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Microbrewed AdventuresA Lupulin Filled Journey to the Heart and Flavor of the World's Great Craft Beers
By Charles Papazian
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Charles Papazian
All right reserved.
Birth of Style
I was taking the F train from Manhattan to Brooklyn, on my way to the Park Slope Brewery Pub, in the autumn of 1994. Halloween had recently come and gone. Jack-o'-lantern pumpkins still glowered from neighborhood windows. The evening was cold, inspiring me to walk briskly through the Brooklyn neighborhood as I searched for the newly opened brewpub.
My thoughts dwelled on a conference presentation given earlier in the day where the question was asked, "Why are certain areas of the country hotbeds of microbreweries and specialty beers?" An expert presented his reasoning, citing pseudo-facts about culture and demographics. I thought to myself, those reasons are academic bullshit things you say when you really don't know.
It was a longer walk to the Park Slope Brewery than I had imagined. I asked myself the same question. Could it be that specialty beer and microbrewery beer are especially popular in certain areas because of a handful of key individuals and their enthusiasm, dedication and persistence? I believe microbrewed beer's success in certain areas is a result of people such as Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada), Fritz Maytag (Anchor Steam), Steve Hindy (Brooklyn Brewing Company), Paul Shipman (Red Hook Ale), Fred Bowman (Portland Brewing Company), Kurt Widmer (Widmer Brewing, Portland, OR), John Hickenlooper (Denver's Wynkoop Brewery), Greg Noonan (Vermont Pub and Brewery, Burlington), David Geary (D. L. Geary's Brewing Company, Maine) and others. Demographics and culture contribute nothing compared to the influence of individual acts of heroism, dedication and persistence. But in high-powered industrial economics, never is individual heroism an accepted explanation. It does not fit very well into the academic and economic models at board meetings and learned universities. Big-company marketing departments are uncomfortable with this.
I was still walking. In what seemed to be a strictly residential neighborhood, I was looking around for a brewpub. There were no signs of beer anywhere. A Jack-o-lantern sat in a corner window of a building. I shaded my eyes from the overhead street lamp and peered inside. It was a bar, with gleeful pumpkins alit with flames. There was beer.
I entered and was greeted by the warmth and glow of friendship and microbrewed beer. There was little doubt -- this had to be the place. But where was the brewery? Steve Deptula greeted me with recognition and I was quickly confronted with a decision: California ale, porter, blonde, Kolsch (with 30 percent flaked corn), barley wine or pumpkin ale on tap. A pint of hearty ale soon graced my hand.
Owner and brewer Steve explained the unusual circumstances of his business. Steve was a graduate of the "Complete Joy of Homebrewing" School of Brewing. The brewery pub was a complete do-it-yourself project involving a year and a half of renovation. Steve's resources were limited, but his determination obviously was not.
The beautiful mahogany bar, graced by the good cheer of local beer drinkers, was a testimonial to his accomplishment. The small brewery below was retrofitted with equipment. Steve proudly explained how, with limited resources, he had had to place the chilled aging tanks in the same room as the fermenters. How did he keep the fermenters warm enough for ale fermentation? An $18 space heater from Wal-Mart.
The brewery has since closed, but not before pleasing thousand of beer drinkers and turning on countless others to the world of flavorful and passionately made microbrewery beer.
The 1980s were a turning point for American beer. Microbreweries and brewpubs began opening and new American beer styles were born -- American pale ale, American wheat beer and American imperial stout.
Raspberry wheat beers, American India pale ale, stouts and porter, rye ale, whiskey-barrel aged stout and several other creations continue to emerge as brewers continue to embark on their own microbrewed adventures. The flavors and diversity of American beer are unparalleled anywhere in the world, bringing a high degree of respect and creating a proud American beer culture for beer drinkers to enjoy.
Microbreweries started popping up in the United States around 1981. This was the year I first tried Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I knew at once that the guys behind this brew were possessed with a passion for beer and excellence. It was the dawn of what was to become the most popular style of microbrewed craft beer, American pale ale, and the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company of Chico, California, pioneered the way. Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi, the founders of the brewery and originally homebrewers, sought to make a commercial beer that emphasized hops.
Indeed not only were there more hops in their now famous pale ale, but they were the unique citruslike Cascade hops. These hops had never been used in large amounts -- in any beer, anywhere in the world -- except by homebrewers like themselves.
In 1880, there were more than 2,200 registered breweries operating in the United States. In 1980-81, there were only forty-four.
However, this was all soon to change. Homebrewers were indulging in their newfound passion for flavor and diversity in beer. With the fermentations of their efforts as inspiration, they were founding small brewing companies based exclusively on their love of beer. This passionate approach to professional brewing would become known as "microbrewing."
The Microbrew adventure was begun by homebrewers with the opening of breweries such as the New Albion Brewer in Sonoma, California (1976, closed in the early 1980s), the Boulder Brewing Company in Boulder, Colorado (1980, still operating as the Boulder Beer Company), the Cartwright Brewing Company, Portland, Oregon (opened and closed in the early 1980s) and the Debakker Brewing Company, Novato, California (opened and closed in the early 1980s). Others that opened in 1981 included River City Brewing Company (Sacramento, California), William S. Newman Brewing Company (Albany, New York) and Thousand Oaks Brewing Company (Berkeley, California), all closing within a decade.
Excerpted from Microbrewed Adventures by Charles Papazian Copyright © 2005 by Charles Papazian.
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