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NEW! TWO CLASSIC BREWING BOOKS AVAILABLE

June 29, 2015 0 comments
As a home brewer myself, I've always been fascinated by traditional approaches to brewing, particularly those dating back to an earlier age, when brewers did not have the technology or tools that we utilize today.

In truth, the brewing of beers and ales may not be a complex task, but it is one where extra thought and care may result in a superior end product. This approach is evident in both of the classic works we have chosen to offer through our publishing partner, American Biblioverken. Together, they kick off our History of Brewing Series, which we hope will continue to grow with additional titles as time goes on.

The first, A Treatise on the Brewing of Beer, was written by E. Hughes and dates from 1796. It is a very modest work, extending but to 36 pages, but does include some insightful thoughts on the production of beers and ales via traditional methods. The second book, The London and Country Brewer, was originally published in 1736, and offers 100 pages of thoughtful advice on brewing, selection of malt and hops, as well as beer storage and transportation.

Upon reading, what does become clear is the realization that while modern technology does make brewing easier, and results in a more consistent product, it may not be absolutely necessary to produce a quality beer or ale, and that there is much "lost knowledge" from which today's brewers may still benefit.

In both examples,  the writing style is far more formal than modern ears may be accustomed to, and this may present a modest challenge to some readers. Nevertheless, the information as presented is logical, heartfelt and indeed, rather entertaining. To that end, we have retained all of the traditional idioms and spellings from the original edition, since they add so much to the overall effect of the works.

Both books are available at the links listed above, via Createspace, at $5.50 and $9.99 via the links above.  We'll post the links to Amazon in a few days, when they become available. The cost is the same at both sources.
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WHY AKRON NEEDS A BREWERY DISTRICT

June 28, 2015 0 comments
Not everyone knows it, but Akron is home to several high-quality breweries, with national and regional reputations; one (Thirsty Dog) has already indicated that they need further room to grow. Separately, none of these operations are huge. They all include production facilities and Tasting Rooms, where customers gather to sample their products and enjoy food and entertainment. Currently, most of them are spread out all around the city.

Every time I drive past the old Goodyear World Headquarters and factory, which is being redeveloped as the landmark East End project, I can't help but thing what a natural location this would be for a Brewery District. Gathered together, these breweries could create a strong destination attraction—a Brewery District—that would enhance the marketability and appeal of the East End location, allowing these brewers to use their “strength of numbers” to pull visitors from many areas.

A while back, I spoke to Fred Karm, owner of nationally-recognized Hoppin’ Frog Brewery, and his initial response was that he might be interested in such a concept, and could see some advantages. Of course, it would have to make economic sense, and some incentives might be needed to make it happen, but he seemed to find the idea appealing.

I have also spoken  to our current Mayor, and while he thinks it's a solid idea, the city has limited resources to get behind such a plan right now; what's more, we'll have a new Mayor come next January, and it's hard to get anything going during an Election Year. Nevertheless, it's an idea worth pursuing and one that I feel the developer, Stuart Lichter's Industrial Realty Group, should take a hard look at.

POINTS TO CONSIDER:

1) There are TONS of space available at East End for brewing operations and tasting rooms; tens of thousands of square feet. Plenty of parking, easy highway access (for out-of-town visitors). It’s a natural fit for these old buildings. Simply put, this location is high-visibility, and far superior to any place these breweries are currently located (outskirts of town, old, run-down neighborhood, etc.)

2) Existing and future Commercial/Office/Hotel development here – provides an additional customer base for these operations. (Goodyear-Hotel-major hospital-are already nearby)

3) Easily accessible from The University of Akron, too—by bus or bike. Some cities who have similar districts even establish a “brewery shuttle” – low/no cost trolley service to district from popular destinations.

4) A successful brewery district would also be an advantage for attracting out-of-region craft breweries to locate to Akron. The city could get in the game with other regional brewers who may want to expand their operations into the Midwest.

5) A district here offers a nice geographic balance to an area like Highland Square. While that area might be a natural for craft-beer loving Hipsters, there’s little room for breweries there. East End is about the same distance from Downtown, easily accessible by public transportation, and long term, provides an additional working/living option for that demographic.

Over the coming weeks and months, I'll be talking to more people about this--it seems like too good an idea to pass up.
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AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT...

June 11, 2015 0 comments
It’s no secret that in the summertime, my preferences generally turn to lighter beers, shandies, and the like. Like a lot of people, the combination of increased thirst and hot weather make me less apt to turn to heavier dark ales, stouts and porters—or beers with higher alcohol content.

If I’m in the pool or at the Tiki Bar, I’ll probably go with a Corona, a Radler, or a simple Lager-and-Lemonade. Occasionally, a berry beer of some type (always liked Abita’s Purple Haze) may suffice – and I was intrigued with a recent trial of Shiner’s Prickly Pear.

Since our backyard pool area has a pretty solid Tiki vibe going on, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to sample Rivertown’s Hala Kahiki* Pineapple Beer. It’s actually one of the few craft beers that I’ve purchased in a can, aside from a six pack of Cellar Rats/Hopview Bernie Beer I enjoyed last Fall. The Hala Kahiki can looked fun, and I like pineapple…so it seemed like something worth a try.

And try it we did. What Hala Kahiki offers is a very, very light ale, with a sweet, fruity taste that goes down very easy. It is indeed very refreshing, and you could probably enjoy a lot of it on a hot summer’s day. That said, I would make two important observations: 1) it is a very light tasting ale – (read “light-beer” light) with no hop bitterness. That’s’ okay by me, but without the fruitiness, the ale would have little character on its own. 2) The pineapple flavor is there, but it is also very light. That may be a good thing, but it struck me that if I was blind testing this stuff and was asked exactly what fruit I was tasting, I might not be so sure.

In truth, the Kahiki’s flavor pales beside something like Hoppin’ Frog’s Turbo Shandy—which is a rich, golden ale with a clean, natural lemon flavor component. But then, the Turbo Shandy is at least 7 bucks for a 22oz bottle; you’d want to drink a lot of it, but you probably couldn’t afford it.

To sum it up, Rivertown’s Hala Kahiki is probably a good choice for any hot summer day. I would buy more of it (in fact, I just did today before I penned this post) since it’s easy to drink and offers a fun alternative to the typical summer shandy. Definitely worth sampling.


*According to the marketing blurb on the can, the name "Hala Kahiki"(hahlah-kah-hee-kee), originates from the Hawaiian words for pineapple.
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HAPPINESS AT THE HOFBRAUHAUS

June 3, 2015 0 comments
I remember being excited when I heard that Hofbräuhaus München was going to open a beer garden in Cleveland; I had walked past the one near Cincinnati (actually Newport KY—and it was closed) and thought how lucky the people living there were, to be able to enjoy that authentic German beer hall experience. Never having been to Munich, I suppose the best thing I could come up with were several visits to Frankenmuth MI and my memories of the Akron’s long-gone Bavarian Haus.

We’ve visited the new Hofbrauhaus Cleveland location a couple of times now and have not been disappointed. If you’re a lover of fresh, traditional beer styles—like crisp golden lagers and rich, malty dunkels—then the offerings here will satisfy you. The Hofbrauhaus also offers some additional varieties, like Weissebiers and rotating seasonals; my wife ordered a sampler flight and enjoyed each of them.

As good as the beer was, the food may be even better. In addition to traditional German favorites, there are plenty of other options, all wonderfully prepared and with portions big enough to ensure that you’ll bust a gut if you choose to wash these down with a liter or two of lager.

Like any real German beer hall, you’ll sit at a long table, and if the place is crowded (like it is on many weekends) you may find yourself sitting next to a stranger—who may be your new best friend after a liter or two.  Live music is offered every day during lunch and dinner service, and when the music and beer start flowing, the place can get a little rowdy and really fun, with people standing on the benches, singing and and yelling “Prost.”

We have plans to go to Germany in the next couple of years—until then, I think can get my German Beer Hall fix at Cleveland’s Hofbrauhaus.
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GOOFY GUINNESS: JUST STICK TO IRISH STYLES

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There are a lot of attempts by big foreign conglomerates to infiltrate the American Craft Beer Market. Some, like the recently reviewed Newcastle-Caledonian Pale Ales, result in a good product that offers something worthwhile; a solid British Pale Ale, brewed with English Hops – make sense, right?

Then, we have Guinness’ effort to approach this market: Let’s try to make an American Style lager that’s made with American Hops. This is the reasoning behind Guinness Blonde American Lager.

First of all, I would remind you that I’m not a fan of some high-alpha American hop varieties, or resinous, “Piney” hops like Simcoe. In many cases, it’s not even so much about the hops, but the fact that many brewers are not subtle in their use, tending to “load up” for “big” flavor and bitterness.

That said, we have a wealth of great American Craft Breweries who are working their tails off to bring us an incomparable range of unique ‘American Lagers.”  Does America really need Guinness to show us how to do this? My guess would be no.

My suggestion to Guinness would be to simply stick to what you do best. Great stout…Irish Ales…you get the picture. Harp’s a fine product—just try to convince people to buy it more often and you’ll be fine.
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WHY CAN'T MORE AMERICAN PALE ALES TASTE THIS GOOD??

May 22, 2015 0 comments
While most of my beer-buying is done at the local supermarket (our locals have a fairly excellent selection) I came across Newcastle's new variety pack at a nearby BP station, where the proprietor goes out of his way to offer a modest selection of craft and import beers:

"Just let me know what you like, I'll try and get it for you, boss."

The “Best of Britain” Variety 12-Pack contains equal amounts of three ales, including two definitive new styles from the brand--Newcastle British Pale Ale and Newcastle British Session IPA--along with Newcastle Brown Ale, which has always been one of my “predictable, go-to beers.”  The three distinctly Newcastle offerings are intended to “showcase the quality and depth of the Newcastle-Caledonian partnership and capitalize on the growing demand for variety among consumers.”

So much for marketing strategy. My main concern would be how the two new offerings would taste, and I wasn’t disappointed.

It’s probably important to preface this review with the fact that I am NOT a big IPA drinker; in fact, I almost never buy American IPA’s because (for the most part) I find them over-hopped and overly bitter for my palate. I’m also not a big fan of some varieties of American hops, which seem to get shoveled into those IPA’s relentlessly. I know a generation of young drinkers have been told that these IPA’s are delicious. Good for them. Open a Bottle and Carry On.

Back to the Newcastle Variety Pack.  The newcomers include a Newcastle British Pale Ale (5.8% ABV, 39 IBUs) and a Newcastle British Session IPA (5.1% ABV, 45 IBUs).

I tried the Session IPA first—realizing that even at just 5.1% ABV, it’s not technically a Session Ale at all (needs to be 4% or under. If you doubt me, ask @D_I_N_G on Twitter). It had a lovely copper hue, manageable bitterness, and an aromatic nose; a nice balance overall--and as I was outside opening the pool on the first weekend in May--notably refreshing.

The British Pale Ale was actually a little better. A little more of the same, with a rich gold color, a little more body and a citrusy-finish that I found particularly appealing. The higher alcohol level was not really that apparent, but what was apparent to me was that I could drink quite a bit of either one of these ales.

I was happy to have come across them, but was also wondering how long these Caledonian offerings would be available. I was also wondering to myself “why can’t more American pale ales taste this good?”

I’m sure there are some that do. If you’ve tried either of these Newcastle-Caledonian offerings and want to suggest a similar offering from one of our American craft breweries, please send me an email or a tweet with your suggestions.
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