Memorial Day Weekend = Beer

 

In the Beginning

In 1880 there were over 4,000 breweries (both registered and unregistered) operating in the US – that’s one brewery for every 12,547 people at the time! Imagine how unique each brewery must have been, using local ingredients and producing brews that had the spirit of the community in every cask and bottle. Over the next 100 years, mostly because of government regulation, American breweries began disappearing at an alarming rate. When prohibition came along, the brewing scene really started to fade because it was far more profitable selling bathtub gin than beer. When prohibition was lifted, the government tightly regulated the beer market, all but shutting the door on craft brewers (this is the part where every craft beer aficionado cringes) the big players like Miller, Coors, Budweiser and the like… cue the sad violin music.

canscollection

Fast forward nearly fifty years to 1979. There were only forty four breweries in the United States. Jimmy Carter was in office. Michael Jackson released Off the Wall. Many now forty and fifty somethings has a wall of beer cans in our bedrooms. And brewing in the US was deregulated! Something began to happen – a shift in the American beer drinkers’ palate? A desire to support local business? The 1980s marked the decade of micro brewing pioneers. In 1990 there were 100 active breweries in the US. The renaissance had begun!

Most of us have noticed changes in the American craft brewing scene recently. Some of us notice these little changes when we are at the store and we can’t get what we came for, others when we crack open the first bottle of a new brew that we picked up because the label caught our eye or because it had a unique story. As of December 2012, the Beer Institute reports that there are 2,751 active breweries in the US – one brewery for every 114,829 beer drinker!

Best of the Midwest

Founded in 1989 in Kansas City, Missouri by John McDonald, Boulevard Brewery has grown to be one of the largest specialty brewers in the Midwest. From the beginning, their mission was simple: to produce fresh, flavorful beers using theBOULEVARD finest ingredients and the best of both old and new brewing techniques. Reflecting on over 20 years as a brewer, John speaks to the locality of beer, “I still believe that beer is not suited to be a mass-produced consumer good, that it should be something worth drinking, and that brewing should ideally be a local or regional activity.”

Boulevard’s 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat Beer is an amalgamation of two of today’s most popular beer styles: an IPA and a wheat beer. Brewing with pale malt, unmalted wheat and malted wheat gives the beer the classic refreshing wheat beer flavor profile. The addition of five varieties of hops gives this year round brew the distinctive aroma of a complex ale. On the palate it is crisp and clean with citrusy hop notes, making it ideal to pair with light summer fare. Food with citrus flavors, bell peppers or vinegar will complement the hops. Wine or fruit based dressings or sauces with bring out theyeast characteristics wheat beer drinker love. While hoppy beers generally pair well with rich or spicy foods, 80-Acre doesn’t have the hop backbone to stand up to those strong flavors. RateBeer.com scores 80-Acre Hoppy Wheat Beer at 96 points.

California Love

A few years later and 1800 miles west, Tony Magee started a small brewery based in Lagunitas, California. As their website so eloquently puts it, “From their earliest days of striving to make consistently good beer, and instead making beer that ranged from vile, to barely drinkable, to wonderful, to elegant, to questionable-at-best… From landing in the welcoming arms of Petaluma, and actually getting our beer into bottles, onto streets, and into the hands of sympathetic beer geeks, to steadily losing money each month… Lagunitas is emerging as a battle-tested brewery capable of making great beer out of goat’s milk, brambles and asphalt on the surface of the Moon, if need be.”

undercover

As mentioned before, sometimes it’s the story that sells a beer the first time you try it – and what’s in the bottle (or can these days) that keeps you coming back for more. Such is the case for Lagunitas Brewing Company’s Undercover Investigation Shut-Down (Whatever, We’re Still Here) Ale.  Remember, the brewery is based in Sonoma County – a county home to many a marijuana stash.

The year was 2005. The craft brewing movement was gaining momentum. The economy was doing well. Lagunitas Brewing Company hosted a weekly Thursday tasting featuring $2 beer with free food and music that was advertised in local publications. One of the brewery staff thought it would be clever to market the tastings by starting them at 4:20pm every week. Not necessarily the best of ideas, as they would soon find out. The California Alcohol Beverage Control Board got the idea that Lagunitas was hosting giant pot parties and began an 8-week long undercover investigation. They sent in two undercover officers every Thursday to try to buy pot. No one would ever sell them any pot. Rumor has it that the undercover officers enjoyed the parties as much as the rest of the patrons in attendance. After eight weeks, the ABC gave up on their marijuana witch hunt and, on St. Patrick’s Day 2005, used antiquated post-prohibition laws geared toward controlling prostitution to cite the brewery for running a “disorderly house.” The brewery was ordered to shut down for twenty days. By a stroke of fate, they were planning on shutting down to install new equipment anyway.

Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale is a world class American strong ale, weighing in at 9+% ABV. It has the taste of a double IPA without the same heavy body. Made with pale barley malt, a touch of wheat and four kinds of hops that successfully mask the high alcohol content, this beer is dangerously easy drinking. RateBeer.com scores Undercover Investigation Shut-Down (Whatever, We’re Still Here) Ale at 98 points.

Beer Should Be Fun

PrintWhat do you get when you cross a brewery, a pub and a marina? Horny Goat Brewing Company of course! It sounds like a combination made in heaven. In April of 2009, Horny Goat was launched by CEO Jim Sorenson. Their initial release of three beers has grown to an impressive eleven offerings in that short time. Brewmaster Dave Reese says, “We’re in the business of having fun. Too many beer drinkers take themselves too seriously.” One look at the name of the brewery drives this point home, “Drinking beer should beer fun. We wanted to reflect that with the name.”

The brewpub is conveniently based in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Perhaps the perfect stop on the way to one of those Cubs-Brewers games coming up, eh? Not to mention they boast one of Milwaukee’s largest beer gardens, volleyball courts AND a marina!

watermelon

Horny Goat’s Watermelon Wheat is a perfect summer sipping beer for thosehot days on the horizon. The backbone of this brew is heavy on the wheat with a tough of Vienna malt to add complexity. Real watermelon is added to the tanks during fermentation, leaving its slight fruity essence on the back end of the beer. German hops balance the fruit perfectly for a slightly dry, extremely refreshing finish. Think wheat beer with light hints of fruit.

 

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