A blog that explores the seemingly endless beer options available, and occasionally brings up your Mom.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


     Now that St. Patrick has blessed us with his luck for the year, it's time for Spring. The beautiful signs of Spring are all around us, from the honking Geese flying over head to the two foot difference in where you planted your bulbs last fall and where they have decided to grow. But either way, this rejuvenating season is reason enough to try some interesting brews, perhaps even some botanical ones! If you haven't noticed my ladies picking some spring buds up above, this post is all about flowers and beer, and the magical things they can do together. And if women had anything to do with the creation of beer, there better well be some flowers in it! Brewing beer with flowers does not have any historical start date, considering that experimenting with ingredients has been continuous since the creation of beer (what German Beer Purity Law?). But remember that Hops, which are normally found in beer, are a type of flower, and brewing with a different type of flower isn't a crazy concept to swallow. Like hops, flowers help to add a floral/herbal aroma to the beer, another way of balancing out the base ingredients of that beer. So before you go picking flowers from your muddy garden, try one of these beers to see what blossoming brews you'd plant in your fridge.

Dieu du Ciel Rosée dHibiscus (5.9% ABV, Flower: Hibiscus) A wheat beer that adds Hibiscus during the "flame-out" step of the brewing process. A "flame out" is exactly what it sounds like, the step in which you turn the flame off the brew, yet it remains at a temperature in which the oils and acidity are still extracted from the ingredients, but do not burn off. The name of this beer translates to "Pinkish Hibiscus" which describes the pink color of the beer that comes from the hibiscus. The hibiscus also produces the prominent fragrance found throughout this wheat ale. The aroma is of acidic berries, a sour fragrance that blends with a floral perfume. The flavors are awakening, like a sharp champagne that is grapefruit tart, with more hints of berries and orange. A lingering sweet and fruity finish that is crisp on the palette.  
Southampton Cuvee des Fleurs (8.2% ABV, Flowers: Lavender, Chamomile, Dog Rose, Marigold, Hops) This Saison gives a whole new meaning to what a Beer Garden might be, because I am pretty sure you can find one in a glass now. It's packed full with floral aromas from the edible flowers used, creating a scent like potpourri. A Saison is typically a low alcohol, pale ale that would include flavors of orange zest, coriander or ginger. The orange zesty flavor can be found in this saison, but at a wopping 8.2% ABV, this Saison is different from it's classical cousins. Flavors from this garden in a glass are of sweet fresh flowers, bitter from certain petals (hops) and a mild grain flavor breaks through to help balance everything. Nothing could take a refreshing spring day off the mind when you're sipping on this ale, except for those damn Geese.

Dogfish Head Midas Touch Golden Elixir (9% ABV, Flower: Saffron Crocus) Dogfish Head is very proud of this one, as they should be, because it's the recipe for the oldest known fermented beverage in the world. The ingredients used were found in the 2700 year old drinking vessels of the tomb of King Midas. He is popular in Greek Mythology for his ability to turn everything he touched into Gold, also for his Garden of Roses (which, apparently must have been gold?) Either way, I'm glad all of this happened because it has led to one awesome beer. Dogfish Head uses Saffron in this brew, which is a derived spice from the Saffron Crocus. In addition, they use barley, white Muscat grapes and honey. The aroma and flavors are very sweet and alcoholic like a white wine, so be ready for this one. The flavors start with the honey and grapes, very sweet, followed by a slight bitterness from the hops. The saffron comes through at the end, which helps to add to an aromatic finish. A slow sipper for sure, after all, it has the Midas Touch!

     These are just a few examples of the different flowers/herbs you could infuse with beer. In 2008, we (the world) went through a bit of a hop scare, when there was a shortage and prices went through the roof! It was a hard time for many small breweries and still is, but it also helped some breweries get back to the drawing board and get creative with their brewing methods. For example, to help offset their dependency on hops, New Belgium came out with a dandelion beer called "Lips of Faith - Dandelion Ale" which was inspired by the hop shortage, and added the natural bittering affect usually supplied by the hops. They proved that despite hard times, brewing a beer you love is still possible. So when you are walking around this spring, think to yourself, would that flower taste good in my beer? Then try it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


     It's here everyone, Saint Patrick's Day. And the best part is, that it's barely a day at all, rather a week long celebration of drinking beer and pretending to be Irish. Ireland has been celebrating March 17th as a religious holiday since the fifth century, when Old Saint Pat himself croaked. The Holiday remained to be pretty low key in Ireland until the 1970's, but the United States turned this date into a party a couple centuries ago. In fact, the first St. Patrick's Day parade was in New York City in 1762, and still continues to this day, being one of the biggest parades in the country. Today, we celebrate by kissing people with T shirts who tell you to do so, and drinking Green Labatt Blue (big business joke here).

This year, however, is special. 

Because my very own boyfriend (and President of the Untied States) Barack Obama will be brewing his own batch of beer and serving it on St. Patrick's Day, to guests in the White House. I am still awaiting a little Leprecauhn to come deliver my invitation to join him, but he has a few days. But it's true, Obama-be-Brewin'! And since he has to be the first person to do everything, he is the first recorded President to brew beer inside of the White House. Again, making history. He will be serving his very own "White House Honey Ale", using the honey from the White House beehive. Since the chances of any of us trying a sip of this beer is completely zero, here are some St. Patrick's Day must-haves for the week:

Carlow O'Haras Celtic Stout (4.3% ABV) During St. Patrick's Day, most people turn to the classic Guinness, which in fact, is one of my favorite beers. But it's important to support a variety of breweries, including this small brewing company called Carlow, in Carlow Ireland. The O'Hara family started this brewery in 1996 and have been making Irish style ales ever since. This Celtic Stout is a Dry Stout, and is as smooth as they come. The first time I tried this beer, I said goodbye to Guinness and Murphys right away. You may find yourself chugging these so fast you turn green, but it's a good week to do so.  It's a perfect session beer because it has a smooth and rich balance, and a low ABV. The nose is sweet and malty, so you know that you will be tasting some chocolate. Flavors are a creamy blend of espresso (roasty and bitter) and of sweet chocolate. Very thin in body, making it so unbelievably drinkable. This beer won the Championship Trophy and two gold medals at the International Millennium Brewing Industry Awards in 2000, and still tastes as good. 

Avery Out of Bound Stout  (5.1% ABV) Another roasty stout, with a bit more flavor. As Avery claims, "This big, roasty stout takes flavor to the extreme!" Which may or may not be true. Not as much of a session beer as the O'Hara's but nothing a true Irish couldn't handle. This beer pours black, and if you hold it up to the light you won't be able to see anything shine through. (I am honestly having a hard time writing this blog because I LOVE STOUTS and all I want to do is go sit on my porch in the sunshine and drink one). But this stout has that thick dark roast a lot of people look for in a stout. This beer has a stronger aroma of dark chocolate, malt and even hazelnut. The taste is similar, with a bit of a hop character coming through to lighten up the maltyness. The bitter flavor from the roasted malt and the high carbonation help to clean up the palette, making you thirsty for that next sip. Yum, I love being an American Irish.

Flying Bison Brewing Co. Aviator Red (5.2% ABV) Now, I know I will be drinking a lot of this on St. Patrick's Day. Flying Bison is a small brewing company in Buffalo, NY and has been filling pints around Buffalo for almost 11 years. And if you need to know anything about Buffalo, it's that we love beer. Aviator Red is Flying Bisons flag ship ale, and certainly should be. Modeled after an Irish Red Ale, this ale is brewed with 6 different malts which give it the rich malty flavor and beautiful ruby color. This brew has a decent amount of hops which help to balance out the malt flavor and give a nice bitter kick. The flavors are of nutty malt, hints of chocolate and caramel, and the hoppy bouquet balances wonderfully. A great beer to share with friends whilst walking to the parade downtown. A Saint Patrick's Day must have (and if you're in Buffalo, pick up their Oatmeal Stout too!)

Ah yes, the season of longer days and warmer nights is almost upon us, and I couldn't be more ready. Be sure to try something different this season, because not only are there a lot of good Irish Stouts and Irish Red Ales out right now, but there are some tasty Spring seasonals that you should check out before they are gone too! Email me your spring favorites at craftydrinker@gmail.com

JibJab - One Lucky Leprechaun by JibJab


Monday, March 7, 2011


     If you have ever wondered who made God's beer, it's a woman, and her name is Ninkasi. Happy Women's History Month. Ninkasi is the Sumerian Goddess of Brewing and is the topic of one of the oldest found writings of civilization titled "The Hymn to Ninkasi". The poem was written around 1800 BC and describes the recipe for a Sumerian Beer. In fact, many ancient societies credit the creation of beer to women, including ancient Egyptians who worshiped the Goddess Hathor for being the “queen of drunkness and dance and the inventress of beer" (can we hang out?). Today, women still open new breweries, manage them and brew their own beer. Just to name a few current beer queens...

Luann Alcorn (Custom Brewcrafters, Rochester, NY)
Sara Choler (Saint Louis Brewery, St. Louis, MO)
Ellen Bounsall (McAuslan, Quebec, PQ)
Melanie Miller (Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA)
Darrah Bryans (Brew Moon, Cambridge, MA)
Barbara Groom (Lost Coast Brewing Co., Eureka, CA)
Anetta Jewell (Great Lakes Brewing, Etobicoke, ON)
Rhonda Kallman (Boston Beer, Boston, MA)
Karen Plunkett (Walkerville Brewing, Windsor, ON)
Mary Lou Moore (San Diego's Riptide Brewery/Brewski's Gaslamp Pub, San Diego, CA)
Deb Carey (New Glarus Brewing, New Glarus, WI)
Laure Pomianowski (Santa Fe Brewing Co. Galisteo, NM)
Lauren Clark (Cambridge Brewing, Cambridge, MA)
Jodi Andrews (Boston Beer Works, Boston, MA)
Mary Rubenstein (Middle Ages, Syracuse, NY)
Jocelyn Hughes (Watch City, Salem, MA)
Carol Stoudt (Stoudt's, Adamstown, PA)
Laura Urtnowski (Les Brasseurs du Nord, Quebec, PQ)
Judy Wildman (Tremont Brewing, Boston, MA)

...you get the point. As a lass myself, it is great to see so many successfull women who have not only taken on the skill of brewing but have gone past that by getting a proper education in the trade and have used their talents, knowledge and passion to create beer they want to share with the world. Now let's see what these wenches got brewin':

Lost Coast's Brewing Company Indica India Pale Ale (6.5% ABV) Our girl; Barbara Groom, Her deal; Pharmacist went Brewmaster. Barbara and her partner, Wendy Pound, had dreams of opening a brewery and cafe, and like anyone who wanted a brewery, they went and bought a Castle in 1989. The Pythian Castle in Eureka, California was the home to Lost Coast Brewing Company but became too small for the success of the business, and is now located just down the road, or Highway 101. So if you like California cruisin' and grapefruits, this is the beer for you. A golden colored IPA that has aromas of tart fruits, citrus and pine. The taste is sweet for an IPA with hints of toasted malts, but the show is in the citrusy floral notes that come through and stay. The hops give an overwhelming grapefruit flavor, which is fine by me. This beer has a finish that brings "bitter" and "refreshing" together. Barbara Groom encourages home brewers to experiment with ingredients as much as possible and to have fun with the small batches, “That’s one thing we can’t do in the brewery, experiment with yeast. Homebrewers have the opportunity to try (yeast strains) out,” Groom says. Knowing your ingredients on a small scale is crucial before moving to a massive system, and Groom must have known what she was doing.

Stoudt's Karnival Kolsch (4.8% ABV) Our girl; Carol Stoudt, Her deal; Kindergarten teacher opens Pennsylvania's first Microbrewery (oh yeah and raised 5 kids, no biggie). Carol is co-owner of Stoudt's Brewing Company, which she opened in 1987 along with her husband, Ed Stoudt. Carol is the face of the brewery, constantly out working the market and hosting events in promotion of their beer. She has been deemed the "Queen of Hops" and I'm just not going to question it. My favorite Stoudt's beer comes out this time of year, so you better find it! Karnival Kolsch is a German style ale that is light in body and flavor. Most people don't give light beers enough credit, because they assume flavor or color automatically makes a better beer (ignore last post). This ale is "smooth like a lager due to the colder fermentation temperature and extended cellaring time", which takes time and talent to create. The smooth factor of this beer is my favorite part. You can pick up a fruity aroma from the bittering hops, and an earthiness from the grain. The taste is round and balanced with a hint of toasted oats and grass with a mild bitter/fruity flavor that lingers with the finish. A very clean and light beer. A perfect session beer for throwing in the backpack and watching the snow melt. Meet Carol here!

Sierra Nevada's Glissade Golden Bock  (6.4% ABV) Our girl; Melanie Miller, Her deal; Brewer went MicroBiologist. When Miller started at Sierra Nevada in 1989, brewers were in charge of making the beer and doing the lab work (sanitizing, infection control). When those two tasks split, she went scientist. Today, she is a crucial part of making sure Sierra Nevadas beers are fresh, clean and most importantly, not infected. Her job get's an A+ with their Glissade Golden Bock. Compared to most bocks, this brew holds back a lot of the malty sweetness and let's the freshness from the hops come through. The taste is clean with hints of bread and grass, with notes of pine and grape from the European hops. A very easy drinking beer that makes me wish I payed attention in biology. Advice from Melanie Miller, Microbiologist at Sierra Nevada, “Everything has to be clean, your hands included. Pull back your long hair. Try not to breathe directly on anything. If you’re covered with grain dust, change your shirt or clothes. Make sure that anything that’s going near the beer is clean and sanitized,”.

      The beer industry may not seem like a ladies job any more, but I'm going to assume we just let the men do all the dirty work for us the past few centuries. Consider the fact that today there are grain lifting elevators, grain mills, electricity etc. all of which take lot of the back breaking work out of brewing, unlike when mass production first came out. Like always, women know when to pop in and out of the "fads" and here we come again, back to make an impact. If you are a woman interested in the beer industry, or a man who is interested in this secret link, click here, because these are some women you should meet.