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.

Barley Beast
OPhelan-barley
Virginal Hops
OPhelan-hops
Water Bear
OPhelan-water
Cockatrice d’Yeast
OPhelan-yeast

Hops, One Of Our Nature Neighbors

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Here’s an interesting look at hops from a 1914 publication. The book is Nature Neighbors, a lavishly illustrated multi-volume set of nature books published by the American Audubon Association in Chicago, which was limited to only 2,500 printed copies. It was edited by Nathaniel Moore Banta, with “articles by Gerard Alan Abbott, Dr. Albert Schneider, William Kerr Higley, Thomas Crowder Chamberlin, John Merle Coulter, David Starr Jordan, and Other Eminent Naturalists.”

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In Volume 4, covering minerals and plants, under Chapter III: Medicinal Plants, by Dr. Albert Schneider, beginning at page 133, they include a description and illustration of hops.

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“The Hop has been called the Northern vine. It is found in a wild state throughout Europe, excepting the extreme North, and extends east to the Caucasus and through Central Asia. It is a handsome plant and not infrequently used as an arbor plant. The lower or basal leaves are very large, gradually decreasing in size toward the apex.

Hops is also cultivated in Brazil and other South American countries, Australia, and India.

The principal use of hops is in the manufacture of beer, to which it imparts the peculiarly bitter taste, and its repute as a tonic. For this purpose enormous quantities are consumed in Germany and England. The exhausted hops
from the breweries form an excellent fertilizer for light soils. The leaves have been used as fodder for cows. Leaves, stems, and roots possess astringent properties and have been used in tanning. In Sweden the fiber of the stem is used in manufacturing a very durable white cloth, not unlike the cloth made from hemp and flax.

Hops is used medicinally. It at first causes a very slight excitation of brain and heart, followed by a rather pronounced disposition to sleep. Pillows stuffed with hops form a very popular domestic remedy for wakefulness.

Hop bags dipped in hot water form a very soothing external application in painful inflammatory conditions, especially of the abdominal organs. It has undoubted value as a bitter tonic in dyspepsia and in undue cerebral excitation.”

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Description of plate : A, staminate (male) inflorescence; B, pistillate (female) inflorescence; C, fruiting branch; 1, staminate flower; 2, perigone; 3, stamen; 4, open anther; 5, pollen; 6, pistillate catkin; 7, 8, 9, pistillate flowers; 10, scales; 11, 12, 13, scales and flowers; 14, 15, fruit; 16, 17, 19, seed; 20, resin gland (lupuhn).

You can see the book in its entirety at the Internet Archive, where you can also download a pdf, ePub or Kindle formatted file there. Or read it online via Open Library, where you want to look for page 308.

Moonlighting At Moonlight: The Hop Harvest 2014

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For a number of years, the winding down of summer brings one of my favorite traditions: hop harvest. Brian Hunt, from nearby Moonlight Brewing — the best brewer you’ve probably never heard of unless you’re from the Bay Area — has a quarter-acre of hops planted on his brewery property, known as “The Abbey de St. Humulus,” which he uses each year to make his Fresh Hop Ale, Homegrown. As we do every year we’re able, the whole family, mother-in-law included, made our way to hop harvest, which Brian does 19th century-style. Which means that entire families get together for the day, and spend hours cutting down the bines, and hand-picking the hops and filling up buckets, which will be dumped into the beer without being kilned the same day, all the while eating, drinking and socializing. In a few weeks, Homegrown will be on draft at select bars around the Bay Area, along with plenty of other fresh hop beers as beerjolais nouveau season gets underway. Below is a little photo essay of our day picking hops.

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A row of hops, ready to be picked.

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My son Porter helping me with the first stages of harvesting, cutting the bines along the bottom.

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The next step will be cutting them at the top, so we can pull them down to pick the hop cones off of the bines.

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Brin Hunt working the long knife, bring down a bine for harvesting.

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A shady spot is made under multiple pop-up canopies with a tarp floor, where the hop bines are laid out for picking, then everybody sits around and carefully pulls off the hop flowers, discarding the leaves, stems, bines and other material so only the hops that flavor the beer are separated into buckets.

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Only the flowers go into the beer.

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My wife Sarah demonstrating how when one bucket is filled, you move on to the next empty one.

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While hops are not simply loaded into your beer glass, like bitter ice cubes, with some hoppy beers, it certainly seems that way.

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There’s nothing quite like being in a hop field at harvest time, the sights and smells are amazing, with the intense aromas of hops hanging thick in the air.

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My daughter Alice digging in an almost-full bucket of freshly picked hops, nearly ready to be added to the beer.

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A very fun day picking hops in the warm California sunshine. While it was great fun, we’re all exhausted and a little sore, with scratches all over our bodies. Thank goodness, tomorrow is Labor Day, and we can relax without doing much labor, apart from enjoying a few beers.

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In a few weeks time, keep an eye out for Moonlight Brewing’s Homegrown Fresh Hop Ale, along with many other fresh hop, or wet hop, beers. They’re only around for a very short time, and once they;re gone, that’s it until next year. These are beers with intense hop aromas and flavors, and the fresher they are, better they taste.

The Hoplist

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I got a press release yesterday from a Julian Healey about a project he’s just launched. His new website from Australia is The Hoplist, and includes information on at least 268 varieties of hops, which they claim is the “biggest list of hops … ever.” And that seems right, most of the hop guides are put out by the hop growers and sellers, and focus on just the varieties that they carry, whereas the Hoplist is at least attempting to be complete. For each hop, there’s a description of the hop and nearly two-dozen bits of information about it. I’ll be in Melbourne in just over a week, so perhaps I can share a beer with Julian. I think I’ll suggest something hoppy.

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Beer In Film #30: All Beer TV Visits Anderson Valley

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Today’s beer video is from All Beer TV, a production of SaboresTv in Argentina. As such, most of it’s in Spanish. The show features a visit to Anderson Valley Brewing in Boonville. But even though it’s in Spanish, don’t worry. Stick with it, at around the 1:30 mark, brewmaster Fal Allen starts speaking, in English, so you’ll be able to figure it out. You may get more out of it if you’re bilingual, but either way he’s the one talking for most of the 24-minute video.

ALL BEER TV 10 MP4 1024 PAL Download from Saborestv on Vimeo.

Beer Birthday: Ralph Olson

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Today is Ralph Olson’s 63rd birthday. He was the general manager/co-owner of HopUnion, a co-op that supplies hops to many of the craft breweries. Ralph’s pretty much retired but can still be seen at occasional beer events throughout the country. He’s been a good friend to and very supportive of the craft beer industry. Join me in wishing Ralph a very happy birthday.

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Ralph Olson, the Big Cheese from HopUnion. If you look carefully in between his “Sponsor” and “Exhibitor” badge you can see his title really is officially “the Big Cheese.

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Ralph and me at the end of the brewer’s reception at GABF in 2007.

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Dave Keene, from the Toronado, Dave Pyle, Ralph and Becky Pyle, who are also with HopUnion, along with my friend Dave Suurballe.

Wheatland Hop Riot Legacy

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Today marks the 100th anniversary of the Wheatland Hop Riot, a seminal event in labor relations, the second major labor dispute in U.S. history, and the first event to shine a light on the plight of agricultural workers and their conditions. It was for this event that High Water Brewing named their Hop Riot IPA, as its name pays homage to the legacy of hops in California, which before prohibition was the largest hop-growing state in the U.S.

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Here’s one account on the riot, this one from True West:

In the region northeast of Sacramento, field temperatures had hit the 120s—tough working conditions for the migrants harvesting hops, the green plant (related to hemp) used in brewing beer.

The work was hard, and the season short (by the end of August, the migrants would be moving on). The Durst Ranch, the largest agricultural employer in California, needed about 1,500 workers; nearly double showed up. Most workers made less than $1.50 a day—big pay in a time of national recession.

Conditions were hellish. Workers had to buy water (contaminated by acetic acid) for five cents, plus food and other supplies from a price-gouging company store. Dysentery was rampant, with less than a dozen toilets available for workers. Garbage and refuse cluttered the area. (In all fairness, the situation at the Durst Ranch was not unusual for California operations that hired migrants.)

Richard “Blackie” Ford, a former organizer for the radical Industrial Workers of the World, decided to mobilize the Durst Ranch workers to get higher pay and better conditions. He presented a list of demands to Durst on August 3. The rancher agreed to all of them—regular ice-water breaks (at no charge), more toilets and so forth. But he wouldn’t boost the pay.

Ford said that wasn’t good enough; some accounts state Durst responded by slapping Ford in the mouth. The labor man then went to a nearby platform to harangue the workers. Durst went into town to get the authorities.

The rancher returned with a couple carloads of men, including Yuba County Sheriff George Voss, Deputy Eugene Reardon and District Attorney Ed Manwell. They arrived shortly after five p.m., and Ford had the crowd worked up.

Just what happened next depends on which side you believe. The authorities and Durst claimed that some workers had attacked them. Ford and the migrants said the lawmen had opened fire on them. Either way, a melee ensued.

When it was done, Manwell, Reardon and two workers were dead. Sheriff Voss was severely injured, as were an untold number of folks on both sides. Ford was on the run, and most of the workers had scattered to the four winds. The day became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

Ford and organizer Herman Suhr were arrested. Neither participated in the attacks, but officials accused them of inciting the violence and charged them with murder.

The trial took place in January 1914 in nearby Marysville. Most locals (including jury members) weren’t sympathetic to the union or the migrants. Both defendants were found guilty of second-degree murder and given life sentences. The proceedings received international press coverage.

After the incident, the Durst Ranch gave in to all the demands, including the higher pay. The hop crop was brought in without any further trouble.

Ford was pardoned in 1924, and Suhr paroled two years later.

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Another account, suggests that Durst was hardly blameless, and at least shared responsibility by the way he tricked and treated his workers, a not uncommon occurrence at that time.

An important and highly-publicized event in California labor history, it was the second major labor dispute in the United States supposedly initiated by the Industrial Workers of the World. The bloody clash, which occurred at the Durst Ranch in Wheatland, California, was the climax of growing tensions brought about by the difficult conditions farm laborers at the ranch endured. The riot resulted in four deaths and many injuries. It focused public opinion for the first time on the plight of California’s agricultural laborers, and resulted in new state legislation to regulate labor camp conditions. A new State Commission on Immigration and Housing was created to help improve working conditions. The Wheatland Hop Riot was also the first major farm labor confrontation in California and a harbinger of decades of attempts to organize or control agricultural labor.

Durst advertised for 3000 hop pickers and other seasonal agricultural workers, though he only needed half that number — in order to drive wages down. Of a $1.50/ day wage, $0.78 – $1.00 was withheld from the workers’ pay. If a worker didn’t stay till the end of the season, Durst kept that withheld money. Durst then had the workers harassed, cheated, and abused to try to make them leave before the end of the season. The strikers demanded water twice a day, separate bathrooms for men and women, and higher pay. During a speech by Richard “Blackie” Ford, the Yuba County sheriff and a group of over 100 vigilantes fired into the crowd of workers, causing the riot. Two workers, a deputy, and the district attorney were killed. The National Guard was ordered into the area and 100 workers arrested.

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In addition, libcom.org has an account of the hop riot and the Sacramento Bee has their version to commemorate the 100th anniversary this year that was posted a few days ago. You can also read more about the Wheatland Hop Riot at Wikipedia, too.

David A. Kulczyk also wrote an interesting, more labor-friendly, account, published in 2007, entitled “Hops of Wrath, 1913’s bloody Wheatland Hop Riot eventually led to better conditions for workers. Too bad it was only temporary” and LaborNet has the Legacy of Wheatland.

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So tonight, drink a toast to the men and women of the Wheatland Hop Rio, and make it a High Water Hop Riot IPA.

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Happy IPA Day!

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As today is IPA Day, we should remember that as wonderful as these hoppy beers are, there’s a lot of mythology surrounding them, much of which is exaggerated or simply untrue. Several British beer historians have been working hard to reveal the truth — and dispel the myths — and have largely shown that the standard story of IPAs is simply not accurate. A good place to start is with my friend Martyn Cornell, and his Five facts you may not have known about India Pale Ale. For even more great information, buy his wonderful book, Amber, Gold & Black. Amazingly, he often gets angry comments and e-mails from Americans who prefer their cherished mythology over learning the truth. And there’s also Pete Brown (author of Hops and Glory) and Ron Pattinson, too, who have taken a good look at IPA’s history.

I’m starting to think we should lose the “India” in IPA and replace it with “Imperial,” although I know some people have a hard time with that modifier, too. But in a sense, an IPA is an imperial version of a pale ale, so it seems like it would work; and it would allow an Imperial Pale Ale to remain an IPA. Furthermore, Double IPAs and Triple IPAs could continue to be called by those names, with a minimum of fuss, although we’d have to ditch Imperial IPA in favor of Double.

To me, the most exciting thing about IPAs these days is that IPA is no longer simply one kind of beer, if indeed it ever was, but instead has fractured into numerous varieties. As I detailed in my latest newspaper column, IPA Day, there is currently American-style IPA, English-style IPA, Imperial/Double IPA, Triple IPA, Black IPA (or Black Ale), White IPA, Rye IPA, Belgian IPA (or Belgo-IPA), Farmhouse IPA, Wild IPA, IPL, Red IPA, herbal IPA, spiced IPA, Session IPA, West Coast IPA, San Diego IPA, Single Hop IPA, and who knows how many others. I’m sure someone is working on a Quad IPA right now. Can a Fruit IPA be far behind? But whatever kind of IPA you hoist today, enjoy the hop flavors in it, secure in the knowledge that there are more different beers being called an IPA than at any other time in history. To me, that’s certainly worth celebrating. Happy IPA Day!

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