Yankee Brew News December 2012/January 2013 : Page 1
By Jack Kenny ILLUSTRATIONS BY: HANS GRANHEIM And sometime lurk I in a gossip’s bowl In very likeness of a roasted crab, And when she drinks, against her lips I bob And on her withered dewlap pour the ale. — William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream illiam Shakespeare drank it in the tradition of his time, with a roasted crab (the apple) or three or four afloat on the surface. It is the wassail, the holiday drink whose name was bor-rowed for eternity from the g greeting “To your health!” in the ancient cient tongues. The expected response to “Wassail!” Wassai ai l! l ! ” is “Drink hail!” In the Dark Ages of from 1919 f Beer, Be er , fr om 1 91 9 to t 1979 in the United Sta States, nobody a te s, n ob od y filled the wassail bowl with ale. owl wi w th a le e . Wine was plentiful the l through gh t he 20th Century (with h a nod d to o Prohibition) and beer was the as t th h e bland liquid chosen for us by the large and growing commercial brewers. A few exceptions can be noted, but not many. Today we are blessed with amazing beer. The tradition of spicing the ale during the cold months, especially during the Christian holiday season when family and friends gather, has returned. Though not necessarily in the old-fashioned d-fashioned way. As soon as they could ould d do so, o, American A mer craft brewers looked to th the seasons for h e se as on s fo inspiration, and the w winter holiday proved in te ter r ho li da day y pr o to be a grand season for s specialty ales. pe ci al ty ales What have they produced? mighty pro-duced? d? A m ig h ht y p cession of fine draughts, they did, and with no lack of the spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, fruits, herbs, vanilla, chocolate, spruce. It was high time to make the Wassail now; therefore I had up the materials (which, together with their proportions and combinations, I must decline to impart, as the only secret of my own I was ever known to keep), and made a glorious jorum. Not in a bowl; for a bowl anywhere but on a shelf is a low superstition, fraught with cooling and slopping; but in a brown earthenware pitcher, tenderly suffocated, when full, with a coarse cloth… Having deposited my brown beauty in a red nook of the hearth, b inside the fender, where she soon began i to sing like an ethereal cricket, diffusing at the same time odours as of ripe vineyards, spice forests, orange ests, and orang groves, — I say, having stationed ay, havin ng st s at io ne n d my beauty in a place o of security f se e cu ri t ty and improvement, I intro introduced myself ro o du u ce d my se lf to my guests by shaking hands all king h a ds a an ll round, and giving them a he hearty welcome. e ar ty w el come. — Charles Dickens, The Seven Poor Travelers , 1854 r Trav See Winter Ales p. 10 By Jamie Magee STAGING A REVIVAL: Revival Brewing’s Jeff Grantz, Owen Johnson and Sean Larkin. PHOTO COURTESY OF REVIVAL BREWING evival is a fairly simple concept. It’s defined as an instance of some-thing becoming popular, active or important again. But the story of Revival Brewing is more complicated. Its creation involved years of brewing effort, the establishment of cooperative relation-ships, the rekindling of a famous brand and a demand from friends and fans that reci-pes not gather dust. The one thread throughout: Sean Larkin. Larkin became head brewer at Providence’s Trinity Brewhouse in August 1996. Raised in East Providence, Larkin was a “lowly burger chef” at Trinity when an opportu-nity arose for him to become the apprentice to Trinity’s founding brewer, Kurt Musselmann. Trinity, centrally located near Providence’s civic center, has become a downtown fixture. As demand for Trinity beers grew, Larkin started contract-See Revival p. 4 INSIDE Events Calendar .............. 2 Tasting Panel................... 8 Homebrew ......................12 Beer Cooks .....................13 Maps/Directory ..........18-23 State by State News E. Massachusetts ....................14 Boston ......................................16 W. Massachusetts ...................24 Maine ........................................26 New Hampshire .......................28 Connecticut ..............................30 Vermont ....................................32 Rhode Island ............................34 NYC/Long Island ......................36 Upstate NY ...............................38
And sometime lurk I in a gossip’s bowl In very likeness of a roasted crab, And when she drinks, against her lips I bob And on her withered dewlap pour the ale.
— William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream
William Shakespeare drank it in the tradition of his time, with a roasted crab (the apple) or three or four afloat on the surface. It is the wassail, the holiday drink whose name was borrowed for eternity from the greeting “To your health!” in the ancient tongues. The expected response to “Wassail!” is “Drink hail!”
In the Dark Ages of Beer, from 1919 to 1979 in the United States, nobody filled the wassail bowl with ale. Wine was plentiful through the 20th Century (with a nod to Prohibition) and beer was the bland liquid chosen for us by the large and growing commercial brewers. A few exceptions can be noted, but not many.
Today we are blessed with amazing beer. The tradition of spicing the ale during the cold months, especially during the Christian holiday season when family and friends gather, has returned. Though not necessarily in the old-fashioned way.
As soon as they could do so, American craft brewers looked to the seasons for inspiration, and the winter holiday proved to be a grand season for specialty ales. What have they produced? A mighty procession of fine draughts, they did, and with no lack of the spices: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, fruits, herbs, vanilla, chocolate, spruce.
It was high time to make the Wassail now; therefore I had up the materials (which, together with their proportions and combinations, I must decline to impart, as the only secret of my own I was ever known to keep), and made a glorious jorum. Not in a bowl; for a bowl anywhere but on a shelf is a low superstition, fraught with cooling and slopping; but in a brown earthenware pitcher, tenderly suffocated, when full, with a coarse cloth… Having deposited my brown beauty in a red nook of the hearth, inside the fender, where she soon began to sing like an ethereal cricket, diffusing at the same time odours as of ripe vineyards, spice forests, and orange groves, — I say, having stationed my beauty in a place of security and improvement, I introduced myself to my guests by shaking hands all round, and giving them a hearty welcome. — Charles Dickens, The Seven Poor Travelers, 1854
In medieval Europe’s northern climes, where many a holiday drinking tradition was born and throve, the wassail bowl was often filled with ale, unless one’s wealth and status enabled him to procure and store wines from regions south. In the barley and hop belt, ale was the everyday drink of the common folk, adults and children alike. On special occasions, such as weddings and other feasts, the ale was likely to be brewed with more care and more ingredients, thereby giving celebrants another reason for cheer.
In their zeal to turn pagans away from the wrong gods to the right god, Christian priests co-opted the local holidays and assigned new religious meanings to the events, thus allowing the unwashed to keep their silly celebrations and at the same time pay homage to Yahweh and his son and a legion of saints. That’s how we got Christmas. Nobody knows when Jesus was born, but the winter solstice is as good a time as any, they decided, and put the stamp of the Roman Church on the whole thing.(The church did not, however, give us the Christmas tree, mistletoe and Santa Claus.)
It’s a good bet that the holiday drinking traditions came from the Old Norse. Households in Scandinavia today observe ancient post-prandial holiday drinking rituals involving the repeated consumption of øl and akvavit, each round accompanied by a specific song. These people come from the cold and they know what winter is. Hell, they gave us the Vikings, those mad men who, in the words of the late Alan Eames, “remained deeply and profoundly drunk for two hundred years.”
Sjur Soleng, co-owner with Rich Dunn of Ninety9 Bottles in Norwalk, Conn., was born in Norway and knows well the stories told by his father of holiday traditions in the old country. Local people brewed their own ales, and paid visits to their neighbors at Christmas time, passing the bowl, laughing and singing, warming the northern nights with the gift of the jul øl. Soleng shared some history:
“After the Norwegian people became Christians, laws were passed that regulated the brewing of beer at Christmas. The ale was brewed with the farm’s best barley to be strong and could be seasoned with tobacco, syrup, sugar, juniper and herbs. One report stated that the beer had to be brewed with as many kilos of grain as the master and mistress of the farm weighed together. I would like to have tasted that.”
The brew vessel was consecrated with fire. The first beer was thrown outside to appease the trolls (old beliefs die hard.). The strength of the beer said something about the honor one offered to Jesus and Mary. Weak beer brought shame upon the farmer.
One source claims that the wassail bowl was first mentioned in writing in the 13th Century and defined as a vessel in which revelers dipped cakes and fine bread. The practice of floating crisped bread in the bowl might have given rise to our use in English of the word “toast” to mean a drinking salutation. In The Sketch-Book of Geoffrey Crayon, written in 1820 by American author Washington Irving, toast is included as an ingredient in the holiday drink bowl, along with the afore-mentioned crabs.
The Wassail Bowl was sometimes composed of ale instead of wine; with nutmeg, sugar, toast, ginger, and roasted crabs; in this way the nut-brown beverage is still prepared in some old families, and round the hearths of substantial farmers at Christmas. It is also called Lambs’ Wool, and is celebrated by Herrick in his poem Twelfth Night:
“Next crowne the bowle full With gentle Lambs’ Wool, Add sugar, nutmeg, and ginger, With store of ale too; And thus ye must doe To make the Wassaile a swinger.”
Lambs’ Wool was prepared by whipping dark ale to form a surface froth in which floated the roasted crab apples. Sometimes nutmeg was involved. The hissing pulp bursting from them resembled wool. Samuel Pepys, the famous English diarist, clearly enjoyed the beverage. His entry from November 9, 1666, includes the following: “We got well home … Being come home, we to cards, till two in the morning, and drinking lamb’s-wool. So to bed.”
Today’s Winter Beers
“I have heard a variety of stories as to the origins and history of winter/ Christmas beers, including that monasteries brewed the first holiday beers to celebrate Christmas, or that special beers were created during the winter solstice for festivities associated with worshiping and celebration of the gods,” said Jim Koch, founder and chairman of Boston Beer Co. “For us, brewing seasonal beers has always been inspired by the seasonality of ingredients and the weather. During the winter months beers such as old ales, barleywines, strong ales and lagers were made at higher levels of alcohol to warm against the cold winter nights.”
Boston Beer has once again released its Winter Lager and Old Fezziwig Ale, both spiced with cinnamon, ginger and orange peel. Two new seasonals are White Christmas, an unfiltered white ale that contains cinnamon, nutmeg and orange peel, and Merry Mischief, a gingerbread stout flavored with cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and ginger.
“The U.S. has a history of brewing spiced beers dating back to the colonial times as colonists made the traditional wassail,” Koch added. “Over the years there have been spiced beers for the holidays, but it really wasn’t until the craft beer revolution that you started to see so many wonderful winter beers available in the market.”
Koch said that the company experiments with new ingredients all the time. “We have actually experimented with brewing a traditional Wassail at Boston Brewery using traditional spices of nutmeg, ginger, allspice, orange peel and some apple purée. It was a really interesting brew, as the fruity estery notes were balanced by the roasted malts and the apples. Separately, it took us five years to figure out how to integrate chilies with our chocolate bock. The breakthrough was adding some cinnamon. It bridges from the luscious chocolate flavor to the fire of the chilies.”
Some craft winter ales have been around for a couple of decades. Harpoon Brewing’s (also of Boston) Winter Warmer came out in 1988 and has a devoted following. Anchor’s Christmas Ale (Anchor Brewing, California), with its ever-changing secret recipe, is a legendary brew, and Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale (Sierra Nevada Brewing, California) is high on the list of all-time favorites for its powerful profile.
DL Geary Brewing, in Portland, Maine, has been producing fine beers since the early days of craft brewing, and this season has a new Winter Ale. The company describes it as “well balanced and more aggressively bitter, both in alcohol and hop character, without being overpowering.”
The absence of spices, fruits and herbs in Geary’s Winter Ale is not unusual. Despite British fondness for wassail, English holiday ales tend not to feature flavor additives, but to rely instead on different combinations of beer’s four basic ingredients.
“We have used vanilla and other flavors in the past, such as maple,” said David Geary, founder and president. “We’re not opposed to them, but we have not used them in our Winter Ale.
“People have been putting stuff in beer since beer was made,” Geary observed. “Porter originated on the docks of London, and was not a strong beer because it was meant to be consumed every day, all day. But in the winter they used to fool around with it. They would put capsaicin in it to warm it up. From time to time they would add laudanum (alcoholic tincture of opium) to help them sleep. According to one treatise I read, they put something called sativa in it.”
Other regional winter brews without spices include Magic Hat Brewing’s (South Burlington, Vt.) Heart of Darkness, Otter Creek Brewing’s (Middlebury, Vt.) Winter Red Ale, Sebago Brewing’s (Gorham, Maine) Slick Nick Winter Ale and Brooklyn Brewery’s (Brooklyn, N.Y.) Winter Ale.
“Spiced ales can be done well, but there are plenty of examples that are not done well. They are overly spiced, syrupy sweet; the extracts get in the way of the beer flavor,” said Luke Livingston, founder and president of Baxter Brewing, Lewiston, Maine. “Our three seasonal beers all have special ingredients, because they give us an opportunity to play, to deviate from the norm.”
Baxter is a fairly recent entry into the beer market, producing its products in cans and kegs. This season marks the introduction of Phantom Punch Winter Stout, a foreign export stout at 6.8% ABV brewed with cocoa nibs and vanilla beans.
“Stouts are the most requested and the least purchased style of beer,” Livingston said. “You don’t often see them on a yearround basis. Dark beers are personal favorites of mine, stylistically, and consumers asked us to make a stout. Winter is the right time. As a seasonal, we will probably see the same volume of sales as if we had it out year-round.”
The beer is named for the heavyweight prize fight between Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston that took place in Lewiston in 1965. At the time, it was rumored that Ali defeated Liston with a “phantom punch.”
Spices or no, the purpose of a winter beer is to fortify the body and spirit against the cold. To achieve this, the brewer must know where the strength lies. The late English beer writer, Michael Jackson, in a 1990 essay titled The Perfect Pint for a Chilly Night, put it simply and correctly: “It is the richness of the malt, rather than the floweriness of the hop, that characterizes winter ales. These things are meant to be sustaining rather than refreshing.”
Read the full article at http://nwbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Winter+Ales/1268414/139727/article.html.
Revival is a fairly simple concept. It’s defined as an instance of something becoming popular, active or important again. But the story of Revival Brewing is more complicated. Its creation involved years of brewing effort, the establishment of cooperative relationships, the rekindling of a famous brand and a demand from friends and fans that recipes not gather dust.
The one thread throughout: Sean Larkin.
Larkin became head brewer at Providence’s Trinity Brewhouse in August 1996. Raised in East Providence, Larkin was a “lowly burger chef” at Trinity when an opportunity arose for him to become the apprentice to Trinity’s founding brewer, Kurt Musselmann. Trinity, centrally located near Providence’s civic center, has become a downtown fixture. As demand for Trinity beers grew, Larkin started contracting Trinity IPA with Cottrell Brewing in Connecticut in mid-2003.
With ten years in the business under his belt, Larkin was approached with another opportunity in 2007 — something any native Rhode Islander would relish — the chance to brew Narragansett beer. Brought to life from a generation of fond memories, Narragansett’s familiar branding and diehard loyalty was missing one crucial ingredient: recipes.
“Narragansett came to Trinity because of its reputation as the premier brewpub in Providence,” Larkin said. “They wanted to do small batches of Porter.”
Larkin created a Porter recipe Narragansett and in “so brewing,” Larkin became the first brewer from Rhode Island to brew Narragansett in Rhode Island since the closing of the brewery. The Cranston brewery closed on July 31, 1981. (Larkin was just nine years old.)
The reintroduction of Narragansett proved popular, and Porter was soon followed by other styles. Larkin used Trinity as a pilot brewery to create Narragansett’s Porter, Bock, Summer, Oktoberfest and Cream Ale recipes. As the quantities grew, the logical choice for a brewing partner was, once again, Cottrell Brewing. Narragansett has since outgrown Cottrell and moved to High Falls Brewing in New York, but Larkin remains involved. He just created a new beer for Narragansett, Imperial IPA, brewed at Just Beer in Massachusetts.
Running a well established brewpub and reviving a famous brand might be enough for some brewers, but Larkin began to realize that he had no ownership within either of his projects.
“While I have a lot of support in the industry, I wanted to start the process of doing something for myself,” said Larkin. “I wanted to create a brewery in Rhode Island so I wouldn’t have to leave some day.”
Larkin had a wealth of recipes that were never going to be bottled, and with the support of Trinity’s owner, Josh Miller, Revival Brewing began to take shape. Larkin found partners in Owen Johnson and Jeff Grantz (who designs Revival’s retro-40’s graphics), local friends who he met through mutual friends.
The logical brewing partner was, once again, Cottrell Brewing. Though Cottrell is in Pawcatuck, Connecticut, it sits just across the border from Westerly, Rhode Island, and is only 44 miles from Providence. The building, which houses huge cranes from its days as a printing press manufacturer, has helped launch many brands and has played a large role in the revival of craft beer.
By now, Larkin considers Cottrell’s Charlie Buffum a close friend, and that friendship was evident on a Revival brew night at Cottrell during which Larkin and Buffum cracked jokes, shoveled the mash and recounted highlights of their many years of partnership.
“As much competition as there is in this industry, there is a great amount of cooperation, Larkin said. “Charlie and I make a good team.”
Larkin’s confidence in Buffum and the Revival brand recently prompted him to purchase and install a 40-barrel fermenter at Cottrell.
“The nature of the contracting game has changed,” Larkin said. “I bought my own tank to guarantee my own production, although Revival would like to have an affordable brewhouse in Providence, with tours and regular business hours.”
It’s a busy life for Sean Larkin. The local boy done good.
Revival Brewing Company www.revivalbrewing.com
Read the full article at http://nwbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Revival%21/1268443/139727/article.html.