The Friday Fermentable: Beer me, y'all

This is kind of a homer version of The Friday Fermentable, but I think that it has enough international interest that I am putting it here and on the oft-neglected local blog, Bull City Bully Pulpit.

Many themes will come together here that involve science blogging and this will be our first discussion of beer since this feature began. To be honest, when I began making my own wine some 15 years ago, I realized it took so long to enjoy the wine I had made (at least a year or more) that I began brewing beer, a fermentable that can and generally should be enjoyed within three to four weeks.

During my 11 years in Denver, I spent nearly ever final weekend of September at the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), sampling the best offerings of this country's craftbrewing efforts. A small club gathering led by Boulder beer sage, Charlie Papazian, has grown in 25 years to become the major US craft brewing competition, now held at the city's new convention center (btw, the ageless Papazian is pictured at the bottom right of the six pix from this year's GABF seen here.)

The GABF was such a national event that my brother, John, a former chemical engineer for a major US pharmaceutical company, would fly to Denver every year for us to attend together. This was not an uncommon experience for many of my Denver/Boulder colleagues.

Moving back to the eastern US, I was excited to learn how the English/Scottish/Irish influence in North Carolina would manifest itself in craft brewing around the state. Unbeknownst to me, North Carolina had previously had a cap on beer at 6% alcohol by volume (ABV), limiting severely the types of beer that could be brewed or sold.

Thanks to the efforts of a lobbying group called Pop The Cap, legislation was passed on 13 August 2005 permitting beers to be brewed and sold in NC at up to 15% ABV. To give you an indication of my priorities, I donated more money to Pop The Cap than to any presidential candidate in 2004.

Well, in the past, NC brewers didn't fare so well at GABF, never winning more than one medal per year. But this year, the first full year that the new beer legislation was in effect, NC brewers won five GABF awards. Not all are strong beers, mind you, and only one of the five would not have been permissible before the new law. But I feel that the freedom offered brewers this year by Pop The Cap led to a rejuvenation of the creativity of the North Carolina craft brewing industry.

Julie Johnson Bradford, an editor of All About Beer magazine and beer writer for the Raleigh (NC) News & Observer wrote the following article about these triumphs:

Tar Heel brewers win honors

And the winning beers were:

1. Ham's Restaurant & Brewhouse, Greenville (GOLD - Münchner-Style Helles) - Sunfest Lager

2. Carolina Brewery, Chapel Hill (GOLD - English-Style India Pale Ale) - Flagship IPA

3. Foothills Brewing Company, Winston-Salem (GOLD - Pro-Am Competition) - Baltic Porter

4. Natty Greene's Brewing Co., Greensboro (SILVER - English-Style Brown Ale) - Old Town Brown

5. The Duck-Rabbit Craft Brewery, Farmville (BRONZE -
Sweet Stout) - Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout

The medal for which I have the greatest pride is that for the milk stout brewed by Duck-Rabbit Brewery in the bustling metropolis of Farmville, North Carolina. Duck-Rabbit gets a fair share of my discretionary income, split more often toward their excellent porter rather than their now-award-winning milk stout.

i-2e5a4f4104532a18cc9acbf22edcea55-aab_27.5.jpgI also must make special note of the Carolina Brewery's fabulous gold medal for their Flagship IPA, for a number of reasons that also relate to this blog. As I am a semi-pro musician, it has not escaped my attention that the brewers at Carolina also have a rather accomplished rock band, The Imperial Pints. Their guitarist and premier brewer, Jon Connolly, is actually featured on the cover of the most recent issue of All About Beer magazine.

i-7efc9b14c0169779974009f658483c58-NCSBClogo175.jpgMoreover, Carolina Brewery will also be one of the post-conference dinner sites following the 2007 North Carolina Science Blogger Conference on 20 January (see current registrants here.). As a result of this convergence of science blogging, music, and fermented beverages, yours truly will be hosting the post-conference dinner gathering at the Carolina Brewery. So, if you want to find out who I really am, or if you just want to try some of the best beer that North Carolina has to offer, join us at the SBC '07 and tip a pint or three with the Pharmboy and bloggy friends.

The bottom line is that while winemaking is geographically restricted based on climate, beer can be made anywhere that one can ship barley, hops, and yeast. Most beer is meant to be drunk while young and the American craft brewing culture is a nicely inclusive group of folks who are already part of your communities.

So, while North Carolina beers are distributed throughout the US, you can give yourself an enriching experience regardless by patronizing your own local craft brewery.

Think Globally...Drink Locally.

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