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.

    Beer…By the Numbers

  • Number of breweries in the U.S. as of June 2013: 2,514.
  • Increase over a year ago: 422 (20.2 percent).
  • Increase over two years ago: 767 (43.9 percent).
  • South Korean brewers Hite and OB’s combined share of their country’s beer market: 96 percent.
  • South Korea’s beer tax: 72 percent (soon to be cut to 30 percent for small brewers).
  • Percent increase in Belgian beer exports during the last decade: 70.
  • Percent of Belgian beer production that is exported: 62.
  • Years since Boston Beer Company started brewing: 29.
  • Boston Beer Company’s production in 2012: 2.73 million barrels.
  • Beers released by Boston Beer Company in 2012: 80, including 55 released in-house.
  • Recent cost of a bushel of barley: $6.07.
  • Cost of a bushel of barley in 2010: $3.64.
  • Price range for a pound of hops: $5-$25.
  • Price range for a pound of malt: 40-80 cents.
  • Price of a case of 12-ounce empty bottles: $3.50.
  • Has Craft Beer Gotten Too Hoppy?

    A visit from a homebrewer friend proved shocking to Adrienne So. Her friend couldn’t finish a pint at a Portland, Oregon, brewpub because it was too hoppy for him. That’s when So, who writes about beer for Slate magazine, realized she had a problem. “In fact, everyone I know in the craft beer industry has a problem: We’re so addicted to hops that we don’t even notice them anymore.”

    How did this happen? So explains that hops distinguish craft beer from the national brands, offer craft brewers an easy creative outlet, and allow beginning brewers to hide flaws in their beer. But, from a consumer’s standpoint, beers overloaded with hops are a pointless gimmick. So advises brewers to ease up on the hops and shift their focus to new strains of yeast and local, craft-malted barley.

    The Friday Mash (Montreal Edition)

    On this day in 1642, the French established a colony at Ville-Marie. It became modern-day Montreal, Canada’s second-largest city. Montreal has become the home of a thriving craft beer culture, and is the site of the 20th Mondial de la Biere, which gets underway May 29.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Krakow, which has long been famous for its history and culture. It has recently become Poland’s craft beer capital with more than 50 bars specializing in regional microbrews and beers from foreign independents.

    There’s at least one thing congressional Democrats and and Republicans can agree on–namely, the BEER Act, a bill that would cut the federal tax for small breweries.

    The Odell Brewing Company has brewed a special beer for a butterfly that lives on Colorado’s Front Range and loves hops. Proceeds from the beer will go to scientists studying the rare creature.

    Now that Western countries have lifted economic sanctions on Myanmar (a/k/a Burma), brewing giants are planning to enter the country, which has 60 million people and a per capita consumption less than one-tenth of China’s.

    Dogfish Head Craft Brewery has yet another way to expose beer drinkers to the arts. It’s teamed up with a San Francisco a cappella group for an evening of classic drinking songs and Dogfish Head beers.

    In Michigan, which dominated this year’s Beer City USA voting, the Economic Development Corporation is touting the state’s microbreweries in its “Pure Michigan” tourism commercials.

    Finally, a Labrador retriever named Frank lives up to his breed’s reputation by fetching beer for his owner. Man’s best friend indeed.

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