Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Alert! Craft Beer A Growing Industry!

Yes, I know. Comes as a shock to all of us. But, seriously, this is good news. Volume is up 11% and sales dollars are up 12% from 2009. Fantastic.

Remember, though. 11% of a small number is still a small number. Craft brewers sold approximately 10 million barrels of beer in 2010, up from approximately 9 million barrels. Still, 10 million barrels represents a mere fraction, only 4.9%, of the total amount of beer consumed in the United States. For those keeping score at home that means that total US consumption was approximately 204,081,633 barrels in 2010.

Also, remember when we said that Sam Adams was causing a problem for the Brewers Association because it had outgrown the definition of "craft beer" set by the lobbying group? Sam Adams produced over 2 million of that 10 million barrels, or a full 20% of the craft beer output for the year. Boston Beer's gain is all of our gain, I suppose.

Of course, just looking at Wisconsin, it would be hard to argue that the rest of the industry wasn't at least coming along for the ride. New Glarus, Central Waters, O'So, Milwaukee Brewing Company, and Ale Asylum have all recently built new breweries or are in the process of building a new brewery. Tyranena is doing well in the Chicago market and other breweries like Lakefront and Capital, not to mention Hinterland, Furthermore, and Pearl Street have all increased production. New breweries are opening this year in the Dells and Madison.

But, to get to even 10% of the domestic market, craft beer, as a whole, needs to double its current output. 20 million barrels will not all come from Sam Adams. The industry needs to find a way for breweries like Dogfish Head, Harpoon, Great Lakes, Bells, Goose Island, Lagunitas, Stone, and ... dare I say ... New Glarus to make significant in-roads on the swill-guzzling masses.

How do you get my father to drink craft beer is an interesting problem. How do you get stadiums to serve craft beer is an interesting problem. How do you get students to party with craft beer is an interesting problem. How do you get distributors to stop giving incentives to retailers for pushing non-craft beer is an interesting problem. How do you get non-craft beer producers to stop bribing and extorting distributors is an interesting problem.

How do you get people to pay for craft beer is a really interesting problem.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Press Release Tuesday - Vintage Brewing Company

So, apparently Scotty won some awards that he thinks are more important than mine, since he took the time to write a press release about these. Boo.

Congrats, guys.

----------START PRESS RELEASE----------------------

USBTC names Vintage Oktoberfest Grand Champion

Madison, WI

Vintage Brewing Company is honored to have had its seasonal Oktoberfest named national Grand Champion of the Vienna/ Marzen lager category in the winter2010/2011 United States Beer Tasting Championship. The USBTC also recognized Scaredy Cat Oatmeal Stout as a “Best of the Midwest” regional champion in the stout category.

This year’s competition is the USBTC’s 17th annual championship. A total of 403 beers from 112 breweries were examined across 14 different beer categories. Within each category, the USBTC determined both a national Grand Champion and the best entry from each of six U.S. regions: 1) Northeast, 2) Mid-Atlantic/Southeast, 3) Midwest, 4) Rockies/Southwest, 5) California, and 6) Northwest/Pacific.

The USBTC takes a unique approach in that its competition is held in multiple stages. Sequential field trials are conducted wherein judges evaluate beers and select the best to advance to subsequent rounds. This allows beers to be judged in relatively small flights while ensuring that the best beers are still determined through head-to-head competition. All beers were tasted in blinded fashion and judged on a hedonic scale.

For more information about the United States Beer Tasting Championship and a complete list of winners, visit

Friday, March 18, 2011

2011 Brewpub of the Year - Vintage Brewing Company

It's probably accurate to say that Madison Beer Review and Vintage Brewing Company did not exactly start out on the best terms. Since then I have been back quite often, written about the place a lot, and named one of their beers 2010 Best Experimental Beer (not mention the other awards that other MBR writers heaped on them including Best New Release and Best Brewery).

As I mentioned on Monday, we have a lot of Brewpubs here in Wisconsin. I can't possibly get to them all - but you can. So, we throw open the voting for best Brewpub in the state to you, the readers of Madison Beer Review. The voting usually runs from January 1 through end of February. For the last three years, The Grumpy Troll has won - often by a landslide, but last year they barely eeked out a win against Red Eye. This year has seen a number of brewpubs showing off some stellar chops including The Grumpy Troll, but also Red Eye, Potosi Brewing, and Milwaukee Ale House - not to mention the twin killing in Green Bay, Titletown and Hinterland.

The voting started out close with Vintage and Potosi running neck and neck into February. And, then, as quickly as it started, it was over. With more than 1400 total votes, Vintage Brewing Company managed to garner over half. So, with the results in, I had a chance to get some feedback from Vintage Head Brewer Scott Manning:

MBR: I'm sure the first year went exactly as expected when you were first agreed to come to Vintage. What were some of the ways that your expectations were or were not met?

Scott Manning: Yes, of course, everything has gone exactly to plan! But seriously, one of our strengths as a family partnership is that we've been flexible and open minded about what we should and could become. We take little steps, see what works, and constantly refine our operating model in little ways. That being said, the first year for any company starting up, and most notoriously for a new restaurant, is going to be a struggle. We expected business to be modest at the start, and it was. We knew it would be an uphill battle to win the hearts, minds and palates of our potential patrons, and it has been, especially in the early days. But for the year as a whole, we've done better than anticipated, and I'm pleased that lots of people now know of us and seem to like our brewpub.

As far as brewery-specific objectives, you can't ask for a more simple and enticing set of expectations than: "Make great beer". For me it's a joy working in a freely creative and uninhibited manner, and it has been very gratifying this last year to begin with an open canvas and be allowed to sketch out our beers and our beer culture. You can't ask for a better, more enthusiastic and supportive work environment, and I'm convinced happy brewers make better beer. I didn't expect to be able to indulge in the awesome variety and the sometimes outlandish beers I get to make. Madison beer drinkers are second to none: hoppy beers- check!, big Belgians- you betcha!, casks with lavender or mint- well, OK we'll give it a try! It's truly great.

MBR: What's the hardest thing about working in a brewpub as opposed to a packaging facility?

SM: I'm reminded daily of the physical rigors of brewing on a small scale. There's so much labor, manual cleaning, heavy lifting, time on your feet, and extremely long hours- it's difficult to convey to those who haven't felt it firsthand. The American concept of work has evolved into a largely stationary proposition, where we've gone to great lengths to minimize physical strain and activity in the workplace. In direct contrast, pub brewing is an old-fashioned daily beat-down. It's hard work, but it's good honest work, and I wouldn't have it any other way. It's not every job you can feel exhausted yet satisfied from a day well-spent.

MBR: What was the best beer you made last year and what was the worst?

SM: Best: Clearly the most difficult question...there's the cliche answer, that they're like our children and we love them all equally ... [ed note: Scott knows that there's no way I'd let him get away with that answer] My beer tastes change from day to day, so I have personal favorites that shift. One way to answer is that our Pale Ale, Palindrome, has spent the most time on tap in the kegerator at home over the past year. Pumpkin Disorderly was a beer that became more perfect in reality than I could have imagined in the planning stages: the balance of abbey yeast flavors with pumpkin and spice flavors with malt flavors...the end result bordered on magical. And I'm not a guy who seeks out spiced beers regularly.

Worst: Our first brew ever. Several things went wrong on brewday, despite having tested the equipment and process flow with a cleaning chemical pre-brew and hot water trials. Plus, there may have been some ghosts in the machine, if you believe in that sort of thing. What kind of beer? A pale ale. How did it taste? Wrong wrong wrong! Obviously infected. It was never put on tap.

MBR: What are you most looking forward to for the coming year and what challenges are you looking forward to taking on?

SM: There's so much to look forward to, but I'm especially eager to have Vintage Brewing Co. take part in this year's GABF. The Great American Beer Festival in Denver is the biggest competition and festival for craft beer brewers in the US, and though I've been several times, I'm excited to bring my wife and my VBC partners and share the experience of The Big Show with them.

The biggest challenge will hopefully be the expansion of our little brewery. We're discussing adding cold storage space, finished beer tanks, and fermenting vessels, to potentially increase our beer production capacity by 50%. With both Vintage locations and a handful of great draft accounts, it has been a struggle to maintain the kind of beer variety we've built our reputation on. An expansion would help support our biggest selling beers out in the field, and enable more fun creative offerings on tap at Vintage Brewing Co.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Five Gallons At A Time: Water Chemistry, Part V

The content of this page was updated on 9/7/2012.

Now that you've removed most of the alkalinity from all of your water, it's time to treat the mash water to hit a target pH. Let's start by estimating your distilled water mash pH. Based on more of my mash experiments, trends from Kai Troester's website and product specifications from Weyermann Specialty Malts, you can assume the following:

-Roasted malts will lower mash pH by 0.028 for each 1% they comprise of the total grainbill.
-Acidulated malts will lower mash pH by 0.1 for each 1% they comprise of the total grainbill.
-Pale malted wheat will raise mash pH by 0.003 for each 1% it comprises of the total grainbill.
-All other malts will lower mash pH by 0.00027 per degree Lovibond in excess of Pilsner malt for each 1% they comprise of the total grainbill.
-Pilsner malt has an average color of 1.8 degrees Lovibond.
-Decoction mashing will lower mash pH by about 0.1.

If you want to brew a beer with 9 lbs 6 oz of pale ale malt (3L), 8 oz of caramel 60L and 2 oz of chocolate malt (10 lbs total), the pH drops from each grain can be estimated as follows:

pH Drop, Pale Ale Malt = 0.00027 x (3 - 1.8) x (100 x (9 + 6/16)/10) = 0.03
pH Drop, Caramel 60L = 0.00027 x (60 - 1.8) x (100 x (8/16)/10) = 0.079
pH Drop, Chocolate Malt = 0.028 x (100 x (2/16)/10) = 0.035

Using 5.65 as your distilled water mash pH for Pilsner malt, the distilled water mash pH for your grainbill will be 5.65 - 0.03 - 0.079 - 0.035 = 5.51. If your target pH is 5.4, you wouldn't have very far to go if the residual alkalinity of your water was near zero. Unfortunately, that's not the case for Madison city water.

Remember Kohlbach's formula for how residual alkalinity affects wort pH, and how the 0.084 number would have to change for mashes of varying thickness? To figure out the replacement multipliers, I manipulated the data from Kai's mash pH experiments and created the following chart:

It would be possible to create a two-variable equation to calculate the pH shift from a given residual alkalinity and water-to-grist ratio, but a more elegant solution is to plot the pH shifts against total mEq of residual alkalinity per pound of grist:

That nice linear relationship means that each mEq of alkalinity will result in a constant pH increase per pound of grain. The same value will apply to each mEq of acidity as well, but the shift will be in the opposite direction. The pH shift, determined in an experiment I performed at home, is 0.059 per mEq of acid per pound of grain. If you accept my experiment as the gospel truth, you can determine your target residual alkalinity with the following equation:

Target RA = (Target pH - pHd) x Grist Weight / 0.059 / Mash Water Volume + 0.05

In the equation, pHd is the distilled water mash pH for a given grainbill, grist weight is in lbs, and mash water volume is in liters. If your mash water volume is 14.2 L, your target residual alkalinity will be (5.4 - 5.51) x 10 / 0.059 / 14.2 + 0.05 = -1.263 mEq/L.

Now that you know the target RA of your mash water, let's assume you're starting with the lime-treated water from Part IV:

Calcium = 3.302 mEq/L
Magnesium = 3.702 mEq/L
Chloride = 158 mg/L
Sulfate = 95 mg/L
Total Alkalinity = 1 mEq/L
RA = 1 - 3.302/3.5 - 3.702/7 = -0.472

Calculating the acidity required to lower your mash pH is similar to the previous calculation for total water volume:

Required Acidity = Water RA - Target RA = -0.472 - -1.263 = 0.791 mEq/L

Because the pH of your mash will be lower than the pH of your sparge water, a smaller percentage of lactic acid molecules will dissociate in your mash. Here's how to estimate what will happen:

Dissociation = 100 x (1 - 1 / (1 + 10^(Target Mash pH - 3.83))) = 100 x (1 - 1 / (1 + 10^(5.4 - 3.83))) = 97.4%'s how to calculate how much acidity your lactic acid will contribute to your mash:

Acidity = 1000 x (Acid Strength / 100) x (Dissociation / 100) / 90.09 / ((Acid Strength / 100) / 1.2+(1 - Acid Strength / 100)) = 1000 x (88 / 100) x (97.4 / 100) / 90.09 / ((88 / 100) / 1.2+(1 - 88 / 100)) = 11.149 mEq/L

...and here's how to determine your required volume of lactic acid:

Lactic Acid = Required Acidity x Water Volume / 11.722 = 0.791 x 14.2 / 11.149 = 1.0 mL

If you need to raise the alkalinity of your mash water, here's an equation that will tell you how much calcium carbonate to add in grams:

CaCO3 = (Target RA - Water RA) x Water Volume / 14.27

If your target RA is 0.5 mEq/L, you'll want to add (0.5 - -0.472) x 14.2 / 14.27 = 1 g of calcium carbonate. I'd add it directly to your mash because it won't dissolve in non-acidified water. That said, Kai's experiments suggest that mash additions are only effective when the total alkalinity of the water (after adding CaCO3) is around 5 mEq/L or less. You should never need that much alkalinity, so don't lose sleep over the solubility of calcium carbonate.

That brings us to the end of this series on water chemistry. Whether you crunch the numbers or use the simplified treatments from Part II, you should be rewarded with improved brewhouse efficiencies and cleaner-tasting beer. If you'd like to use the detailed calculations but don't want to do the math every time you brew, my water treatment spreadsheet (located here) will do the work for you. The file name is Water_Gallons.xlsx, and the same calculations are embedded in the Recipe_Gallons.xlsx file. You can return to the beginning of this series here.

Monday, March 14, 2011

So Long And Thanks For All The Dogfish Head

So, as you may know by now, last Friday Dogfish Head officially announced that they will no longer distribute in the state of Wisconsin. This is just the latest in a long line of defections - most famously, perhaps, was Stone's brief dalliance in the state. Perhaps a little less well-known was the microsecond that Boulevard and Steamworks spent here.

Of course, this doesn't bode well for those of us that like a lot of selection. It bodes very well for Wisconsin breweries looking to continue serving Wisconsinites beer. Perhaps most ominous is what this means for hopes of attracting other high-profile National (or large regional) breweries like Green Flash, Brooklyn, Surly, or Schlafly. Or what it means for other non-Wisconsin breweries like Upland, Squatters, or even a brewery like Great Lakes.

So, why does this happen? The short answer is that Wisconsin is a very attractive market for craft brewers. We drink, per capita, a lot of beer. We have a high number of breweries per capita (in 2008, we were 10th nationally [pdf], but 6th among states that actually had more than 25 breweries). Yet per capita income is barely in the top half in the United States. Which means that it isn't surprising that our percentage spent on craft beer, a higher cost, luxury, good is a mere 8%. Conversely, our cost of living is in the top 50%, as well.

While we don't make a ton of money here (we are right around the national median), it also doesn't cost a lot to live here (again, right around the national median). So, it shouldn't be a surprise that our consumption of craft beer, is approximate to the national average (about 7% by sales, and 4.3% by volume or so). But even look at that one statistic for a moment. 7% by share of sales ($), but only 4.3% by volume; that means that craft beer is selling for a lot more than "macro" beer, but it's barely making a dent in the amount of beer that is being consumed.

Let's step back and unwrap that all for a moment. We live in Wisconsin, a state where people make around the national average. Craft beer sells for a lot more than macro beer. There are a lot of craft breweries (as a percentage) in Wisconsin. So, if someone is going to spend their hard-earned money on craft beer, and there are a lot of local options, what do you think that means for Stone, Dogfish Head, Boulevard, and all of the others that sell the same product but have even higher price points and lower margins because of the transportation costs required to get the beer to you?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Squatters Hop Rising

A relatively new entrant in the Wisconsin market, Squatters, and the related brewery Wasatch are together known as the Utah Brewers Cooperative. The Cooperative recently won Best Mid-Size Brewery at the Great American Beer Festival. When I was in Denver, their beers definitely stood out among the crowd.

A Brewer's Cooperative? Wasatch Brewery was started by Milwaukee native Greg Schirf, in Park City, Utah in 1986. In 1988, Schirf asked the Utah Legislature to allow brewpubs in the state of Utah; in 1989, Wasatch opened its first brewpub there in Park City. Later that year, 1989, two fellows from Salt Lake City started their own brewpub called "Squatters". The two brewpubs continued on their own way for the better part of a decade, establishing themselves as the best beer in Utah. [ed note: Admittedly, not a particularly high bar to hurdle; but both are among the best brewpubs in the country, at that]

One of the things that we talk about a lot on Madison Beer Review is the biggest challenge in the brewing industry: money - how to get it, how to use it. Well, as you might expect, Utah is not exactly flush with cash for the brewing industry and for two breweries looking to expand at roughly the same time, this means they are both chasing the same, relatively small, pile of money. [ed note: this is the same problem that non-profits in Madison have; breweries here suffer from a different problem - the lack of non-traditional financing here, but that's another story for another day]

So, Wasatch and Squatters banded together to form a Cooperative that jointly owns the brewing facility where each of the breweries brew their beer. Wasatch doesn't own the brewery, Squatters doesn't own the brewery; the Utah Brewers Cooperative owns the brewery, and Squatters and Wasatch are both members of the Cooperative and use the brewery that the Cooperative owns.

The Cooperative is an interesting arrangement that I think we are going to start seeing a lot more of around the country given the success that Wasatch and Squatters are having. It makes a lot of sense. Instead of two or three breweries each building their own small facilities with excess capacity, they build one large brewery with little excess capacity. It is cumulatively cheaper to purchase, cheaper to operate, easier to maintain, and easier to distribute from.

Squatters Hop Rising Double IPA
BA (B). RB (96).
Appearance: Bottle comes marked "75 IBU's", but check out last week's discussion about the Lupulin Maximus to maybe re-adjust your thoughts on that; a burnished copper body with a thick, dense, white foamy head with fantastic lacing; a slight and fine carbonation make for a wonderful presentation.
Aroma: citrus and pine with a slight woodiness of leaves in the spring; a fairly strong malt presence sits just underneath the hops
Flavor: crisp and strongly, but not intensely, bitter; the back of the mouth puckers quite a bit, and the stickiness pervades; a rather generic bready, "malt" flavor is there, but the hops are the primary flavor component here
Body: medium-bodied, but the hops just hang around all day, each wash of saliva just washes the hop residue from the inside of the mouth - it sounds gross, I guess, but it's really quite pleasant
Drinkability: One the west coast they would drop the "double" and this would be a straight-up IPA in Oregon or Washington; and it's easily as drinkable as an IPA; I bought a single bottle, but easily could go through a six-pack (probably too quickly)
Summary: It's one flaw is that it does not seem to warm up particularly well; while it tasted great at cold-ish temps (maybe low-40s or so), as the temp creeps into the upper 40s and 50s, the hops become a little cloying; the water is a little "hard" and there's a slight metallic taste on it that prevents this from being an All-Star, but otherwise, very solid and enjoyable.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Salute to Christchurch Breweries

Well, Send Off Beers Part 2 was intended to be my next post, but for obviously reasons, I'm moving this one up.

My friend and I had a bit of a narrow miss here, leaving Christchurch just two hours before the earthquake hit. Our intention was to visit Pomeroy's Old Brewery Inn that day, but the brewpub is closed for lunch during the week so we decided to move on. Poor planning on my part that ended up being a lucky fortune! (Though I'm still a bit crabby that I didn't get to sample any of their beers.)

We did get to visit two Christchurch breweries the day before the quake though: Dux de Lux and the Twisted Hop. Both get a thumbs up from me! Great atmospheres, great beers and great staff at both. We really had a good time.

Dux de Lux was our first stop upon arriving in Christchurch. It was a beautiful day and they have a lovely outdoor patio. I got the full flight and enjoyed everything but the Ginger Tom, which is an alcoholic ginger beer. You REALLY have to like ginger in order to enjoy this beer. It was way too much for me, but my friend loved it (in fact, it launched a trip-long hunt for the country's best ginger beer). My favorites were the Hereford Bitter and the Black Shag. The Hereford bitter is something of a cross between a standard English bitter and an Oktoberfest- malt forward with nice caramel notes, a nutty aroma and a subtle hop finish. The stout was poured on nitro, so it was nice and creamy (which I love!), pretty sweet for a stout (leaning towards a milk stout) with a roasty after taste and maybe some very subtle licorice flavors.

Later that night we headed over to the Twisted Hop, which focuses almost entirely on real ales. Yay! The Twisted Hop was terribly charming: it's situated in an area of town with very narrow lanes and beautiful old brick buildings, many of which are sadly gone now. Again, I ordered the flight here. Surprisingly, I think my favorite was the Improvisation Pale Ale- citrusy, with orange and lemon flavors, this is definitely an English-style pale ale, which I enjoy much more that the hopped-up American versions. Of course, I should say that was my favorite until I got to the Nokabollokov Imperial Stout and the Enigma Barley Wine.... The Nokabollokov is all roast and burnt chocolate, and velvety smooth. The burnt flavor is not overwhelming or offensive at all: it complimented the chocolate in the beer nicely, like char on a grilled hamburger. I really enjoyed this one.

The Enigma Barley Wine was all dark fruits, raisins and molasses, with a surprising spritz of citrus underneath and a slightly hoppy finish. My only criticism is that you definitely get that alcohol bite at the end. The Twisted Hop came through pretty well in the earthquake from what I've heard (and relative to the buildings around it)- John, the brewer at Arrow Brewing, told us that they had an engineer in after the last quake to tell them what building improvements they needed to make, which was all a huge pain in the behind apparently (along with being wicked expensive), but clearly paid off in the end! Here are some before and afters of the Twisted Hop (the after shots courtesy of the Twisted Hop website):

After news of the quake came out, we were all anxious to hear how our brewer friends fared (along with everyone else, of course). The Society of Beer Advocates posted some updates for us in the days following: (Note: I've shortened this update from SOBA to just the breweries in and around Christchurch. Additional updates on local beer bars and liquor stores can be found in the full text here.)

Hi all,

I'm sure we're all far too busy worrying about our friends and loved ones in Christchurch to be thinking much about beer right now, but for many of us, the wonderful brewers, publicans, and SOBA people in Christchurch *are* our friends.

For those not glued to twitter, here are some updates to hand. Note that I'll not be spreading any rumours here, this is just what is known by those involved or tweeted by trusted friends.

The Twisted Hop: Martin and Sean are both safe, and the pub is still standing (just) - remarkable!

Pomeroys: Not so lucky, the building is trashed, but the people are OK and that's always the important point. Update from Robyn (via Twitter): power and water have now both been restored. Hurrah!

Three Boys: Ralph is alive, well, and reporting in his own inimitable style that the brewery is "fucked".

Cassels and Sons: Nigel is tweeting that the brewery is in a bad way, and he'll be down for some time, but at least he is tweeting! Update from Robyn: we've also had a video update from Cassels.

Dux de Lux is in bad shape but fixable, and Dick is OK. He also says Matsons looks OK, confirmed by David Wood who tweeted that they even finished a brew during the quake!

I've just had a call from ex-Golden Ticketer, and now Harringtons employee Nathan Crabbe. Nathan is safe and sound in Twizel, but has heard from Mark at Harringtons that all are safe, but the brewery is in a bad way.

Andrew Madden from Lion Nathan confirmed that all staff were OK, but the Canterbury brewery took more damage to add to the battering it received in September.

Geoff Griggs tells me that Paul McGurk at Wigram is OK and the brewery has sustained only minor damage.

I also saw that McCashin's Brewery in Nelson is donating space and equipment for brewing and bottling, as well as ingredients to any breweries put out of commission by the earthquake, which I think is very cool. I've heard that a few other breweries have offered the same, but I can't confirm who. If you'd like to donate to the recovery efforts in Christchurch, you can do so through the New Zealand Red Cross. I'm sure moral support via Twitter, Facebook and email would be welcome too!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

O'So Lupulin Maximus

Inspired by Matt's post about the Rush River Double Bubble DIPA last Friday, I tracked down a couple of other Imperial IPAs for this week. Today is O'So's (wow, that looks weird, eh? Notice that the upper case letters and apostrophe are exactly replicated by the lower case letters and apostrophe; I can't imagine that this happens often in the English language. Sorry for the detour, now back to your regularly scheduled programming ...) Lupulin Maximus.

If you've ever held a hop cone in your hands, you know how awesome they are. Crumbly, and resiny, just rolling a few and taking a big whiff can transport you. You can make a tea out of them for some effect. I wouldn't advise smoking them if you suffer from depression ("You should not use Hops if you suffer from depression. Consult your health care provider before beginning use of any herb."). Folks out west are obsessed with them. We're just getting around to growing them again here in Wisconsin.

O'So's (ha! used it again because it's neat!) use of them here is not only functional (used in the beer for bittering, aroma, and flavor) but decorative. My bottle had an actual hop in it. In fact it appears that at least one bottle in each six-pack contains a hop cone in it. Some might argue that this is pure novelty and gimmickry. I'm not sure I'd entirely disagree, but I have two responses:

1) So what?
2) It does, in theory, provide some use by contributing some essential oils (the aroma component of the resins in hops) not to mention vegetal matter and leafy-ness and a quasi-tea like quality therefrom.

O'So Lupulin Maximus
RB (97). BA (B+)
Appearance: this bottle has a hop cone in it; a pour into the glass reveals a third thing about putting a hop cone in a bottle: it slows the flow of beer into the glass considerably, thus reducing (eliminating) any head that might have been generated; Dogfish Head might point out that it likes a Randall of sorts; so, little head; a pale amber, or deep gold, the beer is more filtered and clearer than I might have anticipate given the hop cone inside the bottle; there is negligible carbonation
Aroma: grassy and flowery with a slight lemon aroma at first, followed by a fairly strong orange-y-ness that gets bolder as the beer warms; a distinct grapefruit, tart-er, aroma follows at the end
Flavor: sweet and citrusy; strong pale malt in the middle indicates that this beer does have some heft to it; but the hops are front and center, the bitterness is good and clean, but not over-the-top; when room temperature the booziness really comes out
Body: soft and oily and fairly paunchy; the bitterness provides a clean-ish finish though the citruses (is that the plural of citrus? citrum? citri? citrusa?) found in the aroma continue to linger, plus a slight spiciness
Drinkability: a relatively easy-drinking DIPA; these can be one-and-done sorts of beers, but this one certainly invites a second or third because of the more restrained relative bitterness; between the hop flavors and malt, it is definitely sweet and that, for me, would be the limiting factor moreso than the overwhelming, taste-killing bitterness (which, as we discussed, doesn't exist here)
Summary: Looking big-picture, it is fairly typical of quality Midwest DIPAs in that it balances the considerable hoppiness with a prodigious amount of malts - in this case not a ton of specialty malts though, which keeps that maltiness, though not the sweetness, at a minimum; Midwestern hop-heads will love this beer, West Coasters wouldn't be sure what to do with it - it's not nearly as "over-the-top" as the 100+ IBU monsters from out there, but it's certainly bigger than their standard IPAs; my own tastes are well-documented in these pages; but, overall, a very solid DIPA.

Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that this is now ... what? March? This beer was released back in late September, I think? These are beers that need to be fresh and some of my reticence to heap praise on the beer might be related to age. I have had this beer on-tap closer to its release and have loved it equally if not more. However, having said that, I love aging DIPAs because some of that big-overt hoppiness does go away and they can become almost barley-wine like similar to the Nils Oscar Barleywine I reviewed in mid-January. In my opinion one (fresh) is no better than the other (aged), just please adjust expectations accordingly.