Earlier this month, Gothamist magazine sat down with Garrett Oliver, whose many hats include editing the recently-published Oxford Companion to Beer. The conversation quickly took an interesting turn when Oliver talked about his own article on adulterated beer. He said that in England, during the mid-19th century, there was a good chance that your pint of porter was laced with a drug that could render you senseless. Nothing personal; breweries weren’t slipping you a Mickey; the adulterant was a cheaper intoxicant than malt.
Oliver also named the worst beer he’s ever had: a Vietnamese beer called Saigon, which in turn reminded him of the awful lager served him in East Berlin a few years before the Berlin Wall fell. That led him to observe, “Boy, Communism is certainly bad but I didn’t know it was so bad that it could even make Germans produce terrible beer.”
But don’t get the wrong impression. Oliver spent most of the interview talking about good beer: the revival of artisanal brewing in America, what a “craft brewery” is, and how good beer is part of the same trend that brought better food to American dinner tables. And, for those inclined, he offers the perfect food pairing for traditionalists who like a beer at 10 in the morning.
Halloween is coming, and to mark the occasion, Ludwig presents Chris Trapper singing “Put a Keg on My Coffin”:
On this day in 1918, Czechoslovakia gained independence after being part of Austria-Hungary for centuries. Unfortunately, Czech citizens still had to endure Nazi occupation, then 40 years of Communism. Is it any wonder that they rank first in the world in per-capita beer consumption?
And now….The Mash!
We begin in England, where the Ember pub group rolled out a fresh-hop ale that took just 100 hours to go from the hop field to the customer’s glass. The beer debuted during the NovEmber Ale Festival.
The Great Lakes Brewing Company plans to bring out a holiday double feature: its Christmas Ale; and Mitchell’s Christmas Ale Ginger Snap ice cream, which will be made from residual Christmas Ale.
Australian regulators busted a liquor store that hiked the price of a case of beer by 20 percent, then blamed the higher price on a new Aussie tax on carbon–which won’t take effect until next July.
Here’s a story that gave Paul a law school flashback. In England, a Staffordshire terrier that bit a young boy faces the death penalty under the Dangerous Dogs Act. However, the dog’s owner asked for clemency on the grounds that a relative fed it a bottle of Stella Artois.
Water makes up 90 percent or more of most beers, but it’s getting scarcer in much of the United States. The prospect of shortages is forcing breweries to make more efficient use of water.
After reviewing this year’s major league baseball season, Eli Marger of The Bleacher Report r compared all 30 ballclubs to a brand of beer–a beverage that almost got banned from major league clubhouses before cooler heads prevailed.
Finally, Ludwig salutes the Cairngorm Brewery in Aviemore, Scotland, which brewed Wildcat Ale to raise funds to save the Highland Tiger, an endangered feline whose numbers have been reduced to around 400.
If you’ve recently celebrated the birth of a child, blogger Martyn Cornell has a suggestion: lay down a beer for his or her coming of age. Cornell points out that “extreme cask-conditioned ale” has a long history. He cites an 1841 celebration for Sir Watkin Williams-Wynn that featured “an abundant supply of rare old ale” in addition to a spread that would put the most lavish Thanksgiving dinner to shame. In all, there were a dozen or so barrels of the ale, which had a formidable original gravity of 1.230. Cornell adds that from the 18th century until the beginning of World War I, other English families laid down extra-strong ales for a couple of decades before they were served.
Cornell also makes this gallant offer: “[I]f anyone feels inspired to make a brew they’re intending keeping in cask (not bottle) until 2032, please get in touch, and I promise to try to be around then to help drink it.”
This year’s festival season is starting to wind down, but Ludwig and his staff are hard at work on the 2012 calendar. They’ve put together listings for more than 100 events, including several Beer Weeks, with confirmed dates. Once they resolve a few technical questions, the 2012 preview will go live. We’ll let you know when on “Ludwig Roars” and on Twitter.
Most of the hops found in the beer you drink are grown in the Northwest. In fact, a number of festivals in that region are dedicated to fresh-hop beer. Portland-based Jeff Alworth, who blogs at Beervana, has put together a hops cheat sheet covering more than 20 varieties. For each variety, you’ll find both its history and its flavor and aroma profile. Ludwig recommends that you bookmark this post, even if you don’t brew your own beer.
Today is International Nacho Day. It honors the snack that was created in 1943 by Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya for a group of Army wives on a shopping trip to Mexico. A modified version of Anaya’s recipe debuted at Arlington Stadium in Texas in 1976, and soon made its appearance at stadiums and bars across America.
And now…The Mash!
We begin in Earls Barton, England, where Peter Dowdeswell, the holder of hundreds of speed eating and drinking records, was forced to retire becuase of injuries suffered while trying to drink a pint of beer while being held upside down.
Danville, Kentucky, which was a dry town not long ago, now has the most breweries per capita. Its two breweries serve a population of 15,000, putting it slightly ahead of Portland, Oregon.
Breweries aren’t the only small businesses that benefit from the craft beer boom. Bars and restaurants that serve their beer profit as well, which is why so many of them take part in city Beer Weeks.
Is New York City in your travel plans? The Village Voice has picked the city’s ten best beer bars, some of which aren’t on the proverbial list of usual suspects.
A bourbon barrel can’t be used more than once, which means an awful lot of barrels need a new home. TastingTable.com caught up with four distilleries, and found out how their barrels get creatively re-used.
Why hasn’t anyone thought of this before? A bar in Oregon is hosting a Beer Film Fest featuring oldies like W.C. Fields in “The Fatal Glass of Beer” and contemporary classics like “Beer Wars.”
Finally, if you have a thirst for adventure and $95,000 to spare, Thirsty Swagman’s Beer in Space tour is for you. You’ll be rocketed more than 50 miles above the Earth’s surface, past the boundary of outer space.
Before refrigeration was invented, enterprising German brewers kept beer cool by storing it underground. It didn’t take long before someone figured out that planting shade trees kept the summer sun from heating the ground above the beer caverns. And the beer garden was born.
When small breweries made a comeback in America, the beer garden enjoyed a revival as well. Those few establishments that survived Prohibition have been joined by modern versions. David Farley of Travel and Leisure magazine offers a virtual tour of America’s best beer gardens. They range from the 156-year-old Mecklenberg Gardens in Cincinnati to Stone Brewing Company’s deluxe version with pine, elm, and olive trees, and even a koi pond.
Want to impress your friends with your knowledge of both brewing and math? Read this article about how to calculate alcohol content in beer. Don’t let the equations scare you off; the math is fairly simple, especially if you have a calculator. Keep in mind that the final number represents percent alcohol by volume, which is how it’s expressed in the U.S., rather than alcohol by weight, which is how it’s expressed almost everywhere else. Incidentally, that distinction helps explain the myth that Canadian beer is stronger than American beer.