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!

Domestic vs Craft and Specialty Beer

You ever notice that beer menus in restaurants and bars are usually divided into 3 categories: Domestic, Craft, and Imports? Yes? Then have you ever thought about the fact that all the “Domestic” beers are actually owned by foreign companies, and that the only actual domestic beers (beers brewed by American companies) are labeled as Craft or Specialty?

Maybe you think that it really doesn’t make a difference. If it is brewed right here in the USA, then it’s a domestic beer. If you believe that then  I have another question for you.  Toyota builds their cars here in the USA because it’s cheaper than building them somewhere else then ship them here.  Since they are built here in the USA by American workers, would you consider Toyota an American product?  Is it a domestic vehicle?

“Domestic” brands such as Budweiser, Bud Light, Bud Ice, Bud Light Lime, Busch, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Landshark Lager, Goose Island, 10 Barrel, Blue Point, Elysian, Redbridge, Natural Light, Shock Top, Wild Blue, Johnny Appleseed Hard Cider, and others are owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev- a Belgian company.

“Domestic” beers like Coors Banquet, Coors Light, Extra Gold Lager, Icehouse, Keystone, Killian’s Irish Red, Miller Genuine Draft, Miller High Life, Miller Lite, Miller 64, Milwaukee’s Best, Steel Reserve, Blue Moon, Leinenkugel’s, Redd’s Apple Ale, Crispin, Smith & Forge, and others, are brewed by MillerCoors which was a joint venture between SABMiller (Owned by South African Breweries) and Molson Coors (a Canadian company) until they were bought by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2016.

So I ask the question again. If Toyota is considered to be a foreign brand, despite being manufactured in America, then why are Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob, Landshark, Goose Island, Blue Moon, Coors, Miller, Milwaukee’s Best, Icehouse, and the others considered domestic?

Why are all the American owned beers considered “Specialty”?  When did something made in America by American companies stop becoming domestic?

I see men, but where are the women?

Women drink beer. This shouldn’t surprise you since there’s a pretty good chance you know a woman, or even several, who drink beer, or you are a beer-drinking woman yourself. Women also brew, package, sell and market beer. This shouldn’t be news to anyone who has been on a brewery tour, attended a beer festival, or have heard of beer industry big names like Irene Firmat- founder of Full Sail Brewing, Kim Jordan- co-founder of New Belgium Brewing, or even craft beer pioneer Carol Stoudt- founder of Stoudt Brewing.

While women brewers are becoming more and more common in the modern craft brewing movement, there are still relatively few. Historically, brewing was done by women. Yet today brewing is seen mostly as the domain of young bearded men.

Beer is genderless and there is nothing strange about a woman drinking a beer. However, there is a significant difference in the number women and men who prefer beer or brew beer. Based on combined data from Gallup polls conducted from 2010 through 2016 about 54% of men preferred beer as opposed to 23% of women.  50% of women preferred wine where only 18% of men.

So why do more than twice as many men prefer beer than women? And why do nearly 3 time more women prefer wine than men?  I believe that the answer may be a combination of marketing, and stereo typing.

There has been a lot of criticism recently directed at the way beer is marketed and labeled. TV commercials and print adds usually depict men enjoying a beer, and when women appear in beer commercials or adds they are usually scantily clad women and serving beer to men.

Additionally, beer labels and beer names are often offensive to women and degrade women by objectifying them or playing on negative stereo types. Here are some examples of beer names: Leg-Spreader brewed by Route 2 Brews, Hoppy Bitch brewed by Northwest Brewing, Bitch Slap brewed by Pig Minds Brewing Co, Panty Peeler brewed by Midnight Sun Brewing, Thong Remover brewed by Village Idiot Brewing,  Naughty Girl brewed by Right Brain Brewery, Double D brewed by Dominion Brewing, Bare Ass Blonde brewed by DuClaw Brewing, and Tramp Stamp brewed by Clown Shoes Beer. The pictures that accompany these beer names depict women as promiscuous, scantily clad, or just plain crazy.

These types of beer names and depictions might very well be part of the reason some women prefer not to drink beer. Imagine if the tables were turned. Sound silly or over sensitive? Would your average guy reach for a beer called Woody Ale with a picture of a guy with his legs wrapped around a tree on the label? I can tell you that I personally wouldn’t be too excited to put my lips on a bottle depicting a guy dry humping a tree.

Of course, on television and in movies women are nearly always drinking wine while the men around them are drinking beer, reinforcing the stereotype that women drink wine and men drink beer. Have you ever watched Cougar Town, Sex and the City, or even The Big Bang Theory?

If women are being discouraged from drinking beer through advertising, beer names, beer labels, television shows, and movies, is it any wonder that not only do fewer women drink beer and even fewer women decide to go into brewing?

Women may not be intentionally discouraged from drinking and brewing beer, but the results are the same. About 77% of women prefer to drink something other than beer, and as a result would not likely consider a career in brewing. That is a lot of potential customers and a lot of potential brewers.

Perhaps before we name our beer and print the label, we should ask ourselves if we would feel comfortable serving it to our mothers or daughters.  I know I would be a little embarrassed to serve my mother Leg-Spreader, no matter how good the beer.

Self Serve Beer Taps?

So you’re in a brewery with some friends having a good time when you realize your glass is inexplicably empty. What do you do? There is nothing more frustrating than waiting to order another beer. You get the server’s attention and order another draft, but the server has to order it from the bartender. The bar could have 4 taps or 20 taps, it doesn’t matter.  If there is only one bartender, your beer will have to wait to be poured, then wait again for the server to pick up your beer to bring it to you. What if you could just walk over to the taps and pour yourself another beer? In your dreams, right? Well, not any more.

Not only is this real, but Ono Brewing in Chantilly, VA has self serve beer taps ready and waiting for you!

You’re probably wondering how that would work, so let me explain.  You walk into Ono Brewing and see a host or hostess and either start a tab with your credit card or load a card with any cash amount. You are now set. Walk over to the wall of beer, pick the beer of your choice, tap your card on the tap and fill your glass.

Don’t want a full glass? No problem. Get just a taste or a half glass. You only pay for what you pour. It’s that simple.

Ono Brewing is using a system designed by PourMyBeer, which is currently being used in over 200 establishments (including a beer wall in Chicago’s O’Hare airport) in 28 states and parts of Canada.

So raise a pint and make a toast.  To craft beer, and not having to wait to be served!

What a glorious age we live in.