Arlington, VA

This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for Nick’s email newsletter and also receive exclusive discounts and offers.

This week I came across a tweet from Meridian Pint’s Jace Gonnerman about a Kolsch he’d just tapped at the Brookland Pint location in D.C., unaware that lactose was in it.

I figured it was a sign to get around to the subject of lactose — What beers it’s in, if it’s noted on the label and if not, why not? Also, why use it? While there is a “traditional” use of lactose in beer — though even that’s arguable; we’ll get to that in a moment — it usually comes up now relative to Milkshake IPAs, Pastry Stouts and Dessert Sours.

Let’s learn a little about the usage of lactose in beers then and now.

The commonly accepted origin of lactose in beer traces back to the early 20th century, with the advent of Milk Stout. Like many of the styles we know today, Milk Stout was largely a marketing-driven creation.

A quick aside: if the theme of my beer writing through the end of my first stint at Arrowine was “Beer is History,” the theme of this run is “Beer is Marketing.”

In the late 1800s, Stouts grew weaker in strength and came to be recommended as restorative, nourishing drinks — the kombucha/wheatgrass juice/Master Cleanse of its time. Very Goop. Mackeson’s patented the Milk Stout in 1907, with the idea that lactose = milk = health = even healthier Stout! Science!

These days, you’ll find lactose not only Stouts but IPAs, Goses, Berlinerweisse and apparently even the odd Kolsch. An unfermentable sugar, lactose can add richness to a beer and take the edge off of harsher, more intense flavors while retaining the brewer’s target ABV. Lactose also has less perceptible sweetness than sucrose, so it can do all that and help keep the final beer from being cloying.

The biggest issue surrounding lactose in beer of course comes from the fact that many people are lactose intolerant. Omnipollo’s Henok Fentie, who along with the folks at Tired Hands can be credited with/blamed for the Milkshake IPA (depending on your point of view), is lactose intolerant himself but claims he can have a couple without incident.

But his experience isn’t everyone’s, which is why clear labelling is becoming more important to more consumers.

Stillwater is good at putting lactose use front and center on its labels; Commonwealth Brewing is generally reliable on this too, though I recently discovered its Villuminati Gose, a favorite of mine, has lactose through the brewery’s website and marketing info, not its label.

Every Perennial Brewing Stout is a Milk Stout, which I didn’t learn until I was doing research this week and came across this website that offers shopping advice for vegans. Sure enough, “Contains Lactose” is on every bottle/can, but I didn’t notice until I knew to look for it.

That Kolsch Jace tapped in D.C.? Singlecut’s Hop Sounds, which mentions nothing about lactose on the brewery’s site even though its Strictly Hand-Held Honey Kolsch notes a lactose addition.

So, who labels their lactose use clearly, who doesn’t and why/why not? With luck, I’ll be able to answer that… next time.

Upcoming Arrowine Beer Tastings:

Friday, June 21, 5 7 p.m. — Abita Brewing Co. with Clayton Daniels
Saturday, June 29, 1-4 p.m. — Port City Brewing Company with Will Bruder (Helles Release Event)
Friday, July 19, 5-7 p.m. — Sean Michaels from The Bruery
Saturday, July 20, 1-4 p.m. — Three Notch’d with Dave Keuhner
Friday, August 30, 5-7 p.m. — Stephanie Boles with Old Ox Brewing

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for Nick’s email newsletter and also receive exclusive discounts and offers.

“So, what’s your favorite?”

It’s early in the week and I’m not expecting the question. My mind is pre-occupied forming orders, placing orders, writing Newsletters in my head or on my laptop, and trying to write the column in my head all at once. The customer sees she’s caught me off-guard, apologizing, relating it to being asked if she had a single favorite wine.

But that’s not where I get tripped up. I have favorite beers for sure, but I realize I really tend to have favorite breweries.

My type, if I in fact have one, are breweries that offer high quality, consistency and a sense of balance in their beers, regardless of what their lineup looks like. Over the years, breweries like Maine Beer Company, Allagash, Bell’s, Port City, Schlafly, Brooklyn and more have won me over this way, becoming one of my “go-to” breweries.

I tell you that story to tell you this story, I’ve got a new go-to.

Reason Beer opened in 2017 to no small amount of buzz, founded by friends of over 20 years and Charlottesville locals J. Patrick Adair, Jeff Raileanu and Mark Fulton. Fulton’s involvement generated much of the interest.

Prior to opening Reason, he was the second full-time employee of Maine Beer Company, working as Brewhouse Manager, running its pilot beer program, and finishing up his four-year stint as Director of Brewery Operations, overseeing all brewing and packaging at one of the country’s most highly-regarded small breweries. So, kind of a big deal.

Of course, an impressive resume alone doesn’t make impressive beer. What Fulton has done at Reason is to take the aspects of Maine Beer that made it stand out — the consistently high quality; the elegance and balance found in even its boldest recipes — and apply them to an entirely new paradigm within Reason’s lineup.

The principles are simple — mostly, though not always, skewing lower in ABV. Recipes that have been refined to the point where you just know the homework has been done. Beers that are approachable, regardless of style, simultaneously showing off the best of each of their ingredients.

The Reason beer that won me over initially was Pattern Recognition, a 6% ABV IPA that features the smartest selection and application of hops I’ve seen in a long time, is crystal clear, and comes as close to translating the experience of opening a bag of hop pellets into a final aroma/flavor as anything I’ve had.

These days, I’m rotating their core six-packs: the pinpoint, easy but complex Hoppy Blonde (4% ABV), the Belgian-style Grisette labelled as Saison (4.5% ABV) and the outstanding, Session IPA-killing Pale Ale (5% ABV). Needless to say, they’re recommended.

Don’t just take my word for it though — Reason Beer representative Devon Callan will be at Arrowine this Saturday, June 8 from 1-4 p.m. sampling their outstanding brews. Swing by and check them out!

Upcoming Arrowine Events:

Friday, June 21, 5-7 p.m.: Tasting with Abita Beer

Saturday, June 29, 1-4 p.m.: Port City Brewing Company Tasting — Helles Lager release

Friday, July 19, 5-7 p.m.: Tasting with The Bruery

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway). Sign up for Nick’s email newsletter and also receive exclusive discounts and offers.

Before we get into it: yes, the Dogfish Head/Boston Beer Company deal is, well, a big deal. I don’t really have anything of substance to add so I’ve just been recommending Bryan Roth’s great piece for Good Beer Hunting.

So, Memorial Day. Unofficial kickoff of summer. Three-day weekend for all you non-retail-working types. What should you have to drink if you’re spending time by the pool, or the grill, or just enjoying the outdoors over this long weekend? Well, you can go Big Beer — and nothing wrong with that, I probably will at some point too. But if you’re looking for alternatives, I’ve got some suggestions:

German. Pilsener. Cans.

I don’t know what’s gotten into Deutschland, but we’ve been seeing some wonderful canned Pilseners coming over this year, and at wonderful prices to boot. Veltins Pilsener has already become a go-to for me, and this week we’ll see the arrival of Wolters Pilsener in the same half-liter, 4-pack can format. Super-clean and crisp, these beers are hard to beat for a refreshment on a hot day, and when you see the pricing on the Wolters especially, you’ll flip — I did.

Session IPA Ales of all types.

Charlottesville’s Reason Beer alone could get an entire column devoted to its core lineup of 6-pack cans: the Hoppy Blonde (4% ABV), Saison (4.5% ABV), and Pale Ale (5% ABV) are all stunners that you can enjoy more than a couple of without too much worry.

Even the recently released Collaboration 29 IPA clocks in at only 5.5% ABV. I’m also personally a fan of The Trooper and Trooper Light Brigade, made by Cheshire, England’s Robinsons Brewery with the crew from Iron Maiden. At 4.7% and 4.1% respectively, I can get my all-purpose UK fix on easily.

Shameless plug but also a really good option: Three Notch’d Firefly Nights

Charlottesville gets more run in this week’s column. The “Summertime Ale” from Three Notch’d is a lighter-bodied 5.2% Ale with honeysuckle. Good for warm summer evenings; great for Mid-Atlantic nostalgia, and a lovely option for those who want something “different” but not too far outside of the box. Also, Arrowine will be hosting the Firefly Nights Release Event this Friday (hey, that’s today!) from 4:00-7:00pm. Gotta get the most for that Sponsord Content dollar, people.

There Gose the weekend.

There’s a Gose for every Sour Ale fan these days, which would’ve been crazy to imagine ten years ago. Union Old Pro is a favorite, and relatively easy to find. Commonwealth Brewing has a plethora of Goses in the market right now, inspired by everything from sangria to mezcal margaritas to limoncello. Modern Times Fruitlands being available in the area now is awesome.

If you’re looking more local-ish, Vasen Guava Otter Gose is newly available in cans and very tasty.

No matter what you decide to knock back, I hope everyone has a fun, safe Memorial Day. I’ll see you back here in a couple of weeks.

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

There are any number of issues that keep breweries from turning out their best beer.

Sometimes (read: often) there are equipment malfunctions; sometimes ingredient supply chains are interrupted, or a hop producer has an off-season; sometimes the demands of expansion cause a brewery’s consistency to suffer. What’s happening in Belgium to one of the world’s best-known breweries, however, may be a harbinger of an issue we’ll see more often in the near future.

The Guardian reported recently about the brewery of the Trappist order of monks at the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Saint-Rémy of Rochefort, Belgium — better known to us simply as Rochefort — and its efforts to keep a local lime quarry from drilling into the area’s aquifers, lowering the overall groundwater level.

Popular Mechanics (yes, they’re writing about beer now, too) notes that the quarry wishes to drill some 60 meters deeper than the current level in order to extend the quarry’s lifespan from 2022 to 2045.

The fight has been ongoing since the quarry, owned by the Lhoist-Berghmans, one of Belgiums wealthiest families, first revealed its plans for drilling deeper into Rochefort’s groundwater about a decade ago. A December ruling by a regional administrator to allow the quarry to test the effects of drilling on the local water supply has taken the dispute to a more urgent level.

The Rochefort monks have accused the administrator who approved the testing of bias (once again, the quarry is owned by one of Belgium’s richest families) and are passionately fighting even the testing of deeper aquifers. Rochefort believes the drilling will not simply affect their beer. Luc Perez, a representative for the monks, was quoted saying that “The water that Lhoist will pump up is not drinkable.”

Issues surrounding the quality and availability of freshwater are rising and will continue to rise due to the effect of climate change. While worldwide freshwater supplies are currently arguably good in terms of being able to sustain society and industry, they are unevenly distributed. Belgium specifically is in relatively decent shape, but there is still reason for concern.

European groundwater overall tends to run cleaner than its lakes and rivers, the issues that are found are usually due to “nitrates from agricultural run-off, salt intrusion and hazardous chemical pollution from industrial sites, mining areas or waste storage. Mercury was one of the most common pollutants, with common sources including mining, coal combustion and other industrial activities.” (European Scientist, 5.7.18.)

Still, Lhoist’s testing is slated to begin mid-month. It may turn out to have no effect at all; it may irrevocably alter one of my personal favorite beers ever — the sublime Rochefort 10. Even if the monks manage to fight the quarry off, they won’t be the last to be put in this position.

As demands on freshwater supplies increase, there will be some cases where industry flexes its muscles, and others where the greater societal need will outweigh the concerns of a mere brewery. Something worth keeping an eye on.

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

A Twitter thread caught my attention recently from Raven Book Store, an independent retailer in Kansas.

The story is familiar to anyone in retail, especially in the age of Amazon and other online outlets. Beer and wine haven’t really had to deal with e-commerce as a threat to smaller brick-and-mortar shops — not yet, anyway. The conversation has centered on “big boxes vs. little guys” instead. Now, though, it appears that big-time online beer and wine retail is just over the horizon.

Washington Business Journal reported earlier this month that Amazon is looking to hire a Manager of Public Policy focusing on alcohol, fueling speculation it’s looking to take another run at becoming as potent a force in the booze business as it has been everywhere else.

Amazon isn’t the only giant sniffing around online retail: ZX Ventures, the growth/investment wing of AB InBev (Budweiser) is already working with larger retailers like Walmart and Kroeger, along with delivery services like Drizly. Bryan Roth offers a good, comprehensive deep-dive here.

Giant corporations see something they want, and they usually get their way. So what does this mean for independents? For the foreseeable future, I wouldn’t expect the price difference to be as dramatic as in books or other items: with sales taxes and delivery fees, online retail prices will hang near an independents’ for now.

Imagine, though, if one of these services really takes off — say, after regulations are rewritten or struck altogether. Amazon might start moving enough of a local favorite at $11, versus $11.99 at an independent, that the distributor gives them a discount to buy per pallet, knocking off $3-4 per case. Then you’re looking at $8.99 online versus $11.99 at an independent that can’t buy by the pallet and can’t match that price.

That’s the realities of the market, you say, and you’d be right. This is the reality we’ve lived with, as big chains and boxes build an interest in “craft” beer. What I keep circling around is an Amazon-type taking it one step further: working with breweries directly.

Ever see your favorite go-to beer pop up at Costco at a price that shocked you? Just wait: if the big guys get their way, this is the game-changer. This is the move that drops the big guys’ cost dramatically enough to see book-like price discrepancies.

Back to books, actually: I support local bookstores as much as I can. I secretly harbor a daydream of opening one, if I’m honest. But if you’ve given me an Amazon gift card over the past few years, I’ve used it to find books on my wish list, used, as cheaply as possible. I do this because it’s fun, it’s convenient, and because I’m a massive hypocrite.

While those purchases usually end up being made through indie bookstores, after Amazon takes its cut who knows how much I’m actually supporting them? Still I do it: pictured are just some of the books I’ve picked up via this method over the past year.

What do my shelves look like when all of our favorites start popping up online for less than I pay wholesale? What will make sense for me to carry? As our success leans more heavily on the experience, and the service we offer, which breweries will rise to occasion to support small retailers?

Will beer go the way of books, shoes, and widgets of all types? If you’re in the business and not thinking about this stuff now, you need to start. Bezos is coming.

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

Expounding a bit on the last column’s theme of anger in craft beer, this time within the industry itself.

This is the true story of 7,500 breweries, competing in the same marketplace, with the number of outlets having not increased at the same exponential rate, as we find out what happens when “craft beer” stops being polite, and starts getting real.

This is the American craft beer industry, 2019: Anger over breweries closing; breweries opening; breweries “selling out”; kids in taprooms; taprooms versus bars; whether new styles are actually styles, or if they’re actually beer; if traditionally-minded beers are traditional enough and who gets to decide; what’s local and what’s “local”; what’s “craft” and what isn’t.

I reached out to people in the industry both personally and on social media to ask why craft beer seems so much angrier than it did a couple years ago. A major theme emerged — saturation (emphasis mine in italics).

“Personally, I think it stems from the saturation of the market.”

“…distribution is basically flat with tons of breweries opening up or in planning… the competitive aspect of the business is getting more intense… supplier reps getting shadier and shadier as shelf space gets tighter…”

“10 years ago, when there were only 2,000 craft breweries out there to choose from, there was enough elbow room. Now with 7,000+, not so much… We may be near the saturation point… It’s no longer a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ situation…”

Some respondents found blame with brewery reps, with one buyer noting how they’re “getting a lot more pushy,” and an industry veteran referring to the “new breed” of reps from breweries acquired by larger interests as “widget salespeople… more concerned with their numbers” than the culture and history of beer.

Newer breweries caught their share of shade. One brewer told me “a lot of them are horrible,” chiding owners “who think they know more” than their often more experienced brewers. A former brewery sales rep lamented these new breweries “bending over backwards” to get draft lines, often skirting if not outright ignoring laws in the process.

That former sales rep hit on another common theme — “getting much more attitude from buyers and consumers about what I wasn’t doing for them.” Entitlement came up more than once, with one distributor sales manager slagging those they see “trashing a beer or brewer or brewery because he’s an ‘expert’ because he has 800 check-ins on untapped.”

I still felt like there was something more behind it all, and then I heard from a bar/restaurant buyer, “Economic (i)nsecurity causes fear and anger is a fight or flight response to fear. It’s fear displaying as anger” from a segment of the industry that “(s)pent so long with double digit growth and prosperity that everyone forgot it is a business.”

And there it was. Craft beer is afraid.

Now, dismissing bubble speculation is craft beer’s unofficial pastime — hell, I even wrote a column about it my first time here. What has my attention now is that the call is coming from inside the house. That bar/restaurant buyer ended our conversation linking to this tweet, putting a fine point to it; as one current brewery rep put it: “It’s getting real out here.”

Until next time.

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

We need to talk about “gimmicky” beers. You know, the ones with cookies, cereal and the like thrown in.

I see and hear a lot of disproportionate anger about them; especially of course, on social media, which seemingly explodes daily over some new somebeer-or-other. Even I found my hackles momentarily raised last week, with the arrival of Captain Lawrence’s Cookie O’Puss.

If you don’t know — and if you don’t, take a moment and appreciate the life choices that brought you to a place where you don’t have to know — this is a “Pastry Stout” made with the ice cream, fudge and “chocolate crunchies from the famous (infamous?) ice cream cake, released to celebrate Carvel’s 85th Anniversary.

I don’t know why this one got to me: If you’ve shopped at Arrowine, you know I try to balance carrying what I like and find interesting with the trendy beer releases customers are looking for. Also, I’m a comic book reader and a wrestling fan — I can’t put on airs like I don’t appreciate a good gimmick.

Truth be told, I usually find my way into enjoying them, especially the Stouts. But here I was, drafting last week’s Newsletter, ranting about shameless cross-promotion and “synergy.” Getting mad is easy; staying mad takes work.

So I took a breath, and as I did some thoughts came to mind, coalescing into something that goes like this: Every beer style alive today has survived, thrived even, because of marketing.

Discovering that the origin story of IPA we all are told is a myth is a rite of passage for beer geeks, but it resurrected a style that continues to carry the segment. Porter was named for the working class drinkers partial to it in the 17th and 18th centuries; the coding of that name, the imagery it evokes, allowed Porter (and it’s offshoot, Stout) to be marketed to all classes over the past century, as it is today.

The paler, lighter Festbier had largely supplanted Märzen as the Oktoberfest beer of choice in Munich by the 70s. American breweries used the name to market a more exaggerated approximation of the “original” style — essentially what would otherwise be called Amber Lager — which came to be known as “Oktoberfest” here in the States.

More honest efforts to explore and recreate accurate Märzen Lager recipes as Oktoberfest releases are a relatively recent phenomenon.

TL;DR everything is copy. Or, to paraphrase Alan Moore with my greatest apologies: Milkshake IPAs and Pastry Stouts are imaginary styles. Aren’t they all?

I deleted my rant, made a dumb meme and moved on. Nothing to get mad about.

Until next time.

Photo via Captain Lawrence Brewing Company

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

It’s that magical time of year, where flashes of not-miserably-cold weather fool a percentage of us in the area into thinking spring is here, and that we won’t get tagged by one more winter outburst.

As we dare to venture from our hovels and spend time with — hold on, what was that word? Ah, yes — “people” again, the occasion might call for something not quite packed to the gills with hop material.

With that in mind, here are some recent arrivals I’ve been recommending for those looking for tasty, non-IPA/hop-driven options — with one partial exception (you’ll see).

Rocket Frog Wallops Island (5.3% ABV)

Wallops Island, from Sterling’s Rocket Frog Brewing, checks a few boxes for me. It fills a need I’ve had here at Arrowine for a classic American Brown Ale, for one. It’s also is a great example of the style, with loads of caramel, chocolate and coffee malt flavors but dry, as it should be.

It picked up a Bronze medal at last year’s Great American Beer Festival, to boot. Not bad for a beer from a brewery in its first months of operation.

Von Trapp Helles (4.9% ABV); Pilsner (5.4% ABV)

Vermont’s Von Trapp Brewing (yes, those Von Trapps) has been available in Virginia for a little while now, specializing in Lagers that are both well priced and readily available. The Bohemian-style Pilsner and German-style Helles are both done in the classic style: the Pils has a crisp feel with pleasing floral/peppery aromas from its hops — but not IPA-level hoppy by any means.

The Helles adds light, bready malt notes to grassy, clean Noble hop flavors. Bonus: both are now available in cans!


Photo via Von Trapp Brewing Company

Väsen Savvon (9.2% ABV)

So this’ll be the outlier on the list; nearly twice as strong as the rest and with a notable dry-hop addition, but too cool not to mention. Richmond’s Väsen Brewing Company combines a number of influences, from Belgian Farmhouse beers to American IPAs, with ingredients mixing and matching as much as styles.

Savvon, the first beer of theirs to hit Northern Virginia in package, is a great example: a Brettanomyces-fermented, bottle conditioned Farmhouse Ale dry-hopped with a pair of Southern Hemisphere hops — Galaxy and Enigma — typically found in Hazy IPAs. Tropical hop flavors and aromas play well with the funky, fruity Brett character.

Green Man ESB (5.5% ABV)

An easy way to win my heart, as a brewery, is to produce a solid version of just about any British beer style. Asheville’s Green Man Brewing does just that with their ESB, with it’s crackery/bready/fruity malt character and traditional level of hoppiness.

Since I first got to try this about 8-9 years ago, I’ve wanted this beer in Virginia. Finally, it’s here and it’s not leaving Arrowine’s stock if I can help it.

Let me know in the comments if you’re looking for something new and I’ll try my best to make a suggestion that works.

Until next time.

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

Last time, we looked at Hazy or New England-style IPAs, and how they’re attracting new drinkers, and why that might be the case.

This week, I wanted to drill down on one of the most important techniques used in making those beers: dry hopping. The science of brewing is starting to catch up with the effects techniques like dry hopping can have — some of which run counter to everything we thought we knew about how hops worked.

First, let’s knock out some basics. Like, really basic — I’m not a scientist. Not officially, anyway. Hops impart different characteristics in a beer depending on when they’re added and how much are added.

Hops are usually added to the wort — the sugary liquid made when you soak your grains in hot water — while boiling it. Hops added earlier contribute bitterness, as their alpha acids stay at temperature long enough to isomerize. The later in the boil hops are added the less bitterness they impart, and the more their unique flavor/aromatic qualities emerge.

Dry hopping is used colloquially to refer hops added once the wort is cooled, whether during primary, secondary or post fermentation (prior to packaging or in keg). The idea is to punch up the hop aroma and flavor notes, and because they aren’t boiling, you get all that flavor and aroma without making the beer more bitter.

Dry hopping has been used in big IPAs to offset increasingly intense bittering additions, and as tastes changed, became the dominant — in some cases only — method by which hops were added, in the grand American tradition of “some is good; therefore, more is better.”

Scientific advancements over the past couple of years are refining our knowledge of dry hopping’s effects. A 2016 study found that dry hopping can, in fact, contribute bitterness to beer: Sapwood Cellars co-founder Scott Janish breaks down the study well on his blog, but the TL;DR version is that there are specific oxidized alpha acids in hops called humulinones.

These humulinones are much more soluble in beer than the major alpha acids, but, being about 66% as bitter, can contribute a “smoother” bitterness than that of isomerized alpha acids.

In a later post, Janish digs into findings that reveal how beers rated under 20 IBU (International Bittering Units) can become more bitter through dry hopping, while those over 30 IBU can become less bitter. The wildest finding to me is that because dry hopping increases a beer’s pH, it can boost the perceived bitterness of the beer even if it doesn’t increase its IBU.

That brings me to a piece I read over the weekend recounting the keynote address from the recent Ohio Craft Brewer’s conference by Tom Shellhammer, Norwester Professor of Fermentation Science at Oregon State University. Shellhammer reiterated findings of those earlier studies, but added analysis of a phenomenon known as “hop creep.”

Hop creep is when dry hopping triggers additional fermentation in a beer. That can happen because enzymes in the hops “can break down the unfermentable long-chain sugars to simple sugars”, which can trigger fermentation if any yeasts remain present and active in the beer.

So, wondering how a “zero IBU” NEIPA still has some bitterness to it? Wondering why that Hazy IPA you like can be inconsistent, a little stronger some times than others? Look to the science, friends. We still have much to learn.

Until next time.

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

The rise of Hazy/Juicy/New England-style IPAs was probably my first “old man yells at cloud” moment as a beer “professional”, or whatever it is I am.

They weren’t bitter, and the “haze for haze’s sake” thing was almost immediately obnoxious to me. It felt like style was trumping substance, not to mention the difficulty in keeping up with the tide of frequent new releases.

The thing that might’ve irked me the most was that I really liked a lot of the beers that kicked off the movement, and have enjoyed many that followed. To name only a few: The Alchemist’s Heady Topper is great, and if anything I enjoy Focal Banger even more.

The Lawson’s Finest Liquids beers I’ve tried have been excellent. I adore Two Roads’ Two Juicy, Solace’s Partly Cloudy and mostly anything Commonwealth Brewing Company puts out, and have been on a recent kick with Fat Orange Cat’s Write Drunk Edit Sober (pictured — how did they know?).

So, as usually happens once I get over myself, I found myself far more open to new takes on the style, and more easily able to discern what I liked/disliked in a Hazy IPA, and whose versions I tended to prefer. Not much of a surprise there.

What did surprise me was something I started noticing before, but especially after I rejoined the staff here at Arrowine: how many wine drinkers were getting into Hazy IPAs.

Actually, the idea coalesced observing our own fearless leader himself, Doug Rosen. Where just a few years ago, you couldn’t pay him to drink the average IPA, now he’d try new Hazy IPA arrivals and note their flavors, and balance. This threw me for a loop. What balance? I would think. There’s little or no bittering hop here; little in the way of malt character — where’s the balance in that? 

But it wasn’t just Doug saying things like this; a number of our customers, especially our more wine-centric ones, were finding themselves enjoying IPAs, many for the first time.

I realize now that I was thinking of “balanced” IPA in terms of what it used to be — which I still love, mind you — back in the days of the IBU wars, when the more aggressively bitter your IPA was the more sought after it became.

With an emphasis on low bitterness, fruity aromas/flavors and specific varietal characteristics (from hops rather than grapes), Hazy IPAs are a great gateway beer for wine fans, many of whom are discovering that they didn’t dislike “hoppy” beer so much as overly “bitter” hoppy beer.

So, scoff at that orange juice-looking beer on Instagram (like I still do at more egregious examples), but bear in mind that it and others like it are expanding beer’s audience and consumer base at a time when between an explosion of new breweries, continued growth in hard liquor/cocktails and the looming competition of legalized marijuana (more on that at some point), new consumers are more important and more difficult to draw in than ever.

Until next time.

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This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).

Huh. This is kinda wild, no?

Hello there, denizens of ARLnow.com. It’s been a while. For those of you who weren’t here the first time around, my name is Nick and I used to write a column here back when I was the beer buyer at Arrowine.

Now that I’m back at Arrowine — which I didn’t expect to happen but has been great so far — I’ve been asked to jump back in the pool here, which I really didn’t expect.

So it’s been what, almost four years? How are you all? What’s new? I’m back at my old job but my life couldn’t be more different: I’m a dad now, for one thing, which is awesome.

There are a whole lot of restaurants in Arlington that used to be other restaurants. It’s been nearly whiplash inducing trying to keep up with who has been opening and closing over the last couple years.

The beer scene in our area is a lot different now, too. So. Many. New. Breweries. That’s the story: new breweries popping up in every corner of the area. With new breweries and new releases coming out week after week, it can be a little overwhelming to try to follow along in the era of FOMO.

What hasn’t changed is the continuing hunt for the latest and greatest, the rarities and nerdbait from all over the country — nay, the world. But while it seems these days you can pick up a dozen new IPAs during any given week if you like — and don’t get me wrong, I will not discourage you from doing so — there’s a lot more happening than just Haze.

We’re also seeing a revival of Lager; European brewers finding new/renewed relevance thanks to new means of packaging bringing them to the U.S. in better condition than ever; the rise of the trend-chasing “things that taste like other things” approach in the beer world, some of which are great while others are… less great. (Note: we’re totally getting into Hazy IPAs first, though)

I don’t really know yet where the column is going this time around, which I guess means that hasn’t changed from before either (lolz). I’d like to profile these new local breweries, so you might get to know them better.

I might occasionally “think out loud” about some of the trends we’re seeing in beer, why they might be happening and where they might be going. And, of course, I’ll be profiling beers that I come across as they arrive here at Arrowine, or in my travels, which are notably fewer and further between these days — again, I’m a dad now.

Also, when available, I’ll be jumping back into the comments with you all. Feel free to ask non-cheese-cutting-related questions and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Let’s have some fun, and I’ll see you next time!

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