Hardly a trader amongst them...or as I like to call them first victims. Not too many new New Englanders among them, though the Fisherman's Brew from Cape Ann Brewing is a real treat. The collection stands at about 55 different varieties right now which should carry the blog for a couple of months at least. I am most looking forward to a side-by-side of some unfamiliar English pale ales at some point as well as that Southern Tier's Jah-va Imperial Coffee Stout. I have some decent vintage ales but I have been wondering if there is really a post in that if I do not have some pairs of the same ale from different years. Anyway, the larder is well stocked. Once I get a basement later this year, this selection may well look like a mere sampler. Click for more detail if you are into that sort of thing. And you are.
What a road trip! There is a path you can take from eastern Lake Ontario to Maine that give lots of opportunity to have some great beer...and that was the one I took. Here are some up coming posts that I have in the hopper:
- More quick notes and longer stories from the stash. This trip saw the collection and the return to Canada of about 30 new beers for me including a Japanese sweet stout and a lime-blossom flavoured Belgian blond. Yowsa.
- The main source for these treats was Tully's in Wells, Maine one of the best beer shops I have come across to date even if it it only has about 20 by 15 feet worth of shelves. I'll be putting together a story review later this week.
- I expect to write about my review copy of The Good Beer Guide to New England by Andy Crouch which is apparently in the mail right now. I have looked forward to the publication of this book for some time and hope it will serve as a great compliment to the works of Lew Bryson which cover New York to Virginia. Is anyone doing a book on the beers of Ohio yet?
I've wondered about this, facing too many Belgians on the odd occasion but others are more definite:
"We're beer drinkers. We don't spit," said Skypeck, co-founder of Boscos brewpubs, based in Memphis, Tennessee. I think especially with beer, you're not going to experience the full flavours, the character, unless you take that swallow. It just completes the experience."
A can of beer from Barrie. Mmmm. After a big zlurbfft when the can opened, the beer poured a very active pale straw with a white foamy rim. It's a pleasant enough light ale with a corny edge like the founding father of cream ales, Genesee Cream from Rochester. At the outset there is a short blast of pear juice then some twiggy hop, then a bit of malt and then corn. Throughout the last 2/3s of the taste there is a sort of watermelon rind thing as well, a light but roughish hard to describe thing. The finish is drying. If Northumberland Ale is a 1950's Canadian stock ale, maybe this is a 1950s old-style upstate New York cream ale. But I don't know what that might have to do with Confederation. Or Bavaria in 1516. Still, no bad flavours and plenty of nice clean ones in a light ale, a style sort of lost to the beast that is "lite beer". Consider for your next stinking hot day.
After a big zlurbfft when the can opened, the beer poured a very active pale straw with a white foamy rim. It's a pleasant enough light ale with a corny edge like the founding father of cream ales, Genesee Cream from Rochester. At the outset there is a short blast of pear juice then some twiggy hop, then a bit of malt and then corn. Throughout the last 2/3s of the taste there is a sort of watermelon rind thing as well, a light but roughish hard to describe thing. The finish is drying. If Northumberland Ale is a 1950's Canadian stock ale, maybe this is a 1950s old-style upstate New York cream ale. But I don't know what that might have to do with Confederation. Or Bavaria in 1516.
Still, no bad flavours and plenty of nice clean ones in a light ale, a style sort of lost to the beast that is "lite beer". Consider for your next stinking hot day.
I received the following press release of interest to those in the Delaware Valley area.
Please mark your calendars and tell your friends to join you at Buckley’s Tavern this Thursday from 4 to 8 PM to sample the delicious new craft beers from Twin Lakes Brewing Company. Samuel Hobbs, owner of Twin Lakes Brewery announces a special “taste” opportunity of his new “Twin Lakes” craft beers at Buckley’s Tavern in Greenville, DE. this Thursday evening. Twin Lakes Brewing Company is the new American Farm-based Micro-brewery located on the beautiful Twin Lakes Farm, on Route 52 in Greenville, Delaware. Twin Lakes Farm is a historical and culturally significant destination, and is on the nationally recognized Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway. Samuel Hobbs invites the public to not only taste his new brews at Buckley’s this Thursday, but to also plan on visiting Twin Lakes Brewery. The brewery is open every Wednesday from 4-7 PM and Saturday’s from noon to 4PM, beginning April 19th. Stop by for a tour and to purchase beer “Growlers to go” and Twin Lakes memorabilia. A Twin Lakes Brewery Grand Tour Opening Celebration is planned for Saturday, June 3rd from 12 noon to 4pm, ($10 per adult at the door, Band and Bar-B-Que), park your car in the field. If you ever ice skated at Twin Lakes growing up, you won’t want to miss this opportunity to visit Twin Lakes again.This is, of course, the kind of thing I would love to attend, if I were still 10 miles away instead of 10000. Beers to be previewed include Route 52 Pilsner, Greenville Pale Ale, and Tweeds Tavern Stout. Have one of each for me.
I like press releases. They give me a strange sense that someone somewhere out there has thought about this blog for the seven seconds it takes to add me to their email circulation list. It's the little things that give joy, you know.
Well, this news has made me think that I may try to make a stop in around Syracuse on the way back from my Maine beer run this weekend to see if I can snab the new offering from one of my favorite upstate brewers. The Double IPA from The Ithaca Beer Company has local hops from the finger lakes region of New York state and harkens...harkens I say...to an earlier era:
The Ithaca Beer Company, using hops specially developed by Pedersen Farms of Seneca Castle, New York, will release its Double IPA style beer this month with hopes of resurrecting the dormant hops growing industry of New York. One Hundred years ago 90% of hops used in domestic beer production came out of our local counties, but Prohibition and a plant fungus ruined hop growth in the region. Ithaca Beer owner Dan Mitchell is well versed on New York’s brewing history and is passionate about rejuvenating hop growth in the state. "The Double IPA offers the perfect way of showcasing the potential of New York State hop farming."That sounds exceptionally worthy. I will definitely have to keep an eye out for it. There are two reviews of this year's version from the BAers both on draft which makes me think the news release relates to the release of the 4-packs. Do they shout RELEASE THE 4-PACKS!!!
The Double IPA has captured the attention of local residents for the past three years and will be sold in four packs for the first time this year. The beer not only captures the spirit of the Fingerlakes but is also an exceptional offering that the entire state can be proud of. India Pale Ale (IPA) is a style of beer renowned for it's hop character and modern brewers have experimented with the potency of this style, creating "Double” IPAs. Ithaca Beer Head Brewer, Jeff Conuel has crafted an exceptional IPA that "Despite its high potency, has exceptional character without overpowering the palate." The beer is a potent 10% alcohol and should be consumed with care.
There I am, standing next to a rolling brew kettle of wort, when my cell phone buzzes in my pocket. I put my stirring spoon down and flip open my phone. On the screen is a text message from one of my extended network of beer spies.
According to this operative, working in dangerous conditions behind beer lines, Blue Point Brewery is in the process of making deals with three national restaurant chains for placement of Toasted Lager and Hoptical Illusion on taps across America. If all goes well, patrons of Ruby Tuesday, Boulder Creek Steakhouse (locations in New York and New Jersey), and Applebee's will be able to drink pints of Blue Point beers with their meals.
The business about taps is my own invention. I don't yet know if these restaurants will be carrying Blue Point on tap or in the bottle (or both). The bottled version of both Toasted Lager and Hoptical Illusion are brewed for Blue Point (under contract) by Clipper City Brewing Company of Baltimore.
Finding this, for the beer nerd who also likes book with footnotes, is something of a moment, a wee glimpse of nirvana. The author, Richard W. Unger, is a professor of the history of the medieval period from the University of British Columbia who has also written texts about shipping and brewing from the perspective of pre-1800 Holland. Serious writing about a topic that deserves a serious approach.
What can I say about this? First, it cost me 75 bucks at the World's Biggest Bookstore in Toronto. Like any academic text with a short run and a limited market, it is not a cheap book. And, if you do not think you are going to find something interesting in the discussion of the effects of 15th century taxation policy on North Sea coastal trade, well, maybe this is not going to be the book for you. But if the idea of a seventeen and a half page bibliography of source material on medieval brewing - not to mention thirty-nine pages of endnotes - is your type of reading, well this is the book for your next holiday weekend.
Really, Beer in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is not so much about beer as the effect of the hop on trade in beer which caused the first industrial revolution in beer through the southern North Sea trade routes from roughly 1350 to 1550 - the second being triggered by the porter boom of roughly 1760 to 1840. The main concept is quite simple actually. Hops preserved beer. Once beer is preservable and can last more than a few days, long enough to be moved, then it will be moved and sold for a premium price as a luxury item. After it comes to be understood, it will then be copied as a local product which over time drives out the previous locally made unhopped ale. Later, it loses out to the next following luxury items as well as a general economic downturn both of which conspire to lowers its central role in the economy.
Unger traces the development of trade in beer largely with a focus on the Low Countries through analysis of tax records, municipal by-laws, guild creation, shipping records and other evidences of the huge role beer played in medieval society. He does so aware of the vastly different context in which beer is places in contemporary culture. This the first paragraph of the book's preface illustrates that distinction neatly:
The mention of the history of beer always brings a laugh or at the very least a snicker. The histoty of beer for most people is not a serious topic of study. It seems to them frivolous and hardly worth more than a few diverting minutes of anyone's time. Beer, after all, is a drink for leisure, for young people, generally men, and associated with sports and student life. That perception of beer is a case of historical myopia, of an inability of many people at the beginning of the twenty-first century to convince of a world different from their own. The prevailing presentism makes it difficult for many to comprehend a world where beer was a necessity, a part of everyday life, a drink for everyone of any age or status, a beverage for all times of the day from breakfast to dinner and into the evening.Not to worry that you will not appreciate how this detailed focus on a relatively short period as Unger leads you into the medieval with a description of fermented drinks of preceeding periods and also carries on after the main discussion showing how innovations in the gin and wine trades as well as the tropical beverages of tea, coffee and cocoa replaced beer in may social settings and therefore in the economy.
I may add a bit to this later but suffice it to say if you enjoy a good read about the history of beer and have read more popular histories like Beer: The Story of the Pint or Man Walks into a Pub, I would say it is time to take on this more purely academic text.
What a nice weekend. I even tried a new beer with friends that I didn't review, not as much as a jot. I took a picture of it then took it to a dinner party throwing your interests in the matter to the four winds. Amazement abounded. If I find another, I'll tell you about it.
Similarly La Binchoise's Brune Tradition was also pleasantly amazing. It's like a Newcastle brown meeting canny Belgians craftsfolk. The beer pours ruddy mahogany with off-white foam and rim. Earthy turfy malt on the nose. There is a marked fruitiness that is hard to pin down: either apricot-cherry or strawberry...or is it green apple juice. Plus a nice funk of burlap and sweet caramel. Some small heat which is well hidden for an 8.2% brew but that is what happens with a beer this malty rich and mellow. Slight notes of tobacco and black pepper all with a cream yeast smoothness.
8,2% v/v - 25, 33 and 75 cl bottles. 10% of production. Very dark brown colour due to roasted malt, abundant slightly ambered foam. This easy to digest beer derives its malted flavour from three varieties of malt. Long persistence and final taste on the back of the tongue are reminiscent of the aromatic character of hops.I'm not sure that really makes sense but I'm not sure I ever do either. I like the fact about the percentage of production but it is frankly less useful than slugging percentage as a measure of things. The brewery is a fairly recent one on the Belgian scale of things, starting in 1989 in an old malting house. They have their own tavern and a museum, too.
The stash system is supposed to protect against these little moments. It is supposed to be a carefully tended garden of ales which get rotated in and out of the stash according to the needs of each individual ale. This is not supposed to happen...yet there is is in a photo posted last October, almost half a year ago. Oh well.
The beer pours fine though there is a little rust at the cap edge. The ale is medium orange-amber with a fine orange cream head. On the nose plenty of sweet malt and rich citrus hop. On the mouth, smooth and a little lighter than I might have expected especially at the finish. There is plenty of sweet malt, however, as well as hops that fill the mouth after the sweet with a green and hot drying. A husky graininess, leaning one small notch towards rye, comes out within a juicy and soft water moreish finish which - at 5% - makes it almost one for a session.