Just a quick reminder that there are two days left in the beer blog contest with a real prize of a real CD from a real band with a real song entitled "BEER!!"
I like my non-job here at A Good Beer Blog. One thing I get to do - other than never have a second beer of the same type - is meet interesting people involved with beer over the internet. Consider this exchange about beer and language between me and beer book author Pete Brown:
Pete: Hi Alan, What's a dink?Wow. Gripping linguistic drama. More to the point was the more thoughful exchange Pete provided to questions put to him by both me and guest writer Knut of Norway. Pete (no relation to the lead singer of the illustrated Pete Brown and his Battered Ornaments) has recently published a great book on his global beer travels called Three Sheets to the Wind and Knut and I thought it would be great if we could have a few questions answered in a three-way North Atlantic quiz as part of our review of his new work. You will recall I reviewed his last beer book Man Walks Into A Pub back in July 2003. In that book Pete considered some of the trends and brewing history of Britain. In this year's book, he takes a stab at getting a hold of the global beer culture. I will review the book separately in a few days but for now, here is the interview.
Alan: Hmm. A dink? A dink is a minor league jerk. A child's word for penis. Actually it has a beer angle as in the Nova Scotia of my youth a six-pack was called "a dink pack" now that I think if it. A dink is a bore who is also a newbie.
Alan: You speak quite strongly about CAMRA. We do not have an equivalent in Canada though there are outposts. In "Three Sheets to the Wind" you visit Portland Oregon and experienced an expression of the North American real ale culture and appeared to love it. How would you compare the two?Wow. It is amazing no one is pouring big advertizing money down upon my head with quality stuff like this. We remain open to offers.
Pete: I was so surprised by the US approach to craft beer - they're really passionate about it, and the key thing is they want you to be passionate about it as well. The thing I always say about Portland is that if I was talking to a brewer about his beers and how much I liked them, he'd tell me six other beers from "competitive" brewers that I should also try. When I go to CAMRA events, I always get the sense that if you don't already know what you like, there's very little effort made to draw you in and help you. This is starting to change now, but there's still an attitude about "I know more than you." In North America, it's more like, "I want you to know as much as me."
Knut: Do you think CAMRA still could be used as a platform to fight for good beer, or have they painted themselves too much into a corner? Could an alternative be to start anew, based on a support for new and coming micro breweries instead of focusing on the techicalities of brewing?
Pete: Of the two alternatives, the one I'd like to see is that CAMRA reform themselves. They've got a terrible image problem, but they have so much stock in terms of public awareness, I still think they're very powerful. As I've hung around the beer scene longer I've got to know more people. There are a great many executives within CAMRA who have exactly the right ideas, who know they need to reform in order to move forward - and they're really nice people. But policy is dictated by committee and volunteers, and a lot of these guys are just professional activists - it's not enough to be for something, you also have to be against something. I believe a lot of these guys couldn't give a shit about getting more people into great-tasting beer; they simply enjoy the process of arguing about technicalities and being pissed off for a living. I'd like to believe the more sensible factions will eventually win the day, and we're seeing some signs of CAMRA taking steps into the twenty first century, but there's still a long way to go. The biggest problem is that CAMRA hardliners interpret any criticism of CAMRA as a criticism of cask ale, which is not only wrong, it's breathtakingly arrogant, and kind of stops any really useful constructive debate from emerging.
Knut: After travelling the world, where do you see the best potential for beer tourism? I know Ireland has managed to do this based on one beer (!), and you have the mass hordes descending on Munich. But how about bicycling holidays in Bamberg and Denmark, micro breweries offering bed, breakfast and rare cask ales etc?
Pete: I'd love to see that in loads of countries. What I'm discovering now is that you can stick a pin in a map, and there'll be interesting, often new, breweries not very far away. But I think in terms of holidays, you'd start with Belgium. I've been back a few times now since I went there for Three Sheets, and you can go from village to village, each with its own brewery, trying amazing beers, and it's beautiful country - at least when the sun is shining!
Knut: Carlsberg is responding to the challenge of craft beers by a) trying to control the Danish import market and b) by setting up a micro of their own, putting a lot of prestige in it and linking it up with their brewery tours. Is this the way to go for the other big European brewers?
Pete: I think so. Big corporations in any market tend to play to the lowest common denominator with consumer tastes. You forget that to get a job as a brewer in a really big brewery, you have to be at the top of your game - the people who brew Budweiser are some of the best brewers in the world! What Carlsberg have done is give their brewers a bit of creative freedom and - surprise surprise - people can't get enough of it. In the US, Anheuser Busch are responding to the growth of craft beers by launching some of their own, and much as I hate to say it, some of them are very good - they would be. The only thing that worries me is when big corporations react by simply trying to strangle interesting small breweries, denying them distribution and so on. This is very idealistic of me, but I wish brewers would simply let their beer do the talking - produce the best beer you can and try to sell more than your smaller competitors without resorting to dirty, underhand tactics.
Alan: I have been trying to figure out how you would approach Canadian beer culture. For me, so much about beer is centered on the kitchen party, the garage fridge or the cottage/camp as opposed to the pub or bar. In his book "Travels with Barley", Ken Wells notes that bar bought beer in the US has gone from 75% of all sales to 25% over the last 20 years. This is a startling figure. Do you see this as a global trend? Do you also see that these sorts of home-based drinking is something that you ought to include if you extend you study to a "Son of Three Sheets to the Wind"?
Pete: That would be a great idea! An excuse to go and do the whole trip again. What we see now across the world is a consistent set of trends in markets that are "mature", where beer has been around for ages, and a different pattern in new and emerging markets, such as Asia and Russia. In mature markets there's a general thing about "staying in is the new going out" - we spend a greater portion of our money on interior design, big screen TVs, Playstations, cookbooks and so on - we invite friends over more than arranging to meet up with them. I think the pub or bar will always be the gold standard - you're getting a whole experience, not just a beer. But we will all increasingly be doing more of our drinking at home.
Alan: Your references to cultures with respect for or even celebration of the three-beer buzz is really interesting to me. How, though, can an industry promote the idea that what I might call "getting a jag on" rather than "getting loaded" is the point of beer and one that we should all embrace? Doesn't english-speaking puritanism somewhat snooker that opportunity leaving beer prone to being effectively represented as something you take to enter a fantasty land of TV advertised sports, pals and bikini-clad teens?
Pete: The reason people drink beer is to help social interaction - and you're not allowed to say this, or even hint at it, in any promotion or advertising for beer - it's one category where you are not allowed to tell the truth about the main product benefit. But I've done quite a bit of work in the UK on this subject. Many brewers now are pushing these "please drink responsibly" messages, which is fine, but a lot of people are drinking precisely because they want a break from behaving responsibly all the time. We need people to show that moderate drinking can actually be fun, rather than simply telling people not to drink as much. There's a new campaign in the UK by Amstel that does a half-decent job of this. It ties the beer back to the laid-back attitude of the Dutch, and has lines like "drinking is just something we do between talking", and "why rush your beer? The bar is open all night." I think there's a lot more that could be done along these lines. I'd like to see campaigns focusing on sentiments like "surely the best nights out are the ones you can remember."
A big thanks to Pete for both his book and his time as well as to Knut who is one of the guys who make this beer writing stuff fun. As I said, a proper review of Three Sheets to the Wind will be up in a few days.
It had to happen sooner or later. Just when I was thinking how wonderful it is that I can get the best beer in the planet for under ten bucks a 750 ml bottle, I find out that the beer snobs have begun their assault. Beware!
Staff at Four High Petergate have added Deus to their drinks menu, ahead of their Beer And Food Matching event tomorrow night. Brewed in Buggenhout, in Belgium, and bottled in the Champagne region of France, the beer has a unique character and taste. At £30 for a 750ml bottle, it is not cheap, but Four High Petergate owner Lewis Hull is confident it will be a big hit with customers. "It's the kind of beer you would probably share between people, to try a different beer available," he said.Well I figure for about £30, with careful and thoughtful shopping, I am usually able to get maybe 14 great 750 ml US micros or 7 Belgian farmhouse wonders. I would think it would be less in the UK, where this scheme was hatched. Beware the beer snob beer. The same beer without the snobbery attached is a fraction of the price.
The stash needs an airing out. And a bit of an emptying. I organized it last night into themes - brewers, styles, that sort of thing - and see that I have some stuff to get through or I will be looking at the some of these beers in 2007. That is all fine and dandy for the big corked Belgians and their kin but a stash is not a vault and these brews have to keep moving.
To that end, we will get into a few of the groupings starting tonight and the first day of Achouffe week or semaine de la Brasserie d'Achouffe. Started in the village of Achouffe, Belgium in 1982 as a hobby, by 1988 it was able to support both owners and by 1992 was noteworthy enough to be mentioned in Pierre Rajoutte's book Belgian Ale. Now, the little red capped guy on every Achouffe label is one of the most recognizable brands in beer. Their beers rate highly at the Beer Advocate. Even the one above made under license by the recently amalgamated Brasseurs RJ from Montreal rates 100%.
I will work my way through these four as I hunt out more information on the brewery and build this post. Add any thoughts you have on this brewer's beer as you like.
- Houblon: The label says Dobbelen IPA Tripel...which gets me all confused from the get go. Double? Triple? IPA? Who cares. If I care about what is one the label and not inside I will start wondering what the think with the kilt and spats on the little red capped guy. The beer pours a lovely clouded gold under a rich off white head that is rockier than any other beer ever made. On the nose there's pear, a note of spruce and another note of nutmeg. At 9% it should be a bit of a beast, but it is smooth yet engrained with pale malt, summer fruit sweet but not cloying, spiced hoppiness with Amarillo Tomahawk and Saaz but not a bomb. Light cream yeast that boosts the final swirl with hits of lemon peel, white pepper and nutmeg. A dry sub-metallic finish with a bit of heat in the belly. $8.39 US for 75 cl. 1% of BAers were whacked with a stick of unhappiness.
- La Chouffe: Ardenne Strong Beer. Another wonderful reminder of what a great gig I have here. White lacing foam over more active - and clearer - golden ale. The head does not have the same rocky qualities and the nose is less complex with more booze apparent even if it is one notch lighter at 8%. In the mouth it is all about the malt - pear, apple and light sultana - framed by a comforting arc of twiggy spiced hop. The mouth feel is big and almost buttery which a whacking load of burlap as well. The water is soft making it very moreish despite the heft. Feed me this in a tube when I am in the nursing home. 1% of BAers are glued to the unhappiness stick.
- McChouffe: thick tan foam over dark mahogany ale, this one is a real delight. Again, the whole beer is framed by the use of soft shalky water that allows the dry chocolate notes to come out. Plum and fig as well. The "Mc" in the beer's name is a nod to the sub-style of Belgian Scots ales, big and round like the stronger ales of Scotland but with a bit of the Abbey as well in the yeast. In McChouffe this means a bit of aged hop burlap and spice under all the chocolate and cream. The result is one of the most moreish beer I have ever had - which makes it tragic that I only have a 33 cl bottle and even more so that this one cost me $4.39 US. An astonishingly well hidden 8.5%. Something came away when 2% of BAers pulled off that stick.
- Blonde d'Achouffe: from Les Brasseurs RJ, Montreal, Quebec. This is an Achouffe made under license by one of Quebec's microbreweries - an interesting concept. The beer might lack that certain something that makes Achouffe so chouffey but it is quite a handsome pale ale in its own right. Gold ale under a large but rapidly dissipating white head (this may be my glass). There is a decent roundness to the malt, framed by orange peel, grape juiciness, boozey heat at the back of the throat as well as spice like cinnamon and nutmeg. The yeast is creamy and fully clouds with the final swirl. The water fairly neutral - certainly not as moreish soft but I am not doing a side by side. Actually after the swirl there is more similarlity to the Belgian original. Maybe I would recommend turning the bottle around a few times first. Certainly worthy and next time I do a side by side as this is closer to the original that I might have first thought, though the grape juiciness in this one might be more pear in the original - that could speak to differing malt choices amongst other things. 100% BA love.
Oh man, I love this beer. I was shopping with a friend the other day and grabbed this guy to try, because I have dogs, you know, and there is a dog on the label. (NOTE picture of Buster my black lab mix, and the stein I made with a dog on the side) My friend said he couldn’t get the beer because the name Ellie is also his wife, and so he couldn’t possibly bring it home. Ha! Big mistake, and more for me.
I like a brown beer, especially in these cold months we are headed into. Brown beers have sometimes surprised me, because they don’t have the big taste of the porters or monster taste of the stouts. Ellie’s Brown beer pours very deep and dark brown with a nice creamy foamy top. I had a stout last night, and I was surprised that this brown was nearly as dark (in my memory anyway). This may be the tastiest and most flavorful brown I have ever had, and as the wife said sadly "there isn’t anymore?". Well, we can get more.
A run to Ottawa to see the Billy Bragg show on Saturday meant the opportunity to do a Sunday morning run to one of the better shops in Western Quebec for craft beer, Marché Jovi in Gatineau, Quebec. The shop is handy for anyone near Ottawa's Island Park Drive and the bridge to the other side and sits near the gate of Gatineau Park.
Inside you are met with one of the tidiest depanneurs I have ever come across. I asked if I was able to take some pictures and, one bien sur later, was being escorted around the place by a very friendly guy in a dapper white grocer's jacket. He was proud to show of the selection, let me know that there was new stock coming in and took particular pride in noting the selection of glassware - quite the thing for what you would think was a corner store - and the fact that the regular customers were quite knowledgable in their correct use. I also picked up a copy of the autumn issue of Le Sous-Verre: L'actuality de la biere!, a free craft beer newspaper out of Montreal...a review of which Google has butchered in translation here.
As Blork noted almost two years ago now, buying beer in Quebec is similar to much of the States. You can get your beer and your corn flakes and your milk all in one stop. Usually this means one large stack of macro brew - as it does most place in the states - but where the owners have imagination and the knowledge, you can create a small oasis like you find at the Galeville Grocery near Syracuse or in pretty much any place in Portland Maine. Usually it also means a walk in cooler.
Most of the stock was Quebec products including macrobrews (inlcuding Labatt Porter) but also many craft beer from breweries like Unibroue, Saint-Arnould, Les Brasseurs RJ, Ferme-Brasserie Schoune. Blork has already reviewed the white beer made by each of the last three. I picked up mixes sixes from Saint-Arnould and Schoune for ten bucks each as well as a couple of large format imports from Saint Sylvestre of France (on special for $5.79) as well as a 330 ml Floreffe dubble from Belgium. Interesting to note that Blonde d'Achouffe is being brewed by license by Les Brasseurs RJ and was included in their six pack.
I would definitely go again, especially with the indication that there were going to be additions to the stock on a regular basis. Clean and helpful with a good selection and good price. What ele could you want from a corner store?
I got an email from Rogue Nation this morning. What is Rogue Nation you ask?
The Rogue Nation is comprised of the brewery, two brewpubs, two distilleries, and six public house embassies; along with an international network of distributors, retailers and consumers. Rise Up! Rogue Ales are shipped to all fifty states and exported to several countries including Japan, Great Britain, and Denmark. The brewery in Newport, Oregon produces all the packaged and draft beer for distribution.This is a great marketing tool. I am a big fan of Rogue and am now reminded to check for Rogue ales when I am near the Galeville Grocery next Saturday. You too can sign up for the newsletter by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Hitachino Nest Lacto Sweet Stout: From Kiuchi Brewery, Naka-gun, Japan. I think I am in luck. This stout pours a dark chestnut mocha head that resolves fairly quickly to a rim. Milk chocolate aroma. This is a dandy light beer if you like light beer. There isn't the body you might expect from a stout but that is maybe a relative matter. There is plenty of roast malt and minty hop. I can think of at least one lighter stout that that has way less to offer - and especially oddly so given how nice its sibling porter is. There is a quite a tang to this beer which at mid-mouth veers a little close to a cola note but all is saved or maybe salvaged with the finish and its creamy yeast note. Not at all as sweet as it might be, the use of lactose is very reserved. Given the thinness and a tang is maybe more than it could be, One full third of BAers say no. If someone had called this a chocolate lambic, it might pull that off...well, ok, not really well. I would like to try this again colder on a hot day. You know, that tang would suit a white beer...which is good as I picked up a large format on of those from the same brewer.
- Mother's Milk Stout: from Keegan Ales in Kingston, New York. A notch darker and another notch fuller under dark cream foam and rim. This is a smokey, coffee and chocolate stout with not a lot of lactose if the name was to indicate a milk stout...which it is. There is a different sort of tang, far less vegetative than in its Japanese neighbour - more from the roast barley burnt toastiness. The yeast has a firmer presence as well, but also creamy. A good licorice seam through the middle of the coffee and chocolate that is quite attractive. The brewer says there are some oats on there, too. All the BAers love it. Really attractive. And the brewery sponsors a hockey team. You have to like that.
- O'hara's Celtic Stout: from the Carlow Brewing Company, Carlow, Ireland. Nothing brings out the sweet roundness of a milk stout than trying an dry Irish stout next to it. Darkest mahogany under rich mocha lacing foam. Unlike many roasty stouts and certainly Guinness, though, I am not thinking this has minty Nothern Brewer hops as there is pretty much only twig and even a note of German steel to off-set the roast. Effect: brushfire aftermath. In the nose when you raise the glass, there is also an aroma I do not associate with stout but I can't put my finger on it - there is smoke and cream but also an licorice oiliness that might be more expected in a Baltic porter. Also a sweet grassiness that reminds me of Polish bison grass vodka which I only know about because I once worked in Poland and had no TV. In the swish in the mouth, there is also a lightness...water. I suppose this is to be expected at 4.3%. Desiccating finish. Yet only two out of a hundred BAers do not like this beer. If I had placed it next to other dry stouts I might even be with them. Placed next to a plate of sweet plump raw oysters I might be thinking that the 2% are nuts. Steam some Digby scallops over this stuff with a little dulse and you might be in heaven.