What's a "Craft" Beer?

When I started this blog, I planned to write post that defined "craft" beer.  I never got around to doing it myself, but this guest post by Ann from the U.K., tackles the question.  Take it away Ann...

If you ask the average beer drinker, what’s the definition of craft beer the chances are that they won’t be able to tell you. That’s understandable as the definition officially given by the Brewer’s Association is vague, to say the least.

The Brewer’s Association is the trade body for craft brewers and states that a craft brewery must be small, independent and traditional. This is in order to differentiate between craft beer and the beer that is mass produced by the big breweries around the world.

Many of the big breweries have their own "premium" beer. Some say premium beers are defined by their higher alcohol content, others say they’re just a marketing ploy to sell more expensive beer. Last year in the UK, Foster’s brought out its gold beer. The company hopes to make Foster’s Gold a drink chosen by both sexes and has a new advertising campaign that features two Aussies, Brad & Dan, in different social settings with their bottles of Gold in hand.

In the States, craft breweries have to have an annual production of less than 2 million barrels of beer. However, within this ‘small’ category you have companies like Boston Beer, which is right up to this barrel limit and owns one per cent of the US market and at the other end of the scale, local brewers who produce fewer than a thousand barrels per annum.

The craft brewery must also be ‘independent’ – that means that if it is part-owned by a big brewery like Coors or Miller, that share of the company must be less than 25 per cent. The term ‘traditional’ is a little tricky to understand. The Brewer’s association says a traditional brewer has ‘an all malt flagship’ or uses ‘adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor’. Adjuncts are things such as corn and rice. The big breweries use adjuncts to lighten beer flavour and make the beer more palatable for the tastebuds of the masses.

There are many craft breweries in the UK which operate a certain production quantity limit - below the UK Progressive Beer Duty threshold of 5,000 hls.

The definitions of what is or isn’t a craft beer are a little convoluted, but for the average person wanting to try one, look for beers with names that include the words specialty, artisan, boutique, gourmet or microbrew. Once you’ve tasted a craft beer, you’ll understand the main difference between big brewery beers and craft beers is the depth and complexity of flavour you’ll only get with a craft beer.

Thanks for the explanation Ann!  In a recent post, Bill from It's Pub Night, suggested we do away with the term "craft beer" entirely. I like his argument, and I agree with him. So here's a toast to "good" beer, however you may define it.  Cheers!

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Review: Off Grid Pale Ale, New Planet Beer

Off Grid Pale Ale
New Planet Beer Co. — Fort Collins, CO

  • Style:  Gluten free Pale Ale
  • Bitterness:  Not specified
  • ABV:  5%  
  • Ingredients:  Sorghum, Brown Rice Extract, Molasses, Tapioca Maltodextrin, Caramel Color, Yeast
  • Hops:  Not specified
  • Calories:  170 per 12 oz.
  • Sampled:  12 oz. bottle 

Description:  "Off Grid Pale Ale is a wonderful interpretation of the classic pale ale style. It has a distinctly deep amber color and great character and body. Three varieties of hops provide a wonderful aroma and a citrus and spicy hop flavor. This smooth gluten-free ale is made from sorghum and brown rice extract, molasses, tapioca maltodextrin, caramel color, hops, and yeast." — New Planet Beer Co.

Random thoughts:  I'm drinking New Planet Off Grid Pale Ale as part of my series on gluten free beers. I'm not celiac—and am thankful.

The tasting:  Deep amber in color, crystal clear, with a white head that dissipated very quickly. Aroma of caramel, molasses, and grassy hops. In flavor, I first noticed the distinctive sorghum, which I recognized after tasting Redbridge. Some brown rice is also present. Make no mistake, this has the taste of a gluten-free beer. Grassy and citrus hop bitterness is prominent and it helps to mask some of the off-flavors. Off Grid Pale Ale is medium bodied, lightly carbonated and has a smooth mouth feel. If finishes with grassy hop bitterness.

Rating:  2 star.  Drinkablebut not sure I want to.  Hands down, I liked this better than Redbridge. But I still don't want to drink it. Based on the two I've tasted, I'm not into the flavor of sorghum-based beers.

Rating (if I was Celiac):  3 star.  Good I would drink this again if someone gives it to me.  Hop bitterness is a good thing in sorghum-based gluten free beer. I wonder if an IPA would be even better? Kudos to New Planet for providing another gluten free option. I expect celiac beer lovers appreciate it as well.

Have you tasted New Planet Off Grid Pale Ale?  What's your favorite gluten free beer?

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An Interview with Angelo De Ieso

Before I started my own blog, the beer blog I frequently visited was Brewpublic. It introduced me to the people, places, and events that made up Portland beer scene.  One of the names synonymous with that scene is Angelo. During the last 18 months, I’ve gotten to know Brewpublic founder, Angelo De Ieso, and have come to learn what many know as fact—Angelo is simply a great guy.

Angelo recently announced that he’s leaving Portland. He has been a tireless supporter and advocate for craft beer, so this will be quite a loss for the local beer community. So before he leaves, I thought it would be fun to sit down with him and take a look back—and ahead...

You've been in Portland for 14 years. What part of the country are you from and what brought you to Portland?

Angelo De Ieso:  I am originally from New England. I spent most of my youth in Maine until I was 20. Then I moved to the Bay Area, living in Oakland and San Francisco. That move was on a whim to explore what the other side of the country had to offer. I moved to Portland in 1998 to find a better quality of life and attend college at Portland State University where I received an undergraduate degree in communication. I've never dreamed of leaving until now.  

Where you a craft beer geek when you moved here? 

AD:  I was a casual craft beer drinker. My first memories involved the beers of Boston Beer Company and Geary's. My deeper passion for good beer was inspired by Lagunitas, Deschutes, BridgePort, and Full Sail. The first friend I made in Oregon, Shane Walz, really loved good beer and remains a homebrewer to this day. He really stoked the fire concerning craft beer for me.

How long have you been writing Brewpublic and how did you decide to start the blog?
AD:  Brewpublic began in 2008 after doing a bit of work for other blogs and other publications as a freelance writer. My dear friend Aaron Miles, who I met at school while at PSU encouraged the idea of blogging independently and he has been a partner and supporter in the endeavor ever since.  

Looking back at the time you've been blogging, do you have 2 or 3 particular memories or experiences (resulting from the blog) that stand out?

AD:  I remember the first time someone recognized me for what I was doing. It felt really good to know that my support of craft beer and our community was getting some traction. Today I see how many more beer bloggers there are in this area and it makes me happy to know that others care, too. There are many memorable experiences that have involved traveling and meeting new people - brewers, publicans, beer drinkers, just people in general. I love people and I love learning new things every day. And, of course, I can not forget to mention my wife Ashley, who I met through the blogging world. She interviewed me for her blog Drink With The Wench and we hit it off right away. 

What will happen to Brewpublic now that you're leaving?  

AD:  If I had a nickel for every time I was asked this question I'd be a much richer man. I am not sure. My purpose on earth extends much further than my blog, but I realize that Brewpublic has meant a lot to many people. I am really hoping to get more contributors to keep it going and encompass more of Northern California as well. A lot of what I will be doing will depend on time and realistically, finances. If anyone out there is looking to hire a talented craft beer mind with a lot of passion, knowledge, and love for the industry, please contact me! 

A huge congrats to you and Ashley on your marriage!  How did you two beer blogging titans meet?

AD:  As previously mentioned, we connected through an interview series she does on her blog that features various bloggers. I met her briefly in passing a few times prior to that, not really knowing her too well.  Once we finally met in person, we discovered a connection that we had that sparked the realization of a common goal to be healthier and happier people. We seem to give each other than push to encourage each other to be better and better. Since we've been married we've been living apart and this has been tough. So, as of today, we are planning on our lives together, and setting off on a wild journey that we anticipate leads us to realize so many new things in the world that we didn't realize before. I'm looking forward to the future together. The first time I looked into Ashley's eyes, I knew I loved her. 

Can you give us any hints about the your and Ashley's future beer plans?

AD:  I wish I had more insight on the future beer plans of mine. Right now I am leaving behind all that I know in Portland for a new and challenging world in the Bay Area. It's simultaneously scary and exciting. My ultimate goal is to help Ashley and Bison Brewing become as successful as possible. I really love the fact that Bison's owner Dan Del Grande is committed to sustainability and environmentalism. These are very important things to me. My goal is to be a part of something greater with Ashley and make a difference in my community wherever that is.

While many of us are sad to see him leave Portland, I know we are thrilled for Angelo and Ashley and wish them the best for their new life together. I have no doubt that they will make a difference! 

Cheers to you Angelo!

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Photo courtesy of Brewpublic.com

Review: Redbridge, Anheuser-Busch, Inc.

Anheuser-Busch, Inc. — St. Louis, MO

  • Style:  Gluten-Free Lager
  • Bitterness:  Not specified
  • ABV:  Not more than 4.0%  
  • Ingredients:  Water, fermented sorghum (sorghum, corn syrup), hops, yeast.
  • Calories:  127 per 12 oz.
  • Sampled:  12 oz. bottle 

Description:  "Redbridge beer doesn’t need to make promises to stand outfrom the crowd; its very essence sets it apart. Redbridge is made without wheat qor barley, so the approximately 3.2 million consumers who are unable to drink beer made with barley due to Celiac Disease or because they follow a wheat-free or gluten-free diet can once again enjoy a great tasting beer. Redbridge is a rich, full-bodied lager brewed from sorghum for a well-balanced, moderately hopped taste." — Anheuser-Busch, Inc.

Random thoughts:  I'm drinking this as part of my series on Gluten-free beer. I've profiled many different styles of beer, and to be honest, I'm not excited about tasting these. However, because the Mayor of Portland decreed yesterday to be Gluten-free Beer Day, I thought I'd drink this in a show of solidarity for the gluten intolerant.

The tasting:  Amber in color, clear, with a white head that dissipated very quickly. Aroma of bread, cereal, yeast, and spicy hops. Not bad, actually. Flavor of—so that's what sorghum tastes like! This will be a challenge to describe, but I'll give it my best shot. It starts with a cereal-like flavor along with a mild sweetness. Some grassy hops are present in the middle along with mild tartness that becomes more dominant once the beer warms up. Redbridge is light bodied, softy carbonated, and has a flat mouth feel. Overall hop bitterness is low and it finishes with light grassy hops and lingering cereal.

Rating:  2 star.  Drinkablebut not sure I want to.  There is a reason beer should be made with barley or wheat. The sorghum gives it a strange off-putting flavor that is hard to describe. My tasting notes do not adequately describe the sensory experience.

Rating (if I was Celiac):  2 star.  Drinkablebut not sure I want to.  First of all, I commend Anheuser-Busch for developing and broadly distributing a gluten-free beer. While I don't mean to diminish the plight of Celiacs, if this is their only gluten-free beer option, wine and hard cider are superior alternatives. So if I was Celiac, I'd pass on this one.

Have you tasted Redbridge? What do you think?

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Beer Run: Gluten-Free Beer

Be it known across the land, that May 16th will henceforth be known as Gluten-Free Beer Day in the City of Roses. This should be an episode of Portlandia.

In honor of this special occasion (and hopefully soon-to-be national holiday), I've decided to profile five gluten-free beers. Why on earth would a non-Celiac subject himself to such folly? I guess I'm a gluten for punishment. Please, hold your applause...

Gluten-free beers get a bad wrap because they don't match up to their gluten laden brethren when it comes to taste. Or at least they didn't.  Things are changing in the gluten-free beer world. During the next week or so, I'll profile the following gluten-free beers:

Happy Gluten-Free Beer Day! Celiacs, this brew's for you! Do you drink gluten-free beer? What are your favorites?

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Adams to Make Official Proclamation at 9:30 a.m. at City Council Meeting

Portland, Ore. (May 15, 2012) – On Wednesday, May 16 at 9:30 a.m., Mayor Sam Adams will declare it to be Gluten-Free Beer Day in Portland, Ore., and every May 16 henceforth. In an official ceremony held at City Hall, Adams will deliver the following proclamation to supporters and brewers of gluten-free beer, including Omission Beer, Deschutes Brewery and Harvester Brewing. Following is an abbreviated proclamation:

  • Whereas, May marks the annual Celiac Awareness Month, recognized by most celiac organizations and research centers across the country and throughout the world;
  • Celiac disease is one of the most common chronic diseases in Western countries;
  • According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, more than 3 million Americans have celiac disease and must monitor gluten intake, equating to 1 in 133 Americans;
  • More than 95% of Celiacs are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions;
  • A 100% gluten-free diet is the only existing treatment for celiac disease today as there are no pharmaceutical cures;
  • Portland, Ore., home to nearly 50 craft breweries, where the people of Portland know and appreciate great craft beers, is leading the effort to create gluten-free beer for those affected with gluten sensitivities;
  • The City of Portland acknowledges and applauds the efforts to declare this day in celebration of local breweries that are doing their part to bring awareness to a disease that affects many, and providing beer products specially crafted to be gluten-free for all to enjoy;
  • Now, therefore, I, Sam Adams, Mayor of the City of Portland, Oregon, the “City of Roses,” do hereby proclaim May 16, 2012 to be Gluten-Free Beer Day in Portland, and encourage all residents to observe this day.

About Omission Beer
Omission Beer is a new brand of gluten-free craft beers, available only in Oregon. Brewed by Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland, Ore., Omission is the first craft beer brand in the United States focused exclusively on brewing great tasting craft beers with traditional beer ingredients, including malted barley, that are specially crafted to be gluten-free. Each batch of Omission Beer is tested using the R5 Competitive ELISA test, to ensure that every batch contains well-below the international standard for gluten-free of 20 ppm gluten. Drinking is believing.

About Deschutes Brewery
Deschutes Brewery jumped into the gluten-free brewing scene back in 2007 and always has a gluten-free beer on tap at both its Bend and Portland pubs. After brewing 48 different batches, the goal remains to brew a great beer that is gluten-free, rather than brewing a great gluten-free beer. Although a silver and a bronze medal from the Great American Beer Festival hang on the pub walls from their process, Deschutes Brewery continues to work with different styles to serve the gluten-free world.

About Harvester Brewing
Harvester Brewing is the nation’s only dedicated gluten-free craft brewery, founded in 2011 in Portland, Ore. Harvester's northwest-style ales are handcrafted from Willamette Valley chestnuts, sorghum, certified gluten-free oats, pure cane sugar and Willamette Valley hops. Harvester's beers are made without barley, wheat, rye, corn, or dyes. Harvester Brewing’s facility is entirely gluten-free, no gluten containing items are allowed on the premises.

Review: Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout '12, Widmer Brothers

Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout '12
Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. — Portland, OR

  • Style:  Imperial Stout
  • Bitterness:  70 IBU
  • ABV:  9.3%
  • Malts:  Pale, Roast Barley, Caramel 60L, Midnight Wheat, Chocolate Malt
  • Hops:   Alchemy, Willamette, Cascade
  • Sampled: 22 oz. bottle  (full disclosure: sample provided by brewery)

Description: "An extremely rich and complex beer, the addition of raspberries during the fermentation process results in an almost purplish opaque color with a beautiful brown head. Warm chocolate and roasty notes compliment the hop bitterness." — Widmer Brothers Brewing Co. 

Random thoughts:  Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout is part of Widmer Brothers' new Alchemy Project, a line of beer made to be aged. The two other beers in the Alchemy series are Barrel Aged Brrrbon and Old Embalmer Barleywine, which will be released later this year.

The tasting:  Near black in color, with a dark tan head that dissipates very slowly. Aroma of roasted malt, coffee, and raspberry. The raspberry is prominent in aroma, but not overpowering. Very nice, overall! Flavor starts with roasted malt (which has a bit of smokiness to it) and coffee. Dark chocolate and a faint raspberry is noticeable in the middle. While strong in aroma, the raspberry is more subdued in flavor. The tartness from the raspberry does not hold up against the roasted malt and coffee. Overall sweetness is low. Hop bitterness is solid, but not as high as its 70 IBUs might imply. RRIS is medium bodied, moderately carbonated, and has a smooth mouth feel. It finishes with roasted malt and light coffee notes. The alcohol is noticeable in the middle and finish, but for a 9.3% ABV brew, it goes down quite easily.

Rating:  3 star.  Good.  I would drink this again if someone gives it to me.  I'm a big fan of Imperial Stouts and I liked RRIS. I just wish the raspberry was more prominent in flavor. In my humble opinion, the piney hop bitterness also seemed a bit out of place amongst the roasted and chocolate malt.

But hold on—this review is not complete. The beauty of the Alchemy Project is that it will show us how a well-made beer evolves over time. I've stashed away another bottle of  bottle of RRIS '12 and will taste it again in a year or two. I expect the edges of alcohol and hop bitterness will smooth out with age. Hopefully, the raspberry will emerge in flavor. We shall see. To be continued...

Have you tried Raspberry Russian Imperial Stout '12? How did you like it?

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2012 Oregon Brewers Festival: Taplist Preview

The 2012 Oregon Brewers Festival kicks off in just 78 days! Clear your schedule, hire a baby sitter, and / or make a doggie daycare reservation. This year's event will feature at least 124 beers (84 in the main tent and 40 in the Buzz tent). In addition, the festival will feature a Sour Tent. Yes, a sour tent! It's going to be great!

Back in March, I shared a list of participating breweries and figured out which ones are new, returning, and not returning.  Yesterday, OBF organizers have gave me a sneak preview of the main tent taplist. Check it out below. The list is preliminary and you will see some TBA (to be announced beers).

You may now commence initial planning of your tasting strategy. Unfortunately, my well planned strategies are usually abandoned after a few tastings.  But that's half the fun, isn't it?

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Photo by Timothy Horn.  Courtesy of  Oregon Brewers Festival

Beer Name
10 Barrel Brewing Co.
Bling-Bling American Sour Raspberry
21 st Amendment Brewery
Bitter American
Alameda Brewing Co.
Huckleberry Hound IPA
Alaskan Brewing Company
Alaskan Oatmeal Stout
Anderson Valley Brewing Co
Summer Solstice
Ballast Point Brewing Co
Sculpin IPA
Bayern Brewing, Inc.
Bayern Dark Doppel Bock
Bear Republic Brewing Company
Black Racer™
Beer Valley Brewing
Oregonberry Wheat Ale
Bison Brewing
Honey Basil Ale
Boulder Beer Co
Boulevard Brewing Co
Boundary Bay Brewery
Double Dry Hopped Delta Pale Ale
BridgePort Brewing Company
Stump Town Tart
Caldera Brewing Company
Caldera Hop Hash
Cascade Brewing Co
Coalition Brewing Co
Cream Ale
Pineapple Express
Columbia River Brewing Co.
Rye Not IPA
Deschutes Brewery
Armory XPA
Deschutes Brewery
Gluten Free
Dick's Brewing Co.
Dick's Dubbel Trouble
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
Double Mountain Brewery & Taproom
Dunedin Brewery
IPA Chronicle: FL-Oregon Trail
Eel River Brewing Co
climax extra pale
Electric Brewing
Electric beer
Elysian Brewing Company
Space Dust IPA
Epic Brewing Co.
Epic Hop Syndrome Lager
Fearless Brewing Company
Fearless Scottish Ale
Fire Mountain Brew House
Tan Line Summer IPA
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Wookey Jack
Flat Tail Brewing Co.
White Light / White Ale
Flyers Restaurant and Brewery
Pacemaker Porter
Flying Fish Brewing Co.
Exit 16 Wild Rice IPA
Fort George Brewery & Public House
Quick Wit
Full Sail Brewing Co
Full Sail Brewer's Share Chris's Summer Delight
Gigantic Brewing Co
Golden Valley Brewery
Rose` de Vallee`
GoodLife Brewing Company
Traditions Oak Aged Pale Ale
Green Flash  Brewing Co
Imperial IPA
Hale's Ales Brewery and Pub
Hale's Supergoose IPA
Hopworks Urban Brewery
Evelyn imperial Sunshine Ipa
Kona Brewing Co
Lagunitas Brewing Co
Oregon Fusion
Laurelwood  Brewing Co
Portlandia Pilsner
Logsdon Farmhouse Ales
Kili Wit
Lompoc Brewing Co
Saison on the Beach
Lucky Labrador Brewing Company
Ale x
Maui Brewing Co
La Perouse White
Mcmenamins John Barleycorns
Freewill IPA
Moylan's Brewing Company
Pomegranate Wheat Ale
Mt. Emily Ale House
Organic Honey Strawberry Ale
Natian Brewery
Elephante' Red Ale
New Belgium Brewing
Ninkasi Brewing Co
Lady of Avalon
Oakshire Brewing
Occidental Brewing Co
Odell Brewing Company
St. Lupulin Extra Pale Ale
Old Market pub and brewery
Cherried alive
Oregon Trail Brewery
Oregon Trail Lavender Ale
Paradise Creek Brewery
Dirty Blonde
Pelican Pub & Brewery
Winema Wit
Phat Matt's Brewing Co
Prodigal Son Brewery & Pub
Splendor in the Glass V: The Splendor Under the Stairs
Pyramid Breweries
Outburst Imperial IPA
Ram Restaurant & Brewery
Berry White
Red Rock Brewing Co.
Red Rock Elephino Double  I.P.A
Redhook Brewery
Rock Bottom
Teddy's Sunburn Red Kölsch
Rogue Brewery
Russian River Brewing Co
Row 2 / Hill 56 - The Story of Simcoe
Seven Brides Brewing Co
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co
Sprecher Brewery
Sprecher Mai Bock
Stone Brewing Co.
Dogfish Head / Victory / Stone, Saison du BUFF
Summit Brewing Co
Unchained #10 Belgian Abbey Ale
Terminal Gravity Brewing
Uinta Brewing Company
Hop Notch
Upright Brewing Company
Utah Brewers Cooperative
Wasatch White Label White Ale
Vertigo Brewing
Tropical Blonde
Widmer Brothers Brewing Co
Widmer Brothers Brewing Co