Juicy Brews Summer Craft Beer Invitational at Triple Crossing!

Hop Culture is a daily online lifestyle magazine for the newest generation of craft beer drinkers, and they pulled out all the stops for their Juicy Brews Summer Craft Beer Invitational which took place Sunday, June 10, in Richmond VA at Triple Crossing Brewery’s Fulton Hill location.

Hop Culture asked participating breweries to do two things: make sure there was a brewery representative there to answer questions from the attendees, and to serve fresh, juicy beers. It was left up to the breweries to decide what qualified as a juicy beer. As it happened, the overwhelming majority of the beers served were hazy IPAs and fruit forward sours.

According to Hop Culture most craft brewers are first generation brewers and they come from a variety of occupations such as construction, finance, and even the military (Triple Crossing’s head brewer is  a former police officer). Because of this, these craft brewers don’t have decades of preconceptions of what a beer should be, and for that reason they’re not afraid to be creative and to experiment. This was evident in the wide variety of unusual, and unique beers at this festival.

There were 31 breweries and one meadery on hand to celebrate craft beer and creativity from AZ, VT, CT, CO, ME, NY, MD, TN, CA, OH, PA, NJ, NC, SC, and VA.  Some embraced the older, more traditional brewing methods while others preferred newer, more modern methods. Regardless of how they brewed, it was obvious none were afraid to try new ingredients, and new or exotic flavors. Here are just a few of the breweries that stood out.

Both Barreled Souls Brewing from Maine and Cellador Ales in California do 100% of their fermentation in oak barrels, which gives a unique character and a more complex flavor profile to their beer. Not many brewers use this technique today, and when they do, it’s most often used in the production of sours. However when stouts, IPAs, and other beer styles are fermented in barrels, the results can be exceptional.

Horus Aged Ales in California doesn’t ferment their beer in barrels, but they do age all their beer in variety of different wine and spirit barrels. This not only adds some character from the barrels, but also adds flavors and aromas from whatever was originally in the barrel, potentially creating a wide variety of subtle flavors and aromas. 

Schmoojee Wild Berry Pineapple Puffsicle Sour Ale- Imprint Beer

Sour ales are all the rage in some places, but many brewers have been a little hesitant to embrace these tart and sour brews. Partly for fearful of the yeasts that give rise to these flavors making their way into their other beers, and also because the extended time it takes (6 to 18 months) to ferment these brews. Of those that do go down that road, most opt to use cultivated, commercial strains of yeast such as lactobacillus or brettanomyces, while just a handful of brewers chose to use truly “wild” yeasts.

Resident Culture Brewing in North Carolina, in addition to some great IPAs and lagers, also create spontaneous “wild’ fermented ales. This involves leaving the unfermented beer, or wort, exposed to the air, usually overnight, allowing yeasts and bacteria floating around in the air to settle into the wort, before it is placed into barrels to ferment. The ultimate local ingredient, this yeast gives the beer a true local flavor, since the yeast is likely to be found nowhere else.

Southern Grist Brewing in Tennessee loves to experiment with contemporary beer styles and are best known for their constantly rotating selection of beers that utilize non-traditional ingredients and fruit forward flavor profiles.

Acai Bowl J.R.E.A.M Sour- Burley Oak Brewery

Burley Oak Brewing in Maryland also loves to experiment. Even after five years, they are still one of the smallest breweries in Maryland, and unlike nearly every craft brewery in the country they have no flagship brew. Instead, they brew a new beer every week!

New Park Brewing in Connecticut opened its doors just a little over a year ago,  and sold so much beer their opening weekend they had to close for two weeks just to restock!  They were serving Blackberry Berliner Weisse and Spectrum DIPA, and after sampling both, I am not surprised.

Juicy Brews certainly lived up to its name, Hop Culture did a fantastic job gathering some great breweries with great beer, and Triple Crossing was an awesome venue. 

This was a tremendous event, and good times were had by all who were in attendance. 

Until next time, here’s to your good health, and may your glass never run dry.

Slainte!

New Realm Brewing in Atlanta Georgia

Recently while on a road trip, I stopped in Atlanta for a bite to eat and a little sleep before continuing on my way. While there, I had dinner with some friends who live there. When asked where I would like to eat, my thoughts immediately turned to craft beer.

A quick internet search told me we had several choices if we were looking for a craft brewery with a dinner menu. After careful consideration, we decided on New Realm Brewing. Located less than a mile north east of downtown Atlanta, it was close by, and had good reviews.

When we got there it was a little difficult finding parking, but we managed. This placed was busy, with a Friday night crowd on a Thursday night.  There was a bit of a wait for a table, so while we waited, we looked around.  

This place was great!  Located in an old industrial building, they spared no expense to create a fist rate venue that includes a rooftop bar with an amazing view of the Atlanta skyline, two event spaces, and a nearly 500 seat restaurant.

The food wasn’t your typical pub fare. While they did have Buffalo wings and giant pretzels, their menu also boasted items like she-crab soup, rice flour crusted trout, beer can chicken, and gourmet wood-fired pizza. 

Of course we mustn’t forget the 20k barrel capacity brewery, making some of the finest craft beer on the east coast!  

We got the spicy Korean pork cheek buns, Durham Ranch lamb sausages, the Meat Head pizza, and the wings, and I ordered a Rock’n Like Bock’n Mailbock and a Hoptropolis IPA to wash it all down. 

Rock’n Like Bock’n was a little lighter in color than some bocks, a little less malty,  and a drier finish, had a nice balance between  toasted malt and the hop bitterness. This was a very good Mailbock.

Hoptropolis was an excellent American style IPA with a wonderful aroma of tropical fruits and citrus, and a flavor profile with a mix of hoppy bitterness, roasted malt, and hints of fruit and pineapple. Quite tasty.

I had a great time at New Realm Brewing. The service was good, the food was good, and the beer was really good. 

If you live in the area and you’ve never been to New Realm you’re missing out. If you don’t live in the area, and find yourself passing through Atlanta, you owe it to yourself stop by. I think you’ll be glad you did.

Cumberland Valley Beer Trail, Pt 2- Pizza Boy and Ever Grain Brewing!

My journey along the Cumberland Valley Beer Trail continued with a visit to Pizza Boy Brewing just outside of Harrisburg, PA, which is also known as Al’s of Hampden.  If there is one food that is meant to be eaten with beer, it would have to be pizza. There is just something about the combination of crust, sauce, melted cheese, and the assorted toppings that just begs for a beer.

2240 MILLENNIUM WAY, ENOLA, PA 17025

Pizza Boy Brewing has taken the relationship of pizza and beer to the next level.  Not only did they have 30 of their own beers on tap, but they also had an additional 69 guest taps serving local and regional craft beer and ciders, as well as craft beer from all across the country!  Now if you or that special someone prefer wine, they also have a wide selection of wines from across the US and around the world. If you wanted to take some beer home, they have a number of beers available for sale in 6-packs and cases. And while they don’t sell growlers, they do offer growler fills. Now if the craft beer or cider you had your eye on is not available in a 6-pack or case, and you don’t have a growler, they do have crowlers which are 32 oz cans they fill and seal on site.  

And did I mention they had pizza? I particularly liked the Steak and Onion pizza, but a close second was the Hot Hot Hot pizza with pepperoni, bell peppers, jalopenos, onions, and garlic. If you like pizza and beer, this place is about as close to heaven as you can get without becoming living impaired.

I had the Pizza Boy Flying Laserbeam IPA, and the Country Lager. 

The Laserbeam had a golden color, light citrus aroma, a hop-forward flavor with notes of  orange citrus with mild malt backbone. Good hop presence, but not a lot of malt. 

The Country Lager had a bright clear golden color, with a crisp refreshing flavor with a hint of toasted bread.

Both beers were solid and very tasty. Paired with their pizza, they were outstanding.

4444 Carlisle Pike, Camp Hill, PA 17011

My next stop was Ever Grain Brewing in the Hampden Terminal shopping center.  The brewery is tucked away inside the shopping center, and a little hard to see, but definately worth finding.  It had an open and very comfortable tasting room, with a number of noteworthy craft beers. The staff was cheerful and eager to answer any questions you might have or give you sample of any of their offerings.

The HellYes Lager had a golden orange color and a bready slightly sweet aroma with some floral notes. The flavor was dry and crisp but still had a light malty sweetness and a clean finish.

The IDA 007 IPA had a light  citrusy/fruity aroma. It was hop forward with a medium caramel malt backbone.

Surf Breakers was a west coast IPA with a light clear amber color and a bright orange citrus aroma. It was also hop forward but with a lighter malt presence.

I was a little torn between the Udder One milk stout and Dark Necessity Imperial Stout, but finally settled on Dark Necessity.  It was dark and opaque, with a thin tan head that didn’t last long. It had a rich chocolate and coffee aroma with a strong roasted malt presence with some bitter chocolate notes and a hint of molasses.

I should also mention they have a locally sourced kitchen called Little Bird Craft Kitchen which has a very eclectic menu with some unusual menu items you don’t see very often, such as venison meatballs, bone marrow, kimchi tacos, dry aged duck breasts, and fried chicken ramen. There were also more common menu items, but why go for something you can get anywhere? I desperately wanted to try some of those items, but unfortunately I had filled up on pizza. I’ll just have to come back another day to eat, and try more beer, of course!

Next stop: Harty Brewing and Desperate Times Brewery.

The journey continues….

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Green Flash Brewing Company Has Been Sold, Leaving Questions for the Craft Beer Industry (via Food & Wine)

After an extremely shaky yearSan Diego-based Green Flash Brewing Company announced this week it was sold at foreclosure to a private equity group. Though the brand will continue on, the ownership has changed and the direction the company will take from here isn’t entirely known. What is known, however, is that Green Flash saw both stunning growth and an unfortunate downfall in the past 16 years and what was once a maker of amazing beers has left behind a cautionary tale.

Read more: Food & Wine