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GSN Alert: OktoberForest

oflogoYour Beer is Forest-Brewed

by Matt Miller

Quick, name the ingredients necessary for a beer: Water. Barley. Hops.

Those are the easy ones. But there’s another you might not have considered.


And we’re not talking just evergreen-inspired brews, such as Deschutes Pinedrops IPA or Rogue’s Juniper Ale.

No, it’s much more universal than that. Beer relies on healthy forests, because America’s forests provide more than half of our nation’s water.  And clean water is beer’s main ingredient (up to 95% of a brew).

Without those forests, it’s difficult to find clean water. And without clean water?  No beer.

The Nature Conservancy’s Chris Topik, director of Restoring America’s Forests, knows this connection well. He’s spent much of his career thinking about forest policy and working to ensure that forests are resilient and healthy.

And he knows beer. The son of German and Austrian immigrants, he started homebrewing in the ‘80s as an inexpensive hobby he could do while his kids were young. He and a friend began brewing beers in their kitchen in Portland – just as that city was transforming itself into the place craft beer lovers would come to call “Beervana.”

That’s why today Topik is helping lead the national OktoberForest campaign, a month-long celebration that partners breweries with their neighborhood forests.  Brewery patrons can help, too, by pledging to share information about forests with their friends and favorite breweries.

In many ways, brewing beer is more than a hobby. Topik recognizes it as a part of human history, a tradition that has brought people together for millennia.

“Beer is quite frankly one of the keys to the way society developed. Early on, it helped us preserve grains so rats and fungi couldn’t get it,” he says. “Beer is part of our human heritage.”

And so is clean water. “Healthy, resilient forests are vital in ensuring good, clean water,” he says. “Areas that can support a forest can support a stream.”

Forests prevent erosion and serve as filters. They are where headwater streams originate. Those little streams feed into bigger streams as they flow down a mountain, eventually leading to the basins that supply water for a variety of uses. Whether you’re drinking a mass-produced light beer or a super-rare farmhouse sour, chances are it originated in a small mountain stream.

In the West, more than half of the United States’ water supply comes from U.S. Forest Service lands alone.

Through OktoberForest, Topik believes we can help raise support for policies and funding that will help restore America’s forests, and ultimately the waters we use.

This is important because forest experts are watching concerning trends lately:

  • Last year was the worst fire season on record in the United States, with more than 10 million acres burned (larger than New Jersey).
  • The nine worst fire seasons have all occurred since 2000.
  • Forest pests have killed more than 150 million trees since 1990.
  • The U.S. Forest Service estimates half of the forested lands they manage are in need of restoration.
  • Without forest restoration, the U.S. Geological Service believes ash and sediments from severe fires will double in a quarter of all Western streams.

As Topik notes, restoring forests will support businesses beyond breweries.

“Beer is a water-intensive industry, but it’s not the only one,” says Topik. “The tech industry would have difficulty functioning without water. You need pure water to manufacture silicon micro-chips.”

In Colorado, MillerCoors is partnering with The Nature Conservancy to fund large-scale forest restoration in the Upper South Platte watershed that supplies drinking water to Denver; and Anheuser-Busch is supporting a forest restoration project in the Cache La Poudre River basin near their Fort Collins Brewery.

New Belgium Brewing Company (also in Fort Collins), one of the country’s biggest craft brewers, has been calling attention to the effects of fires on their water supply in major media outlets. In Bend, Oregon – arguably one of the best beer towns in the country – craft brewers have teamed together to advocate for forest protection.

As most readers already know, there is an unprecedented interest in craft beer in the United States. There are beer blogs, beer tours, beer festivals, beer magazines. The Great American Beer Festival in Denver in October is huge, with 750 U.S. breweries, which generated $21.9 million in economic activity last year.

American brewers today are pushing the boundaries with new styles, and aficionados meet to discuss the merits of different hop varieties.  It’s time to add forests to the mix.

“We need beer fans’ help with OktoberForest to restore our forests,” Topik says. “Even if you’ve never gone hiking in a National Forest, you benefit from those forests every day, with drinking water, wood products, wildlife, and air quality.

“And, of course, beer,” he added with a smile.

Visit www.OktoberForest.org to:

  • Pledge to OktoberForest— tell your friends and favorite breweries about OktoberForest!
  • Take the OktoberForest quiz— how much do you know about beer and forests?
  • Check out the interactive brewery map— how healthy are forests around your favorite breweries?
  • Read partner brewer stories— is your favorite brewery an OktoberForest partner?

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A_Midnight_Modern_ConversationBack in my college days, I thought that punch equalled a 1.5l bottle of Silver Bacardi mixed together with a few cans of tropical flavored Hawaiian Punch.  After a few different occasions where this was the beverage of choice, I had enough to last me a lifetime and moved on to other less cloying things like IPA.  In fact, I hadn’t had any punch for a few decades until I read David Wondrich’s phenomenal book Imbibe! back in 2007.  I decided to make a batch of Philadelphia Fish House Punch for my first effort, and there’s been no turning back for me.  Granted, there is a bit of extra work involved than just emptying bottles into a large bowl (oleo-saccharum, anyone?), but it pays off in spades.  Not only is a real punch incredibly tasty, but you realize why punches are gaining popularity again.  These days, many of the best bars offer punch bowls on the menu, and some are even served with antique cups.

Here’s the recipe for PFHP (luckily, it doesn’t actually call for any fish).

Philadelphia Fish House Punch
(Servings: 18 – 20)
1 cup sugar
4 lemons, peeled and peels reserved
4 cups black tea (or water)
1 cup lemon juice
4 cups rum, Jamaican
2 cups cognac
1/2 cup peach brandy
Garnish: lemon wheels and freshly grated nutmeg

In a large bowl, add sugar and lemon peels, and rub together to release the citrus oils into the sugar. (This is called oleo-saccharum).
Allow oleo-saccharum to infuse for at least 30 minutes.
Dissolve sugar with warm water or tea.
Add rum, cognac, lemon juice and peach brandy and stir to mix.
Add a block of ice to chill, and continue to add smaller pieces of ice for desired dilution.
Garnish with lemon wheels and freshly grated nutmeg.
Ladle into individual glasses.

Another quite popular punch is Planter’s Punch, the recipe for which was first published as a poem in the New York Times on August 8, 1908.

Planter’s Punch
This recipe I give to thee,
Dear brother in the heat.
Take two of sour (lime let it be)
To one and a half of sweet,
Of Old Jamaica pour three strong,
And add four parts of weak.
Then mix and drink. I do no wrong —
I know whereof I speak.

Pretty easy to figure out what the measurements are, if you’re handy with a jigger.


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Qtimthumb.phpuick!  How many classic crème de menthe based cocktails can you name? Go!

That’s what I thought.  Highlight the area to the right to see if you got them all -> Grasshopper, Stinger

Crème de menthe is one of those liqueurs that once you try, you will never forget.  For obvious reasons it is used in a fair amount of obscure Irish cocktails, but personally I avoid those.

Crème de menthe is not a cream based liqueur, but rather a category of spirits known as crèmes, which are more syrupy and sugar laden than standard liquors.  It is made from Corsican mint or peppermint and is either colorless (white) or vibrantly green.  Most products today use food coloring to achieve the effect.  The flavors are exactly the same however.

If you want to try making your own at home, here’s a recipe courtesy of Marcia Simmons, co-author of DIY Cocktails which I have previously reviewed here.

DIY Creme de Menthe
1 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves (divided)
1 1/2 cups vodka
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup water

  • Measure out 1 cup of mint leaves and tear them in quarters Place mint leaves in a sealable glass jar and pour vodka on top. Shake and let steep for 12 hours.
  • After steeping is complete, strain mint leaves from infused vodka. Return infused vodka to the jar.
  • Bring the water and sugar to a boil, and let simmer 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool, then add syrup to mint-infused vodka.
  • Take the additional 1/2 cup of mint leaves, tear them, and add them to the jar. Shake and let steep for 10 hours.
  • Strain twice to remove all mint leaves, keep in resealable bottle. Keeps for two months.

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whiskey_sourOne of the venerable cocktails from Jerry Thomas’ How to Mix Drinks, or the Bon Vivant’s Companion (1862) that seems to have been largely ignored in the cocktail renaissance.  Here’s the original recipe.

Whiskey Sour
(Use small bar-glass.)
Take 1 large tea-spoonful of powdered white sugar,
dissolved in a little Seltzer or Apollinaris water.
The juice of half a small lemon.
1 wine-glass of Bourbon or rye whiskey.

Fill the glass full of shaved ice, shake up and strain into a claret glass. Ornament with berries.

It does seem a bit intimidating when written this way.  Instead try either of these versions.  The first more simple, yet authentic take courtesy of David Wondrich; and the second a 21st century creation via Jeffrey Morgenthaler.

Whiskey Sour
2 ounces bourbon
2/3 ounce lemon juice
1 teaspoon superfine sugar

Shake the bourbon, juice, and sugar well with cracked ice, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass (unless you happen to have a Sour glass). Resist, if you can, the impulse to decorate lavishly with fruit, although a maraschino cherry will raise no eyebrows.

Whiskey Sour with Marmalade
2 oz. 100-proof bourbon
1 oz. fresh lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup
1 tsp. orange marmalade
1 egg white
3 drops Angostura bitters

Combine bourbon, juice, syrup, marmalade, and egg white in a shaker filled with ice; shake. Strain into a chilled coupe glass. Add bitters, and using a toothpick, swirl into whites.

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gotbeer1280jpg-6ab0d3_1280wCooperstown, New York’s Brewery Ommegang will launch a new beer in its Game of Thrones series on October 10. The new entry, Valar Dohaeris Tripel Ale, is brewed with pilsner and wheat malts as well as oats and flaked barley and is at 9% abv. It will be offered in 750-ml. bottles retailing at around $10, and paired alongside sister brew Valar Morghulis Dubbel Ale (8% abv) in a commemorative gift pack positioned at $23. Brewery Ommegang, which is part of Duvel USA, has a footprint of 46 states.

image_thumbEugene, Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing Company is adding Hop Cooler IPA to its year-round Flagship Series. Hop Cooler (7.2% abv) is brewed with sweet orange and tangerine peel, as well as Equinox, Simcoe, Amarillo and Citra hops. It’s available in six-packs of 12-ounce bottles, 22-ounce bottles and on draft across Ninkasi’s distribution network. Ninkasi’s other flagship beers include Total Domination IPA, Tricerahops Double IPA, Dawn of the Red IPA and Easy Way IPA, among others.

BellsOctoberfest12ozBottleComstock, Michigan-based Bell’s Brewery is bringing back its Octoberfest fall seasonal next month for the first time in five years. The session lager (5.5% abv) will be available in six- and 12-packs of 12-ounce bottles and on draft throughout Bell’s distribution footprint of 29 states and Washington D.C.

CoUOwHdXYAEzDqiWisconsin-based craft brewer Ale Asylum is gearing up to release its first packaged lager, Oktillian Oktoberfest. Oktillian is at 6% abv and will be rolling out on draft and in 12-ounce bottle six-packs. Ale Asylum is also re-releasing 8.8%-abv Double IPA Satisfaction Jackson on draft and in six-pack format. Both brews will launch in Wisconsin and Illinois on August 1 and are expected to be available through October.

Narragansett-Lovecraft-White-IPA-canProvidence, Rhode Island’s Narragansett Beer is releasing a new beer in its Lovecraft Series, White Ship White IPA. The 6.8%-abv, Belgian-style white IPA is brewed with four types of American and Belgian malts, along with El Dorado and Mandarina Bavaria hops. Narragansett’s White Ship White IPA is available in six-packs of 16-ounce cans retailing at about $12-$13. It’s launching throughout Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Maryland, Washington D.C., Virginia, North Carolina and Portland, Oregon and Greenville and Columbia, South Carolina.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily

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20BURNER-GIN-WEB-master768Chester County, Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Branch Distillers is releasing The Revivalist, a collection of four small-batch gins—Equinox, Summertide, Harvest and Solstice. Each of the Revivalist gins is made from a base of selected barley and wheat grains, along with juniper, angelica and coriander. Each of the expressions also showcases other botanicals specific to the season for which it’s named. The Revivalist Gins retail at $40-$50 a bottle. Brandywine is also planning a future line of brandies and apple-based spirits.

imageLuxco is extending its Ezra Brooks brand with a seasonal Bourbon Cream offering this fall. Ezra Brooks Bourbon Cream is at 25 proof and will retail at $13-$15 a 750-ml. bottle. Meanwhile, Luxco is introducing new packaging across the Ezra Brooks brand, which also includes a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Blended Whiskey and Seven-Year Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

barr-an-uisce-wicklow-rare-blended-irish-whiskey-07lNew Jersey-based Niche Import Co. has added a pair of Irish whiskey labels from Redcross, County Wicklow-based distiller Barr an Uisce to its portfolio. Barr an Uisce’s signature blend, Wicklow Rare ($50), is aged in first-fill Bourbon barrels and finished in Oloroso casks for six months, while portfoliomate 1803 ($80) is a 10-year-old single malt Irish whiskey also matured in first-fill Bourbon casks. Barr an Uisce’s Wicklow Rare and 1803 join Niche Import’s existing whisk(e)y lineup, which includes the Old St. Andrews Scotch brand.

All information courtesy of Shanken News Daily

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756Scotch is a whisky that has a wide variety of styles and flavors, which I unfortunately don’t have the time to get into here.  But, this is what you need to know.  There are five regions in Scotland which produce whiskies: Campbeltown, Highland, Islay, Lowland and Speyside; and there are five styles of Scotch: blended grain, blended malt, blended Scotch, single grain and single malt.

GSN has reviewed several Scotches over the years including: Aberlour, AuchentoshanBenRiach, BowmoreCutty SarkGlendronachGlenrothes, Glen Garioch, LaphroaigMonkey Shoulder, Pig’s Nose and Sheep Dip.

If you’re looking to try a Scotch cocktail, GSN recommends the classic, Blood and Sand.


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