Beer school: Hops and skunks

The Washington Post (free registration) explains why bad things – like aromas reeking of skunk – happen when light meets beer.

It also explains how Miller gets by with using colorless glass:

Chemical trickery, that’s how. Instead of using actual hops for bittering the beer, Miller uses a chemically modified form of hops’ alpha acids known by several brand names, among them Tetrahop Gold. It does not produce 3-methyl-2-butene-1-thiol when struck by light, but according to the Ghent chemists, it can still produce rotten-egg odors. Uncolored bottles are cheaper than colored ones, however, so Miller’s fiscal folks apparently prevailed over their flavor mavens.

As you can see this is an educational but amusing read.


Hudy Bock is back

Christian Moerlein Brewing Co. – which has its beer brewed under contract at the Lion Brewery in Pennsylvania – is rolling out Hudepohl Bock Beer for the Cincinnati Bockfest.

“We’re bringing it back as kind of a test to see how people like it,” said owner Greg Hardman. “Based on that reaction, that’ll determine what we do. This is a big stretch for us. We’re bringing back one of the true great brands of the city.”

[via the Cincinnati Enquirer]


Six vintages of Thomas Hardy’s

Thomas Hardy's Ale

Six vintages of the classic Thomas Hardy’s Ale. Five courtesy of Real Beer co-founder Mark Silva and one from advertising sales director Banjo Bandolas.

On occasion those of us at Real Beer feel compelled to join you in the beer fun. In this case hosted by Pat Hagerman, who launched Real Beer with Silva back when most of us were still trying to figure out how to download a web browser.

The night before we had sampled vintages of Samichlaus (detailed here), so we knew better than to expect too much from the 1983 bottle that Banjo brought (not his fault). Like the Samichlaus, the cap had rust on the inside. Because the bottle had traveled on its side (you can bet TSA opened that bag) it had a strange and scary-looking coating that wrapped around about one-third of the inside.

We’ll get right to it. It tasted liked corked port with lemon. When we were done we each had five empty glasses and one we’d barely touched. Silva tried to salvage his, pouring it through a coffee filter (to remove the apparent sludge). He insisted that made it better, and perhaps we would have agreed – had the other vintages not been so good.

I was a little surprised to find a certain consistency across the beers. Nearly 10 years ago Randy Mosher tasted eight vintages (1986-1995, but not all years) to contribute to a story for All About Beer magazine.

Instead of a neatly vertical progression, I discovered a deliciously erratic jumble of beers, each with its own distinct mix of personality traits. All of them were enormous blasts of malty complexity, a candy shop full of dried fruit, nuts and caramel, but the balance, sweetness, oxidized character, carbonation and color were all over the place.

I suspect that’s because the beers he tasted were provided by the brewery. We visited what was then the Eldridge Pope brewery in 1994 and saw that they stuck older bottles of Hardy’s just about anywhere. They didn’t get as warm or cold as they might have in a Los Angeles garage (where our 1983 was stored) but they weren’t treated like they might be by an anal-retentive beer geek – not to say that describes Silva (that would be more like me).

After we’d sampled all of them, Pat said of the 1997, “This would be great if you didn’t have the others.”

Certainly the beers varied, but generally were better the older they were and the 1989 was clearly the star.

The 1996 flashed more whisky malt character, the 1995 had a layer of vegetal on top of caramel and toffee that you just know is going to go away sooner than later. You couldn’t ask much more of the 1994, with an almost fresh breadiness (cinnamon rolls?), as well a caramel and licorice, with pleasing Madeira just beginning to emerge.

And then there was the 1989. Full of dark fruit, raisins and plums, nutty, a chocolate smokiness, all the things we like about sherry, frankly too many flavors to note and still enjoy the beer. So I quit taking notes.

If you open a 1989 Hardy’s will it taste the same? No guarantees. Every time you choose to cellar a beer (and particularly to let one get to be 18 years old) you are taking a chance.

Sometimes it’s worth it.


Hops for your bath & body

HopstickSara Hale, former brewer of The Saint Louis Brewery in St. Louis, has taken the art of beermaking in another direction. Using some of the same skills of recipe formulation and sensory evaluation, Hale has begun creating a hophead’s delight for the bath and body.

Her company, It’s All About You, offers a Beer Lover’s Gift Basket which includes HopStick (“hop-flavored lip balm that won’t ruin the taste of your beer”), Hop Bath and Body Oil, Hops and Lavender Bath Scrub, a Hangover Eye Pillow (“relieves incessant throbbing and keeps out evil, heinous light”), and a Schlafly logo pint glass. It’s available online for $25.

It’s All About You, which Sara started with her sister Jamie Choler, a recreational therapist in St. Louis, offers all natural, hand-made bath and body care products, sold in various gift baskets and individually, as well as in activity kits.

Other gift baskets include Peppermint Perk, with an array of uplifiting peppermint products, and The Coffee Achiever, designed to “lift the fog from your daily grind.” That one includes Coffee Kisses Lip Balm (“welcome to your next addiction”), Cappuccino Scrub Face Food and Sweet Espresso Body Polish, both scrubs utilizing locally roasted Kaldi’s Fair Trade Organic Espresso.


Green Oscars parties feature New Belgium beer

Mothership WitThere’s green beer and there’s green beer.

While regulars at Coleman’s Irish Pub in Syracuse, N.Y., celebrated the arrival of green beer for St. Patrick’s Day, a different sort of green beer was in the spotlight during the Oscars.

With “An Inconvenient Truth,” the documentary featuring Al Gore on global warming, winning best documentary feature many celebrities added to the emphasis on environmentally sustainable practices arriving in fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles, and film stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek hosted the third annual Global Green USA Pre-Oscar Party featuring their own kind of “green” beer.

New Belgium Brewing’s first organic beer, Mothership Wit, and its signature Fat Tire Amber Ale were served at that party and several other pre-Oscare events. The Fort Collins beer also was served at Oscar-related charity fundraisers held Thursday and Friday to benefit the environment and other causes.

New Belgium is 100% wind powered and otherwise a brewing industry leader in sustainable practices.


Virginia woman Beerdrinker of the Year

Diane Catanzaro

Diane Catanzaro, a Norfolk, Virginia homebrewer, beer judge and college professor, has been crowned the 2007 Beerdrinker of the Year.

Catanzaro, 48, won the title in the Beerdrinker of the Year finals on Saturday at Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver.

A professor of industrial/organizational psychology at Christopher Newport University (in Newport News, VA), Catanzaro is the second woman to win the competition. (Cornelia Corey of Clemmons, N.C., won the title in 2001.)

“This is a dream come true for me,” Catanzaro said after winning the title. “I can use the title to carry the flag for Beer Nation and spread the news about craft beer. And it gives me an opportunity to promote a better understanding of beer to women in America.”

Catanzaro, a finalist in last year’s Beerdrinker contest, beat out finalists Logan Perkins (of Denver, Colo.) and Phil Farrell (Cumming, Ga.). Her impressive beer drinking experiences, humor and beer ambassadorship helped her land the crown.

“I’ve never seen three more deserving finalists,” said Tom Dalldorf, editor and publisher of Celebrator Beer News and one of the seven judges for the finals. ”But Diane was very engaging, and her personality and very beery background helped her win the title. She speaks well for the beer community.”

As the 2007 Beerdrinker of the Year, Catanzaro wins free beer for life at Wynkoop Brewing Company and a $250 beer tab at the Biergarden.


Weekend beer reading: Quick links

A bishop in the brewery
Reverend Clive Gregory, 45, an active member of the Campaign for Real Ale, proclaimed his pint of Banks’s Original “heavenly” as he took a brief tour of Banks’s brewery.

White bread in a glass
White beers get along with oysters because they are devoid of a hoppy bite that would overwhelm the oyster’s unique liquor.

Scott Morrison will guest brew at Sly Fox
“Dude in exile.”

Beer Advocates on being advocates
A discussion provoked by Lew Bryson’s post.

Miller will ramp up marketing
To try to boost sales, the company is going back to spots that compare Miller Lite directly to its competitors. “We want to challenge expectations, we want to challenge competitors and we want to challenge indifference to beers,” Miller CEO Tom Long said.


We’ll miss you, Linda

Linda Starck

Linda Starck, who has been a friend to literally thousands in the brewing community for more than 20 years, died Friday. She was diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago.

Linda – you would only have to say “Linda” (no last name needed) at any gathering of brewers, such as the Great American Beer Festival or the Craft Brewers Conference and others knew who you were talking about – was a Brewers Association staff member for more than 20 years.

A Celebration of Life is being planned in her hometown of Boulder, Colo. The family is collecting photos immediately for use at the memorial service. The Brewers Association has also created a page for friends to share thoughts and stories.

For too brief a time we got to work with Linda as she represented advertising sales on and Pro Brewer. More than a colleague, anyone who knew her considered her a friend, a fellow beer lover and powerful, positive force of nature. She will be deeply missed by us all.


Alaskan celebrates first at Toronado

Alaskan Big Nugget Barley Wine (2004 vintage) took first place in judging that kicked off the Toronado Barley Wine Festival, which wraps up this weekend in San Francisco.

“I think it’s a real honor to win at the Toronado,” said Darin Jensen, an Alaskan Brewing quality assurance analyst and former brewer. “It’s great that our 2004 Big Nugget did so well, because it proves how well our barley wine ages.”

Angel’s Share from Lost Abbey was second, while Hair of the Dog’s Doggie Claws and Uinta Brewing XI tied for third. Yes, Uinta, the 100% wind-powered Utah brewery.

Ninety judges assessed 54 beers in the competition, and as always it truly was a festival. Jay Brooks has photos to prove it.


Great beers in the Phoenix Valley picks the top 10 locally brewed beer in the Phoenix Valley.

Don’t think they are in order – and since Ed’s Cave Creek Chili Beer (an interestsing novelty in 1993) is listed second let’s hope not. The list (visit the link above for details):

Kiltlifter Scottish Ale
Four Peaks Brewing Company

Cave Creek Chili Beer
Black Mountain Brewing

Oak Creek Amber
Oak Creek Brewing Company
2050 Yavapai Drive, Sedona

8th Street Ale
Four Peaks Brewing Company

Sonoran 100
Sonoran Brewing Company

Orange Blossom
Papago Brewing Company

Papago Brewing Company

Mogollon Brewing Company

Sonoran Brewing Company Root Beer
Sonoran Brewing Company

Many of these are available in bottles, but not all, so it’s a little surprising not to see a beer from the excellent BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery in Chandler or Gordon-Biersch in Tempe.


Rogue’s 10,000th batch

Rogue 10,000Rogue Ales master brewer John Maier has brewed his 10,000th batch. (In fact, he brewed it Nov. 14 of last year, but Maier is not one to rush a beer out of the brewery.)

Maier brewed the first batch of Rogue Ales in a garage on the Yaquina Bayfront in Newport, Oregon, on May 18, 1989. In the 18 years since he created and brewed 60-plus beers.

But to the important stuff. What about the beer; what’s the style?

“It’s not any style, but it will be good,” Maier is quoted as saying in a Rogue press release.

To brew the beer he used Vienna, French special aroma and Maris Otter pale malts; Yakima Summit and German Saphir hops; the top-fermenting Pacman yeast; and as always free range coastal waters.

The specs: 22 Plato, 78 AA, 60 IBU, 30 Lovibond. It is packaged in 750ml black ceramic bottles with swingtop closures. Maier, as you can see from the illustration, is pictured on the front. Only 10,000 serigraphed bottles are available.


Odell’s Single-Barrel series honored

The Coloradoan newspaper Best in Business awards have honored the employees of Odell Brewing with “Innovator of the Year.”

The Fort Collins brewery was praised for using its five-barrel pilot system to create it Single Batch Series of beers.

“Investing in innovative brewing technologies has positioned Odell Brewing for success by producing truly one-of-a-kind beers,” said Coloradoan writer Laura Bailey.

“We’re constantly looking for something new, different, and unique. We employ a five-barrel pilot brewing system for on-going research and development. This system allows us to experiment with innovative beer styles, variable ingredient mixes and advanced technical modifications,” said Wynne Odell, Odell’s co-CEO.


Odds on an A-B, InBev merger?

The Financial Times (via MSNBC) has a complete analysis of why the rumored merger between brewing giants InBev and Anheuser-Busch makes sense, and why it might not happen.

They said the biggest obstacle to a deal would be reluctance on the part of the Busch family to relinquish management control of Anheuser.

The family has only a small shareholding in the company but August Busch IV, great-great grandson of the founder, was appointed chief executive last December. His father, August Busch III, remains a powerful influence on the board.

The company has been struggling over recent years as its domestic brands face increasing competition from wine, spirits and imported beer.

Analysts believe the board will give Mr Busch IV time to prove he can turn the company around on its own before considering other options.

But if growth remains sluggish, pressure is likely to build from shareholders for a merger with InBev to be considered.

The story points out that it’s the Brazilian dealmakers behind AmBev who control management of InBev (Interbrew before it merged with Ambev). The bottom line is they are businessmen, not brewers.


Sierra Nevada in the high tech world

When Microsoft rolled out is long-awaited Vista software at a large gathering in San Francisco, Sierra Nevada Brewing shared the spotlight. No, Microsft wasn’t handing out free beer. Sierra Nevada representatives were there because the brewery partcipated in early training for Vista.

Sierra Nevada was one of about 60 mid-size companies that were part of early training. A story in the Chico Enterprise offers an idea of the technology involved in running a brewery the size of Sierra Nevada (the second largest craft brewery in America).

Microsoft’s Diana Beckman said Sierra Nevada was chosen because “their experience illustrates the strength and benefits of the desktop searching abilities featured in Vista.

“As part of their quality control and manufacture process, Sierra Nevada Brewery runs nearly 100 tests on each batch of beer — dozens of batches of beer per week. It generates and constantly references an enormous amount of data points during their quality control and manufacture processes.”

Greg Koch’s vBlog offers another look, this time the amazing pilot brewery. You’ll have to scroll down to June 8 to see it.


Safeguarding the children from beer

The rigorous age-verification system Anheuser-Busch initiated for those who want to visit the new Bud.TV isn’t restrictive enough for some.

Twenty-three attorneys general have written to Anheuser-Busch Cos., asking the brewer for better tools to make sure underaged viewers aren’t accessing its new Bud.TV site.

An A-B spokeswoman pointed out that many site users (or would-be users) disagree.

The St. Louis-based brewer, in a statement Friday, called itself the first in its industry to adopt independent age verification for the company’s Web sites. It said it has even faced some criticism that the age checks were too cumbersome and turning away some adults.

“Despite these extraordinary efforts, some have urged us to make the age verification process more difficult and even more invasive of people’s privacy,” said a company spokeswoman, Francine Katz, in a statement.

In fact, Louisiana’s Attorney General Charles Foti – one of those behind the letter – said he didn’t have any evidence that underage children are accessing the web site, but said it’s clear that more could be done to safeguard children.

Sure, the site does feature adult content – it’s a “channel,” but on your computer instead of the TV. But the tools for a parent to block their children from visiting Internet channels are at least is easy to implement as those block TV channels.

Are these government officials taking this stance because Anheuser-Busch is a target they can easily identify (as opposed to a gazillion pornographic websites that have no similar mechanisms)? Or could it be because beer is involved?