Beer 511

Exploring Craft Beer and Homebrew in Peru (Country Code 51) and the USA (Country Code 1)

Rabbit Hole Saison

Today I am sharing my impressions of Rabbit Hole French-Style Saison from Alaro Brewing in downtown Sacramento (California).

Rabbit Hole is an amber-colored beer, almost copper in hue. It has a malty aroma, with some floral and citrus – tangerine, maybe kumquat. It is not as carbonated as I might’ve expected from a saison but it does present a moderate head that subsides within a couple of minutes.

In the mouth it presents an effervescent crispness on the palate and citrus notes similar to those present in the aroma. It is moderately bitter, but not as bitter as a pale ale or, certainly, an IPA. It is more akin in hoppiness to a pilsner. I tasted notes of stonefruit, most reminiscent of apricot. Or perhaps a very ripe loquat.

It finishes with a lingering bitterness that is pleasant and not overpowering.

Very pleasant overall and a good recommendation by the server at the brewpub!

Anchor 2020 Holiday Ale

The holiday season is upon us and to add to the seasonal cheer, we have the arrival of Winter seasonal beers. For forty-six years Anchor has upheld that tradition with its Our Special Ale.

Their 2020 edition of Our Special Ale (sample bottles provided by Anchor Brewing) is a very dark, almost black, ale with a ruby translucence when held up to the light. It presents a moderate head, that subsides quickly to a ring around the edges of the glass. When swirled in the glass there is ample but short-lived lacing. I didn’t notice any “legs” or “tears”- the clear streams that alcoholic beverages sometimes leave on the sides of the glass.

It presents sweet notes in the nose: molasses, caramel, cloves, light cinnamon.  Overall, the aroma reminds me of gingerbread or spice cake.  I didn’t notice any hop aroma.

Sweetness is the most immediately noticeable flavor component.  It is not a particularly hoppy beer, but there is definitely a bitter backbone to support all that malty sweetness.   Some dark chocolate and coffee character, and graham cracker, too.  A few spice notes in there as well: cinnamon, black pepper, orange peel.  A little vanilla.

It has 7% alcohol by volume, but doesn’t come off as strong or alcoholey. And, despite the notable malt sweetness, it is a medium-bodied drink, with a dry finish, and a slightly bitter aftertaste, ending with a lingering dark roast coffee note.

It is smooth and easy to drink, and I think it would prove approachable even to those who say that they don’t usually like dark beers.

An aside on the packaging: You may have observed that rather than the usual single tree, this year’s label features three trees. According to the brewery’s literature, this is only the second time that multiple trees are shown on the label. In this case, the image represents The Three Graces, an iconic trio in Yosemite National Park’s Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias. They are meant to evoke “togetherness and hope in a year when so much time has been spent apart”.

2020 Peruvian Beer Cup

On Saturday the winners of the 2020 edition of the Peruvian Beer Cup – Copa Peruana de Cervezas -were announced.

Like much else this year, this edition (the 5th) of the competition had to be conducted much differently than in previous years, with much of it having to be done remotely. However, the organizers overcame any obstacles that that presented and the competition went ahead successfully.

Without any more ado, here are the winners:

Bronze

  • Chichtenhainer – Psycho Brewery
    (31A. Alternative Grain Beer)
  • Cafe – Cumbres Cerveza Artesanal – Café
    (30A. Spice, Herb, or Vegetable Beer)
  • Wacacha – Nowhere
    (X4. Catharina Sour)
  • Trappist Single – Abadía Inca
    (26A. Trappist Single)
  • Quinoa Porter – Zenith Cervecería Artesanal
    (31A. Alternative Grain Beer)
  • Russian Imperial Stout – Edición Aniversario – 7 Vidas
    (20C. Imperial Stout)
  • Barba Verde – Almirante Brewing
    (14. American IPA)
  • The Chronic – Almirante Brewing
    (22A. Double IPA)
  • Strawberry Sweet Stout – Tierra Virgen
    (29A. Fruit Beer)
  • Cervecería Lönka – Cervecería Lönka
    (4C. Helles Bock)
  • Floki – Jack Vled & Co.
    (4A. Munich Bock)
  • Lima 1 Quad – Lima 1
    (18. Belgian Dark Strong Ale)
  • X7 Smoked Porter – 7 Vidas
    (32A. Classic Style Smoked Beer)
  • Magic Stout – Tempo
    (16A. Sweet Stout)

SILVER

  • Viking Blood – Almirante Brewing
    (21B. Specialty IPA: Black IPA)
  • In The Clouds – Almirante Brewing
    (21B. New England IPA)
  • № 2 – Cusco Beer Company
    (6A. Märzen)
  • Sol del Valle – Cervecería del Valle Sagrado
    (29A. Fruit Beer)
  • Witbier – Jack Vled & Co.
    (24A. Witbier)
  • Zenith Navidad – Zenith Cervecería Artesanal
    (30C. Winter Seasonal Beer)
  • Day Dreams – Nowhere
    (21B. Specialty IPA: White IPA)

GOLD

  • Cats n’ Roses – 7 Vidas
    (33B. Specialty Wood-Aged Beer)
  • Calibre 12 – Nowhere
    (20C. Imperial Stout)
  • esquiSOURfrenia – Psycho Brewery
    (28C. Wild Specialty Beer)

BEST OF SHOW

3rd Place:
Calibre 12 – Nowhere
(20C. Imperial Stout)

2nd Place:
esquiSOURfrenia – Psycho Brewery
(28C. Wild Specialty Beer)

1st Place:
Cats n’ Roses – 7 Vidas
(33B. Specialty Wood-Aged Beer)

BOS Brewery:
Nowhere

The virtual Awards Ceremony can be viewed HERE.

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL THE WINNERS!

Peru Craft Brewers Congress

On Saturday the Peruvian 5th National Craft Brewers Congress was held. Naturally, due to the pandemic, this year’s edition of the congress was move online and streamed over FaceBook. As usual, the emphasis was on connecting Peruvian brewers with other Latin American brewers.

This year’s guest speakers were:

José Bini, of Buenos Aires’ Bierhaus Brewing Co., who spoke on “Infinite Reutilization of Yeast in an IPA”.

  • Dora Durán, co-founder of MUt Cerveza Artesanal in Quito. Duran is also the Director of the Independent Beer Association of Ecuador (Asocerv), and a co-founder of Latin American Women Brewers’ Network. She spoke on “Tips for Making Good Lagers: Processes and Innovation”.

and,

  • Jaime Zuluaga, co-founder and brewer of the Costa Rica Beer Factory and head of the CRBF Beer School, a project started two years ago and which now has nine instructors and some 400 graduates. Zuluaga spoke on “Pastry Beers, Fruit, and More”.

The sessions were moderated by Pepe Villarán (Psycho Brewery, Planeta Bierra), Elizabeth Yenny (Ari-Qquepay brewery, chairperson of Peruvian Craft Meadmakers Association), Rodrigo Vargas (homebrewer), and the overall host was Andrea Huerta (head of quality control at Barranco Beer Company, Pinks Boots Perú).

Not All is Yet Doom and Gloom for Craft Beer

When the pandemic hit, spurring the ensuing (and necessary) shut-downs, there was no dearth of articles predicting the doom of craft brewing, with titles such as “Coronavirus Could Kill Craft Beer” or “Will Craft Brewing Survive?” And, indeed, a survey conducted in April by the Brewers Association revealed a marked decrease in category sales, massive furloughs and layoff, and looming closures. The median drop in sales was of 75%, with an average drop of 65%.    Seventy percent of responding breweries said the would be forced to close within 6 months, and 45% said they could only hold out for 1-3 months.

Now, the virus is surging all over the country, prompting renewed shut downs and bans on indoor service, just as the weather turns cold and the winter dark looms ahead. 

The Independent Restauranteurs association estimated this past week that if things don’t improve and without government assistance down the pike, 70-80% of independent restaurants won’t make it to spring.   Breweries and taprooms face many of the same dynamics as restaurants, so as one goes, so likely goes the other.

It’s could be a long dark winter faced by our friends in the industry.

But … and this being 2020, there is a but… it may surprise one to think that there is a silver lining to the pandemic when it comes to the beer scene, but if we look closely, we’ll find one.

On the one hand state, county, and local governments responded by liberalizing alcohol regulations, permitting outdoor seating, allowing breweries and taproom to take advantage of restaurant exemptions in order to keep operating.  Another key were customers, who switched to to-go only ordering without batting an eye, and who’ve made it a point to support their local brewers and taprooms.

On a federal level the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act and PPP loans also helped breweries and taprooms to survive through the spring.

Thus, while the industry has indeed been hurting, happily we’ve not seen the massive wave of closures that we might have, had nothing been done.

Have there been closings?  Certainly, and specially in the last couple of months, it seems that every other day brings the sad news of a venue shutting its doors, but alongside that we’re seeing a smaller but notable string of openings, between expansions of already existing businesses, new brewers taking over an existing brewery space, or projects long in the works that would be delayed no longer.

(There has also been an increase in interest in homebrewing, which is always a good thing.)

Commercial brewers have also pushed out and gotten their beers onto stores shelves and coolers, and in some cases, they’ve even managed to expand keg sales -no mean feat given that pretty much everyone had, at least initially, reduced the number of taps running in the face of declining sales volume.

Many have stretched to find ways to get the beer out, be it by starting to can or bottle their beers, or by offering pick-up sales, delivery, and even shipping.  This has permitted many a brewery which had previously relied on tap room-only sales to get their beer out and gain exposure over a wider geographical area; and, crucially, to make sales.

In other instances, the stretch has been in infrastructure and equipment; whether it be in building or improving patio spaces, investing in an in-house canning line, or delivery staff and vehicles.

In other words, immediate needs raised by the pandemic have prodded many of our friends to make investments and changes that will pay dividends in the long term, when this mess is all over and done with.

Thankfully, we can say that reports of craft brewing’s demise were a bit premature, to say the least.

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