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Episode 4: Lone Star State of Intoxication

Welcome to Texas, y’all! Tiney and Laura offer a guided tour of their native state’s history with booze, the popular regions and cities, and personal brewery and winery recommendations.

Whatchu drinkin’?

IMG_8532Kvass by Jester King Brewery: This farmhouse ale is brewed with 300 pounds of miche rye bread from a bakery in Austin, Texas called Miche Bread. Kvass is a style defined by the use of bread in the mash bill and it offers an excellent alternative to throwing away the food when it’s past it prime to serve in its original form. This one has a funky, earthy, and rustic flavor profile. I describe it as having barnyard and bready characteristic in aroma with medium carbonation and a tart finish.

 

IMG_8529Becker Iconoclast 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon: Iconoclast is Beckers best selling wine, which is technically a Bordeaux style blend (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Petit Verdot) but Cabernet Sauvignon makes up the vast majority of the blend. This Texas wine goes down easy with violets, vanilla, baking spices, and dried cherries on the nose, followed by dark berries, plums, and coffee on the palate. Great example of a Texas cab!

History of Beer

The Texas State Historical Association is rife with info on Texas’ brewing culture, which basically starts with the German immigrants. It credits William Menger’s Western Brewery on the Alamo Square in San Antonio as the first commercial brewery in the state, having opening in 1878.

Shiner is likely the most popular Texas beer. It’s made at the Spoetzal Brewery, was which opened in 1909 by Shiner-based businessmen trying to appeal to the German immigrants. The brewery’s name was different then, because shortly thereafter, an immigrant named Kosmas Spoetzal purchased it. Its signature beer is Shiner Bock, which was first brewed in 1913.

Tiney’s North Texas beer recommendations:

  1. Mosaic IPA by Community Beer Co.: This is my favorite locally-brewed IPA. It’s a dark amber color with a high level of malty flavor. It’s delicious, but watch out — 8% alcohol content, it’s can sneak up on you.
  2. Peticolas Brewing Co. in Dallas is one of the city’s best breweries. It’s a beer nerd’s dream serving more than a dozen different recipes. The beers are predominantly no-frills, classic styles, though some of them, like the flagship Velvet Hammer imperial red ale, showcase Peticolas’ unique personality. Peticolas only serves its beer on draft, so you can imbibe it at the brewery or one of the many beer bars in Dallas-Fort Worth.
  3. Houston is home to one of Texas’ oldest and most prestigious craft breweries, Saint Arnold Brewing Co. I’ve never visited, but I would really like to.

History of Wine

The first time we see wine being cultivated in Texas is around 1650 in El Paso where Spanish missionaries are planting grapes to make sacramental wine. That’s about 100 years earlier than California was planting! Just like we see in European history, wine spread with religion and missionaries through the country. Prohibition in the United States lasted from 1920-1933 and decimated booze business nationwide, with only the largest, wealthiest producers and some sacramental producers surviving. Revival in winemaking kicked up across the country in the 1970s, and really gained momentum after the Judgement of Paris, a blind taste test in Paris that ranked California wines as some of the top in the world!

Llano Estacado is one of the first major players to bring Texas back in the wine scene after they opened in 1976, and they’re now the second largest producer in the state (behind the University of Texas/St.Genevieve). Mesilla Valley was the first recognized AVA (American Viticultural Area) in Texas, although most of the AVA is located in New Mexico. The first full viticultural area located in Texas, Bell Mountain, wasn’t founded until 1986 (Laura’s birth year!). The largest AVA located in Texas, Texas Hill Country, was designated in 1991, it is also the second largest AVA in the country although only ~1,100 acres are occupied by vineyards. There are over 200 wineries across the state of Texas, and more on the way!

Top grapes produced in Texas include, but are not limited to, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo, Black Spanish (Lenoir), Viognier, Muscat, Blanc de Bois, and Syrah.  

TV Munson Nursery Catalog

Undoubtedly one of my wine AND Texas heros, TV Munson has made several appearances in our podcast episodes. He made invaluable contributions to wine and botany through his travels and journals depicting native American vines, but supported his family through his nursery business in Denison, TX. This week’s episode I mention that while in class at his namesake school I got to see one of the original catalogs from ~1876!! It is obviously a little old to handle, so the listings inside are photocopies made when Professor Snyder originally purchased the catalog.

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Texas Wine Regions:

Follow these links to learn more about each of the Texas American Viticultural Area!

Texas High Plains

Texas Hill Country

Fredericksburg

Escondido

The Bell Mountain

Davis Mountain

Mesilla Valley

Texoma

Lots of great Texas wine infographics available here. And if you’re looking for a detailed and definitive list of wineries in Texas check this site out!

Resources:

Texas State Historical Association

https://txwinelover.com/texas-wineries-map/

https://www.houstonpress.com/restaurants/infographic-all-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-texas-wine-and-more-6422587

Episode 3: That’s the Spirit!

In this episode, we welcome Robert Likarish, co-founder and distiller at Ironroot Republic Distillery, into the studio to chat about two not-so-distant relatives of beer and wine: whiskey and brandy. Robert founded Ironroot with his brother, Jonathan, in 2014. The distillery is located in Denison, Texas and known primarily for its whiskies, which it began releasing in 2017, but it also makes gin, vodka and moonshine. Ironroot specializes in French-style distillation and plans to release brandy in the near future. Robert brought five whiskies by the studio and we tasted them side-by-side in a bonus audio clip.

Whatchu Drinkin’?

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Ironroot Promethean: A103-proof bourbon that offers spicy flavors thanks for the little bit of rye in the mash bill. Made from purple corn, Bloody Butcher corn, and flint corn, which offers cayenne pepper notes. It’s a cocktail-friendly spirit.

Ironroot Hubris: This is Ironroot’s most popular yellow-corn whiskey, a cask-strength blend aged exclusively in European oak barrels.

Ironroot Harbinger: Cask-strength bourbon with sweeter, fruitier blend made with purple corn and aged in new oak barrels. Flavor profile helps to hide alcohol.

Ironroot Esoteric: This limited release is the culmination of Ironroot’s experimentation series. It’s a blend of more than 25 small-batch bourbons founders Robert and Jonathan Likarish have produced while honing core and new flavor profiles. Sweeter up front with a subtle kick in the aftertaste. It’s released annually in the spring.

Ironroot Starka: A “light whiskey” made with a substantial portion of roasted wheat and distilled at more than 160 proof.

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Courvoisier VSOP Cognac: I had only tried brandy once before this episode, so I decided to go with a standard classic for our show. Courvoisier has been in operation since 1809, was Napoleon’s brandy of choice, a staple ingredient in Charles Dickens’ party punch, and the official toasting drink of the Eiffel Tower grand opening. Like Champagne, brandy can not be called Cognac unless it is from the Cognac region in france, which Courvoisier is. I chose the bottle of V.S.O.P. for our segment — a designation for eaux-de-vies that have been aged for a minimum of 4 years, which means Very Superior Old Ale. This spirit is golden in color with floral ripe peaches on the nose and tastes like caramel, toffee, almonds, and stone fruit, wrapping up with a long finish. It’s obvious why this Cognac has been the toast of Paris for over a century, and still remains a frontrunner in the market today.

That distillery in Waco

We mention a Waco, Texas distillery frequently in this episode. It’s called Balcones Distilling is famous for distilling blue corn to make whiskey.

A Texas whiskey you’ll only find in England

Founded in 1698, wine and spirits shop Berry Bros. and Rudd in London is a revered beverage institution. It’s the exclusive seller a Texas bourbon called Texas Legation Batch No. 2. made by Ironroot Republic Distillery. Here are the tasting notes:

Deep and enticing, dusty sweet corn husks mingle with rich seasoned oak notes to provide an assertive, uplifting nose which is softened by honey and vibrant fruit. The palate expands gloriously with a background sour mash and chalky hit doused by layers of honey and dark treacle. Lingering and giving this is a masterpiece of balance, complexity, texture and structure.

Beer → whiskey

The processes to make beer and whiskey start the same way. A brewer devises a mash bill that includes grains, such as malted barley or rye, and adjuncts, such as corn. Beer brewers most commonly use barley, but also work in varying degrees of rye and corn depending on the style they are making. Distillers most commonly use a mix of barley, rye and corn, depending on the style they are making.

Bourbon, for example, requires a mash bill of at least 51% corn, which is more than you’re likely to find in a beer.

Both brewers and distillers brew a wort and let it ferment, though the length of time and temperature at which each ferments will be different depending on the beverage. Whiskey ferments for a shorter period of time than beer and at a warmer temperature. The whiskey wort is also then distilled and aged for several years.

Coming back to bourbon, distillers are required to age the spirit in new oak barrels to meet the distilling parameters. Much like Ireland has Irish whiskey and Scotland has Scotch, bourbon is the tried and true American whiskey.

Wine → brandy

Brandy initially came into being as a means to preserve wine on long sea voyages. It derives its name from a Dutch word, brandewjin, that means “burnt wine” and refers to the process of heating the wine through distillation. In a broad sense, brandy is any spirit distilled from a fruit and its juices, but if the brandy is made with any other fruit than grape, it must state so on the bottle (apple brandy, peach brandy, etc).

Fermented grape (or fruit) juice is heated to approximately 170°-200°F (80°-100°C) to separate the alcohol from water. The liquids distilled from the wine/fermented grape juice include alcohol, a bit of water, and many of the grape’s organic compounds which impart important flavors to the brandy.

The distillate is placed in an oak barrel (probably French oak with varying levels of toast, depending on the producer) to age. Base level brandies are aged for a minimum of 2 years (V.S. or Very Special), but like whiskey and wine, the longer the brandy is on the wood the more the aging shapes its unique tasting notes, and the higher the quality and price ultimately is. Lower end brandies also doctor their spirit up with something called dosage, an artificial boost to the color of flavor using syrups.

Cognac is most commonly made from a white wine grape called Ugni Blanc, and Armagnac (another noteworty brandy region in France) is commonly made with Folle Blanche. Brandy is typically served as a digestive, sipped room temp from a small tulip glass after dinner, but is also much beloved by many rappers across the country and frequently featured in music videos (Tupac shares his deep connection with Hennessy here, while Bhusta Rhymes feat. P Diddy and Pharrell share their inspiration in Courvoisier, and here’s a smattering of other great references).

It’s important to note that while both brandy and grappa are distilled grape juice, they differ in many ways. For starters, brandy is solely the juice of the grape being fermented, but grappa is fermented grape pomace, which includes the skin, seeds, and stems. Brandy has its roots in France while grappa hails from Italy, and brandy is typically aged in oak barrels while grappa is quickly stored in stainless steel before being bottled.

Big thank you!

Huge thanks to our guest this week Robert Likarish! Check out Ironroot Republic Distillery in Denison, Texas every Saturday for distillery tours and the first Saturday of every month for live music and cocktails. Cheers!

Episode 2: What defines quality anyways?

Miller Lite? Yeah right. Meiomi? You’re kidding me.

We’ve all had an amazing glass of beer or a breathtaking wine. One that makes us go “Ohhh daaamn that’s good!” An elixir that inspires us to splurge past our budget. A glass that keeps us coming back even after an epic hangover. But what is it about these suds and stems that is so special?

This week’s episode attempts to answer just that  — what defines quality, and why are people so dang passionate about it! Listen in as we dissect the aspects and characteristics of a beverage that elevate it from good to great, but don’t just take our word for it. We’ve also interviewed professionals in the industry, brewers and winemakers, and avid collectors to get their take on why people dedicate so much time, talent, and energy to alcoholic beverages. But before we get started…

Whatchu Drinkin?

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5 O’Clock Pils from Saint Arnold Brewing Co. (Houston, Texas): Saint Arnold Brewing Co. began making beer in 1994 and is one of the pioneers of Texas craft movement. And the brewery isn’t just a Lone Star favorite. In 2017, Saint Arnold was honored as mid-size brewery of the year at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, Colorado. That means it collected the most awards for its beers that year in its size category. So if we are talking about quality, this is a perfect pick. I chose the 5 O’Clock Pils because it’s a solid display of the brewery’s craftsmanship. Pilsners are lagers, which means they are labor intensive and require a lot of precision to get the crisp, clean finish characteristic of the style. Many brewers say they are more difficult to do right. This one is a refreshing blend, true-to-style pils that’s light in body with high carbonation, giving it a wonderful effervescence. Pilsners are also traditionally hoppy beers, but the hops are used to add floral notes rather than bitterness. This one features Saaz hops that offer a bright finish.

40683785_2166273013628592_5872435786556637184_nValle Secreto Cachopoal Valley Key Malbec 2014: I admittedly did not pick this bottle for myself, it was shipped to me from a wine club, but I chose a Malbec because it is the first style of red I remember sipping and enjoying, the first stepping stone into a life of wine soaked madness. This 2014 Valle Secreto Malbec is a great example of a flavorful, balanced wine – especially from a varietal that can be all over the board depending on region and producer. This medium bodied 100% Malbec wine is dark and sports it’s trademark purple color, there are dark fruits like blackberry, plum, and currant on the nose, and it tastes like toasty oak and spicy chocolate. I let this wine decant for about an hour before we drank it – just wish I had enjoyed it with a hearty meal! (Thanks Valle Secreto for the amazing pic!)

Vitis Vinifera vs Concord

When we talk about grapes in winemaking, we are speaking about a specific species called Vitis vinifera. This species originated in Eurasia about 65 million years ago and is the most popular viticulture grape in the world. While other species can be used to make wine (American natives Vitis rotundifolia produce muscadine wines and rootstock from the Vitis riparia variety is responsible for saving European vines from phylloxera), Vitis vinifera is the umbrella that covers the wine varieties we all know and love — Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec, and Riesling to name a few. Grapes we buy from the grocery store and eat in our fruit salad come from a different American species called Vitis labrusca, the most recognizable of which is Concord. This fruit produces flavors for your go-to grape jellies, juices, and candy. But why can’t you make wine out of both, or buy both at your local grocer? Even though they are both grapes they differ in a lot of ways.

The skin on a concord, or table grape, is very thin which makes it great for snacking on but not so hot for winemaking. The thick skin of a Vitis vinifera grape is what gives your wine all the qualities that make it drinkable. The longer crushed grape juice sits on its skin, the more color and tannins will be imparted. (The skin also has tons of polyphenols and antioxidants that are used in the vitamin and cosmetic industry too!) Concord grapes just don’t have this kind of tannic punch.

Another big difference is the amount of sugar. Vitis vinifera grapes are actually far sweeter than concord grapes (wine grapes typically contain 25-30% sugar while concord and table grapes is closer to 10-15%). Not only do the grapes naturally have a higher sweetness, they are also harvested much later than table grapes to develop more glucose and fructose. That makes them way too sugary to enjoy by the handful, but perfect for fermenting! The high sugar content provides plenty of food for yeast to consume as they convert the molecules into alcohol.

The last major difference is the size of the fruit and the amount of fruit the vines produce. Ideally, viticulturists want wine grapes to be smaller with a high skin- and seed-to-flesh ratio, and vines to be lower yielding than table grapes. This makes for a higher quality wine because the flavors are more concentrated, prominent, and pronounced. The high yield, large berry table grapes would make for a super watery and unimpressive wine, but that’s exactly what makes them so yummy to snack on!

Grape and region duos of note

Aaron Benson mentioned in his interview wine regions around the world that are renowned for a specific style of grape. I thought I’d provide y’all a quick list of regions and their iconic grapes to reference the next time you want to go out and buy a bottle for dinner. There are obviously great wines from lots of places, and many exceptions to the rules (and you can find far more in depth maps in Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson’s book The World Atlas of Wine) — but here are some classic duos:

France: Bordeaux (Left Bank) – Cabernet Sauvignon

France: Bordeaux (Right Bank) – Merlot

France: Burgundy, Mâconnais – Chardonnay

Italy: Tuscany – Sangiovese

Italy: Piedmont – Nebbiolo

Germany: Mosel – Riesling

Spain: Rioja – Tempranillo

Spain: Priorat – Garnacha

USA, Oregon: Willamette Valley – Pinot Noir

USA, California: Napa – Cabernet Sauvignon

USA, California: Sonoma – Chardonnay

South America, Argentina: Mendoza – Malbec

South Africa: Stellenbosch – Chenin Blanc

Australia, SA: Barossa Valley – Shiraz

New Zealand: Marlborough – Sauvignon Blanc

Where local beer meets local steer

Quality in craft beer starts with ingredients, including the grain. Brewers require literally tons of malted barley to produce one batch of beer and once they’re through with it, the byproduct is what’s known as “spent grain” — essentially trash. But as they say, one man’s trash is another’s treasure.

Many breweries throughout the U.S. partner with nearby farmers to recycle spent grain. A farmer will pick it up from one or multiple breweries and take it back to their farm to use as feed for their livestock. This is a winning partnership for several reasons. First, farmers essentially provide waste management services at no cost to the brewery, and in turn, the farmers are able to pick up free food.

This is a common practice in the brewing industry, but it requires that breweries be located near farmland — the spent grain needs to be transported before it molds or goes bad, usually within a week of it being used for brewing.

Back to quality: I wrote a story about this lifecycle of grain and one North Texas farmer told me that because his brewers are so picky about the quality of grain they use (void of pesticides and other chemicals), he is able to advertise an all-natural beef product when selling it to consumers. There’s even a brewery in McKinney, Texas that receives a spent grain-fed cow or several hogs from its farmer every year to cook and serve at a big party. Now that’s grain-to-grill sustainability!

Humans can eat spent grain, too. Home brewers will often recycle their grains for making cookies, bread or dog treats.

Instant Pot wine recipe

Have an Instant Pot? You too can be a vintner! Follow these instructions and check out the video below to get a sense of what the result will taste like.

Shout out!

Huge thanks to those wonderful people that participated in the interviews for our second episode! We are truly blessed to be surrounded by such knowledgeable and passionate beverage enthusiasts, we hope you enjoy getting to know them as much as we have.

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Juhee Williamson: Juhee was born in Seoul, South Korea and studied music in undergrad and graduate schools. She came to the States in 1996 and is now working in the IT advisory services field. Her love of wine started with tasting dinners with friends and has blossomed over the years with trips to Napa, Oregon, Washington, and France. She is an avid wine enthusiast and collector, and continues to host fabulous blind tasting dinners in her home for close friends and colleagues.

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 3.09.55 PMGeorgina Solis (right): Georgina Solis began her career as a police woman before joining Peticolas Brewing Co. in 2015 where she was eventually promoted to brewer. In 2018, she joined the quality analysis and quality control team at Hedon Brewing Co. in Balatonvilagos, Hungary before moving to Houston’s Eureka Heights Brewing Co. to become brewer. Georgina also helped launch the first Northern Texas Chapter of Pink Boots Society, a national nonprofit focused on inspiring, assisting and encouraging women in the craft beer industry through education.

39227297_10107575493691950_1802144023721279488_nAaron Benson: Since our interview Aaron has moved on from Veritas and is currently working at Circo Texas.

Aaron is passionate about history, geology, geography, travel, humanities, arts, food and culture, all of which culminate in the world of wine. He says he is grateful every day to work in a field that brings joy to so many, himself included. Aaron has managed and curated wine lists for several iconic Dallas staples such as Stephen Pyles, Dallas Country Club, and Sixty Vines. He is continually pursuant of greater milestones through study – having recently achieved the status of Certified Cicerone©, he is turning his attention toward the Advanced Sommelier diploma from the Court of Master Sommeliers Americas.

Screen Shot 2018-09-05 at 9.43.15 AMJeffrey Stuffings: Jester King Brewery founder Jeffrey Stuffings was a local homebrewer who started working on the concept in late 2007. He worked at Austin Homebrew Supply while developing the recipes and business plan for the brewery. Jeff and his brother, Michael Steffing, found an old machine shop in southern Texas, took it apart, and moved it to Austin and spent the summer of 2009 rebuilding it into a brewery. In September of 2010, Jester King brewed its first batch of beer, Boxer’s Revenge, a barrel-aged sour strong ale. In October of 2010, they sold their first beer to Draught House in Austin, Texas. Jester King bottled their first ever beer — Black Metal, an imperial stout. Jester King made the decision to abandon pure culture fermentation in 2013 and focus exclusively on mixed culture beer, thus putting Jester King firmly on its present day path. The brewery now owns 58 acres of land where staff farms herbs, fruits and vegetables to use in its beer; raises goats to make other products like cheese; and is currently planting a vineyard.

Screen Shot 2018-09-04 at 2.59.36 PMJeanette Fitzgerald: Jeanette is a retiree who lives in North Texas and is in the midst of opening a family run winery this fall. After leaving the professional workforce she attended Viticulture and Enology classes at Grayson College where she graduated in spring of 2018. Jeanette is working hard to prepare for Fitzel Winery’s opening – she’s been busy this summer laying foundation, constructing facilities, and planting riesling and tempranillo vines. Her son plans to run the onsite restaurant and food truck, and there will be a game area for the whole family. Look for word on a grand opening party later this year! Here are some photos from planting day:

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Jase Hicks: Moving from East Texas to Dallas Jase quickly jumped into the local craft beer scene in 2011, volunteering with Deep Ellum Brewing Company and Peticolas Brewing Company shortly after they opened. Known to bring bottles to share wherever he goes and quite possibly bringing a bendy straw for an opportune snorkel video he has ingrained himself into the community from brewery employees to craft beer fans alike.

Resources:

https://winefolly.com/review/native-wine-grapes-of-america/

http://www.hort.cornell.edu/reisch/grapegenetics/bulletin/wine/winetext5.html

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814609008942

https://www.facebook.com/fitzelwinery/

https://www.vallesecreto.cl/

 

Episode 1: A Brief History of Beer and Wine

This podcast is about our favorite things in the entire world – alcoholic beverages!

We are so excited to share our debut episode of Grapes and Grain podcast with the world! It has been a truly fun, humbling, and educational experience and we are thrilled that the world premiere is finally upon us. Each week we will release a new episode (look for it on #tuesdayboozeday on your favorite streaming site) and there will be a corresponding blog post that shares more in depth details about topics covered, references, and of course featured beverages from our “Whachu Drinkin?!” segment.

In our first episode we attempt to provide a brief summary on the history of beer and wine — a tall order, we know. In this post we’ll share a little more on some of our favorite interesting facts, traditions, and misconceptions. But before we dive in, here’s our “Whatchu Drinkin?!” highlights!

Whatchu drinkin’?

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Fresh Squeezed IPA from Deschutes Brewery (Bend, Ore.): A refreshing, medium-bodied India pale ale with an amber hue and fluffy off-white head. Aromas of citrus and grapefruit come from the Citra, Mosaic and Nugget hops used in this brew. Expect a bubbly mouthfeel from the carbonation and subtle bitter kick on the backend.

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Champagne A.J. de Margerie a Bouzy Grand Cru: I decided to get a little bougie with Champagne a Bouzy for our first episode! This non-vintage Champagne is a blend of 90% Pinot Noir and 10% Chardonnay, harvested from vineyards in central Reims, on hillsides overlooking Bouzy – a commune in France. This dry wine is gold in color with fine, refreshing bubbles, red apples and cherries on the nose, and a crisp finish with noticeable minerality. It’s easy to see why the Georges Vesselle Estate have been masters of crafting this lively wine for generations.

Ancient people knew how to party…and farm

The first thing we’d like to expand on is the ancient wine cave found outside the town of Areni, in modern day Armenia – there is so much more to this story! Scholars believe that the native people’s wine making process and drinking ceremonies were a tribute to their dead because nearly 20 burial sites have been found nearby. There are many examples of wine-related funerary rites throughout history, and it’s thought that these ancient peoples didn’t just doff their footwear to stomp the grapes — they did it out of respect.

Which leads to another super cool find: Not only is this area the site of the oldest known winery, it’s also the location of the oldest known piece of preserved leather footwear. The moccasin found near the entrance of the cave was dated at 5,500 years old!

Aside from alcohol imbued rituals and fancy kicks, this discovery gave tremendous insight into the development of agricultural evolution in ancient times. The societal and technological implications of this site tell researchers that by the Copper Era (about 3000 BCE), prehistoric humans had already figured out how to track seasons of growth and how to harness wild plants for their food supply. This stunning discovery is exciting and eye opening.

The Etruscans knew best

Another complex topic mentioned in the podcast is the spread of wine trade and production secrets. We mentioned that Phoenicians were avid traders, renowned for their purple dyes used to make royal garments across Europe and credited with spreading wine into regions not actively practicing viticulture or enology. But the ancient Etruscans, while also involved in trading, swapped far more than material goods — they bolstered the expanse of innovation and ideas.

In fact, one of the countries most renowned for their wine making prowess owes its humble beginnings to the ancient Italian people. The first known evidence of wine making and consumption in France can be dated back to approximately 500 BC. That’s when chemical analysis shows organic compounds from grape skins in limestone presses and Etruscan amphora (ceramic vessels used to transport and sell wine). The Etruscans are thought to have taught the French people how to plant and tend vineyards, harvest and press grapes, and how to ferment and store the final product. Italy and France were two of the earliest countries to start mastering the art of winemaking, and continue to dominate the industry as two of the top producers in the world.

Scholars think the wine they made several thousand years ago is a far cry from what they produce today, but they believe the most similar libation we have to sample in modern day is a Greek Retsina, a white or pink wine mixed with small bits of pine resin during fermentation. Retsina wine tradition traces its roots back to these ancient trading days when clay amphoras were sealed with pine resin to keep from spoiling. When societies moved on to barrel storing instead of using amphoras, there was an outcry from people who loved the taste the resin imparted into the wine and Retsina was born!

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Etruscan wine cellar in the Montepulciano region of Italy.

Why the reservations about women with wine?

We can trace this misconception back to Pliny the Elder’s large body of work titled Natural History, a 37-volume encyclopedia chronicling the natural world. In the year 77 AD, Pliny writes “On the approach of a woman in this state (of menstruation) must will become sour, seeds sterile, grafts wither away, garden plants are parched up, and fruit will fall from the tree… Her very look even will dim the brightness of mirrors, blunt… steel, and take away the polish from ivory. A swarm of bees, if looked upon by her, will die.” Ouch!

Hurt feelings aside, if we take a closer look at this stigma, it’s easy to see it’s simply based in fear. Doctors didn’t make the connection between menstruation, ovulation, and conception until the late-1800s. For thousands of years before, all people knew was that roughly once a month a seemingly healthy female member of society would spontaneously start bleeding from her hooha region. And to be fair, every other time someone in the community started bleeding it generally meant some grievous injury or illness had befallen them.

Even now that doctors grasp the concept of conception, the stigma around menstruation still continues today. Aside from silly notions still held that a woman during this time will contaminate a swimming pool or scare away prey while hunting, women across the world are still subject to isolation in menstruation huts (a 22-year-old woman died in a hut in Nepal as recently as 2018) and educational disadvantages while missing school during their cycle.The most impactful thing we as women can do to help dispel these outdated practices is contribute to groups that educate and supply sanitation products to rural regions around the world.

Have to admit though, there might be something to the French claim that women complicated the taste and aroma of wines in the 1700-1800s when it was very en vogue to wear heavy scents and perfumes. During this time, there was a common belief that water would carry disease, so no one from the low class to the nobles was bathing regularly. Additionally, the well-dressed were generally decked out from head to toe, including gloves. These gloves were fashioned from a supple leather that was first treated with animal urine and aromatic oils to soften the material. These two odorous practices combined led to the widespread use of scented powders and perfumes.

To make matters even more pungent, perfumes of the times weren’t light and floral — they used rare and expensive ingredients like civet, a liquid expressed from the anal glands of cats, ambergris, a stonelike substance excreted from the digestive tract of a sperm whale, and castoreum, a lovely substance collected from the genitals of beavers. A musky, animalistic scent was very fashionable.

Even though preferences in perfumes have evolved it’s still a bad practice to wear heavy scents when attending a tasting or wine event. In fact, our instructors specifically told all participants in the intro Court of Masters sommelier examination not to use fragrant soaps or lotions, and absolutely no perfume or cologne. So if you’re headed to a cellar door, tasting room, or wine tasting dinner, make sure to practice savvy wine tasting etiquette and save the seductive scents for another time.

Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink

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Tiney here. This book has been my beer bible as I’ve started to dive in and learn the nitty gritty about beer. I specifically chose to pursue the Beer Judging Certification Program because I wanted to learn the textbook definition of each beer style, so that I could accurately write about them in my work. As I began to cover beer, I felt like my vocabulary was increasingly limited — how many times can you describe a beer as “malty” or “hoppy” without differentiating it from other similar ones.

If you’re interested in even casually learning more about beer flavors and tasting, I recommend this book. There’s also a fair amount of science in there pertaining to brewing, which was equally enlightening and humbling for this liberal arts grad who hasn’t studied chemistry since high school.

Find Tasting Beer on Amazon.

Are there really more U.S. breweries now than ever before in the country’s history?

Yes! And not even by a little bit. According to the Brewers Association, a beer industry trade group that collects data on brewery count and production, there were more than 6,000 breweries as of December 2017. And that number has only grown.

As of June 30, 2018, there were 6,655 breweries in American, the organization reports. Now that is a lot of beer.

Visit the Brewers Association statistics page to learn more about the growth in craft beer production over time.

Hymn to Ninkasi

Ancient cultures worshiped a goddess of beer. That’s right — a goddess! Her name was Ninkasi and the Sumerian civilization had a chant to honor her. Even cooler: The chant doubled as a beer-making recipe, so it could be easily passed on verbally.

Here it is in full. (Source: Ancient History Encyclopedia)

Hymn to Ninkasi

Borne of the flowing water,
Tenderly cared for by the Ninhursag,
Borne of the flowing water,
Tenderly cared for by the Ninhursag,

Having founded your town by the sacred lake,
She finished its great walls for you,
Ninkasi, having founded your town by the sacred lake,
She finished its walls for you,

Your father is Enki, Lord Nidimmud,
Your mother is Ninti, the queen of the sacred lake.
Ninkasi, your father is Enki, Lord Nidimmud,
Your mother is Ninti, the queen of the sacred lake.

You are the one who handles the dough [and] with a big shovel,
Mixing in a pit, the bappir with sweet aromatics,
Ninkasi, you are the one who handles the dough [and] with a big shovel,
Mixing in a pit, the bappir with [date] – honey,

You are the one who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
Puts in order the piles of hulled grains,
Ninkasi, you are the one who bakes the bappir in the big oven,
Puts in order the piles of hulled grains,

You are the one who waters the malt set on the ground,
The noble dogs keep away even the potentates,
Ninkasi, you are the one who waters the malt set on the ground,
The noble dogs keep away even the potentates,

You are the one who soaks the malt in a jar,
The waves rise, the waves fall.
Ninkasi, you are the one who soaks the malt in a jar,
The waves rise, the waves fall.

You are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes,
Ninkasi, you are the one who spreads the cooked mash on large reed mats,
Coolness overcomes,

You are the one who holds with both hands the great sweet wort,
Brewing [it] with honey [and] wine
(You the sweet wort to the vessel)
Ninkasi, (…)(You the sweet wort to the vessel)

The filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,
You place appropriately on a large collector vat.
Ninkasi, the filtering vat, which makes a pleasant sound,
You place appropriately on a large collector vat.

When you pour out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.
Ninkasi, you are the one who pours out the filtered beer of the collector vat,
It is [like] the onrush of Tigris and Euphrates.

Other sources:

Mark, Joshua J. “The Hymn to Ninkasi, Goddess of Beer.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, Ancient History Encyclopedia, 1 Mar. 2011, www.ancient.eu/.

History of beer: Mosher, Randy. “The Story of Beer.” Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink, 2nd ed., Storey Publishing, 2017, pp. 7–37.

About that lager strain: Brown, Eryn. “Beer: Yeast DNA Study Reveals the Natural History of Lager.” Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times, 12 Aug. 2015, www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-lager-yeast-genome-20150811-story.html.

“Beer.” Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, home.monticello.org/.

Brown, Brian. “This Woman Was One of the First to Open a Brewery in North Texas … in 1869.” GuideLive, The Dallas Morning News, 14 Nov. 2016, www.guidelive.com/craft-beer/2016/11/14/woman-francisca-yetzer-dallas-brewery-1869.

“The Industrial Revolution of the United States.” The Library of Congress, loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/primarysourcesets/industrial-revolution/pdf/teacher_guide.pdf.

“German Beer: 500 Years of ‘Reinheitsgebot’ Rules.” BBC News, BBC, 22 Apr. 2016, www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36110288.

Knoedelseder, William. Bitter Brew: the Rise and Fall of Anheuser-Busch and Americas Kings of Beer. HarperCollins Publishers Inc, 2014.

“Natural World” Pliny the Elder, 77 AD

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/01/110111-oldest-wine-press-making-winery-armenia-science-ucla/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/the-first-french-winemakers-learned-everything-they-knew-from-etruscans-90736620/

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/features/the-history-of-french-perfume-impolite-animalistic-and-overtly-sexualised-a6882071.html

http://time.com/4694568/meghan-markle-period-stigma/

http://time.com/4339388/kenya-menstruation-education/

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/10/world/asia/nepal-woman-menstruation.html

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