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

Monday, April 25, 2011

Jesus was more of a beer dude.

     Jesus is back in town! This is more than a reason to celebrate. Easter had me thinking, "What kind of beer would Jesus like?" I started thinking of different beers that were "wine like", because of the historical relationship Jesus and Wine hold. Then it hit me, Jesus probably didn't really drink wine, he drank beer! And not only drank beer, but it's more probable that at the wedding in Cana, Jesus turned water into beer, not wine. This is likely for many reasons, but lets first back up a bit and determine what "wine" refers to in the Bible.
     The original Aramaic text talks about "strong drink", and when the Bible was translated centuries after Jesus ascended to heaven, "strong drink" was replaced with "wine". During that time, wine was considered to be an upscale beverage, reserved for the elite, or "holiest" of consumers. And since beer was cheaper to make (lots of barley everywhere!) we can assume that beer was being consumed by peasants, and does not deserve to be the "blood of Christ". So during the translation process, "strong drink" was replaced with "wine", and we can assume it wasn't the peasants doing the translating, rather the Wine-Os! I am not sure if Jesus would be so pretentious though.
     So "wine" really means "strong drink"; established. Another reason as to why Jesus was most likely drinking beer is, well, he lived in the Middle East! Grains were the principle crop of the Middle East. Grapes, not so much. Remember Ninkasi? The original beer recipe was recorded 1800 years before Christ was born, so beer was already prevalent in the Mediterranean region. They not only used beer as a drink, but they found that beer had the ability to soften ivory, making it more pliable, in the use of creating jewelry. So beer was widely used within the craft community in the Middle East, of which Jesus would have been a big part of.
     One of Jesus' first miracles happened at the Wedding in Cana, 20 miles from his home. Mary happened to have been hosting this wedding, and during which, they ran out of "wine" (strong drink). According to the Bible, the wedding ceremony had "six stone water jars...each holding from twenty to thirty gallons". Large jars were often used for ceremonial cleansing, but not at this wedding, since the jars were "empty" and Jesus' disciples did not traditionally wash their hands like a good Jew would (kind of a big deal..) So why would there be six water jugs of that size located at this wedding? Maybe for fermenting beer? These stone jugs were meant to sit in one location for a long period of time, their size and weight imply this. Back in Jesus' day, breweries from Egypt to Mesopotamia created beer by lightly baking dough composed of "ground germinated cereals". These loaves were placed with yeast and water into large vats. Since this would result in a unappealing thick sludge, it was common to "throw water upon the loaves" right before consumption, in order to create a more drinkable "strong drink", or beer. So maybe "John" forgot to mention that fact when Jesus ordered the servants to pour water in the fermenting jars. Just a consideration, it makes Jesus all the more interesting, in my opinion. 
     Miracles aside, the Roman elite would have been the only ones with access to wine. Let's not forget the time period Jesus lived in, and how he protested and fought against the Roman Empire, who eventually killed him. I just don't see Jesus going out of his way to get wine from them, or any other elite member of society that could pose a threat. Jesus knew, it was best to just hang out with your friends and share some bread and beer. With this said, here are some beers I would like to enjoy with Jesus, and even get some heavenly input!

De Struise Brouwers, Pannepot Old Fishermans Ale (10% ABV)
-  Pannepot is a term used to refer to fishing boats from the village of De Panne, located on the coast of Belgium. And as you should know, Jesus was influential among the fishing community. This is a rich dark brown ale brewed with spices. The beer pours thick brown and gives off the strong aroma of dark fruits, cinnamon, ginger and sugar. The taste and aroma blend perfectly, with a complexity and balance that shows off both the brown sugar and the roasted malts. The spices spread over the palate with cinnamon and nutmeg lingering, and finishes with hints of cherry and raisin. A wonderful beer to sip while waiting for the big catch.

Lindemans Geuze Cuvée René - (5% ABV) - This beer style would pair perfectly with seafood, and is a good representation of what some styles of "strong drink" may have tasted like, back in His day. Traditionally, a Gueze is a blend of 2/3 young Lambic and 1/3 old Lambic. The result is a golden, cider-like ale, still popular in Brussels as a happy hour drink. The Gueze Cuvee Rene smells of lemons, oak and sour fruit. Very light in color, with a sharp carbonation. The flavors of lemon and sour apple dry out your palette, while hints of oak balance out with a musky sweetness. An overall very sour finish that cleans up nicely. If you've never had a Geuze before, start here. 

Shmaltz Brewing Co, HeBrew Messiah Bold (5.6% ABV) - An ale named after Christ Himself, I would like to see how he felt about this one! Shmaltz likes Jews apparently, and decided to name their Brown Ale after the most famous Jew of all. Is this beer worthy enough to be named after such a powerful influence? Find out yourself! This brown ales pours dark black, with a small tan head. An expectant rich chocolate malt nose, with hints of fruit in the aroma. I wonder how Jesus would feel about all these smells of fruit, with no fruit used in the brewing process (perhaps it's a miracle!?). Personally, I feel that this Messiah is closer to a Stout, rather than a Brown ale in styles. This beer from Heaven is packed with roasted malts, giving off hints of smoke in the finish, and it's even a bit chewy! A well-made brown ale that is very bitter up front, but smooth and creamy in the mouth feel. A nice session beer that could turn the Last Supper into a ParTaY!

A passage from the Hebrew Bible, "Throw your bread upon the face of the water, because in many days you will acquire it. Give a serving to seven and also eight, because you do not know what evil will be upon the land." (Ecclesiastes 11:1–2) Honestly, how could this not be referring to beer? Perhaps when the Disciples went into hiding, after the death of Jesus, they spent most of their time home brewing? Maybe they were really just a home brew club? Why not right? Okay, maybe I am taking it too far...(not at all).


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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

We must go TO the beer!

     In the United States there are currently 1,500 breweries producing beer. This includes commercial breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs. But we easily notice that our beer stores are not packed with 1,5000 different brands. In order to try all the tasty brews this country has to offer, you must go TO the beer itself. In New York, where I live, I am lucky to have the some of the finest craft breweries in the world on my local grocery shelves (and the laws to allow such a thing!) But when it comes to famous micobreweries like, New Belgium, Three Floyds or Dark Horse, to just name a few, we just can't get that here. This is for several reasons, the main reason being that craft breweries simply can't produce enough beer to supply the whole country. Remember, to be considered a "craft brewery" you must legally produce UNDER 6 million barrels a year (1/2 barrel = what you did a keg stand on last night). This means that if every person in the United States wanted to receive beer from one specific micobrewery, the most anyone could obtain is an amount just over two 6-packs to last the whole year (assuming people are sharing properly). So heaven forbid you like the beer, because that is how thin distribution would be. Also, distributors are just not in favor of cross distribution.
     Distributors are the middle man between beer and the consumer. Breweries sell their beer to a distributor, who then sell it to a retailer, and only the retailer can sell to a consumer. This system is called the "three-tier system" and wealthy lobbyists make sure it stays in effect each year, and to their benefit. So for instance, if you owned a grocery store across the street from your favorite brewery, you wouldn't be allowed to purchase beer directly from the brewery for your store. Instead, the beer gets picked up by a big truck along with other beer and products, is then taken to the distributors headquarters, and sits until you place an order for it (tick tock tick tock). Then the truck is re-loaded with beer and other products and is shipped to your store. In this common situation, this is literally the biggest waste of gasoline, time and money (the breweries). So we have this continuing cycle of breweries who can not produce enough beer to supply the country (because they need to stay under 6 million barrels, legally), selling their beer to a distributor that in itself cannot legally distribute to the whole country (cross expansion laws). So the lack of variety on our grocery shelves is due to all that mess.  Of course there is an upside to this three-tier system, like the opportunity for small breweries to have their beer in more prominent locations and stores, because, they couldn't have done that otherwise (....?). But don't get me wrong, it's not that distributors are comprised of bad people, it's just that they should hang out with landlords, ya know?
     On a hoppier note, I have had the great pleasure of trying some crafty beers that I can't find in my current town (Thank you, Vinny!). I encourage you to make time in your calendars for your own brewery road trip to get some eye opening tours and new friends for the fridge. Chances are, those beers might not be at your corner store anyway, and plus, it's fun to be the middle man sometimes. Here are a few beers that I recently tried for the first time, that I can not purchase in New York (and now you know why).

Bell's Brewing Co., Hop Slam (10% ABV) - Not only do I like this beer for it's cool bottle cap, but it's an incredibly smooth Double India Pale Ale, considering that it's 10% ABV! I let this beer warm up to close to room temperature before trying it, because I really wanted to taste all of the different hops they packed into it. There is no restraint on this aroma, the thick scent of citrus, pine and grass went right through my head! This tangy aroma balanced out the malt wonderfully, right until the last sip. Personally, I was surprised by the unexpected sweetness of this beer. I was expecting a bitter dry bite, but the hops just roll along the palette, leaving flavors of citrus, sweet malt and fruit. They did a good job of keeping the alcohol flavor under control too, allowing the floral aroma create most of the taste. The upmost fitting name for a beer I have tried yet, because I could undoubtedly Hop Slam this baby all day.

21st Amendment Brewing Co., Monks Blood (8.3% ABV)
- Okay, I may be sounding a bit like a "book cover judger" today, but 21st Amendment has some of the best packaging out of any brewery I have seen. The designs on their cans are so well done and epic, that if you saw this at your grocery store, you'd buy it just based on the artwork. But I am here to tell you that you should buy 21st Amendment brews for two reasons, one being that you can start a classy collection of beer cans in your office without question, and two being that it's some damn good beer. Monks Blood just came out this past February and is the result of a trip to Belgium by 21st Amendment founders, Nico and Shaun. Inspired by their travels, they created Monks Blood, a Dark Belgium Ale that is brewed with vanilla beans, cinnamon, dried black mission figs and aged on oak chips. You can pick up the strong scent of figs immediately, followed by a sharp sweetness that may be due to the Abbey Ale yeast or the cinnamon. A very enjoyable Belgium ale that cleans up very nicely, no left over sour flavor here. This beer really warmed me up inside and would pair perfectly with an elegant dessert (or a tub of ice cream, whatever). 

Founders Brewing Co., Red's Rye PA - (6.6 % ABV)
- I didn't look into who Red is, but I like his take on a Rye Pale Ale. Hoppy, bitter and dry. The scent from the Amarillo hops bring out a floral, citrus-spice aroma. Very distinct smell, a little grapefruit with rye coming through, offering a scent similar to that of pepper, very sharp. The taste is bitter, hops are very much present and the rye offers an earthy-malt sweetness. A lot is going on in this beer, and it's almost difficult to distinguish some of the complex flavors. This may be due to the Belgian caramel malts they use, of which I am not too familiar. All I know for sure is that if I come across this beer again, I am buying more than a bottle.

It's no surprise that adventurous folk are the ones who like craft beer, since they are the ones traveling and finding it. The current system of obtaining beer works, actually, that's the motto for those in support of the three-tier system "The Three-Tier System, It's What Works!" But I think it is fair to say that just because something is working, doesn't mean we need to stick to it. Imagine if we lived in a world where all businesses refused to progress and build a sustainable future for themselves and others. When we build dead ends for small businesses, how are the bigger ones going to get out too? Maybe they have bigger trucks for us to fit into?


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