Thursday, June 28, 2012

Europe is Enjoying American Beer, Latest Brews

I ran across the end of a news piece on my radio dial today talking about American craft beer having more of an influence overseas. I had to go back and hear more of it, especially when they made the comparison between the U.S. craft beer rise in Europe with the "Judgement of Paris" wine revolution and subsequent California invasion into the world wine market. There is also a subtle dig on the Reinheitsgebot culture at the very end. 

While I don't expect Bear Republic to appear across bars in Munich, I would not be surprised to see a few more U.S. brands outside the big 3 to get more traction. When you think of the foothold regional European beers have made across the U.S., who is to say the reverse couldn't be true?

Here's the link to the episode (The story starts around the 10 minute mark).

Meanwhile, back in my closet, I've had three different beers mature in their bottles. I've been very enthusiastic about the results I've been getting from my brand new rectangle cooler mash tun. For a man who doesn't usually build things, this is pretty solid. I only lose 2 degrees while I mash and I haven't had a stuck sparge yet. I'll put some pictures of my system in another post.

Here's a breakdown of what's been bottled:

Saison- I made this Saison largely as a test of the system. It couldn't have turned out better. Light, crisp, subtle Belgian yeast notes on the end. I would like a little more bite from the hops, but it was a great first effort. So good, in fact, that I'm brewing it again this week. Another 1/2oz of bittering hops this time around should round things out.

American Orange Wheat- I thought I'd get fancy with the next brew and do an American wheat. I know oranges don't ferment well, but I thought if I added the crushed oranges vs. orange juice in the ferment I would get a better flavor. This one turned out to have a very "white wheat" profile similar to a Hoegaarden with a cool citrus note, but not really much of an orange tinge. I don't think I'd throw the oranges in next time, but the beer is solid and perfect for summer. I did another batch with Belgian Wheat yeast ( the original had American wheat yeast) to see if I could detect any difference. It's sitting in the fermenter right now and should be bottled early next week. Given how long I conditioned this first one, the Belgian Wheat should be ready for tasting around mid July.

Amber Ale- I feel like I should call this "Random Amber" because I literally threw the recipe together seconds before I started driving to the store to get the grains. It was the best work I have ever done. Medium body with great head retention and a delicious bite at the end. This is something I feel like I can hang my hat on.

Cases of beer just waiting to be drunk. What a perfect situation for summer!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

News roundup

Here are some beer-related articles I've been reading recently:

Malters Bring Terroir to the Beer Bottle - NYTimes
I know what this looks like, another NYTimes "trend" article about yuppies going back-to-the land in hopes of living more "authentic" lifestyle. Other cliche keywords that come to mind: sustainable, small-scale, homesteading, natural, craft, etc. This characterization is somewhat true, but what this guy is doing is also really cool. He buys grains from Mass. farmers, malts them and sells them to brewers. He also still has a day job. The advantage of a smaller-scale operation like this is that beers can have regional variation instead of many brewers all using the same industrially-grown grains, making their beers taste the same. It also mentions that "small malt houses largely disappeared during Prohibition," and has since been dominated by commercial-scale companies, making it difficult for small malters to break into the business. It amazes me that brewing is still recovering from Prohibition.

Beer Glasses - NY Times
Clearly the main attraction here is the jaunty suit and hat worn by the guy in the picture. You might argue that he's taken East Coast style too seriously, but I would dress like that if I could afford it. You know his shoes have tassels on them. What is this article about again? Oh, beer glasses; good thing the headline doesn't beat around the bush with any snooty language like "terroir." I like this guy's attitude. He acknowledges that although certain beers should be sampled in certain glasses, sometimes you just want drink a pint and enjoy yourself, and you don't want to mess around with crazy glasses. Best quote: “I could see a pilsner or a saison with a nice cap of foam over the top, sitting on an outdoor summer table looking like little ice cream cones of happiness.”

New 'Beer' Has Dogs Barking for Brews - ABC News
You just can't make this stuff up. I don't even want to talk about the crazy things people do for their pets and how much money they spend to do those things. This is "beer" sans alcohol and hops, which is apparently toxic to dogs. Turner & Hooch had led me to believe neither of those things was a problem, but I guess animal food science has come a long way since 1989. Alcohol is toxic to humans, but ironically is a major reason people drink it. This dog "beer" is really just an uncarbonated mix of meat broth and malt barley, so the "beer" thing is just a marketing gimmick (but that wouldn't stop me from buying it). Best quote: "People have an incredible emotional bond with their dogs, so it's just natural for people to want to include them and say, 'My dog can have a beer too.'" I'm not gonna hold back on you: Bowser Beer.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

And we're back!

Sorry if we forgot to mention the totally planned six year break. We needed to regroup and rethink the philosophy of The Drinking Buddies blog, and like a fermenting ale, thinking can't be rushed. You might expect after six years of thought, we might be considered bodhisattvas of all things beer. Of course we are too humble to acknowledge this. What we have learned from our mediations under the mash tun is this:
Life consists of suffering flavorless beers. Suffering is caused by attachment to our beer preferences, which is in turn attached to the beers our forebears. Only by liberating ourselves from the tyranny of perpetual flavorlessness can we be truly free.
Okay, so we didn't really spend six years meditating under brewing equipment, but with any luck, time has made us ever so slightly wiser. The result of our hiatus will be a more dynamic blog. The aim is not to recapitulate the Drinking Buddies State News column, because that would be less fun for us. Each of us who contributes has different ideas about what kinds of things to post, so we are hoping for a lively mix of content. What kinds of things might you see? Ha! What kinds of things won't you see?! There will be beer news and commentary, brewing updates, tasting reports and more, all with the carefree, devil-may-care effervescence that only The Drinking Buddies can deliver.

We are hoping to expand the round of regular and irregular contributors to those with all sorts of interesting perspectives. Basically, the idea is to touch on anything interesting in beer-related activities. From pro-brewer to home-brewer, mashing to marketing, Michigan to Maryland, if it is worth writing down, we'll try to write it here. In the near future, we have festivals to attend, new beers to try, breweries opening, and various home concoctions that should be shared in their triumph/failure.

With that being said, this will not exactly be a blog dedicated to hard hitting journalism, but more of a journal of the beer and brewing world experienced by an enthusiastic few. If you feel the same way, please join us and share your experiences, too!

-Matt and Ryan