It’s officially time to start panicking about about what to buy people for Christmas. Have no fear though, because as long as the people on your list are into beer (and if they’re not you might want to consider the value of your relationship), I’ve got just the thing for them. Read on and you won’t have to endure the special hell that is the Eaton Centre this time of year. You’re welcome.
Moleskine Beer Journal
For the more discerning beer drinker on your list, this handy notebook provides ample tools for tracking and judging every beer he or she drinks. The tastings section includes spots to record when and where you had each beer and what it looked, smelled, and tasted like. For the aspiring homebrewer there’s even a section to record recipes, there’s a section to keep track of what’s in your beer cellar and a section of addresses — presumably to record the names of folks to call when you crack something from the cellar. Feel free to add me, incidentally.
The Pocket Beer Guide
Toronto’s own Stephen Beaumont, an authority on all things beer, co-authored this handy book with UK-based beer expert Tim Webb. Ideal for the thirsty traveller on your list, the book is a selection of tasting notes on beer from across the globe, organized by country, and includes not only info on the breweries, but a list of beer destinations and a calendar of worldwide beer festivals.
This will do fun things to a handful of cocktails, but perhaps most interesting is its potential to pep up beer. Pick up this Brooklyn-made product at The Drake General Store and the next time that special someone on your holiday list is handed a boring beer, he or she might add some of this, a little rum, and lime juice and –voila!– that can of OV is now a Sailor’s Ale.
Canada Mason Jar Jug
Also available at The Drake General Store, this kitschy “Canada” jar with a handle seems ideally suited to drinking local beer — just don’t put any beer that actually has “Canadian” in its name or you might seriously damage your hipster cred. A perfect slice of Canadiana for those who live elsewhere or a helpful reminder to friends and family who frequently drink so much they forget what country they’re in.
The Hungover Cookbook
While cooking is usually the last thing you want to do when you’re hungover — indeed we can think of at least 10 things we might rather be doing — this book might change your mind. Including recipes (or just menu suggestions) for six different levels of hangover, you’ll find something here custom-tailored to your particular morning-after funk. There’s also jokes, quizzes, and a handy guide to determining if it’s actually a hangover or if you are in fact still drunk.
The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook
Beer writer David Ort‘s concise collection of 75-beer-related recipes will probably make most of the “drinkers gift guides” you read this year — and with good cause. Firstly, because he sent all of us other beer writers free copies of the book and these lists aren’t that easy to come up with and, secondly, because it’s actually a really, really good cook book. There are great recipes of varying degrees of difficulty, insights into beer and food pairing techniques and even informative sidebars about people and places important to Canadian craft brewing.
Bicycle wine rack
As the name might imply, this handsome leather accessory’s stated purpose is actually hauling vino on your two wheeler, but it functions just as well with a specialty 500 or 750mL bottle from your favourite local brewery. Sure, using it in the snow seems a little dangerous, but once the sun comes out again, your beer-drinking, cycling friend will be thankful that you’re so thoughtful while they strap something from the Indie Alehouse to their fixie –hopefully before they pedal over to your place.
Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon
It’s a little known fact among serious alcohol enthusiasts that nothing pairs quite so well with a hoppy beer as a delicious glass of bourbon. Why not pick up a bottle of this rich and complex Kentucky bourbon for the discerning drinker on your list and let them experience how well the vanilla and candied fruit flavours chase the piney, bitter goodness of an IPA? I mean you have two hands for a reason.
It probably seems a little obvious, but that doesn’t mean it ist’t the perfect gift. In fact, there’s probably nothing more appropriate for the beer lover in your life than actual beer. Of course, if you want to keep it local, our coverage of Toronto’s beer scene this year will have you well covered for ideas (most recently we provided you with our list of 10 local beers to drink this winter in Toronto), but if you’re aiming for something more exotic this holiday season, here are a few imported gems you can find right now at the LCBO (some only for a limited time).
La Fin du Monde
A Belgian-style tripel with honey, spice, and coriander notes, brewery Unibroue has recently announced that this popular beer that’s been around 20 years will now be listed full time at the LCBO. $12.95 for a four pack of 341 ml bottles
Brouwerij Bosteels DeuS Brut des Flandres
Something like a beer and Champagne hybrid, this is a unique sparkling drink with a barley base that would be just as at home in your glass on New Year’s Eve as the hoity-toity Veuve Clicquot you’ve been saving. It’s got tons of citrus and grape flavour and is balanced by a the subtle spiciness of a farmhouse ale. $19.95 for a 750 mL bottle
La Trappe Quadrupel
La Trappe’s Quad is a beast of a beer with rich and intense flavour. It’s malty and sweet, offering aromas of banana, almond, and vanilla with tastes of raisins, dates, caramel malt, and almonds, and it finishes pleasantly with a bittersweet aftertaste. $7.10 for a 750 mL bottle
Unibroue 17 Grande Réserve
First brewed in 2007 to mark the 17-year anniversary of Unibroue, 17 Grand Reserve returned in 2011 and has since been brewed in small, seasonal batches every year. It’s a rich Belgian-style ale with a roasted malt nose, a hint of sweetness and a subtle oaky finish. $12.95 for a 750mL bottle
Hornbeer Black Magic Woman Imperial Stout
An imperial stout made with smoked malt, Black Magic Woman is brewed with roasted barley malt, birch-smoked malt, peat-smoked malt, and caramel malt. All that smokiness is balanced with hops, making this strong and complex beer well-suited to pairing with dark chocolate, strong cheeses, or even just the gas-smell of a garage as you hide from relatives this holiday season. $7.05 for a 500 mL bottle.
One of the world’s best trappist ales, the Rochefort 10 might have you saying Westvleter-who? And with a much larger quantity in LCBO stores than the panic-inducing supply of Westy, it should be a little easier to find (but not for long) this dark brown, and delicious Belgian beer with all kinds of aromas and tastes ranging from raisins to plums to ripe fruit to sweet sweet booze. $3.65 for a 330 mL bottle
There was a time when Kaite Loomes would have made headlines for reasons other than the superb product she makes – 30 years ago there’d have been surprise that someone should set up a small business like hers out in the middle of nowhere – and as late as a decade ago she’d probably have been on TV because there would have been no other women doing what she does…
Today we can simply report that Kaite has set up her own brewery – and in doing so she has joined a small platoon of female beer-makers in what is a growing army of microbreweries across Britain.
What these businesses are intent on doing is creating products that are all about flavour rather than being drinks that thirsty men fling down their necks.
Kaite’s West Somerset-based Kubla Brewery is no exception to this rule. Before she ever dreamed of setting up her own brewery Kaite worked in a specialist part of the food industry where her job concentrated on the all important question of flavour.
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“My background is in the food industry – that’s what I studied at university and then I worked for a flavour house where I honed my sensory skills and flavour combination skills,” Kaite told the Western Morning News when we went to see her small, one-year-old, brewery in the Quantock foothills. “Smell is really important to flavour. Mix a bit of cinnamon with sugar, hold your nose and taste it – you don’t really get the cinnamon, it just tastes sweet. But take the fingers off your nose and – whoosh, it all comes through. Smell is a really important part of tasting.
“I was making beer at home and it was tasting good,” said Kaite when asked how it was she’d ended up setting up her own brewery. “I had wanted to start a small-scale business and work for myself – I’d taken time off when my children were young, then they started school and I wanted to get back to work.
“I was using some ingredients from the garden – our Saison beer has some lavender and camomile in it for instance. So it’s about using natural ingredients – and then my experience in taste allows me to balance the flavours nicely so none of those tastes, like the lavender, are overpowering or too scented.
“This unit was ideal,” added Kaite, referring to the specially refurbished barn deep in countryside near the village of Lydeard St Lawrence.
“I had to save up some money to get the equipment. That’s why we’ve started off small – now we’ve tested the market and got some feedback about the beers – which has all been really positive.”
The Kubla Brewery makes three core beers – there’s a stout, a pale ale and the product Kaite calls the “saison” beer.
“It is a summer farmhouse ale – and it’s something they used to make in Northern France and Belgium where they’d brew a refreshing beer that they would give to the farmworkers over the summer months,” she explained.
“Our pale ale has some New World hops, there’s orange and strawberry notes there – it goes nicely with cheese, also fish, shellfish… It’s quite fruity – the hops have a similar flavour profile to pinot grigio. The stout has a lot of depth of flavour and I add a little coffee and chicory to it as well.”
Needless to say, the brewery name was inspired by Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s famous poem. “He was walking across the hills over there – which is basically the countryside that inspires the beers I make,” said Kaite, who intends expanding the business next year.
As for being a woman working in what traditionally was a male-dominated business, Kaite shrugged: “Being a female is not an issue – when I’ve been to beer festivals all the brewers I’ve met have been very welcoming – they talk to me on an equal playing field.
“People are more interested nowadays in actually tasting the beer rather than just drinking something that gets you a bit tipsy. A lot of younger people are beginning to drink it now as well. They were on all the alco-pop things – but now they’re interested in the new flavours of beer that are being made.”
To find out more visit http://kubla.co.uk/
Monday, December 16, 2013
Shreveport is the home of the latest example in the nation’s “craft brewing” trend.
Great Raft Brewing launched several craft beers at bars and restaurants throughout Shreveport and Bossier City at events last week.
The Times reports (http://bit.ly/18uFAq7) that Great Raft Brewing featured three of its flagship beers at one such event. The featured brews are “Reasonably Corrupt,” a black lager; “Commotion,” an American pale ale; and “Southern Drawl,” a pale lager.
Great Raft owners Andrew and Lindsay Nations say they have about 20 accounts with bars and restaurants in the Shreveport area. They plan to stay at that number for a while to make sure they can keep up with demand. Andrew Nations says they plan to start canning beer in February.
“It feels really good to finally be here, sharing beer with people, talking to people, seeing their response when they take that first sip of one of our beers. It’s really exciting,” Lindsay Nations said Thursday as several Great Raft representatives visited PieWorks Pizza by Design in south Shreveport. “It’s been a long time coming; we’ve been planning Great Raft for a few years. And it’s really great to see the response and that the community is liking it.”
“It’s a local brewery and we’re a local company, so we want to be a part of that,” said James Waalk, general manager of PieWorks.
Patrons were able to take home branded pint glasses from the promotional event.
“I like to try to go to beer festivals in Louisiana and encourage people to come up with new and interesting stuff. Plus you get a pint glass, so that’s cool,” said Sammy Robinson, who attended the PieWorks event specifically for the beer. “I really like Reasonably Corrupt. I prefer dark beer, so it’s really up my alley.”
Information from: The Times, http://www.shreveporttimes.com
Sun Prairie Committee of the Whole members gave their blessing Tuesday, Dec. 10 for a new festival set to occur next summer at Angell Park.
Bacon, Brew and BBQ Fest is planned for July 12. Among the activities expected is live entertainment, food and the ability of participants to sample various types of beer on hand.
The event will be strictly for those ages 21 and older and a portion of the proceeds will go toward the Sun Prairie Lions and Fireman’s Park in the Prairie.
“The applicant has been working with the Fire Department and myself for quite a few months now putting this event together,” City Clerk Diane Hermann-Brown said.
Starting Line Events, LLC, the organizer, has also worked with city police to assure safety compliance. The primary concern expressed and addressed by city officials this week, though, was a plan to provide each event patron with a 4 oz. keepsake glass that would be used for samples.
Hermann-Brown said city ordinances discourage the use of glass from such events and instead ask that “paper, plastic and foam” be offered.
“I guess the thing that stuck out to me was this sample glass thing,” Ald. Jon Freund said. “I know in the past we have been concerned about glass bottles and things as that could become a security concern.”
Lt. Brian Teasdale with Sun Prairie Police Department said the concerns are valid.
“Anytime you get a crowd that large and then you mix in alcohol, things could have the potential to go badly and that’s the first item that could be used against us [police] or each other,” Teasdale said. “That’s an area where we haven’t seen a lot of that, but any event that has those things could go that direction.”
Freund also asked if law enforcement had any concerns about the event being in the summer that and broken glass could result in injuries for someone wearing sandals and “things that aren’t terribly protective.”
“Yes, that would have a potential to occur,” Teasdale said.
A representative with Starting Line Events, Jerry Kempfer, said he doesn’t have a personal need or care to use glassware, but the practice is common at beer festivals, including a major one held annually in Madison.
“Breweries insist that their beer tastes accurate in a glass,” Kempfer said, “as opposed to being served in acrylic or plastic.”
Freund said he understood Kempfer’s position and reasoning, but noted the city has a duty to keep police officers and the public safe.
When asked by Ald. Russ Fassbender if the use of glass receptacles at other events where alcohol is served has occurred before, Hermann-Brown said the city has made exceptions in the past. Ald. Kent Orfan ultimately offered a motion to allow Bacon, Brew and BBQ Fest to move ahead with its plan to provide patrons with commemorative glassware. Ald. Andrea Gage provided a second and the motion passed unanimously.
The applications and licenses still must receive approval from the Common Council before they are final.
• Resignation accepted. Cameron Thompson has resigned as executive director of the Sun Prairie Media Center, which operates Sun Prairie’s cable access TV channels KSUN and KIDS-4. His last day will be Friday, Jan. 3.
A recruitment process is expected to begin soon and a final selection will be approved by the city council when complete. The position’s job description will be updated before the hire and the new person will have the title of Sun Prairie Media Center Director.
• Closed session. Alders met in closed session Tuesday to discuss a possible development agreement related to a vacant building at 2752 Capitol Dr. City Economic Development Director Neil Stechschulte said the project has the potential to impact “two existing Sun Prairie companies that hopefully will expand if we get this project to go.”
Further closed session talks are expected next week, Stechschulte said, before the matter is addressed by the Committee of the Whole and Common Council.
Like many craft beer lovers, Tavour CEO Philip Vaughn stumbled upon the brew after years of associating beer with the poor quality stuff he drank in college.
“You sort of feel like someone’s been telling you about Santa Claus your whole life and you found out there was no Santa Claus kind of thing,” said Vaughn, a Kirkland resident since 2007. “It’s kind of like someone told you this great beer was Bud Light and then you found out there’s all this different kind of beer. It unearths this whole new love for it.”
It was this passion for craft beer and the concept of connecting people to it that led Vaughn and co-founders Rafik Robeal of Redmond and Sethu Kalavakur of Seattle to launch the downtown Kirkland-based Tavour, a craft beer delivery service, just weeks ago.
So far, Vaughn said demand has been overwhelmingly positive among customers and breweries.
Customers simply register at their website and receive daily email offers for craft beer from local breweries. If a customer wants the product, he or she replies to the email with how many bottles, one of the owners processes the request and it is sent out on the next delivery date.
Customers receive deliveries of the beer at their doorstep on the 10th of every month. Their first delivery was Tuesday.
“The idea was started because when you go into the grocery store people typically find the same things over and over again,” Vaughn said. “So, what we’re trying to do is give people access to that unique and interesting beer.”
But Tavour also aims to connect people to the story behind the product — which bars or stores sell the beer, how long it took the brewer to come up with the recipe and information about the ingredients.
Vaughn said their audience, a highly educated young tech generation, doesn’t want to be marketed to. They want authenticity, the story of the people and producers, he said.
“We’re all so smart-phoned and digitized,” Vaughn said. “We came from a tech background … ex-Microsoft, ex-Amazon people, and it just kind of became this desire to build this business that is authentic and not trying to be a billion dollars on day one, but trying to connect with people and tell a story and make people happy and connect them to their community and their area.”
While Tavour delivers beer from some breweries out of state, the majority are in Washington, as are their customers, which are “pleasantly divided” between men and women.
“Beer is this backdrop into a subculture into a way of life, into a group of people … that’s what alcohol is, it’s a conduit for connection to people,” Vaughn said. “So we’re really looking to express that in everything we do.”
And that connection to community is in line with the small community feel of Kirkland, Vaughn said.
Vaughn, Robeal and Kalavakur researched how their idea would be received this past summer. Speaking to 300 craft-beer people at beer festivals around western Washington, they discovered many agreed with the business idea.
“You have to be careful as an entrepreneur to not just do what you think the world wants but to actually make sure someone besides you [does],” he said, adding it took about six months to plan the business.
Keeping in mind their audience generally has some kind of disposable income, the beers cost between $7 to $18 per bottle with the majority being around $7 to $10. The flat rate shipping fee is $9.95 a month.
Vaughn said the goal is to be at price with grocery store beers so they can have a larger focus on hard-to-find, exclusive beers.
Tavour will eventually look to sell and deliver wine but because there’s “only so much Washington wine” keeping the connection between people is harder given the geographic limitations.
“One thing awesome about beer is you can have a brewery in Kirkland that takes ingredients that are predominantly local,” Vaughn said. “… It’s this combination of both ingredients plus process and recipe, which makes beer really innovative almost like food is. We’ll do wine after we get beer right.”
The trio also hopes to expand their business from five employees to 10 by January and eventually get a delivery truck. But until then, deliveries will be done by co-founders in their personal vehicles.
“We can’t ever scale beyond the need of the customer,” Vaughn said. “We’re starting here and we’ll expand as the business warrants it.”
For more information on Tavour, visit www.tavour.com or the Tavour Facebook page.
It is, once again, that time of year.
The time of the year when everyone who writes about something starts putting together their ”best of” lists.
It is no different for beer writers, who have a very hard job this year.
New Zealand’s beer scene has had a stunner 2013.
New breweries are popping up everywhere – especially in Wellington – while the overall standard of beer has risen.
Breweries are picking up plenty of gongs overseas, with Renaissance winning small international champion brewery award at the Australian International Beer Awards arguably the biggest win from a New Zealand company.
Beer has also been making a big push in a business sense.
Investors with deep pockets bought into Tuatara - who are now one of few local breweries with a chief executive - while Moa’s shares have tumbled more than 40 per cent in the past year on the back of poor performance.
Meanwhile, Emerson’s – who Lion purchased last year – continued making extremely solid beer, proving the doubters wrong for now.
It will be no surprise to see beer on the business pages more often next year.
Craft beer is one of the growth markets in the liquor industry, and the big players – Lion, DB and Independent Liquor – will all want a slice of the pie.
That, for me, will be the most interesting beer story to develop during 2014.
But enough of looking ahead. Here are my beers of 2013.
Most Drunk Beer:
I have had a soft spot for Epic Pale Ale for a long time.
My first sip, after a hard slog behind a coffee machine in Wellington, put me on the long and windy road of beer nerdery I am still travelling.
But for a few years I had forgotten about it, ignored it, passed it by for others.
Then sometime, for some reason, I decided I should grab one.
A sip of that bottle took me back to when I tasted those fruity American hops and juicy malt base for the first time, sitting in a sunny back yard in Wellington after slaving away for 10 hours in a room with no air conditioning.
I then realised what I had been missing the past few years, so I quickly started making up for spare time.
I may drink a wide variety of brands and styles, but Epic Pale Ale has once again turned into my default setting, my way of getting out of a tricky spot, my go-to beer when I cannot make up my mind.
And, in a stroke of good timing, it’s Epic’s eight birthday today.
So congratulations on two fronts to owner Luke Nicholas!
Best Bottle Shop:
Is there anything in Palmerston North that will ever rival Liquorland Albert St?
The biggest range of craft beer, some of the most knowledgeable staff in the city and a fresh bank of taps to accommodate the fill-your-own market all make it a very hard place to drive past without popping in.
Here is hoping owner Bill Xu makes his new venture – another Liquorland, on College St, in the former site of Shamrock Brewing – just as good.
Best Beer Festival:
This year was not a big festival year for me. I blame life for getting in the way.
Oktoberfest in Palmerston North was a bit of fun, but seemed to miss the point for me.
Instead of bringing in a wide variety of new beers to try, which is how it was pitched, I saw most people sticking with their trusty favourites – Mac’s, Guinness and the like – and taking the opportunity to concentrate on quantity rather than quality.
It is a real shame, as Palmerston North is ready for a quality beer-focused festival.
It does not need to be massive. It just needs to concentrate on providing good beer you cannot get every day to people who want to drink it without people drinking beer by the stein.
I heard great things about City of Ales, and Pacific Beer Expo sounds like it was a success, but my vote has to go to Beervana.
The most beers, the most people and run over the most days, it really is the behemoth of New Zealand beer festivals.
It may also help that I had a beer on there this year.
Last year Village Inn Kitchen was my second-favourite pub in Palmerston North, with The Celtic taking top spot.
Those two, like so many around the city, have raised the bar this year.
The Celtic’s fridge selection possibly has the best cross-section of New Zealand-made craft beer, with Tuatara, Epic, Three Boys, Twisted Hop and even Yeastie Boys’ fearsome Rex Attitude on show.
Lion purchasing Emerson’s was good for the place, as it could now have the much-improved 1812 pale ale on top.
But despite all that, I have to give my favourite bar to VIK.
Owner Nigel Lynn has continued to expand on the market he is quickly carving out for himself: a bar outside of the CBD serving good food and damn great beer.
Being an untied premise, he can serve his own master and stock whatever he wants.
A new brewery has opened? The beer is in his fridge within a week.
Getting some taps installed has also helped, with Tuatara APA tasting especially good lately.
It is those two points that make it my bar of the year.
An honourable mention goes to Golding’s Free Dive.
Down a semi-seedy looking back alley in Wellington, any fears of being jumped by hooligans are quickly dashed by the bar’s quirky decor and some of the friendliest bar staff around.
A lot of weird beer was put out this year, largely due to many brewers putting weird stuff in said beers.
The list of odd-ball ingredients includes pink peppercorns, fruit, chilies, yarrow, and a lot more.
Stewart Brewing would have a contender with The Grain Reaper.
A 7 per cent dark lager, it has star anise, yarrow and wormwood added to the kettle.
While I did not chase green fairies after drinking a bottle, I was on the hunt for more bottles of it.
But the weirdest beer this year was Funk Estate’s Super Afrodisiac.
Figs, cacao nibs, honey, oysters and maca root powder were all added to a silky imperial stout to create something the brewers say will help with your ”night time exercise”.
If those ingredients do not confuse you, I do not know what would.
Most Improved Beer:
Easily, by far and away, this goes to local start-up Stewart Brewing Company.
When I had a bottle of Top of the Hops pilsner from Tim’s first batch, it was hardly rocking my socks off.
But since then, he has improved the beer out of sight.
The latest batch, brewed at Tuatara in Paraparaumu, is easily the best beer from his fresh-faced company.
Those New Zealand hops – including my favourite, Nelson Sauvin – are much more lively, while the bitterness is extremely clean.
I have no doubt that brewing at Tuatara, with a brewing team which makes some consistently good beers, has played a massive part in taking Top of the Hops to the next level.
Here is hoping it’s just the beginning of Tim fulfilling his goal of making a beer Manawatu can be proud of.
If you had asked me what my beer of 2013 was a week ago, I could have told you without a moment’s hesitation: Death From Above.
I would have gone all misty-eyed thinking about the perfect balance of malts, pungent American hops and a medley of other ingredients.
The mango, chili, mint and lime juice fill in all the corners to make the beer from Garage Project insanely drinkable.
It even inspired me to make my own chili beer, which has gone down well with most people who have tried it.
But last Friday night, after milling grain at a friend’s place, he grabbed a bottle from his fridge and poured me out 30ml of deep brown beer.
It seemed like a very small pour at first, but just one sip of Golden Bear Big Stones slapped that thought from my mind.
”A barrel aged taste explosion featuring mango, coconut, habanero chilli and spice. Big Stones is BIG! Have you got the stones for it?”
So says the blurb on the side of the bottle, and it is not wrong.
Made by an expatriate American living in Mapua, my small glass nothing short of mind blowing.
Having already been opened and resealed a few times with one of those nifty Zork corks, it was not quite as carbonated as it could have been.
But that was hardly a bad thing. Nutmeg and cinnamon dominated the aroma, while the flavour was massive.
You can taste everything: the coconut, the mango, the chili and the slight sourness from the yeast.
Some reviews say it tastes like port or red wine. My friend compared it to whisky.
Beer of the year? Easily.
Best 30ml of beer I’ve drunk in my life? Without a doubt.
What was your beer of the year? Did you have something weirder? And what was your go-to brew for 2013?
– © Fairfax NZ News
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
A Norwich slimmer is feeling ale and hearty after banishing his beer belly by losing 10st in weight in the space of only 15 months.
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Paul Barrett, after his weight loss, enjoys a pint at the Trafford Arms
Real ale fan Paul Barrett, 45, shed the pounds with help from Bignold Slimming World group, tightening his buckle from a belt-bursting 52-inch waist to a trim 36ins in only 15 months.
But the Norwich software engineer has still been able to enjoy his daily pint – as well as attending beer festivals across the country.
Mr Barrett, who lives in Brunswick Road, said: “I love my beer and I’m a member of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA). I visit quite a few beer festivals every year and was worried that joining Bignold Slimming World would mean the end of my real ale hobby.
“Amazingly, it hasn’t. I’ve been able to incorporate some beer into my Slimming World healthy eating plan and have still managed to lose weight successfully and dramatically.
“So I’ve really been enjoying the best of both worlds and am absolutely delighted.”
Mr Barrett, a regular at the city’s Trafford Arms pub who has worked in IT at Aviva for 25 years, and who trains at Dynamic Fitness in Ber Street, has always struggled with his weight.
He said: “I remember being overweight at primary school – we did a project where we graphed out the heights and weights of everyone in our class and I was the heaviest by quite a large amount.
“As an adult, I was putting on about half a stone a year and feared that I would reach 30st at the age of 50, with all the associated medical problems.
“Before my GP referred me to Slimming World, I would often pop to my local corner shop if I had no food in the house and buy rubbish– crisps, biscuits and ice-cream – before going home and eating the lot.
“The Slimming World eating plan is really easy to follow and, of course, far healthier.”
Since starting to lose weight, he has become more active – with hobbies including personal training sessions, circuit training and power walking.
“I can now run without getting out of breath and, in September, I successfully completed a hill running event in Norwich, running up the very steep Southgate Lane three times. I felt so proud when I collected my medal at the end.”
Karen Curtis, the consultant who runs the group, said: “Paul is clearly very sociable and, like many of his friends, has a passion for real ale.
“He has demonstrated, however, that you really can enjoy what you eat and drink as part of the Slimming World plan – and still have remarkable, life-changing weight losses.”
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Above: Rapscallion Honey, an extra pale ale infused with wild flower honey. Steven King/Worcester Magazine
Beer. It’s an evocative four-letter word. In recent years, its association has transformed from lawnmower 30-packs and raging collegiate keggers into a narrative of complexity, region and passion.
People do not necessarily think of Milwaukee or an ice-cold longneck anymore when they hear the b- word, instead, the brewpub down the street or the amiable brewer who fills your growler at the source might come to mind. Craft beer is no longer the realm of hobbyists and geeks, it is an integral element of American drinking culture and its popularity has exploded in the past several years.
It seems new breweries are popping up every day and brewers all over the country are getting increasingly creative in search of their own niche in the market. And while Central Massachusetts might not have the legendary beer-mecca status of Colorado or San Diego, the 2010s have been kind to craft beer lovers in the area thus far. It’s easy to get the feeling that it’s only the beginning.
PART OF THE COMMUNITY
Alec Lopez, owner of Worcester’s Dive Bar and Armsby Abbey, says that a decade ago, access to craft beer in Worcester was nonexistent, though the movement was beginning to sweep the country.
“At the beginning times that we were doing this, craft beer was trending up anyway. We just happened to sneak in right ahead of the curve, so we had all the momentum in the world around us and in the marketplace, so it wasn’t such a foreign object. It was kind of being pushed nationally and worldwide at that point, so it was almost like riding a wave.”
Both the Dive Bar and Armsby Abbey serve as galleries for rare and high-quality brews and Lopez brought it all to Worcester after traveling to beer festivals in Europe and developing relationships with brewers and distributors. Making a unique drinking experience available to people in the area is the foundation of what both places do, and Lopez credits his success to a no-compromise approach to selling the world’s greatest beers. After the success of the Dive Bar, Lopez took things one step further. “Armsby was born out of the need to put what we had created at the Dive into a better surrounding and have food and just push it further,” he says. Armsby Abbey now features a brand new kitchen and an expanded dining room, as of the first week of December. “We’re growing like crazy right now,” says Lopez.
Above: A list of beers on tap at Armsby Abbey in Worcester. Steven King/Worcester Magazine
Lopez isn’t the only one in town experiencing the need to grow. Ben Roesch, founder and master brewer of Wormtown Brewery, has been brewing professionally since 2001 and opened Wormtown in 2010. The demand for his beer was immediate. “We would have built it bigger if we had seen it coming, but it really outstripped our wildest imaginations of what we could do,” he says. The brewery is about to relocate to a much bigger space at 72 Shrewsbury St., in the old Buick building that houses Volturno, Sweet, The Hidden Jewel and Worcester Magazine. “We needed a bigger spot in order to make more beer, is really the short of it,” says Roesch. The move will allow the brewery to offer tours and a tasting room.
Beer tourism is something that Roesch would like to bring to Central Massachusetts. He notes that with the economy still creating problems for many, people are not as willing to drop their savings on a week in the Caribbean, but a day trip to the local brewery might be an affordable and enlightening adventure. “Going to the brewery is a cool way to get out for the day or the afternoon and check out something different, see how something is made locally,” he says, adding that before he was a professional brewer, he would always seek out local breweries while on vacation. “Beer is an affordable luxury,” he says.
A tasting room on the premises allows drinkers to experience beer right at the source, but it can also give the brewers an easy test audience. Cedric Daniel, co-owner of Rapscallion Brewery in Fiskdale, says tastings are a great addition to the brewery experience.
Located at Hyland Orchard, Rapscallion offers tours and tastings every weekend and also operates the tap room on weekday evenings Tuesday through Friday. “We are able to ‘test’ beers out in the tap room before we decide to make them public,” says Daniel. “We are also able to be more creative and free with our brewing, with very small batches for the tap room – as we know our regulars and visitors are more apt to try different recipes right from the sources, versus at restaurants and bars out and about.”
This accessibility is huge. Like most craftspeople, brewers are always eager to talk about their work and for the curious and adventurous drinker, it’s easy to get your questions answered. “I think that’s definitely been one of the keys to us growing so quickly,” says Roesch. “I mean, you call, you get me on the phone. I’m answering the phone. You walk in the door and want to talk to me, there’s not like eight people you have to go through, half the time it’s me there. I don’t see that changing too much and I think that’s a real positive thing. I think it kind of resonates with people, especially when we’re talking about being part of the community.
A THIRST FOR FREEDOM
One attraction to craft beer and its consumption and production is that it lends itself to independence. There’s a certain amount of freedom to be had with a variety of choices, and certainly a bit of adventure to be found in the abundant selections available to consumers. Jonathan Cook, author of “Beer Terrain,” a new book that details the use of locally-sourced ingredients in Massachusetts brewing, places a lot of weight on personal choice. “It’s people doing what they want to do,” he says, speaking of hop farmers and breweries like Wormtown. “The way they do things is their own. They’re their own bosses and they do it according to their own conscience.”
Cook, a longtime brewer and beer aficionado, is driven by a desire for discovery. “I’m just naturally curious, and being a homebrewer I’m very curious about what’s in beer,” he says. “Brewpubs and tasting rooms in breweries… those are my favorite places in the world because they know so much about it and you can see how it’s made.”
And when it comes to how it’s made, there are the basics and then there are the flourishes, which can be unexpected and sometimes downright surprising. Water and malt form the backbone of any beer, and hops are important to the flavor, smell and level of bitterness, but many people are not content to stop there. It is this intrinsic curiosity and need for adventure that lures people to craft beer and keeps them drinking it. Brewers are no different. For Roesch, one such impromptu detour began when he saw a bizarre fruit in his mother-in-law’s house.
“She had a Buddha’s hand in her fruit basket, it’s a lemony-looking fruit in the citrus family with little fingers on it. I was asking about it – I’d never seen one before – and she was telling me about how there’s no fruit in there, it’s just all pit and zest and you cut it up and use it in a salad or steep it in hot water in tea, and I was just thinking, ‘man, that would go great in so many different beers that I already make. A citrus would complement something that already had citrus flavors from American hops.’” Last year the brewery produced two batches of Buddha’s Juice, a double IPA brewed with Buddha’s hand and grapefruit peel, and they plan to do it again this year.
Rail Trail Flatbread Company Bar Manager Rui Silva agrees with the need for adventure, and accordingly, rotates the taps at the Hudson restaurant and bar as often as possible, sometimes daily. He says it’s all about trying something new and he strives to make this part of the experience. “When someone comes in here and they say, ‘I’ve never seen any of these beers before,’ it’s the best. That’s what we’re going for,” Silva says. “We get really excited because now we can introduce you to something new. We like being that place where it kind of challenges and introduces new flavors at the same time.”
Above: An array of beer offered at Rail Trail Flatbread Company in Hudson. Steven King/Worcester Magazine
Cook, a dedicated homebrewer, credits happenstance and experimentation with broadening his palate, and for him, this is part of the attraction to drinking beer. “I drink beer because I love the flavor, but my taste buds change, so I tend to do a little bit of experimenting sometimes with brewing. For example, I made a beer with lavender because I had extra lavender that year. This late summer I harvested a huge crop of hops, so I brewed with heavy doses of hops. Prior to that, I’d never been a giant IPA fan, I’d enjoyed maltier beers. But as a homebrewer, it really got me acclimated to that huge flavor and lately, I’ve been buying nothing but IPAs.”
DO IT YOURSELF
It is this desire for experimentation and adventure that is bringing more and more people to the world of homebrewing. For many, homebrewing is the logical next step in their own explorations of beer, and for aspiring beer wizards in Worcester County, there’s no need to travel far.
The West Boylston Homebrew Emporium carries everything one needs to brew beer and a wide range of ingredients to make the possibilities seem literally endless. In business since 1999, the Homebrew Emporium caters to brewers old and new. “We have a diverse group of people that shop here,” says Manager Patrick Gouin. “There’s still the ‘old-school’ brewers that have been doing this for decades now and who helped pave the way, but there’s plenty of young people deeply interested in the hobby, myself included.”
M4: Mid-Mass Malt Masters is a homebrew club that the store started in March of this year. Open to anyone, the club meets monthly and has grown from three founding members to about 20 core members in just nine months, with a dozen more drifting in and out periodically.
“People get into homebrewing for a plethora of reasons,” says Gouin. “A lot of people just love craft beer and say ‘I can do that!’ Some treat it as a hobby, while others might be aspiring to start their own breweries someday. I think it’s safe to say that all of us enjoy doing it and sharing what we’ve made with others.”
Gouin sees a bright future for craft beer in Central Massachusetts. With so many breweries and beer bars appearing in the area over the last several years, he has seen a large departure from the macro lager beers that have dominated the landscape for so long. “There’s still plenty of room for growth in our area and I definitely see it coming,” he adds.
Gouin and the folks at the Emporium, like many others involved in the local beer industry, make an effort to give back to their community and to make beer a communal staple. The store raises money for the Worcester County Food Bank at least twice a year by holding brewing events. “For the American Homebrewers Association’s National Homebrew Day and Learn to Brew Day, we invite local brewers to set up in our parking lot and brew batches of beer,” he says. They provide batches of ingredients in exchange for a small cash or food donation.
Homebrewed beer and the people who make it can do a whole lot to form the beer landscape; it’s how many professional brewers get their start. Jim Koch, the founder of Sam Adams, and Sam Calagione, founder of Dogfish Head Brewing, are both titans in the American beer industry. Both started in their own kitchens, brewing five gallons at a time on the stovetop and fermenting in buckets.
In his seminal homebrewing book “The Joy of Homebrewing,” brew guru Charlie Papazian says, “Traditional beer styles go in and out of favor with consumers. When they are rediscovered, homebrewers tend to be their champions.” Gouin agrees with Papazian. “For example, a style such as Gose, which is an old German style of wheat beer with light spices and salt added, has been making a resurgence,” he says. “Most of the credit there is due to homebrewers.”
A PIECE OF MASS
In the past several years, the popularity of local foods, local ingredients and farm-to-table restaurants has exploded. The “buy local” sentiment is beyond trendy at this point and has become a commonplace mantra for small businesses and the people who support them. For some involved in the Central Massachusetts craft beer industry, it’s a no brainer and something of a mission statement, but for others, it isn’t so simple.
“You know, local doesn’t mean good, and I try to get people to understand that all the time,” says Lopez. “We have a lot of breweries in Massachusetts, but we have very few producing good beer, so if there is a local beer and it happens to be really good then yes, that’s as good as it gets for us. That’s what we really try to celebrate.”
Above: Sara Sorola, a bartender at Armsby Abby, pours a Union Jack IPA brewed at Firestone Walker in California. Steven King/Worcester Magazine
Silva acknowledges the desire to support local breweries, citing both Jack’s Abbey in Framingham and Wormtown in Worcester as breweries they feature semi-regularly, but says limiting beer options to locally-produced suds can be detrimental. “At the end of the day, we just want really good beer,” he says. “I feel like sometimes having that pressure to be a place where you only carry local beers, while it’s great, sometimes it can hinder the experience. I think, why not put on a great beer, like a Firestone Union Jack from California? Why shouldn’t I be able to do that? I think that being tied down to just local beers does a disservice to the customer.”
Roesch, as a brewery owner, doesn’t have to decide whose beers to serve – they’re all his. And when there is access to locally-produced ingredients, he doesn’t think twice. In 2010, Valley Malt began malting barley grown in Western Mass., becoming the first malthouse east of the Mississippi. Roesch bought their entire first batch. “We opened up in early 2010, and all you could do at that point was use what I call typical, not-that-hard-to-get brewing ingredients that are local: pumpkin, blueberries, maple syrup, honey,” Roesch says. “It was a lot harder to get the more traditional brewing ingredients, barley, wheat, hops. The real component that was missing was the malting.”
In late 2010, Wormtown brewed their first batch of MassWhole Ale with grains and hops exclusively from within the state. “Once we were able to do that, we committed to putting one Mass.-grown ingredient in every beer we make,” says Roesch. Thus, Wormtown’s tagline, “A Piece of Mass in Every Glass.”
Roesch, echoing Silva’s sentiment, admits that the most important thing for consumers is, above all else, the quality of the beer. “You’re always going to have people that are concerned with supporting local businesses, especially other people that are involved in local businesses,” he says. “I think it’s a bonus for people who just like good beer, but it’s something that is important to me and Wormtown Brewery and I think the freshness of local ingredients adds to the quality of Wormtown Brewery beer.”
Daniel agrees that keeping the brewery sustainable and local is important to Rapscallion’s mission. The brewery even sources their tap handles from a Rhode Island company that makes them by hand, and further, gets the honey for their flagship ale, Honey, from a local honey farmer. “We are also draft-only and anticipate to can a few of our products, both vessels being as sustainable for the environment and community as possible,” Daniel adds.
TRADITIONS OLD AND NEW
Cook has lived and brewed in Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, but asserts that Massachusetts stands out in its own way. He says that while many of the breweries in other parts of New England still adhere to an English style of brewing, brewers in Massachusetts are forging their own ground. “In Massachusetts, I think there’s been a little more creativity,” he says. “There’s this definitive Mass. sort of style; it’s very broad but it’s not pure English. It touches on a lot of things, and a lot of it is original to the brewers.”
Rapscallion, on the other hand, offers Harvard Lager, a beer that relies on a recipe from another time. The brewery acquired the Harvard Brewing brands, originally from Lowell and started in 1898, in a 2008 ownership transition. “We chose to brew some of their recipes to honor the tradition of brewing in the state,” says Daniel. “The lager is also a great tasting session beer (in layman’s terms: a beer you can drink a whole bunch of without getting completely sloshed) so we wanted to make this history in brewing available for craft drinkers.” At this point, Harvard Lager has been brewed and consumed at various times in three consecutive centuries.
Above: Rapscallion brewers Jonas Noble and Shaun Radzuik clean the fermentation vessels. Steven King/Worcester Magazine
The brewery’s flagship ale, Honey, is an extra pale ale made with local honey and Daniel semi-jokingly refers to it as their “transition beer.” “We bring it to family gatherings and convert our uncles who drink macros,” he laughs. Having something for everyone is important to the brewers at Rapscallion and though their line includes a very robust porter and a dark and bitter black IPA, they are not afraid to include lighter, more accessible beers. Daniel notes that simplicity can go a long way, as can a lack of pretension. “We’re all in this together,” he adds.
Jennifer Wright, general manager of Brew City in Worcester, has seen the range of people seeking craft brews explode firsthand and agrees that the importance of catering to everyone is paramount for a beer bar. “We have a huge client base, from students to people that have known this family for decades,” Wright says.
While noting that some of her regulars will never stray far from what they know and love, Wright says occasionally a hardcore macro drinker will give a microbrew a whirl. The two are not mutually exclusive, after all, and a wider variety of drinkers are warming the barstools these days. “We have a lot of regular loyal customers and some of them, all they want to drink is Coors Light,” she says. “That’s fine. We have that for you. But more and more, as craft beer gets bigger, there’s another huge market and generation that’s coming into beer. So many more women are drinking craft beer. Why not have something for everybody?”
As for craft beer’s popularity, Roesch attributes it to the way the current generation of drinkers has been raised, as well as the human tendency to identify with brands and regions.
“If you like West Coast beer, maybe you’re from the West Coast and you’re holding that torch while you’re out on the East Coast and vice versa,” Roesch says. “I think it has a lot to do with identity and I think also the generations of people that are coming up now that are starting to drink beer are exposed to their parents being craft beer drinkers. So now the kids that are younger than me, I’m 35, their parents were drinking Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada. It’s already part of their life, whereas that was a slow thing that was happening through the ’80s and ’90s, transitioning from imports to microbrews.”
BRINGING IT HOME
The variety and quality of craft beer is as variable as the day is long, and with the flavor of a new beer being as unpredictable as the availability of a rare one, the way people drink is evolving. “The mass market drinker will put down four to six factory beers in a pretty short amount of time and in our world, people are having two, maybe three in a very long, relaxed period of time,” says Lopez. “It feels like a higher level of socializing. [The beer] is such a huge conversation piece, especially when you’re dealing with such rarities that we are where they have tremendous backstories. It’s the experience of getting your hands on it, or how the beer was made.”
Above: Rose D’Errico, bartender at the Dive Bar, pours an Oude Tart brewed in California by The Bruery. Steven King/Worcester Magazine
When planning Rail Trail Flatbread Co., the owners looked to the town’s history. According to Silva, the local library and town hall were as important as the tasting sessions in the research phase of the project. The restaurant is named for the rail line that was once an integral part of the town’s economy. “They picked that name to kind of symbolize what they were trying to do, which is bring something new into the town and to revitalize it a little bit and to get everybody on board,” he says. “We love to be able to support the town.”
“I grew up in and around Worcester, and it was a dream of mine to open up a brewery in Worcester,” says Roesch. When he started brewing professionally 12 years ago, he says he could already see the potential in the region, but Central Massachusetts had a giant hole in it. A few smaller breweries, including Main Street Brewing Company downtown, have come and gone in recent years, while a few breweries outside of Worcester, like Berkshire Brewing Company and Wachusett, have managed to carry the torch. As the second largest city in New England, Roesch says Worcester “deserves four or five breweries at a minimum. Look at Portland, Oregon. Look at some areas in New Hampshire or Vermont. I’m still waiting for the next two or three to open up along with us and really make Worcester a destination for some of that beer tourism, more than just us.”
On a recent Saturday afternoon in early December, in the 1940s-era farmhouse cellar at Hyland Orchard, Daniel pulls a sample of a new experiment straight from the fermenter. “It needs something,” he says with a grin. “We’re just not sure what.” On the other side of the Rapscallion cellar, small amounts of it sit in airlocked growlers, steeping in oak chips and other undisclosed elements. After several years of tenant and contract brewing, Rapscallion has found a home in the former digs of Pioneer Brewing, and Pioneer owner and brewer Todd Sullivan now shares space with Daniel and his crew, having switched to tenant brewer.
Through a swinging door, the taproom slowly fills with frozen disc golfers. Sullivan pulls himself a pint and ribs his buddies for their poor performance on the course. The bartender gives a little girl a juice box from the kids’ cooler, and a couple of dogs wander through the crowd. Glasses filled from the array of 14 taps, eight Rapscallion and six Pioneer quickly begin to cover the handful of wooden tables and Jon Short sets up in the corner and begins his familiar pick-and-stomp. It’s a down-home afternoon, and Daniel likes it that way. A test kitchen should be comfortable, after all, and he has a room full of willing subjects here. With everything from a tried-and-true (and evidently quite popular) Honey Ale to a porter that’s less than a month out of the gate, it’s almost hard to decide where to start.
“We don’t rely on this 100 percent, but it’s a nice plus,” says Daniel of the tap room, before leading a small group of people through the swinging door on an impromptu tour. Huge steins from the 150-member-strong mug club begin vacating the shelf in increasing numbers. Daniel returns, surveying the room with beer in hand. Rapscallion’s “transition beer” is going down surprisingly pleasantly, lacking the syrupy sweetness one might expect from a honey ale, instead offering a thorough afternoon crispness. According to Daniel, it’s all about getting people in the door and giving them something exciting to drink. And from the looks of the room, it’s working.
From the author of “Beer Terrain,” find the blog of Jon Cook at beerterrain.blogspot.com.
From two employees at the West Boylston Emporium, find reviews, tutorials and more on the art of brewing at TheBeerFiles.com.
Beer festival weekend a big success
2:00pm Tuesday 10th December 2013 in News
Beer festival weekend a big success
BEER buffs and ale enthusiasts enjoyed the twelfth annual Harwich and Dovercourt winter ale festival.
More than 50 beers were sampled at the event which kicked off on Wednesday and ran until Saturday at Kingway Hall in Dovercourt.
Organiser Richard Oxborrow saw people flock to the event and enjoy the beers, ales, ciders and perries on offer.
“Lots of people think beer festivals are a summer thing but we offer a small intimate setting where people aren’t overwhelmed by choice.
“It also means we have an opportunity to champion seasonal beers which are often darker and stronger.”
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“People are fed up with beer as an industrial product,” he says. “They want it to be local, naturally flavorful again, and like it used to be. People are very focused on local and natural. Craft beer plays into that very well.”
As for the Coppertail name, Coppertail is a fantastical sea creature that lives in Tampa Bay where he protects swimmers and battles pollution.
Bailey’s now 6-year-old daughter Sofia is the one who came up with the name after a talk with Bailey about the earliest explorers of Tampa and the kinds of creatures they might have seen.” A lot of them reported seeing sea monsters which I thought was hilarious,” says Bailey. “Coppertail is something impossible, about imagination and a lot about Tampa Bay.”
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Kent Bailey, Coppertail
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