Check out...Czech out perhaps...Lew's trip to Prague in his May 2005 edition of The Buzz.
A very interesting article in the Globe and Mail's Business section by Derek DeCloet this morning on the pressure to drop prices in the Canadian macro-brewing industry. The factual highlights are these:
Just before Christmas, John Sleeman, the man who runs Canada's third-largest brewery, committed an act he'd once hoped he would never be forced to do. He slashed the cost of his beer...So mega-beer producers suffer from unhealthy images; equal advertizing opportunities granted to the competition; homogenization and standardization of product; and none of the breaks in taxation micros get. In his very interesting article, DeCloet goes on to analyze which brewers are going to be the best bets for investment over the next while. A good read.
Mr. Sleeman says part of the change can be traced back to a 1991 story by 60 Minutes that documented the so-called "French paradox," which suggests the French live longer and suffer less heart disease because of their love of a fine Beaujolais. Wine sales began to climb "the next morning," recalls Mr. Sleeman, and they haven't stopped. In 2003, the average Canadian of legal drinking age consumed about 14.4 litres of wine, up 31 per cent from a decade earlier. Average beer consumption fell 5.5 per cent in that period. If the wine makers had CBS on their side, liquor manufacturers benefited from changing laws and social mores. In 1995, the Federal Court of Canada struck down as unconstitutional a regulation banning hard liquor advertising on TV...
Some industry watchers argue that brewers have themselves to blame for their downbeat image. Accountants may love the Canadian brewers' deal to use the same, long-necked brown bottles for most of their brands because it saves millions in packaging costs. But since every bottle looks the same (with few exceptions), and the liquid often tastes the same, who can blame beer drinkers for concluding that most beers are the same, and buying the cheapest one?...and
It's not that Lakeport is more efficient than the mega-brewers. Rather, it is small enough to qualify as a microbrewery under Ontario law, and gets preferential tax treatment. A micro that ships about 1.2 million cases a year in the province will pay a basic production tax of $3.1-million. Sleeman, Molson Coors and Labatt pay nearly $5.6-million to sell the same number of cases.
Extraordinary. The aroma is like warm milk infused with fine herbs. It is milky malty rich with the flavours of a sweet clean summer barn plus cherry and vanilla and malteser or malted milk. A lively white head over antiqued gold ale. Very rich and lovely. About $2.50 CND at the LCBO for 330 ml of 7.5% northern French goodness. Showing a bit of age from the cap marks on the bottle. Raters rate.
Click for a bigger pic.
This string of Maine posts has surprised even me - and I was there - but who knew that by the Maine seacoast there was an excellent Belgian brewer like you find in more obvious spots like Quebec and in the leatherstocking region of New York? I thought I had picked up a 750 ml each of Allagash's white, dubbel reserve and triple reserve but had doubled my double by mistake, foresaking the white. I had had their white at Bull Feeney's in the Old Port and was mightily impressed but took no notes. I was also impressed to see that they make a dubbel and a dubbel reserve. Conscientious readers will recall that we like dubbels hereabouts.
The Allagasheen at their work
The Dubbel Reserve from Allagash is a classic: some boozey heat, a rich mahogany hue, sweet brown sugars and burlay funk. A bit light for a dubble at 7%, it is still a lot of beer for one bottle having as much of that organic chemical as about 3.5 regular brown pops. Say what you like, but it is all about the yeast strain when you are talking dubbles and this one is nice: chalky, nutmeg spicy, soy milk and vanilla. Sub-creamy. The front end is east Indian spicy, exotic seed at the first, moving to a glow suggesting chili. Between that and the yeast is a nice warm brown malt seam. Real nice dub.
A few weeks later, I popped the Allagash Triple Reserve after reading the Belgian Beer blog. This ale is quite bright with rocky but shallow head supported by quite active bubbling, attractive in an Orval glass. It is hot at 9% as a triple should be with a good candi and pale Belgian malt body up to the task. The brewery says:
This golden hued ale is marked by passion fruit and herbal notes in the aroma, with subtle suggestions of banana and honey surfacing from its deep and complex palate. The Tripel's finish is remarkably long and soothing.I get the passionfruit and might add banana> I would call it the colour of straw or even spruce wood. The finish is sea salt and old bitter greens. Very nice.
I have always liked this beer from Harpoon, one of the flagships from one of New England's micro-marcos. Light amber ale pours a white loose bubble head which resolves to a rim. The pale malt provides light-medium body and a touch of nut. There are two distinct hops: one, a orange, herby green thing in the roof of the mouth; the other rough and twiggy at the back of the tongue. Buttery yeast under it all.
I dunno why they make this brew so lively while the ordinary pale ale is...err...less interesting.
This is more for me that you. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle has a column called "The Beer Guys" and, today, they list the tops bars in town:
So here's our list. Agree, disagree. Who cares? It's our column:Shouldn't every newspaper have a column about beer? Why is ok to have one about good wine but not good beer when three people have beer comapred to wine one a regular basis in our society? OK, I made up that stat but I think it is still a valid question. And furthermore, Rochesterians, is this list right?
- MacGregor's Grill & Tap Room. There are five in our area: Rochester, Henrietta, Gates (a new location that just opened), Perinton and Canandaigua. MacGregor's remains the best place to get a draft beer in the region because of the enormous variety. The Rochester location has about 75 beers on tap.
- California Brew Haus, 402 W. Ridge Road. This bar in the shadow of Kodak Park offers an amazing and daunting array of bottled beer displayed in fridge after fridge.
- The Old Toad, 277 Alexander St. The British pub ï¿½?” run by real Brits ï¿½?” always has a mean assortment of draft beer.
- Monty's Krown, 875 Monroe Ave. Another spot with a terrific array of draft beer, and the brands seem to change every once in a while, providing an incentive to stop in again.
- J.B. Quimby's Public House, 3259 S. Winton Road, Henrietta. The bar offers a decent selection of draft beer.
Isn't science wonderful? Apparently, there is now evidence that moderate alcohol use may trigger brain cell growth.
Out of a Harpoon mixed 12 with the Ale, IPA and Munich Dark as boxmates. This is a nice US hefe with some of the odd esters that mark the style but lighter than thet original German version. While banana and clove are the usual flavours in the style, as was the case with Paper City's rendition, Harpoon's is more banana-pineapple with a dry hop astrigency laying across the middle of your mouth.
Worthy but not the greatest hefe I have had. Click for the big pic.
I didn't pay as much attention to Shipyard Brewing as I usually do when I visit Maine. Maybe because they are now a mini-regional I can get their brews at the Galeville Grocery two hours away. A few years ago, as I went on a bit about back here as I reviewed the IPA, mein host and I got a personal tour of the waterfront brewing operation from the brewmaster who happened to be around on a Saturday afternoon. The brewing is based around huge steel yorkshire square primary fermenters, thick blurping and blopping foam keeping the open air from the pure brewificating fluid below. The smell was a boozey bakery.
Two tough characters, a college prof and a wild boar...
I know which I'd rather fight.
On this trip I think I only had one ale in addition to the two I brought back above - Shipyard's Blue Fin stout, as this was a journey to the dark irish side of Maine as far as I can tell. I had it at the Beale Street BBQ in South Portland and the Blue Fin was exactly right for its crusted juicey meats. A mocha pin tight head and a chocolate aroma turned into unsweetened chocolate cream. It was drier than the Gritty's stout of the day before with a subdued burnt grain tone. Mainly minty hops as is the classic style but also with some green.
I picked up a quart each of the Chamberlain Pale Ale and the Old Thumper Extra Special Ale. I love the Chamberlain and would if only for the man it celebrates, Maine's academic civil war hero Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain who was remembered in Steve Earle's 1999 song "Dixieland". The Old Thumper is named after a wild murderous pig. I'd want to be on the Chamberlain side any day.
The Chamberlain Pale Ale poured a light beige rocky head with butterscotch aroma. It was bright with lively carbonation, the first taste sweet caramel perfectly balanced with prudent twiggy hops. The fruit malt was big upfront with notes of strawberry, almond, apricot and cherry opening to a refreshing middle, tangy yeast standing up prominently in the long quality finish. This bomber was fresh, sparking a loud decapping leaving heavy foaming lace down the glass side. After, I realized how much the fruit acid and sweet biscuit reminded me of an empire biscuit - that old fashioned shortbread cherry iced cookie.
Compared to the Chamberlain, Shipyard's Old Thumper, brewed under arrangement with a UK brewer, is reticent in its malty fruit - even though there is still a touch of orange marmalade and, again, that bright acidic strawberry note. It pours lively with a whiter head and speaks mostly to fresh French bread. The yeast is creamier with a slight smokey tang providing a less open and watery finish. The mid-palate crest of hops is richly elegant. Warmth in the long finish tips scales with a discrete bite of hops on the tip of your tongue. I could move house to get closer to this ale.
Interesting to read this this morning in my review of the Portuguese media:
Lisbon - Portuguese gym-goers are being urged to drink beer as part of a healthy diet in a campaign launched on Wednesday by the nation's main association of producers of the alcoholic beverage. A total of 20 000 fliers outlining the health benefits of drinking up to two bottles of beer per day will be handed out to patrons arriving at gyms in Lisbon and Oporto, the nation's second-largest city, by Friday, according to the Portuguese Association of Beer Producers. The goal is to "draw attention to some less well-known aspects of beer, such as its agricultural origins, its nutritional value and health benefits when drunk in moderation and responsibly", it said in a statement. The fliers, which feature a smiling young woman jumping rope beside an image of a large glass of beer, point out that a 200 millitre glass of beer has less calories than a quarter litre cup of sugarless orange juice or a similar sized cup of milk.Hmmm: "a smiling young woman jumping rope beside an image of a large glass of beer..." - there is nothings like the scientific approach to an argument.
"Forget the myth of the 'beer gut' because it is just that: a myth," it reads.