Now that December is here and we're ticking down the days until Christmas, I've decided to put autographed copies of The Complete Beer Course on sale. I'll sign anything. Anything! And include a limited-edition button with each order. Grab books right over...here. Yeah, they'll be a couple bucks more than Amazon. However, it's not like Jeff Bezos is walking down to the Post Office and personally mailing everything you buy online. Plus: a portion of every sale is earmarked for diapers for my daughter. She has an insatiable Huggies demand.
Fine drinkers! The last month has been a tilt-a-whirl of travel for The Complete Beer Course. Over the course of 12 hours, I consumed beer in both Brooklyn and San Diego—and at 30,000 feet too—to kickstart a book tour that has not quite ended yet. In between drinking more than my recommended daily allowance of beer, as well as preparing for the impending birth of my daughter next month, I've been writing. Oh, have I been writing! So many words! So many, many words!
This dichotomy suits me like Savile Row's finest. I'm able to get out in the world and chitchat with folks, then retreat to my hermit cave and crank out stories like one of those monkeys tethered to a typewriter. Anyway, I digress. Which is sort of the point of writing on your own website, right? No editors to request that you turn your stories into a clickable slideshow or knock out a trend-driven story on, say, pumpkin beers or football season. It's tough being a writer in this attention-deficit Internet age. But you know what? There are far, far worse jobs out there in the world. Actually, that's a lie: newspaper reporter is the worst job.
So why do I do it? I like writing. And I like drinking beer. And I like investigating their delicious intersections. Without further hullabaloo, here are some of the stories I've penned over the last month. You'll want to crack a beer first.
First We Feast, "20 Beer Terms You Secretly Can't Explain": Or can you? That would really defeat this article's purpose.
Bon Appétit, "The Complete College Guide to Drinking Beer": Malt liquor and keg stands are nothing but a distant memory.
Bon Appétit, "Ten Great American Farmhouse Breweries": From Hill Farmstead to Ruhstaller, Old MacDonald most definitely had a beer.
Bon Appétit, "How the 10 Most Important Grains in Beer Affect Flavor": From oats to rye, here's why your beer drinks smooth and tastes spicy.
Imbibe, "The United States of Beer": My cover story this month is a state-by-state sampling of the nation's craft beers. P.S. It's only in the magazine.
Imbibe, "Average Joe": RateBeer's Joe Tucker has built a beer-review website for—and of—the people
The Denver Post, "Scouting GABF 2013": I report on the Northeast's best breweries to travel to Denver this year.
New York Post, "10 Brew-tiful Ways to Rock Oktoberfest": You're hungry for sausage, aren't you?
Maxim, "Seven Things Every Man Should Know About Oktoberfest": For starters, it actually begins in September.
For this month's issue of Imbibe, I was lucky enough to profile Joe Tucker, the brains behind RateBeer. Since the site was founded in 2000, Tucker has cultivated the site into one of the world’s largest and most influential beer communities, a sudsy safe haven where kinship matters as much as sampling rare imperial stout. Each month more than 1 million RateBeerians from around the world pen reviews of beer, cider, mead and saké; chitchat on forums; and often meet up to share pints, treasured bottles and conversation.
My story is a peek behind the curtains of one of the world's most popular beer websites. Check it out right...here.
WHAT: Carroll Gardens Homebrew Tour
WHEN: Sunday, September 22, 1 p.m.
WHERE: Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
Buy them here. Sorry, we already sold out. Please stay tuned for the next tour.
On today’s walking tour, we’re starting off by visiting Jason Sahler, who is planning the forthcoming Strong Rope Brewery. In time for hop-harvest season, he’ll be brewing a few fresh-hop beers–most likely a session white IPA with local wheat and a few other treats.
Next, we’re headed down the road to meet Isaac Deutsch, who will be pouring a smoky Rauchbier, pale ale and perhaps a coffee stout.
Lastly, we’re going to finish up in Simon Tepas’ backyard. At this year’s National Homebrew Competition, Simon won a silver medal for his rye-fueled double IPA. Today, he’ll be serving a red IPA, hoppy wheat beer and tastes of his sour beers and burly aged Belgian quads.
Back in June, I traveled to Portland, Maine, to drink beer. This is pretty common. The seafaring city is one of my favorite on the East Coast, the land where I married my wife and spent far too many hours shaking my tail father on this light-up disco dance floor at Bubba's Sulky Lounge. (Bonus: can you spot me in this video?)
But this trip was different. Over the weekend in a cavernous boatyard in Portland, ME, beer importers Shelton Brothers and 12 Percent combined forces to create The Festival, a humble name for a wildly ambitious notion: to bring more than 70 of the world’s best breweries together under one roof, with the brewers on hand to discuss their creations.
"You never see all these breweries in one place,” said Joel Shelton, gesturing to the sprawling room lined with brewers from Japan, Norway, Spain, England–basically, everywhere that better craft beer is brewed. And increasingly, it is everywhere. Craft beer is a global phenomenon, but you need not book a plane ticket to savor the best new breweries.
I spent the weekend sampling (and sampling and sampling) the latest crop of imports to touch down on American shores. For Bon Appétit, I reported on the best new international breweries to seek out. Check out my story right...here.
On September 10 at 7:30 p.m., come join drinkers and thinkers at the Brooklyn Brewery as we proudly host the release party for The Complete Beer Course, Brooklyn author Joshua M. Bernstein's comprehensive guide to enjoying and understanding mankind's greatest beverage—in our humble opinion, at least.
To celebrate, Brooklyn Brewery will be opening up 10 draft lines and popping bottles of its award-winning Belgian-style beers. Snacks will be served to keep hunger at bay. Josh will be on hand to sign books and drink his body weight in beer.
Tickets will be available in two tiers:
* If you're just down to drink, the $15 ticket will get you unlimited Brooklyn Brewery beer.
* The $30 ticket will get you unlimited Brooklyn Brewery beer and a copy of The Complete Beer Course (a $25 value).
To purchase tickets, please visit Brown Paper Tickets. Unfortunately, we are sold out.
Evil Twin and Tørst's Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø. Photo: Sam Horine
For the summer issue of Draft magazine, I was able to tackle a subject very close to my heart: Brooklyn's beer scene. Used to be, the beer scene in my home borough was a bit of a joke, a wan copy of brewing culture in Portland, Denver or San Francisco. Over the last few years, though, I've watched as King County's beer culture has blossomed, with wildly ambitious bottle shops and bars such as Williamsburg's Beer Street and Greenpoint's Tørst capturing the interest of drinkers from both near and far. And with Brooklyn's first brewpub, Dirk the Norseman, on deck along with a raft of new breweries such as EST and the Kings County Brewers Collective, it's a great time to drink beer in New York. Check out my full story over at Draft's website or in print.
One fortuitous day in Providence, Rhode Island, artists Lauren Carter Grimm and Joe Grimm decided to attend a talk by fermentation evangelist Sandor Katz, the author of Wild Fermentation. Though the DIY duo had never given much thought to the culture of fermentation, they were so inspired by Katz's talk that, soon after leaving, "we started fermenting everything," says Joe, a musician who has performed with the Dirty Projectors, 33.3 and solo as The Wind-Up Bird. "It was like, 'We can pickle that!'"
Soon, the twosome were dabbling in mead ("It was really bad," Lauren recalls), kvass, kombucha and hard cider, before gravitating toward beer. At first, the extract-based brews were pretty sad, the sort of beer you'd drink only if the fridge were empty. And perhaps the experiments would've ended there, the brew kettles put into a closet to gather dust if it were not for another serendipitous turn of events. While on tour in Brussels, Belgium, Grimm was introduced to dubbels, tripels, saisons, lambics. "People were feeding us all these wonderful Belgian beers," recalls Joe, who returned home with a renewed commitment to brewing.
The couple moved to Chicago, where they both attended the Art Institute of Chicago and refined their approach to fashioning saisons and Belgian ales flavored with herbs, spices and flowers. Seeking an outlet for their beer, they started a beer CSA. It failed. "No one wanted to pick up their beer," Lauren says. Unbowed, they started selling beer at art-gallery shows and continued refining their recipes. After Joe (2009) and Lauren (2010) graduated, the couple, who later married, watched as their friends flew the Windy City coop to New York City. They followed suit, landing in Brooklyn's Gowanus neighborhood with a plan to start a brewery called Grimm Artisanal Ales.
They met with lenders for funding, but quickly ran into a small problem. They had no sales record, much less experience working at a brewery. But Joe did toil at Double Windsor, and he and Lauren mined their local contacts and began making the rounds of New York bars to gin up interest. "People were like, 'That's really cute. Sure, we'll put the beer on.'" But first they needed to brew the beer. Without the funds to build their own facility, they decided to go the nomadic route, tenant brewers in the vein of fellow husband-wife brewers Pretty Things. They began calling breweries around the region. The no's stacked up like chips at a poker table.
At last, Holyoke, Massachusetts' Paper City Brewing Company said yes. Last month, Team Grimm traveled to the brewery and crafted From the Hip, a Belgian-style blonde ale (7 percent ABV) flavored with plenty of rose hips. It's floral and spicy, with a smooth mouthfeel and billowy head thanks to a healthy measure of wheat. Starting later this month, the beer will be available around town on draft and in 22-ounce bottles adorned with a delicate, gallery-worthy drawing depicting ladies with roses blooming from their bodies. "They're the sort of graphics you'd find on an ancient Greek vase," says Lauren, who notes that they're trying to combat the notion that beer should just be marketed to men.
While it is the inaugural release, From the Hip is not a flagship. In fact, Grimm's plan is to not to toss all their hops into one brew kettle. Instead, they're focusing on releasing limited-edition, seasonally focused beers with a Belgian bent. (Up next is a Trappist-style tripel made with honey called Bees in the Trappe.) Blink and you'll miss the chance to drink them. "We wanted to make very specific beers that we enjoy and grow the definition of craft beer," Joe says. "The world doesn't need us to make another IPA."
Photo: Michael Donk/Cycle Brewing
For my newest Saveur story, I tackle the thorny question: Why has the Florida beer scene been so bad for so long? While the Sunshine State has long been known for its beaches and amusement parks, beer was always an afterthought, save for the Coronas crammed in coolers. But now the craft beer wave is sweeping across the state, which currently counts some of the country's most exciting breweries.
In Gainesville, Swamp Head uses local ingredients like Tupelo honey to make balanced beers suited for a humid climate, while Boca Raton's Funky Buddha knocks out novelties such as No Crusts, a peanut butter and jelly–flavored brown ale. Tampa's Cigar City turns out terrific barrel-aged beers, and Dunedin's 7venth Sun is earning plaudits for its tart, German-style Berliner weisses flavored with local tropical fruit, a style that's swiftly becoming a state favorite.
Curious about the rise of Florida beer? Check out my story over at Saveur.
Last year, an Arizona mom eating at a pizzeria made headlines when she allegedly filled her son’s sippy cup with beer. Outrage was immediate. So was her arrest. While we’re not advocating getting a toddler trashed, it’s interesting how one nation’s indignation is another country’s tradition.
French families often pour their children watered-down wine, educating them about respecting alcohol and its polite place in everyday life. While neighboring Belgium is not so wild for wine, families also teach their offspring a similar lesson with tafelbier—Flemish for “table beer.” Traditionally served with meals, tafelbiers are light-bodied and low in alcohol (usually less than 3% ABV), yet still remain flavorful. While table beers were so prevalent that they used to be served to Belgian schoolchildren in lieu of milk, the lightly boozy tradition has waned in recent years due to the rise of bottled water and, more prevalently, soft drinks.
Across the Atlantic Ocean, American brewers have begun to take a keen interest in crafting low-ABV tafelbiers. They’re affable companions to lunch, dinner or whenever you crave a beer but not a buzz. In Indiana, New Albanian offers Tafelbier, while California’s Heretic makes the slightly stronger Tafelbully with Brettanomyces. The wild yeast also appears in Stillwater Artisanal Ales’ earthy, refreshing Beer Table Table Beer, while Massachusetts’ session beer–focused Notch Brewing dials up Belgian yeast and European hops for its Tafelbier. It’s a style-appropriate 2.8% ABV, a low number that appeals to Notch’s brewer, Chris Lohring.
“For me, it’s the ultimate anytime beer,” says Lohring, who sees tafelbier as an ideal accompaniment to outdoor sports or daylong barbecuing. While his dry, thirst-quenching Tafelbier packs flavor aplenty, the dainty ABV means “you have to drink serious volume to get inebriated.”