Thursday, August 29, 2013

Carol Stoudt At The Blind Tiger

WFMU Podcast: Carol Stoudt podcast (Flash)
  Carol Stoudt podcast (non-Flash)

The Stoudt family has operated a restaurant in Adamstown, PA since before WWII. The establishment went through many changes over the years, starting as a simple roasted chicken joint and eventually becoming a fancy steak house. They've continued to build other enterprises around the restaurant, adding an antique shop, a cheese making business and an artisanal bakery. One of the most significant additions to the Stoudt empire came in 1987 when they began brewing beer.
B.R., Katherine of Blind Tiger, Carol, Susan Green.
At first, they only sold their beer at their restaurant. But it wasn't long before they got a bottling machine and began distributing around Pennsylvania and then further still. Stoudts has become known for brewing many traditional German styles, having won many awards for their Munich Style Helles. The fact that the area was largely settled by German immigrants has a lot to do with their specializing in Germanic brews.

Though Stoudt's was clearly a ahead of the curve in craft brewing, having started well before the first big microbrewery revolution, an even more groundbreaking fact is that in 1987 Carol Stoudt was one of very few female commercial brewers in North America -- probably in the entire world. And while there have been more women to follow Carol into the brewhouse and also work in a variety of jobs in the brewing industry, Carol is a true pioneer.
Cheers Jim!
On Aug. 21, Carol was on hand at the Blind Tiger along with a bunch of her fine ales and lagers, and we got to talk to her about Stoudts.

Smooth Hoperator Doppelbock
Four Play IPA.
Honey Double Maibock.
50 25 Quad.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Pivovar Kout na Šumavě

WFMU Podcast: interview in English and Czech with Kout's owner

  Kout podcast (non-Flash)
The Kout Brewery, or Pivovar Kout na Šumavě, is located in the south-western corner of the Czech Replublic, an area well known for launching the Pilsner style in 1842. The influence of the creation of Pilsner continues to drive the beer world, with Pilsner style light lagers dominating breweries the world over.
The first written record of beer being brewed by Kout was in 1736, though it's thought that the brewery originates from at least 100 years earlier. From its official founding Kout was run by the Stadion family, then in 1924 it passed to the Schönborn family. The brewery was nationalized by the communist government after WWII and was operated by Pilsner Urquell. It ceased operations in 1969, but before it closed, Kout's current owner, Mr. Jan Skala, worked summer jobs as a teenager at the brewery in 1967-68. From that point forward the brewery and the beer would be forever in his heart.
In 2002 Mr. Skala learned that the idle brewery was for sale and set out to acquire it with the intention of restoring Kout to its former glory and resurrecting its unique version of classic, traditional Czech beer. In 2006 the brewery was once again up and running! Incredibly, one of the former brewers of Kout, Mr. Bohuslav Hlavsa who was brewing there in 1969, was found and retained to bring Kout's beers back to life. After Kout closed in '69, Mr. Hlavsa continued brewing at the nearby Domazlice Brewery.
Adrian and Mr. Skala of Kout with Jimmy Carbone.
Kout strictly adheres to a traditional Czech recipe and technique from over 200 years ago. They get their brewing water from a "secret well", according to Mr. Skala, and use only Czech Pilsner malts, some specialty malts from Germany, and Czech grown Saaz hops. All the beers are double-decoction mashed, except for Kout 12° which uses triple-decoction. The beers undergo open primary fermentation -- a distinct rarity in modern brewing -- using the same yeast strain as České Budějovice (Budvar), and then are carefully lagered. The Koutská 10° blonde beer (4% ABV) is aged for about 5 weeks, while their Koutský tmavý speciál 18° (9% ABV) is aged for up to 5 months! The beers are kegged, unpasturized and unfiltered.
Mr. Jan Skala.
This summer Kout 10°, 12° and 18° are being brought into the USA for the first time on a very limited basis, available only in kegs.

Koutská 10° Pilsner (4% ABV) lagered for 5 weeksKoutská 12° Blonde lager (5% ABV) lagered for 3 months
Koutská 14° Schwartzbier  (6% ABV) lagered for 4 months
Koutský 18° Dopplebock (9% ABV) lagered for 5 months
Kout Brewery.
The 18° Spuyten Duyvil.
L-R: B.R., Paul of Ale Street News, Joe of Spuyten, Alexander of Andechs, Sebastian of Freigeist.

  Kout podcast

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Noble Experiment Owney's Rum At MBAS Meeting

What would President Herbert Hoover -- who coined the term referring to a certain contemptible constitutional amendment  -- think about Bridget Firtle naming her distillation operation "Noble Experiment"? We're not sure if making rum is particularly "noble", but it's certainly appreciated!
Bridget and Bill.
Bridget was a guest speaker at the June 2013 meeting of the Malted Barley Appreciation Society, which is a slightly funny coincidence, since she, herself, holds an MBA. Until recently, she was using her degree working as a global alcoholic beverage financial analyst for a hedge fund, researching and investing in beer, wine and spirits companies. In that capacity she was introduced to the world of craft spirits and, inspired by some of the finer artisans, she decided that it would be more satisfying to become a maker of fine spirits than simply to invest in them.

Column still on the left, pot still on the right.
Presaging her radical career swing, her childhood home in the Rockaways was also home to a basement speak easy during Prohibition. The original bar still stands to this day -- despite extensive damage to the house during hurricane Sandy! And it was in her Rockaways neighborhood where notorious bootlegger, Gopher Gang member and rum runner Owney "The Killer" Madden had an estate near the water, which facilitated his conveyance of illegal booze from ships off shore to places like the Cotton Club, which he ran during Prohibition.

A homage to Madden, Noble Experiment's first commercial offering, released at the end of 2012, is a white rum called Owney's. White rum is not aged in wood. It's the wood and wood alone that gives spirits their color, unless, of course, caramel or other coloring is added. Hers is made with all natural, non-GMO, grade-A molasses (about 70% sugar content) from Louisiana and Florida, and fermented with a propitiatory yeast strain. It undergoes a five-day cold fermentation in temperature controlled tanks, as opposed to a 48-hour, hot fermentation, which is the common method. Then the beer/wine-like liquor is distilled in a pot-column hybrid still to about 80-85% ABV before being brought down to 80 proof, or 40% ABV in the bottle.

During her talk, she explained that rum is the most loosely defined spirit. To be called rum, a distillate need only be made from the sugar cane plant. Rum made from sugar cane juice, as opposed to molasses -- a by-product of sugar refining -- is called "Rhum Agricole". The juice ferments on its own within three days, so it can't be shipped or stored, making molasses a more logical choice for making rum in New York.
Bridget has plans of aging her rum in various different barrels: new whiskey barrels, used whiskey barrels, wine barrels, different types of oak. In addition to the rum, she plans on also distilling whiskey, and already has one barrel of rye now aging in the barrel.

With Noble Experiment, and Owney's in particular, Bridget is trying to bring back good ol' American rum, which was the first spirit distilled in New York in the 1600s on what is current day Staten Island. And she's not the only one trying to revive local distilling. In 2002 -- the first time that New York State even offered a small distiller's license -- four distilleries operated in the City. Today there are at least 10 distilleries in Brooklyn alone!

  Noble Experiment non-Flash podcast

Jakob of Mikkeller, Bill and Bridget.