Put the Hops in the Beer

ShEvo

Photo by Sheila Dee and Evo Terra – ShEvo from shevo.wtf

 

Most of us have to go to the “import” section of the bottle shop to get the more worldly beers, but instead, Evo Terra and Sheila Dee went to the beers.

Of course I’m sure that’s not the only reason this couple traveled to Europe, and will be going to Asia and Australia. There are probably museums, and natural landmarks, and what not, but I choose to focus on priorities. Beer is one of the highest priorities a human can value.

When I first emailed Evo in early February (when I was supposed to write this article), he wasn’t sure what to expect from Danish beers. He mentioned not being a fan of their well-known Carlsburg. However, my choice to be lazy strategically delay the publication of this post paid off. ShEvo found success in Copenhagen!

Per this February blog post, the duo “rounded out the list of ‘must drink at’ craft beer places” in the Danish capital. They went to Fermentoren and Lord Nelson, and in Evo’s estimation, they were both “quite excellent.” Evo gave a bonus point to Fermentoren for giving them a free bottle of beer—a Hip Hops Beats You – IPA from Ghost Brewing.

Lord Nelson’s website describes itself as “a small bar located in the heart of Copenhagen [specializing] in draught Danish microbrewery beers and ciders.” Once 3D beer printing is perfected, I’ll be able to give you more than my impressions of the pictures. Currently all I can really say is that the cider farmhouse looks pretty, and that I don’t know what pork scratchings are.

Sheila also had praise for the Danish’s beer making ability, saying they produced “a mighty fine beer.” Not Carlsburg, and more than just Mikkeller and To Øl. Specifically, she and Evo referred to Ølsnedkaren, where they were finally happy to pay 10 bucks for a beer. The website text is all in Danish, but the pictures show a nice place with people enjoying themselves. Of course, so do Bud commercials, so I guess we’ll have to take ShEvo’s word on it.

Despite illness, Evo managed to drag himself out into the Belgian craft beer world and get himself a Trappist Westvleteren 1 (Brouwerij De Sint-Sixtusabdij van Westvleteren.) Maybe it was cold medicine, but his take on it is that it’s either the best beer in the world or the best Belgian beer.

The next stop was England. They weren’t thrilled with the beer selection in general, but Sheila called the beer at Brew Dog “flavorful.” Evo was ecstatic to have hoppy beer again, as you can see from their video.

I’d asked Evo (you know, back when I was supposed to have published this) if what they say about the English is true…that they drink their beer warm. Back then he’d said that no one drinks warm beer, unless it’s a “Hot Scotchy.” I don’t know what that is. I’m not worldly like that. Evo had said that pilsners and lagers were typically served cold, so maybe I won’t have to bring my own mini fridge if I ever go back.

English pubbery definitely seemed like a mixed bag of goodness and alrightness.  Sheila’s impression of the pub The Brewery Tap was “decent.”  ShEvo had good things to say about The Bull’s Head in Mobberly, calling it a “lovely pub.” Sheila found an excellent beer selection at A Bar Called Pi (along with the pies, of course.) Generally, they noted that while they love “craft beer,” the “real ale” of England had yet to grab them.

Watch them during an 11-hour drinking stint at a pub (The Builders Arms) that looks like it came straight out of one those British murder mysteries I like. I looked, but I didn’t see Inspectors Lewis, Morse, Barnaby or Foyle.

All in all, since beginning their adventure, they’ve had 90 new beers. Notice in their latest podcast that Sheila didn’t say 90 good beers. Still, that’s a few notches on the ole’ Untappd belt!

Read about/listen to/watch ShEvo.

Support ShEvo (and get stuff).

 

 

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Yes, Airline Attendant, I Will Have Another

Sweetwater Delta logo

SweetWater and Delta logos

 

It’s been a few years since I’ve flown on an airplane, but I remember Guinness during layovers, and, well, nothing during the flight because back then you just got Coke and pretzels.

Now, though, there is talk of our favorite phrase: “Craft beer.” Bart Watson, Chief Economist for the Brewers Association, mentions some of what’s being offered high in the sky. Jet Blue is offering Brooklyn, Frontier is serving Oskar Blues and New Belgium, and Delta has SweetWater (Georgia and Georgia!). These aren’t the only airlines he mentions—he goes into further detail in the video linked above.

He points out that the move to craft beer makes sense, because the demographics match. Frequent flyers tend to be employed, with disposable income, and the same goes for craft brew drinkers.

Craft brew has become more desirable to airlines also because it is increasingly becoming available in cans, which are lighter and easier to transport.

The only drag to this is that you have to be at 37,000 feet. I attempted to find out if short-range commercial flights climb that high. Unfortunately, I got some freaky stories when I Googled “flight 37,000 feet,” so perhaps I’ll leave that for a follow-up one day.

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The Tourism Exception and Florida Breweries

Uh oh. I don’t get a good feeling when I go to one of my favorite local breweries’ websites and see an open letter. Open letters mean serious business.

However, if all we looked for were the fun aspects of beer, we wouldn’t have any beer to buy. Someone’s gotta pay attention to the business side.

The founder of Intuition Ale Works, Ben Davis, posted a letter on his breweries’ homepage. In it, he talks about a legal challenge filed by the Florida Independent Spirits Association towards the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations. No, the Florida Independent Spirits Association (FISA) is not a trade group for paranormal entities. That would be cool, though. It’s a lobbying group representing alcohol retailers. Per their website, their “founding set of guidelines…is advocacy for independent alcohol retailers in the State of Florida.”

Ben considers the organizers of the petition to be “strongly opposed to the way [Intuition’s] taprooms currently operate.” He says that now they can sell beer directly to their supporters, but the opposition would have them sell their beer “to a distributor and then buy it back, at a markup, before [they] can sell it to [the consumer]. “

The Florida Retail Federation (FRF), which has also filed a petition, released a statement that they are seeking clarification regarding the tourism law and how it pertains to craft breweries. The “Tourist Exception,” which is the law that allows Anheuser-Busch to sell beer at Busch-Gardens, is the question.

The best source of legal information I’ve found regarding this issue has been at the website for Komlossy Law. Whereas I can talk for hours about what I think and feel, they have a more concise and accurate view of the issue than I could hope for.

Florida breweries, for the most part, believe that this issue affects all Florida breweries, not just start-ups. The Florida Brewers Guild has published a statement to this effect. They also have a good breakdown of the issue here. They consider the outcome to be so integral to the health of the industry, that they urge readers on their homepage to “save Florida’s craft brewers” by going to an Indiegogo campaign.

Mike Halker, president of the Florida Brewers Guild and Due South Brewing, wrote an in depth article about the situation. He goes so far as to say that this challenge is also meant to keep brewers and craft beer enthusiasts busy, so that no one pays any attention to other issues affecting the craft beer industry: “If they keep us distracted with things like keeping our tasting rooms open, they think we won’t be attempting to get things like limited self-distribution or franchise law reform.”

Per Komlassy Law’s Twitter account, the hearing is set for February 9th and 10th. Perhaps we should all clutch our growlers for good luck.

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Beer Brains: The Unsocial Beer App

Berstler App Screenshot

“…no selfies, no shared ratings, no profile pics.”

Just the beer, ma’am.

While it can be fun to toast, like, comment and rage against your friends when they check in their latest beer find, sometimes you just want your beer.

I know for me, when I’m in Total Wine, I’m more overwhelmed than a toddler roaming the aisles of a big box toy store. I suddenly don’t remember what I have, what I’ve had or what I’d like to have. I just find myself grasping at labels and names that sound vaguely familiar.

“There’s an app for that,” you may say. Then I’ll say “Yeah, have you tried to use your data plan in a big box beer store?” There’s a whole bunch of “no service,” and very little actual data being transferred.

I’ve tried making notepad documents, but there’s no way to sort, and typing long/unusual names is a pain!

Turns out Justin Berstler, a classically-trained software engineer, heard the call and took up arms. (Though, currently the arms are only available via Apple’s iOS.)

He’s created an app called Beer Brains. The data stores locally on your device, so even if you have no service, you can still see your beer inventory. The only time you need internet service is when you’re searching for new beers.

The app lets you categorize your inventory, create a wish list, and rate beers. If you want to indicate to yourself that you’ve already consumed a particular beer, then rate it. That will move it to the “ratings” view.

The wish list, by default, itemizes by brewery. That is really handy if you’re traveling to a part of the country with specific distribution reach. You know, like those times when you’re in San Francisco, and you want all the Russian River you can find. (I say that as someone who has never had Russian River, and never been to San Francisco. I know—you’re thinking “cry me a Russian River, lady.)

The best part of the app? It reads bar codes! No matter how many times I hold my phone up to a beer, the notepad program is not going to read a bar code.

The information is sourced from a third-party database (unambiguously called BreweryDB), which in turns gets its information from its own administrators and community. You can submit items for approval at their website. Per Justin, the database also distinguishes different years for certain brews.

I asked Justin if the app lets you indicate whether you consumed the brew in a bottle, can, or on tap, but he said not exactly. Those aren’t categories you can choose, but there is a note section for each entry, and you can notate this for your reference.

Right now the app is intended to be a reference for each individual. There is no account to log into, so there aren’t “friends” to approve, or people to follow. In the future he might add some “light sharing” capabilities: sharing wish lists and recommendations. He might also include average ratings from popular beer sites.

Regarding badges, Justin said “…with Beer Brains I’m not really trying to create another Untappd. Beer Brains is for those craft beer lovers that just want a beautifully simple, handy way to keep track of their beers. And in that way, there is plenty of room in the world for both types of people, and both types of apps.”

He said there isn’t a limit to how many beers you can list (well, unless you have a tiny, tiny hard drive). The only limit is in searching. The cap on returns is 50, so if you search for “ale” you ain’t gonna get all the items.

Beer Brains is free (ad-supported) in the Apple app store. Eventually he’d like to offer a paid ad-free service. If there’s enough interest in an Android version, he said that he would make one. For the record, I’m on Android!

Sources:

Most information comes from a written interview with Justin, but some of it comes from Google Plus. You may send any suggestions, comments or questions to Justin.

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Ommegang – Valar Morghulis

Valar Morghulis

Photo by Lola Lariscy. Clint taught me to build the fire.

 

Beer Name: Valar Morghulis
Brewery: Ommegang
Style: Abbey Dubbel
Hops: Apollo, Hallertau Spalt (Per the website)
Malts: Secret recipe
Availability: 750ml bomber and 1/6 barrel keg
ABV: 8.0%
Glassware: Snifter

It is not readily known amongst those of Westeros, but Valar Morghulis, in the Valyrian tongue, means “All Humans (and Occasionally Trolls) Must Drink.”

It is whispered in the woods of the North, by the followers of the old gods and the new, that there is a liquid. The drops coat one’s tongue with the tastes of dark fruit and sweet caramel. A shock of spice kicks the mouth like Arya’s horse when startled by the Hound. Much like Tyrion, the booziness makes itself known (particularly at the finish), but doesn’t overstay its welcome.

The complexion is darkened by malt, with a creamy, dense head. The carbonation isn’t abundant, and dissipates quickly, but in a beer this full, you want to get straight to the gold.

The aroma is like the best cologne I wish my boyfriend would wear. It’s malty, spicy-pungent and strong enough to raise [SPOILER] from the dead. I bet this would go fabulously with non-pasteurized cheese.

At 8% ABV, I should not drink this entire bottle tonight. However, the night is long, winter is here, and there be crazy snow zombies out there.

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Lagunitas Files and Un-Files Lawsuit Against Sierra Nevada

IPA

Fonts come from Microsoft Office. In case you’re wondering—yes, I paid for the software!

 

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday this was going to be an article about a potential lawsuit by Lagunitas towards Sierra Nevada for trademark infringement. Today it’s a story about…well…that, but also how Lagunitas dropped the lawsuit today.

So here we are. Back to where we all started. The circle of life.

Looking at the Twitter account for Tony Magee (Lagunitas’ founder) yesterday was liking watching a play-by-play of a very long football game. (Did I use that metaphor right? I don’t know much about sports.) Each Tweet gave a little bit more of a clue as to what was going on between the two popular breweries.

The issue was with the branding of Sierra Nevada’s new IPA, Hop Hunter. Lagunitas felt that their trademark had been violated with this packaging. The person Tweeting stated that the issue was not with the letters “IPA,” but with the layout of letters:

Sierra Nevada was quieter on its social media. There was one Tweet regarding the situation, and it pointed to this Facebook post stating that Sierra Nevada has been brewing IPAs since 1981, and that they acknowledge that there will be differences in opinion. The poster stated that “We don’t harbor any ill will toward Lagunitas Brewing and are pleased that we can get back to making great beers.” In a blog post on their site, Sierra Nevada asserted that they “have no interest in [their] products being confused with any other brand.”

So, it seems over. However, the folks over at Lagunitas won’t forget it for awhile: 

While I won’t say it’s the worst day in *my* life, I will say that I hate it when two businesses I love don’t get along. C’mon. Let’s all drink it out.

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Girls’ Pint In

We had a great discussion last night regarding craft beer label art. Some of it is beautiful, some of it is effective, and some of it is baffling in its tone deaf offensiveness.

We weren’t able to crack the enigma of why some breweries think it wise to show blatantly pornographic images on their labels. In fact, most of us think that it hurts their image. Only the A-holish of the A-holes will gravitate towards that type of art, while most sensible people will stay clear of it.

We did talk about how it makes us feel, though, to see that. It’s obvious those breweries aren’t marketing to us. How do we react? Do we make a point to tell the breweries? Do we just not buy that beer?

We go over all of those options on this episode of Girls’ Pint In.

#craftbeer #labelart

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Girls’ Pint In – Ep24 | Craft Beer Nation

Come back to this page on Monday at 9:30 PM Eastern! We’ll be discussing label art that some might see as offensive or just plain tone deaf towards women.

Is it ok that the art made it past the label approvers?

Should we just not buy the beer, or should we actively engage the brewery regarding the artwork?

What is some of the artwork that we find offensive?

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Phin & Matts Extraordinary Ale, Southern Tier

Phin and Matt's Logo

Beer Name: Phin & Matt’s Extraordinary Ale
Brewery: Southern Tier
Style: American Pale Ale
Availability: (bottle, year-round)
5.7% ABV, 37 IBUs

Glassware: Sam Adams

I can’t review this beer fairly. Why not? Because the first time I had this beer, I was sitting across from the beach, in a sun-lit, tranquil eatery. I had woken up that morning with one mission: to go to the beach on my own and have a perfect day. I did, and Phin & Matt’s was an integral part of that experience.

Of course, its appeal can’t all be nostalgic. If I’d had a bad beer that sunny day 6 years ago, it wouldn’t have been the great day it was. So that means this must be a pretty good beer.

Sitting at the crossroads between a red ale and an IPA, the 3 different malts blend together to create a light, caramel-tinged body for the 3 different hops. The hoppiness is subdued, and well-balanced within the beer. I couldn’t find the exact hops (or malts) used, but I get a floral smell and a subtle citrus taste. I’m thinking maybe Cascade and some of the other Cs.

This beer might have been the last of its kind, too. Apparently I caught this bottle right as Southern Tier is introducing their “re-imagined” version, PMX (shortened from…well… Phin & Matt’s Extraordinary). I’ll have to update my notes when I eventually have the new version.

If you’re in the mood for a big, bold beer, then this isn’t what you want. However, if you’re sitting outside, under a blue sky, this is what you might want on the table beside you.

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Beer Journalism

The Scales of Beer Justice

Is there a fine line between hackery in reporting, and pure truth?

Recently I read a good article on beer journalism. The writer, Andy Crouch, discusses the traditional ethics and etiquette of journalism in relation to beer reporting. Do we adequately follow the traditional rules of journalism? Do we need to?

The ideal situation with traditional journalism is that the reporter would have absolutely no bias. The person wouldn’t have a stake in the company, he/she wouldn’t be a familial relation, and the journalist wouldn’t accept any gifts, so as to avoid looking (or being) “bought.”

This isn’t just good for the consumers who are hopefully trusting your judgment. It’s also important for you, if you want to retain your readership. Think about this: A craft beer consumer is looking for good beers to experiment with. He/she reads an article on how great X brewery is. The person gives it a shot, since any new experience is better than no experience.

The person goes to X brewery and it’s the worst swill ever made.

Who else loses besides the customer and X brewery? You do, because the beer drinker isn’t going to trust your reviews.

Of course there are times when a blogger just disagrees with the public. Maybe you really did love X brewery. Maybe you had a certain beer that they do really well, while the consumer had one of their more middling offerings. That happens. That’s also why it’s important to mention any variables. Note in the article that you only tried the IPA, but not the barley wine. Make sure the readers know that you had it on tap, but you didn’t try the canned version.

Also, it’s important to remember that you should treat styles you don’t like differently from beers that are just poorly made. For me, if I know I don’t like a certain style, I won’t review the beer. It’s not fair to the brewer, and it’s not fair to the person reading my article. The beer didn’t stand a chance of getting a good review (unless it’s really not the style it is advertised as.) In my mind, it would be better to find someone who does like that style and let them take over that review.

Other factors may be in play that would make a beer “bad.” The tap line could be dirty. The beer could be old (and not meant to be aged). The fermentation could have been corrupted with unintended bacteria. Sometimes it’s impossible for you to know, but it’s good to keep these possibilities in mind. Maybe you could encourage your readers to post their opinions about the beer. You may find out that you are the outlier!

Another conundrum that Mr. Crouch points to is the difference between sugar-coated writing and hard-nose, truth-in-print journalism. The ideal journalistic endeavor is to go where the story takes the writer, whether it looks negatively on the subject or not.

That ideal has not always been faithfully adhered to by old journalism, and new journalism faces the same choice. Sometimes new media writers publish what could be considered “fluff” pieces: “What are your favorite beer bottle shapes?”, “If you could be any hop, what hop would you be?”

They don’t dive into the controversy because they want to be invited back. Should they be disparaged for that? Is there room for both types of writing?

As far as posting negative remarks—the contributors to Craft Beer Nation are honest in our reviews/blog posts. If something seems off style, we’ll say it. If a restaurant gives us bad service, we’ll say so.

However, I am guilty of occasionally just not reviewing a beer if it’s really bad, and I personally like the people who brewed it. That’s something I need to work on. Then again, there’s something to be said about not burning bridges. What’s the right answer?

Boris Castillo, one of our moderators, puts it this way: “As a brewer, honest feedback is important.” He says this is true regardless of who the brewer is. He hopes the breweries “would respect the honest feedback so they could improve or change the product…”

Another taboo of yore is to receive compensation from the subject of your writing, whether it be a monetary contribution, a gift or a discount.

All of these ideals are great to reach toward, but it’s not easy when you’re doing this for free. Personally, one of my happiest days was when the bartender at my bottle shop gave me the professional discount. She’s not there anymore, though, so I no longer get it. Maybe I’ll mention it next time I’m there.

Mr. Crouch offered a happy medium. If you’re going to accept gifts, or if you do have a conflict of interest, then be candid about it. For instance, if you get a free case of Bourbon Stout, note it in the article. If your best friend opens a brewpub, it’s still ok to write about it…just don’t let your ties influence your opinion.

Taking all of this into account will insure that you remain a respected commentator of the beer world. You may still be able to have your goodies, too.

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