The Beer Electric

Today on The New Yorker‘s Culture Blog, I published a brief history of sour Belgian-style beer in America, which, of course, is a dream assignment on many levels. “A Brief History of Sour Beer” touches on a few of the remarkable traditions, breakthroughs and innovations that are ushering American beer into a thrilling new era. Of course, there tough decisions to be made—in this introductory format, I couldn’t describe every single sour beer operation in the country, let alone Belgium, where these traditions were born. But I do hope you’ll enjoy this portrait of lambic and wild ales and the artisans who create them, preferably with a nice beer in hand. 

…some biologists believe that humans evolved to enjoy low-level bacterial sourness to encourage probiotic health. High-proof pucker, on the other hand, can indicate spoilage. According to a study described in Nature, PKD2L1, the sour protein receptor, also resides along the entire length of the spinal cord, possibly monitoring cerebrospinal health. Sour beer lovers sometimes speak of being ruined on conventional beer styles—forever. It must be love. Or is it lightning, bottled? 

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Big World, Small Brews

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Recently I filed my first story for Bon Appétit, for the April print edition, a long-awaited foray into the pages of what I regard as the best food & drink magazine. My humble one-page subject? How countries with little in the way of artisanal brewing tradition are quickly remaking the global beer map (and your local’s beer list), mixing Old World styles with a New World attitude. Here’s a 12-pack of the best.

italian-flag-20.jpgITALY

In 1996, Italy had next to niente for craft breweries; now there are hundreds, especially in the north.

Birra del Borgo ReAle Extra
An American-style IPA that drinks great with wood-fired-oven pizza. $18 for 750ml

Birrificio Montegioco Dolii Raptor
Aged in Barbera barrels, this lip-smackingly sour beer is molto refreshing. $13 for 330 ml

french-flag-20.jpgFRANCE

Beer is catching up with wine, as successful farmhouse operations in the north have sparked microbrewing countrywide.

Brasserie Thiriez Extra
The ultimate beer for mussels. You could even (gasp!) cook them in it. $10 for 750 ml

La Choulette Biere des Sans Culottes
This earthy, elegantly bottled brew is aged on top of its own yeast. $9 for 750 ml

japan-flag-20.jpgJAPAN

The country’s genre-bending beers have found an export audience in the States.

Hitachino Nest XH
A Belgian-style ale aged in sake barrels and shochu casks; great with sushi. $6 for 330 ml

Baird Beer Angry Boy Brown
A strong brown ale with flavors of caramel, toffee, and pine. $5 for 355 ml

swiss-flag-20.jpgSWITZERLAND

Bold Swiss brewers are making Belgian-inspired creations prized for their edgy flavors.

Trois Dames Grande Dame
A Flemish oud bruin ale with a sour-sweet interplay and mellow nutty notes. $17 for 750 ml

Bad Attitude/Rappi Bier Factory CH2
This rustic, unfiltered lager is brewed with fresh Swiss hops. $6 for 330 ml

norway-flag-20.jpgNORWAY

Vikings loved their aul. Today’s Norsemen are brewing some wonderfully idiosyncratic beer.

Nogne O Porter
Roasty and chocolaty: a hearty beer to savor on a cold night. $8 for 500 ml

HaandBryggeriet Kreklingol
Made with tart wild crowberries for the perfect thirst quencher. $9 for 500 ml

danish-flag-20.jpgDENMARK

Farmhouse upstarts and “gypsy brewers” are stealing megabrewer Carlsberg’s thunder.

Mikkeller Wheat Is the New Hops
A wheaty IPA made in collaboration with Vermont’s Grassroots Brewing. $6 for 330 ml

Amager Bryghus Rye Porter
Try this one for dessert–maybe even over ice cream. It’s rich and complex. $9 for 500 ml

Read More http://www.bonappetit.com/blogsandforums/blogs/badaily/2013/03/best-craft-beer-world.html#ixzz2Tn1oTtIR

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IAmA Beer Guy. Ask Me Anything

I’ve been enjoying the anarchy and frequent brilliance of Reddit. Today I logged on and had some fun answering questions from readers. Hope to do this again soon with a bit more prior planning. Next up: memes

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Of Books, Bräulers, & The Weekly Pint

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Pouring locally grown Crystal hops into the hop back—and loving every minute of it.

Greetings! Hope everyone is having a good fall.

I’m just back to rainy Oregon from snowy Denver, where I got to taste my first ever collaboration beer with Odell Brewing Co. In a nod to the writing life (and the ever-inspiring pub) we dubbed this aromatic brew  PUBlisher Extra Pale Ale. Thanks a million to Odell Pilot System/barrel aging manager Brent Cordle for letting me get my boots wet — it’s been a long time since I helped brew on a bigger system. We came up with a recipe via email and brewed it during the week of GABF. Into our 9.5bbl batch (mostly pale and pilsner malts) we added three 4lb. hop additions of locally grown Crystals (Hallertau) and used another 18lbs in the hop back. The resulting beer? Sessionable at 5%ABV, bright, citrusy, peachy, clean, refreshing, delicious! Head into the Odell taproom to try it if you’re nearby until it’s gone.

What else? It has been an incredibly busy twelve months of beer writing throughout Oregon, Colorado, Washington, Massachussetts (2x)…San Francisco, Denver (3x), San Diego, NYC (5x), Los Angeles (2x), Chicago, DC/Baltimore, Seattle, Stockholm Sweden, Piedmont, and most memorably Belgium… and even more places I am probably forgetting. No one who was present could ever forget The Festival, the Shelton’ Bros. inaugural gathering of the tribe, held in Worcester, MA. Meanwhile I launched what I hope will become an annual craft beer tradition for NYC, the Brooklyn Pig & Pickle, with Brooklyn Brewery. I also got to host fun book events and dinners (DBGB in NYC, Central Bistro & Bar in Denver, Ale House at Amato’s, Deschutes Brewery & Public House, Pike Brewery, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, 21st Amendment, Pizzeria Paradiso, Oakland’s Beer Revolution, The Kitchen Next Door, and several others), and still found the time to publish about 80 or 90 articles, including my first ink in GQ, my first national Op-Ed, and many more. Sleep? What’s that?

Two late summer highlights: bringing craft beer officially into the International Pinot Noir celebration, and helping throw the inaugural FEAST Portland event, for which I was honored to coordinate three memorable beer panels with the help of some of the best and brightest brewers in the world from Cantillon to Hill Farmstead, Crooked Stave, Breakside, Mikkeller, Drie Fonteinen, Logsdon, Double Mountain, Widmer, The Commons, Long, Dogfish Head, and many more. Look out world. Next year’s will take it all even higher. Suffice to say the repeat of Beer Vs. Wine with Cheese starring famed sommelier Josh Wesson, cheese guru Steve Jones, and yours truly will be a rumble in the jungle.

My e-newsletter Weekly Pint, launched in January, is connecting with an ever-wider audience. I’m asking for your help to keep the momentum up. We are up to 30,000 subscribers who get our brief emails 2x/week, with over 11K fans on FaceBook. If you you haven’t signed up or alerted your fans, now would be a good time, as we are giving away a beer trip for 2 to Belgium, curated by Vanberg & Dewulf.

Thank you if you can share that link with your social networks. Weekly Pint is on Twitter as @WeeklyPint and Instagram as well. Please follow along.

Currently Weekly Pint is booking partners for our national craft beer tasting tour for 2013, UNTAPPED, slated for a potential launch event in LA in January. Please get in touch if you’re interested to participate.

Some of you know I’m a cofounder of The Zythos Project, Portland-based makers of The Bräuler stainless steel growler. Featured in a glowing full page review in this month’s WIRED design issue, we are thrilled to have the bottle for sale in more than 25 innovative brewing companies across the nation.

Our company link is here and more importantly, the related KickStarter project is here. Thank you for sharing the KickStarter link with your  networks. We have just two weeks left in our campaign, and every little bit counts. For ordering quotes on our much-loved bottle, please contact Harvey Claussen via harvey@thezythosproject.com. Be good to your beer!

Also, thank you for all your support of my book The Great American Ale Trail. Out just over a year now, the book has now moved into a 4th printing (14,000 copies in print) and was recently named the top travel guidebook in the United States in the Lowell Thomas Awards, a competition of the Society of American Travel Writers. If you don’t have a copy, Amazon’s got it in stock.

Here’s to finishing 2012 strong, and to a great 2013!

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Hops on the Radio [Books + Media]

 A couple of months ago I was invited to be interviewed by the one and only Lynne Rosetto Kasper of NPR’s Splendid Table. Here’s the link to the recent broadcast, a conversation which veered from my experiences in West African homebrewing to a journey into Alaska in mid-January and the wild, barrel-aged wonders from Mark Jilg’s Craftsman Brewery and Shaun Hill’s Hill Farmstead. Enjoy!  The Splendid Table, 1.7.12 (from 23:19 to 29:20)

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A Pint of Prosperity [Rabblerousing]

Illustration by Mikey Burton for Bloomberg View

Is it time for another Beer Summit? The U.S. subsidizes corn syrup-filled soda pop but taxes the hell out of small and independent craft brewers who are making delicious artisanal beer and bringing jobs to American Main Streets. Let’s have a sip of wisdom, shall we? Here’s my first Op-Ed, for Bloomberg Voices, on the subject of taxes, job creation, and American craft beer. Let me know what you think.

GIVE ECONOMY HOPS WITH MICROBREW TAX CUT

With the president and Congress mired in partisan backbiting, many lawmakers may be tempted to retreat to a dark room for a cold beer. They would do well to make that a craft beer.

Various high-ranking senators and representatives have been working on a pair of bills that not only would make craft brewing more competitive, but may also make a small contribution to helping relieve the nation’s grinding unemployment.

This legislation would roll back excise taxes on small brewing companies by anywhere from 11 percent to 50 percent. The current tax rates, adopted in 1976 before the rise of micro- and craft breweries in the 1990s, have never been updated, requiring many brewers to pay levies calibrated for much larger operations once considered small…[Read More]

 

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An Age of Beer Stained Pages [The Critics]

Huzzah! Here’s a thoughtful review of The Great American Ale Trail by The Atlantic Monthly‘s Clay Risen. Cheers to Risen for the “young and talented” and “fluid and entertaining” bits! Good man, I owe you a beer.

A young and talented beer journalist, DeBenedetti provides extensive descriptions of beer bars, stores, breweries, brewpubs, and restaurants with extensive beer lists (11 Madison Park, one of Manhattan’s toniest eateries, also boasts one of the country’s best beer inventories). Tucked between are travel itineraries, regional overviews, and general musings about the culture of beer in America. What could have been a dry mash note to the nation’s beer havens is, in DeBenedetti’s hands, a fluid, entertaining handbook.

Here’s the rest, which quibbles with my having missed one of Risen’s favorites spots in Tennessee (join the club, my friend), and only describing one brewery in Bend, OR (there are four in the book actually). It’s an honor to have my work in The Atlantic — there was a time not so long ago when books about beer didn’t even exist.

The Problem With Guides to Beer Drinking: There Just Aren’t Enough (via The Atlantic)

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