Category Archives: Beer

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.

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

The Rise of Gruit Beer

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It’s my new story! Photo: Instagram

One of brewing’s fundamental rules is that beer is comprised of malted grain, water, yeast and hops. Grains supply the fermentable sugars that yeast convert into alcohol, while hops provide balancing bitterness, preservative prowess, flavor and aroma. Today, hops are nearly as crucial to beer as water, especially in this IPA-crazed era. But if you were to time-travel to visit medieval brewers, you’d discover that beer contained nary a hop.

Back then, beers were seasoned with gruit (pronounced “grew-it” or “groot”), which was a proprietary blend of herbs such as bitter and astringent yarrow (a flowering plant), wild rosemary and resinous, eucalyptus-like wild gale (a.k.a. bog myrtle), along with sundry spices. In large quantities, gruit was considered a euphoric stimulant and an aphrodisiac, and brewers often slipped in hallucinogens to enhance the effects. By the 1700s, whether due to health concerns or religious pressure, gruit was largely phased out in favor of hops. No longer.

Increasingly, craft brewers are ditching hops for herbs, creating adventurous gruits that challenge beer’s basic definition. For this month’s Imbibe, I tackled the growing trend of brewers using offbeat herbs and spices that’ll challenge your very definition of beer.

Check out the article right about…here.

My Bia Hoi Honeymoon in Vietnam

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In Hanoi, about 25 cents buys you a tall, cool glass of fresh, and refreshing, bia hoi. Photo: my Instagram feed.

It merely took me 33 years, but back in August 2011 I joined the ranks of married men. Our wedding in seafaring Portland, Maine, was a raucous affair, with my wife and I turning our rehearsal dinner into a booze cruise and holding our party in a dive bar with two light-up disco dance floors. (We love you, Bubba’s Sulky Lounge.) And there was beer. Oh, so much beer!

Given my hops-soaked line of work, I wanted beer to play key role in our honeymoon. In lieu of Brussels, we booked a flight to Hanoi, where the local specialty is bia hoi—fresh, low-alcohol, rice-driven beer. The cost: about a quarter a glass. In other words, heaven.

For Draft, I recently penned a story on our beer-filled honeymoon. Check out the story right about…here.

How Did Bend, Oregon, Become a Craft Beer Powerhouse?

Bend, Oregon_Imbibe

Photo: My Instagram feed!

For the latest issue of Imbibe magazine, I attempt to suss out just how Bend became such a national player on the craft-beer scene. Back in 1988, the town’s timber industry had collapsed. The population hovered around 18,000. Downtown was a ghost town.

Then along came Deschutes, which helped jumpstart a stunning revitalization. A quarter-century later, the brewpub has blossomed into America’s fifth-largest brewery, and Bend has undergone a night-and-day revitalization. The town has swelled to around 80,000 residents, who have been lured by a family-friendly lifestyle highlighted by outdoor recreation, a thriving walkable downtown, an abundance of sunshine—and boatloads of craft beer.

Today, there are 17 breweries in Bend (and another half dozen in neighboring towns), each one unique, and together offering an impressive range of beers. If you favor hop bombs, then try Boneyard10 Barrel and Below Grade. For wood-aged elixirs, tryAle Apothecary’s funky fermentations, while Crux Fermentation crafts a kaleidoscope of styles, from an unfiltered pilsner to a peaty Scotch ale. Bend Brewing Company pairs pub grub with medal-winning porters and sour ales, and GoodLife and Worthy Brewing specialize in that crucial companion to hiking and fishing: canned beers.

Care to read the story? Check out “Around the Bend” over at Imbibe.

Drinking Beer While Parenting: The Primer

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These days, my identity is a bit muddled. Professionally, I’m a beer journalist and author, but I’m also a parent to my newborn, Violet. How do I reconcile drinking with caring for my daughter? You want to do, uh, research, but you also don’t want to have Jell-O arms and end up dropping your daughter. That’ll merit a house call from the department of children’s services, that’s for certain. So what’s the solution? To find out the answer, check out my article on First We Feast. It’s a fun read, even if you don’t have kids.

 

The New York City Homebrew Tour on Chop & Brew

With only 30 or so spots on my homebrew tours, it’s tough to accommodate everyone that would like to attend. And that is where Chip Walton comes in play. Walton, who runs the excellent online show Chop & Brew (homebrew lovers, check it out), was on hand to chronicle a Brooklyn tour that took place in September. Settle in with a good beer and check it out.

Seven of the Most Anticipated New Craft Breweries in NYC in 2014

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New York’s craft-beer scene is booming, with breweries popping up from the Bronx to Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and even Staten Island. (Not to mention the scores of homebrewers perfecting their recipes, eager to take them to the next level.) Travel around town, and you’ll find world-class double IPAs, snifter-worthy barrel-aged imperial stouts and lip-puckering sour ales. Here are the breweries I’m excited about in 2014.

Other Half Brewing (195 Centre St., Gowanus, Brooklyn)
Do you love KelSo’s IPA and Industrial IPA? Then you dig the beers of brewer Sam Richardson, who has gone solo with this outfit in Carroll Gardens. Expect heaps of hop-forward ales, most notably the West Coast–style Other Half IPA and souped-up Green Diamonds Imperial IPA, which is dosed with heaps of Australia’s melon-y Galaxy hops.
Status: Other Half beers are currently on tap around town, and the tasting room should soon follow suit.

Dirck the Norseman (7 N. 15th St., Greenpoint, Brooklyn)
Ever since Park Slope Brewery shuttered more than a decade earlier, Brooklyn has been brewpub-deprived, a drought set to end with this Greenpoint brewpub named after the neighborhood’s first Scandinavian settler. Ed Raven, who founded importer Raven Brands and Greenpoint growler shop Brouwerij Lane, has transformed a plastic-bag factory abutting the East River into a roomy beer hall that will pour both his imported European brews (including Jever Pilser and Gaffel Kölsch) and in-house ales. Head brewer Chris Prout, who honed his skills at South Carolina’s Outer Banks Brewing Station, will craft creative riffs on Belgian and American classics, such as a rhubarb saison and an IPA spiked with Tupelo honey.
Status: Open now

Finback Brewery (78-01 77th Ave., Glendale, Queens)
For several years, Kevin Stafford and Basil Lee were a key stop on my homebrew tour, crafting dry stouts, ginger-and-Szechuan peppercorn session ales and IPAs that were a step above the average kitchen-crafted beer. After a yearlong search for a home for Finback, named after a whale that washed ashore in Breezy Point, they found a headquarters in Glendale, Queens, not far from the Lutheran Cemetery. The duo will also use the 13,000-square-foot space for an extensive barrel-aging and sour-beer program.
Status: Open now. Taproom coming soon.

Transmitter Brewing (52-03 11th St., Long Island City, Queens)
This winter, the Long Island City beer scene will welcome Transmitter, the brainchild of longtime buddies and amateur bicycle racers Rob Kolb and Anthony Accardi. The duo will focus on farmhouse-inspired Belgian and French beers fueled by funky fermentations. The friends have spent years carefully sourcing unique strains of Brettanomyces yeast and Lactobacillus and Pediococcus cultures. They’re going to be a local game-changer.
Status: Open now.

Flagship Brewing Company
 (215 Bay St., St. George, Staten Island)
Here’s one more reason to ride the Staten Island Ferry: Not far from the terminal you’ll find Flagship, which is slated to be the borough’s first brewery since Brooklyn brand Piels closed its R&H plant in 1963. Co-owner and head brewer Jay Sykes hopes to use locally grown hops in his beers.
Status: Opening early 2014

The Bronx Brewery
 (856 E. 136th St., Port Morris, The Bronx)
At last, the Bronx crew will start making beer in its namesake borough. (The brews were previously produced in Connecticut.) The team is hard at work outfitting an 8,000 square-foot space with a tasting room, a 20-barrel brewhouse and an outdoor space suited for food trucks.
Status: Opening spring 2014

Gun Hill Brewing Company (3227 Laconia Ave., Williamsbridge, The Bronx)
Bronx’s brewing boom continues with Gun Hill, named after a battle site during the Revolutionary War. The brewmaster is Chris Sheehan, the former chief beer maker at both Chelsea Brewing Company and Newark, New Jersey’s short-lived Port 44 Brewpub. The 30-barrel brewhouse plans to take advantage of New York’s Farm Brewery License, which allows breweries to be run like a bar—provided they use a certain percentage of New York–grown ingredients. Expect several stouts, an IPA, a golden ale and loads of seasonal releases.
Status: Open now

Win the United States of Beer Poster

MAP_OVERALL_1024x1024Win me!

As of this moment in time, there are more than 2,500 breweries in America, with a thousand more (and counting) in planning. It’s a dizzying, yet delicious time be a beer drinker in this nation. It’s tough to keep track of what you drank and where you drank it—until now.

This fall, the typographic geniuses behind 33 Bottles of Beer debuted The United States of Beer, a coast-to-coast beer-tasting map for your wall. Measuring 39 inches from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans and 25 inches from north to south, the wall-chomping gold-ink poster allows you to inscribe your favorite beer from each state, complete with its tasting profile. Consider it the world’s best interactive art.

What’s it cost, you wonder? Why, the average layman must pay $30. (Click here to peruse and perhaps purchase.) It’s a steal, let me tell you. Know what’s an even better deal? Free! And that’s where the contest comes into play.

WHAT: Win the United States of Beer poster
HOW: When traveling across the country, what’s your favorite memory of drinking beer? Tell me in 250 words or less at: josh.bernstein@gmail.com. In the subject line, write POSTER GIVEAWAY.
WHEN: The contest is open until Monday, December 9, at 11:59 p.m.
FINE PRINT: The winner will be announced on Wednesday, December 11. Then I will hurry to the Post Office in time for Christmas delivery.

The Complete Beer Course Holiday Sale

hoorayyyyyyyyyyyyyWhat a deal!

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.

The Rise of Culinary Brewing

stout_5Photography: Jon Edwards

Do these pictures make you hungry? That’s the point! For this month’s issue of Draft magazine, I investigate the growing trend of culinary in brewing. In a simpler era, brewers mainly relied on hops, grain, water and yeast to create an endless range of ales and lagers. But for modern brewers, the power of four tends to bore.

Seeking out new flavors, brewers are digging into their pantries and refrigerators. Though you can add edibles to nearly any beer style (Ballast Point’s Habañero Sculpin IPA, Elysian’s Super Fuzz blood orange pale ale, Sam Adams’ beef-heart-fueled, Oktoberfest-inspired Burke in a Bottle), the most popular platforms are the stout and porter. Typically, brewers played up their roasty, cocoalike characteristics by incorporating coffee or chocolate. Now they’re turning to bacon, peanut butter, pretzels and even oysters to devise dark beers as curious as they are curiously delicious.

Care to read the full story? Check it out over at Draft.

October Beer-Story Roundup

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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.