Blank Slate Brewing Company joined the Cincinnati brewing scene in Spring of 2012, and I sat down with him in the fall of that year. Realizing it’s been three years since then, we sat down for another interview recently. Scott and I talked for a long time, this is a long post please bear with it, it’s worth it. Also, hang tight for later this week or next when I’ll post part 2. Today, though, it’s all about Blank Slate Brewing Company!
Meet Izzy and her friend Rudi, actually, if you’ve read the blog for a while you already met Izzy as she product tested Brewhouse Dog Bones for me. Izzy is my dog and she loves visiting breweries, but not all breweries love Izzy visiting them, so here’s a list of where four-legged friends are welcome and where they aren’t.
I always ask for a deluge of books for Christmas. I love giving and receiving books for birthdays or the holidays. They’re little bundles of knowledge that enrich the life of the giftee. Which is to say get ready for a couple book reviews over the next few weeks. Farmhouse Ales and Wild Brews have both been on my must read homebrewing list for a few years so I was stoked to receive them both as gifts. Farmhouse Ales ended up on the top of the pile of books so we’re tackling that first, look forward to Wild Brews soon!
To start us off here’s the publisher’s description:
Farmhouse Ales defines the results of years of evolution, refinement, of simple rustic ales in modern and historical terms, while guiding today’s brewers toward credible—and enjoyable—reproductions of these old world classics.
As previously teased one beer has been named the King of the Cincinnati IPA. Last Saturday a plethora of local
beer bloggers expert tasters and myself got together to drink a bunch of free donated beer, hooray free donated beer! The full list of bloggers is:
- Beer Mumbo’s Danny Spears (BeerMumbo.com),
- BeerQuest ABV’s Ian Hoopes (BeerQuestABV.com),
- Brew Professor’s Mike Stuart (BrewProf.com),
- Queen City Fresh’s Chris Stevens (QueenCityFresh.com).
The blind tasting was proctored by
- Suds Anonymous’s Jack Behrendt (SudsAnonymous.blogspot.com)
- Loose Screw Beers’ Matt Rowe (@LooseScrewBeers on Twitter).
If you don’t read these guys blogs and/or follow them on twitter I’d highly advise it. They’re all cool and knowledgeable dudes each covering Cincinnati beer in a slightly different way. Also we’re each blogging our thoughts on this whole event and covering everything slightly differently so you should spend a few minutes reading all their posts on the event.
But back to the King of the Cincinnati IPA competition. I’m not sure who’s idea this first was but over the course of ~200 some emails we set a date and a place and got all the local brewers to donate growlers of their IPAs. To ensure fairness Jack & Matt stepped in to randomize the growlers and take care of pouring the samples so we were blind to what beer was in what cup.
The city has some fantastic IPAs some like Mt. Carmel, Cellar Dwellers, and Moerlein are more classic IPAs while Rhinegeist and MadTree produce more over the top hop-focused IPAs that are currently the rage. Rivertown comes in with a session IPA aiming for plenty of flavor with less alcohol so you can drink it over an extended session, hence the name. Blank Slate brings in a very different kind of IPA, as it does for all it’s brews, with what it calls a White IPA. It’s described as a wheat IPA “containing two different wheat malts in addition to oats and honey malt meld with copious amounts of Columbus, Cascade and Nugget hops”.
With all these slightly different IPAs it was hard to pick 1 winner but alas we did, in fact we picked two! Rhinegeist’s Truth and Blank Slate’s Lesser Path tied for first in the initial scoring. We then did a final round with no scoring just a straight up preference pick and while I myself went with Rhinegeist on the basis of it being more a true IPA I was out voted 3 – 2 so Blank Slate’s The Lesser Path took the King of the Cincinnati IPA title.
Since we crowned a king IPA for the Queen city folks may be anxious to give this a taste. If that’s you then the following list should help, but these places may have already sold out so call before you go!
|•Bar Louie||•Beer Sellar|
|•Dilly Deli||•Firehouse Grill|
|•Flip Daddy’s – Mason||•Liquor Box|
|•Mios Blue Ash||•Northside Tavern|
|•Remke Hyde Park||•The Comet|
|•Valley Wine & Spirits||•Vito’s Cafe|
|•Washington Platform Saloon||•Whole Foods – Mason|
Since our winner is draft only I want to give a special mention to Christian Moerlein’s Northern Liberties which was the highest ranked packaged IPA we tasted. Now I’m also realizing that out of 10 beers we tried only 3, Mt. Carmel, MadTree, and Moerlein are available in non-draft forms.
I want to thank all the breweries for making such great beer and letting us try some, all the bloggers for helping throw this together, and the Brew Professor’s family for putting up with us all for a night! We all had such a great time that it’s agreed we’ll do something like this again. Perhaps another style of beer or perhaps tap rooms or perhaps some other idea we’ve yet to think of!
Cincinnati’s Beer Week officially kicks off this Wednesday with a party on Fountain square and a special taping of this years Cincinnati Beer Week collaboration beer, Embree’s Northern Dark Baltic Porter. Starting last year all the brewers in Cincinnati got together to create a special collaboration beer. This year’s list of contributors includes; Blank Slate, Christian Moerlein, 50 West, Great Crescent, Listermann, Moerlein Lager House, Mt. Carmel, Rivertown, Rock Bottom, Sam Adams, and Tripel Digit. Kind of an odd list if you think about it, Moerlein is on there twice, Great Crescent comes in from Aurora, In but not Quaff Brothers (Bellevue, Ky) or Cellar Dweller(Morrow, Oh)? But I digress, regardless of who got in and out this is an awesome list of Cincinnati’s breweries. They all got together to decide what to make and it was eventually made at Rivertown. In case you’re curious where the name came from, it’s a history lesson in itself. David Embree opened the first brewery in Cincinnati in the long ago of 1812 so this beer is a tribute to him.
Before we get to the review I want to introduce everyone, including myself, to the Baltic Porter style. The Baltic States are in between England and Russia and in turn the Baltic porter is in between an English porter and a Russian imperial stout. The malt profile and flavor is that of a English porter but with a kicked up alcohol content from the Russian Imperial Stout. Having never had one before I’m excited to try this style as it appeases one of the complaints I’ve made regarding other porters, that I wished they were a bit stronger.
Oh, New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve never much been one for them, but being a grownup with a wife, kids, and a house gives me enough things to improve myself on that I think I’m going to give a few a whirl in 2013. Among the more trivial of those are related to alcohol. Because I don’t drink that much, my resolutions aren’t related to the Betty Ford Clinic or anything so dramatic. I’d like to homebrew more often, make better homebrew and — the topic of this post — I would like to give local beers more of a chance.
Most of the beers I review for this site are brewed in the Cincinnati region. Behind the scenes and away from this blog, though, local beers make up a tiny portion of what I consume. There are a number of reasons for this: up until this last year, there really wasn’t a great deal of locally-brewed beers on the shelves that were up to par or better than the non-local options sitting right next of them for the same price. Many of the beers that I would then actually rather buy than their non-local counterparts were either draft only, growler only, or not available on most stores’ shelves. Not exactly conducive to everyday drinking.
With the last year, a lot of this has changed. Though Cincinnati still needs to get with the program and catch up to its C-named sisters in terms of producing a really good, off the shelf IPA (Cleveland with White Rajah and Head Hunter, Columbus with Columbus IPA and Bodhi), the options have improved substantially in terms of quality. In many ways, 2012 was a banner year for better beer in Cincinnati. Rivertown now puts out a sour for almost every season of the year. Listermann/Triple Digit, who turned Cincinnatus from a pretty bad barrel aged stout into a fantastic one, has been pushing out high-gravity beers than can be found all over the place, including places like Walgreens. We’ve also seen Blank Slate welcomed to the scene, Fifty West (my current favorite and most promising brewery) opened their taproom doors with more than ten offerings out the gate, and MadTree is going to be making a splash immediately from the looks of their setup and capacity. And that’s without even mentioning the crazy barrel-aged only stuff that Quaff Bros seem to be constantly brainstorming.
Even with all of that, local brews currently don’t make up anywhere near half of the beers I drink. When I can pick up a six-pack of Two Hearted from the gas station a block away from my house, it’s always going to be an uphill battle for local breweries. But, you know what? I’m going to try in 2013 to give local breweries a fair shake. I’m going to try this: half the beers I drink, at least to start 2013, will be locally-brewed. I’m even going to include my own homebrew into that bucket, so it should make things a little easier.
I’m certainly not bought into the “buy local” beer movement and I probably never will be. More than blindly buying local, I advocate being a smart consumer first. I’m happy to give local beer a try, but when it’s not as good as the commonly-available non-local alternative, I’m not going to continue to buy it just because it’s local. So, I’m asking you, local brewers, keep improving your regular lineups so I can keep this resolution moving. Even better, if you have something you’re proud of, fill me in. I’m always happy to put up reviews to give local beers their time in the spotlight.
Happy New Year’s to all you Queen City Drinks readers out there. Drink well, but more importantly, drink safe and we’ll look forward to seeing you in 2013!