Green Beer Isn’t Just for St. Patrick’s Day Anymore

Today, I’d love to speak about one of the grandfathers of American craft brewing. Arguably, it’s the one brewery that can be said to have started the craft brewing movement in the US. I speak, of course, of California’s own Sierra Nevada Brewing. I feel that they started as every microbrewery should start – by excited and invested homebrewers who want to make better beer rather than money (I’m looking at you, Rouge). Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is perhaps the original American microbrew, being made since 1980, and it’s still the second-most sold craft beer in the US. Their accessible beers have helped introduce a lot of people to craft brews through the years, while still impressing snobby beer folk like myself. To this day their beers are extremely consistent, high quality, and made via traditional methods.

However, Sierra Nevada’s legacy goes far beyond impressive beers and commercial growth. Sierra Nevada and Ken Grossman (owner), have taken great strides to be an example for the future of “green” brewing. They’ve been a pioneer of sustainability, taking steps to reduce their energy consumption, waste, and environmental impact while brewing. For example, they have installed over 10,000 solar arrays, producing 1/5 of the power required to run their brewery. They also installed hydrogen fuel cells, which cleanly produce close to 50% of their energy needs. On top of that, they go to great lengths to reduce the amount of energy their brewing operation uses, from having more windows for natural lighting, increasingly efficient freezers, to something as simple as having their cardboard packaging piggyback in on the backhaul trucks from their beer distribution–cutting out trips from the brewery by fuel-guzzling trucks. They are mindful of their waste as well, putting everything they can to good use. Their spent grain is sent to cattle ranchers for feed, their water is sent to their own treatment plant to be reused for their own farming or brewing processes, and even their spent yeast is used to make ethanol. All told, 99.5% of their brewing waste is kept out of landfills and reused. They were named the Green Business of the Year by the EPA in 2010 in response to all the environmentally charged adaptations they’ve made to their brewing processes.

Sierra Nevada has also been instrumental in kick starting the growing trend of brewers growing their own crops for brewing. They now have 8 acres of hop fields, as well as a 30 acre barley field and a one acre garden for their restaurant. They use these home-grown ingredients in their beer, as well as releasing a seasonal beer using only ingredients grown on site. It’s a trend that is admirable and ambitious, and with the considerable cost of setting up a farm on site, it’s even more impressive that a brewery would be willing to take on such a venture. With the growth of the craft brewery industry, and how homogenized much of it has become; it’s exciting to have one of the first modern microbreweries continue to innovate, think outside the box, and push the envelope every year. With their sales and success, it would be very easy for them to sit back and just make their core products, but instead they have made themselves an example to other breweries of how to stay interesting, how to be better to the environment while still being profitable, and how to be more than just another generic microbrewery, making generic beer, to be drank by generic people. Prost to Ken Grossman and Sierra Nevada’s staff for that.

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How Do I Get This Goodness in Me!? Pouring Beer

There is a great debate in the world of beer drinkers. Well, maybe not a great debate. More of a little drunken argument that occurs between beer snob one and beer snob two. It’s not that there is a right answer. I mean, when enjoying a drink of the libation that saved the world, it’s hard to really get upset over a minor detail like how to drink it. Sure, we argue about the best Porters, Stouts, and IPAs, but how to drink it isn’t exactly a point of venomous contention.

There is one thing for sure, at least in my eyes, that it shouldn’t come out of a can. I think all snobs can agree that there isn’t a fine, craft beer brewer out there that said, “you know, this is such damned good beer it can only be deserving of aluminum.” Yeah, great beer is in glass or from a tap. Aluminum cans are as classy as the only other thing clad in aluminum…double-wide trailers. At least it’s “double-wide.” Single-wide is just embarrassing.

How is a beer to be enjoyed? Whether it comes from a tap, out of a bottle, a mini-keg, whatever, it needs to be in a glass. This is rule number one. If you want to really enjoy the time and effort put in to a beer, then you need to pour it in a glass. Do they do wine or beer tasting from the bottle? Have you ever seen a credited beer judge take a sniff of the aromatics of a good beer from the neck of a bottle? No. The answer is no. Though, if it comes from a can, the glass isn’t gonna make the difference, so you can just pound that dirty water. Shotgun it or pour it in a funnel and then down your frat brother’s gullet. Who gives a shit. The beer cost you 48 cents a can, after all.

For those of you out there that spend a few cents more on your beer, then you probably already know how to pour a decent beer.

After a search of YouTube for some videos to share, I have seen some pretty terrifying things. The hard pour and the glugging pour are just wrong. Working at the pub, I’ve even seen the horrifying vertical pour. Watched as a customer turn a bottle upside down in the glass, literally in the glass, and slowly lifted the bottle out of the glass as it filled up. Just a glugging, hard pour that looked painful. I think I heard the beer screaming from the torture.

Instead of establishing a safety word to avoid this kind of thing in the future, I decided to turn to a YouTube channel favorite of mine: CHOW. It’s like the FOOD Network for normal people with great tips on everything from picking the perfect steak to making the perfect homemade french fries. I love this site, and the CHOW YouTube Channel is great. So, without further delay, here is what I think is a very complete look at pouring the proper beer for the usual styles that you will encounter. Click here.

There is also a beer that almost stands alone with its legacy, fame, and even it’s unique pour. With more than 250 years to rest its name on, and only the blemish of the recent addition of a wretched Black Lager to tarnish its good name, Guinness is the only beer I know of that demands a two-part pour. For a proper pour, we go to the source. Though it is a bit cheesy and just as much an ad as it is a guide, check out the Guinness two-part pour here.

So there you have it. A fairly complete, quick look at the right way to pour a beer. I hope this helps. If you enjoy beer, then you need a glass, a mug, or even a German beer stein. Whatever it is, the brew needs to get out of the bottle. It’s like eating ravioli out of a can. It’s just better when you serve it right. In the coming weeks we will look at the different glasses that are for different brews, and even serving temperatures for beer, and why Coors Light can be served at near liquid nitrogen temperatures while other beers just need to be warmer than freezing…because they taste good. Shhh, it’s a secret. Colder isn’t always better. Until next time. Prost.

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Thirsty Thursday: Lagers According to Joel

We here at Project: Poppyc**k would like to introduce a new voice in the Poppyc**cus, Joel Pearson. We value differing opinions and are always on the lookout for new voices, and new ideas. Joel and I, Wesley Bauman, go back many years and with that in mind I reached out to him for some real beer expertise. From the beard and the overall physique you’ll be able to tell that he is a NW beer connoisseur with a depth of knowledge that makes my own persnickety tastes look like total triple-A ball while he just won an NL MVP. Joel is an avid home brewer, hobby photographer, and sports nut (including actually playing ice hockey, since he’s got some Canadian in him. Don’t hold it against him).

In this week’s Thirsty Thursday video Joel drops some serious knowledge about Lagers on your face. With the time of season where you are going to be seeing a lot of seasonal Oktoberfests on the shelves, he wants to allay any ideas that Lagers have any less to offer than Ales. As most people lump a style of beer in with it’s greatest marketer, Budweiser, Joel would like you to know that despite the fact that most crap beer is a Lager, not all Lagers are crap beer. He is going to mention a dizzying variety of brews of the Lager variety from Bocks to Pilsners, and Oktoberfests to Dopplebocks. Lagers can be a clear and crisp beer, but it is not necessarily the yellow beer with all the carbonation that makes you wonder if it’s bad soda or maybe a problem with the water in your grandma’s old house.

Listen carefully and take notes. I know I learned quite a bit about beer from this video as I looked it over and watched as Joel squirmed a bit with his first time on camera here at Project: Poppyc**k. (I will admit, I took a bit of pleasure from that. Not so easy talking in to a camera is it, Joel!? haha, just kidding) I want to thank Joel for his willingness to take on this week’s beer blog entry on the site and I hope to hear from him even more as time goes on here at Poppyc**k. He is also one of our most active participants in discussions and comments often on links or videos we post, so we thank him for his regular patronage and now his ascent from the level of not only participant, but now “contributor.”

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Thanks, Joel. Despite your Canadian handicap, we look forward to more of your beer thoughts in the near future. Prost, my friend!

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Thirsty Thursday: The Boycott “Big Beer” Rant

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This week in our beer bloggery (yeah, that’s a word I just made up) we are talking “big beer.” Inspired by the film I suggest in the video, beer wars, I have decided to lay down the ground rules and the foundation that we beer lovers on this site seem to stand for. We like craft beers made with love, passion, and a lot of heart; we like brewers that make beer that taste like a woman you’d try and get in bed with. We address issues in the injustice of the three-tier system, and the ugly thing that is A-Binbev. We take a look at the body of beers the A-B inbev owns and propose the idea that if you are anti-big business, then you should be anti-big beer, but most people don’t think of beer in this fashion. Nor do most people understand the multi-national corporation they are supporting and how it affects your ability to get great beer off the supermarket shelves.

We think that great beer comes in small batches and is a risky re-imagining of a classic brew, or pays homage to a perennial while still pushing the envelope. We love beer that makes you shake your head and say, “wow!” We want you to think of beer in these terms, something to be enjoyed and savored, never to be pounded past the palate simply for the desired effects of getting drunk. Take a pint in your hand and smell it, taste it, and always finish it. You might need to cultivate a taste for good beer, I know I did, but to begin the process of appreciating craftsmanship you’ve gotta get away from the ikea’s of the brewing world and start enjoying the more ornate creations crafted by hand that populates the cathedral that “small beer” built.

Prost!

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