Leonardo"s Notebook by Mattheus Mei

I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ale Mary, Full of Taste

Bene dic, Domine, creaturam istam cerevisae, quam ex adipe frumenti producere dignatus es: ut sit remedium salutare humano generi: et praesta per invocationem nominis tui sancti, ut, quicumque ex ea biberint, sanitatem corporis, et animae tutelam percipiant. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen
Bless, O Lord, this creature beer, that Thou hast been pleased to bring forth from the sweetness of the grain: that it might be a salutary remedy for the human race: and grant by the invocation of Thy holy name, that, whosoever drinks of it may obtain health of body and a sure safeguard for the soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
It's Sunday which means most folks have gone to Church and unless you're of the high church variety that usually means a faith prohibitive of strong drink or any alcoholic beverage at all. But if you do partake of brew or wine or strong drink then a quick read of this week's New Yorker Magazine should be right up your ally.

As much as American Protestantism has an extreme position on beer and wine the New Yorker examines the concept of "Extreme Beer" with the rise of craft breweries, a reclamation of an American Tradition away from or as an alternative to the standard bearers of commercialized beer.

Beer has lagged well behind wine and organic produce in the ongoing reinvention of American cuisine. Yet the change over the past twenty years has been startling. In 1965, the United States had a single craft brewery: Anchor Brewing, in San Francisco. Today, there are nearly fifteen hundred. In liquor stores and upscale supermarkets, pumpkin ales and chocolate stouts compete for cooler space with wit beers, weiss beers, and imperial Pilsners. The King of Beers, once served in splendid isolation at many bars, is now surrounded by motley bottles with ridiculous names, like jesters at a Renaissance fair: SkullSplitter, Old Leghumper, Slam Dunkel, Troll Porter, Moose Drool, Power Tool, He’brew, and Ale Mary Full of Taste...

“We are trying to explore the outer edges of what beer can be,” Calagione says. But the idea makes even some craft brewers nervous. “I find the term ‘extreme beer’ irredeemably pejorative,” Garrett Oliver, the brewmaster at Brooklyn Brewery, told me recently. “When a brewer says, ‘This has more hops in it than anything you’ve had in your life—are you man enough to drink it?,’ it’s sort of like a chef saying, ‘This stew has more salt in it than anything you’ve ever had—are you man enough to eat it?’ ”...

Others find it thrilling. “When you’re trying to create new brewing techniques and beer styles, you have to have a certain recklessness,” Jim Koch, whose Boston Beer Company brews Samuel Adams, and who coined the term “extreme beer,” told me. “Sam has that. He’s fearless, but he’s also got a good palate. He doesn’t put stuff into beer that doesn’t deserve to be there.”
And much like theological disputes and questions of orthodoxy so to have certain corners of the brewing world called into question the "natures" of such extreme beers and asked When does beer cease to be beer? Whether you stick to the German Purity laws of 1516 or are a fan of experimenting with the different contents or possibilities there is a lot to be said about these "small businesses" and the way in which they're challenging our assumptions about beer and revolutionizing the concept of beer and taste. If you want to read about one brewers journey in craft beer and commercialization read the rest of the New Yorker article, it's worth it.

If you want to try some for yourself, there are several bars in the Columbia area that serve craft beers - including the Flying Saucer, and The Whig, but even more special is Columbia has its own craft brewery - pub... The Hunter Gatherer. (that's google maps, they don't have a website). Or for more on craft brewing in South Carolina - check out Untamed Beer, a blog written by Brian Cendrokowski who is himself a brewer in the upstate. Or better yet, check out the World Beer Festival to be held in Columbia on January 24, 2009.

And for those who like to co-mingle their theology and brewing, check out Columbia YACS and their blog Imbibing the Spirit where you don't have to be afraid of mixing drinking and religion. After all, as A.E. Housman once so famously penned "Malt does more than Milton can / To justify God’s ways to man."

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