As an importer, Shelton Brothers is responsible for hand-selecting the best beers from around the world and bringing them back here. We're homebrewers, but our company doesn't make beer -- just hunts down the best examples and brings them to you.
The best beers are brewed with a sense of place, a distinctive house character, and an appreciation for tradition, value, and/or the natural art of beer-making. Most often, this is expressed in breweries producing unfiltered, unsweetened, unpasteurized beers in quantities less than 5,000hl per year, though some brilliant exceptions exist, especially in Germany.
Every brewery whose beers we import to the US has a unique story all its own. Read about each of them below.
The Saint Benedictus Abbey of Achel is the first monastery to take up brewing in Belgium since 1931, and is one of only six Trappist breweries now operating there. In fact, the Abbey is located partly in Holland and partly in Belgium, but the brewery is in Belgium. Since 1999, Achel has offered two splendid draught beers – Achel 5° and Achel 6° – which are available only at the pub on the grounds of the Abbey. Bottled beers from Achel, including the newer Achel Blonde and Bruin, and the huge Achel Trappist Extra, which are all hard to find even in Belgium, are now available here in the USA.
Brouwerij Achilles, one of the tiny home breweries for which Belgium is rightly famous, is wedged into a crowded garage on quiet street in a small Flemish town, Itegem. It's hard enough finding the town on the map -- there are so many places ending in 'gem' in Flanders, anyway -- but you will have a near impossible time finding the brewery without GPS. There are no signs until you're actually there, and even then you can be forgiven for wondering if this is really a brewery. Cast aside your doubts, however, and step inside. The proof is all there: mash tuns, brew kettles, fermentation tanks, and even a tiny bottling line ready to roll. If you're over six feet tall, be prepared to duck as you come in. Right behind, in what used to be a family living room, is a very tasteful, simple, and quiet café, where local folk come to share beer and conversation, and support the local boy ...
The local boy, Achilles Va de Moer, is a gentle, unassuming home-brewer who has all but left his job as a music teacher to realize his dream of a self-sustaining commercial brewery. Achilles (sometimes spelled Achiel, and pronounced Ah-sheel in Flemish or French) makes simple, honest beers. All of the beers are unfiltered and unpasteurized, and will re-ferment a bit in the bottle, which of course means much more flavor, and a longer shelf-life. As with any tiny craft brewery -- and this one right now makes the equivalent of only about three truck-loads of beer every year -- there can be variation from batch to batch, and thank goodness for that! Though they vary some, they're always good.
The first batch of Serafijn beer -- the Donker, the Celtic Angel, the Tripel, and the Grand Cru -- arrives this August, 2007, exactly eight years after the brewery opened in 1999. Achilles took as his symbol the Seraph, a six-winged high angel of Heaven. Seraphim are noted for their delicate celestial song, and Achilles, the musician and music teacher, hears their sweet, soothing notes as he brews the beers he named for them. Music and song are a joy and a centering point for Achilles, and the brewery. We haven't heard for ourselves, but it is reported to us that Achilles and his musical wife Jo deliver a startlingly beautiful duet on occasion. Perhaps we'll have more to say about that around Christmastime, when Achille's Christmas Angel hits the docks in beautiful, musical New Jersey.
After a long absence, we are proud to welcome Adnams back to the US! We're shipping out fresh cases as we speak.
Adnams is one of England’s oldest and most respected breweries, but despite its rich heritage and enduring fame, Adnams is not a company willing to rest on its laurels. Its continued commitment to quality and innovative packaging designs has made it Britain’s fastest growing brewery over the last two years. To top it off, Adnams’ head brewer was recently chosen as Britain’s Brewer of the Year by a panel of his peers. The aggressive team at Adnams is raring to go and keen to make a mark in the U.S.
"I have known, drunk, and loved Adnams’ ales for more than 25 years, and the only change during that time is that they have got better. " -- Famed beer writer Roger Protz.
ÆppelTreow Winery was conceived in 2001 with the goal of producing unique beverages from exceptional apples.
Charles and Milissa McGonegal partnered with Brightonwoods Orchard, grower of uncommon heirloom apples, to build Wisconsin’s premier artisan cidery. The business is run as a truly family operation, with three generations on hand for tasks from tours to bottling.
The inspiration at ÆppelTreow Winery comes from America’s forgotten cider heritage and the farmstead ciders of rural England and France. They add their own creative touch to take cider from its barrel and mug origins to champagnes, draft style, still table wines and after-dinner aperitifs.
Brightonwoods Orchard has been perched on its southeast Wisconsin glacial hillside for over 50 years. The orchard celebrates the pastoral life and preserves nearly 200 cultivars of heirloom apples and pears. An Integrated Pest Management system reduces the chemical burden on the land. Both Orchard and Winery are active participants in farmland conservation, sustainable agriculture, local and Slow Food initiatives.
Amager Bryghus is the only brewery on the small island of Amager. Only a few miles from Copenhagen, Denmark, near the Taarnby airport, the brewery sits in a small industrial neighbourhood on this patriotic island. They have proudly named their year-round series of beers after cities on Amager.
From their website:
“There is absolute no doubt that we run the safest brewing enterprise in the country as our premises used to be an air-raid shelter. Our premises have also been used for storing bibles, hence reigns an atmosphere of divine tranquility only otherwise found in Belgian monasteries. Well...
Founders of the brewery are the two friends and dedicated home brewers Mr. Morten Valentin Lundsbak and Mr. Jacob Storm, who since the opening of the brewery have achieved diplomas of their skills as they have become Diploma Brewers at the Scandinavian School of Brewing.
It is our ambition to cater to all beer lovers - every time, which is why we only use pure ingredients during the brewing process. We make no shortcuts by using artificial additives to speed or help the processes. Furthermore, we have deliberately chosen neither to pasteurize nor filter our beer as we would like to preserve the best possible flavours and aromas."
We at Shelton Brothers are thrilled to be the U.S. importer for this fabulous little brewery, and encourage you to visit the picturesque Isle of Arran, which is a short drive and ferry ride from Glasgow. Arran is a hiker and biker's paradise, and thanks to its location on the Gulf Stream, almost has the feel of a tropical rain forest. You'll even find palm trees dotted about the shoreline! Best of all, you'll find Arran beers at virtually every pub and shop.
From the brewery's web site:
"Set in the shadow of Arran's imposing Brodick Castle, with panoramic views of Brodick Bay and Goatfell Mountain, our high-tech micro brewery blends naturally with its stunning surroundings. Built to the highest standards to ensure that quality and consistency are maintained, our new brewery combines the art of traditional brewing with a natural blend of the island's unique water and the finest ingredients. The result is a range of ales which, like Arran itself, offers something very special.
Our beers are natural, reflecting the unique ambience of the island itself... a haven where nature still holds sway, where traditional values are still nurtured."
The Bailleux family is Belgian, but they opened a charming restaurant called Au Baron along a little stream in farming country just over the border in France, and put a brewery in a cramped space near the kitchen. Currently, we import their Cuvée de Jonquilles. 'Jonquilles' are daffodils, which pop up all around the restaurant in the spring. The beer is perhaps the most complex of all the French beers, quite like a Belgian saison, reminiscent of the classic examples of that style from Brasserie Dupont and Brasserie de Blaugies. The Cuvée de Jonquilles is earthy, a little fruity, and richly rewarding, with a perfect balance of bready malt flavors and refreshing hop bitterness.
"Baird Brewing is a family company born of a deep passion for beer and a great reverence for brewing history, tradition and culture.
Our motto is Celebrating Beer. This, to us, means much more than simply producing, dispensing, and consuming beer of distinction, character and quality. To us, Celebrating Beer means enjoying beer in a way that enhances the overall experience of life. This is the central proposition to which our company is devoted.
The Baird Brewing Company is located in Numazu, Japan -- nestled on the coast of Suruga Bay at the foot of Mt. Fuji. Brewmaster, Bryan Baird, inaugurated the brewing of Baird Beer on a tiny, hand-configured 30-liter batch system. The basic formula for our entire lineup of hand-crafted Baird Beer is the same: Balance + Complexity = Character. We are dedicated to the crafting of beer that bursts with flavor and character. We will not brew vapid beer and we are not afraid of not appealing to everyone. We brew to our own exacting standards and it is our daily mission and struggle to never disappoint ourselves."
Danish brewing legend Christian Skovdal Andersen was the founder and artistic force behind Ølfabrikken, until the brewery fell on some hard times. That didn't stop Christian. After some saving and planning, he has now founded his own company, Beer Here, and the beer world is already talking about his new brews.
We are excited to introduce his Dark Hops and Mørke to the USA. Enjoy!
Greetings beer lovers in the United States! We are delighted to have our beer made available to you - all the way from New Zealand! - with the help of our friends at Shelton Brothers.
Ben Middlemiss Brewing is a very new and small family company. However, behind this young brand lies over four decades of brewing experience in the form of Ben Middlemiss himself. Ben is part of the fabric of micro-brewing in New Zealand and over the years he has received dozens of international beer awards, with three of his past beers - Benediction, Romanov, and Hodgson- even being featured in Michael Jackson’s Great Beer Guide. We can’t wait to bring more beers to the US to join our Belgian Abbey-Style Ale Nota Bene.
Ben Middlemiss Brewing is simply committed to producing the finest beer we can for you (and us) to enjoy and we sincerely hope you do! Cheers!
Bières23 is located in St. Etienne de Fursac, a small town that sits astride the river Gartempe, within an hour of the spectacular city of Limoges.
After many years of brewing award-winning beers in England, owners John and Sharon Davidson moved to La Creuse in the beautiful Limousin region of France and created Bières23. The brewery produces both English and French style beers by the high fermentation method, using only the finest natural ingredients: water, malt, hops and yeast. Their three vessel brewery was designed and built in Austria specifically for their unique brew house. All of their beers are fermented and matured in a turn-of-the-century granite cellar.
Marie-Noelle Pourtois and husband Pierre-Alex Carlier are schoolteachers living in Blaugies who together have come up with a formula for great traditional specialty beers. She does the brewing. Their hearty, flavorful, and sometimes exotic styles are all made in their tiny garage brewery. The brewery was first fired up in 1987.
The Brasserie de Blaugies uses yeast from Dupont, but its beers are generally a bit warmer and fruitier, and less hoppy and hard-edged than Dupont’s. The Darbyste and Saison d'Epeautre are quite dry. The Blaugies beers are discussed at some length in Jackson’s The Great Beers of Belgium, with photos of the brewers and the beers. The brewers, a husband and wife team, are very adventurous in re-creating traditional beer styles – and some of the nicest people you will ever meet. The beers are very highly regarded among connoisseurs in Belgium. The Moneuse Winter beer and Darbyste are especially highly rated in The Beers of Wallonia.
The brewery is very literally built into the garage of a comfortable farmhouse in tiny, agrarian Blaugies. When the mashing is finished, Marie-Noëlle backs the tractor up to the door and shovels the spent grain into the back. The grain goes right out to the livestock. The Carlier/Pourtois family enjoys good food and beer, and consumes a lot of its own product for cooking and drinking. We like the rougher, grainier malt texture of all of these beers. They give you the feeling that the brewer put this beer in the bottle just a few days ago, especially for you. Like many saisons, the beer is over-lively in carbonation, due to conditioning in the bottle with perhaps a touch too much live yeast. This does give it a little youthful freshness to offset the impression of age and the strong “cellar” aromas.
France's long and proud brewing tradition lay dormant by the end of the 20th century, and Christian Bourganel decided to revive it. he launched his eponymous brewery in the spa town of Vals les Bains, in the Ardéche region, well-known for its abundance of flora and fauna. Brasserie Bourganel creates unique beers that highlight local ingredients such as bilberries, chestnuts, honey, nougat cream, and verbena, offering discerning beer drinkers a wealth of new tastes to discover. In fact, renowned author Tim Hampson described Brasserie Bourganel as "one of the most interesting breweries in the world," in "The Beer Book".
Sadly, Brakspear Brewery ceased its brewing operations several years ago.
The good news is that the spirit of Brakspear's lives on in the form of Peter Scholey, former master brewer there. Peter now runs his own brewing project, called Ridgeway Brewing . . . look for his classic ales wherever good beer is found.
An independent, family-owned and operated brewery, Brasserie Castelain has been producing high-quality "bières de garde" in the north of France since 1926. Following local custom, these beers are fermented for six to ten weeks, allowing their natural flavors to develop and mature, resulting in a complex and delicious beverage.
The history or the Ultra beer of Brasserie d'Ecaussinnes began in 1897 with the "Brasserie des Carrières". They made the Ultra beer until 1970, when they transferred production to another brewery, "Brasserie du Progrès". With this transfer came a change in the water used for brewing. As beer contains 90% water, the quality is very important, and the new water was completely different, thus altering the taste of the beer. In 1972 production of the "Ultra" was stopped.
The current Brasserie d'Ecaussines opened in 1999, when Hugues and Isabel Van Poucke decided to install a brewery in a restored farm-castle. Important families and even "La Comédie Française" once owned this large farm. Most of the equipment used in the new brewery was found in Czechie. In April 2000 the first beer was served in the beautiful tavern above the brewery.
During the summer of 2001 the Ultramour beer was made. This fruity beer consists of 4 different fruit tastes. The origin of the name comes from the famous 100-year-old match-making festival "Le Goûter Matrimonial". The beer was a bit too strong for all-day drinking, so a light blond beer, Ultra Soif of 5% ABV, was created.
We are excited to bring Ultra Blonde, Ultrabrune, and Ultra ambreé to America.
All of our brewers have something to teach us. But it's not often that an enthusiastic brewer turns us on to something as strange and cool as Hildegard of Bingen, a woman of the Rhine River Valley (now Germany) who was packed off to a Benedictine monastery at birth, and eventually became the founder of a convent, a theologian and philosopher, a musical composer, a scientist and healer, pioneer of holistic medicine, and, more or less, the progenitor of the women's liberation movement. Way back in the 12th Century A.D., a time when women were regarded as little more than property, hardly ever educated, and generally unable to read or write, Hildegard gave counsel to popes and kings, and produced many important works in a range of disciplines. She is considered by many to be the first writer ever to describe the female orgasm, and was known for her positive views on sex (not typical of the Roman Catholic Church at that time, or since). You can find a lot of interesting info on Hildegard on the so-called Internet . . . here, for example.
What particularly interests the founders of the Brasserie St. Germain is Hildegard's writings on hops. She was an early advocate of hops in brewing, and in that way too she was out of step with church doctrine. (Before hops came into wide use, beer was usually laced with gruit, a mixture of spice and herbs; the Church had the exclusive right to make gruit in some places, and so railed against the use of hops.) Any serious history of hops must mention Hildegard of Bingen. Check it out.
The brewers of St. Germain see themselves also as defenders of the hop flower, in opposition to the brewing orthodoxy of their region. That region, French Flanders, lays claim to France's ancient bière de garde tradition. But the St. Germain brewers are of the opinion that most of the beer of the region in modern times is too sweet, and certainly not hoppy enough. They are fans of hoppier Belgian beers, and they've taken a healthy part of their inspiration from the Belgians. But they also see their hoppier beers as a return to the brewing heritage in French Flanders.
At the outset of the 20th century, there were more than 2000 breweries in this tiny region, many of them undoubtedly making refreshing, drinkable farmhouse ales, using great loads of local hops. Two world wars nearly killed brewing in French Flanders. By the end of the last century there were only about 20 breweries left, and there was no one left who remembered how those original bières de garde tasted. The Brasserie St. Germain, which opened in 2003, is part of a small revival of brewing in French Flanders. There are about 30 breweries now, including the Brasserie Thiriez, which is fighting along with St. Germain to put hops back into the local beer.
At bottom, the mission of the St. Germain brewers is just like that of most of the brewers we represent at Shelton Brothers. When asked to describe the brewery's 'philosophy,' brewer Stephane Bogaert replies simply that, 'We make the beers we like to drink.' In France, then, just as in Belgium, a pattern is beginning to emerge. As the bigger breweries go increasingly bland, brewing to suit the tastes of the lowest common denominator and relying more on marketing than quality work to make a living, a corps of independent passionate beer drinkers and homebrewers, unable to get the beer they really want to drink, have determined to make that beer themselves. And the people are starting to understand the difference. After only six years, St. Germain has made its mark, and grown. It is now, indisputably, the most awarded brewery in France. Put that down to the power of hops.
The Reserve Hildegarde beers, a Blonde and an Ambrée, are of course a special tribute to the revered abbess who lived and loved hops more than 800 years ago -- well before they were so popular. They are generously-hopped with Brewer's Gold (what the St. Germain brewers call 'B.G.') and a lesser known variety called Strissel Spalt, both grown in northern France, and are a good bit stronger than the other St. Germain beers.
In fact, the brewery itself is a tribute to Hildegard -- which brings us to the subject of that unusual name, Page 24, that the brewery has put on every one of its beers. Stephane explains that it refers to one of Hildegard's works, a treatise entitled 'The Benefits of Beer,' that has vanished in the modern era, but remains part of the legend of the famous lady. On page 24, according to legend, she revealed a great secret, which men have fought to obtain for generations. Historians tell us that much of the legend is really myth; Hildegard didn't do everything that her admirers and adherents claim. Did this book ever exist? Possibly not, say the brewers of St. Germain. But does that really matter? Even if it never existed, they say, it should have.
As for the wonderful secret of Page 24 . . . It may never be known, but one gets the feeling that the brewers of St. Germain believe they know what it is. Stephane tells the story of his grandfather and grandmother, who lived in French Flanders, sleeping on pillows that were stuffed with local hops. Hops, as Hildegard pointed out, have superb calmative properties. Perhaps the secret is that simple: whatever it is, you can make it better by putting in more hops.
In the fall of 2002 Raphaël Mettler was not an experienced beer drinker yet. Then he purchased a brewing kit from Richi Leder of Sios here, started to learn the brewing basics, and things began to change. Among the first few experiments were some good ones and some, um, less good ones. After about 18 months brewing beer regularly (every Saturday or so) Raphael decided to purchase brewing equipment from a friend in Germany.
The brewery was named Bière Trois Dames in dedication of the three ladies of the house : Sylvie, Raphaël’s wife and Julie and Elise, their two daughters.
The brewery has also gone through three 'phases' of inspiration. When Ralph first began, two people were major influences: Gernod from Kneipe Pur, a brewery in Eastern Germany, and Freddy Haldemann from Haldemann Brewery in Sugiez, Switzerland. Logically, the first Trois Dames beers drew their inspiration from German styles.
Then, on a trip to the US, Raphaël discovered the Pale Ales, IPAs, and Stouts of American micro-breweries, as well as the use of Yakima Valley hops. He was inspired, and now these styles make up the majority of his range of beers.
Most recently, Raphaël began to experiment with wood-aged beers, but he continues to grow and change as a brewer. We expect more exciting things from him in the future.
Owned and run by Sara Barton and Sean McArdle, Brewsters is one of the only female-run British breweries.
From the brewery's website:
"Having Sara as Head Brewer it was obvious to call the company Brewster’s Brewing Company, a Brewster is the old English word for a female brewer...
We have been brewing since January 1998 with Sara starting out on her own brewing on a five barrel plant then selling and delivering the beer - what muscles! Meantime Sean carried on working as an accountant while the brewery developed. In 2002 we moved on to a 10 barrel brewery and now have the capacity to brew 50 barrels a week.
We take great care in making sure our beers are brewed to the highest possible standard and are passionate believers that micro brewers brew real ale that is far superior in taste to the large brewers (perhaps they were great once but they are now mere facsimiles of their former selves). We choose to use the best UK Assured malt to maintain consistency in our brews. Whole hops as opposed to oils and pellets are used because the flavor is better. The majority of our hops come from England but we will use new varieties and hops from abroad where and when the beer style dictates.
We are aiming to brew beers that everyone in the pub will find very drinkable and full of flavor. To do this we balance flavors from different hops against various malts, yeast and alcoholic strength. All our beers are full mash brews as opposed to using malt extract. We do not blend beers to create new brews (however if asked we might blend a firkin for friends but it is not our normal policy and we will clearly identify it as blended). So when we name a beer you can be sure it is a brand new combination of malt and hops that we have not tried before."
The present Cantillon brewery in Brussels was built in 1900 and Master Brewer Jean-Pierre Van Roy remains a tireless champion of authenticity in lambic brewing. Cantillon is today one of only two lambic breweries still in operation that produces nothing but authentic, unsweetened, unfiltered, unpasteurized lambic.
The mash at Cantillon consists, by long tradition among lambic brewers, of two-thirds malted barley and one-third unmalted wheat. The hops that are added to the boil in great profusion have been aged for several years, eliminating all trace of hop flavor or aroma, but not diminishing their original preservative powers. 20 or more different strains of wild yeast may be represented in any one batch of lambic beer. The fermenting casks are all at least 40 years old and most held French wine, while a few held either wine, port, or sherry from the Iberian peninsula. They are laid to rest in every nook and cranny of the brewery, where they will stay unmolested through at least one summer. Van Roy watches over every cask in the brewery, periodically tasting the contents of each to determine whether it should lie for one year, two years, or three years. During the late winter and early spring, he will match and blend one, two, and three-year old lambics to arrive at a balanced texture and flavor. Generally, younger lambic is thinner, livelier, and milder on the palate; the older lambic is harder, more complex, and resoundingly sour. The beer in every cask is unique, however, and one three-year old lambic may taste radically different from another. There is no formula for blending, and no expectation of consistency from year to year. Jean-Pierre says merely that he hopes to achieve the same “harmony” each time.
The artfully blended lambic is bottled immediately, and another wondrous event occurs: the mixture of lambic from several different casks sparks a second fermentation in the bottle. This is the essence of the méthode champenoise by which champagne is made. The end product is called “gueuze.” A few months’ time in the bottle “conditions” the beer – building carbonation, and concentrating and organizing the flavors – until it is ready to be sold as Cantillon Gueuze. The classic lambic, Cantillon Gueuze is a perfect blend of old and new brews and is unabashedly sour and highly complex. Under proper storage conditions, fermentation in the bottle will continue for years.
In late summer whole cherries (of the Schaarbeek variety, as tradition dictates) are poured, pits and all, into casks of lambic that have aged for a year and a half – two summers, according to the lambic brewer’s calendar. The fruit dissolves and ferments in the cask for four to five months. In that time, even the pits begin to dissolve, lending a slight nutty flavor to the lambic in the cask. The cherry-flavored lambic is blended with old and new lambic to make beer with a strong, sour cherry flavor and bright red color. This is Cantillon Kriek Lambic. Meanwhile, raspberries, along with a smaller measure of cherries, are poured whole into other casks of “two summers” lambic. After three months of maceration, the raspberry-flavored lambic is bottled with a special blend to yield Cantillon’s famous framboise, Rosé de Gambrinus, which has a strong raspberry flavor and bouquet, and a warm, inviting rosé color.
In October, time of the grape harvest, Italian muscat grapes are added to a few casks. After three months, the grape-flavored lambic will be blended to create a small amount of Cantillon Gueuze Vigneronne, a rare traditional style, unique to the Cantillon brewery, with a mild white wine grape aroma and flavor.
Every year Van Roy selects a small amount of old lambic to be bottled, without blending, after three years in the cask. It is offered under the label Grand Cru Bruocsella 1900. The Grand Cru offers the true devotee of lambic beer the eye-opening experience of lambic in all its depth and complexity. Because it is not blended and refermented, it is uncarbonated, which may be disconcerting for beer drinkers used to frothy brew.
Iris is Cantillon’s all-malt brew, produced in the style of a lambic, and made entirely from malted barley. Additionally, the brewery has used fresh Hallertau hops both in the boil and for dry-hopping. Aged in oak casks, Iris has a mellower flavor than a lambic, but with a bone dry, intriguing hop element.
"I appreciate anyone who can make a mead (or beer or wine or whisky) that tastes the same every time. But that is not what I do! What I do is make the widest variety of quality meads available. They range from very delicate to ultra-bold, very dry to dessert sweet. I use more single floral source (varietal) honeys than any other meadery. I use whole spices and a wide variety of fruit. Whenever possible, Alaskan fruit is featured. Most of my meads have been put on oak for a while and many of them are downright assertively oaked. Alcohol contents range from 6.5% to +15% ABV.
All of the above means, of course, that I am certifiably insane. Honey is a much more expensive fermentable than either malt or grapes. Even the cheap clover and wildflower honeys that most meaderies use, is more expensive. So a mead made with 100% tupelo or sourwood honey, is even that much more costly to make. But you know what……I love it. And I’m counting on the fact that there are many more folks out there who think it’s worth it.
Honey (like grapes) is an annual crop and therefore varies from year to year. However, Federal Regulations prohibit us from putting a vintage year on our labels. Although a few early batches do not have it, all bottles will now show a ‘batch number’ You can use this batch number, along with the name of the mead to find out more information about that batch. As the honeys and fruit vary from year to year, so to will the resulting mead produced with that honey. By clicking on ‘Vintages’ beside each mead, you can then identify the batch number and find out what state or region the honey came from, notes about the honey or fruit, finish gravity and other information that may enhance your enjoyment of the mead.
There’s no way I can compete on price with meaderies who make cheap, bland mead. But few meaderies can match the variety and quality you’ll find here. You make the choice.
For great mead from the Great State of Alaska, choose Celestial Meads!
We never boil the must (honey & water mixture) as most meaderies do. With healthy honey (honey that has not been heated or overprocessed) it is entirely unnecessary and drives away the flavor and aroma.
All of our varietal honeys are either raw or minimally processed. Overheating, over-filtering and improper storage of honey can destroy the natural enzymes that allow the honey to protect itself from contamination by wild yeast, bacteria or other microflora.
We use the freshest possible fruit, herbs and spices. Whenever possible whole Alaskan fruit is used.
Our meads are fermented at cool temperatures (most at 60f). Most meaderies ferment at 75-80f because fermentation is over quicker. However, this produces fusel alcohols which give the mead a hot, ‘jet fuel’ flavor and cause nasty hangovers.
Acid blend is never used. Acid blend is commercial preparation of malic, tartaric and citric acids, that approximates the amounts of those acids found in wine grapes. Although most published mead recipes call for acid blend added to the must (pre-fermentation), it is almost always counterproductive. A finished mead will have a pH in the range of 2.8-3.4 which is low enough to protect it from almost all microflora. In many cases, it is necessary to buffer the mead during fermentation to assure a healthy, clean fermentation. The primary acid in mead is gluconic acid, which is much silkier and softer on the tongue than either tartaric or malic acids, but it protects the mead from infection just as well, while balancing the sweetness beautifully. In a few cases, citric acid is used (post-fermentation) to enhance the flavor profile.
Sulfiting agents are never used. Most fruits contain naturally occurring sulfites, so there may be small amounts of sulfites in the fruit meads. I am mildly asthmatic and have never had a reaction to any mead.
Our mead is completely gluten free. No products containing gluten are used in making our meads and they are safe for celiacs."
Passion about beer. That’s how the idea of handcrafting beer in Blumenau, the Brazilian capital of Beer, came about. Cervejaria SudBrack brews according to traditional European methods, where neither preservatives nor adjuncts have a place, respecting the Reinheitsgebot, or German Purity Law.
Unhappy with the mass market beers available in Brazil, Juliano Mendes and his family decided to build a craft brewery and hire a German Brewmaster, a graduated of Weihenstephan, to brew a special lineup of beers, from German-style Weizenbier to special Belgian-style ales. The name 'Eisenbahn,' which means 'railway,' was chosen because another brewery with the same name existed in Blumenau in 1909, but was not strong enough to fight against the commercial actions of the big breweries, ultimately shutting down a few years later. The new Eisenbahn was born in July of 2002, and hopes to continue as an anchor of the emerging South American craft beer scene for many years to come, always faithful to pure and traditional beers.
In only three years, Cervejaria SudBrack has become the largest craft brewery in Brazil. They are already exporting to Europe, and now Shelton Brothers is pleased to introduce American beer drinkers to this excellent range of beers.
"Beerbrewery St. Christoffel is a relatively young brewery, founded in 1986. Our brewery is situated in the former coal mining-town of Roermond in Dutch Limburg, and named after the patron saint of Roermond, Saint Christoffel. The brewery started very small and was at first situated behind a house. In 1995 the brewery moved to its present facility. With moving there, the brewing capacity greatly enhanced due to new brewing, fermenting, and lager facilities.
Christoffel brews according to the German “Reinheitsgebot von 1516”: which means the brewing process takes place in a completely natural way [using only malt, hops, water, and yeast]. Around the year 1990, Christoffel Blond was awarded 3 years in a row with the Dutch title: “Best Beer from the Netherlands”.
Run by Dominique and Nathalie Plessis, Cidrerie L'Hermetière sits in the middle of the Perche Natural Reserve Park, among the rolling hills of the Perche region of Normandy (where Percheron horses come from). They've been around for 20 years, making cider from traditional apples grown in their own 15 hectare orchard. They use organic growing methods, and look forward to the day their organic certification is granted (they began the process of going organic in 2008).
The ciders are crafted in the ancestral way - using just the juice of pure cider apples. They ferment naturally, and are unpasteurized and naturally carbonated through bottle-conditioning.
Brouwerij De Graal is a small artisanal brewery located in the Flemish Ardennes (Brakel). They began brewing their ginger beer in 2002 and have continued to grow, brewing 750 hl last year. They have recently increased their tank size and storage facilities and are in the process of installing solar water heaters. Expect new beers from them soon as this brewery continues to grow and develop.
Owner/brewer Wim Saeyens has a PhD in chemistry and attended brewers school in Ghent.
Bernard Leboucq and Yvan De Baets are Belgium's newest, perhaps smallest, and most fiercely principled brewers in Belgium.
In many ways, they represent the small, artisanal breweries that are the heart and soul of Belgian brewing. While the big guys work tirelessly to make the brewing process shorter and cheaper - and their beers as sweetly inoffensive to the masses as can be - there remains, thank goodness, a tough and dedicated bunch of small breweries that are not afraid to make a bold statement.
Interestingly, in Belgium, bold now means a return to the way things used to be, before over-sugaring, over-spicing, and under-hopping became de rigueur.
In actual fact, Bernard and Yvan don't even have their own brewery yet, but periodically borrow brewing time and space at the new facility built by Nino and Guido at Brouwerij De Ranke. Does that story sound familiar?
Brewer Menno Olivier brings 12 years of experience to his Brouwerij De Molen, which translates to "The Mill Brewery" as the operation is located in a 300-year-old windmill. He began brewing in his kitchen as a hobby, went on to brew in Westmaas and Amsterdam, and then served as master brewer of De Pelgrim, a Rotterdam city brewery. It was during his time as master brewer that he decided to open a brewery of his own, so he created De Molen in the town of Bodegraven, about 30 km north of Rotterdam.
His stainless steel plant has a capacity of 500 liters and he brews in very limited quantities, only about 5hl per year (the same output as some home-brewers!). De Molen's boilers are borrowed from the Dutch dairy industry. Olivier came up with the clever idea of recycling and adapting this machinery for his brewery after realizing that dairy processors require a sterilizing boil to kill off harmful bacteria much like the boil brewers perform to kill off infection-causing bacteria in their beer. Olivier's innovative dairy boilers keep De Molen's beer fresh.
Olivier’s focus is on preserving beer culture and promoting a return to local traditions and products. His beers reflect this commitment in their classic, historic, styles and carefully chosen ingredients.
Click here for a short video tour of the brewery and brewpub.
Working in his ultra-scientific brewery in western Flanders, Dirk Naudts is one of Belgium's leading brewmasters. For years, Dirk has been coming up with winning beer recipes for breweries large and small throughout Belgium and Holland. (You would be amazed at how many beers with other people’s labels on them were actually created by Dirk.) It was only natural that when he finally put together his own tiny but ultra-scientific brewery, it would be called De Proef – “the Prof” – Dirk’s fond nickname.
If you get a chance, visit the brewery, which sits most disconcertingly in the middle of a cow pasture, like a shiny techno-modern spaceship that crash-landed hundreds of miles off-course. Remember, however, that this is Belgium, where space aliens hold high positions in government, and meteorites crash and burn next door on a nightly basis. No one paid much mind at the time.
The De Ranke brewery was founded by two good friends, Nino Bacelle and Guido Devos. Their story is a classic in Belgium, where the very best craft brewing usually begins as a passionately pursued hobby, not an occupation. For Nino and Guido, brewing is literally a weekend obsession. For a few hours on Friday and Saturday, every week, the marvelous turn-of-the-century Deca Brewery in West Flanders is turned over to the De Ranke brewers, who make small batches of what many consider the best specialty beers of Belgium. Their beers are robust and flavorful, and famous for their massive hoppiness, which comes from the best Hallertau and Brewer’s Gold varieties.
This brewery is too young and its production too small to get notice in any of the Belgian beer books yet, but De Ranke is developing an awesome reputation among connoisseurs in Belgium. American beer lovers may ridicule the idea that there is one “best beer” of Belgium, but Belgians themselves are given to such strongly-worded opinions – especially when it comes to De Ranke. Let it suffice to say that these are truly great beers that make a very commanding statement. And from a brewery only four years old! Yeast obtained from the nearby Rodenbach brewery lends that Orval-like “Bret” character to the beers. Above all, be warned: It’s a heavy hand that commits the hops to the boil at De Ranke.
The brewery has a very limited capacity, and we were told initially that it was unlikely we could export any of the De Ranke beers to the U.S. Beer lovers also expressed some fear that the quality of the beer might suffer if capacity increased to serve an export market. They actively discouraged us from approaching the brewers. We obtained the blessing of the beer lovers and the brewery, however, by agreeing to take only a small quantity, and to handle the care and marketing of these beers with respect. We are thrilled to have them.
We can't remember a time when there was such a buzz about a new brewery, but these chaps from West Flanders have Belgian craft beer enthusiasts all a-titter. Their signature beer, Pannepot, is a top 25 beer on both RateBeer and BeerAdvocate, and, frankly, is about the easiest beer in the world to sell. Demand far outstrips supply, and though brewers Urbain and Carlo seem to be constantly working, there never seems to be enough beer to keep everybody happy. The lesson here? If you see a bottle . . . . buy it, and savor it.
The name Struise has roots in the Flemish word for 'ostrich' -- the brewers also manage an ostrich farm near the French border in West Flanders -- and the Dutch word for 'sturdy' -- hence the brewery's nickname: the sturdy brewers.
The tiny ‘Dieu du Ciel!’ brew-pub, just at the edge of Montrèal's city center, has developed an incredible reputation and a devoted following in only a few short years. The young brewer, Jean-François, has never had any formal training as a brewer, but he is a natural, with superb skills and flawless instincts.
‘Dieu du Ciel!’ is a common exclamation, meaning ‘God in Heaven!’ more or less, which is undoubtedly the most polite oath you are likely to hear in Montrèal – a city with a well-known penchant for turning religious sentiments into profanity.
Drie Fonteinen is the only remaining traditional geuze blender in Belgium, using only 100% spontaneously fermented lambik beer, aged in oak casks, with no artificial sweeteners or other additives. The blendery is connected to the very popular Drie Fonteinen Restaurant in Beersel, on the outskirts of Brussels. The proprietor, Armand Debelder, buys pure lambik from three breweries in Belgium, ages them in oak, and blends them, employing the skill, knowledge, and supreme passion for real geuze that his father handed down to him. Drie Fontenein’s Geuze and fruit Lambiks (cherry, raspberry) are rare, highly prized, and indisputably among the best of Belgium.
It took years of begging for Armand to send us some of the exquisite Geuze and Kriek that he blends at Drie Fonteinen in Beersel. He would always say the same thing: ‘I am ready only when I know that I have some-thing very, very special for you.’ When he finally called and announced: “I have it,” we couldn’t have been more excited. We first received his blend from 1999, a classic blend of one, two, and three-year old lambiks, bottled in 1999 and carefully watched and guarded while it continued to re-ferment in the bottle. Since then, we have been lucky enough to continue to work with Armand to bring you some of the most traditional lambiks in the world.
One of the few independent breweries in the Netherlands fighting the Heineken/Interbrew/big boring beer trend, which has taken over almost every traditional brewery in the country. They started out brewing about 70 hl per year, are now producing about 600, and hope to soon expand to 1,000. Drie Horne's focus is on quality ingredients and diversity in their beer.
Jenlain is the second largest independent brewery in France, and by far the largest one making bière de garde – France’s only original, traditional beer style. Jenlain is credited with reviving the style, and encouraging countless smaller bière de garde breweries in Northern France.
Duysters Brewery flourishes in the shadow of one of the world’s largest breweries, Interbrew, in the nearby town of Leuven. But there is no mistaking this exquisite hand-crafted brew for the mass-product of the nearby beer factory. The Duysters Brewery may well be the smallest commercial brewery in Belgium. Annual production of both of its beers is only about 650 cases.
The Brasserie Ellezelloise (pronounced “EL-ZEL-WOZ”), is located in the town of Ellezelles in the gentle “hill country” of Belgium. Founded in 1993, the tiny brewery manages to produce 1000 hectoliters per year - the most of any brewery of the Belgian Artisanal Brewers Guild. Housed in a picturesque converted barn in French-speaking Belgium, the brewery includes a cozy café to which the local folk and connoisseurs from Brussels love to repair on weekend afternoons. There you can enjoy a wonderful Ellezelloise brew, served by the brewer, Philippe Gerard.
The Ellezelloise beers are now brewed by Brasserie Legendes, the brewery responsible for our Géants brand. The character of the Ellezelloise beers have been preserved, providing a nice complement to the Géants beers.
Ellezelloise produces three regular beers, a blond and an amber ale, and a hardy Belgian stout. All of them are made in small batches and are lagered for ten days in German oak casks. They are strong, full-bodied, and very satisfying. The Quintine Amber and Blond are named for a witch of local legend. And Agatha Christie’s Detective Hercule Poirot (probably Belgium’s best-known citizen, and a native son of Ellezelles) is the namesake for the “Hercule” Stout. It is the only distinctively Belgian stout, and every bit as sturdy and dapper as its namesake.
The Hercule is considered by many to be a classic, and the Blond and Amber are impressive, delicious companions – very malty, but dry, with a hint of sweetness in the finish, and perfectly hopped. All three share a very distinctive and intoxicating spicy aroma of fresh spruce that suddenly, irresistibly, fills the room when the swing-top is released. This unique house character probably derives from the strains of yeast used by the brewery – and possibly from the fermentation in oak – because the beers are made entirely of malt and hops, without any spices or sugar.
So why "Epic"? Straight from the brewer's mouth...
"Well there are a few reasons why Epic was chosen for the name of the company and beers.
Epic Flavor - It reflected the way I like to brew beer. I like to have big aromas, flavors and taste in the beers.
Epic Challenge - To start a new beer brand in this day and age, in a mature market, dominated by multinationals with huge resources, and the public perception that beer is a low value commodity, is a big challenge.
Epic Journey - everyone that lives in New Zealand, or traveled here for a holiday, they at some point in their or their ancestors lives had to make an Epic Journey. Whether it be by canoe or commercial airliner they traveled a great distance to the end of the world to be in this beautiful country of New Zealand
Fantôme’s brewer, Dany Prignon, is a lively character who breaks all the rules when it comes to brewing with special ingredients. (How many other brewers have made a mushroom beer?) In fact, not all of his experiments are a success, but every beer is at least interesting and recall the early days of Belgian brewing.
Fantôme – Golden ale, 8% alc. by volume, with a wonderfully musty and characterful aroma. “Absolutely gorgeous, complex summer refresher with enough interest to drink all year-round.” (The Beers of Wallonia). Both authors give this beer a perfect 10. There are many drinkers out there who believe this is the “Nectar of the Gods.” Certainly no other brewer makes beer like this, in Belgium or anywhere. How many beers of 8% plus offer such fresh fruitiness? A solid Belgian saison beer at its base, with an unusual overlay of fruitiness.
Fantôme de Noël – A very dark and entirely unique holiday seasonal beer, at a whopping 10% alc. by volume. Reportedly spiced with honey, caramel, coriander, black pepper, and other secret ingredients. “[Another 10.] Beautifully warming with an amazing, almost overwhelming, depth of character” (The Beers of Wallonia). Lots of deep-roasted chocolate malt, but still fairly dry and spicy, with a hint of wild yeast sourness at the core.
Fantôme Seasonal Beers – The mysterious Fantôme brewer is always at work cooking up another unique beer, often using secret herbs, spices, and fruits to evoke the current season. The recipes are never the same from year to year. The Spring beers have been dark and very full-bodied, roasty and bittersweet. Summer has brought brisk, authoritative copper ales with refreshing hints of citric tartness. Fall beers have always been especially impressive, usually surprisingly lighter in body than the earlier seasonal beers, but strong in flavor with a tantalizing note of orange peel and perfect hop bite. The Winter beers are dark ruby red confections, with strong, malty flavors and are relatively straight-forward, without any notable trace of the phantom’s usual trickery.
The Brasserie des Géants, or Giant Brewery, is housed in a medieval castle in the town of Irchonwelz, in the French-speaking south of Belgium. Its majestic gate stands stands high to allow the passage of the occasional visiting giant, and the town is famous for its annual giants march. The over-sized representation of Goliath (called Gouyasse in the local dialect) always leads the parade.
Giant is one of Belgium's newest breweries - founded in 2001. Its good, clean beers, made only with malt, hops, water, and yeast, have already become legendary in the south of Belgium and beyond.
The 'Hand' Brewery -- basically four guys brewing in their spare time, on an absurdly small scale -- is among the new crop of brewers beginning to appear in Norway. Craft beer is on fire in Scandinavia, but has been slow to catch on in Norway, where specialty brewers still number in single digits.
Haand is by far the smallest of the new brewers, but this means that they can take chances in the brewhouse - a 200-year-old small wooden building with a curious past. Originally built as horse stables, the brewer’s grandfather then used it as his car workshop, after which it was transformed into a small hosiery factory, and finally into the Haand micro brewery. These former homebrewers are making some very unusual beers here, and are also responsible for resurrecting an ancient Norwegian tradition of brewing a smoked beer spiced with juniper berries.
We're expecting very great things from these guys.
In 1983, brewmaster Herm Hegger opened one of the first independent breweries in the Netherlands in over one hundred years, Brouwerij Raaf. However, after introducing Holland's first wheat beer, "Witte Raaf" it soon grew beyond it's ability to keep up with demand and had to sell to (now closed) mega-brewer Oranjeboom.
In 1996, determined to keep independent Dutch brewing alive, Herm opened Brouwerij Hemel (which translates to Heaven Brewery). After the lessons learned from Raaf, Herm was determined to keep production manageable and stay focused on quality, so Hemel was established as a city brewery, serving most of its beer at the brewery itself and keeping bottles limited.
"Mike Henney started making cider as a hobby in 1996. At that time, it was 5 gallons fermented in his airing cupboard, but the hobby got a bit out of hand and in 2008 production has reached over 200,000 gallons! (no longer in the airing cupboard).
The business is still run by Mike in close collaboration with some key service providers. These include Wyre Croft Farm at Bishops Frome who, as well as supplying apples, also mill and press all the fruit and provide storage for the juice. Other key services of packing and warehousing are provided by Branded Drinks Bottling in The Forest of Dean.
Mike’s objective is to make the best cider possible and provide customers with a great service. He believes this is best achieved by keeping every process as simple as possible."
When our good friend Tom Oliver (of Oliver's Cider and Perry) suggested we talk to Allen Hogan about getting some high quality, traditional English, draught cider, we called him up immediately. Turns out, Allen also puts some pretty great stuff in the bottle.
What goes into a traditional English cider? Well, apples of course. Hogan's uses cider apples from the three counties of Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire; regions known for making (and drinking) loads of real farmhouse cider. The apples are pressed and the juice fermented in stainless steel for about four months. The young cider is then filtered and returned to the tanks, for further maturation. When it's ready - a good cider maker can tell - it's blended for a balance of tannins, acidity, and sweetness.
In addition to their draught, Hogan's also produces a Dry and Medium Dry cider, as well as a traditional Perry. Allen - and whoever he can coax into helping him - must hand pick most of the perry pears from local orchards, otherwise he has trouble finding enough. Perry pears are delicate, and must be handled carefully, and most people just aren't up for the hard work anymore. Allen is. Luckily,the pears hardly need to be washed since they're picked up by hand. Unlike apples, pears don't float, so this makes things a little easier. Just a little.
People all over the US are now raving about Hogan's draught cider. Here's what our friends in Reno, NV had to say:
"Holy crap! Hogan's draught is amazing. I can say I've never enjoyed any cider as much as I enjoyed that one. It was perfectly quenching and really full of flavor with just a hint of sweet apple."
Another satisfied customer.
We're happy to say that Hogan's is also sending us some of their bottled cider and award-winning perry (Vintage 2009) at the end of 2010. We're pretty sure some will make it's way to Reno.
"The brewery at Hook Norton is rooted in an age when most towns and even large villages boasted their own brewery.
Approach the village of Hook Norton from any direction and the first thing you see is the Church tower. The second is the flag waving proudly over the brewery. The Hook Norton Brewery was started over 150 years ago by farmer and maltster John Harris. Today it is run by his great great grandson James Clarke. John Harris' brewery has now achieved a reputation he could have never imagined and the beer it produces today is enjoyed not only in the UK but in many other countries.
Hook Norton Brewery sits on the North side of the Cotswold Hills, an area of rural lushness so pivotal to the ebb and flow of English history, the locals decided long ago that a good, fresh pint should always be within easy reach. A natural spring provided the ideal site for a brewery, and one thing led to another.
1849 was a milestone year. The young Queen Victoria ruled - the 35th monarch since William the Conqueror - the country had endured Magna Carta, the Wars of the Roses, The Reformation, Oliver Cromwell’s Parliamentarians, the Restoration of the Monarchy and was well into the Industrial Revolution when John Harris set up his brewery at Hook Norton. After Centuries of tempestuous history the locals were ready for a few beers. After a short while the sales of this fledgling brewery began to improve. And before long, the brewery John Harris started in a local farmhouse became the seed for the Hook Norton Brewery Company Ltd, and things evolved rapidly.
Hook Norton Brewery remains one of only 32 independent family-run breweries; and you won’t find a finer example of a Victorian tower brewery anywhere. It's also the only brewery still driven by steam. On the ground floor of the brewery is a fine 25 horsepower steam engine, supplying through a series of belts, cogs and shafts most of the motive power the brewery needs to produce it's beer .
The brewery at Hook Norton is still "a real local brewery" and this is a rarity these days; awesome commercial pressures brought about change at the brewery, but the brewers at Hook Norton became adept at keeping a restless World at arm’s length.
Brewery research shows most of us are more familiar with the drinking process than the skilled preparation that leads up to it. But every pint produced by Hook Norton brewery that you raise to your lips has a story to tell. Beer is very much a natural product; and the brewery puts a lot of effort into the whole brewing process to provide you with a refreshing pint. The traditional methods employed at the brewery make traditional beers, and that's what counts at Hook Norton."
You’re probably shocked to hear that there are small breweries making great beer in Finland, but you shouldn’t be. You obviously need to brush up on the Kalevala -- the epic poem that expresses the Finnish soul, which has over 400 juicy lines relating to the brewing of beer. (There are another 200 lines devoted to the creation of the world; obviously, the Finns have their priorities straight.)
The tiny Ij Brewery in the heart of Amsterdam is legendary as one of Holland’s best craft breweries. The brewer/owner is famously cranky and uncommercial, and no one ever thought these beers would make it to the U.S. But, due to a stroke of luck and a special connection, we’ve got them!
The brewery is located in a converted bathhouse, standing next to a windmill – like almost everything else in Holland. Ij (pronounced “eye”) takes its name from a lowly squatter’s flat on the Ij riverfront where the owner spent his formative years. The money to convert the bathhouse into a brewery came as proceeds from a hit song he wrote, “Je Loog Tegen Mij,” which took top Dutch rockers Drukwerk straight to #1 with a bullet. Coffers were swelled by his successful follow-up hit, “Hé Amsterdam.”
“Ij” sound like the Dutch word “ei,” which means egg. This play on words inspired the brewery’s emblem – an ostrich guarding its egg – and the names of the beers Struis (meaning “ostrich”) and Columbus. In Dutch parlance, “I’ve found the Egg of Columbus!” is the equivalent of “Eureka!” or, “I’ve invented something rather smart.” The fiercely independent brewers at Ij have indeed come up with something special. Theirs are unique Dutch craft beers with character, not just slavish Belgian knock-offs. Due to the owner’s musical success, the brewery doesn’t have to answer to investors, or pursue the export of its beers. Annual production is around 1200 barrels, and most of it is consumed in and around the city of Amsterdam. These are truly rare and precious beers, well worth the cost and effort it took to get them over here. (Audio cassettes of “Hé Amsterdam” sold separately.)
When the local Wright Brewery closed in 1966, the future of beer looked grim for the town of Perth, Scotland. It wasn't until 1997, with the opening of the Inveralmond Brewery, that things started looking up. The young brewers of Inveralmond are rated among the best in Scotland (Head brewer Fergus has a B.S.c in Brewing and Microbiology from Heriot-Watt University and over 10 years brewing experience prior to the opening of Inveralmond) and began winning awards almost immediately. Hope had come!
The brewery is nestled between the fabulous rolling hills of Perthshire and the mighty Grampian mountain range, surrounded by crystal clear rivers. This breathtakingly beautiful landscape provides not only the inspiration for the Inveralmond beers, but also the most ingredient for really good beer: water.
For centuries Perthshire has been renowned for its pure waters. Bottled waters throughout the world are sourced from Perthshire's natural mineral springs. For centuries, the waters of Perthsire have been used in the areas famed whiskies, and the same waters are found in all Inveralmond Ales.
These beers continue to win awards, so the town of Perth can now rest easy knowing that they don't have to settle for mediocrity. Neither do you. We're happy to say that Inveralmond Blackfriar, Ossian's Ale, and Lia Fail are all available in the USA. Look for more great beers from this brewery soon.
At the very southern tip of the South Island sits the southernmost and westernmost city in New Zealand, and one of the southernmost cities in the world: Invercargill. Perhaps best known for it's dairy and meat industry, it should also be noted that it has a long and tumultuous relationship with alcohol.
In December of 1905, Invercargill voted in favor of local prohibition of alcohol sales. For 40 years, citizens were forced to sneak kegs of beer into their homes, or gather for surreptitious pints in special hiding spots round the city. It wasn't until returning World War II servicemen voted down the dry spell that locals could drink their beer in the sunshine of the Southland.
When prohibition finally ended, a committee of citizens persuaded the Government to give the monopoly on liquor sales in Invercargill to the specially formed Invercargill Licensing Trust. Basically, the government sells the booze. Even today, alcohol is not sold in supermarkets.
And yet, from adversity comes greatness - in the form (of course) of an excellent little brewery. In 1999, Steve Nally and his father Gerry set up shop in an old blue dairy shed on Oteramika Road in the outskirts of the city and began to brew what have turned out to be award winning - and extremely tasty - beers and cider. In 2005 the brewery outgrew the shed and moved to downtown Invercargill, where the story continues.
While we appreciate their consistently refreshing, food-friendly beers here in the US, locals appreciate the fact that they can stop into the tiny bottle shop at the front of the brewery to fill up bottles of them to take home.
We also appreciate the Nally's commitment to "putting less in and getting more out". In the spirit of their small island nation, they're constantly looking for ways to make their brewing process more sustainable, from ingredients to packaging to shipping.
While Ise Kadoya Brewery is only 12 years old, the family-run Kadoya cafe has been serving mochi and tea to the pilgrims that journey to Ise City and Ise Shrine for over 430 years.
Kadoya also began making soy sauce, tamari, and miso paste a little over 100 years ago, and the buildings that now house the brewery were once filled with cedar barrels of these traditional Japanese products. The company has been in the Suzuki family for 21 generations; Narihiro Suzuki now runs day-to-day operations.
The brewery opened in 1997 and has been winning international awards ever since. While their beers are influenced by American brewing, they also work to create traditional brews that push the limits of established styles.
Ise Kadoya beers just landed on US shores this month. It's Japanese brewing at its finest.
From the wild and stunningly beautiful Isle of Skye, off the northwest coast of Scotland, lies this fantastic new brewery, operated by a former school teacher, and featuring Scotland's only female head brewer.
The Brewery was established in April 1995 and has been winning awards at brewing competitions throughout Scotland and England ever since.
Look for Skye's first U.S. export, Wee Beast, in early 2004. several more great ales, such as Black Cuillin and Red Cuillin, will follow later in the year.
Ron Jeffries is one of our favorite people in the world, and he's also probably the most imaginative, innovative brewer in the United States. Ron's small brewery just outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan is unlike any other in this country, and perhaps anywhere in the world.
Lots of brewers use oak barrels to age their beers these days, but Jolly Pumpkin actually ferments in the wood, and the result is beer of extraordinary complexity and earthiness. Despite the risks of fermenting in oak, however, Ron's beers are nicely balanced and drinkable, and don't seem to suffer from the oxidation and off-flavors so common in aged beer. Jolly Pumpkin ales lean toward a subtle but pleasant lactic sourness that fits perfectly with the wild yeast flavors derived from the wood.
Shelton Brothers is proud to serve as master distributor for Jolly Pumpkin beer in the USA. Who says we don't like American beer?
In the Golden Age of Dutch brewing, before hops were known, brewers used a blend of savory herbs, called “gruit,” to give an exotic accent to their ales. Every brewing town had its own carefully guarded recipe for making gruit beer. The distinctive recipe of Haarlem, which dates to 1407, was so well-loved in the region and important to the livelihood of the town that it was preserved in public records. It is the only traditional recipe for a gruit beer that survives today. Haarlem’s recipe calls for oats, wheat, and barley in the mash, and a gruit of several distinctive herbs.
Koyt is the darker, hardier variation on the basic recipe. It is reddish brown, full flavored, and supremely satisfying. “Koyt” was the name given to the famous gruit beer of Haarlem. The brewery, Jopen, is named after the type of barrel used for beer in the Middle Ages in Holland.
Adriaan is the refreshing, golden amber version of the traditional Haarlem gruit beer. This studied recreation of the original recipe is bottle-conditioned, delightfully brisk, and intriguingly spicy. It is named for an ancient windmill in the center of the town that has been in ruins for centuries. Part of the proceeds from sale of this beer goes toward its restoration.
These are not just great beers, but a piece of history in the bargain. There are no other gruit beers imported in the U.S., but there are a few copies being brewed now in the U.S.
It’s no secret that rye makes for a great tasting beer – in fact its use in brewing can be traced back to medieval times. However it is only recently that Rye Beer has been produced in any great quantity. That’s because the brew actually disappeared for 500 years.
Originating in the Bavarian region of the Southern Germany during the Middle Ages, Rye beer became a staple beverage. But in 1516 a law was passed, following a period of bad harvests, which ruled that rye could only be used to bake bread. Rye beer didn’t reappear again until 1988, after a repealing of the law by the European Court of Justice.
Crafting Rye beer involves combining rye malt with traditional brewing base of barley malt. Its inclusion presents a challenge to the brewer as extracting sugars from the huskless grain is technically difficult, however achieving this creates a distinctive crisp of flavour with a unique smooth silky sensation on the palate.
Kaimai Brewing Company, New Zealand‘s only brewery specializing in rye, is proud to offer you an innovative range of Rye beers. We hope you enjoy.
The old brewery at Kerkom is the quintessential farmhouse brewery, set amid cherry and pear orchards in the gentle countryside of East Flanders. Brewer Marc Limet and his wife Marina live here, brew here, and on the weekends, offer sustenance to throngs of visiting beer lovers. On warm summer days, people come from all over Belgium to sit in the great courtyard, sipping the brewery’s briskly bitter and refreshing Bink Blond, or the warmer, satisfying Bink Bruin. In the wintertime, smaller crowds of local admirers and friends huddle by the stove in the perfectly cozy pub that feels like an extension of Marc and Marina’s home.
If you happen to feel that the larger commercial breweries are going down the wrong path – losing their nerve when it’s time to add the hops, using more and more sugar instead of barley malt to make alcoholic but weak-bodied, sweet, characterless brews, and dramatically cutting traditional fermentation times in order to chuck out ever more product, ever more cheaply – you have a kindred spirit in Marc. Someday you should commiserate with him over a cool Bink Blond, lamenting the decline of once great beers, like Chimay Bleu or Duvel, and the rise of insipid characterless beers like Delirium Tremens. Fortunately for you, however, Marc isn’t just stuck in the past. Like a number of other small farmhouse brewers in Belgium, Marc felt compelled to move from amateur brewing to a more commercial operation to counter the general trend of dumbing down in Belgian brewing. He takes his time and brews what he likes, and doesn’t use corn sugar, artificial fruit flavors, and other cheap ingredients in order to appeal to the broadest range of dabbling beer consumers.
Using mostly the older equipment of the old brewery, with a few modern additions, Marc makes full-bodied, slightly earthy, very dry beers. The two everyday beers, the Blond and Bruin, are all-malt brews of about 6% alcohol by volume.
The dry-hopped Bink Blond is Marc’s one-man crusade to put hops back into Belgian brewing. From the keg, the Blond is a bracing, unwavering direct shot of hops to the system – floral bitterness supported by a light but firm, very dry maltiness, and spiced by just a hint of typically Belgian yeast character. The unreserved hoppiness of this beer may remind you of an American West Coast I.P.A. but, as Marc explains it, this is just the way most Belgian beers used to be. In the bottle, the beer takes on more nuances and becomes more complex. The classic Belgian “farmhouse” character develops over time in the bottle; you may notice a little wild yeast after a while. But still this beer remains supremely hoppy.
Bink Bruin, in keeping with the Belgian tradition of brown ales, is not a hoppy beer. Instead the emphasis is on dark, roasted, slightly smoky malt. Marc being Marc, this Bruin is a bit hoppier than most of its kind, but the balance is still tipped decidedly toward the wholesome, bready character of good malt. Still, it remains dry, with roasty flavors winning out over the sometimes cloying sweetness you find in some dark ales. Thus it is at once satisfying but refreshing and easy to drink.
Then there is the distinctive and winning Bink Bloesem, or Blossom. This is a dark, stronger ale with two special ingredients: locally-produced honey, and a thick syrup made from local pears – without sugar. The honey and pear syrup are allowed to ferment pretty thoroughly, yielding once again a predominantly dry beer, but one with just a little sweetness and a range of dried fruit and other subtle flavor nuances that you have surely never tasted in one beer before. Bloesem is a beer of real character and depth, one that you can linger over thoughtfully. It is dark and rich-flavored, yet light on the palate, at 7.1% alcohol by volume.
Winterkoninkske is Marc’s winter brew. The name refers to the Flemish word for the little bird pictured on the label, which means “Little Winter King.” Years ago Marc noticed in a book about birds a picture of a winterkoninkse perched on a sprig of hops. He decided right then that he would use the image for a winter beer if he ever came to have his own brewery. Now the beer is here, and the label is delightful – sort of a song dedicated to the upside of winter. The upside is, of course, the beer of winter. This one is typically dark, rich, and roasty, with a complex yeasty tang and a light spiciness. There are juniper berries in the brew. If there are other spices, Marc is not telling what they are. This is without question one of the best Belgian winter beers.
You’re probably wondering where the name “Bink” come from. It’s a slang term of endearment for a guy in the rustic area around Kerkom – kind of like the American “dude.” The typical character of a local Bink – a bit coarse but cagey enough to make his way in the world, is described in a common story. It seems that a certain Bink is plodding along the dusty road leading a cow by a rope, when he catches the attention of the constable. The constable recognizes instantly that this Bink is not the cow’s rightful owner, and confronts him. He demands, "Why are you walking off with that cow?" The Bink, looking very surprised, replies "Cow? I just found this piece of rope that someone left lying around. I didn’t notice that there was a cow attached to it." In the end, the Bink lands in the klink, but his quick thinking under pressure is still much admired. There is a bronze statue of this famous Bink in the pub of the Kerkom brewery.
Klein Duimpje -- "Tom Thumb" in Dutch -- is the life's work of Erik Bouman, a terrific home-brewer who has managed to parlay his passion and his talent into a tiny but full-fledged brewery in a matter of a few short years. With an interest in styles of beer from all over the world, especially England, Belgium, and his native Netherlands, and brewing as he does in very small batches, Erik has put out an astounding number of different beers.
This June we traveled again to a sleepy Catalonian farming village about an hour from Barcelona to whoop it up at the 4th annual Spanish Craft Brewer's Festival. We are pleased to report a great deal of progress since the festival of two years ago. Then, the festival was a gathering of well-meaning and enthusiastic, but clearly not-ready-for-Prime-Time homebrewers -- all with big dreams of a Spanish craft-brewing revolution. This year at least four breweries are clearly prepared to burst onto the international scene. The first one out of the gate is CCM.
Just two years ago, Pablo Vijande and friends founded Spain's first commercial craft brewery in the small town of Seva, north of Barcelona at the foot of the Montseny mountains. For years Pablo has been the odd man out in wine-drinking Spain, where no hops or barley for malting are grown. He sold home-brewing materials, ran an instructional brewer's festival, and even worked as a volunteer in an English ale brewery for a spell -- all the time saving up money to start up CCM.
So far, the brewery has focused primarily on three year-round beers, and these three are the first to arrive in the U.S. They are all in English styles, naturally, all made with great care and the best ingredients, and all brewed to the sound of Flamenco music reverberating through the small, spartan brewhouse in Seva. The hops they throw into the kettle at CCM are mostly Nugget, not the noblest of varieties, but the one most widely used by the larger more established Spanish breweries. Pablo feels that they give the beer a particularly Spanish character. The yeast is a complex English strain, which, like so many British tourists, is really flourishing in the hospitable climate around Barcelona.
The province of Catalonia is the epicenter of true beer appreciation in Spain, and that's where all of Pablo's beers have been sold -- until now, of course. For the U.S., the CCM beers have been outfitted with new labels based on the painting of Joan Miró, whose rich, quirky, mysterious work is emblematic of Barcelona and Catalonia. (We at Shelton Brothers just love the simple things in life: art and beer.)
If the gods are with us, there will be more good beer sailing from Catalonia soon. Pray for it, and keep an eye out.
The very best beer comes from Mahr’s. This tiny brewery in beautiful, historical Bamberg is an offshoot of one of the city’s best pubs. The region of Franconia, in northern Bavaria, is easily the most interesting part of Germany when it comes to brewing. Franconia boasts the most breweries per square kilometer in the world, and by far the widest array of original beer-styles in Germany. Bamberg is the cultural heart of Franconia. It also claims nine breweries within the city limits – for only 70,000 inhabitants – and the best, most eclectic variety of beer styles. It is a matter of intense debate which of Bamberg’s breweries is the best. Mahr’s is our favorite.
The Mahr’s “gasthaus” – built in 1670 – is one of the great places in the world to have a beer. Mahr’s is a rare example of artisanal brewing in a land of increased mass production, consolidation, and narrowing of popular tastes. A larger brewery simply could not make beer like this – unfiltered, unpasteurized, and bursting with flavor. There is no cutting corners or economy-of-scale at Mahr’s. The beers are naturally more expensive as German beers go, but beer drinkers always get more than their money’s worth.
The story of Mikkeller is the story of two young homebrewers, who in a few years have excelled from hobby brewing at home in the kitchen to national and international recognition. Most recently, the two creators, Mikkel Borg Bjergsø and Kristian Klarup Keller, were named Danish brewery of the year and the fifth best brewery in the world in 2006.
In Denmark it’s the association of Danish Beer Enthusiasts’ more than 11.000 members, who awarded Mikkeller the best Danish brewery, while it’s the international beer website RateBeer.com that placed Mikkeller among the absolute world elite on the yearly RateBeer Best list from January 2007. On the same website, many of Mikkeller’s beers are also among the best in the world.
The success is partly due to the brewers’ focus on creating challenging beers that test the boundaries and where quality always comes before quantity. In other words, uncompromising beer.
The brewers want to challenge the Danes’ taste buds with intense taste adventures, and the inspiration is found on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean where the American breweries aren’t afraid to play and break all the rules. Mikkeller wants to provoke some of this inventiveness in Danish beer brewing, so why not show the way?
We met Johan Pihl, the man behind Mjödhamnen, at the Mazer Cup, the largest gathering of meadmakers in the world, as far as we know.
While seated together at dinner, he told us about his "mobile meadery". In Sweden, the government regulates the sale of all alcohol through the Systembolaget, and generally they only carry a very specific assortment of drinks. But recently, there's been a trend toward local, so they've made allowances for products made on farms within a certain radius of each Systembolaget store. Mjödhamnen's meads are all produced on a giant yellow bus, of sorts, that Johan drives from apiary to apiary (honey farms) in the countryside around Stockholm. In this way, they're able to sell to many different Systembolaget stores, instead of just the few that would be near a stationary meadery. We admired their determination to work around ridiculous and difficult local laws (and empathized with them).
We also admired their meads, which are all made onsite at each apiary, with Johan and his fellow meadmaker Joel Karlsson carrying buckets of honey from storage to the mobile meadery by hand. This means they are able to create small-batch meads made exclusively from honey from a single source. They call it(roughly translated) "Expedition Local Mead".
Mjödhamnen's meads are complex and wine-like, and different from anything we've tasted. They are generally quite dry and highlight the subtle flavors of the rare honeys they use, which vary from spicy to extremely floral to herbal. They've also crafted an exciting lingonberry melomel, made with the famous Swedish lingonberries, that drinks almost like a rosé wine.
If you've had strong, sweet meads before and didn't particularly enjoy them, try these. If you've never had mead before, try these. If you're a wine drinker looking for something a little different, try these. If you're into drinks made on an awesome yellow bus in the Swedish countryside, you're in luck. Definitely grab some Mjödhamnen.
A member of The French Craft Brewers Guild, the Brasserie du Mont Blanc first opened its doors in the 1830s and was revived in 1999 in order to restore the Savoyard brewing tradition. It has kept its commitment to excellence and beer diversity intact during the past 180 years. Named after Europe's highest peak, the brewery, located in the Chamonix valley, brews its beers with the glacier's crystalline water (from the Enchapleuze Spring at an altitude of 6,804 feet). The low mineral content creates an unusually clean taste and subtle character.
"Nils Oscar Sundberg, who is depicted in our well-known brand, is the genuine article. He was grandfather to the current owner of the Nils Oscar Company and was born in the very north part of Sweden in 1865. Hard times and poor living conditions forced him to emigrate to America where he worked as a tenant farmer and learned to cultivate crops. After 18 years he returned to his native Sweden, got married and bought his family estate. Up until World War I he farmed both in the us and Sweden with good help of his beloved wife.
Our philosophy is to run the entire processing chain on a small scale from the fields of Tärnö Manor to the bottle. Tärnö is located in an area of natural beauty in a rolling, open landscape forms the basis of our activities. We cultivate the four varieties of grain here; corn, wheat, rye and oats which are then used as main ingredients in Nils Oscar’s products.
The focus in Tärnö is on the environment and quality. Evidence of this comes from the fact that Tärnö was the first Swedish agricultural area to be ISO 9002 certified for quality standards. In addition, all of the farmland has a six meter wide environmental zone that contributes to reduced emissions, and allows flora and fauna to thrive in its own natural micro biota.
The malthouse is housed in a building from the 18th century, but is nevertheless one of the most modern in Europe. Here we produce malt that is krav labeled(Organic Production Monitoring Assoc.) for use in our in-house beer and spirits manufacturing process. Furthermore, we supply special malt to several of our major bakeries in the Nordic Region. New research shows that malt supplies many times the amount of minerals and nutrients to the body compared to normal grain.
Tärnö expresses its character in spirits and beer. Just as the Scottish whiskey distillers do, we use our own malt and distill our mash in a pot still to attain the required taste. The in-house produced malt and distillation of the mash produces the unsurpassed taste of Nils Oscar alcoholic beverages. With respect to beer, it is our clear objective to utilize the unique resource we have in our own malthouse. The result is a premium beer and an exceptional beer culture that we would like to share, not just in our own country but across the world. Today, Nils Oscar is regarded as one of Scandinavia’s most well-reputed and successful micro brewers. At our highly appreciated beer tasting sessions at the brewery in Nyköping, our expert beer guides pass on this beer culture…
A year or two ago, not too far from Hell, in southern Norway, a local priest angered parishioners by ‘fraternizing with the devil.’ The ‘devil,’ in this case, is Kjetil Jikiun, brewer at Nøgne-Ø Brewery, where the priest has been taking brewing lessons. Kjetil cannot fail to find some humor in the reaction of some of his neighbors, but as a devout Orthodox Christian, he does bristle at the idea that brewing is the devil’s work.
In actuality, Kjetil is an airline pilot, who, on his frequent trips abroad, has found a taste for better beer, and especially for bold brewing styles. His attempts to re-create these beers as a homebrewer were so successful that he was strongly encouraged to follow his dream of brewing professionally. That dream became reality in 2002, when Nøgne-Ø was born.
Kjetil and his partners gave the brewery a subtitle -- Det Kompromissløse Bryggeri, or “The Uncompromising Brewery,” a plain statement of their mission: to make ales of strong personality and individuality, even if they would be challenging to the tastes of the general public.
Kjetil still pilots Airbus 340’s for SAS Airways . . . traveling for three days at a time, then spending his three days off at the brewery, while his airline colleagues are at home, resting up for the next wearying journey. The hard work is paying off, it seems: as of this writing, the top eight Norwegian beers on ratebeer.com are all brewed by Nøgne-Ø.
Head brewmaster at Nørrebro Bryghus, Anders Kissmeyer, had a beer revelation.
It took root in Cathedral School in Arhus where, as a young man, he developed an interest in chemistry engineer studies and wrote his final dissertation on “The botanic components in rye”. He went on to graduate from “Den Skadinaviske Bryggerihøjskole” (Scandinavian Brewers School), and was then hired as a quality controller in the laboratories of the large Carlsberg brewing conglomerate. While working for this large beer company, his travels took him to the United States and, more specifically, Brooklyn Brewery.
It was here that the aforementioned revelation took place. Anders met Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster of Brooklyn Brewery and a force in American (and International) beer and food culture. Anders was amazed at Garrett's ability to produce unique and quality beers in such a small scale operation. Anders learned that across the country American microbreweries were developing their own beer culture, inspired by, but distinctly separate from, traditional European cultures. How could these tiny start-ups create such amazing, imaginative, flavors? Garrett Oliver opened up a whole new world of brewing and beer to the Danish brewer.
Anders went back to Denmark and Carlsberg determined to apply his new found knowledge to Danish beer culture. Carlsberg was not convinced. His new ideas were dismissed as a "naive dream" that had no place in Denmark. Anders left Carlsberg one year later.
We are glad he did because this split led to the birth of Nørrebro Bryghus. The brewery focuses on diversity, brewing over 28 varieties since their inception in 2003. The beers are inspired by the imagination of American brewing, with a focus on openness and quality ingredients. Their website states: "Our goal is to give unique experiences in taste and broaden the knowledge of and desire to drink exciting hand crafted beer - in other words to strengthen and broaden the Danish beer culture."
We're excited to drink his exciting and diverse beers and are confident in supporting his claim that each one is a unique experience.
In late 2003, two friends are sitting in front of their computers, creating software for their little programming company. One says to the other: “We’ve been doing this for several years now. How about starting something new – like opening a microbrewery?” “Yeah, why not?” the other answers.
The two friends were Martin and Christian, and that little exchange of words was the beginning of Ølfabrikken.
Their plan was to brew a range of unfiltered and unpasteurized beers, focusing on strong, spicy, and hoppy ales, unlike anything that was being brewed at the time in Denmark. Back then,there were fewer than twenty microbreweries in Denmark, and most of them brewed beer for the untrained palate of the average consumer.
Of course, starting a microbrewery with almost no money is not as simple as that. After many months of searching for used equipment without success, Martin and Christian had nearly given up. But, suddenly, on a sunny day in April 2004, a phone call came at their office. It was from the owner of Glossop Breweries Ltd., a British microbrewery making real ales for the local community. He had heard about the two Danes on the lookout for cheap brewing equipment. During an afternoon of negotiation, a price was agreed upon and plane tickets were ordered. The following week, Martin and Christian went to the UK to try out the equipment, which proved to be exactly what they were looking for.
The brewery, complete with two five-barrel fermenters and several hundred British casks, was shipped to Denmark and deposited on the lawn of Martin’s parents’ farm. As the ‘brewery’ had spent all of its money on the brewing equipment, nothing was left to actually build or rent a facility. Martins’ parents agreed, however, to have the brewery installed in a corner of their barn. After months of working on the barn with friends and family during weekends and evenings, the small brew house was ready for use.
In the meantime, other friends had been helping with the logo, labels, and a web site. A name for the new brewery was found: Ølfabrikken -- which literally means “The Beer Factory.” This was meant ironically, since the new brewery was probably the most primitive in the country.
Ølfabrikken’s first beer was brewed in December 2004. It was a dark, malty winter ale, fermented with two different yeast strains. It was a huge success and sold out in a few days. It seemed that Danish beer consumers craved something a bit different. So, more beers were brewed, and they sold out just as quickly as the first.
If the story ended there it would have been a happy ending. It doesn’t end there, however, and despite the success of the beer in Denmark, Martin and Christian were still working overtime as computer programmers to keep the business afloat. After a year of fighting both brewery infections and creditors, however, times got better. More used fermenters were bought, an extra brewer was hired, and more customers were taken on.
Since its inception in late 2004, Ølfabrikken has won more awards than any other brewery in Denmark, culminating in 2006, when the 12,000 members of the consumer organization “The Danish Beer Enthusiasts,” voted Ølfabrikken both “Brewery of the Year” and brewer of the “Best New Beer.” As of this writing, Ølfabrikken is rated as the 12th best brewery in the world of 7,300 reviewed on Ratebeer.com.
Today the three guys at Ølfabrikken brew approximately 10,000 liters of ale every month. It is sold in specialty beer shops, wine shops, and bars all over Denmark, as well as in Finland and the USA. Though the brewery has grown, its founders’ have remained true to their original principles: to brew unfiltered, unpasteurized, and experimental beers, in small quantities, for the passionate consumer.
June, 2007, was a month to be remembered for Shelton Brothers.
For eleven years we'd imported nothing but beer (We'll leave Daniel's wife out of this for now). We'd often been asked why we did't import cider, but our answer was invariably, "well, we don't really like cider that much."
So, when Brother Ron came back from England in 2006 all a-flutter about the cider house he'd just visited, we were skeptical. Surely this was just more of the same, bland, sugary-sweet, alcoholic apple juice we'd rejected over the years?
But this stuff was good. No, it wasn't just good, it was fabulous . . . . dry, and complex, brimming with intense flavors. It was fermented with wild yeasts and had much more in common with Belgian Gueuze than with 'cider.' Who knew? So in June of 2007, we welcomed the first round of Oliver's ciders, and we've made sure to keep a steady supply ever since.
The old farm in Herefordshire where Oliver's Cider House sits has been producing cider and perry for at least three centuries. Not much has changed there in that time. These days, the wonderful Tom Oliver runs the show (when he's not on tour, managing bands like The Proclaimers and Everything But the Girl) and uses only fresh (mostly hand-picked) unsprayed fruit, with minimal intervention. Cattle and sheep graze the orchards year-round, providing nitrogen and natural weed prevention.
Tom believes in protecting the delicate balance of his orchard's ecosystem. He writes:
"Oliver's strivese to produce premium products, while valuing the health and well being of its consumers, its employees, the earth's natural resources, and the environment. In fact, Oliver's have created a charter that they hope all cider makers will follow. Its tenets are these:
•To help secure the future of UK orchards and their ecosystems
•Preserve the integrity of cider and perry as valuable products of recognised quality using only UK fruit
•Declare ingredients (with traceability), based on a minimum juice content of 85%, control and minimise additives and use only natural products."
The pears and apples are picked at full ripeness, sometimes stored to mature further, then washed, milled and, whenever necessary, macerated. Then they are pressed and fermented by wild yeasts and aged in old oak barrels for up to 10 months, before being blended and then bottled.
The region's deep, rich, sandstone-derived clay and loam soil, and its usual daytime sunshine and gentle night time rain, are all perfectly suited to the growing of cider apples and perry pears. Blend in hundreds of years of artisan cider production, and you have the tastiest, most complex ciders and perries available anywhere.
Tom Oliver opened our eyes to a whole new world of exciting and delightful craft ciders. To be honest, we're a little obsessed now. So get with the program and start drinking cider. It's the new lambic.
Oppigårds Brewery sits on the 250-year-old Falkeström family farm, in a tiny wooden building. Constructed in 1696, the space was once used for flax-dressing, and great-grandfather Falkeström also housed a farm smithy there. Today, while the farm is no longer operational, the building is still put to good use. Now, Bjorn Falkeström uses it for brewing. With the addition of a malt crushing room out back, all Oppigårds beers are brewed in the old place. The brewery allows the Falkeströms to make their livelihood on the farm, as they have since the mid-1700s.
Bjorn Falkeström founded Oppigårds in order to revive not only the family farm, but also traditional Swedish farmhouse ales, which were the norm in the 1800s until a wave of generic, modernized, breweries took over. With their efficient labor practices, refrigeration, and yeast cultures, the large breweries made farmhouse brewing unprofitable, and it all but died completely.
Today, Oppigårds Bryggeri uses recipes from these small farm breweries. This doesn't mean Bjorn is against advances that help craft a good beer. His brewery is based on modern technology and quality, combined with old recipes and traditions. He brews a variety of deep, colorful ales and is excited to be an independent Swedish craft brewer.
Doctor Renzo Losi's Panil brewery makes many excellent natural beers in time-honored, classic styles. The first to come to the USA is Panil Barriquée, possibly the only remaining authentic sour red ale left in the world.
The decision to open Pietra came to husband and wife founders Dominique and Armelle Sialelli after a Corsican folk music concert. They write on their website:
"On a beautiful, hot, starry night, standing at a bar following a concert by I Muvrini in Corte, their wish to drink a Corsican beer gives them the idea: to create a brewery in Corsica and brew a beer that reflects its land of origin."
Today their brewery, named after Dominique's hometown Pietraserena, produces beers brewed to be specifically Corsican. Pietra Ale is brewed with chestnut flour. An old saying states that “From birth till death, a Corsican’s whole time is lived under the influence of the chestnut tree” and the tree is often referred to as the "tree of life" in Corsica. Colomba Ale is a white ale brewed with herbs from the Corsican maquis (bushland).
The brewery focuses on quality and consistency, and representing Corsica as a place of beauty and good beer.
Renaissance Brewery crafts intensely rewarding ales for the enlightened palate. Their beers are made from the pure waters that flow from the southern alps and they only use locally grown hops from their own backyard.
Situated in the heart of Marlborough wine country, Blenheim, at the top of New Zealand's south island, their aim is to make beers that rival their grape based cousins.
The brewery is situated at the old Grove Mill on Dodson St, which is the oldest commercial building in Blenheim. Over the years it has housed an ice cream factory, a malt house, two very famous Marlborough wineries (Grove Mill and Whitehaven) and more recently a craft brewery.
Straight from the brewery: "We do not make sugar water, in fact unlike most commercial beers, we only use the naturally occuring sugars from malted barley. We do not compromise on flavor and believe that teaspoons of sugar should only be added to cups of tea."
Alex Liberati is the man behind Revelation Cat. We've known Alex for a few years, bumping into him on the beer circuit just about every time we turn around. He may just be the first "Citizen of the World", which is a name we've given to our export program for American beers, and our broader idea of spreading good beer to every person in the world that needs it. Alex definitely shares that sort of vision.
He also owns the famous Brasserie 4:20 in Roma, which boasts Rome's greatest selection of beers. It was named one of the 100 best new places in the world in 2010 by Food & Wine Magazine, after we pointed them in the right direction! Brasserie 4:20 made their short list of 3 "Beer Innovators." The other two on the list? Baird Brewing Compnay in Tokyo and Moeder Lambic in Brussels. Hmmm...we can't argue with that!
The beers of Revelation Cat are experimental (dry-hopped lambics and a barrel aged series). Look for them at selective beer stops.
It’s a sad tale, the closing of the venerable Brakspear brewery in Henley-on-Thames, where the most famous and surely the best Bitter in England has been made for centuries. The brewery, in operation since 1779, was sold off in 2002 in parts to make room for an upscale hotel, and everyone who worked there was let go, without so much as a by-your-leave. But for beer lovers, the closing was not a complete disaster. Thankfully, the master brewer at Brakspear, Peter Scholey, determined to strike out on his own. Peter has set up shop as Ridgeway Brewing, not so far from Henley, and already he’s putting out beers so good they could almost make you forget Brakspear altogether.
The Ridgeway Brewery is named for the ancient road – passable now only on foot – that meanders along a low escarpment across the high, rolling pastoral plain that is the southwest of England. The now patchy stone surface of the Ridgeway was laid by Britain’s oldest inhabitants – Druids and the like – thousands of years before the Romans turned up to build their own roadways. It is the oldest road in the British Isles and Europe, running nearly 100 miles, past that other ancient landmark, Stonehenge, as well as Peter Scholey’s relatively modern home, along the way.
While paying a visit to Tom Oliver (our good friend, and the reason we got into cider) at his orchards and cidery in Herefordshire, we asked where to go for more good, local, stuff. He immediately suggested Ross-On-Wye Cider and Perry Co., not just because they make exceptional cider, but also because their cidermaker, Mike Johnson, is one of the nicest people you'll meet.
The Johnson family has been farming the same land (30 minutes down the road from Oliver’s, in the little town of Ross-on-Wye) for over 70 years, and growing apples for over 30. They started out growing fruit for the local cider behemoth, Bulmer's, and 40 acres are still contracted out. The fruit sent to Bulmer's provides the income needed for Mike to plant whatever he wants for his own cider and perry, currently upwards of 70 different varieties of fruit trees.
While the orchards may be large, the little cider building is tiny, and the barn where it's stored even smaller. Both are filled to the brim with bottles and barrels of cider and perry - all of Mike's products are fermented in barrels with only naturally-occurring, wild yeasts. Ross-on-Wye is known for experimenting with a variety of barrels - rum, whiskey, brandy, etc - and has them packed into corners, filled with fermenting juice.
They’re also known for their small tasting cellar, where Mike offers single-varietal ciders as a way for visitors to learn why not just any Tom, Dick, or Harry can put out the good stuff. He’ll walk you through what makes a good cider, pouring a little Bittersweet juice, then adding some Bitter Sharp, perhaps a little Dessert Apple juice to round it out until you have something like a well blended cider. Blending is the art of cider-making, and the ROW cellar provides some insight into the craft.
The cellar is cool, slightly damp, and smells like fermenting fruit. A stream of locals are in and out to fill up bottles from barrels, and chat with Mike and his business partner Phil about what's going on in town. The whole farm is a generally welcoming place. Mike opens his orchards to anyone who wants to camp out and help out. During the harvest, the fields are littered with tents. We were there in the slow Spring season, but there were still a few stragglers living on the farm – all of whom seemed at home. Mike stopped to chat with folks as they passed through the cider house – including the woodworker who asked if he might use the apple stump in the lower field to start crafting a bench for the walkway.
The ciders are also constantly changing, and we doubt that anything we get from them will taste much like what’s come before. This is a good thing, but it means that if you see these ciders around, you shouldn’t wait until they’re gone.
The Scheldebrouwerij is a young, traditional brewery, situated in 's- Gravenpolder in the province of Zeeland, in the southwest of The Netherlands. Schelde produces unfiltered and unpasteurized ales, which are all refermented in the bottle.
Slaapmutske literally means ‘Sleeping Cap,’ (and, as an extension, 'nightcap') in Flemish. The name came about a few years ago when brewer Dany de Smet and his lovely wife, Marleen, were trying to soothe their crying baby, Jonas. When all else failed, Dany hit on the idea of giving the lad a short lick of a finger dipped into a glass of one of Dany's beers. And with that, young Jonas was out like a light. Marleen declared the beer to be a real 'slaapmutske,' and thus, a brewery was born.
In fact, all the Slaapmutske beers tend to be of the strong, beddy-bye variety. Dany is currently making his beers at the De Proef brewery (where Flemish Primitive and K.O. are also made), but hopes to have his own brewery someday.
Bamberg may well be Germany’s most interesting brewing town, with more original specialty beers to its credit than any other. The most famous of all Bamberger styles is smoked beer, or “rauchbier.” The oldest rauchbier brewery in Bamberg is Spezial, which was founded in 1536.
Spezial is right in the heart of the city – a very congenial pub with the brewery in the courtyard behind. The brewery has its own maltings and barley malt is smoked right there in downtown Bamberg. The smoke of special beechwood logs burning just beneath the malt kiln filters up, imparting a natural smoky flavor to the fresh barley kernels. The brewer uses 40% of this smoked malt and 60% high quality Bavarian barley malt to make this delicious smoked beer.
Spezial’s Lager Rauchbier is a surprisingly refreshing treat – not so dark as the brewery’s Märzen Rauchbier (which uses 70% smoked malt). A malty sweetness perfectly balances the mild smoke flavor of this amber brew.
Many people will tell you that they just can’t enjoy a traditional rauchbier. Make them try this one, and it’s a fair bet they’ll end up loving it. The possibilities for creative pairings with good food are almost endless.
With St Somewhere, Shelton Brothers will be bringing our second American brewery to the national palate, because we want to give everyone a taste of their complex and unique ales.
Saint Somewhere is a small batch brewery, located in Tarpon Springs, Florida, that specializes in traditionally brewed, hand-crafted, Belgian-style ales. They use strictly Belgian malt and whole leaf hops. They also produce their own dark candi sugar, which, along with their house yeast, provides an uncompromising level of complexity. All of their ales are bottle-conditioned and unfiltered and receive a dose of Brettanomyces at bottling.
The Sint Pieters brewery is the smallest commercial brewery in Belgium, but it is growing quickly. The incredibly spare brewing setup consists mostly of converted dairy equipment, and can’t produce very much at once. For the time being, the only solution to a burgeoning demand is just to brew more and more small batches.
Serge Ricour is one of those guys – probably a genius, but it takes one to know one, and we’re not really sure we can meet that standard – who just produces fantastic beer, but doesn’t seem to know it himself. The Brasserie Ricour, or Brasserie St-Sylvestre (you use either one and everyone in town knows what you’re talking about) makes, arguably, the best beer of France: 3 Monts. We Shelton Brothers would probably argue with that, since we’ve found so many nice beers in France and brought them to the U.S. for your inspection, but you can’t really argue with the proposition that 3 Monts is, at least, one of the very best beers of France.
The thing is, 3 Monts may not even be the best beer that Serge Ricour makes. We think that Gavroche is better.
Problem is, if you were of drinking age about five years ago, you may have seen Gavroche here before. Somebody brought it into the U.S. around that time, and it totally bombed. Brother Daniel tried it back then, and was terribly unimpressed.
When he went to the Brasserie St-Sylvestre about a year later, and sat face to face with the inscrutable Serge, and Serge said, ‘Why don’t you import Gavroche?’ Daniel said, ‘No thanks. Didn’t care for it.’ ‘Ah,’ said Serge. ‘But then you haven’t tried the real Gavroche.’ Intrigued, Daniel replied, ‘All right then, what’s the real Gavroche?’ Serge snapped his fingers, and it appeared: a lovely reddish beer, strong and flavorful, and buoyed by a live yeast culture in the bottle – one of the few bottle-conditioned, re-fermented beers of France. It was good, very good, to say the least. So, Daniel wanted to know, why didn’t you send this beer to the U.S. instead of that unfortunate stuff that you sent before? Well, Serge replied, ‘We had a bad batch we needed to get rid of, and we didn’t think the Americans would notice.’ It’s a French thing. But all is forgiven when you make great beer.
In the little town of Bavay, only a few miles from the border with Belgium, the Theillier family has crafted its fine bière de garde for generations. The charming brewery is built into the Thiellier family home, which was constructed in the 1600’s on sturdy Roman foundations.
The Theilliers now makes only one beer. La Bavaisienne is artfully brewed, in very small batches, using a resourceful combination of ancient and more modern equipment. The newest heir to the family tradition, Michel Theillier, hand-delivers this popular beer within a small area around Bavay. Now beer drinkers in the U.S. can enjoy it too.
“This remarkable brewery deserves to be better known.” (Michael Jackson, The Beer Companion)
Daniel Thiriez’s rustic little brick-and-beam brewery graces the village of Esquelbecq, plunk in the middle of the rolling farm country of French Flanders. With a brewing degree from a Belgian university, and decidedly ‘Belgian-oriented,’ Monsieur Thiriez makes ales with an earthy, slightly wild character that recalls the early days of farmhouse brewing, before there was a border between France and Belgium.
Whether talking about his early days home brewing, the set up Carl and Simone Vasta have now at Tuatara Brewery, or the possible need for further expansion, it’s clear that they’re dedicated to continuing to supply the best quality beer to New Zealanders who’re thirsty for it.
Carl’s passion for brewing started after a trip to London in the 1980’s where he discovered beer didn’t have to be flat or tasteless or come in a flagon.
When he had to return home to this dismal imitation of the real thing he knew he hadn’t just found a gap in the market but a hollow void that would seriously affect his quality of life if he did nothing to remedy it.
Carl built the first brewery by hand from modified dairy tanks, and some equipment he had lying around.
In 2007, on the back of the bottled beer sales a German designed brew-house and new fermenters were added, giving Tuatara a capacity of over 35,000 litres.
In 1050, Benedictine monks founded a monastery along a stream in the beautiful green hills of Franconia, in northern Bavaria, and pretty much immediately began to make beer. (Another German monastery, at Weinstephan, claims to be the world's oldest brewery, starting in 1040. But what's ten years in the big scheme of things?) The monks called their new home Weissenohe, meaning "along the white stream" -- a reference to the unusual concentration of limestone in the water (washed down from nearby chalk cliffs), which proved to be great for brewing.
Due to a severe and chronic monk shortage, and the steady advance of secularization all over Europe, most monasteries in Germany have been given over to private families. It happened at Weissenohe in 1803. The Winkler family that assumed the monastery and the grounds at Weissenohe has maintained the chapel and the brewery (and added a typical guesthouse eatery). Today, there are still services in the chapel, and Urban Winkler, who represents the youngest generation in a line of family brewers, still makes beer in the traditional way.
At Weissenohe the Reinheitsgebot (the famous Bavarian beer purity law) is still observed, and the beer is made by the traditional, and painstaking, double-decoction method, which is only rarely observed in Bavaria today. Urban Winkler's brewing methods have been handed down to him from earlier generations of brew-masters at Weissenohe, and refined in accordance with the teachings of older brew-masters in the area. Franconians, a famously stubborn and uncompromising people, still support almost 300 small breweries in their tiny corner of Bavaria, and have kept the old ways even as breweries in the rest of Bavaria modernize, stream-line, and forget.
Since 1984, in the face of artificial sweeteners and industrial production, the Maloney family (Terry, Judith, and Field) have passionately crafted artisanal ciders that are dry, complex, and very satisfying.
They arrived in the Northern Berkshires, from Northern California in l972, and brought their passion for wine-making with them. Although the grape supply in Massachusetts was limited, they discovered a wonderful new alternative: apples.
Impressed and inspired by their neighbors' cider-making, they tried their hand at this local tradition, applying their California wine-making techniques to a new art. When they offered their first vintage for sale in ’84, they became the first U.S. winery to specialize in hard cider.
They now tend an orchard of about 1400 American and European trees, and constantly seek new, exciting, apple varieties. Their current assortment includes the traditional American Roxbury Russet and Golden Russet, as well as Baldwin and Redfield, along with the European varieties Tremlett’s Bitter, Reine de Pomme, and Dabinett. They also grow over twenty traditional American and European 'test' varieties, and make trial batches from the fruit. The most promising varieties are then used for larger scale planting.
When fermented, different apples give each cider its particular flavor and structure. Golden Russet is sweet, low in acid, and moderate in tannins. Kingston Black is acidic and tannic (bittersharp). Dabinett has lots of tannin and very little acid (bittersweet). Craft cider makers blend their juice for a balance of sweetness and acidity, among other things, and the apples used are based on the season’s harvest. This means each year brings new ciders.
The Maloneys begin making their cider in late October, after the fruit has matured. After the harvest, the apples are sorted and pressed into cider. The freshly-pressed juice is then fermented and bottled in small batches at their Catamount Hill Bonded Cellar.
We just learned of West County a few months ago, and we contacted them as soon as we heard all the good things people were saying. Unfortunately, since cider-making happens in the fall, West County was at the end of this season’s supply and we have limited 2009 availability. However, they were kind enough to send us what they could, and they sent some of their best. Grab a bottle if you see it and ask for it if you don't; you don't want to miss out.
Daniel says “My god, this stuff is tasty!” and he's always right.
Westons cider has been lovingly produced in the Herefordshire village of Much Marcle for over 125 years. Since Henry Weston founded the business in 1880, five generations of Westons have continued to run the business. Helen Thomas, Henry's great-grandaughter, is the current Managing Director.
It was in 1878 that Mr Henry Weston came to farm at 'The Bounds' in Much Marcle. With his own fruit from the farm orchards, he crafted cider and perry for the family, as was the pattern of life in the country at the time. There was always a barrel of cider in the cellar for the family to use - and a hogshead in the cider house for the men on the farm, who, at the start of each day the year round, brought their wooden ‘costrels' to the cider house to be filled with the days allowance.
In 1880 Henry began to produce his first commercial batches of cider. For the first few years the only means of manufacture was the old stone mill - which had been used to make the farm cider for generations - and an equally well used screw press; but it was not long before a roller mill, mechanical chain presses and a steam engine to drive them made an appearance.
Now there are more and bigger vats, state of the art presses and filters, more fruit is handled, and bottles are cleaned and filled at speeds undreamed of in the early days. However, some things have not changed.
H. Weston & Sons Limited is still an independent family business that makes cider from local Herefordshire apples. All Westons ciders are still crafted in oak barrels, some of which are over 200 years old. Most importantly, they take pride in continuing to make cider the traditional way; from apples, without artificial flavors or additives.
We're pleased to be able to bring an assortment of some of the best known ciders in the world to the US, and introduce Americans to one of the oldest English cider producers still crafting ciders in the traditional way.
Xbeeriment is a product of passion of homebrewers Anders Østergaard and Thomas Hoelgaard. Because they don't have a production brewery, they can focus on what they enjoy most, creating interesting and boundary pushing beers.