Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Rebirth of Steam Beer

When you think of Steam Beer today, you’re most likely inclined to think of the beloved Anchor Steam out of San Francisco. This is for a few reasons, but first and foremost because the brewery trademarked the used of “Steam Beer” so other brewers cannot use the term. Make no mistake, however, that Steam Beer existed in California well before Anchor. In fact, Steam Beer was a California commodity from back in the gold rush days and could be found at any number of breweries that dotted the old time landscape.
In fact, Sacramento seemed to be home to a large-scale Steam Beer brewery at the turn of the 20th Century, as seen in the California State Board of Agriculture’s Statistical Report from 1901.
There are two large breweries in the city [Sacramento]. The City Brewery manufactures steam beer and in 1901 produced 50,000 barrels that were disposed of all over California Nevada and Oregon.
Today Steam Beer, or California Common as it is currently referred to, is a beloved product of fine quality. However, it was not always the case. In fact, looking back in literature from the late 1800s and early 1900s you could assume a few things about Steam Beer: 1) It was cheap and of poor quality; 2) It was associated with the rough-and-tumble of our society.  In fact, after reading a few texts of old, it seems like an effective way to describe a person of poor character was to point out his affinity for Steam Beer. Fact is, the oldest references I could find about the beer style had very little good to say – save for the fact it was cheap.
Here are a few excerpts from old text that mention Steam Beer – for your reading pleasure. We’ll start with this excerpt from – “A Poor American in Ireland & Scotland” by Ben Goodkind, published 1913.
We soon learned that the drinking water of Sacramento was not of good quality, for it is taken from the Sacramento River and is impure, therefore we took to drinking Sacramento steam beer straight and found it good.
That’s about as good as the reviews got for Steam Beer, which in this instance was made in Sacramento. How about the less savory mentions? This one is lifted from ”The Nerve of Blaze McGee” by Mortin Parker, published in Boy’s Life in May 1923.
Barlow’s drink dispensary occupied the corner. In days gone by, within the long barroom, had been fought gun duels innumerable. Cattlemen, rustlers, gamblers, Mexican smugglers had come and gone through those swinging-doors. Musty with age, the saloon had succumbed to the great drouth. “Lager” and “Steam Beer” had bleached out completely from the wooden sign over the door.
Then there’s this gem plucked from Overland Monthly and the Out West Magazine, published in 1868.
But he ruled merely by means of ability and not affection. Not like McManus was he admired. The latter was “the whole thing” in the saloons in the Barbary Coast, down where the worst beer flows, where they like everything big and strong and cheap-big schooners of steam beer, big men, big fleas, big watches, heavily gilded, and meals at ten cents, including a big dose of second-class burnt chicory, steaming hot, miscalled coffee.
Still more, this comes out of “Michael, Brother of Jerry” written by Jack London, of all people, in 1917.
In his desperation Daughtry hit upon an idea with which to get another schooner of steam beer. He did not like steam beer but it was cheaper than lager.
Regardless of the checkered history, Steam / California Common beer is of great importance in the overall history of California brewing. In fact, (and this is just an odd reference to me) the California Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) has an interesting tidbit related to the Type-23 Licence (Small Beer Manufacturer – I.E. craft brewers).
This license formerly related only to Steam beer. “Steam” beer is made by fermentation at cellar temperature rather than near freezing as is the case with other beers. It is made using only one type of malt–malted barley. It contains no corn, rice or other cereal grains as regular
beers normally do. The method of carbonation is entirely natural and involves a process known as Krausening. This process requires taking beer which has been completely fermented and adding to it beer which is still fermenting. This causes a second fermentation to occur. The Krausening process in beer corresponds closely to the “bulk process” in making some types of sparkling wines.

Yes, it would appear that the craft brewery license in California was originally intended for Steam Beer brewers. By the way, how about that description of Steam Beer brewing? Not bad for government work.
Today Anchor Steam is rightfully considered a premium beer, and there are a growing number of terrific examples of the California Common style. It is telling to me just how far we have come in our brewing practices, not just here in California, but globally. Surely there were inferior beers throughout the land in the 19th Century – hell, there’s plenty around today, even with all of our scientific and educational advances. That said, I am truly happy (as a fan of Anchor Steam and the California Common style) that through the bad years this style was able to make it. We no longer associate this beer with anything negative – in fact, this style is the foundation of the modern American craft beer movement. That right there, that says a whole hell of a lot.

Monday, May 21, 2012

How to Pour Beer - A Call for Service

I’ve been to a handful of classes and seminars that are supposedly geared toward beer servers, and have also read many more posts online on the subject. These classes & posts are rather predictable in their format – tilt glass, pour, straighten glass, leave a nice little crown. Now, while I agree this is a pretty important part of beer service, it completely misses the boat on what makes an actual beer server. Nowhere was this make more apparent than at the Heineken campaign “Passion for Beer” campaign hosted around the country last year.
At this seminar (I went to the San Francisco offering) the class titled “The Perfect Pour” seemed like a yawner – I mean, really, I could rattle off the above-mentioned technique in my sleep. I was more than a little impressed when the instructor, Franck Evers, began with the most basic element of proper beer pouring – eye contact.
You see, beer service has trended to the brainy aspects of the liquid – styles, history, ingredients and whatnot – while giving very little attention to the actual act of service, which begins with a smile and eye contact, maybe a hello if the bar isn’t slammed. From here, you can take the patron’s order, then promptly pour into a beer-clean glass before returning the beer to the patron, again with eye contact and acknowledgement of their order (repeating back their order as you put the glasses on the counter, or a simple ‘thank you’ usually does the trick).
For all you aspiring beer servers, regardless of the certificate you hold, remember that service is as important as the beer. It doesn’t start at the tap, or the glass, it starts when you greet your customer and ends when they leave. Yes, it’s important (very important) to maintain clean beer lines, beer-clean glasses and have a working knowledge of the beers you serve. That said, all this technical information is pretty useless if you fail at the most basic point of service – the customer interaction.
A Quick Aside
Anyone that frequents bars knows that this sentiment isn’t just shared among beer fans, but in any specialty market. Look at your hipster hangouts like artisan coffee shops, cocktail bars and even upscale grocers. We have today an immense level of information about the products we sell. We can rattle off the details of history, regional differences, ingredients without effort. More and more, however, all this seems to come at the cost of service. It doesn’t have to be this way.
Please note this entry in the 1882 edition of “The New and Improved Illistrated Bartenders Manual” written by Harry Johnson.
When waiting on customers at any time it is of the highest importance for a bartender to be strictly polite and attentive in his behavior and especially in his manner of speech giving prompt answers to all questions. As far as lies in his power he should be cheerful and have a bright and pleasant countenance. It is of very great importance to be neat clean and tidy in dress, as that will prove more to the interest of the bartender than any other matter. He should be pleasant and cheerful with everyone this will not only be pleasing to customers, but also prove advantageous to the bartender serving them. It is proper when a person steps up to the bar for a bartender to set before him a glass of ice water and then in a genteel and polite manner find out what he may desire. If mixed drinks should be called for it is the bartender’s duty to mix and prepare them above the counter and let the customers or parties see them and they should be prepared in such a neat quick and scientific way as to draw attention. It is also the bartender’s duty to see to it that everything used with the drinks is perfectly clean and the glasses bright and polished. When the customer has finished and left the bar the bartender should clean the counter well thoroughly so that it will have a neat and appearance again and if time should allow bartender to do so he should clean the glasses in a perfect manner at once so as to have ready again when needed. As regards the bench, which is an important branch in managing a properly, it is the bartenders special duty to his bench cleared up and in good shape at all times he will find it to his advantage if done properly.
Clean, gentile and attentive – if you miss these subtle attributes, you’ve missed out on how to properly pour a beer.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Site Update

Well, we've done it now... we've migrated Pacific Brew News to Wordpress. That means we're soon going to stop blogging here and put all of our content on our own site. We've migrated all the content on this blog and in a few months - after folks have gotten used to the new site - we're likely going to delete this blog. To see the updated site, which is still a work in progress, simply check out www.pacificbrewnews.com.

Thanks for your patience,
- The PBN Crew

Happy 2nd Anniversary Auburn Alehouse

One of Pacific Brew News' favorite establishments is turning two in June - Auburn Alehouse. Longtime followers of PBN may remember us imbibing fine IPAs in the brewery whilst it was still under construction. We also recorded a podcast on the patio and talked extensively with owner/brewmaster Brian Ford. Now, we've been invited back by Brian to sit with him and celebrate his two amazing years in business.

Just how amazing? If you haven't yet been there, it may be hard to put into words. The place is busy night after night. Food there rocks and the beers - oh my - the beers are top-notch! In 2008, just months after opening, Auburn Alehouse won the People's Choice Award at the Raley Field Beer Fest - beating out 47 other NorCal brewers! The mayor of Auburn has brewed a batch of beer. The long-time brewmaster of the now-closed Elk Grove Brewing Company, Bill Woods, is now brewing there (and his Dead Man Red was brilliant!). In every way measurable, Auburn Alehouse has succeeded beyond anyone's expectations.

So, clearly, there's a lot to celebrate. We hope you'll join us and the AAH crew as we enjoy the second annivsary brew - Unobtainium (a big, west coast double IPA) - along with all the other festivities of the weekend. We hope to see you there.

When: June 21st
Where: Auburn Alehouse | 289 Washington St, Auburn Ca

More Info

Saturday, June 13, 2009

SacBrew's "IPA Palooza"

This is a quick update to let you know that Sacramento is going to be THE place for hop heads to be on July 22nd when Sacramento Brewing Co. hosts the first-ever IPA festival - IPA Palooza. Talking with Peter Hoey, SBC's Brewmaster, we've been assured you can expect to find beers not previously available in Sacramento. For certain all 24 guest taps will feature an IPA or Double IPA, on top of SBC's own Half Pint DIPA, Independence DIPA, Belgian IPA and house IPA! That's AT LEAST 28 high-hopped beers that will be flowing under one roof, right here in Sacramento.

As we learn more about the beers that will be available, we'll let you know.

When: July 22nd
Where: Sacramento Brewing Co.
Price: Pay per drink | Samplers also available

More info
Sacramento Brewing Co.

Friday, June 12, 2009

UPDATE: Bruery Night at SacBrew

Peter Hoey at SacBrew has confirmed The Bruery beers that will be on tap for Monday's event, along with a few more details.

First, Patrick Rue (owner/brewer) will be on hand at 6:00pm for the Meet the Brewer aspect of the show. If you want to say hello, get there around that time.

Second, the first THIRTY customers to order the complete sampler set can claim a Bruery class to take home - as shown in the image above. This is a wow glass to be certain.

Finally, the beers! Below are The Bruery beers that will be on tap on Monday.
  • Black Orchard (Belgian black wheat beer, or black wit)
  • White Zin (Cuvee Juene with our Zinbier, a Belgian blonde fermented with almost 1000 lbs of zinfandel grapes)
  • Virgin Papier (non-barrel aged version of their forthcoming anniversary ale)
  • Batch #1 Levud's (Belgian-style Golden Strong Ale)
  • Hottenroth Berliner Weisse (German-style Berliner Weisse with lactobacillus and brettanomyces to sour this very unusual, low alcohol wheat beer)
There will also be some bottles available for purchase to enjoy at SBC.

More Info
Original Post

The Bruery Comes to Sacramento

The Bruery just celebrated its first year in business, which is based in Orange County, California. In that year the brewers have been praised roundly for making stunning Belgian-inspired brews like Orchard White and Saison Rue. To bring in the brewery's second year in business they're expanding the distribution of beers to include the Sacramento area!

An official release party is scheduled for this Monday (June 15th) at Sacramento Brewing Company, on the corner of Fulton and Marconi. The Bruery's owner and brewmaster, Patrick Rue, will be on hand with some special beers. If you're in the region, you're gonna wanna join the party and try some truly amazing beers. Now, here's the details.

When: Monday, June 15th 2:00pm-10:00pm
Where: Sacramento Brewing Co. (2713 El Paseo Ln.)
Cost: Variable, depending on what you buy. No fixed menu.

More Info
Sacramento Brewing Co.
The Bruery