Category Archives: Brewery Profiles

Meeting the people who make your beer.

Wild Mountain: Come for the Great Outdoors, Stay for the Beer and Barbeque

A half-hour’s drive along the winding Highway 119 out of Boulder and just east of the Continental Divide, Nederland exudes a rough-hewn and offbeat charm.IMG_9301 Nederland, which means both lowland and the Netherlands in Dutch, came by its name when a mining company from Holland purchased the nearby Caribou Mine in 1873. Indeed, the name of the town is more than a little ironic, given that Nederland sits at an elevation of around 2500 meters (8200 feet) above sea level. But for the miners who trudged up the mountain to work and then down again in the evening for a cold one after a long day, the moniker was more than apt.

The silver and tungsten mining industries eventually went bust, and not even the farmers and ranchers who came to put down stakes could halt the slide of the town’s fortunes. It wasn’t until the 1960s that Nederland turned the corner again with the arrival of mountain leisure opportunities and a laid-back countercultural vibe that still resonates through the town.IMG_9294 Blessed with a location on the threshold of the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area and the Eldora Mountain Ski Resort, Nederland fast became a popular year-round destination for hiking, climbing, and winter sports.

These days, Nederland is home not only to artisans, outdoor enthusiasts, and the yearly Nedfest music festival, it is also the scene of the Frozen Dead Guy Days. Frozen Dead Guy Days, you ask? Well, according to the official website of the Town of Nederland the festival is “a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Grandpa Bredo Morstoel, who is cryogenically frozen and cared for in a Tuff Shed on private property in town, awaiting the day when science can re-animate him and cure him of the heart disease that killed him in 1989.” What better excuse for a polar bear plunge and coffin races?

If the haunting existence of some Frozen Dead Guy hasn’t already convinced you that Nederland is a town worth checking out, then perhaps the material pleasures of beer and barbeque is just what you need before your hike,IMG_9292 ride, or climb in the mountains surrounding Nederland.

* * *

On this bright autumn day, I followed the scent of wood smoke to Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery. Purple and green walls and a vaulted ceiling and fireplace made me think of a ski lodge plunked down in the middle of a West Coast city. But the views from the terrace of dense pine forests rising up the ridge brought me back to where I was. So, too, did the brew-ski. The brew-ski is just as you’re imagining it and comes with four of whichever house brews are on tap at the time of your visit, along with a guest beer.

I finish sipping my way down the brew-ski before one of the servers leads me through a door and down a narrow staircase to a three-and-a-half-barrel brew kettle and stash of fermenters crammed into a space no larger than a Tokyo apartment. There, I meet Tom Boogaard, the man behind the brews on the ski, hard at work on a batch of beer. Back in the 90s, Boogaard was a comparative religious studies major aspiring to be a doctor, but decided he’d rather make the kind of medicine that soothes and lifts our souls.Wild Mtn - Taproom 1 After several years of brewing that included stints in Wyoming and with Avery, Boogaard decided to strike out on his own in 2006.

Boogaard’s affinity for big beers stems from his days with Avery––where he created the recipe for The Reverend––and these inclinations are evident in his full-flavoured brews. One of the most compelling beers on my brew-ski was the Hop Diggity IPA, a honey-golden local favourite with hop-forward aromas and flavours of mango, pineapple, some dankness, and toasted malt. A piney hop bite takes over from there, and the beer finishes with an appetizing digéstif-like bitterness. Aliyah’s Amber was a bit less impressive, looking as if it had fallen off the brew-ski during a backcountry ride: a bit hazy and shaken up, with much of the carbonation knocked out of it.

But as for Wild Mountain’s brown ale? Brown ales tend to get short shrift these days as the boring cream sherries of the beer world, but nothing could be further from the truth. If Wild Mountain’s Round and Round Brown Ale is on tap when you visit,IMG_9304 you’ll be rewarded for ordering it with smoky roast coffee aromas and flavours layered together with mild, pear-like fruit esters and delicate floral-citrus hops reminiscent of orange blossom. Rounding it all out are the malted milk and cooked cereal scents of “mash day” (crushed grain mixed with warm water, for those who have yet to go down the rabbit hole of homebrewing). With a roasted-malt acidity on the palate that lends the beer buoyancy, you’ll have found a beer that goes well with Wild Mountain’s other signature specialty: barbeque.

And what really sets Wild Mountain apart from many other brewing establishments is the personal interest Boogaard takes in the food served at the brewpub. It’s no accident that “smokehouse” comes before “brewery” on the sign hanging outside of Wild Mountain. Boogaard spent months perfecting his recipes for smoked meats, often combining his favourite elements of several barbeque and grilling cultures. His chicken wings, for example, are nothing like the fiery assault that typifies your average plate of Buffalo wings. After marinating the wings in a ceviche-style marinade for two hours, Boogaard smokes the wings before finishing them on the grill with house barbeque sauce. The resulting wings are so succulent that I never once felt the need to dip them in the ranch dressing that came as a side. IMG_9306So come to Nederland for the great outdoors (or even for the Frozen Dead Guy), but stay for the beer and barbeque at Wild Mountain.

_______________________

Wild Mountain is located at 70 E. First Street, Nederland, CO 80466, not far off the main thoroughfare running up the canyon from Boulder. Winter hours: Sunday through Thursday, 11-8pm; Friday and Saturday, 11am-9pm.

On tap/coming soon for the fall of 2014: Redemption Stout, a Dubbel, a Saison, and an American-style wheat beer made with Colorado peaches, cinnamon, and orange peel. Sounds like an interesting interpretation of the spiced autumn seasonals we see at this time of year.

______________________

Related Tempest Articles on Colorado Craft Beer

Crystal Springs and the Music Teacher Turned Brewer

Milling Against the Grain: Grimm Brothers Goes All-Germanic

Green Pints at Asher Brewing Company

Images

Tap handles: Wild Mountain Facebook page

All other photos: F.D. Hofer

© 2014 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Green Pints at Asher Brewing Company

Asher - PintsEvery night is Green Drinks Night at Asher’s all-organic brewery and taproom in Boulder, Colorado.

Surprised? Probably not, though you should be. In a town with as progressive a reputation as Boulder has, you’d be forgiven for expecting to find a handful of all-organic breweries. After all, you can’t throw a hop cone without hitting an organic food store. Not so on the brewery front. In fact, Asher Brewing Company was the only one-hundred percent organic brewery in the entire state of Colorado when it opened in late 2009, and still is today. And not only that: Chris Asher’s penchant for organic ingredients extends to a healthy respect for the environment as well. The brewery and tasting room are one-hundred percent wind-powered. And those chairs you’re sitting on and the table on which you just set your Green Bullet Organic IPA? Repurposed.

The sun is starting to set behind the angular Flatirons as I step into the by-now bustling taproom to meet with Asher, head brewer and co-owner of the eponymously-named brewery. Like many in Boulder, Asher is a transplant, having studied in the Northeast before heading west to hone his brewing skills with Golden City BrewingAsher - FrontRangeCan II (Organic-Soul-Imaging) and the now-defunct Redfish in downtown Boulder. Asher is a soft-spoken and unassuming person, not the type to seek out the spotlight to promote his organic lineup of beers. But when the discussion turns to organic food, environmentally friendly brewing practices, and the organic beers he produces, Asher’s eyes light up. He argues that organic beer makes sense on three counts. First off, sustainable farming practices take less of a toll on the environment. Second, naturally occurring antioxidants that consume oxygen are inhibited by pesticides, Asher claims, and removing the pesticides means a longer shelf life for the beer. Finally and most importantly for Asher, drinkers of organic craft beer aren’t ingesting pesticides.

Even though Asher holds an M.B.A., organic beers are not just about market niches for him. Sure, Asher is more than content that some people make the journey to the taproom strictly because his beer is organic, and he’s rather bemused that some restaurants in town carry his beer for its organic cachet alone. But right from the top,Asher - Chris-FreshHopsTrio it was not some bottom-line notion of cashing in on organic food and beverages that motivated Asher and his business partner, but rather principle. If anything, the decision to go all-organic engenders a series of challenges due to the relatively restricted availability of organic malts and hops. Unlike many other brewers who envision a final product and then go shopping for ingredients, Asher has to build his recipes around what kinds of organic malts and hops he can source. As Asher notes, many breweries express interest in using organic ingredients, but usually balk at the prospect upon learning of the difficulties involved in acquiring organic certification.

If environmental awareness forms the bedrock of Asher’s brewery, Asher, like most any craft brewer, is just as concerned at the end of the day that you walk out of his taproom satisfied with the beers you’ve just drunk. Asher’s Kölsch-style beer, the Green Lantern, is clean and crisp, hitting the sweet spot of hoppiness for the style. Hopheads will will want to pull the pin on the weightier Greenade Double IPA and wait for the floral-citrus explosion. (Couldn’t resist that one … ). Asher sees to it that a steady stream of seasonals run through the taps. When I visited, he had an intriguing Brett- and lacto-spiked wheat beer aged over tart red cherries in red wine barrels. Despite this latter detail, the beer revealed an intriguing white wine character, pleasant acidity, and bright but subtle tart cherries. Right now the seasonal on tap is a ginger beer based on the Tree Hugger Amber, with a winter oatmeal stout planned for later in the year. Asher just brewed up a fresh-hopped pale ale with organic Cascade, Columbus, and Chinook hops from nearby Niwot Hops, so keep your eyes open for the tapping of those kegs in the very near future.Asher - 4PackBarrel

Asher Brewing Company is in the rather anodyne Gunbarrel area of northeast Boulder, tucked into a cul-de-sac in the Twin Lakes Tech Park. Prius driver or not, though, you won’t regret the drive (or bike-ride) out to Gunbarrel in search of something a little different.

*Hot off the press: Asher Brewing Company just started canning its Treehugger Amber. To celebrate, they are having a party this Saturday, October 11, starting at 2pm. Free food!

  • Address: 4699 Nautilus Court (Suite 104), Boulder, CO 80301
  • Taproom Hours: 2pm-12am, seven days a week
  • Tours are free. Call (303) 530-1381 to schedule a tour.

____________________

Other Tempest Articles on Colorado Breweries:

Crystal Springs and the Music Teacher Turned Brewer

Milling Against the Grain: Grimm Brothers Goes All-Germanic

Wild Mountain: Come for the Great Outdoors, Stay for the Beer and Barbeque

____________________

All images courtesy of Asher Brewing Company and Organic Soul Imaging.

© 2014 Franz D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Brewery Profiles, Featured Beers, and a Few Recipes Tying It All Together

Tempest recently chalked up its ninth month of craft beer writing. To celebrate the occasion, I’ve been posting an annotated index of articles that I’ve written to date. The first segment listed my articles on beer and culture, followed by my regional spotlights. This segment includes a list of my brewery profiles and beer reviews, along with a few recipes for those interested in cooking and food/beverage pairings.

Thanks again for the support over the past several months. Enjoy!

IMG_9790I. Brewery Profiles

So far, my brewery profiles cover an uneven patchwork of the United States, but I’m working on shading in the map of the U.S., and will make the occasional foray into Canada as well.

Colorado

Crystal Springs (Boulder area)––Crystal Springs and the Music Teacher Turned Brewer

Tom Horst, a former Amarillo Symphony Orchestra percussionist and still-part-time music teacher at Boulder High School, brewed out of his garage until opening his production facility and taproom in the autumn of 2013.

Grimm Bros. (Fort Collins area)––Milling Against the Grain: Grimm Goes All-GermanicIMG_9381

If you’ve been wanting to try some of those neglected German historical styles that have been enjoying a resurgence in popularity of late, Grimm Bros. has you covered. Broyhahn, Kottbusser or Lichtenhainer, anyone?

 

New York State

IMG_1117Abandon (Finger Lakes)––The Barn and the Brewery

Nestled amid the vineyards of Keuka Lake, Abandon has been turning out compelling Belgian-inflected ales for a little under a year now. If the bucolic scenery doesn’t win you over, the beer will.

 

Hopshire Farm and Brewery (Ithaca area)––Cultural Archeology: The Revival of Hop Cultivation in New York

Randy Lacey was one of the driving forces behind the Farm Brewery Legislation (2013), which has been a boon for brewers in New York State. When he’s not advocating on behalf of the region’s brewers, Lacey brews up beers that feature, among other things, local honey and local ginger.

Oklahoma

Roughtail (Oklahoma City)––Roughtail Enters the Ring with a Selection of Heavy-Weight Beers

Along with breweries such as Coop Aleworks and Prairie Artisan Ales, Roughtail has been working hard to put Oklahoma on the craft beer map. Their motto: “Aggressive. Flavor Forward.” If you’re someone who raises your eyes reverently skyward when the conversation turns to IBUs and the ineffable beauty of hops, Tony Tielli’s beers are well worth your attention.

Texas: Austin Area

Flix––Craft Beer at a Theatre Near You

The cinematic programming is on the corporate side, but the beers merit consideration if you find yourself in this strip mall and big-box corridor along I-35 north of Austin.

North by Northwest––Fine Food to Accompany Beers Novel and Classic

This upscale brewpub in northern Austin combines higher end food with solid German-style beers and an experimental barrel program.

Rogness––A Plethora of Beers from Pflugerville

Diane and Forrest Rogness, owners of Austin Homebrew, have brought innovative beer to the northern reaches of the Austin exurbs, establishing a community gathering point in the process.

Texas: Dallas Area

IMG_0101Four Corners Brewing Company––Across Calatrava’s Bridge: Four Corners Anchors Revitalization of West Dallas

Sessionable beers reign supreme here. And why not? Four Corners’ beers are a fine antidote to the summer time heat. The visual iconography (labels, tap handles, and the like) pays tribute to the long-established Hispanic community in which the brewery finds itself.

Franconia Brewing Co.––A Bavarian in Texas

Brewing’s in Dennis Wehrmann’s DNA. His family has been brewing for generations in and near Nuremberg. Six years back, Wehrmann began brewing a taste of his native Franconia in a town north of Dallas, where beers are crafted according to the German Purity Laws (Reinheitsgebot).

II. Featured Beers (Individual Beers, Flights, Style Spotlights)

Barley Wine/Wheat Wine

Winter Nights and Warming Barley Wines

A comparison of three barley wines from disparate locations and of different stylistic underpinnings:

  • Harvey’s Elizabethan Ale (Sussex, UK)
  • Real Ale’s 2012 Sisyphus (Texas)
  • Dieu du Ciel’s Solstice d’hiver (Quebec)

Barrel-Aged

Bourbon in Michigan

  • New Holland’s 2013 Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel Stout
  • Founders’ 2012 Backwoods Bastard

A Trio of Barrel-Aged Beers

  • Victory’s 2011 Dark Intrigue (Pennsylvania)
  • Goose Island’s 2013 Bourbon County Brand Stout (Chicago)
  • Prairie Artisan Ales’ Pirate Bomb! (Oklahoma)

Doppelbock

Bonator (Klosterbrauerei Weissenohe, Bavaria)

Landbier

Kapsreiter Landbier (Kapsreiter, Austria)

Imperial Stout

Crème Brûlée (Southern Tier, NY)

Hel & Verdoemenis (Brouwerij de Molen, Netherlands)

Sours (including Oud Bruin and Flanders Red)

A Twist of Sour

Comparison of La Folie (New Belgium, CO) and the inimitable Duchesse de Bourgogne (Verhaeghe, Belgium).

Sofie (Goose Island, Chicago)

A vertical of the 2011, 2012, and 2013 bottlings.

A Rodenbach Grand Cru in the Fridge?

Some thoughts on aging Oud Bruin, Flanders Red, Gueuze, Lambic, and that increasingly broad rubric, Farmhouse Beers.

Wheat Beer/Weissbier

Hefeweizen: A Beer for All Seasons

Includes tasting notes for: Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier; Ayinger Bräu Weisse; Ayinger Ur-Weisse Dunkel Weizen; Franziskaner Weissbier Dunkel; Schneider Aventinus; Weihenstephaner Vitus; Erdinger Pikantus; Widmer Hefeweizen; and Flying Dog In-Heat Wheat.

III. Beer and Food/Recipes

If you enjoy cooking, or have friends who like cooking, here’s a small but growing list of Tempest recipes that feature beer as a central ingredient. Suggested beer/food pairings are included, too.

Fondues with Beer and Cider

Want a change from the classic cheese and wine fondue? This article contains recipes for Gorgonzola Apple Cider Fondue and Aged Gouda and Doppelbock Fondue.

Choucroute/Sauerkraut made with Gueuze

Instead of white wine in your sauerkraut, try Gueuze to give the dish a lift. Also included: instructions for fermenting your own sauerkraut.

Maple-Glazed Bourbon and Apple Cider Pork Belly

Pair this one with a barrel-aged beer, and you’ll be in seventh heaven in no time­­. IMG_6394IV. Sundry Articles

A Coal Town and a Cold One

On my conversion to flavourful beer at the hands of a Maisel’s Hefeweizen in Saarbrücken, Germany.

So You Wanna Brew a Weizen

Style parameters and a discussion of the ingredients you’ll need to whip up a batch of German-style Weissbier in your kitchen. Companion piece to Hefeweizen: A Beer for All Seasons, an article that contains tasting notes for several commercially available wheat beers.

Books for the Craft Beer Enthusiast

Friends often ask me to recommend books on beer. I wrote this piece for the holiday season, but it’s worth a read if you’re looking for books that deal with different facets of craft beer appreciation. The article contains short write-ups of the following books:

  • Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont, The World Atlas of Beer (2012).
  • Garrett Oliver, The Brewmaster’s Table (2003).
  • Maureen Ogle, Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer (2006).
  • Charlie Papazian, The Complete Joy of Homebrewing (2003).

_____________

Images: F.D. Hofer

 

Ithaca is Craft Beer

If Ithaca is Gorges, it is also rapidly becoming a craft beer destination. In the first article of this series, I recounted the story of Ithaca’s first craft brewery and tasted a few of their beers. Here I introduce readers to the new breweries that have attracted the attention of both Ithacans and people passing through the Finger Lakes.

Breweries and Brewpubs (Part Two)

Bandwagon Brew Pub (2009)

Bandwagon Banner (bandwagonbeer-com)

 

 

The past decade-and-a-half has witnessed a parade of restaurants and even a barber shop make valiant but ill-fated attempts to gain a foothold in the subterranean space at 114 North Cayuga Street. Would a brew pub have enough staying power where so many other businesses had failed to capture the attention of passersby? Right out of the starting gate, the owners of Bandwagon seemed to have grasped that ambience would be as important as the food and beverages they’d be serving.IMG_0829 They converted their downtown location into a contemporary dining establishment a cut above the average brewpub, creating a bustling but still intimate seating arrangement with warm, subdued light falling on roughly-hewn stone walls and rustic wooden floors.

Now, as for Bandwagon’s liquid offerings, I’ll qualify what is about to come by stating that I have a soft spot for the place. As inconsistent as Bandwagon’s beers can be, they can also be of high quality when all goes well. Their brewing setup––almost a museum piece, really––is viewable through a window in the cozy lounge area set off to the side from the restaurant. Couple that with an insistence on brewing ten-gallon batches––ten gallons, not ten barrels––to supply a thirsty crowd of regulars and out-of-towners, and you get a not insignificant number of beers pushed through the system well before they’ve matured. But despite all that, I keep going back. Maybe it’s the nostalgia of sitting down there with Papazian’s classic to plot my first few homebrews. Or maybe it’s all those orders of Belgian-style frites and mayonnaise shared with friends.

For reasons noted above, the following beer evaluations are temporally contingent. The High Step Weizenbock is a justifiably celebrated brew.Bandwagon Flight (bwgn-com) I’ve sampled it turbid and blueberry-like, but when the beer’s done well, it’s a richly malty, warming, and convincing interpretation of the style. Roll the dice and give it a try if you’re in town when the beer’s in season. The Pirate Eye IPA is a decent stylistic iteration: rich, creamy, and with an aperitif-like level of bitterness on the palate. Delicate tangerine and mango backed by honeyed brown sugar and mild caramel define the aromas. On a recent visit, the Robust Brown Ale was a standout. Clear and mahogany-brown with garnet highlights, the beer negotiates a compelling balance of malt and hop character. Look for rich maple, toffee, caramelized citrus peel, and earthy coniferous forest notes with just a hint of mocha. The beer is full-bodied and creamy, with a bitter nuttiness getting the better of a caramel-maple syrup sweetness by the finish.

As for the food menu, the aforementioned frites are a consistent favourite, along with the excellent (and jalapeño-spicy!) veggie burger. Salads are prepared with fresh local greens, and the dressing is made in-house. Bandwagon is always abuzz no matter the time or the day, so let’s hope that the proprietors will one day redirect some of the proceeds from the lively house into a brewing system that will yield greater consistency.* (See the addendum below.)

Rogues’ Harbor Inn (2011)

IMG_0099Not more than ten minutes out of town, a historic landmark inn dating from 1830 sits atop the ridge on the southeast shore of Cayuga Lake. What is now Rogues’ Harbor was reputedly a stop along the Underground Railroad. But it attained its notoriety as a den of iniquity in its heyday, when many a colourful ruffian passed through the inn’s doors. Today the clientele consists of a more subdued crowd of Lansing locals and wine trail travelers, along with a small handful of people who know that Rogues’ Harbor has been brewing its own beer since 2011. Beer aside, Rogues’ Harbor merits a trip by virtue of its combination of bric-a-brac taproom décor and the faded stateliness of the dining rooms alone.IMG_0103 Hats off to the proprietors for not succumbing to the temptation to “update” their period piece. And a stein hoisted to them for installing a small brewing system in one of the inn’s outbuildings.

Chris Williams’ and Alex Schwartz’s small-batch brews complement the locally-sourced menu that consists of dishes like Curried Butternut and Chickpea Cake, Steak Fries with Ale-Infused Cheddar Sauce and Bacon, and Basil-Walnut Linguini. Of the four perennials on tap, the delicate and creamy golden-hued East Shore Pale Ale is your best bet. The ale showcases light brown sugar malt sweetness, an earthy-woodsy accent, and a trace of floral-muscat hops.IMG_0104 The rotating Brewer’s Choice tap, which gives the brewers the chance to roll out experimental beers that diverge from the safer year-round offerings, is also worth inquiring about. A recent visit to the inn’s restaurant yielded a pleasantly refreshing and mildly soured beer that bore a passing resemblance to a Berliner Weisse: lemon, fresh almonds, and a hint of lactic acidity in the aromas gave way to crisp green apple acidity and stone fruit richness buttressed by a fresh cereal malt character. If you want to forego food and head straight for the beer, Rogues’ Harbor recently opened a tap room adjacent to the inn. Hours are 12:00 pm to 4:00 pm, Saturday and Sunday.

Hopshire Farms and Brewery (2013)

The most recent arrival on the Ithaca craft beer scene lies not far beyond the Ithaca city limits on the road to Dryden and Cortland. Hopshire distinguishes itself from other farm breweries with its aspirations to revive the architecture of the pre-Prohibition hop kilns that once dotted central New York.Hopshire Pint Unsurprisingly for someone who wrote the draft of what eventually became the farm brewery law, owner and head brewer, Randy Lacey, sees to it that the emphasis falls on local ingredients like honey, cherries, maple syrup, and, of course, hops and malt. Hopshire’s Beehave, a honey blonde ale, and Blossom, a delicately scented cherry wheat ale, are both crafted from one-hundred percent New York State ingredients. My article, “Cultural Archeology, Hopshire Style: The Revival of Hop Cultivation in New York,” paints a more detailed picture of a brewery that has quickly endeared itself to the local craft beer-drinking population.

 

_____________________________________

Of the four breweries I’ve profiled in these last two posts, only Ithaca Beer Company and, to a limited extent, Bandwagon, package any of their beers.

* * *

*Addendum (July 26, 2014)

After I posted this article, Michael from Bandwagon Brew Pub got in contact with me with news about some important developments with his brewpub. Bandwagon has recently begun brewing on a sixty-gallon system (approximately two barrels), which has been a boon for consistency. Michael acknowledged the issues I addressed above, and noted that Bandwagon is currently constructing a new facility on the edge of town. The new facility will feature a larger brewing system, increased storage and lagering capacity, and a large tasting room. With the larger facility, they’ll be able to produce consistent renditions of their classics such as Pirate IPA and High Step Weizenbock, as well as continue to make their small-batch experimental brews. (Incidentally, Michael informed me that they have a limited-edition batch of Raspberry Jalapeno on tap through this week for those with an appetite for a little spice.) Michael is also branching out to answer the demand for locally produced malt. You can contact East Coast Malts in advance to visit the facility, which is located along Route 13 near Dryden. I wish Michael the best of luck in both of these exciting-sounding endeavours!

* * *

Up next: where to find a good pint of Finger Lakes beer, and where to find more international and domestic beers (and wines) than you can shake a stick at.

IMG_0826Images

Bandwagon banner: bandwagonbeer.com

Bandwagon interior: F.D. Hofer (Note: The case displaying vintage fermentation equipment is not the display window in the lounge that I reference above.)

Bandwagon flight: bandwagonbeer.com

Rogues’ Harbor Inn menu cover: F.D. Hofer

Rogues’ Harbor tap room: F.D. Hofer

Rogues’ Harbor flight (with wine slushy (!) in the background): F.D. Hofer

Hopshire pint: Hopshire Farms and Brewery Facebook page

Six-Mile Creek, Ithaca: F.D. Hofer

© 2014  Franz D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Gorges and Good Beer in Ithaca, NY: Volume One

Only four hours from New York City, but centrally isolated. Ten square miles surrounded by reality. Partly sunny. And gorges aplenty.

There’s no denying that Ithaca is Gorges.IMG_7308 Spend less than half an hour in this town cradled by rolling hills at the foot of Lake Cayuga’s waters, and chances are that you’ll have passed by a torrent of water issuing forth from one of Ithaca’s many creeks cutting through the stunning shale formations. If not, you’ll have caught a glimpse of the ubiquitous bumper stickers, T-shirts, baseball caps, mugs, and even stuffed animals proclaiming the fact.

But Ithaca’s myriad claims to fame do not stop at cascading waterfalls and steep hills. Vladimir Nabokov wrote Lolita during a teaching sojourn in Ithaca. If literature’s not your cup of tea, the city is also the reputed birthplace of the ice cream sundae, first served in 1892. A half century or so after this great culinary invention arrived on the scene came yet another: the chicken nugget, invented by a Cornell food scientist in the 1950s.

* * *

Incorporated in 1821, Ithaca’s history as a settlement dates back to the immediate aftermath of the Sullivan Expedition of 1779. As part of the broader Revolutionary War campaign against the Loyalists,IMG_7301 this slash-and-burn military expedition drove the indigenous peoples allied to the Iroquois Confederacy out of the region. These acts prepared the way for Congress to award soldiers parcels of land in the Ithaca area in lieu of monetary payment. Ithaca was nothing if not fortuitously situated, and over the course of the nineteenth-century, Ithaca eventually grew into an integral component of the Erie Canal System. Its location at the southern tip of Cayuga Lake made it an ideal staging ground for coal from Pennsylvania via the Ithaca and Owego Railroad, which began rolling freight between the Susquehanna River and Cayuga Lake in 1834.

Ithaca is no longer a transportation nodal point, but its one-time geographical importance gave rise to the post-secondary institutions––Cornell and Ithaca College––that make Ithaca the vibrant college town it is today. And adventurous latter day mariners can still set sail across Cayuga Lake from Ithaca and reach the Atlantic to the east, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway to the north, or even the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico via the Erie Canal.

… Or stay high and dry and drink a beer instead.

Breweries and Brewpubs (Part I)

Ithaca Beer Company

Ithaca got its first craft beer brewery back in 1998 when a Cornell alum with a yen to brew set up shop in an unassuming location on the edge of town. A few years back, the Ithaca Beer Company––which made a reputation for itself brewing plenty of Apricot Wheat, the locally resonant Cascazilla Red IPA, and a perennial National IPA Championship “Final Four” finisher, Flower Power IPA––pulled up stakes and moved to a more spectacular location a stone’s throw from the original facility.IMG_0147 With the surrounding hills framing hop bines and gardens, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more picturesque spot in Ithaca to settle down to a pint or flight. Ingredients for their pizzas, salads, and house-made ketchup are so local you could go out and pick them yourself. Meat for their excellent burgers––among the very best in the region––and pulled pork dishes also comes from nearby farms.

Their beers? The Apricot Wheat flows as freely as the local waterfalls, but if you find that you’re not a fan, remember this: without all that Apricot Wheat, no Excelsior series. Ithaca Beer Co. is unique among breweries in that they package a completely separate line of experimental releases in 750-mL bottles bearing the Excelsior label. One of my perennial favourites is the AlpHalpHa, a “double honey bitter” that is the pinnacle of simplicity: organic Pils malt, New York State Cascade hops, and local alfalfa honey. Don’t be fooled by the straw-honey colour. Like a Tripel, this beer is much more potent than its countenance would suggest. Subtle spicy-floral and clover-grassy aromas mingle with honeyed graham cracker, and the weighty yet silky palate finishes surprisingly crisply.

The Excelsior series is comprised of beers ranging from limited edition blueberry sours to the more widely available White Gold,IMG_0823 a “Belgo-American” ale brewed with Nelson Sauvin and Lublin hops. Also part of the series are the brewery’s sturdy anniversary releases that typically feature a seemingly impossible hodge-podge of malts, hops, and yeasts from Belgium, France, Germany, the U.S., the U.K., and (hey, why not?) New Zealand. From year to year, these concoctions usually manage to come together and form a palatable whole proverbially greater than the sum of its disparate parts. (At a future date I’ll post tasting notes for Fifteen and Sixteen.)

Ithaca Beer Company’s regular and seasonal lineup is comprehensive, and a few gems (Flower Power, for example) sparkle among the solid workaday beers that don’t venture too far beyond the stylistic midpoints of a given category. The rye-clove-peppery and tangerine-floral-citrusy Ground Break Saison, along with the char-roast-coffee and earthy licorice yet blackberry-fruity Oatmeal Stout are among my top picks from the year-round and seasonal offerings. Recent additions to Ithaca Beer Co.’s lineup,IMG_0145 such as the seasonal Cayuga Cruiser Berliner Weisse and the Green Trail Easy-Drinking IPA, are less than stellar, so here’s to hoping that Ithaca Beer Co. doesn’t lose its way in the wake of its otherwise impressive build-out.

Sources, Notes, and Odd Lots

For a quick introduction to the early history of Ithaca, see Daniel R. Snodderly, Ithaca and Its Past (Ithaca: DeWitt Historical Society of Tompkins County, 1982). You can also visit The History Center, located just up Martin-Luther-King Boulevard from the Ithaca Commons pedestrian zone.

Fast Facts and Trivia: http://www.visitithaca.com/about-ithaca-tompkins-county/facts-trivia.html

If you find yourself spending any length of time in Ithaca, check out the South Hill Recreation Way, which follows the abandoned bed of the Ithaca and Owego Railroad (later renamed the Cayuga and Susquehanna Railroad Co. in 1849) through the woods for much of its length. The trailhead at Burns Road is an ideal starting point for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in winter.

All images: F.D. Hofer

© 2014  Franz D. Hofer. All Rights Reserved.

Across Calatrava’s Bridge: Four Corners Anchors Revitalization of West Dallas

Chuckle if you will, but judging a double-header of Imperial Stouts and Barrel-Aged Beers is a taxing proposition. My friend and I were in the Dallas area for the weekend to serve as judges for the annual Bluebonnet Homebrew Competition,FourCorners - Cart (fcbrewing-com) and this judging assignment was our last of the weekend. Plenty of the burgeoning Dallas craft beer scene remained for us to explore, but our saturated senses were calling for a long time-out. After a brief discussion, we settled on Four Corners Brewing Company. Both their motto, “All Day Ales,” and their approach––sessionable beers that range between 4.5% and 6% ABV––seemed perfectly tailored to this balmy spring afternoon.

An endless landscape of warehouses and sundry remnants of West Dallas’s heavy-industrial past unfolded before us as we rolled along the route from the judging location in nearby Irving. This area was originally settled in the 1850s by French and Swiss immigrants who aimed to establish a socialist utopia, but that experiment gave way in relatively short order to a decidedly dystopian wave of industrialization around the turn of the century.

Cement factories came first, followed by chemical factories and oil refineries, each industry giving rise to hard-scrabble working-class towns on the periphery of Dallas. Before incorporation into Dallas in 1954, the area laboured under a general lack of amenities such as running water and paved streets. To make matters worse, for nearly half a century dating from 1934, the RSR Corporation operated a secondary lead smelting plant that laid waste to the environment with its processing of used batteries. Several thousand inhabitants suffered from elevated bloodstream lead levels as a result. Such was the lot of these historically underserved and, by now, predominantly Hispanic and African-American communities until the area qualified as an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund Site in the mid-1990s. A clean-up effort ensued, and by 2005, a completed Five-Year Review deemed the site “protective of human health and the environment” and fit for “the safe redevelopment of residential and commercial properties” (EPA, 2014).

FourCorners - Callatrava Dallas (fdbrewing-com)Tire shops and garages now populate many of the low-rise brick storefronts lining the thoroughfares of these communities, but the first signs of a tectonic shift are beginning to make themselves felt. Immediately to our east rises perhaps the most visible symbol of this transformation: a finely wrought arch etched against the foreground of the Dallas skyscrapers, its pearl-like luminescence and avian grace bearing the inimitable stamp of renowned architect, Santiago Calatrava. We stop short of Calatrava’s recently completed Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge and pull into the lot in front of the colourfully appointed warehouse enveloping Four Corners Brewery.

Inside the taproom, my friend and I joined a group of convivial patrons for a few drinks as I waited for co-owner and head brewer, Steve Porcari, to finish his Sunday rounds.FourCorners - Local Buzz Tap (fcbrewing-com) Porcari and co-founder, George Esquivel, got their brewing start after seeing a TV ad for a homebrew competition organized some years back by Sam Adams. They bought and brewed the kit, but never entered that first effort into the Sam Adams competition. Little did they know back then that this inaugural batch would become the basis for their Local Buzz, a refreshing brew that now incorporates honey from Burleson’s Honey Company in Waxahatchie, TX.

Like all of Four Corners’ beers, Local Buzz features a striking label with bright colours and boldly rendered pictograms. Four Corners’ design aesthetic pays hommage to a Mexican game similar to bingo, Lotería,FourCorners - Loteria Mexicana (Wiki) in which the caller announces the cards to the players by way of riddles and associations. Four Corners’ beer labels evoke local linkages in an analogous manner. Red’s Roja reflects the plethora of tire shops that dot the neighbourhood, while La Bajada, adorned with a defiant gesture, renders tribute to the working class neighbourhood in which Four Corners finds itself.

The iconography of La Bajada recalls the resilience of the neighbourhood inhabitants who built the dike system along the Trinity River to control the once-catastrophic floods.IMG_9795 On a different reading, though, the visual vocabulary seems to bespeak the tensions that accompany the penetration of fashionable arts and culinary scenes into long-established communities. The Trinity Groves urban renewal project backed by Philip Romano of Macaroni Grill fame was the first lot cast in the rejuvenation of West Dallas. Four Corners followed suit in 2012, setting up shop in an 11,000 square-foot repurposed big rig factory in the heart of this erstwhile marginalized section of the city.

Along with Romano’s “restaurant incubator” concept that forms the backbone of the Trinity Groves development, Four Corners serves as a magnet enticing people across the bridge. But will those who come from more affluent parts of Dallas disrupt the fabric of West Dallas’s established communities? Such is the dual-edged nature of urban revitalization. How will the proposed development of West Dallas integrate neighbourhoods such as La Bajada and Los Altos?

The people behind Four Corners consider themselves to be part of the answer to these pressing questions. Esquivel, one of the partners in the Four Corners venture, has a stake in this emerging neighbourhood, having grown up in nearby Oak Cliff. Collectively, he, Porcari, and Greg Leftwich, the third of Four Corners’ co-founders, want their establishment to serve as a catalyst for measured change and economic stimulus in this once-neglected neighbourhood brought closer to the Dallas metropole by Calatrava’s bridge. FourCorners - Brewery (fcbrewing FB)Tasting Notes

Four Corners is in the business of producing flavourful, balanced, “everyday” session beers. For them, 8% ABV is straining the upper range of the scale, and only a few of their seasonal beers bump up against this threshold. Relates Porcari, in a city recently tuned into the dual trends of barrel-aged offerings and out-sized “status” markers such as high IBUs and high ABV, Four Corners’ commitment to a lineup of sessionable beers has, on occasion, presented challenges in terms of finding tap handles at local bars. A shame, really, for as I’ve argued elsewhere, beer doesn’t have to be big or “extreme” to be worthy of our attention––and I think Four Corners’ beers merit our attention.

At the lighter end of the colour and ABV spectrum we find Local Buzz, the aforementioned honey-rye golden ale with fresh floral aromas of honeyed grain, subtle hints of pepper, and a surprising scent reminiscent of a cross between fresh cucumber and gooseberry. The grain-accented beer is crisp, with a spicy-herbal hop character that melds well with the rye and ensures that the beer finishes refreshingly. A fine beer for a warm day.

FourCorners - Block Party Cans (fcbrewing FB)Clear dark ruby and pecan in appearance, the Block Party Robust Porter comes across with plenty of mocha and coffee aromas layered with sassafras, cherry-plum yeast esters, and a hint of citrus-grapefruit suggestive of North American hops. At 40 IBUs, this off-dry beer is firmly but not overly bitter, with the hop notes of the bouquet joining forces with a toast, burnt caramel, and roasted coffee malt profile.

The Notorious OAT is a late winter seasonal stout that is as harmonious as it is intense. A hefty grain bill contributes 7.2% ABV along with aromas and flavours of roasted barley, toasted toffee, butterscotch, malted milk, maple syrup, and a wisp of smoke. Its relatively high level of carbonation for the style provides an effervescent accent to the licorice-like earthiness and light-roasted coffee, the latter of which provides a smooth bittering undercurrent that carries through the pleasant roasted grain and maple finish.

Clocking in at 8% ABV, Celebración Belgian Strong Ale is the strongest of Four Corners’ seasonal offerings.Celebracion Tap (fcbrewing FB) Spices take center stage in this beer that exudes complex aromas of ginger, nutmeg, a dash of cinnamon, orange blossom, chai tea, and mild caramel. The effervescent mélange of chai, molasses, gingerbread, caramel, and Christmas cake make this an ideal winter warmer that is, nonetheless, light-bodied and deftly articulated. I asked Porcari what kinds of spices go into the beer. Just one pound of ginger per barrel, he answered. The combination of Belgian malts and Belgian yeast does the rest. Eminently in line with Four Corner’s pragmatic approach to beer-making, I thought, even if more than a few of these might put a premature end to my afternoon drinking session.

Odds and Ends and Further Reading

IMG_9797The rooster logo: Cristi Brinkman, the artistic designer behind Four Corners’ beer labels and tap handles, translated the brewery’s name into a weather vane with the obligatory rooster perched on top. The cock’s crow is still endemic to the neighbourhood.

Peter Simek’s “Trinity Groves: The New Dallas Starts Here,” D-Magazine (January 2013) traces the outlines of the urban development controversy unfolding in West Dallas while detailing the interests and stakes of the various constituencies involved. http://www.dmagazine.com/publications/d-magazine/2013/january/trinity-groves-the-new-dallas-starts-here?single=1

A section of the West Dallas Chamber of Commerce’s website narrates the history of the area from the early 1800s through the present. http://www.westdallaschamber.com/west-dallas/index.html

The Environmental Protection Agency’s document, “RSR Corporation Superfund Site, Dallas, Dallas County, Texas: EPA Region 6, Congressional District 30” (updated June 2014) provides a brief encapsulation of the environmental contamination and clean-up of West Dallas. http://www.epa.gov/region6/6sf/pdffiles/rsr-tx.pdf

Image Credits

“Palatero” push cart: Courtesy of Four Corners Brewing Company

Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge: Courtesy of Four Corners Brewing Company

Local Buzz tap handle: Courtesy of Four Corners Brewing Company

Lotería Mexicana: Wikipedia

Lotería-like beer labels: F.D. Hofer

Four Corners exterior: Courtesy of Four Corners Brewing Company

Block Party in cans: Courtesy of Four Corners Brewing Company

Celebración Tap Handle: Courtesy of Four Corners Brewing Company

Rooster Logo: F.D. Hofer

© 2014  Franz D. Hofer. All Rights Reserved.

Wyoming’s Craft Beer Scene: A Snapshot from a Moving Vehicle

Cheyenne arrived after about fourteen hours on the road. It was Saturday evening, but the streets were still and quiet for a state capital and county seat.IMG_9810 We threaded our way into the center of town, stopping for the night at the Plains Hotel, a National Historic Landmark built in 1911 and redolent of more prosperous times.

In an earlier piece introducing this particular Tempest road trip from the southern center of the U.S. to the southwest of Canada, I posed a rhetorical question: What happens when you leave town on a long road trip without having done any research on the various brew scenes dotting your route? Cheyenne on this particular evening and Laramie on the following morning proved to be fitting, if contrasting, responses to this question.

The Plains Hotel is emblematic of a town trying to formulate a contemporary identity as many of its downtown architectural gems built around the turn of the twentieth century lie vacant.IMG_9833 “Whether it’s high-energy rodeo or the culture of high tea! Cheyenne has it all. Enjoy great shopping or take in the flavor of the west with our Frontier Days.” So declares one of the city’s official websites. At any rate, the town’s visual iconography favours buckskin and horses over high tea, followed closely by the railway of a bygone era. To be sure, Cheyenne is still a busy railroad junction, but the city’s former train station and railway depot – now home to one of the few craft beer-serving taproom/brewpubs in town – is a symbolic center that gestures nostalgically to a prosperity and vitality that had long since boarded the train and headed west. IMG_9837

On this Friday evening in April, 2014, Cheyenne evinces a palpable grittiness I haven’t felt since I visited Edmonton’s storied Strathcona Hotel in the White Avenue section of town, or took in a live-music show at the Ivanhoe in Vancouver’s Main and Terminal area before it was swept up in the highrise and condo real-estate boom. Long-haired, pierced and tattooed twenty-somethings leaned against seemingly abandoned buildings, shrouded in smoke. Everywhere the strains of harder-edged music. The first stage of gentrification? Probably not. That role has accrued to brewpubs and taprooms, I note sardonically. But that’s another and much longer story of urban renewal and its controversies.

Tonight – for better or for worse, depending on whether you’re a critical urban geographer or an intrepid twenty-first-century beer writer in search of a drink – I’m in a city that hasn’t experienced much in the way of late twentieth-century or early twenty-first-century urban renewal. Which means that the brewpub and taproom scene is, well, virtually non-existent. Or maybe just inchoate. The Freedom’s Edge Brewing Company was in the process of moving when we were in town, and the Shadows Pub and Grill was, inexplicably, out of all but one of their house-brewed beers.Shadows PubGrill The one they did have available – Big D’s Pale Ale – was pleasant if unassuming.Odell Cutthroat Porter (odellbrewing-com) Fortunately, though, the brewpub had outside offerings on tap, like Odell’s Cutthroat Porter, which went well with their hearty and reasonably-priced Bourbon Creek BBQ Burger. Indeed, burgers seem to be the brewpub’s strong suit, so if you wind up in Cheyenne in the mood for a burger and in need of something to wash it down, you could do worse, especially if you don’t mind a little NHL hockey on the screens dotting the bar.

Easter Sunday in Cheyenne translated into a dearth of caffeine options, so we saddled up and headed westward into the mountains in search of our A.M. java fix.IMG_1338 The interstate swept ever higher into the Rockies, the ubiquitous and intricately-latticed snowdrift breaks along the road hinting that these regions see more than a casual dusting of winter snow. About an hour later we found ourselves in the midst of a crisp and milky-hued late morning in Laramie, a high mountain plains town nestled between the Laramie and Snowy Ranges. Laramie is notable for its path-breaking stance on equal rights for women – in 1870, a resident became the first woman to cast a legal vote in a United States general election. The city has also attracted an unwanted notoriety as the site of the 1998 torture and murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming. That was several years ago now, but Laramie still conveys the impression of different demographics coexisting warily along parallel tracks.

Like the river and the county in Wyoming, Laramie takes its name from Jacques La Ramée (rendered alternately as La Remy),J LaRemy (geni-com) a French-Canadian fur trader who disappeared mysteriously in the woods round about 1820 or 1821 out on a trapping expedition. Until the completion of the first transcontinental railway in 1868, Laramie was a staging post along the Oregon Trail. It was, by some accounts, a rather unruly place. By 1880, Wyoming was a territory, but the town’s first mayor lasted a mere three weeks, declaring Laramie “ungovernable” before stepping down.

Today, Laramie’s Main Street area is adorned with brick facades fronting buildings from the area’s frontier hey-day, just like in Cheyenne. But unlike Cheyenne, Laramie’s small but vibrant downtown proved to be an ideal place for us to rustle up a decent cup of coffee on this fine Sunday.Coal Creek Exterior (website) Just off the main drag cutting a north-south axis through the center of town and brushing up against the train tracks, we happened upon Coal Creek Coffee Company, a café that draws an eclectic mix of young couples out for a morning stroll and students who had colonized tables with their books, clearly intent on a long afternoon of study.

While paying for our coffees and pastries, I inquired about local brewpubs and breweries should I find myself in the area again. The server directed my attention to a door that someone had just opened onto an adjacent room. Welcome to Coal Creek TAP, a then-five-week-old nano-brewery attached to the coffee company, open for business from noon on Easter no less. A serendipitous find indeed. And, with its white-tiled bar area, textured ochre walls, and subdued natural light, a very comfortable place for an early afternoon refreshment.IMG_9855 Colby, the assistant brewer, took us through their fine offerings, which included a well-rounded Belgian amber with fruity esters and a caramel-toast malt profile, a nutty and chocolaty brown ale with a hint of smokiness from the roasted malts, and a rich and flavourful double IPA featuring El Dorado and Simcoe hops.

Alas, we could linger in neither Laramie nor Wyoming, for we had arrangements to stay with a friend that evening in Logan, Utah. Had we have had more time, though, here’s a brief list of what Colby recommended: Altitude Chophouse and Brewery (also in Laramie), which took a gold medal at the 2014 World Beer Cup for their Altbier; Snake River Brewing in Jackson, WY, a two-time recipient of a GABF medal for Small Brewery of the Year and Wyoming’s oldest brewery; and Wind River Brewing Co. in Pinedale, WY, which also garnered a 2014 World Beer Cup medal for its porter.

So there you have it: if passing through Wyoming on the I-80 from east to west, stop in Cheyenne for a satisfying burger, but don’t expect a craft beer mecca. An hour further up the road and into the mountains is where the craft beer action begins. I’m already looking forward to our next road trip to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. Grand Teton Sign (Jackie and Leon)

Odds and Ends

If you visit Cheyenne, the Plains Hotel is a reasonably-priced accommodation option in spite of its opulent appearance – cheaper, in fact, than the anodyne chain motels that line the I-25 and the I-80 on the outskirts of town. A further word on that opulent appearance: the lobby has been carefully restored, but not the rooms. The trade-off for beds in the form of V-shaped valleys is a location about as central as one could ask for.

________________

Historical information on Laramie: Albany County Visitors’ Guide, Albany County Tourism Board, 2013.

Images:

Plains Hotel Lobby: F.D. Hofer

Wrangler Hotel and former railway station: F.D. Hofer

Plaza in Cheyenne: F.D. Hofer

Shadows Pub and Grill: www.shadowspubandgrill.com

Cutthroat Porter: www.odellbrewing.com

I-80, Wyoming: F.D. Hofer

Jacques La Remy: www.geni.com

Coal Creek Coffee Company: www.coalcreekcoffee.com

Coal Creek TAP: F.D. Hofer

Grand Tetons: Courtesy of Jackie and Leon Lee

Save

A Bavarian in Texas: Franconia Brewing Company

Dennis Wehrmann brewed his first batch of beer at twelve years of age and never looked back. Many begin their brewing careers with a motley collection of pans, buckets, and hoses, and at a much older age at that. Not Wehrmann. He brewed his first batch on a thirty-barrel system.

That this should come to pass was, perhaps, preordained, for Wehrmann is the latest in a long line of brewers stretching back to the early nineteenth century in his native Franconia.100-2890_IMG His mother holds a degree in brewing sciences, and his uncles are still active in the Bavarian brewing scene. But Wehrmann, who apprenticed with Neumarkter Lammsbräu before taking over the reins of the Altstadthof brewpub in the castle district of Nürnberg, chafed under the burden of running both the food and beverage ends of the brewpub.

(On a personal note, long before I made Wehrmann’s acquaintance, I spent a relaxing evening at that very same Altstadthof after a long and taxing day conducting research for an entirely different project at the Documentation Center for the Nuremberg Rallies of the Nazi Party.)

Taking his leave of this timbered Franconian city famous as the birthplace of Albrecht Dürer and infamous for its unfortunate run-in with the history of the Third Reich,Albrecht Duerer - Selfporitrait (Wiki) Wehrmann set off for the United States with his wife. And like so many Germans before him, he ended up in Texas. Even if Wehrmann is the first brewer in his family to fire up a brew kettle outside of Bavaria, though, his Texan beers are German-inspired through and through. No donut and bacon beers here.

Franconia Brewing Company maintains a relatively low profile on the Texas beer scene, but is worth a detour off the I-35 north of Dallas, especially if you identify with the kind of brewer who studiously avoids the latest fads in craft beer. Indeed, Wehrmann – a colourful character with an impish grin – is charmingly fanatic in his denunciation of high IBUs and the recent trend toward sour beer and barrel aging.IMG_0072 High hop rates? “The easy way out!” exclaims Wehrmann. Barrel aging? “Bad beer in, good beer out. You can’t go wrong!” Sour beers? Don’t even get him started. He dismisses these good beers gone bad with an impatient wave of his hand: “We have to ask ourselves why this particular beer is sour.” Only sour beers “done right” – a Berliner Weisse, for example – pass muster.

Instead, Wehrmann and his cheerful band of brewers at Franconia Brewing Company choose to submit themselves to the rigours of the German Reinheitsgebot (Purity Law). If you’re like me and you have a soft spot for Hefeweizen, Munich Helles, Kölsch, Munich Dunkel, Rauchbier, Festbier, Bock, and Doppelbock, you are in luck. Even Franconia’s limited-edition beers – an Oatmeal Stout here, a Double IPA there – are brewed with German yeast and left to lager for a time. Patience is the name of the game at Franconia. As per Reinheitsgebot strictures, all of their beers are naturally carbonated – a leisurely step that adds another two weeks, on average, to the brewing schedule.

Catering to the drinking needs of northern Texas for the past six years now, Franconia was only the second craft brewery to open in the Dallas metroplex area after Rahr set up shop in Fort Worth.Franconia Beers (Examiner-FB) The brewery began bottling its year-round offerings six months ago, and has expanded its distribution throughout Texas. Its flagship beers include a Kölsch, a Hefeweizen (labeled simply as Franconia Wheat), and a Dunkel. The summery and crisp-finishing Kölsch presents spicy aromas reminiscent of coriander underneath fruity tones of stone fruit (peach) and floral lemon. White pepper and a pleasant minerality accentuate blanched almond and bready Pilsener malt flavours. Wheat comprises sixty percent of the Hefeweizen’s malt palette, lending a subtle pepperiness and citrusy orange tang to the mild banana, almond, and light brown sugar notes. Franconia’s ruby-brown Dunkel hews in the direction of a Schwarzbier, combining dark caramel and coffee notes with a hint of smoke. Creamy and mildly bitter, this malt-forward beer is surprisingly refreshing.

Other seasonals that Wehrmann poured for me included a Weizenbock as rich as dark banana bread but leavened by a green apple-like acidity. Another, a whimsical smoked Weizen, bore a resemblance to the year-round Hefeweizen, with an enhanced malt sweetness and a smokiness suggesting air-dried ham.

If Wehrmann’s adherence to the Reinheitsgebot and his aversion to contemporary trends in craft brewing might strike some observers as quaintly traditional, his approach to Franconia’s environmental impact is positively cutting-edge.IMG_0074 Wehrmann is proud of his accomplishments, and with good reason. His days at Neumarkter Lammsbräu, a brewery at the forefront of organic and green brewing practices, made a deep impression on him. Right from the beginning, Franconia’s 6000 square-foot brewery was conceived with an eye toward green technology. Aside from bottles, the brewery is a waste-free facility. Like many craft breweries, Wehrmann hands off his spent grain to local farmers. And like a smaller number of craft breweries, Wehrmann strives to reuse as much water as possible – eighty-five percent, in Franconia’s case. But he surpasses most other craft breweries in his commitment to renewable energy resources, firing his brewhouse with solar energy, powering it with a bio-fuel electricity generation system, and capturing as much energy from the brewing process as possible for re-use. Wehrmann has been so successful in his endeavours that he is not only self-sufficient in terms of his energy needs, but also sells excess power back to the grid.  Franconia TourFranconia Brewing Company is located about forty-five minutes north of Dallas in the town of McKinney, and is easy to find from I-35, Hwy 380, and Hwy 75. Two-hour tours of the facility take place every Saturday morning at 11:00. Tours cost $5, and include samples of the good stuff. No reservation necessary.

________

Images:

Altstadthof, Nürnberg: photo by F.D. Hofer

Albrecht Dürer, Self-Portrait at Twenty-Eight Years Old Wearing a Coat with Fur Collar: Wikipedia

Dennis Wehrmann, Owner and Master Brewer, Franconia Brewing Co.: photo by F.D. Hofer

Bottles of Franconia Beer: courtesy of Franconia’s Facebook page/www.examiner.com

Franconia’s green energy system: photo by F.D. Hofer

Franconia tour ad: courtesy of Franconia’s Facebook page

Rogness: A Plethora of Beers from Pflugerville, Texas

Photo by author.

Photo by author.

I first met Forrest and Diane Rogness at last year’s Great American Beer Festival. I was “exploring” the less-beaten paths of the festival when a place name caught my eye: Pflugerville. I had lived on a street called Pflügerstrasse while living in the Neukölln district of Berlin, so I was immediately intrigued. (Narrowing down tasting options at the GABF sometimes comes down to these kinds of serendipitous coincidences.) The couple were pouring their Rogtoberfest, a style of which I’m particularly fond, so I had even more reason to stop by the booth. The rest of their full-flavoured beers made a significant impression amid the sea of beer that was flowing that weekend, and I made a note to pay their brewery a visit if in Austin some day. That day came sooner than expected. All the better.

Pflugerville got its start in the mid-1800s when a German immigrant, Henry Pflüger, settled in the area with his family. An erstwhile wealthy farmer in his native land, Pflüger lost his holdings in the wake of the turmoil surrounding the First Schleswig War. After fleeing the conflict and journeying across an ocean and into the heart of a continent, Pflüger and his family put their skills to work raising corn, wheat, rye, sweet potatoes, sugar cane, and cattle. Texas seemed a safe bet for the Pflügers to start anew. Relatives had arrived in the area before him as part of a wave of immigration that saw ethnic Germans comprise more than five percent of the population of Texas by 1850. The descendents of Pflüger and other Germans attracted to the area built up a small but thriving community that witnessed the establishment of a Lutheran church in 1875 and the arrival of the Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad in 1904. But the Great Depression dealt the town a blow from which it almost didn’t recover. By 1949, a mere 250 souls inhabited Pflugerville.

Fast forward to the new millennium. Sited about fifteen miles northeast of Austin, the community benefitted handsomely from that city’s astounding growth in recent years. Pflugerville now boasts pfun for the whole pfamily. (No, I didn’t make that up – the town even has a newspaper called the Pflugerville Pflag.) And, since March 2012, Pflugerville has its own brewery – Rogness Brewing Company – located right on the seam separating light industry from pastoral fields.

The Rognesses are no strangers to brewing. The couple took up homebrewing in 1990 while working together at a camera shop in Iowa City. Upon landing in Austin later in the decade, the Rognesses purchased (and still own) Austin Homebrew Supply, for which they have developed over a thousand recipes as part of their beer kits. That experimental homebrewing ethos makes for some refreshing surprises that buoy quite an array of perennials, seasonals, and limited edition beers spanning both beloved and underrepresented styles.

Source: Rogness Website

Source: Rogness Website

Take, for example, the Yogi. Diane Rogness can’t go very long without a cup of chai. And daily samples of beer come with the territory of owning a brewery and homebrew shop. Why not combine some of the typical spices of chai with an amber beer, she thought? The result is a potpourri of peppery cinnamon, clove, and ginger intermingling with Belgian yeast aromatics and rich caramel.

A touch of southern France graces the Rogness saison, Joie d’été, a beer that also pays tribute to the long summers of Texas. True to their desire to brew unique beers that don’t sacrifice that all-important element of balance, the Rognesses have managed a deft saison with mild aromas of lemon zest and just the slightest hint of lavender. (I think I might just toss a dash of lavender in the next witbier or saison I brew.)

If the saison evokes warm breezes rippling through Provençal lavender fields, the Raspberry Tenebrous Stout is a beer to drink in praise of shadows. Raspberries add a ray of brightness to classic dry stout notes of roast barley and dark chocolate crisply accented with espresso bitterness.

A porter, pale ale, IPA, Scotch ale, and even a bière de garde round out the beers regularly available at the tasting room and in 22 oz. bottles available locally and in other Texas metropolitan areas. Though I didn’t sample it myself, the Rogness Shandy was also popular among the tasting crew that accompanied me to the brewery. Coming soon (pending label approval) is the second in their limited edition series, Sophina. A sour mash promises to deliver a tart zing counteracted by caramelized pineapple added after fermentation.

Courtesy of Rogness

                              Courtesy of Rogness

In the time since it opened its doors, Rogness Brewing Company has become a community hub for the surrounding exurbs of Austin. Recent changes to the laws regulating the sale and distribution of alcohol in Texas has translated into a tasting room where you can buy beers for drinking during their weekly events nights, or for enjoying the early evening with friends in the beer garden. (No growler fills to go in Texas yet. Still, that’s much better than the situation in neighbouring Oklahoma. Slowly do those legislative wheels grind.)

Rogness - Yappy HourTrivia nights are popular, as are the monthly firkin nights and the recently-inaugurated “Yappy Hour” for well-behaved four-legged friends. Thanks to the generosity of a local independent cinema that passes along films to Rogness, Saturday evenings feature independent and documentary film screenings right in the brewhouse. Recent screenings include Cinema 6 and Beer Hunter: The Movie, a documentary about the pioneering beer writer, Michael Jackson. Films are free. The Rognesses frequently donate the partial proceeds from a given event night’s beer sales to charities, a few of which have included Pflugerville Pets Alive and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. So you can drink rest-assured that you’re imbibing for a good cause.

Rogness recently upgraded from a seven-barrel system to a thirty-barrel system to meet growing demand for their beers. Barrel-aging is also on the horizon, with the couple currently considering a quarterly funk release. And as if Forrest and Diane Rogness don’t already have enough to do with an increasingly popular brewery and a thriving homebrew shop, the two have already begun work on their cidery in the warehouse next door. Named after a mythical shape-shifting seal from Iceland, look for a dry and off-dry cider from Selkie Cidery to hit the market at some point in 2014.

__________

Odd lots:

Image Courtesy of Rogness

Image Courtesy of Rogness

  • The Rognesses sell soap that a local craftsperson has made based on inspiration from their Yogi, Ost, and Joie d’été beers.
  • The artwork that adorns the tasting room walls? Those pieces issue from the hand of their daughter, who, at eight years of age, already knows that the main ingredients of beer are grain, hops, water, and yeast.

_________

Sources:

  • For the historical background influencing Pflüger’s decision to emigrate to the United States, you can consult the German Historical Institute’s German History in Documents and Images website. The section entitled “From Vormärz to Prussian Dominance, 1815-1866” gives a brief contextual snapshot of Central Europe at the time.
  • On the history of Pflugerville’s development, see this section of the official Pflugerville website.
  • The Texas Historical Association’s website has an informative article on the development of the “German Belt” that ran from the humid Coastal Plain near Houston to the Hill Country outside of Austin.

Crystal Springs and the Music Teacher Turned Brewer

Crystal Springs Brewing Company is a veteran newcomer on Colorado’s Front Range brewing scene. Veteran because Tom Horst and family have been brewing popular beers out of their garage for the past four years in Sunshine Canyon, a scenic drive into the mountains west of Boulder. Newcomer because the Horst family moved their operation into a new and larger-capacity facility on the other side of Boulder in the autumn of 2013.

Though both the garage brewery and the Louisville taproom are of recent vintage, the name of the brewery harks back to local nineteenth-century brewing lore.

Image Source: Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, Boulder CO

Image Source: Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, Boulder CO

In 1875, two German brothers-in-law, Frank Weisenhorn and Charles Voegtle, purchased a site overlooking Boulder Creek near where the Boulder Public Library stands today. With fresh mountain spring water flowing past in abundance, the Boulder City Brewery (precursor to the historical Crystal Springs Brewing and Ice Company) began servicing the drinking needs of local residents. Reports from the time confirm that their lagers and bocks commanded respect. Upon sampling beer from the kegs the in-laws brought on promotional tours to the town newspapers, writers there averred that they could “speak from actual knowledge when we assert that it is the best ever presented to this market.”

When Samuel Pell bought the brewery around 1900, he changed the name to Crystal Springs Brewing and Ice Company. In case you’re wondering about the reference to ice, Weisenhorn and Voegtle were, of course, brewing in the days before the advent of electrical refrigeration. Crystal Springs - Bottle (historical)Massive blocks of ice were needed to keep the beer cold during fermentation and lagering in the concrete cellars built into their new brewery. By the time Pell purchased the brewery, the pair had constructed an onsite ice pond and ice house.

Alas, Crystal Springs Brewing and Ice Company did not survive Prohibition, but Tom Horst is bent on assuring that the legacy lives on in his reiteration of Crystal Springs, even if he doesn’t brew lagers and bocks or cut blocks of ice from a pond. In what was a nano brewery before the term took hold, Horst began brewing up beers in his “two-thirds-barrel brewery,” many of which live on as staples at the new brewery and taproom in Louisville, CO. The smaller scale suited him well initially, for it meant that he didn’t have to quit his day job as band director and music teacher at Boulder High School. But demand for his Doc’s Porter, Summertime Ale, Tic Wit, and Black Saddle Imperial Stout convinced Horst that it was time to share his brewing music with a larger audience.

When I arrived for my visit on an early October morning with the autumn foliage of the Front Range in full splendour against the backdrop of the Rocky Mountain foothills, Horst was getting accustomed to the larger brewing system and putting the finishing touches on the tasting room. I sat down for a few samples after touring the newly-operational facilities and noticed the logo gracing the mats under the sampling glasses: a flying eagle grasping a numbered cask. The eagle is a direct historical reference to the former incarnation of Crystal Springs, but what of the ostensibly unlucky numeral emblazoned on the barrelhead of that cask clasped firmly in the eagle’s talons, I wondered? Crystal Springs - Logo (large)As it turns out, the number thirteen is a number that recurs with such reassuring regularity in the lives of the Horst family as to suggest its auspiciousness. Horst was born on the thirteenth, and so too was his son, granddaughter, and even a niece who shares his birthday. And there are subsequent details surrounding the number thirteen sure to inhabit the realm of apocrypha when next century’s craft beer enthusiasts and historians speak of Crystal Springs. During the design and layout stage of the taproom, Horst and company found that exactly thirteen of their chosen bar stools would fit around the bar. Even before that, Horst’s wife, Kristy, was curious about the commute between their Sunshine Canyon home and the new brewery and taproom in Louisville. Exactly thirteen miles.

Crystal Springs’ beers have names as colourful as the brewery’s ancient and recent history. Stage House 1899, a beer brewed exclusively for Boulder’s Kitchen Restaurant, pays tribute to the history of the building – an erstwhile tavern – in which the restaurant is housed. Marilyn is named after Horst’s mother. marilyn lablelRelates Horst: “It’s a golden strong, and so is she. The caricature of a girl in a bathing suit on the label is taken from a picture taken of her in 1942 when she was eighteen years old.” Solano is a beer reminiscent of summer. A solana is a terrace or garden oriented to take advantage of the sun, and the name evokes both the original brewery in Sunshine Canyon and the locally-sourced chilies from Weber, CO, that radiate heat in the beer. (Horst admits that the transliteration crept in at the time of their TTB label application. So now Solano it is.) Uncle Fat recalls Horst’s grandma’s portly brothers, at whose knees Horst had his first samples of homemade beer and dandelion wine. And Horst’s flagship, Doc’s Porter? The high school music teacher happens to hold a Ph.D. in Musical Arts from the University of Iowa, and his students have been calling him Doc for over thirty years.

Horst is also a self-styled maestro of beer and food pairings. As he puts it, Crystal Springs’ Kölsch-style Summertime Ale “gets along well with so many types of foods,” including mild cheeses, lasagna, light fish dishes, salads with citrus-based dressings, and sausages straight from the grill. Horst is also a fan of chocolate and beer pairings, and suggests trying the Southridge Amber with chocolate or as a counterpoint to salted caramel. Crystal Springs’ Black Saddle Imperial Stout also complements a panoply of rich chocolate desserts, but you could easily turn it into an adult float by adding ice cream. Speaking of icy after-dinner treats, Horst counsels whipping up a batch of Doc’s Porter Ice Cream. You can find the recipe here, along with other beer and food pairings.

The taproom at Crystal Springs has been open since mid-October 2013, and has been attracting craft beer drinkers with a creative mix of weekly sports screenings (this is Broncos territory, after all) and events that reflect Horst’s background in pedagogy. Crystal Springs periodically offers discounts to Horst’s former students, and Faculty Friday has drawn an ever-larger number of area teachers and University of Colorado faculty. If you’re a teacher or university faculty member travelling through the Rockies or in the area for a conference, be sure to stop by. Located at 675 S. Taylor Ave, Unit E, Louisville CO, 80027, the taproom serves up beers between Tuesday and Saturday, 4pm-9pm (closing at 8pm on Saturdays). Happy Hour happens from 4pm-6pm, Tuesday through Friday. AHA (American Homebrewers’ Association) members receive a ten-percent discount at all times, and educators with valid IDs receive Happy Hour prices all night on Faculty Fridays.

____________________

Tasting Notes:

SR3Horst and company were in the midst of transitioning their production from the garage brewery to the new facility on the day of my visit, so I wasn’t able to try their full range of beers. Here’s a quick sampling of some the beers I did taste.

  • South Ridge Amber is one of Crystal Springs’ flagships and is available regionally in cans. Solidly in the American brewing tradition, this refreshing amber derives its fullness from crystal and Munich malts, and features a liberal sprinkling of Chinook, Cascade, Centennial, Amarillo, and Zythos hops.
  • The Summertime Ale started life as a seasonal offering, but quickly became popular enough to merit year-round production. It has all the delicate fruitiness of a German-style Kölsch, with pear and citrus notes combining with a peppery spiciness reminiscent of Cabernet Franc.
  • Using Doc’s Porter as its base, the aromatic Rum Barrel-Aged Porter (limited edition seasonal) is one to drink on the warm side of cellar temperature. The profile is bold: roasted malt, espresso, and earthy dark chocolate balanced by a touch of acidity and infused with warming rum.

Attributions:

Creative History: A Guide for Researching Local History is more localized than the name of the website would indicate, focusing primarily on Boulder and its environs. As part of their “Closer Look” spotlight on local industries such as mining, railroads, agriculture, and flour milling, the site features an article on brewing that informed much of my section on the history of Crystal Springs.

Historical Crystal Springs Image Information: The Illustration drawn by Joseph Sturtevant dates from around 1905, and shows the approximate layout of the brewery and ice house. Source: Carnegie Branch Library for Local History, Boulder Historical Society Collection, 207-1-25