AboutDavid Nilsen – PorchDrinking.com
On the night of May 27, a powerful line of storms ripped across Indiana and Ohio. Numerous tornadoes caused considerable damage. The Miami Valley region of southwest Ohio, centered around the city of Dayton, was hit especially hard. Multiple tornadoes left parts of the city and surrounding communities in shambles. Lives were disrupted and families were displaced.
In the wake of the storms, countless area businesses and individuals came together to help those affected by the disaster. Dayton’s breweries were no exception.
It’s the beginning of August, and by the inexorable laws of seasonal creep, that means it’s officially Oktoberfest season in taprooms and bottle shops across the country. Most folks assume the word “Oktoberfest” on a beer label or tap list refers to a particular style, but it’s actually a little more complicated than that. Let’s talk about how we got here, and then get into the details of what’s what with Oktoberfest lagers.
Most of the time when we see Farmhouse Ale on a beer label in this country, the beer in question is a Saison or Bière de Garde. A new book about northern European rural brewing traditions expands the world of farmhouse ales and opens readers’ eyes to a thriving Nordic subculture of farmhouse brewing and expands our understanding of farmhouse ales beyond popular Belgian and French traditions.
“I didn’t write it for people who are into beer. I wrote it for a specific demographic of people who didn’t know anything about beer.”
That’s Dom “Doochie” Cook, founder of Beer Kulture, talking about his new book, This Ain’t the Beer that You’re Used To: A Beginner’s Guide to Good Beer. The book is intended to be an introduction not just for newcomers to craft beer, but for racial and ethnic demographics that for the most part haven’t had good beer marketed to them. The book is finding an audience with established beer fans as well though, providing a new perspective on an industry that has too long been dominated by white voices.
Draped over a few rolling hills in eastern Ohio sits the property of a farmhouse brewery that comes by its agrarian title honestly. Wooly Pig Farm Brewery’s name isn’t marketing; the brewery is a working farm growing livestock and hop bines. Founder and brewmaster Kevin Ely specializes in rustic German lagers, and his bestseller is Rustic Helles, a Munich Helles served unfiltered and cloudy straight from the lagering tanks.
When I lead beer tastings and classes, I often hear people express a common misconception: lagers are inferior to ales. This idea is starting to change as craft lagers become more popular, but there is still plenty of confusion out there about lagers, and for good reason—with so many styles, craft beer can be confusing! Fortunately, misconceptions about lagers are pretty simple to clear up.
Germans love their beer, and they love to drink a lot of it, which means most German styles need to be crisp and fairly low in alcohol to support extended drinking sessions in those gorgeous beer gardens you keep drooling over on Instagram. When I say the words “German beer,” you most likely picture a glass of pale, brilliantly clear Pilsner, or perhaps a stein of amber-colored Märzen (Oktoberfest). Maybe you think of a curvy vase of cloudy Hefeweizen that’s the color of a wheat field. All of those refreshing styles can make a sunny day even better, but it gets pretty cold in Germany during the winter months, and one family of German lager styles—Bocks—have the strength to stand up to the season’s cruelest weather.
A new chapbook by Scratch Brewing co-founder and brewer Marika Josephson lays out a blueprint for what it means to run a true farmhouse brewery in the 21st century.
“There is an ironic disconnect in craft beer in which drinkers care a lot about beer being made locally but don’t know or don’t care about where the ingredients themselves are from,” said Josephson when I interviewed her for a story for Civil Eats in November 2017.
The quote could serve as a thesis statement for her new chapbook Keeping the “Farm” in “Farmhouse Beer”, published by Good Beer Hunting in 2018.
Since opening in June 2018, Branch & Bone Artisan Ales in Dayton, Ohio, has created eye-opening beers in a wide range of styles, including bright and juicy IPAs, crisp and inquisitive session sours, and velvety smooth stouts and coffee beers. Head brewer Brett Smith loves them all, having carried many recipes over from his homebrewing days, but the beers that really have his heart pour from two wooden vessels in the back room of the brewery: oak wine foeders Smith picked up from American Solera in Oklahoma City. They once held Italian Vin Santo.
A new beer from North High Brewing in Columbus, Ohio, is shining a light on the importance of agriculture in the world of craft beer. North High has partnered with Ohio Farm Bureau to brew Cover Crop Beer, a blonde ale brewed in honor of the centennial anniversary of the latter organization, which exists to promote and support Ohio farmers.
Five years ago, most craft beer fans had never heard of Gose, the sour German wheat ale seasoned with salt and coriander. Now, it’s tough to find a brewery that hasn’t made one and many breweries offer multiple Goses with various fruit additions. How did the style go from obscurity to ubiquity in just half a decade?
Eschewing hops in your beer is not the best money-making business model in American craft beer in 2018, but if you’re brewing it for yourself, who cares? Actually, those last two words form a sort of unofficial mantra for Jereme Zimmerman’s attitude toward accepted homebrewing guidelines in his new book. Learn the rules, then break them.
Ryan Blandford, head brewer at Cincinnati’s Taft’s Ale House, won his first gold medal at the World Beer Cup while working for crosstown brewery Fifty West in 2016. When he heard Fifty West’s 10 & 2 Barleywine announced, he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“I was jumping up and down and swearing,” laughed Blandford when we spoke on the phone last week. “As a young brewer you look up to these guys who are winning all these medals and when you’re fortunate enough to win one, well, you’re kind of freaking out.”
The Ohio Craft Brewers Association’s second annual Ale-O-Ween beer festival descended upon Dayton this past Saturday evening, October 20. To set the mood, Mother Nature made sure it was a dark and stormy night, and while that caused more than a few problems for the breweries set up outside as the evening wore on and the weather worsened, the event was still a resounding success.
While India Pale Ale has more sub-styles than perhaps any other family of beers, most of them are minor deviations from a central theme. When we order an IPA, we usually expect a lot of hops (though how that presents on the palate has morphed somewhat in recent years), not a whole lot of malt, unobtrusive yeast and not much else. Industry vet Dick Cantwell thinks the style has plenty more room for creativity than that simple formula, however. In Brewing Eclectic IPA: Pushing the Boundaries of India Pale Ale, the Magnolia Brewing chief and former Elysian Brewing brewmaster opens up a world of possibilities for craft beer’s most popular style.
Friends, I was lucky: I never went through a crappy beer phase.
When I reached the legal drinking age in the early 2000s, I drank a lot of really bad wine instead, believing myself to be refined. When I finally loosened up and decided to give beer a fair chance, a friend who worked at a liquor store pushed me straight past the macro shelves toward the craft beer section. I found the variety confusing (if I thought that during the first George W. Bush term, I can only imagine what it’s like for a newcomer today) so I asked him what he drank.
“Most nights? Sierra Nevada Pale Ale,” he said. “That’s my go-to.”
“It just feels right that this is a beer that comes from Cleveland,” says Great Lakes Brewing Company co-founder Pat Conway of his brewery’s Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. The iconic dark brew is named for the ill-fated iron ore freighter that sank on Lake Superior with all hands during a vicious storm on November 10, 1975.
If you’re reading PorchDrinking, chances are you have a list in your head of breweries you really want to visit, distant cities rich in brewing tradition you want to travel to, and rare beers you have to taste before you die. British beer writer Mark Dredge started writing down his own such list a few years ago, and then decided to tick as many items off that list as he could and write a book about it.
Pappy Van Winkle commands an awe factor in American spirits like no other bourbon does. It’s produced in small batches and can be incredibly difficult — and expensive — to acquire, with special bottles carrying four to five figure price tags. When Fifth Street Brewpub in the historic St. Anne’s Hill neighborhood of Dayton, Ohio, announced in April that they would be releasing a single batch of their Schmidion Damme Belgian Dark Strong Ale that had been aged in Pappy Van Winkle barrels, it definitely caught my attention.
It may come as a surprise to many people that beer pairs beautifully with cheese. Wine has long held a stranglehold on cheese pairing, and while excellent wine and cheese combinations abound, cheese might actually find its ideal companion in the nectar of malt and hops rather than grapes. Janet Fletcher has written a book to help beer lovers get the most of this match made in heaven.