Recently I wrote about what to look for in a good beer store. When you are looking for a favorite beer (or a beer that you want to write up for your weekly beer column) that no beer store seems to carry, having a helpful beer retailer is indispensible.
One of my favorite Irish Stouts is Beamish Irish Stout. When I lived in the South Beamish was readily available even in the grocery stores, but my feeling is that Beamish isn't as widely known on Long Island. I drove to three beer stores closest to my house and didn't find any Beamish. My last stop on this search was Village Beverage in Wading River, New York. There I finally piped up and asked Jay White and Scott Pflug, the owners, what the deal was. "Where's the Beamish?" Turns out that Village Beverage has carried Beamish in the past but they stopped carrying it because it wasn't selling. Which is too bad since it is a decent beer. When Jay saw the look of disappointment on my face he said, "Hey, we can get you some Beamish here tomorrow." Scott went back into the office and placed a phone call to one of their distributors who operate a delivery truck that evidently makes daily runs out onto the Island from Manhattan. I gave Jay my phone number and he said he would give me a call when the Beamish arrived.
The next day I did get a call from Jay of Village Beverage. The delivery truck had safely delivered a case of Beamish to their store and they were holding a four pack for me.
My usual route home from my office doesn't take me through Wading River, so to run out there after work would take a extra twenty or twenty-five minutes depending on evening traffic. Not a problem except I pick my son up from school after work and he would be with me on that extended ride. My son will be three next month and he is not a big fan of extended car trips, but I figured he would just have to tough it out so his dad could get his Beamish.
The day that Jay called me to tell me the Beamish had arrived, it was bucketing down rain. As a result, the ground was soaked and muddy. There were puddles---deep puddles of water and mud everywhere outside of my son's day care. Since my son is a little boy, he has a little boy's fascination with jumping into puddles. And guess what, he found a huge puddle to jump in while we were on our way to the car. He didn't just jump in the puddle he bathed in it. He was completely soaked---shoes, socks, pants, the works. Being a conscientious father I couldn't just let my son sit in wet clothes for an extra twenty minutes and drag him into a beer store. It's winter after all and cold. So I elected to head straight home where my son got a hot bath and supper. But by the time I got my son scrubbed and he had eaten the supper that my wife had kindly prepared for us, it was getting close to eight o'clock, the closing time for Village Beverage. I hopped into the car and without breaking any traffic laws got to Village Beverage at about five minutes after eight. Fortunately, Jay and Scott were still there. They unlocked the door for me and I got my four pack of Beamish. "Hey, I thought you weren't going to make it," said Scott. "Oh no," I replied. "A little rain won't keep me away from my Beamish."
Competition law in Bulgaria apparently has a "no fun allowed" rule:
Bulgaria's largest beer brewer Zagorka was imposed a EUR 50,000 fine over a promotional game, it appeared after the Supreme Administrative Court confirmed a ruling of the Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC). The sanction was imposed because of the offered 11 trips to watch the Champions League final. The state anti-trust body ruled that the promotional game was a violation of the law for the protection of competition.God forbid that beer should be associated with sports.
In other news, Manitoba is enjoying deflationary pressures.
Knut of Norway sent me an interesting email a few days ago:
When I was in Bavaria last year, I bought a bottle of Bierlikör at the brewery tap at Weienstephan. I have seen on the web site of other German breweries that they have similar liquors, and I wonder what kind of drink this really is. It is quite weak, at 30% alcohol. It is very sweet, tastes of malt and of aniseed. It reminds me of the Scandinavian sweets called "Kongen av Danmark" and of the Portugese Liqour Beirao. So, is this neutral alcohol mixed with malt extract and spices, or is it something else? Can anyone help? Is this exclusivly German?This is not quite the same as the thing I think called "double beer" I have come across referenced in Unger's Beer in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. With "double beer" your average medieval inventor brewer lady made a batch of beer starting with beer from an earlier batch rather than water. It was a basic technique of fortifying the brew and was outlawed fairly quickly where and when it popped up. No, what Knut is referring to is a distillation as no matter who is trying no one has yet made a beer over around 25% and no one has made one over around 14% using traditional methods. Whisky - and even whiskey - is really close to it if you think about it: distilled unhopped ale. When you make beer, before you throw in the yeast the liquid is called wort. Same for whisky. But when you pitch the yeast, whisky wort is now called wash while with beer the wort is now called green beer. [You know, between organic techniques and Irish celebrations, "green beer" is a pretty confused Google search but that is what it is called.]
But what if you distill green beer rather than wash? Is this what Knut's bierlikör is? Are there any other examples? I ask you, oh, people of the beer.
Here are two ales from the Elora Old Mill brand produced by Trafalgar Brewing Company at Oakville, Ontario. According to the ever useful Brewed in Canada by Allen Winn Sneath, in 1997:
Trafalgar Brewery of Oakville opens the Old Mill Brewery in Elora on the site of the defunct Taylor & Bate Breery. They closed down after two years.Despite that unhappy adventure, the Elora brands have been continued.
The beer to the left is Elora ESB or Extra Special Bitter. This beer pours a ruddy amber with a white rim that fades quickly, unsustained by the low carbonation. ESB is a notch above best bitter which, in turn, is above ordinary bitter. This take of the style is a little light, not in the range of Propeller ESB from Halifax, for example. And does this beer lack daring? I am reminded that I thought that Brooklyn East India Pale Ale was not to style but then it grew on me and I saw the intended sublty. I don't think this is the case here. But the level of risk taking is sort of par for the Canadian course if my inquiries into the national six-pack taught me anything. I wrote about this in relation to the other Trafalgar product I have reviewed, their Celtic Pure Irish Ale, but it is not an issue I only have with this craft brewer by any stretch. There also is a bit of what I do not like in Sleeman and Creeemore beers, too: maybe hard water or sourish notes or even a vegetative green pepperish angle. Or maybe it is a slight oakiness, drying rather tha enriching. These beers are from the same general region - maybe it's in the watertable. And the use of the Fuggles is good but, unlike Shipyard's use of that hop in their IPA, it is not pronounced or a signature note. In any event, that old Halifax tavern trick of a shake of salt into the beer did it a world of good. BAers not pleased.
The other beer is Elora Irish Ale. It poured a blackened amber with a tan head. Immediately I noticed more zip, a citrusiness to the hops but, then, past that tang it was again not as grainy as I expect a micro should be. Light - even vinious - and not at all unpleasant but it could be more. Nice bit of black pepper at the end from the roast barley. BAers a little more positive.
Both ales could do with a nudge of crytal malt and grainier profile. A bit clearer of an expression of the ingredients. If little wee Church-Key can, why doesn't every craft brewer?
Soba, eh? Buckwheat to most of you. Rogue, however, has made a celebrity chef beer out of it. Celebrity Iron Chef, that is. I don't know what to make of it, holding the beer in hand, cap unpopped...celebrity beer. The brewerys notes state:
Black Obi Soba is brewed with roasted buckwheat and malts (2-row pale, Minuch, C-15, c-60 and Weyermann) providing a rich nut-laced flavor, while the 3 hop varieties (Horizon. Sterling and Cascade) blend to provide a refreshing zest.The BAers say yes 99% to 1%. I have hope.
Deep deep garnet (but not as deep as Guinness) with mocha head and rim. Decidedly malty on the nose with something that strikes me like Rogue's Chipolte beer without the smoke. Clean and surprisingly light in body. Lots of bright citric hop with less than fully sweet brown sugary goodness. The buckwheat is there - sort of refined dry pumpernickle, sub-rye earthy grain. Quite lovery.
I thought I had this one over a year ago. How sad to be colour challenged or at least colour negligent, confusing blue cap for white. That was so 2005. I've grown so much since then.
Anyway, it's better late than never, so here is the triple from the Trappists at Scourmont Abbey in Belgium. The pour billows up into a rocky merengue of a head, a sniff fills your head with booze, juiciness and rough grainy burlap. The sip is also hot - to be expected at 8% - but also pear juicey, a touch of icing sugar and a touch of the crust of rustic country bread. Dry from the antique slightly lavander herby hops with also a bit of sugar stick in the finish. None over the top but well balanced with a good set of distinct flavours.
Really swell. You could imagine having this with a big whopping pile of coconut cream pie...but what can't you have with that?