Copy Cat: A ‘Best Beer’ List Loves IPAs, ABV. Again.

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Last week, Zymurgy, the official publication of the American Homebrewers Association, released its latest update to its annual “Best Beers in America” list.

The compilation of top-50 beers, voted on every year by readers of the magazine, typically stands out slightly from other such lists from Beer Advocate or RateBeer because of general lack of imperial stouts, which so often dominate other polls. There were seven this year and one imperial porter.

Despite that difference, Zymurgy’s voters do have one thing in common with just about any other “best beer” list you’d find – they love IPAs.

zymurgy best beers-ipa and dipa

After last year’s dissection of Zymurgy’s list, I took additional data with hope to better analyze the outcome of historical votes, offering context to any shifting preferences and patterns from over the years.

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My Mount Rushmore of Beer

beer-rushmore

Set high above our bars and breweries, sculpted in the granite of personal history, lies a metaphorical place that stands the test of time as a “shrine of beerocracy.”

It’s Mount Rushmore … only my repurposed symbol of fermented freedom. No longer do Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln emblazon its side, but rather my own heroes, representing the people who have shaped my past and influenced my future with beer.

Today, along with a collection of fellow Mid-Atlantic beer bloggers, I’m sharing who should be remembered for the impact they’ve made on my beer drinking world. So let me introduce you to the dignitaries of my Mount Rushmore … of beer.

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Birth of a Brewery? Another Look at Sharp End Brewing

Sharp End Brewing-logo

If you’re getting into the professional brewing game these days, there are probably two things to know, and Drew Perez is fully aware of both of them:

  1. “Everyone and their mother is creating a craft brewery right now.”
  2. “Lots of people are into IPAs, especially imperial IPAs because they want bang for their buck.”

But there’s a third aspect that brewers with professional aspirations hopefully certainly realize. It’s what sets Drew and his friends with Sharp End Brewing apart.

“Even if everyone is getting into [brewing], not everyone is creating great beer,” he said. “I want us to be well situated in what we can do when we’re ready to do it.”

Sharp End Brewing-Crew

The whole Sharp End Crew (from left): Steve Aiello, Anthony Apollo, Drew Perez and Frank Apollo.

Last week, I introduced you to Drew and Anthony Apollo, two of the guys behind Sharp End Brewing, an enthusiastic group of homebrewers from New York working their way to commercial beer production. I heard about the pair through a friend, who told me about their “Brewing Bad” exploits and my interest was piqued. But what really got my curiosity was when I found out they wanted to eventually take their homebrewing operation pro.

Of course they do, you may think. In this age of Pax Beervana, it’s easy to get in the game when you’ve got a five-gallon system at home, a dream and a Kickstarter account.

But these guys are not naive, even if they are relatively new to the beer industry.

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Birth of a Brewery? From ‘Breaking Bad’ to Breaking Pro: An Introduction

Today we meet the guys of Sharp End Brewing, an enthusiastic group of homebrewers from New York working their way to commercial beer production. Next week, we’ll delve a little deeper to highlight some of the details and steps they’re taking to get there.

Breaking Bad-Brewing Bad-Sharp End Brewing

 

The chemistry called to them.

It started with cooking batches in backyards and wherever space was available. The hope was that it ended in their own laboratory, with shining, stainless steel equipment all around them as recipes bubble away.

The parallels between the friends of Sharp End Brewing and hit TV show Breaking Bad are hard to ignore. But from the beginning, that was kind of the point.

“We were all sitting at this bar for Oktoberfest and talking about the show and beer we would brew for it,” said Anthony Apollo, one of four homebrewing friends with Sharp End who hope to eventually take their hobby pro. “It was around the time Breaking Bad was wrapping up and we thought ‘let’s make a couple beers to commemorate it.’ ”

Led by Drew Perez, the most tenured homebrewer of the bunch, the friends brainstormed recipes and came up with their “Brewing Bad” six-pack, parodying names of characters and other thematic aspects:

  • Mike EhrmanStout – Chocolate coffee stout
  • Holly (Walter White’s baby) – Winter warmer
  • Chili P – Pale ale with chili powder
  • Walter Weiss – Belgian wheat
  • SchraderBock – Eisbock
  • Los Pollos Hermanos – Mexian-style lager

However, after starting on the series of beers, Anthony and Drew, along with Anthony’s brother, Frank, and friend, Steve Aiello, decided their operation to simply create the one-off beers to share with each other might provide them a greater opportunity: to make it in the beer industry.

Opening a brewery isn’t an uncommon business proposition anymore. At the end of 2013, there were 3,699 active ‘permitted breweries’ by the Alcohol Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. That includes 172 in New York, where the friends are spread between New York City and its suburbs.

Sharp End Brewing-brew day

From left, Steve Aiello, Frank Apollo and Drew Perez watch wort boil during a brew day.

But what separates the ambition of Sharp End from other upstart brewers is their realization of their situation and the industry at-large. At a time when some are rushing to get in, they’re waiting.

There’s no Kickstarter campaign and no meetings with banks for loans. There’s just hope that in three to five years, they’ll be in a position to follow their dream.

“Right now, we’re creating as many beers as we can come up with and competing them as often as possible because that’s the best way we’re going to test our process and recipe creation,” Perez said. “Every time we bottle something, we bring it to a local bar and have all the staff taste it and be as critical and mean as possible so we can find out if it’s any good.”

Sharp End Brewing-Crew

The whole Sharp End Crew (from left): Steve Aiello, Anthony Apollo, Drew Perez and Frank Apollo.

The Sharp End group isn’t shying away from certified feedback, either. After winning a silver medal for a winter warmer in an American Homebrewers Association competition through the Philadelphia Homebrew Club, the friends are entering three beers into this year’s National Homebrew Competition: their Eisbock, an Irish red brewed with raspberries, and “Blood Rage,” an imperial IPA made with blood oranges.

Perez, who has been homebrewing since 2010 and spent three months apprenticing at Chelsea Brewing Company, said Sharp End’s eclectic range of contest entries is helping to fine tune the niche of what the group would eventually like to create. In the long run, he said Sharp End would have one flagship beer, four seasonal offerings and two rotating one-offs to offer variety. What those beers will be is yet to be decided.

For Perez, the key is immersing himself in beer knowledge, from reading Jamil Zainasheff and John Palmer over and over, to listening to every podcast created by the Brewing Network. He also studies previous award-winning homebrews to guide his own recipes.

“When I get really passionate about something, I study the crap out of it, so I’ve been lending the books to everyone else and making them read them, too,” said Perez, who works off a 5-gallon all-grain system and is teaching Anthony, Frank and Steve to brew. “I want to be able to have them ready to make the same beer if I’m not available, even if it’s important that we each have our specialty.”

Sharp End Brewing-Brew day 2

Sharp End Brewing and others gathered in February to brew their blood orange IPA for the National Homebrew Competition.

For Apollo, that’s numbers. While each member of Sharp End continues their normal “day-to-day” – from graduate studies to consulting and chemistry – he’s slowly planning the means to set up an initial nano-brewery as a proof of concept before considering outside funding.

In the meantime, it’s about creating batch after batch in backyards and driveways, working toward their dream of opening Sharp End Brewing.

“Once we decided we had this opportunity, it was one of those moments where everything in life came into focus for a brief period,” Apollo said. “Now we’ve got plans.”

Have questions about Sharp End Brewing and their future plans? Post them below to have them answered. You can also visit their Facebook page to receive updates on progress and view photos of brew days and more.

Related: Birth of a Brewery? Another Look at Sharp End Brewing

Sharp End Brewing-logo

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

 

Hot Off the Press: A Valentine’s Day Treat for Beer Lovers

beer-heart

Yeah, it’s Valentine’s Day. The most romantic annoying day of the year. Flowers. Chocolates. Jewelry. Everywhere.

Blah, blah, blah.

That’s just not for me and it may not be for you. Which is why I went and dug up something special for you today. A treat for the beer lover in your life – man or woman. Or maybe even you.

You may prefer something cold and frosty from the fridge, but I found the right magazine to heat things up today. Turn on the Barry White and click to enlarge. Don’t be gentle:

beer-magazine-beer porn

Happy Valentine’s Day, all. No matter how you choose to celebrate.

Make sure to also check out Oliver Gray’s beer valentines for that special someone in your life.

Header image via Eric Goodman’s Flickr.

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

Can You Save Money with Homebrew?

piggy_bank-beer_money_homebrewIn my recent post on beeronomics – how the cost of bottled beer impacts your budget – I highlighted several ways beer lovers can save some cash, courtesy of Chad Lothian’s great post, “Craft Beer on a Budget.”

An original draft of that post opted to talk about homebrewing, but was dropped due to space. With some nudging from Oliver at Literature and Libation, I’ve decided to take a look at how my homebrewing has helped save me money on beer.

Surprisingly, it’s quite a bit.
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Opportunities A Brewin’

This guest post is written by Jake Metzler (HI, JAKE!), who spends his free time writing songs, brewing beer and drinking his creations. He’s still perfecting the practice of doing all three at once. He also has a growing collection of brewing supplies.

I’ve been brewing for a few years now and believe it adds a lot of positive aspects to my life. Not just the fact it provides me with beer, because let’s face it; you don’t have to be a brewer to enjoy a good (or inexpensive) brew.

I’m referring to the process of brewing itself. I once read a webcomic that proclaimed “Baking is like science for hungry people!” Well, brewing is science for those who like to drink.

jake metzler

Jake Metzler

The great thing about cooking sciences is that you don’t have to understand all the processes in order to get them to work. You can follow the recipes and procedures of those who came before you and add your own flair once you get your bearings.

Here are the different opportunities I believe brewing brings to your life.
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I Can Haz Brewery? Memes for ‘The Session’ May 2013

brewery-brewery-beer-business-money

This month’s “Session” effort is hosted by Chuck over at AllBrews. Rather than dip into the waters of beer nerdom, he’s asked a novel question for this month’s community blogging effort:

In this Session, I’d like to invite comments and observations from bloggers and others who have first-hand knowledge of the complexities and pitfalls of starting a commercial brewery. What were the prescient decisions that saved the day or the errors of omission or commission that caused an otherwise promising enterprise to careen tragically off the rails?

cat-lolcat-beer

The ideal assistant brewer for my business.

Technically speaking, I’m not fit to answer this question as I am but a mere homebrewer. Although I did tackle this topic earlier this week about some who make it seem easy to “go pro.”

In that vein, I believe Chuck makes an adept observation about the idea of becoming a professional brewer: “Making beer is the easy part, building a successful business is hard.” Craft beer is all the rage right now and the last thing I’d want for others to do is get involved and not be successful. Although I’m constantly pleased to see homebrewers making that shift because of their knowledge and love for beer, not simply to make money.

Either way, being a brewer, brewery owner or even a homebrewer isn’t glamorous. So I put together this handy chart to give you a better idea (click image to enlarge):

homebrew-homebrewing-think i do-meme

+Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

A few words on … aging beer

Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.
– Mark Twain

As of late, I’ve found myself giving consideration to aging. Not in the sort of approaching death, morbid way, but (naturally) thinking about what it does to my beer.

Aging beers?

I know I’m not the only one who’s been in this mindset, given recent posts over at Queen City Drinks, DivineBrew and Drink. Blog. Repeat. However, it was this piece by The Street that caught my eye when they suggested something rather blasphemous to the beer community: age a Pliny the Younger. Say whaaaaa?

I have a confession to make. I’m a blasphemer too. Since January, I’ve been letting a couple bottles of Hopslam sit in a dark cabinet. Please Beer Gods (and bloggers), forgive me. Allow me to confess my sins after the jump.

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Why I love beer, a love letter

This is my 100th post on this blog, for which I’ve never truly written an explanation. As a beer lover and homebrewer, I’m a bit of a nut about beer. Although I suppose that’s only half the story.

When I was in high school – like so many others – I drank really bad beer at parties. Warm Keystone, Natural or any other interchangeable brand that tastes like toilet water. I did not care for it one bit.

But I soon had a friend who turned 21 and vowed to change the way I looked at beer. The first brew we shared was a Hoegaarden. I never knew beer could taste good. How novel.

I recently made a confession to my wife, who has put up with my obsession with beer as best as someone who isn’t enthusiastic about the stuff can be. On a flight home to New York from North Carolina in 2008 I had two items with me to ponder and pass the time with – an engagement ring in my coat pocket and a November 2008 issue of the New Yorker with a feature on Sam Calagione and Dogfish Head.

Surprises abound. The Missus didn’t know I was going to propose to her and I didn’t know that reading that New Yorker would change my life. I had been a craft beer fan for some time, but until I read that article, I never knew what brewers could do with beer. I just knew that for a few extra bucks, my time throwing down some cold ones wouldn’t be a cringe-worthy experience.

As others have noted for years, Dogfish’s devotion for pushing the boundaries of what beer could be opened my eyes. This is one of the many lines from that piece that threw me for a loop:

Carlos took the pistol, swivelled it toward the tree, and fired a single shot from five feet away. The bullet struck with a dull thud, then fell harmlessly to the ground.

Sam Calagione was going to use this tree’s wood to create a beer.

On that night in November, I found two of my greatest passions – a lifetime to spend with my wife and an unwavering curiosity toward beer that sometimes borders on annoying. Much like how the relationship between my wife and I will constantly grow and evolve over time, so has my love and understanding of beer. That’s why I write this blog. As Steven D. Hales puts it in Beer and Philosophy: “Beer drives the human condition, even if the human is in no condition to drive.”

Curious to follow me down the rabbit hole? Hit the jump.
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