I just got these graphs from the Brewer’s Association.
I don’t need to write much, the numbers do most of the explaining.
Craft brew in a nutshell:
The drum beats of his key strokes caught my attention the first time I heard him play. I wasn’t lucky enough to have seen him at Minton’s or any one of dozens of small jazz cafes he played. I first heard his music played on a CD in jazz appreciation class in college.
I took the class because I loved jazz, and I needed the credit. I knew Miles and I knew John and I knew Charlie, but I’d only heard of Thelonious Monk.
But those distinct, percussive key strokes and the way he brought the piano out of its rhythm funk and played as if he was the only one who could really hear the music really got to me.
I spent long evenings playing Monk over and over trying to memorize what it was that I liked about his music.
I’m a bit removed from that over-the-top appreciation I had in college, but the other night, after finding a 12-ounce bottle of North Coast Brewing Co.’s Brother Thelonious at The Good Food Store, I dug into my old iTunes archives for a digital recording of Monk’s “Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane.” I poured the beer into a goblet, like the one Monk himself seems to be drinking from on the label, and I sat back in an easy chair, closed my eyes and dreamed of walking into Minton’s on a Friday night.
Turns out Brother Thelonious is on tap at The Rhinoceros as well, so I tried that version too.
Brother Thelonious is a beer brewed in the style of a Belgian dubbel. It’s 9.4, so it’s big and it has some raisiny notes with a lot of heavy malt character that yields to a nice yeasty center. The alcohol is present throughout, which gives it a warm taste that reminded me of rum-soaked tropical fruit.
It is the heart of winter, which is why I’m writing about this stout. But something doesn’t feel right. It’s not cold outside. I love a big, hearty stout on the coldest of days. There just haven’t been that many this year, and on the ones that were cold, I seemed to be drinking something Belgian.
Inevitably my taste for stouts got the better of me, and I started perusing the market for something sleek, dark and gorgeous. Avery’s Out of Bounds Stout caught my eye as a beer I’d only tried once before.
Black as marmite and with a bit more bite, this stout has a taste like over-roasted American coffee. But it’s a more desirable flavor in beer. Lots of roasted flavors mingled with a hard-edged hop profile that made this beer chewy. The hops lingered with the roasted malt in a very different way because the beer’s lower ABV. At 5.1 percent, pretty traditional for these types of stouts, there wasn’t that alcohol backbone to prop up and make the hops ring. Instead, the hops played through the roasted edge of the malt and rounded out the burnt toast flavors. After the beer warmed slightly, a very mellow caramel note was noticeable on the finish, and the hops and roasted malts blended into a very tasty and drinkable stout. Not dry to the point of needing a hunk of cheese or cracker to quaff it down, but with enough complexity to match with roasted meats, smoked cheeses and perhaps a little ice cream, Avery’s Out of Bounds stout is a fantastic example of those attributes in beer that the craft industry is trying to educate people about.
Here’s a short interview with John Masterson, who won this year’s homebrew contest and created a porter with help from the brewers at Big Sky Brewing Co. Proceeds from the sale of 600 gallons of Masterson’s porter will be split between Garden City Harvest and the Zoo City Zymurgists homebrew club.
1. What did you brew? Elaborate, if you will, on the style.
This is a ‘Robust Porter’, which I named ‘Pure Soul Porter’: Described here.
In my recipe, it started out at 1.068, a fairly substantial beer (and slightly bigger than the guidelines suggest). My homebrew version was at
2. Why did you choose this particular beer for the competition? Talk
about what intrigued you, or, perhaps where you found the recipe or
The competition was about Porter — so I had just three substyles from which to choose — Brown Porter, Robust Porter, and Baltic Porter.
As an amateur homebrewer, I’m neither a purist nor a scientist with recipe creation. I guess I would say I have something of an instinct for what might make a good recipe, but I rarely consult anything but the style guidelines during recipe formation.
This was batch #92 for me, so I have a little bit of experience, and I knew I wanted to brew something dark as night, something that FELT dark, but wasn’t too thick or heavy-bodied. I used just a bit of Centennial hops for taste & aroma — a hop variety often used in Pale Ales and IPAs
– because I love those styles. Of course I had to go easy with them because this is a Porter, but the essence comes through, subtly.
3. What was it like brewing 600 gallons of your beer? Was this the
largest batch of beer you’ve ever brewed?
The biggest for me by a long shot — I brew beer 5 and 10 gallons at a time, so 600 gallons was mind-blowing.
But, as I said at the inaugural tasting last week, I use a 24″ stainless steel spoon to stir my mash, while Big Sky uses a really big machine. I use a 5 gallon plastic water cooler to mash my grains — they use a really big machine. And I use a 25′ coil of copper tubing to cool my brew, and, you guessed it, they use a really big machine.
So really, the process the same, and, as Matt Long noted, it’s almost EASIER to brew 600 gallons than it it to brew 5 gallons, because the machines do so much of the work for you. Of course, watching the brewing team at Big Sky, running those machines demands a certain art, timing, skill, and aerobic fitness.
4. Tell us about your beer? Tasting notes?
In addition to base two-row barley malt and a good amount of so-called Chocolate Malt (moderately dark barley malt), we used a small amount (~6% of the total grain bill) of a malt called ‘Extra Special Malt’, which is described by the manufacturer as follows:
“This is a unique malt that is used in many types of beer to achieve the profound raisiny flavor notes often associated with darker high gravity beers such as dopplebock. Adds a raisiny, chocolate, slight coffee flavor and aroma and a deep red to copper color. Here’s the description. ”
It’s subtle but it’s there.
The hops are understated but lingering, hinting at hoppiness but never really going there.
I just took a growler of this beer to a dinner party last weekend and got a lot of comments about how this is how dark beer is supposed to taste — several people said it reminded them of fond memories of touring breweries in Germany (the Tettnang bittering hops are indeed German in origin).
5. Why should people pick up a growler of this beer?
Well, first of all, it’s cooler-than-cool that Big Sky Brewery has partnered up with the local homebrew club to make this possible. We are very fortunate to have such a great example of business-nonprofit-community collaboration here in Missoula.
Second, it’s great beer! Even if you don’t generally drink dark beers, this is a good one. Strong too. Stop into Big Sky’s tasting room and check it out.
Third, the chosen non-profit beneficiary of this year’s Community Brew is Garden City Harvest. They are good and deserve your support.
Thanks for sharing John.
I just think it’s really cool that a brewery partners with local homebrewers to create something beneficial to the entire community. That’s what I love about this place and these breweries.
Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts about Montana’s messed-up alcohol laws. I know I learned a lot from reading the comments and the added links. This is a big issue that isn’t going to just fade away. Breweries like Big Sky want to see changes so that they can continue to grow, so the next legislative session should prove to be interesting
Also, thanks for bearing with me during a week of taking antibiotics for a sinus infection. The inability to taste anything unless it was liquid fire combined with the beer-is-bad-for-antibiotics thing your doctor always tells you, made for less-than-normal consumption this week. In other words, I didn’t get to try very many beers, so the wordy posts helped to pass the week.
I’ll have a fresh batch of new brews to talk about this week, including John Masterson’s winning porter from the Missoula Community Brew. It’s on tap at Big Sky Brewing Co., and I’ve heard good things about it. Profits from the beer will be divided between the Zoo City Zymurgists homebrew club and this year’s charity, Garden City Harvest, a local organization that works to provide high-quality food to low-income people, and offers education and training in ecologically conscious food production.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
That’s the line I get most often here in Missoula.
We have three great breweries, lots of good beer from all over the world in our stores and plenty of choices when it comes to styles.
Life is good.
But can it be better?
For the last nine years I lived next door to a winery. I worked many holiday seasons as a representative of the winery at area tastings, and I spent many hours hanging out in tasting rooms and wine cellars with wine makers.
I watched the Oregon wine industry go from small, unorganized and unknown to a premier wine growing region with recognition and distribution all over the world.
The Oregon wine industry, which began with the hard work and dedication of industry pioneers like Richard Ponzi, Dick Erath and David Lett, had to grow. It had to become what it would, and as the industry faced obstacles in the form of prohibition-era laws, state rules and regulations and the lack of infrastructure, men and women who started with little more than a few rows of pinot noir grapes became wine advocates and lobbyists. They learned to promote their product in their towns, counties, the state and eventually beyond.
Today, the wine industry in Oregon is a multi-million dollar industry that is a boon to the economy as well as huge tourism draw. The state actually contributes money for advertising so that Oregon wines get wider play nationally and internationally.
Oregon brewers took a page right out of the Oregon wine industry play book and began organizing a year ago. Today they are far from were the wine industry is in terms of recognition and economic clout, but they are growing rapidly and creating growth by actively promoting their product within the state and around the country. Oregon microbrew tours are starting to sell out like winery tours do. When brewers face ridiculous state regulations or proposed taxes, they find support in fellow brewers who share a common goal.
I think Montana is a prime place for alcohol regulation reform, and though our population is not huge, our breweries are amazing. There is no reason why this industry shouldn’t become a big draw for people visiting the state. What’s better than a great microbrew after a long hike in Glacier National Park?
Beer for thought,
I’ve been told I have a good job. And it’s hard not to agree. I write stories about a lot of things, but I get to blog about beer.
But I’ve got nothing on this guy.
Yeah, then you probably feel as I do. Since when does Denver get the Napa Valley of Beer designation? California’s central coast isn’t doing too bad for beer, with nearly as many breweries within a two-hour drive as Denver has. What about Portland, Oregon? With 28 breweries in one city, you certainly don’t have to drive two hours to find a microbrewery there. I don’t know why, but I’m a bit bothered by Denver getting this designation. First, it stinks of regionalism, that detested stank that happens when one particular region becomes the hot spot, the Napa Valley, the Paris of the West, the Disneyland of the East, you catch my drift.
Distinctive breweries are popping up all over the place, and each region has its own significance.
I had to post this comment from Bjorn Nabozney at Big Sky Brewing Co. It explains the Montana alcohol limit law from a brewery standpoint, a distribution take and a consumer’s point of view.
Right now there are many breweries, beer distributors, beer stores and restaurants that are breaking Montana law by selling “liquor” as “beer.” Very few of these businesses know that they are breaking the law and most of them would be very surprised to learn that according to the State of Montana, any malt beverage that contains over 7% alcohol by weight (ABW) cannot legally be brewed, distributed, or sold as beer. Instead, all such beverages are classified as liquor and must meet the state’s very different laws that govern liquor rather than those that govern beer. Here is the language from the Montana Code Annotated:
16-1-102. Policy as to sale of beer. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the state of Montana that the manufacture, transportation, distribution, sale, and possession of “beer”, as that term is defined in this code and which contains not more than 7% of alcohol by weight, shall be controlled and regulated as provided under this code. Beer, porter, ale, stout, and malt liquors containing more than 7% of alcohol by weight and which are defined as “liquor” shall be subject to the regulations and controls provided for liquor.
As a craft brewery, Big Sky Brewing Company feels that it is important to be able to legally brew and sell several styles of beer that traditionally contain over 7% ABW. Because we feel very strongly about this issue, we will petition the 2007 state legislature to remove the limit to the alcohol content of beer. Here is a list of some of the most common beer styles that are traditionally brewed to contain over 7% ABW.
India Pale Ale
English Old Ale
English Strong Ale
Additionally, there are over a dozen less common styles of beer that would often be brewed to over 7% ABW. While the sale of these beers would be a tiny portion of our business, it is important for Big Sky Brewing Company to be able to compete with other regional breweries in this high end market.
It also appears that any beer distributor that carries beer brands that contain over 7% ABW are violating the law. A similar problem faces the owner of a high end beer and wine store or a restaurant with only a beer and wine license that wants to carry an extensive selection of beers. Here is a list of some brands that we have found on Montana store shelves that cannot legally be sold as beer according to Montana law.
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Barley Wine
Anchor Brewing Old Foghorn
Samuel Adams Double Bock
Stone Brewing Double Bastard
Rogue Brewing Old Crustacean
Rogue Brewing Imperial Stout
It is clear that if the current law were being enforced, dozens of Montana businesses would be forced to reduce the number of fine beers they offer to their customers and Montana beer aficionados would find themselves with fewer fine brews to choose from. The fact that the current law is not enforced and that several beers with alcohol contents well in excess of 7% ABW are currently being sold in Montana indicates that if the limit was removed, there would not be a significant increase in the number of strong beers available for sale here. Instead, law abiding Montana breweries would be allowed to brew these high end beers while law abiding distributors, beer stores, and restaurants would be able to distribute and sell these great beers to their customers throughout the state.
There is not any legitimate reason to limit the alcohol content of beer. The brewing process itself limits the amount of alcohol that beer can contain. As the amount of alcohol in beer increases, the yeast that produces alcohol dies and can no longer produce additional alcohol. Because of this, well over 99.9% of all beers brewed contain less than 16% alcohol by volume (ABV). It is worth noting that the state of Montana defines table wine as containing up to 16% ABV (this is equivalent to 12.6% ABW). There is no reason for strong beers to fall under the liquor laws while wines with similar or stronger alcohol content do not.
When comparing Montana’s law to those of surrounding states, we find that Montana is much stricter than most states in the Northwest. All of the other states in our region are much less restrictive. Oregon sets its limit at 14% ABV, and North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming set no maximum alcohol content for beer. It is for all of these reasons that we intend to ask the state of Montana to remove its 7% ABW limit from beer produced, distributed, and sold in the state.
Comment by Bjorn Nabozney — February 19, 2008 @
Now that we know some of the ins and outs of the Montana Code, what’s the best course of action?
Should the state crack down on all this illegal beer? Could they? Should the brewers stand alone in petitioning the legislature to nix the seven percent limit? What’s at stake here? Is it just a few breweries and those of us who really like a broad range of beers who stand to gain or lose the right to brew and enjoy high ABV beers?
The thing I’ve noticed since I moved to Montana is that the brewers in this state are working hard. They are working hard to produce more beer, to get their products in more states, to produce good brand names and get great space on grocery story shelves. They work hard to provide local jobs and to be an integral part of their communities.
But breweries are inhibited by prohibition residuals, by state law and a powerful tavern lobby that doesn’t even understand it has nothing to lose by not fighting something so trivial as a the seven percent ABW law and by an undereducated populace that, for the most part, knows what it likes, but doesn’t know why that needs to be protected.
OK, this is a quick break from our week-long conversation about Montana laws that affect the brewing and sale of many beer styles here.
After a quick stop at Kettlehouse Brewing Co. today, I was made aware of a grievous theft at the brewery recently.
Seems four cookies, the names of their intended recipients engraved on top, disappeared from their hiding place in the back of the brewery.
What everyone wants to know is: Who would steal cookies with someone else’s name on it.
Both Al and Mitch admitted that they would probably steal a cookie with someone else’s name on it, but that in this case they didn’t.
Here’s what I’m offering. Turn yourself in, bake four cookies with the missing names engraved in icing on top, take them to Kettlehouse Brewing Co., and I’ll give you the very first GrizzlyGrowler.Com growler. These haven’t even been made yet, but if I start giving them away my bosses will have to go ahead and order them.
Do the right thing,
It’s Monday, and if you add in all the crazy beer experiences I had over the weekend with the passionate exchanges on GrizzlyGrowler.Com last week, you get a mash (pun intended, thank you very much) of things to talk about.
And while I’m not always very topic oriented, at least in terms of posting many items on the same subject, I’m going to dedicate this week to a discussion that has been a long time coming.
First of all, I’m not promoting the rampant consumption of high-alcohol beers. I’m talking about the ability, nay, the freedom, to enjoy a good, strong beer once in a while.
There are laws in Montana, which were developed in the 1940s. Those laws define how and when beer and other alcohol beverages are sold.
And while it is one of the touchiest subjects around, I want to spend part of this week looking at one of those rules. And the thing that brought it up is that Worden’s Market, The Good Food Store, Liquid Planet and any of Missoula’s fantastic beer shops cannot legally sell me that beer I want so badly to review this year – the 2008 version of Deschutes Brewing Co.’s The Abyss.
Why? Because the alcohol content is too high, and that doesn’t mesh with state regulations on high-alcohol beer.
There is a bunch of information that I’ll throw at you in the next few days, but I’d like to invite you to comment on this topic. I’m curious if there is a crowd of responsible beer drinkers out there who feel slighted by this neo-prohibitionist law, still tightly held up each legislative session by the Montana Tavern Owner’s Association?
If not, and if high-alcohol beer really is a danger to society, well, then I’d like to hear that too. In a very informal survey of alcohol related accidents with police in Missoula and in Portland, Oregon, I found that the common denominator often was low-priced liquor and beer.
This makes sense, because high-priced items, which high ABV beers tend to qualify as, are more expensive and less conducive to getting plastered with. Granted it takes fewer bottles, but if you’ve ever had The Abyss, you know you can only drink one or two before you feel as though you ate an entire stack of pancakes, extra syrup and half a pig’s worth of bacon. These beers are thick, they are meant for sipping and they don’t go lightly on the pocket book.
So, share your thoughts on high-alcohol beer. Is it a scourge? Or should brewers in the state be allowed to make and sell those classy extra-strong ales and lagers? There are a lot of beers you are not getting because our beer sellers are rightfully afraid of hefty fines leveled by the state for breaking the rules.