The Hop Doctor is In

A casual acquaintance with “Dr. Paul Matthews IPA” led writer Russell Shorto to the doctor himself. The man whose brewery made that ale called Matthews “Lord of the Hops”. However, Matthew describes himself more modestly: “I’m a plant engineer and evolutionary biologist.”

Matthews is the senior research scientist at Hopsteiner, a major hops trader and processor in Washington State’s Yakima Valley. Hopsteiner is a beneficiary of America’s IPA boom. It has ratcheted up demand for hops but, on the other hand, has kept hops suppliers scrambling to meet changing tastes. And that has kept Matthews—pun intended—hopping around the world in search of new varieties.

Matthews has gone to out-of-the-way places such as Arizona’s Sky Islands, surrounded by miles of desert; and the former Soviet republic of Georgia, where for years people have used wild hops to cure their breads and as a folk medicine.

Even though the hop plant is closely related to the cannabis plant, Matthews isn’t interested in psychoactive beer. But, he says, others are looking into it.

The Friday Mash (Wall Street Journal Edition)

On this day in 1889, the first edition of the Wall Street Journal was published. With a total of 2.4 million print and digital subscribers, the Journal is the largest newspaper in the United States by circulation.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in the Bay Area, where David Kravets of Ars Technica magazine reviews Heineken’s new “Brewlock” technology. Brewlock consists of a rubbery bladder that holds the beer inside a plastic centrifuge. Compressed air pumped into the centrifuge forces out the beer before air can mix with it.

In Ephraim, Wisconsin, beer is legal for the first time since 1853, when it was founded by Norwegian Moravians. Efforts to overturn the beer ban failed in 1934 and 1992.

The mayor of Zaragoza, Mexico, says there’s no water for consumption by its residents. He blames Constellation Brands’ brewery, which uses the water to brew Corona and brands of beer.

A Microsoft recruiter messaged a “bae intern”, inviting him or her to an Internapalooza after-party with “noms”, “dranks”, and “Yammer beer pong tables”. A company spokesperson called the message “poorly worded”.

The “world’s oldest payslip,” which dates back 5,000 years, reveals that some laborers in ancient Mesopotamia opted to be paid in beer for their work.

After Wales made it to the semifinals of the Euro 2016 soccer tournament, Budweiser celebrated the team’s success by treating every Welsh adult to a beer.

Finally, Matt Cunningham is growing hops and barley on his farm, a big step toward a beer brewed with all Ohio ingredients. Sounds perfect for Ohio State football games, where beer will be sold stadium-wide this fall.

The Centuries-Old Debate Over Hops in Beer

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.

What is Barleywine?

Last weekend, the annual Great Alaska Beer & Barleywine Festival took place in Anchorage. So it’s a good time to ask this question: What is barleywine? Veteran beer journalist Jay Brooks is here to help.

Brooks takes us back to the third century B.C., when Armenians drank a beverage called oinos krithinos, Greek for “barley wine.” But that beverage bears no resemblance to what was served in Anchorage because it was unhooked. Hops wouldn’t be introduced to beer for another thousand years.

Modern barleywine is thought to have originated in 15th-century England. Hops made the style possible, because an unhopped strong ale would go sour very quickly. Hops enabled strong ales to, in Brooks’s words, “age so gracefully and be enjoyed many months later.” Some brewers believe that a beer shouldn’t even be called a barley wine until it’s at least a year old, when the beverage has developed a complex taste profile.

Strong ales were known by a number of names–”strong ale” in particular–during the 19th century. The name “barley wine” took hold in 1903, when the Bass Brewery used that phrase to describe No. 1, its Burton-style strong ale.

Brooks notes that barleywine shares one characteristic with wine from grapes: It is something to enjoy slowly. Because barleywines are rich and sweet, Brooks says they make good dessert beers. He suggests pairing them with creme brulee, dark chocolate, or strong blue cheeses. And since their high alcohol produces a warming sensation, the dead of winter is the perfect time of the year to enjoy them.

The Friday Mash (Railroad Tycoon Edition)

Two hundred years ago today, the state of New Jersey awarded the first-ever railroad franchise to Colonel John Stevens III, the inventor who constructed America’s first steam locomotive.

And the bar car is open!

Fore! We begin at the 16th hole of the Phoenix Open, where rowdy spectators celebrated Francesco Molinari’s hole-in-one by showering him with beer and other flying objects.

A Minnesota brewery found out that it can’t sell “Rated R” beer. Not because of violence or sex, but because the Motion Picture Association of America trademarked the phrase. Molson’s XXX is, presumably, still in the clear.

MillerCoors has installed 10,000 solar panels at its Irwindale, California, brewery. The new system will generate enough electricity to brew seven million cases of beer each year.

Blank Slate Brewing Company joined forces with Oskar Blues Brewery to brew “Cincy 3-Way Porter.” The beer contains cumin, coriander, allspice and cinnamon, which are found in Cincinnati-style chili.

Researchers in China have discovered that xanthohumol, a substance found in hops, contains anti-oxidants that may delay or even prevent the onset of dementia and other forms of cognitive decline.

Ontario’s government plans some changes to its relationship with The Beer Store, the province’s quasi-monopoly. However, those changes won’t bring beer into convenience stores.

Finally, Yeti Coolers has invented a super-luxury koozie. The Colster, which retails for $30, wraps a beer in a stainless steel, double-walled, vacuum-insulated enclosure; and its “No Sweat” design prevents condensation from forming.

The Friday Mash (Ponderosa Edition)

Fifty-five years ago today, the first episode of the television show Bonanza premiered on NBC. The show, which starred Lorne Greene and Michael Landon, ran for 14 seasons and 430 episodes, second only to Gunsmoke as the longest-running western of all time.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Crested Butte, Colorado, where residents are hopping mad over a clandestine deal to let Anheuser-Busch turn their ski town into a living Bud Light commercial.

John Holl asked some of his fellow beer writers, “if beer were invented today, what would it look like?” The answers may surprise you.

Heavy late-summer rains in Montana and Idaho have ruined much of the barley crop. A disappointing barley harvest could translate into higher beer prices next year.

Are you ready for some football? The folks at Thrillist are, and they’ve picked a local beer for each of the National Football League’s 32 teams.

Add chili pepper-infused beers to the list of craft brewing trends. USA Today’s Mike Snider reviews some popular chili beers, including one made with extra-potent ghost peppers.

Raise a glass to Jake Leinenkugel, who is retiring as the brewery’s CEO. According to a hometown journalist, Leinenkugel has earned a place in craft brewing history.

Finally, Marc Confessore of Staten Island showed us how not to pair food and beer. He got caught trying to sneak four cases of Heineken and 48 packages of bacon out of a grocery store.

Beer…By the Numbers

  • Sales of China’s Snow beer in 2013: 87.8 million barrels.
  • Snow’s world-wide rank in sales: 1st (4 of the world’s top 5 brands are Chinese).
  • China’s beer market, compared to the U.S. beer market: 21 percent smaller.
  • Years until China’s beer market will become bigger than the U.S.: 3.
  • Percent of American drinkers who prefer beer: 41.
  • Percent who prefer wine: 31 (23 percent prefer hard liquor).
  • State with the highest per capita consumption of beer: North Dakota (0.96 pints a day).
  • State with the second-highst per capita consumption: Montana (0.9 pints a day).
  • Craft beer sales for the first half of 2013: 9 million barrels.
  • Craft beer sales for the first half of 2014: 10.6 million barrels (an 18-percent increase).
  • Percent of American drinkers who drink craft beer: 23.
  • Percent of Americans who avoid craft beer: 30.
  • Percent of craft beer consumed by men: 72.
  • Cost of a pound of hops in 2004: $3-5.
  • Cost of a pound of cheap hops in 2014: $8. (Hard-to-find Citra hops cost $20 a pound.)
  • The Friday Mash (DNA Edition)

    On this day in 1953, Francis Crick and James D. Watson published a paper in the British journal Nature that described the double helix structure of DNA. The ability to sequence and manipulate DNA is a key to the biotechnology industry, and modern medicine in general.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in the Willamette Valley, where the nation’s first hop and brewing archive was recently at Oregon State University. The valley, on the 45th parallel, has ideal hop-growing conditions.

    Jay Brooks dusted off a 1947 issue of Look magazine, in which writer Don Wharton asks readers “What Kind of Drinker Are You?”. He describes 11 categories, and most of us fall into at least one.

    Brewing carries a “white men with beards” stereotype, but Los Angeles is home to a growing Latino brewing community. LA Weekly profiles several craft cerveza breweries in the area.

    Summer is coming, and that means session IPAs. The trend started last year with Founders Brewing Company’s All Day IPA, and other breweries have jumped in with their own versions.

    And when those hot days of summer arrive, you might want one of these: The Beer Glass Froster by from Hammacher Schlemmer, which will frost your glass in ten seconds.

    Flying Dog Ales is celebrating the 75th anniversary of Old Bay seasoning with a spicy summer ale called Dead Rise. It’s named after the boats used by Chesapeake Bay crabbers.

    Finally, Martyn Cornell, the Zythophile, asks whether micropubs–establishments with Real Ale and no electronic distractions–are a passing fad or the future of British watering holes.

    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.

    I (Heart) NY Hops

    New York State ranks seventh nationally in the number of craft breweries. The growth of that industry, along with the farm-to-table movement, has prompted some local farmers to start growing hops.

    During the late 19th century, New York was one of the world’s leading hop-growing regions. There were about 40,000 acres under cultivation, mostly in the area between Syracuse and Cooperstown. However, a mold epidemic, followed by Prohibition, all but killed commercial hop-growing in the region until a few years ago.

    Hop-growing won’t return to its heyday in New York. It’s an expensive and time-consuming proposition. Hops costs $12,000 to $16,000 per acre to get started, and it generally takes at least three years before a robust crop comes in. In addition, the land where hops are planted must have good sunlight, soil that isn’t too acidic, and good drainage.

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