Beer and pretzels. Specifically, a big American stout and some hard and salty sourdough pretzels. This is my perfect food pairing. Why? Well, because I think they taste good together. It’s as simple as that. Okay, maybe it has something to do with the rock salt on the pretzels complementing the rich chocolate malt in the stout, but that’s not what I was thinking the first time I grabbed a bag of pretzels to munch on with my beer. A great deal of fuss is made over trying to pair foods with beverages, with the fine-dining world establishing stipulations about what should and should not be consumed with particular dishes. But does it really matter? For craft beer enthusiasts lately, it certainly seems important. MORE
Walt Powell’s beer cellar is a carefully crafted library of rare and curious brews.
Beer bottles of various shapes, colors and sizes line the shelves like volumes of classic novels, stacked in repetition so there’s always a copy available, and the closet is packed with cardboard boxes brimming with bottles, tucked into every available nook or cranny of the space. The arrangement appears haphazard and chaotic, but upon closer inspection, there is a method to the madness.
It’s springtime. The April rain is falling, the flowering trees are in full bloom, and the quintessential seasonal ale know as saison is hitting the shelves at the local beer store. The production and consumption of these dry and earthy beers are so intertwined with the seasons that their moniker “saison,” simply translates to “season” in French. These ales are typically refreshingly dry for daytime refreshment yet still spicy and complex enough to serve as contemplative night-time sippers. From humble beginnings, this style has become a darling of modern craft brewing. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
The story goes like this. Sometime around the year 1070, the Tuscan Countess Matilda was passing through the Belgian countryside when her wedding ring slipped off of her finger into a pond. As Matilda was praying to have her wedding ring returned, a trout surfaced in the water with her ring in its mouth. Believing this to be a miracle sent from heaven, the countess vowed to dedicate the land to her faith and establish a monastery there. Thus, the Abbey de Notre Dame d’Orval was born, the symbol of a trout with a ring in its mouth can still be seen gracing the bottles of beer that the monks have been brewing since the middle ages.
Phenotype, genotype, genetic crosses, controlled pollination. These might not be the first terms that come to mind when browsing through the beer store, but the genetic background of the hop varieties used in your favorite beers could be a useful tool when trying to pick up a six-pack for the weekend. Ever since hops were first used in beer making, brewers have been combining different varieties and exploring new ways to impart hop flavors and aromas into the finished product. To keep up with this voracious appetite for experimentation, hop farmers have put down their shovels and put on lab coats, using genetics to introduce new flavors and aromas to the brewer’s palette.
Imagine pouring a pint of your favorite craft beer.
Let’s say it’s an American IPA. The smell of Cascade hops waft upward as the evenly carbonated suds flood the glass, eventually settling with a straw-hued glow and resilient foamy head.
Now, picture the same beer, served in a plastic cup.
Not quite the same romantic experience, is it? There’s no way to evaluate the glistening golden complexion of the liquid or judge effervescence levels. The head won’t seem to coalesce and the smell of factory plastic masks the citrusy hops altogether.
The educated craft beer enthusiast will be the first to point out that like wine, beer is only as good as the vessel in which it is served. MORE
Canned beer used to be the bad beer your dad drank while he mowed the lawn. But with more craft breweries offering canned versions of their beers and breweries opening up that are 100% dedicated to canning, the craft beer industry shattered this stereotype has been. Today, it’s easy to find well-crafted, flavorful beer in cans.
Cans make sense as a beer container: they’re impenetrable to flavor-killing light, recyclable, and easier to pack into a cooler than bottles. On top of these characteristics, new advancements in can technology mean that aluminum keeps your beer fresher for longer. It all seems perfect on the surface, but there’s a controversial subtext within canned craft beer culture.
Recently, a lot of brewers have followed the same routine for new releases: Brew a big beer, throw it in a bourbon barrel for a few months, release limited quantities at a high price, and watch the beer lovers line up outside the bottle shops. At one point, this was an edgy, experimental way to alter a beer. Now with almost every major American craft brewery offering an example of this style, the true trendsetters have moved on to the next frontier in the world of spent oak: empty wine barrels. MORE
Seasonal winter beers have a long history; brewers across Europe often relied upon stronger recipes to help get through the coldest, darkest part of the year, and early American settlers continued in those traditions, which might be very broadly broken up into British Isles, Belgian, Scandinavian and central European categories.
British beers brewed for the winter season tended to be stronger than their year-round counterparts, but there was not necessarily a set ‘style’ as we divide up beers today – it might be classified as an old ale, a strong ale or something even less specific. Spices were rarely part of the equation; that was usually reserved for mulled wine, which was also traditionally served around the holidays. But even commercial Christmas beers are nothing new – British breweries had begun the practice as early as the 18th century. Eventually, some of those stronger, sweeter styles previous enjoyed anytime evolved into ‘winter’ beers, and some of the more well-known British beers we think of as Christmas beers fall into that category.