OSBURN ON TAP: Crafty New Year

If you haven’t guessed from my previous articles, I’m not a big fan of the giant beer conglomerates. I’m no beer snob though; I understand the purpose they serve and I have thrown back a few tall boys of Miller High Life in my day. I have however, written negative articles referencing the evils of yellow, fizzy, water beers on several occasions. It’s ok if that’s your thing, but please don’t let that be the farthest you delve into the world of beer-dom.

There’s a lot more out there for you to discover. Sometimes that old beat up recliner in your basement might feel like the most comfortable chair in the world, but that doesn’t mean it is. Duct tape is just not as good of a look as you thought when you were in college. Personally, I am much more likely to purchase a microbrew than any of the “big boys.” I like my beer to have full flavor and I like the opportunity to try new styles. That’s why I love the craft brewing boom of the last 30 years.

We beer enthusiasts, aficionados, hopheads, and the like are extremely lucky to be alive in this day and age. We live in the “Golden Age” of brewing, in my humble opinion. Pretty much every major metropolitan area has at least a few brewpubs if not breweries. Since the 1980’s, the American craft brewing industry has transformed from a few small operations into an enormous collection of brewers.

These countless brew masters and their brethren are tirelessly trying out new, inventive, and sometimes crazy recipes every day. If it wasn’t for wacky brew masters, how would we be able to be treated to Southern Tier crème brûlée Imperial Milk Stout? As of 2007, there were over fourteen hundred microbreweries and brewpubs operating in the United States alone. Not to mention microbreweries in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and other countries.

The modern day craft brewery or microbrewery is a term used to define smaller breweries that produce around or less than 15,000 barrels annually (although, pretty much any non-multi-national beer company falls under the category of craft brewery regardless of amount of barrels). Even though the actual sales of craft ales make up a fraction of the overall beer business in the U.S., the demand for specialty brews is strong and getting stronger. I don’t know the exact numbers on how any economic woes have impacted the brewing industry as a whole. But, I know that individually, I keep on shelling out the extra dough to imbibe this beer and will continue to do so as long as brew masters keep pushing the limits of craft brewing.

I decided since I just wrote the praises of the craft brewing industry that I would highlight a pair of brewers located in completely different areas of the country. The first I chose was Ithaca Beer Company (New York), because of its proximity to my home in western New York and because it makes one of my all-time favorite beers, Cascazilla. The other brewery is the Stone Brewing Company (California), brewers of Arrogant Bastard Ale, a beer that, according to the brewers, not even a tough guy like Chuck Liddell is manly enough to enjoy.

Ithaca Beer Company:

Background: Located in Ithaca, New York, home to Cornell University, the Ithaca Beer Company has been operating since the late 90’s. Owned and operated by Dan Mitchell, Ithaca Beer makes six styles that are available at least in limited supply all year long. Ithaca’s brews can be found on tap and bottled in countless locations throughout New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Don’t worry if you aren’t in that area, Ithaca Beer is a young but ever growing company, and if you can’t find their products in your local grocer or beer distributor, it’s only a matter of time before you do. Plus, you could always take a trip to the scenic Finger Lakes area, also nationally renowned for its wine trail, and check them out.

Products: Apricot Wheat (4.9%ABV), Pale Ale (5.8%ABV), Nut Brown (4.9%ABV), Cascazilla (7%ABV, “Monstrously Hoppy Red Ale”), Flower Power (8%ABV, IPA) and Mostly Sunny (5%ABV, Wheat Beer).

For more information, visit: www.ithacabeer.com.

Stone Brewing Company:

Background: Stone Brewing Company of Escondido, California, was founded in 1996 by Greg Koch and Steve Wagner, two beer nuts who figured they knew so much about the frosty brew that they may as well open a brewery. After convincing a handful of investors that it was a good idea to back a new brewery, they got to work getting the wheels in motion. Since the first beer was tapped on July 26th, 1996, the brewery has grown from a small operation to a big business that now brews around 90,000 barrels per year. You can find Stone’s products in thirty-one states, including New York.

Products: Pale Ale (5.4%ABV), Smoked Porter (5.9%ABV), IPA (6.9%ABV), Cali-Belgique IPA (6.9%ABV), Ruination IPA (7.7%ABV), Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale (8.7%ABV, IPA), Levitation Ale (4.4%ABV, Amber Ale), Arrogant Bastard Ale (7.2%ABV, from the Stone website, “This is an aggressive beer. You probably won’t like it. “) as well as a variety of seasonal and special brews.

Question of the month:

Stone’s Arrogant Bastard Ale is probably my favorite beer. I can’t be 100% sure though. It’s like picking my favorite child (even though I have no children right now, so maybe more like picking my favorite movie or book). It isn’t easy to just pick one. There are hundreds of thousands of different beers out there from your good ‘ol Pabst Blue Ribbon, to some specialty brews that cost in the hundreds and even thousands of dollars. For this month’s question, I’d like you to tell me what your favorite beer is and why. Feel free to leave it as comment below, or if you are more bashful send an email my way at osburnontap@hotmail.com.

4 thoughts on “OSBURN ON TAP: Crafty New Year

  1. I’ve got to say that sometimes the microbrews go a little overboard on the “exotic” with beer making. I’m sure some people like that, but for me a good basic beer is preferred. New Belgium’s Fat Tire and Pyramid’s Hefeweizen top my list.

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