Watch Tuesday at 9:30 PM (EST) as Certified Cicerone Ashley Bower gives us the ins and outs of homebrewing. This episode: Sanitation and cleaning.
What a great conversation. This guy knows his stuff when it comes to brewing beer. We thoroughly enjoyed talking with Michael Tonsmeire, and I think you will enjoy watching, too.
You can find Michael’s book, American Sour Beers, on all the good booksellers’ sites and in stores. It is so full of information, you definitely get your money’s worth. Also, you can visit his blog, The Mad Fermentationist, to keep up with all his goings-on.
As a little treat for our loyal followers, we are going to mail a signed copy of his awesome book to one lucky winner. All you have to do to win is drop a comment on the bottom of THIS POST. If you have a question, ask it. If you have a story about brewing your own sour, give it. If you just want the damn book, write “Me please!” (or, whatever). We will pick a winner from everyone who comments before noon (EST) on Thursday, January 15th. Get your comment in now!
If you missed the event, here is the YouTube version:
Don’t forget to watch for our event for next week’s interview with Alaskan Brewing. They are making some great beers, and they are an absolute HOOT to hangout with!
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?
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.
As the temperatures outside get cooler, a nice malty beverage in front of a fire seems like a great way to spend an evening. There are lots of great styles to choose from, but some of my favorites for this time of year are Scottish ales. From Scottish Light to Wee Heavy, you can choose to spend the evening having a few of the former, or sipping one of the latter, while hanging out with friends. In recent years there has been some confusion on these styles-mostly the “shilling” styles, the style names, specific flavors, aromas and brewing processes have been in question. The soon-to-be finalized 2014 guidelines will correct previously inaccurate information and debunk common myths about these styles.
In the 2008 guidelines, the styles of Scottish ale were as follows: Scottish Light 60/-Scottish Heavy 70/- Scottish Export 80/- and Strong Scotch Ale. The shilling categories were derived from price charged per hogshead (54 Imperial gallons) during the 1800’s; the stronger or better quality beers were more expensive. In 2014, BJCP will be moving to a Scottish ale category containing Scottish Light, Scottish Heavy and Scottish Export. Wee Heavy will move to Strong British Ales. You can read more about these guidelines here.
Speaking specifically of the Scottish ale categories, the 2014 BJCP guidelines have a note about the style name changes: “The original meaning of ‘schilling’ (/-) ales have been described incorrectly for years. A single style of beer was never designated as a 60/-, 70/- or 80/-. The schillings only referring to the cost of the barrel of beer. Meaning there were 54/- Stouts and 86/- IPAs and so on. The Scottish ales in question were termed Light, Heavy and Export, which cover the spectrum of costs from around 60/- to 90/- and simply dark, malt-focused ales. The larger 120/- ales fall outside of this purview as well as the strongest Scotch ales (aka Wee Heavy).” In other words, the BJCP will no longer categorize the styles of beer by what they might have cost; instead, they will focus on their increasing intensity, much like they did with English Bitters. In fact BJCP 2014 guidelines for Scottish ales will read exactly the same for each style of beer, and, as the gravity increases, so will the character of the beers in question.
Interestingly, peaty and smoky flavors were often referenced as being optional, but acceptable in the 2008 BJCP guidelines. This no longer is the case in 2014 Scottish Ale category. It seems that this is removed because BJCP has acknowledged that these features would not be present in the more recent representation of the styles. A quote from thciprian on the American Homebrewers Association forum (here) may better explain why “by the early 19th century…brewers were doing everything they could to avoid smoky character in their beer, since it was considered to be a fault. For example, in the early 18th century (~300 years ago), one of the reasons why porter was aged was to give time for the smoke character (from ‘blown’ brown malt) to drop a bit.” One might think the smoky peat-like character was coming from the malt. However, the 2008 BJCP indicates that the smoke wasn’t from the actual malt kilning process, but “…from the traditional yeast and from the local malt and water rather than using smoked malts.” Possibly by the late 1900s, the Scottish people had figured out a way to decrease the smoke-like character produced by their water and yeast. There is even a mention from the BJCP that “Scottish ales with smoke character should be entered as a Classic Style Smoked Beer.” They aren’t saying it isn’t an accurate style characteristic, just not an accurate one for these new guidelines.
Finally, In the 2008 guidelines, kettle caramelization was considered a hallmark of the style, but in 2014 it has been deemed inaccurate. In both Scottish ales and Wee Heavy, the guidelines do not indicate that kettle caramelization is appropriate. In fact, for Scottish ales, The new guidelines include “malt-focused ales that gain the vast majority of their character from specialty malts, never the process. Burning malt or wort sugars via ‘kettle caramelization’ is not traditional nor is any blatantly ‘butterscotch’ character.” Despite a bit of digging around the internet, there are no other references to this lack of kettle caramelization. Even the Oxford Companion of Beer (2011) references it as part of the style: “Scotch ale traditionally goes through a long boil in the kettle. This was particularly the case in days when the kettles were direct fired by flame…” By the 19th and 20th centuries, boiling wort over an open flame may not have been the preferred method, and the patent malt machine was invented. Caramelization would have come from the grains themselves, and not the pot. It will be interesting to see if more information about this is published as we progress into 2015.
The majority of the information above focused on the new Scottish ale styles, but, some of it applies to Wee Heavy too. While the name wasn’t changed, it was moved to a different category. Also, per the 2014 BJCP guidelines, there’s no longer a mention of kettle caramelization. Smokiness is considered appropriate but optional in this category: “Slight smoke character may be present in some versions, but derives from roasted grains or a long, vigorous boil. Peated malt is absolutely not traditional.” This is “more related to historical brews than the lower-strength Scottish ales, these beers have their roots in the strong ales of the 1700s and 1800s, although formulations and methods have changed. A premium product, often produced for export[…]modern versions have lower starting and finishing gravities than their historical ancestors.”
What hasn’t changed from 2008 to 2014 is the target numbers for these styles. The same gravities, IBUs, and ABVs are still appropriate. The BJCP has simply moved to a more accurate representation of newer Scottish ales, from their names, and ingredients, to brewing process. So next time you’re enjoying a Scottish ale or a Wee Heavy, think about how you might brew your next batch to reflect these style changes! And good luck at your next competition!
Yes…that Michael Tonsmeire. He wrote the book on American Sour Beers (literally), and he has been blogging at Mad Fermentationist for…well, ever. He is taking time out of his busy schedule and joining our Hangout On Air, this Thursday night at 9:30pm. You can visit our Google+ Event to comment or suggest questions/topics for our interview, or you can come right back here at show time to watch. Either way, see you Thursday night!
A brewing book I would like to see would be one about session beers. Our love affair with high ABV beers has long been established, and only in recent years have we seen the craft beer community putting more focus on beers that won’t knock you to the floor if you have a few in one sitting. I’d like to see a book with a few different sections, including: the history of commercial session beer, special aspects of brewing a good session beer, and how-to tips for home brewers looking to brew their own.
We’ve seen quite a rise in popularity recently in session beers, especially session IPAs. But session beers were around long before that, even if they weren’t called that. The English ordinary bitter is a perfect example of a historical session beer. No doubt the saison brewed for farm workers in Belgium would have been of the session variety. Germany certainly had its share of session type beers. In fact, at one time, people had to drink beer instead of water, and certainly they wouldn’t have wanted to be drinking beer with a high ABV. I think the history of low ABV beer could be quite interesting.
There are certainly special aspects that go into brewing a commercial session beer. Breweries don’t want to brew a watered-down version of their standard AVB beers and call it their session. They want a lower ABV beer that has huge aroma and flavor. To achieve this, I’m sure they’ve got methods they’re using. This is especially true for the session IPA. In order to achieve a lower ABV, one has to have less fermentable sugar in the starting wort, which usually means using less grain. Hops not being affected by fermentation may seem to not play a part, but balance is so important, even in an IPA. Hop a 4% beer like an 8% beer and you may find you’re drinking hop tea. Learning what’s going on at some of the bigger breweries making session IPAs would make a great read.
Being a lover of commercial craft beer often leads you down the path to brew your own. There are many books on home brewing in the market, but none that focus solely on low ABV styles. Showcasing these styles, and educating home brewers on how to brew a high flavored beer without a high ABV punch would be useful. Home brewers would benefit from reading about how the pros brew their session beers, and these lessons could be discussed on a 5 gallon level.
A session beer book would be a great read. I would love to see one of these hit the market in the coming year. I love drinking lower ABV beer, and I know others do as well. A tome on the history of lower ABV styles, how pro brewers brew their beer, and how the home brewer might apply these to their own brew pot could find a home in many beer lovers’ libraries.
Well, as many of you have heard by now, Founders Brewing has sold a 30% stake in their company to a Spanish brewery, Mahou San Miguel Group. Mahou San Miguel, a result of an acquisition of San Miguel by Mahou has been around since 1890. They have deep roots in Spain and according to their website they produce 70% of the Spanish beer consumed worldwide. Before jumping to conclusions, Craft Beer Nation decided to reach out to Founders for comments on the matter.
First, from their press release, “Our number one priority remains successfully completing our facility expansion and continuing our domestic growth in existing and new markets. We know a lot of states out there still don’t have the opportunity to buy our beer and we want to make that change. That will get a lot easier once the first phase of our expansion is complete next summer. A couple years ago we decided to enter a few international markets on a limited basis to test the waters. We quickly learned that global interest in Founders is strong but given our capacity constraints we have not been able to meaningfully pursue those opportunities. All these problems will disappear when our expansion is complete and we will no longer have to choose one state or one country over the other. We greatly look forward to rewarding all of our fans for their patience through our growing pains.”
As we know, Founders is in the process of expanding their current facility as was discussed on Episode 024 of our Pints and Quarts show. By the looks of things, this move looks to be along the lines brewery expansion funding as well as allowing Founders to tap into international markets. As stated above, Founders has already tested international waters with success and this minority stake, emphasis on minority, allows them to have a foothold in markets that Mahou San Miguel currently sells in.
To paraphrase from our conversation with Founders CEO, Mike Stevens on Wednesday, “This was really just a small investment. 30% gets us access to distribution improvements, but no one is in a position to ask us to change recipes. Mahou was clear that they DID NOT want to things to change, they just want to invest and help us grow.”
When asked if Mahou managers will be in the brewery Mike explains, “Just the opposite. Mahou wanted employment contracts to make sure the people that have made Founders great are here to stay. Mahou has almost no distribution in the US. Their only presence is a small bit of importing into the Miami area. This deal is all about building a structure to be able to grow into Mahou markets. Not that that is happening anytime soon, though. We are just forming teams to explore the options.”
It is very clear that the QUALITY of the liquid they produce is what got them to where they are today. Plans to change that would essentially be crazy and doing so is nowhere even close to being on table.
So look, we get it, the craft beer community is a close one that takes craft beer seriously. When we feel that “one of our own” may have crossed over to the dark side, we tend to take that personally. Rest assured that this is not the case. This was a business move that will enable Founders to not only expand into additional US markets, but also take the beauty and joy of American craft beer to the world. Founders has faced hard times before. They once stood on the precipice of shutting its doors in the early days, but they persevered via good business acumen and making an excellent product to position themselves to being one of the leading craft breweries in America. Losing that is likely something that they have zero interest in.
Mid-December is here and Christmas and the overall holiday season is upon us. Here at Craft Beer Nation we’ve decided to do a 12 Beers Of Christmas Event.
Over on Google Plus is our Event Page where we will be posting pics and comments on all of the Christmas/Holiday/Winter Beers. Every day, starting with our December 12th Friday Night Hangout we will be drinking and posting a different Christmas/Holiday/Winter Beers every day for 12 days and tagging it with #12BeersOfChristmas
We are really looking forward to seeing all of the different beers that everyone can find. And now it’s time for me to figure out which beers to kick off the Event.