This week will be an all Connecticut-brewed, and intensely hopped version of Friday Froth. We start by wishing happy birthday to one of our state's early modern craft brewing pioneers, Olde Burnside Brewing Company, which turned 15 years old this month. Olde Burnside was initially highly visible due to selling their Ten Penny Scottish Ale in 64oz. growlers at retail in area liquor stores, which was 1) a great deal, 2) useful for refilling with anything you chose, and 3) garnered a $1.50 reimbursement when returned, if you weren't so inclined. This came in handy during the years when Connecticut had around five breweries, instead of our current 30ish, and growler filling stations were rare as sober nights at Owl Farm.
Entries in Friday Froth (58)
Hello! Welcome back to Friday Froth, 2016 edition: the semi-weekly beer column eagerly awaited by literally tens of people. This week, as in most weeks, I will start off with discussion on a topic which has nothing at all to do with beer. Continue reading at your own peril.
I have a friend who moved to Germany because of a girl. I think we can all agree emigrating from the country of your birth to one across a large ocean whose language you don't speak while relying on an intimate interpersonal relationship for success and happiness with no fall-back plan usually works out perfectly, and I'm sure you'll all be relieved to learn that has been precisely the case with him. If anything, he has more hair on his head than when he left - a fact about which we can all be magnanimous, and definitely not introduce small amounts of arsenic into the care packages of American peanut butter and bourbon whiskey we send him, because we are not envious monsters.
Two sessions, fifty breweries, and over a hundred different beers - the second annual Beer CONN poured all day and into the night in Bridgeport. Separate afternoon and evening sessions and a limit on the number of tickets sold maximized elbow room and kept things easy just over the ice in the arena.
Out of state breweries like Stone, Shiner, and Jack's Abbey were represented, but the focus of the one day beer fest was on beers from the Constitution State. I attended the second session, which was not without surprises, including Brewscuits: dog biscuits made from spent grain used in brewing, and the Growler Getter, from Woodbridge, Conn. - a hard plastic tote capable of holding two 64oz. growlers, or three 32oz. growlitos.
Reykjavik and Atlanta usually don't have anything in common besides yours truly, but we've all come full circle this week. The daisy chain works like this: I love Iceland, and have done some work for the country here in the U.S. which allowed me to to visit the land of fire and ice, eat hákarl, and learn the correct pronunciation of Eyjafjallajökull. I also have a degree in history from the University of Georgia, where I became acquainted with Sweetwater Brewing Company. Just recently, Two Roads and Evil Twin conspired to produce Geyser Gose, using Icelandic ingredients, and Sweetwater made their Connecticut debut. Hell yes.
Ernest Hemingway told us to always do sober what we said we'd do drunk. "That will teach you to keep your mouth shut," was his lesson. I don't get space here on Fridays for keeping my metaphorical mouth shut, and a few weeks ago I could be found pleading with you to hold off on All Pumpkin Errthang, and take the limited time we have at summer's end to enjoy the brief grunion-run of harvest ales.
The same day Froth published, I went out, slapped my modest gains on a counter, and walked out, brown bottles with orange labels in my hands. I've found some good ones for you, so here's a sampler.
Southern Tier Harvest special ale is an Extra Special Bitter, and pours with a golden ruby color. Decent head foams up at first and settles into thickish ring. The first whiff is bready malt, bouncing with hops. Rich and bitter, but mellow, Harvest is a hedge fund divorcee on xanax. It is also terrifically easy to drink, which means the robust 6.7%ABV tends to sneak up on you. The world is not exactly full of beers which aren't heavy, or beset with fruits or lactose, and still manage to feel like a treat, but Harvest is the exact recipe. It is decadent despite a deceptively simple formula, and a prototypical autumn beer.
Screw pumpkin beer and the sell sheet it rode in on. Screw it in September, and double-dog screw it in August, when I first start seeing it in stores. The fact I wasn't arrested for petty vandalism last month is a minor miracle. If you complain about summer being over to soon while ordering a late fall seasonal I hope you step in something wet while wearing socks. Such are the depths of my disdain.
I say all this, even though I don't dislike pumpkin beers as such, because the end of summer and early fall are excellent times for beer. Hops and grain are both being harvested this time of year, and I encourage you to take full advantage of the brilliant little season between light, summer beers, and the heavy, spiced beers of winter, because that middleground is fertile, delicious,and short-lived. Let's do this.
I like beers from Otter Creek and Jack's Abby, but their collaboration beer, Joint Custody, is a can full of nope. Thankfully it's also exceedingly rare, so chances are you'll be spared from drinking one. I don't usually talk about bad beer experiences in this column - and feel free to skip down to the two contrasting examples I give below - but this one's been nagging at me.
The collective German heritage of the OC and JA brewmasters inspired them to seek out two newborn German hop strains, Huell Melon and Mandarina Bavaria, in the creation of what they call a Nouveau Pilsner. Joint Custody pours cloudy gold, and has a slightly odd lemony scent - both fine - and then you take a drink and taste fresh Band-Aid. There is the unmistakable pils malt underneath, but what in the hell with this plasticky flavor? In beer-nerd terms, we sometimes call this ortho-chlorophenolic, because it's a medicinal smell/flavor which usually comes from residual sanitizers, or using chlorinated water to make the beer. I don't think that's what happened here, we're dealing with seriously talented brewers, so the only remaining explanation is they've done this on purpose.
No. Just no, NYC commissioner of the Department of Health, Mary Bassett - I will not avoid drinking beer on scorching hot summer days. Yes, I will drink some water, because I am not an idiot, but you can take a cold beer from my (still mostly warm), dead hand. Thankfully, this is 'murica, where many a dilapidated package store is hung with signs advertising the coldest beer in town (following Strong Bad's motto: "A One That Isn't Cold Is Scarcely A One At All"), thus saving us all from aloe vera vitamin drinks and the resultant loss of will to live.
A crisp beer on a hot day is a joy forever, as the poet probably said, so this week we're going to check out three hot weather beers, canned for your lawn mower riding, golf bag stuffing, back yard sitting pleasure.
"Raygun Gothic," they call it - all pneumatic curves and sleek fins blasting through air and space. This was the look of a future that meant rocket vacations to the moon, a fission reactor in every home, and wristwatch television walkie-talkies. Like Cicely, Alaska, I've always wanted to live there.
Humanity has accomplished some of this - I'm sure at least one of you reading this right now has an iWatch on your wrist - but the dream, the one Huge Gernsback had while writing inside his isolator and thinking about "Vacation City" suspended 20,000 feet in the clouds, is out of reach. Maybe not quite so far as I think, though, thanks to Beavertown Brewing of London, and late of America.
When we last left Friday Froth, your occasionally humble and rapidly expanding host wastalking American Craft Beer Week, and local offerings from OEC, Stony Creek and Stubborn Beauty. We'll continue the furthering rides the Connecticut beer bus this week as we take our minds on a drive to Bristol, Hartford, and Stratford. Buckle up, because it gets heavy.
Life is currently pretty fluid out there on the vast, rolling prairie of American craft beer. Everyone who lays hands on a mash paddle seems to be inventing a new style, or at least melting an existing style down and sculpting it into a new form. Much of this morphology arrives in the world with enough alcohol to sterilize minor gunshot wounds. These come stamped with labels marked "double" or "Imperial," which are largely interchangeable, and just mean "strong."