Just a quick post to remind you guys to join in. Join the beer blog nation if you like - 60 already have. There are no dues, not benefits and no responsibilities. What else is that easy in life?
Plus, please do send posting information. I received great news about a bar in Beijing this morning and I am hoping to coax the author of the email into a visit and description. Our news is your news when it isn't about me drinking a new beer...again.
Also, do you want stuff? I am considering a range of things that might be available for a fee. Not to make money as I just don't see that really panning out and me getting out from behind the desk. But would you want a t-shirt or glass that said something like I am a citizen of A Good Beer Blog nation? Lame or brilliance? I can never tell.
Let me know by leaving a comment.
Directions to C's Farm Market
The neat blue building
Good news for me. I found a new store in my general region. Oswego is a small city directly south across Lake Ontario from Kingston...ok, maybe SSW by S from us. We like to go there for the fort and the seafood in summer. In winter we go to see snow...in winters like this one at least.
Well, today we stopped by C's Farm Market. Owners Dave and Maria Johnson were off on vacation but after having had an email exchange a few weeks ago I thought there was a chance this would be a small business with some beer nerds behind it. I was right. Like the Galeville Grocery with its general grocery trade, CFM adds beer to another on-going line of business - wholesale fruit and vegetable. When I walked into the place I was presented with a good select line of great micros in addition to the macrobrews that were advertised on the outside walls of the neat blue building.
I was shown around by knowledgeable and keen staff and started spotting some surprising products - like Wachusett IPA which I have not seen outside Massachusetts. Even though the store is quite modest in size, I also saw old pals like Middles Ages, Brooklyn and Southern Tier from New York, Victory from Pennsylvania, Unibroue from Quebec, Smuttynose from New Hampshire and Allagash from Maine. Then I noticed the Dogfish Head and Rogue selections from Delaware and Oregon...and then Old Horizontal Barleywine from Victory...and then Old Chubb neither of which I had seen in New York. I asked "where'd you get the Old Chubb?" It's a Scots 8% wee heavy in a can from the Oskars Blues Brewery in Colorado. I was told Dave likes to go hunting for interesting stock at various wholesalers. Good hobby, Dave. Keep it up, Dave.
So I loaded up and had a great old chat about the shop, how they were moving more and more into the beer trade and that next time I could call ahead with an special orders. This is good day trip material. Rudy's on a summer Saturday afternoon with a stop at C's before a drive home listening to Prairie Home Companion before hitting the little ferry for Canada at Cape Vincent. If you make it there, stop in at King Arthur's for either a steak in the restaurant or maybe a growler to go from the pub.
A somewhat odd story on WCBS's website this morning on skunked beer:
It flows from taps, is poured from bottles and it's can's can be found in many a fridge. But when you crack a cold one and a funky smell hits you like a ton of bricks, the taste isn't going to be any better. You've been skunked! "A skunked beer is a bad beer. It's a beer that has been sitting around too long, it's been exposed to say oxygen or light and it's turned bad, it tastes bad,” explained, Don Russell.The story goes on how to find out the date of beer on a number of macro brands. The odd thing is, of course, skunked beer is not bad as it is said to be reversable, if by "skunked" you mean light struck and not just all bad beer. There are many factors that can create instability in beer and light is just one of them. Beer that has been exposed to light is prone to creating off flavours and that smell that is like a skunk's musk:
Beer is sensitive to light, especially in the 350–500 nm range. Light of this wavelength can penetrate clear and green glass and cause nauseous off-flavors in beers bottled in such glass containers and drinking glasses. The beer is said to be “sunstruck” and the aroma and taste referred to as “skunky”. Light instability in beer results from hop components. Hops in brewing have a number of roles: they impart bitterness to beer; provide characteristic hop aromas; suppress growth of ertain microorganisms, particularly gram-positive bacteria; assist in beer foam stability; and contribute polyphenols to the protein–polyphenol complex during wort boiling.While hops preserve beer they also expose it to this one weakness to light. But unlike other types of instability there are some references in the literature (as smarty pants folks say) that light instability can be corrected by placing it back into the dark and leaving it there for some time. Usually, however, and especially with thoughtless shop keepers, light struck skunkiness is combined with high temperature and bad shelf rotation. The stuff is just old and badly handled.
So while it is true to say that most macro ales suffer over time and will go off, that is not necessarily skunkiness. Lower alcohol beers simply are not built to last as the preservative qualities of the hop acids and alcohol are not present in sufficient quantity to stop the degradation of other organic components. The funniest thing arises, though, when the "best before" attitude is encountered with strong ales. Nothing like finding a shop selling off its bad stock of two-year old Belgian dubbels and tripples. Pure infanticide. You know who your friends are when you get a call to tell you what is happening.
Another new guest author from the south of the border has joined the team, Scott Gordon of Evanston, Illinois near Chicago. He sent me some information about Reconstruction Ale by the Abita Brewing Company from near New Orleans and I thought it would be a good intro to a review of some of the brews of Abita that I got a while back in New York.
Let's see what we had to say...
The Abita Party Pack
Here is what Scott had to say:
After Hurricane Katrina spared its Louisiana brewery, Abita Beer launched a fundraiser featuring hats, t-shirts, commemorative pins, and, of course, a special new brew for the occasion. It's called fleur-de-lis Restoration Ale, and in terms of flavor, it's more FEMA than Category 5.I think that is a fair review in line with my experiences. When I pop open an Abita Light, it doesn't take long to know that this is a light, light take on beer. There is some of the tell tale weird roundness that I suspect is made from seaweed derivatives but there isn't that lip stickiness of brewer's sugar, the bad brewer's cheat. There is, however, a touch of grain that gives me some hope and in the finish a bit of metallic hop. By comparison, TurboDog pours a garnet mahogany with a mocha head resolving to foam. There are some nice raisin and chocolate notes tangling a bit with that same steel hop jag. An interesting but firm take on a richer brown ale. What I don't really care for is the significant hardness of the water. You mouth starts to pucker a bit between sips. For me, this is a harbinger of a hangover and I can already feel the scalp tightening - but I get that from anything with too many sulfates. It also lends a general saltiness to the brew which could act against the all important soft water moreishness we crave in ales as Scott noted.
Abita debuted Reconstruction Ale in October and is donating $1 from the sale of each six-pack to the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Fund. It says the beer is made with a mix of English Pale, Lager, Crystal and Cara Pills malted barley. That doesn't surprise me, because this isn't a beer that really hits you with any one flavor. If Reconstruction wasn't called an ale, I wouldn't necessarily know what it was. Sure, it's got strong hints of pale ale. There are also strong hints of a near-tasteless light lager. I started out enjoying it, but for some reason it tasted more and more watery as I went along. In fact, it's hard to describe the flavor in any detail, because it just doesn't assert itself. Maybe it's just ever-so-subtle, but what's subtlety without a little boldness?
Appropriately, I encountered this at Dixie Kitchen, a Cajun restaurant in Evanston, Illinois (just north of Chicago). I sipped it down before a meal of fried chicken and mashed potatoes. Two things about that: First, unlike every other beer I've had just before eating, it didn't really increase my appetite (and no, I wasn't filling up on the free corn cakes). Second, this beer doesn't really seem to complement Cajun food, though I can't think of a beer that would—maybe a rich dark ale like Negra Modelo.
I wouldn't actively avoid Reconstruction, though. It's a good introduction for people who aren't into ales yet. The first few times I had Sierra Nevada and Red Hook, they left this aftertaste, kind of like a big disgusting belch after a Mexican meal. That turned me off of ale for a while. And drinking Goose Island's India Pale Ale, though I like it, gets pretty overwhelming, building up a weird, faintly vomit-like odor as I go along. It gives me the feeling of running up a steep hill while someone at the top sprays tear gas at me. Reconstruction Ale, though, is as inoffensive as a Bill Cosby album - just not necessarily as amusing.
In the end, you have to be frank. This is an old style regional brewery like the good folks at breweries like High Falls in Rochester NY that make Genesee Cream and other good if plainer brews. There is nothing wrong with a simple brew made pretty well. And their work to help the reconstruction of New Orleans is a fine way to use what they can do for the common good. I would imagine the hard salty aspect would work well with seafood. Who knows? Maybe that is the plan.
Heritage Brewing Limited in Ottawa is a small eastern Ontario brewery which has yet to get a review from me. Why? My brother buys it. So what! Well, its just one of those things. I visit from time to time and he has Heritage dark in the fridge. And probably Hoegaarden if its summer. Once he had a growler of porter twice no longer extant Taylor and Bate Brewery from St. Catherines. That was a one-off 4,000 litre run from 2000 or so. That was good.
Anyway, this is not a review of what is in big brother's fridge but comment on these two beers from Heritage. What I like about them is that they are in fact one off-runs that appear to be planned on a quarterly basis. Readers in the good old U.S. of A. will think "what's the big deal?" For Canadians, however, this is a radical step into the unknown. I wish more brewers here would take a chace like this.
The beer to the right is Blackcurrent Rye Beer. I might have liked to know whether it is ale or lager rye but no nevermind. The five reviewers amongst the thousands of BAers were less than enthusiastic - especially the two who did not have it from a cask at one particular bar, Volo in Toronto. I had a bottle a few months ago and what I really liked about it was how it did mimic blackcurrent well even though I was pretty sure the "black current concentrate" on the label was more syrup than mash. The trick was the clever use of rye and that twangy old twiggy feel it adds to a beer. Years ago there was a brewery in Pictou, Nova Scotia that produced a straight rye ale. Ta-wang. It was a bit heavy. Chewing on bark heavy. Here, the twang is tempered by the current but not bombastically - it is a relatively light touch accentuated by the similarly light body. Again, I used to pick 20 or 30 pounds on the old bushes at the farmhouse and blackcurrent is quite a dry fruit, more apt for a savory fruit sauce for wild game rather than pies. This beer captures that well so even though it is a fruity brew it is balanced and true to the two named ingredients. The rye, blackcurrent and twiggy hop all conspire to form a nice dry finish with some lingering berry. 4.5% in a 650 ml bomb. The beer pours a nice amber that has a purpley note from the fruit, the foamy head resolving to a white rim. Don't bother going to look for it unless they make it a repeat a few years from now. Worthwhile but hard to imagine being an everyday sort of thing. Exactly the sort of thing to try with a seasonal brew.
Heritage's February 6 release Passion Brew is on the left. It pours yellow straw and the head respoves to a white rim. It is hard for me to say whether this is the true taste of passionfruit as I have only ever had it in a juice box or maybe in a sauce. My feeling, based on the Belgian approach, is that a fruit beer ought to be as close to the flavour of the fruit from the branch as possible. The logic is that in the mid-winter you can pull out a bottle and have a real sip of summer's bounty. This is, however, a good tasting fruit brew and just might make me want to go out and try a passionfruit. The fruit is round like a lollipop but not sickly sweet. There is a good edge which could be graininess but is more likely a roughish hop. It does not entirely cut through the fruit making the beer a bit cloying and certainly more than the blackcurrent rye. For me, this is less of a success and I bet if passionfruit had actually kept its original name, Bert Farmbley's apple, this beer would never have been made and put out for the Valentine's Day market. No BAers have rated it but four at RateBeer are less than enthusiastic. Sort of a nasty finish, though not the worse I have ever had. I would think a lighter touch with the fruit and a bit of wheat in the mash might be an adjustment the brewer might consider.
But in the end, this is an experiment and that's what seasonals are all about. Good for Heritage for trying it in the Ontario market. Now if they could introduce a program more like Smuttynose's Big Bittle Series and we'd be getting somewhere swell.
Good news for those scribes behind The Bar Towel, a group trying to wring what good ale there is from a blink-and-you-will-miss-it hamlet at the western end of Lake Ontario, tied as they are to a few good bars and the whims of the LCBO. Well, none of that seems to matter to the Toronto Star which has published a great big fancy article about them to the complete and utter exception of any reference to the sheer dominance of this here web engine of beery knowledge as an Ontario-based organ.
Nevermind the unslight slight, however, as Greg Clow, news editor of TBT is both gracious and, more importantly, purposeful in his response:
We might be a bit biased, but we think it's a great article, and hopefully it'll bring more attention to the site - and more importantly, the great beer that we all love.Good luck to you all down there to the west. We'll be here from time to time when you need some new ideas, a hint as to the difference between ale and lager, that sort of thing...
With things like the New York Beer Trail and its more hesitant cousin Ontario's Craft Beer Route, North American legislators are waking up to the potential for craft beer tourism these days and it is sometimes a bit of a shock for them to learn that they and the legacy of their elected predecessors may be a key road block to success. Consider this situtation in West Virginia:
Quirky old West Virginia laws rooted in the Prohibition era make it tough on tourist attractions, small businesses and others who could profit by the manufacture and sale of gourmet beers. Current state law allows only "nonintoxicating" beer, defined as brew with an alcohol content of no more than 6 percent. This definition is laughable, as multitudes of tipsy college students and tavern patrons can attest. The limit applies to typical grocery store brands commonly abused by young people.Fine ales like fine wine, fine local cheese and other local products are the sorts of consumer discretionary purchases that help local economies thrive. Maintaining such odd concepts as "nonintoxicating" beer standards are simply farce - except for the fact that that they shoot the local opportunity in the foot.
For a couple of decades now, microbreweries with regional names and appeal have been growing in popularity. Their beers tend to have higher alcohol, some up to 15 percent. Despite consumer demand, West Virginia’s upscale restaurants, ski resorts and other outlets have not been allowed to stock these beers. This puts border establishments at a disadvantage, compared to nearby ones across the state line. Who knows how many West Virginia-brewed beers might have caught on nationally or internationally, if they had been allowed to acquire a West Virginia following first?
A new guest writer joins us today. Donavan Hall lives on Long Island in New York, USA. He is an editor and freelance writer. He writes a weekly column about beer for The Spirit World. He also writes a blog called Catch & Release.
I am a beer writer and I live right on the border of Long Island Wine Country. I can hop in the car with my family and in ten minutes be sitting in the tasting room of one of Long Island's many artisanal wineries. So what do I do? I search for little cafés where I can grab some stinky cheese and - you guessed it - a beer.
One of our favorite destinations on Long Island's North Fork is a little town called Mattituck. It's a teeny town with about a block and a half of cool shops where you can get knick-knacks from the south of France and the stinkiest of the world's cheeses. In this microcosm of up-scale taste, there's a little café called Patti B's. When you go in, Patti will greet you with a smile and point you to a table. She's got quite a line up of wines for the wine hunters buzzing up and down Highways 48 and 25, but she's got three beers: Guinness, Corona, and Kisz Bier.
Kisz is pronounced just like "kiss." Kisz Bier is a Pilsner brewed in the Czech Republic by Prazske Pivovary, brewers of Staroparmen. There are two kinds of Kisz Bier: the Classic Czech Lager and the Classic Czech Dark Lager. The Classic Czech Lager is light in color, but its has plenty of flavor. This beer isn't as bitter as a typical Bohemian or Bavarian lager, but it has a lot more hop bitterness than most all American style lagers.
Unfortunately, Kisz Bier is only available in the New York Metropolitan region, which includes Long Island. Meyer Olshin of Kisz Bier USA, the importer, says he's working on establishing a national distribution network. Keep your eyes peeled. If you are interested, there's a good article in New York Press about Meyer Olshin and how he created Kisz Bier.
Who knew there were beer foam scientists in Manitoba:
Led by Marta Izydorczyk, program manager of barley research, the research deals with possibly the most important issue in the beer industry. “Consumers have very strong opinions on beer foam,” according to Izydorczyk.