December 31, 2011

Book Review: The Brewers Apprentice

The Brewers Apprentice by Greg Koch and Matt Allyn calls itself "An insiders guide to the art and craft of beer brewing, taught by the masters". The book really does not fail to deliver on this statement.
I liked how the book quickly covered the basics of brewing. I know the basics already and I'm looking for more advanced topics in my reading. The book has an introduction by Greg Koch of Stone brewing and the rest of the book is made up of introductions to the various topics the interviews with we respected craft brewers on the things they are considered to be experts in. Vinnie Cilurzo of Russian River is interviewed about bittering hops, Mitch Steele of Stone Brewing Co. is interviewed about water chemistry and Sam Caligone of Dogfish Head is interviewed about using fruit and other strange ingredients. These are really the people who's opinions and methods warrant attention being paid.
It's not all hard brewing information Ray Daniels, founder of the cicerone program, is interviewed about beer evaluation and Ken Grossman founder of Sierra Nevada is interviewed about "making beautiful beer". These are two topics that you wont see in your typical brewing text.
The book is not all text either, all of the interviews have a great selection of photos to accompany them which serves to make things more interesting than just plain text.
I woe not hesitate to reccomend The Brewers Apprentice to anybody remotely interested in brewing. I think the topics were chosen well in that the will benefit new and experienced brewers alike. I can see myself refering back to the book often for troubleshooting, recipe advice or just to look at the pictures.

December 29, 2011

Beer desert

Been awhile since my last post I have been spending the holidays in Spain and there has been nothing really to write about.
That being said I have been looking high and low for some good beer. I can find lots of German beers and a smattering of English beer but it pales in comparison to the flavor of good American craft beer, it's often not fresh and not at all local. I did finally try the local light lager in an act of desperation.
The mahou brewery was founded in Madrid in 1890 by a French entrepenuer. In 1953 the brewery partnered with Philipino owned San Miguel brewery, in the 1960's and again in the mid 1990's Mahou built modern production breweries. In the year 2000 the brewery bought out the 30% ownership stake held by San Miguel making the brewery wholly Spanish owned (amazingly no ABIvbev or SabMiller ownership).
So, how does it taste ?
Surprisingly it tastes like a light lager should, I have yet to get a skunked or light struck glass. It's light and highly carbed, of course, but it has some bready malt character and a nice slightly sweet finish. I can see how it would be good in the oppressively hot Spanish summer months.
It's still not what I like though, it's too light on flavor and really given another good, even acceptable choice I would not drink it. I have been trying to explain the notion of American craft beer to the Europeans but it makes no sense to them, the mention of American beer gets the response of "you mean Budweiser ?, that's crap." .... I know it's crap have you not heard anything I just said ?
Thankfully the wine is really good (and dirt cheap) usually wine gives me a pounding headache but here it seems to not have the effect. I plan on visiting at least one local vineyard/ winery while here.
.... I'm really Looking forward to an imperial IPA and a nice roasty porter as soon as I'm back in the promise land....

December 15, 2011

Book Review: Beer School

Beer School: Bottling Success at the Brooklyn Brewery by Steve Hindy and Tom Potter the owners and founders of the Brooklyn Brewery is one of the best beer books I have read in quite some time. Hindy majored in English in college and did most of the writing for the book. Having written for the associated press for a number of years Hindy knows how to keep the writing easy to read and how to pepper in exciting details (like being robbed at gunpoint or the dangers of the whole organization going under) to keep the pages turning.

The book is intended to be somewhat of a guide for entrepreneurs in general, not necessarily just for those trying to open a brewery or get into the beer or brewing industry. Hindy and Potter chronicle all of their successes as well as their mistakes in an honest fashion.

While the book is not only intended for people opening a brewery it naturally covers many issues one may face when doing so. Hindy and Potter cover issues such as contract brewing, distribution, and building their new brewery starting from the time the two partners decided to go into business together until about 2003, Potter retried from the brewery in 2004 however this is not covered in the book.

Often books on beer and brewing, even ones that deal with the business side of things or telling the larger story of the brewery can get tedious at times. Beer School stays interesting and easy to read for the entire length of the book, probably due to the fact that Steve Hindy had been writing for the associated press for so many years. I managed to tear through this book in about a week which is pretty quick for me. The book comes highly recommended for anybody looking to open a brewery, go pro, become self employed or is just interested in beer and brewing.

December 13, 2011

Brewery Grants

Last week the state of new york and Schoharie county approved $890,000 in grants for Ommegang brewery ($140,000) and Butternuts brewery ($750,000). Ommegang brewery received funds to assist with a $16 million expansion including a wastewater treatment plant and several new buildings. Butternuts brewery is gaining funding to move production into a long vacant industrial park allowing increased production to 25,000 barrels per year and eventually to 100,000 barrels per year.

News of the breweries receiving grant money has not been very well received among residents of Schoharie country and New York State. Many people see the grants for the breweries as unnecessary considering many residents homes were destroyed during hurricane Irene. Further Brewery Ommengang has threatened to leave their cooperstown location, taking the jobs it provides with them if hydro fracking is allowed in their watershed. People don't like seeing them being given free money when they are threatening to leave.

These are not the first two breweries to ever receive grants. Craft breweries are quite often very community oriented organizations. Breweries the size of Ommegang and Butternuts generally employ around 50 to 100 people and support other industries such as distributors, trucking companies and retail outlets. Grant money will serve to keep these community oriented breweries to stay where they are needed and to provide jobs in an area that really needs them.

In short grant money goes towards lots of things, while grant money is available to individuals for housing repairs it is probably not enough. However small business needs grant money too, without grant money to support small business job creation would fall off.

Maybe I'm partial to breweries receiving grant money (especially Ommegang because I love their beers) but I really would like to hope these companies realize the favor they have been granted and will take steps to be even more involved in their communities and provide some support for their neighbors who were victims of hurricane Irene.

December 5, 2011

ABInbev Belgian Beer Cafe

Belgian/ Brazilian brewing giant ABInbev (AKA. World Beer Co or as they see it "the worlds local brewer") recently set its sights for its Belgian Beer Cafe restaurant chain on the United States. Belgian Beer is growing in popularity in the U.S right along the with the growth of craft beer. Belgian Beer Cafe will be a chain restaurant that evokes the feel of a 1920's belgian cafe, it will serve all Belgian beers alongside Belgian food.
The Belgian Beer Cafe in Dubai
Already the chain has been spreading around the world, locations have opened up in 50 cities across 19 countries many of them are found in larger cities but are also found in airports and hotels.
Belgian Brewers not associated with ABInbev have a love hate relationship with the enterprise, on one hand they are appreciative of ABInbev spreading the culture of Belgian brewing around the world, however, they are worried that the mega brewer could do more harm than good to the image of Belgian Beer.
While I'm sure the chain will be immensely popular it would be better to support the small bar specializing in Belgian beer. Hopefully soon a belgian style bar will be opening in downtown Schenectady, From what I hear they will be focusing on belgian as well as craft beer. Supporting the small business man rather than the global brewing giant will ensure small craft Belgian brewers can continue to grow without getting into bed with ABInbev.