Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Murray's Cheese & Beer Pairing At Brooklyn Brewery

[link to podcast page]
WFMU's Beer Hear! with Bob W. and B.R. from 9/26/2012

On Wednesday Aug. 29, 2012, Aaron Foster, one of the buyers of Murray's Cheese, was the guest speaker at Brooklyn Brewery's Legion of Osiris.

Aaron, who is also the beer buyer at Murray's, brought four cheeses to match up with four Brooklyn beers for the 50-or-so attendees.
1. Rainbeau Ridge Meridian goat cheese with Sorachi Ace

2. Ossau-Iraty Vieille with Brooklyn Brown Ale

3. Appenzeller with Local 2 (bottled)

4. Cabot Clothbound Cheddar, cave-aged by Jasper Hill with Brooklyn Blast

Hear how the beers matched up with the cheeses in this week's podcast. Warning: the main podcast is almost an hour long! You can also check out a 15 minute bonus podcast in which Aaron explains the basics about how cheese is made.

Aaron of Murray's.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Ambitious Brew Book

Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer was written by Maureen Ogle, and published by Orlando - Harcourt in 2006. It's a history of brewing, breweries and beer in America, focusing mainly on the period of 1840 to prohibition. There's very little information prior to the 1800s. There is a reasonable amount of writing, though, concerning the post-Prohibition period up to the craft beer revolution of the late 1980s/early 90s.

The book focuses mainly on the major German-heritage brewers in Milwaukee and St-Louis: Best (which became Pabst), Anhauser-Bush, Schlitz, and Miller. Not much is written about Schaefer, Rupert, Ehret and other East Coast brewing giants (and no mention of Frank Jones, a US Congressman brewer from New Hampshire from the 1800s!). But, honestly, there's plenty of interesting history on the Mid-West brewers to make a good read.
By the by -- why so little info on beer prior to the first American beer revolution of the mid-1800s? Probably because Americans were drinking rum, whiskey, and hard cider much more than beer during that period.

The book zeroes in on the transition from the muddy, rustic frontier ales and English imports of porter to the dark, rich, malty German lagers, introduced by a flood of German immigrants to the U.S. in the mid- and late-1800s. Though not quite brilliant pale pilsners at that point, those hefty lagers were much cleaner and consistent than the beer that preceded them in the saloon.

Ogle also paints the scene of first generation German/European immigrants trying to re-create the European tradition for enjoying beer -- a very social setting, with the whole family in tow, in a wholesome, airy, sunny garden-park. Drinking beer wasn't about getting wasted -- it was about sipping a clean, full-bodied lager in a biergarten, with beautifully manicured grounds, on a slow, relaxing Sunday afternoon. The low-alcohol drink was more a meal than a means of intoxication.

The history slides from dark German lagers toward the pale, crisp, lighter bodied Bohemian Pilsner style beers that followed, which were inspired by Czech beers from Pilzn and Budvar, that became all the rage at the end of the 1800s. There's also much explained about the struggles German-American brewers experienced with the negative association of Deutschland at the onset of WWI, and how prohibitionists used that to further their cause.

The book tracks the American transition from substantial German lagers to paler Pilsners to what currently passes as "American beer" by tracing brewing trends and public demands over the decades. There are a lot of surprising facts -- for example, when Anhauser-Bush started using rice in the late 1800s, it was actually more complicated and more expensive than if they were to use 100% barley malt. Apparently, rice was not used then to cut costs, but to achieve a paler, lighter body.

Ambitious Brew is a fantastic resource for getting a basic understanding of how early German-Amercian brewers shaped beer and brewing in America. There's also some intriguing insight into the topic of Prohibition -- how it came to pass, how the brewing industry (barely) survived it, its repeal, and the post-Prohibition period.

This book is a very easy and fast read for anyone with an interest in brewing history. It's a must-read for beer geeks and fans American history. In addition to the obvious brewing history knowledge laid out in the text, much is revealed about general American culture, politics and power, as viewed through the history of one of the largest, most influential and ubiquitous industries in the nation.

A copy of Ambitious Brew is available for borrowing from the New York Public Library. Both new and used copies can also be found at various on-line book sellers.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Beer For Post-Armageddon

This week NPR reports on a 1957 US government study on whether or not beer could survive a thermonuclear attack. Is beer that has been exposed to such radiation safe to drink? You just survived an atomic bomb -- just drink a beer, already!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Churchkey Can Co. Pilsner

BR says:  During a recent visit to The Cannibal, I came across a unique can of beer. Being somewhat of a sucker for cool packaging, I had to pick up a can of Churchkey Pilsner. And by can, I mean an old-school, steel can with no newfangled pull-tab. Everyone has an old can opener at the bottom of the silverware drawer but how often do you get to use it?
We took the can over to Proletariat to share with a Bartender Cory who looked bemused until we showed him the churchkey opener we had dug out to get at the suds. For something that screams "gimmick", albeit a gimmick in a really cool package with a retro design, we were surprised by the quality of this full-bodied American Pilsner style beer. It's from a new brewing company from Seattle, Wa.,  Churchkey Can Co., which contracts with Two Beers Brewery to produce a delicious, malty Pilsner.

Aside from initial foaming when opened, the beer poured a hazy dark gold and looked to be unfiltered. It had a malty aroma with some hop presence and a surprisingly full-bodied flavor -- much bigger than a traditional pils -- with solid hop bitterness in the finish. There was a bit of graininess in the finish and didn't have a clean pilsner profile but we've definitely had worse.

And Bob did a little research because BR has some terrible gaps in pop culture knowledge and the comment "isn't the guy from Entourage involved?" drew a blank stare from her:  From the company's website, "Co-founded by Portland-native Justin Hawkins [Wieden+Kennedy/Nike designer] and actor Adrian Grenier [from Entourage], Churchkey Can Co. began as the desire to someday experience a great beer in a simple can as the generations before had. Quickly realizing the flat top can was all but a memory, Hawkins and Grenier set the wheels in motion to found Churchkey Can Co."

"Our home brewers Lucas Jones & Sean Burke are the creators of the Churchkey Can co. Pilsner Recipe. They have been crafting home brewed beer in their garages for many years. They share these brews with their friends at backyard BBQs and over the holidays as gifts. They love this hobby and are passionate about their beer and the community they cultivate with it. We are very excited to have these two All-American guys create the recipe for the Churchkey Pilsner. We hope that you enjoy it as much as we do."


Monday, September 3, 2012

508 GastroBrewery

[link to podcast page]
WFMU's Beer Hear! with Bob W. and B.R. from 9/3/2012

Tucked away in a variously named corner of lower Manhattan's west side (Hudson Square, West Soho, South Village, Printing District, etc.), 508 GastroBrewery is one of the new establishments helping to turn this once dirty, abandoned, neglected zone into a destination to visit and anchored neighborhood in which to live.
This is an exceptional gueuze.
An interesting side-note about the building housing the bistro -- it was once the home to Jonathan Larson, the composer of the music of the musical "RENT", when he was working on the play. According to Anderson, it also once housed a brewery, long, long ago.
Brewer Anderson and B.R.
This was our first visit to 508 and, while we heard good things, we weren't sure what to expect of the beers. The beer of the last brewpub in that neighborhood -- Nacho Mama's -- was, at it's best, "drinkable" (we never got a chance to visit its predecessor Manhattan Brewing, a tip of the hat to Garrett). We hoped for the best, and braced for the worst.

As I waited at the bar for Anderson to be available (he was cleaning up after a brewing session) and for B.R. to arrive, I ordered the Belgian Farmhouse Saison (5.4%) and 1/2 a dozen Rappahannock oysters from Virginia. The glass arrived filled with a dark gold, brassy colored beer topped by a full, white, lacy head. A sniff revealed a hint of yeastiness and a bit of a grainy note. A sip -- slightly sweet, very malty, a bit tangy, full body and just the right amount of bitterness to compliment the rich, malty core. Not a delicate saison, for sure -- it's one sturdy farmhouse ale! Oh -- and the $1 oysters were magnificent! Briney, plump and satisfying.
6 on tap, 9 in the bottle, all brewed on premises.
B.R. arrived and tried the Lil' Bitter Session IPA, which we believe is not on regular rotation -- it's a specialty brew. At 4.4% abv it appears to be the most sessionable beer in the stable. It's nice and malty with an assertive, but not over-the-top, hop profile. We also saw a gueuze in bottles on the menu and, though having very low expectations, we had to give it a try. What poured out was probably the best American made gueuze that either of us had ever had! It was perfectly sour, tart, effervescent, refreshing. Where we expected to find unpleasant funk and off flavors we found brilliance. The 1/2 liter bottle was $13 -- and worth every penny!
Antique bottle on display.
When Anderson joined us, he had the Cluster Common, a California Common style beer, with Cluster hops. Anderson has a running series of single hopped versions of his Common beer. Using the same recipe for each batch and alternating only the hops, each batch is brewed with just one variety of hops. He's done single-hop Commons with: Cluster, Galaxy, Simco, Motueka, Cascade and Citra.

The podcast is an interview with Anderson, and it provides a lot of information on the brewpub's history, philosophy and operation, but it's worth noting a few key points here. Anderson started as a homebrewer. He wanted to study brewing in college, but there was no pure brewing course of study at the time in Brazil (Anderson was born and raised in São Paulo). Eventually, after discovering homebrewing while a chef in the restaurant that he and his wife Jennifer owned and operated, he ended up studying brewing at Siebel Institute and continued his research and studies at home. Anderson designed and built -- from scratch -- his first and second brewhouses.

His one-barrel (!) system was built with three 300-liter (80 gallon) stainless steel wine fermenters, with professional custom fittings, utilizing an electric HERMS system (Heat Exchange Recirculating Mash System, the same concept as Bitter & Esters). He ferments in 60-gallon food-grade cylindrical-conical vessels and then kegs the beer in 5-gallon soda kegs, and bottles in 1/2-liter bottles. A usual brew day consists of 2 brewing sessions to fill one fermenter.

Anderson and Jennifer plan to open another brewpub in Brooklyn very soon, this one with an even greater focus on the beer, with serving tanks and a very beer-friendly menu.

Bottle and keg fridge.
Miscellaneous hoses and brewing implements.
Misc. brewing supplies.

The grains.
Grain mills.
Controllers for kettles.
Mash tun false bottom.
Sparging arm of mash tun.
The 1-barrel system only looks small because Anderson is 8 ft tall!
Tanks made from 300l wine fermenters.
Boil kettle.
L-R: mash tun, hot liquor tank, boiling kettle.
This chiller is used to feed the ice cold water to the counter-flow plate chiller.
Kettles for brewing yeast starters.
A new batch of yeast.
Yeast strains.
Climate control for the fermentation room.
60 gallon cylindrical-conical fermenters.
Plate filter.
Bottle filler.
Bottle capper.
Keg stash.

View from the back of the bar/bistro.