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Editorial Dept.'s picture

Fall 2010, Issue 4

Fall 2010, Issue 4

You don’t need me to tell you that good beer has gone big time. There’s plenty of data floating around that clearly illustrates the craft beer movement’s ascent over the past three decades to its now prominent place in American culture. But now that quality beer has made good, it seems like everyone from market researchers to journalists to entrepreneurs are racking their brains trying to classify craft and its appeal.

Allow me to join the crowd. For beyond the simple fact that good beer is just, well, good, it seems apparent that something more cerebral ties the culture together.

To put it plainly, craft beer is smart.
Think about it. It takes an educated palate to truly appreciate good beer, to suss out the nuances swirling around a Belgian-style farmhouse ale or the subtleties hidden inside in a Baltic porter. Learning the intricacies of beer’s myriad styles and the history behind them certainly requires a scholarly effort – just ask a beer judge or a Cicerone. And while stovetop brewing has by now been reduced to a series of easy-to-follow steps, allowing anyone with enough interest to brew themselves, creating truly exceptional beer involves careful calculation and a deep understanding of the science at play that only comes from years of intense focus and hard work, often starting at a brewing school like the venerated one at the University of California, Davis.

Just take a look around the next time you attend a beer dinner or a rare tapping and you’re bound to notice at least a few beer geeks scribbling intently in their Moleskines like they’re taking notes in class. Or consider how the stories behind the beers in Dogfish Head’s Ancient Ales series, created with the help of the molecular archaeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology, have helped catapult the Delaware brewery to stardom. Add all this up and you begin to sense a sophistication in craft beer that runs counter to the long-held lowbrow image tied to beer in America, due of course to the prominence of dumbed-down, mass-marketed macrobrews.

A noble pursuit indeed, drinking good beer inspires contemplation, and we here at The Beer Connoisseur are keenly aware of craft beer’s tendency to stimulate the intellect. To satisfy your heady thirst for all things beer, we bring you another issue full of stories worth chewing on, like our in-depth guide to taking in Oktoberfest and the rest of the sights around beer-soaked Munich, our regular Style Studies column on beer’s multifarious forms and our Innovators Series, this time spotlighting Jim Koch, the big brain behind the Boston Beer Company.

We talk with none other than Chef Thomas Keller and offer one of his recipes for you to try your hand at – in case you weren’t planning to cash in your 401(k) for a night at one of his restaurants, like the French Laundry or Per Se. We point out some relatively little-known brewpubs where the cuisine shares top billing with the fresh, housemade beer. We look back at 1995, an especially notable year in the history of the movement, and stretch our necks farther to examine a rough spot in the 251-year history of Guinness.

We visit another standout beer bar, San Francisco’s Toronado Pub, as well as some world-class breweries – Allagash, New Glarus and SweetWater. We continue to chronicle the long process of creating our own brand of beer. And, for the love of hops, we taste 18 pale ales, IPAs (both English and American) and imperial IPAs.

So leave the leaf raking for another time and pour yourself a glass of one of your favorite brews. The Beer Connoisseur school is back in session.


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