Great Lakes Brewing News October/November 2010 : Page 1
By Amy Harris utumn signals the end of the long, carefree days of summer, ushering in crisper weather and the harvesting of crops. For beer enthusiasts, this season of changing leaves also finds ales chang-ing to deeper, more robust hues of burnt orange and amber. And while we typically associate spring with freshness, in the world of brewing autumn is the season that truly features fresh. It’s the time of year when INSIDE Calendar of Events ............................. 3 Beer & Health ...................................... 8 Jolly Giant ........................................... 9 So Much More in 24 .......................... 10 Homebrew ......................................... 12 Beer Beacon ...................................... 14 illusTRATiON by: HANs GRANHeim beer’s main ingredi-ents, barley and hops, are harvested, along with fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Brewers are increasingly taking ad-vantage of this bounty by concocting a variety of “harvest” beers made with seasonal ingredients. One common thread among many is a generous hopping rate. Two examples of this genre, both aptly named Harvest Ale, are produced by Goose Island (Chicago) and Southern Tier (Lake-See Harvest p.7 State by State News Wisconsin ........16 N. Wisconsin ...17 Indiana .............25 Illinois ..............26 Chicago ...........27 Minnesota ........28 Michigan ..........30 SE Michigan ....31 Ohio .................32 New York .........33 Pennsylvania ...36 Ontario .............38 Quebec ............39 Omme-Gang. Laura Butterfield, Nina Pearlman, Katie Williams and Dana DiGange at Ommegang for the Belgium Comes to Cooperstown festival. PhOTO BY GENEvIEvE GArLAND By Don Cazentre t could be enough to run a unique artisanal farmhouse brewery in the beautiful rolling hills of Upstate New York near a nationally recognized tour-ist destination. It could be enough to be a pioneer in the field of American-brewed, Belgian-style beers, with coast-to-coast sales. It could be enough to run a beer festi-val so popular that tickets sell out online in a matter of hours. It’s not enough. Not if you’re Brew-ery Ommegang and its parent company, Duvel USA. The Cooperstown, N.Y.-based Brewery Ommegang is in the midst of an expansion project that will triple its brew-ing capacity in 3 to 5 years and improve its visitor’s center (adding food!) and brewery store. What’s more, it has an ambitious program to bring out new seasonals six times a year, and it manages a “pilot” brewing program that is always in the hunt for new twists on Belgian or Belgo-Ameri-can hybrids. “If you want to play in the American craft beer market, you have to be innova-tive,” says the British-born CEO of Om-megang/Duvel USA, Simon Thorpe. “The See Ommgang p. 4
A Harvest Of Pumpkin Ales And Other Fall Favorites
Autumn signals the end of the long, carefree days of summer, ushering in crisper weather and the harvesting of crops.For beer enthusiasts, this season of changing leaves also finds ales changing to deeper, more robust hues of burnt orange and amber. And while we typically associate spring with freshness, in the world of brewing autumn is the season that truly features fresh. It’s the time of year when beer’s main ingredients, barley and hops, are harvested, along with fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Brewers are increasingly taking advantage of this bounty by concocting a variety of “harvest” beers made with seasonal ingredients. One common thread among many is a generous hopping rate. Two examples of this genre, both aptly named Harvest Ale, are produced by Goose Island (Chicago) and Southern Tier (Lake Wood, NY). Goose Island’s version, an ESB, nicely tempers those hops with a rich malt character. Southern Tier’s recipe changes yearly; this year’s formula, which features extra caramel malt, verges on crossing into IPA territory.
Typically, hops are dried and compressed into pellets immediately after harvest, but brewers in close proximity to hop fields possess the ability to craft “wet-hop” beers using just-picked whole hop cones. Many breweries and brewpubs have begun growing their own hops in their yards and using them for a special, once-a-year beer. Sierra Nevada’s Estate Homegrown Ale is perhaps the most notable national example of this type; not only are the hops and also the barley grown on-site, but the beer is USDA-certified organic. Regionally, Empire Brewing in Syracuse, NY is in its third year of brewing their Hop Harvest ale using locally-sourced NY Cascade hops.
More traditional fall seasonals are plentiful as well - Oktoberfests, ciders, brown ales, barleywines, Scotch ales and a growing list of barrel-aged beers. As the trees become bare, what better time to sample an oak-aged ale such as Double Back by Back Roads Brewery in LaPorte, Indiana. It’s a malt-forward Imperial EPA with woodsy undertones. Empire Brewing’s Critz’s Apple Ale, which head brewer Tim Butler describes as “a cross between a cider and a beer,” is more tart than sweet. Fresh apple cider is twice added to this lightbodied wheat beer, once before fermentation and again afterwards. Hopping is minimal to allow the flavor of the MacIntosh and Empire apples to shine through. On a chillier autumn evening, cozy up by the fireplace with Sierra Nevada’s Tumbler, a brown ale showcased by just-roasted malts. Don’t drink this one straight from the bottle or else you’ll miss its elegant deep garnet color, reminiscent of the vibrant foliage. Tumbler achieves a creamy mouthfeel with subtle hints of toffee, nuts, and a slight earthiness that leads to a smooth finish.
<b>Runnin' on Pumpkin</b>
Brewing with seasonal ingredients has a long history in this country. Back in the bad old days when grains and hops were scarce, colonists substituted a portion of the fermentables in their brews with anything on hand, from molasses and honey to vegetables such as beets and pumpkins. Modern craft brewers are reviving and reinventing such customs by taking advantage of the bounty of fresh autumn produce. They’ve focused in particular on the noble pumpkin, a fixture in the American harvest even before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock.Pumpkin beers run the gamut from the “pumpkin-pie-in-a-glass” breed to a barely detectable pumpkin note. Their shared features are a malty backbone, minimal hop bitterness, and the inclusion of pie spices Such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, ginger, and vanilla.
On the cutting edge of this category are the Imperial pumpkin ales. Southern Tier’s enormous Pumking, clocking in at a whopping 9% ABV, delivers a barleywine-esque dose of Halloween cheer. Unlike most other pumpkin ales, Pumking actually has perceptible hop bitterness, and though slight, the hops combined with a lighter-than-expected mouthfeel, may help explain why many pumpkin beer detractors find themselves swapping their pails of candy for a Pumking.
Weyerbacher’s Imperial Pumpkin (PA) is more of a traditional pumpkin ale: malty and spice-laden with a medium body-though at 8% ABV, this is another pumpkin ale on steroids. Close your eyes and take a whiff before tasting: you’ll need to remind yourself that chewing isn’t necessary, because this one will have you convinced you’re about to delve into a slice of cinnamon-laced pie or bread.
Hoppin’ Frog Brewery in Akron, Ohio also produces an imperial, Frog’s Hollow Double Pumpkin Ale. Owner/brewer Fred Karm has aimed to create the ‘pumpkin pie of beers’ by converting a baker’s pumpkin pie recipe into a beer recipe (sans the flaky crust).Karm prefers not to divulge the seven secret spices he incorporates, but he confesses to stirring molasses and brown sugar into the kettle. “Double” refers not only to Frog’s 8. 4% ABV but also to the twofold pumpkin addition, which combines both regular and roasted pumpkin purees.
Imperial pumpkins must be savored with restraint to ensure that their momentous flavors are fully appreciated, but luckily, the Great Lakes region is also home to a variety of more ‘sessionable’ pumpkin ales. At their Cleveland location, Fathead’s will be brewing their popular Phantom Pumpkin Ale this year. In Michigan, New Holland Brewing will soon be churning out their pumpkin ale, Ichabod. And Michigan Brewing’s Screamin’ Pumpkin Spiced Ale should be available earlier than usual this year due to its immense popularity.
Don’t be spooked by the well-masked 7% ABV lurking within Tyranena’s Painted Ladies Pumpkin Spice Ale (Lake Mills, Wisconsin). And don’t miss out in New York, where bold spices, squash and vanilla mingle in harmony in Saranac’s Pumpkin Ale, and where Horseheads’ Pumpkin Ale highlights the natural flavor of the pumpkin with just a sprinkling of spices to balance the brew.
<b>Yes We Can</b>
Most breweries opt for canned pumpkin puree, but some, like Kuhnhenn Brewing (Warren, Michigan), take the hands-on challenge by chopping and cooking locallygrown fresh whole pumpkins. Kuhnhenn’s All Hallows Ale is a draft-only beer that will be available later this fall. Each year on a late October night, owner/brewer Brett Kuhnhenn and a gang of loyal customers gather at 2 a.m. and, braving ghouls and Goblins, journey down the road to a nearby bakery where they all help bake the pumpkins.The cooked pumpkins are promptly added to the mash; Kuhnhenn grinds his own spices and also integrates a touch of vanilla for a ‘whipped cream’ note. Finally, he back-sweetens the brew with brown sugar.At Empire Brewing, pumpkins from Critz Farms are drizzled with maple syrup and honey prior to roasting, then added directly to the mash.
Lakefront’s Pumpkin Lager (Milwaukee) stands out as one of the only pumpkin lagers on the market. Smooth, crisp and a bit bready, it’s reminiscent of a light, airy pumpkin muffin. And in another unique twist, Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales of Dexter, Michigan, renowned for their rustic sour Ales, adds a surprising ingredient to their pumpkin ale, La Parcela - cacao. This, along with five different malts, results in a complex flavor profile that owner/brewer ‘Captain Spooky Ron J’ describes as “funky.”
Across our region, be on the lookout for pumpkin ales from Dogfish Head, Post Road, Stoudt’s and more. This year Sam Adams debuts their Harvest Pumpkin Ale.Currently only available in their 12-bottle “Harvest Collection Variety Pack,” it provides a solid example of the style.
However haunting your thirst may be, don’t get ‘tricked’ into missing out on the ‘treats’ of this abundant autumn beer season.
Brewery Ommegana Belgium Comes To America
It could be enough to run a unique artisanal farmhouse brewery in the beautiful rolling hills of Upstate New York near a nationally recognized tourist destination. It could be enough to be a pioneer in the field of American-brewed, Belgian-style beers, with coast-to-coast sales. It could be enough to run a beer festival so popular that tickets sell out online in a matter of hours.
It’s not enough. Not if you’re Brewery Ommegang and its parent company, Duvel USA. The Cooperstown, N.Y.-based Brewery Ommegang is in the midst of an expansion project that will triple its brewing capacity in 3 to 5 years and improve its visitor’s center (adding food!) And brewery store. What’s more, it has an ambitious program to bring out new seasonals six times a year, and it manages a “pilot” brewing program that is always in the hunt for new twists on Belgian or Belgo-American hybrids.
“If you want to play in the American craft beer market, you have to be innovative,” says the British-born CEO of Ommegang/ Duvel USA, Simon Thorpe. “The beer experts are looking for innovative new beers that show what the brewery can do.”
What Ommegang can do, with remarkable frequency, is produce winning beers. Take its Belgian Pale Ale, or BPA. Released early in 2010 as one its seasonal offerings, it has been such a hit that beginning this fall it will go into the year-round rotation, Thorpe said. That was based partly on successful test marketing in the Chicago area.
“This has the potential to be a phenomenal beer for us,” Thorpe said of the BPA, a 6.2 % pale beer made without spices but dry-hopped with American Cascade. And, of course, Belgian yeast.
Brewery Ommegang has been on the cutting edge since its founding on the banks of the Susquehanna River in 1997. Why Cooperstown? Founders Don Feinberg and Wendy Litttlefield lived in that village, best known as the home of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. They also ran a Belgian beer import company based there called Vanburg & Dewulf. It had opened in 1982, importing such brands as Scaldis (Bush), Affligem and Duvel. At the time, all those beers were made at independent family-owned breweries in Belgium. Sensing the time was right for American-brewed Belgians, Feinberg and Littlefield teamed up with those breweries to create Ommegang, named for a famous Brussels street festival. The Belgian breweries offered financial and technical help. Affligem’s Bert DeWit came up with some original recipes and its house yeast.
Ommegang started with three beers: Ommegang Abbey Ale, a dubbel-style; Hennepin, a saison-style; and Rare Vos, billed as a Brabant-style. Later, they added Witte and Three Philosophers, a quadrupel infused with just a bit of Kriek to give it a subtle cherry tang.
Those remain the brewery’s core beers.By 2003, there had been some minor earthquakes in the Belgian beer industry.Duvel Moortgat went public, bought out all the other investors (including Feinberg and Littlefield) and began to use Brewery Ommegang as the base of operations for its imports up and down the East Coast. At one point, demand for Ommegang had become so intense that beer was made back in Belgium and shipped stateside.
Ommegang always employed creative brewers. Former head brewer Randy Thiel, who has since moved on, was the first American brewer to be inducted into Belgium’s prestigious Knights of the Mashtaff.That showed folks back in Belgium were paying attention.
Since the Duvel takeover, Ommegang brewers have continued to explore the frontiers of both Belgian-style beers and those that mix the best of Belgian and other national styles. A few years ago, they dove heavily into the “brett” trend with beers like Omegeddon Funkhouse Ale. Just look at this year’s seasonals, produced under the guidance of current head brewer Phil Leinhart. There are the classically Belgian, like Tripel Perfection and Zuur, a sour Flemish brown ale produced in collaboration with Belgian brewer Liefmans.
There are some interesting hybrids, like the BPA and Cup O Kyndness, a Belgo-Scotch ale that includes smoked barley and heather. It’s 6. 2%. And there are big beers that defy categorization, like the Chocolate Indulgence Stout (which actually debuted a few years ago) and Adoration Winter Ale. That beer (10%) is spiced with cardamom, sweet orange peel, mace and grains of paradise.
Keeping up with all that has been a challenge for a brewery that was built in late 1990s to resemble a Belgian farmhouse. Leinhart, a veteran of brewing giant Anheuser-Busch, has helped oversee the construction projects that will greatly increase his ability make more beer. The expansion should help Ommegang expand from 27,000 to about 70,000 barrels a year.
They added several new tanks in the past few years, but the most recently completed project, this summer, was a new warm-cellaring warehouse. Earlier this year, Leinhart called the lack of cellar space the brewery’s biggest “bottleneck.”
Ommegang’s Belgian-style ales are bottleconditioned, so warm cellaring is critical.As they’re bottled, the beers are dosed with additional sugar and yeast, then stored at 80 degrees, usually for about 10 days.
Now, the attention turns to the visitor’s center/store. It’s always been housed in the same half of the main complex as the brewhouse. Leinhart has made no secret that he wants the visitors’ center and store out of his way. The brewery broke ground on the visitor’s center this fall and hopes to have it finished by mid-November or “before it snows,” Thorpe said. It’ll be quite handy for Ommegang’s regular visitors, as well as the brewery’s busy schedule of special events and festivals - a tradition that began under Feinberg and Littlefield. (Though the brewery doesn’t seem to need any help with its phenomenally successful mid-summer Belgium Comes to Cooperstown event).
The new center will feature something that Ommegang has never been able to offer: food. That should be important, when you consider the long Belgian tradition of matching beer and food. The visitors’ center will provide what Thorpe calls a simple Menu of Belgian-influenced items, like waffles, frites (fries) and crepes.
“We don’t want to compete with the restaurants in town,” Thorpe said. “But people do want to have some food with the beer they can enjoy here.”
When Thorpe talks about Ommegang and its future, he finds it hard to separate it from the fortunes of its sister brands under the Duvel umbrella. The whole portfolio - Ommegang, Duvel, Maredsous and Achouffe - has seen its sales increase 30 percent from 2009 to 2010, he said. Duvel - particularly the relatively new Duvel Green - has led the charge. “Duvel Green has just gone off the charts for us,” Thorpe said.
Achouffe and Maredsous have been especially strong in Texas and the West Coast, while Thorpe is excited by growth of all the products in what he calls “the heartland” (coincidentally, the Great Lakes Brewing News coverage area.)
“Business is good, but we know we can’t let up,” Thorpe said. “That’s just our way of doing business.”
Despite the growth and expansion,However, Thorpe said fans of Ommegang shouldn’t worry about it losing its artisanal identity. “What we’re not going to do is change into an industrial brewery,” he said.“It’s still a small batch brewery, with very distinctive, high quality beers. It’s all about quality.”