Iron Horse Brewery in Ellensburg, WA
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Craft Is Dead, Drink Indie Beer

Greg Parker
POSTED BY
Greg Parker April 29th 2016

Indie: cool short-hand for independent, right? Yes, and more. Indie implies a bit of a could-give-a-shit view of what is practical, popular and wise. Indie is a freedom of choice. The early punk rockers didn’t consult with their producer and record labels to determine what kind of music they should be making, they didn’t have producers and record labels, that’s why they did what they did. Once you have a label, you have to listen to the people running that label.

What was once the craft movement began as an indie movement. A bunch of rebellious goons who didn’t know any better got tired of the same old commodified garbage that the establishment was making and starting making their own stuff. It wasn’t about market research or long-term return on investment. The craft beer movement started as “what if you could make a beer that tasted like this, or that, or who knows what?” Turns out, there were a few beer drinkers out there that were wondering the same thing and they passionately followed. Then, just like with most movements, the early evangelists told everyone they knew about it.

As beer drinkers continued to convert to craft beer, craft breweries began to support their beer drinkers. Craft breweries know their customers and communities on a personal level and contribute to their causes, sponsor their amateur sports teams, donate to the local charities, make ridiculous beers that the one guy at the bar suggested.

Indie breweries innovate. We don’t have teams of analysts to tell us what beers to make based on market trends. We don’t have global marketing teams that ensure we optimize our dollars for maximal marketing return. You know what you get when you have those resources? Hop Hound Amber Wheat. You may not remember this little gem of a faux-craft beer but as the name implies it is A) Hoppy B) an Amber and C) also a wheat beer. Now, knowing what I know about the most popular styles at that time (hint: hoppy beers, ambers and wheat beers) I don’t have to make to far of an assumptive leap to know that some uninspired toolbag, or team of toolbags in this case who were likely identified as something like Trend Analysis and Innovation New-beers Team came to the executive department and said “here’s our idea, Hop Hound Amber Wheat. People love dogs, Amber ales, hops, and Wheat beers so we’ve decided to combine them all. We also think beer consumers are mentally children so the imagery will essentially be a cartoon dog with a fucking frisbee.” And in case you are wondering, the geniuses who brought us this fine beverage that can no longer be found also brought us the ‘take no out of your vocabulary’ campaign and also purchased Elysian Brewing, 10 Barrel and many, many more.

Granted, I’ve seen worse out of small craft brewers. For example, if i see another ‘blonde’ beer with a ‘blonde’ woman on it there is a possibility I will lose every last bit of faith that I have in humanity.  I’ve searched high and low for something more cliche and have only come up with equivalents.

But let’s get back to what’s great about an indie brewery, indie businesses, or punk bands. The indie approach to the pursuit of making a living isn’t beholden exclusively to the ‘maximize profits’ model. Iron Horse makes lots of terrible investments from a traditional ‘Return-On-Investment’ perspective. We donate to the wrong causes, partially for recognition but mostly because we are trying to make up for the guilt we still feel from stealing the matchbox car from preschool and getting away with it, we let our employees be free when it would be more profitable to grind them down to bloody stumps, we make beers that people hate, we make labels that people hate, I write lots of blogs that people hate, and most importantly we try things that are big stupid risks. It’s baked into the movement. It’s what starts movements. Do you think Fritz Maytag’s parents were like “you’re going to buy a broke-ass little brewery that makes weird beer? Hells yeah!! That seems way smarter than running our huge and successful appliance kingdom in 1965.” Maybe they did, I wasn’t even born then but even if they did I’m sure plenty of people thought he was an idiot for buying the brewery. But, what is the result of that foolish by most standards move? The birth of the craft movement.

So, I guess the question is this; does time march on, movements get co-opted and commoditized and it doesn’t matter because there will be another one right behind it? Or, is there value in attempting to force the movement to remain true; to innovate and remain independent to keep the support that started it. Or, is it no longer a movement since the revolution is over and now it’s just trading out players on the field?

One thing that can not be argued is what defines and what does not define indie. Indie is not corporate, it’s not large, it’s not driven by profits. Indie is independent, connected, risky and beholden to an ideology of doing it our way and driven by finding better and more interesting outcomes. Iron Horse is an indie beer maker and we hope that if you don’t support us you will at least support other indie beer makers.

So, what difference does it make? Why isn’t ‘craft beer’ or just ‘beer’ a good enough label for beer. For many it is and will be, if you are one of those people, why are you still reading this? For those of you that derive pleasure from supporting small, artisan driven, locally owned breweries, the term craft used to be all that was needed. That’s not the case any more. Craft has been and will continue to be co-opted by the major companies looking to take market share. Indie is our attempt to define our ilk in an updated and accurate way. Do you love Craft beer, regardless of producer? No worries, that term won’t stop meaning ‘not piss water.’ Do you want to keep your suppliers of tasty ale in the privately held company category, we encourage you to help us perpetuate the Indie label as a way of helping your ilk find what you desire.

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note: i’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that “indie” is not a new idea. fortunately, there are some like minded, yet obviously independent thinkers out there.

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National [Beer] Pretzel Day

Connie Morgan
POSTED BY
Connie Morgan April 26th 2016

Chef KC loves the dough.

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Earth Beer

Connie Morgan
POSTED BY
Connie Morgan April 22nd 2016

It’s Earth Day which means today everyone celebrates how beautiful the earth is, discusses the many ways humans are destroying the Earth, some children plant a few trees, you recycle a can and feel good about yourself and then tomorrow everything goes back to normal.

The brewing industry uses a lot of stuff. Water, crops and plenty of energy is required. Fortunately, there are processes that breweries around the world implement year-round to try and make the carbon footprint of beer a bit smaller.

Spent grain is something that breweries recycle in a variety of ways. What is spent grain? It’s a byproduct from brewing process. The chemical composition of wet spent grains is about 80% water, 9 % nitrogen free extract, 5% protein, 4% cellulose fibers, 2% fat and 1% minerals. For hundreds of years, spent grain has been given to farmers to use as feed and compost. Some breweries turn spent grain into dog treats, fish food, granola bars and even bread. The city of Boulder uses weak wort to help reduce nitrogen runoff from its water-treatment facilities. Waste2Watergy created a microbial fuel cell that can generate energy as it treats wastewater. Larger breweries such as Coors and Sierra Nevada turn their waste into ethanol fuel by processing their yeast in a MicroFueler. Iron Horse gives spent grain to local farmers and also recycles yeast waste in the form of compost.

There are other ways to be earth conscious aside from reusing spent grain. Iron Horse’s new brewhouse is incredibly energy efficient. It extracts nearly 100% of the grain resources that we’re looking for, while our old brewhouse only extracted 75% of starches. The new brewhouse’s economizer captures heat and turns it into hot water as opposed to venting steam and losing it’s heat as was done in the old system. The “vapor condenser” and “smart boil” features are a huge part of the energy saving process.   

There are other earth-friendly practices any production facility (or office building for that matter) can execute on that have nothing to do with the beer production. The Iron Horse production facility was recently “re-lit” with more energy efficient lighting. LED light bulbs replaced old bulbs and motion detectors are the norm now. There is also no air conditioning in the building. Fans are our friend.

Perhaps one of the things Iron Horse can be most proud of is our low wastewater ratios and our low use of water in general. The Brewer’s Association used Iron Horse Brewery in a case study for their yet-to-be published new edition of the Water Conservation Guide. According to some article, the average brewery uses about 155 gallons of water per one barrel of beer but Iron Horse is at about 93 gallons per one barrel of beer. Iron Horse wastewater to beer ratio is at about 1 to 1 where the industry average sits at about 3 to 1.

There’s more work to be done in terms of energy efficiency and brewing but every year the industry improves. Earth day is a nice reminder that although beer is delicious it does cost the world some natural resources and that is not something we take lightly.

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The Best Bars I’ve Ever Been To

Billy Meagor
POSTED BY
Billy Meagor April 19th 2016

Bars are the ultimate escape.  People go to hang out with friends, go on dates, watch sporting events, or get away from their wife….um wait….  Whatever the reason, bars are the best.  From sports bars to wine bars, pubs, taverns, theme bars, there’s a bar to suit every interest.  

In my previous job I traveled a lot, I mean a lot. I’ve hung out in some cool places and met some very nice people. Throughout my travels I tried to have a beer in every town. Here on my top five bars I’ve been to (not including WA bars) in no particular order:

OB Noodle House – San Diego, CA.  

This is a great place to go get a beer, hang out on the patio and look out at the ocean or watch a sporting event. They serve some of the best food, especially if you like Pho.  OB Noodle House serves 40+ beers on tap, including both craft and import beers.  They also rotate almost half their beers, so there is always something different.

Wursthaus – Santa Ana, CA

Who doesn’t like to have a sausage with their beer?  This place is awesome, because they have 20  beers on tap that are mainly imported.  They also have 20 different types of sausage that range from Bratwurst to smoked Alligator (alligator isn’t my thing but still).  The atmosphere is pleasant, a place where you can hang out with your friends and have a few beers, not so much to watch football, as they only have one TV.  It is German style seating, so don’t be afraid to sit next to someone and strike up a conversation!

Congregation Ale House – Pasadena, CA and two other locations.

This has one of the biggest beer selections I’ve ever seen.  They carry different bottled beers ranging from craft to imports to high end specialty beers.  They also have a very nice tap line up that they rotate often.  No matter what beer style you like, you’ll find something at this place.  Again, the atmosphere is very nice and a killer patio, if you can get seating out there.

Rose & Crown – Phoenix, AZ

This is a British Style Pub near downtown.  When you walk in, it splits into two areas with a bar on each side.  There is neighborhood vibe to this place that makes you feel welcome.  The service is great and the patrons are very friendly.  They offer 50+ different types of beer, from craft to imports.  They also have 12 beers on tap, with half being imports.  It’s a great place to watch sports or hang out with friends!

Highland Stillhouse – Oregon City, OR

One of my favorite bars!  This is a Whiskey pub with a Scottish theme as it has Scottish decorations all over.  It’s unique because it looks like a house on the corner, with two floors.  It’s adults only upstairs but children are allowed downstairs with a bar on both floors.  They also have an awesome patio for those warm, sunny days.  A great beer selection, with several Scottish and other imported beers are their speciality but they also have some local craft beers for your enjoyment.  Their Scottish and English menu is truly mouth watering.  A great place to hang out with friends and family while putting down a few pints!

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Vegan Beer?

Connie Morgan
POSTED BY
Connie Morgan April 11th 2016

At first the term “vegan beer” may seem unnecessary. Afterall, beer is made with four main ingredients, water, malts, hops and yeast. Those four ingredients are all vegan friendly but there is some debate or rather confusion as to what the definition of vegan is or what beers are considered vegan.

A lot of the confusion comes from the use of yeast in beer. If vegans don’t eat living things how can they eat yeast since it is a living micro-organism? It’s a good question but the answer is fairly simple. Yeast has no central nervous system so there is no scientific capacity to experience pain. What’s more is that yeast is classified as a fungus just like mushrooms. The moral grounds for being a vegan often include avoiding suffering. Yeast cannot suffer, therefore vegans get the go-ahead.

Although the initial ingredients are pro-vegan there are other aspects of brewing that make some styles of beer non-vegan. After the ingredients are all added, beer is often clarified using animal products. For example, until recently, isinglass was used to clarify Guinness beer. Isinglass comes from the dried bladders of fish. Almost all cask conditioned ales use isinglass as a clarifier, although it is more common in England than in the U.S. Casein, a protein found in cow’s milk, charcoal produced from animal bones, gelatin made from animals and diatomaceous earth from fossils and/or sea shells are also used as a clarifiers. All of that sounds like fancy vegan nonsense but the point is that it’s often what’s used in the clarifying process that makes a beer non-vegan. Animal products are also used to help with head retention, visual aesthetics and unique flavors. Below is a list of ingredients seen as non-vegan that are frequently found in beer according to NoMeatAthlete.com.

Insects – Made into dyes and used for coloring.

Glyceryl monostearate – Animal derived substance used to control foam.

Pepsin – Also used to control foam; it is sometimes derived from pork.

White sugar – Flavor additive often whitened using bone charcoal.

Albium – Refers to any protein that is water soluble. Most common type in brewing is serum albumin, which is taken from animal blood.

Lactose – Beers labeled as sweet, milk, or cream stouts may or may not contain lactose.  Sometimes the description refers to the texture and not the ingredient.  It’s best to double check these to be sure.  Milk chocolate is common in certain styles, but some so-called “chocolate” porters or stouts actually contain no real chocolate at all. Some malted barley is called “chocolate malt” simply to describe the flavor the roasting imparts.

 

So where do Iron Horse beers mix in? We don’t use any animal products in clarification or foam control. And there aren’t any animal additives in our beer. There are a couple of IHB beers that aren’t vegan friendly though. Cozy Sweater (a vanilla milk stout) has lactose in it. High Five Hefe has honey in it, another debated topic in veganism.

Honey is stored in bee hives for the bees’ own purposes, it’s not “bee waste” that we happen to enjoy consuming. So when beekeepers collect honey they are stealing it from the bees. Along with that, beekeepers temporarily remove bees from their home to get the honey. Even the most careful beekeeper won’t be able to avoid squishing, hurting and killing bees in the process. In truth, honey probably isn’t a top concern for most vegans but it’s consumption still contradicts the moral philosophy behind veganism.  

So if you’re a vegan, we don’t care. Don’t tell us about it, just stay away from High Five Hefe and Cozy Sweater.

 

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National Beer Day

Rikki Welz
POSTED BY
Rikki Welz April 7th 2016

April 7, 1933, something really neat happened. Let’s let Wikipedia tell you what it was.

The beginning of the end of Prohibition in the United States occurred as a result of the Cullen–Harrison Act and its signing into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on March 23, 1933. Upon signing the legislation, Roosevelt made his famous remark, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.”[1][2] Sales of beer in the U.S became legal on April 7, 1933, in states that had enacted their own law allowing such sales. The beer had to have an alcohol content less than 3.2% by weight (4% by volume), compared to the 0.5% limit of the Volstead Act, because 3.2% was considered too low to produce intoxication. On the evening of April 6, people lined up outside breweries and taverns, waiting for midnight when they would be able to legally purchase beer for the first time in over 13 years.

This little blurb just scratches the surface of the amazing amount of hard work and effort men and women put into Prohibition via the 18th Amendment and the subsequent Repeal enacted by the 21st Amendment. Now, I can get into the real nitty gritty of the temperance movement, and the role women played in both Prohibition and the reform, but I’m not quite done on my research, so, that’ll have to wait for another blog. Instead, let’s look at all the good things beer (especially craft beer), has done for America since the repeal.

In 2015, Craft Beer (defined here) produced 24,523,015 barrels of beer. A barrel is 31 gallons, so that is 760,213,465 gallons, enough to fill over 1500 separate “It’s a Small World” rides at Disneyland. Now, I love me some IASW (my poor husband can attest), but I would be more than stoked to float down the happiest cruise in the world if I could lean over the edge to fill a stein in the humid warehouse full of papier-mâché hippopotomi.

At the end of 2015, there were 4269 total breweries in America, more than any other time in American history. In 1887 we had around 2300 licensed breweries, which was about the peak pre-prohibition. Last year, 620 breweries opened and only 68 closed. Also, small brewers employed 121,843 people in 2015. Iron Horse Brewery alone has 40 men and women on our payroll, as well as an approximate buttload of contractors, two German engineers, electricians, mechanics, garage door installers, and host of other specialists finishing our expansion. The fine state of Washington has over 300 breweries now, and the beer contributed in 2014 $1,653,998,000 to the state’s economy as the beer moved through the breweries, wholesalers, and retailers.

When it comes to helping the community, the beer industry doesn’t shirk their responsibilities. Everything from silly races to scholarships, sustainability to more sustainability, and even more sustainability initiatives have been undertaken by almost every single brewer. Interestingly, hops (one of the four key ingredients to beer) are also being researched for western medicinal applications, although they have been mentioned in countless field guides and herbal remedy books for at least 1000 years. When it comes to research and science in the brewing field, lets not forget our hero Louis Pasteur, who not only confirmed and supported germ theory, made vaccines, and pasteurization; but he also was the person who proved fermentation was caused by the growth of microorganisms, which in turn resulted in standardization in processes to help brewers create more beer, in a consistent and healthy (read: germ free) way. What a guy!    

So raise your glasses on the 7th, and give a toast to the entire beer industry, to the hard working Americans who helped repeal prohibition, and to the beautiful suds in your glass. Cheers!

 

IHB MENU
Washington State Brewery, Iron Horse Brewery is the best local craft brewery located in Ellensburg, WA with Iron Horse Brewery beer being served in Seattle, Kirkland, Bellevue, Tacoma, Redmond, Spokane, Yakima, Richland, Moses Lake, Ephrata, and more Washington State cities.

As a local craft brewery, iron horse brewery believes that good tasting beer, such as, Quilters Irish Death, Mocha Death, 509 Style, Light Rale Ale, Cozy Sweater, High Five Hefe and IPA should be served throughout the pacific northwest. It can supplement meals too.