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Brew Bloods: Drink Beer, Think Beer

Join Marc and Dustin each week as they pick a beer, drink a beer, and rate a beer, plus dispensing education and laughs along the way.
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Brew Bloods: Drink Beer, Think Beer
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Now displaying: September, 2015
Sep 30, 2015

"A little brawling, a lot of drinking: fresh, happy and free, persevering and loyal: ready to go through fire for the king, that is a Bavarian.” - an inscription on a German beer stein

Throw on a dirndl and some lederhosen as we face off two beers for Oktoberfest: Samuel Adams' Octoberfest versus Franconia Brewing Company's Oktoberfest. 

In one corner we have Samuel Adams (aka the Boston Beer Company): one of the older and bigger craft breweries, having been founded in the mid-1980s by Jim Koch. Currently they brew over 50 beer styles and sell to more than 20 countries. 

In the other corner we have Franconia Brewing Company, a small brewer out of McKinney, Texas that was started by German immigrant Dennis Wehrmann, who is a descendant of a long line of brewers. 

In the education corner, we talk about the origins and history of Oktoberfest.

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Music Provided By: 

Bensound - "Jazz Comedy"
Kevin McLeod - "Off to Osaka"
Quantum Jazz - "Orbiting a Distant Planet"

Sep 23, 2015

“When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.” — Henny Youngman

It's our very first Face Off: Hard Root Beer!

In one corner we have Mission Brewery's Hard Root Beer, fighting out of San Diego. The original Mission Brewery started out in 1913, but fell apart during Prohibition. In 2007 the name was revived by Dan Selis, and in 2014 the brewery decided to start making "craft cocktails," starting with Hard Root Beer.

In the other corner we have Small Town Brewery's Not Your Father's Root Beer, fighting out of Wauconda, Illinois. Small Town was started in 2010 as a way for father and son to bond. The brewery uses a supposed recipe book to make Not Your Father dating back to the 1600s, but there is some controversy surrounding them.

To listen to Strange Brews' investigation into Small Town, listen here: 

Part1

Part 2

To read Michael Agnew's thoughts on Small Town and Not Your Father's Root Beer, including his visit, click here.

In the education corner, we talk about the purpose of hops in beer.

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Education Corner: What are Hops?

We talk a lot about hops, but, what exactly are hops?

In brewing, hops provide a bittering agent to contrast or balance the sweetness of malt, provide aroma, act as a preservative, aid with head retention, and provide a unique profile to a beer.

Hops are the female flowers of the plant humulus lupulus, a perennial climbing plant that will grow up to 18 feet tall and is native to North America, Europe and Western Asia. It tends to grow in the same soil that potatoes prefer and prefers a soil that is rich in boron, but depending on the qualities of the soil and climate, a hop from one region will taste very different from a hop from another region.

Being a climbing plant, like grape vines, farmers use trellises to help them grow; this produces a heartier crop because trellises free up energy that would’ve been used for structural growth. Because seeds are undesirable for brewing, farmers only plant female plants in hop fields. They’re planted in rows 6 to 8 feet apart and in the spring, the plants begin to grow, with the hop flowers, or cones, near the top. Harvest comes near the end of summer, when the cones are taken to a hop house for processing.

The cones themselves contain a gland called the lupulin gland, which is yellow and waxy, and it contains alpha acids that provide bitterness and essential oils that provide flavor and aroma.

The hop plant prefers a temperate climate and grows mostly along the 48th parallel north latitude. In fact you may have seen the Sam Adams beer called Latitude 48, which makes references to this zone.

The 48th Parallel crosses Germany, Austria, Hungary, China, France, Russia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Russia, Canada, and the United States. No surprise, in the U.S., the 48th parallel crosses Washington state, where the most of the hops in the United States are grown.

Hops can also be classified into two very broad categories: bittering hops and flavor/aroma hops. Bittering hops have higher alpha acid, lower essential oils, and provide the bittering quality. Aroma and flavor hops have lower alpha acid and higher essential oils, and, of course, are used to provide aroma. Bittering hops are used early in the beer boil, whereas flavor hops are added when there about 15-20 minutes are left. Aroma hops are typically added near the end within minutes of the end of the boil. Some brewers also use a technique known as dry hopping where they add hops during fermentation. This increases both bitterness and aroma.

Hops are also divided further into subcategories based on region: Continental, English or American. Continental hops (also known as Noble hops) grow in central Europe, and are low in bitterness and have a strong floral or spicy aroma. English hops are also low in both bitterness and have an herbal or grassy aroma, while American hops vary wildly, with some providing both a high amount of bitterness and aroma. From there hops are divided even further into regions or other subcategories.

Historically, the first documented cultivation of hops can be traced back to 736 AD, but the first documentation of using hops in beer doesn’t come until 822 in a series of German legal statutes describing tithes to a monastery. However, it wasn’t until the 13th century that hops began to see serious use in commercial brewing, as before hops came along (or later when the nobility imparted high taxes on hops) brewers would use gruit, which is a mixture of herbs and spices that brewers used to flavor their beer.

The dominance of hops in brewing really started after April 23rd, 1516, when Bavaria instituted the German Beer Purity Law and declared that hops were one of only three ingredients allowed in beer. And then in 1710, England declared that hops were the only bittering substance allowed by law in brewing, so that brewers wouldn’t skirt the hop tax of a penny per pound.

Lastly, hops aren’t just used for beer. In some countries they’re used for soft drinks and they’re often used as an herbal medicinal treatment for anxiety and insomnia. Studies are also currently under way to investigate the use of hops as relief for menstrual problems and there is some evidence that they may be used in the fight against cancer.

Sep 16, 2015

“When I drink, I think; and when I think, I drink.” — Frantois Rabelais 

Ground control to Major Tom, let's blast off with Ninkasi's Ground Control and @FelipeThirteen from CinemaDiabolica! 

Ninkasi Brewing is a brewery out of Oregon named after the goddess Ninkasi. In 2014, they founded the Ninkasi Space Program to send yeast into space to see how it affected the beer. 

In the education corner, we talk about the goddess Ninkasi.

In Brews in the News, we talk about the these stories:

- Heineken acquires 50% of Lagunitas
- BrewDog ditches Lagunitas 
- Dogfish Head tries to be nice to Pizza Boy Brewing 
- There's a Pop Tart beer?

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Education Corner: The Goddess Ninkasi

When you hear the name Ninkasi today, the brewery is likely to come to mind first and foremost. While the brewing has been in existence for roughly a decade, the origins of the name Ninkasi are much older.

Ninkasi is a goddess, an ancient beer goddess to be more specific. She was discovered via the Hymn to Ninkasi, a poem written on several clay tablets roughly around the year 1800 BC. The daughter of the King of Uruk and high priestess of the temple of Ishtar (who herself was the goddess of procreation), Ninkasi, the goddess of alcohol, was brought to earth to help heal wounds. This hymn was written via the Sumerian language, and is amongst the earliest human writings ever found.

Ninkasi makes for an excellent brewery name not just for the fact that she was a beer goddess, but that the Hymn to Ninkasi was in itself a recipe for brewing beer, also once known as kash. The poem illustrates that the brewing process at the time used grapes, bappir (a form of grain), and honey. The result was so thick, straws had to be used to consume it.

The Hymn to Ninkasi was likely used, as many songs and poems throughout past generations have been, to pass down these brewing instructions in a way they would be remembered. The hymn has been credited as the oldest record of a correlation between the importance of brewing beer, and women’s responsibility in providing beer and bread to their households. The fact Ninkasi was female, and used in prayer regarding brewing beer, shows how important women were to the process.


The craft beer scene may have a general vibe of masculinity, leaving some women to feel like outsiders at times. However, the Hymn to Ninkasi illustrates that men may be the ones that were late to the craft beer movement.

Music Provided By: 

Bensound - "Jazz Comedy"

Kevin McLeod - "Off to Osaka"

Quantum Jazz - "Orbiting a Distant Planet"

Sep 9, 2015

“An intelligent man is sometimes forced to be drunk to spend time with his fools.” - Ernest Hemingway

Time to hit the Texas Hill Country with the Robert Earl Keen Honey Pils from Pedernales Brewing. Pedernales is a microbrewery out of Fredericksburg, Texas that makes a lot of lager. Texas Country singer Robert Earl Keen is a big fan of their beer and pitched it to them to make a beer together and Pedernales brought in Fain's Honey in Llano to give it a new twist.

In the education corner, we talk about macro versus micro breweries.

In news, we talk about the these stories:

- Are women better at tasting than men?
- Would you use a glass from the Pretentious Beer Glass Company?
- Texas officially rules crowlers illegal
- AB InBev may be preparing a takeover of SAB Miller
- Kroger is getting craft taps

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Macro vs Micro

Beer ads have gotten nasty these days. Much of the focus has been around the pretentious nature of the little guy vs the cool, fun, readily available goliaths of the industry. The terms Macro and Micro are used to make the divide between what brewers are small and persnickety or just your frat buddy that’s ready to party at a moment’s notice.  This begs the question, what is the real difference between a macro and microbrewery?

There are a few currently accepted definitions of what is a microbrewery. Fans like us would say things like there’s the good stuff, and the popular stuff. While this could in theory be used to define what a craft beer is, the true definition of microbrewery is based much more on numbers than taste.

The microbrewery movement can be traced back to the 1970s in the United Kingdom. One of the earliest noted microbreweries was the Litchborough Brewery founded by Bill Urquhart in 1974 in the Northamptonshire village of the same name. From there, the term spread across the UK, and eventually into the U.S. starting in the 1980s.

Today, according to the Brewer's Association, breweries that produce fewer than 15,000 U.S. beer barrels (1,800,000 liters; 460,000 U.S. gallons) annually are considered microbreweries. While there is no specific definition for a “macro brewery”, the term falls into the same category as Large Brewery. These are defined as breweries with annual beer production over 6,000,000 barrels. Macro breweries have also been defined as breweries too large or economically diversified to be a microbrewery.

In short, as the naming would imply, the macro vs microbrewery battle is a classic David and Goliath scenario. Macro brews are readily available, simple, and mass produced. Micro brews, while perhaps more fussy at times, are more diverse and specialized. Now when ordering a cold draft beer at your local bar, you’ll know a bit more precisely which side of the battlefield you’re on. 

Music Provided By: 

Bensound - "Jazz Comedy"

Kevin McLeod - "Off to Osaka"

Quantum Jazz - "Orbiting a Distant Planet"

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