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Pennsylvania Breweries launch party at Victory

I’ve been following Lew Bryson’s blog Seen Through a Glass for a year or two now. A week or two a post popped-up about a launch party for the 4th Edition of Pennsylvania Breweries. My wife gave me the 3rd Edition when we were in college as a Christmas present and I have been waiting for an updated edition. It was a ticketed event that costs $35. For the money I received a signed copy of the new book, two beers, some delicious food, and a chance to hear some of my idols talk about the beer industry. I think it was  a hell of a deal.

Before the talk with the brewers ever began, Lew actually came over and talked with my friend Mike and myself. I’ve never met him before but I think we could be drinking buddies. Lew seems like a genuine guy with a big hearty laugh. I just enjoyed talking beer with him and being around him. He did the same thing with everyone who came out, about 40-50 people in total. Very cool.

The brewers that were represented came from the southeastern to central PA region. Victory Brewing Company was obviously there, as was Troegs Brewing Company, Stoudt’s Brewing Company, Sly Fox Brewing Company, and a Philadelphia brewpub, Nodding Head Brewery.  Lew served as the MC for the event and asked some interesting questions. Below you can see the brewers in order from left to right:

(Lew Bryson, Ron Barchet of Victory, the Trogners, Stoudt’s representative (I forget his name), Brian O’Reilly of Sly Fox, and Curt Decker of Nodding Head)

To start off the Q&A Lew asked about Pennsylvania’s impact on the brewing community, most notably in the lager market. Pennsylvania is really a home for full bodied lagers. Out west ales then to dominate the scene, but Pennsylvania brewers have mastered the craft of the lager and have made it something to be proud of. They made some damn good ales as well, but lagers are PA’s calling card.

Another topic of discussion was Yuengling and how it has helped and also hurt craft brewers in PA. Some of the things I took away were that it helped because Pennsylvanians acquire a taste for something other than light lagers. They have also harmed craft brewers because they have limited the markets that they can expand into. When a brewer is trying to sell to a new retailer and they say they already have a craft beer, Yuengling, on tap, it immediately limits the scope of what they can do.

Lew brought up an interesting note about lower ABV beers and if they have a place in the market. They discussed the fact the the highest rated beers are not sessionable and that the prices are much higher than what the materials actually cost. Curt Deck of Nodding Head, the only brewpub represented, said that in a brewpub setting they want you to drink 2-3 beers at a sitting and that with super high ABV beers that is just not possible. I think they all recognized the need for some lower ABV beers in the marketplace.

Ron of Victory even shared some experiences with beer bars who do not have lower ABV beers and how they try to work with them to get an offering of lower alcohol beers in their bar. The thinking is that you might offer a wide selection of styles, but not of alcohol percentages.  Honestly it is something that I never thought of but think is important.

We then moved into local verses national brands and how the market is wanting things from local producers. During the discussion it was also brought up that Pennsylvania brewers have influences from both west coast and European beers. The malts and hops available to east coast brewers is much different than west coast brewers.

One of the final things we talked about was how Yuengling and Sam Adams, the two largest America owned beer makers, have their major breweries in PA. Sam Adams has a brewery outside of Allentown and Yuengling has two breweries in Pottsville. It was an a great discussion on the new and old guard and how PA is the only state to really have a healthy mix of both.

I want to thank the brewers who came out along with Lew for writing this wonderful book and hold such a great even.

The next trend in craft beer

Be it good or bad, craft beer has always had trends that a lot of breweries/drinkers like to follow. Once the initial novelty of craft beer wore off IPA’s seemed to the stage. The hoppier the better. And while that still may be true for some drinkers, I think that most have adjusted themselves to enjoy a balanced hoppy beer over a hop-bomb any day.

In my mind the next “big” thing has been oaked beers. While putting beer in oak casks has been around for hundreds of years, it was the thing to do. There were/are tons of beers that are now oak conditions. While I do like some of the characteristics that oak can add to a beer, it seems like moreover the oak barrel is there to put a “unique” spin on the beer. I am sure there have been plenty of other trends that I have missed, but I’ve only been in the craft beer world for three years now, so those trends may not of been as obvious to me.

In my mind the up and coming trend in craft beer is sour beers. I see more and more news/press releases about sour beers than ever before. It seems like everyone is starting to experiment in them. I really haven’t ever enjoyed the whole sour thing, but I can see why people enjoy it. Sour beers have also been around for hundreds of years, but it seems that a lot of craft brewers are just now taking their first steps into the style. I am all for experimentation in beer and I hope that American Craft Brewers keep turning out some of the finest beers in the world, but I want brewers to be themselves and make quality beers that don’t play towards trends.

Beer Review #52 Delirium Tremens

Delirium Tremens from Huyghe Brewery in Melle/Ghent, Belgium is a beer that I have wanted to try for a long time now. It is one of those classics that every beer drinker should try. It is also nice to have a Belgian beer that comes from Belgium, as most of the Belgian beers that I have had recently come out of the good old US of A. Not that I am complaining becasue the country of origin does not really play a super important role in beer and American Craft Brewers have done a wonderful job of replicating (and in some cases improving) Belgian style beer.

This beer comes classified as a Belgian Strong Pale Ale according to Beer Advocate. Rate Beer calls it a Belgian Strong Ale, but in any case it is a Belgian beer and the “strong” in both of the style names, says it is really high in ABV. Like 8.5% ABV high. Delirium Tremens pours with a fluffy white head. The beer is straw in color and is cloudy/hazy but you can still see through it. On the nose you get that ever present Belgian yeast spice with some malt sweetness. There are not any hops noticeable and you can surely smell some heat.

The taste of the beer is the Belgian spice mostly. There are a few hints of banana, which was a nice flavor to complement the other spices. The malt was pretty thin. In most Belgian beers the spice is the first thing you notice, and then the flavors start to show themselves more and get fairly complex. I found this beer to be rather one note and not highly complex. After a few sips I think you will find everything the beer has to offer. Not that it is a bad thing, becasue what is there is pretty wonderful.

The mouthfeel is watery. Much more watery than what I would of expected out of a beer that comes in at 8.5%. It is also highly carbonated, which is to be expected for the style. Overall I would consider this a decent Belgian Strong Ale. Not my favorite, but very good. If the body was punched up just a bit, I think it would take it into a whole new category.

As I said before, I am a sucker for neat bottles, and this beer was no exception. The bottle is actually painted, comes corked and caged, and has a foil wrapping. The cork is synthetic which doesn’t really bother me at all. As I said before I enjoyed this beer, but it fell a little flat for me. It is something every craft beer drinker should try, but I felt that it didn’t live up to the hipe, while still being a solid beer.

Interesting beer bottles

Whenever I got to the beer store I generally have an idea of what I am looking for. Be it a particular style, beer, or brewery, I usually know what I am going to get. The thing is, once I actually get to the store, it is anyone’s guess as to what I actually come out with. I am sure I am an advertisers dream because I get caught up in things that catch my eye. The other problem I have is that I might know exactly what I want, but that doesn’t stop me from taking a look around to get some ideas for next time.

One of the biggest things that can throw me off of a game plan is an interesting looking bottle. If there is a bottle in the display case that is different than your typical 12 or 22 oz bottle, chances are I am going to take a second look at it. If I know my brain properly, the reason behind this is two fold; if the bottle is special the beer must be as well and “that’s different, I like it, I have to own it.” There are plenty of great looking bottles out there from craft brewers and imports alike.

My first taste of Anchor Steam came becasue I thought the bottles were interesting looking. The same goes with Duvel and dozens of other beers. If a brewery has a unique bottle, chances are I will pick it up. I also tend to hold onto the interesting bottles. My partner in brewing crime, Pete, had a nice collection of bottles when we were in college. We kept one bottle of every kind of beer that we drank. The most prized bottles in the collection were those that were unique. I never had a big collection of bottles, I mainly just contributed to Pete’s but I do have a small collection of special bottles. Right now my favorite is the ceramic bottle that I have from Rogue Ales. I’ve never seen a ceramic beer bottle other than those from Rogue. Anyone else out there a sucker from something that looks special?

Beer Wars Movie: Initial Impressions

I know that the movie has been out for some time now and the theater part of it was almost a year ago at this point, but I finally got around to seeing Beer Wars. Thanks to Netflix for scoring a deal to let me watch it through the magic of the interwebs and my XBOX 360. I originally wanted to see the movie or should I say event when it came out. The only problem was that I was in college and the nearest place that was showing it was 45 minutes away and I have a 7:45 AM class the next day. So I didn’t go.

Anyway the movie looks at the fight between the big beer companies and the little guys, a.k.a the craft brewers. It tells that story of how things got to be where they are, what has changed in recent years, and what the future looks like. I have to be running to work here real soon so I will keep this short and to the point. I enjoyed the movie. The view was a bit biased, but that is alright. I am looking at it from the same bias. The story was easy to follow and entertaining. It reminded me of a Micheal Moore movie minus the left wing nut-job aspect. I’ll write more on this when I get home. I just wanted to share that I watch Beer Wars finally.

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