Friday, March 30, 2012

Session Beer Day Update

If you read the solitary comment to Wednesday's "Get Your Session On!" post, you will know that McGrady's here in Charlottesville currently has the following sub 5% abv beers available:
  • Guinness Draught (4.3%)
  • Allagash White Ale (5.0%)
  • Smithwick's Ale (4.5%)
  • Harp Lager (5.0%)
  • Starr Hill Dark Starr Stout (4.2%)
  • Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat (4.2%)
  • Devils' Backbone Vienna Lager (4.9%)
After taking up Scott on his offer to email with suggestions, I am happy to say that McGrady's will have the following beers on tap in time for Session Beer Day next Saturday:
In my continuing efforts to see more Williams Brothers beer from Scotland on the taps of Charlottesville, I mentioned to Scott that they do a couple of session beers, mainly Scottish Session at 3.9% and the Scottish Heavy, known at home as the 80/-, which is 4.2%. Also Joker IPA is a phenomenal beer and at 5% isn't quite a session beer, but is a gorgeous beer that I am happy to drink a few pints of.

Scott also mentioned that session beers will be on special that day and there will be live music from 8 to 11, so get along and get your session on!

Hopefully I'll have an update on Beer Run's Session Beer Day offerings at some point, and if anyone knows any other pubs in Charlottesville or the area doing something special to promote session beer, let me know!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Get Your Session On!

I love session beers.

Sure, I have written about it before, but I don't think the situation can be over stated. Session beers are, in my consistently unhumble opinion, the best kind of beers to drink. When everything is said and done, I guess I am really just a guy who likes going to the pub and drinking flavourful, low-alcohol beer whilst chatting with my mates, shooting some pool and generally having a laugh. I have even stopped taking a camera and paper notebook with me and my social life has improved immensely as a result.

I really don't care that much whether the upper limit for a session beer should be 4% or 4.5% , mainly because in the US drinking only sub 4% beers would essentially make you the designated driver because there is bugger all to drink at the level. Admittedly one of my beers of choice lately is only 3.9%, the magnificent Scottish Session from Williams Brothers in Alloa, but I have only seen it in bottles so far.

As you can imagine then, I think Session Beer Day on April 7th is a fantastic idea and hopefully the pubs of Charlottesville will have something in the sub 4.5% range available to drink (assuming of course I am not working in the Starr Hill tasting room that day, in which case I will fill a growler with their 4.2% Dark Starr Stout, and perhaps re-run my glassware experiment).

The pubs I usually go to these days are Beer Run and McGrady's, an "Irish" pub with a decent enough beer selection, a pool table and a proper pub atmosphere. Hopefully we'll see some session beers on at both places in time for Session Beer Day, and going forward I would love to see at least 1 tap at each place permanently given over to beers people can drink plenty of.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Is It Worth It?

Over the weekend the landlord of the Gunmakers in London tweeted about a female CAMRA member (yes, really, a female member of CAMRA - do they get issued with beardy wigs?) requesting her 20p discount for the pint she had just ordered and then being horrified at the price. The pint in question cost £3.90, which at current market rates is €4.67 or $6.14, and no CAMRA discount was forthcoming.

This got me thinking about the price of beer in a pub, because to be perfectly honest, it wouldn't bother me all that much paying £3.90 for a pint of cask ale right in the heart of London. When I was in Paris over the Christmas holiday, I was paying €8 (£6.68/$10.60) a pint at the various Frog and Rosbif pubs we went to. Even here in small town Virginia, Charlottesville is about three-quarters the size of Inverness, I regularly pay $6 (£3.78/€4.51) for a proper pint, as in an Imperial pint or 20oz, in the few places that serve them. The usual price for a 16oz American pint is about $5, which equates to £3.15 or €3.77.

I am deliberately not including the price of drinking the best lager in the world in Europe's most beautiful city, because the economics of beer are completely different in Prague - the most expensive beer is Pilsner Uruqell, while the phenomenal Kout na Šumavě 12° is usually about two-thirds of the price.

So, what am I getting when I pull up a stool at the bar and hand over my 6 dollars, 4 quid, or 4 Euro 50? Obviously I am presented with a pint of beer, hopefully with a nice head sitting atop the beer itself - I am not bothered about losing half an inch of beer in the glass to head, though I can imagine those asking for a 20p discount would quibble about that as well. A portion of the money, which having just changed hands is no longer mine, goes to the pleasure of having my beer handed to me by a member of staff. If I wanted to pay for the pleasure of getting my own beer, I'd install a coin slot on the fridge door. Assuming that the Gunmakers has electric lighting and some form of heating, a portion of the money will go to paying the bills, and of course the tax man wants his cut. Also, let's not forget that the landlord needs to make a living or there won't a pub for me to drink in.

It would be an interesting pie chart to see exactly where this £3.90 actually goes, and I would guess that the profit on a pint of cask ale in central London is fairly small. I also wonder if this is the main reason for the many pubs shutting across the UK these days, there simply isn't a decent living to be made.

The question then is, how much do you pay for your pint when you go to your local, and do you feel as though you are getting value?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Just a few women and their beer in the heart of Canada’s capital - Guest Post

Today I am very happy to have a guest post from Renée Francoeur, someone that I "met" (you know what I mean) through the good graces of Twitter. There are some more details about her after the post, so I will duck out without further ado!

This is a toast to Ninkasi, the ancient Sumerian goddess of beer.

When I first moved to Ottawa for school I knew little to nothing about beer.

In fact, a beer to me was a solely a Coors Light – that was the standard. The wheaty smell of those Coors beer caps was a way I identified my uncle Kevin and the scent of summer of their cottage on murky Lake Huron.

It was also a lightning bolt flash back to New Years Eve 2005 when a friend had stolen two from her mother’s fridge for us to try under a blanket of snow, down a back road, walking in ripped, acid-wash jeans and screamo band t-shirts we thought made us stand-offish and cool.

Everyone drank Coors. Except my father who, true to his western roots, had about three Kokanees every year – if that.

But I should have known the artistic, microbrewed family of the golden grain beverage would eventually worm its way into my thirsty heart – by a fluke I ended up with a case of beer I’d never heard of before for prom. Then I was really the cool, aloof kid. Imported from the Netherlands. Bavaria, it was called. Heineken has nothing on those green bottles.

Ottawa, for the seemingly boring grey pantsuit city of politics it is, has a plethora of dark corner bars with academic personalities.

I came to relish quite a few of them. Especially Clocktower on Bank, Irene’s and of course the often forgotten O’Gradys, tucked down in the south side.

But, for the glory of craft beer and our favourite spot for gatherings, I have to mention the Arrow and Loon, perfectly located in the Glebe where many of us poor Carleton students lived in tiny apartments on the third floors of old houses with fire escapes and bathrooms the size of linen closets.

Here, I discovered real beer. It also led to a hell of a project for an arts reporting class.

Every now and then it happens; you come across a place worth branding into your memory, a place whose half wall wainscoting and scuffed up hardwood floors gets under your fingernails like savory smelling sawdust.

The Arrow and Loon in Ottawa did that.

Since those days of my undergrad, I’ve gone for a pint in too many places to recall across Ontario (including the Wheat Sheaf, Toronto’s oldest bar – check it) and now I’m drifting into small bars in Alberta (recently drowned a glass of Wild Rose Wheat ale at the locally owned Cities gastro pub in Red Deer and wasn’t sorry for it) . . . but nothing holds me like the Arrow and the Loon.

There’s just something so homey about a place where the waitress recognizes you . . . where you can get a good, local burger for half price . . . where the list of beer is lengthy and full like a garden on the cusp of harvest . . .

Upon my first visit to the Arrow and Loon, my friend Valerie and I asked the bartender to recommend a beer.

“Kichesippi,” he said without hesitation.

I liked the way the name – Algonquin for “great river” – fizzed on my tongue.

From the first sip of that all malt pale ale, so citrusy and dashed with a whisper of a zippy bitterness that swipes clean your palate, we were soldiers of the local brand (you can’t get Kichesippi anywhere else but within the Ottawa region).

Who knew beer wasn’t supposed to be watery? Who knew it could fit on a gradient of flavours, to be fitted with foods like the over-done society of wines?

We got ourselves to a brewery. And we went on a tour. And these women learned about their barley, hops, fermentation, and how to uses herbs and fruit as natural flavouring.

At the time, we didn’t know of any other places we could get Kichesippi (though we later found ourselves at a wine bar of all places where we could go for our honey-coloured liquid) so we stayed true to the Arrow and Loon.

Breakfast dates commenced there. Afternoon catch-ups after a studious week of essays or exams. Waupoos cider evenings to soothe mid-semester anxiety. Pitchers of some type of apricot ale straight from Montreal for tear-stained nights of healing hearts that had been through the sewer system and down the falls at Hogsback. We’d go watch UFC fights there and order Kichesippi or Beau’s lugtread lagered ale, handcrafted with organic malts.

Turned out Valerie and I knew how to order better beer than most boys we took there (they lacked experimental appetites when it came to their choosing their hops).

Our time at the Arrow and Loon was short – I only discovered their cask beers as I was packing up, saddled with my degree, to move 600 km away for a magazine job.

What I would give now to sit down at one of their dark wood tables for two, out on the patio in the quiet night, and ask Valerie about her day over a cool glass of Kichesippi.

Ah those glory university drinking days. It was the time. It was the place. We were the women. And the craft brew went down good and easy. Bulls eye of an arrow shot.

Renée Francoeur is a 23 year-old writer and proud feminist. She's currently working as a reporter in Red Deer, Alberta. She loves vegetable gardening, baking from scratch, watching brick houses go up, singing Cher and Reba at the top of her lungs while dancing in the kitchen with her mother, exploring old tombstone inscriptions, and eating and of course drinking local.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

From Dortmund to Pilsen

One of my homebrew projects that I have been keeping under wraps of late is my first attempt at a pale lager, which has taken the place of Černý Lev in the lagering tank at the back of my fridge. It was another case of brewing on a whim because the temperature in my cellar was sitting at the perfect range for a cold fermentation and I wanted to put into action the things I had learnt with the tmavé.

The main purpose of both of my first lagers was to test out the viability of cold fermentation in a Virginia winter and to continue testing my rather rough and ready lagering system. As such I didn't do a decoction mash of any kind, although once Mrs Velkyal and I are sorted with the house we are looking to buy and I have extra brewing space in the garage, then I plan to start doing so. Just a minor aside, one of the first things I will do when we move in is get the well water tested so I can see what beer styles are best suited to my water source.

Anyway, back to the pale lager sat in the lagering tank. As it was a first attempt at a pale lager, and for purely illogical reasons, I didn't want to brew a variation on the theme of Pilsner Urquell, so I decided to brew a Dortmunder Export, which the BJCP guidelines (love 'em or loath 'em) describe as being:
  • Aroma: Low to medium noble (German or Czech) hop aroma. Moderate Pils malt aroma; can be grainy to somewhat sweet. May have an initial sulfury aroma (from water and/or yeast) and a low background note of DMS (from Pils malt). No diacetyl.
  • Appearance: Light gold to deep gold, clear with a persistent white head.
  • Flavor: Neither Pils malt nor noble hops dominate, but both are in good balance with a touch of malty sweetness, providing a smooth yet crisply refreshing beer. Balance continues through the finish and the hop bitterness lingers in aftertaste (although some examples may finish slightly sweet). Clean, no fruity esters, no diacetyl. Some mineral character might be noted from the water, although it usually does not come across as an overt minerally flavor.
  • Mouthfeel: Medium body, medium carbonation.
  • Overall Impression: Balance and smoothness are the hallmarks of this style. It has the malt profile of a Helles, the hop character of a Pils, and is slightly stronger than both.
  • Comments: Brewed to a slightly higher starting gravity than other light lagers, providing a firm malty body and underlying maltiness to complement the sulfate-accentuated hop bitterness. The term "Export" is a beer strength category under German beer tax law, and is not strictly synonymous with the "Dortmunder" style. Beer from other cities or regions can be brewed to Export strength, and labeled as such.
  • History: A style indigenous to the Dortmund industrial region, Dortmunder has been on the decline in Germany in recent years.
  • Ingredients: Minerally water with high levels of sulfates, carbonates and chlorides, German or Czech noble hops, Pilsner malt, German lager yeast.
  • OG: 1.048 – 1.056
  • IBUs: 23 – 30
  • FG: 1.010 – 1.015
  • SRM: 4 – 6
  • ABV: 4.8 – 6.0%
Thus my recipe was very simple:
  • 94% Bohemian Pilsner malt
  • 6% Aromatic malt
  • 21 IBU Spalt hops @ 90 minutes
  • 6.5 IBU Spalt hops @ 15 minutes
  • 0.5 IBU Spalt hops @ 1 minute
  • 2 packets Wyeast 2308 Munich Lager
Using 2 packets of yeast rather than just 1 meant I had a quick kick off to fermentation and within 12 hours had a very healthy looking krausen and rampant bubbling, and so the beer sat at 48ºF for nearly 3 weeks, only coming indoors to get up to 68º for a couple of days diacetyl rest. The original gravity fell from 1.048 to 1.012, giving me a nice 4.8% abv. Admittedly my numbers are at the low end of the spectrum for a Dortmunder, so I took an executive decision to relabel it a German Pilsner, speaking of labels, here is the one I designed for it:

It should be ready for drinking some time in May.

Monday, March 19, 2012

You Need Glasses Mate

Friday was a day off, as I mentioned in my post that day. It was also the day that Whole Foods did a half price special on growler fills. Not wanting to get stuck in a queue I decided to get along early to fill a couple of my growlers with delights for the weekend, thus is was that I walked out with a couple of litres of Victory Prima Pils and Potter's Craft Cider. The Pils was bascially the best beer available, pretty much everything was "Belgian" or a beer with added "flavour" like apricot or cocoa, and Mrs Velkyal likes cider so I figured I's get her a treat, old romantic that I am.

I didn't originally have any special plans for the Pils, but whilst wandering around the shops yesterday I decided to do a taste comparison that I have been meaning to do for a while now, 1 beer, 6 glasses. From my cupboard I pulled an American pint glass, a nonic, a classic Chodovar Czech beer glass, a Chimay chalice, a snifter and my Lovibonds fluted half pint.

For some reason, people make a big song and dance about glassware, that certain types of glass are better for various beer styles, that beer should be served in the correctly branded glass and so on an so forth. Admittedly I am something of a glassware philistine, the only thing I object to is a frosted glass, it just shouldn't be done. Anyway, with an open mind and Mrs Velkyal saying that she thought the main difference would be in the aroma stakes, I spent a couple of hours emptying the growler into the various glasses in the pictures below and taking notes.

From a visual perspective the only variant in the 6 glasses was that the chalice didn't hold the head very well, the other 5 had nice rocky heads which lingered for the duration of drinking, but in the chalice it dissipated quickly.

As Mrs Velkyal had expected, the different glasses had an impact on the intensity of the aroma of the beer. In each glass, other again than the chalice, I could smell varying degrees of graininess, lemony citrus and grass, though it was most noticeable in the Lovibond's half pint and the Chodovar glasses. In terms of taste, there was hardly any noticeable difference between the glasses.

Purely on the basis of this experiment then, I would say that a slightly fluted glass, as both the Lovibond's and Chodovar glasses are is best suited to a German style pilsner, though I have to admit that in the context of drinking in a pub, I don't think the additional aroma would really be all that much of a big deal, and that is an important thing for me. When I am in the pub, playing pool, talking with friends and having a drink, I really don't care about identifying every trace of aroma, swirling my beer in a glass like some wine snob and pontificating on about traces of burnt gimp suit and strawberry, or whatever Jilly Goulden's latest taste sensation is.

Perhaps though a subtle, clean, crisp lager is the wrong beer for this kind of experiment? So I will re-hash it sometime with a nice stout, or maybe even an IPA such as the 100% Fuggle hopped one from St George Brewing. As it stands though I am still not convinced that different styles of glass make that much of a difference to the experience of drinking a beer, though as a marketing and brand tool they are superb.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Take Time for Design

Today I am unemployed, though come Monday I will be employed again. Yesterday was my last day working for Convoy, a graphic design company here in Charlottesville, Monday will be my first day at Silverchair, a software company about 2 blocks up the street from Convoy.

No longer working in the graphic design world means I can finally talk about design for breweries without having to declare a vested interest. It was a couple of years ago that I wrote about the abysmal state of many a brewery's website, and design assets in general, as well as posting about those that get it right.

Have things improved in the 25 months since that pair of posts? In some respects yes, but I still wonder how many breweries and brewpubs out there are neglecting their website and other design elements such as logos, labels and the like?

Clearly the bigger "craft" breweries generally do a good job, Samuel Adams redesigned their website last year sometime. I think it is much improved on the previous iteration, particularly for finding details of their beers and the fact that they are not using Flash anywhere on the site. The same can not be said of Sierra Nevada though, the basic structure and design of the site has not changed since we moved to the States in 2009, though thankfully Flash is also a thing of the past on their website.

Unfortunately there are still too many breweries with websites which are nothing more than a riot of colour, fonts that look like they fell straight off Jimmy Carter's desk just after legalising homebrewing and information which is haphazardly "organised".

Recently I got my hands on the business start up plan for a brewery startup here in Virginia and whilst going through the numbers, one thing jumped out at me, there was no planning whatsoever for brand design, whether logo, labels or website. Perhaps I am being crazy here, but who in their right mind commits potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars to creating a brewery but not a penny to creating their brand and making their beers stand out on the retail shelf, whether physical or virtual?

Yes, good design is expensive but how much more expensive is it in the long run to have your beer ignored on the shelves because of amateurish design?

* all the pictures are examples of beer related design that I like, and that last one was done by my friend Rob of Opta Design in Prague for my LimeLight homebrew.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Lion Sleeps Tonight

Bottling beer at half six in the morning is a challenge, especially when you have to get out to your penultimate day of your current job by quarter to eight. Thankfully though, I now have 19 bottles of 5.6% abv Černý Lev (that's "Black Lion" for the non-Czech speakers among you) happily conditioning. My normal batch yields a case of 24 bottles, but I only had 19 caps (note to self: check these things first) so I used a mixture of 22oz bottles and the 12oz ones to make sure I only lost about half a bottle's worth of beer.

A quick reminder, Černý Lev is a 14º Czech style dark lager, or tmavé. I based the recipe on the one I designed for the Morana Dark Lager brewed at Devils Backbone last year, which was itself the product of months of research in Czech, Slovak and German, talking to various brewers and using the malts at hand in the US to create something which I thought was very close to my ideal tmavé, the 14º Tmavé Speciální from Kout na Šumavě.

Having brewed the beer back in January, it spent 35 days in my somewhat less than technically magnificent lagering tank, basically a two and half gallon water bottle, sanitised and slotted into the back of the fridge to sit at near freezing point. Now it will sit at room temperature for at least a week to carbonate before being put in the cellar for at least another 5 weeks - I really don't want to rush this one, even though when I tasted the sample I liked what was there...

Monday, March 12, 2012


5 beers that made me think differently about beer:

Bishop's Finger, the beer that got me started.

O'Hara's Stout - still my favourite stout, decent on nitro, a dream bottled.

Kout's 18 degree dark lager - the perfect end to many a session in Prague, dark lager is not just for the ladies you know!

Schlenkerla Marzen.....mmmmm rauchbier

Devils Backbone Trukker Ur-Pils, Americans can, and do, make good pilsners, it's just difficult to find them sometimes.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Adult Beverage O'Clock?

Last night I went for a drink. On Saturday afternoon I sat down, having spent most of the day house hunting, and had a drink. On Sunday I served beer to a steady stream of visitors to the Starr Hill Brewing Company. This weekend, I might go for a drink or I might not. Safe to say though I enjoy going for or having a drink.

Now read that paragraph again, but substitute the words "drink" and "beer" with the term "adult beverage":

"Last night I went for an adult beverage. On Saturday afternoon I sat down, having spent most of the day house hunting, and had an adult beverage. On Sunday I served adult beverages to a steady stream of visitors to the Starr Hill Brewing Company. This weekend, I might go for an adult beverage or I might not. Safe to say though I enjoy going for or having an adult beverage".

Ridiculous isn't it? The fact that I bought a beer in a pub in a country where you get asked for ID if you have less than 45% gray hair coverage kind of suggests I qualify for the legal definition of an adult. On top of that, the cultural convention of both my home country and the country in which I live is that "going for a drink" suggests "going for alcohol", I am yet to meet anyone who when asked that most convivial of questions "fancy a drink?" has reacted with glee at the thought of going to a diner for a milkshake.

Quite where this daft term has come from is beyond me, though perhaps if I am being cynical it is an attempt to put the drinking of beer, wine and spirits on a moral par with buying girly mags and having an interest in sex that goes beyond procreation and the missionary position. To put it another way, calling beer an "adult beverage" is to equate it with an immoral lifestyle. What's next? Are pubs and restaurants going to have to re-brand as "adult beverage emporia", complete with the frosted windows of a bookmakers in order to protect the innocent from seeing what goes on in such dens of iniquity? Will breweries, wineries and distilleries suddenly become "adult beverage factories"? Will the drunk sat on the park bench become an "adult beverage addict"?

I can kind of see the messed up logic behind the term, after all you have to be an adult in order to purchase beer, even if the definition of "adult" means you can die on the battlefield at 18 but you can't enjoy a case of beer if you survive said battlefield. Having a comprehensible logic though doesn't make the term useful in any meaningful sense.

To put it bluntly. Beer? Yes. Wine? Sure. Whisky? You bet. Adult beverage? Bugger off.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Love the Brethren

As you most likely know, I lived in Prague for ten years before moving over to the States in 2009. During that decade, I made it home to Scotland all of 4 times, the last trip being in 2005. Those were the days of drinking the smoothflow ales I wrote about a few posts ago, although I also managed to develop a taste for Fraoch. I enjoyed it because had the flavours that I liked in an ale coupled with the drinkability of a lager.

Coming closer to the present, I have been on something of a William Bros Brewing jag of late. During my trip to Wine Warehouse, where I picked up the cans for the smoothflow tasting, I also got a couple of bottles of their Heavy and Midnight Sun porter as well as a new beer for me, Scottish Session.

I have long liked the Heavy, which I believe in the UK is known as 80/-, it's deep russet colour and fluffy white head reminding me of drinking with friends on the Byers Road in Glasgow on the way from Birmingham when I was a student. Aromas of toffee, cocoa and a little grassiness with flavours of caramel nicely balanced with a delicate bitterness and only 4.2% abv, making it insanely drinkable. Likewise with the inky blackness of Midnight Sun, a porter brewed with ginger. Lots of roasty aromas and flavours abound, with a spicy zing in the finish. It's fair to say that I had great expectations for the Session.

I was not to be disappointed, and admittedly I was thrilled to see the abv was "only" 3.9%. Thrilled because I actually enjoy drinking beer rather than needing an age to get through a single 12oz bottle of something stronger. The Session, which I think is called "Gold" in the UK,  is described as a golden ale, and if I hadn't read the label I would have thought is was a lager, pale golden topped off with a firm white head. The nose has lots of spice, earth, hay and a touch of grain in the background. The taste is a riot of malty complexity with a very firm hop bite and lots of fruity flavours, the finish is clean, crisp and distinctly lageresque. Suffice to say I loved this beer straight off the bat, and was back at Wine Warehouse a week later to get more.

On Friday I swung by Beer Run in the hope of getting some altbier to compare my homebrew version with something commercial, but they didn't have any so I picked up some other stuff, including their Joker IPA. My introduction to Joker came when Beer Run had it on cask, and what a delight it was. The bottled version is just as good, packing a hefty hop punch but with a solid malty backbone and a mouthfeel that suggested the silkiness of a touch of oats in the grist, this is just lovely, lovely beer.

I can see this Williams Bros jag carrying on for quite some time to be honest. Packed with flavour and balanced beautifully for drinkability rather than sensory abuse, the guys in Alloa are getting things right and are, in my as ever unhumble opinion, probably brewing the best Scottish beers that are available in the States right now.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Local? Really?

One of my infrequent jaunts into the world of The Session today, the theme for which is "local beer" and is hosted by Matt over at Hoosier Beer Geek.

I like to support my local breweries, especially people such as Devils Backbone, Starr Hill and Blue Mountain Brewery. I am not a fan of South Street Brewery in the centre of Charlottesville, and I am yet to get out to Wild Wolf. However, is there a distinction between local breweries and local beer?

My problem with the term "local beer" is that so often the ingredients being used by "local breweries" are anything but local. Malts come from Canada, the UK, Belgium and sometimes Germany, hops likewise come from a raft of countries, including the latest craze for Antipodean hops. Yeast is sourced from multinational companies with libraries of strains again spanning the globe. Want to brew a witbier? No problem, order a Belgian yeast specifically for use in witbiers, use the Weihenstephan strain for making a German hefeweizen, Nottingham for an English ale, or even Prague's Staropramen for making that Bohemian pilsner you've been dreaming about.

That pretty much leaves the water as the only genuinely local element of a beer, but how many breweries strip their water of all the minerals and salts which make regional water a driving force in the history of developing beer styles and then add back the required minerals for a particular style? Imagine London and Dublin had soft water instead of hard, porter and it's offspring, stout, would likely be very different beers. For decades after Josef Groll developed the Pilsner style of pale lager, the brewers of Munich struggled to create a pale beer using the Munich water, until Spaten cracked it in the 1890s.

So when a brewery adds foreign malts and foreign hops to a stripped out water source, modified to mimic the water from Burton, Dublin or Plzeň, and ferments the resultant wort with a foreign yeast strain, can you in all honesty call that beer "local"? Sure it might be "craft", whatever that pointless term means, but let's not get misty eyed and romantic and think of it as local beer.

Best Beer Ever!

Shock, horror, a new post at Fuggled! Yes, it has been a while, but mitigating circumstances, I have been heads down writing my first book, ...