February 1, 2018 0 comments

It's only been a few weeks since we released our first title of 2018, Danish Beer and Continental Beer Gardens. Now IBN has followed up with another pocket classic, Secrets of the Mash Tun: or The Real Causes of Failure in Producing Good Ale or Beer.  First published in 1847, this guide was written for small brewers and home brewers during a period when science was becoming more appreciated for its contributions to the brewer's art. This is not a reproduction, but an all-new edition, freshly re-designed and typeset, including Publisher's comments and a helpful record-keeping section at the back for home brewers.

With simple explanations, useful advice and a common-sense approach, it offers today's small-scale brewers a handy manual of practice and a fascinating insight into our beer-brewing past. It's just the kind of handy reference you would like to add to your homebrewing bookshelf, or sit back and enjoy with a cold ale, next to a mid-winter fire.

Available via Amazon: HERE
Via Amazon UK: HERE
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January 26, 2018 0 comments

Having lived through America’s Craft Beer Revolution—and being a beer drinker before it even began—I can appreciate a thoughtful and objective look back on its impact and significance. That’s exactly what this article, which appeared in both The Atlantic and Citylab, provides. Derek Thompson does a nice job in briefly describing the beer landscape that used to exist in America and how crafty beer appeared at just the right moment to take advantage of changing tastes at first, and then economic circumstances later.

While a lot of beer drinkers and beer writers focus on cultural issues, style developments and personalities, Thompson does a nice job describing the Craft Beer Revolution’s economic impact, and how the expansion of local breweries and jobs has come during a period of industrial and retail consolidation. It seems like an anomaly, but fits in perfectly during an era when the Great Recession sparked innovation, forced many people to become new entrepreneurs and boosted interest in local production.

Changing tastes play their role too—and the article explains how the traditional three-tier system shaped the brewing industry for so many decades. All in all, it’s a solid read and a concise, accurate place to start if you want to get a helpful grip on U.S. beer history.

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January 22, 2018 0 comments
Just before the end of the year, my wife and I managed to complete the 2017 Summit Brew Path, thus winning the commemorative T-Shirts which are awarded to all those who manage to complete the brewery tour. I imagine our approach was like many other folks; hitting the “easy” destinations close to home and finishing up with those brewers which were located further away—like Wadsworth Brewing Co. in Wadsworth and Madcap Brew Co. in Kent. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we were able to knock off all three Canton-area breweries (Canton, Royal Docks and Scenic) which set us up for a fine finish.

It’s pretty clear that the whole Brew Path effort—led by the local Convention & Visitor’s Bureau—was a great success, with almost 20,000 of the passports printed as a result of great demand. At least 2,600 people managed to get every stamp from the 14 official stops on the tour. All the breweries reported significant increases in sales as a result of the program, and it was also a great way to bring beer drinkers together—I don’t think we stopped at a single place where we didn’t meet someone else who was coming in to get their Brew Path passport stamped, too.

As plans for next year are being finalized, Ohio beer blogger Rick Armon was invited to sit in on a meeting at the Convention Bureau with a number of participating brewers. The meeting was set to provide feedback and generate ideas for the 2018 Brew Path, and while most all the feedback was positive and enthusiastic, the only complaint was made about the color of the T-Shirt prize that was awarded. Patrick Armistead, co-founder of Two Monks Brewery, was definitely not a fan of the brown, poo-colored shirt.

“Don’t make it a crappy brown T-Shirt,” he suggested.

Ignoring options for urine-yellow and boogar-green shirts next year, it’s likely that a new type of prize will be awarded in 2018.

With an additional five or six new breweries being eligible to be added to the Brew Path in 2018, it’s possible that a two-tier prize level will be used—making it possible to offer some form of recognition to folks who can’t manage to visit every one of the breweries on the new, expanded list. Like last year, additional breweries will be highlighted in the passport as places to visit, but not made official stops if they were not open by the start date of March 10.

This brew trail marketing concept has really taken off, not only just here in Ohio, but nationwide as well. As previously noted, it’s a wonderful way to bring the beer community together, and provides a great economic boost to our local brewers. Wherever you are, if there’s a program like this in your area—get your book and go get a brew!
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January 20, 2018 0 comments

We’ve just added a new title to the IBN History of Brewing Series—Danish Beer and Continental Beer Gardens, is an all-new, expanded edition of a classic early-20th century book by Dr. Max Henius. Originally developed as an extended lecture for American brewers, this new edition highlights many of the “best practices” used by Danish brewers and surveys continental attitudes regarding beer drinking culture. It includes a new introduction, an all-new interior layout and additional matter at the back of the book, including subject updates and additional information that adds further context. Presented in a slightly larger format (7” x 10”) than our first two titles due to the many illustrations, most of which were photo-edited to maximize their reprint quality.

“As usual, we refuse to just scan-and-copy an old book and charge an exorbitant price for a reprint,” explained M.A. Schweitzer, who edited this edition. “We essentially created an all-new book, improving the images, adding extra material and providing some relevant context for modern readers.”

Available on Amazon
List Price: $8.59
7" x 10" (17.78 x 25.4 cm)
58 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1983657023
ISBN-10: 1983657026
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January 16, 2018 0 comments
Spoetzl is Texas' oldest independent brewery.
Living here in Ohio, it should be no surprise that I am partial to many of our great Midwestern brewers, like Great Lakes, Hoppin’ Frog, Thirsty Dog, Platform, Bell’s, Short’s and Rhinegeist. They all make great beers—even though it is inevitable that there will always be hits-and-misses from time to time. Nobody’s perfect.

That said, one American brewer I would like to celebrate for their high level of consistency and quality is the Spoetzl Brewery of Shiner, Texas. The oldest independent brewery in Texas, they are widely distributed, and generally easy to find in major markets throughout Ohio.

Originally named "The Shiner Brewing Association," (SBA) The Spoetzl Brewery was founded in 1909 by German and Czech immigrants who had settled around the central Texas town of Shiner. Unable to find the type or quality of beer they had enjoyed in their home countries, they began to brew their own. They remain one of the oldest independent breweries in the U.S

Shiner Brewing Association - 1909
Personally, I have sampled a wide range of their beers, though strangely enough, their standard Shiner Premium lager, I regularly enjoy their Bock beer, Bohemian Black Lager, Cream Ale, Oktoberfest and Holiday Cheer—the last two being seasonals. Their Strawberry Blonde is excellent as well, and their 2015 Birthday Beer, a chocolate stout, was one of my all-time favorites. Sadly, the birthday beers change every year, and I’ve not had it since.

The German and Czech heritage must run strong throughout Spoetzl’s brewing tradition and methods, because what I enjoy most about their beers are that they are always true to style—Bocks, Oktoberfests and Cream Ales always taste the way you expect them to…no extra hops, wrong hops, or other strange flavors distracting from a job well done. So many American craft brewers fall to the temptation to try to “improve” on classic styles, or somehow “reinterpret” them--and the result is usually a big fail.

The other thing I would commend them for is the ability to just “get it right” when it comes to taste and balance. It would be easy to get into trouble with more creative recipes like Shiner Prickly Pear, Ruby Redbird, or their Holiday Cheer, but the brewery always manages to get consistently great results, using just the right amount of ingredients that complement the underlying beer without overwhelming it. That’s not easy—evidence that their brew masters have a well-tuned palate. Maybe a little common sense, too.

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July 17, 2017 0 comments
In a world where over-the-top, hop-heavy beers are nothing out of the ordinary, it’s truly refreshing (forgive the pun) to come across a brewer who is adamant about staying true to style when it comes to traditional beers. Such is the case with Two Monks Brewing. I’ve had a growler-full of their German dunkel and was thoroughly satisfied—it was smooth, flavorful and malty—just what I was expecting.

On my first visit, the two owners were still prepping the tap room and getting their occupancy permits; tables, chairs and other equipment were stacked against the walls as they provided a growler-filling service to customers who stopped in.

On my most recent visit, they were fully open and ready to go, and there was a nice crowd checking out the beers on a Saturday afternoon. The wife and I stopped to get our Summit BrewPath passports stamped, so we sat down and looked at the beer list, which is not long, but features a nice assortment of styles—you should be able to find something you like here.

My wife, who generally prefers lighter fare, went with the Czech Pilsner, which she thoroughly enjoyed. I selected a pint of the E.S.B. and was totally won over—an excellent English bitter that was correctly hopped, full of flavor and extremely drinkable. On my next visit, it will definitely be my “go-to” beer.

Overall, Two Monks is a nice, comfortable spot to enjoy well-made beer; being just a stone's throw from Hoppin' Frog and the Brick Oven Brewpub, it's part of a nice East-Side Brewery Triangle that you must check out. I would only encourage the one owner to engage the customers a little more; when I asked him about their brewing system and complimented him on their beer, he seemed a little disinterested, and generally unenthusiastic about holding a conversation. Maybe he was just tired, but I've yet to meet a brewer who didn't enjoy talking about beer and bragging up his brews to anyone who will listen!

As an acknowledged “traditionalist” when it comes to beer, I can still appreciate some creativity and experimentation when those efforts are clearly identified as such. What does irritate me is when craft brewers offer a traditional beer style and then muck it up, either through inexperience, ignorance or a desire to make it “fit” today’s hop-heavy flavor profiles. Thus, we get an Austrian Pils that should be labelled an “American Pils”…or a German Oktoberfest that should be labelled “American Octoberfest.” That would constitute “fair warning”.

A perfect example is a recent 6-pack of Lager Heads Brewing Oktoberfest I bought. While they may have used German hops (this is what it claims on the label) they used too much of them to make it taste like a true German Oktoberfest; in fact, if I poured it in a glass and served it to most of my friends, they probably would guess it was an IPA. This is precisely why I am wary of buying a lot of “traditional-style” American craft beers—a lot of them have a problem with “truth in labelling”—though it’s due to bad brewing choices and lack of knowledge, not dishonesty.

Thankfully, it’s nice to know that places like Two Monks can still get it right. Hats (or hoods) off to them!

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