Tag Archives: Wyoming

Tempest Turns Nine Months Young: An Index of Writing to Date

Cue up all the old clichés about time’s swift passage, for it has been three-quarters of a year now since I posted my first article on A Tempest in a Tankard. Thanks for all the support over these past several months! I’ve learned plenty from all of your insightful comments.IMG_9931 I’ve also learned much just by traveling around to do the interviews and research for Tempest’s articles, to say nothing of the people I’ve met who have led some fascinating lives. No two brewers took the same journey to their brew kettles and fermenters.

On the occasion of Tempest’s nine-month birthday, I’m putting together an index of articles that I’ve written to date. I’ve decided to do this for a few reasons. First and foremost, I’d like to introduce newer readers of Tempest to some of the previous articles buried deep in the virtual archives of the blog.

Second, I don’t really write pieces that are “of the moment.” I’d like to think that much of what I write––brewery profiles, travelogues, recipes, reflections on craft beer and culture, beer evaluations––has utility beyond the few days after I post it. Blogs are sequential by nature, making navigation difficult even with the aid of the categories listed across the top of Tempest’s home page.IMG_0153 Pieces written months ago tend to get lost under the weight of a temporality that favours the most recent post.

Finally, I don’t usually write my serial posts sequentially, so an index will give me the opportunity to group series pieces together––and will give you the opportunity to read them as a series, if you so choose. With a few weeks left of summer travel, the regional spotlights and brewery profiles are particularly timely.

I’ll post this index in two installments. First on deck is a list of my articles on beer and culture, together with my regional spotlights. Next up: a list of my brewery profiles and beer reviews, along with recipes I’ve posted to date for those interested in cooking and food/beverage pairings.

If you haven’t already signed up to have A Tempest in a Tankard’s articles delivered via e-mail, please consider subscribing so you can read the articles as they’re posted. Cheers!

Reflections on Beer and Culture

Never the Twain Shall Meet?

My very first article for A Tempest in a Tankard, one that I posted when I had all of three regular visitors to the site. The article answers a provocation unleashed by another beer blogger on the occasion of a monthly beer writers’ forum called The Session. The question: “What the hell has America done to beer?, AKA, USA versus Old World Beer Culture.”

Celebration Time? Women in the Craft Beer World

Times, they are a changing, but the gender gap is still quite wide in the craft beer world, especially on the marketing end. I’d be rich if I had a dollar for every time someone told me that women prefer fruity beers.

Drinking Lager in an Age of Extreme Taste

A few thoughts on how our taste is shaped by trends and tastemakers. I don’t mind hops, and Imperial Stouts are up there among my favourite beer styles. But by indulging our drive toward ever more intense and novel flavours, we have, perhaps, devalued more subtle beer styles in the process.

Terroir and the Making of Beer into Wine

Guest writer Kevin Goldberg’s insightful piece debunking the notion of terroir, which generated so much interesting discussion that I wasn’t able to confine my own response to the comments section of the article.

The following three articles approach the notion of place and locality from different angles. A fourth piece will appear at some point that redeems some elements of the notion of beer and place.

Of Isinglass and Other Fine Additives

This response to the “Food Babe’s” article on the “shocking” ingredients in beer is my most widely-read piece to date, likely because the issue of fish bladder in beer flares up at regular intervals on the interwebs.

Celebrating Craft Lager Day

As much as it is an article on a particular beer (Kapsreiter Landbier), it also represents a challenge to prevailing sentiments that sometimes confuse IBU levels with quality.

The Curiosity Cabinet

Donuts? Bacon? Ancient recipes? Southern Tier’s Crème Brûlée features here, but expect other articles on beers in my curiosity cabinet in the coming months.

City and Regional Spotlights

Austin: A User’s Guide for the Craft Beer Enthusiast:

This is a comprehensive series that you can take with you as you visit Austin. Break it down into parts, or read the series as a whole.

  • Part I––Brewpubs
  • Part II––Breweries. Saké, too.
  • Part III––Taprooms and Bottle Shops. Craft Pride and Sunrise Mini-Mart. ’Nuf said.
  • Part IV––Tempest’s Tankard Ratings and the Best Brews in Austin. The tankard system unveiled. You’ll see more of this in the future, much as I dislike ranking beers.

The Epic Stillwater to Vancouver Road Trip, Spring 2014:

  • Tempest Hits the Open Road: Dispatches from the Beerways of North America. Not much about beer, but the piece––one of my personal favourites––lays the groundwork for the rest of my Stillwater-Vancouver road trip this past April and May.
  • Wyoming––A Snapshot from a Moving Vehicle. Cheyenne kicks things off, followed by Coal Creek in Laramie.
  • Idaho and Montana––Of Roadtrips and Aleways. I’ve always been fascinated by the routes we travel. The “discovery” of this trip is Trickster’s Brewing in Coeur d’Alene. Missoula has plenty to offer, too, including Kettle House’s Cold Smoke Scotch Ale.

Gorges and Good Beer in Ithaca and Environs:

  • Part I: A brief history of the Ithaca area, followed by a visit to Ithaca’s oldest craft brewery.
  • Part II: Includes features of the newer faces on Ithaca’s craft beer scene: Bandwagon Brewpub, Hopshire, and Rogues’ Harbor.
  • Part III: A guide to some of the best craft beer watering holes and bottle shops in Ithaca.

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Images:

Capital Brewery (near Madison, WI): F.D. Hofer

Malted grain at FarmHouse Malt (Newark Valley, NY): F.D. Hofer

Hop bines and grape vines at Abandon Brewing Co. (Penn Yann, NY): F.D. Hofer

 

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.

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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

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Tempest Hits the Open Road: Dispatches from the Beerways of North America

Stillwater dawned blue-skied, the late spring heat held in check by a gentle southerly breeze. One last sweep of the house to make sure we had everything for our trip.IMG_5863 Warm clothes for the mountains. Coolers for the beer and wine we planned to haul back. And passports. Vancouver beckoned, far away.

After dispatching a set of keys to a friend and fellow homebrewer who had agreed to tend the Kölsch and Scotch ale I had fermenting in the garage fridge, we set off on our road trip to celebrate an important anniversary with family and friends. In between lay some twenty-five hundred miles of asphalt joining high plains, mountain passes, desolate wasteland, and verdant farmland. That, and a few breweries, brewpubs, bottle shops, and taprooms.

North Americans have long maintained an infatuation with the open road stretched across limitless horizons and punctuated, occasionally, by saw-toothed mountain ranges – a fascination with the long-distance journey that predates both the automobile and the transcontinental railway.IMG_9879 With naught but two weeks for our entire trek, though, we had to roll. Plenty of distance, but a dearth of time. Time trumped our desire to tarry with the wind-hewn mesas of Utah, or the trout streams, woods and sequestered mountain valleys of Montana and nearby Yellowstone. Distance – this broad expanse of a continent telescoped somewhat by Eisenhower’s postwar Interstate system – remained absolute, as if to spite a modernity countersigned by the automobile. Massive slabs of granite thrust at angles a mile into the sky remain impressive, even at seventy miles per hour.

Beer Travel on a Shoestring Temporal Budget

Time and distance also had a predictable effect on how I approached the beerscape of the various regions we traversed. Several thousand miles took precedence over carefully-orchestrated beer travel. The result? Brewery and brewpub drop-ins that were pleasantly haphazard – a welcome change from the (albeit enjoyable) brewery visits I’ve arranged since starting work on A Tempest in a Tankard. This time around, the absence of advance planning allowed me a bit more freedom as a critic – an interesting issue I’ll address at length in a future piece. And it left the door open to serendipitous discoveries unclouded by the prejudices and pre-selections that invariably accompany the planning of itineraries.

What happens when you leave town on a long road trip without having done much research on the various brew scenes dotting your route? After a week of exploration around the time of 2013’s GABF, I have a good sense of what flows from the taps in Denver, Boulder, and Fort Collins. The same goes for Oregon and Washington, mainly because a fair number of their beers enjoy wide distribution. But what about places like Idaho? Sure, I can name a few breweries, but their beers rarely find their way into my stein.IMG_9826 What would we find if we were to just roll into a town like Cheyenne, Wyoming, without knowing what the city or region had to offer? And British Columbia? I grew up in Vancouver’s shadow, but haven’t spent much time in that rainy city since its beer scene began to burgeon.

A Beer at the End of the Line: Cheyenne

Oklahoma and Kansas blended together, the horizon interrupted only by farmhouses, small towns, cattle, and bluffs planted to slow down the wind.

And the wind. Relentless and virtually unhindered, save for the ant-train of cars and eighteen-wheelers snaking their way westward along the I-70, the wind was a constant wall scouring the land, bending trees in an eternal northward bow.

Arrow-straight the I-70 unfolds until, near the state line separating Kansas from Colorado, the road curves back and forth to form a wry smile and a wink. An ironic commentary: still several leagues to travel before any obstacle other than critters or wayward livestock will block your path. But the terrain starts to rise, imperceptibly. And imperceptibly, the landscape takes on a more rugged countenance, scored by gorges and canyons delineating the ubiquitous and lonesome ranch lands.

The wind has abated and we pull off the road, like so many before us, to rest under an afternoon sun that has baked the ground beneath us golden.Oregon Trail - 1907 (Wiki) But unlike those intrepid wagon-train travelers who passed to the north of us a century-and-a-half ago along the Oregon Trail, we doze off serenaded not by the susurrus of the prairie grassland. No, great-great-grand children of the Industrial Revolution and contemporaries of the Information Age, we catch snippets of sleep laced with the pre-recorded National Weather Service forecast broadcasting itself in its strangely-intonated digital monotone, mingling with the purr of engines and the hushed whisper of tires flowing along the asphalt stream yonder.

Just as the fog in that poem, dusk comes on little cat feet. Less so the Front Range of the Rockies, looming up in the distance beyond the glass and steel spires of Denver, shrouded in a veil of cloudy twilight. After hours of westward travel, we thread our way along the seam that separates the foothills from the plains spreading all the way to the Great Lakes, destination Cheyenne. IMG_9861

But where’s the damn beer?

~ Stay tuned ~

Images:

Vancouver’s English Bay: F.D. Hofer

Western Idaho portion of the Oregon Trail: F.D. Hofer

Storefront, Cheyenne, WY: F.D. Hofer

Oregon Trail Map (1907), from Ezra Meeker, The Ox Team, or the Old Oregon Trail, 1852-1906: Wikipedia

Wyoming Welcome: F.D. Hofer