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Jul 26, 2014

Beer Break

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Beer Break Vol. 1, No. 44
American Beer Month: Worth celebrating

July 5, 2001

The second (now annual) American Beer Month has begun and continues through July. When we talk about the appreciation of beer we usually start by thinking about taste, but there are many factors just as important -- the food you enjoy it with, the setting, the aesthetic pleasure of looking at attractive labels, etc.

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American Beer Month is about all those things that go with beer as well as flavor. We hope that was the point of the Real Beer Page Mail editorial written a year ago, so we are reprinting that here. (Remember it is from last year, so don't head to Flossmoor Station with plans to taste their CAP.) From July 2000:

American Beer Month kicked off this past weekend with a great deal of hoopla across the country. We hope the fun is just beginning. There's plenty of time to join the celebration, whether at a major event or with a toast in your local pub. For instance, Flossmoor Station Brewing Co. in Flossmoor, Ill., marks its fourth anniversary this weekend by pouring 1906 Pilsner. In this classic American pilsner, brewer Todd Ashman used flaked corn, an ingredient not often associated with craft beer, to make it historically accurate.

"I wanted our customers to envision the original Flossmoor train station being built (in what is now the suburbs, but 100 years ago was in the country south of Chicago) and the construction crew getting off work and sitting down in front of an iced down bucket of bottles of locally brewed beer," he said.

It's not hard to find an excuse to drink a beer or to make it American, and American Beer Month certainly must be about drinking beer. But its also a time to remember how American beer fits into our lives today and how beer has been a part of American culture for 400 years. On a hot and muggy Illinois afternoon an iced own bucket of beer seems like a particularly good reason to celebrate, and worthy of anybody's Top 10. It's where our countdown begins.

9. Beer is the drink of moderation. Nearly 400 years ago, the Puritans understood that the early American settlers were going to drink and promoted beer over "demon rum" and whiskey. Today, two cold pints will quench a considerable thirst on a hot July day, and your blood alcohol level should safely remain within legal limits.

8. Beer belongs. Following World War II, the Brewers Foundation commissioned popular magazine artists to produce a series of 115 paintings using the theme "Home life in America" and showing folks socializing at home with beers at hand. These portraits appeared as advertising in all the popular publications, noting "perhaps no beverages are more 'at home' on more occasions" than American beer. The tagline on each -- "Beer belongs ... enjoy it" -- is just as timely today.

7. Beer is a social lubricant. During our colonial period, the tavern was the focal point of the community. In the 19th century, the union movement found its early home in saloons. In the past 20 years, the addition of more than 1,000 brewpubs to the landscape has helped return the word "pub" to our vocabulary -- a public house where you can escape the private domains of home and work.

6. Beer drinkers don't spit. Do you really want to be there for American Wine Month?

5. You can drink it where (or very near where) it's made. There's nothing quite like a fresh pint from your local brewpub or the microbrewery across town. Peter Austin (the father of microbrewing in England) once said that beer should be sold no farther from the brewery than a horse can walk in one day. Technology has changed that, but fresh beer still has a home court advantage.

4. Hops. Let's not argue about balance or what styles such as IPA tasted like 100 years ago. American brewers plus hops equals innovation.

3. There's a beer for every occasion, be it a special event or an everyday pleasure. Thirst-quenching? Try a traditional pilsner. Sociable? A hand-drawn brewpub bitter. Greet friends with a wheat beer. Serve an American pale ale with steak or a Vienna with pizza. The list doesn't end -- there's a beer to celebrate the birth of a child or a raise at work, for after work or for before bed ... or to have while you think about the next beer to drink.

2. The time to be embarrassed about American beers is long gone. As beer writer Michael Jackson points out: "If I wanted to find a traditional Marzen-Oktoberfest, I would have to look harder in Bavaria than the U.S. Should I desire a true India Pale Ale, the style's country of origin, England, would have a hard time delivering; the American examples are far more assertive."

And the No. 1 reason to celebrate American Beer Month is ...

1. Prohibition lasted 13 years, 10 months, 19 days, 17 hours, 32 1/2 minutes. That was long enough.

Read more about American Beer Month.

Tasting notes
MAGIC HAT BLIND FAITH IPA
Brewed by Magic Hat Brewing Co. South Burlington, Vt.

Anheuser-Busch brewer Mitch Steele's tasting notes:

The appearance is deep copper, with a good head of foam. The aroma is fruity and estery, with an overwhelming hop character that reminded me of green peppers. Magic Hat's web site states that the hops used are "Willamette and UK Progress, then (lots of) Cascade". The label calls the beer "blessed with hops," the understatement of the year. There are 4 malts used in this beer, which provide a nice level of complexity and body to balance out the hop bitterness. The finish possesses strong hop bitter and a touch of butterscotch. Definitely one of the hoppier IPAs of this (tasting) set, brewed by a brewery with one of the coolest names in the business.

SIERRA NEVADA PALE ALE
Brewed by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, Calif.

Flossmoor Station brewer Todd Ashman's recollections and tasting notes:

My introduction to Sierra Nevada products was with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale I remember it well as it was my first experience with hoppy beer. I was sold. This was it. I wanted to brew beer like this and be able to call it my own....
Light copper in color with a white head. Wonderful cascade hop aroma is very inviting. The beer delivers on its promise and the hops are there. Medium bodied with a touch of malt sweetness. The hop finish is this beer's trademark. If you ever wanted to know what Cascades hops are like this is the beer to taste.

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