For most of my life I would have answered this question with a loud yes and a smile but it seems that even this question is not as easy to answer as you would think. I am a (ovo-lacto) vegetarian for more than 20 years and for a while lived on a strict vegan diet. As a vegetarian and even more so as a vegan you can get into quite arcane discussions about the fringes of the vegetarian lifestyle. Conversations usually start quite harmlessly with yoghurt, gummy bears and red bull, but one discussion escalated and ended at beer. I know that there are many styles of beer which include spices, herbs and fruits and some more experimental beers that contain vegetables, bacon, or even blood, but I am talking about some completely regular lagers and ales. I am talking specifically about beer that is made from water, grains, and hops with bottom fermenting yeast as the main workforce and yes even those beers can come under scrutiny of fundamentalist vegetarians. Have you ever heard about fining reagents? Those are substances which will refine the fermented product by removing substances that are detrimental to the taste or appearance of the beer. I am not going into the details of fining but one of the most common fining substances used by beer brewers is isinglass. Isinglass is a collagen that helps removing suspended yeast, proteins and large polyphenols by creating a jelly that can easily be removed from the beer. After filtering you end up with a crystal clear lager and never have to fear hazing again. After filtering some of the isinglass remains in the beer and here is the clue of the story: Isinglass is made from the swim bladders of fish. So, if you are a vegetarian with convictions close to Kashrut or Halal you better check with your local brewer and while you are doing it you better ask about gelatine, which is usually made from hoofed animals, as well. If you are vegan and consider switching over to wine, be warned: Red wine has some rather unpredictable tannin content and egg white, potassium caseinate, as well as chitosan, and isinglass are commonly used to adjust clarity and polyphenol content. For all practical purpose: Yes, beer is vegetarian but animal products might have been used in its production.
5 Seasons has 3 locations in greater Atlanta and with Kevin McNerney (think Avery, Sweetwater) heading the brewery in Sandy Springs, I was eager to learn about the newer locations. Westside opened almost 3 years ago and it was about time to pay this most central 5 Seasons location a visit. I started my visit at lunchtime and was a little disappointed that the pizza wasn't made with spent grain from the brewery. The waiter offered a slightly over-sized Kaiser roll made from a mix of flours and partially from spent grain. Freshly baked with a little butter it was a true appetizer. I did enjoy the grilled mushroom and asparagus pizza and was very impressed by the well balanced arugula beet salad. In the end I had come for the brews and started with a few pints to go with the rustic food. The Venus Belgian White came with a slice of orange hanging on the rim of the pint glass. If I want a long drink or a pinky-up beer I will order accordingly but I like my beer well maintained, at the right temperature, in the appropriate glass and straight up. I am a little picky and do believe that a wit (wheat or Weizen) glass allows for better foam and keeps the orange peel and coriander longer inside the beer. To counter act the possible damage done to the beer, I ripped the orange slice off the rim and drank half of the pint in 2 gulps to then slow down and taste for the malts and balance of citrus and spice. A very nice Belgian, fresh, highly carbonated, crisp and slightly sour. I tasted a little too much orange but that might have been the misguided addition of the fruit salad to the beer. The Blonde Saison was tart but somehow the aroma didn't convince me. My last pint turned out to be an English pale ale which I enjoyed but I had lost my interest in taking notes. I asked the waiter if I could see the mash tuns and fermenters and in return he arranged for a brewery tour in the basement of the Brickworks. Crawford Moran, brewmaster and ruler over one of the nicest looking breweries, guided the tour through the mostly copper clad brewery. I was surprised by the size and number of fermenters but I had heard that the brewery would offer a wide variety of styles plus a cask conditioned beer on every Thursday. Now I could see how they were able to manage. I could have listened for hours and quite frankly wouldn't have minded a sample of some of the casks but no matter how welcomed Crawford made me feel. I felt like I was taking advantage of a nice person showing me his true home. Crawford's passion for beer manifests itself in his smile, posture and especially in his tone when he speaks about the aroma of hops. If you want to see the transition from a nice and knowledgeable tour guide to a passionate brewmaster ask him about Nelson Sauvin. The more you know the more you will learn on his exceptional brewery tour.
Canned beer is the future and I love living in the future. Wait. Isn’t canned beer of lesser quality than its brother the bottle? I've seen the ads. It has to be a brown bottle and the carrier has to cover the bottles up to the cap. The answer is NO, in fact there are many advantages that cans have over bottles. They stack easy, they protect the precious nectar from light poisoning, they chill quicker, hikers appreciate them, and you can drink them around the pool. For the brewers and distributors, cans are also cheaper than bottles, lighter to ship, and are made of more sustainable material. There are also aluminum bottles that have the advantage of screw-on caps. Cans also tend to be available in 16oz in addition to 12oz and 24oz varieties. Not that there is anything wrong with 22oz bombers. There is an ever increasing number of craft beers being offered up in a can and the myth of a metallic taste being imparted to the beer from the can is just that, a myth. The cans are coated so the metal never touches the beer, and have you ever complained about a metallic taste from your draft beers (stored in a big metal keg)? Cans will play an important role is the craft beer industry over the next 5 few years. Many craft breweries are canning already and you should try some that are widely available: Oskar Blues and Avery, for example. New Belgium started canning in 2008 and the demand was so high they expanded their space and equipment and then sold the old line to Cigar City in Tampa (a must try) who will soon be rolling out their higher volume beers in cans. Intuition Ale Works in Jacksonville was recently first in Florida to start canning and we recently posted that Tampa Bay Brewing started to can it's Old Elephant Foot IPA last week. If you need more sources for your next beach party check out the Craft Cans site. Also many imported beers are in cans, Guinness, Tetley’s, Boddingtons (with the patented widget since the late 60's), Warsteiner, Sapporo, and my favorite beer “YEBISU” all come in cans. So, long story short (too late!) Canned beers are the future and you should embrace the future.
The Boston Herald reports that Sam Adams has brewed up a beer in partnership with the Boston Marathon. They've lowered ABV slightly and lightened the body. Hopefully more details regarding the style is coming. Only going to be available in and around the marathon route, however. Hacking Beer's Eric Steimle is a runner. Perhaps a road trip is in order.
What do you do if you come across an Old Elephant Foot IPA in a can? Craft beer in cans comes to Tampa Bay Brewing Company. 16 oz cans are a nice touch. We'll have more on canned beer in an upcoming post. Cheers.
Good People's brewery is located in the warehouse district close to the University of Alabama in Birmingham. Their catch phrase Legally brewing beer since 2008 indicates that they had been brewing for a long time before Free the Hops successfully lobbied the change of the prohibitionist laws in Alabama. The signature yellow pick-up truck, now featured in their logo, was for years a very welcomed sight at local events. Continue reading "Good People Brewing Company"