Southern Brew News December 2011/January 2012 : Page 1
R O V FLAVOR A L F BIG BIG SMALL ALCOHOL Brewer Seth Gross eyes one of his creations at Bull City Burger and Brewery in Durham, N.C. PHOTO BY RICHARD MITCHELL Cultivating Community T Story & Photos By Owen Ogletree any craft brewers in America are cranking out extreme beers these days that push the malt, hop and alcohol envelope in all sorts of palate-expand-ing directions. Double IPAs, barrel-aged imperial stouts, massive barleywines and Belgian-style strong ales are generating a huge buzz By Win Bassett he list of people that are will-ing to work for Seth Gross for free is humbling, There are good reasons why this list is so long. Regardless of the fact that he brewed under Greg Hall at Goose Island, where he crafted recipes that won gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival, or that he received his kitchen training at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Gross has cultivated a devoted brewpub community around the modest idea of “drinking and eating to keep a balance in the stomach.” Bull City Burger and Brewery opened its doors in March of 2011 in downtown Durham, North Carolina, and Gross has not given his mash tun a break ever since. In its seven months of operation, Bull City has produced no fewer than twenty differ-ent beer recipes, not including the one-off batches that Gross brews on occasion. When asked about why he keeps seven to eight unique beers on draft at all times, Gross simply replies, “I can’t help myself.” This many brews still pales in comparison to Gross’ time in Chicago at Goose Island, where he “used to brew over forty styles of beer.” “I want to do that and maybe more here in Durham,” he says. Gross arrived in the Bull City fifteen years ago after several failed attempts at finding the right temperature. “I grew up outside of Boston and left the snow See Bull City p.8 M ILLUSTRATION BY: HANS GRANHEIM in the craft beer market, and beer geeks drive hundreds of miles for special release parties and snap up new, potent, radical brews by the trunk load. In stark contrast, England’s traditional beer culture revolves around low alcohol ales that offer refined, subtle flavors and huge drinkability. Pub goers want to enjoy several imperial pints of lower alcohol See Big Flavor p.3 Calendar ......................... 2 Letter From Editor ......... 2 Beer Wench's Kitchen .... 4 Brews Cruisin' ............... 5 Tasting Notes ................ 6 Dr. Brewski .................... 7 Homebrew News ............ 9 Style Section ................ 10 Alpha King .................... 21 INSIDE State by State News Tennessee ........11 Georgia ..........16 Alabama/Mississippi ....18 The Carolinas .......20 Florida ...........22 Louisiana ............23
Many craft brewers in America are cranking out extreme beers these days that push the malt, hop and alcohol envelope in all sorts of palate-expanding directions. Double IPAs, barrel-aged imperial stouts, massive barleywines and Belgianstyle strong ales are generating a huge buzz in the craft beer market, and beer geeks drive hundreds of miles for special release parties and snap up new, potent, radical brews by the trunk load.
In stark contrast, England’s traditional beer culture revolves around low alcohol ales that offer refined, subtle flavors and huge drinkability. Pub goers want to enjoy several imperial pints of lower alcohol brews in a sociable session with friends and still be able to walk home and make it to work the next day without a headache. Astonishingly to American craft beer lovers, any beer at or above 5% ABV (alcohol by volume) is considered a “strong beer” in the UK, and many beer fans in England admit to finding American craft beers interesting and flavorful but far too high in alcohol to be enjoyed on a regular basis.
A ubiquitous question seems to be on the minds of many American craft brewers these days: “Will the U.S. craft beer pendulum soon veer from extreme beers to flavorful session beers with lower alcohol contents?”
Crawford Moran, co-owner and brewer of 5 Seasons in downtown Atlanta and Alpharetta, never liked “pendulum” debates - whether in politics or beer. “I see too much media focus and hype these days surrounding ‘big’ or ‘barrel aged’ small release beers,” he says. “This doesn’t mean that brewers have ignored lower alcohol beers. Brewpub brewers know for sure that flavorful, lower alcohol beers sell faster than higher alcohol beers. I think it’s more of a matter of where the spotlight is shining than a pendulum swinging. My main concern with the big beer phenomenon is that some younger drinkers who focus solely on these beers will never understand the joy of a simple, yet flavorful, well crafted, low alcohol beer.”
For Yazoo Brewing in Nashville, the pendulum never really moved away from session beers. Owner Linus Hall says, “I think that craft beers that are full of flavor but lower on the ABV scale are going to be very successful in the South. Our best sellers continue to be our less than 6% ABV Pale Ale and Dos Perros - despite our launch of Yazoo Sue - the first legally brewed high alcohol beer in Tennessee since Prohibition.”
Taking it to the Extreme
Oscar Wong, founder of Highland Brewing in Asheville, seems well aware of the American penchant for going to extremes. “The craft beer industry has gone over the top with hops, alcohol and exotic ingredients - to the point that beer aficionados need relief,” says Wong. “Instead of yet another palate numbing style, we now look for a refreshing, tasty and eminently drinkable beer. The big beers will continue to titillate, but flavorful quaffability is the returning order of the day.” In response to this trend, Highland produced their 4.5% ABV Little Hump Spring Ale with Simco and Amarillo hops, along with their 4.8% ABV Cattail Peak Wheat summer seasonal. Both styles were extremely well received, and the brewery expects to build the brands significantly in the future.
Wondering whether the craft brew industry is doing itself a disservice by producing and promoting extreme beers, Gary Essex (brewer for McGuire’s Irish Pub in Destin, Florida) comments, “Craft breweries are still trying to convert mass market lager drinkers, and if we serve extreme beers to these customers, many may look at us like we’ve lost our minds. Brewing is about selling beer, and in a brewpub setting it’s better to make a beer that customers can enjoy a few pints of rather than offering extreme brews that limit customers to only one or two.”
Drinking Outside the Lager Box
SweetWater brewer Nick Nock also sees session beers as a way to coax mainstream lager drinkers into the world of craft beer. “Once these drinkers go outside the light lager box, they will respect the quality, craftsmanship, flavor, and hopefully the hard work put into making craft beer,” he says. “Session beers also make the perfect choice when you need to be social and retain composure in important situations like if you are out with the in-laws or playing cards with bets on the line!”
Jordan Fleetwood, brewer for Twain’s Billiards & Tap brewpub in Decatur, Georgia, definitely sees a resurgence of session beers on the horizon. “The big, crazy beers are fun and exciting but sometimes can be a little rich in flavor for more than just a few tastes,” says Fleetwood. “Don’t get me wrong, the bigger beers are still very desirable and great to have available, but sometimes there are occasions where it’s appropriate to have two or more beers in a sitting.”
Terrapin Beer Company’s current, seasonal session beer comes in as Road Warrior Kolsch, and the brewery’s upcoming Easy Rider spring seasonal also promises to pack loads of pleasing flavors along with low ABV. Spike Buckowski, Terrapin co-owner and brewer, notes, “I’m not saying that I don’t like a big hop bomb of a beer, but if I’m starting off the night or just want to have a couple of pints, there’s nothing more refreshing or quaffable than a well made session beer. You also must remember that to pull off this style of beer, the brewer has nothing to hide behind and has to balance the malt and hops perfectly to give the beer it’s delicate complexity.”
Satisfying the Craft Beer Drinkers
Noting that his customers seem far more craft beer savvy these days, Kevin McNerney, brewer for 5 Seasons in Sandy Springs Georgia, explains, “A brewer’s job is to create a diverse portfolio to accommodate a wide variety of tastes and occasions. 5 Seasons’ customers are experimental and adventurous in regard to extreme styles but tend to gravitate toward a more consumable session brew like our Seven Sisters Münchner.
Bobby Thomas of Georgia’s new Red Hare Brewing Company loves high gravity beers but expects that the craft beer market will eventually fall back to personable, lower ABV selections. He says, “We hope that our Long Day Lager becomes a staple session beer for the craft demographic around us - something that you can fall back on even after a long day of drinking.”
Widely considered a leading craft beer pioneer in the Southeast, Chuck Skypeck of Boscos and Ghost River Brewing in Memphis claims, “While extreme beers get the press, the beers that sell are the session beers. It’s nice for someone to tell me that an extreme beer we brewed is ‘awesome’ or ‘the best beer ever,’ but I’d rather a customer drink one of my beers and then tell me, ‘I’ll have another.’ I’d rather have the sale than the compliment.
Mississippi’s Lazy Magnolia Brewing specializes in session beers, in part because the state’s laws only allow for the manufacture, distribution and sale of lower gravity brews. Lazy Magnolia’s Leslie Henderson shares, “We’ve worked hard to turn this hopefully short-lived disadvantage into many delicious session brews. Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale is our most popular session beer and has helped us draw new customers into the craft beer community. That’s the real power of session beers -they can be a gentle craft beer introduction for skeptical beer drinkers, and quickly turn these people into fans.”
Read the full article at http://sbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Big+Flavor/911758/91644/article.html.
Bull City Burger And Brewery
The list of people that are willing to work for Seth Gross for free is humbling, There are good reasons why this list is so long. Regardless of the fact that he brewed under Greg Hall at Goose Island, where he crafted recipes that won gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival, or that he received his kitchen training at the Culinary Institute of America in New York, Gross has cultivated a devoted brewpub community around the modest idea of “drinking and eating to keep a balance in the stomach.”
Bull City Burger and Brewery opened its doors in March of 2011 in downtown Durham, North Carolina, and Gross has not given his mash tun a break ever since. In its seven months of operation, Bull City has produced no fewer than twenty different beer recipes, not including the one-off batches that Gross brews on occasion. When asked about why he keeps seven to eight unique beers on draft at all times, Gross simply replies, “I can’t help myself.” This many brews still pales in comparison to Gross’ time in Chicago at Goose Island, where he “used to brew over forty styles of beer.” “I want to do that and maybe more here in Durham,” he says.
Gross arrived in the Bull City fifteen years ago after several failed attempts at finding the right temperature. “I grew up outside of Boston and left the snow for school in Florida to get my undergrad degree, but it was too hot,” he says. “After graduation, I went to culinary school in upstate New York, but it was too cold, so I went to Arizona to cook. It was too hot, so then I ended up in Chicago and brewed beer.” He grew tired of the cold temperatures again and “thought North Carolina had the perfect mix of hot and cold,” though he acknowledges “it’s a little too hot here sometimes in the summer.”
Craft beer enthusiasts in the Triangle, however, hope Gross is here to stay.
He initially chose to settle in Durham because it “had the food and culture I wanted.” That culture has evolved since Gross opened Wine Authorities, his first venture in the Triangle. He says “there were just a few finer dining restaurants and mostly casual restaurants” when he first moved to Durham. Over time, however, “the farmers markets and the Slow Food movement grew, and the restaurant scene grew to reflect the style of food and philosophy I had always enjoyed,” says Gross. “Since coming to Durham, I have always said that I am going to make beer and pasture-raised beef burgers. I knew Durham could support a good brewpub but didn’t know people with money, nor did I have any money to start one. It took me 15 years, but I finally did it.
Gross knew he could not do it by himself, however, so he hired Luke Studer, formerly of Triangle Brewing, to help him make the beer. He says that “[w]hen I hired Studer to help brew, I told him that the goal was to make beer that someone visiting Durham might happen into our brewpub, sit down for a first sip, do a double take, and ask the bartender, ‘Is this beer really made here?”
In his short time in operation, Gross has achieved this goal, saying that “the best compliments for me are when the guy from Prague told us our Pilsner was the best U.S. Pils he had tasted and reminded him of his beer back in Prague, or when the guys who flew in from the U.K. said our Ordinary Bitter tastes as good as the bitter at their pub back home in England.”
In addition to Dr. Barlett’s Ordinary Bitter and the Pratt Pilsner, respectively named after Durham’s namesake and a well-known Durham family, Bull City has crafted other beers that reflect the influence of its community. For example, Gross named his Parrish St. Pale Ale and Bryant Bridge Gateway Ale after significant landmarks in the city, and Honorable Bell’s Big Brown Ale shares the name of Durham’s mayor, Bill Bell, who chugged a pint of the city’s newest beer at Bull City’s grand opening celebration.Current seasonal offerings at Bull City include the Rhine ESP(Ephemerally Spiced Pumpkin) Ale, the “Goat” Bullock Bock, and the Watts Oatmeal Stout, with many more “on the horizon,” says Gross. “We are about to brew our first barleywine and age it in a 1962 Cognac barrel. We have a Schwarz lager in the fermenter now. I can’t wait to get the Dopplebock going for release in early 2012.”
By making pale ales, bitters, bocks, and oatmeal stouts, Gross “wants to be known for brewing beers true to style.” “I want to be known for authenticity and typicity,” he says. Similarly, he wants to make “real session ales” available for his patrons, or “beers that are lower in alcohol but full in flavor for drinking more than one or two and still being able to walk home safely.”
In short, “I want to brew the best beer we can,” says Gross, who usesa “‘not on my watch’ credo” when it comes to brewing. “Sanitation is more important than anything else,” he says, and “the best ingredients will make a crappy beer if you aren’t clean. I am proud that while at Goose Island, we never dumped any beer. When I hired Luke Studer to help me with the brewing, I told him that if we ever have an (unintentional) sour batch of beer, he was out of a job, period.”
Today, Studer still has his job, the one that beer enthusiasts ask about “almost daily,” and Gross continues “to taste every tank every day.” “I have always believed that the palate is the best technical device we have. I’ll know something is wrong before one of our other meters tells us,” he says.
As seen from the crowds at Bull City Burger and Brewery and heard from the social media chatter, however, few things have gone wrong, no doubt a result of Gross’ tenacity for brewing great beer in his community and his vision “where some visitor might have low expectations and then be blown away by finding something so good in “little ol’ Durham.”
Read the full article at http://sbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Bull+City+Burger+And+Brewery/911763/91644/article.html.