Beervana Podcast

Jeff Alworth & Patrick Emerson

About the art, culture, economics and business of beer and brewing with hosts Jeff Alworth (The Beer Bible, The Secrets of Master Brewers) and Oregon State University economics professor Patrick Emerson.

All Episodes

The Wiener has landed! Just before Thanksgiving, pFriem debuted their version of a 19th-century Vienna lager like Anton Dreher would have made. It was a tremendous beer, and I’m delighted to say I was a collaborator. This is the story.

Nov 30

7 min 35 sec

When we talk about great beer cities, the name Atlanta rarely comes up. After a visit to five excellent breweries in town—New Realm, Bold Monk, Monday Night, Halfway Crooks, and Elsewhere—I was convinced it should.

Nov 12

12 min 16 sec

Larry Bell announced that he was selling his 36-year-old brewery, Michigan’s Bell’s, today. The language was weird and somewhat concealed the actual details. Yet unlike so many bloodless M&A announcements, the reason may have everything to do with the difficulty of this sale.

Nov 10

7 min 8 sec

On today's show, we beam into Jeff’s book tour and take you to a live recording of a stop he made at Guinness’s Open Gate Brewery in Baltimore, MD. This was a planned stop on the tour, and Jeff, brewer Sean Brennan, and Guinness “ambassador” Ryan Wagner spoke in front of an audience when he was in Baltimore.

Oct 26

1 hr

In a rather shocking development, the mailbag overfloweth! Long-time readers know that our begging for comments is a regular feature of the show, and we’ve been supported by a few reliable regular commenters. Since our last show, however, the emails have been flying. We have so many that we’ll devote the whole show to them today. You are a smart and observant bunch, and these are great questions.

Oct 10

1 hr 11 min

The Beer Bible 2nd Edition will be available a week from today. Here’s the skinny on everything that’s new. It’s a lot!

Sep 21

7 min 29 sec

Not long ago, listener Dan Cuzzocreo wrote us with this request: “I've really enjoyed the episodes you have done on a particular beer style. I'd love to hear more episodes in this vein, especially about important but less trendy styles, and in particular I was curious if you might consider doing one about brown ales.” Well Dan, you asked, and today we deliver. There is no style less trendy—nor badly-named—than brown ale, but today we’ll dig into its roots and see if we can’t discover why it was once a beloved tipple in both the US and UK. Brown ales forever! Photo: The Yorkshire squares of Samuel Smith

Sep 16

1 hr 17 min

Writers and brewers have identified most of the useful frameworks we use to understand beer. An important one, often hinted at but never fully explored, is national tradition. It’s never been more important to understand, though—especially now amid the birth of the American tradition.

Sep 14

9 min 28 sec

If you speak to anyone in the service industry these days, the conversation eventually turns to the ongoing worker shortage. Increasingly, people don’t want to work as restaurant servers or dishwashers—or brewers or keg-washers. What’s going on? Today we have a special Beeronomics edition of the show, wherein Patrick will give us the scoop. He’ll provide an overview of the labor industry, explain what drives worker shortages, and how salaries fit into the equation. Picture: Farmers Brewing

Sep 10

1 hr 14 min

Today we’re going to try something new. Over on his blog, Jeff has an ongoing series called “Making of a Classic,” which investigates why certain beers have become world standards over the decades. They contain a bit of history, a bit of ethnography, and often a bit of technology. We’re going to kick things off today with a beer you’re all familiar with: Guinness Draught. It seems as unchanging as it is ubiquitous, yet it has gone through tremendous change since its early origins at the start of the 19th century. As a special treat, we also have the voice of the man who created the final, and current, version of the beer.

Aug 25

1 hr 14 min

Pliny was a bright light in the fog. Despite its hurricane of flavors, it was more focused, refined, and elegant than other IPAs of the day. With the benefit of time, we can see that it reset expectations about what was possible, pointing to the future we now inhabit.

Aug 18

13 min 5 sec

Each year, people traveling to Portland reach out to Jeff for advice about which breweries to visit. Starting in 2018 he thought it would be easier just to write a post on his website with his recommendations. After several weeks of field research, he finally revealed the 2021 edition of the list on Beervana. Today we’ll discuss his recommendations and I’ll add my own comments and corrections. Blog post with the selections: https://www.beervanablog.com/beervana/2021/7/29/portlands-best-breweries-2021

Aug 11

1 hr 16 min

Of all the interesting stuff that has appeared at this site over the past 15 years, nothing was more important than the forty-odd posts from brewers and one cidermaker that constitute the Coronavirus Diaries series that ran on the site from March 2020 to this May. They’re now available as a book.

Aug 9

5 min 24 sec

On Monday, Molson Coors announced it was ceasing production of a bunch of minor brands it owned, including one that hurts Oregonians’ hearts: Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve. It was a beer that helped make the city Beervana, but also a remnant of a dying era.

Aug 5

8 min

Three months ago, we were all excited to be entering a time when life could go back to something approaching normal following 15 months of a pandemic. But now cases are spiking again, and it’s time to take drastic action to prevent a return to shutdowns and death.

Aug 2

6 min 32 sec

No doubt all the listeners have tuned in today for the thrilling conclusion of the Beervana Show IPA Smackdown! You’ll recall that last week we assembled a range of Oregon and Washington IPAs and tasted them blind. At the end of that show, we identified six beers we’ll be sending to the finals—which we will conduct today! We selected regular-production IPAs, and only IPAs—no double or session or black IPAs (though hazies and West Coasts were both in the mix). Of course, state bragging rights were on the line, but we also wanted to discuss the style and the nature of identifying “the best.” Today we continue the discussion and the judging.

Jul 28

1 hr 12 min

In the latest article in the Sightglass Series, I’ve spoken to a number of women in the beer industry to highlight how their creative expressions have changed the way we make, market, write about, and of course, drink beer. It’s a process entirely of addition, and we are all the beneficiaries of their work.

Jul 26

17 min 5 sec

Today we have a Beaver vs Evergreen State IPA showdown, tasted blind, for what will surely be the most coveted award in the beer world. Yes, in Show 144 we have the first annual Northwest IPA Smackdown! In this episode we feature the preliminary round, where we describe each of the sixteen beers and begin to flesh out what "good" looks like when you're dealing with modern IPAs on a bitter-to-juicy and hazy-to-clear continuum. Stick around to the end when we announce the finalists we'll judge in Show 145.

Jul 21

1 hr 2 min

Every beer contains a whiff of history. Traditional Berliner weisse, which went extinct in the mid-aughts before enjoying a revival years later, contains more than a whiff. Yesterday, at Portland’s Zoiglhaus brewery, I sampled both the ghost and its reincarnation.

Jul 15

5 min 59 sec

Due to unforeseen circumstances, the Beervana Show has been on a five-week hiatus, and during that time, the old mailbag has fattened up. On today’s show, we’re going to turn to you and answer questions, respond to your commentary and opinion, and offer a much-delayed update on our mascot, Maris Otter, and the t-shirts she will soon be adorning.

Jul 13

1 hr 20 min

As my perambulations take me around the beautiful sort-of post-Covid City of Roses, I have been finding a number of great beers to try. Today we have a look at stouts at Assembly, hoppy wild ales at Little Beast, and cask summer ales at Upright.

Jul 12

5 min 43 sec

We love good beer, finding good beer, talking about good beer. But identifying what that “good” is in beer—that’s a lot harder. Truly great beers are defined by subjective, often subtle elements of a beer. Yet they aren’t unknowable. Here’s a proposal for how to identify them.

Jul 9

11 min 29 sec

We are delighted to be back in a brewery! On today’s show, we are visiting Unicorn Brewing with owner Zach Vestal. We’ve been impressed with the tiny brewery’s beer over the past year, and wanted to come see the operation—which includes a homebrew shop and u-brew operation.

Jul 1

1 hr 2 min

Following each new disruption, I keep looking for a return. Normalcy can’t be that hard to restore. Yet each disruption carries darker connotations than the event itself. I feel the need to publicly acknowledge that sense of danger the small animal feels. It has been growing in me for years now.

Jun 29

7 min 50 sec

I will tell you a secret. It’s controversial and you will resist this information, but it’s true: hazy pale ales are better and more reliably good than their bigger IPA brothers. As summer heats up, find one and see if you don’t agree.

Jun 4

4 min 25 sec

A provocative piece in this month’s Atlantic argues that “America has a drinking problem.” But does it? The evidence paints a fuller, more prosaic picture: things have been very stable for a decade now.

Jun 3

5 min 57 sec

Last week we spoke to Nick Harris of Berkeley Labs about the ways in which bioengineering may remake brewing. That’s the latest example of technology’s impact on brewing, but it’s far from unusual. This week we’re going to look back at some of the pivotal technologies that changed brewing forever, even working a little beeronomics into the mix.

May 12

1 hr 10 min

Seltzers, canned cocktails, hard teas, flavored malt beverages: these represent a complex regulatory stew of products but may in many cases be called “beer.” Once a small enough market it didn’t matter, they are now such big business they may destabilize the entire alcohol industry.

May 10

12 min 33 sec

One of the country's best breweries continues to turn out incredible beer in relative obscurity. Taste Midnight Reflection, however, and you'll see why Portland's Upright really is that good.

May 6

4 min 46 sec

For Show 140 we have a fascinating discussion about the scientific frontiers of brewing. Nick Harris, one of three founders of Berkeley Yeast, joins us today. Founded by scientists from UC Berkeley, the team at this lab is busy bio-engineering beer yeast to do amazing things.

May 5

1 hr 14 min

After revolutions in hop breeding and product development and micromalting, yeast is getting its moment in the sun. A proliferating number of yeast labs offer organic and genetically-modified strains that do things like ferment without diacetyl or finish in half the time.

May 4

20 min 12 sec

Celebrating the breweries owned and operated by underrepresented groups in no way diminishes the accomplishment of White, male brewers. Our celebration of Tonya Cornett does not come at Ken Grossman’s expense.

Apr 30

6 min 3 sec

The past year has been so tough because it forced us into bubbles of stasis. We are creative, social beings who crave the way new experiences rewire our brains. We hunger to mix our minds with others. Few places are as good as breweries in delivering that charge of electricity we need to live.

Apr 28

5 min 45 sec

An embryonic start on a resource for finding breweries led by underrepresented groups.

Apr 26

4 min 8 sec

Hazy IPAs are the style that launched a thousand breweries. Yet their fusty old predecessors haven’t been banished entirely, and Fremont’s new release, Ollie, shows why.

Apr 22

2 min 41 sec

The Covid pandemic, for all its ravages, did create a few positive opportunities. A year ago, as breweries looked at their empty tanks and blank brewing schedules, many launched long-term projects like barrel-aging stouts. They were able to fire up the kettles to replenish, expand, or even start new barrel-aging programs, salting away stores for later release. Breweries like Breakside are just now putting out the first fruits of these projects, and the coming year will present drinkers with a bounty of these specialty ales. We thought this was a good time to have a look at what they’re doing.

Apr 21

1 hr 11 min

Breweries managed to survive the pandemic far more ably than anyone expected a year ago. They did it by retrenching and focusing on core customers rather than chasing those tantalizing customer just beyond reach. The “fan service” approach may be Covid’s greatest legacy.

Apr 20

6 min 19 sec

The blossoms have begun to scent the air, which is turning warmer and drier, all sure signs that winter is going. That means more time drinking lighter, more summery beer. On today’s show, we’ll discuss one of the all-time great session ales, and a fine spring and summer beer to boot—kölsch, that specialty of Cologne. As much as a beer style, it’s an amazing cultural force. We’ll discuss its history, the beer and the way it’s made, and all of those cultural elements that have grown up around it.

Apr 15

1 hr 9 min

A new documentary looks at craft brewing through a familiar lens—scrappy, unorthodox risk-takers setting out to make their mark. The movie brings in founding figures and places their story in a familiar narrative. It’s a fun movie and well-told. But what if the story is all wrong?

Apr 13

10 min 11 sec

Hammer and Stitch has been open seven months, but debuted in October, just as the pandemic entered its most debilitating phase. For most people venturing out with the spring sunshine, it is a brand new brewery. Here’s a first look.

Apr 8

9 min 14 sec

Audioblog: The Complex, 500-Year-Old Story of Reinheitsgebot by Jeff Alworth & Patrick Emerson

Apr 6

14 min 58 sec

Today I offer three beers that really impressed me. But they also made me aware of the trajectory their breweries are traveling. With Squeezy Rider, Neon Lights, and Bird-Day #1, we have liquid metaphors for where Deschutes, Ommegang, and Pelican are heading.

Apr 2

7 min 10 sec

Guinness is treated as a beer as often as a brewery, as if it is a single, immutable force. Like Pacifico or Heineken, naming the company names the beer. Yet the beer we think of when we name the brewery doesn't date to 1759, but two hundred years later.

Mar 31

12 min 30 sec

Brief Podcast/Show Programing Note by Jeff Alworth & Patrick Emerson

Mar 29

35 sec

They’re fruity, expressive, and fun to drink, yet thanks to poor style-branding, people avoid them. A modest proposal: just call saisons IPAs. Okay, maybe “farmhouse” IPAs.

Mar 26

6 min 9 sec

With the release of two new stouts, Breakside debuts a new approach to barrel-aging. Borrowing a page from the wild ale playbook, they blend not just different vintages, but different beers to create more integrated, subtle beers than the standard approach of single-batch blends.

Mar 24

8 min 59 sec

We learned over the weekend that the proposed beer tax hike in Oregon, the one that would have given us a tax twice as expensive as any other state’s, has been pulled. Now backers want to set up a task force, but there are many reasons to think they’re not acting in good faith.

Mar 22

6 min 22 sec

Today we speak to David Walker of Firestone Walker. The California brewery turns 25 this year, and its own evolution, from a brewery specializing in an English pale ale made on a modified Burton union system, to one purchased by a multinational brewery in the great consolidation phase of the middle-teens now featuring multiple product lines and locations, closely mirrors that of craft brewing itself. In our conversation, we use Firestone Walker’s experience to refract the lessons of the past 25 years of American brewing.

Mar 17

1 hr 7 min

Oh my, do we have some fun for you today. We’re breathless with excitement over today’s topic: taxes. A new bill arrived in the Oregon legislature to tax breweries at twice the level of the next highest state, and we thought it was a good moment to step back and look at taxes and the way they function in our economy as well as the way they’ve helped shape and guide the development of beer. Despite the dry subject, stick with us—this should actually be an entertaining hour.

Mar 11

1 hr 13 min

Every now and again, an explorer will follow a path deep into a thicket before finally tracing their way back out. The Sherpa has lately been following American-brewed Czech tmavés deep into the underbrush, and today’s edition reveals what he found.

Mar 10

4 min 53 sec