Where America Got Its Booze

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Here’s a fun article I stumbled upon that appeared in Popular Science. “Where America Gets Its Booze” was a feature story in their May 1930 issue.

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“Where America Gets Its Booze” is an interview with America’s “Prohibition Commissioner,” Dr. James M. Doran, who was a chemist. And boy, doesn’t he look like a fun guy in that photo. According to a Time magazine article from the year before, even his wife was trying to help, as “she marshaled a platoon of reinforcements in the form of recipes for nonalcoholic cocktails. She had prepared a Book of Juices to meet the onslaught of the ‘winter social season just ahead.’ She announced a few of her recipes in advance. Explained Mrs. Doran: ‘Prohibition took something away from the American people, but we can give them something just as good—a cocktail that satisfies but does not inebriate.'” Well, that should do it.

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Craft: New Documentary About California Breweries

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This looks interesting. Jeff Smith and Fran Ellsworth are directing and producing a new documentary film about California breweries entitled “Craft: The California Beer Documentary.” They recently released their first trailer, which you can watch below. All I know at this point is from a short description of their project. “A road trip throughout California, learning from the master brewers of the state. It’ll also feature interviews with beer enthusiasts and home-brewers.”

Did You Hear That? Only 2 Months Until SF Beer Week

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Remember hearing the music of the ice cream truck, and running outside to meet it so you didn’t miss out on getting a popsicle, or whatever your favorite frozen treat was? Well, it’s about two months until the kickoff of SF Beer Week, and they’ve created a hilarious teaser video, reimagining the ice cream truck, or in this case beer truck, as the clarion call for beer week. Enjoy.

Craft Beer Soccer Sponsorship Fantasies

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Given that many of the regional breweries continue to grow by leaps and bounds, it’s only a matter of time before they start considering some of the same types of sponsorships that in the past were usually reserved for the really big beer companies. But they certainly couldn’t afford baseball, football or even basketball prices. But what about soccer (football)? Backheel, a website and podcast devoted to American Soccer, wondered what MLS jerseys might look like if they were sponsored by local breweries. More than wondered really, as author Trevor Hayward worked with graphic designer Edward Gaug and Dan Wiersema, of the Free Beer Movement, and they created a mythical league where all the teams are sponsored by breweries, proudly displaying their logos on the jerseys. The entire project can be seen at Major League Soccer x Craft Beer Jerseys. Below are few of my favorites, but check out all of them either on Backheel or in a slideshow at Imgur.

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The San Jose Earthquakes, sponsored by Lagunitas.

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The Seattle Sounders FC, sponsored by Elysian.

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The LA Galaxy, sponsored by the Bruery.

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The Portland Timbers, sponsored by Hair of the Dog.

But that’s not quite the end of the story. SB Nation’s Center Line Soccer (part of a group of 307 sports blogs) took it one step father, wondering if Petaluma-based Lagunitas was the best choice for the Quakes, who after all are in San Jose, quite some distance from Sonoma County. While they’re both in the Bay Area, it’s roughly a one-and-a-half to two hour drive between the two, depending on the always unpredictable traffic. So they imagined a few other choices for the Earthquakes. Again, here’s a few of my faves, and you can see all of them at What craft brewery would you like to see on the San Jose Earthquakes jersey?

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The San Jose Earthquakes, sponsored by Russian River Brewing.

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The San Jose Earthquakes, sponsored by 21st Amendment Restaurant & Brewery.

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The San Jose Earthquakes, sponsored by Drake’s Brewing.

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The San Jose Earthquakes, sponsored by Bear Republic Brewing.

A Beer Bestiary

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A Bestiary is an old-fashioned idea, from the Middles Ages, where various animals and other creatures, often fanciful, mythical and fictitious, were illustrated, and then there was a detailed description of each beast, usually accompanied by an allegorical story with a moral or religious teaching. You can see examples of many of these imaginary creatures at the Medieval Bestiary. A Los Angeles illustrator and graphic designer, Ian O’Phelan, has created a modern version, which he calls a “Beer Bestiary.” With just four mythical creatures in his bestiary, his fantastic four you’ll likely recognize, if not individually, at least for what they can become as a superhero team, your next beer.

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Virginal Hops
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Water Bear
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Where Do You Fit In The Next Session?

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For our 94th Session, our host for the second time is Adrian Dingle, better known online simply as Ding through his Ding’s Beer Blog. For his topic, he’s asking folks to ponder their place in the world. Not the wider world, the whole ball of wax, but our little self-staked piece of it, the collective known as the beer community, or “Your role in the beer ‘scene’. What it is?

[W]here do you see yourself? Are you simply a cog in the commercial machine if you work for a brewery, store or distributor? Are you nothing more than an interested consumer? Are you JUST a consumer? Are you a beer evangelist? Are you a wannabe, beer ‘professional’? Are you a beer writer? All of the above? Some of the above? None of the above? Where do you fit, and how do you see your own role in the beer landscape?

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So time for a little self-examination — rubber gloves not included. To participate in December’s Session, simply try to figure out your very existence and post your answer on Ding’s comments section to his announcement or otherwise send Ding your link to your contribution by December 5th.

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Which one are you?

Brewing: Love & Talent With Peter Bouckaert

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You’re probably familiar with Ted Talks, but there’s also independently organized Ted events, known as TEDx. Recently Peter Bouckaert, the brewmaster at New Belgium Brewing gave one at TEDxCSU, the Fort Collins extension of the talks. In the talk, “[h]e explains his personal journey of challenging limitations to “brew” together a life of creativity,” and the YouTube page describes Peter as having “made a career through utilizing innovation and working outside the box.”

A Belgian native, he is a Biochemistry engineer, with a specialization in Brewing and Fermentation technology from the University of Ghent, Belgium. Before joining New Belgium in 1996, and moving to the US, he worked in the Belgian brewery world in breweries with difficult to pronounce names like Zulte and the world renowned Rodenbach. He was the 2013 winner of the Russell Schehrer award for innovation in Brewing.

It’s only a little longer than fifteen minutes. I only wish it was longer. Enjoy.

Session #93: Beer Travel

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Our 93rd Session is hosted is Brian Devine, who writes The Roaming Pint, along with Maria Scarpello, and the pair “have been traveling around in their 29-foot RV, named Stanley, since August 2010 seeking out all kinds of great beer destinations.” For their topic, they’ve understandably chosen Beer Travel.

Since travel is such an important part of our lives I wanted our topic to focus on beer travel. In Session #29, Beer by Bart asked writers to tell them about their favorite beer trips to which they got some great responses of personal favorites and general tips for certain cities.

So as not to tread over old ground my question is going to focus on the “why” more than the “what”. So I ask you fellow bloggers and beer lovers, why is it important for us to visit the place the where our beers are made? Why does drinking from source always seem like a better and more valuable experience? Is it simply a matter of getting the beer at it’s freshest or is it more akin to pilgrimage to pay respect and understand the circumstances of the beer better?

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Beer travel has exploded in the last few decades and has become a far bigger part of the success of smaller and local breweries than we often acknowledge. When I was a kid — yes, I’m old — most of the big breweries offered tours but because there were so few operating in the U.S., they were few are far between. Before I was old enough to drink I’d been inside the Budweiser brewery in Virginia (then associated with what used to be called Busch Gardens: The Old Country, an amusement park in Williamsburg), Yuengling (not too far from where I grew up in Pennsylvania) and the old Reading brewery in my hometown (though not for a tour, my stepfather stopped by to see a friend, with me in tow). But apart from the national breweries and the regionals hanging on by their fingernails, there simply wasn’t a lot of beer tourism opportunities around.

Abroad was slightly different, certainly in nations with rich brewing traditions. But this was before Americans traveled very much, before air travel became affordable for many more people. When I was young, a trip by plane was rare for almost everybody I knew. I was ten before I set foot on a plane, and I still beat many of my friends into the air. By contrast, my kids had flown maybe a dozen times before they reached double digits, and tellingly they’ve been complaining lately that it’s been far too long since we’ve taken a vacation via airplane (so we’re spending Thanksgiving in Hawaii). But back then, most people who discovered good beer in other countries were stationed there as part of their military service or had business travel in Europe. You hear that story repeated a lot.

My first trip to England was in 1982, when I was still a civilian, but I still managed to visit a couple of breweries — Fuller’s and the old Orange Brewery in Pimlico, an early British brew pub. But among my friends, at least, that was still a rarity. I moved to California in 1985, and between the many new breweries opening then along with Safeway’s Liquor Barn chain, things finally started to open up. But it’s been a slow, if steady climb. With renewed interest in beer generally, travel to beer locations like England, Belgium, Germany and the Czech Republic seemed to increase dramatically, and there were tour companies set up for the occasional beer tour, and some of the early beer magazines set up their own tours, as well. Little by little, breweries started getting more visitors each year. The smart ones prepared for them, hired tour guides, created gift shops with merchandise to sell, added tap rooms for sampling, which only increased the people coming.

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Inside the Trappist brewery at Rochefort.

In the 2000s, beer weeks started emerging, providing even greater incentives for beer travel. Smart tourism boards in cities and towns embraced these as a way to encourage travel to their areas, and the beer weeks that have flourished have been great for their respective hometowns. I used to keep track of all the beer weeks (though sadly have fallen behind) but as of a couple of years ago there were over 100 beer weeks worldwide, though the bulk of them are in North America.

But now that we’re approaching 3,000 breweries in America, beer travel has gone mainstream. There’s just so many to visit, and most new breweries plan for visitors. Few breweries open these days without merchandise, tours or a tasting room. They know people will visit them, in a children of the barleycorn “if you build it, they will come” sort of way. Many guilds and visitors centers have created brewery tour maps as part of the literature available for tourists, knowing many will ask for this information. People, friends and relatives, I know who are outside the beer bubble most of us live or work in, are coming back from trips with tales of breweries visited, something almost unthinkable a decade or two ago. Even my recently retired schoolteacher uncle and nurse aunt, who barely drank a drop before, are counting breweries as places visited in their globetrotting golden years. It’s definitely become a thing, with a life of its own.

But the question posed by this Session’s host was not is it happening, but why? Why do we want to visit a brewery? Why is the source a “valuable experience?” It is, if you think about it, a curious development. Breweries are, at their most basic, factories; manufacturing plants; or temples to scientific and technological achievement. I’ve never admired my television enough to visit the factory where it was produced, nor virtually anything else in my home. These things may even inspire me, or make my life easier, or better, but I’ve never mustered the same curiosity about how they were made that would make me set sail on a pilgrimage to their birthplace. I’m not dying to see where the car parked in my driveway came to life, so to speak. Why not?

I’m sure someone will come up with a better answer, but I think it’s because those are all tools. They remain outside of ourselves. Beer, like all food and beverages, we ingest. It literally becomes part of us. We take it in and it becomes part of who we are. Clothes don’t make the man (or woman), but food and drink do. Food and beverages feed our soul. Food starts grand novels. Drinking fuels poetry.

Given my love for potatoes, you won’t be surprised to learn I’ve visited several potato chip makers. I’ve even been to two pretzel factories. Growing up, Hershey’s Chocolates (near where I grew up) had a wonderful tour inside the plant, the air positively thick with chocolate aromas as you walked past giant vats of it (sadly, today it’s merely a ride at Hersheypark where they pump in the chocolate smells as you sit passively in a moving car winding through dioramas). The point is I want to see where my food comes from, especially my favorite foods.

With beer, for me at least, the importance of seeing the brewery is the context. I like seeing where it was created, the space itself, the coiled hoses (ask anybody), the gleaming copper or stainless steel brewery porn. I love the smells hanging in the air, both in and around the brewery. Hearing (and seeing) the brewer explaining his process, or how he came up with the idea or recipe for a beer, is different on his or her home turf, as opposed to a meet the brewer event at a pub or behind a table at a festival.

Similarly, I like to see where the hops were grown, or the barley malted. Does it make the beer taste better? No. Does it even make me appreciate it more? Maybe, but probably not. It’s just the context of seeing where it came from, how it was put together and then tasting the finished beer. It’s a more complete picture, but I’ll certainly enjoy the beer without all that pageantry. That is, my taste buds and stomach will, my soul is another story. For that to be piqued, I need the added context of place; of geography. Where, and under what circumstances, we eat or drink anything, will alter the way it tastes, the very experience of tasting it. We know this to be true, so why should it be a surprise that place matters. Location, location, location.

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Wading through the hop fields in Yakima, Washington.

Andy Capp On Beer Tourism

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Andy Capp, the British comic strip by Reg Smyth has been running in London newspapers, and around the world, since 1957. Even though Smyth himself passed away in 1998, the strip continued on, done by a trio of writers and artists, Roger Kettle, Lawrence Goldsmith and Roger Mahoney. Capp, of course, is a longtime fan of beer, spending much of his time down the pub. Longtime Bulletin reader Miles (thanks Miles) sent me a link to a recent Sunday strip that tackled the newer phenomenon of beer tourism, relevant to me because when it arrived in my inbox I was indeed touring breweries in Belgium. Enjoy.

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