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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?   

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.

March Writing: The Round-up

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Sometimes I feel that the only way I can keep track of the days is by monitoring the beer bottles gathering in my recycling bin. When they reach the top, that means a few weeks have passed. Or is it just one week? With this terrible winter and a terrific, if terribly time-consuming newborn, you must forgive me if I’m glugging more beer than the average bear. I’ve been tethered to the house, changing diapers with one hand while drinking with the other.

And then sometimes I use both hands to write stories. It hasn’t been easy, that’s for certain. I’ve spent much of the last month orchestrating several events for NYC Beer Week, namely Jimmy’s Homebrew Jamboree 2—Still Jammin’ and Cold Comfort, my lager-tasting event in Brooklyn’s old Nassau Brewery lagering caves. Seriously.  The events have been amazing. Amazing! But they are also draining. I’m a little too Type A to relinquish control, something that allows me to tailor everything to a T. But it also means that I am the man picking up pretzels, buying ice and sending emails to everyone.

Like Zach Braff in Garden State, I need to embrace my inner calm and learn to just let go.

Or maybe I should just become a medicated zombie. Is that the moral here? Either way, I need to learn to chill out a bit, give up control and trust folks to help. As a freelancer, it ain’t an easy emotion to embrace. For the last 12 years, I’ve only had myself to count on. Want this story written? Do it yourself, buster. Care to get paid? Well, you better send off an invoice and cross your fingers twice. See where I’m getting?

There is only one me.

And I am no longer 22, with an endless reservoir of espresso-like energy.

But I digress. I’m merely hashing out my issues in a very public forum, sort of like my old column with the New York Press. Sadly, there’s little time for confessional writing these days. Perhaps that’s directly impacting my emotional well-being, turning me into one of those cranky-ass, stink-eyed New Yorkers who, like lichen, have adhered themselves to the city, unable to leave, stuck with your peculiar lot in life.

But the writing! Oh, have I been writing. With my two index fingers—I never really learned that QWERTY nonsense—I’ve been a busy little beaver. From Bon Appétit to Imbibe, here’s a smattering of my recent stories. But before I depart, a question: I’ve been pondering returning to writing a first-person column, sort of like the one I wrote during those Press days. Would you read that again? Or would you rather I stick to stories like these?

First We Feast, “Style Kings: The Best Breweries in America, By Category″: Who has the best IPA and sour beer?

Bon Appétit, “9 IPAs to Drink in Winter—Bitter Beers for Bitter Cold″: Ever wonder breweries release hoppy beers during the winter? Here’s the answer.

Bon Appétit, “9 Milk Stouts to Drink If You’re Breastfeeding—or Just Thirsty″: With a newborn at home, it’s time to drink.

Bon Appétit, “11 Beers Made with Breakfast Foods Like Bacon, Oats, and Coffee″: Bacon: It’s no longer just for breakfast.

Bon Appétit, “Sour Beer Primer: How (and Why) to Drink These Funky Wild Ales″: Bring on the funk. My first feature for the magazine.

Bon Appétit, “10 Spicy, Chile-Spiked Beers We Love″: Some like it hot. I know I do.

Writing Roundup: December Edition

Drunk

To say that the last few months have been crazy is to put it mildly. I’ve traveled to Denver, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Upstate New York and across New Jersey, hucking The Complete Beer Course to the best of my drunken ability. I welcomed the arrival of my daughter, Violet, which means I’ve had to learn to be a dad. (The secret: lots of late-night beer. And making peace with the fact that I will change approximately 8,000 diapers over the next few years.)

Beyond that, I stuck closely to my writing routine, cranking out a number of stories despite, or possibly aided by, a healthy dose of sleep deprivation. Here are some highlights from the last few months of wordsmanship.

Men’s Journal, “Expert Advice: How to Be a Better Beer Drinker”: For starters, send back that frozen glassware.

Bon Appétit, “9 Milk Stouts to Drink If You’re Breastfeeding—or Just Thirsty”With my wife having just given birth, this story is rather appropriate.

Bon Appétit, “Best Hoppy Beers—New Trends of 2013″: From Cluster to Mosaic hops, this has been a tasty year.

Bon Appétit, “Perfect Beer Pairings for Thanksgiving”: Saisons rule.

Wine Enthusiast, “Buzz Killers—Top Low-Alcohol Beers”Here, I break down the session-beer movement for wine drinkers.

Imbibe, “Of a Certain Age”: Inspired by sherry and port producers, craft brewers are using the solera process to create timeless vintages. Note: it’s print-only.

First We Feast, “Best New Beers of 2013″:

Culture, “Winter Warmer Wonderland”: When it comes to family gatherings during the long stretch of winter holidays (or during any time of the year, for that matter), libations can be an essential ingredient.

Beer Advocate, “From the Source—Grimm Artisanal Ales”: Here, the story of Brooklyn’s newest gypsy brewers.

Draft, “Waiter, There’s Food in My Stout”: Oysters are just the start.

Epicurious.com, “Best Beer Pairings for Winter”: Flourless chocolate cake and an imperial stout is a flawless pairing.

And Now for Something Completely Different

Violet

I can’t wait until I’m old enough to steal my dad’s beer!

On November 19, at the stroke of midnight, our daughter, Violet, said hello to the world. I can’t wait until she’s old enough to tell her teachers, classmates, friends and parents of friends that her daddy drinks beer for a living. Perhaps I should start a support group: Drinking Dads of the Craft-Beer Industry? The Pants-less Parents Association? Bring Daddy His Aspirin, He Has a Head Boo-Boo? Now back to figuring out how these newborns work. She seems to have arrived without the instruction manual.

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.

Introducing Braven Brewing

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Braven Brewing’s Marshall Thompson (left) and Eric Feldman. 

The path to professional brewing often starts on the kitchen stove. As the batches stack up, skills are refined. Recipes are perfected. Friends clamor for another pint of bitter IPA, or maybe it’s a coffee stout. Accolades stack up like poker chips. “You should start a brewery,” someone suggests, planting a seed inside that grows into an all-consuming desire to turn a hobby into a career.

Over the last four years of running my homebrew tour, I’ve watched this journey play out like an endlessly looping film reel. Rich Buceta went on to launch SingleCut. Jonathan Moxey now works for Perennial Artisan Ales. Kevin Stafford and Basil Lee are opening Finback. To the list of homebrew-tour gone pro I will soon add Marshall Thompson and Eric Feldman, a duo formerly known as the East Village Brewing Company.

Back in 2010, I crammed 30 strangers into Feldman’s Manhattan apartment to sample the Avenue A-le and Stuy Town Nut Brown. The beers were delightful. The crowd was impressed. Perhaps these guys have a bright future, I thought, making a mental note to follow their online exploits. But months later, their website went dark. Posts fell off a cliff. Was this another case of a hobby fizzling out?

Hardly. Three years later, the East Village Brewing Company has been reborn as Brooklyn’s Braven. “We want to tap into Bushwick’s brewing tradition,” Feldman says of the brewery, which takes its name from a chimera-like combination of a buck and a raven. Once upon a time, you see, Bushwick got America good and drunk. By 1962, 10 percent of America drank Brooklyn beer, and a dozen-plus brewers dotted the blocks. But by the 20th century’s close, breweries like Rheingold and Schaefer were historical footnotes. Today, there’s nary a brewery in Bushwick.

That’s a void that Braven aims to fill. “We’re hoping to be a destination brewery,” says Feldman, a lawyer who envisions a laid-back taproom where friends, families and their dogs can mingle together. Currently, the twosome are searching for a space, preferably around the Jefferson Avenue stop, and are perfecting their launch brands. Driven by the notion of being bold and crafty (the bold buck + the crafty raven = Braven), the friends are working on a lineup of balanced, approachable beers that are full of flavor, not booze.

“I love IPAs, but many of them hit you with 7 percent ABV,” says Feldman, who will be handling the brewing while Thompson focuses on sales and marketing. “That’s a lot of alcohol. I like having a few beers throughout the evening.”

The crisp, quaffable debut brews will be a white IPA heavy on citrusy, floral hops such as Cascade and Centennial, as well as a black IPA likely dosed with piney, woody Simcoe. While the allure of hoppy beers is undeniable, Braven will also look toward classic styles such as the altbier and pilsner, as well as brews that tie into Bushwick’s Hispanic and Mexican population—hello, Day of the Dead–themed orange habañero chocolate stout. “We’re trying to make a beer that captures the spirit of the neighborhood,” Feldman says.

As for timing to buy these beers, don’t hold your breath. Right now, Braven is running a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a pilot brewery. Furthermore, the friends are seeking out a regional brewery where they might be able to contract-brew, or perhaps they’ll set up a smaller brewing system inside an existing restaurant or bar. (Realistically speaking, Braven is still at least 12 to 18 months away from opening, which means the end of 2014 or spring 2015.)

“One of the big problems is trying to find a space,” laments Feldman, who is still cranking out five-gallon batches in his East Village apartment. Though Braven can’t legally sell the beer, Feldman and Thompson are doling out samples at parties and events around Brooklyn. “The first couple times I handed out beer to people and waited for feedback, it was terrifying,” Feldman says. “Alternately, this project will be super-exciting and super-scary, but nothing makes us any happier.”

This post originally appeared on Craft Beer New York. Check it out!