Jun 18, 2024

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American Beer Month
Ask an expert beer drinker

CorneliaCornelia Corey -- Wynkoop Brewing's 2001 Beerdrinker of the Year -- spent much of July 2002 answering questions from those who want to know more about beer in general, who travel to sample beer, who enjoy beer festivals, etc.

Question: A comment first... Wynkoop is in Denver, which means Coors is your neighbor.... Reminds me of Ortliebs (now defunct) here in Philadelphia.... Beer has come a very long way since the days when my friends and I would call Ortliebs Schuylkill Water. And the better domestic alternatives then were Schlitz... Go figure... Not that Coors will ever be as bad as Ortliebs... But the fabulous beers available today that weren't even a dream in some minds 30 years ago make me wonder why anyone would want to drink, say, a Coors or, god help me, a Bud Light now when so many other outstanding alternatives exist... My question to you is, when would you choose wine over beer? And, what beers would you recommend in lieu of wine under those circumstances? Thank you... And, FINALLY, women become visible as respected beer drinkers. Perhaps, as more women become visible, the moronic behaviour that typifies the male beer drinking stereotype will be replaced by the more sophisticated, gentle voice of women. Good beer deserves that....
- Jennifer Conway

Cornelia: Great commentary. I couldn't agree more. As to your question, I'm not going to be able to give you much direction. I've never acquired a taste for wine and so I choose water when no good beer is available. I would like to see more thought put into providing beer at events that typically provide wine. Usually, some misguided caterer will through out a few Budweisers, Heinekins and Amstel Lights and think they've properly handled the beer requirement. There are just too many wonderful brews out there to limit selections to the same tired few.

Question: Please tell me three different beers with specific, distinct hops flavors that I can use to train my palate to recognize the differences. Try to make them beers that are generally available as I live in the hinterlands in Alabama. Thanks.
- Ken Walsh

Cornelia: I've put togther a short list of beers that I could identify as single-hop. Some you should be able to find in Alabama.

Shipyard Fuggles IPA - Fuggles
Rogue Brutal Bitter - Crystal
Rogue Kell's Lager - Sterling
Rogue Shakespeare Stout - Cascade
Pyramid IPA - Tomahawk
Pyramid Hefeweizen - Liberty
Pyramid Apricot Ale - Nugget
Pyramid Pale Ale - Cascade
Pyramid DPA - Cascade
Pyramid Tilted Kilt - Perle
Trafalgar IPA (imported by B.United) - Goldings
Blue Ridge Hopfest (Frederick Brewing Company - fall seasonal) - changes each year
Victory Brewing's Unfiltered Single-Hop Pilsner - varies
Rogue Imperial Pilsner - Sterling (really just a note, not brewed regularly and only availble as draft)

Question: How long does bottled (microbrewed) beer last. I've had some kept in my basement for six years and was wondering if it was still any good.
- Keith Smith

Cornelia: It really depends on the beer. Most beers (virtually all lagers and plenty of ales) are better the fresher you drink them.

Certain beers can be aged (much like wine) but the success of aging depends on many factors. Beers high in alcohol (i.e., barleywine, imperial stout, Belgian double, Belgian triple, etc.) are the best candidates. Also, highly hopped beers may age more gracefully.

You can find out more about aging beer in this article from the Real Beer Library.

So, check out what you have and see if you think it may be worth even trying. Worst case, it won't taste very good but it's not likely to hurt you.

Question: About how many different beers do you keep in stock at your home most of the time?
- Chuck Cook

Cornelia: At any given time, there are probably between 80-100 different beers in the cellar.

Question: My wife says that beer drinking will give me a big beer belly which will get in the way of making whoopee. As a woman do you think beer bellies are sexy?
- Joseph Onazol

Cornelia: I should title this debunking the beer belly myth. Beer isn't any more likely to be the cause of a big belly than a soft drink. It's the lifestyle.

For more information on beer and calories, check out this article from the Real Beer Library.

Do MEN think big bellies are sexy? (I refuse to attribute them to beer.)

Question: Where did the idea of beer come from?
- Rachel

Cornelia: The origins of beer are so far back (more than 5000 years) that it is only conjecture as to the exact discovery of beer. It was probably discovered by chance just as many other great discoveries have occurred. It is likely some bread or grain was left in a vessel with water and spontaneously fermented. Once discovered, the process was duplicated and beer was born.

Question: I'm travelling from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada (Buffalo, NY) to Bangor, Maine this summer. We will be travelling along I90 through New York (stopping at Copperstown and, of course, Ommegang) to Boston, then up the Coast on the I91. We won't be stopping in Boston and we are thinking of taking some of the smaller highways past Albany, New York to save some distance and not travel so far south. On the return trip we will be travelling from Bangor to Burlington as directly as possible. Here's my question: what breweries are absolute must sees on this route (or close to it). I will have my family with me, and they aren't as into beer as I am. So, I will have to choose my stops judiciously. Thanks, Joe.
- Joe Cappadocia

Cornelia: Well, you've picked an area I've never traveled in but I can give you my top picks generally along your route.

Brewery Ommegang - Cooperstown, NY (of course)
Middle Ages Brewing Company - Syracuse, NY
Albany Pump Station/C.H. Evans Brewing Company - Albany, NY
McNeill's Brewery - Brattleboro, VT
Sea Dog Brewing Company - Bangor, ME
Bootleggers - Plattsburgh, NY (it's on Cornelia Street!)
Magic Hat - Burlington, VT

A short distance from Bangor is Bar Harbor with five brewpubs, so there should be plenty of opportunities there.

If you change your route slightly and go up the the coast on I-495 you could visit these:
Allagash Brewing Company - Portland, ME
Shipyard Brewing Company - Portland, ME
Gritty McDuff's Brew Pub - Portland, ME

Question: If you could only attend one beer event in the next year, which would it be?
- Alan Chambless

Cornelia: That is a very difficult question, almost as hard as "what is your favorite beer". I believe I would have to choose the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. It would give me an opportunity to sample more than any other festival and I really like Denver.

Question: Hello, madame. Could you please tell me something about the history of beer where it started how it is made and to the present day beer history, and who rules as the best in the beer world?
- Earl Bello

Cornelia: That's a lot of information in one request. For one view of the origins and history of beer, check out this link. I found this one to be quite informative.

As to who rules as the "best in the beer world", I don't believe any one brewery or country rules. The American craft brewers are excelling in many areas - reviving old styles, creating new interpretations of styles and introducing more and more people to craft beers are just a few. The Belgian artisanal brewers are continually amazing beer fans with their creative and tasty beverages. The Germans and Czechs continue to brew some of the best lagers found and more of them are finding their way to larger audiences. Craft breweries are sprouting up all over the world spreading the good word about beer.

Question: Does beer go bad?
- Melani Jaffe

Cornelia: Yes, beer can go bad. Most beers (virtually all lagers and plenty of ales) are better the fresher you drink them. Certain beers can be aged (much like wine) but the success of aging depends on many factors. Beers high in alcohol (i.e., barleywine, imperial stout, Belgian double, Belgian triple, etc.) are the best candidates. Also, highly hopped beers may age more gracefully.

Question: When cruising the Caribean listening to blues bands I find myself reaching for an ice cold domestic brew. Should you find yourself in a similar situation what type of ale would you prefer?
- Spiritual Leader

Cornelia: If I could have any I wanted (not just the limited selection generally available on a cruise), I would like a nice refreshing hefeweizen for the daytime, a good Belgian golden ale for the evening imbibing and occasionally an extreme IPA as a nightcap.

Question: Is it true while in Tampa sampling a stout that you once made a bitter beer face?
- Inquiring Mind

Cornelia: It must have been someone else!

Question: I am looking at attending a brewing school to further my education in the brewing sciences and to obtain gainful employment in the brewing industry. Which institute would you recommend?
- James Merrill

Cornelia: Having never attended any brewing school, I don't feel I'm qualified to give an opinion. I believe there are some very respected schools. Two I have heard of in the US are Siebel and U-C Davis.

Question: Tastes Great or Less Filling?
- Budman

Cornelia: Real women don't drink light beer...

Question: I'm always using the expression "Drunker than Cooter Brown" and a friend of mine from up North asked me who Cooter Brown was. I'd like the history of that character if anyone knows it. Seems like there was a song about Cooter Brown too. Would love the education if you have the ability to share it! Thanks!
- Annell

Cornelia: Interesting question as I've had a beer or few at a great beer bar in New Orleans called Cooter Brown's. I spent some time searching the internet and you are not the only one wondering about the origin. I found this answer at

This question is enough to drive a fellow to drink. I don't know who Cooter Brown was, or why, if, when or where he was such a famous drunk. Haven't the vaguest, in fact. But it isn't for lack of trying to find the answer. I even searched the internet for an hour or so, and found only that no one else seems to know either, although quite a few people are out there asking. I did discover that there are quite a few bars scattered around the country that call themselves "Cooter Brown's."

According to my reference sources, "Drunk as Cooter Brown" or "Drunker than Cooter Brown" is a well-known saying in the South, and is first attested in print in 1967, though it's probably much older. The "drunk as" comparison, of course, is itself a staple of popular speech, and has been ever since one of the first known examples, Chaucer's "drunk as a mouse" of 1386. My personal favorite in this genre would be a toss-up between "drunk as a bat" and "drunk as a boiled owl," although "drunk as a wheelbarrow" (1709) has a nice surrealistic ring to it.

As to "Cooter Brown," it may well be that there once was a man of that name who became legendary as a drunk. If so, the exact circumstances of his accomplishment seem to have been lost to the ages. I suspect, however, that "Drunker than Cooter Brown" may have sprung from another Southern phrase, "Drunk as a cooter," which dates back to at least 1827. A "cooter" in Southern slang is, oddly enough, a turtle or tortoise.

Question: Is there a chance you know sales statistics for the Bud Light, Miller Lite and Coors Light in Texas? I didn't have much luck with that question. I did some internet searching and most sites I found that may have the statistics wanted hefty subscription fees. I am trying to help some local festivals understand the importance of not kowtowing to Miller and thereby only carrying Lite, MGD and Icehouse, rather a mix of domestic and imports so everyone will have a choice. Thanks.
- Mike Hunter

Cornelia: Good luck! I'm not really being facetious here. If Miller (or any other brewery) is a one of the sponsors, it is very unlikely you will get any other beer. Not many organizations will jeopardize alienating a sponsor. There have been attempts for several years to get something other then Miller products into the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival to no avail. You may sometimes find Red Hook beers at festivals sponsored by Anheuser-Busch as they have a business relationship. A local blues festival has AB products and Red Hook ESB. They charge a premium for the Red Hook and there is still usually a longer line.

If a megabrewer is not one of the festival sponsors, you may be able to convince the festival committee to support local business by having one or more local microbreweries' beers. Local could be defined as city, region or state giving you a wider number of possibilities.

Question: A small group (3) and I are planning a trip to Belgium for the 2005 Poperinge Hop Festival. We also want to travel around Belgium and visit some of the various breweries and pubs including some monasteries. Is there some advice that you can give to someone interested in planning such a trip. Please keep in mind that the trip will probably be no longer than 10 days. I have looked into planned beer trips (ala and feel that might be a good way to go but the timing would have to be right. Thanks for any advice and help.
- Jay Patel

Cornelia: Timely question as I will be making my second trip to the Hop Festival this coming September. I could fill up pages of "be sure to sees" so I'll just point you in the direction of some great references. A must is a copy of the Good Beer Guide to Belgium and Holland by Tim Webb. A new edition is tentatively planned for release in November of this year. Also, there is a wealth of information on Belgium travel at and

I'm not particularly fond of arranged tours but I suspect the beer ones would be quite fun. If you consider yourself an independent traveler, you may find bus touring confining. Schedules are not very flexible, one is less likely to meet the locals and they often have you up much too early in the morning!

In addition to, the folks at Global Beer have annual beer tours. They had a group in Poperinge in 1999 and are planning a tour for 2002 which includes the Hop Festival.

Question: What is lager and what is the difference between beer, lager and ale?
- Ron Roberts

Cornelia: Today beer is a generic term for a fermented drink made primarily from malted grain. Beer is generally divided into two categories, lager and ale. Whether a beer is ale or lager is usually determined by the type of yeast used for fermentation. Yeast is the microorganism that converts the malted grains' sugars into alcohol. Beer with top-fermenting yeast is characterized as ale while beer with bottom-fermenting yeast is characterized as lager.

It is interesting to note that in medieval times, ale was the generic term before the introduction of hops. When brewsters (most brewing at this time was woman's work) began using hops, the beverage was called beer. This was before the properties of yeast were better understood.

Some lager styles are pilsner, bock and doppelbock. Ales are typically sharper and fruitier than bottom-fermenting lagers. Some ale styles are brown ale, cream ale, pale ale, India pale ale, porter and stout.

Question: Is Busch beer really as good as Budweiser? And what about Michelob? I get confused on these brands.
- Thirsty

Cornelia: I can see why you would be confused. In my opinion they are all the same beer with different marketing.

Question: In your opinion the best microbrew in southern CA?
- Larry Velianoff

Cornelia: I couldn't possibly narrow down the choices to one - especially since I live on the right coast and have not been able to sample freely among the possibilities. Some I have particularly enjoyed are Cuvée de Tomme from Pizza Port Brewing Company of San Diego and Arrogant Bastard Ale, Stone Imperial Stout and Stone Old Guardian from Stone Brewing Company of San Marcos.

Question: Do you think that beer advertising should be geared more towards women these days? - Steph

Cornelia: Yes, I do. I believe beer producers are missing a large segment of the beer drinking population (25% by some estimates) by gearing virtually all their advertising towards men. Here's an interesting article about beer marketing and women.

I do, however, disagree with the marketing opinion that women are interested in tasteless, low-calorie beers. More could be done to educate women (and men for that matter) that beer by itself is not going to cause them to gain weight. You don't have to sacrifice taste.

Question: I brew beer at Duneland Brewhouse in Michigan City, Indiana.....As a fellow woman beer drinker, I have a question for you...How many women are employed as brewers in the United States?
- Barbara Kehe

Cornelia: I have not been able to locate any figures for the number of women brewers (brewsters!) A 1994 article noted that at that time there was no directory of woman brewsters. Seems that may still be the case.

Question: Is there fiber in beer?
- Mike Vultaggio

Cornelia: Along with fat, fiber is a nutritional element lacking in beer. Beer does have a small amount of protein. The largest component in beer is carbohydrate.

Question: What is the most popular beer in the world? HEINEKEN?
- Tara MacDonald

Cornelia: I suppose that depends on what you mean by "popular". Here are some ratings/figures I found around the web.
#1 beer at is Westvleteren Abt 12
#1 beer at is Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout
#1 beer at is Red Hook ESB
#1 most popular beer at is Chimay Grand Reserve (blue)
#1 selling beer in the world is Bud Light

Question: I wanted to buy some wheat beer from a local beer distributor but the beer was stored in a warehouse type of building. It was pretty hot in there and I thought there was no way that beer would be in good condition. Was I right? Also what is the best temperature to store beer before and after it is sold?
- Allen Robertson

Cornelia: I would have been very hesitant to buy beer stored under those conditions. I believe the best storage is in a dark place with a temperature at 50-55 degrees. Here's an excellent article on beer storage.

Question: I have to avoid monosodium glutamate (MSG). Is there any information that lists the amount of MSG in the various brands/types of beer? Name: Jeff Carr

Cornelia: I was not able to find a product list. Amounts used would certainly vary by brewery. Some may not use any for a beer while others may for the same type. Your best bet would be to email breweries individually and ask being sure to include that you need the information for health reasons.

Question: Why don't micros put the calories on the bottles? At least Widmer doesn't. How much does their wheat beer have?
- Mike DeSimone

Cornelia: I can only guess that most probably don't want to go to the expense of analyzing the beers caloric value. Most of the calories in beer are from the alcohol. If you have the alcohol content, you can calculate the alcohol caloric content using the following formula: Ounces x ABV% x 200. For example, a 12 ounce bottle of Widmer Hefewiezen at 4.7% ABV would be 12 x .047 x 200 giving a value of 112.8 calories from alcohol. There are also calories from residual sugars or grains. I usually bump the value I get from the formula by 20% for a close guesstimate of the actual value. So increasing the alcohol value derived for the Widmer Hefewieizen by 20%, the final value for a 12 ounce serving is calculated to be 135.36. It's not exact but if you are calorie counting it's probably close enough.

Question: What is a "shell of beer" and where did this expression come from?
- D. Jerneycic

Cornelia: That's one I've never heard before. My research indicates it is a local expression for a small serving of beer instead of a large. A server's question might be would you like a "shell or a pint." It is apparently used in Michigan in the St. Clair County area. I was not as successful finding where the term originated.

Question: Hi, can you tell me if there is a beer made without malted product? I seem to get asthma from malted products. I love beer; my favorite is Coors light or Michelob light. But I hardly can drink of course! I am willing to drink an import as long as it is light & not a heavy or dark beer. Thanks.
- Laura

Cornelia: I can't think of any beer style (nor could I find one) that doesn't use malted grain of some type. That's not to say there aren't any but I'm not a brewer. Have you had that verified by a physician? If not, it may not be malted grain. Beer manufacturers have a long list of additives approved by the FDA for use in beer. Following is a list of the adjuncts approved as natural and artificial flavors. Other adjuncts are allowed for other purposes. Benzyl propionate, borneol, calcium chloride, citral, citric acid, citronellol, cis-3-hexanol, cognac oil, corn syrup, ethyl acetate, ethyl acetoacetate, ethyl alcohol, ethyl butyrate, ethyl oenanthate, ethyl propionate, ethyl vanillin, ginger, ginsing extract, glycerin or glycerol, grapefruit oil, hexanal, hexanol, isoamyl acetate, isoamyl alcohol, isobutyl alcohol, isopulegol, jasmine oil, lactic acid, lactose, lemon oil, licorice, lime oil, malic acid, menthol, methyl anthranilate, monosodium glutamate, nutmeg, orange flowers, propyl alcohol, quassia extract, quillaia, sodium chloride, sodium citrate, stryalyl acetate, sucrose, sucrose otaacetate, tartaric acid, undecalatone, yerba santa, yucca mohave. As you can see, the list is quite long. You may want to search out some of the many microbrews that advertise the use of only four ingredients (water, yeast, malt and hops) and try one. Some to look for are Lion Brewery of Pennsylvania, Weeping Radish Brewery of North Carolina, Gordon Biersch (many states), Bayern Brewing of Montana and High Point Beer Company of New Jersey.

Question: I'm from the Caribbean and people here drink almost lager light beers. I had to becoming a homebrewer, but I'm still trying to make the right beer for me. I love ale beers, but I'm looking for something adequate for this hot climate. Any advice?
- Erick Molina

Cornelia: My three favorite ale styles for warm weather are Saison, Bavarian Hefeweizen and Berliner Weisse. Some examples to try if you can find them are Schneider Weisse (my favorite hefeweizen), Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen, Pyramid Hefeweizen, Schultheisw Berliner Weisse, Saison de Pipaix and Saison Dupont. You can decide if you want to brew one after tasting some.