Samuel Adams Noble Pils

posted on February 28, 2010 at 2:41 pm by Ken Valley in Beer Reviews,Craft Beer

Alaskan Amber

Samuel Adams Noble Pils

I had the chance to sample Samuel Adams latest seasonal today, Samuel Adams Noble Pils.  It has replaced their White Ale as the spring seasonal.  It is a Pilsner style of beer that uses 5 different types of noble hops, which are the type of hops found in the hop-growing region of Germany (4 of the 5 come from there), and the Czech Republic (1 of the 5).  More specific details can be found at beernews.org.

It was a very hop-forward type of beer with strong bitterness, and was very light and crisp.  I believe the hoppiness was much stronger that a standard Pils, and I have a feeling that folks wanting the hop-presence of a Pale Ale with the lightness of a Pils will find this very enjoyable.  Because the hops are noble, there is more of a spicy hop flavor and aroma than the standard citrusy flavor and aroma found in most U.S. pale ales.

Have you tried the Noble Pils?  What did you think?

History of Beer in Iowa

posted on February 27, 2010 at 4:39 pm by Ken Valley in Craft Beer

In 1919, congress passed the 18th constitutional amendment, making the sale, manufacture, and transportation of alcohol for consumption illegal.  This dark time in American history was called prohibition.  During this time, the illegal production and distribution of alcohol became rampant, because the government had no means to enforce the act. In 1933, the ratification of the 21st amendment repealed the 18th amendment, allowing alcohol to become legal again.

After prohibition, control of alcohol laws was granted to the states.  This is when Iowa law 123.3 was written, along with many others like it.

The main issue with this law is the definition of beer: “Beer” means any liquid capable of being used for beverage purposes made by the fermentation of an infusion in potable water of barley, malt, and hops, with or without unmalted grains or decorticated and degerminated grains or made by the fermentation of or by distillation of the fermented products of fruit, fruit extracts, or other agricultural products, containing more than one-half of one percent of alcohol by volume but not more than five percent of alcohol by weight but not including mixed drinks or cocktails mixed on the premises. (I have emphasized the important part).

What this means to the average beer drinker is that any beer over 5% ABW (~6.2% ABV) is no longer considered beer, but is then considered a liquor.  Once it is considered a liquor, it no longer is distributed by the local distributors, and instead is distributed by the government-run Iowa Alcohol Beverages Division (IABD) in Ankeny, Iowa.  This becomes a large issue because, even though beer can be perishable, and may need to be refrigerated, because it is considered a liquor, it is not handled properly.  This is one reason several brewers, such as Founders Brewing and some Bell’s Brewery products, stay out of Iowa distribution.  This law also prohibits local breweries and brewpubs to create any beer over this percentage, making much more difficult to compete with out-of-state breweries, who can be distributed through the IABD.

In recent years, because of the growth of Craft Beer in the US, many of these laws have been changed to increase the definition of “beer” to be up to 12% to 18%, but Iowa has not changed this law.  There had been a grassroots movement several years ago to raise this limit, and liftthelimit.org was created.  This encouraged others to speak out about the law.  Because of movements like these, and the growing acceptance of craft brewing, in early 2010, SF 2091 was written, which would raise the allowable value to 12% ABW (15% ABV), and would create a separate license for higher-alcohol beers to be brewed in Iowa.  This legislation was then rolled into SF 2088, an Iowa government reorganization bill (don’t try and read the whole thing- it may may you dizzy).

So, as it stands, the reorganization bill, as amended, has passed the Iowa Senate, and has been messaged to the House, where it is close to making this archaic law become a thing of the past.  I say, good riddance!

For more information, you can read up on US prohibition and beer in the US.  There’s also a pretty neat timeline at beerhistory.com.

What do you think?  Will this be a beer renaissance for Iowa?

Iowa Senate Passes SF 2088 Overwhelmingly

posted on February 25, 2010 at 11:40 pm by Ken Valley in Craft Beer

I just learned tonight that the Iowa senate overwhelmingly (41-2) passed SF 2088, the government reorganization bill, a bill that includes a law that allows the definition of beer in Iowa to be raised from 5% ABW (about 6.25% ABV) to 12% ABW (about 15% ABV). This will give local Iowa Brewers, such as Millstream Brewing, Hub City Brewing, and Worth Brewing the ability to brew higher alcohol beers, such as dopplebocks and Belgian-style beers, without approval from the Iowa Alcoholic Berverages Division.  This will also give the responsibility of the distribution of higher alcohol beer to the local distributors instead of the Ankeny-based division of the government. It has now been messaged back to the Iowa House before being brought to governor Chet Culver, who has indicated his support.

Great River Brewery’s Aaaah BOCK

posted on February 24, 2010 at 11:13 pm by Ken Valley in Beer Reviews,Craft Beer

I just had the chance to sample Great River Brewery’s Aaaah BOCK at Old Capitol Brew Works in Iowa City.

I enjoy a bock very much, and I haven’t had one like this for some time, probably due to the fact they seem to be spring seasonal beers.  To compare, it is very similar in flavor to the Leinenkugel’s 1888 seasonal bock or Granite City’s Brother Benedict’s Bock, except it has a bit more body and stronger caramel and toffee notes that make it very enjoyable.  Unfortunately it won’t last long, so next time I need to bring in my growlers to take some home with me.

So, what’s your favorite spring beer?  Is it a bock, or something else?

Why Beer Wars Is Good for Craft Beer

posted on February 23, 2010 at 11:45 pm by Ken Valley in Craft Beer

I just read an article on New Brew Thursday that states the best way to be an advocate for craft beer is to stop being a “hater”.  I couldn’t agree more.

The main subjects of the article are the website Beer Advocate (of which I am a member, and it’s saved my sobriety many a times), and the movie Beer Wars (which I have seen and enjoyed).

Now, if you aren’t a documentary person, you may still enjoy Beer Wars because, for the most part, it’s a David v. Goliath struggle.  I remember as I was watching it how I was cheering for the little guy.  Recently this was illustrated by another similar struggle, when the maker of Monster energy drinks sued Rock Art Brewery in Vermont over the use of the name for their  barley wine, Vermonster.

So here’s the important points you may not know:

  1. The big US brewers are no longer US owned: Anheuser-Busch is owned by InBev, a Belgian company, and Miller (who merged with Coors in the past couple of years) is owned by SAB, a South African company.
  2. Even some of the “craft” you may think are craft really are made by the big guys.  For example, Michelob is fully owned by ABInBev, and Blue Moon and Killian’s Red are owned by SABMiller Coors.  In fact, these companies have continued to buy up small craft brewers from around the world.  You might ask why would one do this?  Because the small companies have issues with distribution, and the big guys have a huge distribution network with little room for non-big guy beer.
  3. It’s really about shelf space.  I noticed this myself within the past few weeks at our local Hy-Vee.  The Bud Light, Miller Light, and Coors Light cooler section expanded a whole 8 ft overnight, while the craft beer suffered.
  4. It is very difficult to advertise the Beer Wars movie to get out the truth.  It is so difficult that Anat Baron (the filmmaker behind Beer Wars) posted a call to action to use social media to talk up the film because the big guys are major advertisers on T.V. and if they pulled their ads, it would be disastrous for the networks.

So, with that being said, don’t nitpick the movie.  It does nothing to say bad things about it to the general public when the major point of it is to inform said general public of the situation and let people know they vote with their wallet.

So, have you seen Beer Wars?  What did you think?

John’s Generation White’s Split Personality

posted on February 22, 2010 at 11:12 pm by Ken Valley in Craft Beer

I recently picked up a keg of John’s White Ale and while we were loading it into my car, the fellow helping me mentioned something I hadn’t thought about before.

He asked me if I had tried the kegged and bottled John’s White side-by-side before.  He said they were completely different beers because the beer in the keg had no oxygen permeation and was much more orange-y citrusy and the bottled version.  On the other hand, the bottled version was more spicy because the bottle cap allows oxygen into the bottle,and the oxygen works with the yeast to produce a completely different beer.

I had seen this before in terms of carbonation, etc. but not to this extent.  I tried it, and sure enough, he was right, and I was amazed.

Do you have any experience where two different packaging techniques create two different beers?

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