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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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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The Old Ale

by Allen Huerta

Old Ale…what is it? A beer? Old beer? Old IPA? English Barleywine? Small Stouts? A beer at all? Dark & malty? Sweet & sour? The basis of the IPA we know today?

Some home brewers that are out there brewing this style don’t even know. The BJCP, in 2008, defined the style as:

“An ale of significant alcohol strength, bigger than strong bitters and brown porters, though usually not as strong or rich as a barleywine. Usually tilted toward a sweeter, maltier balance.”

In the 2014 BJCP Draft Guidelines, the text is cleaned up a bit, but reads essentially the same. There has been a better definition as to what characteristics are acceptable, even if they may normally be considered faults. Some of the commercial examples that are on the market today taste amazing, but they miss out on key characteristics of the style.

The Old Ale is a somewhat historic style. Ales of this magnitude were typically brewed for special occasions and used the best ingredients that brewers could get their hands on. At this time strong ales were a direct representation of the best beer a brewery could make. They were often preserved for special occasions: weddings, anniversaries, and even coronations. Some of these beers were put into casks and cellared for quite a long time. These beers came to be known as “Old”, “Stale”, “Stock”, or “Keeping” ales. Some versions were just aged Mild Ales from a time when a Mild was of considerably higher alcoholic strength. These versions of Stock Ales were often blended with young mild ale at the bar to suit individual consumer taste.

Some of these beers would pick up the character of spontaneously fermented ales; notes that are associated with other well-known styles that were wood-aged and “Lambic-like.” A way some brewers would distinguish their Old Ale from other strong ales was by the introduction of adjuncts. Higher proportions of sugars, molasses, treacle, or invert sugar would be added along with ingredients such as flaked barley, wheat, or maize to enhance the body of the beer.

There are a few out there that say you can’t make an Old Ale without treacle. Others think that it only lends a distinct flavor profile in the finished beer and it is not required for a great example of the style. The 2014 Draft Guidelines make no specific mention of treacle as a required element. However, what they do point out is that an impression of age is a key factor, regardless of how the brewer decides to interpret that.

Common characteristics of age, as listed, are: complexity, lactic, Brett, oxidation, leather, vinous quality, etc. It is also noted that, “Even if these qualities are otherwise faults, if the resulting character of the beer is still pleasantly drinkable and complex, then those characteristics are acceptable. In no way should those allowable characteristics be interpreted as making an undrinkable beer as somehow in style.”

Between the two versions of the guidelines, the Old Ale has just been better defined, not changed. The only notable difference is the OG has been adjusted a few points, and the ABV as well to stay in line. Hopefully the clarification of the style will lead everyone to further enjoy Old Ales and lead both brewers and drinkers to branch out and try something new. In the words of the late Michael Jackson, “It should be a warming beer of the type that is best drunk in half pints by a warm fire on a cold winter’s night.” Consider that the next time you are looking at bottles on the shelf or deciding what style you want to brew.

Cheers!

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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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2014 BJCP Scottish Ale Style Changes

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!

Sources:

BJCP 2008 Guidelines

BJCP 2014 Guidelines Draft

AHA Forum

 

 

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Pints and Quarts – Michael Tonsmeire

Photo credit: Home Brewers Association

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!

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