Brewing, Tradition & Innovation

Trucks loaded with hops (Photo: Spencer Lowell)

Outside Magazine offers this primer on the ascendence of one of the key ingredients in one of the oldest fermented beverages:

How Hops Became the Star of American Brewing

The craft beer revolution turned the tall cousin of cannabis into a breakout ingredient, infusing your brew with flavors and aromas that range from stone fruit to barrel oak. Christopher Solomon hits the road to understand why hop madness isn’t over yet—and why brewers and plant breeders are always on the prowl for the next big thing.

Hop harvesting in Washington State’s Yakima Valley (Photo: Spencer Lowell)

The 2019 American Hop Convention, held in January in Monterey, California, was part agriculture conference and part old-home week. Almost all of the nation’s beer hops—and roughly 40 percent of all hops in the world—are grown by about 75 farms in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, many of them owned by families who have farmed hops for four or five generations. At the convention, everybody seemed to know everybody. This gave a loose feel to the proceedings, which recognize and celebrate the fact that only one thing can be done with the crop the conventioneers produce: mix it with malt and water, ferment the liquid, and drink the beer you’ll get after a few weeks. During afternoon coffee breaks, everybody cracked a cold one.

That wasn’t the only reason for the festive mood. The past 15 years have witnessed a spectacular surge in craft brewing in the United States; more than 85 percent of Americans now live within ten miles of a brewery. U.S. beer culture, once a punchline, has become the most vibrant on earth.

Hop bines being loaded into a machine that shakes out the aromatic cones (Photo: Spencer Lowell)

The hop industry has been a beneficiary and driver of this renaissance. Hops once were considered a drab ingredient, tossed in mainly to preserve the beer, thanks to antibacterial properties of the resins found in hop flowers, which are also called cones. Today, hops are the star of American brewing. Continue reading

Pep Shot Is The New Bee’s Knees

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For those who can afford it, culinary experimentation could become a practical hobby.HERITAGE / BETTMANN / GEORGE MARKS / AFP / GETTY / PROZHIVINA ELENE / SHUTTERSTOCK / KATIE MARTIN / THE ATLANTIC

$_35Dalgona is a name I did not know until five minutes ago. But I intimately knew the thing itself ages ago. For the 1981-82 academic year I worked with a tutor in Athens to learn my mother’s first language.  Her aunt, who I lived with, had only one way to prepare coffee, using this device to the left. Greek coffee, aka Turkish coffee, was fine.

m-6D-MUyWNCFYE0NFBe6z9wBut I did not love it. My cousin showed me an alternative, cautioning me that our great-aunt did not allow this foreign product in her home. So, I bought the contraband and each morning before she awoke I mixed the instant coffee with the milk and sugar and shook it in a jar and gulped it. It was a brief love affair. Instant coffee is not in our cupboard these days, but I have a fond memory of that fling. I appreciate Shirley Li’s article for reminding me of it.

Current circumstances are pushing us all in new directions of food and beverage production and consumption and for me, for now, the Pep Shot is the new bee’s knees:

In 1950, Americans Had Aspic. Now We Have Dalgona Coffee.

Unlike food innovations from crises past, coronavirus-inspired recipes are more about stress relief than survival.

Allison Ward used to grab coffee during her commute to work. The 34-year-old, a project manager for the McMaster Institute in Hamilton, Ontario, told me she needs caffeine every day, and that ever since the coronavirus pandemic put the city on lockdown, she’s been missing her Starbucks fix.

Then she learned about dalgona coffee. Continue reading

Immunity Boost Pep Shot

5084bce2c484b_170546bWhen Amie and I visited the Greek island of Ikaria in the autumn of 2013, it was years after we had first read about Blue Zones. We were there for work reasons, looking to identify a new location for Xandari. We learned plenty, though Xandari Ikaria never happened. Hortopita, for one. Not only spinach, but all kinds of greens, both cultivated and wild, can make a dish both healthier and more interesting than the spanakopita I had grown up with. For several weeks now, while investigating ways in which the ferias of Costa Rica might adapt to the new health protocols, and whether we might assist family farms in any way, we took a hiatus from attending the one in our town. I am happy to report that our municipality has made adjustments, and so we attended a new, smaller gathering of family farms this last week. Now that the feria is twice a week, the number of people shopping at either one is effectively halved.

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b6cbd244-7cad-4258-bd6a-7293eb55a5b4I bought beets and broccoli and various greens from the stall above a few days ago with no other shopper in close proximity. Good start. And plenty of other distancing measures in place, plus an abundance of soap and sinks and disinfectant sprays at every place where you can enter or exit the feria. Also good. But we remain convinced that a new social enterprise might help these farmers, and shoppers, more. And for that, our kitchen has been a laboratory for generating ideas, with various reading materials to assist. The Blue Zones Kitchen has been especially helpful.

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While the “it” social enterprise is elusive, the meals have been nutritious and tasty. This experimentation has converged with my coffee tests, and my 3-year near-obsession with how to bring Maya nut to a wider audience, so this is what I will report on today.

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I have been combining a couple Blue Zones products with slow brew coffee, thinking of a drink that can add pep to the day and at the same time add other value, nutritional and otherwise. Honey is part of the recipe for its antioxidant properties as much as its sweetness. And the ojoche (aka Maya nut) to the left in the image above is there for its own nutritional reasons, which will require a post of its own.

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But to get this drink just right, sweetly combining pep + immunity, the ingredient that comes from our feria is the magic touch.

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Turmeric became an important part of our diet while living in India. And so it came to be again last month when, just prior to the closure of Costa Rica’s borders, a friend from India visited us. He is a medical doctor, not prone to folk remedies, but under the circumstances we all found ourselves suddenly in, looking for ways to boost our bodies’ immunities–he recommended something simple to us: have some turmeric every day. He specifically recommended combining it with milk, honey and freshly ground black peppercorn. Which we started doing, immediately. And day after day, one thing led to another. So now we have a slow brew coffee with these ingredients, plus some ojoche for good measure.

Slow Brew Coffee Variations

SlowBrew3SlowBrew2For four decades I heated water to draw out coffee’s flavors. I varied the use of hot water through drip machines, espresso machines, pod machines, v60 cones, French presses and an AeroPress. I also varied the coffee, sampled from around the world. Nine days into an experiment, I have simplified. No more heat. No more machines. Only coffees from Costa Rica. This week I have moved to a third variety of coffee, and it is living up to its 87 cupping score. Tested against the Tarrazu and the House, both high quality blends of specialty coffee from two of the best growing regions in Costa Rica, the Reserve tastes like what its name implies.

SlowBrew4While everyone must come to their own conclusion, for me the slow brew draws out that taste as well as any hot brew method. We have more blends, an espresso roast, and three single estates yet to be tested with the slow brew method, and I enjoy variation so I look forward to testing.  But once the Reserve stood out as the best of the first three, it got me thinking about how to use the remaining portions of the first two slow brew blends. And I took a path that will horrify purists, but I am happy to report on the result.

SlowBrew5The recipe for this will follow soon, because I have been varying it slightly each of the last few days, but as you can see there is a head on it, and there is a golden hue.

 

Maya Nut, Superfood & Superdrink

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From the time it came to my attention in 2017, Maya nut was an obsession for a year until I learned everything that was available to learn. Between the internet and a group of anthropologists focused on Maya culture who I came to know through their work in Belize, the knowledge went from zero to overload quickly. I ordered large quantities of organic roasted, ground Maya nut and tested so many recipes that I can confirm it is a versatile ingredient to savory dishes and deserts, in addition to being a superfood.

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Coffee-Making Method Matters

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Moka pots … cheap but not cheerful. Photograph: Alikaj2582/Getty Images/iStockphoto

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Gritty … a cafetière. Photograph: Getty Images/EyeEm

Tony Naylor’s story in the Guardian about the merits of various coffee makers catches my attention. Not because the coffee made by French press method, aka cafetière, is pronounced inferior to pods (we have long acknowledged that pods can produce excellent coffee but as noted below are ecologically irresponsible), and not just because of the recommendation to keep:

…a stash of single-origin beans in the freezer…

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Filter … the best home option? Photograph: Getty Images/Westend61

(I thought by now it was commonly accepted fact that the freezer is an enemy of coffee).

Moka pots are thrashed in this review, and I am in agreement with the assessment. And instant? Talk about straw dog. Mainly I was surprised that the pour over is the overwhelming favorite for an ecologically more sound, gustatorily superior method of producing the best cup of coffee at home. I am using a cheap-o brew machine with a mesh filter (i.e. reusable so no waste) in which I put my freshly ground beans and this method is not even reviewed. Hmm. What am I missing?

Moka pot, machine, filter or instant – which produces the best coffee?

The company behind the iconic Italian stovetop gadget is in financial difficulties – is that because there are now better ways of making coffee? We put the most popular methods to the test

Italians may find their morning espresso tastes awfully bitter this week, as the Bialetti group – the maker of the iconic stove-top moka coffee pot – struggles to stay afloat. The popularity of pod coffee machines, along with a sluggish Italian economy, has put the mockers on the moka, with Bialetti, a reported €68m (£60m) in debt, negotiating a bailout deal with the American hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management.

Invented in 1933 by Alfonso Bialetti, the affordable aluminium Moka Express was meant to mimic espresso-quality coffee at home. Water boils in a bottom chamber and is forced up through the grounds to produce an intense hit of caffeine. The pot was once so popular that, according to a 2016 New York Times article, 90% of Italian households had one. Were they on to something? Or is there a tastier, more practical and sustainable way to make coffee at home? Continue reading

Lost & Found, Apples & Ciders

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The Harrison apple tree that Thomas Vilardi found near Newark in the fall of 2015. “I knew I had seen apples on a tree,” he said. “I wasn’t expecting to find a Harrison.” Credit Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

Thanks for this article to Rachel Wharton, who is batting 1000 for our taste in food writing:

Finding Lost Apples and Reviving a Beloved Cider

George Washington was among the many fans of Newark cider, a long-missing treat now being recreated by a former ad man on a mission.

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Charles Rosen, left, and Cameron Stark in the new taproom they opened last week at Ironbound Hard Cider in Asbury, N.J. It will serve limited-edition ciders made by Mr. Stark, the head cider maker.CreditBryan Anselm for The New York Times

ASBURY, N.J. — Ironbound Hard Cider may seem an odd name for the business Charles Rosen has built here on 108 acres in central New Jersey. The farm, where a new taproom offers pastoral views of the still-ripening fruit, doesn’t appear to share much with the Ironbound, an industrial neighborhood 50 miles to the east in Newark.

Yet they do have common roots, thanks to four very old apple varieties now growing on Mr. Rosen’s land.

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Mr. Vilardi and Fran McManus at the old apple tree he found three years ago. An apple expert connected him to Ms. McManus, who had written an article about Newark cider in 2010. Credit Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

Mr. Rosen, the former chief executive of a Manhattan advertising agency that promoted Svedka vodka and Mike’s Hard Lemonade, wants to reintroduce Newark cider, an 18th- and 19th-century alcoholic drink once famously compared to Champagne.

Newark cider was both a point of pride and big business for the region — requested by name, reportedly lauded by George Washington and produced by dozens of Newark-area cideries with acres of orchards. The secret wasn’t a recipe, but the blending of a quartet of superior apples born in the region: Campfield, Poveshon, Granniwinkle and Harrison, the most celebrated of the four.

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The 1- and 2-year-old apple trees in Ironbound Hard Cider’s nursery include the Harrisons shown here and Poveshons, a New Jersey-born variety thought to be extinct until 2015. Credit Bryan Anselm for The New York Times

As a result of urbanization and then Prohibition, when many of the nation’s remaining cider orchards were destroyed, Newark cider hasn’t been made for at least a century. But after years of planning and planting — not to mention the accidental discovery of two lost apple trees and the investment of what Mr. Rosen called “100 percent of all the money I ever had in my entire life” — Ironbound Hard Cider is on the precipice of bringing it back. Continue reading

Strawless Starbucks & A Wonder Of Costa Rica

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Photo: Courtesy of Starbucks

Thanks to Nikita Richardson for posting this news:

Starbucks Says It Will Phase Out Plastic Straws

Just a few weeks after its home city of Seattle banned plastic straws, Starbucks is following suit. On Monday, the coffee company announced plans to go “strawless,” for the most part, by 2020. Doing some serious math, the chain says the move will keep an estimated 1 billion straws out of landfills.

As an alternative, Starbucks will serve its iced coffee, tea, and other sippable drinks in cups with strawless lids, already available in 8,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada, which feature raised plastic openings for sipping drinks. (The chain also said it will introduce alternative-material straws for some beverages.)…

Straw.jpgAs it happens, the same day we saw this news we were also scheduled to visit the Starbucks showcase in Costa Rica, called Hacienda Alsacia. We experienced the tour they offer and then sat with our guide for a sampling of coffees. On the table next to me was a straw, so we used the opportunity as a reality check. Our guide did not miss a beat, very well aware of the newly announced plan to eliminate straws by 2020, and ready with a one-liner about the importance of eliminating plastic straws.

Our guide was a perfect example of Costa Rica’s history of inspiring and educating ambassadors for the country’s core values. Score another point for a company from elsewhere that recognizes and values that talent. The purpose of our visit was in keeping with our current mission of thinking about the dairy farm of the future, and there is another Starbucks story to tell in that vein. But for now, we will savor this other wonder.

Alternatives To Dairy

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Photo illustration by Tracy Ma/The New York Times; Alamy (hands)

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Ripple’s pea-based milk contains 8 grams of protein per cup, the same amount as in a cup of cow’s milk.
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This article on the subject of a new pea-based dairy alternative–not just milk for coffee or cereal but also thicker items like Greek-style yoghurt–reported by National Public Radio (USA), reminded us of the great gif showing the milking of oats. Which reminded us to read that article too. Both worth a read:

When did finding something to put in your coffee get so complicated?

For the lactose-intolerant or merely dairy-averse, there are more alternatives to good ol’ American cow’s milk than ever. First there were powdered “creamers,” with their troublesome corn syrup solids. Then came soy, which may come closest to the real thing in nutrients and consistency. Grocery stores now stock an army of nut milks — almond, cashew, hazelnut, macadamia, you name it — which can be too grainy, too thin or frankly too flavorful. Pea milk? Sounds like a kindergarten taunt. Coconut and rice milk are basically water. Hemp milk? For the birds … and the hippies. Continue reading

The Etymology of Tea/Chai

Image © Quartz, qz.com

Most of us have either ordered a chai latte at a café before, or at least a cup of tea. I, for one, always assumed that chai was just the Hindi word for tea, and that in the US this always meant tea with certain spices, versus “normal” tea being plain old green or black tea leaves. But instead of getting into semantics, I want to share some of the etymology behind the two words, tea and chai, that I learned from an article in Quartz by Nikhil Sonnad:

“With a few minor exceptions, there are really only two ways to say ‘tea’ in the world. One is like the English term— in Spanish and tee in Afrikaans are two examples. The other is some variation of cha, like chay in Hindi.

Both versions come from China. How they spread around the world offers a clear picture of how globalization worked before ‘globalization’ was a term anybody used. The words that sound like ‘cha’ spread across land, along the Silk Road. The ‘tea’-like phrasings spread over water, by Dutch traders bringing the novel leaves back to Europe.”

Continue reading

Taste The Place: Navajo Greenthread

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Greenthread (Thelesperma) is a wild plant that thrives in the mid-summer heat of the American Southwest. This bunch is freshly cut, and waiting for rinsing and drying to make Navajo tea. Courtesy of Deborah Tsosie

Give yourself a few minutes for this story about the link between seasonal produce and cultural patrimony:

In the dusty red earth of eastern Arizona’s portion of the Navajo Nation, the main road stretches out beneath the massive white-cloud sky and rubs against barren, chalky mesas; sometimes it skirts the deep, dry crack of a canyon stubbled with sagebrush. Small fields of corn occasionally sprout up beside the road, the short stalks still far from ripe.

But away from the road, tucked beside lakebeds or the foot of a hillside, a mid-summer visitor will find bright yellow flowers beginning to open. They are the crowning blooms of a thin plant that can grow up to two feet tall and which thrives in the heat of this arid region. Called greenthread (Thelesperma), it is used to make Navajo “tea.”

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A garland of greenthread. The dried bundles are brewed with sugar or honey. Courtesy of Ada Cowan

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Not Quite Water Into Wine, But Righteous Indeed

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Mark Szmaida, right, Chelsea Craft Brewing’s head brewer, and Devin Hardy, the co-leader of Toast Ale’s American project, inspected the bread mash for the first batch. Credit Gregg Vigliotti for The New York Times

We have featured plenty stories about reducing food waste, and plenty about brewing various beverages, but this is the first story we have found at the intersection of the two:

Toast Ale, From Recycled Bread, Is Now Brewed in New York

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Overproduction is built right into the business model of most bakeries. While we devour much of what is made, huge quantities of perfectly good grain are tossed.

But Tristram Stuart, an Englishman who began battling food waste 15 years ago, long before it became a popular cause, discovered a way to turn bread, an inexpensive product with a short shelf life, into one that’s long-lived and lucrative: craft ale. Continue reading

Skip The Machine, Skip The Packs, Come To Where The Juice Is Fresh Every Day

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Do You Need a $400 Juicer?

Anything that can be labeled “the Keurig of” makes my skin crawl. Thanks to Ellen Huet and Olivia Zaleski at Bloomberg for pointing out more anecdotal evidence of the genius of PT Barnum. Why put juice in plastic packs? Why then squeeze it from a machine, let alone such a pricey one? Why not take a week off grid, let us pluck the fruits and vegetables of your choice, and have it served as often as you like as a refresher on the back to nature idea? From many cities in the USA, you can buy a round trip ticket to Belize for the same cost of a machine that will squeeze juice packs for you. Juicero will set you back, while Chan Chich Lodge will set you forward:

Silicon Valley’s $400 Juicer May Be Feeling the Squeeze

Two investors in Juicero were surprised to learn the startup’s juice packs could be squeezed by hand without using its high-tech machine. Continue reading

Urban Renewal We Can Relate To

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We like the sound of it:

In Denmark, Brewery’s Departure Offers a Chance to Go Green

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Copenhgn3.jpgCOPENHAGEN — Perched in his centrally located office, Laust Joen Jakobsen looks out onto a small plaza, a rooftop basketball court and a grass bed that will be lush with flowers by the summer.

Just months ago, Mr. Jakobsen, the rector of University College Copenhagen, was sitting in a suburban campus between parking lots and a residential neighborhood. “We are happier here when we look out the windows,” he said. Continue reading

Maple Was Always Good, Got Better, And Finally Runamok

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sgmkr_comp_front_345x_e71869c9-7dac-4854-9ef9-e38dde839f5e_1024x1024When we saw this the other day, it had us thinking that 2017 was already off to a crafty-bottled-flavor start. Now another non-alcoholic liquid we adore, crafted and packaged with flair.

Several among the contributors to this site have connections to maple syrup consumption going back decades, most notably Harrington’s of Vermont circa 1970s. So, combining nostalgia with artisanal and organic, Runamok had us at maple:

Sugarmaker’s Cut™ The Season’s Best Maple Syrup Continue reading

A Beverage Commentary We Can Relate To

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Blackberry Cooler, Orchid Thief and Mumbai Mule.Credit Gentl and Hyers for The New York Times. Food stylist: Maggie Ruggiero. Prop stylist: Rebecca Bartoshesky.

We have never before seen an article by this author that would be considered relevant to the themes we write about, link to, and find worthy of promotion; normally she writes about “drinks,” drinking culture, bar stuff. But here she touches on a theme we have spoken of often among ourselves in our day to day work (but would not likely have ever written about here): that ridiculous word “mocktail” — the word police should come and take it away, lock it up and throw away the key.

On the other hand, we have been watching and tasting in amazement as our beverage teams in India, Costa Rica, Belize and Baja all come up with ever-more inventive ways to enjoy liquids that do not intoxicate. Our biggest challenge, after they do the heavy lifting on the chemistry side of the equation is finding words worthy of a name, and worthy of a category that means non-alcoholic. So, hats off to Rosie on this one:

Don’t Call Them ‘Mocktails’

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I’m always thrilled when a certain former drinking buddy comes to see me at the bar. He stopped drinking alcohol years ago, but he’s as fun to be around as he was when we sat side by side at a corner bar in TriBeCa many nights in the ’90s — probably more so. Continue reading

Growing Hops & Crafting Beer

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Ripe summer hops good for making beer. Tim Newman/Getty Images

We are anticipating another post by one of our authors, on a topic related to this news story below (thanks to NPR’s great special section, the salt), so let this serve as a reminder and a harbinger:

Hop Growers are raising a glass to craft brewers. The demand for small-batch brews has helped growers boost their revenues, expand their operations, and, in some cases, save their farms.

“Without the advent of craft brewing, a few large, corporate growers would be supplying all of the hops and local, family owned farms like ours would have gone bankrupt,” says Diane Gooding, vice president of operations at Gooding Farms, a hop grower in Wilder, Idaho. “It’s saved the industry.” Continue reading

Almond Versus Cow Versus?

RippleAt first, the name does not help me think anything useful. I do not only mean the name of the contents of the bottle; I mean the brand name on the bottle. So I am showing only the information side of the label. Looks like milk inside. Good start.

If you compare it to almond milk, this one has 8 times the protein. If you compare it to 2% cow milk, this one has half the sugar and 50% more calcium; plus 32mg DHA Omega 3’s Vitamin D & Iron. If this were an advertisement I would face the bottle forward, but it is more an appreciation of how products like this come to be. I like startup stories and particularly the stories of co-founders of startups (which is why I have been listening to this podcast). According this company’s website:

Neil and Adam are committed to making a difference. Adam created Method to bring the world sustainable, beautiful cleaning products. Before trading in his lab coat to start Continue reading

I Love IPA, And I Know Why

HopsOne of the ironies of living in India for six years, as a devotee of IPA, is that IPA is not to be found in India. So, I have it only when I travel, and mostly in the USA where the craft of brewing in small batches has grown radically in recent years.

The book to the right is a tiny drop in a big bucket of evidence of how the craft of brewing has reached far and wide, and it came to my attention when I visited a website associated with its authors:

IPAWhich came to my attention in this post by Russell Shorto, which must be read in its entirety (it takes only a few minutes) if you care about IPA, hops, ethnobotany or just excellent non-fiction writing, and includes these two paragraphs:

…while an emphasis on hops has likewise boosted the business of small-scale brewers, I.P.A. aficionados are known to be among the most fickle of beer consumers, flitting from one label to another in their endless search for new flavor elements. That puts pressure on brewers to come up with new beers, which, in turn, leads to a hunt for new hops varieties.

Enter Paul Matthews, who is to hops what John James Audubon was to birds. He has been involved in the search for wild hops strains from Colorado to the Caspian Sea; from these he teases out flavor components. Spicy, floral, grassy, citrus, herbal, evergreen: the horizon keeps expanding, and still the crowd wants more…

Ha! Top that. Actually, he does. Keep reading it. Continue reading