I have received a hat from Russia from John and electronica CDs from Electron and now I have received the gift of chutney, savory jam for those not in the know. From the Ale-Fan under his own shop's private label, beer2go. Just dandy with cheddar, an English pale ale and some of Fred's Bread's finest. Treats are good.
I bought the May 2005 issue of All About Beer, published for 25 yeas now out of North Carolina. The picture shown is of an earlier issues as the magazine's web site has not caught up to its current newstand issue. I seem to buy an issue every year or so which is a fair comment on my regard for it. It is an odd mix of ads for imports and reviews of micros with a nod to the macros in both the ads and reviews. It is unfortunately "authoritative" in the sense that a lot of grey haired guys who make money as beer consultants write columns for it. These are guys whose books I have read - and argued with in my mind - as well as Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewing whose work I actually enjoy pretty much unreservedly. In this issue's "Letter from the Editor" we are invited to give the magazine our feedback in respose to the return of the publisher to full duty:
Daniel stirs things up wherever he goes, and All About Beer will be no exception. Over the next few issues, look for his passion for the best in beer to spill over these pages. You'll see the magazine move in some new directions. If you feel strongly about your magazine, pick up the phone: here's a publisher who wants to know what you want from All About Beer.Here are some of the things I would suggest without spending on the long distance:
- Ditch some of the "beer gurus." I was a little less than pleased to read a tedious reprint of a 1999 Michael Jackson article on hangovers, especially when it is written mainly about spirits rather than beer. Likewise a column on tasting chocolate and beer in Tokyo (I'll be sure to follow up those helpful hints) in an issue with a long article on beer and chocolate is not particularly good editorial selection. These writers do not in themselves have much to add to the beer fan's understanding after a few experiences with them - their repetoire of reusable adjectives are often quickly spent. A quite embarassing example of this is at page 48 the monthly section called "Beer Talk: World Beers Reviewed" in which plummy banal descriptions are used in the tasting notes such as "picture-perfect pour" or "pours like silk feels" or "the beer world's answer to an Australian syrah?" These are practically meaningless. Charlie Papazian, promoter of homebrewing and self, is the worst offender. Again, Garrett Oliver is the best for sticking to the relevant - words that describe flavour and aroma as well as food partnering.
- Be current. I wrote a review of Man Walks Into Pub in July 2003. Page 58 in a May 2005 issue is a wee bit tardy. Similarly, most stories in the "What's Brewing" section of short news items have already been posted on beer blogs - and they were posted there when you first read them, two months ago.
- Get more focused on the USA. It is too bad that such a large part of the advertising in the magazine, especially up front, is paid for by importing wholesalers rather than micros but that revenue interest does not mean that the readership is interested in yet another central European pilsner. Only a handful of readers will ever follow experiences in Japan or Poland featured in columns. Get into the field. The best of 2004 features too many brews from the same brewers. Very unlikely and it makes me want to cross-reference the ads. That Ommegang is the only New York State brewer represented in either the article on the top beers of 2004 (twice) or the one on 2005 Stouts and Porters (zero) is suspicious as well, the later tainted by its odd "85-89 points mean silver" form of scoring.
- Be intelligent. I can get most information in the magazine on the internet. But the article on US "malt liquor" was extremely well done and a topic I had not read much about before. Likewise, the trade focused revival of canning by smaller brewers was interesting and would likely cause me now to consider buying something interesting in a can if I saw it. Also, Roger Protz's article on changes at Grolsch in the Netherlands was specific and well written, despite the bad HTML that did not get picked up - ì and î appearing around the word "neighbour" in the middle column. A petty thing but compare it to the internet: I paid 5.99 CND for this specific slice of media. That is 15% of a month's total highspeed internet bill.
Here is one with a good name - Pfiff! Well written with a tendency towards Belgians.
Three reporters based in China and I am the guy posting this story on the use of beer revenues to support the questionable content in Japanese schoolbooks:
The news released by media report about Japan's new history textbook compilation committee, which is financially supported by Asahi Beer and other Japanese large enterprises, tampered with the history of Japanese troops' aggression against China. The news has aroused the concerns of the common people in Jilin Province in the past two days. Many readers have given phone calls to People's Daily, expressing their indignations against the practice of these enterprises. This reporter, Xu Depeng has learned from some supermarkets, and Japanese and South Korean restaurants in Changchun City of Jilin Province that affected by the news report, the sales volume of Asahi Beer began a downturn from yesterday.China is voting with its yuan...or renminbi.
I was asked the other day what I thought of Saranac beer by the Matt Brewing Company of Utica New York, a small regional or big micro which has survived a number of cats lives. When I pop over the river and go shopping in the USA, I am stunned that shopkeepers know nothing of Middle Ages brewing just an hour down I-81 but they have all sorts of Saranac amongst the Bud the Coors and, horrors, the Labatts Blue. In fact, I have to go to Hannifords, a New England grocery chain to fine either Lake Placid '49er or Ubu Ale or even the local Sackets Harbour 1812. So, rightly or wrongly, I am a little sour with Saranac as its availability tells me something I do not want to hear - that the market is access controlled through the local wholesale distributors. That is maybe not the wholesaling distributors' fault. Other brewers may just not sell to them. But given one of the USA's biggest army bases is near by, the idea that all you can get is the mass producers and a few locals grates.
None of this is the fault of those who brewing the beer. Last spring or summer I brought a mixed 12-pack which had quite a good selection of their brews. For me the problem was their use of metallic German hops in all but one of their brews. It was also a heavily lager focused selection, and German-style lagers are simply not my favorite thing. That being said, the IPA really stood out as a tribute to hops. It is highly grapefruity but also has green and twig - making me think there is Cascade, Goldings and Fuggles all in the brew. The brewer says it is all achieved with Cascade which is something of a tribute in itself given all the levels of flavour they have gotten into this green labeled bottle. The beer it reminds me of is actually Sgt. Major's IPA from the Scotch Irish Brewing Co. of Fitzroy Harbour, Ontario. Both are fairly light bodied for an IPA and celebrate the complex combination of hops that can be made. I would love to do a side by side which may be possible for next weekend if I can keep my hands off the two bottles of this brew I have left. Interesting to note that Saranac IPA is a lighter USA IPA at 5.8% while at 5.5% the Sgt. Major's is touted as one of Canada's strongest and biggest IPAs. Here is what the beer advocated say of this ale.
Here is a odd bit of local bureaucracy from Portland Tennessee:
This action would require an ordinance change involving two readings and a public hearing. At issue is whether the beverage board acted illegally when they granted a permit to D & B Enterprises, a new market located on College Street, even though the distances from the nearest churches was under the 1,000 foot requirement.I trust these churches are against bridal showers as they were originally bride ale showers.
The Board maintains that they made their decision based on some distance violations in the past. According to the Tennessee Code Annotated, once the established distance ordinance has been violated, it cannot be used again as a basis to grant a permit. However, the beverage board had been warned prior to their meeting by City Attorney David Amonette in a letter, not to issue the permit until the distance issue was resolved.
Several local churches have become involved in the controversy and some have considered litigation. David Andrews, pastor of Emanuel Missionary Baptist Church, says their conference is definitely going to pursue the issue if the city council doesn't act in time to make changes. "Our church falls within the 1,000 foot boundary and I don't understand why the Board issued the permit knowing they had done wrong," Andrews said.
Lambic. Natural yeasted wheat ales from Belgium left to go thin and sour. Sounds foul but it is like drinking fresh wine the small champagne corked bottles of usually fruit brewed ale. Fruit brewed as the freshness of the harvest is added to the fermentation in the best of these real ales not as some syrup later in the process. This raspberry lambic is the colour of homemade wild strawberry jam, blush with a brown edge under a pure white rocky head that dissipates to seafoam. The scent is earthy twig berry and the sharp tang of the beer. A long lingering true fruit flavour mixes with the bite of the fine carbonation. Like many Belgian ales, the hops are a fine delicate aged presence almost deprived of all their acid before being added to the boil. Not cheap at $4.15 CND at the LCBO for 375 ml. Try topping up a can of draft Guinness with another 20% of this ale. A better black and tan.
I liberated the Unabrewer from the hotel he was stuck at near Shanghai's Pudong International Airport on Sunday night. Together we checked out two of the better reviewed brewpubs in Shanghai: the Shanghai Bund Brewage Co (SBBC) and Le Bar/Brauhaus.
The SBBC is located on 11 Hankou Rd, within almost equal walking distances from either Three on the Bund or the Peace Hotel. The Bund was the seat of Shanghai's old colonial consuls and boasts the European-style architecture of the era, which makes it a great match for a German-style brauhaus. A daytime photo is here. Only two microbrewed beers are on tap, the light or dark 'Fest Beer.'The light is essentially a weissbier, and a decent one at that. It's unfiltered, mild with a low-carbonation mouthfeel and lemony aftertaste. The dark was good, but unexceptional. It had no outstanding notes, but was better than an average lager. One of the nice notes about the place is that it serves take-away customers. If you bring your own container it can be filled for Rmb40 per liter (about US$4.80). The 'light fest' would make a nice summer afternoon beer, is a wonderful break from Tsing Tao and will be a staple at my home when I get settled.
From there Joe and I ventured to what I thought was called Brauhaus. Located in the Sofitel Hotel on the sleazy neon part of Nanjing Lu, the bar seems to have decided to have a makeover... but not one based on a coherent theme, it is now called Le Bar Brasserie features a Colombian house band and thin-crust pizzas on the menu. It's a Western pub, although it hasn't decided on what part of the West it wants to resemble. That doesn't matter though, they have nice beer. The '505 beer' is hoppy and light, easy drinking very mildly fruity. It's the only beer they brew themselves, but if you're an idiot, the menu allows you to have it cut with 50%-Sprite and served as a shandy.
More comprehensive reviews will follow later in the year. Or, if Joe (one hour out of Shanghai), Charles (who is occasionally down on business from Beijing) and myself can coordinate - we could possibly have the Good Beer Blog's first panel discussion. For those who can't wait, which would be understandable as I still haven't finished the third part of the Singapore trilogy, a review of Shanghai's micros is here.
This is a bit of a work in progress, having put a few feelers out there on the network of ale fans. I will be there in the next couple of weeks and would like to bring home a couple of months worth of good...postings. Yea, that's it. Good postings for you the reader. The best candidates so far appear to be:
- Downtown Wine and Spirits, 225 Elm Street, Somerville, Mass. One beer advocatonian says:
OK so basically I consider this place my candy store, as I feel like a kid in a candy store whenever I go here. Even if I know what I want when I go in, I still wander around the store for a good 45 minutes. Basically we've got 2 15-20 foot shelves, one with 4 or 5 shelves and the other with 2. These are all singles and packs from faraway places...[...faraway places...faraway places...]
- Bread and Circus Whole Food Market, 340 River Street, Cambridge, Mass. We are told that it has more than 300 beers in stock, many organic, but not much else.