I am excited to announce that I am beginning work on my latest book.
Titled “Craft Beer Kitchen: Recipes from and Inspired by
America’s Breweries”, it will be released nationally by Storey
Publishing, an imprint of Workman Press. The book is due this coming
April and will be released in the spring of 2013.
This site will be a bit dormant for the next few weeks as I work to finish up my second book – a Guide to Massachusetts Breweries. It will be published in the Spring by Stackpole Books but first I need to hit the Oct. 31 deadline. I will try to post things as they come up, but no promises. Thanks for your patience and understanding. Cheers!
When it comes to pairing a beverage with cheese, most people will immediately turn to wine. But would you believe that beer is a suitable substitute? This morning I was on WNBC to share few pairing ideas from the vast selection of cheeses and brews available. Continue reading
America’s smaller and independent brewers continued to see sales and volume growth during the first half of 2011, according to the Brewer’s Association, a Colorado-based non-profit group that monitors the craft beer industry. The volume of craft beer grew 14 percent between January and June, compared to a nine percent growth during the first half of 2010. Continue reading
A post from John Kimmich at the Alchemist Pub and Brewery in Waterbury, VT overnight confirms the worst. The beloved craft brewery is under water and severely damaged. This after Hurricane Irene barreled up the coast and caused severe flooding in the Northeast and New England.
Earlier today the finalists for the 2011 Samuel Adams LongShot contest were announced . The judging panel led by Jim Koch, included a number of beer writers (including yours truly) and homebrewing experts. We started off with nine beers and narrowed it down to the four finalists who will fly to Denver in September for the Great American Beer Festival, where the two winning beers will be announced. Continue reading
Most of us care about the food we put atop an open flame on the back yard grill. Prime cuts of beef, the choicest hotdogs with the right mix of spices. Fresh caught seafood and vegetables straight from the garden. So why just pair these excellent summer delicacies with just any beer? Here are a few craft beer and food pairings as seen on WNBC.
One thing about drinking a lot of beer is that occasionally you’re going to have a bad one. Perhaps it was infected or spoiled by light. Perhaps the brewer or brewery was new and still working out the kinks on a particular style. Regardless, you couldn’t finish the beer in your glass and moved onto the next one. Continue reading
Sure, it would have been easier, faster, and just make more sense for the two men to exchange emails. But, when Jim Koch and Sam Calagione teamed up to brew a collaboration beer for this year’s SAVOR, they each cleared time from their schedules, pulled out a sheet of company stationary and wrote each other letters. Actual letters. Continue reading
Two weeks ago, the folks at Stone Brewing Co. put out a press release inviting reporters on a three-stop tour around San Diego saying it would reveal some major plans about the brewery. Being here on the East Coast, I missed the tour. Fortunately, the intrepid journalist, Brandon Hernández is able to fill us in on the details.
(This article first appeared on craftbeer.com)
Shortly after being diagnosed with celiac disease, a few regular customers of the Old Hat Brewery & Grill approached Brewer and Owner Tommy Fuller to ask for a favor. Having celiac meant they could no longer consume gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Continue reading
This morning T.G.I. Friday’s announced that it would begin serving “craft beers” at some of it’s restaurants as part of a summer seasonal menu. Being pessimist at times, I thought that “craft” would include uninspired choices or distributor pushed items like Blue Moon. I’m glad to report that I was somewhat wrong. Continue reading
For all its diversity and willingness to embrace new things, Jersey City, NJ has been mostly a lousy beer town.
Last week Barcade opened on Newark Avenue, a few short blocks from the Grove Street PATH station. The now-chain which started in Brooklyn, boasts 25 taps of just American craft beer, a beer engine along with a few dozen arcade games from the 1980s. Local message boards and discussion groups buzzed about it’s arrival in the weeks before it opened. When it officially welcomed customers on Friday, there was a line to get in.
Now, it could just be the novelty of a new bar opening up, or the desire for some people to relive childhood one quarter at a time, or maybe because they are thirsty for something different, something that – in the past – would have meant a trip to, say, Brooklyn. As I said Jersey City has been a lousy beer town.
In the weeks leading up to Barcade’s opening, other Jersey City bars have taken notice. Iron Monkey in Paulus Hook recently hired a new beer manger, has been hosting a number of “meet the brewer” events and has been tapping some impressive kegs, like Founder’s Kentucky Breakfast Stout. It’s a welcome change for the bar which has always embraced American craft beer but fallen short of greatness too many times to count over the years.
Star Bar on Wayne Street, near the corner of Grove St. recently announced that it is changing its name to Pint, would be expanding its tap offerings offering new cocktails and promising “a major surprise.” Gimmicks aside, it’s nice to see more tap handles coming on and I hope the bar keeps its commitment to featuring American craft on tap.
There is, of course, the Zeppelin Hall Biergarten which has 140 taps (by far the largest offering in the city) but is a disappointment as a beer bar. Run like a club, with servers who don’t know the first thing about what they are pouring and then deliver beer in plastic mugs, is no longer worth the time or money with better places in town serving up better beer.
I visited Barcade last week during a soft launch. Within minutes I was talking with Richie, a bartender, who knew a bit about each of the beers he was serving. It was a varied list but he expertly worked his way down the line. Clearly, this bar takes its mission seriously. Other bars in Jersey City (and beyond) should take note.
Barcade is a welcome addition to Jersey City and I’m looking forward to being a regular.
A few weeks ago Walgreens, the national drugstore chain, announced that it would begin selling its own brand of beer in the majority of its stores. The move signals that major retailers are starting to appreciate that the American consumer is noticing more than the so-called Big Three brewers – Budweiser, Coors and Miller- and are willing to try something new, or in this case, cheaper. Continue reading
Confused by the headline?
A few weeks ago I wrote an article for Craftbeer.com about the growing trend of nano breweries in the United States.
It was a lot of fun to write and I think it was well received.
On Thursday, friend of the Beer Briefing Julia Herz sent me an email with a link to an article in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette on the rise of nano-breweries in the Keystone State.
Reporter Bob Batz Jr. does a nice job featuring a few of the nanos in the state, including Beaver Brewing Co.
Then, he writes this:
In an article just published on the Brewers Association’s craftbeer.com site, John Holl notes that nanobreweries, “sometimes referred to as pico breweries, or bucket breweries,” don’t even aim to grow big in size and distribution range. Some established brewers are starting nano operations as ways to carefully expand into other markets, try different things, and/or just have fun. He cites the Coney Island brewhouse of Jeremy Cowan, the proprietor of Shmaltz Brewing Co., whose He’Brew beers are contract brewed. The Coney Island spot, which opened last summer (making funnel cake beer and candy apple ale) and will reopen this summer, brews just one-eighth of a barrel at a time.
I love it! It’s an article quoting an article. Now, I’m mentioning it on the blog.
It’s all about sharing the news about good beer.
Now, we just need to see if we can get someone to write a blog about this blog which is about an article inside an article….
Read Bob’s full story here.
And you can follow me on Twitter by clicking here.
Samuel Johnson once said, “We are not here to sell a parcel of boilers and vats, but the potentiality of growing rich beyond the dreams of avarice.”
There is a notion that professionally brewing beer can lead to big things. The general public thinks of breweries as hulking factories turning out millions of bottles a year. However, the overwhelming majority of the 1,600 U.S. craft breweries produce much less than 50,000 barrels a year. (One barrel equals about 31 gallons, or 248 16oz pints.) Continue reading
Belgium is the holy land of beer and each year thousands of thirsty pilgrims make the trek overseas to visit the Trappist breweries, fulfill their love of lambics and sample great gueuze. American brewers are regularly among those visitors, there to unwind but also school themselves in the centuries old traditions that are the foundation of beer today.
It seems that the Belgian counterparts are taking notice to what American brewers are doing as well and regularly pay similar visits to see what the less encumbered by tradition folks are up to.
Occasionally, brewers from the two countries will collaborate. These partnerships are still somewhat rare given the collaboration frenzy that American brewers are in the midst of with each other but that makes the end result that more special.
A note came in from Sam Adams HQ this February 2, 2011, that the prognosticator of prognosticators, Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow and, as such, Spring would arrive six weeks early. With the winter beating most of the country has received over the last few months this is certainly welcome news.
According to a press release from the brewery, Jim Koch, founder of the Boston Beer Co. which makes the Sam Adams line of beers, was in Punxsutawney this morning to watch the most famous rodent weatherman make his prediction. Last night, Koch was made an honorary member of Punxsutawney Phil’s Inner Circle, “a group of tuxedo-clad keepers sworn to uphold the grand tradition of Groundhog Day.”
It should be noted that – in pictures at least – Koch shunned the top hat and tails and wore his usual outfit of tan kahki pants with a blue denim button down shirt stitched with the Samuel Adams logo.
It is fitting that Punxsutawney Phil predicted spring, because the brewery is using it as a chance to promote their spring seasonal beer, Noble Pils.
This beer showed up in recent years as a nice alternative to some heavier “spring” alternatives. It’s brewed in the Czech style and comes out as crisp with a nice bit of hops on the finish. At 4.9% ABV, it’s a really nice session beer.
Noble Pils, Koch told me in an interview a few months ago, was first brewed as a wedding beer for his daughter who was married a few years ago. It was so popular, he said, that the brewery decided to add it to their regular lineup.
Available between January and March, Noble Pils, should make us all think of warmer times. That is something we desperately need right about now.
If dog is man’s best friend, surely beer is a close second. Often the two passions come together, be it through the bond many brewer’s have with their faithful companions, or the enthusiast who enjoys spending an evening at home with a great Russian Imperial Stout in his glass, and Rover at his feet.
Since I’m not a brewer, I fall into the second category. But recently, an outing with my dog put me in an interesting situation, which caused me to take a closer look at the deep role the canine persuasion plays in the world of beer.
Looks like I’m confirmed to appear on WNBC’s Weekend Today in New York.
I’ll be on the January 15 broadcast airing in the 9a.m. hour.
The plan is to pour some beers that can help stave off a winter chill. My list is almost finalized and I’ll be sure to post a recap here once it airs.
The most current and thorough guide to the 37 brewers in the Hoosier State is NOW AVAILABLE
Authored by John Holl and Nate Schweber it will start appearing on shelves within days and you can also order online.
We’ve also set up a fan page on Facebook where you can follow the action.
(This article first appeared in the Dec. 2010/January 2011 issue of the Ale Street News)
2010 has been a good year for Jeremy Cowan.
The proprietor of Shmaltz Brewing released his first book, a rollicking autobiography chronicling his childhood, foray into the brewing world, near collapse and eventual slingshot-like success. He opened a pico-brewery on Coney Island for the summer months and just in time for Chanukah has released a vertical bottle pack, from the last seven years of Jewbelation, his anniversary ale.
Oh, and he also won a silver medal – his first – at the Great American Beer Festival.
“This is by far the biggest year we’ve had, the most complicated we’ve ever had and the most successful,” said Cowan. “We were very ambitious.”
The best example of that ambition can be seen in the HE’BREW Holiday Gift Pack, which is a collection of Jewbelation years 8 – 14 and a bottle of the barrel-aged Vertical Jewbelation, a combination of all seven recipes and then barrel-aged in Sazerac 6-year rye whiskey barrels.
Keeping true to the shtick that has made Shmaltz stand out, the holiday pack comes complete with Chanukah candles and instructions on how to build a beer menorah from the empty bottles.
Back in 1996 when Cowan launched Shmaltz from San Francisco and bottled, labeled and delivered the first cases himself, it could have been easy to mistake the brewery as just another gimmick, a way to make a quick buck and one that would just become another piece of craft beer history. In fact, as he notes in his new book Craft Beer Bar Mitzvah: How it took 13 years, Extreme Jewish Brewing, and Circus Sideshow Freaks to make Shmaltz Brewing an International Success (http://www.craftbeerbarmitzvah.com) Cowan admits that the whole thing started as a joke with friends.
Soon however, Cowan realized that he could have a legitimate business and was not content to be just another fad or a joke label (although the bottle artwork and tongue-in-cheek phrasing helped propel that mantle) and backed up the product with quality made beer.
In a rapidly growing craft beer market with more choices than ever before, people were slow to respond to Cowan’s “Chosen Beer” and seven years after that first delivery, the young entrepreneur had lost tens of thousands of family and friends capitol investment funds and despite some beer name recognition was about to find his business become a brewery causality.
Cowan pressed on, sold his beer in New York by going shop to shop, bar to bar and eventually gained more and more traction and was able to turn the whole thing around.
Shmaltz now has seven full-time employees. The beers are made at the Olde Saratoga Brewing Co. in upstate New York and Cowan said they will likely produce about 7,200 barrels by the end of 2010. His beers are available throughout the country.
“I am proud of what we have accomplished,” he said in a recent telephone call from New Orleans where he was between sales calls and a promotional appearance.
There is no rest for the weary, however. In recent years Cowan has expanded his offerings beyond the torah and yarmulke and into the arena of weird, the circle of strange, the world of carnival sideshows.
Coney Island Craft Lagers launched a few years ago and now has three regular offerings, including the Sword Swallower Steel Hop Lager, and two seasonal brews. Proceeds from the sales benefit a non-profit corporation looking to rehab the Brooklyn seaside attraction.
Coney Island also became home this past summer to a 1/8 barrel brew house operated by Cowan and designed to be a side show much like its neighbors the Bearded Lady and Human Blockhead.
“It’s really a non-profit arts project,” said Cowan. “The idea is to show people how beer is made and to get creative with what we make.” This included the creation of a funnel cake beer and candy apple ale. The small brewery will return to Coney Island again in the summer of 2011.
In September Cowan continued his lucky streak and received further validation that his brewery was coming into focus when he took home a silver medal for the He’Brew RIPA on Rye in the wood and barrel-aged category beating out 75 other brews.
He joked that what he really needs after the last year is a nap. The reality is that the brewery is pressing forward with Cowan revealing that Shmaltz will establish a permanent barrel aging program with three specialty releases planned for 2011.
“We are going to focus on what we do every day and throw in some fun along the way,” he said.
(This Article Appeared in the Dec. 2010/Jan. 2011 edition of the Ale Street News)
Celebrated chef David Burke has combined forces with the Boston Beer Co., makers of Samuel Adams, to create a limited release ale that is really unlike anything else on the market.
“I first wanted to make a beer with barbeque sauce,” said Burke in a recent phone interview. “Then we thought about oxtail in the beer. Then we moved over to the idea of beef hearts. They are leaner and bloodier. We wanted that meaty bloody note.”
Burke grilled the beef hearts with a little bit of rosemary, giving them a slight caramelization that added some depth to the flavor before adding them to the brew kettle. Because it was going to be released in the colder months Burke said they added ginger, cinnamon cloves and molasses, spices commonly found in Christmas cookies to give the beef a twist.
The end result draws a variety of curious responses from those who taste it. The ginger and spice comes on strong in the nose and with a medium mouth feel drinks smooth with the beef hearts coming on in the finish, almost like a butcher shop but not in an unpleasant way.
Burke is known in the culinary world for his inventive streak and groundbreaking cooking techniques. His restaurants and recipes are lauded by gourmands and fellow chefs and this ale has certainly helped bring craft beer to the attention of his patrons, who, he said, usually prefer wine with dinner.
The ale, known as Burke in the Bottle is currently only available at Burke’s restaurants in New York and New Jersey in 12oz bottles.
“Honestly, I was surprised at how good it was,” said Burke,” and people seem to like it too.”
It seems that across the Garden State a new burger joint opens each week. Places like Five Guys and Smashburger offer tempting patties piled high with fresh toppings and served with sides of thick crispy fries. Places that are good for a quick fix of an American classic.
Now there is a new player on the burger scene and they have upped the ante. Zinburger is not your typical burger place. Inventive toppings and sauces tempt diners with delicious choices. They also serve and promote wine, a sign that Zinburger is trying to elevate how people view a food that is typically considered casual.
Read the full story on New Jersey Newsroom here.
(This article first appeared in the December 2010/January 2011 issue of the Ale Street News)
BREWING GIANTS TEAM UP TO CREATE A NEW BEER
By JOHN HOLL
When the call came through to Jim Koch’s Boston office about three years ago he thought the person on the other end of the line was making a joke. The caller identified himself as Dr. Josef Schrädler, managing director of Germany’s famed and historic Weihenstephan Brewery. The thick German accent sounded authentic and the brewing terms were accurate. But, what this caller was proposing was so far removed from anything that had been done before that Koch was convinced it couldn’t be real.
The man on the other end of the line proposed that the two breweries collaborate on a beer.
Collaborations have become common in the brewing world, often bringing together breweries with different philosophies and strengths together to create a special, one time brew. However, for Weihenstephan, which dates back to the year 1040 and is firmly rooted in the old-world of brewing to reach out to an American brewery that is barely 26-years-old was something unheard of.
However, the call was legitimate and soon after Koch, the founder and brewer of Boston Beer, which makes the Samuel Adams lines of beers was at the historic Weihenstephan brewery located in the Bavarian city of Freising. Neither side, said Koch, was content on making just another collaboration beer, not content to just tweak an existing style.
No, Koch said they wanted to create something completely new and do it under the constraints of the Reinheitsgebot or German Purity Law, which states that beer is to be made with just four ingredients: water, malt, hops and yeast.
The vision, said Koch, was to make a Champagne-like beer.
So the two sides set to work. Weihenstephan, which has perfected the brewing process and employs some of the finest and most accomplished brewers and scientists in the business and Boston Beer, which routinely updates classic styles and isn’t afraid to take risks found a harmonious middle ground.
They named the beer Infinium. Packaged in cork-finished, foil topped 750ml bottles, it will be available beginning in December for a limited time. The beer is very dry with a bit of sweetness that belies its 10.3% alcohol by volume. It retails for about $20 a bottle and the breweries suggest serving it in a traditional Champagne flute.
Infinium, said Koch, challenges the very perception of beer in a very different way.
“This beer is truly a marriage of the German brewing heritage that our brewery has upheld for almost a thousand years, combined with new, innovative brewing techniques that take beer beyond what anyone expected to be possible under the constraints of the purity law,” said Dr. Schrädler in a statement.
How exactly the brewers were able to make a new style of beer while staying true to the Reinheitsgebot remains proprietary knowledge, said a Boston Beer spokeswoman who noted the breweries had applied for patents to trademark the process.
“We deconstructed the brewing process and put it together in a new way,” Koch said in an interview earlier this year while the beer was still being perfected and tweaked. “We need to patent the brewing method that creates the style. You can’t get there with out the brewing techniques that we developed.”
The beer was made in both the United States and in Germany, giving Infinium a global reach. Here in the US, Boston Beer contracted a winery in upstate New York to clarify and bottle the champagne-like brew.
Koch has admitted that it took longer than anticipated to get Infinium to the people, but in recent interviews and appearances has beamed like a proud father when talking about the collaboration.
When the partnership was announced a few years back, the breweries said they would likely do a trio of beer but there are no official plans in place for creating and releasing the remaining two.
For now, Boston Beer and Weihenstephan will give Infinium a chance to make its mark.
“We are all excited to finally share Infinium with drinkers this holiday season,” said Koch.
Over the last several months, I’ve been fortunate to get to know and spend time with one of New York City’s great beer men, Jimmy Carbone.
Owner of Jimmy’s no. 43, creator and advocate of the Good Beer Seal and all around raconteur, Jimmy is also the host of Beer Session’s Radio on the Heritage Network. A while back, I was invited to appear on the show and gladly accepted.
On Dec. 7 I had my chance to hit the airwaves and spent one of the most enjoyable hours talking beer with Jimmy and Ray Deter (Owner of d.b.a.).
Also on the panel was Warren Monteiro, who writes the beer sansei column for Ale Street News and Jeremy Cowan the proprietor of Shmaltz Brewing.
Among other things, we talked about how the Indiana Breweries book came into existence and I floundered when asked about a beer and food pairing.
The hour flew by and I hope I have a chance to do it again.
If you’re not a fan of the program, give it a listen. You will be.
For the beer lover there is an endless supply of gift ideas that crop up around this time of year. Glassware, bottle openers, books, apparel and even beer itself are all great ideas. There are homebrew kits and instructional DVDs that can bring hours of enjoyment.
The New Jersey Beer Co. has gotten a little creative with its holiday offerings and is selling memberships to its Reserve Club, an exclusive group that is eligible for insider benefits and the opportunity to brew on NJBC’s 10-barrel system.
The first 200 people to sign up for the $100 memberships will receive a second year in the club at no additional cost. Members will receive a growler of each of the brewery’s four seasonal beers before they go on sale to the public as well as a first chance to sample and purchase small-batch special releases. A brewery t-shirt and 20% off all merchandise from the brewery store for the duration of membership is also included.
Steinberg plans to hold several members-only events at the North Bergen, NJ brewery and regular opportunities to brew alongside the New Jersey Beer Co. staff, something many home brewers will appreciate.
“We want to give people a chance to experience the brewery in a deeper way,” said Matt Steinberg, the brewery president. “This is more than the standard tour and tastings we currently offer, it’s really a chance to be part of the brewery family and connect with like-minded people.”
(This article appeared in the December 2010/January 2011 Issue of the Ale Street News)
While I’m usually stuck on the page or computer screen, occasionally I’ll branch out to other mediums.
This Wednesday (11/24/2010) I’ll be on the News 12 New Jersey morning show in the 8 a.m. hour talking about some craft beer options for your Thanksgiving Day dinner.
I’ll be pouring four beers including Infinium from Sam Adams and Weihenstephaner and the English Mild from the New Jersey Beer Co.
What are the other two?
Tune in this Wednesday and find out!
Cork-finished bottles stand out on shelves. Just a little taller than the other bottles, there is something a bit more formal about them. Beers finished with a cork and secured with a cage are a sign of something special, a reminder of the wonderful fermented beverage’s bottled beginnings and an enticement to spend a few more dollars on a beer the breweries have deemed above average.
Read the full article on Craftbeer.com here.
The orange earthy vegetable has earned its place in the glass
Long before he opened for business, Sean Wilson decided he wanted to use local ingredients as often as possible when it came to making his beers. The founder of Durham, North Carolina’s Fullsteam Brewery surveyed the state’s agricultural scene and realized that it was the largest producer of sweet potatoes in the nation. Putting the starchy orange vegetable into a lager just made sense.
Read the full story here.
A few months back Scottish microbrewery Brewdog announced that they had created “the world’s strongest beer.” The brewery said it would release just a dozen bottles of the 55% alcohol brew and that it would come packaged in a stuffed animal. Don’t think teddy bear, think taxidermy.
From the official announcement:
“This blond Belgian ale is infused with nettles from the Scottish Highlands and Fresh juniper berries. Only 12 bottles have been made and each comes with its own certificate and is presented in a stuffed stoat or grey squirrel. The striking packaging was created by a very talented taxidermist and all the animals used were road kill. This release is a limited run of 11 bottles, 7 stoats and 4 grey squirrels. Each ones comes with its own certificate of authenticity.”
Bloggers in the industry swooned, major media outlets wrote about it and featured it on newscasts. Amazingly all of the available bottles (costing up to $1,100) sold out.
Brewdog did give one bottle to the website BeerTap TV and this weekend, during a live broadcast at the Beer Bloggers Conference the show will open the bottle and conduct a live review. It’ll be interesting to hear what the folks who get a sip or two have to say.
The first ever Beer Bloggers Conference will be held later this weekend in Boulder, CO.
This will be my second trip to Colorado in six weeks and I am excited to check out a few of the breweries in town.
The conference itself has a pretty interesting line up. More to come later this week.
I figure it’s time to establish my own home on the Internet, and this is it.
The Beer Briefing will be home to my previously published articles on American craft beer and the culture of drinking. I’ll also post short stories and reviews of things that come my way.
For now, I’m going to fool around with the layout and particulars of operating a blog. So there will be more later on.
This is the new Internet home for John Holl, beer writer.