The Brooklyn Growler

"Life is all skittles and beer." — Tom Lehrer

The Sazerac, God’s Drink of Choice

New Orleans, 1850 — The Sazerac Coffee House — Bartender Leon Lamothe adds absinthe to a brandy cocktail. The world changes, if only by a little. The cocktail Mr. Lamothe was making contained brandy, sugar, and Peychaud’s bitters. It was called the Sazerac, after the French Quarter coffee house where it was born. By the 1870s, the Sazerac’s recipe had changed. Rye whiskey replaced brandy. The world, thus changed, became somehow better.

A lot of people will tell you a lot of things about how to make a Sazerac. I’m one of them. I’ll tell ya one thing for nothin’, if it has crushed ice in it – it ain’t a proper Sazerac. My first was served in a tumbler filled with crushed ice. The sweetness of the Peychaud’s and the simple syrup made sucking the last of the rye cocktail through the crushed ice magnificent. I was in love. But, we grow and we change. Nowadays I like the ice when I’m giving it a stir or when I’m chilling a glass. By the time I’m pouring my cocktail, there’s no place for ice.

My preferred recipe is copped from Gary Regan’s The Joy of Mixology. You might recognize Mr. Regan from the label of a bottle of Orange Bitters No. 6. Tho’ he looks rather olde timey, he’s a right-now sorta guy. Mr. Regan suggests washing the glass in Herbsaint, which is an absinthe substitute from New Orleans. Geographically appropriate, yes. (There is another reason: When his mixology book was published, absinthe was not legal in the U.S. Today it kinda sorta is.) I use a bottle of Kübler Absinthe. This change is based exclusively on the contents of my liquor shelf. For rye, you can never go wrong with Old Overholt.

I highly recommend Mr. Regan’s glassware suggestion – a champagne flute or a cocktail glass. He has very compelling reasons for doing so and they’re in his book.

First step, wash the chilled champagne flute with absinthe. Just pour a drop and swirl it around and throw it out. If you’re smart, you’ll pour a little too much and then – after washing the interior of the flute – drink the absinthe. It’s only a drop, really. Also, I’m not a bartender and I only do this when it’s my cocktail. It’s more eco-friendly to drink the absinthe. I hear this green thing is going to be big. Let’s get with it. Meanwhile, in a mixing glass add and stir –

Three ounces straight rye whiskey

3/4 ounce simple syrup

Peychaud’s bitters to taste (which means dump a whole lot in there)

Once the ice has diluted, strain the liquid from your mixing glass into your drinking vessel. Be sure to stir your Sazerac. You can give it a good stir before tending to the absinthe wash. You want the melted ice to dilute the cocktail in a nice way. But strain, yes, and season the rim with a twist of lemon. Anything that happens afterwards – you’re on your own.

The Sazerac is my favorite cocktail. Be careful with it. One will put you right. Two – well, I hope you don’t have anywhere to be tomorrow. By three? Tho’ I’ve been there, I can’t recall the circumstances… Exactly.

Filed under: bitters, cocktails, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Beware the Snow Ghost!

Diablo Dark Ale; Big Hole Brewing Co.; Belgrade, Montana

Snow Ghost; Great Northern Brewing Co.; Whitefish, Montana

Pilsener Lager; Bayern Brewing; Missoula, Montana

Jubelale; Deschutes Brewery; Bend, Oregon

Filed under: photos, , , , , , , , , ,

Sampler Pack: Wait, They Sell Growlers in There?

• This week the Brooklyn Brewery unveiled its new production equipment at its Williamsburg plant. The new equipment will help the brewery double its brewing production in the next three years. Currently, Brooklyn Brewery produces 110,000 barrels a year. Brewmaster Garrett Oliver is celebrating the occasion with the limited release of Main Engine Start ale. [The Brooklyn Paper]

• The Bedford Avenue Duane Reade has hit upon a canny idea to fight Williamsburg hipster anti-corporate NIMBYism. Add a growler bar and an extensive selection of craft beers. “In this neighborhood, I feel like that’s something people would go for,” said a man on the street whose quote I have taken out of context. [NYT]

• Exactly how does a beer achieve an “organic” certification? The better question might be, are there any that are actually worth drinking? Craft Beer sets out to answer both questions. [CraftBeer.com]

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Vermont No. 1 in Unofficial Per Capita List of U.S. Breweries

While doing some research yesterday, I began to wonder what state had the most breweries in the U.S. in 2010. Because I couldn’t find the data I wanted, I started collecting it myself.

The results were not what I expected. States with smaller populations actually had the largest per capita number of breweries. Vermont, with a population of just over 600,000 people topped the list, beating California which is just shy of 40 million people.

Go figure. Just because there are more people and more of a certain thing in a place, doesn’t mean that it diffuses as far into the culture. I think. I guess. I suppose.

Before I get to a sample of the data, I want to share my methods for the data collection.

First, I pulled all of the state-by-state population numbers from the 2010 Census. That includes all fifty states plus Washington, D.C. for a total of fifty-one entries. Second, I used Beer Advocate’s current list of Beer Places in the U.S. to get a statewide number of breweries. For this number, I combined both state-by-state numbers of breweries and brewpubs. The Brewer’s Association defines a brewpub as “A restaurant-brewery that sells 25% or more of its beer on site.” They brew beer. Fair game. Then I calculated how many breweries each state had for each 100,000 residents.

This list is, of course, unofficial. These numbers have not been collected by any official agency or professional number cruncher. This 2010 per capita list was created primarily as an intellectual exercise. I welcome input, arguments, corrections, clarifications, and questions.

The data for previous years has been expertly compiled by the Brewer’s Association (2008) and by Lug Wrench Brewing (2009). I have not included their data in my chart, but I have referred to it for the purposes of this informal analysis.

Also, I have created a public Google spreadsheet of the data (plus here is a version you can manipulate). If you would like a copy as an Excel file or PDF, my contact info is in the sidebar.

That all said–

2010: Top 5 Breweries Per Capita U.S. States

2010 Rank State 2010 Population Breweries & Brewpubs Breweries Per 100,000
1 Vermont 625,741 21 3.36
2 Oregon 3,831,074 110 2.87
3 Maine 1,328,361 37 2.79
4 Montana 989,415 25 2.53
5 Wyoming 563,626 13 2.31

2010: Bottom 5 Breweries Per Capita U.S. States

2010 Rank State 2010 Population Breweries & Brewpubs Breweries Per 100,000
47 Texas 25,145,561 39 0.15
48 North Dakota 672,591 1 0.15
49 Arkansas 2,915,918 4 0.14
50 Alabama 4,779,736 5 0.1
51 Mississippi 2,967,297 1 o.3

The results indicate that even though a state might have the highest population, it does not have the highest number of breweries/brewpubs per capita. California’s population (37,253,956) makes it the highest-populated state in the U.S. and it also has the most breweries/brewpubs (255). However, it is No. 19 for per capita breweries on my list.

Vermont, which is No. 1 per capita, is the the 49th largest state by actual population. Since 2008 (at least) it has been the state with the most breweries per capita, according to the Brewer’s Association and Lug Wrench. The Top 5 shifts from year to year. Montana was at No. 2 in 2008, No. 3 in 2009, and has fallen to No. 4 in 2010.

Wyoming was the least-populated U.S. state in 2010 and yet it makes it into the Top 5 for per capita breweries. Montana is the forty-fourth most populated state, and it consistently remains in the Top 5.

To put this in perspective, states with the largest populations actually have the smallest per capita number of breweries. So Texas has 0.15 breweries for every 100,000 people, while Vermont has 3.36 breweries for every 100,000 people.

What conclusions can we draw from this informal sampling?

Except for North Dakota (Midwest), the Bottom 5 states are all southern states. Meanwhile, the Top 5 are in the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast.

Though these northern states in the Top 5 have smaller populations of people, those people help foster environments that are rich in brewing beer – mostly craft beer. Does that mean those in the Top 5 produce the best beers in the country or, necessarily, have the best beer cultures?

No, not necessarily.

It does make me wonder… What’s more important? To have more to enjoy or to be able to enjoy less more?

All I can say is definitively is – let’s all go to Vermont and get drunk.

Filed under: news, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sampler Pack: Wild Strains of Brooklyn Yeast

• Shane Welch at Sixpoint Craft Ales in Red Hook, Brooklyn is experimenting with wild yeast for a future edition of Sixpoint’s Mad Scientist series. [NYT]

• Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione does a beer and movie pairing. [Huffpo]

• Victory has installed 345 solar PV panels from SunPower Builders on its brewery. The system is expected to generate 82,000kWh of energy yearly. [Victory]

• Tech-company Nvidia has built a keg computer that combines a keg of Sierra Nevada and a gaming PC. It’s on display at this year’s Computer Electronics Show. [Tom’s Hardware]

Filed under: sampler pack, , , , , , , , , ,

Celebrator Good Times

I’m a sucker for little plastic goats. As it happens, the Ayinger Brewery‘s Celebrator Doppelbock just happens to arrive with a little plastic goat on a string. Having picked up a bottle around the holidays, I wondered if it was part of an Xmas promotion. Drink fifty bottles of Celebrator and decorate the tree.

The goat has a greater purpose than just beer-bottle candy, though. It comes from the style of beer – doppelbock.

A bock is a style of German beer that is, essentially, a strong and sweet beer. Not too sweet, mind you. But sweet nonetheless. Bocks are lightly hopped and malty. Bocks were first brewed in the German town of Einbeck in the fourteenth century. Bavarians adopted the style in the seventeenth century. They pronounced Einbeck as “ein bock,” which translates to “a billy goat.”

Goats have since adorned bottles of bock beer. The Thank Heaven for Beer blog notes that the appearance of a goat (or a ram) also indicates that a bock is a strong beer.

And a doppelbock is a stronger version of a bock. Double bock. Doppel bock. Hotcha.

Ayinger’s Celebrator Doppelbock is a mighty fine example of the species. The groupmind over at Beer Advocate gives it an A overall, lauding both its drinkability and complexity. I agree. Served in a bell glass, this doppelbock really opens up. It’s like a buncha monks decided to have a party in your mouth. Coincidentally, monks often drank bocks and doppelbocks during their fasts.

Brooklynites can pick up a bottle retail at Brooklyn Beer & Soda. Watering holes such as the Fourth Ave. Pub, Mug’s Ale House, and Radegast Hall have some Celebrator’s behind the bar.

Filed under: beer history, beer reviews, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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