Gender Roles and Brewing

One of the first axioms learned in home brewing is Charlie Papazian’s Proverb:  “Relax.  Don’t worry.  Have a home brew.”  Two weeks ago I heard that refrain on the Brewing Patio at Black Bridge.  A Belgian Blonde was being brewed by two women, Rachel & Sharon.  They were both questioning temperature as the beer was being transferred to the fermentation vessels.  They were told to ‘not worry so much.’  Their response was, ‘we’re women.  We worry.’

The declaration made me wonder: do women, in fact, worry more than men?  What is the objective of their worry compared to men?  Are they concerned about their reputations?  Or are they concerned about the well being of those they serve? Or is it pointless to even make that a thing because, we are all, you know, people?  After all, let’s not forget it was a man who penned the above warning regarding worry.  Many men have read that warning and have had to remind themselves of it during a stressful brewday.

Before you continue reading, I feel I must warn you – there are no answers to the above questions.  At least, not from me.  Go forth, then, and have a full discussion of gender roles.

Traditionally women have been entrusted with domestic management.  They have always been concerned about how and known the way to take care of their family.  An important part of family life is centered around food and drink.  Beer – or wine, or mead, or alcohol of choice – has always been a part of human life; from ancient times women were usually bread makers and beer brewers. It was a home activity. Once it became a profession or an industry men arrogated it.  More women are becoming involved in the commercial brewing industry now.  Women may especially worry about their performance in this industry and others because they are working in what has now become a man’s environment and they feel they must prove themselves.  Whose fault is that?

The point?  Humans have brewed.  Humans are brewing.  Maybe we should just leave it at that.  Gender politics should not be a thing.  Therefore, I have mixed feelings on whether I should write this up the way I am. But here I am doing it.  Fine.  I’ll throw this in – one difference I noted in the Belgian brewday was the number of selfies happening.  I have no idea how that fits into the gender role discussion.

As noted above the beer being brewed was Belgian Blonde with additions of prickly pear.  That’s right, No Pricks Allowed has returned.  While the female brewers of the beer were different than last year there have been no other stylistic to the beer.  From what I recall, it was a beautiful beverage – outstanding clarity and bright purple color.  It had a light body and drank quickly and easily.  It’s Belgian-ness was not overpowering, nor was the prickly pear.

Here we are in the post-modern information age and still arguing over race and gender.  I’m simply going to argue that No Pricks Allowed was a good beer last time around.   And If I recall correctly, last year’s iteration of this beer encouraged Janelle to begin her own home brewing adventures.

Politics, gender or otherwise, may be a verboten subject at the brewery (yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s not true) but beer and brewing is always on the table so check for this Belgian Blonde in the coming week.  Raise a glass to the people in your life.

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A Belgian Inspired Imperial Porter

A new beer will soon be debuting at Black Bridge. Here’s a quick encapsulation. 

Remember in Star Wars (okay, Episode IV: A New Hope) when Luke and Han and Chewie and the droids that everyone was looking for were in a control room on the Death Star and R2-D2 locates Leia and Luke wants to rescue her and he’s got to convince Han to help?


 Luke tells Han … “She’s rich.”   That’s the new Belgian inspired Imperial Porter, Shuggah Momma, that’s on its way.    It is, essentially, the daring rescue of Princess Leia from the bowels of the Death Star.  In a bottle.  Without the trash compactor part.

What An Incredible Smell You’ve Discovered

The Belgian candi syrup powers the nose of this beer. It was immediately redolent of soda. Seriously, I thought they just gave me a Dr Pepper. 

Your Eyes Can Deceive You

Brownish orange really, the color seemed eccentric.  In other words, it’s not as dark as my perceptions make a porter. The Belgian motif, I would say, is at play here, too. The color is half trippel/quad, half brown porter. 

Your Focus Determines Your Reality

 It is lighter than I expected and not as roasted or rich as I imagined but it was intriguing. It’s full of two row and crystal malts.  It’s sweet, but not tropical or fruity.   Low carbonation, finishes dry, not much hops presence when I sampled it. 

I Sense Something

It’s a complex beer.  Where is it going?  What does it want to be?  Thematically and stylistically it is something it might not be but is. Confused? Delighted? Exactly. Well, anyway, make your own choice about it when it arrives.  These are just my initial perceptions and could be totally off. And after having aged for many weeks, the beer could transform into something other. Art lies in the realm of ambiguity and that’s what we have here. And at  10.9% abv Tom continues his strong beer — ah, I mean Tim. Tim continues his strong beer legacy.   

Sometime in June it’s supposed to be ready. Maybe sooner, maybe later.  Watch for it. 

The Role of Beer Books In Contributing to Beer Culture

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” ― Haruki Murakami

I don’t really know who that author is; I found that quote on Goodreads. It seems a good fit for The Session this month. The beer blogging Friday host Joan Birraire posited this for a subject:

“The discussion at hand is “The Role of Beer Books”. Participants can talk about that first book that caught their attention, which brought them to get interested in beer; or maybe about books that helped developing their local beer scene. … I believe that their importance for the beer culture makes books worthy for another Session.”

I am certain that the “culture” referenced above is not of the sort found in the pages of this book: Yeast: The Practical Guide to Beer Fermentation.   It would refer more to this kind of culture: “the ideas, customs, and intellectual and artistic conditions of a society or group.” – This definition contributed by Vocabulary.com. The following are the books that have influenced me and that I feel added to the ideas, customs and intellectual conditions of beer and brewing.

Do you remember the Star Trek episode, “A Piece of the Action?”  Yes, the one where Kirk and Spock get to act like caricatures of gangsters from the 1920s (it also introduced the geniotic card game, fizbin, but that doesnt play into this story, so never mind that part). The entire species on the planet the Enterprise crew was visiting had been influenced by a single book that a previous starship had left, Chicago Mobs of the Twenties.  So, Joy of Homebrewing is that book for home brewers. It has influenced, maybe not the planet, but a huge percentage of the home brewing population. Just a few days ago I was commanded to follow the Papazian Mantra – relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew – and that’s, what, about thirty years post-publication! Good show, Mr Papazian. The book is full of great advice and technique, to be sure, and it has a little history, and certainly it contains the home brew philosophy that many of us live by, especially on Brew Day. As far as importance to culture, I put it at numero uno.  

  • A side note: the Trek episode reminded me of this treasure from Retroactive*.  (Wink-wink, nudge-nudge, Black Bridge – Def Leppard Friday’s should be a Thing!)

As far as quick reference goes, Miller’s book, Brewing the World’s Great Beers is fantastic, in my opinion. It is categorized in sections for extract, partial mash and all grain, quickly lays out the basic grist bill and instructions for all the basic beer styles. It’s often where I start in recipe formulating. I like the sparse nature of the book, too. No fluff, just beer stuff; knowledge at your fingertips. Like the JoH above, this book has served me well for years of successful home brewing and has survived two children, several dogs, and lots of Brew Days. 

I am enthralled by Belgian beers so it was a lot of fun to read Brew Like A Monk. There are recipe breakdowns throughout, but also brief histories of breweries and the philosophy of the brewers. I am more beholden to beer styles than I realized, though I like to consider myself more creative than to be restricted by rules since they are, like time and reality, just societal constructs and from what I got out of this book the monk brewers are not interested in styles. They make a beer over and over and know it and treat it like a living thing that must be cared for. As far as culture of beer goes, it seems to me that these monks possessed a proto-Papazian RDWHAH thinking.

Randy Mosher enjoys uncovering the arcane secrets and tastes of beer, firing the desires of other brewers. I’ve only read Tasting Beer, but it was enlightening. It again provided some history and discussed the derivations of various beer types. I’ve also been able to hear some of his talks from the home brewers convention. He seems to be always searching for beer knowledge and wants to correct inaccuracies in technique or folk knowledge or wherever so that all can enjoy true beer. 

History flavors culture. At least, it gives us context which is vital for insight into character, decisions, goals. It is the first step to subtext. You can navigate life without being aware of context, but it just makes you appear egotistical, foolish or a bully. No finesse. So books like Ogle’s help provide context to the beer world. Ambitious Brew was a fun read about brewing history in the United States. It provides a glimpse of the goals of those we refer to now as Big Brewers. What stood out to me was their need to expand. Expand. Expand. Take over. Etc. Now, a century later they still expand, by buying independently owned breweries. Stop helping them do that! I think books like this can serve as caution tape for craft brewers who are huge. While it’s nice to have good beers available nationally when do you draw the line between beer passion and building empire? I remember a time when it was the thing to mock Bud for being the SAME product from one end of the country to another. No character, as it were. Now I can pick up a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale anywhere and it’s gonna taste the same – granted its still a better taste than Bud. Before all the proverbial hackles are raised, this is not any kind of indictment, I am not qualified to make a judgement like that about brewery business and goals. What I’m really saying is history books can add to beer culture because it can make us discuss beer ethics. Ethics are the reason I choose to avoid big beer whenever possible. It’s not the taste, it’s the … context. It’s also why I prefer to drink at a local brewery whenever that’s an option. Speaking of local:  this will be out soon, Brewing Local.

To all the beer book authors out there: Thank You. Your work is being appreciated. You are affecting people’s thinking about beer. Cheers. 
—–———–

*A cover, I know. Sweet.  

Mohave County Beer Fest, Year Three. Is There Hope For Number Four?

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Thank you to the anonymous (to me, at least) driver of a Ford Expedition for having a decal on the back window of your vehicle advertising Saturday’s Mohave County Beer Fest. It reminded me to buy tickets. Marketing works.

Saturday’s event was relaxing and enjoyable. Indeed, ‘there is nothing better for us than to eat and drink and enjoy our lives.’ While I did no eating at the MCBF, I did drink and enjoy. So here’s a recap of the beers and breweries and a few notes about the event itself.

THE BEERS

Black Bridge
Kingman’s local was pouring Secret Pass, a blonde ale; Holy Water, a Belgian Pale Ale; and Raspberry Poison. Holy Water is a refreshing drink, crisp like an APA with a little mystical off-ness to it. Owner and brewer Tim Schritter also discovered that Raspberry Poison (a wheat wine with a little raspberry) and Pints’ Chocolate Porter makes an awesome concoction. The Poison subdues the roasted malt while that roasted malt moderates the sweetness of the Poison.

Canyon Distributing
Not a brewery but a distributor with a few different offerings available here in Kingman. I had the Big Butt Doppelbock by Leinenkugel. Well made bock.

Founders
They were offering their Dirty Bastard, a scotch ale and several IPAs. The Porter was my natural choice. It was very roasted, sublimely black and tasty.

Four Peaks
Arizona’s heavyweight brewery was pouring several selections, including their flagship Kiltlifter. I chose their Peach Ale. It’s a golden ale brewed with Arizona peaches. It was moderately interesting and very easy to drink.

Goose Island
So, the volunteers at this desk were proactive. They were right by the entrance and encouraged everyone to get their first drink there. I complied. I’m not sure what I got, really. It was a Goose Island table, but I think they were pouring Widmer Brothers product. I couldn’t make out the label well enough. I think it was Brrbon ’12. It certainly tasted heavy and barrel aged. Oak and vanilla and lots of caramel malt were present. It was a strong, strong start to the festival.

House of Hops
This new local tap house didn’t have any of their own brews since that’s not what they do. But it was good to see them there doing their part to increase Kingman beer culture. They were pouring some Widmer beers, too. One was the Brrbon ’12 and the other a raspberry imperial stout. I sampled the stout. It was nicely done, but I honestly don’t remember too much about that beer.

Mudshark
Three words: Vanilla. Caramel. Porter. I had this either last year at MCBF or at the Boulder Beer festival. I may not remember the venue but I have not forgotten that beer. Look for it around town in their “Shark Cages.” The vanilla dominates the flavor, to be sure. It was good enough for seconds.

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North Coast
Amongst the selections at this venerable breweries table was Old Rasputin, one of my most favoritest stouts. It did not disappoint. Also on the table was Brother Thelonious, a transcendent, jazzy Belgian abbey ale.

Odell
This Fort Collins trendsetter had a beer that briefly vied with the Chocolate Porter as best beer in show for me – and get this, it was an IPA. I have tried to make it abundantly clear that I do not care for that style. But Tree Shaker is a style breaker. The citrus smell and flavor blends seamlessly with the peach character. The usual hop overload is not present. It’s interesting that they still call this an IPA when it only comes in at forty-eight IBU and generally they should range from sixty to one hundred. It definitely shakes up the genre.

Pints
This brewery continues to impress me. I love their Rehab Red, and they had an interesting watermelon beer at a quondam festival. At this one they had a Chocolate Porter and it was my favorite beer from the whole event. The burnt, roasted malt that makes up the grist bill for this beauty had no qualms about showing themselves in the nose and in taste. It wasn’t aggressive or brutal, just delightful.

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Shock Top
Ha-ha, yeah, like I would’ve even stopped at this table. Heh, funny, yeah – No!

Sierra Nevada
They were offering a kolsch style beer and I’d never had it. It was a respite from their usual hoppy masterpieces.

Stone
Almost as surely as Sierra Nevada, the wizards at Stone always have highly hopped brews. They were pouring one I’d not heard of nor tried before and it was a complex five ounces. It’s called Points Unknown (very esoteric) and it’s a double IPA blended with a Belgian tripel and aged in red wine and tequila barrels. It is one of those beers that is truly layered. The top layer was all hops – lemonpine for the nose, bitterness at first sip. Then the maltiness is perceived in the next layer, with some caramel and alcohol and that loamy Belgian mystique. It finished with tequila and wine. Still an IPA.

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THE EVENT

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The Improvements
Attendees received a commemorative tasting mug. It’s a little thing but I was tremendously happy to get it. It shows interest in the culture of the fest and respect for the partakers. Good call.

The venue was much improved over last year. It was indoors, in an exhibit hall. The brewery tents and tables were against the walls all around the room leaving the center open for mingling and sitting. It was still small, the whole event could be taken in via one glance, but it didn’t feel as crowded as it did last year. The volunteers seemed more engaged, too. There was music, though not a live band. But, we’ve got to have ways to improve for next year, right?

Overall, it seemed like an insouciant, agreeable good time. It didn’t leave me as tired as last year with all the heat and noise and cramped area.

The After Parties
A couple of “thank you’s” also go out to Tim from Black Bridge and T.J. from House of Hops for their invites to the after-parties. I had not made it to the House before Saturday although it’s been open for weeks and is getting good word of mouth in town. They do offer lots of good beer. The place was loud Saturday night with all the people crowded inside. It’s not really my kind of scene, but I do like that very long bar and their selections on tap. The owners and staff are all very welcoming and that is a novel approach for Kingman. Doubtless I’ll be there again.

Black Bridge had a band out back, Almighty Dog, playing on a newly constructed stage.  B3 is planning on booking more bands and really turning the back lot into a cool hangout, making it even more like a neighborhood or backyard gathering spot. I enjoyed some more Holy Water and some Chiapas iced coffee, as well. Black Bridge has helped make the downtown area very interesting and I look forward to their future.

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So, good improvements for the beer fest. It was an enjoyable event. It felt like everyone cared this time around. Look forward to year four.

My First Belgian: The Session Number Ninety-One

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The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic.

The topic that Elisa and I have chosen for this month’s Session is ‘My First Belgian.’

My first Belgian home brew I named Clawed. Herein lies the recipe:

2 lbs Belgian Pale malt
7 lbs 6 row
2 oz Sterling hops (boil)
1 lb candi sugar
Wyeast 1214

I do not recall any of the mash particulars. It was a five gallon batch. This was about five years ago.

It was a good beer, close to what I supposed a Belgian beer should be – orange and mysterious. There are two beers that I want to brew again – this one and a barley wine I made fifteen years ago. Maybe some day …

Clawed was well received, by me and those to whom I gave a bottle or two. I don’t think this beer was terribly Belgiany otherwise many of the beer recipients would have been terrified by it. However, it had just the right amount of citrusy spice to make it appealing. It was made during a summer, so it was refreshing, too.

The Belgian beers I’ve had possess an intangible quality that appeals to me yet is hard to convey. Certainly there’s the spice, the earthiness, the venerable moth-eaten pall of long storage; but there’s also the tastual juxtaposition of this libation. It’s a beer, but it’s not a beer. These Belgian creations are never what you expect. That sense of discovery, experimentation and surprise.

I do not think I crafted that essence. But, it was a shadowy homage to the beer legends. At some point, I shall go forth and attempt it once more.

Holy Water by Black Bridge

It’s a Belgian Pale ale. It’s sharp golden brown.

Very woody, barky, smoky
Slight carbonation
Sticky body
Smells like wood, too, oak
Good example of style
Can’t get enough.

Who’d have guessed drinking tree bits would be so fabulous?