Last time I said I would let you know how the 10th Annual B.E.E.R. Brew-off went. I ended up judging two flights: Stouts and German Wheat and Rye. I hadn't judged in a few years, primarily because my connection with the beer scene was severed when I relocated from Florida to Long Island (additionally our nuclear family census incremented from 2 to 3 during that time). Now (after a couple of years) I'm pretty well connected to Long Island beer culture. Despite my uneasy start at beer judging, after the first couple of score sheets, I was back into the swing of things. I've already started writing a "Competition Brewing" chapter for this year's beer book where I dispel some popular misconceptions about brewing competitions and judging at them.
I made my rounds to Long Island's breweries during the last fortnight. I finally had the ESB at the Black Forest. It's an amber beer, hoppy with a dry finish. I tasted some lemony notes which gave the beer a refreshing tartness. I also detected a slight tea-like flavor which I think comes from a long hop boil (correct me if I'm wrong). The beer was great, but I was sitting at the part of the bar where the servers come to pick up drink orders. One of the servers had bathed in cologne, so I had to time my sips of ESB when that particular server was on the other side of the restaurant. Advice to head brewers: Tell your servers to go easy on the cologne.
I like to visit the Black Forest during the day so I can drop into Kedco and pick up brewing supplies. The "Brews Brothers" are extremely helpful and attentive. They set me up with Pilsener malt for the batch of Saison I ended up brewing last Monday. I also grabbed a selection of hop pellets and assorted hardware including a tap handle that I'm going to install on the side of my keg fridge so I don't have to open the fridge door to get my homebrewed draft beer. I'll post a picture when I get it installed.
Some of you might have noticed that I'm working on a Long Island Beer Guide (a lot of the links in my posts are to pages in my guide). I decided to take last Friday off and do some research for the Guide. One of the things I'm doing is visiting Long Island beer shops to get an idea of what kind of stock they have. I am starting to notice a pattern. Most beer shops on Long Island have one, small set of shelves they dedicate to craft and imported beer. These "one star" beer shops all have the same set of craft beers. Any place you walk into you'll find Chimay, Unibroue, and Samuel Smith (plus maybe one harder to find beer). Of course, the Long Island craft beers are everywhere. Southampton's beers are now as ubiquitous as Blue Point's.
The "two star" shops have a bigger selection, but still that selection is derived from what I consider to be readily available beers like Fuller's, Hoegaarden, Leffe, etc. (basically the big European beer companies). In addition the "two star" shops usually have a selection of regional/mid-Atlantic craft beers.
I've only found one "three star" shop that carries literally hundreds of (for me) hard to find beers, and that's Shoreline Beverage in Huntington. If that name sounds familiar, then you're remembering my coverage of the flawed Long Island Beer Festival that they sponsored three weeks ago (see my last post here). My search for more "three star" beer shops on Long Island continues.
Last Tuesday, I took my son to a Long Island Ducks baseball game. I didn't realize that I would be doing any beer research that night, but to my surprise Southampton's beers weren't only available at the ballpark, they were highly visible. The Southampton Publick House is evidently a sponsor of the Ducks. Blue Point beers were also available. Apparently, Southampton's Secret Ale and Blue Point's Toasted Lager are available on draft at the ballpark. I wrote about beer at the ballpark on my own blog this last week so I won't rehash all of that here.
Also on Tuesday, the first part of a three part series on the AHA Membership Rally at the Brooklyn Brewery, appeared on The Spirit World (one of my other beer writing gigs). And speaking of other beer writing gigs, I was recently asked to be a contributing columnist for Lenn Thompson's Lenndevours. My overview of Blue Point Brewing Company: "Local Beers for Every Season" was published today.
Recently, I proposed that an organization for Beer Educators be established to train and certify people to speak knowledgeably and intelligently about beer and spread the good news of beer to the world. Well, I'm doing my bit. I hosted my first Long Island beer tasting. The beer style was German and American Wheat beers. Five people (none of them brewers or beer geeks) came to the tasting. We opened seven commercial bottles and I snuck in one of my homebrewed beers, so they could taste for themselves what homebrewed beer is like. Grassroots beer advocacy. We need more of it. I'll be hosting another tasting at the end of June focusing on Trappist ales. I'm calling the event "Drink Like a Monk" and it's listed on Beer Advocate (if you are interested in coming, you are invited).
One more thing and then I'll quit. I've recently joined the Mug Club at John Harvard's in Lake Grove. Big deal, right? Well, poking around Beer Advocate I've seen that a few people have posted less than positive assessments of the beer at JH's. I've been sampling the beers there for three years now and I have to say that JH's in Lake Grove is an excellent brewery. DJ Swanson, the head brewer, is one of the most innovative brewers I have encountered. For example, he's concocted an IPA that he fermented with a Belgian yeast to make a Belgian IPA. That beer is in the cask right now, so if you want something off the style map, head over there. I think more brewers should be willing to go out on the brewing limb and make something more than just the same old styles we see in every brewpub we walk into.