If you’re a fan of India pale ale, you can thank your medieval ancestors for introducing hops to brewing. The Greeks dismissed hops as a wild plant, and the Romans used them as an herb and a form of natural medicine. Both ancient cultures also regarded beer as the beverage of choice of barbarians.
It wasn’t until the eighth century that hops were used in brewing. During the reign of Pepin the Short, Charlemagne’s father, the king gave humlonariae—hop gardens, probably—to the abbey of St. Denis. The monks likely used the hops to flavor their beer, and in the process discovered that they were a preservative as well.
Still, it took centuries more for hops to become a standard ingredient in beer. The abbess Saint Hildegard of Bingen mentioned their use in beer and for medicinal purposes in the 12th century, indicating that their benefits were quite known by the High Middle Ages. In 1380, the archbishop of Cologne outlawed hopped beers from Westphalia in an effort to promote the use of his own gruit in brews. A century and a half later, King Henry VIII also tried to ban hops in order to maintain the standard of “Good old English ale.”
Today, almost all beer is hopped, but the debate is hardly over. Some members of the craft beer community have begun to rebel against highly-hopped ales.
On this day in 1314, Scottish forces led by Robert the Bruce scored a decisive victory over the English at the Battle of Bannockburn. However, England wouldn’t recognize Scottish independence for another 14 years.
And now…The Mash!
We begin in New Jersey, where the Forgotten Boardwalk Brewing Company has rolled out an ale that commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Matawan Creek shark attacks. A brewery co-owner describes 1916 Shore Shiver as—you knew this was coming—“a beer with bite”.
According to a recent Harris poll, craft beer drinkers consume less alcohol than non-craft-beer drinkers. They also exercise more often and pay greater attention to nutrition labels on food.
Scientists in Belgium have found that the music you listen affects your perception of the beer you drink. For instance, a “Disney-style track” caused people to rate beers as tasting sweeter, while deep, rumbling bass made beer taste more bitter.
ESPN has a video featuring “Fancy Clancy”, who has worked as a beer vendor at Baltimore Orioles games for more than 40 years. Clancy has sold more than 1 million beers, and considers Opening Day his Christmas.
The Lumbee Tribe, the largest Native American tribe east of the Mississippi, has sued Anheuser-Busch and a local Budweiser distributor. The suit alleges that the distributor used the tribe’s logo and slogan without permission.
If you’re visiting Milwaukee this summer, you can sign up for a Beer Titans History bus tour or a Beer Capital of the World history and beer tour. Or both, if have the time.
Finally, Australian researchers have isolated the yeast from a bottle of beer that survived a 1797 shipwreck, and re-created beers using recipes from two-plus centuries ago. The yeast is the only known strain to pre-date the Industrial Revolution.
Bob Pease of the Brewers Association has sobering news for craft beer lovers. In a New York Times op-ed earlier this month, Pease warned that the coming merger between Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller will have an impact on your local beer selection that you hadn’t expected.
The problem is rooted in the three-tier system of liquor regulation, which forces craft breweries to sell their beer through distributors. In some states, the law allows big breweries to own distributors. Making matters worse, the distribution industry has undergone consolidation, and many areas of the country are served by a handful of distributors.
A-B, which controls 45 percent of the U.S. beer industry, has been particularly aggressive, buying five independent distributors—a move that has led to a Justice Department investigation. The brewery also compensates its distributors using a formula that in effect penalizes them for handling craft brands rather than A-B brands. That, too, is being investigated.
Pease hopes that the when the Justice Department gives final approval to the InBev-SAB merger, it will take steps to keep the beer market competitive. He points out that in 2013, it prohibited A-B InBev from interfering with independent distributors that sold Mexico’s Modelo beer. Pease urges Justice to give craft brand distributors similar protection, require A-B to reduce its stake in distributors, and bar compensation systems that favor A-B’s own brands.
Thrillist’s Lee Breslouer has compiled a list of Things You’ll Never Craft Beer Fans Say. Some examples:
- About popular beer: “Who the hell is Pliny the Elder?”
- About hoppy beers: “How many IBUs does this have again?…Even a little bit of hop flavor is good enough for me!”
- At a bar: “What’s the lightest beer you’ve got?”
- About internet beer culture: “There are people who know more about beer than I do, and I’m okay with that.”
- In general: “I wish they sold this in 30 packs.”
On this day in 1579, Sir Francis Drake claimed a land he called Nova Albion (better known as modern-day California) for England. Nearly four centuries later, Jack McAuliffe opened New Albion Brewing Company in Sonoma, California. That started America’s craft beer revolution.
And now…The Mash!
We begin in Detroit, where Stroh’s Beer was last brewed more than 30 years ago. Pabst Brewing Company, which owns the Stroh’s brand name and original recipe, has made a deal with Brew Detroit to revive the “European-style pilsner” with 5.5 percent alcohol by volume.
A new Colorado law will allow grocery stores to sell full-strength beer, along with wine and spirits. However, grocery chains are upset that it will take 20 years for the law to take full effect.
With summer looming, Gawker’s Alan Henry offers a tip for travelers staying in cheap hotels. Those old-school air conditioners that sound like jet engines are great for chilling beer in a hurry.
Japanese ballparks don’t have peanuts or Cracker Jack, but they do have biiru no uriko aka beer girls. These young women, who carry 30-pound kegs, work for beer companies, not ball clubs.
Breakthrough or April Fool’s joke? Karmarama, a London firm, has designed glassware for MolsonCoors’s beer called Cobra. It calls the glass “the biggest innovation in pouring since gravity”.
During the 1950s the U.S. government studied the effects of an atomic bomb blast. It found that beer a quarter mile from Ground Zero was “a tad radioactive”, but “well within the permissible limits of emergency use.”
Finally, Special Ed’s Brewery in California learned a lesson in branding. The public objected loudly to its use of slogans such as “Ride the Short Bus to Special Beer” to promote a new beer, and labeling a beer ” ‘tard tested, ‘tard approved”.
If you’ve ever hiked the Appalachian Trail, or seen the film A Walk in the Woods, about the last thing you’d associate with hiking the AT is craft beer. However, Allyson Hester not only hiked the entire length of the Trail, but also found breweries at least within hitch-hiking distance.
One such brewery is the year-old Lazy Hiker Brewing Company in Franklin, North Carolina, a community that caters to passing hikers—especially those taking a day or two off from the Trail.
Farther north in Virginia, the Devils Backbone Brewing Company offers hot breakfast to hikers, and is in the process of getting the required permits to offer primitive camping. It also has an outdoor bar with mountain views and an enormous patio with an oversized fire pit.
In Maine, the AT winds through eight national forests and two national parks. Near the northern terminus is the Kennebec River Brewery, where hikers can spend some downtime with their “trail family” before heading home.
Hester offers these words of wisdom to would-be hikers: “No single can tastes better than the one you lugged for miles up a mountain summit to enjoy while watching a magical sunset”.
On this day in 1977, the Apple II, one of the first personal computers, went on sale. This PC, whose original list price was more than $5,000 in 2016 dollars, remained in production until 1981.
And now…The Mash!
Serious Eats magazine is hosting the Great American Beer Brawl. Visitors to the website are invited to vote for one of seven cites—or cast a write-in vote for a city not nominated by the magazine staff.
If you’re looking for a new summer beer, or an alternative to ubiquitous hoppy IPAs, give saison a try. The style pairs well with food; and it’s complimented by summer flavors like citrus, arugula, and fresh herbs.
Global Beverage has released three high-gravity beers in honor of the video game Mortal Kombat X: Sub-Zero Imperial IPA, Raiden Imperial Saison, and Scorpion Imperial Stout.
Wal-Mart has joined the craft beer party. A brewery in New York State is contract-brewing four private-label beers for the giant retailer. They’re available in nearly half of Wal-Mart’s stores.
Grow Pittsburgh is planting hop rhizomes in the city’s vacant lots. The hops will be harvested in the fall and used to make a local beer. Part of the proceeds from the beer will be donated to the community.
The Belgian Brewers’ Association has released a set of 60 beer emojis in order to “move the classic beer mug aside” for iOS and Android users. They’re downloadable on iTunes and Google Play.
Finally, Jack Horner, the paleontologist who inspired the Jurassic Park film series, credits the Rainier Brewing Company for advancing his work with dinosaurs. In 1979, the brewery donated 100 cases of Rainier beer to Horner and his research team.
On this day in 1888, the poem “Casey at the Bat” was first published in the San Francisco Examiner. You probaby remember that the mighty but overconfident Casey let two pitches go by for strikes before swinging at—and missing—the third strike, which led to “no joy in Mudville”.
And now…Play Ball!
We begin in Cleveland, where the Indians recently staged a “$2 Beer Night”. One creative group of fans built a 112-can, 11-level-high “beer-a-mid”. Major League Baseball offered a one-word comment: “Wow”.
In Madison, Wisconsin, the Black Marigold wind ensemble commissioned composer Brian DuFord to write a suite of movements inspired by the area’s craft beers. One local craft will brew a special beer for Black Marigold.
SodaStream, which sells machines that carbonate water, now offers an instant-homebrew device called the Beer Bar. Adding a package of “Blondie” concentrate to sparkling water produces a three-liter batch of 4.5-percent ABV.
Talk about a hasty departure. A driver in China’s Henan Province was caught on video chugging a beer at the wheel—this, while dragging his IV drip outside the car with him.
Here’s a new way to evade open container laws. A new invention called the Lolo Lid snaps onto the top of your can of beer, which you can then insert into a medium or large-sized paper coffee cup.
A Boston Globe editorial called on state lawmakers to make it easier for small breweries to terminate their agreements with distributors. North Carolina passed similar legislation in 2012.
Finally, the High Heel Brewing Company has come under fire for naming one of its beers after a shoe style and using pink and purple in its packaging. CEO Kristi McGuire said in her brewery’s defense, “We didn’t want to make a gimmick…We didn’t make the beer pink.”