California

The King of Craft Beer?

Jay Brooks has a secret to share: America’s most-decorated brewery is the Firestone Walker Brewing Company, in Paso Robles, California. Firestone Walker was named Brewery of the Year in the mid-size category in 2007, 2011, and 2013. It also won that title in 2003 for Nectar Ales, a label it acquired from the former Humboldt Brewing Company. And it won a fifth GABF award: it went to brewmaster Matt Brynildson when he was with SLO Brewing, which now bears the Firestone Walker name. And if that weren’t enough, Firestone Walker won five Brewery of the Year awards between 2004 and 2012 at the World Beer Cup.

The brewery is named for its founders, Adam Firestone and David Walker, whose operation uses a system of linked barrels based on traditional brewing methods in the English town of Burton-Upon-Trent. Firestone, who’s a member of the famous tire-making family, grew up in California’s Central Coast wine region, but he turned his attention to brewing. His homebrewing experiments led to Firestone Walker’s flagship beer, Double Barrel Ale. The Walker half of the operation is Firestone’s brother-in-law David Walker, a transplanted Englishman who wanted better beer choices.

Firestone Walker offers brewery tours, and has added a tasting room with a restaurant. There’s also a Firestone Walker restaurant, which serves all of their beers, in nearby Buellton.

The Friday Mash (B&O Railroad Edition)

On this day in 1827, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad was incorporated. Can you name the other railroads on the Monopoly board? Time’s up. They’re the Pennsylvania Railroad, the Reading Railroad, and the Short Line.

All aboard!

We begin in Brazil, where the Polar brewery has an invention that will make it easier to converse in bars. It’s a beer cooler that cuts out GSM, Wi-Fi, GPS, 3G, and 4G signals.

California’s drought could make your Lagunitas IPA will taste different. The Russian River, which provides Lagunitas with its water, is drying up, and brewery might have to find another source.

Beer was the headline ingredient in last Sunday’s “Chopped” competition on the Food Network. The show, with Stone Brewing Company’s Greg Koch as a judge, airs again on Sunday evening.

Higher zymurgical education awaits in the form of Joshua Bernstein’s new book, The Complete Beer Course. It contains a series of “classes” devoted to families of beers.

On Tuesday, when he was in Chicago to announce the award of a federal manufacturing grant, President Obama put in a plug for Goose Island Brewing Company’s “superior beer.”

A Korean romantic comedy in which the female lead makes chimek to celebrate winter’s first snow has Chinese viewers clamoring for the dish, which is Korean for “fried chicken” and “beer.”

Finally, a gathering of 490 Yelp members at Santa Anita Race Track might set a new Guinness record for beer tasters. We hope they bet on Ambitious Brew, who won the $100,000 Sensational Star stakes race.

Beer…By the Numbers

  • U.S. brewery count at the end of last year: 3,999 (948 more than a year earlier).
  • California’s brewery count (number one in the nation) at the end of last year: 508 (145 more than a year earlier).
  • Mississippi’s brewery count (someone has to be last) at the end of last year: 6 (3 more than a year earlier).
  • Bottles of Deal With the Devil produced by Alaska Brewing Company: 1,000.
  • Bottles allocated to Alaska retailers: 336.
  • Deal With the Devil’s alcoholic content: 17.6 percent.
  • Signature Copper Lager’s alcoholic strength: 5.7 percent ABV.
  • Busch Signature Copper Lager’s alcoholic strength: 5.7 percent ABV.
  • States where Busch Signature Copper Lager is being test-marketed: 12.
  • Germany’s annual per capita beer consumption today: 28 gallons.
  • Its annual per capita consumption in 1978: 40 gallons (43 percent higher).
  • Hours an American minimum-wage employee has to work to afford a beer: 0.4.
  • Hours a Russian minimum-wage employee has to work: 1.6.
  • Hours a minimum-wage employee in the Republic of Georgia has to work: 15.1.
  • Calories from alcohol in a typical 12-ounce serving of beer: 100 (alcohol has 7 calories per gram).
  • Calories from carbohydrates in a typical 12-ounce serving of beer: 50.

California’s Brewers Cope With Drought

California is suffering one of the worst droughts in memory and, as Claire Leschin-Hoar of Voice of San Diego explains, the state’s craft brewing industry is feeling the effects. Brewers in the San Diego area are taking steps to conserve water in the beer-making process. The first step is finding out where it’s being wasted. The next is to find ways to use less water and to re-use it–for example, by using reverse osmosis to purify wastewater.

It takes more than three gallons of water to make one gallon of beer, and even more at small breweries which can’t take advantage of economies of scale. However, other beverages have much bigger “water footprints.” It takes 880 gallons of water to make one gallon of milk or one gallon of coffee, and 1,008 gallons of water to make a gallon of wine.

Beer…By the Numbers

  • Washington State’s 2013 hops harvest: 53.9 million pounds.
  • Increase over the year before: 13 percent.
  • Decrease in beer sales between 2007 and 2012: 2.3 percent.
  • Decrease in sales of the top nine brands between 2007 and 2012: 25 percent.
  • Years since the can opener was invented: 156.
  • Years since Loewenbrau was incorporated: 142.
  • Oregon’s per capita spending on beer in 2012: $448.56 (1st in the country).
  • California’s per capita spending on beer in 2012: $172.99 (17th in the country).
  • Craft brewing’s economic impact on Sonoma County, California in 2012: $123 million.
  • Economic impact of the release of Russian River’s Pliny the Younger: $2.4 million.
  • Days until Pliny the Younger’s release: 25.
  • Cost of a half-liter can of beer in a London supermarket: £1.80 (US$2.95).
  • Cost of a half-liter can of beer in a Sydney supermarket: A$4.26 (US$3.81).
  • Freezing point of 5% ABV beer: 27 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Freezing point of pure ethyl alcohol: minus 173 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Friday Mash…on Monday!

I’m back in town after spending some quality time with my pride and fighting a snowstorm. This weather is enough to drive a lion to drink. Speaking of which, I think I need another Lion Stout.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Davis, California, where Professor Arthur Shapiro has a pitcher of beer waiting for you if you collect 2014’s first cabbage white butterfly in the Sacramento area. Be aware that Shapiro himself is looking for this creature.

In England, pubs continue to close despite the popularity of Real Ale. Reasons include cheap carry-out beer, smoking bans, and “pubcos” that profit at the expense of pub operators.

In Egypt, researchers discovered the 3,000-year-old tomb of Khonso-Im-Heb, who apparently was the royal court’s head of beer production. He brewed in honor of Mut, Egypt’s mother-goddess.

The Seattle Seahawks’ winning season was good news for Hilliards Beer. The Seattle micro made more than 10,000 cases of “12th Can,” a beer named after and brewed for the team’s noisy fans.

HuffingtonPost.com has posted a time-lapse video of 400 barrels of Sierra Nevada beer fermenting over a six-day period in one of the brewery’s open fermenters.

In 1866 David Yuengling, the founder’s son, opened a brewery in Richmond, Virginia. The state is trying to add his James River Steam Brewery to the National Register of Historic Places.

Finally, Garrison Brewing Company of Halifax, Nova Scotia, is using discarded Christmas trees to brew spruce beer, which was once so popular that even George Washington brewed it.

Beer in California’s Wine Country

Thirteen years ago, I drove Paul to the airport, where he hopped a plane to California and headed up U.S. 101 to California’s wine country. Not to visit the wineries but to try the microbrews that, for the most part, weren’t available back home. Since then, both of us have made several trips to the San Francisco area, and the beer has gotten even better. In fact, northern California has become a craft beer destination in its own right.

Tim O’Rourke of the San Jose Mercury News recently fired up his app, enlisted a designated driver, and journeyed north along the NorCal Ale Trail. His travels began at the Marin Brewing Company in Petaluma, and wound their way up the coast to the Mad River Brewing Company in Humboldt County. Even if you’re not from California, you’ll recognize many of the breweries O’Rourke visited along the way. They’ve become that popular.

The Friday Mash (Rebellion Edition)

On this day in 1837, Canadian journalist and politician William Lyon Mackenzie wrote an essay calling for a rebellion against the United Kingdom. During the 1990s, the Upper Canada Brewing Company honored him with an ale called “Rebellion.”

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Hyde Park, Utah, whose heavily Mormon population voted nearly 2-to-1 to allow beer sales. The town’s mayor said it was the most emotional issue he’s ever seen.

Spain’s Catalonia has its own language, customs, and cuisine. If brewery owner Alex Padro has its way, it will soon have its own beer as well.

Sonoma County, California, the birthplace of modern craft brewing, boasts 20 craft breweries. The breweries have a significant economic impact, and have become a tourist attraction.

Heady Topper, a double IPA made by The Alchemist brewery, is so popular that the brewery’s owners had to close their retail store after neighbors complained about rowdy customers.

Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company, is celebrating its 40th anniversary with the California Route Lager. It’s a California common beer made by the New Belgium Brewing Company.

Garrett Oliver talked with the New York Times about his favorite places to drink beer in Sweden. Oliver has teamed up with Carlsberg to start The New Carnegie Brewery in Stockholm.

Finally, two men are raising funds on Kickstarter.com for The Beer Tusk, a device for those who like to “shotgun” their beers. It’s safer than a key, and less likely to make the beer backsplash.

Will “Boontling” Become a Dead Language?

The Anderson Valley Brewing Company website uses the phrase “bahl hornin’” to describe its products. That means “good drinking” in Boontling, the distinctive dialect spoken in the valley since before the Civil War. Its several thousand residents coined some 1,500 words–some derived from people’s names, others from twisting English nouns–and created a language that was unintelligible to outsiders.

Sadly, Boontling is on the verge of dying. The valley’s remaining speakers are getting on in years, and younger residents haven’t learned it. Its demise will leave the Anderson Valley culturally poorer. As one local resident put it, “One day it will be like if you looked out there and saw there were no more lilies, or no more oak trees.”

The Friday Mash (Miami Dolphins Edition)

On this day in 1930, Don Shula was born. Shula coached the Miami Dolphins to two consecutive Super Bowl victories. The first, in Super Bowl VII, completed the first and only undefeated season in the history of the National Football League.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Ostbevern, Germany, where a hotel has created a room with a two-person bed made from a beer barrel. The barrel, which dates back to the 19th century, was used as recently as 1995.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery has enlisted surviving members of The Gratetful Dead to help make its American Beauty pale ale. It’s also asking Deadheads to suggest ingredients for the beer.

Last spring’s freakishly warm weather wiped out the cherry crop in the Great Lakes region. Which explains why cherry beer has been so hard to find lately.

Iraq and Afghanistan vet Jake Voelker has launched a beer tour business. Pennsylvania Brewery Tours will run trips to breweries that are “slightly out of reach,” with Voelker providing history and color en route.

Russia begins 2013 with a new law that classifies beer as alcohol rather than food. It also puts an end to beer sales at street kiosks and 24-hour convenience stores.

With the help of the folks at Sierra Nevada, the monks of the Abbey of New Clairvaux have raised $7 million to restore a Trappist monastery that William Randolph Hearst shipped from Spain in the 1930s.

Finally, journalist Evan Benn sat down with Dan Kopman, the CEO of Schlafly Bottleworks, who talked about expansion, festivals, and Schlafly in cans.

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