Saturday, February 28, 2009

Words to taste beer by

Wine writer Eric Asimov said this about wine —but he could have been just as easily speaking about craft beer:

most people assume that the key to enjoying wine lies in the path towards connoisseurship, rather than simply drinking wine with a meal as if it is just another food group. <...> when it comes to loving and enjoying wine, somehow everyone thinks that you really, truly need to know a lot about it.<...> some critics and writers seem to do only one thing: generate more tasting notes. Which has led to a wine loving public that unduly focuses on two things: numeric scores and increasingly specific strings of adjectives that aim to describe every last hint of flavor and aroma in the glass. <...> This almost clinical approach to wine criticism ... is killing our budding wine culture.

Eric Asimov and the Tyranny of the Tasting Note in American Wine Culture
VINOGRAPHY: a wine blog
Alder Yarrow

Beer is not immune to this formalism and elitism. Consider, for example, the weed-like proliferation of published beer styles.

Or overwrought beer descriptions.

True, there are supertasters and there are ageusiasts (those with severely diminished sense of taste).

But for most of us, it's not that we lack the inability to discern a flavor or aroma; we lack the vocabulary to describe that sensation. (For me, for example, it takes a lot diacetyl to discern 'buttery', but well before that I will sense a different sort of 'maltiness'.)

A superior palate is developed not born with. A certain level of expertise —that is, education— is welcome and helpful. But flights of fancy and showy shamanistic displays hinder useful descriptions of beers and their flavors.

Here's a program —curiously called Cyclops— begun in the UK to help to train bar staff to describe beers (many of which are cask ales) to their customers. The program reduces the description of a beer's flavor to the essentials, avoiding superfluous adjectives. It keeps things simple.

The beer remains the star attraction, not the 'expert'.

Cyclops review of Batemans

Cyclops® was developed by a group of industry bodies [CAMRA, Cask Marque, SIBA, IFBB] to help to de-mystify beer. For too long we have used long, flamboyant tasting notes to confuse ourselves. This in turn mean little to bar staff and make it very hard for drinkers to understand what it is that they like about certain beers. The principals are simple:

  • Describe the beer in what it looks like, smells like and tastes like using no more than 3 words for each area

  • Make sure the terms used are aimed at the average drinker.

  • When describing the taste do not use distinctive terms such as orange, chocolate, toffee unless the beer is a flavoured beer. Rather use terms such as fruity, strong, refreshing

  • Then scores (out of five) are allocated for Bitter and Sweet depending upon the bitterness units, present gravity and most importantly what it tastes like!

  • Cyclops® Beer System

    Words to taste beer by? Keep it simple, silly!
    • I was alerted to Eric Asimov's comments by a post at Appellation Beer.
    • UPDATE: Interesting reaction by Aleluminati blogger Damien Lawrie. He found my reduction to simplicity too far in one direction. "Death to Tasting Notes? A Question of Context".

    Friday, February 27, 2009

    Legalize it!, in Utah

    In Utah, you'd be a criminal if you were to brew beer at home. Not to resell it, mind you. And not in great quantities.

    But if you were to brew, say, a 5 gallon batch (that's approximately 2 cases of beer) for home consumption you'd be fined or carted off to prison, but without the beer.

    Until, maybe, this week.

    Charlie Papazian at his Beer Examiner blog reports that Utah is about to legalize the brewing of beer at home.

    homebrewers are hopefully anticipating Governor Huntsman will sign the bill into law.

    After the bill is signed, the law will go into effect on May 12. Utah will become the 46th state to legalize homebrewing. Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama and Oklahoma still criminalize the hobby of homebrewing.

    Read more about when homebrewing gained Federal government approval.

    Thursday, February 26, 2009

    A Mad Fox in Falls Church, Virginia

    I've kept the secret for a couple of weeks, but the cat's out of the bag now ... or, I should say, the fox.

    Mad Fox brewing Company

    Long-time local brewer Bill Madden has decided upon on a location for his new brewpub, to be called Mad Fox. As reported today by Gregg Wiggins of Mid-Atlantic Brewing News:
    when it opens for business around the end of 2009 the Mad Fox brewpub will be located at 444 West Broad Street (Va. Route 7) in Falls Church. <...> Bill Madden called me this afternoon and told me they'd signed a letter of intent to lease space in the building under construction at that address.

    Gregg Wiggins
    as posted to DC Beer

    The location is in a new business development in downtown Falls Church, Virginia, a within-the-Beltway suburb of Washington, D.C.

    The spot was to have been a Not Your Average Joe's, a casual-dining restaurant. But that Massachusetts-based small chain's expansion into Virginia may have run into difficulties.

    View Larger Map
    Fun with Google Maps. The correct address is 444 W. Broad, not 474 W. Broad, even though that is still in the same complex. If you click on the "View Larger Map", the correct address and map appear.

    From the Mad Fox website:
    Mad Fox and Waterford Development executed a Letter of Intent on February 25, 2009 for 8,618 square feet of space for our first brewpub location at the Shops at Spectrum development at 444 West Broad Street, Falls Church, VA. Our anticipated opening is November, 2009. More to come very soon.

    UPDATE: new photos April 2009.
    • Bill Madden also maintains a brewer's blog, currently from V-50, a brewpub in Leesburg, Va.
    • Earlier YFGF blog post about Mad Fox and Madden.
    • DC-beer is an Internet mailing list of people in the greater Washington, DC and Baltimore area who enjoy brewing, drinking, investigating, and discussing good beers.
    • Interview of Bill Madden, from June of 2009.

    Sunday, February 22, 2009

    Firkin care

    Cask-USA is an on-line group of cask ale enthusiasts hosted at Yahoo Groups, and moderated by cask maven Alex Hall.

    A brewer, who had had a bad experience with a wooden cask, asked the group about the care of stainless steel casks. I offered this quick, not-too-terribly detailed, response:

    Treat stainless steel firkins as you would stainless steel kegs... except, visually inspect, scrub out gross deposits, hose out (try creating a snap-on sprayball attached to a high pressure hose), and soak with hot caustic.

    spraying out residue

    Talk with your chemical supplier. A built caustic (that is with added surfactants, detergents, etc.) is more effective, and ultimately more cost-effective, than straight caustic soda.

    But be careful: there are some older aluminum casks floating about. Do NOT use caustic with aluminum casks. It will severely pit them.

    Each time a cask is cleaned, or at least on a regular basis, use an acid cleaner to prevent the accumulation of beer stone.

    And of course, after cleaning, fill the firkins with liquid sanitizer, seal, and hold for the time period suggested by the chemical supplier. Less effective, but gentler, would to rely on boiling water for cleaning and again for sanitizing.

    As with not using caustic soda with aluminum, do not use chlorine based cleansers or sanitizers with stainless steel.
    • Go here for a photo-demonstration of the preparation of cask ale at the Clipper City Brewing Company, in Baltimore, Maryland.
    • Alex Hall has a companion website to the Yahoo Group at that offers much useful information.

    Saturday, February 21, 2009

    Sumptuous digs: Beer 101 for Wine Folk

    Sometimes it's not what you do, but where you do it. And with whom.

    I was recently invited by wine education company Gira Mondo Wine to talk about beer to wine folk.

    Good beer fans can sometimes sneer at the what they perceive (incorrectly) as the superciliousness of wine. Wine fans can sometimes look down on beer as merely a wash.

    So this was an opportunity I leaped at. And, in fact, it was the first ever beer lecture offered by Gira Mondo Wine.

    Sumptuous digs

    The setting was the Whittemore House, off Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. Built in the late 19th century in the Beaux Arts manner for a descendent of President John Adams, the building is now the home of the Woman's National Democratic Club.

    Over 40 wine fans braved the bitterly cold evening. And judging by the comments afterward —even if I didn't convert all of the attendees— I at least opened the door a bit for many of them to the wonderful rooms of beer.

    It was sumptuous digs indeed.

    Friday, February 20, 2009

    Appreciation for Bill Brand

    Computers might isolate us, but the internet can occasionally bring together a wide-ranging community.

    I never met beer and food columnist Bill Brand, but through reading his on-line column Bottoms Up, I felt as if I got to know him in the manner I would get to know that friendly fellow sitting at the next barstool over. Comaraderie and fellowship, sharing stories of beer and good food; the San Francisco/Oakland beer scene.

    Mr. Brand passed away today.

    Bill Brand had only recently retired as a long-time reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Go here for a link to the Oakland Tribune's tribute article. Go here for an earlier blog post.

    Thursday, February 19, 2009

    Beer Taxes: February 2009

    Jeff Alworth at Beervana has posted a very useful table delineating the beer taxes that wholesalers pay in all 50 states. He breaks down the figures into meaningful comparisons.

    Let's look at the state of Georgia, where the beer tax rate is relatively high.

    When a brewery or importer ships its beer to a wholesaler in Georgia, that beer is taxed at $0.48 per gallon ($14.88 per barrel). The brewery or importer usually picks up that add-on.

    Once the beer moves from the wholesaler's warehouse throughout the state, an additional $0.53 per gallon ($16.43 per barrel) is tacked on. That usually is paid by the wholesaler. That's $1.01 per gallon (or $31.31 per barrel) of beer.

    Many breweries and wholesalers assume some of this tax, but some pass it all along in the price they charge stores and pubs.

    Then, when the consumer buys the beer, he/she pays an additional state SALES tax at the counter.

    But these figures do NOT express the original excise tax that a brewery pays when it produces its beer. It's a tax on beer sitting in a brewery, even before the beer is sold.

    The Federal rate is currently at $0.23 per gallon or $7 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels for any brewery that produces less than 2 million barrels. The 'big-boy' rate is otherwise $18 per barrel. Breweries then pay an additional state excise tax: a tax added to the beer in the state in which the beer is brewed.

    The currently proposed national BEER act (H.R. 836, the Brewers Excise and Economic Relief) would reduce the Federal 'big boy' marginal rate to $9 per barrel ($0.29/gallon) and the small brewer (marginal rate on fewer than 60,00 barrels) to $3.50 per barrel ($0.11).

    It seems contradictory that the Federal government would be reducing taxes and increasing spending while states are doing the opposite. Of course, the Federal government is not constitutionally bound by spending or debt limits, and can print money. States are forbidden by the US constitution from printing money, and often have debt limits in their constitutions. And even when they don't, their credit ratings can be adversely affected by carrying large debt loads, and thus find themselves unable to borrow money.

    In analyzing the numbers, Alworth discovered a very interesting non-causal relationship:

    It appears that there's no correlation between tax rates and per-capita consumption. (I didn't run the numbers, but did apply a few minutes of "visual inspection"--that's high-level statspeak for "eyeballing it.") States vary quite a bit by consumption, from a low in Utah of 13.4 to a high in North Dakota of 32.4. But when you sort them by the beer tax, they all average out, more or less.

    Beer taxes, cigarette taxes, etc. are often referred to as 'sin taxes', that is they raise revenue and promote a perceived moral good. But therein lies an inherent contradiction. If a perceived moral good is gained --that is, less drinking or whatever-- the tax revenues will decrease.

    I have a bit more on excise taxes here at my blog.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    In Solidarity with Pub-Going, Loose and Forward Women

    The Pink Chaddis CampaignA sect of Hindu fundamentalists believes that India is

    falling prey to "Western deviations' such as allowing women into watering holes clearly meant for men.
    [Several members of the sect] barged into a pub in the south Indian city of Mangalore last month and roughed up young women clients who were enjoying a quiet drink.

    'Moral Police' In India To Get Valentine's Underwear
    by Philip Reeves
    13 February 2009

    In response, Indian journalist Nisha Susan formed a Facebook site called the Consortium of Pub-Going, Loose and Forward Women.

    For Valentines Day —apparently a day, for this religious sect called Sri Ram Sena, resplendent of Western depravity— the women's group had asked women around India, and around the world, to send their pink panties —or as they're called in India, chaddis— to the sect's leader.
    The Sri Ram Sena's leader — who is on bail after his arrest for the pub attack — has a plan to answer the onslaught of pink underwear. He says his organization will reply with gifts of pink saris, the traditional garb of Indian women.

    Valentines' Day, I was at Maxs in Baltimore for its Belgian Beer Fest. I didn't have a spare pair of pink chaddis handy, so I toasted the Consortium with a glass of Hannsens Young Lambic, drawn from a cask (the US premiere for this beer).

    As of Tuesday, nearly 50,000 Facebook members have joined the group, expressing solidarity. Its campaign for women's human rights continues at: The Pink Chaddis Campaign.

    I was alerted to this story by a post at Jeff Alworth's Beervana.

    Saturday, February 14, 2009

    8 hours of Belgium

    It's off to Baltimore, Maryland ... for 72 Hours of Belgium.

    Well, actually not quite 72 hours, but it'll be a nice afternoon of Belgian beers at the Belgian Beer Fest at Max's Taphouse.

    A three day festival, it began Friday morning with a brunch and it will continue today through Sunday night. Available are over 120 different Belgian draughts, and 175 different bottles. (Go here for a semi-complete list.) There are several US premiers, including casks of Hanssens Young Lambic and Hanssens Old Kriek. And of the several beers (ha, ha!) I tasted, these two were spectacular, showing more of a soft lactic acidity than acetic sharpness.

    UPDATE 2009.02.15:

    Lambic and Twitter

    In the interest of citizen journalism, I attempted to post tasting notes to Twitter and photos to Flickr. I was assiduous ... for awhile.

    UPDATE: Statistics
    • 132 different Belgian drafts
    • 172 different bottled Belgian beers
    • 40 different Belgian breweries
    • 5 American breweries
    • 3000+ attendees
    • 4,800 gallons of draft and cask beer consumed (300+ kegs and casks)
    • 100+ cases of beer consumed
    as reported by the Brews Brothers in Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, April/May 2009 (Vol.11/#2)

    Wednesday, February 11, 2009

    To the talented Mr. Mitchell: recover!

    Baltimore, Maryland's beer curmudgeon, Alexander D. Mitchell IV, is in a local hospital recovering from an attack of pancreatitis.

    UPDATE: 18 February 2009. Mitchell reports that he is out of the hospital and recuperating.

    Mitchell is sanguine about his prognosis, but obviously, and unfortunately, he will miss this year's 72 Hours of Belgium at Max's Taphouse in Baltimore. Last year he attempted the Sisyphean task of blogging live from this Belgian beer festival.

    Alexander D. Mitchell IV

    In 2005, Chris Hallahan (l), representative for Warsteiner, Alexander Mitchell (r).

    Mitchell is the author of several books, a correspondent for the Mid-Atlantic Brewing News, and a blogger at Beer in Baltimore.

    "Beer is NOT appropriate for food," a wine guy said.

    "Beer is NOT appropriate for food," a wine guy said to me.

    My response could have been, "Well, then, why are some wines described as 'food-friendly', as if other wines would not be?"

    But in the interest of comity, I offered no response, just a shrug, and an inner regret that the speaker would not be enjoying one of life's pleasures.

    As an example, I recently matched these cheeses with these beers in a beer and food demo:

    Raclette and Gruyere with Brooklyn Lager.
    ---> Sweet and nutty cheese (gruyere; raclette is more neutral a cheese) pairs with firm yet not overpowering sweet malt middle and new mown grass aroma.

    Humboldt Fog with Brooklyn Local One.
    ---> Lemony and faintly barnyardy cheese pairs with strong beer of sweet food spices and lemons.

    Aged Gouda with Allagash Reserve Dubbel.
    ---> When aged, an almost caramel character. How delicious with the rummy character of a dubbel.

    Grafton aged Cheddar with Clipper City's Winter Storm Imperial ESB.
    ---> Buttery, earthy, and sharp cheese (it's not your grandfather's yellow cheddar) pairs wonderfully with the earthy nose and tannic finish.

    Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill with Stone Arrogant Bastard.
    ---> Pungent with pungent!! And the cheese is oh so creamy.

    Rogue Smokey Blue with Victory Storm King.
    ---> The malty/burnt flavors of strong stouts 'flavor dance'with blue cheeses. The roast softens the funk of the blue, whereas the cheese's mold softens the roast of the beer. Smokey flavor of the blue is a plus.

    First, sip the beer. Then, nibble the cheese. Now ... do both. Again, celebrate the flavor dance. Each enhances the other.

    More on beer and cheese pairing here.

    Cheeses and beers at Brick Store
    A delicious cheese platter, including Sweet Grass Dairy,
    served at the Brick Store Pub in Decatur, Georgia.
    Accompanied with Dales Pale Ale and Reisdorf Koeslch. July 2008.

    I expanded upon this post, after gentle prodding from Mr. Bryson. (See comments.)

    Tuesday, February 10, 2009

    "I’m always good for a beer"

    At his recent 'town hall' session in Elkhart, Indiana about the economy and his stimulus bill, President Obama had this exchange with an audience member:

    “I’m one of those that thinks you need to have a beer with Sean Hannity,” she said. <...>

    “With respect to Sean Hannity, I didn’t know that he had invited me for a beer,” the president said to laughter from the crowd.

    “But I will take that under advisement,” he added in a tone that suggested it may be a long consideration, prompting even more laughter.

    “Generally,” Mr. Obama went on, “his opinion of me does not seem to be very high.”

    More laughter.

    “But I’m always good for a beer.”

    The Caucus
    New York Times on-line
    By Peter Baker
    9 February 2009

    Indiana? Hmmm. Maybe a Three Floyds Alpha King?

    Monday, February 09, 2009

    SF/Oakland Beer Writer Bill Brand struck by train

    William BrandBill Brand passed away early Friday morning, 20 February 2009.

    William Brand, past longtime reporter for the Oakland Tribune, and current beer columnist/blogger at Bottoms Up, lies in a coma today after being struck by a train.

    Since last week, he has been reporting on San Francisco Beer Week, his local pride evident, including breaking this news from Anchor Brewery:

    Anchor unveiled a new beer and it’s a stunner.

    Meet Anchor Our Barrel Beer. It’s 8.02 percent, aged six months in charred oak barrels that had been used to age Anchor Old Potrero Straight Rye Whisky. They only have about 100 cases of magnum –50. 7 ounce - bottles 12 bottles to the case. No kegs; no 12 ouncers.

    Blogger Jay Brooks at Brookston Beer Bulletin has asked for a nationwide toast to Bill tonight at 7pm (PST) for a speedy and full recovery.

    We’ll be drinking a beer for you tonight, Bill. All of us would rather be drinking one with you. Recover soon.

    UPDATE 2009.02.10 from Brookston Beer Bulletin:
    Brand had surgery to relieve brain pressure, broken bone in his neck but no others. Lungs struggling; still critical, but stable.

    Who are/is ABIB?

    Quick! Name an Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABIB) beer.

    Well, with the first part of the name, Budweiser might be an obvious choice. But how about InBev Ale? InBev Lager? InBev Light? Nope ... on all three (even though some might name Stella Artois).

    Anheuser-Busch InBev is a conglomerate. It buys brands and breweries. It cuts costs.

    Here's a partial(!) list of its brands.

    • Absolut Cut (Sweden)
    • Alexander Keith's (Canada)
    • Andes (Argentina)
    • Anheuser-Busch products (Budweiser, Bud light, Michelob, etc.)
    • Antarctica (Brazil)
    • Apatinska pivara (Serbia)
    • Jelen pivo
    • Pils Light
    • Aqua Fratelli Vita (Brazil)
    • AstikA (Bulgaria)
    • Baisha (China)
    • BagBier (Russia)
    • BagBier
    • BagBier Classicheskoye
    • BagBier Krepkoye
    • BagBier Nashe
    • Bass (United Kingdom)
    • Beck's (Germany)
    • Belle-Vue (Belgium)
    • Belle-Vue Kriek
    • Belle-Vue Kriek Extra
    • Belle-Vue Framboise
    • Belle-Vue Gueuze
    • Bergenbier (Romania)
    • Boddingtons (United Kingdom)
    • Bohemia (Brazil)
    • Borsodi Sör (Hungary)
    • Boomerang (France)
    • Borostyán (Hungary)
    • Brahma (Global)
    • Breda (The Channel Islands) Still Available
    • Cafri (South Korea)
    • Caracu (Brazil)
    • Chernigivske (Ukraine)
    • Chernigivske Svitle
    • Chernigivske Premium
    • Chernigivske Mitsne
    • Chernigivske Temne
    • Chernigivske Bile
    • Chernigivske Bila Nich
    • Chernigivske Bagryane
    • Chernigivske Fitness
    • Diebels (Germany)
    • Diekirch (Luxembourg)
    • Diekirch Grand Cru
    • Diekirch Grande Réserve
    • Diekirch Exclusive
    • Dimix (Germany)
    • Dommelsch (Netherlands)
    • Dommelsch Pilsener
    • Dommelsch Ice
    • Dommelsch Dominator
    • Double Deer (China)
    • E-Generation
    • Premium Light
    • Dry Beer
    • Dutch Gold (Holland)
    • Franziskaner Weissbier (Germany)
    • Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Hell (Germany)
    • Franziskaner Hefe-Weissbier Dunkel (Germany)
    • Gilde Ratskeller (Germany)
    • Guaraná Antarctica (Brazil)
    • Guaraná Brahma (Brazil)
    • GuoGuang (China)
    • Haacke-Beck (Germany)
    • Hasseröder (Germany)
    • Hertog Jan (Netherlands)
    • Primator
    • Oud Bruin
    • Grand Prestige
    • Tripel
    • Dubbel
    • Winterbier
    • Bockbier
    • Meibock
    • Hoegaarden (Belgium)
    • Hougaerdse Das (Belgium)
    • Jinlin (China)
    • Jinlongquan (China)
    • Draft
    • Refreshing
    • Julius (Belgium)
    • Jupiler (Belgium)
    • Jupiler N.A.
    • Jupiler Blue
    • KK (China)
    • Kamenitza (Bulgaria)
    • Klinskoye (Russia)
    • Klinskoye Svetloye
    • Klinskoye Zolotoye
    • Klinskoye Lux
    • Klinskoye Redkoye
    • Klinskoye Arriva
    • Klinskoye Samurai
    • Kokanee (Canada)
    • Kokanee
    • Kokanee Gold
    • Kokanee Light
    • Kokanee Frost
    • La Bécasse (France)
    • La Bécasse Kriek
    • La Bécasse Raspberry
    • La Bécasse Gueuze
    • Labatt Family (Canada) Acquired in 1995
    • Labatt Blue
    • Labatt Blue Light
    • Labatt .5
    • Labatt Lite
    • Labatt 50
    • John Labatt Classic
    • Labatt Genuine
    • Labatt Extra Dry Lager
    • Labatt Wildcat
    • Labatt Ice
    • Labatt Sterling
    • Lakeport (Canada)
    • Leffe (Global)
    • Liber (Brazil)
    • Löwenbräu (Germany)
    • Löwenbräu Original (Germany)
    • Löwenbräu Oktoberfestbier (Germany)
    • Marathon (Brazil)
    • Mousel (Luxembourg)
    • Negra Modelo
    • Pivara Trebjesa (Montenegro)
    • Nik Cool
    • Nik Gold
    • Nikšicko pivo
    • Nikšicko tamno
    • Noroc (Romania)
    • OB (South Korea)
    • Oranjeboom (Netherlands)
    • Oranjeboom Premium Pilsener
    • Oranjeboom Oud Bruin
    • Oranjeboom Premish Malt
    • Original (Brasil)
    • Permskoye Gubernskoye (Russia)
    • Permskoye Gubernskoye Svetloye
    • Piedboeuf (Belgium)
    • Piedboeuf Blond
    • Piedboeuf Brown
    • Piedboeuf Triple
    • Quilmes (Argentina)
    • Red Shiliang (China)
    • Rifey (Russia)
    • Rogan (Ukraine)
    • Rogan Lehke
    • Rogan Tradytsiyne
    • Rogan Tradytsiyne
    • Rogan Monastyrske Temne
    • Rogan Veselyi Monach
    • Rogan Bezalkoholne
    • Rogan Kampai
    • Rogan Arriva
    • Safir (Belgium)
    • Santai (China)
    • Sedrin (China)
    • Sibirskaya Korona (Siberian Crown)(Russia)
    • Skol (Brazil)
    • Spaten (Germany)
    • St. Pauli Girl (USA)
    • St. Pauli Girl Lager
    • St. Pauli Girl Special Dark
    • St. Pauli Girl Non-Alcoholic
    • Staropramen (Czech Republic)
    • Stella Artois (Global)
    • Artois Bock
    • Peeterman Artois
    • Sukita (Brazil)
    • Taller (Ukraine)
    • Tennent's (United Kingdom)
    • Tennent's Super
    • Tennent's Ember
    • Tennent's Extra Lager
    • Tennent's Light Ale
    • Tennent's Pilsner
    • Tennent's Special
    • Tennent's Velvet Ale
    • Tennent's Stout (Export)
    • Tennent's 1885 Lager (Export)
    • Tennent's Scotch Ale (Export)
    • Tinkov Russian Lager (Russia)
    • Tolstiak (Russia)
    • Tolstiak Dobroye
    • Tolstiak Svetloye
    • Tolstiak Zaboristoye
    • Tolstiak Krepkoye
    • Tolstiak Grechisnoye
    • Tsingtao
    • Vieux Temps (Belgium)
    • Wolters (Germany)
    • Whitbread (United Kingdom)
    • Yali (China)
    • Yantar (Ukraine)
    • Zagrebacka pivovara (Croatia)
    • Božicno Pivo
    • Ožujsko Pivo
    • Ožujsko Cool
    • Ožujsko Izzy
    • Ožujsko Strong
    • Fresssh by Ožujsko
    • Tomislav
    • Zizhulin (China)
    • Zhujiang (China)

    Related posts:

    Sunday, February 08, 2009

    "Born-on" dying

    Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABIB) has dropped the 'born-on' date on some of its beers. The Belgium-based beer conglomerate cited recent "significant improvements" to its brewing process.

    Although a marketing term, the 'born-on date' may have been one of the more important contributions the formerly independent American brewery Anheuser-Busch gave to the beer world. With its millions of dollars of marketing support, the 'born-on date' promulgated the message that beer is, by its nature, a perishable commodity.

    Many, but not all, 'craft breweries' are also willing to remove stale beer from the shelves: a short-term debit, but —true to the 'craft-beer' credo— a long-term better business strategy.

    Fresh beer is the best beer.

    For years, Anheuser-Busch has been unbending when it comes to its beer’s shelf life. If A-B beer went 110 days without selling, A-B crews would sweep into bars and restaurants and hand the retailer a check for the value of the beer. They would grab the beer, break the bottles and pour the liquid out. No exceptions.

    Now, the brewer says it has realized that the 110-day limit might not be necessary. Why? The company says it has improved its brewing processes and packaging — using new fillers and bottle crowns, for example — that reduce the amount of oxygen in its beers.

    The company is allowing its new and niche beers to stay on the market longer — as long as 180 days in some instances. It is also dropping its “born on” date from the small brands, although the beers will still have a code showing the packaging date.

    Anheuser-Busch extends shelf life, drops “born on” date for small beer brands
    By Jeremiah McWilliams
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    The Schlitz Brewing Co. infamously altered its brewing procedures in the 1970s, claiming "improvements". The changes failed, and sales for the #2 brewer in the US declined so precipitously that within 10 years the brewery had been sold.

    Anheuser-Busch InBev's recent decision is not of that miserable ilk.

    Instead, one might assume that improvements —or at least changes believed to be such— are constant 'givens' at all successful breweries, let alone most businesses.

    But was the shelf life of ABIB's beers really improved by a whopping 60% in one year?

    Fat chance.

    This was a change cooked up by the financial managers at ABIB —looking at a $52 billion dollar debt load and current worldwide poor economic conditions— not by the brewers.

    And, to be precise, it's only a limited re-do. Brands Budweiser, Bud Light, Bud Select, Busch, and Natural Light will retain the 110 day limit and imprinted 'born-on' date. That limited selection itself begs the question: does ABIB have more confidence in the flavor stability of its 'lesser' brands than of its powerhouses?

    The full rejection of 'born-on' is probably only a matter of time ... which brings up a final, and perhaps more significant, issue.

    America's iconic beer brand now belongs to an international conglomerate. Like the beer or not, it will no longer be the same Budweiser.

    Ad Rubicon

    I've ruminated about this for a couple years now. And now, I've gone and done it.

    There are advertisements on Yours For Good

    Google's AdSense 'analyzes' the content of the blog and places 'relevant' ads along the lower portion of the page, not in the posts themselves.

    Some are beer related, some aren't. And some may not be in-line with the views expressed on this blog.

    So, consider the decision provisional.

    Saturday, February 07, 2009

    The Session #24: a Twitter Tripel

    Yesterday, being the first Friday of the month, it was the day for The Session: Beer Blogging Friday.

    The Session #23: Tripels

    The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community which was begun by Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer. On the first Friday of each month, all participating bloggers write about a predetermined topic. Each month a different blog is chosen to host The Session, choose the topic, and post a roundup of all the responses received. For more info on The Session, check out the Brookston Beer Bulletin’s nice archive page.

    The theme this month was Tripels, and was hosted by David Turley at Musings Over a Pint.

    The late great beer writer Michael Jackson described a Tripel as 8-9% alcohol by volume, orangey-gold in color, with distinctive herbal and orange-fruit notes, a juicy malt middle, and, despite the alchol level, a dry finish. A tripel is one of a range of Abbey-style beers, a reference to the beers of the six Benelux brewing Trappist monasteries. The Beer Judge Certification Program, and others, confusingly mention Belgian-style Golden Ales as a separate style, a distinction of no meaningful difference.

    I may have missed the Friday midnight deadline for posting a story, but I was right on time in a different sense.

    Alan McLeod at A Good Beer Blog had suggested that participants post their comments on Tripels —in real time— via Twitter. (What's Twitter? Go here.)

    And, that I did.

    A friend stopped by the house, and we opened a bottle of Allagash Tripel Reserve —Batch 117 to be precise. (Allagash is a brewery in Portland, Maine, named for a town of the same name.)

    Allagash Tripel Reserve

    Here's how we Twittered our tasting:
    • Preparing to Twitter Session Beer Blog Friday- Flying Dog Kerberus and/or Allagash Tripel Reserve. #TheSession
    • How American homebrewers view Abbey-style tripels: I wonder, did they ask the monks? #TheSession
    • Opening Allagash Reserve Tripel. As with a Champagne bottle, keep thumb on cork and turn the bottle, not the cork. #TheSession
    • Allagash Tripel Reserve,Batch #117:hints of apricot,honey,waxy orange peel,cardamom. #TheSession
    • Beautiful color, says drinking partner: deep golden, long-lasting but not moussy white head of foam. Allagash Tripel Reserve. #TheSession
    • [A fellow Twitterer, in fact Alan of A Good Beer Blog, replied: @Cizauskas In 2006, My notes said the Allagash tripel finish = sea salt with old bitter greens - sounds like I was full of it! #thesession.]
    • [I replied] @agoodbeerblog "sea salt with old bitter greens"- sounds like Ralph Nader vacationing in Nova Scotia. #TheSession [to which Alan Twitter-responded: @Cizauskas Hey - watch it! I'm a bluesnoser expat...though I suppose a Chesapeake Bay man can get away with that #thesession]
    • Allagash Tripel Reserve: paired with 'Asian' spiced prepared tofu. Nice match. #TheSession
    • Beer style nonsense. Whats the difference between a 'Belgian strong golden 'and a 'Belgian tripel'? Merely more alcohol? Feh! #TheSession
    • Music for a Tripel? Going against the grain (barleycorn?) for a Friday night: Beethoven Piano Trio. #TheSession.
    • Friend (a wine preferer, gasp) and I are going for a cheesey dessert with Allagash Tripel. #TheSession
    • For dessert with Allagash Tripel, we nibbled on Neal's Yard Dairy Shropshire Blue. "Oh, yum", or variations on that theme. #TheSession
    Several others participated, and with other Tripels. See full results at

    Nerdy? Yes. Fun? Yes.
    • Note the #TheSession tag. During the day, participants could monitor the postings —as they occurred— by going to, navigating to the Search page, and typing in #TheSession.
    • The next Session: Beer Blogging Friday will be on 6 March 2009 with a new theme.
    • I am employed by a wholesaler that distributes Allagash beers.

    Friday, February 06, 2009

    Cask Head Festival in NYC

    New York City's cask maven Alex Hall is at it again.

    It's the 17th (!) Tri-Annual 'Cask Head' Cask Ale Festival Friday through Sunday, at the Brazen Head in Brooklyn.

    Here's the lineup of 30 or so casks (arranged with the Brazen Head's beer manager Lou Sones).

    Abita Pecan Harvest Ale
    Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye
    Blue Point Winter Ale
    Blue Point Hoptical Illusion
    Brooklyn Brown Ale
    Brooklyn Blunderbuss Old Ale
    Butternuts Moo Thunder
    Cape Ann Fishermans Brew
    Cape Ann Fishermans I.P.A.
    Cape Ann Fishermans Navigator
    Chelsea Ryes Up!
    Chelsea Hop Angel I.P.A.
    Chelsea Frostys Winter Wheat
    Chelsea Black Hole XXX Stout
    Chelsea 1000 Gyle Imperial Mild (2008)
    Clipper City Below Decks
    Green Flash Imperial India Pale Ale
    Heartland Farmer Jons Oatmeal Stout
    Heartland Full Moon Barleywine
    Kelso Bourbon Aged Chocolate Lager
    Otter Creek Russian Imperial Stout
    Sly Fox Boadicea Pale Ale
    Sly Fox Gang Aft Agley
    Sly Fox Odyssey Imperial I.P.A.
    Smuttynose I.P.A. (dry-hopped: Centennial)
    Stoudts Tripel
    Two Brothers Heavy Handed I.P.A.
    Two Brothers Cane and Ebel
    Two Brothers Northwind Imperial Stout
    Weyerbacher Double Simcoe I.P.A.

    It's "30 or so casks," because availability can sometimes be a bit tricky with casks in the US, due to production, conditioning, and delivery. There may be no-shows and/or substitutions.

    But, to the festival go-er, there is no cost ... except for the beer one orders, of course.

    Local Maryland brewery Clipper City is represented, sending a firkin of its barley wine style ale, Below Decks.

    Alex Hall posted this information at Cask-USA, a Yahoo group.

    Thursday, February 05, 2009

    Stirred, NOT shaken

    The temperature is in the single digits here tonight. Winter storms have attacked the midwestern US. Citrus crops are in danger in Florida.

    But harbingers of spring thaw are present, if you look for them.

    For example, less than three weeks remain until baseball spring training begins. And the Washington Post has just run a story on that venerable cocktail —the martini.

    The martini, mixed of only two ingredients ...

    The martini certainly is more a broad concept than a specific recipe, but there must be two constants: gin and vermouth. Beyond correctness, vodka and vermouth are just a terrible match. So call that drink whatever you'd like, but please don't call it a martini.

    Stirrings of a Better Martini
    By Jason Wilson
    The Washington Post
    February 4, 2009

    It was my father who introduced me to that mysterious rite of adulthood —mixing a martini. He taught me 5 parts gin to one part dry vermouth —not more, not less— stirred, not shaken.

    In Washington, D.C. circa 1948Summer 1949 in Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C.
    Prime martini weather

    The Post has another very important tip. In addition to using high-quality gin, use only fresh vermouth.
    be sure to use a good-quality dry vermouth, such as Noilly Prat or Dolin. Also, keep that vermouth in the fridge once you've opened it, and get rid of it after a month (it's a fortified wine and will spoil over time; buy small bottles if necessary).

    During the winter season, I may tipple a wee dram of scotch, but that sloped cocktail glass, chilled with condensation like beads of sweat ... that I save as a rite of spring.

    So it's spring training soon. And it's Fat Tuesday soon, followed, for many, by 40 days of abstinence.

    And, then, finally then ... it will be spring.

    Another martini rant.

    Wednesday, February 04, 2009

    Knight Unseated at DC's Brasserie Beck

    It's not quite a tectonic shift, but it is at least a tremor.

    Bill Catron, the beer 'sommelier' at Brasserie Beck in Washington, D.C. is no longer that. In a mutually agreed parting of the ways at the end of January, Catron has left, and his position not filled.

    Brasserie Beck, at the eastern end of downtown Washington is the Belgian beer sibling of Marcel's, a more upscale wine-centric French fare eatery, at the western end of downtown.

    At Beck, Catron helped develop a beer list of more than 130 bottled Belgian beers, and of about a dozen Belgians on draught. The list includes some exclusives to Beck.

    Beck's current General Manager, Thor Cheston, has assumed the beer specialist duties, without taking the title.

    Cheston is very familiar with that role. He was the original GM, and beer guru, at another D.C. good-beer hotspot when it opened a few years ago —Birreria Paradiso. For spring, he is planning a 'Beer vs. Wine' dinner with Dogfish Head owner Sam Calagione and wine educator Marni Old, co-authors of the book "He Said Beer, She Said Wine."

    Catron is a knight of La Chevalerie du Fourquet des Brasseurs (Knights of the Brewers' Mash Fork), an honorary brewer's guild of several hundred years' vintage. He is only the 13th American member, and with Dave Alexander— owner of the venerable Brickskeller— the only other DC-area denizen so recognized.

    UPDATE: After leaving Beck, Catron signed on as beer buyer for the DeVinos/D'Vines Wine Shops in Washington, D.C. And, as of September 2009, as Brand 'Ambassador' for Palm/Rodenbach brewery of Belgium.

    Dirty rotten lines #2

    This will be a story about the only female cask-ale-tester in England. But the tale begins elsewhere.

    Many mainstream US beer drinkers prefer bottled beers over draught beers. Ask them why and they will tell you that bottled beers taste better.

    NAILs and ILLs (North American Industrial Lagers and International Light Lagers) are, to be polite, very delicately-flavored beers. The deleterious flavor effects of dirty draught lines will be very noticeable on them. Many craft beers, loaded with lots of hops, may mask filthy draught lines (a bit) longer.

    Clean the pipes!
    Cleaning the cask lines at Rustico in Alexandria, Va.

    As important as it is to clean draught lines, for cask ale lines —beer at its freshest— it might be more so.

    Beer buff Annabel Smith today visited pub number 500 in her job as Britain's only female ale tester.

    Annabel regularly sips up to 36 beers A DAY and has tried almost 26,000 samples of 3,000 different brews in three years in the job. <...>

    Annabel Smith of Cask MarqueAnnabel is the only woman among Cask Marque's 46-strong staff who award plaques to licensees who serve the perfect pint of cask conditioned ale. So far around 5,000 have made the grade. <...>

    Annabel isn't always flavour of the month with landlords and often pulls a pub owner up about the quality of his beer - even on nights out with friends. She added: 'Sometimes they don't take too kindly to criticism and can be quite confrontational - but they usually calm down when I explain what my job is. 'Then they often end up asking me how they can put it right or ask me to go down and have a look in the cellar to see what's going wrong.

    Quality is so important because most people will taste a poor pint, leave it on the table and just never go back into that pub again.

    It's a tough job - but someone's got to do it: Meet Britain's only female beer taster
    Daily Mail Reporter
    04th August 2008

    What principally builds up in draught and cask lines is 'beer stone' (calcium-like deposits), sugars, and —especially in the case of craft and cask beers— proteins, hop resins, and yeast. The sugar can attract bacteria and other microflora: it won't be dangerous, such as with spoiled milk or food, but it will be unpleasant tasting. As an instructor once told me, "Don't clean, and the bugs will come."

    How often should a bar clean its lines? Once every two weeks should be the optimal minimum.

    Tuesday, February 03, 2009

    Is beer recession proof? Argument #3

    Is beer recession-proof? Apparently the answer may depend more upon whom, not what.

    If you're a restaurant, no.

    If you're a grocery store, and maybe an independent wine and beer shop, the answer may be yes.

    In a November 2008 report, the Nielsen Company examined the question and found that fewer people may be eating out, and thus drinking out. But more may be buying in.

    Consumers are going out to eat less often, as evidenced by a recent Nielsen survey, where two-thirds (66%) of fine dining patrons admitted they are going out less often compared to a year ago.

    Also in the report, Nielsen found that craft beers (and wines), especially those local to the buyer, are faring better —in percentage of growth— than beers in general.
    With exchange rates unfavorable to the dollar, imports have been forced to raise prices, making it more difficult for these products to compete with domestic alcoholic beverages. For example, while both domestic and imported wines were growing at the same double-digit rates last year, domestic growth is now ahead of imports. Imported beers have also suffered, showing steady declines in the last six months. Consistent with the “localization” trend, craft beers and U.S. wines from outside California have been gaining share

    Alcoholic Beverages: Holiday Outlook And Analysis

    Futhermore, Nielsen found that beer sales have been the least affected by the economic downturn.
    Nearly half of total respondents rate beer as having the “best” sales trend of the three categories, followed by spirits at 40%. Only 11% cited wine as having the best sales trend of the three.

    This evidence suggests that beer might be recession resistant. But any study occurs after the fact. Thus these findings are from May and November of 2008. Stay tuned for 2009 ... and hang on tight.

    Monday, February 02, 2009

    Black Ops review

    A sagacious manager at a past job of mine once suggested, "Never say, 'to be honest'. That implies everything else you say is not. "

    But now, I'm going to ignore that suggestion.

    To be honest, I wouldn't have tried Brooklyn Brewery's Black Ops if I weren't selling it in my position as a beer and wine salesman.

    But I do, so I did ... and 'hey Mikey,' I liked it.

    The back of the bottle reads, "Brooklyn Black Ops does not exist. But if it did ..." Ah, but it does, and here is photographic evidence.

    Black Ops

    Deep black with a dark brown head, Black Ops was fermented out to 10.7% alcohol by volume (abv). The beer was then racked (transferred) to oak bourbon barrels, and aged for 4 months. Racked back out of the barrels, the beer was re-fermented with champagne yeast and packaged finally in cork-and-wire 750 milliliter (25.4 US fluid ounces) bottles.

    What's it like?

    It is not the knock-you-over-the-head whiskey burn of some beers aged in bourbon barrels, which would have been the reason for me not to try it.

    Rather, it's like liquid bakers chocolate, creamy and gently spicy, with hints of vanillin and medicinal character (in a good way, like scotch),

    Very limited availability: according to the bottle's back label, only 1000 12-pack cases were produced.