Brewery Guilds Know the Value of Local

• It Isn’t About Globalization
• Responsible Beer Tourism

Colorado's brewers' guild is the latest to announce a membership program to benefit fans of local beer.

Oregon has SNOB. Illinois has IMBIBE. The Green Mountain state created the Passport program, also called DRINK VERMONT. And now Colorado has created the SOCIAL Drinker program. No, these aren’t state college hazing rituals – they are ingenious collective marketing strategies executed by state brewery guilds.

What’s a brewers’ guild and where do I find one? Firstly, a guild is a trade association of brewers, typically from within one state. At last count, thirty states have brewers guilds. California has no less than four. The Brewers Association provides a current list. What you’ll find with each guild is a little different. Some guilds list every brewery in the region, while others will only promote their own membership. The few breweries that have decided to sit out from guild membership should rethink that decision. Guilds today are very active promoters of local beer, act as legislative watchdogs, and organize innumerable events.

Guilds usually use websites and brochures to convey to the public what they do and to galvanize local brewers to become members. The San Diego Brewers Guild provides a mission statement that could work for most any:

  • The mission of the San Diego Brewer’s Guild is to promote awareness and increase the visibility of fresh, locally brewed beer through education and participation in community events. To that end we are providing you, the discriminating beer lover, with a handy place to find info about our fresh local beers and the breweries that make them.
  • Most guilds offer a website with a map, or at the very least, a listing of member breweries. The New York State Brewers Association offers a downloadable Brewery Trail Map. Maine uses a google map.

    Googling breweries in Maine.

    Indiana has an interactive online map, while Hawaii lets you play find-an-island-with-a-brewery.

    Guild sites will have calendars, adverts, specials, and some fun photo galleries. But the best treat of all is the growing number of guilds with various customer appreciation benefits. Take the new Colorado SOCIAL Drinker program (“social” = “supporter of Colorado’s indigenous ales and lagers”). For an annual membership of 25 bucks you get a shirt, discounts, special invites, and whatever else social networking can get you (LOL – you saw it coming, didn’t you?). SOCIAL Drinker is based on Oregon’s SNOB (“supporters of native Oregon beer”), one of craft beer’s most well known consumer membership programs.

    With the Vermont Passport program, you get a free card listing all of the state’s breweries. All you have to do is visit all of them and collect a little “Drink Vermont” rubber stamp from each. Send in the card and get a bundle of schwag. Visiting only some at least lands you a hat or a shirt. Let’s face it, it can require daring do, with Trout River Brewing only open two days a week up there in the boonies known locally as the Northeast Kingdom. Do I hear banjos?

    Next time you see a brewers guild set up at a beer fest, be sure to tell them what a great job they are doing. And above all, local beer supports local producers and retailers. Cheers! TPJ

    Seeds and Scions: How Apple Varieties Originate and Perpetuate – Vol. 1, No. 5

    • Apple Seeds Fall Far From the Tree
    • A Twig in Time Saves Mine

    With grafting, a single apple tree may grow more than one variety.

    At first blush it seems too fantastic to be real – that every apple seed is unique and will grow up to produce a different apple than its source tree. As with human reproduction, the daughter tree may have some characteristics of the parent, but maybe not the characteristics that are most favored. If this is true, how is it that hundreds of orchards can all grow the same apple variety? The answer is something called asexual reproduction. To avoid the natural genetic variability, continued propagation of a variety is achieved by grafting either buds or twigs onto a compatible rootstock. Curiously, an apple tree may have multiple different varieties grafted to it, as the picture here shows.

    Tom Burford is a 7th generation orchardist from Amherst County, Virginia.

    Grafting is a fundamental skill that was known to early farmers. According to apple expert Tom Burford, grafting has been known for at least three thousand years. But grafting faced extinction in the 1950’s. After WWII, mass migration of people from the farmlands to the cities meant that children were no longer taught this once essential skill. Burford himself received his first grafting knife at the age of six, and prior to that young age was charged with picking good seeds out of the pomace leftover from pressing cider.

    Grafting captures the best traits of the rootstock and the scion wood. For instance, the rootstock can control whether the tree is full-sized, semi-dwarf, or dwarf. It brings with it certain hardiness, disease resistance, soil preferences, and the like. The scions, however, control the apple variety, ripening season, and pollination characteristics. Some apple varieties require pollinating from another variety, while others can self-pollinate.

    And what about those seeds that the child Burford collected? Those were used to grow new rootstock for later grafting.

    Modern orchardists may use a scion or a bud to accomplish grafting. With scion wood, representative twigs are harvested during the dormant season, kept cool and damp until spring, then grafted on in the spring. With bud grafting, autumn buds are harvested and then grafted onto the limbs or rootstock prior to annual dormancy. According to Burford, grafting almost always will succeed as long as sound contact is created between the thin vascular cambium layer of grafted tissues and the graft is kept from drying out. The images below originate from the Cider Museum Hereford, in the heart of England’s cider region.

    A sharp knife and manual dexterity are required for grafting. Image from the Cider Museum Hereford.

    To learn more about apple grafting and heirloom apples, try the following links:
    • Lucy Cook’s All About Apples featuring Tom Burford and apple-cheese pairings
    • The Cider Museum Hereford
    Tom the Apple Man, another English site
    The Willow House Chronicles
    The Howling Duck Ranch

    Enjoy! TPJ

    Recipes – coming soon…

    Beer Talk – coming soon…

    Real Cider in Europe – Was it Ever Lost? – Vol. 1, No. 4

    • First Some Apple Basics
    • Give Cider Some Latitude
    • Classic Cider Nations

    images

    Wild rose blossom.

    Apple Botany 101. Apples and similar fruits are classified in the rose (Rosaceae) family. Fruits of this family are thought to have originated in western Asia. They are sometimes called ‘pip fruit’ in reference to the small seeds in the core. Fruit containing a single large seed, peaches for instance, are called ‘stone fruit.’ While also part of the Rosaceae family, peaches, plums, apricots and cherries fall into the genus Prunus.
    images-1

    Apple blossom.

    Apples (Malus sp.), pears (Pyrus sp.), quinces (Cydonia sp.), and loquats (Eriobotrya japonica) are termed pomes: fruit in which a fleshy, edible hypanthium layer surrounds a seed-containing core (ovary).

    rep97

    It's true that most people don't like to eat apple ovaries.

    Next time you have the chance, slice a rose hip in half and notice how much like an apple it is. In many foods (nuts, citrus, squash, etc.) it is the ovary we eat, but with apples, it is this sweet but vitamin-deficient swollen floral tissue.

    In better real ciders one might detect aromas or flavors of pear, rose, raspberry, cherry, and more. It is not that strange considering these fruits are all relatives of the apple.

    The Latitude of Cidertude. Cidermaking is climate-driven. Apples tend to grow in a certain climate, one with a suitably long growing season and (typically) a winter with some freezing temperatures. Since fine cider is made from recently picked apples and apples are a bulky commodity to ship, pressing cider at or near the orchards makes sense.

    In this country, the greatest apple growing regions are the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic states, the Great Lakes region, and the Pacific Northwest. In other words, apples seem to grow at between 40 and 50 degrees latitude in North America.

    Picture 1

    Popular cider-producing regions around the world. (Captured from Google Maps)

    Apples were not a native crop; they were brought by pioneering souls to the New World. Apples and cidermaking were old arts in Great Britain, lower Scandinavia, France, Germany, Poland and surroundings countries. In Europe apples thrive at latitudes of 45 to 55 degrees – a little farther north than here, but the climate isn’t as cold as it would be here due to Gulf Stream warming. In the southern hemisphere, apples grow well in South Africa, southern Australia, and New Zealand, all at around 30 to 40 degrees south.

    Cider Nations. Do you know that cider traditions are alive and comparatively well in other countries? Some have speculated that Prohibition or the post-WWII urban migration undermined real cider in this country. That discussion isn’t part of this article, but would be worth visiting in another installment.

    TPJ cider and perry

    The Palate Jack and some merry Welsh lads at the Welsh Perry & Cider Festival, at the Clytha Arms, near Raglan, Monmouthshire, Wales.

    South central England and Wales have a very lively artisan cider culture. If one knows where to look, one might have the chance to explore a regional cider festival, as the Palate Jack did a few years ago. The most active region includes Herefordshire, England and Monmouthshire, Wales. These ciders are not the commonplace, canned ciders from Britain, but are rustic, highly scented, farmy enigmas served from plastic carboys in a sawdust-strewn stone barn. Wonderful, if not lacking somewhat in finesse!

    savannah cider

    Savannah Dry Premium Cider - an astonishing aroma.

    While in Wales we noticed a South African cider called Savanna Dry Premium Cider. Made of Granny Smith apples, it burst with incredible floral and spice aromas. It is marketed for the mainstream, but bears little resemblance to the mass-market English, Irish, and Vermont ciders. It can be tough to find in this country.

    It is true that on a hot summer’s day a can of Strongbow or Magners hits the spot. Although to visit their websites, one imagines that soccer is more important than cider… but is it? Bulmers, who have diversified / bought out cider producers in several markets, have also been known to produce some dry, more traditional ciders. Good luck finding them.

    Another region with a profound cider history is near Frankfurt, Germany. Here, along the confluence of the Main and Rhein Rivers, Frankfurters have established their own beverage identity – not with the beer of Franconia to the east, or wines of the Rheinland just west – but with appelwein. Known to us as cider and to locals as ebbelwoi, Frankfurt cider houses serve a small, but dedicated following.

    keltereien4

    A bevvy of bembels.

    Cider establishments in Frankfurt are centered on the south bank of the Main in an older neighborhood called Sachsenhausen (‘Saxon houses’). The cider is traditionally served in a potbellied stoneware pitcher called a bembel. Traditional tumblers into which ebbelwoi is poured are called geripptes – with textured grips that help you hold onto your cider with pork-fat-smeared fingers. Bembels come in all sizes; one orders the pitcher based on how many glassfuls of cider they want. For instance, an achter holds eight 250-300 ml glasses worth. The cider itself is not as reputed as Germany’s beers and wines, and with good reason. It is, well, just okay. A splash of good fizzy mineral water is often added to pick it up a little.

    Back here in chilly New England, writing about cider makes one yearn for a taste, a taste of tart and sparkling local cider. TPJ

    What to Look for in a Real Cider – Vol. 1, No. 3

    • Flavor Profiles and What to Look For
    • Tasting Suggestions

    On my recent visit to Farnum Hill cidery I was impressed by the palate skills of my hosts, and of course, by their very fine ciders. Cider doesn’t seem to have the established organoleptic terms of art that wine has developed – maybe that’s why cider seems less snooty.

    “Do you have a word for that pippy-stemmy thing that reminds you of the apple seed?” The group bandied it about. “Green wood,” they posited. Jess told us in the refrigerated bin barn, “Alright, take a bite of that,” pointing to a bin of kiwi-sized apples. The raised eyebrow meant we were in for a shocking experience. “Chocolate!” I blurted out before the tannins took hold causing me to spit out the rest. LouLou called it “free association” tasting – one just says what comes to mind. (I will abstain from some of the terms I heard, though not in reference to the ciders we tasted there!)

    I spoke with Corrie Martin, cider advocate extraordinaire, about this. She knows there is a lack of consumer education. Education leads to consumer appreciation, and that in turn, leads to more informed purchasing and demand. Again, I can’t help but to think back on the beer or wine industries, and how they once had the same hurdle to overcome with American consumers.

    As a starting point, following are suggestions of favorable and not so favorable traits of real ciders. If you would like to undertake a group tasting, suggestions for real ciders and some simple tasting protocols are also listed. Enjoy. TPJ

    Favorable Traits in Real Cider
    • Varietal characteristics of the fresh apple expressed with vitality
    • Fruitiness (can be stone fruit, berries, melon, banana, pineapple)
    • Floral qualities (lilac, rose, fruit blossoms)
    • Spicy or savory notes (cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa, farm terroir)
    • Tannin structure and fruity acidity

    Undesirable Traits
    • Overly green apple or green apple candy flavors
    • Vegetative notes of crucifers (broccoli, cabbage, etc.) or squash
    • Oxidized (‘reductive’) flavors, such as caramel, wood, leather, although trace amounts may add complexity; new oak barrels may overwhelm a cider and introduce excessive vanillin and oak flavor
    • Dull or lifeless cider – even still ciders should have acid zing and aromatic qualities

    Suggestions for Cider Tastings
    • Taste still ciders before sparkling ones
    • A white wine glass is good for nosing and warming
    • Rinse your glass with a bit of the next cider first
    • Swallowing allows you to judge late palate sensations and whether the acidity agrees with the stomach
    • Tasting with cheese may assist in judging the acidity
    • Cider can be great with food – explore the possibilities and watch for cuisine à le cidre recipes on this site.

    Better Ciders for Your Gathering
    Farnum Hill, Lebanon, NH
    NH, ME, VT, MA, NY, possibly OR, IL
    Wandering Aengus, Salem, OR
    OR, WA, CA, UT, TN
    Black Star Farms Winery, Suttons Bay, MI
    online ordering available to some states
    Bellweather Cider, Trumansburg, NY
    online ordering available to some states
    West County Cider, Colrain, MA
    MA, CT, NY
    • If you’re lacking enough bottles, throw in a couple of imports for comparison:
    Domaine Dupont or others from Normandy region, France
    Samuel Smith’s Organic or others from England

    A Visit to a Real Cider Producer – Vol. 1, No. 2

    • Poverty Lane Orchards and Farnum Hill Ciders

    It was an unseasonably mild November day. The low, bright sun warmed. Most of the leaves were down. The last few frostbitten apples, now beginning to ferment, dangled from their perches. This was to be a long overdue visit – Farnum Hill had been on my radar for three years now.

    The farm is run by husband and wife Stephen Wood and Louisa ‘Loulou’ Spencer. The short story is that Stephen’s father was a doctor who aspired to be a gentleman orchardist. “Apples are a problem when you’re a doctor,” said Loulou. We saw the pun immediately, knowing “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Her real point, though, was that juggling both careers proved unwieldy. At sixteen, son Stephen was showing interest in the orchard side. At that time the orchard produced stalwart New England eating varieties like Macintosh and Baldwin.

    Lady apples

    Small and clustered, the Lady apple is a centuries old variety.

    Was it foresight to a burgeoning cider industry or a farmer’s practical wisdom that drove Stephen and Louisa to convert the operation to cider apples? Well, the latter, according to Loulou. The writing was on the wall: grocers wanted hard, well-keeping “dessert” apples, and that new fangled green one from Australia (‘Granny Smith’) was all the rage. (More on just how they converted the orchard in the forthcoming Vol. 1, No. 5 – Seeds and Scions.)

    Stephen, now in his fifties, showed up in blue coveralls and a Bruegel-esque red felt hat. He was scrambling to get to Cider Days, down in western Massachusetts. We shook hands. He said that Loulou and sales rep Corrie Martin would be taking us around. Then he was gone. When our party had gathered, we idly strolled through first through the original orchard, then over a trickling streamlet to a younger planting surrounded by very tall deer fencing.

    Newton with apple

    Newton, the dopey farm mascot.

    Newton, the so aptly named farm dog, munched on an apple. We too munched. There was the juicy, yet tiny Lady, a very old variety that may have ties to ancient Rome. Lady grows in clusters and looks like large Ranier cherries. We marveled at the fluted, green and waxy Calville Blanc and tasted the sweet-sour, fragrant Ashmead’s Kernel. We were soon joined by Jessica Saturley. Jess is a bright-eyed, wholesome young gal with a talented palate; she works with Stephen in flavor analysis and blending. We assembled at the barn for a tour of the pressing operation and for a much-heralded tasting.
    TPJ Calville apple

    The Palate Jack gets a surprising mouthful with a Calville Blanc apple.

    The juicing operation is straightforward. Bins of apples are dumped into a hopper, ground into a meal, then transferred by pump to a rack and cloth press and hydraulically squeezed. The juice ends up in 300-gallon totes where it is sulfited. The sulfiting process releases sulfur dioxide gas, which kills wild yeast. The gas then dissipates and the juice is ready to be pitched with a vigorous Champagne yeast. In this way, the cidermaker exercises more control over the final flavor profile. Fermentation proceeds at ambient temperatures either in stainless tanks or oaken puncheons.

    At the outset of fermentation, most cidermakers are faced with a choice of whether to ferment a blend of apples or ferment each variety singly for later blending. Farnum Hill does both. They ferment a largish quantity of cider as a foundation based on varietal characteristics and tasting of the fresh crop and juices.

    Jessica and Tod

    Farnum Hill's Jessica Saturley and Portsmouth brewer Tod Mott discuss the ins and outs of blending.

    This base may have five or six varieties chosen to supply necessary sugars, acids, tannins, and favorable aromatic and flavor traits. Separately, single varieties are fermented in wood. In the spring, if a cider blend needs a little fine-tuning, some of the barrel-fermented cider can be blended in. There seem to be no ‘hard and fast’ rules about this process. In all, it has taken Stephen and crew ten years to retool the orchard and a second decade to begin to produce the type of ciders they are striving for.

    cider barrels

    Varietal ciders at work in their barrels. The barrel labeled 'PERRY' contains fermenting pear juice.

    Our tasting included nine ciders, some thieved from their barrels, others in bottled form. We began with the Ashmead varietal. Poverty Lane grows the Ashmead because high acid apples are an essential component of great cider. The cider was still (i.e. sans carbonation), very acidic, and wonderfully fragrant with notes of cherry blossom, honeycomb, and green tea. Next we tried a blend of three old-timey apples: Spitzenberg, Dabinett, and Yarlington Mill. It was a bittersweet base cider with some young tannins, a pippy-stemmy woodiness, corn cob, and raspberry fruit on the nose.

    The bottled ciders we tried included the Extra-Dry Still and the ’07 Kingston Black varietal. The extra-dry possessed a light wood-leather note, some ‘forest floor’ terroir, and would pair well with foods suited to white truffles – seafood and egg dishes particularly. The Kingston Black would pair better with turkey, venison, or pork. It was leggy at 9% abv, with light caramels. It possessed a subtle and nuanced barny-cheesy-lover’s armpits quality that made our group titter with voyeuristic smirks.

    l_farmhouseAfter the tasting Loulou invited us to the farmhouse for a spread of pumpkin soup, hearty breads, beans, and salads. Of course, there was one more cider there – a cider produced by Cisco Brewers on Nantucket. It was notable because it had been dry-hopped, a beer brewing method that introduces aromatic oils into hoppy beers (e.g. IPAs and so on). Speaking of IPAs, Portsmouth brewer Tod Mott pulled out a growler of his IPA to share. What a satisfying day!

    Cider, My Old Friend – Vol. 1, No. 1

    • Background on Hard Cider
    • Making a Rustic Cider

    Poverty Lane Orchards 1

    Fall is the time when the apples come in and fresh cider surely follows.

    Hard cider in America is facing the same identity crisis that beer underwent thirty years ago. There was a time before craft beer when drinkers could only chose from a selection of nearly comparable neutral-flavored lagers. English brown ales and true pilsners were limited to stale imports. Sure, there was a recollection of such beers, but few, if any, domestic brewers made them.

     

    In much the same way, the average person’s exposure to hard cider today has been limited to sweet, mass-market versions. Most imports have followed suit. Traditional cider in this country has been kept on life support by an odd assortment of farsighted orchardists, hobby brewers, and determined Luddites. These are ciders with complexity, acidity, and good food compatibility. As the old New England aphorism almost goes… Only good can come of this.

    The widely available “cider coolers”[1] have dropped into a convenient pattern, fueled by industrial production methods, product consistency goals, perceived customer preferences, blather blather, in short, the usual assortment of cost-shaving, profit-enhancing, product-dumbing maneuvers that beverage makers are famous for. Granted, there is a segment of the populace that will always favor a sickly-sweet-fruity-something to avert the possibility of tasting alcohol, tannins, bitterness or sourness. But should the entire cider industry be geared to such sacchariphiles? Enter the other ciders.

    Traditional ciders, which might also be referred to as hard, real, fine, or artisan, are a very old and very diverse dynasty. You might remember from your ethnobotany graduate studies, that apples and honeybees did not originate in the Americas, but instead were brought by early Europeans. Apples were grown and grafted by the Chinese, the Romans, and most inhabitants of Northern Europe for thousands of years.

    apple stamp

    Heirloom cider apples are often named for the place they originated or for the person who grew them.

    The apples brought here were largely for cider making. Early settlers consumed prodigious amounts of hard cider. The notion that apples are sweet and for eating out of hand is actually a recent development.

     

    At its most basic, cider is an extremely uncomplicated drink that one could easily imagine primitive peoples making. Crush some fruit, collect the juice through a basket, and leave the juice to set for a few days. That’s it. Incipient wild microbes and enzymes from the fruit, the terroir, the basket, and perhaps the cidermaker’s sweat or spittle, set the fermentation going. It was, and is, this easy. No cooking, no malting of grains (nor is spittle required). In three to five days you’ve got a cloudy, wonderfully spritzy, fresh cider with a few percent alcohol and ample aromatic properties. It is no wonder than during my high school and college years, I would see, high up on a dormitory window ledge, a jug of cider fermenting in the cool autumn air.

    My cider senses have been re-awoken. Triggered by a germinal memory of that tart and carbonated cider of my youth. Or perhaps it was the tannic odor of soggy dropped oak leaves in the woods, or the cider vinegar smell arising from wet grass around a forgotten apple tree. Cider must be.

    Cider, at its simplest…

    cider nouveau 1

    Enjoy a rustic hard cider in only a few days.

      Cidre Nouveau

    Find a glass jug, 2 qts or 1 gal in size. Sanitize with a teaspoon of chlorine bleach and a cup of water. Cap, shake, allow to sit for fifteen minutes, then rinse thoroughly. There should be no residual odor of bleach.

    Fill the jug 80-90% full with fresh, unfiltered apple cider. Add a sachet of dry brewer’s yeast, cap, shake vigorously until the cider is oxygenated and the yeast is not clumped. Loosen the cap without removing, such that CO2 gas can be released during the fermentation. NOTE: If you fail to do this, the bottle WILL explode during fermentation.

    Place in a cool place for a week, checking on it periodically. When the gas production has ceased and the cider tastes tart and fizzy, you’re done.
    Cheers, TPJ

    [1] Legally, these are probably termed FABs, “flavored alcoholic beverages.” Icky.

    November Survey

    Be sure to click on the Survey tab. It only takes a moment. Results to be tabulated at the end of the month. TPJ

    Germinal Website

    Keep checking back with The Palate Jack. As this site grows and evolves you will find op-ed pieces, user polls, recipes, and other goodies! TPJ

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