Hey dad, how about a homebrew kit?

homebrewersThere’s much to be said for Arizona Daily Star’s story about homebrewing, pegged to the idea that a homebrew kit makes a good gift for Father’s Day.

It does. But you’ll be happier if you don’t let the headline (taken from a quote in the story) set your expectations too high.

It reads: “Homebrew: ‘You can’t buy beer as good as you can make'”

Wrong. Yes you can, and we’re not even going to bother to start listing the names of beers.

Back to homebrewing. You can learn to make great beer, better than some beers you buy and beer that you’ll like even better because you brewed it. Just be prepared for the consequences the story points out:

With Father’s Day approaching, you may be out shopping and see the beginners’ home beer kit and think, “Now that’s something Dad would love.” A word of warning — within its cute little brown plastic barrel and embossed staves is a lifestyle change, poised and just waiting to strike.

And that’s a good thing.


Bud vs. Bud: Reports from Germany

Germany’s Spiegel Online uses the occasion of the Czech-U.S. World Cup soccer match to pit American Bud vs. Czech Budweiser. We’ll warn you now the beer matchup didn’t go any better than the one on the pitch – the headline reads: “Czechs on American Bud: It’s Missing the Taste of Beer.”

Our story begins in the narrow streets streaming from the Gelsenkirchen main train station. Packed with well-sauced fans in the red, white and blue, there was nary space to move as I hustled around trying to procure a six pack of Czech Bud. After unsuccessful tries up and down the “downtown” of this fading former mining city, I hit upon a dwindling stash in a side-street supermarket.

A lifelong drinker of the American version of Bud, US fan West Interian’s palate is hardly what one might call discerning. But on a hot afternoon, in a town who’s name every one seemed to have trouble pronouncing, Interian became a convert.

“I’ve drunk Bud my whole life, and this tastes better,” he said after a gulp or two. Then he paused. “Hell, this is warm, and it tastes better. Try this, Rex.”

Rex Corbett grabbed the modest green bottle: “Hmmmm, that is good,” Corbett agreed. The bottle never made it back to Interian.

And Cox News Service offers a report from Munich:

In the cavernous back room of Munich’s famous Augustiner beer hall, Heiko Hofrichter sits at one of the long wooden tables, takes a sip of his thick brew, and explains why German soccer fans just can’t swallow the fact that America’s Budweiser is the official beer at World Cup stadiums.

“For Germans, Bud tastes like watered down beer. It’s not beer,” complained Hofrichter, 24, a graduate student from the city of Nuremberg.

“It’s Spuelwasser!” cried Robert Paustian, 32, from another table in the boisterous beer hall, using the German word for dishwater.

Not everybody was quite so unkind. Back to the report from Spiegel:

“It (American Bud) is quite good,” Vladimir Herink, of Prague, will tell me later during half-time. But by then, of course, the blazing hot sunshine had done its damage. “It’s good for this occasion,” he said adding a decisive qualifier to his first statement. “We’re quite thirsty, you see.”

Of course, unlike the Americanshe wasn’t crying in his beer.


Hops and prostate cancer

Bless those researchers at Oregon State University.

The study they released last fall about how hops in beers may help prevent cancer has popped back into the news.

News outlets around the world are carrying the story about xanthohumol, found in hops, inhibits a specific protein in the cells along the surface of the prostate gland. So you get headlines like this one from ABC News: Beer Ingredient May Fight Prostate Cancer.

The story also points out “that a person would have to drink more than 17 beers to benefit.”

What’s 17 beers when it comes to your good health?


Everything you need to know about brewing (really)

Since the Real Beer Page, as it was known back then, began hosting the work of John Palmer we’ve known the chord his straightforward explanation about how to brew beer strike with readers.

His book, How to Brew, began as in Internet site we host. It evolved into a second edition that he self-published in 2001, and by then was already considered an essential addition to any homebrewer’s library.

How to BrewNow it’s better still. How to Brew: Everything you need to know to brew beer right the first time retains the same pick-this-up-and-brew-right-now spirit as when Palmer wrote How to Brew Your First Beer. That 12-page document quickly got passed around the world in 1993, despite the fact there were no web browsers and homebrewers had to rely on bulletin boards and ftp downloads (we’ve still got files saved to prove it).

There’s a reason that many homebrew shop owners have made How to Brew an insert in kits they sell for beginners. It works. Follow the instructions and you’ll make good beer. Read more and you’ll understand why. He peals away the mysteries of brewing in layers, so there’s always a more for even an advanced homebrewer to think about.

Palmer calls How to Brew: Everything you need to know to brew beer right the first time the third edition and it’s better because: a) homebrewing continues to evolve with new methods and new tools available to brewers; b) Palmer had time to investigate more topics; c) Brewers Publications provided back-end expertise; and d) a vital part of that expertise was the technical scrutiny provided by Ray Daniels and Randy Mosher. That’s why the acknowledgements thank them for “asking the tough questions that made it better.”

Anecdotal evidence indicates a resurgence in interest in homebrewing – and expect that to get a shot when Extreme Brewing : An Enthusiast’s Guide to Brewing Unique Craft Beer at Home by Sam Calagione comes out in November. Although brewing beer is thousands of years old it’s important for newcomers to have access to the most up-to-date information. How to Brew provides that.

For instance, batch sparging and no-sparge draining have been investigated and discussed in depth by homebrewers in recent years, and the procedures can be called common practice. To learn about them you had to follow the discussions or track down the occasional print articles. Palmer has put the information together in one place – again with the sort of basics that suit the by-the-seat-of-the-pants brewer or one that prefers detailed calculations.

Palmer also clearly comes from the homebrew culture. He writes in a language that homebrewers understand – different than that used in texts for professional brewers who often have concerns different that amateur brewers.

One of the endorsements on the back of the book sums it up particularly well. Matt Brynildson, who has guided Firestone Walker to the mid-size brewery championship in each of the last two World Beer Cups, writes:

“The hard science, rules, and attention to detail that the professional brewer lives by have been distilled down to an easily understood manual for home brewing success.”


A-B aims at UK working class

From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Aiming for the British working class, Anheuser-Busch Cos. is rolling out a new beer in the United Kingdom. Called Bud Silver, the beer will have a lower alcohol content and a stronger hops flavor than an American-style lager.

The stronger flavor hops and richer color also make Bud Silver attractive to young adult males, according to A-B’s Jim Gorczyca. “It kind of goes after the working-class guy,” he said.

And an interesting fact at the end: In the last five years, Anheuser-Busch has nearly tripled the volume of A-B brands sold internationally.

Does is seem likely that Bud Silver will take the UK by storm? Likely not, but quite obviously the world’s biggest brewer will continue to find a larger audience for its beers or find other beers that audience will drink.

archives archives archives

Town not sure it wants brewery

Boston Beer Company’s plan to build a brewery in Freetown, Mass., has run into opposition. Voters will decide the issue Monday at the special town meeting.

Boston Beer still hasn’t decided if it would develop a brewery in Freetown, but if the measure is approved and the company goes ahead a brewery could be producing Samuel Adams beers in 2008.

“We feel as if in this point in time we do not have the infrastructure. We do not have available water and sewer,” said David Theriault, chairman of the town’s finance committee. Theriault, emphasizing that the town should have a water usage and sewer line plan before finalizing plans or negotiating TIFs. “There could be problems with Fall River with only allowing a certain amount of water.”

It is interesting that residents of one town aren’t sure they want a brewery, while those in another – Latrobe – are fighting to keep their brewery (and the jobs it provides).


College students pick iPod over beer

The basic headline: iPod Beats Beer in College Popularity Survey (from Mac News)

The one we like: American losers students prefer iPod to beer

The details:

Nearly three quarters (73%) of 1,200 students surveyed by Student Monitor said iPods were “in” – more than any other item in a list that also included text messaging, bar hopping and downloading music. The only other time beer was temporarily dethroned in the 18 years of the survey was in 1997 – by the Internet, said Eric Weil, a managing partner at Student Monitor.

Beer quickly regained its top spot in 1997. Will it again?


Oregon brewers Summer Games

Oregon’s brewers have plenty planned for the Third Annual Brewers Summer Games June 24 (noon to 10 p.m.) at the Pelican Pub & Brewery in Pacific City.

Starting at noon, brewer teams from around the state meet on the beach to battle it out for the Grand Champion Altitude Cup. Each participating brewery brings a team to compete in a series of nine events, including a Keg Toss, a Hand Truck Race and a Yeast Toss (including balloons full of yeast).

The event will raise money for two local charities: the Nestucca Valley Boosters and the Caring Cabin. The Nestucca Valley Boosters supports athletics and other extracurricular activities in local schools. The Caring Cabin is a retreat for children undergoing cancer treatment.

Admission is free, with beer, root beer, food and T-shirt sales going to the charities.



Here we are at 6/6/06 and if you are reading these then it would seem the apocalypse has not yet arrived and we should be thinking about what 06.06.06 means to a beer drinker.

Why, of course, it’s the day Stone Vertical Epic Ale gets released, just as it did on 5/5/05, 4/4/04/, 3/3/03 and 2/2/02.

From the press release:

Stone Brewing first released the Stone Vertical Epic Ale series on February 2nd, 2002 and has done so consecutively, for five years now, one year, one month, and one day after the last edition. This year’s version happens to come out on June 6th, 2006, next year’s edition will be released July 7th, 2007, followed by August 8th, 2008, all the way to December 12th, 2012.

Stone’s “Epic” saga isn’t even half way over, but is already taking the beer community by storm. A beer that started as an original, quirky concept has morphed into an enigmatic quest for beer enthusiasts everywhere. The early years of the Stone Vertical Epic Ale are actually so revered by beer geeks worldwide that single bottles are commanding prices of $400 or more per bottle, and according to the Wall Street Journal, the Stone 02.02.02 Vertical Epic Ale is one of the rarest craft beers in America.

Should you be tasting it on 06.06.06 or wait until 12.12.12 or even beyond? That’s up to you, but to help Stone has posted early tasting notes.

Based on those we’re waiting . . . at least until this afternoon.


New Belgium, Church Brew Works expanding

New Belgium Brewing Co. is planning a $21.5 million capital expansion after a 12% increase in sales last year. New Belgium will spend $11.5 million on the building and the remaining $10 million on new equipment, said Jim Spencer, director of engineering for New Belgium. “As we continue to grow, the only bottleneck we have for expansion is in our bottling capacity,” he said. New Belgium will brew about 400,000 barrels (comparable to more than 5 million cases) of beer in 2006, and with this expanson could grow to 800,000. [Rocky Mountain News]

– Pittsburgh brewery/restaurant Church Brew Works plans to quadruple its capacity. Church Brew Works first began offering its beers by the bottle last year. Sean Casey of CBW said he expects to grow production from around 6,000 cases last year to about 16,000 cases this year, eventually reaching 30,000 cases a year within the next few years. [Pittsburgh Businness Times]


Homebrewer’s beer mustard wins gold

A Connecticut man uses his homebrewed beer in a mustard he won gold with at the 2006 World-Wide Mustard Competition.

His name is Porter, but for Bumpy Beer Mustard he used a homebrewed brown ale.

From the News-Times in Danbury:

(Michael) Porter’s Bumpy Beer Mustard took first place in the mustard with spirits category at the 2006 World-Wide Mustard Competition. The contest, sponsored by the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum in Wisconsin and the Napa Valley Mustard Festival, drew entries from 19 American states and four countries.

Second place went to a vodka-infused mustard made by Stolichnaya, the Russian vodka company, and third place went to microbrewery Sierra Nevada’s Stout and Stoneground Mustard.

Porter won the gold because the mustard didn’t hide the beer, said Barry Levenson, founder of the Mount Horeb Mustard Museum. “A lot of beer mustards have beer on the label, but it’s difficult to get a very distinguishable beer or spirit flavor,” Levenson said. “Beer is a great ingredient for making mustard but often masked in final product.”


To lemon or not to lemon?

Should you serve German wheat beer with lemon?

Joe Sixpack makes no bones: “Don’t do it!”

But today’s column also notes that consumers get mixed messages form all measure of beer authorities.

At his Beer Hunter web site, Michael Jackson writes:

When I first encountered South German wheat beers, in the early to mid 1960s, they were regarded as an old-fashioned, rustic style, favoured by old ladies with large hats. The beer was at that time customarily garnished with a slice of lemon.

People have told me the lemon was to mask the taste of the uneven products made at that time by unscientific country brewers; I do not believe that. Some of the wilder wheat beers might taste odd to the uninitiated, but not to people who grew up with them.

I have also heard it said that the lemon reduced the foam to manageable proportions, but why would anyone want to flatten a naturally sparkling drink?

I believe the lemon accentuated the tart, refreshing character of the beer, and I am sorry that it is so rarely seen in Germany today.

Apparently the green movement is worried that the rind may carry pesticides; a new generation of beer purists dislike the lemon; and it does not go so well with the heavily sedimented style currently favoured.

In the offices we prefer not to partake of lemon before noon, and since German wheat beers are the perfect breakfast drink long ago became accustomed to enjoying them sans lemon.


Color A-B blonde for summer

The latest selection in Anheuser-Buesch’s seasonal draught program isn’t as frisky as those that have come before.

Beach Bum Blonde Ale – a 5.4% abv blond beer – seems to be aimed more at “casual” beer drinkers than, for instance, the winter offering of Bourbon Cask Ale. But it is ale and it is hopped with Cascades, so will still stand in contrast to Budweiser or Bud Light (or Miller Genuine Draft or Miller Light or Coors Light or . . . you get the point).

From the press release:

This American blonde ale is brewed with the finest pale and caramel roasted barley malts and is hopped with imported Alsace and Hallertau hops, as well as Cascade hops from the Pacific Northwest.

“Blonde ales are wonderfully crisp and easily drinkable, which makes them an ideal choice for a summer beverage,” said Florian Kuplent, brewmaster, Anheuser-Busch. “The addition of Beach Bum Blonde Ale is a nice way to conclude our first year of this program because it can be enjoyed by everyone from casual beer drinkers to beer purists who are looking for an ale with a nice balance, gentle flavor and smooth finish.”

The release also indicates that the fall selection will be a repeat from last fall – Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale.