January 2011

RIP, Don Younger

One of the our favorite stops on our beer travels is the Horse Brass Pub in Portland, Oregon. Opened on November 1, 1976, it introduced Americans to better beers and was a major force behind the craft beer movement.

Horse Brass’s atmosphere is quintessentially British, with an enormous wooden bar and photos and posters from the days when the Sun literally did not set on the British Empire. The only American intrusions are the BridgePort and Black Butte signs flanking the famous “Public Bar” sign and, of course, the lineup of local micros.

The Horse Brass Pub is the creation of Don Younger, who usually held court at the bar and wasn’t shy about telling listeners what was on his mind. That, of course, made him a great interview. One of the better ones we’ve seen, written by Brian Libby, appeared in Imbibe magazine.

Sadly, Don passed away early this morning.

As Don’s many friends learned that he was seriously ill, they held a vigil at the pub, where they told stories about the legendary publican and drank pints of Younger’s Special Bitter in his honor.

Our most recent visit took place on a beautiful autumn afternoon in 2008. We ordered off the paper menu which, even though it was only two days old, was already out of date: the ales we’d ordered were already gone. Not to worry. The server suggested a Hogsback stout from Mount Hood Brewing Company and a Double Mountain India pale ale, both of them from the cask and both outstanding.

Thank you, Don. We’ll miss you.

Update #1 (1/31). John Foyston of The Oregonian has gotten reaction to Don’s passing from Portland’s beer community.

Update #2 (2/9). A celebration of Don Younger’s life will take place at his Horse Brass Pub on Saturday the 13th. The back parking lot will be tented to allow Don’s many friends to take part.

Update #3 (2/10). There will be a world-wide toast to Don at 3 pm on the 13th. That’s 3 pm your time, which means that the toast will move around the world.

Mr. Jefferson’s Beer

In 1815, former president Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I am lately become a brewer for family use, having had the benefit of instruction to one of my people by an English brewer of the first order.” Nearly two centuries later, beer similar to what Jefferson brewed returns to Monticello, his plantation in Virginia. It’s lightly hopped and uses wheat and corn in the grain bill, and is brewed by Crozet, Virginia’s Starr Hill Brewery. Visitors to Monticello will be able to taste the new beer, called Monticello Reserve Ale, starting February 21, which just happens to be President’s Day.

Brewing beer was an important activity at Monticello, and was a staple of the Jefferson household. It was one of the “table liquors” served with meals. Records go back to 1772, when Jefferson’s wife Martha oversaw the periodic brewing operations. About twice a month, Monticello’s brewing operation turned out 15-gallon casks of small beer. Larger-scale brewing began during the War of 1812, when Joseph Miller, a British captain who was detained in Albemarle County, added stronger ale–which could be stored–to Monticello’s brewing operation. Miller also trained a slave by the name of Peter Hemings, Sally Hemings’s brother, in the arts of malting and brewing.

Saturday Night Video: Project Venus

It’s definitely an idea whose time has come. Project Venus, believed to be the first all-female collaboration beer, is a Belgian-style dubbel brewed with orange and saffron. The three women behind this new beer are Whitney Thompson, Quality Assurance Manager at Victory Brewing Company; Laura Ulrich, Brewery Trainer at Stone Brewing Company; and Megan Parisi, Lead Brewer at Cambridge Brewing Company, where the beer was brewed.

As always, the video is free but you have to provide your own snacks and beverage.

Project Venus from BevNET.com on Vimeo.

A Beer Style Comes Out of Its Shell

Stout and oysters are a classic pairing; and recently, Lisa (The Beer Goddess) Morrison got up close and personal with both at the Upright Brewing Company in her hometown of Portland, Oregon. She and her friends were served oysters–Blue Pools from Washington State–while the brewing staff made Upright’s second annual batch of its Oyster Stout.

Another Oregon brewery, Astoria-based Fort George Brewery + Public House, also brews an oyster stout, called The Murky Pearl. to make its version, Fort George loads up the hopback with Willapa Bay oysters instead of hops.

Time out for trivia: The original oyster stouts–Marston’s was the first–didn’t have oysters in them; they were made to be consumed with oysters. The first known use of oysters being incorporated into the brewing process was probably in New Zealand in 1929.

The Friday Mash (Let it Snow Edition)

On this day in 1887, the world’s largest-ever snowflakes–15 inches wide and eight inches thick–fell on Fort Keogh, Montana. It is not known what the people who saw those flakes were drinking at the time, but was probably a lot stronger than Big Sky Moose Drool.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in our home state of Michigan, which now has 85 breweries. Bell’s Beer, the biggest of them all, doubled its sales in 2010, and is planning further expansions in the years to come.

The Baltimore Sun’s Eric Maza brings up to date on local brewery tours. He mentions Delaware’s new a Wine and Ale Trail.

Some things don’t change. Ron Pattinson has posted on his Shut Up About Barkley Perkins blog a story about drunken young Brits wreaking havoc while overseas. The story was written in 1843, in an Indian newspaper. Guess what they were drinking?

David Jensen, who hosted Session #47, serves us a round-up of beer blogger cooking with beer. The Scotch eggs with beery mayonnaise sounds tasty.

According to Thomas and Carol Sinclair, the authors of a history of agriculture, humans lived on a diet of bread and beer for thousands of years. The downside? Vitamin deficiencies, cognitive impairment, high infant mortality, and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Greg Kitsock hopes the popularity of black IPA will get beer lovers interested in dunkels. Kitsock reviews a number of dark lagers, domestic and imported.

A trip to the local dog park got beer writer John Holl thinking about dogs in beer advertising, and whether his beloved Pepper has a chance at stardom.

A Legislative Helping Hand for Craft Beer?

In most states, a new legislative session has gotten underway, and some of this year’s newly-introduced bills are of interest to the craft beer community. Already, these have been filed:

Connecticut: a proposed beer trail.
Kansas: modernization of the state’s alcohol code.
Mississippi: elimination of the 5% ABV cap.
North Dakota: permitting homebrewers to sell their beer.
Texas: allowing brewpubs to self-distribute.

Beer Reviewers Reach a Milestone

You think you’re serious about beer? Well, meet Ellie and Bob Tupper. They just sampled their 20,000th beer at a special tasting at RFD Washington. How did they get to 20,000? One beer at a time. Actually, an average of two a day, going back to 1979.

When the Tuppers aren’t tasting beer, they’re brewing it; Tuppers’ Hop Pocket Ale and Keller Pils are contract-brewed in Virginia. They also have day jobs: Bob’s a high school history teacher, and Ellie’s an editor for the American Society for Microbiology.

How Beer Saved the World

It’s the greatest invention of all time; it’s in America’s DNA; and, without beer, we’d all be living in caves. Extravagant claims, but all of them are made in a trailer for “How Beer Saved the World.” The show will air on the Discovery Channel this Sunday night at 8 pm and 11 pm Eastern time.

Take a look for yourself:

Hat tip: Jay Brooks at the Brookston Beer Bulletin.

Want Some Kate the Great? Good Luck!

Here’s the problem: Portsmouth Brewery has only ten barrels of its famous Kate the Great Russian Imperial Stout to sell to the public. Half of that goes to draft, the other half to bottles–900 in all. But demand is much, much higher than 900 bottles, which has resulted in problems on past Kate the Great Days.

The brewery went back to the drawing board, and came up with a new way to manage demand. From the website:

This year, we are going to organize bottle sales using custom-printed scratch tickets. Ten thousand tickets will be available, with nine hundred “winners” mixed randomly among them. These tickets will be sold at the Portsmouth Brewery for $2 apiece starting six weeks prior to Kate Day, until they run out. All of the revenue generated by the sale of these scratch tickets will be donated to a non-profit of our choice.

This means no more camping out on the sidewalk in front of the brewery the night before the release party which, this year, is Monday, March 7.

Asheville: Beer City, USA

How did Asheville, North Carolina, become Beer City USA? The story, told by Carol Motsinger of the Asheville Citizen-Times, began 16 years ago. That’s when retired engineer Oscar Wong founded Highland Brewing Company, the city’s first craft brewery. Wong started his operation in the basement of Barley’s. Today, Highland Brewing is the city’s largest, distributing its product throughout the Southeast.

In all, Asheville has nine craft breweries, and is the home of several beer festivals, including this afternoon’s Winter Warmer Beer Festival. In a recent video, Tony Kiss, the Citizen-Times Beer Guy columnist, talks about craft beer in his city:

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