beer

The Mysterious Black IPA

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(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:

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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.

History
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:

The History of the Black IPA

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!


References: 

“American Black Ale.” CraftBeer.com, edited by Jess Baker, Brewers Association,
http://www.craftbeer.com/styles/american-black-ale.

Carr, Nick. “Black IPA: The Oxymoron in the Bitter World of Beer.” Kegerator.com, 13 Mar.
2019, learn.kegerator.com/black-ipa/.

Faulkner, Frank. Theory and Practice of Modern Brewing. Second ed., F.W. Lyon, 1888, pp.
259-60.

Strong, Gordon, and Kristen England, editors. “Specialty IPA: Black IPA.” BJCP Beer Style
Guidelines
. 2015 ed., Beer Judge Certification Program, 2015, p. 39.

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Growler Guide

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(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!

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Growler Types

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. 

Safety Tips

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! 


References:

 

“Brewers Association Facts About Growlers.” Draught Beer Quality,
Brewers Association, 7 Mar. 2014, http://www.draughtquality.org/wp-
content/uploads/The-Facts-About-Growlers-v1.pdf.

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:

http://abittersweetfinish.blogspot.com/2013/11/growlers-beer-in-bulk.html

http://verbmall.blogspot.com/2011/11/rush-growler.html

http://grandtetonbrewing.com/Growlers.html

Beer Review: AleSmith X

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X – an Extra Pale Ale
brewed by AleSmith Brewing Company in Sand Diego, CA

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X is an Extra Pale Ale that is brewed year-round by AleSmith Brewing Company. The beer is light and drinkable, but I was let down by the flavor. As a big fan of other AleSmith brews, this one disappointed me.

Immediately upon opening, this beer was a gusher. I was surprised by this as it was not bottle conditioned, but I know hydrophobin (a protein created by a fungus that infects malt during the brewing process) could be a culprit.¹ After it stopped gushing, the beer poured a deep gold with a brilliant white head that dissipated quickly. The immediate aroma I noticed was citrus, lemon with some hints of perfumey pear. The scent also had delicate undertones of sweet biscuity malt. The taste of this beer is what really disappointed me – it reminded me of old hops. Pine and citrus were definitely present, but there was a stale off-flavor. Unfortunately this bottle did not have a freshness date on it, so I have no way of telling just how old it was. This beer had a sweet aftertaste, almost medicinal – the lingering flavor was essentially a honey lemon cough drop. 

AleSmith X clocks in at 5.2% ABV and 24 IBU. Based on my experience I would not recommend this beer, but as I said earlier it had no date on the bottle so it might be better when fresher.

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¹Hippeli, Susanne, and Erich F. Elstner. “Minireview: Hydrophobins, ns-LTPs and Beer
Gushing.” Zeitschrift für Naturforschung, edited by Walter De Gruyter, 2 Aug. 2001,
www.znaturforsch.com/ac/v57c/s57c0001.pdf.


Have you had this beer? What was your take on it? 

EXCITING NEWS!

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Today I am launching an online shop to sell a few stickers I’ve designed. Visit the shop here! I’m starting very small, but hope to be adding more stickers soon. If you have a chance, check them out. I would also love feedback on what future designs you’d like to see. Cheers!

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Beer Review: Divine Sauvage

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Divine Sauvage – a Belgian Tripel aged in Red Wine Barrels
brewed by Green Flash Brewing Co. in San Diego, CA

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Divine Sauvage is a Belgian-Style Tripel Ale aged in red wine barrels – 36 different barrels to be exact. This blend was brewed in 2015 & 2016 with Syrian Golding and Czech Saaz hops and fermented with Monastery and Brett yeast. After being aged in vintage French Oak red wine barrels for up to 30 months, it was bottled in March and resulted in this brilliant piece of artistry.

Divine Sauvage poured a highly carbonated, deep golden color. Topped off with an eggshell-colored head reminiscent of lemon meringue, this beer had brilliant head retention. I was initially taken aback by the lack of bold aroma, but there were certainly subtle wafts of tannin, oak, and sour apricot. As the beer warmed up, there were also distinct Brett notes apparent in the nose. Upon first sip, I was impressed with the tart, balanced mid-palate flavor – clean funk that gave way to a lingering, soft lemongrass finish. The tart flavor reminded me of the loquat fruit: similar to apricot with floral overtones, presenting as tart due to not quite reaching its ripened prime. The joy of sipping this beer evoked nostalgic memories of sticky juice running down my hands and chin as a child after biting into the season’s first apricot at a roadside farm stand. Divine Sauvage clocks in at 9.7% ABV and 24 IBU. If you have an opportunity to imbibe this tasty beer, I highly recommend that you DO!

Cellar 3 is home to Green Flash’s barrel program, self described as “where craft evolves into artistry.” For more information on Cellar 3 and Green Flash, I highly recommend checking out this video:

 

Beer Review: Shploing!! Mango S’mores

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Shploing!! Mango S’mores – an India Pale Ale
brewed and canned for Omnipollo by Dorchester Brewing Co. in Boston, MA

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Saw this at my local bottle shop, and was immediately intrigued. An IPA brewed with marshmallows? I couldn’t imagine it, so I knew I had to try it. Besides, the can design is awesome!

Shploing!! Mango S’mores is an IPA brewed with marshmallows, graham crackers, salt and lactose sugar with mangos and vanilla added. I love IPAs and I love s’mores, but I really couldn’t imagine the two meeting. It poured from the can a hazy, straw color with about a finger of off-white head. The head dissipated really quickly. The aroma was exactly what I was hoping for: strong mango scent, with a distinct vanilla marshmallow smell cutting through. The taste was prominently tropical fruit and citrusy hops. I picked up on an incredibly subtle vanilla aftertaste. The malt flavor definitely took the back seat to the hops, though I could see it being described as graham crackery (I suspect this to have a lot more to do with the actual malts used than the fact that it was brewed with graham crackers, but who knows?) There was a bit of sediment at the bottom, but not invasive or so much that bothered me. I’ll be honest, I expected a lot more marshmallow flavor than there was from this beer; but I was also worried it would be too sweet for my liking which it was not. I had fun trying this, and there were some subtle unique flavors, but overall I would categorize this as a basic, but solid, India Pale Ale. I highly recommend it for the bitter hopheads, but suggest you stay away if you’re only in it for the marshmallow. Shploing!! Mango S’mores IPA clocks in at 7% ABV.

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Have you tried Shploing!! Mango S’mores? What was your opinion of it? What is the most unique combination of flavors you’ve had in a beer? I’d love to hear from you, please feel free to comment below!

4 Beers To Get You Through The Holidays

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If you’re like me, the holidays can be a stressful and overwhelming time. So much baking, decorating, and snow clearing to do! Not to mention, you want to look your holiday best for that special mistletoe kiss. Never fear – I am here to present 4 Beers To Get You Through The Holidays.

The Perfect Cookie-Pairing Beer:
Moloko Milk Stout from 3 Floyds Brewing Co.
Skip the milk, leave this milk stout out for Santa!
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Moloko Milk Stout pours a deep, dark black and is topped with a tan head. It also leaves gorgeous lacing down the glass as you drink. The aroma of this beer is subtle, hinting at sweet chocolate toffee and roasty malts. The taste starts with lightly charred marshmallow, and gives way to a sugary sweet chocolate vanilla swirl of flavor with hints of espresso at the tail. This beer is well balanced, and the alcohol does not over power at all. I love the creamy, present body. Perfect for fresh out of the oven sugar cookies!

The Perfect Decorating Beer:
Deal with the Devil Double Pale Ale from 18th Street Brewery

Because sometimes you wonder if you have to make a deal with the devil just to untangle those Christmas lights.
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I was just recently fortunate enough to try this beer over Thanksgiving break, and I’m very glad I did! Deal with the Devil pours a hazy, dark amber color with a solid white head. The aromatics of this beer won me over instantly – strong juicy citrus notes, with a subtle but distinct sweet bready undertone. This beer tastes similarly to how it smells – sweet orange zest and slightly more bitter grapefruit notes, tropical mango, and delivered by a well balanced caramel malt throughout. Hoppy, citrusy, and not too much alcohol – they know the way to my heart. This was one of the best new beer I’ve had in a while!

 

The Perfect Post-Snow Shoveling Beer:
Dragon’s Milk Reserve Bourbon Barrel Stout with Coffee & Chocolate from New Holland Brewing Co.
Some people want coffee or cocoa after being out in the cold. Let the bourbon, coffee, and chocolate of this brew knock off the edge instead!
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Did you know that Dragon’s Milk was one of the early bourbon barrel-aged stouts in the US? That was way back in 2001, and now the barrel-aged scene has, obviously, EXPLODED. Not only was Dragon’s Milk one of the early BBA stouts on the scenes, it remains to be one of the most solid. Then New Holland decided to take their already delicious beer, age it with coffee & chocolate, and TA-DA! – you have one of their most sought after Reserves.

 

The Perfect Mistletoe Beer:
Speedway Stout from AleSmith Brewing Co.
Because in the end it doesn’t matter if you get kissed or not – this beer is so good you’ll want to give it a smooch!
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There is a lot of hype surrounding this beer – and it does not disappoint. In the words of AleSmith themselves, “Speedway Stout’s ominous, pitch-black appearance has become a hallmark of this modern-day classic. Chocolate and roasted malts dominate the flavor, supported by notes of dark fruit, toffee, and caramel. A healthy dose of locally-roasted coffee from Ryan Bros. Coffee, Inc. added to each batch brings out the beer’s dark chocolate flavors and enhances its drinkability. Despite its intensity, Speedway Stout’s fine carbonation and creamy mouthfeel make it very smooth and surprisingly easy to drink.” As many people have shared, this beer absolutely improves with age. So why not pull a finely aged bottle out of your beer cellar to set the romantic tone for your special mistletoe smooch?


What beers do YOU sip to get through (or celebrate) the holidays? Which beer makes the best Christmas gift? Have you have any of these? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section!