Post your links for the Session #126

Hazy, Cloudy, Juicy: IPA’s strange twist

What’s the deal with these beers?  We’re going to find out together.

Welcome back to post your link to your content for the August 4th installment of The Sessions, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday! 

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Here’s the announcement post, for reference.  

On August 4, after you post your blog, add the URL pointing to your brand new post. Put it in a comment below on this page or on the announcement page.  I’ll check both.  Or, to get some buzz going, tweet your link with the hashtag #thesession or alert me directly @beerbybart on Twitter.

Monday I’ll do a round-up of all of the submissions and make links back to your work.  So, post today for impact, or wrap it up over the weekend.  

Cheers to August’s Beer Blogging Friday, aka The Session!

-Gail Ann Williams

Explore Beer By BART: Use our list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

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A Juicy Session: Announcing #126

Announcing The Session #126

Hazy, Cloudy, Juicy: IPA’s strange twist

Ready for the next installment of The Sessions, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday?  On August 4th, 2017, the topic will be a still-emerging – though no longer new – unofficial beer style. This kind of beer has gotten so much buzz (and some mocking) in the last decade and a half that it’s surprising it has not come up on The Session yet.  New England, Vermont-inspired, Northeastern, Hazy, Juicy or whatever you like to call these low-bitterness, hop flavorful beers, they are being made everywhere now and people are definitely buying them. 

So fire up your keyboard – let’s hear about your own encounters with these strange IPAs.

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Any approach is welcome. Choose an idea or find your own:  

  • The encounter:  Do you remember your first NEIPA – if so, what was that like?  Details, please.  And how has your perception of the style changed over time? 
  • Or the name game: What style name do you prefer to describe the trend … why choose that one, and why are the other names unworthy or short-sighted? Does “IPA” still apply in a way that’s helpful to drinkers?
  • Or the crusade:  Testify!  Exactly why do you love or hate these beers?  How you could explain your stance to somebody who disagrees with you.  Could you/ how would you convert them to your point of view?
  • Or setting standards and defining flaws: What makes a classic example of the style?   What makes an IPA simply an unfiltered dry-hopped American IPA without much clarity instead of part of this style?  What about the sweeter “milkshake” IPAs – part of this style definition or something else?   What flaws make for weak examples of the style? Or maybe, where should the numbers be for this style – abv, ibu, color and clarity, etc.? What tasting instructions would you give to judges of these beers?
  • Or take another angle, tell another tale!  Have you been writing about these beers for several years now and watched them evolve?  Know something cool about the making of these beers, the people behind them, their spread to the UK and Europe?

Choose any angle and make it yours – they’re just ideas to get us thinking, not a questionnaire.  And if you have zero interest in such a beer, just say why in the fullest detail. Have fun with it!    

A few resources

The Brewers Association and the related Homebrewers Association both started out skeptical. This discussion (including comments) shows a step towards recognition: https://www.homebrewersassociation.org/news/new-england-ipa-haze-craze/  Check out the April Fools style announcement complete with gravy boat snark from 2016: https://www.craftbeer.com/craft-beer-muses/ne-ipa-recognized-official-beer-style

How to Participate in August’s The Session

On August 4, after you post to your blog, come on back here to add the URL pointing to your brand new post. Put it in your comment below on this page, or to get a little more buzz going, tweet your link with the hashtag #thesession or alert us directly @beerbybart on Twitter.  

I then follow up soon thereafter with a full round-up of all of the submissions with links back to your work and we all soak in the breadth of opinion and information of the beer blogging community.  Cheers to August’s Beer Blogging Friday, aka The Session!

Enjoy!

-Gail Ann Williams

Explore Beer By BART: Use our list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

In the aftermath of IPA day

Last night I listed to a brand-new podcast, the Beer Curmudgeons Pilot episode. Sayre Piotrkowski, Certified Cicerone and publican now pouring his heart and soul into the delightful Hog’s Apothecary in Oakland, teamed up with the articulate and passionate Collin McDonnell, founder-brewer up the highway at HenHouse Brewing for a conversation about IPA day and related concerns in the evolution of American Craft Beer.

It’s well worth listening. They talk with Drake’s Brewing Company’s Head Brewer, John Gillooly, who tells about the emergence of American IPA and double IPA, and the challenge of getting those hop aromas into session-strength beers, as well as giving some details from his fascinating career trajectory.

And then Sayre and Collin talk to Ray Daniels, founder of the Cicerone program, the leading private certification exam program in the “Sommelier-for-beer” space, and the author of the incredibly influential “Designing Great Beers.”

So in the second half of the podcast, love of IPA is ridiculed quite a bit. Ray gets me riled up.

Am I a hophead? I had two beers on IPA day, one of my homebrewed sours and a commercial Imperial Stout. So my buy-in to IPA day is modest. But I enjoy many different IPAs, from some of the most malt-balanced or English style to some of the driest, palest San Diego style examples. I also like a few excellent examples of session IPAs, but some seem like hoppy fizz water. (I’d actually love to be able to buy delicately hoppy fizz water with no alcohol at all, like a lemon mineral water but Simcoe, say, but that is a whole other non-beer fantasy.)

But I have a hard time with dissing people for drinking only American IPA. It’s big, bold and flavorful, a way to break with the bland international industrial lagers. It’s the most popular style in terms of craft beer competition entries in recent years, which says to me that breweries are proud of these beers. Many if not most drinkers are less adventurous in their beer tasting than brewers and cicerones and self-described geeks like me, and may stick with a craft beer style just as they stick with a “regular” cocktail that in some way defines them. If people like IPA, and a beer bar is turning over those kegs too fast, why not proudly put on more than one IPA variety? Isn’t that simply allowing people to educate themselves about the style and the joy of all the different hop flavors?

a bunch of hops at Sierra

If we replaced 1950s bars offering a dozen similar macro lagers on tap with current bars offering a dozen similar IPAs on tap, we are decidedly not right back where we started.  Presuming we still are getting these competing IPAs from small and independent companies and brewers instead of multinational concerns, we have come a long way. That’s already good for the soul and economy of the county, and the world. American IPAs are capturing the imaginations of people around the globe.

One analogy made in the podcast was the lack of sophistication in the early days of American wine, where a restaurant would carry two kinds, red and white. Now a good restaurant will stock a plethora of varietals from grapes unheard of by early wine fans.  However, the evolution of the American wine culture went through some fads, where many consumers knew to ask for Chardonnay, but no other white wine, for example. It’s just nice knowing a specific name to ask for. It’s comfortable. Stay there a while, get bored, and go for the next level, learning some new grapes. The sales of Chardonnay funded the planting of other grapes as the customers were ready to try new flavors. And those California Chardonnays made by good vintners also got better over those years. For those who still prefer that particular variety of white wine from that classic grape, there is no shame. Customers evolve, but so does the craft.

But I get it. I too am a beer snob, and a survivor of the peak IBU inflation years. I’m glad to see the hop additions moving later, giving less bitterness and more flavors and aromas to IPAs and their kin.

I just don’t see the beginnings of a mass interest in American IPA, one of the fine innovations in recent beer history, as something to discourage in general. If somebody is not trying craft beers because they dislike IPA, that’s where asking them to taste something new is doing a service for them and for beer. Or surprise them when they are ready to take another step and learn another style name. Otherwise, why mess with their preference and passion?

After all, to be honest, despite how lovely the HenHouse beers are, not all American craft saisons are all that great. Like IPAs, they can be all over the map.

Some great breweries and beer bars will cater to the adventurous and take people out of their comfort zones. But perhaps other less beer-sophisticated places where several IPAs go on tap to keep people happy are just as important in the rebirth of American beer.

Whew. Thanks for reading my counterpoint curmudgeonly rant. I’m looking forward to more from Sayre and Collin, since they bring out the cranky beer opinions in me, too, and that’s kind of fun!

Find the show here: https://soundcloud.com/the_beer_curmudgeons/ And get out there for some great beer, hoppy or otherwise, this weekend.

-Gail

Explore Beer By BART; use our list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

Mikkeller Bar Opens in San Francisco

The long-anticipated Mikkeller Bar in San Francisco is finally opening for business…sort of.

Beginning this evening, July 12th, and continuing until their official — and very grand — opening on August 9th, the bar will be open limited hours, 5:00pm-2:00am with a less than full (albeit still impressive) beer menu and kitchen service. The highly anticipated Sour Room is still under construction, and will not open until August.

For those who are not currently lined up on the sidewalk on Mason Street, the new Mikkeller Bar results from a partnership between Chuck Stilphen (The Trappist, ØL Beercafe and Trappist Provisions in the East Bay) and Danish brewer Mikkel Borg Bjergsø (Mikkeller Beer). Bjergsø is widely known as a “gypsy brewer.” He has designed and marketed hundreds of beers, all of which were made for him at breweries around the world that are owned by others. He operates two bars back home in Copenhagen.

Mikkeller Bar SF - gray bldg
Last night’s soft preview

At 34 Mason, half a block north of Market Street near Powell BART station, (yes, it’s now listed on Beer By BART!) the brand new bar stands out as the newest and sleekest facade on a gritty block.  An elegant angular hop logo etched into the glass door and a window into the working kitchen leave no doubt that you have found the place.   The ground floor bar and casual restaurant features a sleek three-sided blonde wooden bar, seating approximately 30. Tables are arrayed throughout, seating another 75-80 beer seekers.

The 1907 building has rough interior brick walls, sleek wood and old-style light fixtures, giving it a warm feeling. The bottom floor will serve as a special events room and as the “sour” room.  The goal is to provide the best sour beers from around the world, starting in August. Mikkeller Bar will feature 40 drafts and 2 casks poured from a system dubbed the “Flux Capacitor” that allows beers to be served at three different temperatures, depending on their style. The tap system is designed to allow the carbon dioxide/nitrogen ratio of each tap to be individually adjusted assuring each beer pours perfectly.

Chuck and Mikkel plot the Mikkeller bar, last November
Chuck and Mikkel plot the Mikkeller bar, last November

The restaurant will specialize in smoked meats, sausages, charcuterie platters, and small plates such as Korean-style wings. Chef Michael O’Brian will preside over the kitchen. Most recently he led the food program at one of Washington, DC’s most respected beer bars, ChurchKey.

Most of the taps are already live, though the casks were not yet flowing last night when we got a super soft sneak preview. Expect to find a lot of Mikkeller beers, including four regulars featured at his Copenhagen Pubs —  a brown, a Pilsner, a wit and a sour beer — all re-named for the Tenderloin, the famous or infamous San Francisco neighborhood in which the new bar resides.

Last night the list was rich in imports, many from Belgium, and of course Mikkeller’s own, from all over. Others were sourced from all around the U.S., with a couple from Bay Area breweries rounding out the list.

Yes, you can go there right now.   Or you can wait for the grand opening weekend.

  • August 9, Grand Opening at 12 noon.  Expect awesome beers.
  • August 10, Beer Brunch at 11am, Spontan Art Show in the Tivoli Sour Room
  • August 11, Seven course beer dinner with Danish guest Chef Jakob Mielcke 

It appears that reservations will be taken on the bar’s web page, soon.  Keep an eye on http://www.mikkellerbar.com/events.html

Explore Beer By BART; use our list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

Hoppy beers fresh from the bine

One of the best opportunities to understand fresh “wet” hops, put into a beer without being dried and baled first, is the Wet Hop Festival, this Saturday.  The low key annual festival at the Bistro in Hayward, California, is happily near a BART station.  Bistro wet hop festival list and glassses Over the years this has been one of our favorite events. It’s easy to get to the Bistro, and the chance to taste small pours of a variety of wet hopped beers all in a row is a rare harvest season treat.  The Bistro provides detailed sheets describing all the brews.

This year Steve and I are especially thrilled to attend,  since our beer — ok, ok — a Sierra Nevada Beer Camp beer that we helped create — will be poured for the first time there!

Back in August we  participated in Sierra Nevada Beer Camp number 86! The group of campers, none of whom we had met before, emailed some in advance about the amusing significance of “eighty-sixed” as bar lingo.  The anticipation was palpable.

Terrence Sullivan from Sierra Nevada had told us that there was a good possibility that we could pick some hops from the brewery estate to use in the batch we created.   We imagined a light, low gravity, very hoppy ale featuring the fresh hops from the field. When we arrived and learned that fresh Citra cones, from an arromatic, relatively new and very popular variety of hop plants, were available to pick, we were delighted.

Estate hops growing at SierraYou might think that simply having the facilities and talent to create custom one-time small batch beers with guests is an achievement for Sierra.

However, that is missing one of the most fascinating parts of the puzzle: Beer Camp relies on creative consensus.   So when we met our fellow campers and found out that two of them were determined to make a massive Russian Imperial Stout, we had no idea what the group would do.  I kept saying “hoppy session ale” and “fresh Citra hops we can help harvest” but there was no moving our Imperial Russian fan.

Finally the R&D and experimental brewer Scott Jennings, who currently brews for the Beer Camp groups proposed a compromise.   “How about an Imperial IPA that’s 8.6%, brewed with Simcoe, Amarillo and Chinook hops in the kettle to reach 86 IBU, and then you pick some fresh Citra hops for use in the hop back and in dry-hopping?”

There was a stunned appreciation.

a bunch of hops at SierraWe will be tasting that beer, named “Eighty-sixed,” for the first time Saturday. There will be more fresh hopped beers to compare it with.  We’ll be there at the Bistro early, since there is a certain baseball game of interest in the evening, and also because we just can’t wait!

More about the visit to Beer Camp in a later post.  Right now all we can think about is finally tasting “Eighty-Sixed.”  Before it’s, you know, gone.

Explore Beer By BART; use our list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

Hop farming and the aromatic side of beer

The hop harvest is underway in Oregon.  While visitors to a hop farm were delighting in the aroma, the hop farmers said they hardly smelled a thing. (Wait for the high alpha acid varieties in the later harvest, they said. Some visitors find those hops almost painfully pungent.)  Wish our video of the visit shared the smells!

Last weekend we (“we” being not just the editorial plural, but Beer By BART’s Gail and Steve) went to Oregon for a Beer Bloggers Conference. One highlight was a trip to a hop farm, not far from Portland in the nearby Willamette valley.  We got to see Tettnang hops, a delicate “noble” variety originally from Germany, as they were mechanically picked and dried.  Our video shows part of the special tour of Goschie Farms given by one of the neighboring hop farmers before an outdoor dinner at the hop farm.

Hops attract more than just beer geeks. If you were an aphid, where else would you want to live?  So pesticides are used for professional hop cultivation in most areas.   Growing certified organic hops can be labor-intensive and expensive. The yield per acre ends to be lower. The hops will cost more.

Organic beers had been given an exemption for hops in the Organic labeling law, along with a few other food ingredients. Brewers are allowed to use non-organic hops without noting that fact.  If beers use 100% organic hops, that can be a voluntary addition to the label. This is about to change, at the end of 2012.  Beer brewed after December 2012 will have to have hops that are certified organic in their production in order to be called certified organic beer  The total amount of organic hops produced in the next harvest, a year from now, will be very important to organic brewers.   For example, local organic brewers such as Bison and Thirsty Bear will compete for these hops with larger players.  If we buy organic beers, we will support more acres being farmed without heavy petrochemicals, but until then a fascinating competition will play out.

What about Goschie farms?  As this interview says, they are certified Salmon Safe for their agricultural runoff practices, a worthy endeavor. They have produced some organic hops, but the transition is gradual, and natural conditions are part of the process.  For example, this uncharacteristically cool year on the West Coast did not bring the hot temperatures that help control aphids naturally.

Along with the organic beer movement, another industry pressure on hop farmers comes with changes in the AB-Inbev hop buying patterns.  The giant brewing company will now use more hop oils and extracts and  is no longer buying some hops, including the Willamette hop variety,  grown for them under contract and providing stability to the farms for decades.  Healthy hop plants can last for about 30 years, so ripping them out and planting another variety is not just a significant cost, but inherently wasteful and disruptive to the land.  However, shifts in demand are part of the reality of modern brewing and farming.

The Beer Bloggers Conference itself was a good recreational and educational weekend, produced by a group which has also done wine bloggers events. This was their third beer bloggers conference, and it felt slightly smaller than a critical mass for a conference, but members of the burgeoning Oregon beer community certainly made up for that. (Notably, the second one had been in England, and was quite popular. If anybody is interested, this is the group that plans to do it again!)

Explore Beer By BART; use our list of some of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

Hop Harvests, Brews on the Bay and other craft Beer delights

Hop harvest at the Abbey de St Humulus
Beer and the end of summer, what a pairing! It’s the heart of hop harvest time, and it’s a grand traditional beer celebration month in the Northern Hemisphere, from Munich to North Beach.

Tomorrow we’ll be at Brews on the Bay, the San Francisco Brewers Guild’s seventh annual local brew festival aboard the Jeremiah O’Brien, moored at Pier 45 in the City. This September tradition is a benefit for the historic WWII Liberty Ship. Today, Saturday, is sold out on-line though there may be some tix at the “door.” If you are thinking about tomorrow afternoon, grab those tickets: http://sfbrewersguild.com/ To get there, you can take BART to the Embarcadero Station, then take the historic “F” line (two dollar fare) street car along the odd-numbered piers towards Pier 45. (It’s probably simplest to catch it in front of the Ferry Building, with the old clock tower you will see when you get out of BART. You could also take the time for a two mile walk, much of it along the Embarcadero sidewalk. Here’s the direct route that Google maps suggests, though you may prefer to walk directly to the Ferry Building at the foot of Market Street and do the whole promenade along the Embarcadero.

Next weekend we will be rooting for our local brewers in the competition at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, and we expect to see many Bay Area friends there. Meanwhile, the legendary and also sold-out Northern California Homebrewer’s Festival unaccountably takes place at the same time this year. These two festivals are outside the SF regional transit footprint, but worth your attention. If you’re not planning to be at one of these landmark events this year, you might want to keep them on the radar as excellent choices for meeting craft beer community folks and trying exceptional beers in September of 2011.

Last weekend we were happy to be able to participate in the picking of the hops at Brian Hunt’s Moonlight Brewing, one of North America’s craft beer treasures that we are lucky to have in our local area. Hops are usually dried before use, but in recent years brewers have come to treasure the batches they can make once a year when the hops are still moist and fresh from the hop bine. Fresh hopped beer will be available locally from many brewers in small batches. Taste some great examples at the annual Wet Hop Festival at the Bistro, in Hayward on Saturday, October 2nd this year. http://www.the-bistro.com/events.htm (Yes, the Bistro is an easy walking distance from BART.)

There are more photos of the hop picking moonlight madness. pickingEnjoy this slide show of the harvest.hops to go to Toronado

Explore Beer By BART; see our list of the San Francisco Bay Area’s best beer places with detailed transit info, so you can get out there to enjoy without driving.

Moonlight hop harvest

Where do fresh hopped beers come from? In the case of the elegant beers of Moonlight Brewing, these seasonal delights come from hand-picked estate-grown hops, added raw and fresh to fermenting beers. Brian Hunt’s Moonlight beers have always been one of the indicators for us of places in the San Francisco Bay Area that are worth taking BART to visit.

Hop happy Brian Hunt
Hop happy Brian Hunt

Last weekend we were fortunate enough to be part of a hop picking party for upcoming beer from this cherished craft brewery. (No, it is not on the BART system. It’s out in rural Sonoma County.) The textures and aromas of picking the hops were memorable, and the camaraderie was even better.

Here are a few pix and a little video, in our attempt to share some of the experience from last weekend. (A much better way to share in the harvest will be to keep an eye out for Moonlight harvest beers which may find their way to favorite places such as the Bistro, Toronado, Barclay’s, Amnesia and more.)

The estate hop fields
The estate hop fields

These curious migrant hop pickers got to work
Some curious migrant hop pickers got to work
Sean and Cindy collaborate on the ulimate IPA garnish
Sean and Cindy collaborate on the ulimate IPA garnish
Collecting the hop cones
Collecting the hop cones
Hop harvest companion
Hop harvest companion


(1 minute 16 second video with motion and yodeling)

Bucket of Love (photo and picking by Steve Shapiro)
Bucket of Love

We’re hoping to taste these tender ripe cones in another incarnation, soon!

Explore Beer By BART – a list of Bay Area good beer places with transit info, and get out there to enjoy without driving.