The Equinox: Day, Night & A Beer

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Today, of course, is the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring for those of us on the northern side of the equator, and the beginning of Autumn for our southerly brethren. It’s also a day when we have roughly equal amounts of day and night.

People around the world have celebrated the equinox for millennia in an amazing array of ways. Back in the early days of Lagunitas Brewing, their celebration manifested itself, as you’d expect, in a beer they called Equinox. Launched originally in 1995, it quietly went away in the early 2000s, when they were working both day and night and it probably seemed like stopping to mark the middle of that made no sense. But this year, on the Equinox, they decided to bring back Lagunitas Equinox, though in a slightly altered package and recipe. It’s still a “pale oat ale,” but it’s a bit stronger now, at 8.4% abv (it was 6.4% before). It’s also again in 22 oz. bottles and kegs.

Lagunitas-Equinox

Lagunitas describes the beer as “a creamy, pale oat ale hopped up with a huge charge of Equinox and Simcoe hops for a piney, eucalyptusy, cedary, sprucey, foresty blast.” And Tony’s label notes make for some challenging reading.

Qan you imagine a world without Beer? Everything ewe gnoe would be different. Phish might phly, aaugs might uze power touls. Pfriedae nights mite be spent building treez out of the day after tomorrow’s pstale sour greem and cheaze leavings. And then theirft bea the speling iszuues. Thingss wood bee just plane wierd, eye meene weird. Come two thing of Itt, Eye think aya cool stand begin a kid bit hapier write gnaw… (glug, glug, glug… gulp.) Mmm, aaht Once again all Is right with the world, the fish are in their ocean, the dog will not maim me, I’ll have a date for Friday night, and I know for sure that in fact God loves me. Beer. You only borrow it. Kawl us!

They also created a pretty trippy one-minute video showing a split-screen journey of the beer during both day and night simultaneously.

Leffe IPA?

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Here’s an odd bit of news. The Belgian brand Leffe, owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, has traditionally made abbey beers (though that’s certainly been changing since being acquired by ABI) and the current lineup from Leffe includes a “Blond, Brown, Ruby, Tripel, Radieuse or Vieille Cuvée,” and a few others, as listed on their website.

But according to an item on Totally Beer, a source in the French-speaking part of Belgium, La Libre, is reporting that ABI is planning on launching a new IPA under the Leffe brand, to be known as “Leffe IPA.” At least one Belgian beer source doesn’t think it’s a good idea, calling it a big mistake. It certainly seems like an odd fit to launch a hoppy beer under a label known for brewing abbey-style beers, not hop forward ones, no matter how popular IPAs might be.

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I made this up, but it doesn’t look right, does it?

UPDATE: It appears that ABI will not be calling the beer Leffe IPA after all. Much like the famous scene in “Pulp Fiction” about McDonald’s “Quarter-Pounder with cheese” being called the “Royale with cheese” in France, the Leffe IPA will also apparently be called the Leffe Royale. And take a look at the graphic below, taken from Beertime (though it appears it originally was printed in a catalog of some type), there will actually be three different Royales.

Leffe-royale

The graphic announcement says that the beer will have “subtle aromas” and “3 different varieties of hops” (despite listing four) but I think that’s just the first beer in the series. Curiously, it also appears to say that the Cascade hops are exclusive to Leffe, which unless I’m reading that wrong is an odd statement given that Cascade hops are the most popular hop variety used by smaller brewers. Of course, they could just be saying the beer is using Cascade hops exclusively, simply meaning it’s a single hop beer.

And this is a pretty interesting claim: “New brewing process: dry hopping.” I’m sure Britain’s brewers are howling with laughter at that one. Descriptors mentioned for the beers include “red fruits, peach, apricot, spices,” a “pronounced bitterness” and “very fruity.” So I guess the first beer is using the four listed varieties (Whitbread Golding, Cascade, Challenger and Tomahawk the second is brewed with the “Mapuche” hop variety from Argentina, and the last one Cascades. It’s possible that only the Cascade IPA is the IPA of the three, and that the others aren’t meant to be, just all more hop forward beers under the umbrella of the “Royale” series. H/T to The Beer Nut for sending me the link.

Anchor To Release Double Liberty IPA

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I generally don’t like revealing a new beer coming from a brewery before they’ve officially announced it, preferring to let the brewery manage how that information is made public. But since others have revealed it online, and because it’s pretty big news, I’m breaking my own rule. Anchor Brewery has apparently created a new beer called Double Liberty IPA.

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The label has been approved, drawn by their longtime label artist Jim Stitt, although no date has yet been set for its release as far as I know right now. Since they only recently released their new Flying Cloud Stout, I suspect it will be a little while before it’s officially announced. The COLA search also reveals it will be both bottled as well as available in kegs.

According to the neck label, “Double Liberty IPA is made with 2-row pale malt and whole-cone Cascade hops.” It also apparently has “double the hops and double the IBUs.” They describe it as “imparting uniquely complex flavors and dry-hop aroma to this radically traditional IPA.” I love that phrase — “radically traditional.” It also weighs in at 8.2% a.b.v.

I’m sure we’ll learn more details soon. Anchor’s brewmaster Mark Carpenter is speaking to my class at Sonoma State on Wednesday, so hopefully he’ll be able to tell me more then. But frankly, I’m pretty excited to try this new beer. Liberty Ale has long been one of my favorite beers, and is the beer I always order first, each time I visit the brewery’s tap room. So an imperial version of that beer has to be worth trying, especially if Mark had a hand it creating it, as he did with the original Liberty 40 years ago.

Ballantine IPA To Return

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This is exciting news. Pabst is bringing back the iconic Ballantine IPA, one of the few ales made by a bigger brewery, and one of the only examples of an India Pale Ale before the 1980s. There were, I believe, maybe a dozen or so American IPAs after prohibition, though by the 1960s Ballantine was the last man standing. I’m not sure when they stopped making it initially, sometime during the 1970s I believe, although they did bring it back briefly in 1995, only to discontinue it again. But beginning next month, it will be back again, brewed at Cold Springs Brewing in Minnesota. That’s actually good news, I think, because they’ve been brewing the canned 21st Amendment beers, so they’re already familiar with making hoppy beers. Also, the Pabst brewmaster, Gregory Deuhs, used to brew for Redhook at their Woodinville, Washington brewery.

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When I first started drinking beer, Ballantine Ale was around, but I never had the IPA, sad to say. I remember talking to Michael Jackson about his memory of how the beer tasted while sharing a cab from an event back to our hotel at GABF one year in the 1990s. He recalled it fondly, though it was probably closer to what today we’d consider an English-style IPA, in his recollection of it, though I believe he thought it was around 45 IBUs. It appears that the new version will be 7.2% a.b.v. and 70 IBUs, which is at the upper end of the BJCP guidelines, making it more like a modern American-style IPA. I may be wrong about this, but I’d be surprised if it was like that in the 1970s, not even Liberty Ale, which was (pun-intended) revolutionary in 1975 when it was released, was that high. Liberty Ale is 5.9% a.b.v. and around 47 IBUs.

Apparently, the new Ballantine version “uses four different malts and eight different hops, as well as hop oil to finish it off. American oak chips are used in the process, harking back to the oak and cypress barrels used for the original beer.” I’m certainly very interested to try it. It seems like a great move, given that IPAs are such a growing category, for Pabst to revive it now when interest in them is at an all-time high.

From the press release:

First brewed in 1878 by P. Ballantine & Sons Brewing Company in Newark, NJ, Ballantine India Pale Ale was the only American-made beer that successfully continued the tradition of the 19th century IPAs once Prohibition ended. This was due in large part to the brewery’s steadfast commitment to ‘Purity, Body, and Flavor” — as exemplified by the three interlocking Borromean rings found on every bottle.

Ballantine’s brewers were meticulous about ensuring that the beer’s gravity, alcohol content, IBUs, and hopping rates remained consistent well into the mid-20th century. Another unique method that characterized Ballantine India Pale Ale was a hopping process in which the distilled oils from a hop-and-water mixture were added to the brew, giving the beer an intense hoppy flavor that was quite distinct from its competition. P. Ballantine & Sons was also rumored to have matured the India Pale Ale in huge wooden vats for up to a year in order to help develop the ale’s original flavor.

In order to replicate the original recipe as closely as possible, Pabst Master Brewer Gregory Deuhs reverse-engineered the beer, ensuring the robust heritage and quality of the 136-year-old brew was properly reflected in the 21st century version.

“I began this project with a simple question: How would Peter Ballantine make his beer today?” said Master Brewer Deuhs, adding, “There wasn’t a ‘secret formula’ in anyone’s basement we could copy, so I conducted extensive research looking for any and all mentions of Ballantine India Pale Ale, from the ale’s processing parameters, aroma and color, alcohol and bitterness specifications. Many brewers and craft beer drinkers would be impressed that the Ballantine India Pale Ale of the 1950s and ‘60s would rival any craft IPA brewed today.”

Over the course of two years and over two dozen iterations of five-gallon batches handmade at his home near Milwaukee, WI, Deuhs finally struck gold.

“Unlike recreating a lost brew from long ago, I had the advantage of actually being able to speak with people who drank Ballantine back in the day,” continued Deuhs. “Their feedback was crucial to ensuring that the hoppy, complex flavor that was revered for over a hundred years was front and center in my recipe.”

It will be sold in six-pack bottles and limited-edition 750 ml bottles beginning in northeast market, and hopefully released in wider distribution after that.

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Here’s some more info about the new Ballantine IPA:

  • Dry hopping and the addition of hop oil has long been credited as the key to the beer’s unique profile. In addition, a proprietary brewing method ensures that every drop of Ballantine India Pale Ale comes in contact with American Oak, effectively capturing the robust flavor and heritage of the brand. With the reintroduction, an entirely new generation of craft beer enthusiasts will experience what made America’s Original IPA so exceptional.
  • In the 1950s, Ballantine was the third largest brewery in the country, going on to become the primary broadcast sponsor for the New York Yankees. Despite stiff competition, the IPA continued to flourish as its dry hopping process gave the beer an intense, distinct hop presence, unlike anything else available in the United States at that time.
  • In the 1970s, taste preferences changed and American lagers edged out the IPA, a trend that was abruptly reversed with the craft beer movement of the past few years. This increased interest in craft beer gave Pabst the perfect opportunity to bring back America’s Original IPA.

Anchor Releases Zymaster #6: Saaremaa Island Ale

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Anchor Brewing has released the sixth beer in their Zymaster® series, Saaremaa Island Ale.

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Anchor’s newest beer was apparently inspired by a trip taken recently by their longtime brewmaster, Mark Carpenter. He and his family vacationed on Saaremaa Island, a part of Estonia, and located in the Baltic Sea. According to Anchor’s press release, this “ancient island has been inhabited more than 8,000 years, and has been occupied by Germany, Denmark, Sweden, czarist Russia, and the Soviet Union. Its culture is a rich and fascinating melting pot. Yet few outside of Estonia have ever experienced its uniquely native beers. Mark enjoyed them so much that he not only brought back his memories of Saaremaa but some brewer’s yeast, as well. Inspired by Mark’s Estonian beer journey, Anchor’s Zymaster No. 6 takes you on a journey to Saaremaa by way of San Francisco.”

Beer is a journey. Wine is defined by time – on the vine and in the bottle – and place, known as terroir. But beer, thanks to the miracles of modern science, can now be made virtually anywhere in any style, transporting the beer-lover to whatever time, place, and flavors he or she desires.

“My wife and I were traveling through the Saaremaa Island countryside and we stopped at a bar,” said the Anchor Brewmaster. “I asked for a local draught beer and the unfiltered brew I was served was completely unique. It was the native yeast that intrigued me and ultimately become the inspiration for Zymaster No. 6. After returning to San Francisco, the Estonian yeast was isolated and cultured becoming the cornerstone of our pale ale which is complimented by the medium bitterness from Northern Brewer, a favorite hop here at Anchor. The result is a one-of-a-kind brew that transports me back to that countryside bar. We hope you’ll enjoy this beer journey, as well.”

Zymaster No. 6 (6% ABV) is a medium-bitter pale ale with Old World hop flavor and aroma. Made with pale barley malt, it has a light body and clean finish. But what makes Saaremaa Island Ale exceptional is the native yeast that Brewmaster Mark Carpenter clandestinely brought back from his Estonian beer journey. It took months for Anchor to isolate and culture this special strain, so essential to the unique character of Saaremaa Island’s indigenous beers. Anchor’s trial brews confirmed that this yeast, reminiscent of some Belgian varieties, contributes a richly complex piquancy to this deliciously distinctive ale with overtones of freshly ground clove and allspice.

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Anchor Zymaster No. 6: Saaremaa Island Ale will be available in limited release in 22 oz. bottles and on draught in select restaurants, bars, and at the Anchor Brewing Taproom in San Francisco.

PilsNOIR Urquell, Czech Brewery’s New Black Pilsner

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The pilsner style, with it’s brilliant golden color, was first brewed in the Bohemian town of Plzen in 1842. Pilsner Urquell started a revolution in brewing and it became the most widely copied type of beer, quickly transforming it into the most popular beer style in the world.

After over 170 years making just one beer, Plzeňský Prazdroj decided it was time to do something different and today are launching PilsNOIR Urquell, a totally new black pilsner. Made with the same Moravian barley and their signature Czech Saaz hops along with the naturally soft local water that’s made Pilsner Urquell to make one of the finest beers in the world, it’s sure to start another revolution.

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April Fools!

Just kidding. Mark Dredge, who’s been doing some work for Pilsner Urquell in England, sent me this mock-up spoof the brewery created just to have a little fun. No matter which beer you choose to drink today, remember to have yourself a little fun. The real copy should read:

“We’ve been making the same beer in the same way for 172 years. Why change now. Even on April Fools Day.”

The First “Official” Star Trek Beer

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Trekkers rejoice, especially if you’ve gone so far as to learn the Klingon language. According to the Hollywood Reporter, CBS has announced “Star Trek’s first officially licensed and recognized brew,” which will be called Klingon Warnog.

The new beer, a “Danish Roggen Dunkel,” was brewed by Tin Man Brewing of Evansville, Indiana, in partnership with CBS Consumer Products and the Federation of Beer. Although curiously, some of the mock-ups list the beer as simply a “Roggen Dunkel” or a “Dunkelweizen.”

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CBS is describing the beer’s flavor as having been drawn “from blending rye malt with a traditional clove character, creating a bold beer suited for the harsh Klingon lifestyle.”

According to the Star Trek Memory Beta wiki, Warnog was mentioned and appeared in an episode of Deep Space Nine — “Sons and Daughters,” from 1997 — along with several Star Trek novels.

The public will get their first preview and taste of Warnog at the Nightclub and Bar Show in Las Vegas today, March 25, 2014, before it becomes available across the U.S. and Canada later this year. This will most likely be the first in a line of Star Trek beverages, and there’s also a Vulcan Ale in the works. “Live long and party on!”

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Beer In Film #39: Griz’s Lawnmower Ale Collaboration

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Today’s beer video is a short film about this year’s collaboration beer made by the San Francisco Brewers Guild for SF Beer Week, Griz’s Lawnmower Ale. The beer was made to honor Greg “Griz” Miller, longtime owner of SF Brewcraft, who passed away in September of last year. The beer debuted last night at the Opening Galas for SF Beer Week.

See The Elephant: Anchor IPA

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Anchor Brewing will soon be releasing their newest beer, and it should surprise no one seeing the trends in hoppy beers that the new release is Anchor IPA.
Anchor-IPA
While Anchor Liberty is brewed with just Cascade hops, the new Anchor IPA is brewed with six different hops, including Apollo, Bravo and Cascade for bittering, and the five used in dry-hopping are Apollo, Cascade, an experimental hop still know as 431, Nelson Sauvin and Citra. I’ve been invited to an event at the brewery tomorrow night and I suspect we’ll get a chance to try the new 6.5% a.b.v. beer then. For now, they’ve released a video explaining some aspects of the new beer and it’s historical tie-in. Apparently during the gold rush, the phrase “seeing the elephant” was a “hopeful but risky pursuit of happiness,” something every prospector would have been familiar with. So it’s certainly an interesting way to work elephants into the beer’s lore, but I’ll let Anchor take up the story here.

I have now received the press release:

“When we started thinking about Anchor IPA, we wanted to create a beer we would be proud to serve in our Taproom,” said Mark Carpenter, Brewmaster at Anchor Brewing. “Right now a lot of IPAs are so hop forward that your palate can only enjoy one because of the high bitterness. Our IPA will have a strong hop flavor so you know you’re drinking an IPA. But, the combination of malts we’re using are strong enough to hold up to the bitterness, allowing you to enjoy more than one. The unique selections of both traditional and modern hops we are using provide the backbone and flavor, plus an experimental hop adds to its pleasant fruity & floral aroma, the first thing you notice as you sip the beer.”

The California Gold Rush lured thousands west to “see the elephant,” a 19th-century metaphor for the hopeful but risky pursuit of happiness, adventure, and fortune. As early as 1849, India Pale Ale—prepared by British brewers for export to India by adding dry hops to barrels of hoppy ale—was also heading west, from England around the Horn to San Francisco. Thirsty ’49ers savored imported IPAs, but it wasn’t until 1975 that Anchor, America’s original craft brewery, pioneered the revival of dry-hopped handmade ales with the introduction of Anchor’s Liberty Ale®, the first modern American IPA brewed after Prohibition. Now, that tradition fast-forwards to an adventurous new brew: Anchor IPA™. Made with 2-row barley malt and fresh whole-cone hops, its bright amber color, distinctively complex aroma, spiky bitterness, malty depth, and clean finish unite to create a uniquely flavorful, memorable, and timeless IPA.

The elephant you see on Anchor IPA™ was hand-drawn by Anchor label artist, James Stitt. The expression to “see the elephant” originates from a tale that predates the California Gold Rush.

There once lived a farmer who had heard of elephants but had never seen one. He longed for the day when he might catch a glimpse of this rare, exotic creature. When the circus came to town, he loaded his wagon with fresh produce and headed to the market. On the way, just as he’d hoped, he came across the circus parade, nobly led by an enormous elephant. The farmer was ecstatic, but his horses were terrified. They reared and bucked, overturning his wagon and scattering its precious contents in the road. “I don’t give a hoot,” exclaimed the farmer. “I have seen the elephant!”

The elephant became the universal symbol of the Gold Rush, as evidenced by the journals, letters, and sketchbooks of the forty-niners. Whether or not they struck it rich in the diggings, those plucky pioneers would forever treasure their California adventure as the defining moment of their lives.

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Anchor Brewing Announces Zymaster #5: Harvest One American Pale Ale

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Anchor Brewing announced today the 5th beer in their Zymaster series. This latest offering — Harvest One American Pale Ale — is a beer made with a new, experimental hop variety. I had a chance to try it during GABF last week, and the nose has amazing peach aromas, with soft, fruit flavors.
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Here’s the full story, from the press release:

It’s hard to imagine that the Cascade hop, today one of craft brewing’s most popular hop varieties, was ever new. Yet this distinctively aromatic hop, developed in Oregon by the USDA’s breeding program, was first released in the early 1970s. In 1975, Anchor Brewing featured Cascade hops with the debut of Liberty Ale®, America’s first craft-brewed, dry-hopped ale. Anchor Brewing has been using it in Liberty Ale® ever since.

Over the years, Anchor Brewing experimented with many different hops—both old and new—from around the world. For Zymaster Series No. 5: Harvest One American Pale Ale, Anchor Brewing decided to feature an experimental new hop variety. This yet unnamed, pre-commercial, aroma hop provides a uniquely Anchor twist to Zymaster 5.

Zymaster Series No. 5 (7.2% ABV) is made with a special blend of pale, caramel, and Munich malts, which contribute a distinctively complex maltiness and deep golden color. Nugget hops give it a tangy bitterness. But the hallmark of Zymaster 5: Harvest One American Pale Ale is the intriguingly novel aroma of an experimental new hop, which was used liberally in both the brewhouse and the cellar. A late addition to the boil plus dry hopping provides Harvest One with an incredibly lively hop aroma reminiscent of tree-ripened peaches, with just a hint of fresh melon. The result is a uniquely exciting new beer unlike anything brewed or tasted before.

“We have a fantastic and long-lasting relationship with the hop growers we work with,” said Mark Carpenter, Brewmaster at Anchor Brewing. “When we had the opportunity to sample and test a small set of experimental hops that were being grown, we were excited at the opportunity to work with something new and different. Out of about a dozen or so samples, there was one that really stood out to us. Right away, we knew this was a new hop variety we wanted to brew on a large scale. We were after something unique and aromatic, and this hop was one we hadn’t seen or smelled before and decided it would fit well in our Zymaster Series. Similar to how Anchor introduced the world to the Cascade hop in 1975 with Liberty Ale, we are proud and excited to share our take on this new, experimental hop in this beer.”

It’s being released today in California, though not all markets within the state, on draft and in 22 oz. bottles, and will be rolled out nationally in the next few months.

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