Sunday, September 7, 2014

Harvest Ales Deconstructed

What are hops?
Hops are the seed cones of the plant species Humulus lupulus. They grow vertically on hop “bines” that can span anywhere from 10-20 ft high, and thrive in climates similar to wine grapes that have at least 120 frost-free days. Hops have lupulin glands that contain oils essential to brewing that contribute bittering and aroma to beer. 

How are hops harvested?
When hops reach their maturity (usually mid August) the harvest season begins. Hop farmers work around the clock to cut down the bines and send them through machines that separate the cones from the vines and leaves. Hops are extremely delicate and start decaying very quickly, which is why most are immediately dried to preserve the flavors and aromas.

What are fresh hop beers?
Fresh hop, wet hop, or harvest beers refer to a seasonal style of beer in which hops, within 24-48 hours of being picked, are quickly transported and used to brew a beer that highlights the fresh “green” aroma and local origin.

When did harvest ales originate?
Sierra Nevada was the first brewery to take advantage of the fresh-hop process in creating their Harvest Ale in 1996 (now called Northern Hemisphere Harvest Ale) and has made it every year since. The close proximity to hop farms in Oregon and Washington was a huge benefit to breweries in the Pacific Northwest, who quickly jumped on the seasonal trend.

With the growing number of hop farms in Michigan and Wisconsin, Midwest breweries are now able to more easily create harvest ales. Many pay special visits to their local hop farm leading up to harvest season to walk the fields and choose their own hops. Harvest Ales have become as much of a fall tradition in American craft beer as the Oktoberfest style is in Europe.

How are fresh hops used in beer?
Fresh hops are typically used in beers such as IPAs and Pale Ales. Since the moisture level is much higher than in the dried pellet versions, they are less bitter and best utilized as an aroma addition, towards the end of the boil. Some brewers use fresh hops to “wet hop” a beer during fermentation, similar to dry hopping with pellet hops.

The ratio of fresh to dried is approximately 6:1 and depends on the Alpha Acid of each hop variety. There are tools available online and in programs such as BeerSmith to help with the conversion. 

What are some examples of harvest ales I should try? 
Harvest ales typically hit shelves mid-September through early October and are best consumed fresh!

Locally brewed in the Midwest
Three Floyds - Broo Doo, IPA
Half Acre - Sticky Fat, American Dark Ale
Two Brothers - Heavy Handed, IPA
Two Brothers - Heavier Handed, DIPA
Founders - Harvest Ale, IPA
Greenbush - Demeter, American Pale Ale
Shorts Brewing - Kind Ale, American Pale Ale
New Holland - Hopivore, Pale Ale
Upland Brewing - Harvest Ale, American Pale Ale
Three Sheeps - Nimble Lips, Noble Tongue Vol. 4
Lake Effect/Fountainhead Collab - 27 Blocks, IPA

National distribution
Great Divide - Fresh Hop, Pale Ale
Left Hand Brewing - Warrior, IPA
Port Brewing - High Tide Fresh Hop, IPA
Deschutes Hop Trip, Pale Ale
Deschutes Chasin Freshies, American IPA
New Belgium - Fresh Hop, IPA
Sixpoint - Sensi Harvest, Pale Ale – check out this great harvest video they made.

Sierra Nevada celebrates the seasonal release of their 5 beer “Harvest Series”, showcasing a range of hop techniques and origins, with a “Single, Fresh, Wet and Wild Harvest Fest” at their estate hop fields in October.
Where can I read more about hops?
For the Love of Hops, Stan Hieronymus
Tasting Beer, Randy Mosher
The Complete Beer Course, Joshua M. Bernstein
Hop Variety Handbook, Dan Woodske

For information on growing your own hops, check out this resource from Midwest Supplies.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

6 Design Observations from the Craft Beer Aisle

We were recently approached by the folks at Top Hat IMC, a Marketing and PR firm in Philadelphia, to write a guest blog post on craft beer label design. We happily obliged and welcomed the opportunity to explore, from a Nationwide perspective, the current design trends and best practices taking place in the craft beer industry.

For the full story click here.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Chicago Beer Gals at Lagunitas Taproom

For our next Chicago Beer Gals event we'll be taking it to the new Lagunitas Taproom and brewery in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago.

We will be joined by special guest Lagunitas Brewmaster Mary Bauer.

Tickets include sampling of beers, private brewery tour and light snacks.

Advanced tickets required & can be purchased HERE.

The Chicago Beer Gals Collective is a series of craft beer events connecting enthusiasts with women in the industry. Events produced by 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Dogs Love Homebrewers Too

If you're a homebrewer and dog lover we have the perfect solution for all of those left over spent grains after a brew day. Simply cool your grains and use to make spent grain dog biscuits that your pup will go nuts over. We stored our spent grain in gallon ziplock bags and froze until ready to bake.

Cookie Ingredients:
4 cups spent grain
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup all natural peanut butter
2 eggs
cookie cutters (we love the dog bone shape)

(optional glaze – MUST be applied before baking
Glaze Ingredients:
1 egg yolk
1/4 tsp water
liquid food coloring
pastry brush

yield: approx 4 dozen cookies

1. Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl with a wooden spoon.
2. Flour surface, roll out cookie dough to 1/4 inch and then cut a shape out of them. (Due to the texture it is hard to get a clean cut and some gentle shaping was necessary).
3. If using colored cookie glaze – whisk together ingredients (add color as desired), paint onto cookies with a pastry brush.
4. Put the cookies into a pre-heated oven of 350 degrees.
5. Cook for about 45 mins.
6. Turn off oven for 30 mins and then heat again for 2 hours at 225.
7. Turn off oven and let sit in oven overnight or for 2-3 hours. This helps the cookies get completely dried-out so they don’t get moldy. If the cookies don’t have a hearty snap to them they are not dry enough.
8. Store up to 2 weeks in airtight tupperware, ziplocks or package in cellophane candy bags or with bakers twine as gifts for your dog-loving friends.

Just a few satisfied tasters:

Friday, July 18, 2014

Upcoming Events!

We've got a busy upcoming month and wanted to share all of the exciting events on the horizon...

July 21st
Homebrewing with Spices: Beer & BBQ
Savory Spice Shop, 7pm
We'll have discussions, demos and sampling of beer fermented with different spices as well as some BBQ snacks using spices/rubs from Savory Spice. BYOB friendly. $18

July 22nd
Chicago Beer Gals: Demystifying the IPA 
Fatpour Tap Works, 7pm
Sample a selection of IPAs with women from Bell's, Widmer Brothers & Hop Head Farms. We'll talk about various hop varieties and their qualities, demystifying why IPAs can be more bitter, grassy, citrusy than other beer styles. $25

August 12th
"Blood In The Water" bottle release party
Bottles & Cans, 7pm
Bottle release party for our collaboration beer with Lake Effect Brewing "Blood In The Water" hibiscus saison. In celebration of "Shark Week" $1 per bottle goes to Shark Savers charity. Snacks, samples, raffle prizes.
Free event.

August 19th
Chicago Beer Gals: Lagunitas Event
Lagunitas Taproom, 6:30pm
Our monthly ladies event with Lagunitas Brewmaster Mary Bauer. We will have a private tour and beer samples with Mary herself. Beer samples & snacks included. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Grand Opening of Craft Beer Café Beermiscuous

Today Lakeview welcomes a unique craft beer café concept, Beermiscuous. With both a cozy bar/café and retail space with an underground Euro aesthetic, Beermiscuous offers the perfect atmosphere for exploring a wide array of breweries and beer styles. A curated selection of 12 rotating drafts and more than 300 bottles and cans will be served by beeristas in the café, or are available for purchase for off-premises consumption. There’s a heavy focus on local beers, with 50 percent of inventory from Chicago and Midwest breweries. Sodas and water also available. The mission of the highly trained staff is to understand your tastes and guide you through further exploration of craft beer.

A selection of packaged snacks available for purchase. An extensive list of menus are available from local restaurants that deliver to Beermiscuous. Regularly scheduled events with food trucks will also take place.

Location: 2812 N Lincoln Ave (north of Diversey Ave intersection)

Hours: Tuesday-Thursday: 12pm - 10pm
             Friday-Saturday: 12pm - 11pm
             Sunday: 12pm - 7pm
             Monday: closed


Website/digital presences:

Wi-fi: Yes. Ample power outlets available.

Parking: Yes. Six spots available for Beermiscuous customers in adjacent lot. Plentiful street parking, both metered and unmetered options.

Public Transit: CTA Brown line to Diversey. Diversey #76 Bus. Divvy station on Racine south of Diversey.

Private Parties: The main level cafe area has a capacity of 79 people, available for group events. The lower level also offers a private party space with a 20 person capacity. 

Photo credit: Timothy Musho

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Smylie Brothers Brew Pub Brings Craft Beer & BBQ to Evanston

Evanston, ILSmylie Brothers Brewing Company ( is excited to announce a scheduled opening for June 24, 2014. The Brewpub, located at 1615 Oak Avenue in Evanston (phone: 224-999-7320), will open with dinner service Tuesday through Sunday with brunch and lunch services added later in the year. The restaurant brings craft beer, Texas-style barbecue, wood-fired pizza, and Midwestern comfort food to downtown Evanston.
On why he decided to open the brewpub, owner Mike Smylie explains, “I grew up with a large family – there are five Smylie Brothers and over forty cousins on the North Shore – and I have been cooking for as long as I can remember and home brewing since college. My dad is from Texas, and so we grew up on Texas barbecue. Family and friends always asked when we would open a restaurant, and now we can’t wait to share our beer and food with Evanston.”
Evanston’s Fourth Ward Alderman, Don Wilson, adds “I have been waiting with great interest since I first heard about the idea and concept. I am excited to see what Smylie Brothers has in store for us!”

Beer lovers can expect head brewer Brad Pulver to deliver a fresh take on old-world styles at Smylie Brothers. The brewpub will have twenty-four taps with eight featuring a rotation of Smylie Brothers beers and the remaining taps offering local, Midwestern brews from the Great Lakes area. The beer list will switch but visitors can expect to find Smylie’s signature beer, a California Common or ‘Steam beer’ (the only true American beer), and a Belgian brew always on tap.  For those who want to enjoy Smylie Brothers beer at home, growlers will be available.
Executive Chef Grant Carey promises an eclectic mix of regional American cuisine. From Midwestern comfort food to the Smylie family’s secret Texas style barbecue recipes, the Smylie Brothers menu will compliment the brewpub’s beers and even use ingredients straight from the brewery.