The soon to be Legend of Jeremiah Johnson

Like John Henry and Paul Bunyan, the name Jeremiah Johnson conjures up an image of a heavily muscled mountain man with a thick beard, a deep rumbling voice like rolling thunder, who may have at some time wrestled a grizzly bear or two.

But despite his prodigious amount of facial hair, Jeremiah Johnson is not a character out of American folklore, nor is he a bull frog, and I only wish he were a good friend of mine since he’s the kind of friend every craft beer lover dreams of having because his beer brings joy to you and me.

Jeremiah and his wife Katie took ownership of The Front Brewing in Great Falls, MT in 2018 and rebranded the brewery, subsequently adding to Montana folklore by giving it his name. They source the ingredients for their beer locally to ensure the freshest, most flavorful beers with that little extra something that you can only find in Montana.

Jeremiah himself has a warm personality that will make you feel like old friends as soon as you shake his hand. And it is obvious that he is very passionate about crafting the finest hand-crafted beers.

You’re probably thinking, “He sounds great, but what about the beer?”

Well, their flag ship beer Mountain Man Scotch Ale is so good, it will have you feeling the breeze between your knees and hearing the pipes on the evening breeze.

His Golden Bobcat Pale Ale, brewed to pay tribute to MSU’s (Montana State University) agricultural heritage, uses five varieties of hops and locally harvested honey to achieve a real taste of Montana.

The Citra IPA, with its grapefruit aroma, golden orange color, wonderfully hoppy taste, is everything an American style IPA should be.

Oh, and then there’s the Blond Ale, the Imperial IPA, the Honey Weizen, and, well, you get the picture. Each one is carefully crafted to be the best he can make it, and he does a fine job. A very fine job indeed.

Jeremiah also likes to experiment with different ingredients. While visiting the brewery I was lucky enough to get a little taste of an experimental beer brewed with lentils, and was really impressed. I would never have expected those tiny little beans would create such a rich flavor.

If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in Great Falls, Montana, make sure you stop by the soon to be legendary Jeremiah Johnson Brewing Company and have a pint or two. You’ll be glad you did.

And if you see Jeremiah, ask him to tell you the story about the time he took on a bear of a clog in one of the tanks. I heard it was grizzly.

Cheers!

Pairing Cheese and Beer in Montana

Imagine you are enjoying a great craft beer, and you decide you would like a little snack . What’s your go-to?

We all have our favorite snack foods for when we are enjoying a beer. Everyone knows beer goes great with pizza, nachos, potato skins, and cheese fries, but why is that?

The common element for many of our “beer snacks” would seem to be cheese. And as everyone knows, cheese, just like bacon, seems to make nearly everything better. So why not pair cheese with beer?

While in Great Falls Montana for the 2019 Beer Now Conference, Cheeses of Europe and the Montana Brewers Association teamed up to present a beer and cheese tasting, to showcase just what a great combination beer and cheese can be.

Now I am NOT a cheese expert, just a cheese enthusiast. My palate is not overly sophisticated, and in fact it could be described a simple. But I like what I like, and live by the moto: If you don’t like it, don’t eat or drink it!

I do believe in food and beer pairings, and believe that some beers definitely go better with certain foods (and some beers with nearly everything). However, I was quite disappointed once by an article that insisted that beer floats were amazing. But after a trip to the store for several different flavor ice-creams and a variety of beer and then trying the recommended combinations I decided that “beer floats” were a cruel joke and that I had been duped. For that reason, I generally approach things like this with a little skepticism.

So, when Cheeses of Europe and the Montana Brewers Association paired six different cheeses from Europe with six different hand-crafted Montana beers, I may have been a little skeptical. Fortunately the results were quite tasty.

From Left to right, Top to bottom: Triple Crème, Camembert, Emmental, Mimolette, Comtè, and Fourme d’ Ambert

First, they paired a Triple Crème with a Saison, brewed by Philipsburg Brewing, which was aged in a Chardonnay barrel. This cheese, containing over 75% butterfat blended seamlessly with the tart, tangy fruitiness of the Saison. While very good on their own, the flavors came together to create something that was even better than the sum of its parts.

Next, a Camembert produced in Normandy was paired with a Bramble Berry Sour brewed by Mighty Mo Brewing. The earthy, mushroomy flavors of the Camembert with its creamy texture, were the perfect complement to this kettle soured ale with its mix of tart sweetness and undertones of blackberry and citrus.

They then paired an Emmental cheese with a Bichon Saison brewed by Vizsla Brewing. This Emmental, made in France, was very similar to a Swiss cheese in color, texture, and even had ‘holes’. It had a faintly nutty flavor, and went well with the low hoppy profile and citrus flavor of the Bichon Saison.

The next pairing was a Mimolette cheese and Dos Goatees Doppelbock brewed by Red Lodge Ales. This cheese had a deep orange color and very firm. Now remember, I am not a cheese expert. And although I did like this cheese, it was kind of hard, and felt kind of waxy as I chewed. The Doppelbock was very good, and the flavors of the beer did seem to complement the cheese, but I didn’t feel like they blended together the way the other cheeses and beer did. The flavors didn’t build on each other or come together so much as stand side by side.

Next a French Comtè was paired with Midas Crush IPA brewed by MAP Brewing. The Comtè also had a firm texture, but softened as it was eaten, and had a  faintly nutty flavor, with a hint of fruity sweetness, which matched well with the hoppyness and notes of orange and grapefruit of the Midas Crush IPA.

Lastly, a Fourme d’ Ambert blue cheese was paired with a Big Belt Weizenbock brewed by Lewis and Clark Brewing.  Personally, I love the creamy tartness and slightly salty flavor of a blue cheese, and this one was quite good, and blended beautifully with the sweetness of the caramel flavors of the malts in this strong dark wheat ale.

I have to say this was a very informative experience, and while I have always thought beer and cheese went well together, I did gain a new perspective on the way characteristic flavors of different beer styles interact with the flavors of a variety of very flavorful cheeses.

Maybe this fall during a football game I’ll try switching out the of wings for a cheese plate. I’m thinking Bree would go nicely with a good Saison.

Cheers!

Big Sky, Big Beer, Montana Proud

Montana is known as Big Sky Country, and for good reason. There aren’t many places where the sky seems to touch the ground, stretching from horizon to horizon with no buildings or trees to obscure the view. Montana is a beautiful place, with stunning views of far reaching fields, crystal clear lakes and streams, majestic snow-capped mountains…. and great beer!

You might be surprised to learn that Montana has the second highest number of breweries per capita in the US with 9.6 breweries per 100k residence, making it second only to Vermont which has 11.7 per 100k residence. Of course, this means nothing to a craft beer lover unless there is quality to go with that quantity. But Montana has that too.

On a recent trip to Montana, I was able to visit craft breweries in Helena, Great Falls, and Kalispell, as well as sample a fair number of brews from a number of other Montana breweries, and I have to tell you- craft beer is done right in big sky country.

Unsurprisingly Pale Ales and IPAs are by far the most popular craft beers in Montana, but at the same time you would be hard pressed to find a Montana craft brewery that didn’t have at least one Scotch Ale on tap. And while their Pale Ales were as good as you could get anywhere in the country, to get a better Scotch Ale you might have to go to Scotland. Some of my favorites were the Tartanic Scottish Ale at Blackfoot River Brewing in Helena, and the Mountain Man Scotch Ale from Jeremiah Johnson Brewing in Great Falls.

Wild fermented ales, or sour beers, are also gaining in popularity in Montana. I’d say that most of the breweries had a sour ale. While in Great Falls I attended the Montana Brew Fest, where Flathead Lake Brewing had a beer they called Bearhat Sour Brown which was aged in oak barrels for 3 years and it was amazing! In Kalispell, Bias Brewing’s Boss Pog Sour featured guava, peach and passion fruit, and had a great fruity/sour flavor.

The reason for the tremendous quality and flavor of craft beers in Montana may have something to do with the quality of the water, the clean fresh air, or it might be the fact that most of their ingredients are locally sourced- such as the barley which is not only grown in Montana but malted there by the largest malting company in the USA (Malteurop). My guess is that it is more of a combination of all the above, plus a deep abiding love for craft beer.

Big Sky, Big BeerMontanan’s are proud of their craft beer, and who could blame them? There are lots of reasons for them to be proud.

Paw Paws and Craft Brewing

Did you know that the pawpaw is North America’s largest edible indigenous fruit? Did you know they were a favorite treat of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson? Do you know what a pawpaw is?

I grew up listening to my grandmother singing a song about “Pickin’ up paw-paws, put ’em in your pockets, way down yonder in the paw-patch.”

Pawpaws are closely related to apples, but look more like misshaped pears and are most commonly found along the banks of rivers. They have a creamy texture similar to custard, but most have a taste that is similar to a banana combined with mango, pineapple, with just a little melon mixed in.

The trees are tall and spindly, nearly impossible to climb without breaking, and each tree usually doesn’t produce many fruits. The Paw paw song refers to picking up pawpaws because it’s virtually impossible to tell if a paw paw is ripe or even reach them until they fall off the tree.

My wife and I would often go down to the James River in September to collect paw paws. I even have two paw paw trees growing in my front yard.

Given the fantastic growth in craft brewing, and brewer’s willingness to experiment, it was only a matter of time before this under appreciated fruit started finding it’s way into fermentors.

In 2018 Ohio held it’s 21st annual PawPaw Fest where nine paw paw flavored brews were featured from eight Ohio breweries.

In Michigan, the Paw Paw Brewing Company opened it’s doors in early 2010 in the village of Paw Paw on the banks of the Paw Paw River, and yes they brew beer with locally sourced paw paws.

In Indiana, Upland Brewing Company brews a golden sour ale with fresh local paw paw fruit from Indiana.

In Virginia, Garden Grove Brewing has a seasonal beer made with paw paws collected along the banks of the James River, and earlier this year Richmond’s Blue Bee Cidery released their Golden Pawpaw Cider with paw paws that were also collected from along local streams and the river.

Blue Bee Cidery’s Golden Pawpaw Cider

Don’t get me wrong, paw paws are not new, and were enjoyed by the early settlers in pies, beverages, and even eaten right off the tree, and of course they were enjoyed by native Americans long before settlers. But it is nice to see people rediscovering and appreciating our culinary history, and the underapreciated paw paw.

Man Law: Don’t Fruit The Beer!

A few years ago Miller Brewing did a series of tv commercials  with a group of well-known men seated around a table discussing “manly” things, and proposing “Man Laws”, usually revolving around esoteric questions and stereotypical manly behavior such as crushing cans on foreheads, whether it is ok to store anything other than beer in the garage fridge, the sin of wasting or spilling beer, how long to wait to ask a girl out that dumped your best friend, and the “you poke it you own it” rule.  

One of my favorites was the “don’t fruit the beer” law.  I had always been a fan of the Reinheitsgebot, or German Beer Purity Law, which stated there were only 4 ingredients that could be used in the production of beer: water, barley, hops and yeast. It may sound extremely restrictive, but if you consider the wide variety of types barley and the countless ways it can be kilned and roasted and combined, the huge variety of hops with their countless flavors and aromas, and all the different types of yeast and the complex characteristics they can give a beer, the possible number of combinations are mind boggling. So there is no need to “fruit the beer”. Right?

Well, as I got older, I became more willing to try beers that were outside the narrow range of what I thought a beer should be, and I changed my mind. I decided that while I wasn’t wrong, I may have been mistaken. I realized that adding fruit and other ingredients in the brewing process can do amazing things to a beer. My new philosophy became “If it tastes good, drink it!” After all, taste is the reason I love beer.

But today I have begun to think that while there shouldn’t be restrictions on beer ingredients, brewers may have started taking things too far. In fact, recently I have noticed a growing number of offerings from craft brewers that I’m not sure should qualify as beer. After all, if it looks like a fruit smoothie, smells like a fruit smoothie, and tastes like a fruit smoothie, how can it be called beer? 

What’s next? Bacon that tastes like broccoli? (shiver)

We should never be afraid to try new things, and to go in new directions, but I think it is important to remember why we love the things we love. While we look fro the next great thing, we shouldn’t forget the great things we already have.

Science confirms: Men with beer bellies attract more beautiful women and live longer (via The Laugh Bible EN)

The image of the ideal man has changed throughout history. In the Middle Ages, being “chubby” was a sign of wealth, which made “heavy” people popular back then.

Nowadays, the ideal man looks more like a painting. A lean, muscular frame with pronounced abs is what you need. But is it really true that women find super-trained men with a sixpack so attractive?

Read more: The Laugh Bible EN