Let me start off by saying that November was far and away the most successful month to date on this site. I thank you, my readers, for following my travels and travails and for being part of such a fascinating voyage of discovery. I started this project back in March to document my growing interest in and involvement with New York's craft beer movement. Back then, I was a simple spectator, surveying the vast cultural change taking place all around me. Maybe my role is a little different now. Maybe I'm even further away from an understanding of the importance of the revolution now than I was at the start. Either way, I'm committed. Those changes continue to gain momentum, though: progress continues to be made. The landscape over the past ten months that I have been engaged has morphed, and I with it. That mission has changed over time. It has taken on increased importance, and it has become closer to my heart, in more ways than one.Read More
Thanksgiving, over the course of the last three years, has become my holiday to shine.
I'm going to come out and say it early. The craft beer movement and the foodie movement are linked at the genetic level. They naturally come together and accentuate each other. The Thanksgiving holiday is the one that, above all others, emphasizes the meal as the sacred rite. There's a place at the table for beer, too, of course, and craft beer only recently usurped wine in the Back household. The introduction of local produce on the average family's table has become standard practice, and, in recent years, more and more families are opting for a locally-sourced bird, as well. Last year was the first I was able to convince my family to choose a so-called "Heritage" breed -- the darn things can trace their lineage back before farm-raised turkeys that proliferate the market today -- and there is no doubt that it was the best Thanksgiving turkey we ever ate. Consciousness toward what we consume has led to advancements on the farm-to-table front, and I am far from the only one hailing the rise of this mentality in beer. Thanksgiving, then, is a great time to bring everything together.
There's a lot of chatter right now about what beers to pair with Thanksgiving dinner and how to best work beer into recipes, among other typical holiday banter. Being an aspiring Cicerone, I understand the gravitational pull this notion has, especially given my previous assertion that foodies and beer geeks are inextricably linked. I'm going to offer some unconventional wisdom, though: enjoy the time with your family. Enjoy the chance to cook up something together, to share reminisces about the year gone by. Maybe this year will be about more than a backlash against chain stores from opening on Thanksgiving day. Maybe it will be about remembering the holiday for what it is: a celebration of the bounty of the Earth. This takes on many forms, but it is universal in its meaning. Feel a connection your food. Feel a connection, also, to your beer.
If you're stopping by the bottle shop, grab something interesting. Myself, I'm following the lead of those who organized the first Thanksgiving and partaking from the landscape immediately surrounding Albany. The turkey and the produce are all New York State grown. I'm providing my guests with beer brewed in New York, as well, some even made with local hops and barley. This is my mark, my way of commemorating the unique nature of the day. My parents, who are in from Chicago, carted in some exquisite beers from their region and other beers that I simply can't buy in New York. You may think this jives with the thesis of the meal I'm organizing. It doesn't. Thanksgiving is about paying tribute not only to our families, but to the many places we call home. Some families stick close together, and can call on each other at a moment's notice. Some families spread themselves across the map. We retain a core sense of what family means, though, whatever the distance. We understand each other best, though, when we are with each other. Such values are relative. The same applies for food and beer. We give meaning to these objects of ritual, and not the other way around. Remember that, no matter what you choose to eat or drink.
I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.
At the Carey Institute, a conference, research, and advocacy center located in rural Rensselaerville in the hills of southern Albany County, a wondrous scene recently unfolded. More than one hundred folks raises their glasses high and toasted the farm brewery revolution happening across New York, showing their support for a novel undertaking by both the state government and by local entrepreneurs. To further this movement, the Institute is constructing a Dutch Barn Model Farm Brewery on their grounds, which they envision as a resource center, gathering site, and impetus for further development both of local farming culture and small breweries. The Institute foresees these breweries as a new breath of life for the hilltowns surrounding their beautiful campus, as well as all struggling economies within the state, and is dedicated to helping spur the movement forward. Politicians and craft beer luminaries, as well as local farmers and the Institute's dedicated staff were all on hand to usher in the new era of close association between those who grow the ingredients in beer and those who brew it.Read More
All too often, as beer lovers, we focus solely on the finished product. We only pay attention to the beer in its proper glass, an experience of taste alone. There is a myriad of creative forces at work, though, bringing the beer into creation. The process is, essentially, alchemical: beer is much greater than the sum of its parts, and the brewery is, quite literally, where the closest thing to magic found in nature occurs. Don't forget that brewing is essentially a religious rite in some cultures. Even in the United States, the brewer himself (or herself) is becoming more and more of a revered figure, a high priest of the craft beer movement. We can't forget the brewery, though, or the brew system, which has evolved into something sleek and stylish. It's important. Therefore, when a group of strangers got together in a fire-warmed garage recently, worshiping at the altar of the brewery itself, and the processes that unfold within it, that feeling was wordlessly understood.Read More
A cold afternoon is as good a time as any to escape into the woods. My latest foray didn't bring me north, however: I was headed to a little town I had not heard of previously, tucked in the wilds of Greene County. Earlton. Earlier in the year, when the dust was settling from the farm brewing legislation and the first licenses were being issued, I had received word that Matty Taormina was establishing the Honey Hollow Brewing Company. After some setbacks, the brewery was ready to begin selling their beers. It was on this blustery afternoon that Matty was opening shop for the first time for folks to come on in and taste what he'd been brewing. After a drive through the hills, I stumbled upon the driveway.Read More