India Pale Ale

“Oh Beer! Oh Hodgson, Guinness, Allsop, Bass. Names that should be on every infants tongue.”
– A verse from 18th century poets honoring beer around the time when Pale Ales came about.

Pale Ales and India Pale Ales date back to the late 1700’s. Refined brewing processes brought about a deep copper (pale) colored beer. Britains loved the new beer and it quickly became a favorite.
As British troops and civilians began settling in India, there became a high demand for beer to be shipped from the homeland. The problem was making the long journey around Africa, past the equator, to reach India. The high temperatures made it near impossible to make the 6 month journey.
George Hodgson, a brewer at Bow Brewery in East London set out to solve the beer shortage in East India. Hodgson had a good pale ale base to start with. He knew that hops were a natural preservative, so he used an abundance in the recipe. A higher alcohol content was achieved, which also acts as a natural preservative, as well as dry hopping (adding hops to the late fermentation process, or in this case, to the barrels for the trip around Africa).
The result, was a high original gravity (average of 7.5 to 8% alcohol), floral smelling, bitey ale. The beer made the trip to East India and soon became a favorite.  The beer was given the name India Pale Ale.

Since then, the beer has been refined and various styles of IPA have become a popular flavor amongst quality beer lovers. The nickname “Hop Head” is given to those that loves a good hoppy beer, or IPA.
IPA’s are still very popular among English brewers, who use hop varieties like Goldings and Fuggles. The American version of an IPA most common hops used are Cascade, Northern Brewer or Chinook.

Below is a list of some great IPA’s. Once you’ve mastered the taste of a regular IPA – be sure to try a Double IPA or, if you can find, an Imperial IPA. Before you actually taste the beer, give it a good smell. The IPA is one of the most floral fragrant beers you’ll ever smell. If you like the taste as much as you do the smell, you’ll soon be seeking out the various styles of IPA’s, and can definitely take on the beer nick name “Hop Head!”

American IPA
– Bells Two Hearted Ale (currently served on tap at 129 – downtown Monroe)
– Stone IPA
– 60 Minute IPA by Dogfish Head
– Founders Centennial IPA

English IPA
– East India IPA by Brooklyn Brewery
– Samual Smith’s India Pale
– Arcadia IPA – Arcadia Brewing
– Sierra Nevada IPA
– McEwan’s IPA by Scottish Courage Ltd.

MBG announces Winter Fest site

This week the Michigan Brewer’s Guild announced that they are moving the Winter Beer Festival to Grand Rapids from Lansing. This is the actual announcement from the MBG web-site as posted on the Mash.

Winter Beer Festival

November 16th, 2007

“The 3rd Annual Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival is scheduled for Saturday, February 23rd, 2008. Due to the success of the event we have outgrown the location in Old Town Lansing where the Festival was held in 2006 and 2007. After much deliberation we decided that we would move the event to the Grand Rapids market. There was some reluctance to move from Lansing but we believe that it will be a positive move and we are excited to be taking this event to the west side of the state. The actual location will be the Fifth Third Ballpark, home of the West Michigan Whitecaps. We will not be on the playing field but will be utilizing some of the surrounding areas inside the park which leaves the event outdoors. Plan to wear long johns, hat and mittens and mark your calendar for February 23rd.”

I admit I do not feel passionate about having the festival at either site. I can see both sides of the argument and it is a long drive for us either way. The event would help build a MI craft beer community in Lansing but I do agree that the event has outgrown the Old Town location. It was really too crowded to take notes on the beer I was tasting. I don’t know if they tried to get a new site in Lansing and failed to secure a new site. That is just speculation though. The biggest argument that I will make is that the west side of Michigan has been very supportive of MI beers and that side of the state should be rewarded for their support. It also helps that Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan. I would like to hear the opinions of people who feel strongly about the move to Grand Rapids so if you do please post a response.

Local Food, Local Beer: A Match Made in Michigan

“Because you are reading this…chances weigh in favor of you having Michigan beer already as an important part of your beer purchase decisions…Now how about the food you eat?”

– Rex Halfpenny, Editor, “Michigan Beer Guide”
(Click here for more of Rex’s thoughts on food, beer and community)

Next to local beer, local food is another topic that I get pretty excited about. I’ll be the first to admit that at this point in my life I’m probably, overall, much more conscientious about my beer purchasing decisions than I am about my food decisions. But over the past six months or so Kevin and I have been trying to make a deliberate effort to eat more locally and sustainably produced food. There’s actually a term for this movement that seems to be really be catching on: slow food. The Slow Food International website defines the movement as :

“[A]broad cultural shift away from the destructive effects of an industrial food system and fast life; toward the regenerative cultural, social and economic benefits of a sustainable food system, regional food traditions, the pleasures of the table, and a slower and more harmonious rhythm of life.”

This past Thursday, these two beautiful worlds of good beer and good food happily united at “Drink and Think,” a slow food and craft beer dinner hosted by Slow Food Detroit.

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Founders Grand Opening

Jane: Would you rather have beer, or complete and utter contemptment?
Homer: What kind of beer?
— The Simpsons

The big event in MI brewing this week is the Founders Grand Opening in Grand Rapids on Saturday November 17th starting at 4pm. Founders  was started  in October of 1997 by Mike Stevens and Dave Enbers and since then they have become one of the most popular Microbreweries in the state. The new location will more than double their capacity from 4000 to 10000 barrels. Their beers include Centennial, Dirty Bastard(their flagship beer)), Red & Black Rye and, for you hop heads, Devil Dancer. They also try to use MI products(e.g. cherries or honey) in there beers when ever possible. You can recognize their beers by the stubby style bottles.  For those of you who have not tried one of their beers you really should but if you are new to craft beer I recommend you try one of the Ryes first. (Their Breakfast stout is also one of their best).

Sarah and I made the trip to Founders in July and had a great time. If you are in Grand Rapids this weekend stop by a celebrate their Grand Opening.  We can’t wait until we can get to the new facility and take a tour. Since we can’t make the event Saturday please post a comment and let us know how it went.

Saturday Night’s Beer Tasting

“Do you realize these so called ‘volunteers’ don’t even get paid?!”

– Homer Simpson

Kevin and I had a great time as pourers at Saturday night’s beer and wine tasting. The event, sponsored by Nagle’s Market, was held at the Milan American Legion and was a fundraiser for the Milan Public Library.

A photographer from the Milan newspaper was there and took a picture of Kevin pouring. He also took a little bit of video footage. There’s a nice post about the event, including the picture and video, here on the Milan blog site.

There were six tables at the event. However, we were the only one with beer so it was easy to tell who the beer afficionados were. Most of them, upon entering bypassed the wine tables, and made a bee-line straight to us.

One of the best parts of helping out at an event like this is experiencing people waking up to the variety of beer that’s out there. One man who was pretty new to beer carefully took his time comparing and contrasting the various nuances in the ones he tried and in the process learning the differences between the different styles. It was also fun trying to turn some of the wine drinkers on to the peach and berry belgian lambic beers. I’m pretty sure there were a few converts. “Really?” they would say. “This is beer?”

We even got to try a few new ones ourselves, “Fallen Bock” and “Rail Bender Ale” from Erie Brewing Company and “Allagash White” from Allagash Brewing Company in Portland Maine. Allagash was my favorite. It’s a Belgian White beer. Belgian whites are usually not my favorite due to the fruity/clovey/banana-ey flavors imparted by the belgian yeast strain. However the Allagash has a much smoother taste and dryer mouthfeel which seems to perfectly balance the typical Belgian spiciness. I loved it and apparently the crowd did too, because we ran out.

I also realized how excited I get about beer and how much I love talking to people about it. I can’t tell you how many people, probably due to our sheer enthusiasm, thought we were either reps from one of the breweries or at least sales reps for Rave, the distributor. “Nope” we said. “Just volunteers.”

The Bubbler and the Baby Monitor

 “Beer does not make itself properly by itself. It takes an element of mystery and of things that no one can understand.”— Fritz Maytag, American brewer

 My wife got to brew her first batch of beer last week. Usually I brew and she is my assistant. She decided to make a Pumpkin Beer for Thanksgiving and thanks to Adventures in Home-brewing she was set up and ready to go. Since this was her first solo brewing experience there was more on the line. If it goes bad it will discourage her from future brewing. Well of course there were problems and the first one was because she had me helping her. As I was cleaning our 6 gallon carboy it slipped out of my hands and into our sink. Crash, one of our cats ran to the scene and the other hide under our bed. I had broken our fermentation vessel. It is somewhat impressive to see a 6 gallon glass container break into a million pieces. As I bent over to pick it up a piece of glass actually fell out of my hair. Luckily I had a plan b in the form of a plastic bucket.

Then the next thing happened, the boiler in our house was going to be replaced and it meant a whole day without heat and naturally it ended up being the coldest day of the week. I use the furnace to nest the wort in the winter. She was using California Ale Yeast and it needs to be at between 70-75 degrees. The basement will definitely get down to50 degrees and possibly kill off the yeast. I know, I can put it in our bedroom where our only space heater will be and that is what I did.

The solution to the problem has now led to an addiction. We love hearing the bubbler going. When you hear that bubbler perculating you know all is well with your beer. It is a sign that your yeast and the wort are making a baby that will become beer. The sound is soothing with a tinge of accomplishment. I want this symphony of fermentation to be the soundtrack to our bedtime every-night. The problem is we can’t keep fermenting beer in our bedroom. Different yeast works at different temperatures and I can control the temperature of my wort by where I sit it in the basement. I could only use one of two solutions. Invent a white noise machine that makes the beautiful sound of wort turning into a beer or a baby monitor so I don’t have to sleep in the basement. Of course the best solution is a baby monitor. I could even set it up so that I could watch the bubbler work it’s magic. Imagine how easy it would be to get to sleep if every-night you can lay there in the comfort of your bed watching and hearing the plup plup of your bubbler. Because when your bubbler is bubbling all is right with the world. So if anyone reading this post is buying me a Christmas gift hint hint a baby monitor would be a great gift idea! Of course The Simpsons movie is coming out before christmas so you have options.

Bottling Beer

I’m definitely an amateur brewer at this point.  I’ve only made a couple of batches, and have kegged them both.   My neighbor, also new to brewing had me help him bottle up his double hopped pilsner last night.   I had the job of capping them after he filled them.   I was distracted by the Nascar race in the other room, and was almost relieved from my duties as the full bottles started stacking up.  I proved to be a pretty fast and efficient bottle capper though – we knocked out 5 gallons in less than an hour / or two glasses of Leinenkugel Octoberfest each.   The process was so easy, I’m going to bottle my Christmas Ale that I’m brewing up this Saturday morning (it’s going to have some local Monroe honey in it – 2 lbs) – the batch I picked up from Things Beer in Webberville, MI.

Michigan Brewing Company

Michigan Brewing Company is probably one of my favorite breweries in Michigan. When I first started coming up here, they were in a building up by the gas station – Webberville exit right off 96 (just south of Lansing). I can remember getting growlers of the Porter, then heading up to the gas station that had a deli in the back that made fried chicken livers.. (yeah, not sure what I was thinking there, but dang they were good). Later on I discovered their High Seas IPA, which opened my eyes to the world of hopped up beers.
I’ve only been up here a couple of times, for the sole purpose of going to the brew pub. Most of the time, I’m cruising by on 96 and always plan to drop in on the way to my destination and the way home. Many times I’ve picked up growlers on my way to my friends deer hunting camp or cottage.
Today, I’m on my way back from Bay City, and of course had to swing by. If you haven’t been here yet, they are located at 1093 HIghview Dr., Webbervile, MI – which is the industrial drive right after McDonalds – you can’t miss it. Follow it around back and look for the sign. I didn’t immediately like the new digs, but it’s really grown on me. It’s much bigger and just as cozy as the old place. MBC is still brewing excellent beers, I’d imagine more now with the expansion. The current seasonal beer is a Rye Bock – a light bock with a slight sweetness to it; very good. The last time I was here, they were filling growlers of Imperial IPA for $20. They’ve since dropped the price to $12 for a growler fill.
MBC has recently brewed their first batch of “bio beer.” They’ve teamed up with Michigan State University and have implemented the MSU Bio-Refinery Training Facility. MSU ships over recycled vegetable oil to MBC. The oil is converted to bio-diesel fuel that powers a steam generator. The first batched brewed on this process was an imperial stout. They eventually plan to run the bio diesel process for their electricity also. How cool is that?
MBC beers can be found all over Michigan. I’d recommend sampling the Celis line – the Grand Cru is wonderful. Their High Seas IPA is great too. The seasonal beers are always very good. Be sure to give this place a try – and if you’re coming up from southern, MI – please come pick me up. 🙂

I should also mention Things Beer – a home brewing store right in the same building as MBC. An awesome selection of home brewing equipment and ingredients.

Respect Beer

When you start a blog about beer some people may get the wrong impression about what you’re doing. Some may expect that the majority of your posts will begin with, “Dude…I got so wasted last night…” or that you will start compiling top ten lists of the beers with the highest ABV (alcohol by volume).

Others may think that the purpose of a craft beer blog is a platform for you to be a snotty or preachy beer snob, extolling the virtues of craft beer while snidely looking down upon those  who prefer traditional American beer styles like Budweiser.

Our hope is that we won’t be doing either of those things in this blog which is why I’d like to offer Beer Advocate’s tips for respecting beer  as sort of a framework of where we’re coming from and as  a guide for those who may be just venturing into the exciting world of craft beer.

Don’t get me wrong.  We’re human.  We don’t want to give the impression that we’ve never over-consumed  or that we’ve never, especially among other craft beer geeks, laughed at catty jokes about turning a stout into a Bud Light (i.e. going to the bathroom). 

But hopefully these tips will help us, and you, set the tone for the conversation.

Tri-City Brewing Company prepares for bottling

We made our way to Tri-City Brewing Company today in Bay City, MI. Tri-City currently has two beers available. A golden ale called Phoenix (named after an old closed brewery in Bay City) and an Irish red called Phelan. The operation is funded by 30 investors, one of them we met helping fold up and prepare boxes to hold cases of beer for distribution all over the state. The bottling machine just arrived this past week and they were hard at work putting the finishing touches on it before beginning the bottling process. We met Kevin, the head brewer and president of the company. He said they will eventually produce various styles of beer, and have tested a couple this past summer at a local beer tasting.

The brewery offers growlers right now, and the traffic of customers was pretty steady the whole 20 minutes we were there. Definitely good things going on with Tri-City Brewing Company. Keep an eye out for a six pack at your local beer store. Word on the street is, Monroe may even see their beer in the near future!