Sip, Sip, Pass

potbeerIn the history of the world certain dates have come to hold more meaning than others; the fourth day of July is noted as the day the United States secured its freedom from the British, December 25th is recognized around the world as the day Christ was born and Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday of May annually. But, to a certain set of people, today – April 20 — is a holiday, too. Known as 420 Day, the day is unofficially set aside as a day to celebrate all things cannabis.

As laws criminalizing the use of marijuana fall around the country, cannabis culture is seeing a particularly strong surge in popularity. This rise in cannabis culture runs concurrent with the rise of craft beer culture leading to the crossing of the two with some interesting results.

But, let’s back up a bit and take a look at another interesting coincidence, cannabis and hops are actually closely related plants. In fact, back in 2002, a group of biologists looked at the characteristics of both plants and concluded that hops, Humulus lupulus and marijuana, Cannabis sativa share a common ancestral plant and are therefore part of the same genealogical family, Cannabinaceae.

Now, hops are a relatively new addition to the drink that we now call beer. It was not until 77 AD that hops are even mentioned in any historical text. And even then, the references to the plant were not connected to brewing. The first descriptions of the plant were more like botanical cataloging and were recorded by Pliney the Elder of the naturally occurring plant. The first written record of humans cultivating the plant does not appear until 736 AD nearly 660 years later. And it is another 82 years until the first known reference to hops being used in beer. Since the early 800s though, hops have come on strong and we simply would not think of a drink without them as beer.

Back to the intersection of beer and pot; because of the popularity of both substances it was inevitable that brewers would embrace cannabis culture. Often the connection between the two is conveyed with a wink and a nod through names that reference marijuana or its culture. A prime example of that is Oskar Blues’ Pinner Throwback IPA. The joke to the name of this beer is that a “pinner” is stoner slang for a small joint. Another, not-so-subtle reference comes in the name of SweetWater’s 420 Extra Pale Ale, a straight-on reference to stoner culture.

The connection between the two cultures is growing so strong that, a website that bills itself as, “…the world’s largest cannabis information resource,” has a Beer & Cannabis Flavor Pairing Guide. The guide includes information on how to pair strains of cannabis with particular styles of beer. For instance, a descriptively-named strain of marijuana called Agent Orange – so named for its orange flavors – might pair well with Belgian-style hefeweizen because of the frequent addition of orange peel to the brew.

Perhaps the closest mash-up of both beer and Maryjane cultures come in the form of beers that use parts of the marijuana plant as an ingredient. Humboldt Brewing Company of California brews their Brown Hemp Ale with, well, toasted hemp seeds. While hemp is cannabis, it does not have the psychoactive substance tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), so it is completely legal to produce and drink anywhere.

As more and more states legalize weed, you can bet that brewers will find ways to tap into its popularity. Toke on, dudes!

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 28, 2018 in Beer


Beers for Your Thanksgiving Table

Every year I get asked what beers will be on my Thanksgiving table. So, in order to help you decide what to serve with your feast, I put together this little primer.

Thanksgiving feasting begins the moment you walk through the front door with my family. Generally there are platters of cheese, crackers, and other salty, savory snacks. These types of snacks are perfect for a well-hopped Pale Ale. A perfect local choice for this is Intuition Ale Works’ People’s Pale Ale. Another excellent choice is Dales Pale Ale from Oskar Blues or the granddaddy of all American Pale Ales: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. These beers also pair well with appetizers like shrimp cocktail or bruchetta with tomatoes and basil.

Often, the actual Thanksgiving meal begins with a salad in our home. A hit with my family is my mother’s favorite oriental-style salad that includes dry Ramen Noodles crumbled in at and a dressing made with sesame seed oil and vinegar. The sweet salad dressing deserves a beer that will not over-power it so my first thought is to pair it with a Belgian White Ale like Blanche de Bruxelles. The wonderful balance of coriander and citrus of this brew should enhance the sweet and tangy dressing. Try this beer with other similar salad dressings since the spices can hold up to the vegetable flavors – sweet lettuce, tomato, carrot, and cucumber — in the salad and most lighter dressings.

For the main course of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, yams, cranberry sauce, and so on. You have to decide a direction to go. I have always aimed for a beer that would take a middle road through all of these flavors, enhancing them without distracting from them. Oktoberfest-style beers have many of the characteristics of Brown Ales, but tend to have a cleaner finish. To me that is important. I want a beer that is going to refresh and cleanse my palate between bites, not leave a lingering malty flavor. One of my favorite Oktoberfest beers is Ayinger Oktoberfest. You may still be able to find some at your local beer store, so hurry on out for it. Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest and Flying Fish Oktoberfish are also great choices.

At the end of the turkey gorging, there are always all those wonderful desserts. In our family that means pumpkin pie, apple pie, and rich chocolate cake. But, I have also seen families who serve mouth-watering desserts such as trifles and carrot cake. For me, the only way to go is a rich, dark stout that is redolent of chocolate, coffee and perhaps some spices. Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout fits the bill perfectly.

Leave a comment

Posted by on November 21, 2018 in Beer


Pucker Up Butter Cup

sourThe power of sour is undeniable. For centuries, breweries have been making sour beers that range from mildly tart to toe-curling, tooth enamel-eating sour. Sour beers that go by names like gose (pronounced go-zah), lambic, Berliner Weiss and more are seeing a surge in popularity rivaled only by the IPA craze of the past few years. And, with the hot, humid summer months coming, you will see more and more of these thirst-quenching beers on local shelves.

But, why do we humans have such a craving for sour things? It all goes back to biology. Sour tastes are generally associated with acids that are found in relatively few places when it comes to food. Somewhere in our evolutionary history, we lost the ability to synthesize vitamin C meaning that we had to get it from our environment in the form of food. Acids in the form of vitamin C are key nutrients in holding off a number of deadly conditions like scurvy and also help to build our immune systems. Since sour meant acid to our ancestors and that satisfied our body’s need for vitamin C, our collective physiology made us seek out acidic foods like citrus fruits.

Now that we have an idea why some of us are inclined to enjoy sour flavors, let’s take a look at how sour beer developed.

Before yeast was discovered in the late 1800’s, most beers were at least a little sour. This was because the role of yeast was not known to brewers and beer was usually brewed using open-topped fermentation vessels. Wild yeast “infected” the sugary pre-beer liquid known as wort and caused the magical process of fermentation to occur.

Once the properties of yeast were understood, breweries began to control the amount of sour flavors in their beers. Some breweries, particularly those in Belgium continued allowing their wort to “spontaneously ferment” by withholding yeast and allowing natural yeast to inoculate the liquid. From these breweries come beers such as gueuze, an intensely sour beer created from blending one, two and three year-old lambic ales.

Other sour styles such as German goze, are produced by intentionally adding yeast strains that add sour flavors to the finished beer. This style is also characterized by the addition of salt and coriander. Yet another style is Berliner Weiss a German wheat beer made with Lactobacillus bacteria and usually, but not always, served with flavored syrup. Yet another sour beer is Flanders Red named for the area of Belgium where it is made as well as the red color and sour flavor it obtains from the red wine barrels it is aged in.

Sour beers are emerging as one of the hot trends in craft beer today. You can look forward to more and more sour beer produced by craft brewers in the coming months and years. For now, some sour beers you can find locally and try include:


Leave a comment

Posted by on November 14, 2018 in Beer


Fruit Salad in a Glass


Photo: Bend Bulletin

Beer is a many splendored thing, whether it is in the form of an IPA, stout, kolsch or pale ale, there is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of flavors to choose from. And craft beer lovers like it that way. All one has to do is pay attention to the weekly offerings at many of the local breweries to see that mid-week most offer a variation to one of their current brews. Be it an herb-infused saison or an IPA aged on fruit, variety is the name of the game.

One of the hottest emerging trends in the world of craft beer is the fruit-infused brew. Sure, the Belgians have had fruit in their beer for more than a century. Breweries such as Brasserie Cantillon in Brussels created Framboise (raspberry) and Kriek (cherry) lambics more than 100 years ago. Lambics are a style of ale that is not inoculated with yeast; instead it is allowed to spontaneously ferment from yeast present in the air that gets to the beer via open air cooling vessels often located on the roof or the top floor of the brewery that is open to the outside.

As a modern phenomenon, fruit beers come in several iterations; fruit additions to typical styles like IPAs and stouts, styles that have traditionally included fruit or fruit syrup additions like Berliner Weisse and hybrid styles that are created specifically to highlight fruit flavors like apple ales.

A trip to your local beer monger will reveal an ever-increasing shift towards fruit-flavors in familiar styles. The highly-rated IPA Sculpin from Ballast Point Brewing Company of San Diego, Calif. now comes in a wide array of fruit flavors like grapefruit, pineapple and even habanero (yes, peppers are technically fruits). Another style that has had the fruit-infusion treatment is farmhouse ale. This style, akin to saison, has been refreshingly imbued with peach by Terrapin Beer Company of Athens, Ga. in their Maggie’s Peach Farmhouse. Wheat beers are also frequently amped up with fruit flavors. Traditional Belgian wheat beers often include orange peel in the brewing process, but American brewers like 21st Amendment have upped the ante by adding watermelon in their Hell or high Watermelon.

Berliner Weisse, a German sour wheat beer, was traditionally served with raspberry (Himbeersirup) syrup to balance the tartness. Today brewers create their own riffs of the style by adding fruit directly in the beer during fermentation. Locally in Jacksonville, Aardwolf Brewing Company has created several variations of their Lactic Zeppelin Berliner Weisse with guava and passionfruit.

Samuel Smith’s The Old Brewery in Tadcaster, England produces several fruit beers that defy any other style categorization. One of their best is Samuel Smith Organic Strawberry a spontaneously fermented brew with tart and sour flavors similar to a Belgian lambic. The addition of strawberry juice adds some sweetness to balance the flavors. But, perhaps the fastest growing flavor among fruit beers is apple. With the growing popularity of hard cider, companies like Redd’s (part of the Miller Brewing Company) are capitalizing on the fruit beer trend. Available in several flavors, Redd’s is an apple-flavored beverage that is brewed like a beer rather than simply fermented like a cider.

Whether you are a purist and think beer should taste like, well, beer or a progressive and accept the current flood of fruit beers hitting the market, one fact is certain; brewers are going to keep experimenting with new fruits and flavors. You may as well relax, fill a cooler with ice and add some refreshing fruit-infused brews for enjoying on back porch on the coming hot summer nights.


Leave a comment

Posted by on November 9, 2018 in Beer


Glass Houses


Photo: Alchemy Market and Cafe

Tulips, shakers and snifters, oh my! Choosing the correct glass for serving beer can be a daunting task. In Belgium, using the proper glassware to serve a beer is practically a religion. No self-respecting bartender in that beer-loving country would ever serve Flanders Red ale in a shaker glass. It’s all about presenting the beer at its best, to accentuate its characteristics and create a memorable experience for the drinker.

As craft beer drinkers become more sophisticated though, more and more they demand proper glassware. With hundreds of beer styles, each with recommended serving glassware, stocking the correct vessel is an expensive proposition for bar owners and home beer aficionados alike. But, concentrating on just a few styles of glassware and using them properly can reduce the cost and still insure a better beer-drinking experience.

In the United States, the pint – or shaker — glass is the most commonly used glass to serve beer. Walk in to any bar, tavern or tap room and you are likely to see them stacked behind the bar, emblazoned with logos from a variety of breweries. While it is not the best suited glass for all beers, it is inexpensive and holds approximately 16-ounces of beer. A variation on the glass is the “nonic” style used throughout the United Kingdom. This style features a bump out around the upper portion of the entire glass to make them easier to hold. This glassware style is most appropriate for beers like Pale Ale, India Pale Ale, Porter and Stout.

In Germany, Pilsners are one of the most popular styles of beers. And, because of that distinction, the German Pilsner Glass was developed as a tall thin glass to showcase the beautiful golden color of the beer style. The tall shape also highlights the bubbles running up the inside and concentrates the fluffy, aromatic head. Other beer styles that will benefit from being poured into this glass include: Blonde Ale, Hefeweizen, Pilsner, California Common/Steam Beer, Japanese Rice Lager, Witbier.

Snifters have a large bowl area with a narrower mouth. Because og this shape, drinkers can experience highly aromatic beers as brewers intended. The bowl provides plenty of room for swirling the beer to bring aromas out while the narrower mouth serves to concentrate those aromas. Tulip glasses are very similar to snifters, but a bit taller, thinner and with a turned-out lip. Beers to try in a snifter include: Old or Strong Ale, Barleywine, Double/Imperial IPA, Double/Imperial Stout, Belgian Dark Ale, Belgian Pale Ale, Quad, Tripel. Beers that are highlighted in tulip glasses include: Goze, Geuze, Berliner Weiss and Scottish Ales.

Sturdy, yet elegant, the goblet is generally composed of a large, wide-mouthed bowl on a sturdy stem. Often these glasses are very ornate and may include gold or silver leaf designs. The goblet’s main purpose is to create a large surface area for copious amounts of aromatic head. Beer styles this glass is most appropriate for include: Belgian IPA, Belgian Strong Dark Ale, Dubbel, Tripel, Quad.

With these four beer glasses in your collection, you will be able to accommodate the majority of beer styles adequately. But, if you are a purest and want to serve beer in only the most appropriate glassware, prepare to invest in hundreds of styles of glassware.


Leave a comment

Posted by on October 31, 2018 in Beer