Monday, July 17, 2023

Tasty Southeastern Beer Reviews & Food Pairings


By Owen Ogletree and Kerri Allen
Hooter Brown
Oyster City Brewing Company
Apalachicola, Florida
Imperial Brown Ale, 8.5% ABV
Deep brown in color with a moderate tan head, this beer offers aromas of dark malt, cocoa, chocolate, toffee, pie crust and mild, pleasant, dark fruit esters. The palate picks up alcohol warmth along with slightly sweet malt complexity backed by caramel and chocolate candy notes. There's also complexity from nuances of raisin, fig and ripe plum esters. Appropriately, almost no roasted malt character emerges in this wonderfully malty, medium-bodied brown ale. Pair with desserts such as cheesecake, fruit tarts and French vanilla ice cream.
Imperial Hopsecutioner IPA
Terrapin Beer Company
Athens, Georgia
Double IPA, 9.8% ABV
Almost clear with just a hint of haze, the deep amber color and long-lasting off-white foam make this strong ale quite attractive. Look for moderate aromas originating from a range of U.S. hops that are reminiscent of citrus, pineapple and pine resin. The hefty malt bill also comes through on the nose with notes of caramel and toffee. A bit sweet for style, the beer's crystal malts and toasted malts are lightly balanced by tropical, resiny hop flavors. The big malt canvas could perhaps benefit from a bit more hop bitterness, and the beer finishes malty and boozy with a hint of alcohol spice and warmth. Pair this potent ale with gumbo, pad Thai or Indian butter chicken.
Retrospect IPA
Arches Brewing
Hapeville, Georgia
West Coast-Style IPA, 6.5% ABV
This ale pours with a deep amber color that falls on the dark end of the style's color spectrum. Brilliantly clear, the ale also boasts a substantial layer of tan foam. The nose picks up malt, caramel, toasted bread crust, light fruity esters and hop notes of citrus, pine resin and a hint of blood orange pith. On the tongue, malty, toffee-like notes appear up front, followed by earthy hop flavors and hints of pine bark. Hop bitterness seems mild for the style, but the beer comes across as quite approachable. One taster noticed a nuance of dark berries and pineapple in the ester profile. Pour this beer alongside turkey burgers with brown mustard or lemon pepper chicken wings.
Passion on Ponce IPA
Three Taverns Craft Brewery
Decatur, Georgia
American IPA with Passion Fruit, Orange & Guava, 7.5% ABV
With a deep gold color and apricot hue, this fruited IPA pours with a fluffy off-white head and almost perfect clarity. Expect aroma notes of rich passion fruit along with some orange hints and an earthy, tropical fruit juice character. A touch of hoppy pine resin notes comes through in the background. The flavors seem more balanced than the fruity nose, with citrusy American hops peeking through the fruit canvas. On the palate, a light malt character transitions quickly into a mélange of orange pith, tart passion fruit and earthy guava. The beer finishes dry with a light/medium body and a tasty bitter hop/fruit nuance that lingers on the back of the tongue in a welcoming way. Drink this beer with a plate of Caribbean grilled shrimp or jerk chicken with grilled pineapple. 
Italian-Style Pilz
Ology Brewing Company
Tallahassee, Florida
Italian-Style Pilsner, 5.0% ABV
Expecting a crystal-clear, crisp pilsner? Think again. Ology's take on the style pours with a gold/orange hue and appropriate white foam, but the lager showcases an unexpected haze. Aromas come through that make the beer seem more like a hop-forward hazy pale ale with tropical fruit notes. There's pilsner malt in the smell, along with significant New World hop character. On the palate, the beer again comes across like a hazy India Pale Lager with earthy hops, mineral-rich water and tropical fruit notes similar to light papaya. The beer finishes with a chalky dryness and pleasing hop nuance. Overall, this selection is delicious and enjoyable, even if it doesn't match the Italian pilsner style guidelines to a tee. White pizza or raw oysters would make a beautiful match for this lager.
Pales in Comparison
Edmund's Oast Brewing
Charleston, South Carolina
Double Dry-Hopped Hazy Pale Ale, 5.0% ABV
The beer pours with a golden color, moderate haze and a light layer of off-white bubbles. Aroma notes include green tea, jasmine, Mandarin oranges, kiwi fruit, light malt and cereal grains. Upon taking a sip, the palate registers many of the same aroma characteristics. There are also hints of buttery cashews and light, fruity hop flavor notes. The ale finishes dry with mild hop bitterness and a tropical citrus nuance. This pale ale's malt profile produces an appealing, refreshing, light body and character. The cereal grains help create the haze and perhaps somewhat mute the malt and hop complexity. The dry nature of this beer makes for a smart pairing with gyoza potstickers or shrimp with lobster sauce.
Wild Streak
Bearded Iris Brewing
Nashville, Tennessee
Sour Ale with Rosemary, Orange Peel & Vanilla, 5.1% ABV
A golden tone, white foam and slight haze highlight the appearance of this complex sour ale. Rosemary and other herb notes dominate the aroma profile, with peppercorns, crisp lactic acid, passion fruit, citrus peel, lemon and cucumber nuances emerging to enhance the overall flavor canvas. Expect a light body and crisp, refreshing, fruity, dry finish that continues to showcase the rosemary/herbal character after swallowing. The beer seems reminiscent of a dry, lightly acidic, refreshing white wine. Good pairings would include green olives, linguine with clam sauce or oven-roasted potatoes.
Chandeleur Island Brewing Company
Gulfport, Mississippi
Golden Ale, 5.0% ABV
With a golden tone, nice layer of white foam and attractive clarity, this quaffable golden ale serves up mild malt aromas and flavors of lightly sweet bread along with some cereal notes from additions of wheat and corn. The light body comes across as soft and lightly creamy with a hint of malt sweetness in the finish, balanced by a touch of citrusy American hop flavor and mild bitterness. Fruity esters are restrained, and the ale could almost pass for a lager, due to the clean nature of the mouthfeel and finish. This classic "beer-flavored-beer" shines with subtle complexity and good technical merit. In the spirit of the Gulf Coast, this beer would pair perfectly with a grouper sandwich and fries.
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Thursday, July 6, 2023

Women of Beer: Rachel Breite of Idyll Hounds Brewing


By Kerri Allen

Jack-of-all-trades stands out as a great moniker and job description for folks who make craft beer, and brewer Rachel Breite labels herself as exactly this. Rachel has been the brewer for Idyll Hounds Brewing Company in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, since December 2022. Before landing at Idyll Hounds, she started as head brewer for The Brew Pub (Ye Olde Brothers’ Brewery in Navarre, Florida). She moved from there to 3rd Planet Brewing in Niceville, Florida, before settling in at Idyll Hounds. 

Science is science, right? Rachel reminisces, “I got my start in craft beer in a less traditional route. My background is in Marine Biology, and I worked as a fisheries biologist prior to taking on the craft beer industry. I was in my mid-twenties at the time and was working as a bartender for a local craft brew pub in addition to laboring in my science field. I had a passion for the craft of beer and found myself in the back brewery more and more often, with questions about the process and styles. I really soaked up every bit of knowledge I could about beer from grain to glass. The owners noted my interest and appreciated my background in hard science, so I jumped at the opportunity when they asked me if I would be interested in brewing for them. I worked hard, studied at home a lot, and was fortunate to be surrounded by some amazing brewers in my community who supported me and helped me grow into the professional I am today. Now I am fortunate enough to say that I have been brewing professionally for just over five years."

Is science more enjoyable when you can share and drink the product of your labors? When asked what she loves most about being a part of a brewery, Rachel discusses her love for the amalgamation of art and science. She explains, "I think that it's incredible to be able to understand the science going on behind the brewing, fermenting, and cellaring processes; and to then be able to manipulate different variables to create the beer that you want. As much as it's a science, I believe there's an art to it too. You can hone in on specific flavor and aroma profiles by understanding the science and ingredients and how they interact. This allows brewers to craft the beer art of their dreams. Plus, getting to share my hard work and passion in a glass with others is just a really special feeling.” 

Who is 5’1” and totally badass? That would be Rachel Breite. Some height-challenged people complain about not being able to reach the top cabinets in their kitchen. Try hauling a 50-pound bag of grain or changing bulky fittings on a brew tank. When asked about her biggest brewing challenge, Rachel quips, “My stature is probably an obvious challenge; at 5'1", I have to use ladders and think smarter and not harder for many tasks around the brewery. I'm proud to say that I may be small, but I work hard, am strong, and can usually do almost any task solo. However, there is no use in being prideful, and there's nothing wrong with asking for help. My coworkers are always quick to jump in.” 

On a more serious note, Rachel mentions that self-doubt has been a difficult challenge. Her busy mind constantly makes her question if she is doing her best. She relates, “Despite being incredibly passionate about beer, regarding everything from the raw ingredients to the brewing and fermentation processes to the history and differentiation between global styles, I have asked myself more than once if I am doing enough. Am I good enough? Is my craft enough? I think it's easy to look around at fellow brewers and other breweries around the country and the world and compare yourself to them.” 

Rachel says she is overcoming this self-doubt and becoming more confident in her craft. Her secret, which she finds quite fulfilling, revolves around research. “I have found that as long as you're crafting the beer that you want and staying true to yourself, nothing can touch that," she says. "Do the research, know your styles, listen to the science, and you can brew whatever your heart desires. Yes, I can do it. Yes, I'm good enough."

Rachel enjoys being creative and working with various ingredients; botanicals have caught her attention recently. "It's incredible to be able to nail a beer that you crafted in your head - to see it and enjoy it in person and share it with people that you care about and know will appreciate your hard work," she notes. 

When asked why women and minorities are vital to this industry, Rachel stresses the importance of everyone having an equal platform to share their stories and passion. "In doing so, we create greater representation within the brewing community," she says. "I truly believe that everyone has a unique vision and a different way of looking at the world and that this carries over into their craft - whatever that may be. In the case of beer, women and minorities bring different visions, different creativity, and different approaches to the industry. This helps to not only diversify the workforce, but it also diversifies craft beer as a whole." 

As far as attracting more women and minorities to the beer industry, Rachel observes, "We need to practice inclusion by opening doors for others within our industry and creating safe and diverse industry spaces ranging from production to sales and marketing."

As a BJCP judge, Rachel enjoyed judging the Best Florida Beer competition this year. She also recently participated in the Dark Embrace Invitational Beer Festival in Tampa which she notes was an “incredible” event. Rachel also acts as the Pink Boots Society Panhandle representative for Florida.


Monday, March 27, 2023

Women of Beer: Nicole Cendrowski, Fireforge Crafted Beer


Meet Nicole Cendrowski of Fireforge Crafted Beer in Greenville, SC
By Kerri Allen
If you check out the website for Fireforge Crafted Beer (Greenville, South Carolina) and read the “about” information, you will find the sentences, “Create with passion. Serve with enthusiasm.” Upon visiting the taproom, patrons immediately feel the passion and enthusiasm behind the brewery's range of appealing beers.
Fireforge co-owner Nicole Cendrowski explains her first look into the world of craft beer. “Initially, I cultivated my love of craft beer when visiting brewpubs while traveling with my dad for his work trips in my teens in the late 1990s. My dad was excited and curious about "micro-brews," and he'd let me have sips of nut brown ales and porters. The aromas lingering after an on-site brew day and fermentation, plus the coziness and camaraderie of the taproom as guests would unwind after their workdays, were palpable to observe as a young person. While I couldn't legally partake of the product, these environments felt welcoming and unique.” 
Brewery Beginnings 
Those early experiences with Nicole's father sparked an interest in trying all the interesting brews she could find - once she could legally drink, of course. Ten years later, Nicole found herself homebrewing with her husband, Brian, while continuing to explore the commercial beer scene. “There were very few breweries in South Carolina at that time, so if I heard of a new one opening up, I'd reach out, learn their story and write about them in beer-focused publications. We started to develop more relationships within a very fledgling industry in our region, and things just grew from there.” 
In June of 2018, Fireforge Crafted Beer was born in Greenville, South Carolina. Professionally, Nicole worked in marketing communications, brand development and business development/sales, which have proven to be necessary skills for starting a new brewery.
When asked what she loved most about being a part of a brewery, Nicole responded, “Being able to create something out of nothing. Whether it's a new beer concept; can label design; discerning ways for a team member to contribute more creatively in the business and meet their goals; hosting a new Fireforge special event and building that tradition over the years, or simply sharing thoughts on an ideal pairing for one of our beers and sandwiches, I'm grateful to be at the helm of helping build a sustainable, happy and creative place to work.” 
Many Responsibilities, Many Talents
Passion and enthusiasm can give you the drive, but with any industry come challenges and rewards. As far as the biggest challenge, Nicole admits, “My biggest challenge is that we're still a small business, which may not always lend itself to specialization outside of our small brew team. We're all wearing many hats. We have so many ideas and limited time, so investing the time to more effectively engage people on our team, recruiting new people, delegating and collaborating in ways that make Fireforge better is important to figure out right now.” Although building a business has its uphill battles, the rewards are there as well. “The reward is when our team is firing on all cylinders, giving me an opportunity to work on the business and help Fireforge become more profitable and sustainable while providing me some time to rest and recharge. Quiet time out on the trail in the woods on a bike or on foot is sublime,” Nicole acknowledges.
There are more and more women joining the industry. When asked why women are vital in the industry, and how more women could be encouraged to become a part of the craft beer movement, Nicole stated, “Every individual is unique, offering different gifts to the world and workplace, independent of gender. However, women are amazing. The women that inspire me the most are intuitive, resilient, approachable, creative, organized, action-oriented, respected and motivating, all under an invisible cloak of warmth - yet you feel it! They recognize the door of opportunity that others don't - and will open those doors - for their own good and the good of others.” As to bringing more women in, she says, ”It's raising awareness that a brewery business isn't just a guy with some tanks and taps. There are many roles and responsibilities that go into developing a healthy brewery taproom business.”
Five Years of Fireforge
The brewery scene in Greenville, South Carolina, continues to grow. If you want to check out what Fireforge Crafted Beer has in its sights for 2023, Nicole comments that soon, “we'll hopefully be in full springtime swing as we open our garage doors and our beer garden feels like a big front porch. Fireforge is turning five years old over the weekend of June 16-18, and we'll host our three-day anniversary party with special beer releases, yummy food and live music.” 
Patrons can sample Fireforge's delicious variety of craft beers and pair some beers with one of the brewery's awesome sandwiches or “sassy” sides. Try their three-cheese grilled cheese with Irrational Confidence, a lovely red IPA. If your sweet tooth is beckoning, try one of their desserts or sweet treats of the week with You Silly Gooseberry Saison or Cherry Sour Ale. Nicole will most likely be there chatting with everyone. 
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Photos by Owen Ogletree and Fireforge Crafted Beer.

Friday, February 10, 2023

Women of Beer: Abby McLocklin Cheng


By Kerri Allen
Abby McLocklin Cheng
Former CEO of Orpheus Brewing Company, Atlanta, GA

We all know that the brewing industry has been "male heavy" for a long time; however, over the last couple of decades more and more women are finding careers within the brewing world. In centuries past, most women were brewers, and it is only fitting that we celebrate the modern-day women who have found their calling in this niche of the beverage world.

"Women make up around half of the population. That is a staggering amount of underutilized expertise that comes from generations of wisdom, different ways of thinking, and eyes that offer alternative insights. The female customer base in craft beer is only growing, so the more representation from the other side of the counter (be it in production, management, sales, serving, etc.), the better!" The words of Abby Cheng, CEO of Orpheus Brewing in Atlanta, GA ring true from someone who started their career in the restaurant industry. Abby went on to say, "More women will feel comfortable venturing into the male-heavy industry if they see themselves well-represented. It goes without saying that this applies to many under-represented demographics, and I believe that women are in one of the prime spots to advocate for this type of change and inclusivity."

As graduate of culinary school, Abby's personal journal into the beer world tells the tale of someone who appreciates hand-crafted, great-tasting products. "From working in some stellar restaurant kitchens, to sharing my love of education teaching classes at Total Wine, to being in the middle of Georgia's booming beer scene working at Hop City's OG location, I've become the product of a lot of experiences that are both traditional and non-traditional. Needless to say, working around so many interesting beers shifted my passion and focus, and it was then that I began to find my way into the brewing community around metro Atlanta. What a community! This group of people was so welcoming and seemed so sincerely excited that I was finding my way into their world. After a quick departure a little deeper into the fine wine and craft spirits world, I realized that beer was no longer as central to my day-to-day routine as I wanted it to be. So, I worked out a deal with Hop City so that they could utilize my wine knowledge while I could also be surrounded by beer." 

After time spent with Total Wine, Abby worked for Atlanta-based New Realm, starting as a sales representative and ending up in the Senior Market Development Manager role before accepting a position as Director of Sales at Orpheus. As Orpheus' new CEO, Abby looks back on her journey, which led to this point and remarks, "It is a journey that I am honored to have been able to participate in thus far and enjoy sharing with other folks." On her time spent so far in her current position, Abby offers, "I absolutely love having the opportunity to introduce any level of new or experienced drinker to a flavor or combination of sensations that they have never before enjoyed in a beer. Going back to my passion for food and interesting flavor profiles, I am very fortunate to be involved with a brewery that "gets" creativity, but with balance. It would be really easy to make a sour beer with vanilla and pineapple that was super sweet and reminiscent of a dessert, but instead, Jason has crafted something refreshing and interesting that makes people think."

When asked what her biggest challenge and greatest reward have been, Abby remarks, "Honestly, my answers are kind of one in the same. I have learned so many more facets of the business and how to strategize past just encouraging sales in the market." Always striving to add to her knowledge, Abby is currently enrolled in the fall cohort of the Brewers Association's mentorship program. She excitedly says, "I am so thankful for the knowledge being so freely and graciously shared amongst other professionals in the industry."

At the start of this article, Abby spoke of the insight and perspective women bring to the industry. When asked how we can attract more women to the craft beer world, Abby contemplates," I think it is probably one of the best times in recent history to get involved. I also think offering opportunities for easily-accessible education will help women - or any participants - feel more confident in making themselves more marketable and formidable against other folks that may have walked into their roles more easily. With Safe Bars and #NotMe becoming more of the industry standard, it is my hope that those who viewed safety as a barrier to entry might feel more secure getting into the biz."

Before the release of this article, Orpheus hosted its second annual Burning Mouth Hot Sauce Competition. Abby commented on the importance of events such as this. "Our beer is incredible, and I definitely want return patrons to enjoy it, but it's also about finding ways to appeal to members of our neighborhood who aren't as beer savvy and might be more comfortable getting to know us through food events or evenings during which we feature interactive activities."

Regardless of what part of the industry in which you work, the more you know, the better. It is no surprise that Abby has made it to where she is today through hard work, a variety of experiences and a true passion for craft beer.


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