Thursday, November 26, 2015

Sweden’s ICEHOTEL Gets Even Cooler with Signature Beer


Sweden’s ICEHOTEL, the original ice hotel, is quite literally one of the coolest places to stay on earth.  When it opens this year’s cold rooms on December 11 for the 26th season, it will be even cooler.  This year the ICEHOTEL will have its own signature beer, Torne Islager (Torne Ice Lager), made from the same ice that builds the ice hotel every year. 

Ice Sculpture at ICEHOTEL Sweden

Every year the ICEHOTEL harvests ice from the Torne River, which, during the warmer months, flows behind the ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi.  The Torne River ice is used for the ICEHOTEL cold rooms, the ICEBAR, and also ICEBARs around the world and ice sculptures and ice glasses that are exported worldwide.

For the first time, the Torne River ice harvested by the ICEHOTEL will also be used to brew beer.  Nya Carnegiebryggeriet (New Carnegie Brewery) is the Stockholm brewery that is heading this endeavor.  Ice from the Torne River was harvested and transported to Nya Carnegiebryggeriet where the ice was held while it melted. 

Torne River Ice for Torne Islager ICEHOTEL Signature Beer
Photo courtesy ICEHOTEL
Brewmaster Anders Wendler had the idea to make beer from a fun water source.  What better water source to tap than that of the pure Torne River?  Thus the idea of a collaboration with the ICEHOTEL was born.

The melted ice from the Torne River is some of the purest water in the world, so it makes the perfect ingredient for an ice cold lager.   They will brew 4,000 liters (80 full-size kegs) which will supply the ICEHOTEL for their winter season until it starts to melt in the spring.  New Carnegie Brewery will also have some bottles to serve in their restaurant at the brewery.

New Carnegie Brewery is using the melted Torne River ice to make Torne Islager (Torne Ice Lager), a Vienna lager.  The brewery and ICEHOTEL came up with a beer style they both liked and that would taste good in a cold environment.  The Vienna lager is both refreshing and full of flavor, and it pairs well with the ICEHOTEL's restaurant menu.  The Torne Islager is brewed with Pilsner and Vienna malts, and the hops are Perle, Hallertau Mittelfrüh, and Cascade.  The combination of malts, hops, yeast, and ice from the Torne River, which has a low salt content, allows the beer to be "a nice fest in the bottle" according to Anders Wendler.

The Torne Islager will be ready just in time for the opening of the ICEHOTEL on December 11.  The Torne Islager will be served in both of the ICEHOTEL's restaurants as well as the ICEBAR.  


There are multiple good reasons to stay at the ICEHOTEL in Sweden this winter.  First, Sweden’s ICEHOTEL is the original ice hotel, and staying in a cold room is bucket list worthy.  Second, now is the time to go to Swedish Lapland to see the Northern Lights as the 11-year solar cycle is winding down and it may be another 10 years before we’ll be able to see such spectacular Northern Lights shows again.  And now third, it is the inaugural year for the ICEHOTEL’s signature beer, Torne Islager made by Swedish brewery New Carnegie Brewery, and this may be the only season that this special beer will be available.

Sweden's ICEHOTEL has a new signature beer, Torne Islager, made from ice from the Torne River.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Revisiting and Helping Make Dreams Become Reality at Nebraska's Backswing Brewing

It has been a wild year in the beer world, and I mean all over the world. Mergers and acquisitions by some of the largest brewers both globally and on the American craft scene – which includes acquisitions by global giants of American craft breweries – will leave anyone’s head spinning.
“Is my California beer being brewed in Holland, Missouri, China or California?”
“I love supporting my local brewery…wait why is my money going to Spain?”
Forecasts from analysts at points during the year flipped the craft beer industry to a “sell” for the first time in a long time. 2 of the world’s largest brewing companies are going to be one combined company. Everyone feels the need to brew a beer with damn pumpkins. And I haven’t been in a brewery tap room in a damn month. I think I even saw some cats and dogs giving hugs and negotiating a cease fire.
Is this finally the beginning of the end of true local success brewing stories as we know them?

Nah. Because within this year of horror headlines for the craft industry, success stories are still all around if you look for them. And I’m as excited as can be to revisit a story we were able to share this January. It’s the story of the smallest brewing company that we’ve highlighted – Backswing Brewing Company.
11 months ago I was able to try the first offering from Nebraska’s newest brewery – Backswing’s flagship IPA – before it hit local taps. After I tasted their bold, not overly bitter, IPA I was excited to share the Backswing Brewing Company story. At that point the Backswing team was garage and contract brewing for a launch at Brewsky’s Sports Bars in Nebraska.
At the time I wrote: There is plenty of room for guys like Pat, T.J., and Cory to not only be successful, but also to take the next step and open a standalone brewery as well.”
Well, this year dreams can come true very fast. The team at Backswing Brewing have the ability to take that next step as the brewery that they have been contracting through is coming available and the first people they reached out to for purchase was Backswing. Woo Hoo!
“But wait a second. Can they sustain a whole brewery with just one flagship brew?”
More equipment equals more great beer!
Glad I asked myself - I do talk to myself a lot - because since the launch of the Backswing IPA in February, they have also brought 2 wheat beers - yes more than 1 wheat - to the public and have a stout, pilsner and others in post production right now. I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t taste and then continue my story after tasting.
The Backswing Wheats are very distinct in their flavor from each other and from other wheat beers on the market. Without a true name yet, I’ll refer to them as wheat and hop wheat - don’t be scared off by the word “hop” because in this case it has more to do with taste than bitterness.
The Backswing Wheat has the flavor and consistency of a traditional American unfiltered wheat. It’s a refreshing full bodied wheat - translated a wheat with flavor - that has a nice citrus backbone little after taste. It’s an easy drinking beer that actually has taste. It’s a welcome entry into a market that sometimes ignores a need for a good beer that has a great flavor but doesn’t overwhelm every sense. The hop wheat takes the wheat beer to a different level, but not a hop bomb level. The hops - and the malt as well -  add some color and actually a little bit more citrus. The difference in the hops between the two isn’t how much is added, but when they are added. The character of the hop is very noticeable, but again because you will taste more flavor rather than bitterness. This beer may teeter on the edge of a pale ale/wheat hybrid, but I’d like to think that these two beers are more an unfiltered wheat and a traditional wheat instead.
Both wheat beers from Backswing are a hit though, and that’s all that matters. Put those together with the already popular IPA and this brewery has moved from flagship brew to a consistent line of beers. Why the follow up on this team though? Well, Backswing needs all of our help to achieve the dream. I’d like to throw out that I have no vested interest in the brewery. I have not been offered beer for life from them (but maybe I should ask).
With many crowdfunding campaigns out there though, the question still stands: “why the follow up?”
I like them, and you need a new t-shirt (I know I do)
For me it’s simple, I really like these guys. I like the story of 3 guys with different paths that had no idea they had a gift. I like their personalities, their story and – as a resident of a state that is still short on go to beers – I like their beers. With even the most subtle tilt this year in the beer industry that hints at big beer grabbing back some of its losses, it is refreshing to be able to follow a brewery from birth to terrible twos – or whatever infancy metaphor you’d like to use.
There are many folks that try their hand at brewing beer – my own hand included. Most of it is fit to be poured down the drain – my own brew included. That is not the case with Backswing Brewing. Their beer has had a limited release, but it’s ready to be unleashed on the market. In the time of thanks, giving, reindeer and elves on shelves, I – again not getting any beer – hope that we can band together and help these guys achieve the dream of their own brewery. Click here to help:
Fly Over Country - yes I know fly over is meant as a put down but I embrace it - deserves more good beer on the shelves.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Drink Local at Northern Virginia’s Tin Cannon Brewing

Tin Cannon Brewing Tasting Flight Northern Virginia

Just a couple years ago, Virginia only had a handful of craft breweries.  Now there are over 100 and Virginia’s craft beer scene is quickly growing.  One of Virginia’s new breweries is Tin Cannon Brewing Company, which opened November 2014 in Gainesville, a town in Northern Virginia a short drive away from Washington, D.C. 

Tin Cannon Brewing Company is a nano-brewery though you wouldn’t know it just by stepping into their tasting room.  When we visited, Tin Cannon had a total of 12 beers on tap.  You would imagine with that kind of lineup the back room would be filled with large, shiny, stainless-steel tanks.  We were shocked when we were led into the brewing area to find out they use a two-barrel brewing system to make all their beer.  This two barrel system makes four kegs or 64 gallons of beer at a time. 

Two-Barrel Brewing System Tin Cannon Brewing Northern Virginia

Tin Cannon brewers Aaron Ludwig and John Hilkert met at church.  They both enjoyed home brewing and decided to open a craft brewery in Northern Virginia.  They brought in Jose Ortiz shortly thereafter.  To keep up with the demand for their craft beer, the brewery is closed Monday through Wednesday for brewing and they produce six batches a week.

You may be wondering why the brewery is named Tin Cannon.  Sure, it’s in Civil War battlefield country and there are cannons everywhere, so the cannon reference makes sense.  But if a tin cannon ever existed, it was surely a disaster that didn’t last long.  The story is that one of the guys was trying to draw a logo with a keg.  The others joked that it looked more like a tin can than a keg.  That sparked an idea, with tin cans being the pre-runner of aluminum cans (in which Tin Cannon’s beer is not found) and cannons being a big part of the Virginia landscape, and the name Tin Cannon Brewing Company was born.

Tin Cannon Brewing Beer Taps Northern Virginia

During our visit, we tasted all 12 beers they had on tap (it’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it).  Their beer list illustrates how diverse Tin Cannon’s offerings are.

Virginia Blonde: This golden colored ale is an easy-to-drink day beer.

Virginia Harvest Ale: This amber ale has a surprising amount of flavor and was one of my favorites.  This is also a special beer because all of the malts and hops are products of Virginia.

Smokey Bear Experimental: Another of my favorites, this brown ale is a twist on Oktoberfest beer with smoky malts.

Unkel Dunkel: Unkel Dunkel is a dunkelweizen, a darker version of a wheat beer.

Vaughn’s Peanut Butter: While not quite as good as one of my favorite beers, Peanut Butter Cup Porter by Karl Strauss, Tin Cannon’s English Porter is a good beer with a mild peanut butter flavor and a strong peanut butter aroma achieved from adding natural peanut butter directly to the boil.

Abbi’s Drool: We learned that Abbi’s Drool is named after the grown daughter of one of the brewers, but we didn’t learn why the drool.  This northern English style brown ale was another of my favorites of Tin Cannon’s beers.

Cavalier Joe: Yet another one of my favorites, the Cavalier Joe is a Bourbon Porter made with malts infused with Tennessee Bourbon Whisky. 

Single Cannon: West coast IPA is a term coined to describe the signature super hoppy IPAs brewed in my home state of California.  They are not my favorite.  So, while I didn’t particularly enjoy Single Cannon, if you are a fan of west coast IPAs, you will probably enjoy this beer.

Twin Cannons: If you enjoy Tin Cannon’s Single Cannon but find yourself thinking, “I gotta have more hops!,” then Twin Cannons is the beer for you.  It’s a double IPA with a lot of hop flavor.  Twin Cannon was the predecessor to Single Cannon, which was toned down a notch.

Busted Pipe Black IPA: Tin Cannon’s black IPA is another hoppy beer with a lot of roasted malts to balance it out.

Humble Admiration: The Tin Cannon brewers are fans of California brewery Stone Brewing Co., so they brewed Humble Admiration as a tribute to Stone’s Arrogant Bastard.

Punk’Tin Ale: The Punk’Tin Ale is a seasonal pumpkin ale and a huge hit with the locals, and with me.  The pumpkin ale was brewed with 10 pounds of pumpkin and is perfectly spiced.

Tin Cannon Brewing Kegs Northern Virginia

We also got to get a sneak peek at Tin Cannon’s limited release Barleywine which will be released for Christmas.  They added 13 pounds of rum-soaked raisins to the beer which raised the alcohol content from 11% to 13%.  They believe it will age well and suggest buying one to drink immediately and one to age when it is released.  When aging bottled beer, store it upright in a cool dark place.  Another beer in the works is an anniversary beer, a vanilla coffee hazelnut stout.

When you head to Northern Virginia for civil war history and nature, set aside some time to throw back a beer or a flight at Tin Cannon Brewing Company and celebrate the growth of craft breweries in Virginia.

Thank you to Discover Prince William & Manassas for hosting our trip to Virginia and making this post possible.  As always, all opinions are my own.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Ultimate US Presidential Primary Drinking Challenge

Ah, Presidential election time in America. What used to be a 1 year process has now turned into a 2 year blitz of stump speeches, babies kissed and hearts broken. If you travel throughout the US for the next 12 months you will be greeted by yard signs and commercials targeted to specific audiences in whatever part of the country you’re in.
Before we elect our next president we have to pick the 2 candidates for the main event. And finally - after a year of hearing from the contenders - the light of primary season can be seen at the end of the tunnel. With all of this build-up, it almost seems like the results are a little bit of let down. All of the pomp and circumstance of a 12 month media blitz commences with Wolf Blitzer announcing Iowa is won by candidate D. Woo-Hoo!
So I feel it is time to take America’s love for drinking games and step it up a notch. There are many ways to make those spring primary nights entertaining and challenging at the same time (hell you may need to travel before February). This idea was born from election night 2008. We had a certain candidate that was our candidate, and every time he won a state, we took a shot. Simple right? Did I mention the shots were from novelty shot glasses from the state he had won? That’s right, a geographical presidential shot fest.
As fun as that was, it wouldn’t be as fun during the primaries as the dates are spread out and there are candidates all over the place, vs. the 2 candidates on actual election night in November. Which leads to the treasure hunt, travel and bargain portion of our new Presidential Primary drinking challenge (if you are overseas you’ll definitely win a prize). The first part involves getting your hands on what I consider the best drink for each state (ok some are more fun than "the best" but you'll get the picture). Luckily you have some time to pull this off and if you haven’t let your grandma know what you want for Christmas she can get it for you.
Without further adieu, here is a list of primary dates, states and what local libations you need to obtain to get your primary drinking game started.
Monday, February 1
  • Iowa Caucus- Toppling Goliath Brewing PsuedoSue

Tuesday, February 9
  • New Hampshire- Smutty Nose Brewing Robust Porter

Saturday, February 20
  • Nevada caucus (Dem)- Las Vegas Distillery Grandma’s Apple Pie Moonshine
  • South Carolina (GOP)- Palmetto Brewing Company Amber Ale (red beer for the GOP primary)
Tuesday, February 23
  • Nevada caucus (GOP)- Tenya Creek Brewing Monsoon IPA

Saturday, February 27
  • South Carolina (Dem)- Palmetto Distillery White Lightning Moonshine (blue label for the Dems)

Tuesday, March 1 (Super Tuesday)
  • Alabama- Stills Crossroads ‘Shine
  • Alaska (GOP)- Anchorage Brewing Company Anadromous Wild Ale
  • Arkansas- Post Famile Vineyards Prophecy Red Wine
  • Colorado Caucuses- Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown (since marijuana’s likely illegal in your state)
  • Georgia- Terrapin Beer Company Maggie’s Peach Farmhouse Ale
  • Massachusetts- Samuel Adams Boston Lager
  • Minnesota Caucuses- Grain Belt Lager
  • North Carolina- Foothills Brewing Company Sexual Chocolate
  • Oklahoma-Mustang Brewing Washita Wheat
  • Tennessee- Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey (because you need shots on Super Tuesday)
  • Texas- Lone Star Lager “The National Beer of Texas”
  • Vermont- The Alchemist Heady Topper
  • Virginia- Brothers Craft Brewing Hoptimization IPA

Saturday, March 5
  • Kansas Caucus- Tallgrass Brewing 8-Bit Pale Ale
  • Kentucky (GOP caucus)- Bulleit Bourbon
  • Louisiana- Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey (every drinking game needs Fireball)
  • Nebraska (Dem caucus)- Spilker Ales Hopluia

Tuesday, March 8
  • Hawaii Caucus (GOP)- Koloa Rum Company Kauai Dark
  • Idaho (GOP)- Grand Teton Brewing Pursuit of Hoppiness
  • Mississippi- Southern Prohibition Brewing Mississippi Fire Ant
  • Michigan- Founders Breakfast Stout

Sunday, March 13
  • Puerto Rico (GOP)- Ron Llave Blanco Supreme (for rum runners)

Tuesday, March 15
  • Ohio- Thirsty Dog Brewing 12 Dogs of Christmas (seasonal, so get on it quick)
  • Florida- Drum Circle Distilling Siesta Key Gold Rum
  • Illinois- Pipeworks Brewing Company Crimson Snapper
  • Missouri-Bud Heavy (We are not a monarchy, but it’s the damn King of Beers)

Tuesday, March 22
  • Arizona- Mexican Moonshine Tequila
  • Utah- Epic Brewing Company Big Bad Baptist

Saturday, March 26
  • Alaska Caucus (Dem)- Alaska Denali Winery Riesling Ice Wine
  • Hawaii Caucus (Dem)- Maui Brewing Company CoCoNut Porter
  • Washington Caucus (Dem)- Pacific Distillery Pacifique Absinthe Verte Superieure

Tuesday, April 5
  • Wisconsin- New Glarus Brewing Spotted Cow

Tuesday, April 19
  • New York- Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard Riesling

Tuesday, April 26
  • Connecticut- White Solo Farm and Winery Rhubarb Wine
  • Delaware- Dogfish Head Brewing 90 Minute IPA
  • Maryland- Flying Dog Brewery The Truth Imperial IPA
  • Pennsylvania- Yuengling Amber Lager
  • Rhode Island- Grey Sail Brewing Captain’s Daughter

Tuesday, May 3
  • Indiana- Three Floyds Brewing Apocalypse Cow

Tuesday, May 10
  • Nebraska (GOP primary)- Moonstruck Meadery Capsumel Mead
  • West Virginia- Mountain State Brewing Cold Trail Ale

Tuesday, May 17
  • Kentucky (Dem primary)- Evan Williams Kentucky Bourbon
  • Oregon- Rogue Chocolate Stout

Sunday, June 5
  • Puerto Rico (Dem)- Don Q Rum Gold (served neat)

Tuesday, June 7
  • California- Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin
  • Montana- Bayern Brewing Bayren Dopplebock (it’s seasonal from Nov-Feb, get on that now)
  • New Jersey- Laird and Company Applejack
  • New Mexico- SilverCoin Blanco Tequila
  • South Dakota- Wooden Legs Brewing Three Five Three Stout

Tuesday, June 14
  • District of Columbia- 3 Stars Brewing Company Peppercorn Saison

States with no firm dates:
  • North Dakota- Maple River Distillery Black Currant Brandy
  • Maine- Foundation Brewing Company Epiphany
  • Washington (GOP)- Fremont Brewing Company The Brother
  • Wyoming- Wyoming Whiskey

The games you play with these beverages native to each state can be as simple as drinking when the state closes to more complex, like taking a drink every time a state is called too close to call, taking a shot when a candidate concedes that state or just have a drink when the words “Breaking News” flash on the screen. On days like Super Tuesday – you’ll need to definitely take Wednesday off – it may behoove you to have some flight glasses instead of pints because I don’t want to be responsible for any poisoning. The one thing that this challenge (list) shows is that it is a great time to be a friend of local booze in the US, and it is a lot of fun to try and get your hands on it. Hope your trunks have a lot of room and please share some pictures as you collect your bounty before and during this primary season.