06/22/12

Rogue Moves From Beard to Beer…

Photo by kynan tait

Mild nausea isn’t a feeling I expect while discussing the habits of some of the world’s top brewers, but it does occur on some rare occasion. The last instance I can recollect was upon learning that Brooklyn Brewery was adopting a process known as “fat-washing” to create a bacon flavored beer. The fat-washing process includes soaking heated bacon fat in beer before it congeals at which point it’s removed while the flavor and only the bacon flavor supposedly remains.  We wrote about it on Trappist Punks a while back. LINK

Well last night it happened again, and this time caused by one of my favorite brewers, Rouge… Rogue is in the process of trying to find new wild yeast strains from their hop yards to create new truly local beers, a very honorable effort.  While they’ve succeeded in uncovering a new strain it wasn’t from their hop yards. Here’s two quotes that sum up the discovery process quite nicely, “In cooperation with White Labs, samples were collected from Rogue’s hopyard and sent to White Labs for culture and testing.” OK quite normal, but then, “As a joke, nine beard follicles were carefully cut from the beard of Rogue Brewmaster John Maier. The follicles were placed in a petri dish and sent in for testing.”

By now you’ve probably figured it out, the samples from the hop yard, all negative, the sample from John’s beard, which he has been growing since 1978, positive.  The result, “The beard yeast is currently being used in test brews to determine the perfect style & yeast combination. The beard beer, New Crustacean, will be released in early 2013.”  Possibly more disturbing than my original bilious reaction is that I still wanted to try Brooklyn’s bacon beer, and now I look forward to tasting a brew from the yeast discovered sitting in John’s 34 year old beard…  Luckily Rogue is available here in Hong Kong thanks to HopLeaf.  The article: Beard Beer

05/27/12

This Week’s Global Beer Headlines (with Commentary)

*I spent about 15 minutes trying to figure out if Guinness really built a submersible pub to celebrate its 250 year anniversary, or if this is some sort of strange internet marketing prank, so far it seems legit. In any case you can judge for yourself here is one of the articles from Arch Daily. It is being billed as a “Deep-Sea Bar”, photos are included, there may even be a video.  According to The Drink Nation, “The steel-shell sub is stationed in the Baltic at Stockholm, and has already made its maiden voyage.”  Go figure.

*Beer may help lay in-roads for trade between India and Pakistan. According to an article on the NY Daily News website, less than 2% of Pakistan’s trade was with India in 2009, but thanks to a Pakistani beer now becoming available India this figure may soon grow. Apparently Pakistani beer, which does exist, hasn’t been sold in India since the countries where partitioned in 1947.  The article goes on to discuss how this trade may also improve ties between the nations given their sometimes volatile relationship, but I think for the brewer it should do wonders for demand.  Take this point from the article, “In Pakistan, people ordering beer via room service in smart hotels have to sign a form declaring it is “for medicinal use only”. Officially, only Christian and Hindu Pakistanis (about 3% of the population) are legally allowed to drink.”  While I haven’t tried this Pakistani beer, Kingfisher hasn’t set the bar too high leaving the Indian market ripe for the taking.

 

05/19/12

This Week’s Global Beer Headlines (with Commentary)

*A beer crime may have been committed at this year’s Preakness–I don’t mean the reported thirty minute waits to top up the $20 refillable beer mugs–apparently the mugs were being filled with Budweiser: Baltimore Sun

*Speaking of crime and beer, Darrin Annussek, a protester who apparently walked to Chicago from Philadelphia to take part in a NATO summit protest, was arrested this week.  During the raid the home brewing equipment of the out-of-towner’s host was confiscated by police, seemingly being confused for a Molotov cocktail workshop.  According to Kris Hermes, of the National Lawyers Guild, “There is absolutely no evidence of molotov cocktails or any other criminal activity going on at this building.” (Home brewers beware.) CBS Chicago (NBC Chicago also had coverage with a great headline “Beer Not Bombs”)

*Twelve upping Darrin’s walk to Chicago, 12 beer fanatics in the U.K. have undertaken a 16,337 pubs 28-year pub crawl, and I can’t imagine they’re done.  The best quote for the article comes from one of the fanatic’s girlfriends, “When I started my relationship with Kelvin, it was clear from the start that beer was part of the package.”  Mirror

* In a story from Africa, a beer shortage received first billing in a set of calamities striking Harare, Zimbabwe beating out electrical blackouts and water stoppages. Well ahead of any quotes or mentions of the importance of electricity or water conservation was this, “What we are getting erratically are quarts and cans. Pints, which many drinkers prefer, are not available.”  The word disastrous was also applied, to the beer situation.   The Herald

* Finally an item from Taiwan has me ready to book a ticket across the Strait.  Apparently until around 2002 the Taiwanese government had a monopoly on alcohol production, which they had to give up in order to join the WTO; creating the genesis of the country’s micro-brewery movement. Today, while the the old state owned company combined with imports make-up 99% of the beer market, craft brewers like Quentin Yeh should soon change that statistic.  A quote from Quentin, “Our craft beer, unlike its filtered and pasteurized cousin that comes in cans, preserves the distinctive taste of yeast with a fresh finish,”     Taiwan Today

I hope you enjoyed the headlines.

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05/13/12

Maybe not Today, Maybe Not Tomorrow, But Soon Maybe We’ll see Dogfish Head in HK

HK BeerfestYesterday, while engrossed in beer conversation at the launch party for a new Hong Kong beer distribution company, this Trappist Punk sadly made two realizations: 1) We’ve allowed this site to become terribly dilapidated; & 2) I have an intense hankering for almost any Dogfish Head or similar top notch east coast brew.  This led me to ask the owner of what seems to be a very promising distribution company about the chances of acquiring said beer in a corner of the world mostly devoid of America’s finest brewed creations.  Sadly, he informed me that not only did this seem unlikely, due to capacity limitations Dogfish has actually stopped distributing in his home state, Wisconsin.  (This should be in another post, but if you are ever in Milwaukee, make sure you give the guys over at Lakefront Brewery a couple hours of your time.)

Well, I thought, at least I asked, and to the company’s credit their repertoire includes a robust selection of Rogue beers, which I quite enjoy.  For those reading this in Hong Kong, the company is called Hopleaf and they sell retail.

Today, sitting at my PC, I came across a headline that gave me a glimmer of hope that one day (albeit probably not until I move back to the U.S.), Dogfish may finally be able to service Hong Kong — and Wisconsin again, for that matter.  The headline read, “Dogfish gets OK for warehouse build.”  I know — not that startling. But the catch was deeper in the article:

“The brewery will produce 171,000 barrels of beer in 2012. While it hopes to expand to 500,000 barrels of production within the next 10 years, Benz said there are no business plans to do so at this time.”

That’s quite an increase and maybe enough to get a few bottles out to Hong Kong.  The bottom of the article also indicates that Dogfish recently received approval to expand their current facility, which maxes out at about 200,000 bottles of beer a year.   While I am not expecting to taste Dogfish Head at next year’s Beertopia festivities in Hong Kong, I do think that as Hong Kongers continue gaining a better appreciation of American Craft beer, in no small part thanks to the guys at Hopleaf, Hong Kong may become an attractive lucrative market for all those beers I miss so dearly. By 2015, Euromonitor data — quoted by the Canadian government, strangely enough — suggests that Hong Kong beer consumption will rise to 75 million liters from 73 million this year; I suspect with availability of the right American craft beers this could easily rise above 80. Here is a link to the original article.

08/13/09

Good News Seattle, Fremont Brewery to Celebrate Grand Opening

The Fremont Brewing Company will be celebrating its Grand Opening at the Latona Pub on August 17th.  For those long-time Punk readers you may remember us highlighting this brewery in my Seattle Beer-venture posting.  For those of you who are new or need a refresher, Fremont is a small scale family-owned start-up located in Seattle’s Fremont district. The FBC is dedicated to producing high-quality sustainable beer, and I can personally vouch for the fact that they do.  To help accomplish this onerous feat the brewer sources as many locally produced organic ingredients as possible.  This includes everything from using water from a nearby river in the Cascades to buying hops grown in the Yakima Valley.  The other half of the formula comes from the owners’ passion for making the best beer possible.  I had the pleasure of meeting with the owners during my visit, and I can assure you from what I saw these guys not only mean business, but should be around for a long, long while.  I should also point out that the FBC has a long-term goal of creating a neutral carbon foot-print, and brewing with sustainability in mind.

The opening event kicks off at the Latona Pub 7:00PM sharp when the first keg of Fremont’s Universale Pale Ale will be tapped at the bar.  Fremont’s founder, Matt Lincecum will be on hand to answer your questions regarding the beer and discuss the hardships of starting a small scale environmentally conscious brewery in the midst of a severe economic downturn.  Apparently, Matt is considered a long-time regular at the Latona Pub, which ironically will be celebrating its 22nd birthday at midnight on the same night.  My only regret is that I can’t fly out to Seattle to attend, so I hope all of you in the Seattle area attend, and have one (or many) on my behalf, and please be sure to say hello to Matt for us.  Also, in the future look for Fremont Brewery six packs at a grocery store near you (if of course you are reading this in Washington state).

08/10/09

Ayinger Seasonal (Oktober Fest-Maerzen) Hits the US Mid-August

ayingerThe Punks’ favorite German brewery, Ayinger has a seasonal beer on its way that you’ll want to keep an eye out for. For those of you unfamiliar with Ayinger, they make category killing brews in just about every style of German lager:

  • Celebrator Doppelbock (i.e. double bock)
  • Ur-Weisse Dunkel Weiss (i.e. dark wheat beer)
  • Brau Weiss Hefeweissen (i.e. cloudy wheat beer)
  • Altbairisch Dunkel (i.e. traditional bavarian dark lager)

We’ve tried them all (save the 100th anniversary Jahrhundert), and not a single one fell short of a four out of five, with myself in particular awarding Celebrator and Altbairisch Dunkel a full five due to my penchant for all things dark. Now we get to add the Oktober Fest-Maerzen to the list.

Maerzen beers are so called because they’re brewed in March (Maerz in German) to mark the end of the traditional brewing season, and lagered for many months in underground caves (at least they were in the days before refrigeration) before emerging in late summer and playing a key role in annual Oktoberfest celebrations. Oktoberfest started in Munich in 1810 as a celebration of the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig to Princess Therese, who gives her name to the fair grounds on which the festival takes place, the Theresienwiese. It has been celebrated with great gusto nearly every year since, starting in late September and continuing for 16 days, ending in early October.

Maerzen beers are different from many other German lagers, in part, because the longer lagering period necessitated that they be brewed to higher gravities (i.e. higher alcohol content) and that more hops be used in the brew, both of which improve shelf life of beer. It is this higher hop rate (German noble hops of course!) that gives the beer that recognizable “fest-spicy” character that many of us think of when we think of festbiers, though American examples probably overemphasize this character. This is another reason I can’t wait to try some German examples now that fest season is upon us again.

Keep an eye out for Ayinger Oktober Fest-Maerzen starting after mid-August.

08/10/09

Meet River Horse Brewing Co. in NYC on Wednesday (8/12)

The Stag’s Head, located in what was formerly known as CB Six, will be hosting the River Horse Brewing Company this Wednesday evening (8/12).  It will not only be a great opportunity to wet your palate with free tastings of River Horse’s Hop Hazard, Double Wit, and ESB selections, but you will also have a chance to speak wit the man who brewed them.  River Horse’s Brew Master is scheduled to be on hand from 6:00PM to 8:00PM.  From what I can tell the Stag’s Head tries to run similar tastings every Wednesday evening, but I am told it is quite rare that one of the brewers is actually in attendance.  On July 22nd the pub featured the Ommegang Brewery; I wish I knew about that one earlier! If you are free and in the area, then I recommend you head over and support the event.  It would be great to see more events like this one in the Big Apple.  This Punk will be there, and hopes to see you there as well.

Click Here for the Stag’s Head’s Regular Beer Menu

Click Here for the Location

About the River Horse Brewing Company (from their website): While we might be new to your area, we have been brewing fine craft ales and lagers along the banks of the Delaware River since April of 1996. You can find our all natural, fresh bottled and draft beer products throughout the Mid-Atlantic region and parts of New England. Distribution includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, New York, New York City, Long Island, Virginia, Connecticut and Massachusetts. We have also been featured by several well-known beer-of-the-month clubs. We use choice, all-natural ingredients and local spring water to produce the best product made in our area. You will notice that all of our products are pure representations of their respective styles, very clean and very well balanced.

08/4/09

Liquefied Sweat Sock: The Geuze

One of the topics we intend to cover on this blog, which is not well understood by alot of American craft beer drinkers, is the insane beauty that is Belgian brewing. The Belgians do things a little differently than everyone else. The best way I can think of to introduce this concept is to talk about The Geuze.

We Punks always refer to “The Geuze” in a monolithic sense, with a simultaneous reverence and terror. This is a very unusual beer. In reality it is simply the most extreme version of the Lambic style of Belgian beer. Other examples of Lambic beer are far less extreme, examples including the fruit lambics such as Framboise (blackberry) or Kriek (cherry). If you’ve ever met a girl that claimed not to like beer, get them a Lindeman’s fruit lambic. They won’t believe it’s beer, but it’s sure to please; Lindeman’s Kriek tastes like black cherry soda in my opinion. Those of you that think Sam Adams makes a Cranberry “Lambic” might want to leave the room now. The beer may be tasty but it’s certainly not a lambic.

What sets Lambics apart from other beers is that they are not fermented by carefully cultivated, house broken Saccharomyces yeast. No, these beers undergo a process known as Spontaneous Fermentation. This is precisely what it sounds like: the unfermented wort is pumped into a kuhlship (an empty one from Allagash is shown in the image to the left) and left at the mercy of whatever little beasties happen to be present in the rafters of the brewery (or farmhouse as is often the case) or even blowing in through the open windows. This invites all kinds of species, not just wild yeast but even bacteria such as Lactobacillus to leave their mark on the wort. This brings us to the title (and one of the most pronounced flavor characteristics of The Geuze for many drinkers) – Lactobacillus is a bacteria that produces lactic acid, which is commonly found in sweat and gives The Geuze a sour odor that many people describe as similar to foot odor. Traditional Lambics are primarily brewed in a small area around Brussels, seasonally from October to May, when the weather limits the presence of undesirable bacteria. This reigns in this character a bit, but pick up any Geuze at your local liquor store and it will likely be unmistakable.

Spontaneous fermentation also gives rise to one of the more unique aspects of brewing a true Belgian Lambic: the art of blending. Just as different malts of scotch are blended, and in times of yore aged beer was cut into batches of new beer to “bring it forward” with a hint of aged complexity and tanginess (a tradition that Guiness still carries on in a way with intentionally soured batches for their Foreign Extra Stout), so do highly trained Belgians round out the differences in flavor from year to year by blending batches. If one year’s vintage got too much Lacto, that sourness can be offset by blending it into a previous year’s vintage that just wasn’t quite sour enough.

In this way, you can start to see why Belgian breweries have been around for so long and have not really changed much in the hundreds of years they have been brewing the same beer. Indeed there are stories of breweries that had to be shut down when it became necessary to move the old farmhouse the beer was brewed in; because the environment had simply changed just enough that they could not produce the same beer. There are also jokes about breweries whose beer simply didn’t taste the same after the old farmhouse dog died, because he wasn’t there to sneeze in the vats anymore.

And what about those fruit lambics? The sourness here tends to be undercut by the introduction of fruit after an initial period, which sets off a whole new round of fermentation. But if homebrewers are any indication, the insanity doesn’t end here. I have heard reports of otherwise sane and reasonable home brewers smashing their fruit and simply throwing it into the batch without any particular sanitation protocol, under the theory that any microorganisms on the fruit itself will simply add complexity to the fermentation character of the beer. Supposedly the results are quite good, if not exactly reliable.

As for tasting notes, the Punks have tried The Geuze on three occasions. First (always the guinea pig) I tried the Lindeman’s Cuvee Rene at home, and was unimpressed. The flavor was simply far too sour to get behind, though oddly (and disturbingly) the foot odor nose on it started to almost grow on me by the end of the bottle – almost. Maybe the worst of it dissipates with time, or maybe you become desensitized.

Eager to share the unpleasantness, I talked Mike into trying a Cantillon Geuze, also at home. Mike was forever changed. He said, and this is an exact quote, “I may never be able to drink Belgian fruit beer again.” (Remember, the Belgian fruit beers are built on a Lambic base, so some of the same flavor characteristics were present, but in a far more pronounced way in The Geuze.) He has largely kept good on this, as I have never seen him order a Belgian fruit beer since, and this was one style he would often try, before he met The Gueze.

The third occasion, however, brings us to the heart of the matter. Once at the Sunset I heard someone order a Cuvee Rene, and struck up a conversation with the gentleman. He said that he really enjoyed The Geuze, they had a certain dry complex character that reminded him of wine. Lindeman’s website describes The Gueze as cidery, winey, and reminiscent of dry vermouth. Tasting the Cuvee Rene with that for a new point of reference, I could almost (not quite) see what some people like in the stuff. Frankly, it’s not my thing, but it almost made sense to me, for a fleeting moment. This is why when the Punks refer to The Gueze, it is with both fear and reverence. This is, perhaps, the Mount Everest of beer appreciation, and the complexity of producing it is surely the pinnacle of insane, beautiful brewing.

07/29/09

Tough Decisions: Can v. Bottle

In 2005, Jim Koch over at the Boston Beer Company (the craft beer magnate that brews Samuel Adams) released a controversial advertising campaign known as the “Beer Drinker’s Bill of Rights.” What was the hub-bub all about? He dared take a shot at the nascent movement of putting craft beer in cans.

Craft beer in cans may sound like a contradiction for some people who are used to finding cans only at the gas station or grocery store, but this movement has only grown more visible in the past four years. Just off the top of my head, I know I can walk into Punk Fave the Sunset Grill and Tap in Allston and find beers from Oskar Blues and 21st Amendment that are quite respectable. Mike has also had Pork Slap Ale from Butternuts and found it to be under-appreciated, and quite good for a relatively cheap craft ale. I’ve also heard that New Belgium in Colorado is in on the act. Even small, brand new breweries are eschewing convention-on a recent trip to Seattle Mike investigated the Fremont Brewery-small upstarts that were quite shocked to find him wandering into the warehouse that housed their brewery-and found to his surprise that they too were going with cans.

So if even the little guys are now brave enough to can their beer, how did cans get such a bad name? Basically, it comes down to startup costs. Bottles come empty and blank (with the exception of a few painted bottles mostly produced by mass-producers like Budweiser and Modelo), labels are printed cheaply and applied at the brewery. The fact that the bottles are manufactured blank makes it much cheaper to buy them in small volumes. Aluminum cans on the other hand don’t generally get a label at the brewery, so they are purchased preprinted and in bulk. Lots of bulk. Even a small, brand new operation-like Fremont-had to buy 500,000 cans just to get started. That’s in addition to more complicated and expensive equipment (take for instance the fact that homebrewers always bottle, never can…in the early days of a brewery, when capital budgets are tight, bottling can be done with cheap manual equipment, but canning cannot).

This meant that back in the formative years of the brewing industry in this country (post-prohibition) the mega-brewers that were producing large amounts of fizzy yellow stuff for nationwide distribution were the only ones who could afford cans. Over the years they gradually outmaneuvered or absorbed most of the competition and consolidated the market so that, for all intents and purposes, this was all there was. Indeed even today, for all the hullabaloo over craft brewing, all the craft beer makers in the US only have a 6.3% market share combined according to the Brewer’s Association, with the nations largest brewer by volume, Anheuser Busch, enjoying nearly a 50% market share on its own. So over time, everyone has begun to associate canned beer with the main producers of it: the massive goliaths that dominate the market.

The question is, are you tasting the can or the beer? Honestly, this is a tough question to answer scientifically. I’ve seen a few people try this experiment and it always seems to end in inconclusive results. They tried it once on the podcast Beer School, for instance, and were foiled by the fact that the cans and bottles had vastly different born-on dates and therefore one was skunked and the other was not (time is not a friend to the lager). Even had they been more diligent and gotten identical born on dates, one would have to wonder about the conditions encountered by the beer between the brewery and the store. So we won’t try to recreate this experiment. We can, however, examine the arguments made by each side.

On flavor, can proponents will tell you that the metallic taste once reported by canned beer drinkers is long gone, eliminated by the invention of improved can liners. Before the 1930s, cans couldn’t even hold beer without exploding, until a solvent-based liner was invented to sure up the inside of the cans against the pressure of carbonation. But in the 1980s this technology was improved upon, and now, supposedly, the trouble is gone.

When grilled about this in response to the Beer Drinker’s Bill of Rights, Jim Koch said that the problem was the areas of the can that are not lined: the tab and the lip that surrounds it. This is where you drink from, so it should have an impact on the flavor, right? Whoa there Jim, didn’t you read my post earlier this week? Item number one in the Beer Drinker’s Bill of Rights should be a glass with an opening big enough to invite their nose to the party. Even at the ballpark they could give you a dixie cup for crying out loud.

So on sheer taste I’m going to go out on a limb here and say its a tie. The fact that several sources attempting an objective test on this were unable to achieve a conclusive result leads me to think it’s too close for the average consumer to judge, and I’d say that the impact on flavor from instantaneous contact with uncoated aluminum will have less impact that cutting your nose off to spite your taste, so to speak. Just pour your beer into a cup and don’t really care where it came from before that. What about other factors?

One important thing to consider is the thermal characteristics. Glass is a much better thermal insulator than aluminum. One could view this as a double edged sword, however. On the one hand cans will get colder faster than glass bottles (one reason some of the mega brewers are now producing aluminum bottles as a hybrid solution). On the other hand, holding your beer warms it, so an aluminum can’s higher conductivity would mean that it gets warm quicker.

Not so fast-don’t just stand there holding your beer, pour it in a glass, remember? Preferably a glass with the same insulating qualities as a glass bottle, rather than a plastic cup. So it seems that on thermal qualities, cans win out as long as we continue to respect the beer rather than the packaging. Another wildcard here is thermal wraps that can be applied to the inside of cans by the manufacturers. I’m not sure how this would alter the equation, ask a packaging engineer.

Cans certainly seem like a more efficient mechanism for transporting and storing beer as well. They are much more uniformly shaped, allowing them to stack much better than bottles. The long neck on bottles is primarily headspace, containing no beer. The headspace on a can is much smaller even though they both hold the same twelve ounces. Cans are lighter, too. Much lighter. According to the same Beer School episode, transporting 1000 oz of beer in aluminum cans involves only 3 lbs of packaging, whereas the same amount in glass would require 27 lbs!

This would seem to imply much lower shipping costs and make cans the environmentally friendly choice. But when I started really looking into that, the answer gets alot more complicated. Producing aluminum cans uses nearly twice as much energy as producing a similar amount of aluminum. Considering recycling makes it even more complicated. I found two separate sources examining the debate from this angle which led to completely opposite conclusions: in one case bottles had a higher return rate than cans. In the other aluminum cans have as much as twice the post-consumer recycled materials in it (40% v 20-30%). But the other source seemed to feel glass was more recyclable than aluminum.

Then there’s the real wildcard: reuse.  As a homebrewer I can tell you that I have mountains of empty glass bottles around my house. I’m not saving them to recycle, I’m saving them to refill and cap. You see, the same bottle that you return for your 5 or 10 cent deposit can cost upwards of fifty cents to a dollar to buy brand new. This is why many breweries in Europe collect used bottles, sanitize, and refill them. This is probably one reason Grolsch-style bottles with their swing tops are so popular in Germany; even the tops are reusable. The Beer School podcast even related a story about “beer men” in some areas – just like the milk man of old, he would go door to door and swap out empty bottles for full ones (not sure if this story was true or not, but it was poignant and very amusing).

So what’s the environmentally conscious craft beer consumer to do? For one thing, recycle. Every can, every bottle, every time. If you are a homebrewer, do one better and reuse your bottles. If you’re not…become one! Honestly though, these questions of carbon footprints and environmental impacts are always too nettlesome for me, and always turn out to be more complicated than they seem on the surface. After all, how environmentally friendly is the poisonous mercury in that CFL bulb? Is it better to keep driving your inefficient clunker, or chuck it in a landfill and buy a hybrid, fresh off the dirty assembly line? The bottom line is that the only sure thing is to use less and find other uses for what you do consume so that it doesn’t end up in a landfill. Reduce, reuse, recycle.

One final point that the can-pushers like to bring up is that cans are better at keeping oxygen and light at bay. This is certainly true of light, just looking at a can next to a bottle is all you need to prove that. I was unable to find actual data on the oxygen permeativity of cans vs bottles, so that could just be marketing hype. So I suppose cans nudge out bottles by a slim margin here, unless you consider green bottles. Brown glass bottles are perfectly fine for conveying beer so long as they are treated reasonably (don’t leave the pallet sitting in the hot sun outside the warehouse, etc). With more brewers paying closer attention to quality control, I’m inclined to believe that beer is treated better now than in the past, and I’ll never pass up a dark glass bottle. But green or-horrors-clear glass bottles…as pretty or retro as they may appear…are not a respectable home for beer. This is a constant source of conflict for me since I love Pilsner Urquell, but the brewers insist on choosing tradition over clearly superior transport mechanisms.

So what’s the final tally?

  • Taste is likely a wash if you pour it in a glass.
  • Thermal characteristics are marginally in favor of cans, again if you pour it in a glass.
  • Efficient storage and transportation goes in favor cans, big time.
  • Environmental impact is too complicated for this Punk.
  • Beer protection again falls marginally in favor of cans.

It would appear that cans are the superior option. But again, lets not forget the reuse potential of bottles, which is largely ignored by this country, unlike our neighbors across the pond. But the bottom line is this: you are drinking beer, not the container it came in. Good beer will taste good even if you sip it from dirty boots (I imagine…never tried this one). Just don’t let your prejudice against certain canned beers stop you from enjoying good ones, and for heaven’s sake, invest in a glass so you can put this debate to rest already!

07/28/09

HostOurCoast’s Visit with Dogfish Head

TheobromaOn Facebook recently, I came across an old college friend of ours Paul, who has been running a blog about travel along the Delaware/Maryland/Virginia coast. Paul just visited the Dogfish Head brewery in Delaware and apparently was lucky enough to get a personal tour led by founder Sam Calagione.

Paul posted a video in which Sam spoke about the process that went into Midas’ Touch and the new Theobroma. Fascinating story here, archeologists analyze the traces of chemicals left on pottery found at ancient sites including King Midas’ tomb and a site in Honduras, and find out as much as they can about the liquids that the vessels used to hold. Then they bring this data to Dogfish Head-which seems to be the de facto leader in the field of Archeological Brewing-and they try to brew a beverage to the same specifications. The new Theobroma (which translates as “food of the gods”) is based off of the oldest known use of cocoa, in an Aztec beverage containing honey, chilies, and annato seeds.

The article also makes mention of Santo Palo Maron, which as we pointed out in the ACBF post a few weeks back, is aged in barrels made of pseudo-endangered rain forest wood (presumably old barrels, not fresh ones) and tastes divine.

Anyway, check out the article. I hope sometime in the near future to get some samples of these beers, do some tasting notes and try to research some more about them, because I find this whole thing really cool. I had heard they could do this sort of thing but didn’t realize Dogfish Head was the leading expert in the field.