Monthly Archives: July 2013

Idaho

I spent a few days last week in and around Boise, ID. Some pretty cool beer-related things are happening there.

The landscape of Boise surprised me a bit, I guess expected it to be a little more wooded, but it was quite arid, high desert. It reminded me a lot of Yakima, WA with the rolling tan hills and lots of farmland. Plus it was HOT, 100°F+ each day I was there, with a surprising amount of mugginess and cloud cover to go along with the heat.

The downtown of Boise is really great. Many blocks of great stores and restaurants, with a river/greenbelt running right through the middle of town. I made stops at 3 new favorites of mine, a wonderful brewery restaurant 10 Barrel Brewery Boise, where brewer Shawn Kelso is creating some awesome beers-his India Session Ale and SAM IPA (Simcoe, Amarillo and Mosaic-3 of my favorite hop varieties) are fantastic. His Cucumber Sour is worth checking out too, and their food is also top notch. This location in Boise is owned by Ten Barrel Brewing from Bend, where Tonya Cornett brews. We just did a collaboration brew with her, and she gave me the tip to check out their Boise location.

There’s a great bottle shop/bistro called Bier:Thirty, that has a wonderful draft selection and what looked to be wonderful food (I didn’t eat, as I went there right after lunch at Ten Barrel). Owner Chris Oates is a big fan of Stone, has an amazing bottle selection and it was great to see what he is doing. And pretty soon he will be installing coolers to hold all of his bottled beers-cheers to that!

And there is a classic ale house that opened in 1996 called Bittercreek Alehouse, where Owner Dave and Beer Manager Dave have managed to put together an awesome beer list that includes 39 taps and a huge bottle list.  What was most impressive was their cellar, and the amazing bottle selections they have tucked away, all precisely temperature controlled.

So if you are a craft beer fan and find yourself in Boise, check out these spots. I recommend all of them!

There are a lot of hops being grown around Boise, it has been a major hop growing region for many generations. The acreage is more substantial than I realized, and Idaho’s hop production has the potential to compete with Oregon’s acreage soon to be the second largest acreage in the US (Yakima, WA is first). And on a real positive note, there are a ton of new fields being planted. That is great news for all of us brewers. It was fantastic to meet a couple of the farmers, and some of the other people in Idaho that are part of the hop industry.

Organic Hops

An organic hop farm near Boise-the hops were absolutely beautiful

Hop Kiln

A new hop kiln being built just in time for the 2013 harvest. Note all the stainless steel-you don’t see that often. Most kilns are wood.

Hops = food

I love this sign. Hops ARE a food product.

beetle larva

This beetle larva is a huge pest to hop growers, as it can lodge in the root system and feed for up to 5 years before it turns into a huge, but harmless beetle. Lots of “Star Trek: Wrath of Kahn” jokes were made after seeing this 4″ larva and the beetles, which are 2-3″ long.

 

 

 

 

Cheers to Brit Antrim

Short notice, but if you are in the San Diego area looking for some great and rare beers for a good cause, I highly recommend you stop by O’Brien’s Pub this afternoon, where there is a fundraiser for Brit Antrim happening, with lots of special beers, raffles, and a silent auction.

From O’Brien’s:

“On Saturday the 27th we are hosting a very special fundraiser for our friend Brit Antrim. Brit is a San Diego native and former brewer at Anderson Valley, Kona and Great Divide who suffered a severe spinal cord injury.  From noon to 6 pm we will be tapping some very special beers and holding a raffle and silent auction to help raise money for Brit’s medical care.  We’ll have unique beers from Avery, Automatic, Port Brewing, Hollister, Russian River, Sierra Nevada, Maui, Stone and more.  The auction will have some amazing items including a beer engine, rare Westveleteren, a Lost Abbey box set and Great American Beer Festival tickets.”

Here is the flyer for the event  liquid-therapy-july-27-2013

I got to know Brit over several judging sessions for the Great American Beer Festival, and have always enjoyed having a beer with him. He has a great sense of humor and is a very talented brewer. I found out after his accident that he is also a fine photographer, and has been able to continue that passion after the injury.

Many brewers in the craft industry typically get little or no insurance benefits, and Brit’s medical bills are so massive that he needs all the help we can muster. Please join me in supporting Brit’s recovery.

 

 

 

 

The decline of Bass Pale Ale

Here’s a great post on Martyn Cornell’s Zythophile regarding The sad state of Bass Pale Ale.

I used to love Bass Ale, it definitely was a favorite of mine for many years, especially when visiting “pubs” here in the US, when the only offerings were typically Bass, Guinness Stout and Harp. However, it’s been many years since I’ve even seen it (not that I seek it out). This is a depressing story, about a company that simply doesn’t know what to do with one of the most iconic brands in brewing history.

At one time, in the 1800s, Bass was the largest brewery in the world, and their IPA set the standard for the style. Much of what I researched for the IPA book about 1800s IPAs I found in the Bass Archives (now called the National Brewery Centre archives), and if you ever get a chance to visit their museum in Burton-On-Trent, it is an amazing display of historical brewing in England, including an entire section dedicated to IPA and Burton’s heyday as a world brewing center in the 1800s. Also, there is a very nice pub on site, serving beers brewed exclusively at the Worthington’s small brewery just across the driveway from the museum.

Beers being served at the National Brewery Centre Worthington's Pub. Delicious!

Beers being served at the National Brewery Centre Worthington’s Pub. Delicious!

The state of affairs in Burton-On-Trent regarding the absence of the Bass name and logo on all of their old brewery buildings always seemed very sad to me…not that I blame Coors, who bought the breweries and now operate them. Just a strong statement about the dangers of brewery consolidation of the loss of historical brewing records, memorabilia, and other historical artifacts. Often, when breweries are bought out, much of the written material gets disposed of by the new company, without a thought as to how valuable those records might be to someone else.

This brewery used to be part of Bass. Now it is not.

This brewery used to be part of Bass. Now it is not.

I salute Coors for finally making the decision a few years ago to reopen the Museum and The Brewing Archives, a virtual treasure trove of old brewing documents, recipes and labels. They may have bowed to public pressure, but the fact remains that one of the best museums for beer was on their site and it’s a wonderful thing that it is open for visitors again. And if you do ever get the chance to visit, there are still plenty of historical sites that refer to the Bass heritage found throughout Burton:

The old Bass Water tower, just off the banks of the River Trent

The old Bass Water tower, just off the banks of the River Trent

William Bass house-historical marker

William Bass’s house is identified by this historical marker

 

A better shot of the William Bass house

A better shot of the William Bass house

No trip to Burton-On-Trent is complete without a visit to the infamous Cooper’s Tavern, once a Bass tied house, but now a free house pub. This was the pub that workers at Bass frequented on a regular basis. Now it is a wonderfully historic pub, serving a great selection of beer, and packed with friendly people. I’ve been there a few times now, and have always ended up having lively, friendly conversations with the regulars.

The casks at Cooper's Tavern

The casks at Cooper’s Tavern

The sign outside the door features, not surprisingly, a cooper!

The sign outside the door features, not surprisingly, a cooper!

The house dog, "Eddie" at Cooper's Tavern, making himself at home

The house dog, “Eddie” at Cooper’s Tavern, making himself at home

Any brewer interested in brewing history and recipes from the 1700s and 1800s owes themselves a trip to Burton-On-Trent. Spend at least 2 days there, the historical impact of this town on brewing is massive.

More to come, I have a lot to share about my experiences in Burton-on-Trent.

 

 

 

 

The Anheuser-Busch Conclave (aka the worst plane ride ever)

I don’t know if they still are doing this, but mid-July was always the time of year when Anheuser-Busch held their “Brewmasters’ Conclave”, usually in Williamsburg, VA at their Kingsmill Resort. For a younger brewing manager, climbing the corporate ladder, this series of meetings that spanned several days provided a whole range of emotions, including inspiration, amazement, and also, to no small extent, a certain degree of terror.

The Conclave was set up so that Brewmasters, the Brewing Scientists, and Ingredient Managers (AB had employees at the Director Level who were in charge of hops, malt, rice, yeast and water) could present on the latest developments in the industry, and also research projects that they had conducted over the past year. There was always a lot of groundbreaking research being presented, and I always learned a lot. For a mid-level manager like I was in the mid 1990s, it also provided a very real sense of wonder at the technical expertise and the brain power that was in that room. In all seriousness, Anheuser-Busch’s staff of Brewmasters and Brewing Scientists were the best of the best in the world.

The Conclave was a situation where the presenters could sometimes “make” their careers, and also where they could see their careers fall apart. This is because even though it was called “The Brewmaster’s” Conclave, it really was the “August Busch III” conclave. He sat in front center, and basically led the show, drilling each presenter mercilessly with questions. There’s no doubt that August Busch III knew his brewing science, he was amazingly hands-on when it came to beer quality, taste and the science behind the art of making beer. As such, he asked tough, intelligent questions, and it was certainly a badge of honor to survive a presentation at the Conclave without being tripped up, let alone have a successful presentation.

When I was working in Corporate Brewing, I went to the Conclave several times, and I had to give presentations two years in a row. It was always on the subject of our new beer program and the Specialty Brewing Group, going through a list of every new beer that we had in development. We presented on the marketing plan, the recipe, and where the beer was going to be brewed.

The brewmasters from all 12 US breweries and all the International breweries attended, and everyone who worked in Corporate Brewing, R&D or the Brewing Technical Center was flown out on corporate jets from St. Louis. My second time presenting at the Conclave, when the flight schedule was first published, I noticed right away that I was scheduled with about 15 others to fly on the same plane as August Busch III. After I recovered from my shock, I approached the administrative assistant in Corporate Brewing, who was in charge of scheduling the passenger list for each flight, with a desperate plea to put me on another plane, and she told me “oh no, don’t even worry about it, August ALWAYS flies the plane, you won’t even see him”. I felt a little comforted after that, but not much.

As a side note, AAB III is in fact a licensed pilot, and almost always flew the corporate jet when he visited any of the breweries in the AB system, which is why he never tasted the brewery’s beer during a visit. He took it back to St. Louis with him, and tasted it later that evening. And if he didn’t like it, there was hell to pay, but that’s another story. When he was working at the corporate offices in St. Louis, he flew in on a helicopter, and landed on the roof, and then walked to his office on the top floor.

So I took some ribbing from some of my coworkers that morning in July as we waited to board the jets. No one wanted to trade places with me, that’s for sure. I boarded the plane with my coworker in New Products/Specialty Brewing Group and the rest of the unlucky souls, and sure enough, there was August Busch III sitting in the cockpit. I wasn’t necessarily looking forward to 2 hours in a plane with a man I considered the one of the most intimidating men in the world so I defintely felt a sense of relief when it looked like he was indeed going to fly the plane.

We take off, get in the air, and lo and behold, the cockpit door opens, and AAB III walks out, and explains that his son Stephen was going to fly the plane so he could “chat” with all of us. Well, my stomach dropped so fast….and he spent the next two hours peppering all the passengers about our beer and their upcoming presentations. When he got to me and my partner, we basically ended up giving him our entire presentation, and he gave us very explicit direction to be sure to include the projected sales margins in the Conclave, which we had to scramble to get as soon as we got off the plane. We survived the flight, but definitely needed a beer when we landed.

We were scheduled to present on Day 3, the last day, which was a half day. Conclave presentations often evolve into very deep follow-up conversations (or grillings), so we were behind schedule on day 3, and VP of Brewing Doug Muhleman approached us and said it looked like our presentation was going to get cut due to time constraints. Believe me, I had mixed feelings about that, but the primary feeling was one of relief. It had been a rough Conclave already, and I didn’t want to end up on the chopping block like some of the others.

At the mid-morning break that 3rd day, I was in the lobby getting a cup of coffee when I turned around and unfortunately, made eye contact  with AAB III. And of course, he noticed me, and came over and said: “hey! when is your presentation?” And when I replied that it had been cut, he said “oh no you don’t…I want to see it”…so I went and told Doug Muhleman, and we were hastily inserted back into the schedule.

The presentation itself went fine, and I made it through with only minor scarring. I don’t remember much of it to be honest. But I remember that flight out to Williamsburg, and probably always will, and I also remember how easy the return flight was, how relaxed, how enjoyable, because the Conclave was over, and I was flying on the plane without the CEO.

 

Beer and Rock-My Top Ten Beer Songs

Something a little light-hearted this time around. More beer and brewing stories coming, I promise.

Beer and music: To me they go hand-in-hand. I am a huge music fan, absolutely love classic rock, modern rock and blues (anything with electric guitars, a good riff, a good groove and a good melody usually works for me).

Though it has been far too long since I’ve been able to, one local event I like to participate in is San Diego radio station FM 94/9 Rock and Roll Happy Hour on Friday evenings, where great craft beers are tasted and discussed, and great tunes (always includes a Tom Waits tune, thanks to Ken Wright!) are played. The folks at 94/9 love their craft beer, and love amazing, independent rock music. It’s always fun to try and pick tunes from my own collection that fits the theme of the show, and get them played on air.

In a couple of weeks I’ll be going to the Mammoth Bluesapalooza, which in my mind is the perfect event: Great blues music accompanied by great craft beer on Friday night, followed by a full-fledged beer festival with a day of blues performers on Saturday. Plus it’s in the mountains, so the setting is amazing. This year’s headliner is Tinsley Ellis, one of my all-time favorite guitar players, so I am doubly excited about this.

I thought it might be fun to list some of my favorite beer drinking tunes. I know it’s been done before, but I don’t care. Here are my top ten beer-related rock and blues tunes-songs that just go great with a pint of beer, or that reference good beer in some way. In no particular order:

1. Hey Bartender: The Blues Brothers (and others). “Draw one, draw two, draw three, four glasses of beer”

2. Sweet Goddess of Love and Beer: Popa Chubby. Great groove and very tasty electric blues. One of my favorites from blues master Popa Chubby. Sums things up nicely.

3. John Barleycorn Must Die: Traffic. Amazing rework of a traditional English folk tune that is all about the love of the barley.

4. One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer: John Lee Hooker, George Thorogood. You can’t go wrong with this riff. Amazing. And George Thorogood’s cover knocks it out of the park. Turned me on in the early 1980s to John Lee Hooker, for which I am grateful.

5. Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers: ZZ Top: Great old-school ZZ Top. Bluesy, raunchy, perfect.

6. Beer Drinking Woman: Roy Buchanon. Great tune from an under-appreciated guitar maestro. Roy Buchanon and Danny Gatton: Amazing Tele players-check them out if you aren’t familiar. Unfortunately both are deceased.

7. I Ain’t Drunk (I’m Just Drinkin’): the late, great Albert Collins. Speaking of Telecasters, Albert Collins is the “Master of the Telecaster”. Texas Blues deluxe.

8. Beercan: Beck. Not sure how cool of a beer drinking song this really is, but I just like Beck and I like this song.

9. Pretty Good at Drinking Beer: Billy Cunningham. I’m not a huge country fan, and there are tons of country songs about drinking beer, but I like this one. Tried to get one of the bands I’ve played in to do it, but not successful, yet.

10. Roadhouse Blues: The Doors. One of the mainstays of my band, Craigsband. We usually end the mellower first set of our gigs with this song, to give a people a taste of the harder, more energetic sets to come. One of our singers used to change the lyric “Woke up this morning, and I got myself a beer” to: “Woke up this morning, and got myself a Stone”, which I always liked.

What are your top beer songs?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Going to England (again)

We just made arrangements today for me to fly over to England in September with our Lead Brewer, Jeremy Moynier, to brew a beer with an English brewer for the Wetherspoons pub chain. Wetherspoons puts on an International Real Ale Festival twice each year, and has a program where they invite brewers from other countries to brew beer at select English breweries. All the beer is made as Real Ale, meaning it all goes in casks, is clarified to brilliant crystal clear without filtration, and is naturally carbonated, and served from the cask using a beer engine.

Stone Brewing Co. has participated in this program with Wetherspoons twice over the years. In fact, we were the first American Brewery to participate, back in early 2008, when Stone Brewing Co. cofounder, President and original Brewmaster Steve Wagner and I got to brew at the Shepherd-Neame Brewery in Faversham, which bills itself as the oldest operating brewery in England. That beer we brewed with the great brewers at Shepherd-Neame was an IPA, weoriginally wanted to do an 8-9% abv Double IPA, but the Wetherspoons folks balked at that because it was too high in alcohol. After some negotiation, we settled on a 7% West Coast style IPA.

Steve wanted to call this beer “California Mild” which still makes me laugh, but what I really found interesting is that when Stone cofounder and CEO Greg Koch and I went back for the release party at one of the Wetherspoons Pubs in London, there were many people, including some fellow brewers, who would not even try the beer because it was “so strong”. There were some I couldn’t persuade to even try a small taste. I learned then a bit of the real differences between the beer scene in England vs. the beer scene here in the United States, especially with regards to alcoholcontent. In the United States, many craft beer drinkers look for high alcohol, and are happy sticking to 1-2 pints over the course of an evening. In England, many of the beer drinkers want 3-4%, and that’s it. Anything above that teeters dangerously close to the dreaded “binge drinking” label. The pub drinking culture in England is totally different, and revolves around drinking many pints among friends, so the lower alcohol is an important consideration. And to be fair, there were many brewers, including David Holmes from Shepherd-Neame and John Bryan from Oakham Ales in Peterborough who really enjoyed our beer as well. It was during this trip that I gained a very deep appreciation for traditional English brewing and for good Real Ale. It was a fantastic experience, and I was really glad to be able to help set up some of my craft brewer friends to participate in the same program over the past few years. One of the nicest surprises that came out of this particular trip was that for a short while, the beer we brewed had the highest ranking of all British Beers on ratebeer.

Britain Best Beers

 

Wetherspoons Real Ale Festival Pump Clips

Mitch and former Team Stone Member, Collaborator and good friend Toshi Ishii pouring their beers. I’m not caring that some people won’t try it- more for me!

The second opportunity for Stone came in the fall of 2011, when I traveled solo to the Wadworth Brewery in Devizes, near Bath and Bristol. This time we brewed something a little more British, at least in terms of alcohol content. We brewed a Session IPA, loosely inspired by the collaboration brew we had made with San Diego homebrewer extraordinaire Kelsey McNair and Colby Chandler from Ballast Point. That was a very fun experiences-Devizes is a wonderfully quaint village, and there was literally a Wadworth pub on every corner of the main street through town. The brewers there treated me wonderfully, and I got some great sightseeing in.

The Wadworth Brewery, a great example of a traditional English brewer.

The Wadworth Brewery, a great example of a traditional English brewer.

Pump Clip for the San Diego Session IPA

Pump Clip for the San Diego Session IPA

So this time, we are brewing at Adnams in Southwold, on the East coast of England, with Fergus Fitzgerald, a brewer Steve and I met a few years ago with Martyn Cornell during one of our research trips for the IPA book. Fergus brews some great beers, and has a love for American hop varieties, so we are looking forward to putting this beer together with him. And congratulations are in order, as Fergus was just named Brewer Of The Year

I am looking forward to spending a little time in London, visiting some of my favorite pubs, including The Rake, The White Horse, Churchill Arms, Craft Brewing Company, and wherever else our travels take us. We hope to visit some London brewers as well-will keep you posted on that.

Greetings from The Hop Tripper

Not sure why I’m doing this..but what the heck. Decided it might be fun to try and share my love of IPA, and of craft brewing in general.

If you are reading this, then certainly you are aware that this is the most exciting and fast-moving era in the known history of beer. It is simply an amazing time to be a brewer, and to be a fan of beer. And I am very fortunate to be both.

As I travel around in my work for Stone Brewing Co. I come across great new breweries, pubs, and beer scenes quite frequently. If I can share some hidden gems with the readers of this blog, then I’ve done what I wanted to do. And you may read some funny stories here-I’ve had a long career in the brewing industry, I’ve seen craft brewing grow from its beginnings with just a handful of regional breweries and brewpubs to the huge business it is today, and I’ve experienced a lot of unique opportunities and had some very fun experiences.

Also, as a follow-up to the publishing of my book on IPA: IPA: Brewing Techniques, Recipes and the Evolution of India Pale Ale, there is a lot of information and a lot of photos that didn’t make the book that I am looking forward to posting here. And if I can also share new information I learn on the history of India Pale Ale, or other beer styles, I will do that too.

 

IPA-cover-197x315

Available from Brewers Publications, Amazon and Barnes and Noble

 

Some things you probably won’t see here:

You won’t see any formal beer reviews,  I’ll leave that to others. There are so many places on the internet to read or watch beer reviews, we certainly don’t need any more. And in my job, I can hardly be considered objective, despite my best intents. But if I come across a beer that I find interesting or unique, you can bet I’ll make mention of it here. In fact, I had one the other night on draft at The Gopher Hole, near Escondido, CA where my band Craigsband plays on a regular basis. My Temecula friend John Ryti, The Temecula Beer Ambassador, recommended this beer. Anderson Valley’s Summer Solstice Cream Ale turned out to be a surprisingly complex malty beer with hints of cream on the finish. I was curious about how they achieved that amazing trace of cream soda flavor on the finish, and I wonder if that is the result of the natural flavors listed on the front label. In any event, it was a wonderful beer, darker than any cream ale that I’ve ever tasted before, and it was quite delicious.

anderson-valley-summer-solstice

You probably also won’t see me write too many details about what’s happening at Stone Brewing Co. We have an excellent media team, and we’re so active already with blog posts, videos, and all the other social media stuff, there’s no need for me to talk in depth about what’s happening here. And I need to let them do their jobs! And though I may come back and review things that have happened at Stone in more detail,  I’ll save most of my immediate Stone related updates for Twitter.  MitchAtStone is my Twitter handle, btw.

So anyway, I do hope those of you who take the time to check this out will enjoy what you see.

Cheers, Peace, Love and Beer,

Mitch