Naturally Delicious – Oregon’s The Little Woody Barrel-Aged Brew Festival

 

Copyright TheLittleWoody.com

The Little Woody Barrel-Aged Brew Festival out of Bend, Oregon differentiates itself from other festivals in its unique approach to connecting the attendees to the brewers as well as featuring craft beers that are brewed in wooden casks. I was lucky enough to speak with Lee Perry, the event director. Perry told me that this year is going to mark the third annual festival.

Perry informed me that all the breweries that are present at The Little Woody are requested by invitation to share their beer. Most participants are local, but there are a few choice invites from out of the area. This means that all the breweries that are featured at the festival are carefully chosen. Each brewery is required to bring something that is not available at any other brew fest that they participate in. Perry told me that this among other unique factors gives The Little Woody an added edge.

The Little Woody celebrates the art of craft brewing. The majority of the beer that they offer at the festival is aged in bourbon casks, and this year they will also have beer that is aged in whiskey casks. This brewing technique of using wooden casks makes the beer much stronger with a 14-15% alcohol content. In addition to having the barrel-aged beers, The Little Woody also has a selection of regularly brewed beers with lower alcohol contents. Perry made it clear that this festival is the wine tasting of beer festivals, and individuals who attend are serious beer enthusiasts.

Not only does the festival feature creative brewing techniques, the atmosphere is definitely something to be aware of. The festival takes place on the lawn of the Des Chutes Historical Museum, where the large and beautiful trees that cover the lawn shade those who attend the festival. There is also live music. The Little Woody invites many bands from Blue Grass, country, and other genres to perform at the festival. The only requirement that they have for the bands is that they must use all wooden instruments. This is to add to the organic feel of The Little Woody.

This year’s festival will run from September 2-3, 2011. The Little Woody Barrel-Aged Brew Festival is an event for beer connoisseurs, and those who are interested in the true enjoyment of beer. As if you weren’t excited enough, most of the brewers of the breweries that are featured attend the festival, so you can converse with them while sampling their beer, soaking up the sun, and jamming out to some great tunes – what’s not to love! So head over to http://www.thelittlewoody.com/ and grab your tickets fast!

Thank you Lee for taking the time to talk to me about this fascinating festival!

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Not quite a beer story, but…

In England, tea is just as important. Amid the riots and horrific violence sweeping the greater London area last night, it’s nice to see that when it comes down to it, people band together to help. Here’s a great photo I came across while reading The Black Sheep Brewery’s Twitter feed:

Copyright pixel.eight: http://tinyurl.com/3kaue8w

Gotta hand it to them, on top of a solid 30hrs of non-stop work, riot shields as trays is also a genius idea!

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Keeping It Clean: Germany’s Beer Purity Law

In the past decade the United States has made great progress towards creating higher standards for consumer products. However, Germany began this process 495 years ago when the Bavarian government enacted Reinheitsgebot or “Bavarian Purity Law.” This law ensured the safety of the public when it came to the consumption and production of beer, as well as price regulation.

In the year 1516 the Bavarian government decreed, “in the country as well as in the cities and marketplaces, the following rules apply to the sale of beer.” They provided several articles within the law to give detailed descriptions of the expectations and repercussions if these expectations were not met. The law includes all beer vendors of every possible background. Not only is the price of beer fixed to a certain amount, there is also a firm requirement placed on which ingredients can be used to produce beer. When brewing beer the only ingredients “must be barley, hops, and water.” (Since at the time no one knew that it was yeast that caused fermentation, this essential ingredient was left off the list.)

When the Bavarian government created this law they meant business. They warned, “whosoever knowingly disregards or transgresses upon this ordinance, shall be punished by the court of authorities’ confiscating such barrels of beer, without fail.” They were not willing to allow transgressors to have second chances. Although this may seem harsh, the rigidity of the beer purity law has allowed it to showcase Germany’s craftsmanship and recognition of the importance of quality that remain in place in present day.

When Bavaria and other provinces were combined to create a unified Germany, the Bavarian government demanded that all of Germany abide by Reinheitsgebot. Germany adopted the purity law, and the whole country was expected to adhere to it. However, in 1993 the Provisional German Beer Law took over, which allows the inclusion of yeast, wheat malt, and cane sugar in the brewing process. It also has taken out the use of unmalted barley. There are plenty of brewers who still recognize the Reinheitsgebot even though it has been abolished as a federal law, and take pride in brewing by its original ingredients.

Those who consume German beer will notice its top-notch quality and tastefulness. Reinheitsgebot not only changed the way beer was produced, but it also increased the expectations of consumers, who continue to challenge the potential of beer in hopes for the best quality possible in the brewing process.

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How About Some Cheese with that…Beer?

When I spoke with Bill Herlicka from White Birch Brewing, he suggested that beer and cheddar are an excellent combination. I did a little research, and found that the cheesemakers at Cabot totally agree with him.

So, let’s take a look at the facts that Cabot has conveniently illustrated for us on their website, www.cabotcheeese.coop. They recommend consuming specific beers with certain types of Cabot Cheddar Cheese. For example, they suggest pairing a Belgian Triple, which has a “malty, bready flavor” with Cabot’s Seriously Sharp Cheddar, which has an “earthy, buttery flavor.” Makes sense that combining flavors of bread and butter would be delicious.

If you’re looking for a healthier alternative, then why not try Cabot’s 50% Reduced Fat Cheddar with a pint of an American Standard Lager. The Cheddar retains its flavor even though it’s healthier for you!

Cabot’s website provides quite a few pairing options, so why not delve a little deeper and see if you can find something that intrigues your palate.

www.cabotcheese.coop

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“Drink Beer or Die”- New Hampshire’s Finest Breweries

Part 3- White Birch Brewing

www.whitebirchbrewing.com

The final person I spoke with was Bill Herlicka, the founder of White Birch Brewing in Hooksett, New Hampshire. White Birch Brewing was established in June 2009, and its smaller size gives this brewery the ability to put the majority of their effort into perfecting their beer. It is New Hampshire’s first nano-brewery, and although the definition is highly disputed by many beer enthusiasts, the most agreed upon aspect is that a nano-brewery produces approximately three barrels at a time. This means that the process allows a much more artistic approach, and absolutely everything is done by hand.

Herlicka made a point to mention that his company does not use grain elevators or any machinery of that kind. The beer is given a chance to ferment at ambient temperatures and naturally carbonates, a process he referred to as the “old school technique of brewing.” They do not filter their beer, nor do they pasteurize it. As for the types of beers White Birch Brewing specializes in, Herlicka has been testing different strains of Belgian yeast for years, and has found them quite interesting to work with.

White Birch also runs an apprentice program. Herlicka believes that to get into the brewing industry you need experience, and that is just what his program provides. Although it is not uncommon to find apprentices at breweries, the way that White Birch Brewing runs their program is rather unique. It gives hopeful novice brewers a chance to practice brewing beer alongside experts like Herlicka. At the end of the six-month training period, the apprentices produce their final product, and their name is placed on the label. They also leave with new knowledge and confidence.

When it comes to pairing beer with food, Herlicka echoed the notion that beer pairs better with food than wine or hard liquor. For example, he feels that cheddar cheese pairs with beer quite well, because the flavor of beer enhances the taste of the cheddar and vice versa.

White Birch Brewing, being the smallest of the breweries that I interviewed, definitely gives me additional perspective on the craft and shows me the many different paths that can be taken when forming a brewery.

Definitely stop by these breweries if you are in New Hampshire. As you can see, they’ve got their own traditions, methods, and flavors worth guzzling! You’ll be glad you did!

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“Drink Beer or Die”- New Hampshire’s Finest Breweries

Part 2- Tuckerman Brewing Company

The next brewery up is the Tuckerman Brewing Company located in Conway, New Hampshire. The friendly and informative Jen Arnold gave me an overview of the company’s history and brewing methods.

www.tuckermanbrewing.com

The Tuckerman Brewing Company was founded thirteen years ago and has grown quite a bit since its humble beginnings. This unique brewery is known for their technique when it comes to carbonating their beer. Arnold informed me that they bottle their beer in keg condition and add a little wort (definition: “the sweet liquid that comes from mashing grains. It is unfermented beer.”) The beer naturally carbonates as they let it sit for eight days. This method is rarely used anymore and separates the Tuckerman Brewing Company from other breweries.

One of their most popular brews is the American Style Pale Ale. Because it is American Style, this pale ale is lighter and incredibly refreshing. Another beer they feature is their Alt German Style Brown Ale. There are not many Alts made anymore, which gives the Tuckerman Brewing Company an added edge.

Just to give a bit of a background on Alts- the German term “Altbier,” which means “old beer,” refers to the traditional pre-lager brewing method of “using a warm top-fermenting yeast.” This differs from the British pale ale, also a top-fermenting beer, because the taste is “cleaner and crisper”.

This brewery celebrates all things New Hampshire. The Alt German Style Brown Ale is named Headwall, a peak located in the Granite State. Their 6288 Stout, released around the holidays, refers to the elevation of Mount Washington. The Tuckerman Brewing Company’s label uses a photo from the April 1937 Harvard vs. Dartmouth slalom ski race. The photographer who took this historic shot gave them the rights to the picture free of charge. What a great deal!

When it comes to pairing beer and food, Arnold really felt that darker beers (like the Alt beer) go well with red meats, while lighter beers (like the Pale Ale) go well with seafood. Since the American Style Pale Ale is not as hoppy and bitter as the typical pale ale, it doesn’t take away flavor from the food.

Thanks to Jen for taking time out of her schedule to chat with us!

In our last installment, we’ll talk with the good people at White Birch Brewing in Hooksett, New Hampshire.

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“Drink Beer or Die”- New Hampshire’s Finest Breweries

Part 1- The Portsmouth Brewery

Over the next few posts, we’ll be talking with people from some of New Hampshire’s most treasured breweries.

First, let’s check out the Portsmouth Brewery located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. I had the pleasure of speaking to one of the brewers, Tyler Jones. He gave me a brief history of the Granite State’s oldest brew-pub, which was founded by Peter Egelston in 1991.

The Portsmouth Brewery turned 20 on June 1, 2011 - Happy Birthday!

Egelston initially worked as head brewer at the Northampton Brewery in Northampton, Massachusetts, which he co-owned with his sister Janet. Then in 1991 he left to start the Portsmouth Brewery. (Egelston also owns Smuttynose, another brewery in Portsmouth, New Hampshire that he founded in 1993.)

When I asked Jones about technique he was quick to talk about head brewer Tod Mott, whose artistic and creative abilities have been great assets when it comes to brewing. The system is simple- everything is handcrafted and of course, fresh. Jones himself got involved in brewing with a background in chemical engineering, and has been a professional brewer for five years. There are many different perspectives and interests needed to have a successful brewery. Mott’s artistic ability assists the brewery in trying new innovative ideas, while Jones’ experience with chemical engineering helps with experimentation and gives an additional approach.

It was Mott who created the Portsmouth Brewery’s world-renowned Russian Imperial Stout, Kate the Great. The brewery produces ten barrels of it a year- five are put on tap, and then five are bottled. This beer is so incredible that they sell all of it in one day. Jones said last year it was sold out by 6 pm! If you want to see the masses turn out for Kate the Great Day, search “Kate the Great” on YouTube. Or here’s a video from this year’s event, which took place on March 7, 2011.

The Portsmouth Brewery always pairs their daily specials with complimentary beers. Jones feels that in general, beer pairs better with food than wine. He believes that spicy foods go well with IPAs, and Stouts go well with roasted meats. There should be a good balance of flavors between the beer and the food it is paired with. As Jones enthusiastically stated, “Beer and food are the perfect pair!”

The Portsmouth Brewery has established itself as a notable company in the brewing industry. Their small size and focus on quality over quantity has enabled them to brew some of New Hampshire’s most fresh and flavorful beers.

Up next, we’ll talk to the Tuckerman Brewing Company located in Conway, New Hampshire. So stay tuned!

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Monks & Beer?

Weihenstephan pub & restaurant

When you contemplate breweries and their function in society, you don’t necessarily connect them to religion, or for that matter, pious monks. Interestingly enough, the brewers back in the early Middle Ages were none other than scripture reading clergymen! Yes, monks would produce beer while in the comfort of their monasteries. Today, the world’s oldest brewery, the Bavarian State Brewery at Weihenstephan, continues to thrive in its original location in Friesing, Germany. The brewery has been producing top-quality beers for over a thousand of years, but that is not to say that they did not have obstacles to overcome along the way. Now, let me take you back over a thousand years ago!

Saint Corbinian and twelve of his fellow Benedictine monks created Weihenstephan in the year 725. The monks faced attacks led by many different invaders such as the Huns, the Swedes, and the French, but fortunately they persevered and completely rebuilt the monastery four times without losing faith.

On March 24, 1803 the monastery was dissolved in the course of secularization. This meant that all of the “possessions and rights of the monastery were transferred to the Bavarian State.” So unfortunately for the faithful monks, this meant the brewery became secular too. They were able to continue brewing beer, but the state kept a close eye on Weihenstephan to make sure the former monastery wasn’t getting itself into any religious shenanigans.

Weihenstephan doesn’t earn its reputation solely from being the oldest brewery in the world. It’s also located near the Technical University of Munich’s Scientific Center, where brewing students from all over the globe travel to learn new innovative techniques and become brew masters. What a great coincidence! If they run out of ideas for beer they can just mosey on over to their scientist neighbors and experiment to their hearts’ content. One of the ways they utilize the technology is by experimenting with different strains of yeast, which are kept in the yeast bank at the Scientific Center.

If you ever find yourself in Germany, definitely plan a trip to Weihenstephan- you will not regret it!

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Hybrid Beer Tastings

You’ve all heard of Black & Tan’s and Snakebites, but what other mixing possibilities are out there?

Last night I, Ursula, went down to the British Beer Company (BBC) in Westford, MA for a couple of beers. As I’m enjoying my Long Trail Blackbeary Wheat, the bartender comes up to the tap in front of me with a mostly filled pint glass containing a light ale and pours some Lindeman’s Framboise Lambic in to fill the glass.

“Interesting,” I thought. “I’ll have a go at that.”

So, the ale turns out to be Allagash White, a Belgian style wheat beer. The combination was light and refreshing with the obvious raspberry hint to it. (As you can see, I’m a big fan of fruity beers at the moment.) Here’s a pic to show you the coloring:

Possibly add that to the Valentine’s Day beer list? Just a thought.

Along with this sample, the bartender suggested trying a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout / Framboise mixture. Don’t mind if I do!

I’m not really into stouts, but I’ve tried the Young’s Double Chocolate with a shot of mint flavored something(?) in it, and that was like a Peppermint Patty in my mouth, so I was pretty excited about trying this one. Also a winner. Definitely makes me ponder the possibilities of mixing beers to make some unique combinations. Has anyone tried these or do you have any favorite beer mixes? I’d love some suggestions for next time!

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Wined (beered) and Dined

Alright lads. It’s Ursula here, and I’m going to give you a little insight on the dreaded holiday that more than likely ends up being pretty anti-climactic…well, you know what I mean. Valentine’s Day is usually filled with expensive flowers that will die in a week, fancy chocolates, and sappy cards. (See ya never $50.) So how do we turn this holiday into one we actually enjoy celebrating? Give the gift that everyone truly wants – beer!

Courtesy of brewpublic.com

Norman Miller over at Wicked Local Mattapoisett has written an article concerning the romantic level of beer, gathering opinions from all the experts – local bloggers, brewers, and beer lovers. Obviously, they’re all in our favor and side with that butterfly feeling you get when you hear that first ‘clink’ of the bottles in that magical brown goody bag.

A few notable choices for the lovebirds on Valentine’s Day are chocolate stouts, Belgian lambics, and krieks, due to their fruity taste, smooth body, and vibrant coloring.

Another great idea in the article is to actually make a mini vacation of the day. Visit a brewery or town filled with local craft brews and fun bars/pubs.

Ok, so I can’t guarantee that every girl will throw her arms around you if you limit the gifts to just beer…I’d probably throw in that poetic single red rose for backup and definitely pick up the tab at the end of the night. The ladies just want to feel special (and we know you do too). The moral of the story is really just enjoy yourself with your partner and loved ones by keeping it simple. There’s no need to turn a Hallmark holiday into an extravagant event (especially considering the economic times). If ya like beer, stick with it. Maybe introduce a new brew to taste together or spend some quality time taking a day trip to the brewery down the road (free samples!). All-in-all, time spent together is time well spent, and a little buzz never hurts either.

Enjoy yourselves! I, on the other hand, will be celebrating my boyfriend’s birthday, which happens to fall on Valentine’s Day, and is all about him, and not me…Not bitter at all, I swear…

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