Beer: the Stuff of Friendship & Community

I’ve never been much of one for defining things: vocab words, relationship status, my abs. But there are a few things I know to be true. One is that dear friendship is equal parts being supportive, giving sage advice, and keeping your mouth shut while your friend downs six beers during an afternoon-long bitch fest. My own dear friends recently flew me to New York and then further indulged me by not only by taking me to all the Asian restaurants I don’t have at home, but also by going to every brewery and bar patio within stumbling distance of their apartment.

Shannon at Kelso with Black Walnut Stout Barrel

Shannon at KelSo, wishing I wasn’t taking pictures

One other nebulous concept that I’ve nevertheless stuck by like a religion, is that beer is defined by more than style and taste; that its influence on our lives is wider.

The KelSo Brewery, where my friends and I stopped first on this trip, is an example of the impact beer can have in your world. KelSo recently opened a tiny tap room that is carved out of the Brooklyn warehouse where they make their beer. Shannon, Jason, and I sat for quite a while, snug in a nook lined with barrels of conditioning beer.

KelSo has woven itself into the community fabric of Brooklyn by donating their product to a number of organizations they support. No doubt these groups were thrilled be getting free wallet lubrication for their potential donors at fundraisers. More importantly, their movement gained the support of another local business and all the patrons it brings with it. KelSo is also a careful steward of the environment, taking many measures to make the smallest negative impact as possible.  

The name “KelSo” is formed from the first names of the couple who owns it, which makes me trust them, irrationally, but also makes me believe that this brewery is built from their heart, their family, and means more to them than any money — which is one of my several issues with macro beer. Continue reading

It’s Just Beer(!)

#whatimdrinkingnow #whatdoyoumeanyoudontcare

#whatimdrinkingnow #whatdoyoumeanyoudontcare

I’ve always had a difficult time mustering up a sufficient amount of care for my own hobbies, which is what I call my beer drinking, because hobbyist sounds better than drinker. I don’t spend time posting in beer chat forums, I don’t post #whatimdrinkingnow pics anymore (I bored myself), I rarely drink out of proper glassware, and I don’t spend a lot of money on it. Because after all, it’s just beer.

But I’m a total beer snob. This is the paradox in which we beer appreciators are stuck.

Beer is a beverage celebrated and sold for its relaxing properties. It’s the drink you have when you get home from the office or from the factory; it’s the drink with which you celebrate both special occasions and your slow days off from work. It’s the everyman drink; the drink to chill out with. When some of us turn up our noses at certain beers, pay $18 for a bomber, or go so far as to call beer our hobby, we risk running contrary to the beer drinking ethos.

For me, this is beer, exclamation point

This is beer(!)

Once you admit that, yes, beer is a hobby — you know a lot about it, you spend time and money on it, you really, really look forward to that seasonal releasing today — you are effectively rendering null the it’s just beer sentiment. Obviously beer is more than just alcohol to you. It’s beer, exclamation point! When you take it a step further and start caring about hop aroma and mouthfeel and shit — well, then you’re the kind of snob that drinking beer is supposed to keep you from becoming. Continue reading

Craft Beer Defined (No, Your Other Six-Pack)


US states by their biggest “craft” brewery

The elusive definition of craft beer is not exactly the meaning of life, but you’d think it was given all the attention it gets in craft beer forums (definition: an online symposium of slightly to highly intoxicated enthusiasts of commodified tastes). Guys with chat names like DuffMan23 and BeerPirateRockstar argue about yearly barrel output and shareholder standings.

Your basic Wikipedia definition of craft beer is that it’s created in small batches, which finally solves the mystery of what microbrew means. There is no USDA of craft brewing, and hence the definition remains in the hands of the defined. Realistically, anyone could slap craft on their label without legal repercussions, although the legions of drunk, self-righteous craft beer drinkers might give one pause before doing so. The Brewers Association (BA), a brewers’ trade organization, has a more in-depth definition, stating that craft breweries must be small, independent, and traditional.

Dogfish-Head-logoBy small, they mean producing six million barrels or less per year which, at 252 pints per barrel, comes to 1.512 billion servings. This is, like, a river of beer that makes my weekly consumption seem way more reasonable. It may be nothing to the big guys, but that’s a lot of beer! Sam Adams, who is frequently under fire for being “too big” to be craft, makes just 2.5 million barrels a year. Dogfish Head makes 175,000 barrels a year, which to me seems a more accurate limit, if we’re drawing arbitrary lines. Continue reading

Sacre Bleu! Beer Lingo Part Deux

The Science of Skunking

In our last Beer Lingo post we covered some basic confusing terms that describe a beer’s style and how it’s made. In today’s educational edition of Just Add Beer, we’ll look at terms that specifically describe a beer’s taste.

Before the beer even hits your tongue, you get an idea of the taste through the smell. In beer lingo it’s the nose. I learned this from a bartender who kept referencing the banana nose of hefeweizens, which of course, made me giggle. The smell reinforced the beer’s fruity taste and now I can’t drink a hefe without imagining the a yellow hook of that fruit sticking out of one those tall, thin glasses. Is that a banana nose I smell or are you just happy to see me?

A word that’s tossed around a lot lately is hoppy. It is used a lot because IPAs are hoppy and also sooper dooper popular. It’s used so often, in fact, I’m afraid it will go the way of ironic, as in, “Isn’t it ironic that hoppy is used to mean bitter?” No, no it isn’t. Hoppy actually refers to the flowery, aromatic taste and smell released from the hop flower; it has nothing to do with the bitter flavor you can feel on the back of your tongue — that’s just bitterness. That twang of bitter is what is measured in International Bitterness Units, as in, “That beer has the same IBU as my high school algebra teacher.” Continue reading

One Order of Rollmops, Comin’ Up

It’s been a wet and dismal week here in New York (even without the dying bananas and poisonous rice), so we thought we’d aim for a little mid-week lightness and sunshine with one of our food brainteasers. Can you match these obscure food terms to their meanings? Curl up someplace warm and treat yourself to hot cocoa if you get all of these right. Actually, just drink the cocoa anyway.

1. Laverbread
2. Omakase
3. Brunoise
4. Rollmops
5. Falooda
6. Socarrat
7. Tang
8. Gremolata
9. Poolish
10. Ballotine
11. Cynar
12. Waterzooi
13. Pigeage
14. Affinage
15. Kiwano

a. Pickled herring folded around pieces of onion, olives or pickles
b. A mixture of flour and water with a little yeast, used as a starter some forms of dough
c. The process of punching down the floating grape skins in fermenting wine to drown aerobic bacteria
d. An orange and yellow melon distinguished by the spiny thorns on its skin
e. The section of steel inside the handle of a chef’s knife
f. The art of aging cheese
g. A Welsh delicacy made from seaweed gathered from the rocks on the coastline
h. The toasted rice at the bottom of a pan, especially in paella
i. A deboned leg of a chicken, duck or other poultry stuffed with ground meat and other ingredients, tied and cooked
j. A classic Belgian seafood stew, sometimes including chicken, with an egg yolk-thickened vegetable broth base
k. A bitter Italian liqueur with a strong artichoke flavor
l. A traditional South Asian beverage of rose syrup mixed with vermicelli, tapioca pearls and milk
m. A basic knife cut measuring 1/8 inch by 1/8 inch by 1/8 inch
n. A multiple-course sushi meal chosen by the chef
o. A condiment made from finely minced parsley, garlic and lemon zest

Don’t click “continue” until you’re ready to see the answers! Continue reading