Rye Not? A Rise in Rye Beer's Popularity

For a grain with such wide recognition in popular culture (from the folk song/nursery rhyme "Sing a Song of Sixpence" to the Don McLean rock anthem "American Pie") as well as its status as an undisputed staple for New York delis (aside from the "marble" cousin, is there any other acceptable bread for a Reuben?), one would assume that rye's potential has already been maximized.  However, as palettes and techniques have become more refined, rye has enjoyed a renaissance.  William Bostwick reported, in The Wall Street Journal, that it has become increasingly popular among brewers not just as an novelty flavor, but as a useful grain for accenting beers.

Even though rye whiskey distilling is a domestic tradition as old as the presidency, reportedly dating back to the 1790's at George Washington's Mount Vernon, VA estate, Americans have only recently discovered rye's beer capabilities.  This distinction was initially driven by economics and convenience.  Because rye is exceptionally hard to brew (its lack of husk, especially relative to barley, and its many oily proteins render it a "labor of love") and because whiskey has always been more expensive than beer, rye has only recently entered the American beer arena.  Across the Atlantic, rye has some beer history, owing to the fact that the European environment is more conducive to rye harvesting than the American setting.

In modern American brewing, it has only recently been discovered that "a little rye goes a long way" in creating a rye ale.  In fact, Bear Republic's Hop Rod Rye was the first of its kind when it was introduced in 2000.  Only later would the Great American Beer Festival establish a separate category for these "RyePA's."  No matter how late the stateside "Eu-rye-ka" moment may have taken place, this is certainly a positive note for American beer enthusiasts who appreciate rye's mellowing effect on hops.

Have you tried rye beer yet?

Beer Searching Just Got a Whole Lot Cooler

By: Justin Chan

It's easy to grab a pack of generic beer at your local supermarket, but finding one that's indigenous to a certain country is like finding Waldo in a sea of cartoon characters dressed in red and white.

Those who aren't heavy consumers of beer are probably fine with a bottle of Heineken or Coors Light, but beer connoisseurs will tell you that there are many other obscure brands that will soothe your taste buds. Consider Boon Framboise, a Belgian beer that smells like a combination of vanilla and wood. The brand scored a 98 on a taste test conducted by the U.S. Beverage Institute. It also won the "Beer of the Year" award from Malt Advocate.

Though heavily praised by beer critics, Boon Framboise is one of the many beer names few people in the U.S. can recognize. Surprised? Don't be. Most Americans are used to watching Guinness commercials where two scientists go back and forth yelling "Brilliant!" or Miller Lite ads where a poor fellow is on the verge of losing his man card. Major beer brands such as Heineken, Bud Light, Coors and Miller Light have complete dominance over the advertisements you see every day, while lesser-known brands often remain under your radar.

Manhattan Beer Distributors, however, hopes to change all that. The company's website  features local events aimed at spotlighting famous beers and several beverages that you have probably never heard of. Those who can't attend these events don't need to worry. The site even has a product finder that can help you locate a store that sells some hard-to-get beers. Looking for a bottle of Chang? No problem. Type in your zip code, and the site will tell you the nearest location that sells this Thai delight. What about a bottle of Menabrea Ambrata? Just do the same thing, and you'll find a store in no time. In fact, the site features a long list of attractive beers (albeit with names that are difficult to pronounce) that would have even the Most Interesting Man in the World think twice about his favorite beer.

Besides helping you find your favorite beer anywhere it's located in Manhattan, it also searches in all five of the boroughs so no matter where you are you can hunt down those brewskies. So if you're tired of drinking that same old generic beer, treat your taste buds to something more worthy by finding a beer on Manhattan Beer Distributors' site. And if you're worried about consuming too many calories while you're beer-hunting, your best bet is to stay away from dark beers or just have the website find you the best low-cal brews.

Photo: Adam Fagen 

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Freshly Brewed: Book Review of Brewed Awakening

By: Ashley Bode

Oktoberfest may be over but there's no need to empty your pint glass now. Many people consider beer to be the refreshing drink of summertime barbecues and baseball games, but consider learning more about beer's heartier brethren that is sure to keep you warm throughout the winter. Former New York Press columnist Joshua M. Bernstein released his first book Brewed Awakening: Behind the Beers and Brewers Leading the World's Craft Brewing Revolution last Tuesday. Inside, Bernstein offers readers an extensive knowledge on craft beer and the blossoming industry in both the United States and abroad.

Much like the wine craze that began in the 1970s, Americans have begun to fall in love with craft beers.  Although craft beer makes up only 4% of beer consumption, craft beer has seen an annual growth around 12% for the last 8 years.  It is estimated that because of the growth in craft and micro-brewing, that most Americans live within 10 miles of a brewery, with over 60 breweries in New York State.  This places us on the brink of a craft beer revolution and the beginning of a long-lasting trend.

Bernstein draws the reader into this revolution instantly.  His book is designed to resemble a notebook or journal, complete with photos and handwritten notes that give the reader a peek inside Bernstein's favorites, as well as recommending some of the best in the business. The book is a great read for those new to craft beers and is also a good refresher for a knowledgeable beer aficionado, all told in a voice that is authentic, laid back and engaging. He thoroughly explains the brewing process by simplifying the terminology and while some experts give a pretentious, know-it-all impression, Bernstein clearly just wants to share the wealth of his knowledge.

Find time to pick up Brewed Awakening and you're guaranteed to learn something new and perhaps develop your own love for a local craft beer. Learn about the difference between wet and dry hops, session brews, ryes and nano-breweries; no topic is off limits. As Bernstein says "There's a story in every pint glass," so let's drink up!

For more of Ashley's tips and recipes, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)

2011 NYC Oktoberfest Events

When a German asks you, "Was seinen Sie ihre Lieblings Freizeitbeschaftigungen?" don't be alarmed by the large words.  Stare right into their Deutches Augen (German Eyes) and yell like a private in boot camp, "Practicing for Oktoberfeeeest!"  Make sure to draw out that last syllable to really drive home your dedication to The Fest, because this stuff's important.

Since 1810 Oktoberfest has been a celebration of one thing and one thing only, happiness.  It started with a celebration of the marriage between Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese of Saxony-Hildburghausen on the 12 of October 1810.  In 2011 it remains no less joyous than the beautiful celebration of eternal love, there is just more beer.

To make sure you're in the know, here's a list of NYC Oktoberfest events to black out a week or two of your life in a drunken, and happy, stupor:

Lexington Avenue Oktoberfest Blowout:  In honor of this illustrious holiday, Lexington Avenue will be shut down on Sunday October 2nd from 42nd-57th Street.  The celebration will commence at 10am and end at 6pm.  Go get your drink on!

Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden:  New York's oldest beer garden has been a premier venue for the week-long Oktoberfest celebration for over a hundred years.  Starting at 12 pm daily on October 1st and ending on the 9th, the Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden will be serving up plenty'o'happiness-in-a-glass. 29-19 24th Avenue Astoria, New York 11102

Zum Schneider Restaurant and Biergarten:  From now until October 9th, knock a few back in a traditional Oktoberfest setting and celebration. 107 Avenue C at East 7th Street, New York, NY 10009

Oktoberfest 2011 in The Garden at Studio Square NYC:  Just how it sounds-a killer Oktoberfest celebration at The Garden at Studio Square on October 1st and 2nd. 35-33 36th Street, Long Island City, NY 11106

Das Best Oktoberfest NYC:  On October 22, there will be more beer, sausage, music, and that's right-Lederhosen, than you know what to do with.  The NYC tour will consist of two big sessions of Okstoberfestivities from 12pm to 4pm and 5:30pm to 9:30 pm at La. venue. 608 West 28th Street, NYC 10001-11th Ave and 28th Street

Where are you celebrating Oktoberfest?

For more updates on local events, follow me on Twitter (@MarcusCooks)

Photo: Esti Alvarez

Beer Economics: The Rise of Craft Beers

By: Dylan Rodgers

As the recession trudges onward, it is no wonder that beer sales around the country have dropped by nearly 1 percent.  At the same time, beer sales have also jumped 10 percent.

Wait... huh?

That's right:  beer sales have simultaneously fallen and risen.  The kicker is that the cheaper beers like Bush, Coors, and Michelob (recession brewskies as I call 'em) are down 1 percent.  It's the craft beers, those made in smaller quantities by smaller companies that have spiked with the colossal increase of 10 percent.

Aside from being an interesting/counterintuitive fact, these figures are more than simple statistics; they represent a refining of our tastes.  Our palates have become more receptive to complexity, and interesting, almost artistic brewing ingredients and techniques.

During this recession, Americans aren't buying less beer to save a buck or two.  No way!  We're spending even more money per bottle for brews that focus on taste and body rather than 'drinkability' and low concentration of carbs.  It would seem that when given the choice, Americans are choosing quality rather than quantity, something that had been all but extinct when Sam's, Walmart, BJ's, and Target are taking into consideration.

Personally, I often find it a tough decision between a 12 pack of mediocre beer versus a 6 pack of Magic Hat, Smutty Nose, or Marble.  I have always preached quality over quantity, but I must admit I have often chosen the latter in economic lows without regret.

Lately though, I realize that I fall into the same category as the rest of Americans who are paying a little more for a little less.  It is strange that an economic recession would elevate the public's tastes.  No matter the reason, I am glad to see beer crafters, nay, beer aficionados getting the nationwide recognition they deserve.

Photo: Sciascia

What's your favorite craft beer?