This Friday, July 20th, is the fiftieth anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Whether you believe we actually landed there or that it was all shot on a Hollywood set, it’s a great excuse to celebrate with a cold craft beer.
Did you know the first fermentation in space happened in 1998, and it was beer?! According to NASA, It was part of Kirsten Sterrett’s graduate thesis at University of Colorado Boulder and was in part funded by Coors. The Fluid Processing Apparatus (seen below) is what she used to ferment her extremely small batch beer.
Without further ado, here are the 5 Space Beers you should consider for celebrating Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s walk on the moon. Shoot, we’ll also raise a glass to Michael Collins, the third astronaut of the Apollo 11 mission who flew the command module.
Beer Hates Astronauts
Beer Hates Astronauts is an IPA brewed with Vienna malt and Citra hops from Half Acre Beer Company. The juicy, tropical flavor combined with a creamy, velvety mouthfeel is sure to please.
Neptune is a spiced Imperial Stout from Bell’s Brewery. This beer is an oldie, released in 2015 and the last of their Planet Series. I know some people have been cellaring it, and I can’t imagine a better reason to bust it out than to celebrate the lunar landing!
Moon Juice is an IPA from SanTan Brewing Company. The Galaxy and Nelson-Sauvin hops in this bad boy produce some incredible stone fruit and tropical flavor. If this had existed back in 1969, the astronauts would’ve wanted to take it with them.
What beer are you going to drink to celebrate the moon landing? Let me know which beer I missed in the comment section below!
(Note: This is a modified version of a piece I wrote for the Stormcloud Brewing Co. mug club members.)
Here at Stormcloud Brewing Company we have brewed over 30 unique Saisons to date, so many of our customers are familiar with this style. As a brewery, we are self defined as “a small brewery crafting ales within the time-honored Belgian brewing tradition of ignoring time-honored brewing traditions.” I think of all the different beer styles we make, the Saison is the ultimate expression of this Belgian-inspired creativity/rule-breaking. Today I want to dive a little deeper into this versatile beer style.
What exactly IS a Saison? That question is a lot more complex than you may think. According to brewing consultant and writer Phil Markowski, “modern Saisons defy easy categorization. They can be as contradictory as they are uniform” (Oliver). The Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) guidelines, which are the industry’s leading authority regarding beer styles can’t even easily categorize it – unlike most other BJCP categories, they not only list a range but also multiple options for SRM and ABV. Even among Stormcloud’s portfolio of Saisons you can find a large variety. Here are just a few of our previous Saisons to demonstrate:
Saison du Stormcloud– deceptively dark, with only a hint of dark malt flavor. Refreshing.
‘Tis the Saison – Our annual Orange-Cranberry holiday Saison. Oranges, cranberries and a hint of ginger.
P’eaching to the Choir – Saison with pickled peaches, pickled jalapeño and pickled cilantro.
Despite all the diversity, there are a few characteristics that ring true for most Saisons: they tend to be highly attenuated, dry, and very carbonated.
History of the Saison
Saison translates to “season” in French. See the graphic below to see where this name (and this beer) originated:
Saisons were most frequently consumed by farmworkers to both refresh and nourish them after long days working the fields – which is why I sometimes refer to them as “the Gatorade of beer.” Sounds like a great reason to consume more Saisons, right?
I often hear people asking if Saisons and Farmhouse Ales are synonymous. The answer is yes – and no. At some breweries, when they say “Farmhouse Ale” they mean “Saison.” This is not completely accurate, because Farmhouse Ales is referring to a family of beer. So, “all Saisons are Farmhouse Ales, but not all Farmhouse Ales are Saisons” (Levy). Farmhouse Ales is an umbrella term that includes a variety of styles. What links these styles together is their agrarian origin. Here are a few of the Saison’s farmhouse cousins:
Bière de Garde – A fairly strong, malt-accentuated, lagered artisanal beer from Northern France brewed in early spring and kept in cold cellars for consumption in warmer weather. All are malty yet dry, with clean flavors and a smooth character.
Gueuze – Spontaneously fermented wild ales from the area in and around Brussels and stem from a farmhouse brewing and blending tradition several centuries old. A complex, pleasantly sour but balanced wheat beer that is highly carbonated and very refreshing.
Grisette – While this one isn’t technically agrarian, it’s considered close enough. As Belgium’s Hainaut region began to shift from farming to mining, the Grisette was born. It is essentially a Saison for miners instead of farmhands, and has a lot of stylistic similarities.
Sahti – A sweet, heavy, strong traditional Finnish beer with a rye and juniper berry flavor along with a strong banana-clove yeast character. Casks of Sahti were discovered on a sunken Viking ship dated back to the 9th century, and “some historians even claim ancient beer styles like sahti were the motivation behind developed agriculture in Scandinavia” (Bryant).
Of course these are just a few of many Farmhouse Ales. All over the world where there were farms, there were alcoholic beverages created from the farm’s crops.
Alright readers, if you had the means of making your own Saison, what kind would you make? Have any of you homebrewers out there tried your hand at it? I’d love to hear from you!
Colburn, Randall. “Raise a glass to saison, the farmhouse ale brewed to last through the dog days.” The Takeout, edited by Kevin Pang, Nov. 2016, thetakeout.com/raise-a-glass-to-saison-the-farmhouse-ale-brewed-to-la-1798254691.
Hutto, Emily. “What Makes a Saison a Saison?” Craft Beer & Brewing, edited by Jamie Bogner, 2016, beerandbrewing.com/what-makes-a-saison-a-saison/.
Levy, Seth. “The Difference Between Saison and Farmhouse Ale.” The Beer Connoisseur , edited by Lynn Davis, May 2019, beerconnoisseur.com/articles/saison-vs-farmhouse-ale.
Oliver, Garrett, editor. The Oxford Companion to Beer. Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 711-712.
A recent Auburn University study found that 29% of brewery workers are women (Hurley). If you’ve been in our pub, you’ve certainly met first-hand some of the amazing women working in the modern beer industry. You may have also heard of the Pink Boots Society (a non-profit organization which supports women working in the brewing profession) – but did you know that the history of beer began with women, and females have played a significant role in the brewing scene ever since? In fact, “for most of recorded human history, women have been responsible for supplying the world’s beer” (Oliver 848).
When looking back to the ancient civilizations who first sipped our favorite beverage (Sumeria, Babylon, Egypt) we find that females were the ones responsible for brewing the first beers. Babylonian women made history by participating “in some of the world’s earliest commerce as they sold their beer with new forms of bookkeeping and writing” (Nurin). Additionally, in these ancient societies the deities of brewing were goddesses, not gods. A tablet discovered in Sumeria, dubbed the “Hymn to Ninkasi” (the goddess who watched over all brewing activities) is dated back to 1800 BC and describes the very first beer recipe. Egyptians worshipped the goddesses Tenenit (the goddess of beer) and Hathor (the inventress of brewing.) On the negative side, we can thank Cleopatra for being the first person to implement a tax on beer (Nurin). Other notable beer goddesses of the past include Mbaba Mwana Waresa, the Zulu goddess credited with the invention of beer, and Yasigi, the Dognon people of Mali’s goddess of beer, dancing, and masks.
As society developed, it is no surprise that beer stuck around (it’s just so gosh-darn delicious!) Over in Scandinavia during the Middle Ages, “real Norsemen (a.k.a. Vikings) allowed only women to brew the ‘aul’ that fueled their conquests” (Nurin). Additionally Nurin states, “Viking women drank ale, flagon for flagon, along with the men.”
In Europe during the Middle Ages, brewing was a part of women’s at-home chores, and at the time did not require a big up-front investment, providing “a decent source of income in times of need for both single and married women” (Oliver 849). Brewsters, which are what women who brewed beer were called, had some advertising methods that may bring certain iconography to mind – “to be noticed in crowded markets, they tended to wear tall, pointed hats. To indicate when a brew was ready, broomsticks would be placed in the doorways of alehouses. Images of frothing cauldrons full of ready product and six-sided stars to indicate the quality of the brew also abounded. Lastly, out of manifest necessity, cats would be kept in the brewhouses to protect the grains from mice” (Hendricks). Could our modern vision of witches have stemmed from medieval alewives? Though no one knows for certain, “the Church and anti-witch propaganda may have contributed to beer making becoming a boys’ club” (Nugent).
Post-Plague Europe saw the increased consumption of ale, and women did not have access to the money or political influence that was required for large scale commercial brewing. As Europe transitioned to larger breweries, “the late 14th century saw a surge in breweries ran by married couples, with the wives providing brewing know-how and the husbands providing the capital and political connections” (Oliver 849). Over time, men became the predominate brewers, but women still contributed to the revolution of beer. One nun, St. Hildegard of Bingen, “has the distinction of being the first person to publicly recommend the use of hops in brewing for their healing, bittering, and preserving properties long before anybody else” (Hendricks).
In 1700s Russia, Catherine the Great was the ruling empress. After signing a commercial treaty with Britain, she gained quite a fondness for a beer that was known as the London Stout. This beer was dark and high in gravity, and became a common export to Russia upon Catherine’s request. It is thanks to her that in modern times this beer is “widely known as Russian Imperial Stout” (Oliver 230).
After the British colonization of America, women were brewing beer at home, which was an important part of the colonial diet. In fact, “settlers of the colonies drank large quantities of beer as a nutritional break from a diet based largely of salted, smoked and dried meats” (Baugher). Women were so closely tied to beer at this time in America that there were beers called bride-ale and groaning beer: the first sold during weddings to honor the bride and the latter to be consumed “during and after labor by the midwives and mothers” (Baugher). In Philadelphia in 1734, “Mary Lisle become America’s unofficial first brewster when she took over her father’s brewhouse” (Schell.) Many historians also like to highlight First Lady Martha Jefferson’s contribution to beer history, for supervising most of the brewing done for President Jefferson – but it is important to note that the real individuals who deserve the credit for brewing are the Jefferson’s slaves. Similar to what happened in Europe, 18th century America witnessed that “women as brewers and even brewing as a household art was on the decline, giving way to the male-dominated world of the beer industry” (Schell).
The craft beer industry in the U.S. is currently booming. This was not a slow, steady growth – in the 1800s there were nearly 4,000 breweries, Post-Prohibition around 700 reemerged, and in the 1970s there were only 80-something breweries in the whole country. Fortunately, in the past three decades, craft brewing has made a comeback. This recent growth “has marked a clear resurgence of women playing crucial roles in the modern beer industry” (Oliver 849). Breaking back into the industry hasn’t been easy, with “the main obstacles that women continue to face in this industry include perceptions of taste, media influence, and preconceived notions about their skill and ability” (Baugher). What’s interesting is that women are actually recognized as having a “superior sense of taste and smell” and a “greater ability to remember and recount sensory experiences” – skills responsible for earning women “valued seats on educated beer sensory analysis panels around the world” (Oliver 849). Despite the obstacles, women are taking the modern beer industry by storm. To cap it off, I’d like to share just a few of the amazing women I admire in the modern craft beer world:
Kim Jordan, the co-founder of New Belgium Brewing; once served beers on a Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, delivered a newborn son the next Wednesday, and opened a new brewery the subsequent Monday. Gwen Conley, one of the world’s leading microbiologists, an expert in fermentation, and Director of Brewery Production and Quality Assurance at The Lost Abbey. J. Nikol Jackson Beckham, a professor of communication studies with a PhD and the first-ever Diversity Ambassador at the Brewers Association. Nicole Erny, the first female (and fourth person overall) to pass the Master Cicerone Exam. Sister Doris Engelhard, who brews her beer in the Mallersdorf Abbey and is the last nun working in Europe as a brewmaster. Teri Fahrendorf, brewmaster, road brewers, and founder of Pink Boots Society. She survived third degree burns and skin grafts to 11% of her body after a brewing accident involving 50 gallons of boiling water. Kate Power, Betsy Lay, and Jen Cuesta – founders of Lady Justice Brewing Company, who donate all their profits over costs to organizations that support the status and opportunities for women and girls. L.A. McCrae, founder of Black Star Line Brewery, the first and only black-owned, queer woman-owned brewery in North Carolina. María Antonieta Carrión, founder and master brewer at Cervecería Madrina and one of the few master brewers in Mexico.
Notes: -This is a modified version of a piece I wrote for the Stormcloud Brewing Co. mug club members. -Additionally, while doing my research I realized that a lot of main stream articles I read on women in the history of beer were very much focused on European/American, white women. I know there is a lot more beer history that includes women of color from all over the world. I was not able to do as much research I would’ve like to by the time this piece was due – but I intend to. This current post will ultimately be part 1 of 2.
I’m super excited to be featured in Good Beer Hunting’s Fervent Few publication: Volume 2 Issue 30 “A Single Origin Story” We were asked to nominate the best coffee beer we’ve had that’s NOT a Stout, which was pretty easy for me:
(Note: This is a modified version of a piece I wrote for the Stormcloud Brewing Co. mug club members.)
Stormcloud opened the summer after I got my first job in the brewing industry, and I was just beginning to develop my craft beer palate. At the time, Brian’s delicious brews definitely contributed to my love of Belgian-style beers, and many other beer styles as well. Stormcloud was the first place I consumed a Black IPA, and I immediately fell in love with Fun Guvn’r. To this day, Black IPAs are a bit mysterious in the beer world, but I’m hoping to shed some light on this puzzling beer style.
Style Specifications The 2015 BJCP Beer Style Guidelines describes the Black IPA as “A beer with the dryness, hop-forward balance, and flavor characteristics of an American IPA, only darker in color – but without strongly roasted or burnt flavors” (Strong and England 39). A Black IPA should have a moderate to high hop aroma, which we achieve in Fun Guvn’r by dry hopping it – meaning we add additional hops to the beer after fermentation has begun. Appearance wise, a Black IPA should retain a tannish head and be between 25 and 40 SRM (a system used to specify beer color intensity) – see color guide below for reference:
The flavor of darker malts should be gentle and supportive, not a major flavor component. How do we keep Fun Guvn’r hop-forward yet dark? Our brewers employ a special trick of adding our dark malts later in the mashing process, and keeping them in there just long enough to make the beer dark but not give it a full dark malt flavor. This results in mellow and subdued roady note, providing the perfect backbone for our hops.
Though Black IPAs have only become mainstream in the past 6 years or so, they do have an interesting and dated history. I created the graphic below to give you a brief history of this beer style:
What’s in a Name? For some beer drinkers, the name “Black IPA” is an oxymoron. How can an India PALE Ale – whose color range according to the Beer Judge Certification Program should “range from medium gold to light reddish-amber” – be BLACK? This is, in part, why this beer style has earned a variety of other names, most popularly Cascadian Dark Ale, India Black Ale, and American Black Ale. Without a doubt, as the modern brew world evolves, variations of IPAs are getting more and more creative, and Black IPA is certainly now a widely accepted name.
Food Pairing The Brewers Association recommends pairing Black IPAs with grilled shrimp & grits, blue cheeses, aged gouda, or chocolates truffles – but I’m sure there are countless other delicious pairings. Have you found a food that you particularly love to eat while drinking Black IPAs? Let us know – we’d love to hear about it!
(Note: This is a modified version of a piece I wrote for the Stormcloud Brewing Co. mug club members.)
Who doesn’t enjoy drinking their favorite beer in the comfort of their own home? I’m guessing many of you utilize and own growlers, but I thought I’d pass on some more information about the glorious vessel we call the growler.
The History of the Growler
There is much debate regarding the origin of the growler, but it appears that they were definitively in use by the late 1800s. In fact, the term growler, “first appeared in the July 1893 issue of Harper’s Magazine” (Newhouse). At this time, ‘growler’ referred to galvanized buckets specifically used to transport beer from the pub to home. Often, young boys would take the buckets to the local pubs to be filled, then take them to their father’s place of work for lunch. As the story goes, the fathers would be so hungry by the time the beer arrived that their stomachs were growling – hence the name growler.Another story asserts that the term comes from the sound of carbon dioxide escaping through the pail’s cover. Yet another story claims that the term growler comes from the growling done between the bartender and customer regarding the amount of beer poured into the bucket. Regardless of the etymology, I’m very grateful that growlers came into being.
Charlie Otto, owner of Otto Brothers Brewery (now Grand Teton Brewing) is responsible for what we know as the 64 oz glass growler. His brewery was Wyoming’s first draft-only microbrewery, and he was looking for a way for his customers to enjoy their beer at home. His father recalled the galvanized buckets he used to bring beer home in his youth, and they determined they needed a modern variation. After stumbling upon some glass half-gallon jugs, he had the brewery’s logo silk screened on them and the contemporary growler was born!
There are three primary types of growler you now see in circulation – glass, stainless steel, and ceramic. With each of these come some pros and cons.
The glass growler is by far the most common variety you will see – nearly every brewery in Michigan has them for sale. If given the option, purchase an amber growler over a clear one – this will help prevent your beer being exposed to light, which can “skunk” it. The pros of the glass growler are that they tend to be inexpensive and you can see through them – which helps during the filling process to ensure you are receiving the proper amount of beer. The primary con of the glass growler is that they are fragile – if you drop it it will probably break.
In contrast to the glass growler, the stainless steel growler is much sturdier. They are also insulated, which will help keep your beer colder for longer, as well as prevent it from freezing in low temperatures. Stainless steel growlers are great for all of the outdoor adventures here in northern Michigan where you wouldn’t want to bring glass – the beach, boating, the ski slope, ice fishing – you name it! The downside to stainless steel growlers are that they are heavier to transport and definitely more expensive.
The third type of growler, ceramic, is not one you see as often. They can be absolutely gorgeous unique pieces of art, and some breweries specialize in their custom one-of-a-kind ceramic growlers. While these are fun to own, they are usually the most expensive, the heaviest, and are vulnerable to breaking.
Keeping Your Growler Clean
Keeping your growler clean is of upmost importance to experiencing your beer at the highest level of quality. Jeff Flowers, writer for Kegerator.com states, “you’d be surprised how many people don’t clean their growler after using it…in extreme circumstances of uncleanliness, mold and other nasty stuff may start growing.” Immediately upon finishing your growler, give it a rinse with hot water – if you do this right away, it may be all you have to do to get it clean and ready to fill. If it sits around a while before being rinsed, you may need to use a cleanser – Flowers recommends that you do NOT use a fat or oil-based soap, as these are harder to rinse out and may leave residuals behind that will impact the taste of your next fill. In the Brewers Association’s Draught Beer Quality Manual, they emphasize the importance of letting your growler completely air dry, and storing it with the lid unsealed.
The Brewers Association warns that, “filled growlers can shatter or explode if allowed to warm or freeze, especially if they are overfilled.” We highly recommend that you don’t leave your growlers outside on our freezing cold northern Michigan nights, or in a hot car during a summer day at the beach. This is not only to maintain the beer quality, but also as a safety concern. You may notice that when getting a growler filled, servers do not fill them to the tippy top – this is another safety precaution we take to prevent shattering. Fortunately, glass growlers reach 64 oz right at the base of the glass growler neck, to ensure you are still getting a full pour.Last but not least, you should visually inspect glass or ceramic growlers for chips or cracks every time you bring it in. Brewery employees also do this, but the more eyes the better!
“Brewers Association Facts About Growlers.” Draught Beer Quality,
Brewers Association, 7 Mar. 2014, http://www.draughtquality.org/wp-
Flowers, Jeff. “Growlers 101: Why Every Beer Geek Should Own One.” Kegerator.com, 30 May 2014, learn.kegerator.com/growlers/.
Newhouse, Ryan. “Everything You Need To Know About Growlers.” The
Beer Connoisseur, Nov. 2017, beerconnoisseur.com/articles/every
thing-you-need-know-about-growlers. Photo Sources: