The Forty-Dollar Test Batch

The following few paragraphs will take you through the process of making all-grain beer, from mashing through bottling. Just one session of brewing will illuminate more about the process—the chemistry, the variables, and the ingredients—than the most elegant description. When you’re done, you’ll have eight 500 ml swing-top bottles (or ten regular bottles) full of a classic American pale ale.

The First Time Homebrewer: Extract or All-Grain?

Most of the homebrewing world is geared to introduce newbies to homebrewing by a method called “extract brewing.” I'm an unusual partisan here: I have absolutely no problem with extract brewing as a method of making beer. With the products available today, you can make fine beer that way. What I'd like to argue, though, is that when you start, you should start with all-grain

In D.C.

I have spent the past four days feasting from the buffet of delicacies offered in the museums of our nation's capital (and, more recently, judging for the World Beer Cup). I had intended to keep blogging, but it is not to be. I hope to pick things up tomorrow--but I had hoped to start regular blogging yesterday. So stay tuned--

Jeff Alworth
A Father's Day Twofer

Next Sunday (June 18) is Father's Day. I would be remiss if I didn't suggest a couple of titles you might consider for dear old dad. The first is my newly-released The Secrets of Master Brewers, which is ostensibly a homebrew book. In fact, it's great for anyone who has a deep interest in understanding the beer traditions of the world.

Jeff Alworth1 Comment
Key Moments in History

In 1948, after three years of drifting politics, Czechoslovakia adopted a new government following what became known as the Ninth of May Constitution. It was a triumph of this newish experiment of Communism, and one of its signature features was nationalizing all commercial and industrial enterprises.

Why We Homebrew

The reason homebrewers brew, and the reason non-homebrewers fail to understand why, has nothing to do with the finished product. It has everything to do with the process. We create because we can’t help it.

The Wonder of First Contact

If you've just recently returned from Botswana, there's a small chance you missed the news that Sgt Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band turned fifty last week. I wouldn't be listening seriously to music until the late 1970s. By that time Sgt Pepper's was an oldie, and all the polyphonics the Beatles deployed were familiar and considered normal. 

MeditationJeff Alworth
The Trouble With Beer Numbers

What do all these details tell us? At the best, they provide accurate information to the small minority of people who know what they mean. At the worst, they provide misinformation. Mostly, though, I think people just tune them out. You really have to know a lot about beer to interpret them and, even then, they are for the most part not that revealing.

Could the US Eventually Hit 50% Craft? (Yes.)

Specialty coffee--the equivalent to craft beer--is now consumed by more than half the drinkers in America daily. Daily! Equally remarkably, this has doubled in seven years. I remember the first Starbucks in Portland--it arrived in about 1987. We'd already had craft beer, but specialty coffee as a national phenomenon actually got an earlier start. Like beer, we imagine the trajectory of adoption was a good deal more quick than it was. I'd have guessed specialty-coffee saturation had already plateaued by the mid-aughts. Instead, what happened was a much slower change followed a sea change. The tipping point happened somewhere in the past decade, after which specialty coffee went from being, well, specialty, to completely bog-standard mundane. Everyone drinks Starbucks now.

Death of the Neighborhood Tavern

Bars like this have always been vulnerable, and churn is high. They're low-margin businesses that depend on volume sales and low rent. In cities across America, both trends are working against the neighborhood tavern. With more and more places to drink, dive bars don't get the traffic they did twenty years ago. More significantly, as the middle class leaves the suburbs to return to the city, rents are on the rise in the urban core.

Glorious, Terrible Bar Food

The most vivid of the foodstuffs to which I drunkenly resorted were 'lil smokies, one of those fancy items that the bartender had to microwave before serving. They were maybe two inches long and the girth of an average index finger. They were spiced to cover up what was obviously the hooves and snouts they were made from--and bone bits crunched under tooth as you gobbled. They were also stained a maraschino red, unnatural and unsettling (why would they try to make them look more vividly bloody?).

Beer Sherpa Recommends: pFriem Cryo Pale Ale

Thiol-heavy dankness dominates the nose. Thiols, recall, are those sulfur compounds in hops responsible for savory aromas and flavors like onion, chive, and cannabis stickiness. If you continue to snuffle the fumes rising from that snowy head, you do find a sweet tangerine note trying speak, but it's subtle. Learning that Mosaic and Citra were the two powdered hops used, I understood from where those thiols came: Mosaic, my old frenemy.

When Giants Go Small

Last week we learned that Peter Bouckaert was leaving his post as New Belgium brewmaster to start a small, new brewery. This is far from unprecedented. Larry Sidor turned Deschutes into a regional powerhouse; in 2012, he left to start Crux Fermentation Project. More recently, Stone's Mitch Steele left to start New Realm in Atlanta.

Jeff Alworthbeer biz
Remember When Stone Was Cool?

In the mid-1990s a new generation of brewers introduced a kind of verve and edginess to beer. This new generation were also tiny, but they were brash and had big ambitions. Some, like Dogfish Head, aspired to transform beer. Sam Calagione was miles ahead of his contemporaries in anticipating that experimentation would one day drive sales. Some, like Stone's Greg Koch, promised to crush big beer. Even when Stone was tiny, he brought the attitude: "you're not worthy," he told drinkers of that old, fizzy yellow lager.