Delish in a Barrel: Green Flash Silva Stout

Zach Fowle
Beer: Silva Stout
Brewery: Green Flash Brewing Co.
Style: Imperial Stout
ABV: 10.1 percent

It's a good time to own a whiskey distillery in America. Not only are sales of the brown stuff up close to 8 percent from last year and 36 percent over the past five, but you're also making money selling your used barrels to brewers, those nuts. There was a time that the U.S. law requiring "straight bourbon" whiskey be aged in new, unused American oak barrels created a surplus of used wood at distilleries, and in days past these were often sold off on the cheap or just given away. Those days are over. The resale value of a bourbon barrel has skyrocketed, and used barrels are in such high demand among American beer-makers that many distillers now have waiting lists.

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Lemon Lush: Tempe's Huss Brewing Co. Makes a Solid Summer Beer

Beer: Lemon Lush
Brewery: Huss Brewing Co.
Style: American Wheat Beer
ABV: 5 percent

In the spring and summer months, seasonal beers brighten up. Just as the days get longer and sunnier, the dark, roasty brews that kept us warm during the winter fade to pale hues of amber and gold. Light, refreshing wheat beers -- and the fruit adjuncts brewers often choose to enhance them with -- become the flavors of the month.

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Dubina Brewing Co. in Glendale: Like Sampling Homebrew, and Not Always in a Good Way

Corner a long-time craft brewer on a dark, stormy night and you might get him to tell a legend full of morals and terror: the craft beer bust of the late 90s. The chilling tale usually begins with a discussion of how incredibly well craft brews were doing before that time -- an intro that's backed up by data from the Brewer's Association, which shows craft beer growth from 1986 to 1995 ranged from a low of 29 percent to a high of 75 percent year-over-year. But then: DISASTER! A wave of charlatans, covetous of craft beer's success, began entering the fray. Fueled by greed, they created soulless brands and boring liquids that the public spurned, and growth plummeted from 58 percent in '95, to 26 percent in '96, to just 2 percent in '97. The bubble had burst.

While the market has recovered somewhat -- the volume of craft beer produced in 2014 rose 18 percent from the previous year -- the ominous tale of craft beer's first bust is popular among today's craft brewers because they know their industry is still very fragile. Craft beer accounts for just 11 percent of all beer sold in the United States. Brewers recognize that new customers are hard-won, and that if their first experience branching out and tasting a craft beer is a bad one, they'll go right back to drinking mass-produced light lager. Forever. So they shun those who seem to be starting breweries to take advantage of a trend and make a quick buck, and they've done a fairly good job of keeping these types from entering the marketplace. But a new controversy has arisen to burst craft beer's bubble.

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Shandy Man: A Chat With Jake Leinenkugel of Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co.

Jake Leinenkugel is a man you want to be sitting next to when there's beer around. It's the seventh inning of a spring training game between the Brewers and the Diamondbacks, and everyone in a 20-foot radius seems to be sipping on a Summer Shandy purchased by the brewery patriarch. By game's end, he'll have bought beers for about 100 different people.

"I remember the days when these things were $2.50," he admits as he hands over the eight bucks or so a beer costs at the modern ballpark. But this is what Thomas Jacob Leinenkugel does these days. The eldest brother of the Leinenkugel clan, Jake was president of his family's eponymous brewery from 1989 to 2015, expanding its distribution footprint into all 50 states and building it into one of the largest breweries in the country. Now that he's retired from "official" brewery work, Jake spends a majority of his time in Arizona, where he and his wife have come for the last 25 years for the brewery's sales training meetings. (There's actually a strong link between the Leinenkugels and the Grand Canyon State -- Jake's grandmother lived in Tucson for more than 60 years, his father grew up there, and his brother started a branch of the Arizona Bank back in the 70s). Management of the brewery is in the hands of brother Dick, who took over as president, as well as several members of the next generation of Leinenkugels; Jake gets to golf, hike, travel and buy beers for baseball fans.

After the game, Leinenkugel sat down to discuss the runaway success of his brewery's seasonal Summer Shandy, brewery buyouts, the changes he's witnessed during his 40 years in the beer industry and what's coming next for the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company.

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In Brewmoriam: Obituaries For Four Stone Beers

In the past several weeks, Stone Brewing Co. has announced the death of several of the brewery's most beloved ales. Here, we remember the beers that were.

Stone Levitation, 12
Levitation Amber Ale was a rebel throughout its life, proudly defying the notions that low-alcohol beers lack flavor and depth or that every Stone beer be tongue-blastingly bitter. The plucky, 4.4 percent ABV brew beat the odds for many years, but alas, changing tastes on the part of consumers led to declining sales and Levitation's last bottling occurred in late February. Its ability to pack flavor into a low-gravity format is survived by distant relative, Stone Go To IPA.

Stone Sublimely Self Righteous, 7
Born in 2007 as Stone 11th Anniversary Ale, Sublimely Self Righteous was surrounded its entire life by controversy that stemmed mainly from what to call it. Was it a black IPA? A Cascadian Dark Ale? An American Black Ale? A hoppy porter? While drinkers never could decide on SSR's style, most were in agreement that it delivered 90 IBUs of resinous, American-style hoppiness in a deliciously roasty and deliciously dark package. Sublimely Self Righteous' final run will take place in April, but its spirit will live on in periodic releases of future Stone brew, Enjoy By Black IPA.

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The Guinness Six-Step Pour Is Pointless, and You're Dumb for Asking for It

I can pour what the guys who handle marketing for Guinness call the "perfect pint." I can take a cool, clean, dry, Guinness-branded glass and hold it under the tap at a 45-degree angle. I can pull the handle forward until it's horizontal and fill the glass all the way up to the harp logo located ¾ of the way up the side. I can even wait precisely 119.5 seconds to "let the surge settle" before pushing the tap handle back top the glass with a proud, domed head. It will be beautiful.

It will also be a fantastic waste of time.

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Achocolypse Now: Prescott Brewing Co.'s Tasty Chocolate Porter Gets Canned

Zach Fowle

Beer: Achocolypse
Brewery: Prescott Brewing Co.
Style: Porter
ABV: 5.6 percent

Hello, chocolate! White and milk chocolate do a sweet dance in the nose before subtler notes of weak coffee and some sour grain become apparent. There's not a ton of depth to the aroma, but it's very sweet and smooth. In the glass, the brew looks like cola, sporting the deep brown of tree bark with enough clarity to let some amber-tinged light through. Atop sits a tiny khaki-colored layer of film that becomes a thin ring. A fantastic flavor begins again with sugary white chocolate, then the swallow gives way to a smooth combination of toast, vanilla, mocha, milk chocolate and graham crackers. It lingers forever, and I'm absolutely fine with that. Some tangy notes emerge at times, but they don't detract too much from the good stuff. The medium-light body is a touch thin and softly carbonated, holding together well as it moves. Looong finish. A damn fine porter I could drink all night. Nicely sweet, deep enough in flavor to remain interesting. I really, really hope Prescott decides to distribute this.

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Rogue Ales Puts Sriracha in a Beer

Zach Fowle
Beer: Sriracha Hot Stout Beer
Brewery: Rogue Ales & Spirits
Style: Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer
ABV: 5.7 percent

The red chiles grown at Underwood Ranches in Camarillo, California are very important vegetables. Every day, 30 semi trucks packed with peppers journey east to the L.A. suburb of Rosemead and deposit their payloads at Huy Fong Foods. The company, founded in 1980 by Vietnamese refugee David Tran and named after the ship that brought him to America, buys peppers only from Underwood -- no one else. At Huy Fong, the chiles are ground up and combined with garlic, vinegar, sugar, and salt. They're placed inside clear plastic bottles decorated with a rooster and topped with a bright green cap. They become Sriracha.

For a majority of the chiles, this is a noble end. I imagine being the main ingredient in Sriracha, a wildly popular sauce that grows in demand by its owner's estimate about 20 percent every year, is a status that makes the peppers grown at Underwood the envy of chiles worldwide. But for some, the journey does not end on the supermarket shelf. Some lucky bottles of Sriracha are sent northward, to the headquarters of Rogue Ales in Newport, Oregon to become part of a beer.

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Beer Research Institute in Mesa Takes Craft Beer Seriously -- and That's a Good Thing

I had a favorite bartender a while back who, each time I visited, drank more than I did. He was constantly drinking at work. Using tiny sample cups, he'd make his way through the draft lineup about an ounce at a time, swirling and sniffing and tasting each one. One day I finally asked him what he was up to with all the at-work boozing.

"Oh," he said with a smile. "Quality control."

Longtime friends and homebrewing pals Greg Sorrels and Matt Tretheway had a similar joke. Whenever they were out grabbing drinks at a local brewery and their wives would call to ask what they were up to, they'd say they were "conducting research." After their brewing hobby morphed into an actual business, the witty riposte influenced the brewpub's name. The Beer Research Institute was established.

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18 Things I Learned at New Belgium's "Sour Symposium"

Zach Fowle

Last Week, Colorado's New Belgium Brewing Co. held what it dubbed the "Sour Symposium. Hosted at The Yard in Tempe, the $50 session included presentations from Eric Salazar, New Belgium's cellar master, and Lauren Salazar, the brewery's sensory specialist and beer-blender; a sampling of fancy meats and cheeses; and a lesson on blending sour beers, culminating in the opportunity to taste version's of La Folie, a sour red ale, from five different foeders.

That last part may sound like gibberish to the uninitiated, but for the beer geeks in attendance it was the highlight of the event. The sour beers that New Belgium puts into kegs and bottles are actually blends of many different versions of the same base brew that have been fermented in different foeders, or giant oaken barrels, populated by yeast and bacteria that produce sour, funky flavors. Each barrel creates a unique environment for the microflora, and the beers the little critters affect can have wildly different profiles. The chance to see just how different -- and to attempt to blend these base beers into a tasty whole -- was enlightening.

Also eye-opening was the presentation given by the two Salazars, which was filled with secret stories from the brewery, explanations of the process of making a sour beer and more. Here are the best things I learned from them.

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