News from the Mash Tun #22 Pils Renaissance, NEIPA Craze & Early Hop Harvest

News from the Mash Tun #22 Pils Renaissance, NEIPA Craze & Early Hop Harvest

Hazy beer for the win, or would you prefer a fruit-bomb (literally)? Horses for courses of course, because many of us happily settle for a German classic but this week ‘trending’ is seriously in trend. Brewing gypsies settling down, beer against air pollution and post-drought raw ingredient updates, we’re looking at beery news, in all its many facets.

The haze craze continues

It’s increasingly difficult to keep up with the trends of craft and indie beer alike. Last week the haze was all the rage and this week…wait, hang on a second… Nope, turns out we’re still in the haze craze!

So much so in fact, that this year for the first time in over 15 years, the number of entries submitted to the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) for the American style IPA was surpassed by the NEIPA style.

A reported 706 hazy submissions have been registered for the competition, more than double to that of the non-hazy IPAs. “This marks the first time in over a decade and a half that American-Style India Pale Ale – which received 331 entries – is no longer the top entered beer style in the U.S. commercial beer competition,” said Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the Brewers Association (BA).

But who on earth, and how on earth would you even go about judging over 700 tongue-numbing, hop-burning, lupulin-laced submissions when no clear guidelines have been established for the category as yet?

“Nobody has a handle on what the true center point of this category is, in terms of softness and bitterness,” pointed out Wachusett Brewing president Christian McMahan. “Hazy IPAs haven’t been judged before, and all of us will be watching to see how the GABF judges that were selected for this category will define what they think is the center point for the style.”

Another important point that comes into play is beer freshness. As the beer guzzling world begins to understand more and more the importance of enjoying hoppy beers as fresh as possible, it goes without saying that NEIPAs are particularly vulnerable when it comes to the adverse effects of aging. The GABF judging commences on September 19th, but the BA stipulates that all entries need to be received before August 24. That’s one entire month of idle time!

Although all beers will be stored cold in the four week window, competition entrants already enter the contest with time against them. “As much as we love some crazy-hazy IPAs, we will probably never package and distribute one, due to its exceptionally short shelf life,” wrote Colorado’s Avery Brewing in an extremely detailed blog well worth the read!

Considering that the NEIPA only became formally recognised as an official beer style in March this year, it appears that the ‘juicy or hazy IPAs’ are a force likely to stick around for the foreseeable future. God speed to the poor judges – it’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it!

Dangerous beers in trend

Speaking of trends, it seems that the dangers extend well beyond the possibility of having to stomach old beer. Another trend we’ve seen gaining recent momentum involves adding fruit to beer. Although the practice dates back to a rich, Belgian heritage, the new wave of experimental brewers is (occasionally) taking a different approach to the tried and tested.

Namely: the addition of fruit in various forms followed by immediate packaging before the fructose sugars are able to complete their fermentation. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to understand the subsequent dangers of building unpredictable amounts of pressure in a bottle or can!

In the States there have been several cases of exploding cans reported. Although the breweries in question most usually detail the potential dangers of not storing the fruited beers cold on their packaging, the entire act of releasing a product onto a market with variable levels of product understanding is not without immense risk. And in the unfortunate case of injury, who is to blame? The manufacturer or the uninformed consumer?

It begs the question: how can breweries wanting to push the boundaries without causing their customers harm rationalize the decision to dabble in such a dangerous territory? Founder and president of New Jersey’s Magnify Brewing, Eric Ruta, who have just released a gose with mango, cherries, and guava has taken a humorous approach to the issue with a social media warning.

“…we added the fruit just prior to canning so this beer contains fermentable sugars. This allows us to get the most character out of the fruit, but requires responsibility once these cans get in your hands! It is imperative that these cans remain cold at all times!”

Funny enough, for now. But folks, the dangers are real. Take heed when enjoying your fruit beery goodness!

The (much safer) pilsner renaissance continues

If the idea of your beer exploding in your hands is just too much for you, let’s take it down a notch with some safer German news. Berlin Beer Week (BBW) is over for the year and this year Berlin enjoyed a Double-Dry-Hopped Pilsner as the official BBW beer. We’ve been noticing it more and more, that here in Germany, our hunger for classic German styles continues to enjoy a gradual renaissance.

In Hamburg, Ratsherrn is pushing the pilsner renaissance with the launch of four new pilsner varieties dubbed the “New Era Pilsner”. The range features their four contemporary takes on a classic pils: a (wait for it) dry-hopped pils, an imperial pils (that’s a modern day heller bock?), the “Pfeffersack” pils (which contains exotic spicy hop notes) and a session pils.

It’s always a much safer bet to stick with a classic, let’s face it!

Brewdog forced to payout former employee

The tables have turned on Brewdog this month with the court order to pay out a worker 13.226 Euros for unfair dismissal. The Scottish brewing force (who have just opened their first ‘beer hotel’), who are renowned for initiating legal proceedings with semi-regularity themselves, dismissed their employee, James Ross, due to his deteriorating eyesight.

Employment Judge Nick Hosie stated that Brewdog “should feel more than discomfort at the lack of awareness evidenced of their legal obligations to consider reasonable adjustments for an employee they recognized as disabled”, urging the company to ensure their staff are made more aware of their legal requirements.

Now that verdict is pretty punk, Judge Hosie!

When Gypsies find their own home

Yes, Germany is notoriously difficult when it comes to some things. Finding a good Greek restaurant, for example, brewing beer that is not ‘pure’ or the bureaucratic hurdles of launching a new business (how many different types of Amts can there be?!)

But it appears that we’re not alone when it comes to constant governmental disincentives to try to further the economy through business initiatives! After more than two years of delays, the evil twin to Scandinavia’s gypsy brewing godfather, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø’s of Mikkeller, has finally thrown down his rucksack and found permanent abode.

Also renowned for his gypsy brewing prowess, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso of Evil Twin Brewing is scheduled to open his own brewery doors in New York’s Ridgewood, Queens in November.

Only time will tell how he (and his beers) adjust to the very different situation of running a brewery as compared to just utilizing the brewery of others!

New York Breweries in trend

And speaking of the dynamic Danish duo, Mikkel and Jeppe, who have a reputation for…well a bit of friendly family rivalry might be an understatement (apparently the two haven’t spoken since 2010), you can’t help but chuckle at the fact that Mikkel has also recently opened up a brewery in New York. Also in Queens, to be precise!

With an as-yet underdeveloped beer scene in the city (“Today we have now 25 brewers in New York, it’s nothing. San Diego has 150”, said Jeppe in an interview earlier this year), there’s no telling just how small that scene is going to feel for the two rivaling brothers before they know it!

Prague’s beery solution to air pollution

In an aid to reduce air pollution, the people of Prague are promoting car-free days with the incentive of a free post-work beer providing you leave your vehicle at home and get yourself to work on public transportation. The city has teamed up with brewers Lobkowicz to produce the lager Pražský chodec (Prague Pedestrian) for which the advertising slogan is ‘Beer Against Smog’.

“We were very fond of the idea that a good beer after work is not only a pleasant moment of recovery, but also a contribution to reducing air pollution and reducing the number of cars in Prague,” explains Jan Novák, marketing director for the brewery Lobkowicz.

Way to go, Prague! Very cool initiative!

Hop-date!

The hop harvest is upon us! For the next few weeks, Germany’s trustee hop custodians will be working ridiculous hours, day in and day out to get those fresh hop cones off the bines and into a storable hop pellet form. Without these heroes of the hops, where would we be?

A very small percentage of the fresh hops harvested will also make it into beers directly off the plants — that’s right, the wet hop beer season is just around the corner and who in their right mind does not crave a Grünhopfen beer every November?

Due to an intense summer of increased and prolonged temperatures, the Association of German Hop Growers expects a below-average harvest. In the region of Hallertau 34.500 tonnes of hops are expected to be harvested, about 1.000 tonnes less than in the previous year. The harvest will also take place slightly earlier, so we can start keeping our eyes peeled for wet hop beers hitting the market from late September onwards.

It ain’t just about hops – Don’t forget the malt!

Farmers might have the toughest jobs on the planet. Ever vulnerable to erratic weather gods, from year to year one’s harvest (and resultant livelihood) fall prey to the unpredictable nature of the planet. For German farmers, who contribute hugely to most aspects of the raw ingredients needed to produce beer, this summer has been brutal.

The glorious summer has meant that we’ve consumed more beer than last year, but the roaring and relentless temperatures leading to drought have also had resultant consequences for the purveyors of raw ingredients breweries rely upon — the farmers.

This year, according to surveys of the national association of the German Farmers Association, cereal crop harvests have been impacted severely with a grain harvest 26 percent lower than the average amount from 2013 to 2017 (35.6 million tonnes).

“About a third of the malting barley comes from the north and east of the Federal Republic, which are affected by significant failures this year,” remarked Walter König, CEO of the brewing barley producer group. Consequently prices will eventually rise. “The effect of the price increase of malting barley will be seen in the long term at the breweries,” said König.

That’s all for now folks! Take it easy, cheers, and enjoy the cooler evenings! Stronger beers (think: Festbier and Märzen) are on the menu for a wonderful looking autumn!

Photo Credits: Shutterstock und Flickr

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