Image Source: Michter's
September is National Bourbon Heritage Month, when distilleries release some of their best bottles. This year's notable releases include Kentucky Owl's Dry State bourbon ($1,000 a bottle), the annual Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch bourbon ($150); Old Forester’s Birthday Bourbon ($130); Michter’s 10-year-old single barrel bourbon ($130); Blade and Bow’s 22-year-old straight bourbon ($1,000); a high-wheat bourbon from Colorado’s Old Elk distillery ($70); and the barrel-strength Boston Batch from Booker’s ($90).
Image Source: BrewDog
Scottish brewing company, BrewDog, and German brewer, Schorschbräu, have settled a decade-long rivalry over who could make the strongest beer. The two breweries collaborated on “Strength In Numbers,” now considered the strongest beer in the world at 57% alcohol by volume (ABV). The high-alcohol brew is made by a process known as “fractional freezing,” and when released in the UK at £29 ($37.50) per bottle, it sold out within a day.
Image Source: The Drinks Business
Archeologists in Lebanon have excavated a wine press used as early as the 7th century B.C. The remains of the 2,600-year-old wine press were discovered during an archaeological dig at Tell el-Burak, a Lebanese city near the Mediterranean sea in what would have been ancient Phoenician homelands. The discovery suggests that wine previously found in hundreds of amphorae in two Phoenician shipwrecks off the Israeli coast was supplied by the Tell el-Burak winery.
Without yeast, there would be no alcohol. The single-cell organism feeds on sugar from grape juice or mash, a mixture of grains and water, converting it to carbon dioxide and alcohol. However yeast brings flavor as well, a fact seldom discussed in the world of distilled spirits. When it comes to spirits such as bourbon, individual strains of yeast perform differently and produce different flavor compounds according to the type of sugar the yeast feeds on, the fermentation temperature, and the total fermentation time. Distillers either use proprietary strains, which are live-culture yeasts continually produced at their facilities for generations, or strains purchased from producers, who offer live and dried strains. Distilleries are generally tight lipped about the yeast strains they use. However, the Kentucky-based Four Roses distillery share “recipes” for its whiskeys. The distillery has a collection of over 300 strains, but uses only five of them and two different mash bills to create the 10 base recipes for its various bourbons. On the Four Roses website, five-letter codes show the yeast strains and mash bills used. For instance, the “K” strain adds some spice to certain whiskeys, while the “V” strain adds lighter notes of fruit to others. Consumers haven’t shown much interest in yeast strains in the past, at least not as much as distillers. But different strains of yeast help to create the wide variety of flavor profiles of different bourbons. “I think yeast may be the single most important thing in [spirits production],” says Ian Glomski, founder of Virginia distillery Vitae Spirits.
The longer a distilled spirit is left in an aging barrel, the greater the concentration of flavor compounds it collects from the barrel. Spirits also evaporate over time, a portion known as “the angel’s share.” That’s one reason why older whiskeys cost more: there is less in the barrel for the distiller to sell. The accepted wisdom is that older whiskeys are worth more, but time is not the only factor influencing evaporation. Temperature and humidity also effect the rate at which the spirit evaporates in the barrel. And evaporation rates vary around the world. “In Scotland, the angel’s share evaporation rate is 1 to 2 percent per year,” says award-winning spirits importer Raj Sabharwal. “Whereas in Bangalore it’s 10 to 15 percent.” Warmer and drier climactic conditions will, in effect, “age” a whiskey sooner. Sabharwal points to Indian single malt producer Amrut Fusion located in Bangalore in southern India. The Amrut distillery sits roughly 3,000 feet above sea level, and at that altitude, temperature highs range from a warm 75 degrees Fahrenheit in winter to a hot 120 degrees in summer. Since the distiller is inland, the humidity also stays low all year, ranging from 45 percent in the winter to 75 percent in summer. Amrut’s spirits evaporate and concentrate in flavor in just a few years. In Scotland, on the other hand, the typical temperature range is a somewhat low 36 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit, and humidity levels stay between 70 and 90 percent. With those climactic conditions, it takes longer for Scotch whiskeys to evaporate and concentrate in flavor. But it stands to reason that a 12-year-old single malt from Bangalore may be nearly as flavorful–and expensive–as an 18-year-old single malt from Scotland.
D.G. Yuengling markets itself as “America’s Oldest Brewery” and its most popular brew is simply called “lager” in bars east of the Mississippi River. But fans in the West have had a harder time finding Yuengling. That will change next year. The Pennsylvania brewery just announced a partnership with Molson Coors Beverage Company to increase Yuengling’s production and expand its distribution to millions of new consumers outside of Yuengling’s current 22-state market. “This partnership is a great opportunity for us to grow our distribution footprint for the long-term, while continuing to support our existing markets and the communities in which we operate,” said Wendy Yuengling, chief administrative officer at Yuengling. The partnership is expected to begin in late 2021. “This is a huge growth opportunity for Yuengling, it’s a huge growth opportunity for Molson Coors, and we’re going to make a whole lot of Yuengling fans out west really happy,” said Gavin Hattersley, CEO and president of Molson Coors Beverage Company.