Monthly Archives: November 2012

How PBR Got Its “Blue Ribbon” — and Its Modern Name

PBR Pabst Blue Ribbon Neon Sign

Pabst Blue Ribbon, a.k.a., PBR, the current beer of choice for angst-ridden hipsters and cheap alcoholics everywhere, got its “blue ribbon” and its modern name after winning the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair beer exposition, according to a blog post on SmithsonianMag.com.

The beer, which was originally called Pabst Best Select, or PBS, had apparently been getting a lot of attention before the World’s Fair, and the brewer started tying ribbons onto the beer bottles to make them stand out. By 1900, Pabst was using more than a million feet of ribbon per year, according to the post. After winning best beer at the Chicago World’ Fair, the company changed its name.

I guess it makes sense that Pabst actually won a major award before it got its modern-day name, but I never really stopped to consider which one. Now I—and you—know.

The Smithsonian post is packed with additional details, so pop on over there for more information.

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A New Brew for Beer Nerds and BOOK Nerds: Rogue White Whale Ale, with Pages from Moby Dick

Rogue Moby Dick White Whale Ale

Rogue Ales makes some really fucking weird beers. It also makes some really good beers—I’m partial to its Brutal IPA. But it’s often the odd ones that get the most attention.

Today, the Oregon-based brewery announced a new ale made with pages from the classic novel, Moby Dick, by Herman Melville. Seriously. The brewer, along with Powell’s Books, also based in Oregon, tore up some pages and dropped them into the kettle during the brewing process.

From Rogue:

“White Whale Ale was brewed in honor of Powell’s Books 41st Anniversary. Powell’s Books is the one of the world’s great independent and family run bookstores. Its flagship store in downtown Portland, Oregon covers an entire city block and contains more than one million new and used books. It also serves customers worldwide through Powells.com.

“White Whale Ale is available at Rogue Hall in the heart of the Portland State University campus and the Rogue Distillery & Public House located in Portland’s historic Pearl District, just blocks from Powell’s Books on Burnside.  Commemorative bottles may also be purchased online at www.rogue.com.”

No information is available on what type of beer White Whale Ale is, but it stands to reason that it’s a Belgian-style white.

Rogue also recently announced a new beer that’s made with yeast from brewmaster John Maier’s beard, and it’s the maker of the (in)famous Rouge Voodoo Doughnut Bacon Maple ale.

I think I’d be more interested if someone made a beer with pages from Stephen King’s The Shining, but that’s just me. (DREN REEB, DREN REEB)

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Tips on How to Age Beer, from Dogfish Head

Cantillon Bottles Aging

Bottles of beer aging at the Cantillon brewery in Brussels, Belgium

Last summer, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery posted an informative story with five tips on how to age beer. At the time, I glanced over it quickly, but I honestly wasn’t really thinking too much about aging brews at that point. Since then, I’ve built up my beer “cellar,” which is really just a big-ass cabinet built into the wall in my apartment, and I’ve spend quite a bit of time identifying and amassing beers that should age well.

Here’s a quick breakdown of Dogfish Head’s tips on how to age beer:

  1. A little experimentation goes a long way
  2. Don’t underestimate fresh
  3. High-alcohol beers tend to age better
  4. Storage matters
  5. Beer won’t spoil

After doing a lot of experimenting of my own, the first two steps really stand out to me. I’ve learned that the best way to really see and taste the difference between aged beer and “young” beer is to collect different “vintages” of each of them, and then do side-by-side taste tests. For example, I have bottles of this year’s Dogfish Worldwide Stout and 120 Minute IPA, both of which have very high ABVs, and both of which are particularly well suited for aging. I don’t plan on drinking either of them until I can get 2013 versions of each beer, at least, and probably not until I collect 2014 bottles, too. I’ve had Worldwide Stout and 120 Minute IPA numerous times in the past, but never along with different vintages, and it’s hard to remember their complex subtleties.

I’ve also learned that as a general rule of thumb, hoppy beers and beers made with fruit tend to taste better fresh and probably don’t make the best candidates for aging. There are some exceptions, of course—120 Minute IPA is intensely hoppy and some Belgian beers made with cherries or other berries can age well over a number of years. Many people think IPAs age well, because they were originally sent by the British Army to soldiers in India and were thought to age better than normal pale ales. But that was due to the increase in ABV, and I’d bet those IPAs didn’t exactly taste fresh after their long voyages.

Read more specifics from Dogfish Head’s Quality Control Manager Rebecca Newman on the brewer’s website.

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Image via Flickr user Travlr

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5 Maine Breweries That Should be on Your Radar

State of Maine Map

Earlier this month, I hopped a train from Boston to Portland, Maine for Portland Beer Week. And I quickly realized that Portland is not only a beautiful city on the Atlantic ocean, but it has an amazing craft beer scene. Portland and the entire state of Maine are home to a handful of world-class breweries and beer bars.

Here’s a list of five Maine breweries you should be aware of, two of which you’ve probably heard of and three you’ll very likely be hearing more about in the not-too-distant future.

1) Allagash Brewing Co.

Allagash Brewing Co. Dubble Ale

Portland-based Allagash is already well known, thanks to its top-notch Belgian-style white ale, which is available throughout the United States. In fact, many folks outside of New England simply call that white ale “Allagash,” and they’re not aware that the brewery also makes a number of additional high-quality Belgian styles. (I’m partial to its Confluence wild ale and Hugh Malone Belgian IPA.) Read more about Allagash on the brewery’s website.

2) Maine Beer Co.

Maine Beer Company's Lunch IPA

Maine Brewing Company, also based in Portland, is the Maine brewery that I’m most impressed with. I’ve been drinking Maine Beer Co. brews for a couple of years now, and I’ve never met one I did not like. I would be very surprised if the popularity of this small, humble Maine brewery—with the motto, “Do what’s right”—doesn’t spread like wild fire through the United States and beyond. Maine Beer’s Lunch IPA is one of the best IPAs I have ever had. (Read my review of Lunch here.) Learn more about Maine Beer Co. on the brewer’s website.

3) Oxbow Brewing Co.

Oxbow Brewing Co. goblet glass

Oxbow Brewing Co. in New Castle, Maine, calls itself an American farmhouse brewery that makes “loud beer from a quite place.” I attended an Oxbow tap takeover at Novare Res Bier Cafe during Portland Beer Week, and I was very impressed with the range and quality of the brews. I had a fantastic IPA with tropical-citrus flavors and Brettanomyces called Funkhaus, and another solid IPA called Freestyle No. 8, both of which were complex and unique. Learn more about Oxbow Brewing Co. on the brewer’s website.

4) Bull Jagger Brewing Co.

Bull Jagger Brewing Co. logo

Bull Jagger is a newcomer to the Portland, Maine beer scene, but it’s quickly making a name for itself with some solid lagers and other noteworthy brews, including a fantastic porter, called Baltic Porter No. 19. I also attended a Bull Jagger tap takeover during Portland Beer Week, and I was very impressed with a tart, strawberry infused limited-release lager called WILD BJ. Visit the brewer’s website for more information.

5) Shipyard Brewing Co.

The Shipyard Brewing Co.

You’ve very likely heard of Portland’s Shipyard Brewing Co., makers of the insanely popular fall seasonal Pumpkinhead ale. (FWIW, I hate pumpkin beers; here’s why.) Shipyard also brews an export lager that’s widely distributed across the United States. I visited Shipyard’s brewery while in Portland, and as a New Englander, I’ve been drinking Shipyard brews for years. My favorite is probably its Monkey Fist IPA. For more on Shipyard Brewing Co., visit the brewer’s website.

(Honorable mentions: Baxter Brewing Co.; D.L Geary Brewing Company; and Rising Tide Brewing Co.)

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Pretty Things to Launch New ‘Once Upon a Time, Old Beer’ Dec. 9 in Boston

Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project OUAT Old Beers

The Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project on Saturday announced via Twitter that it will pour four beers from its Once Upon a Time collection of “old beers” at Deep Ellum in Boston’s Allston neighborhood on Sunday, December 9, including a least one brand new brew called 1879 IPA

Pretty Things is a small, Somerville-Massachusetts based brewery that’s making waves on the New England craft beer scene thanks to some great beers, unique bottle art and a lots of grassroots marketing. (I sat down for a chat with Pretty Things brewers Dann and Martha Paquette a couple of weeks ago.) Pretty Things’ Once Upon a Time Old Beers are recreations of lost styles of beer brewed in the 1800s and early 1900s.

From Pretty Things:

“Our historical projects begin by working with brewing historians such as our present collaborator: Ron Pattinson, a resident of Amsterdam. Ron provides us with brewsheets and insight from breweries often long shuttered. These sheets are the actual records written in the brewer’s hand at the moment he was brewing a batch of beer. This allows us to reach through the mists of time and pick up exactly where they left off.

“We do not interpret or attempt to commercialize these beers in any manner. In fact you have our pledge that if history presents us with a less-than-desirable beer, you will taste this beer as it was. That’s our unique commitment to you.

“Why do we do this? We do this because no one else does. We do this because despite the fact that beer played a much more significant role in our cultures years ago, we’re still unclear of what it actually tasted like. This is of significant interest to us and hopefully you too.”

The initiative is not unlike Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales effort, but Pretty Things focuses on a very different era of brewing.

It’s unclear whether or not the additional three OUAT beers Pretty Things plans to pour on December 9 will also be new or if they’re previously released Old Beers. I’ve had a number of the OUAT beers, and they’re all interesting, particularly the “X Ales” from 1838 and 1945, which were based on recipes for similar English mild ales made almost a hundred years apart.

If you’re in the Boston area on December 9, swing by Deep Ellum and get your Old Beer on.

Learn more about the Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project on PrettyThingsBeerToday.com.

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New Dogfish Ancient Ale, Etrusca, Coming in December

Dogfish Head Birra Etrusca Bronze Ancient Ale

Dogfish Head on Friday announced via Twitter that the latest beer in its Ancient Ales series, called Etrusca, is currently being bottled, and it will hit beer-store shelves in December.

The idea behind Dogfish’s Ancient Ales is to recreate lost styles of beer from ancient times, using recipes and ingredients that are close as possible to those originally used by their brewers.

Dr. Pat McGovern and Sam Calagione Discuss Etrusca

Dr. Pat McGovern and Sam Calagione Discuss Etrusca

Here’s a description of the new, 8.5% ABV brew, from Dogfish:

“This Ancient Ale proves that beside the wine on every Italian’s dinner table, there should also be a place for beer.

“To develop the recipe for Birra Etrusca Bronze, Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione traveled to Rome with molecular archaeologist Dr. Pat McGovern. With the help of Birreria Brother Brewers Leo DeVencenzo of Birra del Borgo and Teo Musso of Baladin, they analyzed drinking vessels found in 2,800-year-old Etruscan tombs.

“The backbone of Birra Etrusca comes from two-row malted barley and an heirloom Italian wheat. Specialty ingredients include hazelnut flour, pomegranates, Italian chestnut honey, Delaware wildflower honey and clover honey. A handful of whole-flower hops are added, but the bulk of the bitterness comes from gentian root and the sarsaparilla-like Ethiopian myrrh resin.

“Birra del Borgo and Baladin also will brew a version of Birra Etrusca, and to add complexity and variety, each brewery will ferment its batches with different traditional materials. Dogfish will use bronze, Baladin will use wood, and Birra del Borgo will use terra cotta.”

I appreciate what Dogfish Founder Sam Calagione and his “beer archiologist” buddy Dr. Pat McGovern are trying to do with these Ancient Ales, and I love how Dogfish is always experimenting with new beers and ingredients. (Beer Advocate magazine recently mocked Calagione and McGovern in an amusing comic strip.)

Read more about Dogfish Head’s Birra Estrusca Ancient Ale on the brewery’s website.

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God Loves Beer

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“God made yeast, as well as dough, and loves fermentation just as dearly as he loves vegetation.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1844

I don’t really believe in God, but if there is a big ol’ bearded Indian giver in the sky, I bet the bastard loves beer.

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Image via PickTheBrain.com

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An Inside Look at the Cantillon Brewery in Brussels (Photos)

Cantillon brewer Jean Van Roy

I’ve been obsessed with Cantillon lately, ever since one of my Beer Guys hooked me up with a couple of bottles of Cantillion gueuze and a bottle of framboise, and after I had two Cantillon bottles at Novare Res Bier Café in Portland, Maine last week. So I was psyched to see that Xinhuanet.com posted an image slide show from a recent tour of the brewery. I’ve read about Cantillon chief brewer Jean Van Roy a number of times, but this is the first image I’ve ever seen of the man.

Check out the full slide show for an inside look at Cantillon brewery in Brussels, Belgium.

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Pucker Up: 12 Sour Beers that’ll Have You Hooked in No Time

Russian River Supplication Sour Ale

Sour beers aren’t for everyone. They’re definitely an acquired taste, and not everyone will acquire the taste for tart ales. Those who are daring enough to push their beer boundaries a bit, however, will very likely be rewarded. (Check out this post for details on the difference between “sour beer” and “wild beer.”)

I started drinking sour beers about a year ago, and I’m absolutely hooked today. It took a bartender at the Sunset Grill and Tap in Allston, Mass., to convince me to give sours a try beyond that first challenging sip. Now the first thing I do when I visit a beer bar is scan the draft/bottle list for sours.

It pays to start off slowly when wading into the waters of sour ales, though. The following list spotlights a dozen of my favorite sour beers, starting with some less-challenging sours and finishing up with some seriously sour brews. Most of these beers, with a few exceptions, can be found in quality craft beer shops throughout the United States. (Note: The Russian River beers at the bottom of the list are very hard to find outside of California, but they’re so damn good, I had to include them.)

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Barfly’s View: Novare Res Bier Café in Portland, Maine

Novare Res Bier Café in Portland, Maine

Last week I traveled to Portland, Maine, for a few days to celebrate Portland Beer Week. Portland is an amazing New England city by the sea that’s packed with great restaurants, quality breweries and brewpubs, and top-notch beer bars. I hit up nearly a dozen different bars in Portland, but one in particular really stood out: Novare Res Bier Café.

Novare Res is a dark, semi-subterranean beer bar with brick columns and other brick accents, and Belgian-themed decorations throughout, which make for a very cool, laid-back atmosphere. The beer list is amazing; Novare Res has 25 rotating drafts, two hand-pumped casks and more than 500 bottles—I drank some very hard-to-find Cantillon Lambics, Vigneronne and Saint Lamvinus. And Novare Res spotlighted a number of Maine brewers I’d never heard of, as part of Portland Beer Week. (Shout out to Oxbow Brewing Co. and Bull Jagger Brewing Co., two awesome Maine breweries that put on noteworthy events at Novare Res last week.)

Novare Res Bier Café in Portland, Maine

The bar serves a number of meat-and-cheese hors d’oeuvres, and a few small meals, but it’s the beer not the food that makes Novare Res shine. The bartenders are also very knowledgeable and friendly. In fact, one particularly-cool bartender noticed that I was drinking sour beers and went out of his way to let me know that a nearby Japanese noodle bar had one of my favorite gueuzes, Tilquin, on draft. (If you read this, thanks man, the gueuze—and gyoza—at Pai Men Miyake was awesome.)

Boston is home to some world-class beer bars that I frequent. I travel fairly often, and I make it a point to visit all the best beer bars wherever I roam—hence, my collection of Barfly’s Views. In other words, I know my beer bars. But I was blown away by Novare Res Bier Café. Novare Res is not only the best beer bar I found in Portland, it’s one of the best beer bars I’ve ever been to. If you find yourself in Portland, Maine, you need to get your ass over to Novare Res.

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