Stone Master of Disguise: The Green Ketchup of Beers

Zach Fowle
Beer: Master of Disguise
Brewery: Stone Brewing Co.
Style: Golden Stout, I Guess?
ABV: 9.7 percent

Remember green ketchup? Heinz, those crazy bastards, launched an emerald-hued version of the condiment -- made, I'm assuming, with ground-up leprechauns and seaweed -- in 2000. It was incomprehensibly popular for about five years, until people realized they were eating green ketchup, and stopped the madness.

I couldn't stop thinking about green ketchup as I sipped Master of Disguise, the newest ale from Stone Brewing Co. It has all the aspects of your standard imperial stout: It's crazy-thick, sliding into the glass with motor-oil consistency. It smells like cocoa nibs, light roast coffee, baked wheat bread, green bananas and wet tree leaves. The flavor is permeated with coffee beans and chocolate, accented by subtler fruity yeast notes of red apple and pear. It the mouth, the brew's viscous and lightly carbonated, and it finishes with a blast of sweet cocoa and a lingering alcohol bite. It's a tasty example of an imperial stout.

Only problem is, it's orange.

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Contents Under Fresher: Lagunitas Born Yesterday

Beer: Born Yesterday
Brewery: Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Style: Pale Ale
ABV: 7.5 percent

In beer, freshness matters. Brewers go to great lengths to get beer from their fermentors to your mouth in a timely fashion. The reason: science!

Like most foodstuffs, beer is a perishable product. The longer it sits on the shelf, the less it's going to taste as the brewer intended it to when he sent it off for packaging. The reasons for this decrease in quality are numerous, but they're most often caused by the ingredients used to make the beer as well as other compounds that may sneak in during the brewing and packaging process. Oxygen is the most common of these rascals -- it's found to some degree in every packaged beer and can react with a beer's ingredients to create changes in its flavor profile. This process, called oxidation, causes some pretty radical shifts: sweet and catty aromas increase; the flavors of fruity esters and fresh, floral hops decrease; notes of caramel, toffee, paper, wine, whiskey or leather can emerge; hop bitterness drops while the harshness of said bitterness gets a boost. Given enough time, almost any beer will eventually become an astringent, honey-sweet, cardboardy mess.

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Fizzy Yellow Beer Is Not Your Enemy

Several months ago, I took part in a judging competition for a local craft beer festival. As often occurs at such ceremonies, we began the day by tasting a calibration beer -- one brew, given to every judge, that helps beer-tasters adjust their scoring so it's in line with everyone else in the room. The beer was poured was translucent and golden, with a fluffy head of pure white. Its flavor was crisp, with a soft grain flavor and a touch of corn-like sweetness. Pretty tasty, we all agreed.

Each judge's score was collected and the beer was given an average score of 40 out of 50 -- an excellent rating for any brew. Then the mysterious beer was revealed.

It was Budweiser.

I bring this up because Bud and its parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, have been much discussed in craft beer circles these past few nights. The debate stems from a Facebook post Oregon-based 10 Barrel Brewing Co. made Wednesday announcing that the brewery would be sold to Anheuser Busch. Beer nerds promptly lost their minds:

"This is an absolute tragedy. Seriously so bummed. Boooooo"

"wow, another company sells their soul to the devil."

"aww man i loved yalls beer now i know those guys are going to make it taste like crap somehow"

"At least you could have had the decency to SELL OUT to an American company."

"Fuck Budweiser and fuck 10 barrel the god damned sell outs." *

If you're not familiar with 10 Barrel, that's okay. The brewery's located in Bend, Oregon and only distributes its products in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Vermont. But the reaction to its purchase by AB InBev is nationwide. It's similar to the feedback New York's Blue Point Brewing Co. received from fans when it sold to AB in February, and nearly identical to the backlash directed at Chicago craft brewery Goose Island when AB bought it in 2011. Were the Belgian-Brazilian brewing giant to purchase an Arizona-based brewery -- Four Peaks, SanTan or Lumberyard, for instance -- I daresay we'd be seeing the same nastiness on their Facebook pages. Why?

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Futures 10: Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. and Jimmy Eat World Collaborate on a Beer

Ken Barnett, Self Righteous Photography
The band and the beards.
Beer: Futures 10
Brewery: Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co.
Style: Saison
ABV: 6.5 percent

Musical accompaniment to this post

Musicians and brewers commonly collaborate. Sometimes the beers that come from such unions are actually pretty good (New Belgium Clutch, brewed for the metal band Clutch; Cigar City Killsner, made for monster-rockers GWAR). Sometimes, like the musicians themselves, they're bland and obvious (as with the bottled lagers produced by Kid Rock, Motorhead and KISS). Sometimes they remind you of bands you forgot existed (anyone remember Hanson's beer, MmmHops? Anyone remember Hanson?).

But sometimes the beers perfectly capture the ethos of both brewery and band. So it seems to be with Futures 10, a synergistic saison brewed by Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. and Jimmy Eat World. AZ Wilderness, located in Gilbert, is rabidly dedicated to the use of local ingredients; Jimmy Eat World, formed in Mesa in 1993, can be considered a local ingredient themselves. The two groups met several months ago to brew a special beer that accomplishes several goals.

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Avery Pump[KY]n Is the Pumpkin Beer That Will Get You Drunk the Quickest

Beer: Pump[KY]n
Brewery: Avery Brewing Co.
Style: Imperial Porter
ABV: 17 percent

We are now in the thick of pumpkin-beer season. Beer labels, like leaves on trees, have shifted to shades of brown, black and orange. Pie spices and pumpkin puns can be found all over the place, and everyone wants to know: which of these gourd-based brews is the absolute gourdiest?

For myriad reasons that have to do with beer styles, availability and good old-fashioned personal taste, I can't tell you which pumpkin beer is best. I can, however, tell you which one will get you drunk the quickest: Avery Pump[KY]n.

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Ninkasi -- the Goddess and the Brewery -- Now Available in Arizona

Beer: Tricerahops
Brewery: Ninkasi Brewing Co.
Style: Imperial IPA
ABV: 8 percent

You are the one who soaks the malt in a jar, The waves rise, the waves fall. Ninkasi, you are the one who soaks the malt in a jar, The waves rise, the waves fall.

You are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes,
Ninkasi, you are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes,

When you pour out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.
Ninkasi, you are the one who pours out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.

Man, I love that song. The Hymn to Ninkasi, as the above bit of poetry* is known, is an ancient beer recipe/drinking song, created by the people of ancient Sumeria and passed down through generations. They did this both orally -- each older generation teaching the song to the youngins -- and, eventually, via the written word. Clay tablets upon which the hymn was written date back to the 18th Century BC and are considered one of the world's oldest examples of literature.

The people of Sumeria (today a part of Mesopotamia in Southern Iraq) are important to the history of beer because they were one of the first civilizations to give up their hunting and gathering ways and settle down into a life of grain cultivation. Having discovered (likely by accident) that grain and water when mixed and allowed to sit for a few days gave drinkers a nice little buzz, the Sumerians focused much of their culture on the practice of brewing.

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The History of Oktoberfest Beer (and Five to Try Right Now)

Before it was a beer style, it was a party.

The first Oktoberfest celebration was held on October 12, 1810, but far from the drinking festival it's become today, this first party was actually held to celebrate a wedding. Ludwig, Crown Prince of Bavaria (who'd later become King Ludwig I) exchanged vows with Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen, and everyone in Munich was invited to attend. There was music; there was dancing; there were horse races; there was beer. Everyone had such a good time that the royal family decided to host the races again the next year, and the next, and the next. This tradition gave rise to the modern Oktoberfest.

Today, it's the world's largest beer festival. Held annually in Munich, Oktoberfest actually begins in late September, running 16 days and ending the first weekend in October. Some of the traditions of the first Oktoberfest remain -- example, the grounds upon which the festival is held each year are still known as the Theresienwiese, or "Theresa's meadow." But the 6.3 million people who visited in 2014 didn't go to frolick in the grass; they went to drink. You could determine this by the number of arrests made at the festival (720) or the number of people treated by the Bavarian Red Cross for alcohol poisoning (600) or minor alcohol-related scrapes and bumps (7,900). But it's best to just look at the beer: brewers sold 6.5 million liters of beer at this year's Oktoberfest, which equates to about 1,7171,118 gallons or 18,315,925 12-ounce cans.

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How A Beer Wins A Great American Beer Festival Medal

Over the weekend, if you haven't heard, the city of Denver was swarmed with brewers and beer nerds celebrating the 2014 edition of the Great American Beer Festival, the largest celebration of American craft beer in the country. While a grand beer-tasting set up in the main hall of the Denver Convention Center is the main draw for drinkers -- nearly 50,000 of them will visit during the three-day fest -- those who brew the beer care more about the GABF judging competition.

The largest contest of its kind, the GABF's beer competition pits more than 5,000 beers against one another in 90 different categories, awarding gold, silver and bronze medals to the brews that best exemplify each style. Medals are highly sought after by brewers, as they're not only excellent marketing tools, but they represent a recognition of damn fine work. That's why many Arizona beer geeks are so disappointed -- of all the breweries producing what they consider world-class beer, only one single Arizona-brewed beer won a medal.

Thing is, it's not easy to win a medal at the GABF. Everything has to fall perfectly into place. Let's take a look at exactly what it takes to win a GABF medal, tracing the path taken by this year's lone winner from our state: College Street Brewhouse & Pub's Brother Dewey's Date Night.

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Moylan's Scotch Ale: Memorable, in a Smelly Hamster Wood Shavings Kind of Way

Beer: Scotch Ale (Kilt Lifter)
Brewery: Moylan's Brewery & Restaurant
Style: Scotch ale
ABV: 8 percent

When I was little, I had a hamster named Roxy. She was a great little hamster, playful and gentle, and the two of us used to hang out for hours, she running around in her little wheel while I fed her some hamster food. But one day, Roxy began to get fat. I wasn't worried at first, thinking she had just gone a little overboard with last night's meal. But she got bigger each day, ballooning to the point at which she couldn't walk on her little hamster legs anymore. They dangled there uselessly like T-rex arms, and she died stuck on her big hamster butt. Poor Roxy.

What does my childhood pet have to do with this week's beer? We'll get to that. First, a bit of history: Moylan's Brewery & Restaurant opened 1995 in Novato, Calif. -- a lovely, hilly little burg that lies pretty much smack between Santa Rosa and San Francisco. It was founded by Brendan Moylan, who also happens to a brewer and co-owner of Marin Brewing Co., which he helped open in 1989. Moylan's namesake brewery produces about a dozen beers year-round -- some of which are pretty good and have actually won medals at the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup. They also produce Kilt Lifter.

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SunUp White Russian Imperial Stout: Grab a Pint, Quick

Beer: White Russian Imperial Stout
Brewery: SunUp Brewing Co.
Style: Russian Imperial Stout
ABV: 9.2 percent

Sometimes, there's a beer. I won't say a heroic beer, 'cause what's a heroic beer? But sometimes, there's a beer. And I'm talkin' about SunUp's White Russian here. Sometimes, there's a beer ... well, it's the beer for its time and place. It fits right in there. And that's SunUp White Russian, in Phoenix. And even if it's a coffee-flavored beer -- and White Russian was most certainly that, quite possibly the best coffee beer in Maricopa County, which would place it high in the runnin' for best coffee beer worldwide. But sometimes there's a beer ... sometimes, there's a beer ... ah. I lost my train of thought here. But ... aw, hell. I've done introduced it enough.

Brewed in north central Phoenix at SunUp Brewing Co., White Russian Imperial Stout is the creation of Brewmaster Uwe Boer -- a brewer who, despite his German heritage, creates classic renditions of English ales. The beer's based on The Uvanator, an imperial stout SunUp has produced since 2006 with a recipe that goes back to Boer's homebrewing days in the 90s. The base recipe, Boer says, hasn't changed at all since then, but additions were definitely made when he premiered White Russian Imperial Stout last year.

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