Your Personal Halloween Variety Pack of Craft Beers

Goblins, Gould and Gourds – a guide to scary good beers for your Halloween 12-Pack

Humboldt House Jack O' Lanterns

These are gourds. They might also be goblins or ghouls.

Halloween is prime time for scaring your friends into drinking devilishly delicious craft brews. This Halloween Variety Pack should help you bring that house party to the next level. Consider each of these bottles a love potion that will convert the non-believers to craft—forever. Get the full guide on Eventbrite.com/Rally.   Continue reading

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Take a Tour of the ‘Bestest’ Beer Bars and Brewpubs in Greenpoint

A single malt and single hop (SMaSH) pint at Dirck the Norseman.

A single malt and single hop (SMaSH) pint awaits live music and schnitzel at Dirck the Norseman.

Orr Shtuhl is a director of user experience at a web design agency, Blenderbox, a cheese pairing instructor at Bedford Cheese Shop and Murray’s Cheese, and a resident of Brooklyn. Why do you need to know this? Because he’s also a beer expert, and he wants to give you “the bestest” tour of bars and brewpubs in what he believes to be New York’s supreme neighborhood for beer: Greenpoint.

When Shtuhl decided to launch The Bestest, the name for his craft beer touring company that will begin tours in November, he had locals’ interests in mind.

“[Greenpoint] is the best neighborhood for beer in New York right now,” says Shtuhl, who lives and works in the neighborhood, and plans to give tours on the side. “It has everything that’s good about beer in New York right now, and it’s still largely undiscovered. There are two brewpubs here within walking distance from each other—that’s insane!” Continue reading

Beer and Cheese Pairing Guidelines [Infographic]

There are a few places where the harmony of beer and cheese have been brought to my attention: at the Mondial de la Bière festival in Montreal, where trays of cheeses I’d never seen before sat casually beside rows of Quebec-brewed beer; at Otter Creek Brewing in Middlebury, Vt., where one can enjoy a plate of award-winning cheeses with a pint of award-winning Wolaver’s Pumpkin Ale; and of course, in my own kitchen, where we regularly experiment with flavor combinations in our favorite foods and brews. (There are few last-minute lunches more satisfying than a gouda and sharp cheddar grilled cheese with a homebrewed American pale ale—I urge you to try it).

The practice of beer pairing can be applied to any food item or cuisine, but doing it with cheese has a history older than the swiss you’ll want to pair with a bock after reading this. For those new to the practice, this infographic from Visually* slices beer and cheese pairing into bite-sized guidelines that anyone can enjoy and experiment with.

Please do try this at home:

Beer and Cheese Pairing Guide

 *Beer & Cheese Pairing Guidelines was originally posted on the RedEnvelope blog, which apparently no longer exists.

Craft Beer is Not a Fad

In a food and beverage market in which new iterations of products vie for consumers’ attention daily, if not hourly, a certain caste of critics like to claim that craft beer is a fad, a class of drinks in fashion for the time being that will eventually—perhaps literally—fizzle out. It is these commentators who are perfectly content sticking to the American lagers of yore, cracking bottle after bottle of Budweiser, patiently waiting for consumers to return to their comfort zone of cheap, flavorless beer.

Yet, as in other industries in which a new trend took hold of the nation, the beer industry is not simply experiencing a blip that will be forgotten when things return to business as usual. Business is not going to change to usual. The craft beer craze is here to stay, and it’s only going to continue growing as big beer companies, or at least their subpar products, gradually lose the ability to quench beer drinkers’ thirst for good beer.

The Levis Theory: Craft Beer is Here for Good (and Gender Neutral)

Craft beer is the denim jeans of pants. True, beer has its en vogue styles—double and imperial IPAs, Brettanomyces-fermented “horse blanket” sours and barrel aged-to-infinity barley wines may go the way of whitewashed jeans, Capri jeans and bell bottom jeans—but just as denim came into the picture and never left, people are not going to change their minds about drinking beer that better suits their needs.  Perhaps radical at the time, denim became a staple of the American (and Western) wardrobe for men and women everywhere, and people never stopped wearing it. They’re not going to stop drinking better beer, either.

The Playstation Theory: Craft Beer is Adapting to a Changing Market

Whether a gamer, Gen X-er, parent or arguably none of the above, almost everybody knows what Nintendo is. It’s the video game company that created Mario, the Mickey Mouse of video games, the arcade game from Japan that changed the world.

However, ask any modern gamer about Nintendo today, and they’ll shrug. No longer at the forefront of video game innovation, Nintendo has fallen by the wayside while it produces game after game with the same characters, for the same media. In the meantime, other, newer, console companies have been competing for first place: X Box and Playstation.

Playstation is continually coming out with new consoles, controllers, games and stories. Playstation 1, 2, 3 and 4 have each been relevant and coveted, even with X Box and X Box Live as its competitors. Year after year, both systems create new reasons to buy their consoles, their extensions, their games and those games’ new features.

Perhaps the most important distinction between Playstation/X Box and Nintendo is the existence and availability of (free) games in a medium that’s very important to players: the Internet (and in particular, mobile devices). While other video game companies have adapted to new technologies available to game players, Nintendo has famously faltered, preventing its products from becoming available for free or on mobile devices, and as such, it has been left behind. By refusing to adapt to changing consumer demands, the video game giant has become less successful.

As craft brewers invent new ways to make beer and create more locally-focused brews, holding their audience from batch to batch, big beer companies like Bud are slowly but steadily losing market share.

The Mrs. Meyers Theory: Craft Beer Costs More Because it’s Better for You and the Environment

When I was growing up, two or three brands of cleaning products shouted out for shoppers at local supermarkets. Chemicals had to be kept out of sight and under kitchen sinks because they could kill your children. Somewhere, meanwhile, Mrs. Meyers was brewing up new recipes for soaps and household cleaners in her eco-friendly kitchen.

As more environmentally conscious brands tried their hand at products that could actually clean your house without killing you—and look and smell good while they were doing—the next generation of house-cleaning consumers emerged. Names like “Method” and “Honest” bumped their pretty bottles up against harsh names on large containers like “Clorox” and “Windex.” Mrs. Meyers moved in next to Mr. Clean.

Budweiser and Coors may not be poison – I still drink it from time to time, just like I still use bleach to scrub my tiles from time to time – bleach will still clean your tiles incredibly well, just like Budweiser will still give you a buzz. But put simply, when there are better options, wouldn’t you rather do it better?

Compared to macro beers, micro-brewed beer is better for you because its ingredients maintain their nutritional integrity. In other words, the malted barley that is used to make beer and the liquid that’s extracted from it (along with what’s extracted from fruits, herbs and other ingredients included in many microbrews) stays present in the beer that you end up drinking.

This is not the case for major “lawnmower lagers.” Big brands remove much of the nutritional content in their beers via pasteurization to ensure homogeneity prior to sale. Craft brewers not only combat this “empty calories” scenario, but even serve to benefit the bodies of the health-conscious—used as a recovery beverage after a period of physical exertion, craft beer can actually replenish runners’ or cyclists’ electrolytes, as well as rebuild much needed muscle tissue due to vitamins present. (In fact, one Dutch study performed at the TNO Nutrition and Food Research Institute found that craft beer drinkers had 30 percent higher levels of vitamin B6 in their blood than non-drinkers, and twice as much vitamin B6 as wine drinkers.)

In my own experience, I have seen a considerable difference in the benefits of micro vs. macro beers in another area related to their ingredients: consumption. For myself and many friends, it has often been the assumption and practice that light beers are made for drinking in large quantities. Thanks to their being cheap, watered-down and easy to “chug,” they are ubiquitously present on college campuses to drink during activities that encourage binge drinking. If only for the sheer volume of bad beer drinking habits (beer pong, anyone?), experiences I’ve had and witnessed among the likes of Coors and Natural Light are not ones I would deign to repeat.

Craft beer, on the other hand, is meant to be savored. Even over a period of several hours, two companions might share two or four beers, as opposed to the dozen or more that could be crushed between the same people in the same amount of time otherwise. Studies have proven the benefits of moderate consumption of beer, qualifying the beverage as part of a healthy diet that can promote well-being, decrease risk of Alzheimer’s, achieve cancer-fighting antioxidants and contribute to LDL or “good cholesterol” which prevents heart disease. (Even further, a 2009 Tufts University study revealed that elderly test subjects who consumed a moderate amount of beer every day achieved higher bone density than those who abstained.)

Consumers’ tendency toward fewer, better, more thoughtfully crafted beers of a wide variety isn’t limited to “trendy” areas, either—the trend is taking hold across the United States, and it’s happening so rapidly in every region that a recent Brewers Association survey determined the majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a local brewery.

A fad implies a temporary fixation with a product or cultural item. The thousands of microbreweries cropping up across the country may be new, and surely many will fail. But the industry at its core will not fail and it is not temporary. Craft beer is a movement, both culturally and economically. As we gain more access to small and independent brewing companies making beers with fresh, local ingredients, we and the next generation of beer consumers will lose interest in lagers lacking flavor, inventiveness and versatility. We’re not drinking craft beer because it’s cool. We’re drinking it because we finally can.

#WomanCrushWednesday: Mellie Pullman

Now in a millennial world, it’s not so surprising that women are joining the beer community in troves, stepping onto the scene as sales representatives, marketing coordinators, reporters (ahem) and imbibers, and—although they are still few—brewers and brewmasters.

But before there were us gals who started appreciating good beer post-2000 (although we still may feel uniquely, utterly female in a scene that continues to be dominated by beer guts and beards), there were women like Mellie Pullman, who I’d like to spotlight for my first #WomanCrushWednesday (#WCW) post here on Beer Affair.

I do not mean this in the literal or romantic sense, as I’ve never met Pullman personally, I mean it simply in the sense that my “love affair with beer” (where the name Beer Affair came from) is due in part to women who flew their freak flags high before it was popular, or even possible, for gals like me to be a part of the beer community.

cbb-replantingtheseeds

“Replanting the Seeds of Brewing,” Craft Beer & Brewing, May 15, 2015.

After re-reading a feature written by Tara Nurin in Craft Beer & Brewing last month, “Replanting the Seeds of Brewing,” I was reminded of all of the women I have yet to meet, the history I have yet to learn, and the amazing strides women have made in this still-young industry since it began its second wind in the 1980s.

As a young woman swept up into the romance of the craft beer world just five or so years ago, I have to acknowledge the true pioneers before me, and commend these ladies for stepping up to the plate when it was even harder to be a female in a male dominated business like beer. (Or, as Nurin phrases it, for each woman who had to “finesse her way out of enough brewer-as-bearded-German-guy stereotypes.”)

In the days before national women’s industry groups like the Pink Boots Society (and in my case, local groups like the Beerded Ladies), these gals were among the first to explore the beer business, truly planting the “seeds” that sprouted roles for women in the brewing industry today. Among the “firsts” these femmes accomplished, Pullman is particularly #WCW-worthy for the following:

1. She was first female brewmaster in contemporary U.S. history;

2. She helped bring Utah its first brewery, Wasatch Brewery, in 1986; and

3. She lobbied to modernize the alcohol laws in Utah which were, even up until the late 80s, quite restrictive.

Beginning with Pullman and moving through the significance several more, Nurin’s article attributes beer props to Beth Hartwell, who co-founded Hart Brewing in Kalama, Wash. (now Pyramid Breweries) in 1984; Rosemarie Certo, who co-founded Dock Street Brewing in Philadelphia in 1985; Carol Stoudt, who became the nation’s first female sole proprietor-brewer in 1987; Barbara Groom and Wendy Pound, the first female ownership team in the industry, who opened Lost Coast Brewing in Eureka, Calif. in 1990; and Teri Fahrendorf, currently specialty malt account manager at Great Western Malting in Vancouver, Wash., who entered the industry at 1988 as a brewing intern and now has 19 years’ experience as a brewmaster and brewery supervisor at various locations.

Although you can take the woman out of the brewing industry (according to Nurin, Pullman left her post at Wasatch just three years after co-founding it), you can’t take the brewing industry out of the woman—Pullman is now serving as an associate professor at Portland State University, where she teaches several courses in the Business of Craft Brewing Certificate program.

Thoughts on L.A. BEER, the new webseries sitcom now streaming on YouTube

I take a positive tack on beer related ventures, so I’m not going to say L.A. BEER is terrible. All sitcoms are terrible. These guys and gals are trying though, and if it’s in the name of getting beer making in front of the masses, then I can try, too. The problem I have is, there’s hardly any beer making. Fair enough, but if we’re to assume the show is casting a wide net to catch viewers, then they’re missing the mark on two counts. For the beer nerds, there’s definitely not much going on in the beer knowledge department. For the vaguely beer curious, it’s unclear what these people are doing in their office every day if it’s not brewing.

In the five webisodes released in time for American Craft Beer Week, we see the struggle of fictional Los Angeles microbrewery, Silver Screen Brewing (how cute), in five quick and disheartening stages. In episode one, “New Brew,” the latest beer fails because it was made with a stinky Asian fruit (durian) in the brewer’s futile attempt to make something exotic (if that’s a reference to Ex Novo brewmaster, Jason Barbee, who brewed a Jacked Up Saison with one hundred cans of jackfruit, it’s only a compliment).

In episode two, “Silverlake Strawberry Ale,” another beer fails and is protested against by an angry mob of flannel-wearing mothers due to its kid-friendly label art (because hipster moms). In episode three, “Straight Up Shandy,” the boss fails to recognize one if his employees is homosexual, and said employee fails to stand up for himself (because being gay is hard and older white men don’t get it). Episode four, “Culver City Crowdfunding,” chronicles a Kickstarter campaign to can a beer gone wrong (because millennials) and episode five, “Fairfax Beer Fast” (where exactly is this brewery, anyway?), takes us through the lovely journey of the female employees attempting a juice cleanse that makes them go crazy to the point of becoming demonic, while the men have fun doing a beer cleanse (because girls are insane and think beer makes them fat).

Basically, these first introductions show nothing but failure in every corner of the brewing industry, from the launch of the brewery to the flagship beer to the marketing and distribution. Mix this in with a few staid personality types (the marketing bitch, the internet-and-approval-crazed intern, the gay guy and the clueless boss), a few lesbian and hipster jokes (or lesbian hipster jokes, as episode two would have it), and a few jabs at #craftbeerproblems and you’ve got yourself a sitcom. I guess?

The five episodes streaming right now total about 25 minutes all together, so it’s fair to say the production had to cut to the chase in terms of telling us who’s who and setting up their struggle. Fine, it’s your plot. But the parts that reinstate social assumptions like girls not drinking craft beer—even when it’s literally their job—leave room for improvement.

Some things the show is correct in portraying is that starting a brewery is hard, that the craft beer business involves a myriad of stages and issues and departments outside of the brewing itself, and that even brewers struggle to keep up with beer styles and sex appeal in a social media saturated market. But is it realistic? I don’t know, I’ve never worked in a brewery. My initial question still remains, though: Where’s the beer?

ICYMI: Sugarburg Has Coffee Now

In case you missed it:

Sugarburg, one of my favorite places in the city right now, has added coffee to their repertoire. This development makes the establishment pretty much perfect.

  1. It’s beautifully built and designed, with artistic, woodsy, creative facets the owner and his brothers and friends built by hand (inspired by Burning Man).
  2. It’s located on Williamsburg’s most convenient corner, Metropolitan and Union Ave., where the L and G train meet gracefully at the bar’s doorstep.
  3. The craft beer selection is impeccable and sizable while carefully curated, and constantly changing.
  4. The food is great, oh man, the brussels sprouts, and the poutine which might be the best in the borough.
  5. They specialize in whiskey, also—NBD.
  6. NOW THEY HAVE COFFEE.

The new coffee program is headed by lead barista Michael Mason, serving up flat whites, cold brew and drip by way of Brooklyn Roasting Company, accompanied by a full espresso bar. As an extra bonus, pastries have been added to the menu, too.

Check out the news in my post on Brokelyn—the title of this post is a link.

 

Bringing Beer-Enhanced Improv to Brooklyn

BeerProv at Littlefield

The BeerProv crew poses with the Mug of Champions at Littlefield, March 10, 2015.

BeerProv, an improv comedy troupe that utilizes beer drinking in its performances, made its Brooklyn debut at Littlefield last week. About a month before the show, I had interviewed the group’s founder, Jim Robinson, after we connected somehow on Twitter. He set aside tickets for myself and a guest to attend the event, and without knowing it, I was in for a treat.

It doesn’t take much to get me interested in someone’s passion project—pair a fresh idea with a drive to get it out there, and I’m probably I’m board. Put the word “beer” in your project, and I’m definitely on board.

BeerProv on stage

Throughout the show, BeerProv players shared sips of Narragansett on stage.

“BeerProv” is so named not because it has any specific ties to the beer industry, nor a sophisticated knowledge of craft beer (a knowledge that, it seems, is second nature to so many of us beer bloggers and lovers, yet is a world of mystery to other imbibers). The beer on stage was Narragansett, which Robinson could barely pronounce—he and BeerProv originate in Toronto, so we let that one go—and the “beer” part of BeerProv became apparent simply by the players drinking beer throughout the show. Sometimes between skits, sometimes during a sketch, and always with a “cheers” with the audience when a game was complete.

There’s been a lot of talk about improv lately; its core principals, its usefulness in business, and its ability to pull out a person’s comfortability in front of a crowd that perhaps was buried. But what I found most inspiring about the show was that it made us adult audience members feel like kids again. When Robinson called on the audience for names of countries for a skit, silly answers like “Paris” and “Pirates” came out, obvious missteps (as neither of those are countries) that would not fly in a conference room, but are jovially accepted in an improv show—in fact, pirates was chosen as a possible qualifier (the skit involved mimicking different accents).

BeerProv epic scene

The BeerProv finalists performed a 3-minute rendition of the Wizard of Oz.

As for the audience members, one couldn’t ask for a better crowd. Small enough to feel intimate, large enough to feel significant (especially in a borough so saturated with talent), and overall complimentary and positive. I spoke to a gentleman named Mike who came with a group of friends; he told me this would be his third time seeing the BeerProv show. He liked it so much, he’s attended every New York performance the group has had (this was the Brooklyn debut, but it had previously run last year in Manhattan). On the restroom line later in the night, attendees chattered about the show, how funny it was, and how it was “better than expected.”

It’s funny, that reaction. While certainly a compliment, it states that one hadn’t expected something to be that good. I’m guilty of the same—I hadn’t know what to expect, really—I’m not much of an improv fan, or comedy show goer for that matter. I, too, was more than pleasantly surprised. Robinson and his hand-picked crew of New York comedians put on a show that felt, honestly, like a group experience with friends.

BeerProv audience

A captivated BeerProv audience at Littlefield.

Beer is a very important part of social situations and public performances. In general, audience members, especially at venues like this one, are drinking throughout the events they attend. Oftentimes, the performers are drinking, too, but do it discretely, or keep it back stage. But not BeerProv. BeerProv makes it front and center, tells us it’s okay and fun, and connects us during intermittent “cheers!” moments between audience and stage. The crew is happy, the onlookers are happy, and the bar is certainly happy.

As a final thought, I’ll say this: give BeerProv a chance. I think the group could get big in Brooklyn, and I know I’ll be at their next show.

Photos by Patrick Phillips.