(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:
(Note: This is a modified version of a piece I wrote for the Stormcloud Brewing Co. mug club members.)
We all know that Santa prefers beer instead of milk with his cookies, so this month’s post is all about beer…and cookies!
Award-winning chef and Culinary Institute of America graduate Adam Dulye and Certified Cicerone® and Beer Judge Julia Herz explain, “A pairing is a match between beverage and food, with the goal of having the individual parts interact in a synergistic way to create an enhanced and elevated experience. Simply stated, craft beer and food can transform each other” (Dulye and Herz, 50). To transform your traditional holiday desserts, I’ve utilized a few of my favorite beer educators and did some field research of my own to compile a list of holiday cookies that pair well with our Stormcloud beer.
Rainmaker Ale & Snowball Cookies (also know as Russian Tea Cake, not to be confused with Pfeffernüsse, which have a very different flavor.)
As our flagship beer and GABF bronze medal-winning brew, I knew I had to find a cookie that accentuated all of its best qualities. This cookie works so well because the dusting of the powdered sugar draws out the dark fruit flavors from our house yeast as well as some subtle caramel notes from the malt. In turn, the beer really helps to bring out the nuttiness of the Snowball Cookies. Looking for a Snowball Cookie recipe? Check out this link.
228 Tripel & Apricot Thumbprint Cookies
Our abbey-style Tripel is extremely versatile in food pairings, with its complex flavor and wide range of delicious yeast-driven aromas. I love the Apricot Thumbprint Cookies paired with 228 because the dryness of the beer cuts through the sweetness of the apricot jam, providing a pleasant balance. Additionally, the cookie adds backbone to the base malt flavor of the brew, giving it a playful enhancement. Want to make your own Apricot Thumbprint Cookies? Click here for a recipe!
Whiled Away® IPA & Orange Gingerbread Cookies
This was one of my most surprising findings. I was a little skeptical of this pairing at first, but after seeing it come up time after time in my research, I knew I had to try it. The hop flavor works really well to cut through the ginger spice, which in turn mellows out the bitterness. Then, the orange zest of the cookie enhances the bright citrus hop presence in Whiled Away, creating a perfect marriage of flavors. I have to say, this was my favorite beer and cookie pairing! Try it out for yourself, using this recipe.
31 Planes IIPA (Plane 16) & Sugar Cookies with Buttercream Frosting
You can’t go wrong with the classic cut out holiday cookie, especially topped with a smooth, rich buttercream frosting. The dryness of our IIPA combined with the bitterness from the hops helps to balance out the sugary sweetness of the cookie. In finding this balance, the beer expands the cookie’s flavor range, allowing the palate to identify and enjoy the subtleties of the cookie (such as vanilla and butter notes) instead of just being overpowered by sugar. If you’re hoping to make a batch of these holiday staples, this recipe may be just what you need.
Rowed Hard Stout & Peanut Butter Blossom Cookies
Stouts go well with just about every dessert imaginable, but combining our Oatmeal Stout with a peanut butter and chocolate cookie takes it to the next level. The chocolate of the cookie brings out an even balance of sweet and cacao elements from the malt, while the creamy mouthfeel of the beer sweeps the peanut butter across the palate in a most alluring way. This beer plays well with both milk and dark chocolate, so don’t be afraid to experiment a bit – this recipe is a good starting point. Interested in doing some beer and cookie pairing of your own?
A common way to pair food and beer is looking at the following three interactions — compliment (flavors that match each other); contrast (flavors that intensify or suppress each other); and cut (flavors that cleanse the palate). The Brewers Association Beer & Food Course book also explains that you should, “Expand your tasting notes to include places, memories, and sensations” (Dulye and Herz, 50). For more information on food and beer pairings, check out this awesome resource from the Brewers Association.
I’d be interested in hearing what beers you pair with your favorite cookies, so please feel free to share. Grab a crowler or growler to go and start baking!
Bender, Jonathan. Cookies & Beer. Andrew McMeel
Dulye, Adam, and Julia Herz. “Beer & Food Course.” CraftBeer.com, Brewers Association, Mar. 2017.
Mosher, Randy. “American Craft Beer and Food: Perfect
Companions.” Brewers Association, 2009, p. 7.
Richards, Bryan M. “How to Pair Beer with Desserts That Aren’t
Chocolate.” CraftBeer.com, edited by Jess Baker, Brewers
Association, 9 Feb. 2018.
Specketer, Jenn. “Craft Beer and Christmas Candy Pairing.” Bites,
Barrels and Brews, 14 Dec. 2015, http://www.bitesbarrelsandbrews.
Stanz, Carissa. “This Holiday, Skip the Milk and Pair Your Favorite
Christmas Cookie with Beer.” Wide Open Eats, edited by Sarah
Ramsey and Lyndsay Burginger, 12 Dec. 2017, http://www.wideopen
I have a mental illness, and I choose to drink alcohol. I know that I am certainly not alone in this boat, and I don’t necessarily think that it is a bad thing. Having a mental illness makes many aspects of life more complicated – including drinking alcohol, but it can certainly be doable if you are informed, safe, and intentional.
Know Why You Drink.
I drink beer because I love the art form of brewing. I drink beer because it smells and tastes good. I drink beer because I enjoy sharing the experience with people. I drink because sometimes I just plain like the way it makes me feel. All of these reasons are fine reasons to occasionally drink beer.
When I find myself wanting to drink because I am stressed, or because I am sad, or because I had a bad day – these are warning signs.
When I find myself wanting to drink to numb my feelings or to checkout of reality or to black out – these are MAJOR red flags.
All people, but especially people struggling with mental health, should take the time to evaluate why they drink.
Know How Your Medication Interacts With Alcohol BEFORE You Drink.
Many people with mental health challenges are prescribed medications, or choose to self-medicate using illegal substances. Mixing both legal or illegal drugs with alcohol can be absolutely lethal. If you are on a new medication, find out how it interacts with alcohol. This can usually be done with a quick Google search. Keep in mind that even if an alcohol/drug interaction isn’t deadly, drinking could still significantly impact the drug’s effectiveness.
Don’t stop taking an antidepressant or other medication just so that you can drink. Most antidepressants require taking a consistent, daily dose to maintain a constant level in your system and work as intended. Stopping and starting your medications can make your mental health worse.1
Know Your Limit.
Everyone’s body reacts to alcohol differently. Keeping this in mind, there are a few standard things to consider:
-Smaller individuals are effected by alcohol faster than larger individuals.
-Food slows down the rate of absorption – that’s why alcohol affects you more quickly on an empty stomach.2
-Alcohol has a more severe effect on a biological female’s liver than on a biological male’s. As well as being unable to ‘break down’ alcohol as quickly, it takes longer to repair itself when damaged.3
-National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that men should not exceed 4 drinks per day or a total of 14 per week and women should not to exceed 3 drinks a day or a total of 7 per week.4
-Alcohol affects you in a way that changes your judgement, depth perception, as well as vital motor skills required to drive safely. It’s easy to think you are driving normally when truly you are not.5
-Give alcohol-free days a-go. If you drink regularly, your body starts to build up a tolerance to alcohol. This is why many medical experts recommend taking regular days off from drinking to ensure you don’t become addicted to alcohol.6
Know the Facts.
-Regular drinking lowers the levels of serotonin in your brain – a chemical that helps regulate your mood.6
-People with bipolar disorder turn to alcohol in an attempt to quiet their symptoms, especially manic symptoms.7
-Extreme levels of drinking can occasionally cause psychosis. Psychotic symptoms can also occur when very heavy drinkers suddenly stop drinking and develop a condition known as ‘delirium tremens’.6
-More than one-third of suicide victims used alcohol just prior to death.8
-Nearly 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the fourth leading preventable cause of death in the United States.9
-In 2014, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths (31 percent of overall driving fatalities).9
This applies to all people, but is especially pertinent to people with a mental illness: You should control your drinking, your drinking should not control you.
If you are starting to feel out of control of your drinking, if the idea of going a day alcohol-free seems impossible, or the symptoms of your mental illness are getting worse – get help. Talk to your doctor, or seek other professional help. Additionally, here are some resources for individuals challenged with a mental illness or who need help controlling their alcohol intake:
Crisis Text Line:Text HELLO to 741741 from anywhere in the USA.
Crisis Text Line serves anyone, in any type of crisis, providing access to free, 24/7 support and information.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
SAMHSA’s National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
Alcoholics Anonymous: http://www.aa.org/ If you are concerned with a drinking problem, wish to learn more about Alcoholics Anonymous or want to find A.A. near you, we can help you.
I want to say that I am writing from a personal perspective. I believe that there is a social stigma surrounding mental health, and I feel the best way to challenge this stigma is to talk about my experience. I am faced with multiple mental health obstacles, perhaps the most challenging being major depressive disorder and hypomanic episodes. I have gone through counseling and therapy, I have tried many types of medicine, I have been through inpatient treatment at a psych hospital, I have participated in multiple wonderful partial hospitalization programs, I have experienced success, I have experienced progress, and I have experienced failure. I know people challenged by mental health, and I have lost people to their mental health. What I’m writing about today is one perspective, my own, and in no way do I mean to offend or step on anyone’s toes – I merely wish to share my thoughts in hope of helping and informing others.
There are a lot of factors that go into my identity, including my passion for craft beer. Another is the fact that I am Type 1 Diabetic. Join me today, November 14, in wearing blue to spread awareness on World Diabetes Day.
I am often asked if I am even “allowed” to drink beer as a diabetic. The short answer is yes, as long as I do so responsibly. For my fellow diabetics (or friends of diabetics) out there, I thought I would share this great infographic I found about Diabetes & Alcohol:
Thank you for all of your support in spreading awareness and searching for a cure. Living with a chronic illness that is so often misunderstood can be completely infuriating at times, but the love and hope from my support system is what gets me through.
Today I raise my beer to toast all my fellow Diabadasses out there, living everyday with their heads held high.
Join me and JDRF on our journey to create a world without T1D, ending its impact on millions. jdrf.org/T1DLooksLikeMe
Yesterday I hosted a Michigan IPA Tasting Event at our home. Six of us gathered around the table and shared beer, stories, and laughter. I had a lot of fun hosting, so if you’ve ever considered it, I say – do it! Here is a little advice to get you started:
Pick a Theme
Do you want to sample beers from one brewery? Do you want to sample the same style of beers from a variety of breweries? Do you want to share with people your favorite beer of each style? Once you decide the theme of your tasting, it will help determine what comes next.
Picking my theme was easy, because I had beer that I needed help getting rid of. Generally IPAs are meant to be enjoyed fresh, and my cellar was piling up with an abundance of Michigan IPAs that needed to be drank fast!
Pick Your Guests
First, you’ll need to determine how many guests you’d like to invite. Do you plan on having an intimate around-the-table tasting, or a larger mix n’ mingle party? It’s also a good idea to take into consideration the types of guests you want to have. If you’re planning on a more formal tasting event that thoroughly dissects the appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel, etc. – make sure you are inviting experienced and knowledgeable beer drinkers. If your event is going to be more casual and will include people with a variety of beer experience, make sure you facilitate it accordingly. You don’t want to disappoint your fellow beer junkies, and you definitely don’t want to scare off or intimidate new craft beer drinkers.
For yesterday’s event I invited friends that appreciate craft beer, but all have different levels of knowledge on the beer spectrum. In this instance, the environment was a positive one which facilitated an open discussion of beer knowledge.
Pick Your Beer
Once you know your theme and how many guests you plan on having, it is time to pick your beer! It’s fun to serve rare or unique beer your guests have never had before, but it might also be good to serve familiar beer to act as the tasting ‘control group’ to the other beers. How many different beers do you plan on having? We had 12 different IPAs, divided into two rounds – but I think if I were having a more formal tasting event, I would limit myself to 6 in order to prevent palate fatigue and mental exhaustion. Now is also the time to determine how much of each beer you will need. Are you having enough people to warrant a pony keg, or do you just need a couple bottles from your local bottle shop? Remember, a tasting event is different from a drinking event – each guest only needs a couple of ounces of each beer. Also keep in mind that a couple of ounces can add up to a lot of ounces, depending on how many different beers you are serving.
Beer. Purchase your beer ahead of time, and make sure you store it in a cool, dry place. On the day of your event, make sure the beer is served at proper tasting temperature for the style. Beer that is too cold is hard for our taste buds to taste.
Tasting Cups. Remember, these only need to be a few ounces. I used clear plastic cups with a wide mouth, so guests could easily evaluate color and catch the aroma.
Tasting Mats. I made tasting mats for each round of tasting, with ordered, labeled spots for each beer. I also included other information about the beer, like the brewery name, ABV, and IBUs.
Beer Score Cards. While my event did not include formal judging, I wanted to provide my guests with a place to take notes about each beer if they were so inclined. I also printed off a page with some tasting “suggestions” and some simple beer vocabulary.
Snacks & Water. I intentionally picked snacks that act as palate neutralizers or that traditionally pair with beer. We had pretzels, popcorn, bread, and cheese. Make sure you also provide your guests with plenty of water. The idea behind the snacks and water are to help clear the taste buds between beer samples, and also to help prevent any major drunkenness caused by an empty stomach. Aside from the snacks, our group was small enough that we were also able to order carry-out once the event was underway.
On the day of your event, set up as much in advance as possible. I set out each spot at the table with the tasting mats, beer score cards, pens, napkins, and suggestion sheets well before everyone arrived. I also threw some flowers in an old growler, which made a beautiful centerpiece. I put snacks out and poured waters 15 minutes prior to everyone’s arrival, and started playing music 5 minutes before showtime. In case of late arrivals, I advise you do not start pouring beers until everyone is there and ready to start. Talk to everyone, and make sure they are comfortable and enjoying themselves. Keep an eye out for overconsumption, and be aware that as the host you may have to provide a way home or a place to crash for the night if someone goes over the top. (Fortunately, I did not encounter anything remotely close to this last night.) Consider having a party favor you can send home with people at the end of the night – mine was simple, I sent my guests home with a variety 6-pack of the beers they ranked the highest.
Overall, my tasting party was a success and I am really glad that I did it. My guests were great, and brought some of their own delicious beverages to share – including a homebrewed Classic American Pilsner and some homemade wine. Thanks to everyone that came out! I look forwarding to hosting my next one.
Have you ever hosted a beer tasting event? What did you find that worked and didn’t work for you? If you were to host a beer tasting event, what would your theme be?
Boozy ice cream treats have been a thing long before the recent fad of Not Your Father’s Root Beer floats (just ask the character Doc in John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row). Before we get into a big discussion about whether or not NYFRB is even a beer, let me say up front, that is not what this post is about. This post is simply about floats made with craft beer.
The story goes that the original ice cream float was invented by Robert McCay Green in 1874 when he made the serendipitous decision to use ice cream in his sodas when he ran out of ice. Some of the most common varieties of ice cream floats are root beer floats, coke floats, and Boston Coolers; and in Australia and New Zealand ice cream floats are called “spiders”. Thanks to creative mixologists and at-home beer & ice cream lovers, beer floats have earned a spot in today’s culture.
As a lover of craft beer and a lover of ice cream, I’ve been mixing the two for quite a long time. The question I’ve always been faced with is: Is it in poor taste to mix an artfully-made, quality craft beer with ice cream? I have friends that strongly protest fruit garnish for beer and beer cocktails horrify them – so the idea of tainting their beer with ice cream is something they turn their nose up at. On the contrary, I also know brewers and other members of the industry that love these decadent treats, and even promote their beer to be used in this dessert. Personally? I don’t feel guilty indulging in the craft beer float, but I do keep the below guidelines in mind:
Guidelines for Making A Craft Beer Float:
Respect the craft. Craft beer is an art form. Before diving into a beer float, drink the beer by itself the way it was created to be consumed. Explore the flavor and nuances of the beer, and respect that this beer is someone’s art.
Complement the craft. If you drive a luxury car, you put premium gas in it. If you drink craft beer, don’t put cheap ice cream in it! Find a quality made, carefully crafted ice cream to go with that quality made, carefully crafted beer! I personally recommend Love’s grass-fed dairy ice cream or Graeter’s handcrafted French pot ice cream – but look around for other craft ice cream in your area. Additionally, make sure you are using beer styles and ice cream flavors that complement each other. My favorite combination tends to be vanilla ice cream with dark, malty beers (my personal favorites usually include notes of burnt caramel, toasted malt, espresso, and bourbon!)
Pour with care. When the carbonated beer hits the ice cream, it’s a recipe for overflow. Pour slowly and carefully, and prepare to slurp up the excess! Enjoy!
How do you feel about the combination of craft beer and ice cream? Are you a fan of craft beer floats? What is your favorite beer/ice cream combo? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!