Currently showing posts tagged beer tasting

  • Take Your Taste Buds Down Under

    by Malia Paasch for HR Growler

    One of the most exciting things about the craft beer revival is that it stretches beyond our country’s borders.

    America is not the only place facing choices between mass-produced macro beers and the smaller, usually more tasty, craft selections. When you think of Australian beer, what comes to mind? Fosters? Well, that’s now owned by SABMiller. How about Italy? Peroni is also owned by SABMiller. Heck, even Moratti is owned by Heineken.

    So what does one do if they want good beer down under? How about checking out Nomad Brewing Company, a collaboration between Australian craft beer importer ExperienceIt and Birra del Borgo, Italy’s premiere craft brewer.
    ExperienceIt is owned by Kerrie and Johnny Latta, who moved from Australia to Italy in search of a new adventure. The couple started their importing company, initially focusing on Italian wines.

    Soon they fell in love with craft beer and started importing to Australia as well. The company also imports American craft beers into the country, including selections from Deschutes Brewery, Stone Brewing and Sixpoint Brewery.
    Birra del Borgo was founded by Leonardo Di Vincenzo, a biochemist who became fascinated with home brewing. You may have heard of Birra del Borgo from its collaboration with Dogfish Head Brewing.

    Together those two companies made My Antonia, an imperial pilsner recipe created using Dogfish Head’s continual hopping technique. Del Borgo’s beers, imported by ExperienceIt, made their debut at Australia’s Good Beer Week in 2012. Di Vincenzo made the trip to Australia, and return several times after to judge beer festivals, and host beer events. He soon was enticed by the country’s burgeoning craft beer scene.

    The Lattas and Di Vincenzo decided to combine their passions for beer and love of travel into a new Australian brewery called Nomad. The name is fitting. The project’s head brewer is Brooks Caretta, another global wanderer. He began his career as an intern at Del Borgo in 2009, and was soon whisked off to New York City as head brewer of Birreria Eataly. He also helped open the Eataly in Rome.

    He says the beers the brewery specializes in are made for “people with passion and a desire to seek out new experiences.” For example, Nomad’s Long Trip Saison is brewed with some truly Aussie ingredients; wattle seed and Tasmanian black pepper. The brewery also adds coffee beans to the mash giving it a subtle coffee note. Another beer, Freshie Salt and Pepper, is brewed with real sea water harvested in Sydney. So even if you aren’t planning a trip down under this summer, take your taste buds on an adventure and enjoy a pint of the Aussie life.

  • God Approved Liquid Bread

    By Malia Paasch for HR Growler

    Lent for Christians is a time of repentance, reflection and self-denial. But what if I told you there is a beer you still can enjoy, and that hundreds of years ago it was a means for survival? 

    I’m talking about doppelbocks.

    Bock biers, which predate doppelbocks, are German dark lagers. They’re bottom fermented and have an average ABV of about 6 percent.

    The first bock is attributed to the Einbecker Brewery around 1348. The name is said to have originated because of the way Bavarians pronounced the word Einbeck. It sounded more like “Ein bock” which translated literally means a billy goat.

    Doppelbocks got their name from their higher alcohol content. In 1627 Duke Maximilian I of Bavaria invited some Paulaner monks to move to his country. The Paulaners, a branch of Benedictine monks from Italy, relocated to Munich and began brewing for the public.

    By 1774 they had crafted their own original beer recipe that was named SanctPaterbier, which later became Salvator, the Latin word for Savior. Father Barnabas was the original brewer and is the creator of what we now know as doppelbock.

    This beer became the benchmark for the style, and many breweries tried to emulate it, even calling it by the same name. This spurred a lawsuit forcing the other breweries to rebrand, resulting in many of these beers carrying names than end with the suffix -ator. (Notice the following reviewed beer names.)
    During Lent, the Paulaner monks restricted themselves to a liquid diet and that is how doppelbocks were given the name “liquid bread.” In addition to water, the monks would drink the beer to sustain themselves: The beer contains nutrients including selenium, vitamin B, phosphorus, folate, niacin, protein, fiber and silicon.

    It became a custom that the first mug full of doppelbock for the Lent season would go to the Duke of Bavaria. He would be offered a toast, and while the Duke sipped on his strong brew, Father Barnabas would be allowed to speak his mind. This tradition is re-enacted today when the first keg of Salvator is tapped to mark the middle of Lent.

    So, there’s no need to give up beer for Lent. Actually, you may need the vitamins. Cheers to liquid bread.

  • What's a Gypsy Brewer?

    by Malia Paasch for HR Growler

    Mikkeller, Evil Twin Brewing Company and Stillwater Artisanal Ales: What do these brewers have in common?

    They don’t actually own a brewery.

    These three are among the few who have found a way to make beer without a brick-and-mortar footprint. Known as “gypsy brewers,” they are some of the most innovative producers in the world.

    Mikkeller of Denmark was the first gypsy I ran across. The brewer’s two founders, Mikkel Borg Bjergso and Kristian Klarup Keller, started in college. They continued their “kitchen experiments” for two years, often sharing their homebrews with friends at their beer club.

    During a blind taste test against commercially brewed beers, Mikkeller came out on top. The two men decided to try producing on a larger scale at a local microbrewery. Mikkel’s twin brother, Jeppe, had a bottle shop in Copenhagen and started selling the beer. Now the brand exports to 40 countries and has a dozen Mikkeller Bars all over the world.

    Speaking of those bars: Originally Jeppe and Mikkel had a pact that each would stay in their own worlds, retail and production. But when Mikkel opened his first bar and retail shop down the street from Jeppe’s bottle shop, the brother decided it was his turn to start brewing.

    He created Evil Twin Brewing Company in 2010. Evil Twin is not quite the size of Mikkeller, but his beers are nearly as well known. He exports to 12 countries and has a bar in Brooklyn named Torst.

    Brian Strumke, known to the beer world as Stillwater, is one of our own stateside gypsy brewers. A native of Baltimore, Strumke was a DJ and techno producer who started home brewing around the same time of Jeppe and Mikkel.

    The story goes that Strumke was asked to bring some of his brews to Max’s, a bar in Baltimore. From that, Stillwater Artisanal Ales was born.

    These three produce their beers in large quantities by contracting recipes to breweries with free fermenter space.

    Mikkeller mostly uses De Proef in Belgium. Evil Twin moved most of his production stateside to Westbrook Brewing in South Carolina and Two Roads Brewing in Connecticut. Stillwater uses Pub Dog Brewing in Maryland and travels the world crafting collaboration beers.

    The gypsy brewers are at the forefront of the beer market. Evil Twin moving production stateside has enabled him to sell his beers at a lower price. Stillwater has been collaborating with fledgling breweries in South America. Mikkeller’s latest announcement is that he is opening his first brewery in San Diego with Alesmith, using their brewing facility.

    Is it every gypsy brewer’s dream to have a brewery? This move may signal a change in the gypsy brewing market; only time will tell.

  • The ABC’s of Ordering Beer

    By Malia Paasch for HR Growler
    Photo by Chrystal Culbert

    Asking for a beer seems a simple enough process, but what happens if you just don’t know what you like? This happens more often than you might think. Craft beer’s growing popularity has led to more people trying it; not all of them are even remotely aware of what they want. The key is understanding flavors and being aware of the ones you like. I’ve heard some crazy descriptions: types of candy, exotic seasonings, nail polish remover, vinegar, and even dirt. But don’t be shy. Anything can help give the bartender a starting point to your palate. Here are a few of the most common scenarios my staff and I encounter when we’re trying to find someone their perfect beer.

    Scenario 1: You tell the bartender you like (or dislike) hoppy beers.
    Most beers have hops, but that doesn’t mean all beers taste like an India Pale Ale. There are 124 named hop varieties and each has its own special flavor. There are hop varieties that aren’t even bitter.

    If you like hops, tell the bartender what other IPAs you like. This provides a clue as to what kind of hops you already enjoy. Common hop descriptors in IPA include pine, spruce, grapefruit, and citrus.

    Otherwise, explain why you don’t like hoppy beers. Is it because the hops are bitter or is it the aftertaste? It could be that you enjoy fruity hops and not the piney ones.

    Scenario 2:  You ask the bartender for something light.
    Do you mean light in color? Light in alcohol, or body? Does that mean tart or are you looking for a wheat beer? A diehard IPA fan might consider a 7 percent IPA to be light, while others are looking for a more traditional interpretation and want a pilsner. Again, the simplest way is to give an example of a beer you like, even if it isn’t a craft beer.

    Scenario 3: You don’t really like beer.
    It’s not often you’ll find yourself in a position where a bar doesn’t have alternatives to beer, but in some cases it does happen. Tell the bartender what alcoholic drinks you like. If you like margaritas, you might like something crisp, slightly tart, and a bit fruity. A red wine drinker might enjoy a mild sour beer. White wine lovers usually like a witbier or Belgian tripel.
    Of course the best way to learn more about beer is to drink some. But don’t be shy about chatting up a knowledgeable bartender. You never know what you might discover.