Beer 511

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

Category: Note

In Memoriam

On October 4th the homebrewing world lost one of its most stalwart champions with the passing of Mike “Tasty” McDole.

Mike was a world-renowned homebrewer, who also was part of many collaboration brews with commercial brewers, the most famous of which produced 21st Amendment’s “Tasty IPA” and, of course, Heretic’s “Evil 3″ triple IPA.

Mike was a founding member of my homebrew club, the Diablo Order of Zymiracle Enthusiasts (DOZE) and it was one of his pride and joys. He was the first club member to win an award at a homebrew competition, and he went on to win several more, including the Samuel Adams Longshot competition (2008), before retiring from competing.

Mike was a supportive and encouraging of new brewers. He was humble and earnest in critiquing a beer, and never offered a criticism without also offering a suggestion on how to resolve the problem. He was also a regular contributor to the Brewing Network’s podcasts, and the originator of “Tasty’s Tasting Room” homebrew booth at the BN’s annual Spring Brews Festival in Concord, CA. It was because of Mike that homebrew is a regular part of several other beer festivals in the area.

As a result, Mike was known and beloved far and wide. Occasionally, after being greeted by people and having selfies taken with him, by people while out for a beer, he’d lean in with a grin and whisper, “I just don’t get it. They act like I’m something special, but I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m just an old hippie who likes to make good beer.”

Mike’s most famous and popular recipe is “Janet’s Brown Ale”, with which he won a gold medal at the 2004 National Homebrew Competition. Janet’s Brown is named after his wife, whose favorite it was among his brews (she had passed away in 2001). Tasty freely shared the recipe, and allowed several commercial breweries to make batches of it. It appears in Jamil Zainasheff’s book Brewing Classic Styles and has been made into a homebrew kit by MoreBeer!

Janet’s Brown Ale

  • 27.5 lb pale malt
  • 3.0 lb dextrin malt
  • 2.5 lb 40L crystal malt
  • 2.0 lb wheat malt
  • 1.0 lb 350L chocolate malt
  • 1.0 lb corn sugar
  • 3.0 oz US Northern Brewer pellet hops, 5.1% a.a. (mash)
  • 3.0 oz US Northern Brewer pellet hops, 5.1% a.a. (60 min)
  • 2.0 oz US Northern Brewer pellet hops, 5.1% a.a. (15 min)
  • 3.0 oz Cascade pellet hops, 5.6% a.a. (10 min)
  • 4.0 oz Cascade whole hops, 5.8% a.a. (0 min, hopback)
  • 4.0 oz Centennial pellet hops, 10.5% a.a. (dry hop)
  • White Labs WLP001

Water profile: Ca 110.0 ppm, Mg 18.0 ppm, Na 17.0 ppm, SO4 350.0 ppm, Cl 50.0 ppm.

  1. Mash grains at 154° F for 30 minutes. Raise to 170° F and hold for 15 minutes. Sparge at 170° F for 45 minutes.
  2. Primary fermentation for 7 days at 68° F.
  3. Secondary fermentation for 9 days at 70° F . Dry hop in secondary for 7 days.
  4. Cold condition for six weeks.

Original Gravity: 1.074 FG: 1.018 ABV: 7.35%

In Lima …

I’ve been in Lima a few days, and last night I went out for some beers with my cousin. We ended up at the Nuevo Mundo Draft Bar on Manuel Bonilla Street in the Miraflores district.

I’ve mentioned Nuevo Mundo’s taproom before. As always the beer selection was good, but what made the night even better was running into José Alberto Castro, who was playing music at the venue.

Castro is a fellow beer aficionado and blogger, who writes at tomandoaltura.com. He was probably Peru’s first beer blogger, and his beer reviews in particular are one of the reference points on the local brewing scene. I highly recommend reading his blog.

On what is “craft” beer?

Watching Entre lúpulo y malta brought to mind the now-notorious video released last year by AbInBev in response to the Brewers Association’s introduction of its “Independent Craft Brewer” seal for use by breweries.

In that video the founders of breweries recently acquired by AbInBev’s The High End division –10 Barrel, Wicked Weed, Elysian, Four Peaks, and Devil’s Backbone—expound on why the label is a bad idea, even though they themselves are excluded from using it, and so on. Part of the way they do that is to argue that there is no difference between what they do and what BA member breweries do. While, from a technical standpoint, that may be true, they deliberately muddy the waters when it comes to what defines a “craft” brewer, and thus “craft” beer.

That they can do that raises the issue that, while for a long time what defined a craft brewery seemed pretty clear-cut, with an increasing number small breweries being acquired by brewing industry giants like AbInBev, Sapporo, Heineken, that definition is being blurred. (There is also the BA’s own continual expansion of the upper-bbl limit, but that is a matter for another time.)

In Peru there is the same sort of discussion going on as to what makes a beer a “craft” beer? But, there, the discussion is being approached from the other end.

Unlike the US, Peru has a living artisanal tradition and millions of people make their living from an artisanal economy, but until just a few years ago there was no history of small, independent brewers. Even those very few regional brands that existed tried to compete with the big brewers on their own terms, brewing the same kinds of beers, and as far as I can tell, all were either absorbed or went out of business. There was no equivalent to a Yakima Brewing, New Albion, or Anchor Brewing, to serve as a reference point.

So, Peruvian consumers, with no experience of small-batch, locally-produced beer, and no experience of beer styles other than big boy’s pilsners, are encountering an as yet small, and fairly localized (to Lima), but booming craft beer industry without a reference to what is a craft beer. But, they are trying to figure it out.

In so doing, many look to what they have in their hand: What makes this beer a craft beer and not that one? And, that’s where things get tricky.

As Peruvian craft brewers crank out a variety of very tasty ales –stouts, porters, weizens, fruited beers, etc.—consumers sometimes think that a craft beers is defined by “being in a different style” or by simply having “more flavor” than Backus & Johnston’s mass-produced lagers.

Another stumbling block is in the language itself. In Spanish, “artisanal” and “craft” are both expressed by the same word: artesanal. Now, because of Peru’s living artisan economy, everyone pretty much has an idea of what artesanal means. And, of course, what it means in most instances is things made at home, or in small home-based workshops, by hand or with minimal technology, without the refinements and standardization available to industrial producers.

Thus, I’ve had people in Lima ask me whether filtering would take away a beer’s artisanal quality. The working supposition being that an craft/artisanal product is less “finished” than an industrial one.

Naturally, there are those who argue –and with whom I agree—that what makes a beer “artesanal” or not is not the beer itself, but the brewer. However, even on that point, there is confusion. In discussions online with Peruvian homebrewers, some have expressed that they consider themselves cerveceros artesanales because their beer is home-made.

The lack of clarity on this point shows up in Entre lúpulo y malta, where the first cervecero artesanal that is presented is Christian Zapata, a dedicated homebrewer and president of the Peruvian homebrewers’ association, Asociación de Cerveceros Caseros del Perú (ACECAS).

Does it matter? Probably not that much. Not yet at any rate, while the Peruvian craft beer market is still quite small (in 2016 production was only 10k hectoliters, or 6.3k bbl), but as it expands and legislation and taxation begins to catch up and the Backus & Johnston conglomerate (itself owned by AbInBev) begins to feel threatened, a working definition of craft beer could well become quite important.

As it is in the US.

Musings on 12 Rounds’ CEO Resigning

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.

My Christmas Alcohaul

Thanks to my wife and kids, I’ve come away this Christmas with five exciting beers from under the tree: Mike Hess Brewing’s My Other Vice Berliner Weisse (San Diego, CA); New Braunfels Brewing Company’s Bauernhaus Über Weizenbock (New Braunfels, TX); Wicked Weed Brewing’s Silencio bourbon barrel-aged black sour ale, and Genesis blonde sour ale fermented with tropical fruits (Asheville, NC); and, Fullsteam Brewing’s First Frost foraged persimmon ale (Durham, NC).

Those, and a beer glass filled with orange gummies, and vanilla marshmallows as “foam”!

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