Cascade hops

Craft Pilsner Comes of Age

From the beginning of the craft beer movement, pilsener has been a pariah style because of its association with light lager beer that dominated the American market. Brewers reacted to pilsener by making ales, the hoppier the better.

Today, pilsener accounts for a lowly 1 percent of the craft beer market. That, however, is about to change. In the past year, top-tier breweries such as Founders Brewing Company and regional players such as Captain Lawrence Brewing Company have added the style to their lineup.

The new pilseners are inspired by European classics, but many have a distinct American accent. For example, Founders’ PC Pils is brewed with Centennial, Cascade, and Chinook hops rather than floral European varieties. For American drinkers accustomed to hoppy beers, that eases the transition to pilsener.

Pilsener also responds to increased demand for beers that carry a lighter alcoholic punch than American IPAs. There are times—such as on the beach or while golfing—that call for an alternative. And Pilseners are low-maintenance; their appeal is to those who simply want to enjoy a beer, not analyze and review it in depth.

Fun With Numbers

British beer writer Martyn Cornell has written a new book, A Craft Beer Road Trip Around Britain, with snapshots of 40 of Britain’s top small breweries. His interviews of the brewers at these establishments resulted in ssome interesting statistics. Cornell cautions that with a sample size this small, these should be taken with a grain of salt.

  • Eight percent of the brewers had a Ph.D.
  • 40 percent have a home brewing background, a number that strikes Cornell as low.
  • 35 percent wore black T-shirts or polo shirts bearing their brewery’s logo. Jeans and industrial boots complete the uniform.
  • 48 per cent have beards. However, their beards aren’t as bushy as those of their American counterparts.
  • 45 percent use Cascade hops in at least one of their beers.
  • 30 percent use Maris Otter barley.
  • “Farm” appears in the name of 12 percent of their breweries.
  • Eight percent of the craft breweries are based in railway arches.
  • Five percent of breweries have artistic graffiti all over their interior walls.
  • The Hop That Launched a Movement

    This video from Oregon State University is about the Cascade hop which, according to BridgePort Brewery’s brewer Jeff Edgerton, was a “hybrid hop that was left on the shelf.”

    Suggested beverage pairing: India pale ale.

    Milestones in American Craft Beer History

    Many of us plan to celebrate Independence Day with an American craft beer–something that, just a generation ago, barely existed. Tom Acitelli, the author of The Audacity of Hops, identifies four milestones that made America’s craft brewing industry what it is today.

    First, there’s Fritz Maytag’s decision in 1965 to buy Anchor Brewing Company, the nation’s last surviving craft brewery, and improve what was then a very bad product. Maytag insisted on high quality and independent ownership, and suffered big financial losses for years before his brewery became a national icon.

    Second, in 1966, Jack McAuliffe, a U.S. Navy mechanic stationed in Scotland, bought a home-brewing kit at a local drugstore and discovered he could brew a very good pale ale. His own attempt at commercial brewing, the New Albion Brewing Company, eventually failed–but not before it encouraged other homebrewers to go commercial.

    Third, and you might not have known this, Coors Brewing Company tested a new hop variety, the Cascade hop, which was the first American-grown variety considered good enough to use as an aroma hop. Maytag used it in his Liberty Ale, released in 1975 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Paul Revere’s famous ride. Liberty Ale led the way to modern India pale ale, the most popular style of American craft beer.

    Finally, a 1976 act of Congress lowered the federal excise tax on the first 60,000 barrels of beer. After the tax cut took effect, the number of craft breweries in America grew rapidly. Many of them, including Jim Koch and Pete Slosberg, decided to rent the equipment and subcontract the labor at one of many under-capacity regional breweries being squeezed by industry consolidation.

    The rest, as they say, is history.

    Powered by WordPress