Strange Brew

With the craft beer boom of recent years, many brewers have begun pushing the boundary of beer styles, creativity, and taste. Brewers have started experimenting with ingredients that you would not normally consider when brewing beer.

We all know the different kinds of beer, or at least the majority.  First there are only two types of beer: Ales and lagers. Ales are fermented with top fermenting yeasts which work best at what most would consider room temperature, and lagers are fermented with bottom fermenting yeasts at cooler temperatures.

Within those 2 types are many different styles of beer. Within ales there are blonds, pale ales, IPAs, ambers, browns, porters, and stouts, and more.  Within lagers there are of course lagers and pilsners, bocks, dunkels, marzens, and others. And within these styles there are even more styles. For instance stouts can be Imperial, milk, chocolate, Irish, and coffee. You can also bend elements of different styles to make even more styles of beers.

And then there are the really creative beers. Ones that can make you scratch your head and say, “Hmmm.” Here is a short list of some experimental beers from across the country. Most are not currently in production, but some are still available.

Catawaba Brewing in Asheville North Carolina brewed a beer they call Peanut Butter Jelly Time, which is apparently brewed with raspberries and aged with peanuts.

The Veil Brewing in Richmond Virginia released an Oreo cookie chocolate milk stout, which is conditioned with real Oreo cookies. Many described it as tasting like Oreos dipped in melted chocolate- and no one is saying that’s a bad thing.

Herbert B Friendly Brewing in Renton Washington brewed a Nutella Stout. It had a complex, slightly sweet taste with the flavor of chocolate, a bit of coffee, peanut butter, and hazelnuts.

Coney Island Brewing in New York brewed a Cotton Candy Kölsch. It’s a light golden beer with a pink tinge, a fruit-forward strawberry and floral aroma, and a caramel malt and strawberry flavor.  The taste is remarkably similar to cotton candy.

Hardywood Park Brewing in Richmond Virginia has a Peach Cobbler Ale that smells like you have your nose in a desert dish. The aroma takes me back to Sunday dinner at my grandparents’ house and the fresh hot cobbler we would sometimes have after dinner in the summer. The taste is only slightly sweet, with a nice roasted caramel flavor with a light taste peach and a medium hoppiness.

Wynkoop Brewing in Denver Colorado brewed Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout. Now I know what some of you are thinking. What’s strange about that? Oyster stouts are great. Right? Well rocky mountain oysters are not the type of oysters you get in a seafood restaurant. This beer is brewed with roasted barley, seven specialty grains, “steerian” golding hops, and roasted bull testicles. And how does it taste? I don’t know. I will never know.

Brooklyn Brewery in Brooklyn New York brewed bacon beer. It’s a brown ale infused with bacon fat and aged in bourbon barrels. That’s right. Bourbon, bacon, and beer. Sounds like the makings of a perfect Saturday night.

Shorts Brewing in Bellaire Michigan brewed Key Lime Pie beer. It’s made with fresh limes, milk sugar, graham crackers, and marshmallow fluff. Sounds good? Well, it is. This beer’s sweet-meets-tart flavor won a gold medal at the Great American Beer Festival in 2010.

3 Sheeps Brewing in Sheboygan Wisconsin has brewed Squid Ink beer. It’s an IPA made with squid ink imported from Italy. It had an almost black color with a purplish grey head and a mild citrusy aroma.

Clipper City Brewing and Heavy Seas

The Clipper City Brewing Company was founded by pioneer Hugh Sisson, with the intention of restoring a rich brewing tradition to the entire Baltimore area.  While focusing on classic beer styles made with fresh ingredients and high standards, Clipper City became the largest brewing company in Baltimore, giving the entire Bay area residents reason to celebrate.

According to their web site, Hugh’s family owned a tavern called Sisson’s, and in 1980 Hugh went to work there with the intention of help out for a short while. However, on very his first day his father tossed him the keys to the pub and said “OK, don’t f*** up!” and promptly walked out the door.

In 1987, Hugh and many others lobbied the Maryland General Assembly to pass legislation to make brew pubs legal in the state. When they succeeded, Hugh promptly converted the family tavern into a brewpub, making Sisson’s Maryland’s first pub brewery to operate since Prohibition. He finally left in 1994 to found Clipper City Brewing.

For a time, Clipper City Brewing marketed and distributed their beer under the name Heavy Seas. However in 2010 Clipper City was absorbed into the Heavy Seas brand and became no more.

The Heavy Seas Brewing Company produces a number of regular year-round offerings such as: Loose Cannon Hop³ IPA, Double Cannon Double IPA, TropiCannon Citrus IPA, Peg Leg Imperial Stout, Cutlass Vienna-style Lager, and Powder Monkey Pale Ale.

They also have an extensive line of limited release beers such as The Alpha Effect Hazy IPA, Smooth Sail Summer Ale, Treasure Fest Oktoberfest Lager, Winter Storm Imperial ESB, Siren Noire Imperial Chocolate Stout aged in bourbon barrels, and Blackbeard’s Breakfast Imperial Coffee Porter aged in bourbon barrels (just to name a few).

For many years, Clipper City was the dominant brewing company in the entire Baltimore area.  Now as Heavy Seas they are continuing to set standards for what a craft beer should be.

Alaskan Brewing

The Alaskan Brewing Company is the oldest operating brewery in Alaska and they brew a wide variety of year-round, seasonal, and limited-edition beers, with their amber beer being their most popular.  If you’ve never had one and you enjoy a good amber beer, Alaskan Amber will not dissapoint.

As you can probably guess, brewing beer in Alaska is not an easy thing to do.  The coastal community of Juneau where the brewery is located doesn’t have road connections to the lower 48 states. This means everything arrives and leaves by water or air, assuming the weather permits.

There are some benefits to brewing in Juneau AK. Arguably the most important ingredient in brewing an exceptional beer is the water, and Alaska has just that. The 1,500 square mile Juneau Icefield supplies the brewery with a truly remarkable source of water.

In 1986 the Alaskan Brewing Company became the 67th brewery to operate in the United States, and the only one operating in Alaska.  Since then, Alaskan Brewing has received more than 49 medals and awards at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, most recently winning gold in 2017 for their Heritage Coffee Brown Ale.

Over the years the popularity of their beer has made it difficult at times to keep up with the demand from consumers, and has required increases production and most importantly efficiency. They hold the unofficial record for the production on a 10-barrel brewing system, which produces an amazing 42 batches a week. Unfortunately these award winning beers are currently  only distributed and available in about 20 states.

Here are just a few of the Alaskan Brewery’s most popular beers:

  • Amber – This is the company’s flagship beer and is based on a turn of the century recipe that was used during the Gold Rush era.  It provides a smooth, malty, rich taste that goes well with meals – or friends.
  • Big Mountain Pale Ale – This beer is fresh, crisp, and inviting.  The aroma of Asian pear, citrus and pine are beautifully balanced by the complex combination of biscuit, toasted pine nuts, and caramel flavors from the malt.
  • Freeride APA- If you like hops, the combination of cascade, Citra and Centennial hops in this beer will amaze your nose while providing a wonderful crispness to both the flavor and the finish.  This beer is great with spicy food, wild game, and other wintery food.
  • Smoked Porter – This very exclusive Alaskan porter has a world class reputation for excellence.  Brewed in the fall with malt that has been smoked using alder wood, this beer has a unique flavor that is anything but ordinary.
  • Winter Ale – This amazing brew uses the tender new growth from the tips of Sitka spruce trees to give this beer a subtly sweet floral flavor. The practice of using spruce tips in brewing has been used in Alaska since the late 1700s.

Beer Festivals Around the World in 2018

If you like to travel there are great places to visit all over the world with unique cultures and customs. There are often things to be seen and experienced in these places that can be found nowhere else. Experiencing local culture can broaden your horizons, open your mind to new possibilities and give you deeper understanding of yourself and your place in the world. And what better way is there than to experience a culture than during a craft beer festival.

If you’re planning to travel this year but haven’t decided where to go, I have some suggestions.

The Great Australian Beer SpecTAPular, Sydney, Australia (June 2, 2018)

Created in 2011, the Great Australian Beers SpecTAPular (GABS) is held in cities across Australia, but the festival in Sydney stands out. It features hundreds of beers and ciders from the best Australian and New Zealand craft breweries and cider producers, including nearly 180 beers and ciders made just for this event. There will be a wide variety of exceptional local foods, interactive exhibitions, food and drink educational seminars, along with exciting entertainment and activities.

With so many of Australia’s finest craft breweries releasing a brand-new beer on the same day and in the same place, this should definitely be on your must-do list.

North Sea Beer Festival, Oostende, Belgium (August 24-26, 2018)

Belgium is known for good beer. And while you may normally think of Brussels when you think of Belgian beer, the North Sea Beer Festival in Oostende Belgium is the place to sample the finest beers in Belgium. This festival takes place the last weekend in August from the 24th to the 26th and features the best of Belgian beer.

There will be over 200 different beers from more than 30 breweries, as well as a wide variety of local foods to sample. The event will take place in Leopold Park, in the heart of Oostende. If you enjoy a good Belgian style beer, this is a festival you won’t want to miss.

Edinburgh Craft Beer Festival, Edinburgh, Scotland (May 25-27, 2018)

The Edinburgh Craft Beer Festival is no ordinary beer festival, it is an international event featuring both world class Scottish and international beers poured by a crew of brewers who take great pride in their work. In addition to these finely crafted brews there will be an array of Edinburgh’s finest street food vendors and an incredible set of headline DJ acts.

This year’s Edinburgh Craft Beer Festival will be held at The Biscuit Factory in Edinburgh, so if you are t planning to visit Edinburgh, and you love craft beer, good food, and live music, you’re going to want to make sure you’ve got tickets for this event well in advance, because it will sell out.

Vancouver Craft Beer Week, Vancouver, Canada (May 25, thru June 3, 2018)

Established in 2010, Vancouver Craft Beer Week has grown to a week-long beer extravaganza of events that pair beers with delicious food and great music, competitions and awards celebrations, as well as showcasing rare brews and interesting imports.

The festival culminates at the fairgrounds in the Pacific National Exhibition where beer enthusiasts can sample 400 beers from over 100 breweries and enjoy timbersports (a modern version of a lumberjack challenge and with power tools and logs). The festival also includes art installations, food trucks, market stalls, brewing demonstrations, and a games area with pinball and foosball.

Irish Craft Beer Festival, Dublin, Ireland (September 6-7, 2018)

Ireland’s largest and best craft beer festival takes place Sep 6-7 this year and you won’t want to miss it. The Irish Craft Beer Festival will be held just outside of Dublin and is expected to include over 40 brewers with over 200 different Irish beers, and  a wide variety of local food venders.

You think Disney World is the happiest place on earth? This beer festival in Dublin will change your mind!

Great Japan Beer Festival, Yokohama 15th – 17th September 2018 in  Osanbashi Hall at Yokohama Port

Japan may be known for sake, but things are changing. Started in 2006, the Great Japan Beer Festival in Yokohama Japan is expecting over 9,500 participants this year. Craft beer has taken Japan by storm as craft breweries spread across the country, and this event will highlight some of the best craft beers in japan, as well as some of the finest beers from around the world.

This indoor festival consists of three sessions of three and a half hours each over a two day period, and is an all-you-care-to-drink event. Whether you are new to craft beer, or a veteran, this event is a great way to be introduced to some of the best beers of Japan.

The Great American Beer Festival, Denver, CO, USA (20-22 September, 2018)

The Great American Beer Festival is a three-day event started in 1982 and has grown bigger with each passing year. The event takes place at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver CO, and with over 800 breweries in attendance and 3,800 beers to sample, this event boasts the largest amount of beer served in a public tasting event.

The Great American Beer Festival is the largest beer festivals in America, and according to the Guinness Book of World Records there is no place on earth that has more beer on tap. Brewers from all over the country come together here to compete against each other, and to show off their finest brews. The beer is arranged geographically in the festival hall by region.

Oktoberfest, Munich, Germany (September 22, thru October 7, 2018)

Octoberfest is known world wide as the finical of beer festivals, and there is no better place than Munich to celebrate.  Six Munich breweries anticipate that over 6 million liters of beer will be consumed during this festival.

Beer and food will be sold in the tents around Munich from 10 am to 10:30 pm on weekdays and from 9 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Most companies hand out beer tokens to their guests, which can then be exchanged for beer in the respective tents, but tokens can also be purchased.

Every beer lover owes it to themselves to make the pilgrimage least once in their life to experience October Fest in Germany. And there is no better place in Germany to do that than Munich.





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.

Barleywine Fest at Mad Fox Brewing

This past weekend, Feb 24th and 25th, Mad Fox hosted its 8th Annual Barleywine Fest at their brewery in Falls Church, VA.  There were wide variety of barleywines on hand. Several were produced right there at Mad Fox, while others were there from local and regional breweries and still more from craft breweries across the country. And there was more than beer. Mad Fox Brewing has a kitchen and a full menu with lots of tasty options to choose from. I had the smoked salmon, and it was fantastic.

For those who don’t know, a barley wines is essentially an old ale style beer with a higher than usual alcohol content. While most beers are meant to be consumed within a few months of being brewed, barley wines are often aged for a number of years.  American barleywines, as with most American styles, tend to be hoppy, while English styles tend to be less bitter, and darker in color.

Most of the barleywines on hand were produced in 2017, but there were also several from 2016, 2015, 2014, and even 2013! Mad Fox Brewing’s 2013 oak aged Slobberknocker was an amazing example of an aged barleywine which had a rich and slightly hoppy flavor with a strong roasted malt character and a wonderful depth of flavor in no small part due to aging in rye whiskey barrels. However it was not to be out done by 2013 Olde Scoutters brewed by Bear Republic Brewing out of California.

Star Hill Brewery was represented by its Debut Barlywine which had a caramel malt and toffee smell and a rich malt sweetness with a hint of fruitiness, and Fairwinds Brewing’s 2017 All Hands Anniversary Ale with its sweet rich caramel notes and hop bitterness balanced with hints of fruit and citrus.

Some of the other notable barleywines present were the 2014 Old Crustacean Barleywine brewed by Rogue Brewery out of Oregon, 2014 Devil’s Milk brewed by DuClaw Brewing out of Maryland, 2015 Barleywine Ale brewed by Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewing in North Carolina, and 2016 Bigfoot brewed by Sierra Nevada out of California, and many more. Between the large selection and higher alcohol content, it would be extremely difficult to sample everything and still remember who was supposed to take you home, but the options were so good, it was also difficult not to try.

If you managed to stop by Mad Fox last weekend, you probably enjoyed yourself as much as I did. And if you missed it? Well, there’s always next year.