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BOULDER, Colo.—The Brewers Association (BA)—the not-for-profit trade group dedicated to promoting and protecting America’s small and independent craft brewers—today released its Beer Style Guidelines for 2018. Reviewed and revised annually by the BA, these guidelines serve as a model resource for brewers, beer judges and competition organizers, and celebrate the great diversity of beer around the world.
Hundreds of revisions, edits, format changes and additions were made to this year’s guidelines, including updates to existing beer styles and the creation of new categories. Updates of note include:
Juicy or Hazy Ale Styles: The addition of this trio of styles include representation of what may be referred to as New England IPAs or West Coast Hazy IPAs. The styles will be identified in the guidelines and Brewers Association competitions as “Juicy or Hazy Pale Ale,”“Juicy or Hazy IPA” and “Juicy or Hazy Double IPA.”
Contemporary American-Style Pilsener: The addition of this new category addresses marketplace expansion and provides space for sessionable craft brew lager beers with higher hop aroma than found in pre-prohibition style beers.
Classic Australian-Style Pale Ale andAustralian-Style Pale Ale: This split from one to two Australian-Style Pale Ale categories reflects tremendous diversity in the Australian craft beer market and authoritative input from the technical committee of the Independent Brewers Association. Classic Australian-Style Pale Ale can run slightly darker and typically exhibits relatively lower hop aroma. The Australian-Style Pale Ale category provides ample room for a range of somewhat paler, more hop aroma- and flavor-forward beers being produced today by hundreds of breweries in Australia.
Gose and Contemporary Gose: Predominantly technical tweaks were made to create more differentiation between these two categories.
The Brewers Association’s Beer Style Guidelines reflect, as much as possible, historical significance, authenticity or a high profile in the current commercial beer market. The addition of a style or the modification of an existing one is not undertaken lightly and is the product of research, analysis, consultation and consideration of market actualities, and may take place over a period of time. Another factor considered is that current commercial examples do not always fit well into the historical record, and instead represent a modern version of the style.
To help inform the creation of the new Juicy and Hazy categories, a wide variety of beers that were thought to represent or approach this style were sought and tasted.
“What we discovered and verified was that there was a wide range of alcohol content for what was being perceived in the public as just one style,” said Charlie Papazian, chief of the BA Beer Style Guidelines since 1979, and founder and past president, Brewers Association. “After evaluating appearance, aroma, bitterness, hop characters, mouthfeel and overall balance these beers gave a consistent impression that helped frame the Brewers Association’s inaugural guidelines for three styles of Juicy Hazy ales.”
“The Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines, led by Charlie Papazian for the past 30+ years, are a trusted resource for the brewing industry worldwide,” said Chris Swersey, competition manager, Brewers Association. “The guidelines have fostered a lexicon that has allowed the community of drinkers and brewers to talk about beer and celebrate beer across diverse cultures, around the world.”
With more than 6,000 breweries in the United States and more coming every day, the craft beer shelves are groaning under the weight of hundreds of tempting—if confusing—choices. Beer labels barely describe the beer, let alone say anything about its quality. Staring at the crowded shelves, our eyes go crossed, and we randomly reach for a new beer to try. As a result, a number of online beer review sites such as RateBeer, Untappd and BeerAdvocate have stepped in to fill the void.
In a perfect world, this would be a great thing. In reality, the usefulness of any review depends on the skill, vocabulary and bias of the reviewer. In addition, these are not blind tastings, and raters inevitably bring their bias and preconceptions to bear. Reviews can even be something of a popularity contest as people pile on to show their true fan status, which sometimes means that highly rated brewers can do no wrong, no matter the actual beer.
Since the bulk of the content on these sites comes from the reviewers, the detail and accuracy of the ratings can be improved as the participants get more experience and hone their technique, vocabulary and attention. If you’re an online reviewer and truly care about the quality of the information there, for the sake of your brewery friends and your own beer journey, it is worth some effort to make sure you’re posting the best, clearest and most accurate reviews you can.
Becoming a better taster is also an enjoyable journey for its own sake, giving you insight into all foods and drinks, not just beer. And drinking deeply of all these pleasures is what life’s all about, right?
So where to start? I say with the beer right in front of you.
If you haven’t ever tasted beer blind, enlist some help to open bottles and cans in the next room and serve the beers in identical unmarked glasses. Wine glasses are great, but any glass that curves inward at the top will work. Fill no more than half full so the aroma can accumulate in the upper half.
A checklist or form can remind you to cover all the sensations beer has to offer with every review. Tasting/judging forms can be found at my own website, as well as the Beer Judge Certification Program’s site. So go ahead and pour that beer, and get started.
First, give the beer a very delicate sniff from a few inches away and see if you can smell anything. Some lighter aromatics present themselves best this way, including skunky mercaptans and other sulfur compounds. Next, swirl the glass a little and get your nose in there for a few quick sniffs. Focus on as many different smells as you can detect. Record them under the heading of aroma, using whatever words pop into your head; these first impressions are nearly always correct. Try to go from general to specific, like fruity > tropical > mango + pineapple. Look for aroma contributions from these areas:
We’ll come back to aroma for a second shot, but for now get that beer in your mouth. Don’t swallow too quickly; let it warm up and make an effort to get the liquid all over the inside of your mouth. Wine experts “chew” their wine for this reason. We’re looking for a couple of things at first: taste and mouthfeel. Beer tastes can be sweet, sour, bitter, acidic and possibly salty. Pay attention to the way this changes over time. Bitterness will take the longest to build and will linger for a while.
Mouthfeel is also important. In beer we’re specifically looking for carbonation, creaminess/oiliness, crispness and for any tannic astringency, which usually lingers after most everything else is gone. Astringency, if delicate, can be a pleasing quality (think of red wine), but is undesirable when harsh. Again, write all this down in as much detail as you can muster. Here it might be appropriate to comment about the overall balance of the beer. Are things in harmony or out of whack? Is it a one-note samba?
Take another sip, fill your mouth and swallow gently. Then, exhale through your nose with your lips closed and you’ll likely get a strong impression that may be somewhat different than your first sniff. This is called retronasal olfaction, and your brain has now combined aroma, taste and mouthfeel and presented it to you as something called flavor. Whatever you call it, the complexities come from aroma, so comment on these under the aroma heading.
It’s appropriate to describe the appearance, although you should know that this may be deceptive, as colors do not always match flavor. Also important (and style-dependent) are things like clarity and head retention.
Make some comments about how this beer lives up to the description on the label or to the style it claims to be. The latter obviously requires some knowledge of what makes different beer styles tick. Most competitions are judged by style, just like a dog show. The competition guidelines from the BJCP or Great American Beer Festival are available online for free and are great resources.
Styles relate to all of beer’s sensory characteristics: aroma, taste, balance, appearance, overall impact, alcohol, mouthfeel and more, and what’s appropriate in one style may be very unwelcome in another. It’s a heartbreaking fact that there’s often a fabulous beer on the judging table that is just not quite right for the style. I sometimes take one wistful goodbye sip before dumping into the bucket of infamy and moving on. For a brewery, knowing how to enter beer can sometimes be as important as the brewing.
At the end, make some general comments. Is this a well-conceived beer or a mess? Is it well crafted or flawed?
If you can find a printed date code, please make a note of it. It’s deeply unfair to brewers to slam a beer that’s old or has been mishandled along the way. Even if you don’t know the age, the signs of staleness are pretty consistent and easy to learn: wet newspaper or weird honey-like sweetness; saddle leather character most common in amber and brown beers; a blackcurrant/grape jelly aroma in hoppy beers. Learn these warning signs, and your own beer experience will improve dramatically. Make a note of those when you’re reviewing, and let people know the sample was not pristine. No brewer’s beers are immune to the ravages of time and temperature. It probably tasted much better at the brewery.
Now, go back and read your review before you post, and give it a gut check. If you have given numerical scores, do they jibe with what the point ranges generally mean, from world class to dumper? You really want to choose carefully and make sure the numbers align with your experience. There’s nothing to prove by being either a hard-ass or super-fan. We’re looking for ruthless honesty here, nothing more, nothing less. Also be aware that numbers reduce beer’s endless complexity to almost nothing, so in your reviews, try to be descriptive and help people tell if this is something they might like, numbers be damned.
It’s hard to be dispassionate. While it’s fun to root for brewers you may know or like or punish those you may feel are over-hyped, in the end the job is to comment on this one beer, not the brewery. Brewing is hard work, and owning a brewery these days is often a white-knuckle ride. The people I know in the business put their hearts and souls into the effort. I guess the golden rule applies here. Treat brewers the way you would like to be treated.
There are plenty of resources that can help one become a better taster. There are books that cover the basics as well as technique, vocabulary and styles. Programs like the BJCP and Cicerone Certification Program offer training and certification for those who want to get serious about being a beer expert. If you have never judged beer in a formal setting, I urge you to try. It’s an eye-opening and quite humbling experience that will remind you in the most fun possible way that nobody knows it all.
Randy Mosher is the author of Tasting Beer and is a senior instructor at the Siebel Institute.
The Ohio Craft Brewers Association will present the 12th annual Winter Warmer Fest at Windows on the River in Cleveland on Saturday, March 3, from 2 to 5 p.m. Expect more than 50 breweries to showcase seasonal and limited-edition beers.
March 5-10 KBS Week
Grand Rapids and Detroit, Michigan
This is less a festival than it is a rollout of Founders Brewing Co.’s KBS, a chocolate coffee stout aged in bourbon barrels. Various locations in Grand Rapids and Detroit will be pouring the annual release, and packs of it will be available via tickets throughout the week.
Cigar City Brewing’s ninth annual release for its Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout will run from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in lots 5 and 7 at Raymond Jones Stadium in Tampa. There are a variety of ticket options for those looking to take home bottles, all of which include a glass, tapas-sized food portions from food trucks and unlimited two-ounce samples of beer during the festival.
March 24 Northern Lights Rare Beer Fest
St. Paul, Minnesota
This annual festival showcases rare, vintage and specialty beers from 30 breweries nationwide, including 10 from Minnesota. It runs from 7-10 p.m. at the Minnesota History Center. A portion of sales will go toward the charity Pints for Prostates.
March 25 Maple Madness
North Hampton, New Hampshire
Throwback Brewery is throwing this third annual celebration of maple-infused beers and other Granite State foodstuffs derived at least in part from maple. There will be—surprise—maple syrup to sample and buy along with the beers. It is scheduled to run from noon to 4 p.m.
March 31 Day of the Juice Festival
Southern Swells Brewing Co. and other organizers are billing this as the inaugural Modern Hops Day of the Juice Beer Festival. It is slated to bring together more than 25 breweries to Atlanta’s Monday Night Garage, many of which have never poured in Georgia before, according to the organizers. All proceeds are going to the Georgia Transplant Foundation and the Polycystic Kidney Foundation.
Great Lakes Brewing Co. Cloud Cutter Ale
5.1% | Wheat ale
An homage to the old Cleveland Air Races, this lightly filtered wheat beer has lemon and orange peel as well as Simcoe, Mosaic, Citra and Jarrylo hops. It’s available on draft and in six and 12 packs of bottles.
Bell’s Brewery Oberon Ale
5.8% | Wheat Ale
This is one of the most popular seasonals—in this case, summer—out of the Midwest’s oldest small-batch brewery. A light, peppery wheat with no spices, it’s fermented with Bell’s signature house ale yeast. It’s available on draft as well as in six and 12-packs of both bottles and cans.
Upslope Brewing Co. Upslope Experimental India Pale Ale
7% | IPA
The annual release features Denali, Azacca, Galaxy and Vic Secret hops. This combination, according to the brewery, imparts “ripe passionfruit, pineapple and orange zest notes.” Available in cans.
At Paname Brewing Co., it’s easy to feel caught between two worlds.
You’re in Paris, with a magnificent view over Bassin de la Villette, the city’s biggest man-made lake, but then there’s that English-language description of what goes on here: not brasserie, but brewing company (Paname, meanwhile, is a nickname for the French capital).
Things are no clearer at the bar. Among the regulars is a special called Brexiteer, a New England-style IPA that conflates—as is common in France—the two major “Anglo-Saxon” nations, Great Britain and the United States.
Then there’s the clientele. As I sit down with a glass of Brexiteer, two young women walk away from the bar, pints in hands: one wears a New York Yankees T-shirt, the other a Breton shirt and huge hoop earrings. They’re still deciding what to order from the kitchen, whose offer is described on the wall thus: “Tous les jours nos chefs de monde entier vous concoctons le street food …” (Every day our chefs from around the world make street food for you). The street food includes pizzas and burgers, plus plates of cheese and charcuterie.
Opened in 2015, Paname is a place where the Anglo-Saxon brewing world meets Paris, where much has been borrowed but the totality is utterly unique. In a city where beer has for so long meant overpriced big brands, the occasional Belgian Trappist in a bar’s fridge or a chain of jokingly named British brewpubs (i.e. Frog and Rosbif), this is the first modern taproom.
It’s a big, faux-industrial place, with a bar along one bare-brick wall and the 500-liter brewing equipment at the back. A chalkboard in front of the kit lists what 30-year-old German brewer Benedikt Steger, who trained in his native land, is making that day (the day I visit, it’s saison). Much of the furniture has the lived-in look of something salvaged from local schools, while the toilets are accessed through a swinging saloon door. The brewing process, meanwhile, is explained in chalk on one wall (Fermentation: 7 jours. Maturation: 2 a 4 semaines).
It has been a day of dramatic downpours—including hailstones—but at 6 p.m. (aperitif time in Paris) the sun has broken through in style. As a result, most of the bar’s clientele are squeezed into a section of the bar surrounded by floor-length windows looking out onto the Bassin de la Villette. It’s a mixed crowd, with plenty of fashionably dressed young people (those fussy leather Herschel backpacks are popular) but there are families, too. The blander end of British pop music (Coldplay, Keane, Lily Allen) provides the soundtrack.
The Brexiteer is perhaps a touch too bitter for the style—such as it is—but it’s a very decent drop, with grapefruit-peel aroma and some just discernible baked-bread malt character. It is properly opaque. I finish it and return to the bar to sample one of the regular lineup. There are five options, taking in pale ale, saison, lager and IPAs pale and black. I choose Bête Noire, a black IPA that feels under-hopped after the New England-style IPA, yet still has plenty of satisfying dryness.
I take it outside, where two seating areas overlook the water: a floating pontoon, with seats still wet from the earlier rain, and a covered, heated area reserved for smokers. I don’t smoke, but this being France, plenty of the bar’s clientele do. It’s a great spot to watch Parisians walk their dogs and jog along the tree-lined, cobbled pathways beside the Bassin, and listen in to other people’s conversations.
One American man’s voice stands out above the others, for its content as much as its volume: “His parents are weird, too, though.” “Well, he grew up in a railway town.” He stops when a platter of charcuterie arrives. Given the transatlantic nature of Paname, it seems oddly appropriate.
Oscar Wong opened Highland Brewing Co. in 1994, making it one of North Carolina’s oldest breweries. Before Asheville became a mecca for beer lovers, Wong was quietly producing the brewery’s flagship Gaelic Ale in a basement downtown. It didn’t take him long to outgrow that space, and the brewery has continued to evolve its taproom and portfolio in the years since.
Now, the brewery is set to evolve its branding as well. We caught up with Oscar Wong’s daughter and president of the brewery, Leah Wong Ashburn, to talk more about her decision to join the Highland team in 2011, the challenges that come with rebranding, and why a little “constructive discomfort” can be a good thing.
What was it like growing up the daughter of a brewery owner?
It was really cool. I was 24 when the brewery opened. Even though Dad turned me down for a job, I was still able to drink the beer and hang out with the staff when I was up here, and cheerlead for the brewery even though I wasn’t a part of it yet.
When did you realize you wanted to be part of the brewery?
It took 16 years of discussion, which sounds ridiculous but there was such a life transformation for me from the time Dad turned me down when I was 24. He wanted me to find my own way. Which, in hindsight, was brilliant. About eight years later, he offered me a job and I turned him down.
At the time, my financial independence and future security was my focus and I also had a lot more free time. I was still able to enjoy the brewery in so many ways and not be officially part of it. It took another eight years until the time was right for me, for my family, for the brewery. I was more ready than I thought to come to Asheville, and that transition as it turns out was really easy. We just immediately settled into this little mountain town with a whole lot of soul and activity.
Is it ever difficult to reconcile the vision your father had for the brewery, and the vision you have?
My father is an anomaly in so many ways—so many beautiful ways. It’s highly unusual for a first-generation owner to need so little control, to need so little influence as the second generation comes at it in their own way. I have been extremely fortunate in my father’s approach to life. I think it goes back to his Jamaican roots. Like, “Hey, everything’s going to work out, it’s all good.” He has said, “Make this place yours, whatever that takes.”
And I’m making it not only mine, but ours—the whole staff, the whole company. I try to communicate with everyone. That has been a really great experience for me working with our leadership team, our management team, and our whole team. I’m not a brewer, and neither was my father. That has allowed me, necessarily so, to put complete trust and faith in our brewers, our quality team, our packaging team. They know more than I do, and it makes it even more critical that we trust each other and that we communicate well.
And we’ve seen that recently with you trusting your brewers to bring in newer styles.
Completely. Our foray into hoppier beer styles is not where our brewing passion was for a long time. But it comes down to people. We developed a passion in that area. It comes from our own folks and that feels good. The excitement from our brewers and the rest of the company has been palpable. It’s set the course for new beers. Getting into the brand conversation, it started creating a divide between what our beers are and what our brand looked like.
Leah Wong Ashburn and her father, Oscar Wong, with the brewery’s rebranded portfolio. (Photo courtesy Highland Brewing Co.)
Obviously Highland’s a brand many in North Carolina know. Does being a legacy brand have its own challenges when it comes to rebranding?
Our hearts are so tied to the name Highland. We’ll continue to honor our Scots-Irish heritage with our name and with our flagship beer Gaelic Ale. What we noticed was that all the recognizable elements of our visual look were all Scottish, but we don’t make Scottish beer. That’s confusing to folks who don’t know us.
When you guys were first discussing the rebrand, what buzzwords did you throw around about what that new brand should convey?
We came at it from the opposite direction. We took input from a cross-section of employees, and the job of the branding company was to coalesce all of that input. And at the same time we had input from a Nielsen study, and input from a survey that we put out there to people that know Highland. The confluence was the process of finding out who we are, not who we’re going to tell people we are.
It was incredible to learn there was a disconnect between the Scottish look and the Scottish beers, and the people who said we should change our packaging. It was an overwhelming message that we could communicate better with our brand. I asked everyone here to give me three words they think of when I say Highland. It’s amazing how much that aligned with what the branding company coalesced. The words I heard from my own team were pioneering, community, sustainability, authenticity, leadership. Not a single person said Scottish.
Is it still scary to get away from that core look and feel?
One of my co-workers calls it constructive discomfort. If there were no discomfort in this, we either would not be reaching far enough, or we’d be kind of clueless. It’s a big change, and if you have a healthy amount of fear and discomfort it challenges you to do a better job of it.
What’s the vision for the beers themselves going forward?
I really think it is still, as it always has been, about the passion of our brewers. And I can’t limit it to the brewers. There are multiple departments taking part in envisioning the kind of beers we want to make and continuing recipe trials and specific ingredient trials and processes. It really is not just about one brain but multiple brains and their true passion for the beers they want to see created.
This interview was conducted and edited by Daniel Hartis.
Leah Wong Ashburn At A Glance
Family Owner, President Years in Brewing Industry: Seven Go-to beer from another brewery: Allagash White Beer that inspired her early in life: Duchesse de Bourgogne Couldn’t live without: Solo time Favorite place to have a beer: Anywhere with a mountain view Wishes she could buy a round for: Barack Obama Biggest passion besides brewing: Physical activity Keeping her up at night: Complexities of people—from the team member I know so well to the customer I’ll never meet
ASHEVILLE, N.C.–Asheville’s first craft brewery since Prohibition, Highland Brewing, is closing its doors February 19th.
For four days.
“We are unveiling of our new branding and visual identity digitally on February 19th, and will re-open on February 23rd with a new look in the tasting room,” said Molly McQuillan, the brewery’s marketing manager. “We’ve been working on this project for over a year and look forward to this launch with great anticipation.”
The launch celebration will be held during normal business hours that day, from noon until 10 p.m. and will feature new small batch beers, including Highland’s very first Brett brew, as well as throw-back favorites including Little Hump, Razor Wit, and Vintage 20th Anniversary Scotch Ale. Live music will be provided by Mark Shane, Woody Wood, and All the Locals. New merchandise will be on sale and the new packaging and branding will be highlighted. Popular food trucks Smashbox and Appalachian Chic will also be on site, at 12 Old Charlotte Highway. The event is free and open to the public.
“Highland Brewing has been a pioneer in beer since my father founded the company in 1994,” said President Leah Wong Ashburn. “Over two decades, we led with beer, and in recent years, we developed our beer portfolio significantly with fresh new styles and our innovative spirit is firing. The result of the changes was that our beer and our brand were sharing different messages. I love that we are now aligning the message.
What that means is we focused on the four things we know to be true about ourselves: authenticity, sense of place, consistently excellent beer and an inventive spirit.”
Highland’s new look will be reflected in all of its marketing, labeling, point of sale, packaging and merchandise, said McQuillan, who participated in extensive research and development work collaboratively with Austin, TX, firm Helms Workshop which informed the project. All beers will continue to be labeled under the name “Highland Brewing Company” but will now sport imagery of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the suggestion of a pioneer’s compass and the clear messaging that Highland remains Asheville’s first craft beer.
“Our name is perfect. With it, we honor the local Scots-Irish heritage. We are also on high land – in the mountains and on a hilltop.
We believe in authenticity,” said Ashburn, who became second-generation President of the family-owned business in 2015. She was referring to the staff survey that named authenticity as a common value. “You act the same way when no one else is looking. You deliver the same level of quality every time that only you could notice. You are authentic when your actions align with your words. And when our brand aligns with our beer. This refreshed brand is who we are.”
Highland Brewing was founded in 1994 by retired engineer and entrepreneur Oscar Wong, establishing it as the pioneer of Asheville, NC’s now booming craft beer industry. With a portfolio that is equal parts established and inventive, Highland is known for consistently excellent beer. Proudly regional, Highland is distributed in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida, and Kentucky. Annual production around 46,000 barrels makes Highland the largest independent family-owned brewery born in the Southeast and it has the third largest solar array in an American craft brewery. The brewery is in a rehabilitated manufacturing facility on a hilltop, affording space for thousands of visitors to enjoy limited release beers, tours, and live music. In addition, the event center and rooftop can be reserved for private events. Today, the company is led by Wong’s daughter, Leah Wong Ashburn, and has 50 full-time employees.
One of Wisconsin’s newest breweries is drawing upon some of the state’s oldest traditions.
Operated by the Wisconsin Historical Society, Old World Wisconsin in the town of Eagle allows visitors to explore more than 60 historical structures across hundreds of acres of Midwestern landscape, staffed by volunteers depicting daily 19th century life. To commemorate the ties to historic farm brewing, an exhibit was established in partnership with the Milwaukee Museum of Beer & Brewing and various local breweries, which showcases a typical farm brewery operation.
Next year, Old World Wisconsin will begin raising funds for its forthcoming Sudhaus, which will feature a larger production brewery and beer garden.
“A fully operational brewery and beer garden, planned for since we opened in 1976, will be part of a reconfigured park entrance designed on a village-on-a-green theme,” says Dan Freas, director of Old World Wisconsin.
Until that new Sudhaus is built, the museum offers demonstrations that show how 19th-century farmers would have brewed.
(Photo by Brian Wettlaufer)
Dressed in authentic period clothing today is Gary Luther, a retired principal brewer of the Miller Brewing Co. and current member of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas.
(Photo by Brian Wettlaufer)
Luther begins brewing 15 gallons of cream ale by heating well water to 180 degrees Fahrenheit in an open-air kettle. He uses a hand-cranked grist mill to grind a mixture of Caramel 10 and pale malted barley. As the grains hit the water, the air fills with an earthy, malty aroma, reminiscent of breakfast oatmeal.
Farmers of the 19th century brewed a variety of recipes. Some were brought over from the old countries and handed down through generations, others shared by neighbors, and even a few discovered by experimenting with nontraditional ingredients. Some farmers used corn or rice as adjunct grains with molasses, pine needles or spruce tips as flavoring agents, but many used their own grains and hops and brewed with equipment purchased locally or homemade. From start to finish, brewing in the 1850s was a hands-on affair, and Old World Wisconsin replicates
Luther stirs his mash in a wood lauter tun that uses a false bottom to siphon the wort, which sits covered for an hour while enzymes convert starch into sugar under a watchful eye.
Hot water from the boiling vat is added in calibrated amounts to help in sparging, whereby the sugar-rich wort is recycled, bucket by bucket, back through the mash until a clear liquid is gained. The mashed meal is saved for animal feed.
Next, the wort is transferred to a separate open-air brewing kettle and boiled for 75 minutes. First hopping happens 10 minutes into the boil to add bitterness, and this distinct, pungent aroma foretells the beer’s ultimate flavor. A second hopping is added 10 minutes before the end of the boil. True to history, Luther measures the hops by hand (historic recipes often include “by the handful”).
(Photo by Brian Wettlaufer)
Boiling complete, the wort is transferred into a kuhlschiff (also known as a coolship or cooling pan), by ladling it into a trough and screening the spent hops. Well-to-do farmers owned a copper pan for this purpose, as that metal promotes flash condensation and quickly, and critically, reduces the wort’s temperature. Otherwise, wort sat overnight to cool in covered vats.
As part of its final journey to becoming beer, the wort is now transferred into fermenting tubs and the yeast pitched at 60 degrees F. Farm brewers knew fermentation was successful when they saw the frothy foam known as krausen develop on the wort’s surface. After fermenting for several days, the yeast produced alcohol, generated carbon dioxide and developed a multitude of aromas. At the end of fermentation, priming syrup is added to ready the beer for storage. Typically, yeast was harvested for another brew. Now transferred into small kegs, bunged shut and stored in a cool place, this table beer—unlike lager, which required lengthy cold storage—was ready to drink in just a week or two.
Farm brewing was a continual process in order to keep a steady supply for the family, friends and neighbors. Excess beer was often sold to local taverns. On the farm, beer was consumed at every meal and by all family members—including children. Beer was not only a refreshing beverage, it was also considered a foodstuff and necessary part of the diet. At a time when milk was unpasteurized and water often contaminated, beer was safe to drink due to boiling and fermenting, and, as long as equipment and supplies were kept sanitary and vermin-free, drinking it in moderation caused no ill health effects. As one brewing apprentice notes, “It was the drink that didn’t kill us.”
At Old World Wisconsin, beer is brewed with equipment, materials and recipes found on an 1850s farm, with minor concessions to modern methods. Hops and barley are grown, harvested and processed on-site, and well water is used along with locally propagated yeast strains.
And what will come of Luther’s cream ale? For now, government licensing stipulates that until an actual brewery is constructed, only brewing demonstrations are permitted—serving is verboten. Soon a park renovation will expand this prototype brewery into a full-scale Sudhaus, which will offer not only demonstrations and workshops but also tasting and sales of historically brewed beer.
“We share a passion to provide an experience that will educate and preserve the heritage and history of Wisconsin’s brewing legacy,” says Jerry Janiszewski of The Milwaukee Museum of Beer & Brewing. “A fully operational brewery will create an interactive experience and give an opportunity to have fun while learning about the historic brewing process.”
Brian Wettlaufer is a freelance writer in Franklin, Wisconsin. He can often be found enjoying a beer in his backyard and is always found at www.blwwrites.weebly.com.
For a craft beer fan, there is really nothing more enjoyable than listening to great live music outdoors and enjoying a refreshing and sessionable craft beer. That’s why, in true Starr Hill fashion, the Virginia-based craft brewery is releasing its new Front Row Golden Ale just in time for the coming warmer months.
“Front Row Golden Ale is a great beer for hot days as a crisper, cleaner, and more refreshing alternative to an IPA,” Jack Goodall, Starr Hill’s Marketing Manager, explains. “But, almost more importantly, Front Row is an homage to our roots.”
Starr Hill Brewery, founded in 1999 by Mark Thompson, began at the former location of Blue Ridge Brewing Co., Virginia’s first craft brewing operation. Thompson turned the historic storefront on Charlottesville’s Main Street into a bustling brewery once again. Offering live music and local craft beer from 1999-2005 was the mission. Outgrowing that original space led to a brewery expansion with a taproom in Crozet, Virginia; however, the live music stage was not left behind. The Crozet taproom offers live music every weekend and pulls acts from Virginia, North Carolina, and beyond. It was here that Starr Hill became the first production craft brewery in Virginia, focused on shipping beer around Virginia and beyond.
Ensuring its connection to live music, Starr Hill’s beers can be found in every major music venue in Virginia. This includes Wolf Trap (NoVA/D.C.), The National (RVA), The Jefferson and Sprint Pavilion (Charlottesville), NorVA and Portsmouth Pavilion (Norfolk), and more. Bonnaroo and FloydFest-goers have even had the privilege of drinking Starr Hill beer since the very first concerts in 2002. So, it was only a matter of time before they created a second flagship beer, paired alongside Northern Lights IPA, and gave it a strong music-centric name that also encourages the drinker to treasure life’s incredible moments.
(Photo courtesy Starr Hill Brewery)
“The name Front Row not only comes from the music connection, but a celebration of savoring life’s moments in-person and sharing the experience with others,” says Goodall. “[It] could be a concert, a sports game or just hanging with friends—just being present and doing what you love [is] what matters.”
Coming in at 4.9% ABV, Goodall sees the Front Row Golden Ale as an approachable gateway beer for those who are not huge craft fans, but a quality beer that craft fans can appreciate, since it’s not too hoppy or sweet.
“Similar to a blonde ale or Kölsch, golden ales are currently the fastest growing style in the industry,” Goodall states. “Our Front Row Golden Ale is a single Cascade hop beer with pilsner, caramel, and honey malts with oats. It is very balanced and light, yet still full of flavor.”
“We originally brewed this Golden Ale for the summer music festival season last year, and it just took off,” says Robbie O’Cain, brewmaster at Starr Hill. “Front Row is a classic, approachable beer that we’re really excited to share.”
Rolling out now on draft in all markets Starr Hill currently serves (Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington D.C.), Front Row Golden Ale will be the first largely distributed Virginia-brewed Golden Ale, and available in 16-ounce cans and 12-ounce bottles starting in March. The Boombox, an eight-pack of cans, will contain four Front Row Golden Ales and four Northern Lights IPAs. Once released, Front Row Golden Ale will be a year-round offering from Starr Hill.
To kick-off its new flagship beer release and just in time for summer music festival season, Starr Hill plans to sell Front Row Golden Ale in every Virginia music venue. The brewery has also launched a Golden Ticket giveaway. By answering the question “Where’s your #FrontRow?” with a photo, craft beer fans can enter to win $50 Stubhub gift cards or the grand prize, a Front Row Tour Pack, which includes all the road trip essentials, like a GoPro, Hydroflask growler, festival blanket, Starr Hill swag, and a $250 Stubhub gift card, all valued at $1,000. Fourteen $50 Stubhub gift cards will be given away every other week with the grand prize drawing this summer. Contestants can enter at starrhill.com/golden-ticket and by tagging Starr Hill for a chance to win.
Sara Pletcher is the conference operations manager at Zephyr Conferences, the brainchild behind beer, wine, and food conferences for bloggers and industry professionals. Sara drank her first craft beer in 2009 and, therefore, naturally wrote her master’s thesis on the Delaware craft beer industry. She’s excited to finally put her passion to good work.
Jeremy Tofte during a video shoot for International 2×4 Day. (Photo by Orijin Media courtesy of Melvin Brewing)
At this year’s Great American Beer Festival, the crew from Melvin Brewing blared hip-hop from their bus, fired T-shirts from cannons and hung out with the wrestler Hacksaw Jim Duggan.
And these celebrations all came before the brewery won two gold medals (for its Wet Hop Melvin and Hubert MPA) and was named Brewery Group and Brewmaster of the Year.
Taking home hardware from GABF is nothing new for founder Jeremy Tofte, whose brewery started small in a Thai restaurant in Jackson, Wyoming. From those humble origins, Tofte has expanded into a large production brewery in Alpine, Wyoming, and a new brewpub in Bellingham, Washington–with more brewpubs in the works.
What was this year’s Great American Beer Festival like for you guys?
It was really fun because you might have known that in 2015 we got small brewpub of the year. And in that time from then to now, we built a production facility. And so it’s the first time we’ve had more than like five people at GABF at one time. There was a good crew of 20 or so of us, maybe a little bit more. In the festival hall, during the awards ceremony, there were about 12 of us. It just felt so good to know that we could take it from a 3-barrel with the team we’ve assembled up to a 30-barrel and still make amazing beers.
The feeling of us walking down the hallway to receive the gold medal for Hubert–that’s the beer we drink. That’s our beer that everyone drinks at work. And it’s always been kind of underrated because it doesn’t say “IPA” on the label. It just made us so happy to get a gold medal in that. It was nice to repeat in the fresh hop, and it was also nice to feel like we’ve worked so hard with the Hubert. And even though it’s kind of an industry event that maybe people in the outside world don’t totally understand, it felt really good to see our favorite beer get some accolades.
Like you said, you’ve won awards for a variety of locations, going back to beers you brewed at Thai Me Up, to small brewpub of the year in 2015, to brewery group this year. How do you do ensure consistency and medal-winning quality across all of these systems?
First thing we did was realize we were never going to change the recipes unless they were going to get better. So going into it, we knew we had to have a system that was built to have high-gravity beers, and that’s why we contacted Newlands up in British Columbia and worked with them to build a system that would work for the kind of beers that we make. Because we’re not going to dumb down the recipes. That’s why our prices are more of a premium price, but we didn’t change the recipes from the 3-barrel to the 30-barrel. Our CFO was kind of shocked when he saw the cost going into these beers, but it’s so worth it.
We just assembled the team that could take us from a 3-barrel to a 30. We found Dave Chichura [formerly of Oskar Blues], he’s very proficient on a large system. And he started assembling an A team below him. And then right away, the first thing we did after we hired Dave was hire a lab consultant that built our lab for us. We have a full lab now with lab directors in it making sure every single beer comes out the way it’s supposed to. I think that’s the biggest piece that gives us an advantage coming to market. We know before a beer’s even finished fermenting how good it’s going to be and if it meets our standards, and we have no problem sending it out to market.
(Photo by Orijin Media courtesy of Melvin Brewing)
So you’ve designed the system around the types of beers you want to brew, and also brought in a team proficient at brewing those styles as well?
Definitely. As you know brewing on a production system is a whole different ballgame than brewing on a pub system.
Speaking of pub systems, how are things going at the new brewpub?
In Bellingham, which we like to call Melvingham? It’s going great. I think people were ready for something like that. When you walk into the space, and it’s playing hip-hop and all the TVs have kung fu on them, it’s a little bit different. And people don’t always know what to expect, but they’re digging it. The hamsters are loving it, because there are so many great breweries there already, it just gives them another place to have a beer.
Does the Bellingham brewpub have its own identity as far as beer styles?
Yeah, the brewer that we hired spent 30 years in Sweden, and he brewed there professionally and as an amateur. And he also brewed in southern California, so he knows both styles. But we’re going to take a different approach. We already have the West Coast styles maybe not down, but we have them to our liking. And so the new pubs are all about experimenting with different kinds of beer, that may or may not work in that area. Like for this new brewpub, there are a lot of Scandinavians living up in the Bellingham area, so we’re going to use his expertise to make a few Scandinavian beers so we always have Scandinavian beers on tap. And maybe they won’t sell like hot cakes, but that’s OK, because we just want to make them. We just want to do what we want to do.
For those hop-forward styles you’re so well known for, how do you stand out when everybody’s doing IPAs these days?
It used to be so easy because no one knew about whirlpool hops, and it’ll sound funny to some people that have only been brewing a couple years that are making amazing hoppy beers, but that was kind of a secret five years ago. And now the secret’s out, so we just keep on staying consistent and doing what we’ve always done as well as trying to add some new tricks to our repertoire. It’s fun to keep on getting better with the balance, and the more balanced we get, the more people like the beer. If it’s too malty, which we don’t do, or it’s too bitter, which we don’t do, people don’t seem to like it. And I guess that’s the best part of having a pub system, is that we can experiment. If it doesn’t work, we know right away. And if it does work, then we start the process to build it up into the 30-barrel system.
So you guys have been doing late-addition hops for quite a while?
We were doing it in like 2010, when it was kind of looked at like a waste of money. There were a bunch of people doing it, don’t get me wrong. But it wasn’t accepted industry-wide yet. And since we were just on a pub system we didn’t really care about making money. We would just throw in as many hops as we could without it being too grassy or too piney, and we just found that perfect balance.
Obviously one of your most popular beers is your 2×4 Double IPA. How did you guys get the wrestler Hacksaw Jim Duggan involved?
Every time we searched #2×4 on social media, he would come up. We were like, ‘Wait a second, that’s our hashtag.’ So we figured let’s just get a hold of him and see if he wants to team up. He’s so fun. We teamed up with him again this GABF and we’re coming out with a really fun video with him in March to talk about International 2×4 Day.
Any big plans for next year’s 2×4 Day?
Yeah, it’s happening on Super Bowl Sunday. And since no one wants to throw a party that competes with the Seahawks winning, we figured we’ll do International 2×4 Day this year. International would be 4-2 instead of 2-4, so on April 2 we have about eight different countries that we’re going to do 4×2 Day in, including 30-40 bars in America. And they’re usually in a lot of markets that we don’t actually distribute to. That’s fun, letting people taste the beer that maybe they’ve heard of but never had. I’m excited to send beer to Korea, Thailand, Japan, Sweden, Norway, England, Belgium.
The beer bars we have are new to a lot of places outside of America, so it’s going to be great when customers show up at their bar and there’s hip-hop playing and kung fu playing on projectors, and everyone’s dressed up as ninjas and there are all kinds of activities and games that just make beer drinking fun. We’re just kind of all about goobering out a little bit. I think International 2×4 Day will give us a chance to show the rest of the world what we’re all about.
You mentioned a lot of new markets for 2×4 Day, but what’s your distribution like these days?
We’re just sending beer to Seattle, Portland, Boise and Denver, mostly, and then all over Wyoming. And then we decided to start sending a truck every once in a while to San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. We just sent one to Massachusetts because there are a lot of distributors taking an interest in us. Once we figure out the franchise laws in a state, we make an agreement with them. You try us out for a few months, we’ll try you out for a few months, and we’ll see if we work together. The good old days of getting married and sleeping together on your wedding night are pretty much over.
You’re not moving a ton of volume in some of these markets. Is the goal just to get out in front of beer drinkers in some of the most popular beer markets?
Yeah, test them out and if the customers like us and continue to drink us and there’s enough demand, once we get capacity we know that’s a market we’ll enter. It could be two years away, it could be two months away. But we’ll have more capacity online this winter and be able to possibly start opening new markets, but after GABF Denver’s just soaking up more beer than ever before. That was our biggest market, and now it’s even more so. We have a difficult time getting semis to our brewery, because we’re in the middle of nowhere. We’re having a hard time getting beer out. We’re looking at starting a shipping company, and that will just take beer back and forth to Denver.
It has to feel good to be doing so well in such a competitive beer market.
That’s our whole model, is just to go to the most competitive markets and see where we fit in. Our whole business model is that we have to ship outside of our state. I think we’ve done enough flirting with those markets over the last four years that it’s working out. Even when we had the 3-barrel system, Kirk [McHale, co-founder and brewmaster] would fill one of the 7-barrel fermenters with six barrels. Every month, some lucky territory would get 30 six-barrels. It would usually be Bellingham or Portland or Boulder. It’s still fun, but it used to be really fun in those days when we were so excited a whole pallet would go wherever it went, and we’d read the internet to make sure people liked it. It was good times because we didn’t know what this would all turn into. At the time we just wanted people to taste the beer. That’s still what we want, but now it’s getting around.
It has to be exciting still, but is it at all scary to see how much you’ve grown?
No, I think it was probably what we were meant to do from the beginning. Toward the last year of me bartending and working in the brewery at Thai Me Up, I was snowboarding less and less. I realized that maybe I didn’t want to bartend for another decade. I love bartending, but the late nights add up. We actually got a state grant, and that was the catalyst. I said, ‘I guess I’m not bartending anymore. We got $3 million dollars from the state of Wyoming. It’s time to get real.’
Is that what led to the production brewery?
Yeah, we sent a business plan out to the state and got a lot of support. All we had to do was make 35 jobs happen in five years and it’s interest free. We hired 35 people I think in the first year and a half, so that’s taken care of and it’s interest free. We have 15 years to pay it off, and that is the catalyst that took us from a 3-barrel to a 30-barrel.
Are you guys still looking at building a brewery in Denver?
Yes, we are. We’re in negotiations with a couple different landlords in Denver, another in Olympia, Washington, and then we have a letter of intent in on a space in San Diego. My manager from Thai Me Up, Jamie Morris, I told him in four years we’ll have a big old brewery, and then we’ll start building brewpubs, and you’ll be in charge of all the brewpubs. And sure enough, almost four years to the date, he’s now running Melvin Brewpubs, LLC. He was just down here for San Diego Beer Week and we looked for spaces for a few weeks, and kind of honed in on the ones we really wanted to see. We found one that’s just perfect. We’ll put a 10-barrel system in there. When we find the place in Denver, up there we’ll do sour beers. We have a really good sour brewer ready to jump on that project, and he’ll get creative control. It’s all about bringing in these team members that want to do great things in their lives, but maybe they don’t have a way to do it, or they don’t have the experience or the financing. I’m all about bringing people on that are better than us and giving them the opportunity to perfect their craft without us micro-managing them or telling them what to do every minute. I’m just excited that we have a great team that is taking us to the promised land. It’s going to be such a good feeling to have this 2×4 Day all over the world, and showing people what American craft beer is.
–This interview was conducted and edited by Daniel Hartis, editor of All About Beer Magazine.
Jeremy Tofte At A Glance
Co-Founder/Backseat Brewer Years in Brewing Industry: Seven. I worked at my family’s craft distributor since childhood–Redhook, Pyramid, Grant’s, etc. Started picking up kegs at breweries when I was 16. Fell in love with it. Go-to beer from another brewery: Royale Pilsner in Portland, Oregon Beer that inspired him early in life: Blackhook Couldn’t live without: My radio Favorite place to have a beer: North Shore, Kauai, post surf at a roadside break, during sunset. Wishes he could buy a round for: Wu-Tang Clan Biggest passion besides brewing: Surf/snow Keeping him up at night: Gross margin
Melvin Brewing Jackson and Alpine, Wyoming MelvinBrewing.com Founded: Pub 2010, production facility ‘15 Annual Production: 20,000 barrels in year two Availability: WY, CO, ID, WA, OR, and parts of CA sporadically
The Double IPA Festival is just one of many events during San Francisco Beer Week, taking place Feb. 9-18. (Photo courtesy San Francisco Beer Week)
Feb. 9-18 San Francisco Beer Week
San Francisco, California
Kicking off with an opening gala on February 9 at Pier 35, an event known for creating special cross-brewery collaborations and rare beer pourings, this extended celebration of the Bay Area’s beer community includes happenings at breweries, bars and restaurants all around. Some highlights: A cellar release day with Drake’s Brewing Co., a dim sum beer brunch with Fort Point Beer Co., the Downtown San Jose Beer Walk and the Double IPA Festival at The Bistro.
Feb. 10 Arizona Strong Beer Festival
Set during Arizona Beer Week, this festival comprises more than 400 beers of various styles to provide “respite for the winter weary.” SanTan Brewing Co., Borderlands Brewing Co., Dark Sky Brewing Co. and Four Peaks Brewing Co. are just a few local names that will join nationally recognized brands such as Founders Brewing Co. and Goose Island Beer Co. at this winter festival located in Phoenix’s Steele Indian School Park. Live music and food vendors will also be present.
Feb. 17 World Beer Festival Columbia
Columbia, South Carolina
Tickets are now on sale for World Beer Festival Columbia, which returns to the South Carolina State Fairgrounds for the second year on Saturday, Feb. 17. Local breweries as well as regional and national brands will once again join this popular winter fest in South Carolina’s “famously hot” city.
Nebraska Brewing Co. MOAB (Mother of All Bettys)
12.7% | Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout
Take Nebraska Brewing’s Betty, but use twice as much grain and a double mash to generate sticky, alcoholic sweetness. Then add a healthy dose of Warrior hops and age it for six months in a blend of four different bourbon barrels, and you get the brewery’s MOAB, or “Mother of All Bettys.” This “monster” beer will be available in extremely limited quantities of 500-mL bottles.
Left Hand Brewing Co. Saison au Miel
6.8% | Honey Saison
Left Hand’s rotating saison series, Les Quatre Saisons, features native Colorado ingredients unique to each season. The addition of wildflower honey to this brew gives Saison au Miel a touch of sweetness and rounds out an otherwise crisp and dry farmhouse ale. This release will be available in six-packs of 12-ounce cans and on draft.
Aged in fresh bourbon barrels, the vanilla and coconut notes of this beer are accentuated by the presence of oak, and are further complemented by chocolate and espresso notes. German Chocolate Cake will be available in 22-ounce bottles and on draft.