If you frequent craft breweries or taphouses, you’ve probably become quite familiar with the Crowler™. Standing at 32 ounces, the large single-use fillable can emerged into the market in 2012, created by Ball Canning in partnership with Oskar Blues Brewery in Colorado. Oskar Blues is considered the first craft brewery to release its beer in 12 ounce cans, which they pioneered in 2002 using a small tabletop device that filled one can at a time. Since then canned craft beer has truly exploded, pushing larger production breweries to invest in their own canning lines and inspiring an entire sector of mobile canning services which many smaller breweries are able to utilize.
Spring is here, and for many that means a growing excitement for seasonal fruits and vegetables like asparagus, fava beans, snap peas and radishes. We’ve made it through the winter full of starchy roots and now it’s time for bright, light and fresh options. Another favorite coming into season is rhubarb, or as I like to call it, pieplant. An obvious companion to strawberry, raspberry and other co-seasonal sweeter fruits, tart rhubarb stalks are fun to play with in the kitchen and some even use them in the brewery. And yes! You can grow rhubarb. Easily.
If you’re a beer fan, chances are you have a few bottles of something rich and barrel-aged hanging around–that is, unless you’ve already gone through your backstock in these weird times. I like to enjoy few ounces of most of these big, sweet and boozey beers, and usually try to share a bottle among several friends. But given this month’s circumstances, the sharing part is less of an option. So I decided to share my beer with cake instead. A carrot cake in the style of coffee cakes–no streusel here, but feel to add one if you’d like. This cake highlights the rich flavors of aged beer and brings a bright sideparty into the picture with spices and nuts. I like my cake for breakfast, personally, so I tend to make mine slightly less sweet than a full-on dessert, but you are welcome to disagree and amp up the sweetness. Times are strange, make what you like. If your beer is not super sweet, then please do add a couple extra tablespoons sugar as well. This style of cake is somewhat forgiving. I used Brew 3000 from Fremont Brewing, a lovely malty and oaky flavor bomb, but great barrel-aged examples abound from the likes of Epic, Deschutes, Great Divide and many more. If you don’t have any barrel-aged beer on hand, right now is a great time to support your local breweries by purchasing some!
Hops are a key element of beer. First and most obviously, hops offer a growing catalog of many wonderfully unique flavors, providing brewers with a wide palette of different options to build creative recipes. And because hops are bacteriostatic and actively inhibit the growth of Gram-positive organisms, they help to keep some bacteria and other unwanted agents at bay during fermentation as well as storage. Hops also lend a helping hand to stabilizing beer foam and of course blend a bitter balance into the sweetness of an otherwise quite grainy and malty beverage. Finally, hops may even provide some mental health benefits as well. A 2017 study at the School of Health Science and Education at Harokopio University in Athens measured the self-reported stress, anxiety and depression levels of 36 participants and concluded that the application of dry hop extract over a four-week period provided significant meaningful improvements in perceived outlook and experience. In other words, hops can help!
In this series I showcase craft beer under 5% ABV: because life is too short to just have one beer. All posts are uncompensated and opinions are my own.
What I’m drinking today
Georgetown Brewing’s Roger’s Pilsner is a 4.9% American pilsner made in Seattle, Wash. Brewed with Oregon-grown Sterling hops and a combination of pilsner and 2-row malts, it’s a great American interpretation of a classic German style beer. This is touchy territory for me, as I’m a dedicated pilsner fan and am often wary of American versions, but Roger’s works. The good brewing technique is evident.
Before the widespread adoption of hops, many kinds of herbs, spices and roots made appearances in beer. Besides having a wonderful complexity and diversity of flavor, hops help beer keep safe to drink, creating create a bacteriostatic environment that works to keep Gram-positive bacteria at bay–essentially, hops are somewhat antiseptic. In earlier times (before everyone had rubber gloves, antibacterial soaps and easy access to sanitizing solutions), using natural products to help preserve food and drink was essential. But it’s not just hops that accomplish this–in fact, essential oils from many common plants can also perform similarly. Sage is one of those plants, and it has been used in brewing and cooking throughout history for both flavor and preservation. While sage is not commonly used in beer these days, a few breweries have highlighted its potential in recent times, including Deschutes, Epic and Dogfish Head.
Beer! It’s not just for drinking! You can have your beer in a salad, and feel satisfied and healthy too. This amber ale dijon vinaigrette is an extremely easy and unique salad dressing to throw together. Because of its malty notes, it works particularly well on wintery salad components–bitter greens, chicories or peppery arugula, etc. It also plays very nicely with roasted meats and nuts. Versatile and fun!
For us here in the seasonal northern hemisphere, certain foods and drinks appeal more or less at certain times. Salads in summer! Stew in the cold! It’s easy to assume that these preferences are simply “natural” and not question them at all. But some parts of the world sometimes depart or disagree with these “standards” of flavor. For example, a lot of the hot and humid tropics enjoy steamy bowls of soup, even in 100 degree weather. Why is this? And what about seasonality and beer preferences? Do yours change from December to June? Let’s delve a little deeper into what may influence differences in taste throughout the year.
Today I’m discussing techniques for helping customers (or friends) choose beer that they will love and enjoy. This is an underappreciated skill to have as a service professional (or a great skill to have as a colleague). I personally would love to see everyone behind the bar better able to quickly guide someone to the beer or beverage they’ll be excited to drink. It’s not always a simple task, especially at busy establishments or with the type of endless line of impatient drinkers typical of many brewery taproom settings, but it’s a big part of being more outwardly inclusive to everyone with an interest in beer. Because beer is for everyone.*
I’m not quite ready for fall, but I am ready for cake. Cake has no season. And I happen to have an overstock of barrel-aged beers in my cellar (I know, rough life), so here you have it: a bourbon barrel aged stout and apple cake. It’s a fluffy, homestyle just-enough-apple-topped cake richly flavored with sweet bourbony, barrely stout. This is a pretty killer way to have your beer and eat it too–especially since the recipe only calls for 1 cup of beer, leaving you plenty to sip alongside.
Beer writer, maker and server, bartender and spirits enthusiast. All things beer and booze photodocumented here.