Monday, June 12, 2017
Saturday, June 3, 2017
This is an image that I came across online. It's an early advertising poster from the Backus & Johnston Brewery Company in Lima, from back when telephone numbers in the city could be counted in the double-digits.
The poster remarks that the brewery -which started as an ice company- possesed a "magnificent" ice facility imported from the U.S.A., and that it's beer-making equipment was "the best and largest in South America."
Most notable, however, from a consumer standpoint is the variety of beers made by Backus & Johnston back then: Pilsen, export, lager, märzen, stout, and a dark beer labeled "Gato Negro" (black cat).
Decades later, their production had grown massively, and the company itself had expanded into a near brewing monopoly -the Union de Cerverias Peruanas Backus & Johnston- having absorbed other breweries throughout the country. At the same time, despite the expansion in the number of the company's brands and volume, the beer variety shrank. By the turn of the century the only ones that had survived were the pale lager and a dark lager.
In the past decade, however, the company has started to break out of that straight jacket, albeit cautiously. It has used its Cusqueña brand to float a few "special" beers: Cusqueña Trigo (pale lager made with a percentage of wheat), Cusqueña Quinoa (made, obviously, with some quinoa), and Cusqueña Red Lager. It has also dipped its toe into the "top shelf" market with Abraxas, a beer it describes as a "super premium" and sells for 400% of the price point of its regular beers.
Sunday, May 7, 2017
Today I made my way over to Benicia to try the offerings at Brüehol Brewing.
Brüehol Brewing was established in Benicia in 2014 by Mark Keller, Mark Ristow, and Steve Nortcutt, but opened its tap room only three weeks ago. I was eager to get there because Mark R. and Steve used to be homebrewers in the same club as I -the Diablo Order of Zymiracle Enthusiasts (DOZE). Both of them are highly skilled brewers, and it shows in the beers they are producing at Brüehol.
It is relatively rare for small craft breweries to produce lager beers. In part it is because of the time involved --while a lager rests -i.e. lagers- it takes up valuable fermenter space that could be turned to producing a couple of ales. However, it is also because lagers, specially pale lager styles, are unforgiving of mistakes. They don't have the roasty, malty flavor character or hoppiness to counterbalance any flaws.
It takes a bit of courage to make a lager a part of one's brewery's regular line up, and Brüehol offers two of them: a Gold Rush Helles Lager, and Old Capitol Pilsner.
Both beers are very good. The helles was light and clean, and the pilsner was appropriately malty while maintaining the lightness of body that characterizes the style. I dare say that they are two of the best craft lagers that I've tasted in the area.
The other beer I tried was the 5W-30 Black Ale. It has hints of caramel or toffee in the nose, and coffee and chocolate in flavor. Despite its looks, however, it is not a stout, but truly just a black ale. Like the other beers its name is an homage to Benicia, in this case to its history (and present) as a refinery town.
Currently, Brüehol is producing about 10 barrels a month, running double batches on a 3-barrel brewing system. Steve told me that in a few months, however, they expect to expand their output by gaining the ability to brew and ferment on a 10-barrel system. That would also free the guys up to be able to produce more special occasion or one-off brews on their pilot system. There are plans to add a couple of ciders, and several more ales to the taps.
If you're in Benicia Brüehol is well worth looking up -just be aware that the tap room is not downtown but over on the east end of town.
4828 East 2nd St
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
I recently visited Triple Rock Brewery in Berkeley for the first time. Considering how long I've lived in the Bay Area, how much time I've spent in Berkeley, and that the brewery has been around since 1986 -making it one of the earliest modern microbreweries in the area- it's just ridiculous that I had never made it there before.
The main taproom is a pretty inviting place -dark wood, classic-style booths and furniture, and friendly staff- and the brewing process can be observed through a large window that looks in on the brewhouse. There is also a larger space off of the main room, which was opened last year. It has more of modern feel, with more stained cement instead of wood and several large TV screens.
I arrived at lunch time, just as the place started to get busy for the lunch crowd. As I enjoyed my food and beer I chatted with the fellow sitting next to me at the bar. He'd moved to the Bay Area in the 1988 and had been a regular at Triple Rock whenever he had found himself living in Berkeley ever since.
I ordered myself a flight of samplers, the selection of which I left to the server's choice. She poured me Mildly Politic (Pale Mild Ale, 4.5%), Belgian Spring Bier (6%), Oatland Ace (IPA, 6.7%), Black Rock (Porter 5.4%), and Finnegan's Whistle (Dry Irish Stout, 4.5%).
They were all good, but I've got to say that Oatland Ace was my favorite of the flight (at center in the above photo). It's made with oats three ways -flaked oats, golden naked oats, and oat malt- and big taste of Mosaic hops. Just lovely.
Also deserving special mention is a tasty, chewy Old Ale: Her Majesty's Crush with Figs (pictured at top of the post).
This beer -brewed in collaboration with Moylan's Brewing Co.- comes in at 9% and is warming without evident alcohol, and the fig character comes in nicely. I just really liked it.
After all that time, I finally made it there, and I'm glad that I did.
Triple Rock Brewery & Ale House
1920 Shattuck Ave
Tuesday, April 11, 2017
Today, Daniel Murphy, co-owner and founder of Twelve Rounds Brewing Company in Sacramento, announced on the brewery's FaceBook page that he is stepping down as CEO of the company and that he and his wife, Elle Murphy, will be divesting from the brewery.
As you may recall, Murphy drew much public ire (and some support) when he criticized the Women's March on Washington on his personal FaceBook page, saying he was "disgusted" with those who supported that "divisive event." That drew attention to previous posts on his page in which he reportedly made anti-gay and anti-Muslim statements and accused President Barack Obama off being some sort of crypto-Muslim and a promoter of hate. Those posting led to calls for a boycott of Twelve Rounds, and protests outside the brewery.
Although early newspaper reports stressed that the taproom was full, and that many there expressed support for Murphy's views, or at least his right to express them, it seems that that early surge did not hold up. Sure, he had many expressions of support from out of state, but out-of-state supporters don't pay the bills. People in the taproom do, and Murphy had clearly alienated his home constituency. Despite an apology from him, the incident cost him clients and, ultimately, tap handles as bars and restaurants around town declined to serve his beer or to be associated with the Twelve Rounds brand.
From what I've seen, the response on social media to his and his wife's divesting from Twelve Rounds has, by and large, been one of "Seeya!".
Although I have no sympathy for his views, I feel bad for the Murphys. Opening a brewery is no easy or short process. It takes years of work and dedication. They poured their hearts and treasure into starting the brewery, and now they're having to step away from it.
At the same time I can't but think what a rookie, dumbass move on his part, to lambast Muslims, gays, feminists, and liberals (In California!) when one is in a business that depends on making people feel welcome and included. And, especially in one in which so much depends on the brewers' reputations and the customers' relationship to them. In that sense, Murphy's reaped what he sowed.
I just hope that the brewery can shake off the controversy and that the workers and partners that remain can make a go of it.