The New York State Legislature is currently considering legislation that would create a New York State Beer Trail.
"Such a rich history of the brewing industry is here and we ought to be exploiting that if we can," said Assemblyman Joseph Lentol, whose district was the home of original Schaeffer brewery and currently hosts the Brooklyn Brewery, a regionally well-known outfit. "I can't think of any other state except Wisconsin that has as much brewing tradition as New York. It's part of our heritage."When the Finger Lakes Wine Region finally sought out professional advice and started using that advice to market the area, that area experienced tremendous growth in tourism. If the state and participating microbreweries market the trail correctly, a Beer Trail would not only make many of us beer aficionados very happy, it could help draw more people to the state. Something cash-strapped New York could definitely use.
Right now I'm envisioning pretzel and mustard weekends at microbreweries as the answer to winery's wine and cheese events. Or to go along with the wine region's other big themed weekend: a "Hoppy" Holiday weekends where you collect microbrew beer labels enclosed in glass as ornaments.
I have never been to one of these things, the CAMRA-esque bung-poppers but if you are in the Vancouver Area in early August it might be worth a visit:
British Columbia is bursting at the seams with great locally-made beer, and we would like to invite beer fans to explore the newest & best of B.C. beer at Caskival, Western Canada's festival dedicated entirely to Real Ale! CAMRA Vancouver and DIX Barbecue & Brewery are proud to present our second annual celebration of brewing at DIX, Vancouver's headquarters for the art & science of great brewing. From noon until 5:00 on Saturday, August 6th, Caskival brings together some of B.C.'s best small breweries to showcase this traditional technique of beer service at 871 Beatty Street in Vancouver, 604-682-2739. Almost two dozen cask ales will be featured, with a wide range of styles and flavors sure to meet the tastes of even the most demanding beer fans...For more information, contact Brewmaster Tony Dewald by phone at 604-682-2739 or e-mail at dix at markjamesgroup.com. Attendance is limited to 250 guests, so call soon for tickets!Twenty bucks for a ticket, one buck per taste once you are in.
I am constantly amazed at the number of small craft beer operations that keep popping up in Quebec, many of them far from the urban centres of Montreal and Quebec City. This is encouraging, as one often associates a taste for craft beer with a more urban sensibility; assuming that country folk are too busy haying and hoeing to look beyond the big domestics.
That assumption, like many others about rural people, would be wrong. The town of Saint-Paulin, Quebec, for example is home to a lovely looking Auberge called Le Baluchon. It boasts its own little brewery, which has recently grown into a separate operation; Les bières de la Nouvelle-France, where – according to a note on the bottles – they are “brewed on the fief of the seigneurie de la Nouvelle-France, on the north shore of the Saint Lawrence river."
I tried three of them this weekend. All bear the same nostalgic habitantesque label, with only the brew's name differentiating one from the next.
The first I tried was “Ambrée de Sarrasin” (buckwheat amber). The description on the bottle reads, “Its refreshing flavour and foam density makes this unmalted grain beer distinctive.” Indeed it was. It had a nice yeasty aroma, like bread dough, and a good thick mouse of head with a decent lace. It had nice frontal hop flavours, with a hint of something smoky, a rich texture, and a good clear and distinct character.
Next up was the “Blonde d’Epeautre” (spelt blonde). Its description reads “An unmalted grain beer that has a fruit flavour, a smooth foam, and a slight bitterness.” Label descriptions like that threaten to put us beer bloggers out of business, as that pretty much sums it up. I will add, however, that this one didn’t have much foam, despite the description, and the fruit flavor was there but not clearly identifiable. I don’t much like fruit beers, so perhaps that undefined fruitiness is what put me off this one a bit.
The hint of bitterness was, in my opinion, tasty but almost distracting – it didn’t seem to fit with the hint of fruit. I wanted the beer to be one thing or the other, not try to be both.
While this brew will not be listed among my favorites, I must acknowledge that this is simply a matter of personal preference. The brew is crisp and distinctive, with a somewhat cloudy but robust body.
Finally, there was the “Claire Fontaine.” Its description says, “Claire Fontaine is a light, thirst-quenching malted barley beer.” Anyone familiar with beer marketing-speak will recognize “light” and “thirst-quenching” as generally meaning “devoid of character.”
In this case that would be going too far. It is, indeed, light and thirst-quenching, and it does lack the kind of malty richness and hoppy bite that real beer lovers look for in a brew, but on the other hand it is very clear and crisp, and is the cleanest-tasting beer I’ve sampled in quite some time.
This is a nice beer to serve ice-cold at a barbecue – a good “hot dog beer." I don’t mean that as a slight against it – there are times when that is exactly what you want. It’s also a good beer to serve around people who don't like the meatier tastes of full-flavoured beers. In other words, Claire Fontaine is not unlike the standard yellow beers produced by the big domestic brewers – except that it is cleaner and tastes much better!
Interesting to see reports on a back to the basics trend in beer buying by young-uns in the US:
Among the recent bright spots was the quirky story of Pabst, which caught on early this decade with young hipsters in Portland, Ore., and its popularity spread out. Without initial prompting, "PBR" became a symbol of authenticity and cool. It has been enjoying double-digit growth every year since 2003, said Pabst brand manager Neal Stewart. Consumers like these beers in part because they cost less than fancy imports or craft brews. They also can play on happy memories of simpler days - maybe of Granddad swigging a beer while barbecuing, said Darrell Jursa, managing partner with Liquid Intelligence, a Chicago marketing agency that has Pabst as a client.Utica Club and Rheingold from New York as well as Yuengling from Pennsylvania (the last of which I have reviewed) as also taking advantage of this trend, according to the article I link to above. Keith's beer, the IPA that isn't an IPA, with its heavy use of advertising and humour would be the Canadian version, I suppose, but it is also sold as a bit of a premium beer - another form of humour to anyone who grew up in Halifax.
Jursa also mentions that you are what you drink. Just like a club hopper ordering Grey Goose vodka could be signaling she's like the urban sophisticates of "Sex in the City," a Pabst drinker could be showing he is beyond the mainstream. The challenge for brewers is to tap into that anti-establishment streak without seeming too establishment. Pabst managed by tailoring marketing to its young drinkers. It sponsored skateboarding film premieres, Vespa scooter rallies and art gallery openings.
I say from time to that I do not like lagers but what I am really saying is that I do not like the mass marketed insipid pilsners generally passed off as beer by BulkCo's A, B and C. Lager or rather lagering is really just a reference to a period of cold storage, a central European technique from hundreds of years ago which created a rounder softer drink and also one which was available in the spring or summer months, depending on the style, when the short-brewed ales of the day would quickly go off. There is a lot of detail that could be filled in but for now it is enough to know that the choice of cold storage facility for lagering was either caves or monestary cellars having the temperature stabilizing combination of depth into the ground and stone walls.
Michael Jackson in his Great Beer Guide says of Paulaner:
This brewery was founded in 1634 by monks in the order of St. Francis of Paula. They brewed an especially malty beer as "liquid bread" to sustain them during Lent. They called it "Salvator," Latin for Savior."Now called a dopplebock or double bock, this beer generated a style marked by the suffix "-ator" so if you ever see a beer with that in its name, as in this list, you can expect a drink like this as described by the Beer Advocate:
Double Bocks or Doppelbocks are huge beers with enough malt packed in them to consider them a meal in its self. Generally having a very full-bodied flavor and darker than other bocks with a higher level of alcohol also. The range in color from dark amber to nearly black. Dark versions may have slight chocolate or roasted characters.My liquid unit poured a deep toffee brown with a tan head. Like another old lager style, marzen the first sniff is full of rich burlappy butterscotchy malt sweetness. This is confirmed by the sip - supported as well by a healthy dollop of treacle. In the mouth, however, there is a strong zag of greenish metallic german hops, which challenge me greatly in the poorer versions of bland light pilsner of which the world is awash but which in this beer cuts the cloy and balances. What is really singular about this sip is the yeast which makes something of a marzipan creamy nuttiness combining with the hops to make that burlap quality. It is not the biggest ale, especially for 7.5%, but it is lovery reminding me of an over-hopped scotch heavy ale in a way. Hey - I like a lager! The BAers do, too.
I found this at the LCBO in Ottawa for $1.95 CND a 330 ml bottle.
In case there were any readers wondering why Charles, Joe and I have not been often posting on the wonderful brews of China, I have had to come to terms with a few things about life in China and, while, as well as AsiaPundit, I maintain a personal blog and contribute to the Good Beer Blog. I haven't been contributing to the GBB as much recently - nor have fellow China-based beer bloggers Joe the Unabrewer and Charles at YellowFrog. There is a reason for that. SABMiller CFO Malcolm Wyman explains (via The China Stock Blog):
....the beer industry in China is way behind in levels of sophistication....you're talking about what perhaps the U.S. or other industries might have looked like 50 to 80 years ago when you have total fragmentation across the country. When we entered you had over 800 breweries we are now down to I think just under 400 breweries... there are so many cheap beers that those are definitely not brandable. We try and move our beers up into the upper mainstream and the local premium levels where you can get slightly better margin....but if you take the vast amount of beer and if you take your normal pyramid - probably from two thirds and down is all very much low quality, low-priced beer and that beer is certainly lacking in any sort of brand capacity.[Ed.: this for me begs the question whether these local breweries produce something like milk, standardized functional but the same over and over and over. Is that the case?]
Travelling through Europe as a yo-yo for a few weeks, and I must tell you it is much more business than pleasure. But I am accumulating some interesting beers to try out during the summer - I'll just have to find somewhere to store them. First stop was Paris, where I had a very nice bottle of Pelforth Brune, which seems to be widely available both bottled and canned. A bit on the sweet side with a quite complex taste of toffee, coffee and toast among the elements. Some nice hops in there, too. What struck me is that the French seem to favour a high alcohol content, with for example Carlsberg Elephant available on tap everywhere. Some very strong Dutch beers as well as the most potent Belgian brews were also available. Maybe this nation of wine drinkers wants something with a punch?
This week brought me to Budapest, but that was very much touch and go. I flew Lufthansa and, while their in flight food was rather lousy, they had a quite pleasant pils on offer – Warsteiner. This is a soft and pleasant pilsener. The hops are there, but not intrusive. (I like them intrusive, but I don't expect that on a plane!) Flowery bouquet and smell. Transit at Munich airport, where there is supposed to be a brewpub, but I had no time to seek it out. A perfectly pleasant high glass of hefe or unfiltered Paulaner Weisse was an appropriate way to toast my few minutes on Bavarian soil. On then to Budapest, where most of the bars were closed at eleven at night. I found, however, a pub serving a pleasant bottle of Dreher Bak. A very nice bock. Dry and toasty, no toffee or cocoa in this one. 7,3 %, and of course you can taste that. Apart from Dreher, there seems to be lots of Austrian beer around, often with names referring to imperial times.
For some reason, I come across news about the Bulgarian beer trade more often than I expect. This one I find a bit odd:
Beer Consumption Reels in Bulgaria Bad WeatherI would be thinking that a 50% increase in taxes might have a little more to do with it than how sunny the sky is but then again I clearly have difficulties with Bulgarian beer trade issues.
Beer sales traditionally hit a mounting rate in the summer months. The delay in expected rise was caused this year by the pouring rains and poor weather over the last few weeks, brewers said. Beer consumption in Bulgaria has dropped by 8.3% for the first five months of this year, due to the cool weather and the 50% excise duty imposed since the beginning of 2005...The chairman of the Board of Directors of Kamenitza AD has been hopeful that in the summer months to come fans will re-discover their favorite drink and the brewery market will frame into sales typical for the hot season.