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Brew School

A Simplified (Not Dumbed-Down) Approach to Learning About Beer

  • How to: Pair Beer & Food

    Brew School

    We love good food almost as much as we love good beer. And we especially love good beer paired with good food.

    When pairing beer with food, there are a few important things to keep in mind. The first, and most important, is the intensity of both the beer and the food. As with any beverage pairing, you want to make sure that neither the beer nor the food overpowers the other. For instance, you wouldn’t want to pair an intense and bitter Double IPA with something delicate and subtle, like raw fish.

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  • Apple of the Month: Cortland

    Brew School

    Cortland is one of the top 10 most popular apples in the United States, which comes as no surprise: it is truly an all-purpose apple. The versatile apple is especially a favorite in the Northeast, where it was developed at Cornell University with the New York State Agriculture Experiment Station in 1898. Named after the nearby Cortland County, this apple still shines as an award-winning fruit, and is one of the most produced apples in the country.

    The Cortland was developed as an offspring of the McIntosh and Ben Davis apples, bearing similar qualities to its parents: very vinous and sweet. Today, it's our December Apple of the Month.

    The king of fresh-eating apples has incredibly crisp flesh that is juicy to the bite, making it an excellent dessert apple. That juiciness also makes it a great cider apple, and it's considered to be an improvement upon its parent, the McIntosh. The Cortland's sweet flavor, combined with the soft tartness of the fruit, make it perfect for fermentation.

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  • Apple of the Month: Rhode Island Greening

    Brew School

    It’s not easy being green—unless, of course, you’re a timeless American classic, like Kermit the Frog—or the Rhode Island Greening apple.

    Green is the name of the game with the Rhode Island Greening, in more ways than one: "Greening" actually used to be a term for green-colored apple in colonial America, and this variety in particular was discovered in Green’s End of Newport, Rhode Island by a Mr. Green himself. (Yes, really.)

    As one of the oldest American apple varieties—and the official state fruit of Rhode Island—this apple is considered to be one of the finest for cooking. The green-skinned fruit is also a trooper throughout the winter and can keep well into the spring, making it a prime candidate for storing and adapting, as it mellows out in flavor over time.

    Since we're officially in pie season, we thought the Rhode Island Greening would be the perfect apple to highlight as our November Apple of the Month. Brewers should note: this apple performs spectacularly in a blended cider, imparting a flavor that's juicy, incredibly rich, and gives a tartness that can’t be beat.

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  • Apple of the Month: Esopus Spitzenburg

    Brew School

    The Esopus Spitzenburg is an antique apple variety said to have been Thomas Jefferson’s favorite. The fruit was discovered in the 1700s on the Esopus settlement in Ulster County, N.Y., by a Dutch settler by the name of Spitzenburg.

    Now considered an American classic perfect for eating fresh off the tree, the Esopus Spitzenburg ("Spitz" for short) also makes a great dessert apple. As our October Apple of the Month, you'll want to keep an eye out—these are just starting to peak—but you may need to curb your enthusiasm when leaning in to take a bite or toss it in your brew. Spitz' flavor improves with a couple of weeks' storage.

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  • Apple of the Month: Yarlington Mill

    Brew School

    For being so established as a traditional cider apple, the Yarlington Mill actually had a happenstance discovery. The wall along a water mill in Yarlington had a stubbornly strong tree growing apples that weren’t even that tasty. The English took note of its rich juiciness, however, and decided to make a cider via traditional methods of using just that apple in a batch or a “single-varietal.”

    The Yarlington Mill is bittersweet and juicy, making it an excellent cider apple. Low in acids but high in tannin, this apple gives off a slight bitterness and astringency common in English ciders. The Yarlington Mill isn’t grown too much in the States despite its vigorous growing patterns and high yields. This is likely due to the fact that it is not that palatable when eaten fresh or when baked, unlike many of our other apples featured in our apples of the month. Strictly a cider apple, and strictly delicious in its alcoholic form!

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  • Hop of the Month: Crystal

    Hop of the Month, Brew School


    The USDA’s Hallertau hop triploid breeding program produced quite the American ancestry of hops. Among them include the Mount Hood hop and one of its half sisters, the Crystal hop. Out of all the siblings, Crystal is the most pungent. Created in 1983 in Oregon, this hop is most widely used in the U.S., but it can be found in English and German beers as well.

    The scents of a forest are comparable to how Crystal smells. With pungent floral, woody and green tones, these natural earthy aromas make Crystal distinct from other descendents of the Hallertau hop. Its low alpha acid rating set the stage for idyllic aromatics. Despite its spice and fruit notes scaling more to the mild side, Crystal is still spicier than its parent the Hallertau. Continue celebrating this July with this hop that was born and raised in the USA.

     

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  • Apple of the Month: Ashmead's Kernel

    Brew School

    With an intense flavor and high aromatics, the Ashmead’s Kernel is for ardent apple admirers. They are true to not judging a book by its cover, for its outside appearance is drab and lumpy with brown speckles. Not so appetizing aesthetically, but certainly appetizing on the palate. It is said that in 1700 a Dr. Thomas Ashmead of Gloucester, England was the first to plant the seed, or “kernel,” of this tree. Although this apple is native to the UK, it is one of the few varieties that successfully flourished in North America as well. As a great cider apple that is good for winter storage, we are thankful for its emigration.

    Ashmead’s Kernel has a pear drop flavor and a balance of sweetness and tartness. There is even a nuance of spice and nuts which additionally makes it a delightful dessert apple in addition to it being great for cider. The Ashmead’s Kernel never really took off as a commercially produced apple, giving it heirloom treatment.

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  • Apple of the Month: Dabinett

    Brew School

    Discovered by William Dabinett in England’s renowned Somerset region during the early 1900s, this wild cider apple is often used in the production of local ciders. While the Dabinett has thrived in areas southwest of England, nowadays you can find it in America along the East and West Coasts.

    Yellowish-green with spots of red and a greenish-white flesh, the aromatic Dabinett brings to the table ample amounts of sugars perfect for fermentation. Together with its bittersweet flavors and high levels of tannins, this cider apple is great for both single-varietal ciders and blending. Look for the Dabinett coast-side during very late harvest seasons.

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  • Seven Ways to Make Summer Wheat Beer

    Brew School

    Summer Wheat Variations

    Summer is all about trying new things and mixing it up--bonus points if you’re trying and mixing new beer recipes. Something to put on your bucket list this month is a brewday with our Summer Wheat, a light, crisp and refreshingly spicy beer that’s ideal for these sticky summer months.

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  • Apple of the Month: Gravenstein

    Brew School

    The Gravenstein is a seasonal specialty to say the least, making it a wonderful candidate for our June apple of the month. This apple originated in Denmark in the late 1600’s and made its way to the U.S. via German migrants in 1790. Soon afterwards, the first orchards were planted in California where the Gravenstein flourished. It now prized as a West coast apple, particularly for its baking abilities and apple cider vinegar production.

    It makes an excellent cider apple, too, for it is rich with juice and highly aromatic. The Gravenstein offers both sweetness and tartness, as well as hints of honey. There are setbacks to the glorious Gravenstein, however. It is only available in season, which lasts a short period of time from mid to late summer. These apples do not store well, and with a shorter shelf life make it harder to ship. Their hyper seasonal delicacy lends itself to specialty single-varietal batches. So if you’re grappling for some Gravensteins to get some cider brewing, now’s the time!

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  • Hop of the Month: Sterling

    Hop of the Month, Brew School


    Coming from a family of German aroma hops and open pollination, the Sterling hop was born in the U.S. as a replacement for the Saaz hop. Saaz is known agriculturally for its susceptibility to disease and fungus, of which the stronger Sterling is tolerant. Developed in the Northwest, this hop - an alternative to European hops - is a widely popular variety amongst American craft brewers.

    The citric qualities of the Sterling are lemony with a hint of pineapple. Its spicy and herbal aroma gives it a sense of sophistication, while the citrus asserts itself on the palate. The Sterling’s noble hop aroma combined with its smooth bitterness makes it a no-brainer contestant for our June hop of the month.

     

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  • Apple of the Month: Jonathan

    Brew School

    A true American classic, the Jonathan has created quite a name for itself. It has parented several different varieties over the years including the very popular Jonagold. Today the Jonathan can be found growing across the globe, but its original roots bring it back to a farm in Woodstock, New York. The Albany Horticulture Society named the apple Jonathan after the man who first introduced the fruit to the horticulture board. Today, the Jonathan is regarded as one of the best flavored apples in the world.

    The Jonathan carries more than just its New York pride. This apple has an exceptional juiciness that makes it perfect for cider-making. With a wonderful balance between sweet and sharp, the Jonathan has high sugar content and low tannins, alongside a slightly spicy flavor. It’s no surprise that the Jonathan has such strong historical ties to some of the original cider makers in colonial America.

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  • Hop of the Month: Mount Hood

    Hop of the Month, Brew School


    The Mount Hood hop has quite the extended foreign family tree. A descendant of the German Hallertau hop family, Mount Hood is also half-sister to Ultra, Liberty and Crystal hops. The first of the Hallertau triploid breeding program, Mount Hood was released by the USDA in 1989 after being cultivated in Oregon. Its namesake is the Mount Hood volcano just east of Portland. This hop has now become a staple of American craft brewing.

    With a warm and inviting aroma, refined spices and mild sweetness, Mount Hood can also be slightly floral and herbal. This varied range and temperate bitterness allows it to be used principally as an aroma hop in a variety of brews.

     

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  • Apple of the Month: Northern Spy

    Brew School

    The Northern Spy might just be the most versatile apple of them all. It has acted as an aid in a lot of rootstock research within the United States. Great for desserts, pies and savory cooking as well as juice and cider, it is no surprise that the Northern Spy has become one of the most popular apples in the U.S., especially in New York. This antique apple variety originates from the 1800s and produces a fairly large tree, with apples that are great for winter hardiness and long storage. So, even though it’s April, we can enjoy Northern Spies for months after the harvest (especially if it’s in a delicious cider!).

    This apple is known for its cider-quality flavor, with slight notes of pear and sweetness, despite the bitterness to its bite. Northern Spies have less tannin and more acid than their European counterparts, making it great for lighter style ciders.

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  • Hop of the Month: Ahtanum

    Hop of the Month, Brew School


    Charles Carpenter didn’t know the legacy he was to create when he planted his first rootstock in 1869 in Yakima County, Washington (now home to the American Hop Museum!). The Ahtanum hop is full of just as much history as it is flavor. The Ahtanum hop is an American hop born and raised, it is commonly seen in American ales, pale ales and lagers.

    Due to its low to moderate alpha acid content, the Ahtanum has moderate bittering qualities and is primarily used for its aromatic properties and addition of flavor. It has strong notes of grapefruit and other citrus, as well as floral aromas and tones of pine and earth. We’ve teamed up with BrewDog to bring you their Punk IPA which features these historic hops.

     

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  • Hop of the Month: Galena

    Hop of the Month, Brew School


    Early American agriculture paved the way for producing new crop species, some intentionally and scientifically and others effortlessly through Mother Nature. The Galena hop is a wonderful combination of the two: a cross between the Brewer’s Gold hop and open pollination. Developed from the USDA breeding program in Idaho in 1968, this all-American hop was released to the market a decade later. It is prized for being an excellent high alpha variety which is perhaps why it is the most widely grown hop in the U.S.

    The Galena is used primarily as a bittering agent in beers, widely producing clean and crisp bitterness. It has medium aromas of spice, blackcurrant and citrus. The Galena is a friend to others, for it blends well with other finishing hops.

     

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  • Apple of the Month: Winesap

    Brew School

    The Winesap is a renowned American heirloom apple, despite the lack of information regarding its exact heritage. It is said to originate from the Eastern U.S. with documentation of its popularity in New Jersey in the 19th century. The Winesap has always been a popular apple for cider production and has made a comeback in the United States within the past few years due to increased interest in heirloom varieties.

    The dark red skin of the Winesap apple is almost an allusion to its namesake – its wine-like flavor. With an exceptionally juicy flesh of a creamy yellow hue, the Winesap is prized for being a cider-producing apple. It’s also highly aromatic, with notes of baked apple, cedar and strawberry. The Winesap lends its characteristic spicy wine-like flavor and has an admirable balance between sweetness and tartness. It is used mostly as a single-varietal in cider production.

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  • Hard Cider Tips

    Brew School


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  • Hop of the Month: Magnum

    Hop of the Month, Brew School

    The daughter of a German and American hop, Magnum is known primarily for its high bittering value. It was first bred in 1980 by the German Hop Research Institute in Hüll, Germany. Now the Magnum is cultivated in the U.S. but is mostly limited to sparse plantings in the Pacific Northwest.

    With subtle aromas of black pepper, nutmeg and a touch of citrus, Magnum is valued for having a very clean aroma, and is thus a fairly versatile hop used as a bittering base. It is generally accepted for use in ales and lagers. You’ll find the Magnum lending its bold bitterness in our Magnum Red as part of the first quarter of 2015’s Quarterly Brew Club.

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  • Apple of the Month: Kingston Black

    Brew School

    Medium sized and dark red, Kingston Black is an English bittersharp cider apple. Discovered in the 19th century, the Kingston Black is primarily grown in the West Country cider-producing regions of England. Praised for its balance of sweetness, acidity and tannins, it is often considered one of the best single-varietal cider apples.

    Although most ciders are produced using a blend of juices from different apple varieties, single-varietal ciders can be just as interesting and complex. Each apple variety is different in flavor and chemical composition. Terroir - the growing region and soil composition - also plays a major factor in influencing apple flavor. When making a hard cider with a single varietal, the cider can highlight both the specific characteristics of the apple and the nuances of the terroir.

    Before blending with the Kingston Black, use it to produce a single-varietal cider. Exploring single-varietal ciders allows you to study the character of a specific apple and what it adds to a blend.
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