Continuing from last month’s column on the Meeting of the Malts in Bethlehem, Karol and I were ready for the highlight of the evening — an all-star panel discussion about the state and future of craft brewing. Jim Koch from the Boston Beer company (aka, Sam Adams) got the ball rolling, saying absolutely no one 35 years ago realized craft beer would become so innovative and dynamic, with such explosive growth. Young brewers were still finding their way. There were no successful role models, save for Fritz Maytag of Anchor Steam Brewing in San Francisco, who advised Koch, “If you want make a small fortune in brewing, start with a large fortune.”
“Yet somehow,” Koch continued, “this first crazy and creative group of semi-misfits re-invented brewing, adding new flavors and tastes.” Koch then mentioned how sorry he felt sorry for the poor wine makers, “Who were stuck with only juice and barrels,” which is why, “All red wine tastes the same.”
Next, the panelists shared some of their first memories of beer — from a tiny Wendy Yuengling bringing a her father a glass of premium draft, swiping sips along the way — to Joey Redner of Cigar City Brewing, hating beer when he was young and wondering what all the fuss was about. And finally, to Bill Covaleskie of Victory Brewing serving as his father’s homebrewing apprentice.
Covaleskie’s anecdote piqued my interest. His family is from Shamokin, so I asked him the obvious question after the discussion. Yes, he is related — somewhat distantly — to hall of fame pitcher Stan Covaleskie. He added that when his family vacations to the west, he still enjoys driving by Shamokin.
But the discussion wasn’t entirely a back-patting, mutual admiration society. There were tough questions as well. Emcee Bump Williams saw dark days ahead for the industry due to increased competition, the rise in spirits consumption, the possible legalization of cannabis and indifference among Millennials. The panelists’ answers were the liveliest part of the evening.
Mike Stevens of Founders Brewing thought the industry may have forgotten how to make beer sexy and, in the process, lost touch with the consumer. Covaleskie noted that the future of beer may be headed “back to center,” instead of outrageous concoctions. Tom Kehoe of Yards was more optimistic, saying, “People will experiment with spirits, but they always come back to beer.” Joey Redner echoed his optimism, “A poorly made porter still tastes better than a well-made light lager.”
Mike Stevens of Founders won over the crowd with a profanity-laced tirade against “big beer” — reminiscent of Eagles center Jason Kelce’s epic Super Bowl parade rant. Most of his comments can’t be repeated in a family publication, except “Bud, Miller and Coors had their time, now it’s our time to become the next wave of what American beer represents.”
Be sure not to miss out on the excitement of next year’s 2019 Meeting of the Malts by following the Brewers of Pennsylvania (BOP) on Facebook. Speaking of the BOP, download their new (and free) digital Ale Trail app to assist in navigating through more than 200 breweries. Until next month, enjoy the selections and support PA craft beer whenever possible. Cheers!
If lagers become the next craft craze, Victory’s Home Grown American Lager may be leading the way. A clear straw-colored pour supports a thick and effervescent head. Aromas of citrus blend with notes of grass and green tea. Home Grown’s flavors are a delightful balance of malt and juicy, tropical hop flavors from a blend of Centennial, Mosaic, Azacca, Cascade, Chinook and Citra. All this goodness is packed into an only 4.8 percent alcohol beverage. The quest for the perfect session brew is over.
Pumpkin Ale is one of my favorite seasonal brews. Saucony’s Creek Brewing’s Maple Mistress Imperial Pumpkin Ale packs all the wonderful flavors of fall. Its orange-amber pour fills my chalice. A thick, tan head quickly dissipates, leaving an intricate lacing pattern. Robust aromas of pumpkin, cinnamon and toffee meld with the scents of vanilla and cloves. The mouthfeel is full, with sweet flavors of malt, caramel and maple, before switching to pumpkin pie flavors that impose a semi-dry finish. At 10 percent alcohol, this mistress is not to be trifled with, sip slowly and with respect.
Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS), our dessert brew at the beer-dinner pairing, has a well-deserved cult following. The breakfast comes from coffee; the Kentucky part is from bourbon barrel aging. KBS pours jet black, with aromas of chocolate, dark fruit and alcohol. A lush mouthfeel reveals flavors of toffee, plums, cocoa and coffee. The finish is slightly sweet, but not cloying. As one might suspect, this is a behemoth of a beer, eclipsing 12 percent alcohol. Enjoy at your leisure, while savoring the flavors of fall.
I’m not advocating beer for breakfast, but Rusty Rail’s Waffle Sauce Imperial Brown Ale, another autumn seasonal, would be an interesting way to start the day. Ruby highlights glisten within a deep-amber pour. Subtle scents of maple mingle with notes of dark fruit and malt. The mouthfeel is smooth, almost creamy. The maple flavor is much more assertive than the aroma, mixing with caramel, pecans, and notes of baked pastry. Waffle Sauce finishes slightly sweet, with a deceptively smooth 8.2 pecent alcohol. Karol and I will be sure to snag another 6-pack.
(The Brew Dude is published monthly on the Food and Drink Page. For comments, suggestions, or questions, email Pasquinelli at firstname.lastname@example.org.)