About Al

Forty-something, married, with two kids. I generally prefer the English styles - ESB, IPA - but am willing to try just about anything. You can reach me at al@hop-talk.com.

Goodbye Hop Talk

A couple years ago the circumstances of my employment changed. As a result, I have been unable to give as much time and attention to any of my hobbies, Hop Talk most obvious of all.

I’ve been hoping things would ease up a bit, and I’d be able to go back to writing about beer as much as I’ve been able to enjoy it. It’s not worked out that way. So, I’d resigned myself to the idea that I’d keep enjoying my beer hobby and writing about it when I could.

However, a recent medical diagnosis has put the kibosh on that, too. While I’m not being forced to give up the beautiful nectar, I have to be very choosy in the few beers I can have. The days of wiling away an afternoon with a couple of friends knockin’ ‘em back are apparently behind me.

So it’s with a heavy heart that I have to say goodbye to my beloved Hop Talk. We’ve been around longer than a lot of blogs (seven years!) and it has been a great run, but it’s time to let it go.

Thank you to all of you who took your valuable time over the years to read my semi-coherent ramblings on beer and tangential subjects. If it wasn’t for you I would have packed it in a long time ago.

Always remember: Life isn’t about beer, but beer is all about life.

Homebrew everywhere!

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the law that made brewing your own beer at home legal for the first time since the dark days of Prohibition. However, not every state and town jumped on board, and it wasn’t until just this year that the final two holdouts, Alabama and Mississippi finally passed laws to decriminalize homebrewing. (There are, of course, still dry towns and counties where it’ll still be illegal.)
It’s no surprise that the latecomers to this party are themselves craft beer deserts. (If memory serves, it’s in the last couple years that Alabama approved beer with higher than 2.3% ABW for sale in the state.) Homebrewing begets curiosity, experimentation and, in the truly ambitious, a burning desire to turn it into a livelihood. You might ask “which came first”, but I have no doubt that where craft beer is “big”, so is homebrewing.

Brewers Association Press Release:

Boulder, CO • July 1, 2013 – Today, homebrewers can legally brew in every state in the country, as recently passed homebrewing legislation takes effect in Mississippi, according to the American Homebrewers Association (AHA).

Homebrewing was federally legalized in 1978 for the first time since Prohibition made it illegal in 1919. However, regulation of alcohol is predominantly left to the states. In 2013, Mississippi and Alabama—the last two states remaining with laws against homebrewing—passed legislation to permit beer brewing at home. Alabama’s law went into effect immediately after the Governor signed the bill on May 9.

“Homebrewers are deeply dedicated to their craft and the AHA is thrilled that homebrewers in all 50 states can now legally take part in that passion,” said Gary Glass, director, American Homebrewers Association.

While homebrewing is now legal in all states, existing statutes in some states prevent homebrewers from removing homebrewed beer from their houses, effectively restricting interactions with the rest of their local homebrew community, including club meetings, festivals and competitions.

“Sharing and community interaction are key ingredient of homebrewing,” added Glass. “We will continue to work to protect and advance the rights of homebrewers to share their unique creations.”

The hobby of homebrewing in the U.S. has seen exponential growth in recent years. With more than 38,000 members, the AHA estimates that more than one million Americans brew beer or make wine at home at least once a year.

For a complete list of federal and state homebrewing laws, please visit the AHA website.

Flying Dog VIP Tour

As my wife summed it up: Great day, great friends, great beer.

It was a day born of tragedy. A VIP tour of the Flying Dog brewery was offered as part of a charity auction. There is a sizable contingent of craft beer fans in Brunswick, Maryland, and we decided that we must have it. There was some early competition in the bidding, but we decided we were not to be denied. (We also raised more than a little money for the auction.)

Next came the negotiations. It is no mean feat to get ten couples, all with children of various ages, to all agree on a date and time. There was much back and forth and I feared that it wouldn’t happen, but we finally arrived at a date. (The fact that it was Cinco de Mayo is a complete coincidence.) Even then, we were still short one of our original twenty. (Sorry Louisa. You were missed!)

So yesterday, on a beautiful Spring afternoon, we clambered on to the Flying Dog RV with Petey (job title: Captain Experience) and Meghan (job title: Garb and Gadgetry Guru) at the helm for the 25-minute drive up to the brewery. (Thankfully, there were two beers on tap, so the time passed quickly.) There we were met by Jim Caruso, CEO and partner. We spent a few minutes kibitzing in the tasting room (and tasting, of course), and then headed in on the tour, led by Jim himself.

Now, I’ve been through the facility before. F.O.A.M. has had their February meeting there for as long as I have been a member, and so I’ve gotten informal tours. Not to mention a couple of years ago I was invited to be a beta-tester for their new tour format. But with Jim leading us we got to hear quite a bit more of the history behind the brewery and the friendships of George Stranahan, Hunter S. Thompson, and Ralph Steadman.

Sampling "green" beer

Why, yes, I would like to sample some green beer (photo courtesy Christopher Vigliotti)

We got to see the “hot” side, and the “cold” side. Jim spent quite a bit of time talking about the lab and how they do daily tests and tastings of every run. He told us about how the tasters keep their palates in tune (because your taste does change over time). He rattled off number after number after number: tons of grain, gallons of water, bottles of beer. Huge numbers, and they’re still only number 29 (by volume) amongst U.S. craft brewers. And, of course, the packaging area with skid after skid of beer ready to be shipped out.

After the tour we went back to the tasting room. a.k.a. Frisco’s catered (and the exploded potatoes were delicious) but we were all most interested in the twenty or so taps. Even more, I was excited about the several beers that I had not yet had.

And then we did what beer people do. We sat around together, sampling the wide variety of beer, noshing, and talking. We talked about the beer, we talked about the tour, we talked about our kids. I got to talk briefly to Jim about what a great beer community we have in Frederick County –granted, it’s no Portland or Asheville, but we do pretty well for a mostly-rural county–and how fortunate Flying Dog and we were to find each other.

All too soon it was time to go. We all climbed aboard the RV once again for our trip back home. We universally agreed that we should do it again some time.

Thanks Jim, Petey, Meghan, Abby and the rest of the Flying Dog crew.

Al Everett, at the end of the day

At the end of the day (photo courtesy of Naomi Everett)

Craft beer volumes up 15% in 2012

I just got my annual press release from the Brewers Association crowing about the state of the craft beer business.

For the umpteenth year in a row, craft beer has seen double-digit growth. Fifteen percent by volume, in fact.

Domestic beer production overall grew by 1%.

Even better, craft beer grew 17% when measured in dollars. (Okay, not so good when it comes to my wallet, but it shows the industry isn’t discounting itself out of business.)

Of course, craft beer still only accounts for less than 7% (6.5, to be precise) of the entire domestic beer market. Considering it was under 5% only a couple years ago, that’s still good news.

The entire press release is below:

Brewers Association: Craft Continues to Brew Growth

Volume and Sales Significantly Outpaced the Overall Market in 2012

Boulder, CO • March 18, 2013 — The Brewers Association (BA), the trade association representing small and independent American brewers, today released 2012 data on U.S. craft brewing1 growth. In a year when the total U.S. beer market grew by one percent, craft brewers saw a 15 percent rise in volume2 and a 17 percent increase in dollar growth, representing a total barrel increase of almost 1.8 million.

With production at 13,235,917 barrels in 2012, craft brewers reached 6.5 percent volume of the total U.S. beer market, up from 5.7 percent the previous year. Additionally, craft dollar share of the total U.S. beer market reached 10.2 percent in 2012, as retail dollar value from craft brewers was estimated at $10.2 billion, up from $8.7 billion in 2011.

“Beer is a $99 billion industry to which craft brewers are making a significant contribution, with retail sales share hitting double digits for the first time in 2012,” said Paul Gatza, director, Brewers Association. “Small and independent brewers are consistently innovating and producing high quality, flavor-forward craft brewed beer. Americans are not only responding to greater access to these products, but also to the stories and people behind them.”

U.S. Craft Brewers' GrowthIn 2012, there was an 18 percent increase in the number of U.S. operating breweries, with the total count reaching 2,403. This count includes 409 new brewery openings and only 43 closings. Small breweries created an estimated 4,857 more jobs during the year, employing 108,440 workers, compared to 103,583 the year prior.

“On average, we are seeing slightly more than one craft brewery per day opening somewhere in the U.S. and we anticipate even more in the coming year. There is clearly a thirst in the marketplace for craft brewed beer, as indicated by the continued growth year after year,” added Gatza. “These small breweries are doing great things for their local communities, the greater community of craft brewers, our food arts culture and the overall economy.”

Note: Numbers are preliminary. A more extensive analysis will be released during the Craft Brewers Conference in Washington, D.C. from March 26-29. The full 2012 industry analysis will be published in the May/June 2013 issue of The New Brewer, highlighting regional trends and sales by individual breweries.

1 The definition of a craft brewer as stated by the Brewers Association: An American craft brewer is small, independent, and traditional. Small: Annual production of beer less than 6 million barrels. Beer production is attributed to a brewer according to the rules of alternating proprietorships. Flavored malt beverages are not considered beer for purposes of this definition. Independent: Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer. Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers brands) or has at least 50 percent of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.

2 Volume by craft brewers represent total taxable production.

# # #

About the Brewers Association

The Brewers Association is the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers, their craft beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts. The Brewers Association (BA) represents more than 70 percent of the brewing industry, and its members make more than 99 percent of the beer brewed in the U.S. The BA organizes events including the World Beer Cup®, Great American Beer Festival®, Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America®, SAVOR℠: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience and American Craft Beer Week®. The BA publishes The New Brewer magazine and its Brewers Publications division is the largest publisher of contemporary and relevant brewing literature for today’s craft brewers and homebrewers.

Beer lovers are invited to learn more about the dynamic world of craft beer at CraftBeer.com and about homebrewing via the BA’s American Homebrewers Association. Follow us on Twitter.

It’s science! Green bottles don’t provide much protection

We’ve talked before about lightstruck beer and about  about how ultraviolet (and even visible light near that end of the spectrum) react with a compound in hops to produce a chemical with many of the same properties as a skunk’s spray.

We’ve also mentioned that green bottles don’t offer much more protections than clear glass, presenting as our evidence the fact that I have never had a Heineken from a bottle that wasn’t skunked.

Well, now there’s some science to back me up.

Rhett Allain, an Associate Professor of Physics at Southeastern Louisiana University, did some experiments with different bottles and some expensive equipment.

wavelength absorption graph

The absorption of different wavelengths of light for different colored bottles

As you can see, the green bottles are barely better than clear glass at virtually all wavelengths.

If you love your beer (and unless you like the taste of skunk) get your beer in brown bottles. Even better, a lot of craft brewers are putting their beer in cans nowadays. Even better, pop on down to your local beer-serving establishment and have some beer on draught with your friends. (Heck, have some with your enemies too.)

(via Brookston Beer Bulletin)

Homebrew clone kits direct from the brewer: Stove Toppers from Flying Dog

eldoradoOkay, now this is cool. I have seen people try to recreate commercial brewer recipes on a home brew scale (in fact, I have a book of such recipes) and I’ve even seen brewers release their recipe for home brewers to convert, but I’ve never seen a brewer sell the actual ingredients to copy their recipe. But this is what Flying Dog has actually just announced.

Introducing Stove Toppers, a series of all-grain homebrew kits for advanced homebrewers that include our exact ingredients and brewmaster’s recipe, all scaled-down to for your 5-gallon home brewery.

We’re launching one kit per month in 2013 and each kit will be on sale for that month only. Starting tomorrow, Single Hop Imperial IPA with El Dorado will be on sale in our gift shop and the Flying Barrel Homebrew Supply Shop in Frederick, Maryland.

I like that they’re keeping to one kit and changing over to a new one every month. They’ve even released their schedule for 2013:

  • February: Single Hop Imperial IPA with El Dorado
  • March: Raging Bitch Belgian-Style IPA
  • April: Woody Creek Belgian Wit
  • May: Single Hop Imperial IPA with Citra
  • June: Snake Dog IPA
  • July: Dogtoberfest Marzen
  • August: The Fear Imperial Pumpkin Ale
  • September: Single Hop Imperial IPA with Sorachi Ace
  • October: Pearl Necklace Oyster Stout
  • November: Single Hop Imperial IPA with Simcoe
  • December: Barrel-Aged Gonzo Imperial Porter

Heck, this might even be enough to get off my butt and learn how to brew all-grain.

If you brew with one of these kits, let us know how it turned out. (Bonus points if you invite us over for some.)

A Merry and a Happy

It’s snowing here in Western Maryland. I usually stay on top of the weather forecast but this caught me by surprise. Considering the condition of the roads, it apparently caught the highway department by surprise as well.

The wife’s at work (she’s a nurse; she had to go) and the kids are nestled safely in bed. I’ve a winter warmer by my side and a cat in my lap. This is good.

As you look back on 2012, I hope there was more good than bad. (That applies to everything, not just beer.) I hope 2013 is even better. (Again, not just beer.)

What ever holiday(s) you are celebrating this season, I hope they are Merry, Happy, Joyful, and Blessed. And that there’s plenty of good beer, but that probably goes without saying.

Thanksgiving 2012

We hope you’re spending the Thanksgiving holiday with people you love. Or, at least, with beer that you love.

While we’re being thankful for all those craft brewers out there and their wonderful creations, we want to be sure that we’re thankful for the really important things.

Happy Thanksgiving!

p. s. I would be personally thankful for a Dallas Cowboys loss. Just sayin’.