It looks like I will be in the Ann Arbor area this weekend for about 18 hours. My plan is to try to hit Jolly Pumpkin in nearby Dexter for their 12 to 6 pm store hours. But what else? Any recommendations?
This is a special release by Allagash from October 2006, weighing in at a hefty 10.3%. It pours a deep rich mahogany under thick lacing cream froth. Lots of big dark aromas coming out of the glass - sort of like a brown sugared baseball glove that was on fire but put out with a good soaking of Belgian ale. Kinda. It is a bit difficult to describe the taste as there is so much going on. My notes include "cola with birthday cake icing" and "Bamburg meets Newfoundland". What the heck is that supposed to mean? Molasses malt, fig, heat, smoked vanilla, clove, nutmeg and beer broth. Date square. Turfy yet buttery. That makes more sense. The wood does not round this one.
A bottle from batch #1 dated June 2007. Light straw ale under a fine white frothy head. On the nose there is plenty to remind me of Goliath triple, one of my favorite beers - candy floss with nutmeg. In the mouth, this beer is drier without so much of the pear juiciness (actually more faintly of apple) but a good measure of white pepper with some astringency to put the candy in its place. Some creaminess, too, but back there. The brewer says it has sharp citrus flavour but I do not get that. Subtitled "funkhouse ale with brettanomyces" I get more must than funk but there is a bit of a lambic tang there, too. It's attic more than blue cheese, old wool more than vinegar. Aging will shift the taste but for now I say this is more herbal tea, meets unminted clear hard candy colliding with the white pepper shaker.
It is called an American Wild Ale by the advocatonians but at this point it is really a triple that has aspirations of more. 100% BAer love but with a sub-4/5 average. Pretty good value for $10.99 but as I can get this fine brewer's regular line up of excellent Belgian-style beers for $4.99-5.99 in CNY corner stores, it does make me wonder about the markup. Even so, I like it. Buy it. Better still - buy twelve and pop one every six months for the next six years.
A bit like Greg, when I thought about the topic for this month's edition of "The Session", hosted and proposed by Tomme Arthur of Lost Abbey, I was initially disappointed as this one's generality seems to be taking us another notch farther and farther away from the beer and nearer and nearer to a free for all, allowing for a drift towards that glaring lack of attention to detail that any good beer blogger should fear.
Yet the posts so far today have dispelled my fear as has just wallowing in a bit of recollecting. I have to go quite a ways back to a time when music and beer were more closely associated for me. Not as background music either - when one older brother came back from a trip to family in the early '80's, his most telling remark was that the British pubs he had visited all seems to have jukeboxes compared to our last trip, the summer of punk in 1977. And they were all playing "Born in the USA". That's not music. That's music in a can.
Stephen Beaumont's post for the session - or one of them - makes a very good point about the music in a bar being a huge part of the experience but it is also important to note that canned music is a fairly recent introduction into a lot of bars - a reality of only the last 35-25 years. Even in my youth of the early 80s many Halifax taverns were still only either loud with conversation or had live music. And it was that live music we sought out because we sang, too. Maritime Canadians like me have a capacity for shout-singing a good shanty with the best of them and we sang them in the taverns like the Lower Deck with certain songs being somewhat obligatory like "Barrett's Privateers" by Stan Rogers and, of course, the cultural anthem "Farewell to Nova Scotia" which usually brought the house down in pubs like the Lower Deck with the long tables being hammered and dimpled by beer glasses keeping the beat, students and guys in the navy sharing their benches and trying to out do each other on the chorus:
God damn them allThe music was real and I was making it, the tavern was on a Halifax pier and the beer was then, for the most part, locally brewered draft by regionals Keiths and Moosehead even if a few imports were popping up like Newcastle Brown and the oddly present but welcomed Frydenlund lager from Norway - both also coastal brews.
I was told we'd cruise the seas for American gold
We'd fire no guns, shed no tears
Now I'm a broken man on a Halifax pier,
The last of Barrett's Privateers
Stephen shares a bit of the flavour of Halifax that from that time, too, in his post:
Then there are times when beer trumps music, as it does in this story told to me many years ago by Kevin Keefe, founder of eastern Canada’s first brewpub, the Granite Brewery in Halifax. Winning Maritimers over to British-style ales wasn’t the easiest of tasks for Kevin, but in doing so he recognized that he would create for himself a sort of captive audience. And so, one by one, he convinced the locals to switch from the regional lagers and bland, blonde ales to his unique dark ales and best bitters, including, eventually, one long-time hold-out we’ll call Alan. Alan was for many months skeptical about the appeal of the Granite’s ales, Kevin told me, but after numerous tastes and talks, finally came around and began to drink the Best Bitter on a regular basis. This continued for some time, up to and including the evening when a hugely popular band was playing in a rival bar, attracting away the bulk of Kevin’s clientele.Funny. The Alan I knew in the mid-80s of Halifax (me), the one hunting out the best place to belt out the best song at closing time, was starting to enjoy craft beer in a Halifax brewpub that actually pre-dated the one that came to be called the Granite Brewery. As I went on about back here, their equipment was originally at a sort of down at the heels place called Ginger's which was a few blocks, a few rougher blocks nearer the train station and the docks, south of where the places now called the Granite and Ginger's sits today. We'd also another source for early craft beer from a southern New Brunswick brewery, Hans House, that I do not think made it into the 90s.
But Kevin Keefe is right. It was the place as much as anything that made learning about his early efforts at craft beer so attractive and so different - whether that first harbour town tavern or later, at the Henry House, the new sort of upscale pub that he introduced into the scene that made for the setting. And those places of his had, for much of the time, something hard to find these day of mainly canned tunes or those days of table thumping massed messed choirage - the peace of no music at all.
Times like these there are more things to talk about than one post a day can handle. Times like these demand lists of beery bullets to catch up with all the interesting ideas out there:
- Stonch has posted his latest poll. This time he wants you to tell him where to go...or at least where to go next on his global beer crawl. I am voting for Norwich as it is the least exotic and I am ticked that he is putting off his North American tour for 2008. So, if you care for me at all, vote for Norwich as well. I am going to hold my breath until you do.
- Stephen Beaumont, that man about drinks, has posted a rejoinder to our discussions about beer and value which contains an uncomfortable truth:
The forums, blogs and sites mentioned above are generally frequented by those with a passion for beer, once more including yours truly. And some of us, some of you, will be the ones lining up to pay whatever it costs to drink beers of excellence. However, and this is the important point, to my experience, it will not be any or even all of us who will determine the fate of these beers.Stephen blames or, rather, simply explains that it is the buying power of the rich who make the new tier of high priced beers possible. He is, of course, correct yet that also is part of my point. A market where upward mobility meets upward price elasticity is no place to establish excellence - but it is a garden of delight for both the snobbee and the snobbor. Accordingly: remember it is dangerous out there so always ask more when more is asked of you.
- Ron Pattinson has taken his extraordinary range of knowledge about beer brewing history - based on his poring over the brewing logs of the past - and seeks to have it appear before him, made manifest in a glass:
I want to get a couple of old Whitbread beers professionally brewed. It sounds quite fun to me. And I'll be paying. So is anyone interested?That is an interesting idea and he is allowing any brewer in Europe or the UK in on the deal. Why has no one thought of this before?
- Tomorrow is the latest installment of The Session, this month hosted by the Lost Abbey blog of brewer Tomme Arthur. He's picked beer and music as our topic for November.
I've been writing this dang blog for the best part of four years now, if you count its pre-spinoff days as part of my general blog of foolishness. As you know, we have guest bloggers and the test to become one is pretty tough. Basically, you have to write me an email and make sure it is a fairly pleasant one. This week I heard from John Morrissey of Denver, Colorado who has an interest in beer and has his own beer blog called The Beer Hermit. We'll hear from him from time to time but first here is his take on an autobiography.
John Morrissey grew up in western North Carolina and back in the 60’s, those Blue Ridge Mountains were more famous for moonshine than good beer. Back then, a good beer just had to be cold. Taste did not count for much, because it all tasted pretty much the same. John moved to New Hampshire in the mid 80s, just about the same time Sam Adams (the beer, not the patriot) was born. His turned his back on the macro brewed light lagers of his youth and "Gimmie a Sammie, will ya?" became his barroom battle cry.Rockies, eh. Well...we'll...just...tiptoe...past...that...one.
Now, it would make a legendary western tale to tell you that John hitchhiked his way 2,000 miles across the country to Colorado, just because he heard they were brewing good beer. But, the truth is not that sexy. John came out to the Rockies for a job, chugging past amber waves of grain in his overstuffed 10 year old Ford Ranger. Once he got settled in Denver, he realized that divine craft brew providence had landed him right in the middle of an American beer revolution. So, for the last 17 years, he has watched Colorado’s brew scene expand and he has seen his beer tastes grow, too. John has become a man of many beers, but his winter favorite is a rich, dark stout and an easy chair by a roaring fire. During the summer, he loves the grassy sweetness of an American Style IPA on a wooden deck, shaded by tall aspens and pines.
Today, John has decided to make it his job to search out Colorado’s great craft brews. When he discovers a good one, he whips out his laptop and two fingers a blog story about it. He also freelances his articles for magazines about the brews in his state. A lesser man would just "google-fish" for the info he needed, but John believes beer tastes best when you are standing on the cold, grey concrete of a brew house floor. Hops taste awfully weak through an internet connection in a high rise office. So, he is out there on the trail, chasing great Colorado beer and paying 3-bucks for a gallon of gas.
When he is not drinking beer and writing about it, John loves to cook, hunt and fish. He devours detective novels by Robert B. Parker and Bill Bryson's travel books. He is a painful "homer" when it comes to sports, bleeding Rockies purple in the summer and the orange and blue of the Broncos in the fall. During the warmer months, he can be seen tooling around town, top down, in his fully restored 1964 Ford Falcon convertible. Gas costs close to 3-bucks a gallon for it, too.
Good to have you aboard and we look forward to tales of those ninety-odd brewers of Colorado.
Hunting for an interesting story between the trickers and the treaters, I came across this blurb on how one beer brewers club has advanced the great cause of great beer:
One of the main reasons the Portland system has such a vast collection is because Fred Eckhardt, the dean of American beer writers, lives here. (His classic "The Essentials of Beer Style" is one of his six titles available, but as with most beer books his are in heavy demand and have a waiting list).What a great idea. If everyone who read this here blog in one month just donated one hundred books each to their local library...that would be a 2.5 million beer books in the hands of the unsuspecting worldwide - not to mention a huge boon to the publishing industry.
Eight years ago the Oregon Brew Crew, a conspiracy of home brewers, microbrewers and beer lovers, donated funds for the library’s beer book collection in recognition of Fred. Recently the OBC voted to donate $400 to expand the library’s collection of beer books, again in Fred’s honor, this time for his 80th birthday.
Don't worry. Start small. Give one.
I have written about beer magazines before but a recent stop at a book store made me realize that there are more magazines out there than ever and that it was maybe time to do some comparing. And, along with that, some consideration of what the deal is as I've always wondered who buys these publications. Maybe even though there is way more information about beer on the internet that is more up to date, we all know that you look like a dork taking your lap top when you go for a hair cut.
- All About Beer: This is the elder statesman of these five magazines, well into its 28th year of publication if the volume numbering is anything to go by. I have the November 2007 issue which sports the natty and welcome new layout and design. It has articles, flashy ads, columns by a number of the usual suspects, reviews by a number of the usual suspects as well as the fantastically useful "Buyers Guide For Beer Lovers" or BGFBL. The BGFBL in each issue takes a large number of known examples of a style, ranks them and give notes for each. A very useful information packed magazine that has taken a good look in the mirror and freshened its look. A small amount of gratuitous cheesecake in the vital 34 word article on America's sexiest bartender. Audience: the US beer geek over 30 who maybe once was a frat boy.
- Beer: This issue is the first and will be the last I buy. It really isn't aimed at the craft beer buyer - though it may be aimed at the young krappht beer fan. This issue has plenty of short articles that include trade PR cuttings from two months ago, a piece on how to tell one macro industrial brew from another and interesting bit about how to get a bartender to give you free beer. Oddly, there is plenty of cheesecake but much of it, even on different articles, seems strangely to be from the same photo shoot. Audience: the US frat boy with aspirations of one day being a beer geek over 30.
- Beers of the World: this UK beer mag now in its second year contains ads, now old trade PR cuttings, a lot of articles of three to five pages with a UK and European focus. My October 2007 issue has a good regional focus on Wales, notes from a visit to Bamburg, as well as a history of hops in under around 700 words and one by a usual suspect describing all of pale ale that might hit 1200 words...OK, I didn't count. My only complaint is that articles of this length rarely get too deep or provide information that you have not seem the same author repeat elsewhere. But the review section at the end is the best in all five magazines as it is written by the same one guy issue after issue creating a consistent body of work. Plenty of bright photos and really no skin. Audience: the people who read Stonch's blog yet who want to also learn more from a source that does not include his pal's body functions as recurring characters.
- Beer Advocate: I am happy with my subscription to the Beer Advocate magazine. It is likely the most focused of the group and the least cluttered with ads. This is a mag for the 5% of the beer market into craft beer in the USA. There is no cheesecake - unless a very bald Alstrom head counts...which it might. There are stale trade PR cuttings, which is a bit of a disappointment, but there are good long articles following the given theme of any issue. The reviews are very well done, logical and comparatively lengthy. It sort of has a new cast of usual suspects which is good if you are reading more than one magazine. It tends to present itself as relating to rocking out. Audience: former frat boys in their 20s and 30s who still wear black t-shirts and want to go one a beer tour with Stonch and his pals.
- Draft: Thank God for a magazine that doesn't have "beer" in the title. Except it seems to have a sub-title and even a sup-title as the full name is "The Beer Enthusiast's DRAFT: Life on Tap". Things are a bit cluttered up there on the cover. This one has been publishing for a year as of the September/October 2007 issue and also has beer page after page of huge ads, articles, some trade PR clippings and a well laid out beer view section. The articles are fairly long for a beer mag - not National Geographic but sometimes you have to turn more than two pages. There is a good focus on beer and food over a number of items as well as an odd cover interview of Randy Quaid in which I learn he likes golf. No cheesecake. Audience: people in their 30s and 40s who can name three Randy Quaid movies, who really don't think about the frat that much and like to drink craft beer and other stuff.
So do you buy beer mags? Which and why. Confess.
Even though the costs of imports is a slightly different question that that of regionally made and bought craft beers, given recent posts, you can imagine my excitement that this 500 ml bottle cost me 9.00 USD - and I bought it back when nine buck was nine bucks and not 8.57 Canadian. It's 50% more even than Norway's Nøgne Ø. Heck I can get Harvey's porter, not a Baltic porter admittedly, from England all of a sudden at the LCBO for half of the cost of this Danish brew (and in CNY at least a six of good craft brew) so I really hope to be impressed by what is in this bottle.
Let's see how it pours. Deep mocha chocolate head over inky deep brown ale. Rich with Dutch unsalted licorice, dark chocolate and strong notes of dark plum and maybe even a little baseball glove or tobacco back there with the hint of twig hops that barely raise their heads into view. Very big for a porter. Many might call this a stout as there is neither a lighter note somewhere in the palate or a tang of any sort. But there is not dry toastiness, the hallmark often for the distinction between the style families. There is even perhaps almost a beef brothiness to this one - a word I used last December in relation to Le Coq Imperial Extra Double Stout - even though it is definitely a dessert beer. Something about the thick richness that hints of fatty tallow. It would be good to compare with its Baltic neighbour Sinebrychoff Porter from Finland...which cost me one third of this three years ago. Huge BAer support.
So is it worth that much? Well, it isn't not worth it but I would be definitely adding just one bottle to a six otherwise filled with Sinebrychoff or Sweden's Carnegie if it was Baltic porter, pickled herring and black current tart night at my place.
Once upon a time there was a rather nice strong pale ale called St Edmund. It was a bottled beer brewed by Greene King to 5.5% abv. Admittedly it was a pasteurised beer rather than a real ale, but all the same it was a decent drop of stuff. Unfortunately, it's not been brewed for some years now. A few of us mourned it's passing and hang on to a few bottle like those to the right. Now, in a twist to the way that Greene King usually do things, they are producing a cask beer using the name of this bottled beer from the past. The new St Edmund cask ale is to be weaker than it's late namesake, weighing in at a mere 4.2%. It is also being described as a "blond beer" whereas the old one was a rich golden ale. Now some of you in the know might be thinking that this is sheer heresy, but brace yourselves ale fans, the worst is yet to come.
The use of a sparkler to deliver/interfere with ale is, it must be said, tantamount to buggery. Sparklers agitate and aerate the beer thus producing an artificial head - just go see Stonch's recent posts on the things. So what are Greene King, an East Anglian brewer, going to do? Offer a dual dispense pump that supposedly offers the option of beer "au naturel" without the sparkler or "frigged with" through one. East Anglia is a hard water area so beer here is traditionally served with a minimal head. It's the way we like it, beer not froth. Froth is for big girls. And just when you are coming to terms with this bombshell, Greene King drop some even larger dollops of steaming great cack onto the proceedings by serving it at 6-7º. Cold ale is an abomination; what are you up to Greene King?
It's quite clear what they are up to. World domination. They are going for the lager market, and in a way I hope they are successful. I just wish they'd have chosen a different, more appropriate name. Hey I know: how about "horse piss"?