Each month, we are proud to feature the "beerded" thoughts and words of one special lady in the craft beer community.
by Jessica Dykstra
Ever since Hayley asked me to be a Lady of the Month for this very cool blog, I've been trying to figure out what exactly my relationship with beer is. It's not something that I have given much thought to, so it's been fun to take the time to analyze it.
Asking myself "Do I have a relationship to beer?" was initially an intimidating question. I'm not a novice at beer tasting and description and by trade, I'm a teacher. Not that teachers don't drink beer, (oh, THEY DO) but knowing different hop characteristics isn't something I've incorporated into my elementary art class. In asking myself about my relationship with beer, suddenly I found I was split into two Jessicas. Jessica #1 was sitting in the proverbial leather psychatrist's chair looking very buttoned-up, glassses perched on the end of her nose, legs crossed and hands steepled underneath her chin. She looked quizzically and snobbishly at Jessica #2, who sat opposite #1 in the patient's chair looking sullen, defiant and sleepy - not nearly as put together as #1. The personal beer analysis begins...
Jessica #1: "So, Jessica, DO YOU have a relationship with beer?"
Jessica #2: "Easy! Yes. Yes, I do." (Okay, good. That felt good. Baby steps...)
Jessica #1: "Do you enjoy drinking beer, Jessica?"
Jessica #2: "Well of course I do! (Eye roll.) No offense, but, really stupid question. Next?"
Jessica #1: "What is it that you most enjoy about beer?"
Jessica #2: "ANOTHER stupid question..."
Jessica #1: "Is it?"
Jessica #2: "Yes! Asking me what I most enjoy about beer is like asking me what I most enjoy about, oh, I don't know, the whole state of Colorado. There are a million little things that I enjoy about Colorado and asking me to explain would take forever! And don't even get me started on all the things I enjoy about Wisconsin..."
Jessica #1: "Interesting. I wonder why you bring up these two states when I thought we were discussing beer."
Jessica #2: Oh. I thought I mentioned. My family and I just moved back to Wisconsin after living in Colorado for seven years. It's possible that I'm still struggling with my feelings about this transition. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Wisconsin. This is where I grew up, went to school, learned how to ride a bike, had my first kiss, went to college, had my first beer! This is where my family is. This is where most of my friends live. There must be a part of me though that misses Colorado, the good friends I made there and the wonderful experiences I had in those seven years. For example, take a look at Jessica #3. As we speak there she is (the poor lamb) typing away on her laptop and drinking a Dale's Pale Ale from her favorite Odell Brewing beer glass."
Jessica #3: "Wait, what? Why am I Jessica #3?! I'M the one running this show! If it weren't for me asking the question "Do I have a relationship with beer?" neither of you would exist. You can both suck it!"
Jessica #1: "So why do you think you're drinking a Dale's Pale Ale? Is it solely because it's brewed and canned by Oskar Blues Brewing in Longmont, CO? And what's with the odd emotional attachment to the Odell Brewing Co beer glass?"
Jessica #3: "It's actually a TULIP beer glass, and I like how it feels in my hand thank you very much. Not to mention the beer taste better from this glass. And if you MUST know, I toured the Odell Brewery in Fort Collins with my husband and some friends a few years ago. Ah, what a day... Fort Collins is a fun town..."
Jessica #2: "Oh cripes, here we go..."
Jessica #3: "...you know, Odell Brewing makes some fine beers but nothing beats a Dale's Pale Ale in my mind. Dale's represents all that is good and wonderful about Pale Ales. And Colorado. AND beer that comes in a can. Which threw me off at first, at thirty-three years of age I thought I was above such nonsense. But from the the first sip it pulled me in with its full-bodied flavor and aggressive hops. I don't often say things like "aggressive hops" but I've been learning. I wish I knew more, sometimes I don't know how to describe the flavor and aroma and hoppiness of my favorite beers even though my husband Nick has been brewing beer for the last four years in our garage.
Nick built his ten gallon all-grain brewing system out of converted Sanke kegs. He's brewed blondes, cream ales, amber and farmhouse ales and he's created some AMAZING pale ales, nut brown ales, IPAs and double IPAs. Oh, and don't get me started on his oatmeal stout, or the porter, or barley wines. In just four years we've brewed that AND he's even dabbled in saisons, english bitters, dunkleweiss, and a few hefeweizens. And naming a brew is the best! Big Ten Red, Starshine Blonde, Deep Throat Dunkleweiss, (don't ask). I mean, the whole process is amazing. Mash in, mash out, vorlauf, decoct and fly sparge..."
Jessica #2: "Please! For the love of God! Stop!"
Jessica #1: "Quiet! We're on the verge of a breakthrough..."
Jessica: "...cool the beer with a counter-flow chiller and ferment in a large conical fermenter. I helped wash and sanitize hundreds of bottles until he decided bottling is for the birds and started putting the beer into 5 gallon corny kegs which of course inevitably lead to building his own keezer. Have I mentioned for the last three years he has been growing his own hops? We do still buy hops in bulk though. Our freezer is currently holding around six pounds of Cascade, Chinook, Centennial, Citra, Columbus, Magnum, Falconers Flight, Williamette, Perle and Hallertau..."
What is my relationship with beer? I knew I loved it, but what I didn't realize until now is how much beer has become such an intricate part of who I am. I could spend days or weeks even listing all the reasons why, but why waste the drinking time? Since I took my first sip in Wisconsin from my many life transitions of wife and mother to my move to Colorado and now back to Wisconsin. Beer has been the constant, and yet changed with me, in other words; beer is home to me. I invite you to have your own beer analysis and see what brews up!
Jessica Dykstra recently moved from Castle Rock, CO to Hudson, WI with her husband, two boys and her dog. She's currently enjoying the remains of summer and will (hopefully) continue teaching elementary art in the near future. Jessica's current obsessions include listening to Harry Potter audio books over and over, getting to know her amazing Wisconsin nieces and nephews again, and anything to do with Stephen Fry.
GOING ON A BEER HUNT
by Alethea Alden
When I moved to London nearly four years ago, I was initially disappointed by the beer. The Brits have the reputation of being beer loving people, but I was not finding beer that I loved.
Going into one quaint and adorably British pub after another, they were all filled with a combination of Guinness, Carling, Carlsberg, Fosters, and Fuller's London Pride (think Budweiser, but a bad British ale). Having moved from Brooklyn where the bar in my neighborhood had around 20 beers on tap that changed weekly, and the local grocery store had Dogfish Head and Magic Hat, I was frustrated. Where was all the amazing beer?
I moved to London with my then boyfriend, now husband, who liked beer even more than I did. Wondering how our opinion of 'good beer' could vary so drastically from the impression we had of the Brits loving good beer, and tired of being so full from all the Guinness we were drinking, we started scouring the internet for different and interesting beers. We made some important discoveries.
The beer that the Brits loved was cask ale (top fermented beer that is made and served at room temperature and has not been injected with CO2), made in microbreweries across the country for hundreds of years. Unfortunately, large beer company conglomerates had swooped in with mass produced lager (i.e. Carling, Carlsberg, Fosters), and over time had succeed in pushing cask, or ‘real’ ale to the sidelines. But with organization’s like CAMRA, The Campaign for Real Ale, cask ale was again gaining in popularity. Also, craft beer microbreweries for more ‘American’ style beers were slowly opening in London, and across the UK. It turned out we were arriving at the start of a new beer movement; beer was about to become even more popular than before, which is saying something in the UK.
My then boyfriend and I schlepped around the city going on beer hunts. We sought out old pubs like The Bree Louise and The Southampton Arms that were known for their cask or ‘real’ ale from breweries such as Dark Star and Ilkley, teaching ourselves to like this classic, warm, flat, British beer. Which, when done well, was actually very flavorful and delicious. The newer ‘American’ style IPA (it was originally British - IPA standing for India Pale Ale - and was made by putting extra hops into ale to try and preserve it on the trek across the ocean to beer thirsty British soldiers in India) and lager microbreweries were also beginning to kick off, with the more established breweries like Meantime and BrewDog expanding their distribution. Newer breweries like The Kernel and London Fields were also coming into the scene.
It is exciting (and delicious) to witness the number of new breweries that have opened in the last four years (which include a particular trend of microbreweries going into warehouses under elevated train bridges), including Brew By Numbers, Beavertown, Weird Beard and Pressure Drop. Watching these breweries both improve their beer quality, and expand their distribution into grocery stores, restaurants, an ever increasing number of pubs, and start their own tap rooms and brewpubs, is all proof that the more recent and unfortunate London beer ‘norm’ - only being able to get Carlsberg and Fuller’s London Pride - is shifting to better beer.
While the majority of pubs in London (there are a lot of pubs, one on almost every street corner) still mostly only sell the run-of-the-mill Carling and Fosters, and maybe a not very flavorful ale, there are an ever increasing number of pubs that have at least one or two craft beers and ales. As well as an increasing number of pubs (The Whippet, The Euston Tap, The Jolly Butchers, The Fox, and The Craft Beer Co. chain to name a few of my favorites) that are entirely devoted to craft beers and real ales.
My husband and I still go on beer hunts, but not as often as we used to. Now a normal discussion on a Friday and / or Saturday night involves deciding whether to check out a new pub that’s supposed to have good beer, or to go to one of our favorite pubs that’s guaranteed to have good beer. Going to one of these ‘guaranteed to have good beer pubs’, it’s exciting to see a bar full of beer taps that I recognize and love. But I am still always delighted to find new beers I have never heard of before.
Alethea Alden is an American living in London. She is currently working in International Relations, and previously wrote for the women's travel writing blog Pink Pangea as a foreign correspondent.
BEER; YOUR ONE TRUE LOVE
by Stephanie Davis
Ahhhh, February, you short, sweet, naughty month you. With all the love and flowers or heartache and tears it's easy to see how we could forget the one thing that matters most. The one that's there for you in good times and bad, and even though you've been ignoring it, it's here for you right now.
That's right, I'm talking about beer. And you need beer in your life now more than ever, and I'm here to help you: let me be your Brewpid (Beer Cupid.)
Fed up with your current relationship?
So you're bored to tears by your live-in lover. Get over it with Oskar Blues Dales Pale Ale!
How are you going to live 2014 to the fullest if you still have that miserable, old ball & chain around? Let this little can of delicious goodness be your stability as you transition to the new you. And trust me, the piney, grapefruit hops and lightly roasted caramel malts will soon have you forgetting that you just wasted two years and three months of your life. Just think of how much better you'll feel when you're cracking open that third can of sharp, yet creamy, smooth delight while gently breaking the news that you're moving out and traveling to Europe for a couple of weeks to clear you're head and tour trappist breweries. Don't be afraid of change, embrace it!
Actually finding yourself in a blissful union this holiday?
Landed someone who makes you consider taking it to the next level & deleting those naughty pictures your ex sent you so long ago? Well, good for you! So for you and yours may I suggest the AleSmith Horny Devil.
Need I say more? (No, but of course I will.) Before you get wrapped up in each other, I would highly recommend reaching for a glass of this Belgian style strong pale ale. It's the kind of beer that'll loosen your tongues and deepen your connection. Plus there's so many parts of this beer to taste and explore. It's funky and yeasty with that sultry sweetness and those spicy notes of coriander. You'll also find some nice citrus in there which also makes for a very refreshing experience. And at 11% ABV make sure to take your time on this one because, it's incredibly disappointing to go too fast and then not be able to finish it.
Painfully alone this Valentines Day?
Have no fear! There are plenty of beers out there that will keep you feeling warm and content (unlike that thing you did to yourself under the sheets before you got ready for work.)
Enter, the Founders Breakfast Stout. You may have woken up questioning whether anyone will ever love you but after you've grabbed even 12oz of this insanely rich, imperial coffee stout you'll know for a fact that you are not. Starbucks is for the teetotaling masses who just don't understand your pain. But, THIS BEER understands and it let's you know with whispers of Sumatra & Kona coffee beans with imported semi-sweet chocolate. It loves you for you and knows that you're unique and need your senses coaxed with delicious malty stability and lingering flavors of ice cream. And with an 8.3 ABV this one isn't going to leave you like the others. So sit back, take in a delicious sip and let this song remind you that the you've still got it and you're gonna be alright.
Cheers to you on this Valentine's Day and may you too find your perfect brew!
Originally hailing from the dirty south capital, Memphis, TN, Stephanie is systematically chipping away at living & working in all the best beer cities. Portland, OR, Brooklyn, NY and currently Austin, TX. If you need some beer & travel advice, she's your girl. Holler!
RETHINKING GEOGRAPHIC BEER BIAS
by Kerri Surbaugh
2014 came in a blast—of near cripplingly frigid cold. Love it or hate it, many of us learned the phrase “Polar Vortex” for the first time. Personally, I couldn’t be bothered with arguing whether or not “Polar Vortex” is a phrase that should stay with us through the ages. What I am concerned with is that it’s too cold in most parts of America to drink beer.
Alcohol is a depressant, and even the slightest depressant to your system these days may result in feeling as though you’ll never get warm again—truly something to cry over. But perhaps it’s not all for the worse. If necessity is the mother of invention, than adversity is the mother of discovery. And after the spasmodic tremors threatening hypothermia melt away from your poor, traumatized body hours after coming in from the harrowing walk from your car to your door, you will finally see the light: it’s ok to have a post-Christmas getaway. What are you trying to prove, anyway? You don’t need to fight through all the stress of the holidays and then have to suffer through this bullshit weather. It’s time for a real vacation. "But how can I pay for that," you ask? Well, as luck would have it, there is still one continental US state which is both affordable to visit and still above 0 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s right. I’m seriously telling you to go to Florida.
As a staunch beer enthusiast, I normally wouldn’t put my neck on the line advocating Floridian beer. But seriously, have you looked at the weather map of America lately? If you want to be able to enjoy your beer in peace, there is only Mexico and Florida that still have reasonable temperatures that don’t come with an 8 hour flight. Say what you will about Floridian beer, it has Mexican beer beaten hands down. (Lo siento.) There’s now a Florida beer for every occasion—and believe me, if you drink a lot of beer in Florida, you will experience every occasion.
It’s time for you to tour the breweries have been sprouting up like sea oats and if you’re an experienced traveling beer devotee like myself, then you can knock out all of my recommended selections - and more - in one glorious, sun soaked weekend. If not, then you have a damned good excuse to make it a week. And because I know you’ll fly into Tampa, let’s ease you into this venture with a name you can trust (and whose tasting room happens to be conveniently located next to the airport): Cigar City Brewing.
Start with a Hotter Than Helles. Named for the oppressive and near demonic heat of the summer months that you’ve cleverly avoided by visiting Tampa in January, this pleasant Munich-style lager is a testament to the allure of the tropics. With the slightest scent of honey rising in the subtropical sun, one might almost miss the underlying discipline in the finish. But you shouldn’t be surprised. It takes a lot of strength to resist the daily urge to abandon your responsibilities, strip, and wade into the ocean.
Before leaving the brewery, I’d recommend trying the J Stein's Lab Rate White IPA from Cigar City's Torcedores Series. I know, I know, a white IPA? But hear me out on this. Its aroma is reminiscent of gooseberry and flowers, with enough hops to give the resolve you’d expect from an IPA, and just sweet enough for a balanced finish. This beer is fresh, daring, and really unusual. At 7.6%, it’s not surprising there is no shortage of lab rats to test it on.
At this point, it’s time to decide whether you want to continue touring breweries or hit the white sand beaches. In order to carefully consider your options, head to Pair O'Dice Brewing in Clearwater, Florida. Not only does Clearwater have one of the best beaches in America, it also has the Pair O'Dice Parlay Pale Ale. At only 5.2% alcohol, you can mull the situation over thoroughly. Because a good bargain should be balanced, clean, and straight forward with a no-nonsense finish, the Parlay Pale is just the bittersweet give and take you need to get your head straight.
If you’re truly lucky in your travels, you’ll have run across one of Florida’s most celebrated local bands gone national, JJ Grey and Mofro. JJ’s funky, blue-eyed soul has found a permanent home in the hearts of many Floridians—most notably the hearts of the crafters at Rock Brothers Brewing. Rock Brothers Brewing is known for framing beers after beloved Floridian musicians. After sitting down and discussing life, love, music, and beer with JJ, the JJ Grey Nare Sugar Brown Ale was born. Though not quite as sexy as JJ himself, the Sugar Brown is nonetheless a fitting homage. Intricate, complex, and yes, sugary, this brew will give you the warm tinglies. (And don't worry about having to leave the white sand beaches of the Gulf coast to get it, The Ale and the Witch in Saint Petersburg can hook you up.)
Sooner or later you will end up drinking beer on the beach itself. That’s where Seminole’s Rapp Brewing Berliner Weiss comes in. A 3.2%, as light as you’d expect—yet not quite committing the sacrilegious sin of drinking light beer. The Berliner Weisse is the beer for the beach. The nose of Rapp's Berliner Weisse is mildly grapefruit and floral. If you're looking for something to pair with a beach side breakfast, try a "Salty Seminole Dog": half Berliner Weisse/half grapefruit juice served in a salt-rimmed glass.
As you can see, it’s an exciting time here in Florida. Days ranging in the upper 80s and nights in the upper 60s make for perfect drinking weather. Breweries like Dunedin Brewing and Tampa Bay Brewing are consistently turning out quality year-round and seasonal beers and with new Florida craft breweries like Green Bench Brewing, Seventh Sun Brewing popping up, there is no better time to take advantage of the bounty of brews. We are truly in Florida’s brewing renaissance and the Tampa Bay area is the perfect springboard into Floridian beer bliss. Pair any with a hammock on a white sand beach and you’ve found heaven.
While Brooklyn is near to her heart, Kerri is currently exploring other national options. Because the only way to know an area is to truly drink it in, Kerri thoroughly examines the character of every city to which her work takes her. She currently serves as the Beerded Ladies’ Florida contact.