October Writing Round-up

Drunken Vagrant_WriterOctober already, eh? These days are certainly disappearing in a beer-soaked whirlwind of hops, changing my daughter’s diapers and travel. So much travel! From Maine to Colorado, the last month has been crazy pants. Compound that with a cold, a case of food poisoning and walking Sammy Bernstein, and it’s been a busy slate. Through it all, I’ve been clacking out stories. Here’s a sampling of my latest stories. Happy reading. And drinking, too.

First We Feast, “Two Roads Lil’ Heaven”: Yup, I’m drinking session beers with my daughter.

Men’s Journal, “(Highly) Experimental Beer Styles Worth Trying”: At Denver’s Great American Beer Festival, there’s no shortage of odd beers.

Bon Appétit, “Why You Need to Drink Wet-Hopped Beers Right Now”: Beer today, gone tomorrow—my take on fall’s most ephemeral beer style.

 Bon Appétit, “How Much Is Too Much? More on America’s Surfeit of Craft Beer”: IPAs have become our country’s finest export.

Bon Appétit, “Surviving the Great American Beer Fest: Hoppy IPAs to Candy-Bar Beers”: Wandering around the GABF gives you a good chance to see which way America’s hoppy winds are blowing.

Details.com, “Color Correction: The Fall’s Beers Are Red, Not Brown”: Brown ales? Old news. This fall, it’s time to drink red IPAs.

Beer Connoisseur, “For the Love of Gourd”: Pumpkin beers have broken free from their seasonal shackles, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Wine Enthusiast, “A Grown-Up’s Guide to Oktoberfest”: You don’t have to get blindingly drunk to have a blast at Oktoberfest.

 

Introducing Brooklyn’s Threes Brewing

Threes Brewing’s head brewer, Greg Doroski

Threes Brewing’s head brewer, Greg Doroski

As recently as last year, you could count Brooklyn’s professional breweries with three fingers. There was Brooklyn Brewery, Sixpoint and KelSo—and there was nothing else. As the rest of America, from Alaska to Alabama, cultivated homegrown brewing scenes, Brooklyn built restaurants with affinities for exposed brick and heirloom potatoes, as well as bars serving drinks in mason jars.

Breweries required space, and space was a valuable Brooklyn commodity snapped up by condo developers. But where some saw daunting odds, others saw a return to normalcy. As recently as 1962, Brooklyn was cranking out 10 percent—10 percent!—of American beer. We made Rheingold, we made Schaefer, we made the country good and drunk. Now, breweries are slowly repopulating Kings County. In Greenpoint, there’s Dirck the Norseman and Keg & Lantern, while Carroll Gardens’ Other Half is hammering out hop bombs lickety-split.

Brooklyn’s breweries now have company, and the newest entrant—slated to open mid-October—is a brewpub named Threes. Like baklava, the name is multilayered. The first one is most obvious: the address is 333 Douglass Street, right off Fourth Avenue in the Gowanus. The second layer is the founding trio: Sycamore co-owner Justin Israelson, tech entrepreneur Josh Stylman and lawyer and playwright Andrew Unterberg. Lastly, there’s Threes’ mission. It’s by turns a brewpub and a coffee shop, but it’s also an event space, a future home to trees and hop trellises, bands, stroller-pushing parents (like me!), homebrewers and any ol’ Brooklynite who likes beer. Or cocktails. Or music. Yes, that’s more than three. But it’s tough to put a number on what the threesome aim to accomplish. Continue reading

Craft Beer: What Does It Mean?

Craft Beer_Imbibe Magazine
For this month’s cover story in Imbibe magazine, I investigate the “c” word—craft beer. What does it mean these days?

Thirty years ago, America’s beer market was basted in black-and-white. Big brewers like Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors cranked out masses-pleasing lagers. Nipping at their heels were little guys like Sierra Nevada, New Albion and Anchor, collectively known as “microbrewers.” Often packaged in brown bottles, their small-batch ales were rich in flavor, aroma and hue—a marked contrast to clear lagers.

These days, perception is no longer so easily colored. Breweries such as New Belgium and Brooklyn are no longer “micro,” a term that’s a ’90s relic like Reebok Pumps. Today, breweries both massive and minuscule, from Australia to Alaska, are craft brewers. Piney IPAs, aromatic witbiers and wild yeast–inoculated ales are their stock in trade—but so are crisp pilsners and lawnmower-friendly lagers, formerly megabrewers’ main domain. With sales of their once-dependable beers eroding, brewing behemoths have responded by buying or investing in established outfits like Blue Point and Terrapin, as well as releasing brews that could pass for craft in a blind taste test—and even besting craft beers in competitions. At the same time, the Brewers Association has continually tweaked its definition of “craft brewer,” leaving long-running breweries on the outside looking in. And as the industry ranks swell so do concerns about quality—the same issue that helped pop the ’90s bubble.

Care to read the tale? Check out the full story here.

August Articles: The Update

It’s time you had a beer. Willie approves. 

Howdy, friends. Summer has been a tilt-a-whirl of travel, from staying at a girls’ camp outside Portland, Maine, to riding on Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp bus in California, camping in Cooperstown, spending a week on Fire Island and, well, sleeping in a shack in Richmond, Virginia. Through all the travel, I’ve been writing like crazy. Seriously, I can’t remember a summer when I’ve penned so many stories.

That might explain why I really, really need a break. This Labor Day weekend, I’m looking forward to spending the majority of my time pants-less, drinking beer—which isn’t really so different from my day-to-day life, you know. Pants stifle creativity! Or maybe I’m just lazy. Which could also be the case.

Anyhoo! Without further ado, here are the highlights from my last few months of stories. Read away!

First We Feast, “Beer With Baby: Evil Twin Nomader Weisse”: Yup, I’m getting drunk with my daughter.

First We Feast, “Beer With Baby: Victory Summer Love”: Still getting drunk with my daughter.

First We Feast, “Beer With Baby: Modern Times Blazing World”: Man, how drunk can I get with my daughter?

Bon Appétit, “10 Great Beer Lover’s Hotels Across America, from Vermont to California”Drinking beer and passing out has never been simpler.

 Bon Appétit, “How (Good) American Beers Are (Finally) Conquering Europe”: IPAs have become our country’s finest export.

 Bon Appétit, “You Should Be Drinking These Belgian-Style Beers Right Now”: I also include a gose and a Berliner weisse. But still: start drinking.

Draft, “Metal Head: The Tale of Woody Chandler”: Pennsylvania’s Woody Chandler is on a quest to drink canned beer. All of them.

Wine Enthusiast, “America’s Five Best Beer Cities”: Want to get people riled up? Make a list. And don’t include their city.

Men’s Journal, “Sierra Nevada Beer Camp”: I rode on the bus. And drank so, so much beer.

Imbibe, “What Does Craft Really Mean”: My cover story tackles the thorny question: What does craft beer really mean these days?   

The Evolution of American IPAs

If there’s an archetype of American craft brewing, it’s the IPA. The cult of the bitter beer grew quickly, and brewers responded by cranking IPAs to 11, devising increasingly intense and pungent brews that, in equal measures, both pleasured and punished palates. But things are starting to change. “There was a period where putting 300 calculated IBUs [international bittering units, an estimated measure of bitterness] into a beer was the thing,” says Stone Brewing brewmaster Mitch Steele. “Now, brewers are exploring more nuanced ways to use hops.”

As America’s craft-beer scene has evolved, so has its approach to the IPA. Breweries such as Sierra NevadaVictory and New Belgium are turning to newfangled, heavily juicy, tropical American hop cultivars such as Mosaic, El Dorado and Citra, as well as German—yes, German—varieties such as the honeydew-like Hull Melon and Bavarian Mandarina. Freshness initiatives and education are rising, helping drinkers enjoy IPAs as bright and aromatic as the day they were bottled. And brewers are packing low-alcohol beers full of hop aroma and flavor, birthing summer’s hottest trend: the session IPA, as exemplified by Stone Go To, Drake’s Alpha Session and Easy Jack from Firestone Walker.

For Imbibe, I took a deep dive into the changing face of the IPA. Care to read the full story? Check it out right about…here.

How to Buy the Complete Beer Course for Father’s Day

tumblr_mj2n171htb1rw872io8_1280Uh, wrong book cover. 

Much like pumpkin brews, sales for beer books follow a seasonal rhythm. Following Thanksgiving sales spike, culminating in Christmas week. I would like to think this is solely due to the merit of my works, but I fully understand that my books fulfill a much-needed gift niche.

My [insert subject] likes beer, the reasoning invariably goes. I’ll get [insert subject] this book. 

Shopping for people is hard. Hard! Hell, when I got engaged, I made my wife’s best friend go shopping for the engagement ring. If it were up to me, I would’ve twisted aluminum foil into a ring shape and called it a day. It’s the thought that counts, right?

Which brings me to Father’s Day.

In this enlightened era of inebriation, men and women enjoy beers equally. Bend elbows at any better beer bar, and chances are the sexes will be split right down the middle. On my homebrew tours, there are often more women than men in attendance. Those dusty old clichés are consigned to the dustbin. Except during the holidays.

Around Mother’s Day, I barely see a sales increase for my books. (But trust me: as a newly minted parent, moms and dads are both hitting the bottle.) My inbox is flooded with press releases touting chocolates, jewelry and wine for that special mom in your life. Cultural norms are reinforced.

During Father’s Day, though, my book sales once again board that sales escalator. It’s consumer behavior, behaving as you’d expect.

On the one hand, I wonder why beer books must ride that gender road. Everyone likes a little IPA-fueled buzz, no matter your chromosomal makeup. On the other hand, I guess I should say: Thank you! Diapers are expensive. So very expensive. So for Father’s Day (or a belated Mother’s Day gift), if you’d like to help out with my Pampers fund, here are a few ways to buy The Complete Beer Course.

Amazon: The ol’ standby, though the site is running low on stock. If so, check out…
Barnes & Noble:  It’s essentially the same price as Amazon.
IndieBoundSupport your favorite independent bookstore.
Signed copies from me: Yeah, I know it’s more expensive. But I have to ship my books out by hand. By hand! And I have neither a drone nor an assistant. Save for Sammy Bernstein. And he can’t be trusted to go the Post Office.

Introducing Beer With Baby

I am a parent. And I drink beer for a living. Also: I write about it too. How does this all fit together? It’s complicated. To chronicle the challenges of being both a working beer journalist and author, as well as a parent, I’ve started a fun column for First We Feast. Naturally, it’s called Beer With Baby.

For me, it’s a fun return to my column-writing days. I spent more than seven years penning a booze-drenched, gluttony-driven column for the New York Press called Gut Instinct. The job helped me hone my writing voice, sending me on culinary (mis)adventures across New York City. Now I’m a dad. But I still eat and drink. Beer With Baby is my attempt to figure out parenthood. With alcohol. Have a read and let me know what you think about the first few columns.

Beer With Baby: Elysian Super Fuzz

Beer With Baby: Green Flash Road Warrior