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.