My brother and his family were down from Minneapolis this weekend, which means only one thing…we tried to drink all of the beer that was in the house. Unfortunately, unlike previous visits, my homebrewing hobby means that there are literally bottles hiding all over the kitchen and pantry. There are a couple of bottles of wit here, a few bottles of ale there, and maybe something lurking in the dark recesses of that cupboard no one really cleans out regularly.
I need to apologize to my wit beer. It was not the fault of the yeast that I did not like the beer. It was coriander. I opened the latest version of my American Ale using 1056 yeast with bitter orange and coriander as flavorings. The taste in my mouth that really put me off has to be coriander because it is the only consistent ingredient between the two whose flavor I cannot place, but that I do not like.
This is not the most scientific diagnosis of the problem, but it is going to suffice. Prior, I thought that coriander was a flavor in beers that I liked but it must have been masked by the heavier hopping of beers I enjoyed. Since my homebrews are relatively lightly hopped the flavor of the coriander can really show through. Ugh!
More Organic Beer
A second organic beer recipe went into the carboy on Sunday. This recipe differs slightly from the prior recipe that was put into bottle son Sunday. This beer uses the same extract and grain (6 lbs organic light malt extract and 1 lbs organic C-60L steeping grain) with Wyeast 1056 American Ale as a yeast. I switched the Cascade hop to an aroma hop and went with Ahtanum as the bittering hop. It is so easy to get lost and play around with these things.
I like Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy. There I said it. Normally, it is a total summer brew–light, sweet, and forgettable. Like so many songs on the radio in the summer or movies made by Michael Bay. When Summer Shandy left the shelves I knew it was time for fall and everything that meant–cooler temperatures, football, and the perfect weather for hearty ales.
Now, for some reason, Summer Shandy is in my grocery store in Iowa in February. I was walking the aisles, shopping for the weekend’s adventure, when the loudspeaker announced that samples were available in the liquor section. Huh? Like a mindless lemming I steered my cart every closer and witnessed the bizarre miracle that is Summer Shandy in the winter. Now available in 16 and 12 ounce cans. A twelve pack of 12 ounce cans jumped into my cart.
Why am I so weak?
The walk-in beer cooler at the grocery store is always a mystery to me. Why? Because of the endless variety of ways that tasteless, industrial lager from major breweries is packaged. Would you like cans, glass bottles, or plastic bottles? Perhaps you would like a mini-keg? Half-barrel or quarter-barrel?
The truly baffling element of this endless display of marketing muscle is the variety of package quantities of cans. Disregarding for a moment the possibility of alternate volumes (e.g. 12 ounce versus 16 ounce versus 24 ounce versus whatever those Foster’s cans are called), there are so many options. In just one variety (Miller Lite) there were 4 packs, 6 packs, 12 packs, 15 packs, 18 packs, 24 packs, and 30 packs of cans. 15 packs? WTF?
I know that part of this is the “wall of beer” or “billboard in a cooler” theory of marketing whereby a major manufacturer creates a billboard of their product by occupying so much shelf space. However, I think part of it is the madness and lack of creativity of marketing MBAs to figure out new ways to sell awful beer. Swedish bikini teams, talking lizards, and past their prime sports celebrities do not make for a good performance review.
A friend suggested that I read Fermenting Revolution: How to Drink Beer and Save the World by Christopher O’Brien because the title seemed to speak to a philosophy of mine: the world would be a better place is people would just sit down for a nice beer once and a while.
O’Brien feels the same way and we agree on a lot of the same points. Where I find fault with the book is that it reads at times like a treatise from an undergraduate course in the gender history of world beverage. That is to say, everything wrong in our beer culture is the result of greedy male brewers taking power away from small scale female brewers thus industrializing the product and stealing its soul. Did this happen? To some degree, but to make it the central part of a narrative on the beneficial power of beer is to mistake this travesty as a defining characteristic of the craft beer movement in the modern age.
Too much time is spent on the sins of the past and not enough on the promise of the future. Furthermore, the book really fails to capture the breadth of the good stuff going on with craft brewers across the country, not to mention homebrewers. Sure, it’s easy to talk about New Belgium or Dogfish or Great Lakes because those guys are the heavyweights of the craft brew scene but missing a lot of more locally important brewers pushing the limits is selling the movement short.
In the end, I was disappointed with Fermenting Revolution because it failed to live up to the promise of its title.