Category Archives: What’s Fermenting This Month?

Tasting events, beer dinners, tap take-overs, and festivals in a locale near you.

Celebrating Craft Lager Day with a Landbier from Kapsreiter

Grab your tankards and beer steins, folks, it’s National Craft Lager Day! Judging by what I could glean from the chatter circulating on the interwebs, this latest in the line of XYZ beer days appears to have been dreamt up by the marketing department of Sam Adams.

No matter. Lager deserves more respect than it gets on this continent where craft beer enthusiasts sometimes confuse IBU levels and high-octane ABV with quality. In the rush to embrace the newest discovery, or the boldest, most extreme rendition of a style, novice and veteran craft beer drinkers alike have a tendency to overlook the subtleties of lager. If you need convincing on this point, BeerAdvocate’s ongoing “Top 250” is a particularly instructive read, as are many of the “Best of” beer lists that appear with soporific regularity. It doesn’t help matters much either that lager suffers from an image problem of continental proportions owing to its association with Bud, Miller, and Coors.

The result? Lager gets left out in the cold.Ice Cold Beer

Bad puns aside, raise your hand if you know what distinguishes a lager from an ale. No worries if you don’t – you’re not alone. Yours truly used to consume all beers with equally gleeful abandon until relatively recently. And according to the Samuel Adams infographic compiled for National Craft Lager Day (see below), sixty-three percent of Americans over the age of twenty-one do not know the difference between lager and ale. (Thirty-seven percent apparently do. Not bad at all.)

Cold “lagering” temperatures constitute part of the difference between lagers and ales. “Lagern” in German means to store. Historically, this meant stowing beer away for a stretch in frigid alpine caves. The other difference has to do with yeast, which, in turn, is related to fermentation and lagering temperatures. Isolated in the nineteenth century, Saccharomyces pastorianus (formerly carlsbergensis) is the yeast that yields lager; Saccharomyces cervesiae is lager’s opposite number in the ale world. Lager yeast prefers cooler fermentation temperatures (5-13º C; 40-55º F), and requires a period of cold-conditioning. Thanks to the yeast and the longer process, lager is sometimes smooth, sometimes crisp, and nearly always clean-tasting if done well. Ale yeast prefers warmer temperatures (18-22º C; 64-72º F), and the resulting beer is ready to drink within a shorter period of time. Those fruity aromas reminiscent of dark cherry, plum, apple, pear, apricot, or dried fruit? That’s likely the particular strain of S. cerevisae yeast showing its character.

The takeaway: lagers are (usually) more subtle than their ale cousins. And subtle does not necessarily mean “fizzy, yellow, and bland,” the majority of mass-produced lagers notwithstanding.

To celebrate the “canonization” of lager with its very own feast day, I’m going to deliberately ignore the “national” modifier of Craft Lager Day to introduce you to a style of beer that doesn’t often wash up on these North American shores: Landbier (“country beer”). Landbier is an easy-drinking, everyday table beer that is hopped with a light hand. It comes in filtered or unfiltered versions, is often golden-yellow, and steps over to the dark side from time to time. ABV is in the modest 4.8%-5.3% range, making the beer a quaffable reward for a hard day’s work.

Kapsreiter Landbier hails from the Upper Austrian baroque frontier town of Schärding overlooking the Inn River. Kapsreiter Landbier CoasterThis country beer’s crystal-clear honey-golden colour hints at the toasty malt and nuanced honey sweetness within. Aromas of country bread, Swiss milk caramel, and fresh cream give way to earthy herbal-fennel accents suggestive of hops. Creamy and of medium body, the toasted malt and caramel interweave with nuts and mild earthy licorice, and a touch of apple carries through to the pleasant almond-apple finish. Balanced and harmonious, mildly hopped yet deceptively rich and satisfying, this is not a beverage that will hit you over the head. But at a manageable 5.3% ABV, it would make an agreeable picnic companion underneath the canopy of a chestnut tree on a breezy spring day. Drink this one cool but not cold, and think wistfully of April.

Sam Adams CraftLagerDay Info 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 2013 F. D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Accoutrements and Provisions for the Classy Imbiber

Aside from puzzling over gifts for those of my friends who scorn the pleasures of barley and hops, holiday shopping for me is fairly straightforward: buy beer. Beyond the eminently sound gift of beer, however, lies a whole realm of possibilities. Part One of this short series on holiday gift ideas is sure to keep the Bookworm Beer Enthusiast occupied between sips. (For those of you who missed Part One, it’s here.) Part Two of the series puts some of those ideas to work.

As with Part One, so too with Part Two: I’m going to assume that not all readers are avid homebrewers. But why not become one? Homebrew kits come in all shapes and sizes. Most kits will get you started for just shy of $100, sans ingredients. Chances are there’s a homebrew shop near you, but if not, a number of reputable outfits will ship to you, including Midwest Supplies, Northern Brewer, Austin Homebrew Supply, MoreBeer, High Gravity, and Brooklyn Brewshop.

If cash and space are restricted commodities, you can get friends and family members brewing up batches of IPA in a Manhattan-sized studio apartment with some of the one-gallon kits available on the market. One-Gallon Kit 1If the recipient doesn’t like the hobby, at least the person will have a cool one-gallon jug and a batch of beer to drink. But these kits generally suffer from one very major drawback: no hydrometer. I began my brewing adventures on just such a kit, and promptly brewed up a batch of bottle rockets. Hubris had gotten the better of me. If I can cook, surely I can brew. Who needs a hydrometer? Let’s just say it wouldn’t hurt to read up a bit – especially about the importance of hydrometers – before whipping up your first batch. (See the Papazian gift suggestion from Part One). If vendors of these otherwise convenient little kits are reading, just stick a hydrometer in with the package! It won’t make the kit any less affordable. And it might keep someone from losing an eye.

For those who like to experiment with food and beer pairings, Lebkuchen from Leckerlee in NYC makes a unique addition to the epicure’s repertoire. Lebkuchen is a seasonal baked good that originated with the Franconian monks of the Middle Ages. Somewhat akin to gingerbread, regional bakers keep their wares distinct with honey, aniseed, coriander, cloves, allspice, almonds, or candied fruit. Leckerlee LebkuchenLebkuchen is a fixture of many a Christkindlmarkt stall across the Germanic countries at this time of year, where the aromas of Lebkuchen mingle with mulled wine. The baker behind Leckerlee’s Lebkuchen went straight to the Franconian source for inspiration, spending a year developing her recipe for Nürnberger Lebkuchen. Now those of us on this side of the pond can find Lebkuchen that complements the rich, caramelized fruit-accented malt notes of a German Doppelbock. Barley wines and Scotch ales from the other side of the North Sea also make nice drinking mates for Lebkuchen.

Coffee and Lebkuchen sometimes find themselves dining at the same table, too. If that’s the case where you reside, a mug from Planet Beer will signal to others that you haven’t given up on the malted fermentables.

And what’s a good lager or ale without a decent drinking vessel? Normally I’d recommend proper glassware, but a glass-bottomed tankard introduces a sprinkle of historical legend into your pintly partakings. Tankard - Classic PewterThe glass bottoms ostensibly played a role in avoiding military conscription in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain. As legend has it, recruiters pressed the unsuspecting into service through a number of subterfuges, including placing a shilling in the bottom of a tankard. This “King’s shilling” was a form of earnest payment (a deposit of sorts) given to potential recruits who agreed to enlist in the Royal Navy. If the drinker drank deep of the draft, he “took the King’s shilling,” unwittingly sealing his agreement to enlist. The glass bottom allowed the wilier denizens of the dockside taverns to “refuse the King’s schilling.” Alas, I don’t yet have a logo for A Tempest in a Tankard, but check back next year for tankards festooned with something fitting. In the meantime, Amazon lists plenty of purveyors of these prized drinking vessels.

© 2013. F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Gift Ideas for the Craft Beer-Drinking Bookworm

In many a craft beer-drinking clime, falling snow and frosted windowpanes herald the coming of the holiday season. If you’re a craft beer enthusiast or homebrewer, chances are you’ve filled up your holiday wishlist with beers to carry you through the winter season and gadgets aplenty to augment your home brewhouse. But maybe you know a kitchen virtuoso who could round out his or her repertoire with some beer-themed dinner pairings, or maybe you have a friend who needs a little encouragement to take plunge into homebrewing.

Since I’m a loyal devotee of the printed word, the first in this short series on holiday gift ideas is geared toward the Bookworm Beer Enthusiast.

Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont’s coffee table book, The World Atlas of Beer: The Essential Guide to the Beers of the World (2012), fills the void left by Michael Jackson (no, not that Michael Jackson) with an aesthetically appealing journey through the wonderland of contemporary beerdom. The World Atlas of Beer, by Tim Webb and Stephen Beaumont. (Supplied)Opening with a salvo of useful tips on buying, storing, serving, and tasting beer, the authors introduce readers to the origins of beer, the different styles of beer, and the elective affinities between beer and food. Thus provisioned, the journey begins, making calls at familiar harbours of brewing before setting off for distant shores. Rounding out the images of landscapes, breweries, labels, and posters is a judicious selection of beers to slake the traveler’s thirst.

As the quality of beer offerings has begun to rival wine, that consummate friend of food, it’s no surprise that craft beer types have begun to pay more attention to pairing the tastes and aromas of beer with what’s on the plate. Brooklyn Brewery maestro, Garrett Oliver, obliges those who want to go well beyond beer and bratwurst, offering up a cornucopia of pairing possibilities in his The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food (2003). Books - BrewmastersTable 2Got a Rodenbach Grand Cru you’d like to feature with dinner? Oliver lets you know why this particular beer complements game, “especially wild wood pigeon and partridge.” Rodenbach is round and sweet on the palate, “with caramelized malts quickly countered by firm acidity. Sherry, fruit, and oak play through the juicy center to a long sweet-and-sour finish.” No wild wood pigeon in your neighbourhood? No problem. Gamey liver patés will do just fine, as will tangy dishes like ceviche and pickled herring.

North Americans have developed of late a salutary penchant for savouring beer as part of those special moments with friends and family, but fewer have paused to ask where all these fine ales and lagers came from. Maureen Ogle’s Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer (2006) takes us back to the summer of 1844 and a bustling, growing city in Wisconsin Territory to trace the humble beginnings of Schlitz and Pabst. Books - AmbitiousBrew 1From Milwaukee, her tale travels down the Mississippi to the St. Louis home of Anheuser-Busch, setting the stage for the dueling ambitions of nineteenth-century industrial brewing magnates. In what amounts to a Hegelian narrative, we read about the rise of the temperance movement and learn how Prohibition intersected with anti-immigrant sentiment directed at the predominantly German-American brewing community. The Prohibition beast vanquished, a new antithesis arrives on the scene in the guise of the intrepid craft brewer who does battle with the corporate brands grown fat and bland off the post-Prohibition feeding frenzy of consolidation. No reservations in giving away the ending, for we drinkers of fine beverages already know how the new heroes – tenacious innovators like Fritz Maytag (Anchor), Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada), Jim Koch (Boston Brewing Company/Samuel Smith) – touched off the craft beer revolution.

And that very revolution sent many of us back into our kitchens and garages, feeding attempts at concocting our own steady supply of fresh beer. The books on homebrewing are by now fairly legion. Some serve particular niches (like Stan Hieronymus’s graceful Brew Like a Monk dedicated to trappist, abbey, and Belgian strong ales), while others (such as Jamil Zainasheff’s Brewing Classic Styles or Ray Daniels’ Designing Great Beers) elevate homebrewing to the next level. But I’m going to assume that not everyone reading Tempest is a homebrewer. Or it might be that you know a homebrewer who just purchased his or her first kit. Whatever the case, the book that set many a brewer down the path of no return is Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing. Books - JoyHomebrew 1The third edition (2003) of this classic contains many useful – and some positively quaint – DIY suggestions, with recipes for several beer styles that will help launch your brewing career. Just enough of the science behind this mad alchemy assures that you won’t brew too many bottle rockets, and a light touch runs throughout, epitomized by Papazian’s motto: “Relax. Don’t Worry. Have a Homebrew.”

I think I’ll do just that.

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Next up: Accoutrements for the Classy Imbiber

© 2013 F.D. Hofer and A Tempest in a Tankard. All Rights Reserved.

Fridays’ Liquiforic Links Round-Up

It’s that time of year in the U.S. again when the Thanksgiving feast gives way to food comas and the occasional hangover. And Black Friday.

If carousing with the host of crazed Black Friday shoppers is not your thing, do what many a craft brewery has been encouraging you to do: relax at home, all the better with a decent beer or two. Or head over to one of your many local craft breweries pouring pints or filling Black Friday growlers.

Recently-featured Abandon Beer Company will be serving up their Black Friday Ale at Finger Lakes Distilling on nearby Seneca Lake. Black Currant Amber and Walnut Brown Ale are also available at their taproom, also open today.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152104576758974&set=a.129205653973.130546.58110473973&type=1&relevant_count=1

Another brewery that has been featured in these pages, Grimm Brothers, is hosting their “Daddy Daycare” event, featuring the release of their Ungrateful Son, a grapefruit-infused amber dry hopped with Cascade.

https://www.facebook.com/events/657628880956608/

According to American Automobile Association estimates, some 43.4 million Americans will have taken to the roads, rails, or airways in search of turkey, mashed potatoes, and good cheer among friends and family. If you’re traveling home by air, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to find yourself holed up for a spell in one of these nine craft beer ports featured in Draft Magazine:

http://draftmag.com/features/4-layovers-youll-love/

http://draftmag.com/features/5-airports-with-craft-beer/

During those airport stopovers or time spent as a passenger while en route to the home stretch down to the holiday season, here’s some listmania for you: Wine Enthusiast’s “2013 Top 25 Beers.” Unsurprisingly over-subscribed on the IPA front, the top beer does, at least, offer an interesting twist.

http://buyingguide.winemag.com/toplists/2013/beers