From Cartwright to Session IPA in 272 Words

I’m a bit short for blogging time this week, though there is a remarkable post over at Oregon Hops and Brewing Archive that will feature prominently in (hopefully very near) future posts. A trove of documents reveals what the state of brewing was like in the late Carter administration as Chuck Coury struggled to make one of America’s first microbreweries a viable enterprise.

Original Cartwright site.

I don’t want to step on that blogging too much, but suffice it to say that what brewers and drinkers understood then–a long time by one measure, but well within living memory–was shockingly primitive. That article contrasts nicely with a piece that provoked a lot of debate on the nature of Session IPAs. In that post, Londoner Mark Dredge argues that there’s nothing sessionable about this style. Unsurprisingly, his British commenters all offer their hear-hears (as did Alan, in a thread that sadly took place on Facebook). I’ll leave aside for a moment my strong dissent of Mark’s point–“sessionable” may be a British word, but which flavors Americans choose for their sessions is not under British oversight*–but what’s striking is the distance between Cartwright and Session IPA.

We’ve gone from a time when Americans neither knew how to brew beer nor what most beer tasted like to a time where we argue about “sessionability” and “session IPAs”–two concepts that would have been abstruse to the point of gibberish just 36 years ago. I have a decent shot at being alive in another 36 years, and it’s hard to even imagine what world we might inhabit then.

*Okay, I didn’t entirely leave it aside.

from Beervana

Gardens are Art

Viburnum foetidum v. ceanothoides - red winter berries in rain

No doubt if you are reading this you know that gardening is an art. And, as is often true with art, one form inspires another.  A recent stroll in the University of California Berkeley Botanical Garden brought so much of this together.

UC Berkeley Botanical Garden

A wet January day at University of California Berkeley Botanical Garden

Art appreciation is something we do every time we visit a museum, go to a concert, read a poem, dine in a fine restaurant, are thrilled at a sporting event, listen to a well-crafted lecture, or recognize any of the beautiful things humans are capable of doing.

Walking a fine garden is art appreciation too, often alerting many of the senses, making us keenly aware that in nature beauty begins.

Art is everywhere, and for many of us in the Gardening Gone Wild community, we create art every time we plant something new, prune our trees, or pick a bouquet.

I wonder if we understand how deeply gardens affect other arts.  I doubt there is any  quantitative way to measure the influence of gardens on the human soul, but certainly they improve the human condition. Whether actively or subliminally I am sure we gardeners spread the beauty and joy we find in the garden to others.

I was at the Botanical Garden to see the Florilegium of Alcatraz exhibit.


After the lecture I strolled the garden, absorbing the wet beauty, giddy, thinking about the art all around me and how I might portray what I see.

By good fortune I ran into the poet Hazel White who is currently working on a project in the garden called The Biotic Portal at Strawberry Creek.  She and her colleague Denise Newman are surveying garden users and creating an archive of experiences.

I met her just as I was studying these Viburnum berries glistening with raindrops.

Rainrops on Viburnum foetidum v. ceanothoides - red winter berries in rain

Rainrops on Viburnum foetidum – red winter berries in rain

She asked me what I was seeing, and I had such fun thinking about it, in conversation with her about vision and what I look for in gardens.

I often see things abstractly as shapes and colors, and in the years since my vision was compromised by a detached retina, I have started to illustrate gardens a bit differently in my personal work. Having talked to Hazel about these viburnum berries, how I saw them as they had splashes of color, I decided to transform them into the art print I imagined.

Viburnum foetidum v. ceanothoides - red winter berries in rain

Viburnum foetidum v. ceanothoides – red winter berries in rain

I cropped the photo down to lines and texture and color.

Viburnum foetidum v. ceanothoides - red winter berries in rain

Then I cloned in, or added, some extra berries in the upper right and lower left.

Viburnum foetidum v. ceanothoides - red winter berries in rain

I then used a Photoshop plug-in filter called Topaz Impression and began working with the tools contained in the filter that adjust brush shape, brush size, vibrancy, edges, and a number of other options.

Viburnum foetidum v. ceanothoides - red winter berries in rain

A blur of impressions, nicely balanced by the underlying structure of the branches.

After applying the filter I decided I need to erase a few spots to reveal the original berries.

Viburnum foetidum v. ceanothoides - red winter berries in rain

Viburnum foetidum v. ceanothoides – red winter berries in rain

Let your eyes focus on those few berries and feel yourself in the garden surrounded by beauty.

And when you are next in a beautiful garden, let your eyes un-focus, and sink into the beauty. Gardens are art.

from Gardening Gone Wild

But the Horse Has Already Left the Barn…

…and lived a full life and passed into the next. But Coors, discovering the door ajar, is racing to close it.

Latest marketing push uses “Whatever your mountain, climb on” to lure back diverse crowd of consumers curious about craft brews

The campaign opens with a panoramic shot of hiker scaling a snow-covered peak, which is followed by a “Rocky”-style montage of boxers, bull riders, runners, climbers and welders.

“Our mountains make us who we are, your mountains make you who you are,” the ad says, winding up with “whatever your mountain, climb on.”

It’s a far cry from hot babes and cold beer.

The new comprehensive marketing campaign from MillerCoors, the Chicago-based joint venture of Denver-based Molson Coors and SABMiller, targets women, consumers with diverse ethnic backgrounds and adults aged 35-44, hoping to draw customers back to the venerable brand.

On the positive side: at least now they’re aware they have a problem. On the negative side: they’ve skeezily objectified women for 35 years.

from Beervana

Marks of the Modern Era: Hop Breeding

Looking back on a decade of blogging, one of the biggest revolutions has been the emergence of hops as the central player in craft brewing–a phenomenon that stretches all across the globe.  This has been driven by a couple things. First and foremost–and the subject of a future post–the way in which beer styles have evolved to take advantage of the flavor and aroma of particularly New World hops (US, New Zealand, Australia). But a possibly overlooked dimension in all of this are the hops themselves.

Breeders have been busy for the past four decades adding to the world’s inventory of hop varieties. The focus in the early decades was on alpha acids; every few years, breeders managed to goose the alpha acids in hops so that “high alpha hops” went from 8% up to the low teens. When they kept going, breeders invented a new category, “super high alpha,” to describe them. Large industrial breweries were driving these innovations, because the higher the alpha acids, the fewer the hops they had to use in a batch of beer.

Craft brewing changed that calculus, as drinkers became attracted to the vivid, often exotic flavors of New World hops. There were a decent number of first-gen varieties to choose from, principally the classic “C-hops” (Cascade, Centennial, Chinook). As craft brewing turned more toward hoppy ales and brewers started focusing more on techniques to enhance these hops’ flavor and aroma, breweries started to look for new varieties to give their beers distinctive flavors. Stan Hieronymus would probably be able to comment more knowledgeably on this than I, but it appeared that the development of Citra, led by the Widmer Brothers and Sierra Nevada, marked a turning point. 

Developing hops takes a long time and is expensive and laborious. Unusual, off-putting compounds in these new hybrid hops are not always evident until they’ve gone into a number of beers. (Summit has a compound that tastes of onions to a minority of drinkers, Sorachi Ace a dill note–flavors not generally admired by those who detect them.) Producing a winner like Citra means finding several also-rans. Nevertheless, the blend of incentives created by the new direction of craft brewing post-2005 has shifted hop breeding firmly in the direction of aroma varieties. 

After Citra, a succession of new hops has hit the market–Mosaic, Equinox, Meridian, El Dorado, Palisade–all bred to give breweries more options. This is only the start of things. Breweries have a huge interest in finding hop varieties that will (generally in combination with other hops) give them IPAs that taste like no others on the market. They’re looking not only to newly-bred ones, but forgotten varieties (Comet has made a comeback), indigenous varieties, and uncommon foreign varieties. What follows is an incomplete list of hops you may see appearing in your local IPAs:

What’s been really amazing is how these effects are translating to new varieties in Germany (Mandarina Bavaria, Huell Melon), the Czech Republic (Kazbek, Vital, Bohemie), and the UK (Sussex, Sovereign, Endeavour)–all places where classic varieties had previously been sacrosanct. The British strains seem to be the most New-world of the bunch, and Americans may soon be turning to the new varieties there to trick out their hoppy ales.

When I started this blog, it was possible to keep track of all the hops used in commercial brewing. As a homebrewer, I was able to brew with most of them and learn how they behaved and tasted. Now it seems like every week I encounter a beer made with some new hop. The very popular ones, like Mosaic and El Dorado, find their way into enough beers that we can hope to identify them. But Tahoma? Minstrel? TNT? It’s getting harder and harder. I suspect this will slow down at some point, but it’s the new normal for now. And it’s been quite a transformation.

from Beervana