Thursday, January 23, 2014

a texan/native cyclone does iowa

By Matt Abendschein

Every time I visit my home state of Iowa, a sense of pride comes from each and every pint I drink that's brewed in Iowa. Or maybe it's mainly coming from me. I'm very proud of where I come from, I love my home state. Sure the winters are bitter cold, so cold your soul hurts in fact. However, you won't find a sense of community anywhere else like each and every small Iowa town. And guess what, these communities are finding out that nothing brings people together more than beer made with heart and soul.

Enter Rustic Brew, a coffee shop/brewpub that recently opened in my hometown of Hampton. Ever heard of it? Doubt it. With its two stoplights (now one since one is slightly broken) and a population of 4,000, Hampton isn't exactly a tourist destination.

I call it home.

And to my surprise, my charming hometown opened up its very own brewpub, owned and operated by Joel and Kathy Heuer. Joel was a football coach at my high school, someone I never really got a chance to know since I didn't play the game. Now, being older, it's pretty cool to have something in common. Joel describes his setup as a 'glorified homebrew' setup, which it is, but it gets the job done and he's cranking out batch after batch of beer people are flocking to. Only two were on tap when I was there unfortunately, as the three or four others were all tapped out (a good problem to have). The Slob Knocker was a great oatmeal stout, so good in fact I took a growler home with me. Smooth, creamy, slightly sweet and a great cold day beer. Joel is excited to start experimenting with new flavors and ingredients, like home grown cucumbers. He doesn't know how, but it's something he's wanted to try. I could really sense a great deal of pride when he was talking about the beer, happy to convert a town of Busch Light drinkers onto something with more flavor. But it's not just about conversion of drinkers, it's a concept that was mentioned above that is so paramount to the success of craf beer. Community. Supporting local. Those are two things about beer I love, and I'm so proud of my small hometown in Iowa for embracing them. For me, Rustic Brew is about as local as it gets and I can't wait to see them grow.

Joel Heuer - Brewmaster of Rustic Brew

Hampton isn't the only town feeling the craft beer revolution, in fact, it's happening all across Iowa with breweries popping up like crazy. One of my mainstay favorites is Millstream Brewing and their John's Generation's White Ale. It's a bottle conditioned white ale that's crisp, citrusy, cloudy and delicious. Millstream has been around for awhile and seems to be a great gateway brewery into craft beer. Madhouse Brewing, a newbie in the Iowa craft beer world, is brewing out some great flavors like their Coffee Stout, a big stout with huge coffee flavors. They also like to experiment with locally grown hops, one of which I had while there called Iowa Hops IPA. It was a pretty standard IPA, a bit murky and cloudy but it had a nice clean bitterness with a lot of grassy notes. One new one I tried was from Okoboji Brewing, a farmhouse ale that disappointed me. Oh well, can't win them all. Other Iowa favorites of mine include Peace Tree Brewing, Angry Cedar Brewing and Olde Main. Olde Main is a brewpub that opened back when I was in college at Iowa State University in Ames and has since grown in popularity and now distributes.

Speaking of Ames, the best bottle shop ever (yes I'm biased and it's a nostalgic feeling every time I step in) happens to be here. Cyclone Liquors has been around since I can remember and on the outside it looks like your standard liquor store. However, when you walk in, you will realize it's much more than that with offerings from all over the place. Shelves are lined with six packs of craft beer, specializing in Midwest offerings from Bell's, Founders and more. Head to the back to get a more global experience where single bottles rule (Jolly Pumpkin, Crooked Stave, etc...). Don't be afraid to ask the staff, they're very knowledgeable and friendly. I love this place.

Down (or up depending on where you are reading this from) in Des Moines, great things are brewing up at Confluence Brewing. A day where road travelling was actually possible, I took advantage of that fact to hang out with some old friends and check out some new beers. Confluence just opened in 2012 which is surprising since their setup and tap room are very well put together and there were more than enough beers on tap to keep a crowd of people happy. I chose three small samples since I still had to drive, and driving in the snow is not to be taken lightly. The Des Moines IPA had great floral citrusy notes and a clean bitter finish. The Black IPA was a fantastic representation of the style, combining a hefty roasted malt backbone with a nice lingering bitterness. Well done. The sweet milk stout was a bit TOO sweet for my liking, but on nitro it was still a heavenly feeling with a velvety texture. Not very far from downtown, this is a great destination for fresh craft beer on tap.

The craft beer spirit is alive and well in Iowa. Support Your Local Brewers. Cheers!

For more information on the Iowa Craft Beer scene, check out the site Iowa Craft Beer Tent, where all your craft beer needs are met at the Iowa State Fair.

For more information on the Dallas beer scene, follow me on Facebook and Twitter!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

for the love of craft beer - jamie fulton of community beer company

Jamie Fulton - Brewmaster of Community Beer Co.

Community - People with common interests living in a particular area. In this case, the common interest we are talking about is craft beer in the Dallas area.

When I think of the word community, images of fellowship, happiness and a local communal feeling pop into my head. That is exactly what Jamie Fulton, proud family man and brewmaster of Community Beer Company, set out to do when starting up this brewery. Not only is the goal of Community Beer to brew great beer, but to also help bring the community together through the strength of beer. As you'll find out, having a cool local vibe is very important to Jamie by having a large open tap room with fun games for patrons, local art being sold at the tap room and events to support local charities.

Community Beer is turning 1 on Saturday, January 18, and they already have a GABF gold medal to their name with their Public Ale, an Extra Special Bitter that happens to not only be a brewery favorite, but a favorite among the public as well. Funny how that works out. Jamie likes to bring technical expertise to each and every beer, but also some creativity as well. Without the two together, uninspired and boring beer is usually the final product. This can be seen very well in favorites like the Mosaic IPA, one of my favorite (if not my favorite) IPAs that Texas has to offer with the Mosaic hop being front and center, boasting tons of tropical fruit aromas. Or their new Ascension Coffee Porter using Sumatra coffee beans from Ascension Coffee, local Dallas coffee roasters.

With Jamie's brewing expertise, there's nothing standing in his way, except maybe his imagination which doesn't seem to be lacking. I'm really excited to see what year 2 of Community Beer has in store for the Dallas craft beer scene. Cheers!

What does craft beer mean to you?
That’s a tough question to answer for someone who makes a living brewing the stuff! First and foremost, craft beer is my profession, though I also see it as my form of artistic creativity. I spend most of my waking hours thinking about it and especially the many processes that are making it come to life in my brewery. In this respect, it is an extremely complex thing when looking at it from a passionate and curious professional brewer’s perspective. There are literally hundreds of variables that make every craft beer unique, many of them are artistic decisions by the brewer, yet just as many are scientifically based decisions that are time proven methods to make excellent beer. When I think of craft beer, I am thinking of all these variables. Without a fundamental and thorough understanding of the scientific processes at play, the quality of the finished beer will suffer. But having this knowledge is not enough. Without inspiration and creativity you could theoretically make the most technically perfect and consistent beer in the world, but it would be uninspired and boring. So for me, craft beer at its best is the beverage made by brewers using a blend of these two aspects: inspired creativity and knowledge.

Considering your brewery name is Community, you seem to have gotten a great reaction from the beer community. Why do you think that is?
I would like to think that it’s purely because we brew great beer! Being a communal beverage, we give the community as many reasons to enjoy our beer locally as possible. I think an obvious one is our accessible location. We really went out on a limb with this high profile location, and we can see it paying off with huge attendance at our events. Just last week we had our biggest open house to date with nearly five hundred people! We also pride ourselves on keeping it local: we support numerous local charities, we host local artists to sell their work, we host talented local live music artists, and really just have a sweet local vibe! In the end though, it does come down to the quality of the beer and the service we provide our community, and this would be impossible to achieve without the strengths, talents, long hours, and hard work of every one of the team members and volunteers at Community Beer Company.

Where do you see craft beer in Dallas in 5 years?
Everywhere! Record numbers of breweries are already open with dozens more in planning. The variety of local beers will be at such a number that even bars carrying the most taps could carry nothing but local beer. This has happened in many areas of the U.S. already, and is finally becoming a reality for many other areas that were slower to adopt local craft beer. This is the great news for craft beer lovers! It’s going to be a crowded market for brewers, and while it is nearly always friendly, the competition is real and will only increase with limited shelf space and tap handles to sell local craft beer. Again, this is great news for consumers who can simply vote with their dollars ensuring only the best breweries and beers survive.

How did it feel winning a gold medal at GABF knowing you weren't even a year open yet? 
It’s pretty surreal. Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup are far and away the most meaningful and well run competitions in the world. GABF boasts the most professional beers entered of any beer competition in the world: this year there were 4,809 beers from 732 breweries! With this caliber of competition, winning at GABF is always a major feat for a brewer, but winning Gold in a category – especially one as large as ESB (Extra Special Bitter) – is extra special, pun intended. I’ve been entering GABF since 2007, and have picked up some hardware along the way, but never a Gold, so it is very meaningful for me personally as a brewer.

It was also a very special win because Public Ale has become such a favorite for us in the production team at the brewery. It’s got so much depth you can sit back and ponder what all is going on in there.  But at the same time, it’s easy enough to drink that you can just sit back and forget about it.  I also made the recipe for Community’s founder Kevin, who loves English-style ESBs. At one point we sat down in Central Market and sampled like a dozen or so and settled on what we liked (pretty cool that our own ESB will share these same shelves soon!). After two pilot brews I knew what I wanted to change for the third recipe, problem was, I never got to brew that third recipe on the pilot system. I just went ahead and brewed it on the big system at the brewery, one thousand gallons worth, and we all loved it (thankfully). The batch that won the award was only the second batch to be made on our 30 BBL four-vessel system, and the first batch to use yeast from our own lab and propagation system. That was a major win for our lab tech Aric Hulsey! He knows his way around the lab, and he’s been brewing with me for years back when I had my gastropub The Covey. I’m fortunate and very proud to have him back on my team at Community.

Besides your own brewery, what's your favorite place to grab a beer in Dallas? What about your favorite place for a meal? And why? 
With a wife and three little boys, I am not ashamed to say that I don’t spend a lot of time at bars! Though on the rare occasion that I get to grab a pint somewhere, there are several places that come to mind. Craft & Growler is about as fresh as craft beer gets – besides at the brewery – they go through beer so fast it’s always fresh. Meddlesome Moth has a tremendous beer selection with beer savvy staff to boot. Katy Trail Icehouse, The Foundry, the many Flying Saucers, The Bearded Lady in Fort Worth… there’s really just too many cool places to name! We have a sweet tap finder on our website that will point you to your closest local watering hole serving Community Beer.

As far as my favorite restaurant, I would have to say Bob’s Steak & Chophouse in the new Omni Hotel. My best friend Sean Merchant who was the executive chef at my first brewery – The Covey Restaurant & Brewery – is now the executive chef at Bob’s. They carry our Belgian-style bottle conditioned beers now too, which it cool. Funny thing is that two years after he and I closed The Covey in Fort Worth, we ended up working only a couple minutes away from each other in downtown Dallas. Besides being friends with the chef though, the food of course is top notch. Bring your appetite and get the Cote de Beouf, it’s easily one of the best steaks I’ve had in my life.

Community Beer Company
1530 Inspiration Dr, Dallas, TX

Tap Room:
Thursdays from 5-9pm
Fridays from 5-10pm
 - Pay by the glass
Saturdays from 5-10pm (after Open House from 2-5pm)
 - Set price for 3 samples
More info:!taproom/c235r

Mosaic IPA

Community Wit

Thursday, January 9, 2014

for the love of craft beer - brandon ade of blacklands malt

Photo courtesy of Brandon Ade

You've all heard of craft beer, but have you heard of craft malt? It's easy to forget about malted barley with all of the hop craze in America right now. Yet, without malted barley, there would be no beer. It's the backbone of almost every beer you drink, and one man is bringing malt to the forefront of the 'support local' revolution right here in the great state of Texas. His name is Brandon Ade and he's the brains and operations behind Blacklands Malt right outside of Austin,TX in Leander.

Brandon's goal is to bring even more local flare into the world of craft beer here in Texas by providing high quality malt to brewers. But it's not just brewers he's providing to, it's bakers, brewers, homebrewers, distilleries, anyone who wants it as he says. 'You want some? Come and get it.' Some have already taken notice of his drive for quality malt, like Pinthouse Pizza, creating a Single Malt and Single Hop (SMASH) pale ale using the Pale Moon American Two Row malt. Joe Mohrfeld, head brewer of Pinthouse Pizza, used the classic German decoction method during brewing to really bring out more complexities from the Blacklands Malt. Others that will be using their malt are Jester King, Twisted X and Black Star Co-op. Something tells me you will be seeing his malt being used more and more in the future, bringing a little more terroir into Texas craft beer.

In a nutshell, what is the process of malting? (i.e What would you say, ya do here?, little Office Space humor)
Well our website goes in to pretty good detail about the process of malting, but in very simple terms, I grow enzymes. The job of a maltster is not to grow a plant, but to develop natural enzymes within the grain that will later be taken advantage of by brewers to convert starches to sugar. It is in fact a constant struggle in malting to limit the vegetative growth of the plant as too much leads to waste and undesirable by-products.

What is unique about what we do is that we are the only malthouse in Texas "growing" these enzymes. Our vision has always been to bring the production of malt back to a local level and give the brewing, distilling, and baking industries a quality malt Texans can be proud to use. That includes not just the local production of malt but the sourcing of barley and wheat from Texas. In order to get a true ground to glass experience you have to start with the regional growth of barley, which is the life blood of the business. As I'm sure you've heard before, "No barley, no beer".

The 3 major steps of malting are steeping (soak the grain in water), germination (allow time to grow), and kilning (stop growth by drying). But what do I really do most of the time? Clean grain, Clean equipment, shovel 1000s of pounds of malt by hand, clean the production area, and constantly obsess over temperature, humidity, and moisture levels. Occasionally I'll actually bag some malt and sell it too. Did I mention cleaning?

Do you think malt ever gets jealous of all the hop hype? Do you think people will ever go gaga over SRM like they did with IBU?
Hops can keep the sex appeal, malt is confident in the background. In all seriousness, the malting business has been such a faceless industry for so long I think it is taken for granted the challenges involved with sourcing barley and producing a quality malt. Part of that veil is due to the industrialization of malt over the last century where barley is grown in only a handful of regions in the world and malted in a few giant malthouses. In short, it is not very accessible. When was the last time you visited a farm to go strolling through a field of barley?

One of the reasons hops has taken the spotlight is in part due to the production of hops in new regions of the world, namely the Americas. As new varieties were developed in the United States, coupled with reinvigorated enthusiasm in homebrewing and craft brewing, hops became accessible to the general public in a way barley and malt has yet to do. People understand more of hops, where they are grown, how they are grown, and how to use them. Hops are traditionally and largely classified by where they are grown, and that is a very key point. They have locality to them and that drives interest and engagement because people like to talk about where something comes from. But how many people know where the barley used to make their malt was grown?

While I don't think malt will ever need that level of rock star attention hops is receiving right now, I do believe as small malthouses begin to crop up across the country and drive the local growth of barley in non-traditional areas more and more attention will be given to where malt comes from.  Education and visibility into malting will naturally drive a focus on the local sourcing of ingredients. And that is important for all ingredients in beer, not just malt. What I care about more than stealing the spotlight from hops is shining a brighter light on the sourcing of all ingredients and where they are grown. It can only enhance our experience and enjoyment of beer to have locally sourced ingredients and I believe that is the next great leap forward in brewing and distilling. 

3. What do you hope to achieve with being a local maltster?
Simple. I want to grow barley in Texas and make a variety of great malts. And I want that malt to be available to anyone looking for a sustainable, locally produced malt. I'd also like to feed my family and keep the lights on as well.

Are you primarily a maltster for breweries? Do you anticipate expanding to sell to distilleries as well?
I'm a maltster for everyone. I've already sold to homebrewers, commercial breweries, and distilleries. You want some? Come and get it.

And last, but definitely not least, what does craft beer mean to you?
Community. Beer is what I enjoy with my friends and family and what often brings us together. And now that my livelihood is connected with the beer industry it means profoundly more to me. One of my goals of starting this business has been to use it as a vehicle to bring my community of friends and family together and support the growth of the people around me.
I live and breathe malt every day and can talk about it for hours. But you know what really excites me right now? We are in the early planning phases of establishing the first community garden in Leander right next to the malthouse, fed by the waste water we produce. Instead of just flushing perfectly usable water down the drain we can use it to fuel fruit and vegetable plots. Sounds funny that of all things a garden is what gets me jazzed, but giveback and the cohesion of community are just some of the things a community garden will help foster. Beer has made all of that possible, in the most indirect of ways, but in the end if I can give something back to the people I love then I owe it to the community building power of beer.