A short but interesting article in today's New York Times on a newish restaurant, Cafe D'Alsace, with a serious interest in beer:
"We don't aim towards pub people," he said. "We're about the beer geeks, people who want to try a new experience."This review says there are 118 beers there and the restaurant's own webpage includes a .pdf of their offerings with prices. Sixteen bucks for a large format Foret Organic seems pretty darn reasonable as I am guessing I spent around ten for one retail in Ithaca without a fancy schmansy sommelier to keep in spats.
A saison with chocolate and chili. I have every expection that this will be weird yet chocolate and chili are an entirely respectable combination in Mexican cooking. And the brewery says that the chocolate is locally sourced. There is a good third of an inch of yeasty goo at the bottom which other reviews have led me to believe is where all the good stuff lies. So let's try it without and then with a swirl of the bottle.
The pour off the top without a swirl is a lively cloudy amber ale with a slight nod to orange with a white head. In the mouth it is a good saison, husky burlap with a little autumn fruit, cut through with what I can only describe as creamy white pepper. It is not hot like some (all) of the chili pepper beers I have been disappointed by. On the first swirl of the bottle, the beer now pours cloudy like raw apple cider. The white pepper cream is joined by milk chocolate. I am not yet thinking "yum" but it is one note of pear juice away from yum. Perhaps less oddly than you might think, it would go very nicely with a good steak but only during that course of the meal. The white pepper effect is very drying. On the final swirl, the beer is unattractively muddy with only a notch more chocolate.
I picked up these last time I was in New York, far western IPAs making their way across the continent. While I have had a number of North Coast brews before - like their Rasputin Imperial Stout - and have seen them fairly regularly, it was only around last Christmas that I noted the Lagunitas starting to make itself known on central New York beer shelves. According to the Beer Advocate, Lagunitas has a broad range of styles in its portfolio and there is every chance that to someone south of the 49th parallel this new found addition to my beery experience might seem like a sign of a sheltered up bringing - you see, they have these parties...420 parties...where people have more than beer and where the cops couldn't buy any if their lives depended on it. So lets see how they stand up and see if they say anything about California to someone up here in the Great White North.
- Lagunitas IPA: tan foam and rim over orange-straw ale. An intersting take on the American IPA as it does not really leave the hops out there on a ledge hanging over everything else. Plus there is that orangey note like in the line of ales exemplified by Youngs Special London Ale, Eye of Hawk and Shipyard Export. To be sure, this is hoppy with pretty distinct green overnotes partnering with a twiggy baseline. The malt is fruity with apricot and apple along with good rough graininess. Lots of texture and complexity within a well balanced ale. If I were to question this IPA it would be on that twiggy baseline which is played with a fairly heavy hand, making for a fairly pronounced spice bitterness. But this is an IPA after all and a lingering length of spice is well within order. This beer could certainly take on a hot curry or Thai dish handily. Five percent of BAers raise questions, complaints laying mainly with its hop allocation strategy.
- Acme California IPA: More of a medium amber than orange ale with a rocky fine while head. Even lighter still in hops if not body. Less fruity, none of the orange marmalade construct, much more focused on the grain as grain and and makes use of its spiced hops with a much subtler hand. The whole beer has a quieter voice, like something you might get from the Brooklyn Brewery, but like that New York brewer's mildly agoraphobic East India Pale Ale. But when you listen you hear. Yet even more BAers find fault - a full 10%! One makes a very good observation about an oily pine like quality. I suppose that is a negative if you are all down on oily pine tree taste. I think the claim is perhaps more indicative of the problematic place IPAs find themselves in, sort of the place where ESBs used to sit uncomfortably. If you think that the IPA is only half-an Imperial IPA you may find this style now lacking. But I think that is unfair to the style and the brewer as one can take the extreme position in anything only so long.
I came across an interesting article in the Kyiv Post on the coming of Ukrainian beer season:
With summer looming and the first days of real heat expected any time now, the beer season in Kyiv can be officially considered open (though when or whether it officially closes is another matter altogether). Though Ukrainians are considered mostly a vodka-drinking nation, they actually consume quite a bit of beer as well – sometimes even in the coldest days of winter, with their fingers freezing to the bottle.The author provides a fairly good review of the brews available in the capital city, including note of the passing of Chernihivske Bily Med, a white honey beer, I think as illustrated. Here is a bit more information on that brand and style, which sounds rather good if you ask me. At least it sounds a bit better than some of the brewery's promotional material:
"Chernigivske" is a world of real feelings, desires and inspiration. This is the world where people raise above the routine cares, where they feel the pleasure of victory and warmness of relationship. "Chernigivske" is a moment of delight; you can allow yourself to get rest and be ready for a daily struggle, getting more confidence in your strength. Choose "Chernigivske", and you'll try a unique Ukrainian lager beer, where traditional compounding of brewing of the ancient Chernigov city gives refreshing and distinctive unforgettable taste. Quality of "Chernigivske" always meets the highest requirements, owing to use unique Belgian brewing technologies, modern design of the bottle and labels, and permanent control at all stages of production.I used to owe a lot to unique Belgian technologies but that is an entirely different matter. No never mind for, as the good brewers encourage us all: "Let happiness of your life overflow just as scum of "Chernigivske" flows down the original glass."
A year ago, Lew Bryson wrote this in his email newsletter The Occasional Pint:
I'm also kicking around ideas for the next book. New Jersey Breweries is already in planning stages, but what's down the road is a bit obscure. I've thought about doing a rye whiskey book, or a bourbon book. At the urging of a lot of people, I did think about "New England Breweries," even did some preliminary investigation, but I've since learned that another writer, Andy Crouch (who also writes on beer for Mass Beverage Business), is in the late stages of just such a book; a crowded market is no good for such a niche book.This new was a bit of a big thing for me. As you know, I am a big fan of Lew's beer travel books and, as you also know, I spend a fair amount of time in New England. So I hoped this was a book for me.
And it was. Andy references the works of Bryson in the forward and then - very sensibly - generally adopts the format that Lew has laid down for others. The book is logical, informative and practical as an actual field guide to the beers as opposed to an atlas to what you might find in the region. This makes it a book to throw in the backpack or glove compartment.
Consider this real life situation. Last month I roved along highway 9 east west from Albany NY to Portland Maine. I had to stop and graze along with the family and ended up in road houses due a lack of time and information as well as a need to hit big box sports stores for Red Sox stuff. Little did I know, then, stopping on a whim in Keene, NH that I did not have to go to a Chilis as I might have attended at Elm City Brewing of which Andy states:
An above average menue that ranges from burgers to steaks and seafood. The kitchen makes its own desserts on-site, including the Chocolate Stout Mousse.Fortunately, I am retracing my steps in July and will be at Elm City, oh, about 8 July at 11:17 am. Maybe right after I avoid the Madison Brewing Company in Bennington, Vermont, whose website is a little less informative than it might be and whose beers Andy honestly advises are not up to the mark. Now, keep in mind that you won't find everything that calls itself a brewery in the book as Andy wrote me by email the other day after I mentioned a contract brew called Endurance Pale Ale:
Hey Alan - Endurance is not in the book because I chose to cover only brick-and-mortar breweries, and not so-called "beer marketing companies" (of which there are many in NE). Though Mercury's refusal to answer my calls didn't help either...Best,Quite right. A snazzy flash front page does not a brewey make. And, in addition to great information about the real breweries to be found, Andy has also provids the history of each brick-and-mortar brewery, the story of how the good folk got together to create the business and the brews as well as data on what is available, the equipment used and his favorite brew. Handy stuff even with Mercury, the only brewer not to answer Andy's inquiries - despite which barrier he still manages to provide a great introduction for them at page 125. One thing that Lew does that Andy has chosen not to include is information on the history and geography of the regions. Lew has let me know through the odd email (sometimes very odd) that he is a history grad and that when he travels the overlay of the past is indivisible to him. For me as the representative Canadian, that sort of information about civil war battlefields and local fast foods is very useful for trip planning but it is not critical as finding family friendly landing pads along the roadway is a huge part of the battle. Consider how Lew helped me and mine get to the Adirondack Pub and Brewery last summer - it ended up being my pub of the year for 2005.
So if you are in the north-east of the US and read this blog once a week or so, you really ought to do yourself a big favour buy this book. I hope Andy thinks to use Lew's web updates habit though sometimes a think Lew must be a nerd's nerd to track the career paths of the assistant brewers of Oswego. [Yet I read and am strangely compelled.] Here is the publisher's web page for The Good Beer Guide to New England with all the critical information.
Go'wan. Buy it. Did I mention it has a handy index and a nice photo up front that reminded me of this gem of mine, though I think mine captures a moment in a haiku sort of way just a little bit more. But still...buy the book.
ON a chilly Friday night, outlined against a blue-gray cloud of cigarette smoke in front of McSorley's Old Ale House, the Five Horsemen rode again. In dramatic lore there are four of them, and they are known as famine, pestilence, destruction and death. These are only aliases. At McSorley's, the crusty, ancient East Village beer barn, they are K-dawg, Spreadsheet Sam, Bobby Boy, Jamal and Adam. Most of those, too, are aliases, but that is part of the fun for the group, which was spending its 147th consecutive Friday night together, a streak that started only after dozens of Friday night gatherings of a bunch that first got together in late 2001. Those statistics, and many more, exist because the Five Horsemen are no ordinary group of friends hanging out at their favorite bar. They are a group of friends hanging out at their favorite bar and documenting it all with meticulous Excel-generated attendance records, a Web site, a video clip and a yearly awards night.Here is that website.
Two weeks ago in this space I mentioned that I would be attending the Long Island Beer Festival and gave you a preview of some of the attractions of the festival. In addition to great beers from New York, the other mid-Atlanic states, and from the rest of the world, Garrett Oliver and Phil Markowski were supposed to speak---that more than justified the $45 per person entry fee. But due to no fault of my own, I wasn't able to attend the Long Island Beer Festival. Despite the fact that I had prepaid tickets, when I arrived at the Huntington Hilton last Friday, my wife and I were told that "there were too many people already inside and that no more people were being let in." The full account (exciting as it is) was the subject of last Tuesday's Brewsday article over on The Spirit World.
I won't repeat here what I've already said about the festival on my blog. The first comment on my "beer festival commentary" post is from someone who got into the festival and enjoyed it (to some extent). I have received a number of emails from others who were allowed in who didn't enjoy it and who want their money back. From what I'm told there was an inadequate amount of food (not surprising since the event was grossly oversold). And it appears that neither Garrett Oliver or Phil Markowski spoke. They were in attendance though. Everyone agrees that the event was shut down early by the fire marshal, but it seems that crowd inertia carried the festival for about forty-five minutes beyond the first attempts to close the event at 8:30. As Daniel would say, "Beer festival a rip off, film at eleven!"
So, let's leave that disappointment and move on to what's being done right on the Long Island Beer Scene.
Last Friday, my wife and I ended up at the Black Forest Brew Haus where I had the Maibock and the Pilsner. When I asked about the availability of the Hefeweizen, our server said it wasn't on, but not long into my Pilsner I saw half liter glasses of Hefe being brought into the beer hall on trays. The Black Forest was packed last Friday with other refugees from the Beer Festival. We basically had our own beer festival at the Black Forest.
Since my wife and I had already engaged a babysitter for the evening, we decided to make the most of it and so after the Black Forest we drove to Blue Point to visit the Sage Cafe. I had a glass of Blue Point Summer Ale. The bartender said that they had an Imperial Stout on tap also. I believe that it was probably Blue Point's Cherry Imperial Stout.
Saturday I had my own beer festival at my house. I threw my doors open to whoever wanted some homebrew. I tapped kegs of "Imperial" Hefeweizen and my misnamed "Double" Mild. I think the mild should probably be called Mud Mild since mud is what it looks like in the glass. It's got superb flavor and body, so I don't mind "chill haze."
Monday marked the beginning of the Great American Beer Tour. We (my wife and son are doing the tour also) started the tour at John Harvard's (1 point). The Mad Tom's Old Ale is back on in the cask, but this batch wasn't conditioned in the bourbon barrel. This version was smooth and malty with a persistent moussy head. My next beer was a light colored Amber called Amberdextrous. After our meal, I retired to the back room to join in on the May meeting of B.E.E.R. or Brewers East End Revival, Long Island's homebrew club. You can bet that the main topic of discussion that night was the Long Island Beer Festival.
My fellow B.E.E.R. members had a different take on the festival. Many of them had volunteered to work the festival. They spent the evening working as underpaid bartenders for the cold-light-beer-swilling drunks that seem to have overrun the festival. It sounds like the festival didn't attract the true beer lovers, or (as my wife said) the true beer lovers were turned away at the door. The impression I gathered from what the B.E.E.R. people were saying was that there's no doubt that the festival was managed poorly (mistakes were made) and that few of them will be rushing to volunteer for any future event run by Shoreline Beverage. The tone of the statement was more disappointment than anger at the mismanagement.
Tuesday, we drove out to Southampton Publick House (2 points). I had the ESB with my tortilla crusted Mahi Mahi. For desert I had blueberry sherbet and an Extra Stout. Believe it or not, blueberry sherbet and Extra Stout are an excellent combo. Garrett Oliver is absolutely right, beer can do everything.
Thursday evening, we collected 3 more points for the Great American Beer Tour by visiting the Blue Point Brewery tasting room (2 points) and the Brickhouse Brewery (1 point). I sipped the Bourbon Barrel ESB (cask conditioned) from my very own blue pint glass (very stylish). Peter Cotter, president of Blue Point Brewing Company, signed our Tour passports for us. Cotter said that the Beer Tour sounded like a good idea. But I got the impression that my wife and I were the first people to come by asking to get our passports "validated."
We went to the Brickhouse right after visiting Blue Point. Our waitress told us that she hadn't seen anyone else come in with Beer Tour passports all week. This disappoints me a little. Long Island is probably one of the few places in the country where people could reasonably collect the minimum 10 points to "finish" the tour. Also, I don't think the brewpubs realize they need to help promote events like the Beer Tour. It's in their best interest. My wife and I have spent more than $250 this week at Long Island brewpubs and we'll probably spend a hundred more before the week's out. With a little promotion the brewpubs could see a serious peak in business from the serious beer lover crowd.
The trip to the Brickhouse was profitable for me since I got to drink a pint of the Double Trouble IPA, a double hopped IPA. It was an excellent, full bodied, flavorful beer. It had more dimensions in the flavor than just hops. It was slightly sweet and had a detectable malt character. All-in-all a well rounded and warming IPA.
Tomorrow is the 10th Annual B.E.E.R. Brew-off. That's B.E.E.R.'s annual homebrew competition. We'll be judging some two hundred entries on Saturday. I've volunteered to do some judging. I'll report back in two weeks and let you know how things went.
What a burden research is. I considered the state of the English pale ale just a couple of weeks ago and now find myself again facing four pale ales armed with nothing but time and an opener. Interesting to note the two examples from Massachusetts - Endurance and Fisherman's Brew - and the Scrimshaw from California all have nautical themes. Dang-nabbit!!! Scrimshaw's a pilsner. Too late. I like the picture, my Bay of Fundy Weir Fisherman from John Neville. And as for Dale...well...maybe Dale like boats but he is stuck in Colorado and compensates by running a blues bar. That's got to be it. Too late now anyway. I like that photo too much.
- Dale's Pale Ale: Sibling to Old Chub, that lovely and well hidden 8% brown ale from Oskar Blues Brewery of Lyons Colorado. I ran a good short interview with Marty of the brewery when I reviewed Old Chub in March so when I got the six of Dale's and droped Marty a line. He wrote back:
Alan, That's killer!Isn't that the sort of brewer you want to support? Well, as long as they make good beer. The good news is they do. Dale's pour a clear orange-amber under a tan rocky head giving off a orange peel and spiced malt aroma. Smooth and round at the front of the mouth, it opens to textured graininess then some heat and then, very late, a great bitter twiggy hoppiness. At 6.5% this is not a session beer so much as a sofa and rec room session beer. Was it built for BBQ? That cutting hop at the end would do wonders up against glazed smokey ribs. Six percent of BAers are apparently people I do not want to meet. The other 94% approve of Dale's Pale Ale.
I'm having a Dale's right now, too! Just been out on a walk around downtown D-town with my beloved and dogs. Met a cat named Albert, pushing a shopping cart half full with aluminum cans (hmmm) and a Bible. Me, pointing to the Bible: "That's the most valuable thing in your cart." Albert: "Well, I have some recyclables, too."
Cheers to good beers and the various riches the world has to offer...
- Endurance Pale Ale: It looks like a contract operation as the bottle says:
Brewed and Bottled for Endurance Brewing Company by Mercury Brewing and Distribution Company Inc., Ipswitch, MAA perfect moment to open up my excellent but yet-to-be-reviewed review copy of The Good Beer Guide to New England by Andy Crouch. Hmm...no reference to Endurance that I am seeing and apparently Mercury, maker of a bazillion brews, is the only brewery in New England that would not respond to Crouch's inquiries. No never mind. Mercury and Endurance have snazzy websites, the latter with (imagine) a flash intro page. Endurance's "brewery tour" web page does say "coming soon" which makes one think that Crouch may not be the only one having a hard time getting a decent view of the wort.
But, as I said, no never mind. This is about the beer and the beer pours deep straw with white foam and rim. The ale is a little less than clear with a suspension of particulate of the sort that makes me think of the word yum. Sip: a stocky note, just a tad musty like the Moosehead ales of my youth and in the nature of Northumberland Ale by Church-Key. Drying astringent hop and pale malt graininess with some fall apple fruit underneath. This is quite fine and if I didn't know anything (which I do not) I would think this is actually modelled after an old style Maritime Canadian pale. Not unlikely as Ipswich is on Cape Ann, home of a massive fishing industry which works, on that unseen line through the fishing banks, along with the Nova Scotian fleet and over which line, according to tales I have heard, more than a few bottles are tossed. Your great uncle's dream of a beer. Quality but, like your great uncle, not immediately embraceable. Almost a fifth of BAers ask questions.
- Fisherman's Brew: from Cape Ann Brewing Company in Gloucester, Massachusetts. The beer pours deep orange with a tan rim and foam. Lively carbonation but not a great deal of aroma. In the mouth there is a really well balanced combination of light dry fruit, green hop, bread crust graininess and a bit of heat even at only 5.5%. A good lingering rich finish. The effect is very moreish though there is a notch more than the usual body you might expect from a beer of this strength and for $7.99 a six. This is a brew I will certainly hunt out when I am in New England again. Oh, hell. Andy Crouch points out this is a lager as well, though if you put it next to a Shipyard Export or, more to the point, a Mendocino Eye of the Hawk you would be hard pressed to tell the styles apart let alone the yeast strains. Whatever. Regardless. It is very fine.