Carla Jean Lauter

The Beer Babe

Category: Special/Holiday (Page 1 of 15)

Announcement – The Session #112 : The Other Beer Economy

sessionlogoHello beer writers! Welcome to the Session #112. If you are unfamiliar with The Session, it is a monthly writing prompt rotated through guest hosts. The host posts the topic assignment, and responses posted in comments will be round up on the same blog. It’s a great way for us to have a virtual conversation around a single topic, no matter where we hail from. 


The Session #112: The Other Beer Economy

Last year, the total economic impact of the beer brewing industry in the state of Maine was approaching the same scale as the lobster industry. Let that sink in for a second. Maine – which is arguably *best* known for lobsters  – is shifting to an economy strongly supported by brewing.

Growing alongside of the boom of breweries are many small businesses that are supporting, or supported by the craft beer industry. Maine is now home to a malt processing facility, and several hop farms. There are multiple beer tourism-focused businesses that help connect visitors to the state’s best beer offerings. There are companies that create beer-related apparel for beer fans, some that have designed unique bottle openers and manufacture them in-state.  Maine is also home to a company that manufactures and installs brewing equipment, and another whose sole mission is to clean the lines that serve up that beer to thirsty beer fans.

Yet, we rarely give these businesses a second thought. They are the second beer economy, often operating behind-the-scenes. I think we could give them a bit more credit for keeping things growing, sharing the products of our local breweries with more people, and sometimes even literally keeping the beer flowing.

For this month’s session, let’s talk about those businesses in the beer world that aren’t breweries. What are the roles that they can play? What opportunities still exist for new niche roles to be developed? What can local/state/regional governments do to encourage this kind of diversity of businesses around an industry?

I’m excited to hear your thoughts and stories.

 


To participate:

  • I encourage you to leave a comment with a link (or tweet me a link @beerbabe) containing your thoughts on this topic by June 3rd 
  • I will then read through and round up the submissions in a post a few days later.

 

 

Palate Experiment: IPA-free January

Living in the land of Lunch, Calcutta CutterEpiphany, and Swish, it’s far too easy to end up drinking hoppy beers by default – and I’m beginning to worry that my hoppy “habit” is causing me to miss some of the other styles that deserve more attention.

I thought about how to remedy this, and I came up with a bit of an experiment.

For the month of January, I will ban IPAs from my beer choices.

I know that this is not as hard as giving up beer altogether. However, it does give me a guideline that will help me to make choices when at the bars, bottle shops, and breweries that I regularly visit.

This experiment isn’t really designed to determine how difficult it would be to stay away from IPAs. Instead, it’s a way for me to re-focus my beer tastings to other styles (and maybe even other breweries).

Want to join in? Here are the guidelines as I’ve set them out:

  1. Drink no IPAs or Double/Imperial IPAs.
  2. Drink no American Pale Ales (APAs) because they can be very similar to IPAs.
  3. Branch out your drinking to as many other styles possible.
  4. Discuss the results. #noIPAJan

I am leaving myself two exceptions:

 1. If I am offered a friend's homebrew. (I.e., I'm not going to let this experiment turn me into an ungrateful jerk.)
 2. If I am required to drink one because of a writing assignment.

I know that, to many of you, this sounds like a simple task. There are a wide diversity of beer styles available, and it shouldn’t be hard to find beers to fill the gap, especially in winter. But, to me it is still worth trying.

If anything, it’s an exercise in being more aware of what I’m drinking, staying outside of my comfort zone, resetting my palate, and seeing if there is anything that can be learned from the experience.

Wish me luck and let me know if you plan to participate!

Cheers!

The Beer Babe’s Best – 2015 (The Bollard)

“What’s your favorite beer?” is the most loaded question a beer writer can be asked. I view it as highly conditional. Do you mean the beer I most like to sit on my porch and sip? The beer I’d drink to accompany my last meal? The beer I’d drink if I could only drink one beer for the rest of my life?

I’d like to propose a compromise. I can offer my opinion on Maine’s best beers this year, but only in their own contexts. The following list showcases Maine’s best brewing talent, embraces the creativity characteristic of most Maine brewers, and features beers I’d be happy to order at any bar — or be stuck with on a desert island.

Maine’s Best New Brewery

During Portland Beer Week last month, I attended the Maine Brewers’ Guild’s “Freshman Class” event, which showcased breweries opened in the past year, and sampled beer from all five of Maine’s newest breweries: Lubec Brewing Company, Marsh Island Brewing, Orono Brewing Company, Blank Canvas Brewery, and Square Tail Brewing Co. Of those, Orono Brewing Company stood out. They technically opened on New Year’s Eve, in 2014, but that’s close enough for me. For a new brewery, their mastery of a variety of styles, from their Ozone IPA to their White Nitro Cream Ale — poured with nitrogen, instead of CO2, like a Guinness — demonstrated an impressive level of quality and creativity. They’ve recently released collaboration beers with Geaghan Brothers (of Bangor) and Banded Horn (based in Biddeford), so look for them to have a strong presence on the Maine beer scene in the upcoming year.

Best New Maine Beer

A wide array of wonderful new beers were birthed in our state over the past dozen months, but none caught my eye (and my taste buds) like Foundation Brewing Company’s Epiphany. This hoppy and balanced beer has enchanted so many locals and visitors that the Portland-based artisanal brewery must struggle to meet the demand. Visit their brewery on Industrial Way on a day a fresh batch is released and you’ll find that the wait for the four-pack of orange cans is more than worth it.

Best Maine IPA

During Portland Beer Week, The Great Lost Bear hosted a Maine IPA tap takeover that featuring nearly 20 varieties of pale ale. After sampling almost all of them side by side, I finally determined my favorite: Rising Tide’s Calcutta Cutter. Technically an Imperial (Double) IPA, this is a super-pleasing, hop-forward beer with perfect balance. At its freshest, it presents a citrus and piney taste complemented by just the right amount of bitterness. If you like hops at all, this is the best presentation of them Maine has to offer. Available a few times a year, the current batch is better than ever, so grab it if and while you can.

Best Maine Stout/Porter

IPAs tend to take center stage in the beer world. About 25 percent of beer sales were in that category this year. But stepping outside the realm of hops, there are several stand-outs in Maine for those who like to dwell on the darker, roasted end of the beer spectrum. Banded Horn’s Jolly Woodsman Coffee Stout is a blend of two different stouts (Norweald and Mountain), with the addition of wood-roasted espresso from Matt’s Coffee. The result is an intense, coffee-laden beer with some exceptionally pleasant and bitter notes. This one’s for the true lumberjacks among us, and deserves the praise.

Maine’s Most Creative Beer

Though Maine is famous for seafood, few brewers have had the courage to incorporate the ocean’s bounty into their beer — for understandable reasons. While there have been a handful of good oyster stouts, this year saw the debut of a beer featuring Maine’s iconic crustacean: the lobster. Oxbow Brewing Company’s Saison Dell’Aragosta (aragosta is Italian for lobster) was brewed with lobsters added to the boil kettle (and later reportedly consumed in a beer-soaked feast). Rather than a fishy flavor, this saison attained a lovely balance of brine and funk, surpassing expectations and receiving some worthy national press.

Best Label/Can Design

bbcansAs a graphic design enthusiast, I spend more time looking at beer labels than your typical consumer. Cans arguably provide more space for creativity, but few breweries take advantage of the whole canvas like Portland’s Bissell Brothers Brewing Company. Bissell Brothers has expanded and elaborated beyond its original black-on-sliver design for its flagship ale, The Substance, and now its line of beers is available in a variety of colorful, yet consistently branded, cans. The Bissells’ ability to push creative boundaries while maintaining brand integrity is a skill nearly as impressive as their brewing.

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