will be talking about one style a post.

Today I am going to talk about the Bohemian Pilsner (which falls into the Lager family).  Originally Bohemian Pilsner came about in 1842 in the Czech town called Plzen.  Since the early days of this beer it has changed somewhat, but if you do come across an original Bohemian Pilsner, it should be a crystal gold in color, with caramel and spicy Saaz-hop aroma.  The taste should be a sweet malt,with light caramel, finished with the Saaz hops (which should leave you with a fresh but bitter finish).

Truly original Pilsner's are crisp and refreshing.  If you order one, make sure it is fresh because this is a beer that is enjoyed only when it is in it's freshest state.

This being said, go out and order a Bohemian Pilsner today.  Get a taste of history without ever having to leave your chair!

Till next time, enjoy life and good beer!!!  Prosit!!


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Geary's Pale Ale

Time to tackle another review.  Today I am taking a look at Geary's Pale Ale.  Geary's Pale Ale is brewed by D.L. Geary Brewing Company out of Portland, Maine.  Geary's offers five beers year round and three seasonal beers.  This Pale Ale is hailed as their flagship beer with British influence and even has imported Hampshire yeast, thus the reason it is considered a Brittish Pale Ale.

Geary's Pale Ale is definitely a beautiful copper amber hue.  This Pale Ale retains a nice off white creamy head and leaves behind some lacing, very visually pleasing.

Upon the pour I caught the aroma of citrus, floral hops, and a nutty, malty smell.  Generally pleasant and nothing to overpowering.

Geary's has high carbonation which makes this pale ale light and crisp.  One of the first flavors that I noticed was a nutty, malty flavor, followed up with a distinct hop aftertaste, that seemed to be slightly bitter.

Overall this is a very drinkable beer.  I would be able to drink these all night long without looking back.  While this a good beer, there is nothing that makes it extra special.  It would be a good beer to bring to a BBQ or watch a football game, not an extra special event.

Over all I give Geary's Pale Ale a solid B.

Till next time, enjoy life and good beer!!  Prosit!!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Did you know that all beer is either an Ale or a Lager?


Not many people know that all beer falls into one of two categories, Ale or a Lager.  There are however many different types of beer under those two classifications.  For example some types of Ales are I.P.A., Porter, and Pale Ale.  Some types of lagers are Pilsner, Bock, and American Lager.

So lets get down the the basics.  An Ale is classified as a beer that it's yeast has been cultured to ferment at the top of the batch at warmer temperatures, around 60 degrees to 75 degree F.  This creates a situation where the batch ferments in about a week.  

Yeasts used in a Lager, are cultured to ferment at the bottom of the batch and it is kept at a much lower temperature, around 34 F to 50 F.   Lagers generally take longer to ferment and can take up to a few months, the word Lager comes from the German word "to store", hence the longer storage time.

That is the absolute basics of Ale VS Lager.  It does get a little more complicated once you deal with flavor profiles and deciding what strain of yeast to use, but I will talk more about that in another post.  

Till next time, enjoy life and good beer!

Prosit!!!!   (German for good health! cheers!!)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Keegan Ales, Mother's Milk

Here we are again, time to review another beer!!  Today I am taking a look at Hudson Valley's Brewery, Keegan Ales; Mother's Milk (that was a mouthful), which is considered a milk stout.  Keegan Ales was founded in 2003 by Tommy Keegan  and is located at 20 Saint James Street in Kingston New York. Keegan Ales offers 3 beers year round and one seasonal, for a total of 4 different beers (I hope everyone could keep up with that advanced math).

Mother's Milk is a very dark black, one could say a jet black color, however there is a hint of brownish amber on the boarder.  The head has a thick and brown quality to it, which slightly reduces, but leaves nice lacing behind.

When I first poured Mother's Milk, I caught the scent of toasted malt and chocolate.  The aroma was relatively light but very pleasant.

Upon tasting Mother's Milk, I tasted a slightly sweet, milky, chocolate taste, which had a slight bitterness to the finish which could have been a little bit of an espresso influence.

The mouthfeel is very smooth, medium-bodied and creamy, with a low amount of carbonation which seems to work well in this milk stout.  In the finish this beer is dry and leaves little to no aftertaste.

I definitely recommend Mother's Milk, it is a beer that is very easy to drink and gentle on the senses.

My overall grade for Mother's Milk is a B+.  Although I did struggle, almost giving it an A-.  How ever I would have liked a little more aftertaste to it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Fisherman's IPA

Time to check out a micro-brew.  Tonight I tried Fisherman's IPA which is one of five beers that the Cape Ann Brewing Company offers.  The micro-brewery is located in Gloucester on Cape Ann, Massachusetts.

Fisherman's IPA has a golden amber color, with a thick head that eventually dissipates to lacing (Lacing is the beer head  that sticks to the glass).  It has moderate carbonation and is somewhat hazy in appearance.

Fisherman's has a biscuit, malty aroma, but also carries hints of a floral hops (somewhat earthy).  

When tasting Fisherman's I seemed to get a pretty aggressive hop taste, but it was accompanied by a carmel malt flavor and biscuit finish.  I did however find that the aftertaste was a little watery.

Overall Fisherman's IPA is a medium bodied beer and is not a bad pick for someone who wants to try an IPA for the first time.  It is not overpowering and has some friendly qualities. 

I give Fisherman's IPA an overall grade of B-.

Bock Beer (Controversial indeed!)

The origins of Bock beer are unclear at best.  General consensus is that the original name was Einbock or Einbeck, named after the town it was first brewed in.  However the bock beer of that time and the bock beer that we enjoy today seem to have little in common other than the name.   

From Einbeck, or Einbock it travel to Munich where Monks brewed it in the harvest season (the fall) and drank it during their fasting time.  The Monks named the beer Salvator (savior), since it helped them abstain from eating.  The original Bock was lower in alcohol content and was a very malty brew.  

There is also a story of a drinking contest between a Bavarian duke and a knight form Brunswick.  "Each was given a cask of beer from his opponent's store.  After a few drinks the knight found himself on the ground while the Bavarian remained in his seat.  The embarrassed knight blamed a goat that had found its way into the courtyard. The Bavarian, who also happened to be the brew master, laughed and told the knight, "The Bock that threw you over was brewed by me (source: Bryce Eddings Bock moves to Munich and gets a name)."  This seems to be a great tale and it helps that 

the word Bock actually means billygoat in German, but my impression is that it is just that, a great tale.

One common myth about Bock beer is that it’s brewed using the leftover malt sludge left at the bottom of the fermenting tanks. According to this myth, Bock was brewed in the spring, and was when they cleaned out the brew tanks, it was assumed that bock was probably brewed with the leftover malt that was present from the previous years’ brewing activities. The brewers did not want to waste the malt so the legend says that they used to to create Bock beer. 

Another theory is that it is named after the sign of the Capricorn (the goat), since some say it was brewed under that sign. This theory makes Bock a winter brewed beer.

Today's Bock beer is a bottom fermenting Lager that takes several extra months of lagering (cold storage) to give it a smoother finish.  Bock beer today also has a higher alcohol content then when the monks first brewed it way back when.

As you can see the origins of Bock beer are truly unclear.  All of these stories place the brewing time at a different time of year.

There seem to be four popular types of Bock beer. Traditional Bock, Maibock, Doppelbock, and Eisbock. Maibock is brewed by taking traditional bock and infusing it with more finishing hops, giving the finished product a little more bitterness and more balance than traditional bock. Doppelbock is a double Bock, and has a higher alcohol content and more intense malty and rich flavors than ordinary bock. Eisbock has the most alcohol content because they freeze Doppelbock and then remove the ice. This creates a beer that has a much higher alcohol content because part of the water has been taken out

Bock beer is a great seasonal beer. It’s a great beer to drink when you want a sweeter, richer, maltier beer with not much hop at all. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reinheitsgebot (German Beer Purity Law)

When I think of beer, Germany is not far from my mind.  Lederhosen, large chested bavarian girls hefting steins to and fro, enjoying their sauerkraut and brautwurst, happen to be just a few things that pop into my head when beer and Germany are uttered in the same sentence.  What usually does not present it's self into my train of thought was the age old Reinheitsgebot.  For everyone out there that does not know what this is (don't worry I did not know either until I started to really read up on beer and it's history), Reinheitsgebot, or better known as the German Beer Purity Law, was a law passed in the city of Ingolstadt in the duchy of Bavaria on April 23, 1516.  What the law stated was that only water, barley and hops could be used in the production of beer.  The law also controlled the price of beer.
This was not a decision made because they were looking to create a superior Aryan beverage (they tried that later on, in the 1930'sand 1940's with people, but that did not work out so well either). On the contrary, valuable wheat and rye were reserved for use by bakers, thus there was no competition between Brewers and Bakers over wheat and rye, which would keep the wheat and rye prices at a reasonable level. Barley was a much cheaper, so this is what the brewers were allowed to use.   
I noticed that yeast did not make the cut for making a pure beer, and I thought to my self; how do you make beer without yeast?  Well, the answer is, you don't.  What the brewers did not know was that yeast was at work in their beer. They would either set up vats of their beer and it would catch natural yeast in the air, or if sediment was available from an earlier batch, they would add that to the brew, adding our little micro-organisms without ever knowing it.
The Reinheitsgebot is no longer a stated law but many beer companies still market their beer as Reinheitsgebot Pure.

I shudder to think of all the amazing micro and craft beer that we would miss out on if the Reinheitsgebot followed beer to every corner of the globe.  Other than an interesting piece of history, I think we are better off letting our desire to push boundaries and using our imaginations to guide us to more interesting brews. 

Woodstock Inn Red Rack Ale

So here we go.  My first review to make Hop it up is, Woodstock Inn's Red Rack Ale.  The brewery offers 12 different beers and a root beer, but today we are taking a look at the Red Rack Ale.
Woodstock Inn Brewery is located in Woodstock New Hampshire. Red Rack Ale is considered an American Amber/Red Ale.  

 The appearance of Red rack was a crystal clear amber with a small cream colored head that dissipated relatively quickly. The aroma was surprisingly rich and sweet. It seemed to smell of  raisins with honey and a hint of brandy in the background.

 The flavor of Red Rack was pretty close to the aroma. There was a noticeable buttery, sweet caramel flavor, while still being clean and refreshing.  Red Rack is malty up front, but has a decent malt to hop balance. A very pleasant combination. Flavorful, but finishes easy. There seems to be high carbonation, which can produce a metallic taste, but it worked for me. A medium hoppy bitterness lingers at the very end, which reminded me that I was drinking a craft beer!!  I do recommend you serve this beer cold.  

Over all I give Woodstock Inn Red Rack Ale a B+.

What is the difference between craft beers and micro-brewed beers?

With the recent beer revolution in our country there have been numerous breweries that have opened within the last 15 years. Some are craft brewers, some are micro-brewers, and some are full scale production for the masses. I personally tend to enjoy the craft and micro brewed beverages. This being said, few people know the difference between a craft beer and a micro-brewed beer.

The classification of micro-brewery has to do with the number of beer barrels it produces in a year, which is a limit of 15,000 beer barrels a year (460,000 US gal).

Here are just a few examples of Micro-Breweries.
1. Rogue Ales
2. Full Sail Brewing Company
3. Heartland Brewery (which also has a brewpub)
4. Brooklyn Brewery

Now on to craft beers. The term craft beer is largely an american term, although it is common in New Zealand and Canada as well. These beers are brewed without adjuncts, like corn or rice.
An adjunct is unmalted grains, like rice, corn, and wheat among other usual suspects. These ingredients are used in the mash to keep cost down or as I learned very recently it will actually help keep a better foam. So your beer will look all pretty. I don't want to get all technical on you but I thought a quick explanation what a adjunct is would be helpful. Craft breweries have also really pushed the boundaries on flavor profiles of beer. Some great examples of great craft beer are.

1. Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales
2. Anchor Brewing
3. Boston Beer Company
4. Harpoon Brewery

Throughout my posts I will be profiling micro and craft beers that I have tried and enjoyed, also some I have not enjoyed so much. I look forward to sharing much more with all of you!!

The journey of craft beer.

Welcome to Hop it up. The purpose of this page is to take you through a journey of craft beer through my experience. I am also a home brewer, so my love of small batch, quality brew, is immense. Another one of my goals is to start to recommend parings of craft beer with food. I have recently noticed that there are a ton of books on wine pairing, but very few on pairing of beer and food. I have often been out for dinner and wondered what a beer would compliment my steak. This said, I am starting a journey of trial and error. Wish me luck, I am sure there will be some pitfalls, but many more successes.