An Open Letter to Pumpkin Beer from Matt Householder

I’m going to preface this post with a little disclaimer: its okay to like, love, or obsess over pumpkin beers. I won’t think any less of you if you do. I, however; have reached the point where they just aren’t my thing, anymore. My good pal Ben just posted an article on the love of said style, and I, ever the Devil’s Advocate, felt that some support for the other side of the fence was merited. (The other side of the fence being me, you see.). Drink what you love, people, and don’t let one zany little mustachioed bloggers opinion sway you away from that!!! I support your beer-love! Cheers!!!

To my old pal “Pumpkin Beer”,

We’ve been through a lot through the years, haven’t we? We’ve laughed. We’ve cried. We’ve hung out for hours on end until I vomited pumpkin-spiced-flavored-rainbows, and passed out on the bathroom floor. You always held a special place in my stomach, my liver, and on my palate. Until now. At this point in my journey, that some call life, I’ve realized that we may have outgrown each other. It’s time to break up. No. No, I’m not joking. I know you’ll miss me, and in that regard, I’ll always think of you fondly, but geez, pumpkin beer. Let’s talk it out, eh?

Supposedly, when our founding fathers landed in what would one day be called “America”, they were running short on brewing supplies, and decided to throw some pumpkin into the mix as a source of fermentable sugars. I, for one, call shenanigans on this so-called “historical fact”, seeing as one would have to gelatinize the sugars in said pumpkin by baking it, and then finding a way to add it to the grains that would allow for rinsing of the sugars without the whole damn thing becoming a sticky mess. But, I Digress. Honestly, did the Pilgrims land on Plymouth Rock and say “Yea, Verily! Let us roast some gourds, and add them to our malt-bill, whilst throwing caution to the wind and throwing a gob of Fall spices into the mix!”??? I seriously doubt it. That being said, Pumpkin Beer could easily be considered a mainstay, stepping stone, or a downright obsession in the journey of any Craft Beer Radass.

I remember my first sip of Dogfish Head Punkin. My taste buds exploded in a symphony of harmonic bliss. Brown Ale that doesn’t suck? CHECK. Just the right amount of vegetal pumpkin and herbal hops? CHECK. An amount of pumpkin spice that isn’t over the top, or tongue punching? CHECK. In fact, DFH was the first pumpkin beer I’d ever had, that I didn’t immediately hate. It makes great ice cream. It’s a wonderful marinade for pork, that could end up being served with roasted root vegetables, and baked brie with fig jam. The same could be said for Schlafly Pumpkin ale, from the Midwest. It is literally pumpkin pie in a glass, and a whopping 8% alcohol to boot. My obsession started in this area, back when Pumpkinator was something that was only whispered about by the tiny segment of loyal beer geeks everywhere. Every year, I’d long for fall, in anticipation of that long lost pumpkin spice bomb that had eluded me all year.

Today, this is not the case. I loathe the early releases, and the beer-psychos lining up to drop their hard-earned cash on overly-spiced, cookie-cutter-styled swill. It has been a good, long while, since you’ve impressed me, Pumpkin Beer. My palate recoils in horror at the thought of your cloyingly sweet, ridiculously under-thought and overpriced, amber liquid. Don’t get me wrong, if you’re into the whole pumpkin beer thing, have at it. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, and I respect and appreciate your opinion as a beer drinker. You’re entitled to your own preference, and no matter what, as long as that isn’t BMC swill, I won’t give you any crap about it. You go, Glen Coco!

I personally, when faced with the daunting decision of what the heck to imbibe when “fall weather” finally arrives here in DFW, will reach for something a bit less kitschy and more nuanced. Give me a British Barleywine any time the weather starts to cool, especially when it gets downright COLD. I’m also a huge fan of Biere De Garde, when the weather cools off. If you’re not familiar with these styles, allow me to briefly elaborate. The main difference, to me, for British (as opposed to American) Barleywine is not only the way the Brits treat hop additions, but the malt bill. British Barleywine tends more towards the dry, savory end of the spectrum, without the insanely heavy-handed additions of bittering hops in the kettle that you’d see in American Barleywines. Extremely figgy, with huge toffee and caramel notes, a True British Barleywine should warm you up without smacking you over the head with the deceptively high ABV. This style is all about finesse. Biere De Garde, roughly translated from French means “Beer For Keeping”. It was, traditionally a higher ABV Saison, with a bigger malt backbone, brewed to be served to Belgian farm workers during the fall, around harvest time. The extended aging process, sometimes in oak casks, would impart hints of vanilla and oak tannins, as well as mellowing out the typically prickly carbonation you would find in the Saison style. Darker in color than it’s brethren, and showcasing a fuller mouthfeel, as well as a higher ABV, THIS is a beer to enjoy in the cooler months. Both of these styles feature an insane amount of stuff going on, without crazy spice additions, that will still synch up perfectly with fall weather, and fare to match the same.

But, to my old pal, confidant, and now least favorite intoxicant (other than Gin), I feel I must say, “Smell you later”. Not “Goodbye”, Not “So Long, and thanks for all the fish”, and not “I hope you choke”. I will always appreciate you for broadening my taste buds, and allowing me to bring newbies into the Craft Beer Fold, but we’re through. In the words of the late Whitney Houston, “I will always love youuuuuuuuuuuuu.”. But I don’t have to like you, you schmuck. BESOS!!!

All My Love & Loathing,
Matt The Beer Guy

 

If you enjoyed, or hated my rantings, feel free to reach out to me at Mattdabeerguy01@gmail.com . You could also find me in person, and give me a Noogie until I pass out, but I’d prefer the former. As always, thanks for reading, and be kind to one another. Cheers!!!

<Matt The Beer-Guy>

Top 10 Beers of GABF

GABF CupAnother year down and another Great American Beer Fest in the book for me. This year was truly a testament to how little sleep I can operate on and how well I can maneuver through the Lyft and Uber apps while trying charge my phone anywhere I can. This year, I thought it would be fin to not only pick my favorite beer tasted, but to also log and rank my top 10 I had on the Friday night and Saturday afternoon sessions. It took a lot of personal debate with myself and further research on Beer Advocate, but I feel safe with this list of my favorite 10 out of the maybe 100-150 beers I tasted over that long, long weekend. Without further adieu, here are those beers:

10. Avery – Rumpkin: Even though I look 100% white, I am actually half Puerto Rican via my Mom. Throughout the week I jump between identifying as either white or Boricua, which I’ve learned is a constant struggle of mixed race children. But something that I will never turn my back on in Puerto Rican culture is my love of the taste of rum. Yes, the cultivation of sugarcane ruined a strong portion of the Caribbean, but I’ll be damned if the distilled product isn’t delicious. As for the white side of me? Well, that dude loves pumpkin flavors and missed out on the Rumpkin released last year. When I saw the release this year, I knew that I had to hit it up at GABF before buying a bottle when I got back home. Legit, this beer is amazing for me.

This beer brings some heat with it, so be prepared. You can’t hide this kind of abv. This ruby colored mistress is concealing sweet pumpkin pie notes mostly covered by the sweet bitterness of the full rum barrel aging that it takes to perfect this beer. This pumpkin beer is a pumpkin beer for people who don’t know they like pumpkin beers. It is a malty and rum based bomb of pumpkin that can drag anybody in. Rumpkin is my new favorite pumpkin beer.

9. Our Mutual Friend – Cherry Gose: Something that i guess I should knock out of the way here is a bit of a disclaimer. The brewmaster at Our Mutual Friend is my real life mutual friend Jan. My wife and I have been friends with him and his wife Rachel for a few years now. When I first met them in person at GABF a few years ago, Jan was new to the small, Denver brewery. Since I first had their beers then, the creativity and adventurous of their beers has grown leaps and bounds that I once thought a brewery of their size was not capable of. Luckily, I ran into Rachel randomly by the port-a-potties this year and was able to follow her back to their brewery’s booth at the Friday session.

Once at the R5 booth, Rachel and Jan offered to take me behind the table and give me a guided flight through their beers. The first (or second? besides tasting notes, my GABF memory bank is a blur) was their Cherry Gose. The name alone lets you know the caliber of beers Our Mutual Friend is tackling. This pinkish, amber offering isn’t as over carbed as other fruited goses I’ve had, but the nose is the light tartness of a fresh cherry skin. Behind that is the familiar light salt. The taste is a combination of both fruit and salt, with a clean finish. Basically, they nailed everything this beer was supposed to be.

8. The Bruery – Black Tuesday: The Bruery became one my my top 3 craft breweries when I first went to GABF GABF The Brueryyears ago. To say that I was unfamiliar with out of state craft breweries then would be an understatement. But something about the Bruery stuck with me. Since then, I make it a point to stop by there at least twice a session to express my love (I literally tell them that I love them every time) and to try the beers that I can never quite afford to trade for in my local beer market. Though I mostly skew towards the Bruery Terreux sour and wild offerings, I was finally able to try Black Tuesday during their tapping during the Saturday afternoon session.

To say that Black Tuesday is a big beer is almost a disservice to everything the beer offers. This 19+% abv bourbon barrel aged imperial stout is a decadent journey in coffee, tart dark chocolate, and heavy heat. Though some big bourbon beers are subtle with it, Black Tuesday wants to punch you in the face with everything. The smoked, almost burnt wood beneath it throughout is a nice accent. I can imagine this being a perfect beer on a nice snowy day in the mountains, or at least as much as I can being a South Carolinian living in Texas. Black Tuesday will keep you warm at night and it only further cements my love for The Bruery.

7. The Rare Barrel – Home Sour Home: The friends that I stay with in Denver are unabashed sour supporters and advocates. If I’m being honest with myself, my love of sours has definitely been influenced by them and their taste in styles. That’s why I can tell you that we sought our beers from The Rare Barrel pretty much immediately. The line was long, but as with all long lines at GABF, it was extremely worth it. The Rare Barrel is quietly making some of the best beers in America. My first offer from them was Home, Sour Home.

This beer, as the name describes, is a textbook sour beer in and of itself. You get a golden to slightly amber-golden pour of all it’s lacto filled goodness. Beneath the yellow gold, you taste vanilla, canned peach, candied sugar, other flavors, and most importantly followed with a crisp tart afternote. This is a beer I would introduce friends to in order to see if they liked sours, because the answer would always be yes. If you’re not paying attention to the California craft sour scene, you should be. Because The Rare Barrel is straight up nailing it.

6. Goose Island – Vanilla Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout: Admittedly, I have a love/hate relationship with AB InBev that skews heavily on the hot burning hate side. Besides the macro beer at a tailgate every now and then, what keeps me going back to the AB InBev side of the beer world is the greatness of the Bourbon County Brand series from Goose Island. Until this GABF, I had only tasted the regulars of the stout, coffee stout, and barleywine. I was admittedly surprised that not only was Goose Island pouring Vanilla Rye pretty much all day on the Friday night and Saturday afternoon, but that the lines weren’t overly long. So, I thought, what the hell? Let’s see what everyone has been trading for.

Vanilla Rye Bourbon County Brand Stout is one of those beers that lives up to the hype, if you let it. It is a thick, dark beer you can almost chew your way through. The bourbon notes are balanced and not overpowering. And the vanilla sweetness is something that begins the story that the stout and bourbon finish. But, unlike other bourbon barrel beers that sometimes turn me away from the genre, you aren’t blown away with heat. This jet black beauty will seduce you.

5. Funky Buddha – Morning Wood: Now, this one was a beer and brewery that I did not expect to have in my top ten when I was preparing for my annual trip up to Denver for GABF. But obviously the rest of the people there for GABF did. The line for Funky Buddha in the new Meet the Brewer section at GABF was by far the longest that we saw at either the Friday night orSaturday afternoon sessions. Being the follower that I am and someone admittedly unfamiliar with the Florida craft scene outside of Cigar City, I hopped in line to see what the fuss was about.

After finally making it to the front of the line, I realized that I should have been looking their beers, so I knew what to pick. Once, there, the 12 year old in me picked Morning Wood, based on name alone. And looks like that 12 year old knows his beer, because Morning Wood was a home run. This is an imperial breakfast style coffee porter aged in bourbon barrels for 9 months. If you wanted to count the flavors available in it, you’d be there all night. And loving every second of that night. Coffee, saltiness, smokiness, sweetness, and above all in your face malt come at you in this dark pouring mixture of oak and bourbon goodness. The mixture of flavors might feel overwhelming at first, but stick with it slowly to enjoy them all. And then you will see why you waited in line for 10+ minutes for a 2 ounce sample.

4. Brasserie Saint James – Plum Lambic: While I was reading the local press in the day before my first GABF session, I saw that one of the top 5 out of state breweries recommended was a brewery out of Reno, Nevada of all places called Brasseries Saint James. I tucked that thought in the back of my mind alongside the dozens of other new breweries I was promising myself to try. As a sucker for all things lambics at this point in my beer life, I chose the Plum Lambic.

The beer is as close to a traditional fruited lambic as you can get, or at least as close as a 30 year old Texan who’s never been to Belgium can imagine. It’s a golden pour filled with the tastes of sour plums. There is a funk at the end that I cannot put my finger on. It may be just the brett settling into the bottom of the bottle with the rest of the sediment, or it could be that elusive taste of Belgian yeast that I still cannot describe. Whatever it is, this yellow beer packs a punch of fruit, tartness, and musk that makes you wish you were out on a cold harborside looking out on a windswept, grassy field. I expect to see big things in the future for this brewery.

GABF Jim Koch and Lee Knox3. Boston Beer Company – Utopias 2015: This beer is another that would have seemed confusing to me if you told me it would be on my top 10 last month. In total, I’ve had Utopias at 2 other GABFs and another time at the North Texas Beer Week Brewer’s Ball in 2014. But I can’t put my finger on why the one I tried this year was different.

Depending on who you ask, Boston Beer Company’s Sam Adams Utopias comes in around 27-29% abv. However, rather than tasting like pure heat, it drinks more like a sweet bourbon or strong brandy. The tasting this year was more like brandy than I’ve had before, and surprisingly with less heat than I was expecting. This could be my palate being properly acclimated to high abv beers, or there may be something special about this batch that I can’t put my finger on. This foam-less beer is a treat of sweet port wine, caramel, and alcohol heat that begs to be slurped with a taste of air so you can dance the flavors around to open them up. A true spirits drinker’s beer that must be tried more than it can be described. This beer is relentless against me and I love every moment of it.

2. Our Mutual Friend – 24 Frames Per Second: Remember that one time I told you about my friend Jan working for Our Mutual Friend? Good, then I don’t have to retell the story of how awesome and inviting he was when he took me behind the table to help guide me through a flight of everything they brought to GABF. Anyways, my final beer or the flight was 24 Frames Per Second, a barrel aged golden sour that was good enough to net this little Denver brewery a GABF silver medal in wood and barrel aged sour ales, a giganticly competitive category.

This beer is a doozy for the little brewery. It looks like your typical golden sour. That classic golden look with a slight haze to it, settling with a little head to let you know the yeast did its job. The taste is of dried fruit, apple peel, and singed oak. Oh, and you will definitely feel the lacto in there. If I remember my conversation with Jan correctly (post GABF memory is always a stretch,) they reuse all of their barrels for sour aging. That means that every beer after that batch has the ability to be slightly different. More lacto, more tart, more wood, possibly less wood. The future is unwritten with that kind of mad scientist mentality to beer. And you know what? It works. In a little small barrel brewery in Denver, some guys ended up making a world class barrel aged sour. Bravo, gentlemen. I’m happy to call you my mutual friends.

1. The Rare Barrel – Impossible Soul: We waited in line for The Rare Barrel at least twice, as did several others around me. That will let you know how popular their offerings were. People will dedicate a 10 minute wait in a line, something almost unheard of in today’s ‘give it to me now’ culture, MULTIPLE times for an ounce or two sample. But, it is all worth it. Breweries artfully crafting together beautiful creations the way The Rare Barrel does will keep people waiting, just like it did my group of 5 on that Saturday afternoon. The second offering we had from them was Impossible Soul.

This beer is a golden sour ale aged in oak barrels with a shit load of tart and sweet cherries tossed in. The color was deceiving, as this beer was full of everything wonderful about cherries. The tartness of the skin, the sweetness of the meat, and even the acidity of the freshness of the fruit. Mixed in between the fruit was the body of a powerful sour soaked in an earthy wood. My 2 ounce offering was something that I could savor for hours. A bottle of this could be enjoyed like a Bordeaux wine. Impossible Soul will make you feel more like a wine drinker in the Russian River Valley than someone stumbling your way through a Saturday session in a convention center in Denver. If God ever made a cherry sour, he made Impossible Soul. A possible new top 10 beer for me.

Lee Knox is the adventurous Travel Contributor for Beer Drinkers Society.
Rasy Ran is the amazing Head Photographer for Beer Drinkers Society and owner of Rasy Ran Photography.

Pumpkin Beers: A Remembrance of Falls Gone By

Krunkin PumpkinIts getting cooler in North Texas. The skies are a little cloudier, the nights are a little crisper. Fall is upon us! To usher in the changing of the leaves to Autumn colors, we used to celebrate the pumpkin beer styles. But this year pumpkin beers fell into bottle shops with a flood of disdain. I write this little diatribe to defend our glorious little, boozy friends because of what they represent and to explore why some of us may detest them so much.

Last year pumpkin beers began to appear a little early on our retailers’ shelves in September. This was partially due to a changing of the weather in other regions of the US. While Southern Tier in New York State may have cooler weather in September, we Texans know that September just means “late summer”. Still, we drank them up, tried them all and collected our Untappd merit badges for our sashes. And last year the discussion began of “when is it too early for pumpkin beer?” That question wasn’t ever answered for me…until this year.

We hit a new milestone in pumpkin beers when they began to arrive here in Texas last August. They appeared like a herald in a Summer of 90 degree days to usher in a season that we couldn’t imagine. Again, our summer lasts longer than much of the US. So our brewing friends in the north were just staying ahead of the seasonal changes of more forgiving climates than we see here in Texas. But we were also caught in the midst of a first to market for breweries. Brewers and distributors hoped that their pumpkin being first to market meant more sales. Just after this out of season release I started seeing mass dislike for pumpkin beers.

Pumpkin MemeIs this early arrival what spurned on the funny, but cynical memes that popped up all over craft beer discussions and Facebook? It couldn’t be that we truly hate these delectable treats. Think about how that first pumpkin beer made you feel. I remembered red and golden leaves carried by a cool afternoon wind, as I ventured out to look for that perfect Halloween costume. That first sip reignited that feeling that a glorious, late night of candy gathering with friends and neighbors was on the horizon flanked by the glowing eyes and crooked smile of jack-o-lanterns.

Let’s all evaluate how we feel about pumpkin beers and not just write them off as terrible because great breweries wanted to share this year’s recipes with us a little early.

Ben Esely is a co-founder and the Brewer Interviewer for Beer Drinkers Society and owner of The Bearded Monk.

Wicked Weed SerenityI’ve never had anything from Wicked Weed Brewing, so when my South Carolina trade buddy offered to send me some, I jumped at the chance.(I’d like to say he probably made out pretty well, too, receiving some Yellow Rose, MHBC Salty Lady, and Deschutes Pine Drops in my part of the deal.). Seeing as I have spent the better part of the last week marathon-watching Firefly on Netflix, Serenity was the first bottle I went for, as far as chilling and opening some Wicked Weed Brewing goodness. Serenity is a 100% Brettanomyces farmhouse ale, clocking in at a scant 5.5% ABV, but seeing as I love Brett beers, AND Farmhouse ales, I figured this was a good place to start.  The label is really pretty, by the way, in case you care!

Serenity produces a decent one-finger-head with a heavy pour, about the color of eggshells. The insanely uneven bubbles in said head speak to the Brett parentage of the beer. Seriously, if Jackson Pollack had done artwork in beer foam, it would look like this. The head recedes in less than a minute, to a ring around the edge of the glass, that leaves almost no lacing when tilted. Serenity is the color of daffodils, in a long-forgotten dream, dosed in morning dew, light golden, and clear as sunrise.

Upon first sniff, pilsner malt is apparent, as well as hints of dill, basil, and citrus peel. Your typical Brett-funk is pretty subdued, yet throws out hints of olive brine, dried meat, and horse-sweat. A goodish bit of herbal hop aroma is apparent as well, most likely Fuggles, or Kent Goldings, if I can continue to trust the old sniffer, and sensory memory. Smells like heaven. Possibly Angel tears. I guess I’ll take a sip…

The palate is, in a word, deep. Being what it is, one wouldn’t expect complexity of this depth. For starters, Serenity is thicker than you’d think in mouthfeel for a farmhouse ale. It literally coats the palate with earthy, herbal funk. The carbonation is prickly, as you’d expect from a beer fermented with Brett, yet also slick, in the sense that every sip just pushes more delicious funk across your tongue. Crackery pilsner malt is there, along with more olive brine notes. My nose was wrong on the hops, as the familiar tickle of Saaz & Hallertau assault my tongue with white pepper. Smoked paprika and barnyard earth are here to say hello, as well, followed by nips of citrus pith and drying white oak. Holy crap, Lois. I’m in love. The dill from the nose is here too, adding an almost pickle-heaviness to this zippy, light-bodied beer.

For my first experience with Wicked Weed, I can easily say I’m blown away, and will be bothering my trade partner for more in the near future. I’ve heard many a story of the sheer excellence that is their “angel” series, and look forward to trying those, and other offerings from this brewery. Serenity is about as perfect of a Brett beer as I’ve had, in quite some time. Many people yammer on and on about the greatness that is Jester King, but if this beer is any indication of how well Wicked Weed can do 100% Brettanomyces beer, then good ol’ JK may have some competition from the East Coast.

All in all, color me heavily impressed. Serenity is seductive, smooth, and utterly delicious. I wish I’d asked for more than one, but you know what, Kiddos? Absence only makes the liver grow fonder! I’ll close this entry by wishing you all excellent beer, great vibes, and pleasant nights. Stay chilly, high-five people more often, and call your mother. (She’s waiting to hear from you. Trust me.) If you have any questions, or want to yell at me for being too long-winded with my beer-shenanigans, feel free to do so at Mattdabeerguy01@gmail.com .
Thanks for reading, and Cheers!!!

<Matt The Beer-Guy>

2 Denton Craft Beer Journalists open their Craft Beer Bottle Shop and Growler Bar

Bearded Monk glass and growlerThere’s no denying that Denton has made its mark on Texas’s craft brewing map. Ben Esely, owner of The Bearded Monk, wants to expand that footprint even further, through beer education and support of the creative culture unique to Denton. Esely has been documenting his love and appreciation for craft beer for quite some time through this blog, Beer Drinkers Society, and on Dallas Morning News and GuideLive – if you haven’t already, go read some of his stuff! You’ll learn a thing or two.

With the opening of The Bearded Monk, a craft beer shop, bar, and

Owner Ben Esely and Manager Ben Webster just can't take themselves seriously.

Owner Ben Esely and Manager Ben Webster just can’t take themselves seriously.

growler filling station, he’ll be sharing that love and appreciation with beer novices and experts alike. The shop will host classes, with a focus on what Esely calls Compassionate Beer Education. He spoke about some of the harsh online criticism towards people new to the craft beer experience, who want to try something beyond the Big Three macrobrews but don’t yet know the difference between an IPA and a porter, for instance. “If I saw some of this harsh behavior taking place in person, I’d be appalled. We should all be encouraging people to try new beers and praising each other’s experimentation, as well as warm, snuggly hugs.”

As great as hugs are, Esely and company have even greater things planned for the shop this coming autumn. The Bearded Monk will open sometime during the next few weeks, with 21 taps of craft beer for pints and growler fills and 1,000 different beers in bottles and cans to tote off to the Square or your next event. And, word is that Esely has big plans for the coffin races, a staple of Denton’s Day of the Dead Festival, which takes place this year on Saturday, October 24 (it involves a giant barrel). They’ll also be participating in North Texas Beer Week and its Brewer’s Ball on November 13, along with other fine folks of the Denton craft brew scene, from Oak St. Drafthouse, Midway Mart, East Side, Harvest House, Audacity Brewhouse, and Armadillo Ale Works.

Bar FrontIn the meantime, Esely and his manager, Ben Webster, are hard at work finishing up the inside of the shop. It already has a distinctively Denton vibe. Tables and counters are being methodically covered in craft beer labels, all pulled from a giant collection Esely and others have been saving up for the project. It’s definitely a labor of love. A rotating art wall and a Rube Goldberg-style mural depicting the brewing process are also in the works. This marriage of artistic expression and education will be a major focus for The Bearded Monk. Esely recognizes that education is a process, much like craft brewing, and that if you carefully see the process through, you’ll have fantastic results. “To those who come up to me and say, ‘Man, I love Blue Moon!’ I might say, ‘Here, try this comparable craft beer!’ Messaging is tough”, he says. “The information should be easy to understand, and without a lot of jargon. For many people, when they hear ‘craft beer’, they hear ‘too hoppy’. But I think with education that will change. We can show the glory that is craft beer.”

Cheers to that!

Paige Gibson is an amazing photographer and contributor for Beer Drinkers Society.

Disclosure: Ben Esely and Ben Webster are two of the five original founders of Beer Drinkers Society.

Three Rules for Hiking with Craft Beer

Long TrailWhen I first had the idea for this article, I didn’t imagine a scenario where I partially tumbled down a mountain in the rain. But, that’s what happened here when I summited the chin of Mount Mansfield, the highest point in the state of Vermont, on my 30th birthday. This article on hiking and enjoying craft beer is more of a cautionary tale for those like me who enjoy the outdoors and great beer. Heed my warnings and rules, but above all, I encourage you to try out what’s good for you and change them to fit your hike.

 

Rule 1: No glass. Canned beer or no beer.
Unlike my previous article on kayaking with craft beer, your Nalgenes while hiking should be solely for water. You don’t want to waste any bottle space with beer. Any good hike will need as much water as you can carry. On our hike, we began our summit of Mount Mansfield from the VT108 trail head of the Long Trail and followed it up to the chin. It took us around 2 hours to reach the final hiking shelter before the chin. And a lot of this was some very intense hiking. We drank a lot of water. Using water rationing, our 2 quarts of water barely lasted us until the lodge. If it wasn’t for a brook near the peak, we would have been screwed. Now, imagine if we had a Nalgene with beer instead of filled with water. We probably would have had to turn around. Cans resting in the bottom of your day hike bag or in a dry sack are the right decision here.

The added bonus of cans is that you don’t run the risk of broken glass in your pack when you fall over into a river (which also happened to me on this hike.) In addition to durability, once you are done enjoying your beer, you can crush the can and put it back in your pack so it takes up even less room. Every square inch of space in your pack on a hike is precious. “Pack it in, pack it out” is an essential part of Leave No Trace philosophy and should be adhered when drinking beer as well.

Rule 2: Only drink during Easy to Moderate hikes.
On those rated Difficult, save your drinking for when you get home or to the tent or Inn. Remember when I talked about how this article is a cautionary tale? Well, here is the part where it is cautionary. When I was planning our hikes for the week, I knew that I wanted to go to the chin of Mount Mansfield. The guide that I found listed this as a moderate hike with only a 600 foot elevation. It turns out that I was reading the description of another trail and was actually doing one of the most difficult hikes in the area with a 3,000 foot gain. If I knew this when I was planning, I would not have wanted to bring a can of Heady Topper with me.

Difficult and strenuous hikes need the utmost preparation for any hiker. Being unprepared can lead one to be hurt or even killed, especially on a difficult section of a long trail like the Long, Pacific Crest, or Appalachian. You don’t need to go further complicating things with a can of beer. On those hikes, save your beer for the night at the Inn as a celebration. If you don’t, you run the risk of falling down boulders you’re supposed to scramble down and be that person. By the way, that person was me. I partially fell down while descending the trail at least four times. I should have brought hiking poles instead of Heady Topper. On moderate hikes though? Crack one open on the summit like a champ. You’ve earned it. As long as you leave no trace and don’t disturb others, you’ll be fine.

Rule 3: Be aware of all alcohol regulations of the area you’re in, especially if it’s in a state park.
With the current explosion of hiking brought on by the movies Wild and A Walk in the Woods (set on the Pacific Long TrailCrest Trail and Appalachian Trail respectively,) many state parks are cracking down on drinking alcohol on the trails and in the park in general. This is mostly as a reaction to the weekend warriors and people that saw a trailer of either movie and thought hiking would be fun. These are also the types that you will see littering on the trail. Do not be that person.

What you do in the park is on you, so I’m not going to tell you to follow every regulation and law of the hiking trail as long as you aren’t harming the trail or the surrounding nature, but you should still be aware of them.

Earlier this year, ultramarathoner Scott Jurek broke the record for the fastest thru hike of the Appalachian Trail in a little over 46 days, which is monumental for a trail spanning 2,200 miles. To celebrate, he popped a bottle of champagne at the terminus of the trail in Baxter State Park in Maine. Later that week, he received a summons for drinking alcohol in the park. No hiker saw that coming. So, be careful out there if you’re using social media.

Craft Beer at The Summit of Long TrailNothing feels better after a long, sweaty hike than a drink. The Heady Topper I had on Mount Mansfield is the best I have ever had. Hiking is an amazing way to experience the wilderness, find solace in solitude at times, and reflect upon the world around you. You are able to dissect every minutia of the beer without any distractions. Every taste of the beer is within your grasp. Every note of hops, bitterness, pine, and citrus of the Heady Topper was right there with me. It lived up to its hype for me, but that may have been influenced by the nearly 4,400 foot mountain I was perched upon.

If you enjoy the outdoors, bring a can of craft with you to enjoy on a mountaintop and learn to love beer and the world again. Just make sure it’s a moderate hike.

Lee Knox is the adventurous Travel Contributor for Beer Drinkers Society.

Atrial Rubicite is Back!

From Jester King:

Sherry Barrel Atrial RubiciteWe’re excited to introduce Sherry Barrel Atrial Rubicite. As the name suggests, it’s our Atrial Rubicite (blend #4) aged for 15 months in a Spanish sherry barrel!

A lot of time went into making this beer. This isn’t to suggest that very long periods of maturation in oak automatically leads to good beer. Far from it. In fact, some of our favorite beers we’ve made have achieved some really nice characteristics in just a few months. However, we’re really pleased with the way Sherry Barrel Atrial Rubicite turned out and are happy it received all the time it did.

The base beer for Sherry Barrel Atrial Rubicite was brewed in 2013. After maturing in oak barrels for about a year, it Sherry Barrel for Atrial Rubicitewas blended during the spring of 2014 and refermented with raspberries. It was then racked to a single 500 liter Spanish sherry barrel for further aging and maturation. In July of 2015, fifteen months later, we racked the beer out of the sherry barrel and bottled it. All together, Sherry Barrel Atrial Rubicite took a little over two years to make. Again, this isn’t to suggest that long periods of fermentation and maturation necessarily equate to enjoyable beer, but in this case, we think it does.

Sherry Barrel Atrial Rubicite was brewed with Hill Country well water, barley, wheat, oats, and hops. It was fermented with our mixed culture of microorganisms consisting of brewers yeast and native yeast and bacteria harvested from the air and wildflowers around our brewery, and refermented with raspberries grown in Washington. Sherry Barrel Atrial Rubicite was pakagd in July of 2015 and is unfiltered, unpasteurized, and 100% naturally conditioned. At the time of bottling, it was 7.0% alcohol by volume, 1.003 specific gravity (0.75 degrees Plato), 7IBU, and 3.3 pH.

Sherry Barrel Atrial Rubicite will be released when our tasting room opens earlier for Labor Day weekend at Noon on Friday, September 4th. It is our first beer packaged in 330ml bottles. We chose a smaller bottle size simply so that there are more bottles to go around. About 1,000 bottles will be available ($12/bottle) with a limit of one per customer per day. We do not anticipate it being available beyond Jester King, aside from a few special events. The label art for Sherry Barrel Atrial Rubicite was created by our in-house artist Josh Cockrell.