Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Power of One

Pierre Celis, 1925-2011
On Sunday I was reading the latest issue of The Beer Connoisseur magazine when I got word that Pierre Celis had passed away at the age of 86.  This got me thinking about the impact that a single individual can have on the world around them, especially in regards to craft beer.

To take Pierre Celis as an example, if he hadn't decided to create Hoegaarden Brewery to resurrect the wit beers that he remembered from his youth, would we even have beers like that anymore?  Might wit beers just be a style we read about in beer histories?  No such thing as Blue Moon or the hundreds of other beers brewed today in this style?  An entire style of beer that we have today only because one man decided that he wanted to drink good beer like he'd had as a youth.

How about Fritz Maytag?  What if he hadn't decided to rescue the Anchor Brewing Company?  If he hadn't chosen to be the trailblazer for all those who followed?  It would certainly have made things tougher for people like Ken Grossman of Sierra Nevada and the other fledgling microbrewers for whom Fritz was an example and a mentor .  Would we still have had a craft brewing revolution?  Perhaps, but it's almost certain it wouldn't look anything like what we actually experienced.  All because Fritz decided that Anchor Steam was too precious to let disappear.  One man making a difference.

The list of individuals who have made singular contributions to craft brewing could is long and distinguished.  Jack MacAuliffe building the first micro at New Albion.  Charlie Papazian pushing to legalize and promote of home brewing.  Ken Grossman at Sierra Nevada.  I could on and on, talking about people who by their choices singlehandedly re-shaped what we Americans think of when we talk about beer.  However, there's one more name that has to be mentioned.

Amongst the list of brewers who helped give us the wonderful craft beer scene we enjoy today, there must be added one other person who, as far as I know, never brewed a beer in his life: Michael Jackson.  The article  in The Beer Connoisseur that I mentioned reading at the start of this blog was a retrospective of his life, one which reminded me again just what a tremendous debt we all owe to Michael.  The very language we use to describe beer --the concept of a beer style, for example-- originated with him.  It hard to imagine what the craft beer world would be like without his influence.  We can safely say that several classic Belgian breweries would have gone out of business years ago if not for his telling the wider world about them in his books.

So as we all move on through this world, we should each remember that one person can make a difference.  Keep an eye out for your chance.

The list of the top 50 Breweries by Volume for 2010 has been released.  Our very own Alaskan Brewing Company comes in at a respectable #12 amongst craft breweries and #20 when all breweries are considered.  Nice job guys!

Click to enlarge
Turning to beer news from up in Anchorage:  Midnight Sun will be bringing back the bottle version of their Mammoth Extra Stout.  This is a beer that we used to have in bottles year-round, but then the brewery dropped it from their bottled line-up.  For those of you who might not have gotten to try it,  the brewery describes it as follows: "Dark and full-bodied, Mammoth Extra Stout boasts a rich melange of flavors, including chocolate, caramel, coffee and nut. Huge portions of pale and specialty malts give this mammoth brew a complex yet exceptionally smooth palate. Hops provide balance without overpowering the chewy malt profile."

Here are the specifics:
7.8 % Alcohol By Volume
50 International Bittering Units (IBUs)
Malt: Pale Two-row, Special B, Biscuit, Black, Roasted Barley

Hops: Magnum, Fuggles 

I'll be looking forward to picking up some to taste and review.

Also from up north, La Bodega now has a website.  Check them out at 

Closer to home, I hear that Kenai River Brewing has their Nugget Single Hop IPA on, though I haven't had a chance to stop by and confirm that.  St. Elias Brewing has a new rauchbier, made with malt smoked over cherrywood.  I got a taste last weekend and I'm looking forward to drinking an entire glass and writing a review, as the sample was excellent. I also heard that our local brewers are talking about hosting a beer festival here on the Kenai in early August.  Stay tuned for more details as they develop. 

Finally, only one new beer review this week: Elysian Brewing Company's Dragonstooth Stout.  We get a fair selection of Elysian's brews up here in Alaska, but this was the first time I'd seen this particular beer, which they call an Imperial Oatmeal Stout.  It poured perfectly opaque with a small brown head that dissipated quickly to just a collar around the glass. The aroma was of sweet roasted malt, a touch of oats, then maybe a hint of hops. Super thick and creamy on the tongue, this baby has all the mouthfeel you could ask for.  There's some acrid, roasted flavors, suggestive of espresso, with a nice balanced hoppiness; nothing overboard.  Some oily, silkiness from the oats helps to keep things nice and smooth.  There's a long finish with the roastiness.  With an ABV of 7.5% and 36 IBUs, this is a lovely beer that would make a great pair with any sort of rich, chocolate dessert.

Well, that's about it for this week.  Be sure to get out and try some good brews; I know I plan to.

Until Next Time, Cheers!

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