Known as one of the “three C” hops along with Cascade and Columbus, Centennial hops are a thriving example of the combination of innovative and diligent Washington state breeding programs and supportive, creative craft brewers. You’ve most certainly tasted the hop in dozens of beers spanning a variety of styles, and it wouldn’t take much to remind you of its taste: warm, floral, citrus-heavy and delightfully bitter.
This pairing shouldn’t be a surprise to American drinkers. Although it may be common to add an orange or lemon wedge to a glass of wheat beer here, it’s not typically done across the pond in Germany where the classic style has its roots. While I’m not going to say there is a “right” way to drink any beer, there are certainly ideals and reasons why things are done the way they are.
ABV: alcohol by volume, a number that appears on your beer, wine, cider, spirits or even kombucha bottles. You know the scale, and generally how different products taste and feel at various levels. But what are we really talking about, scientifically speaking, and how do we interpret the gradation of alcohol in styles and products?
Today I’m taking a look at a classic winter combination: stout and potatoes. For this I chose a dry, Irish-style stout with a silky mouthfeel, a decent roasted malt character and moderately low hop bitterness. Stout and potatoes in many incarnations are friends, but I particularly think a creamy mashed potato dish (especially with a touch of buttermilk or sour cream and some rich Irish butter) is a winner. March approaches and, green beer aside, I know some out there are St. Patrick’s Day enthusiasts out there. If not, it’s a great excuse to have some good beer and hearty, fulfilling food. But before you fill your belly, let’s break it down a bit.
Dark ales are no competition to the IPA craze here in the US, but they are of deep-rooted significance in connecting our craft beer revolution to British predecessors and their long-developed styles. While much of large-scale breweries in the US have taken direct cues from Germanic brewing, homebrewers and small craft breweries especially in the 1980s and ‘90’s focused on a wider set of examples, looking to expand away from the ubiquitous American light lager. At that time, much of the grain and hops available for homebrewers and small breweries was from the UK. Why? Although the US produces the majority of the world’s hops and a huge amount of its barley, there wasn’t much of a market for selling small quantities at that time, thus they were not always easy to obtain.
Let’s be truthful: this week’s political events have made me want to drink. A lot. It’s not just me feeling this way–I’ve been making cocktails and pouring beers for many a discouraged face at work too. While I’m no expert on giving political or diplomatic advice, one of my personal mantras is to always put my money where my mouth is. Turns out, my mouth is often near a beer. And thus I sought out some charitable, warm and fuzzy-feeling locations to help direct your money where your mouth is as well. Here are just a few breweries and events that do double duty in this trying time: providing you with a tasty beverage and helping your money go to a good cause.
It’s the season of the stout, at least here in the northern US. Chilly weather and dark days just beg for a robust, malty dark beer. There are those of us out there stick with what we like regardless of season, though, and for some, the phrase “I only/don’t drink dark beer” is serious. If you love your porters, stouts and browns, how do you know what you’re getting into when selecting a six-pack or a pint at the bar? Turns out there a huge range of interpretations in each title, and it can be really hard to know how American breweries are defining well, anything. Maybe that’s what makes us such adventurous if not flaky drinkers. If you do want to get more particular, the mainly European inspiration for these dark styles can be segmented and broken down into a dozen more subcategories. Here’s a cheatsheet for buying American styles to help you determine a little more about the beer around here, for the meantime. And for those of you who are adamantly against the darkness, I’m recommending a few great starter choices, in case you decide to branch out. Because you should challenge yourself, dear beer lover. It only makes you better.
Beer, beer, everywhere. And how does it get from here to there? Historically, beer vessels were made out of wood by skilled craftsmen called coopers, but today the vast majority of large-format distributed beer for sale is packaged in kegs. There are however a sparse handful of mostly European breweries that still sell or store some of their beer in wooden casks. Wooden barrels continue to be widely used to age, condition, and store specialty beer, wine, and spirits by the beverage industry as a whole, but even cask-driven UK style beer and “real ales” are more frequently stored in kegs these days for cost, mobility and microbiological reasons.
Finally, there’s the last bit: how beer gets from package to lips. We’ve already talked about packaging and storage, two important areas that can determine beer quality. How beer is served at bars, taprooms, venues and your own home can really matter. You may think it inconsequential, but again, the devil is in the details here.
This week we continue on discussing the potential areas post-brewing that can negatively alter the way a beer can taste–today’s topic is storage, which I promise is more interesting than it sounds.
The environment in which beer is stored can have real impact upon the longevity of its flavors and subsequently your drinking enjoyment. This is a real potential issue that gets overlooked or not tended to time and again by consumers, retailers and distributors alike for a variety of reasons.
Beer writer, maker and server, bartender and spirits enthusiast. All things beer and booze photodocumented here.