Monthly Archives: August 2013

Defining “Craft” Brewing

Just read this article from Time. In it, the writer details various levels of “Craft” brewing. Yes, there will be a quiz at the end of reading the article. Don’t worry. It will be an open beer exam. Crack a cold one and sharpen your pencils.

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Revolutionary Ale

Tavern

Yesterday, I rummaged around town foraging for food and drink like a driving bear.

First, I went to the Asian Market and loaded up on the requisite dumplings, wasabi, fish sauce, and the like. Then, bounced over to get some beer. And, then doubled back to an Indian store to get some curry paste and coconut milk. The order was supposed to be Asian, Indian, then Beer. But, as is usual, I missed the turn off to the Indian place and had to double-back.

After watching a slew of David Chang cooking episodes on Netflix yesterday (called Mind of a Chef), I was inspired to go on my romp. When cooking ethnically, two parameters are essential: The right ingredients and the right technique. The same deal for craft beer. Right ingredients with poor process ruins a beer. Bad ingredients with good technique never has a chance. Need both. Most Americans who cook ethnically don’t go to the right venues to get the best ingredients. Rule of thumb (pretty obvious), go where those of the ethnicity go to shop for the ingredients. Not the local supermarket. Or Walmart, for goodness sake.

I have made beer by hand and am trying to master Indian and Asian cooking. Or at least become decent. I may brew some more in the future yet find brewing to be much more arduous than cooking and better left to the professionals. A big issue is cost. I can save a lot by learning to cook my own Asian and Indian food. The margin of saving on making my own beer is considerably narrower unless I am making a Belgian Quad which is usually where I try to stake out my brewing repertoire.

I came across Yards’ Tavern Spruce Ale crafted from Ben Franklin’s own recipe at the Distributor. I had this brew awhile back at the City Tavern in Philly so I knew it was good although I didn’t recall the details. Interestingly, Ben–being the inventive individual he was–by necessity had to use molasses for malted barley and spruce tips off of evergreen trees for the hops, because both of the traditional ingredients where hard to come by.

The substitutes really work here and the brew has a great taste and not too sweet. Just enough to take the edge off the ale and spruce tips. It shows that one call still make a great beer (and food for that matter) if the substitutions essentially fill the same space.  But, it can’t be half-assed. Know enough to know when an alteration can happen.

I am very encouraged by the inventiveness and innovation of the craft beer movement. A consistent theme in 40/40 from the beginning is that if we can begin by taking back or beer from the corporate hegemons and autocrats, who knows where the cracks of liberty will continue.


Craftwomen at Dogfish

Here is a great article about women who work for Dogfish. Craft Beer should be an equal opportunity creator and imbiber. It makes the world a better place and anything that keeps men and women on the same side is a great thing. So pony up to the bar boys and girls, it is all good with gender and good beer….   


Around the Diamond: Lancaster City Craft Beer Scene

Back during 40/40 Pa. Brew Tour three years ago, the Craft Beer scene in Lancaster City was Lancaster Brewing Company and Iron Hill. LBC was more laid back and comfy. Iron Hill was tony and expensive. Iron Hill’s beers are definitely better. Very high quality. LBC is the most affordable around but you kind of get what you pay for…econo-craft.

The food at both place is typical pub fair. When either place tries to be fancy food-wise, it winds up being an over-stepping. Foot too far off base. Stick to the burgers and wings, you will be fine. Otherwise, strike out. Or at least hit a lot of foul balls and pop-ups. 

There are several new players in the city since then and Lancaster is becoming a mini-mecca for beers, a title which really doesn’t make given the Muslim prohibition on alcohol, yet things are definitely moving. So maybe sticking to the baseball analogy is better. Here we go around the bases for the new team members.

 Here is my quick run down on the newer places:

The Fridge – Great selection in bottles, limited taps. Glorified pizza joint. Cozy and friendly. Has a grungy vibe with the cinderblock construction. Probably the best place to go if you want to feel part of the Craft Beer scene. It has an upstart feel to it.

Hunger & Thirst – On the outskirts of the city. Definitely has a Foodie vibe with its beer and gourmet food and gadgets store. Very diverse beer menu with about 25 rotating taps and big bottle selection. Food and beer is a bit pricey but the upscale quality is there to justify the cost. It appears as if the owners are doing their homework and bringing in unique beers, particularly international.  

The Taproom  – In the heart of the city, The Taproom has the best urban feel location. Food is cooked at an adjacent restaurant and is very good. The beer can be too quirky and gimmicky. Dogfish can pull off quirky, The Taproom beers are either hit or miss. More often, I do not like the concoctions.    

The Federal Taphouse – This is a large gastropub on North Queen. One hundred beers on tap, extensive bottle list. I wonder if the model of quality and volume will work over the long-term in Lancaster City. So far, it has been packed but that has been during the Honeymoon phase.  It is like a luxury liner. Definitely, the most expensive of the bunch but a good night out on the town.   

To save cash, I typically do not order food at these places. I favor more ethnic cuisine for both taste and cost. If I want a burger or pizza or wings, best to lower the standards a bit and go to places that are pretty much all over. Go for the beers….