RSS

Tag Archives: Sierra Nevada

USDA Passes Rule that will Help Organic Hops Farmers, Brewers

Labeling for products that meet the USDA-NOP s...

Labeling for products that meet the USDA-NOP standards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Beer made its debut at least 7,000 years ago in what is now Iran. It is believed to be the one of oldest fermented beverage known to man with the possible exception of mead. Back in those days beer was likely made from grain or bread left in a clay jar with water. Wild yeast inoculated the mash and fermentation began spontaneously. The grains used to make the brew were grown in a nearby field and the water came from a spring or river. Everything that went into the concoction was pure and natural.

Fast-forward 7,000 years and the idea of purity in beer is beginning to take root again. With a recent rule published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Organic Program (NOP), brewers who wish to label their beers as organic must use only certified organic hops. Until the ruling made in early June, brewers that made “organic” beers were able to use an exemption if certain hops were not available as organic. The ruling goes into effect January 1st, 2013. The NOP ruling looks to act as a catalyst for growth of more organic hops that in the past was a dicey proposition.

In an article on the Environmental News Network website, Friday, June 16, Patrick Smith of Loftus Ranch in Yakima, Washington explained: “As our collective knowledge of organic hop production grows, I expect to see yields 75-80+ percent of conventional.” Brews certified as organic are made with ingredients – including hops – that are completely free of harmful pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers.

It seems that Smith’s expectations are shared by others as well. The organic beer market has seen a recent uptick in business. Between 2003 and 2009, U.S. organic beer sales grew from $9 million to $41 million. It seems that as consumers look for more healthy foods; they naturally look for healthier beverages, too.

But, the benefit of organic beer does not stop with a healthier brew, organic growing practices result in less pollution to our water supplies, soil, and air. One conservative estimate as to the number of fish that die from farm run-off pollution is between six and 14 million per year. Organic farms use far less energy than conventional farms, too – up to 50% less. Organic farming lends itself well to family farming with most farms using less than 100 acres. This helps to break up the monopoly of the mega-commercial farms and helps stem the out-flowing tide of over 650,000 family farms lost in the last decade.

Julie Watkins, founder of the Girls Gone Green movement in Jacksonville, Florida, says of the USDA decision and growth of organic beer brewing, “This is an important step for an industry that is growing in leaps and bounds. The proof is now in the beer, so to speak, that beer drinkers are demanding sustainable farming practices by supporting this market. I am truly excited to see what kind of creative doors this will open up to producers of organic beer which is ultimately a win for beer consumers.”

Currently there are a handful of brewers that produce only organic brews, but others are looking into the possibility of going greener all the time. Among the organic brews available in Jacksonville are: Eel River Brewing Company and Peak Organic Brewing. Eel River invites its drinkers to enjoy their brews with their motto “Be natural, drink naked.” The Scotia, California brewery was founded in 1995 and became the first American certified organic brewer in 1999.

Even the larger craft brewers like Rogue, Sierra Nevada, and Dogfish Head are looking into producing more beers using organic ingredients. Sierra Nevada occasionally produces small batches of their brews using only organic hops and Dogfish Head’s Chicory Stout is produced using organically grown coffee beans.

As the craft beer industry continues to grow, it is a given that organic brewing will grow with it. In an industry that has long been known for its attention to detail, philanthropy, and relentless drive for excellence, how could one expect anything less?

 
3 Comments

Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Beer, Beer News

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

American Craft Beer Week, Day 4

American Craft Beer Week is half over, but that does not mean that the events are slowing down. There are still plenty of great things to do and beers to taste. Here are the events for today.

Total Wine & More, 6:00 – 8:00 pm
Samuel Adams Portfolio Tasting

Total Wine in the St. John’s Town Center is a paradise to craft beer lovers. There you can wander aisle after aisle of craft beers and find something that is truly special. On Thursday you can also try some portfolio selections for Sam Adams that you might be hard pressed to find any other time.

Mellow Mushroom Southside, 4:30 – 6:30 pm
Sierra Nevada Tap Takeover

Another heavyweight of the craft beer world is taking over some of the almost 50 taps the Mushroom in Tinseltown. Expect to find some truly awesome brews like Bigfoot and Kellerweiss along with many others.

The Monkey’s Uncle Tavern, time TBD
Beer Dinner

Details are still being worked out for this event, but you can bet it will awesome. Get your tickets at the Uncle and prepare yourself!

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Cans Offer Excellent Beer Drinking Experience

Beer in cans is not new to the world in general, but canned beer in the craft beer world is a growing phenomenon. Craft beer brewers have had to re-educate their consumers to the virtues of canning beer as opposed to bottling ever since Oskar Blues Brewing started the trend in the early 2000’s.

Because canned beer was most closely identified with the low quality, mass-produced brews of the mega producers, craft brewers have been wary of switching from bottles to cans. But, over the past few years, more and more brews have decided to take the plunge and invest in a canning set-up. Most notably among these new pioneers is Sierra Nevada, which is canning both its Pale Ale and Torpedo IPA.

So, what are the advantages of cans vs. bottles? Other than the comfort factor consumers have in glass bottles, cans really have many more pluses than bottles. When you consider the fact that bottles are fragile, heavy, and do not provide a complete light barrier, you begin to see the wisdom in using aluminum. Broken bottles are costly, their weight causes higher shipping charges, and light, well you know the havoc it can cause with beer. On the other hand, aluminum cans are durable, light weight, and provide a completely impenetrable light barrier. And, to head off any talk of metallic taste, modern beer cans are coated so that the beer never touches the metal.

The result of using cans over bottles is a win/win situation. Brewers win because cans are light-weight, easy to fill, and cost less than bottles. Consumers win because their beer is fresher, completely protected from air intrusion, and equally protected from becoming light-struck.

It is estimated that the number of craft brewers canning their beer is approaching 100. Other sources maintain the number is more like 80. Either way, there are more and more breweries jumping on the canning band wagon. According to Team Hopheads, there are at least eight breweries with canned craft beer available in the Jacksonville market. Breweries such as the already mentioned Sierra Nevada and Oskar Blues are joined by Abita, Magic Hat, Shiner, Brooklyn, and Crispin Hard Cider.

Newly added to the list of breweries that offer canned brews is Jacksonville’s Intuition Ale Works. Intuition has the additional distinction of being the first brewery in Florida to can their brews. And if the sales they have been seeing from the canned beers are any indication, the beer-loving public of Jacksonville has no problem whatsoever purchasing canned craft brews. Sales at the Tap Room of canned Intuition beer have been brisk for some time now. It is not unusual to see several cases leave the building in just a few minutes on a Friday or Saturday afternoon. But, the response that the cans received when released to retailers was simply amazing. On the first two days the beer was available in cans, Total Wine at the St. John’s Town Center had sold over 50 cases.

Currently Intuition is canning three varieties of beers; Jon Boat, People’s Pale Ale, and I-10 IPA. These three brews are by far the brewery’s best sellers and should become even more popular now that they are readily available away from a beer tap or growler.

Cans have come a long way from the old cone-tops and pull tabs; they have become true works of modern engineering worthy of our praise and awe. Without the can, its portability and safety where would we be as a society? No one can truly answer that question, but it is safe to bet, without cans beer would be a little more cumbersome to carry and you would not get to hear that satisfy “Pfffst!” sound as you popped one open.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Kickback’s Expansion Details

The King Street corridor in the Riverside/Avondale has become a real beer destination. With two breweries, Pele’s Wood Fire boasting 50 taps, Kickback’s with 84 taps, European Street, Dahlia’s Pour House opening soon with 50 taps, and at least two other destinations opening soon, if you cannot find a good beer to drink in that area, you are not trying very hard.

A few months ago, I wrote about the Sierra Nevada Beer Dinner held at Kickback’s. I also mentioned that during that dinner Steve Flores, the owner of Kickback’s, announced his plans for a new restaurant to the immediate left of his current establishment. Today the Florida Times-Union is running an article on their website — http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2012-01-23/story/kickbacks-expansion-fuels-riverside-controversy — about the new eatery with details that sound very interesting indeed.

The main article at the link above details a controversy going on with Riverside Avondale Preservation. I will not go into that here; you can read that part of the article if you want. But, the new place Steve has planned does sound amazing. I cannot wait to claim my throne in the Belgian bar.

Roger Bull, of the Times-Union writes this about the new place:

Here’s what the owners have planned for the new restaurant next door to Kickbacks Gastropub:

Two stories and a basement for a total of about 10,000 square feet, with a kitchen that Kickbacks will share.

It’ll have 249 seats. Seventy-six of the seats will be outside, including 24 on the sidewalk and 52 on the front covered patio.

The basement will be a Belgian beer bar with 50 seats.

The food, Steve Flores said, will have “75 items from around the world that haven’t been seen much on a menu in Jacksonville.”

He mentioned five flavors of moules-frites (that’s mussels and fries for those who haven’t seen it on a menu before) along with vegetarian and vegan dishes.

Much of the emphasis will be on beer. Kickbacks already has 84 on draft and more than 600 in bottles.

The downstairs bar will be for serious sipping and there will be storage for 1,000 kegs.

“I don’t think Dogfish 120 should be served until it’s at least five years old,” Flores said, “so I’ll store it at least that long.”

For me, this place cannot open fast enough! The food sounds awesome – true Belgian fare in Jacksonville? Yes please! A dedicated Belgian basement? It may be in a basement, but – as a Belgian beer lover and some say expert – it will be heaven for me.

Jacksonville is growing up. We are finally getting the kinds of restaurants and entertainment options other cities have enjoyed for years. And, as far as beer culture, we are nearly afloat in it.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 23, 2012 in Beer, Belgian, Pubs, Restaurant

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sierra Nevada Continues Production of Heavenly Ales

Sierra Nevada Ovila Dubbel

Image by Another Pint Please... via Flickr

Earlier this year I wrote with much enthusiasm about a new venture that Sierra Nevada Brewing was embarking on; a collaboration with the Trappist monks of the Abbey of New Clairvaux in Vina, CA known as the Ovila series. The partnership was to produce three brews this year; a Saison, a Dubbel, and a Quad. Both the Saison and Dubbel have been released and both are excellent. The Saison is lemony and refreshing as a Saison should be while the Dubbel is rich with plum flavors.

The Quad, which is just now being released, promises to be just as wonderful as the other releases in this series. Bill Manley, Sierra Nevada’s director of communications, describes Ovila Quad as “kind of figgy, with a rum-raisin aroma, but finishing quite dry.”

For those not in the know, a Quadrupel brew is a style originated by De Koningshoeven Brewery in the Netherlands, the only Trappist brewing abbey not in Belgium. According to the beer styles guide for the Great American Beer Festival competition, the style is:

“…characterized by the immense presence of alcohol and balanced flavor, bitterness and aromas. Its color is deep amber to rich chestnut/garnet brown. Often characterized by a mousse-like dense, sometimes amber head will top off a properly poured and served quad. Complex fruity aroma and flavor emerge reminiscent of raisins, dates, figs, grapes, plums often accompanied with a hint of winy character. Caramel, dark sugar and malty sweet flavors and aromas can be intense, not cloying, while complementing fruitiness. Though well attenuated it usually has a full, creamy body. Hop characters do not dominate; low to low-medium bitterness is perceived. Perception of alcohol can be extreme. Clove-like phenolic flavor and aroma should not be evident.” Another trait of the style is a high alcohol content usually above 10% ABV. This style is sometimes called Grand Cru, as well.

The Ovila Series was begun to assist the monks in raising funds to restore the chapter house of the Santa Maria de Ovila monastery formerly of Trillo, Spain which served as an assembly hall for Cistercian monks for more than 800 years. History, though, was not kind to the Abbey and over the years a series of wars, fires, and ransackings reduced the Monastery to being used as agricultural storage – the Chapter House, to store manure. In 1931 some of the stone blocks of the Chapter house were sold to newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, but the project he had in mind never came to fruition, so the blocks lay unused in San Francisco for decades.

In 2003 the ground was broken on the site of an orchard at the Abbey of New Clairvaux to rebuild the Chapter House. In 2010 Sierra Nevada, under the Ovila Abbey brand name, began producing Belgian-style beers to assist in funding the restoration.

Even though the final stone will be placed in just a few weeks, there is still a lot to be done before the Chapter House is fully0restored. Because of this, Sierra Nevada has extended its support into 2012. In an article by the Washington Post, Manley says the brewery plans to rerelease the Ovila Dubbel year-round in four-packs of corked, 375-ml (12.7-ounce) bottles. Sierra Nevada also will release two more limited-edition Ovila beers in the larger format: a Belgian-style strong golden ale and a version of the quad, aged in brandy barrels.

I anticipate getting a bottle of the Quad in the next day or so. I am looking forward to trying it and letting you know my thoughts. Based on the track record of Sierra Nevada, I am convinced it will be nothing short of heavenly.

Until next time,

Long Live the Brewers!

Cheers!

Marc Wisdom

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 2, 2011 in Beer, Beer Styles, Belgian, Craft Beer Brewery

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,