Cumberland Valley Beer Trail, Pt 1 – Roy Pitz and Gearhouse

Near the end of Harrisburg Beer Week I was fortunate to find myself in Carlisle PA, at the very heart of the Cumberland Valley Beer Trail, and was able to sample and enjoy some of the best craft beer Pennsylvania as to offer.

The beer trail stretches from Chambersburg to Harrisburg and currently includes 19 breweries, a distillery and a meadery, with three more breweries, another distillery, and a winery to be added soon.

Of course you shouldn’t explore the Cumberland Valley Beer Trail without a passport. You can get a Beer Trail Passport from the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau or any of the participating beer trail locations. Each time you visit a location on the trail you can get a sticker, and depending on how many stickers you collect, you can redeem the passport for prizes such as a bottle opener, coupons, a t-shirt, and a chance to win a $50 gift card!

According to the Visitors Bureau, beer tourism is growing fast, and the beer trail is attracting craft beer lovers from all across the country.  The Bureau reports that 25% of the passports redeemed are from people who live more than 2 hours from the trail, and people from as far away as Florida, Texas, and even Oregon have redeemed passports.

104 N. 3rd St, Chambersburg, PA

The first stop on my beer trail experience was at Roy Pitz Brewing in Chambersburg, PA. They describe their craft beer as liquid art.  I sampled their Barleywine, West Coast IPA, Smoked Porter, and Sour Gose, and to be honest I don’t think they were bragging- just stating the facts.  

Not only was the beer noteworthy, they had a pretty good food menu also.  The Brew House Nachos have pulled pork, shredded Monterey jack, pico de gallo, and scallions topped with sour cream on a bed of tortilla chips.  So good! And have you ever had a cheesesteak egg roll?

The menu also included a number of burgers, sandwiches, wings, and more. And of course no pub menu would be complete without the classic fish and chips! 

The tasting room had a comfortable feel, the staff was friendly and helpful, the food was good, and the beer was awesome!

253 Grant St, Chambersburg, PA

My next stop on the Cumberland Valley Beer Trail was  at Gearhouse Brewing in Chambbersburg. This craft brewery is located just around the corner from Roy Pitz.

They had a wide variety of craft beer on tap that would please the most discerning craft beer enthusiast such as a Hefeweizen, Kölsch, amber lager, American and Irish reds, a blond ale, IPAs, and stout.

I had an Angelic Red Ale and the I’ll Be Bock amber lager.   The Angelic Red had a beautiful amber/red color, a nice roast malt aroma with a hint of lightly toasted bread and rich malty flavor. The I’ll Be Bock had a biscuity aroma with just a hint of hops, and a fresh, clean, biscuity flavor with a light caramel malt presence.  Both were delicious.

They also have an eclectic food menu with a variety of items such as poutine (fried tater tots with cheese curds, beef gravy and beer cheese), fish tacos, mac & cheese, and assorted sandwiches and sliders. 

This is a great place to stop in after a hectic day at work, or to unwind on the weekend. Fine beer and pretty good food.

Next stops, Pizza Boy and Ever Grain Breweries!

To be continued…

Big Beer vs Home Brewing?

You would think that Big Beer and homebrewers have conflicting interests. After all, if people are brewing their own beer, they are not buying it from Big Beer. Right? Well, it turns out that’s not exactly the case. The largest brewing company in the world, AB InBev, is not feeling threatened by homebrewing, it’s encouraging it!

To compete with the ever growing number of craft breweries, AB InBev created a special division that’s mission has been to acquire successful and growing craft breweries and make them part of AB InBev. It’s essentially the same strategy Darth Vader and the Emperor tried to use in Star Wars. If they could have gotten Luke to join them, they would be able to eliminate an enemy, and gain more power. Of course, this strategy didn’t quite work out for the Empire, but it seems to be working for AB InBev.

According to the American Homebrewers Association, homebrewers  produced over 1.4 million barrels of beer last year, and that number is growing fast as more and more people begin brewing their own beer.  So how can Big Beer eliminate that competition? Simple. By creating a division dedicated to acquiring the companies that supply homebrewers with what they need to brew.

By acquiring leading home brewing supply companies such as Northern Brewer, AB Inbev can actually profit from the growth in home brewing. As a result, AB InBev is happily promoting that growth.

So, is this a good thing? A bad thing? Or does it really matter? Personally, I find it a little disturbing. Short term it probably won’t make any difference, but long term?

What happens when all commercial brewing is owned by one company, and that same company supplies all the materials and equipment used by homebrewers?

 

Computers, Artificial Intelligence, and Beer?

Technology is progressing faster and faster, and computers have become a part of nearly every aspect of everyday life, but can a computer make a better beer?

Computers have quickly become an integral part of everything we do. In our cars they constantly make adjustments to the engine, warn us when we stray into the other lane, automatically stop the car to avoid a collision, and can even drive us to our destination. In our homes they can respond to voice commands, play our favorite music, and warn us about traffic conditions when we’re getting ready to go to work.

Computers have been used for years in manufacturing for years to assemble, monitor and adjust temperatures and power usage, perform quality control, and identify and correct errors.

In brewing, computers can control nearly the entire process from milling and mashing, to lautering and fermenting, and at any step of the way, the computer could make adjustments- all according to the brewers recipe.

London based brewery IntelligentX, claimed to be the first brewer to use artificial intelligence to brew a beer.  After a customer had tried an IntelligentX beer, they would then log into Facebook Messenger and give their opinions on the beer. However, instead of communicating directly to the brewery, the person providing the feedback would actually be talking to an artificial intelligence (AI) system called ABI, which would take that information, enter it into an algorithm, and then create a new recipe.

Recently Champion Brewing, in Charlottesville Virginia teamed up with a machine learning company called Metis Machine to brew what they hope will be the perfect IPA. According to Hunter Smith, the owner of Champion Brewing Co, by providing the AI developed by Metis Machine with the parameters that IPAs are judged by at the Great American Beer Festival, the metrics from the nationally 10-best-selling IPAs, and the 10 worst selling IPAs at a local retailer, the AI would come up with the recipe for the ideal IPA. The result was the ML IPA.

Carlsburg, one of the most recognized beverage brands in the world, is taking things to the next level with what they are calling their Beer Fingerprinting Project.  Carlsberg will be collaborating with Microsoft,  Aarhus University, and The Technical University of Denmark to develop an AI capable of sensing and measuring flavors and aromas in beer. The idea is that an AI with the ability to taste and smell beer will greatly enhance the process of developing new beers and also improve quality control.

According to Jochen Förster, the Director and Professor of Yeast Fermentation at Carlsberg Research Laboratory, there is currently no rapid technology that can differentiate the complex textures of flavors, but he believes the development of this technology is critical to developing beer of the highest possible quality with the added benefit of reducing the time and cost in developing new beers.

But what does this all mean? Could technology, by removing the human element in the brewing process, ultimately destroy the art and the craft of beer making? Will automation and computer analysis  reduce creativity and brewing innovation ?

Personally, I don’t think so.  Making it easier to get the results you want or reducing  human error doesn’t impede creativity. I believe we are still a long ways away from an AI saying, “Wait! What if I add (this strange ingredient) during primary fermentation?”  It still takes a human being’s imagination to create something new, and a human’s drive for something new and different.

Technology is amazing, but it’s really only as good as the people who use it.

 

Ode’ To Craft Beer

I remember my first beer. It was mid-summer and I was about 12 years old. My friend grabbed a couple of bottles of Old Milwaukee when his father wasn’t looking, and we put them in the creek to chill. When we finally drank them, I found it wasn’t as cold or as tasty as I thought it would be.

Years later when I turned 18 it was legal for me to purchase and drink beer (they hadn’t raised the drinking age for beer to 21 yet). Having very little money, I bought and drank Red White and Blue, and Black Label because they were the cheapest beer I could get. I eventually got a real job and began earning a decent wage. This enabled me to move up to Miller Lite and Coors.  At the time I was pretty happy.

Then sometime in my late 20’s I was sitting in a bar and a friend pushes a pint of what looked like coffee to me and says “Try this.”

Despite serious reservations I did try it, and something called Guinness changed what I thought of as beer forever.

This beer had flavor- not taste, but flavor! And the aroma!  It was like nothing I had ever had. It made me wonder, what else I had been missing, and I began to look a little more closely at the taps behind the bar. I tried Killian’s, Yuengling, and a few others, and discovered a world of flavor I hadn’t known existed. I tried to drink Miller and Budweiser again, but couldn’t. I branched out into imports like Becks, Heineken, Harps, Stella, New Castle, and more!  I had been living in darkness and had finally come into the light! There was color and texture in the world I had not known existed.

And then the craft beer revolution happened, and my head nearly exploded.

Sierra Nevada, Lagunitas, Goose Island, Dogfish Head, Brooklyn Brewery, New Belgium, Deschutes, Stone, Loose Cannon, Steamship, Hardywood Park and, and so many more! Small mom and pop craft breweries opening everywhere. Microbreweries, Nano breweries, new flavors, new aromas, new styles, and even experimental beers like Oreo Cookie, peach cobbler, fried chicken, key lime pie, and bacon!  If it can be imagined, for good or bad, a craft brewer will probably try and brew it.

Craft beer represents limitless creativity, imagination, and so many choices. Craft brewers are rediscovering hundreds, and sometimes even thousands of years of brewing tradition. Alewerks Brewing in Colonial Williamsburg teamed up with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to recreate 3 colonial beers from the 1700’s. Off Color Brewing in Chicago, working with the Field Museum of Natural History recreated beers of the Wari Empire in Peru from the 11th century.  Great Lakes Brewing Company in Ohio revived a   5,000-year-old Sumerian beer recipe!

Today, everywhere I go, when I’m asked what I would like to drink, I always ask, “What do you have that’s local?”.

I’m always looking for the best beer I’ve never had.

Beer Without Hops?

Charles Denby went to UC Berkeley to work with Jay Keasling, a pioneer in the field of synthetic biology and a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering, to work on developing sustainable transportation fuels . Dr Keasling  developed a process to make microbes, primarily bacteria and yeast, increase their production of complex molecules called terpenes. These terpenes could then be used as commercial products such as the antimalarial drug artemisinin, fuels such as butanol, as well as aromas and flavors used in the cosmetic industry.

But one day Dr Denby, who also happens to be a home brewer, had a thought. The molecules that give hops their hoppy flavor are in fact terpene molecules. If they could create bacteria and yeasts to produce terpenes for flavors and aromas in cosmetics, why not create a yeast that would produce the flavor and aroma of hops in beer?

Dr. Denby and his colleagues spliced DNA from basil and mint, two plants that naturally produce the hop-flavored terpenes, into brewer’s yeast. The intent was to create a yeast that would produce terpenes which would recreate the flavor and aroma of Cascade hops (one of the most popular hops among craft brewers) in a beer without using any actual hops.

The result? In a blind taste test between the yeast-only brews and traditional craft beers made with hops, 40 participants ranked the hop-free beers as actually “hoppier” than the conventionally dry-hopped beers.

But why make a yeast to do what hops can already do?

Hops are one of beer’s four essential ingredients (hops, water, yeast and barley), and there are a lot of varieties, each with its own unique flavor and characteristics.

However hops are expensive. They are a resource-intensive crop, requiring large amounts of water, and the characteristics of a particular hop can change from year to year based on rainfall, heat, and the amount of sunlight.  Even the same variety can have different characteristics when grown in different places.

By replacing the need for hops with a brewer’s yeast which can produce the same flavors and aromas, brewers can get more consistent results and a uniformity of flavor than they can’t get using actual hops- and without the added cost of the hops.

Of course there is some concern that consumers, who are already wary of genetically modified foods, might be a little weary of a bioengineered beer. However, Dr Denby points out that in most brewing processes, yeast is pasteurized and processed out of the beer, so the beer wouldn’t actually have any genetically modified material in it.

For good or bad, one day soon, your favorite IPA could be hop-free.

Raise Your Glass Around the World

An anonymous Egyptian from 2200 BC said “The mouth of a perfectly happy man is filled with beer.” Apparently not only were the Egyptians incredible engineers and builders, but also great philosophers.

Every country in the world has some sort of traditional drinking toast. They are usually just one or two words, but sometimes they take the form of short speeches, or prayers. One of my favorites is often credited to the Irish.

“May those that love us, love us. And for those who don’t may God turn their hearts. And if He can’t turn their hearts may he turn their ankles so we’ll know them by their limp!”

With few exceptions toasts should be brief, especially if a meal is being served. There’s nothing worse than listening to some someone drone on while your food is getting cold.

Most cultures have just one or two standard toasts, usually wishing others good health, or more drink. However, where the English toast “Bottoms up!” might refer to the bottom of the glass, the Hawaiian toast “Okole Maluna” literally means “buttocks up”.

Here is a list of multi-national toasts to impress your friends or use as a sign of respect to someone from another country. This is just a sampling of simple drinking toasts from around the world and is in no way meant to be definitive.

Armenian- “Genatzt” (Jen’ at set)

Chinese- “Gan Bei”

Czech- “Na Zdravi” (Naz dravyeh)

Danish- “Skål” (Skol)

Dutch- “Proost”

Estonian- “Tervist”

Finnish- “Kippis”

French- “Sante”

German- “Prosit”

Hebrew- “Le Chaim”

Hungarian- “Egeszsegedre” (Eggaysh egguhdre)

Irish- “Slainte”

Italian- “Salute” (formal) or

Italian- “Cin Cin” (informal)

Japanese- “Banzai” (long life) or

Japanese- “Kanpai” (dry glass!)

Korean- “Konbe”

Lithuanian- “I Sveikata” (Ee, say katta)

Pakistani- “Sanda Bashi”

Polish- “Vivat”

Portuguese- “Saúde”

Romanian- “Noroc”

Romany/Gypsy- “Bahkt Tu Kel”

Russian- “Za Vashe Zdorovye” (Vashez darovya)

Spanish- “Salud”

Ukranian- “Bud Mo”

Welsh-” Lechyd Da” (Yakee da)

Zulu- “Oogy Wawa”

No matter how you say it, the sentiment is nearly always the same. May you always have good health, and may your cup never run dry. Cheers!