The industry today includes more than 2,400 brewers and beer importers, 1,908 beer wholesalers, and 551,000 retail establishments. The industry's economic ripple effect benefits packaging manufacturers, shipping companies, agriculture, and other businesses whose livelihood depends on the beer industry. Directly and indirectly, the beer industry employs approximately 1.78 million Americans, paying them $54 billion in wages and benefits. The industry pays over $30 billion in business, personal and consumption taxes, including $9.2 billion in excise taxes.The total economic contribution of beer to the US economy is now $65,914,557,648 - which is larger than the military budget for the UK, China or Russia but oddly only 80% or so of the total value of Google.
I reviewed Wolaver's oatmeal stout in early July after picking one up at a Wegman's in Ithaca in the organic produce section for something like 7.99 a six. This brewery, one of the great craft brewers of Vermont, makes both the the Wolaver's organic line as well as Otter Creek giving it a range of about twenty brews. These three - the brown, the pale and the India pale ale - were available as single bottles at Ithaca's Finger Lakes Beverage Center last visited four weeks ago. Such restraint.
- Wolaver's Pale Ale: This beer pours a off white rim over very active orange-amber ale. Very soft water just the way I like is the first thing you notice. There is sub-chewy green hop over sweetish grainy elegant pale malt. I could coax maybe green apple in the malt if I thought about it but it is really bread crusty malt as opposed to fruity. This is a really attractive beer I think to myself on a second sip. The yeast has a milky aspect and at the end there is a slight white pepper ting. Fairly high test at 5.8% for a pale ale but not big enough in the body to even be a ESB. BAers all approve.
- Wolaver's India Pale Ale: Not as orange an amber but the same white rim. Lots of green and citrus skin hops over a somewhat subdued body for an IPA. Just not big is all I am saying - it still it has increbily good posture. Again, like the pale ale, sort of a refined version of the style though not as subtle as a Brooklyn East Indian Pale Ale. Even with the generous hopping the malt has a juicy side and more ripe pear than green apple. The finish is green garden bitters and nice clear water. Again, really nice. It would be interesting to do a side by side with a Sgt. Majors, though I suspect that would be lighter even still. Some BAers are unkind - who either want an IPA bomb or don't like green hop. Why bother trying new stuff if your criteria is that it is not like the old stuff?
- Wolaver's Brown Ale: A thin tan foam over the most interesting shade of brown - not deep enough for mahogany but a bit too much of the cheeky red in it for that hazelnut paper husk. Clear with low carbination. If brown ale is sub-porter, this is sub-old-school-porter with its hopped bite as opposed to a lighter version of a brown to like Southern Tier's roasty malty porter. Under the hop, green and steely, the malt has fruit, grapey with even some cherry. Lusher still with the same soft water. Still the malt is grainy rather than this sort of duller glom. Throughout it all chocolate barely there, like chocolate you had, not have. Maybe smoke, too. I like it. The hops and rich fully milky yeast have some sour but at the level of and complimentary to the fruit. If I think of these three US browns, it is certainly in the ballpark and maybe second to the Brooklyn.
I received a heads up from The Wall Street Journal's designated reader of A Good Beer Blog, Carl, that the paper has posted an interesting article on US craft brewers using cans rather than or in addition to bottles. A taste test ensued and I will spoil the ending for you:
Details are in the accompanying chart, but of the 16 beers tasted, canned brew, in average scores, rated four of the five top spots, though the top-rated beer was Stone's India Pale Ale in a bottle with a rating of 8.8. The canned Scape Goat Pale Ale popped an 8 and Old Chub Scottish Ale a 7.8. Two other canned offerings scored higher than 7.There is much more to the article than just the scoring, however, including a useful history of the canning process so have a read. Nice to note that I have a Stone's IPA in the stash just waiting for a quick note sort of review.
One other thing became clear -- on the taste front, cans weren't much of an issue. A few beers that panelists conjectured might be cans were actually bottles. And of the nine canned beers, Tony identified two -- and not because he detected a metallic taste but because he thought he'd recognized the beers from previous tastings. Jeff called one can correctly. On the other hand, sipping a different beer I knew to be canned, he joked, "If this comes from a can, I'm buying Alcoa stock."
A big old beer for a North Country winter. I have written about the two other bottled offerings by Lake Placid Craft Brewing of Plattsburg, NY here and here and the third offering, Frostbite Ale, continues the tradition of quality ales. It is a big winter ale with lots of chewy hops, a big body and a fine lingering taste with plenty to think about in the malt. There is autumn apple, citrus and hazelnut under the green and twiggy hop. It pours a fine tan head over a gingery sort of medium amber chill hazed real ale. Lots of spice in the nose and on the palate as well. Every single BAer says yahoo.
I think there is more here at 6.8% than just an IPA. There is a hint of antique that reminds me of an old ale or a lighter barley wine, the ones you pull out at Christmas. Anyway to look at it - or more to the point taste it - it is pretty fine stuff.
OK, this is beer porn, in that many of the products are brewed on the other side of the world and are for most practical purposes unavailable; it's also big and heavy, with many colour pictures of bottles and labels and whatever you call those things they put on the pumps to tell you what beer it is (beer clips, I think). Each beer has a column which invites you to record your own tasting notes, but the glossiness of the book discourages it even if you were of a mind to fill all the boxes in. You will also come across words such as "quaffable" (see below), which some people snigger at, but then it is a fair enough word to describe the kind of liquid that can be drunk in great big gulps without making you feel queasy.Big and shiny and about beer! That is doomed to be on my bookshelf soon.
This beer has been in the LCBO most of the summer, a US pale ale from Big Hole Brewing of Montana brewed under license here in Ontario at Wellington - but not listed on their web site. Why contract brew an obscure beer - at least in this market - and then not advertise it? Who knows. 24% of beer advocates give the thumbs down to the original but only 7% boo the Canadian version. Weirder still.
It is called an English style pale ale but why? Out of the 650 ml bottle, rocky foam over clear still amber, it is sort of a duller version of a canned version of Old Speckled Hen - and well in the wrong direction from Hen's Tooth. Nothing offensive at all but the malt tastes a bit like there is syrup as well as grain and, so, has a bit of cloy. The hops are twiggy and rough...which is ok but not swell. There is some orange in the fruit which would benefit from a cleaner boost of Goldings. The water seems unhardened which I like but a fuller yeast presence would bring it together better. But for $2.95 at 5.7% it probably deserves a good value sticker from A Good Beer Blog central.
I have come across an old pal from about ten years ago at Robin Garr's fantastically deep wine pages - where I used to write stuff like this. Tom Cannavan, has joined with Roger Protz, whose books on beer are in my collection to create a very comprehensive UK-based site on ales and lagers called beer-pages. What a team. Have a look.
The contract brewed US version of a classic brewed under license from Whitbread from England. This is one of the great beers I have never gotten around to trying.
A sweet or even milk stout if lactose, milk sugar, was actually added by the good brewers of Ohio - a practice which may well be outlawed in the UK. A deep espresso foam head resolves quickly to a rim with some foamy patches fed from the active deep brown brew below. It is not as thick or heavy a stout as I might have expected but rather a mid-weight smooth creamy brew. I'd say it was like bubbly chocolate milk if it were not for the secret rule of beer reviewing that you are never supposed to say "bubbly chocolate milk". Rather, it is more like milk chocolate, plus a bit of dark coffee and a tiny bit of herby hop and maybe licorice at the end just to place a stop to it all.
It is quite pleasant, subtle and easy without being at all flabby or simplistic - and, working from memory, well flattered by the Lancaster Milk Stout I had last summer but never really reviewed. One review is quite unhappy though most BAers approve some heartily.
I have noticed some reports concerning a Florida law suit between the family of baseball hero Roger Maris and the Anheuser-Busch company. You can follow the case by reading articles like this in the Gainesville Sun but this passage notes one of the key issues which came to me as a bit of a surprise:
The attorneys said statements were based on court documents believed to be true, but a TV-20 report was shown in court in which Jacob said "Mr. Maris" repackaged old beers and sold them as if they were new in violation of the brewery's freshness policy. On questioning from Maris attorney Madison MacClellan, Jacob said he had no proof the Maris family was aware of any tampering if tampering was occurring, and he agreed the percentage of outdated beers found in Maris' territory - a tenth of a percent - was far less than the same year's 4 percent national average and 7 percent average in the Midwest, where the brewery is based.It is not so much surprising that this would be alleged as it would that it would be a practice. Simple me being what I am, I would have thought that the actual cost of the beer in a mass produced beer would not be significant after R+D, marketing, branding, transportation...that sort of thing so that salvaging the actual beer would not make economic sense.