Book Review: Oklahoma Beer – A Handcrafted History

Oklahoma Beer – A Handcrafted History

When craft beer fans talk about beer tourism, Oklahoma doesn’t usually come up in the conversation.  And that’s no insult to Oklahoma – that’s just the result of Prohibition-era laws that were still on Oklahoma’s books until 2016.  Oklahoma had a late start in the craft beer movement and Oklahoma Beer – A Handcrafted History by Brian Welzbacher, published by American Palate, is a fascinating read because of its focus on the modern brewing history of Oklahoma.

The first fifty pages of Oklahoma Beer covers from 1850 all the way to 1992; the remaining 100 pages outline in detail the struggles of homebrewers and craft brewers who attempted to achieve  success within the outdated “3.2 beer” and “No tours/tasting rooms” laws of Oklahoma through 2019.  Within Welzbacher’s book, the reader finds OK brewers’ stories of success, failure, innovation, frustration, and ultimately celebration in 2016.  While Oklahoma Beer is technically a history book, the experiences of these brewers documented here should be viewed as a “how to (or not)” guide for anyone looking to enter the craft beer market anywhere.

I throughly enjoyed Oklahoma Beer because when I first picked it up I had no idea about the history of brewing in Oklahoma, or the lack thereof. My initial disappointment that there was not a 150 year historical record however was quickly replaced with admiration for the modern Oklahoma brewer.  I highly recommend Oklahoma Beer for brewers who hope to open a professional operation some day in any market – and I have now added Oklahoma City to the top 5 of my “must visit” beer cities.

Oklahoma Beer is available on Amazon in paperback for $21.99 and on Kindle.

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2022 – all rights reserved

Book Review – North Carolina Triad Beer: A History

The story of brewing in North Carolina’s Triad region is a microcosm of our national brewing story – from community brewing to the rise of prohibition, the rise of big beer, the rise of craft brew, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the current brewing culture.  North Carolina Triad Beer: A History, written by Richard Cox, David Gwen, and Erin Lara, is another fine addition to American Pallet Publishing’s series of U.S. brewing history.

For those who are not familiar with North Carolina’s geography, the Piedmont Triad region is a roughly triangle-shaped area made by connecting the cities of Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and High Point.  North Carolina Triad Beer follows the story of brewing in this region, beginning in the early 1700s with the Moravians and their settlement of Bethabara all the way through to the current day, including the struggles of craft brewers in the COVID-19 era.

As in many states during and after Prohibition, North Carolina and the Triad region struggled to find balance in the laws regulating the manufacture and sale of alcohol.  North Carolina Triad Beer documents the early political efforts between teetotalers and brewers that resulted in a law that prohibited the manufacture or sale of beer that was higher than 6%; and the recent efforts of craft brewers to generate enough support for the brewing industry to change the law in 2008.  

North Carolina Triad Beer is a case study on the use of lobbying and the political system as it relates to the expansion of modern alcohol laws.  Of course, it should also provide the reader with an understanding and appreciation of where craft beer has come – and where it may go – in North Carolina.  Speaking of “going” – North Carolina Triad Beer includes a list of current breweries in the Triad region, so after you read the book and gain a desire for a Red Oak Amber Lager, you’ll have a handy guide to get you there!

North Carolina Triad Beer: A History, was published in 2021 by American Palate, a Division of History Press.  It is available on Amazon in paperback, hardback and Kindle.

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2022 – all rights reserved

Book Review – Wild Brews

Wild Brews by Jaega Wise nestled within homegrown Columbus hops.

As a homebrewer, I’m always looking for something new and exciting to brew.  But suggest to me that I should try a Brett beer or a sour?  No way!  I’ve heard too many times that those delicious but risky bugs could cause a real problem with my equipment and other beers!  But no longer – Jaega Wise’s book, Wild Brews, provides tips and tricks on homebrewing using wild fermentation techniques that even I would feel comfortable trying!

Wise is the head brewer at East London’s Wild Card Brewery, a qualified chemical engineer, a beer sommelier, a TV presenter, and one of the U.K.’s experts in wild fermentation.  In Wild Brews, Wise provides a summary of the brewing process, a high level review of each of the four ingredients of beer, and discusses the “wild” styles of beer – Farmhouse Ale, Saison, IPA, Gose, Berliner Weisse, Flanders Red, Oud Bruin, Lambic, Old Ale, and Gueuze; all written with a fantastic balance between homebrewer and chemical engineer.  Even if you’ve been homebrewing for a few years, her take on the process is a great refresher.

Brewing with Lactobacillus or Brettanomyces can seem to be a complex and daunting task for the average homebrewer, but Wise’s recipes for each of the wild styles are included in the book and all provide her expert guidance that can help homebrewers overcome their hesitation to give wild brewing a try.  For example, when brewing a Flanders Red, if you don’t feel like the beer has enough acetic acid flavor, Wise suggests, “blend in a small quantity of malt vinegar prior to packaging.” It can be that simple.  But what happens if your beer doesn’t turn out just right? Wild Brews also includes a chapter called “When Things Go Wrong” that helps you troubleshoot off flavors and hopefully fix the beer.

Overall, Wild Brews is a great read for both new and experienced homebrewers who want to give wild brewing a try.  The hardcover book includes beautifully shot photos, including several close-ups of foamy fermentation in action and clean graphic illustrations.  I would recommend adding Wild Brews to any homebrewer’s library.  

Wild Brews is published by Kyle Books (kylebooks.com) and will be available June 28, 2022.

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2022 – all rights reserved.

About The Brewholder Brews – for the BreweriesinPA Homebrew Invitational

I am Matt Brasch, the brewer behind The Brewholder Brews. I’ve been homebrewing since 2013, and even with my first batch (an Imperial IPA), I was more interested in experimenting with flavors and recipes than trying to make the perfect clone. More “mad” than “scientist,” I have relied on my extensive network of professional and home brewers for tips and tricks along my homebrewing journey. During the pandemic, I expanded my brewing process from 5 gallon to 10 gallon batches and focused in on the American Cream Ale style – enhancing it with fresh fruit (locally harvested blueberries & peaches, limes, jalapeños, cranberries, orange) and of course, coffee!

I grow my own hops (Cascade, Chinook, Columbus) at my home in Upper Dublin Township, PA, and brew a harvest ale with them every September – “from bine to boil” in 24 hours. Recently, my hops crops have yielded enough for me to brew another batch in the Spring with the hops that I vacuum pack and freeze in the Fall.

I am a published beer journalist – if you’ve been around for a while, you may have seen my articles in the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, PhillyBeerScene Magazine, and Ticket to Entertainment between 2013 – 2017. But now I spend more time reading beer-related books and posting reviews in “The Brewholder’s Library” on my website, thebrewholder.com.

“The Brewholder” concept was created to express my belief that the beauty of beer is subjective. I think that if a beer tastes great but it doesn’t meet a specific style guideline (think of Kveik a few years ago…), it doesn’t mean that it is undrinkable. In fact, it could lead to something new and amazing! That’s what The Brewholder truly stands for – if you like it, then drink it! Truly – whoever is holding a beer is the Brewholder…and beauty is in the eye of the Brewholder.

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2022 – all rights reserved

Product Review – Capski Bottle Opener

As if a Shower Beer Holder wasn’t awesome enough, Capski has now released a Bottle Opener.  Using the same material that keeps a can of beer upright in your shower, the Capski Bottle Opener is a solid answer to the age old question, “Where did I put that bottle opener?!”

Listen – I’m not going to list all the places you could install this bottle opener: on your beer fridge, work bench, tool box, etc…but what I will tell you is that it works shockingly well.  All you need is a smooth, shiny surface and you will never lose your bottle opener again…or drill holes to attach a conventional wall mounted bottle opener.

Believe me – when I installed the Capski Bottle Opener to my refrigerator and opened my first bottle from it, I half expected the whole thing to fall to the floor.  But it performed as advertised – the opener mechanism is sturdy and the silicone grip did not shift, even after a month of bottles being opened on it.

The Capski Bottle Opener is well worth the   $16 – available here

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2020 – all rights reserved

Book Review – The Beer Diet: How to Drink Beer and Not Gain Weight

Craft beer fans – how many pounds and inches do you think you’ve added due to your passion for brew?  Wouldn’t it be great if you could continue to drink beer and not gain weight?  Wow!  When I cracked open Gary Greenberg’s “The Beer Diet: How to Drink Beer and Not again Weight” I was very excited to find the answer!  

Are the answers all here?  Of course not – each beer drinker is an individual with a myriad of unique health conditions; a boilerplate approach would not work for everyone.  But the information Greenberg provides is definitely food for thought – exercise, eating habits, mental health, and your approach to the intake of your favorite malt beverage all can work together to decrease its negative health effects.

The Beer Diet is an easy read and encourages us craft beer fanatics to really think about our choices – so that we can hopefully continue to enjoy beer for a long time to come!  The Beer Diet is available on Amazon in Kindle format, and paperback will be released soon.

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2020 – all rights reserved 

Brewers Publications new release – Quality Labs for Small Brewers: Building A Foundation for Great Beer

Brewers Publications, the leading publisher of contemporary and relevant brewing literature for today’s craft brewers, homebrewers, and beer enthusiasts, will be releasing “Quality Labs for Small Brewers: Building A Foundation for Great Beer” on August 3, 2020.  Written by Merritt Waldron, author and Quality Director at Baxter Brewing Co. in Lewiston, Maine, this is a how-to guide for establishing a brewery’s quality program.  I’m looking forward to digging into it and posting my review in the Brewholder’s Library!

Here is the full press release:

Brewers Publications Presents: Quality Labs for Small Brewers: Building a Foundation for Great Beer

A how-to guide for establishing a brewery’s quality program

Boulder, Colo. • July 14, 2020 — Quality Labs for Small Brewers: Building a Foundation for Great Beer, the latest release from Brewers Publications®, emphasizes the importance of establishing a quality program for every brewery, no matter the size. Merritt Waldron, author and Quality Director at Baxter Brewing Co. in Lewiston, Maine, walks readers through a step-by-step process on how to execute a quality program at any brewery.

As many breweries across the country reopen following restrictions due to the global health pandemic, implementing policies, procedures, and specifications to directly influence the consistent production of safe, quality beer is more relevant than ever.

“Quality beer is essential to the success of any great brewery. This book ensures that only quality beer reaches the consumer, time after time,” said Waldron. “With the programs outlined in this book, breweries at any scale will be able to dive beyond the numbers and help pinpoint any risks or areas of improvement in their beer.”

Quality Labs for Small Brewers: Building a Foundation for Great Beer

Author: Merritt Waldron
ISBN: 9781938469633
EISBN: 9781938469640
Size: 8.5 x 11 inches, 296 pp
Format: Paperback
Cover Price: $95
Publication Date: August 3, 2020
Member Pre-sale July 14 – July 21, 2020: Brewers Association and American Homebrewers Association members receive a 30% discount.

With more than 60 titles to choose from, Brewers Publications is the leading publisher of contemporary and relevant brewing literature for today’s craft brewers, homebrewers, and beer enthusiasts. Brewers Publications supports the mission of the Brewers Association by publishing books of enduring value for amateur and professional brewers, as well as titles that promote understanding and appreciation of American craft beer.

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2020 – all rights reserved

Book Review: Historical Brewing Techniques – The Lost Art of Farmhouse Brewing

Historical Brewing Techniques – The Lost Art of Farmhouse Brewing by Lars Marius Garshol is a historical adventure much like Jurassic Park; but rather than amber, history is re-discovered in creamy foam and bowls of unfiltered beer.  His adventure began in 2014, when Garshol, a native of Norway, homebrewer, software engineer and blogger, set out to explore the brewing traditions of farms in northern Europe.  This was no easy feat considering that farm brewing has all but been pushed to extinction due to many factors, including the rise of industry and the decrease of traditional agriculture, the lingering effects of World War II and the Cold War, and the commercialization of beer.

One of his goals was to get to the bottom of the mysterious strain of yeast that the commercial brewing industry is fascinated with – kveik. To understand kveik and other historical farmhouse brewing methods, Garshol visited those who are still brewing the old-fashioned way – the descendants of farm brewers.  Tucked away in the farthest reaches of Norway, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Russia, Garshol sought out and brewed with farm brewers who more often than not did not have a written recipe, they simply cut nearby juniper branches for infusions and relied on the feel of the liquid for pitching the yeast – when it is “the temperature of warm milk.”

During his brew sessions, Garshol attempted to apply science to these methods and logged data when possible (including temperatures, weight of ingredients, and original/final gravities).  He provides written recipes for them in Chapter Nine, but warns, “When brewing farmhouse ale, a good tip is to take a deep breath, lower your shoulders, and relax a bit. Try to forget all the things you think you know and instead let the tradition guide you.  Feel free to take the numbers seriously, but allow yourself some latitude.”

Historical Brewing Techniques is a fantastic read for those who are interested in learning from the brewing past.  Garshol’s hands-on research into traditional farmhouse brewing is truly a major anthropological project, and his efforts to publicize these techniques is significant from a historical standpoint. Garshol’s documentation of the science and history of farmhouse brewing is excellent, but luckily it does not read like a textbook because it is filled with his personal experiences – many humorous – with the brewers and their unique perspectives on brewing, and frankly, their lack of concern for meeting style guidelines.        

Historical Brewing Techniques is published by Brewers Publications, a Division of the Brewers Association, and can be purchased on the Brewers Association website for $24.95.   

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2020 – all rights reserved

Book Review: Growing Your Own Cocktails, Mocktails, Teas & Infusions

From garden to glass!

Now that Mother’s Day has come and gone, the gardening season is in full swing. If you have a traditional kitchen garden like me, you are waiting with anticipation…wondering if your tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and a handful of herbs will be successful enough to make a salad and some garnish later this Summer. But other than salad, what else could you grow to make your days tastier?  Jodi Helmer’s “Growing Your Own Cocktails, Mocktails, Teas & Infusions” answers just that question.

While not an expansive reference book, the five chapters of “Growing Your Own” provide a solid foundation for the development of a beverage that you can grow from scratch.  Helmer opens with a  “brief history of your favorite drinks” and then launches into a lengthy chapter on plants that can help make a cocktail special, describing “leaves”, “flowers”, “fruits and vegetables”, and “roots.”  What is especially helpful is that Helmer provides the suggested growing zone for each variety (and the growing zone map for North America) so that you don’t accidentally choose a tropical plant that couldn’t survive your garden in Pennsylvania!

Helmer continues by providing tips for every aspect of bringing your garden into your glass (and your mouth!).  From garden planning to harvesting to proper glassware, everything you need to make your first artisanal beverage can be found in these chapters – including recipes for simple syrups enhanced with herbs, cocktails, and non-alcoholic drinks.

Making a simple syrup with mint

To put Helmer to the test, I harvested fresh spearmint from my garden and made a simple mint syrup, following the instructions on page 125.  With the mint syrup in hand, I gathered the ingredients for the Mojito recipe on page 133.  It was a delicious, summer cocktail, to celebrate Memorial Day Weekend and the informal beginning of summer. I would definitely consider this “experiment” a success; the libation was tasty, especially because I knew that the mint had been growing outside my back door only a short time ago.

Artisanal Mojito!

Overall, “Growing Your Own Cocktails, Mocktails, Teas & Infusions” is a solid introductory book for home gardeners and bartenders alike.  With the word “Cocktails” in the forefront of the title, I expected to see more recipes, but as I noted above, the recipe for the Mojito was excellent, so I’ll take quality over quantity in this case.  And one note – the chapter on cocktails was written by Jeanette Hurt, author of “Drink Like A Woman,” so check that book out if it is more recipes you need! In addition to Helmer’s gardening expertise, the photography in the book is bright and enticing; it motivates the reader to plant that garden and get ready to enjoy a homegrown cocktail some evening later this summer!

“Growing Your Own Cocktails, Mocktails, Teas & Infusions“ was published in April 2020 by Fox Chapel Publishing.  It is available on Amazon and retails for $18.99.  

Cheers!

The Brewholder

Copyright 2020 – all rights reserved