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Archive | July, 2007

New Beer Rule #6: Ode to the empty glass

Empty beer glassNEW BEER RULE #6: The best beer was in the empty glass.

This rule came from a conversation with Matt Trevisan of Paso Robles winery Linne Calodo for an upcoming story, and he was explaining how he blends wines.

“I start with five glasses and I pick the emptiest one,” he said. “In the end you want the blend that you keeping going back to.”

Trevisan sat in on the blending session last year when Paso Robles winemakers helped the brewers at Firestone Walker assemble the highly acclaimed Firestone 10.

“I told them they didn’t have to sit there and pick it apart to find the best one,” Trevisan said, offering advice that works for wine or beer. “You didn’t necessarily want the one you had the most to say about. Ultimately it’s a beverage to enjoy.”

How you use this rule is up to you. But I think it is a pretty good excuse to haul a treasured beer out of the cellar even though you know you’ll never be able to replace it, or a reason to spend a little bit more for a bottle.

All the New Beer Rules.

Quick reminder: Fruit beers in Session #6

The SessionDon’t forget that the sixth round of our monthly Session is Friday. Greg Clow at Beer, Beats & Bites will host and the topic is fruit beers.

Alan at a Good Beer Blog recently posted about the explosion of beer blogs. If you’ve recently started a blog this is a fine opportunity to announce it in a communal sort of way. Just drop Greg a line on Friday after you post.

And if you want to start a blog but aren’t certain how to get started, Jon at The Brew Site wrote a simple primer.

Damn Pete Brown: The best beer trip ever

Pete BrownAuthor Pete Brown – who is having way too much fun in his role as “the second-best beer drinker in Britain!” – has talked Coors into letting him take a pin (small cask) of India Pale Ale from its White Shield brewery in Burton-on-Trent and transport it to India in much the same manner the highly hopped beer would have traveled in the 19th century.

Not everybody would consider this the best beer holiday ever, but if you care about IPA and its history this might be better than a visit to Belgium or one to Bavaria. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip. You can go to Bamberg next year.

The Morning Advertiser provides the details (they wrote “pint” but must mean “pin”):

He’ll follow the route round the Cape of Good Hope, taken throughout the first part of the 19th century before the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 shortened the journey.

Working with Coors brewer Steve Wellington, Pete will take to Bombay a pint of IPA brewed by Steve in Burton-on-Trent, Staffs, exactly as it would have been in 1820.

He sets off from Burton by canal in mid-October, spends a month on a P&O cruise ship, jumps on a 19th-century three-masted tall ship for the passage round the Cape, then spends a month on a giant container ship before arriving in India in late December.

Martyn Cornell provides more perspective:

“I’ve been saying for several years that a British brewer really ought to take a cask of well-hopped IPA and ship it to India to see what happens to the flavour – the Norwegians still do a similar thing with Linie Akvavit, though that goes to Australia and back, rather than the sub-continent.”

Which brings us to . . . an article in the new All About Beer magazine (dated September and with Dave Alexander on the front) titled “IPA Master Class.” From Roger Protz. But only half the story.

The cover touts the “Search for Authentic IPAs.” That means, I guess, that Stone IPA, Victory HopDevil and Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale aren’t authentic.

Te article provides important historical perspective about both IPA history (credit London before Burton-on-Trent) and the impact IPAs had on pale lagers. You need to read more, right?

I just wish that Protz, or AABM with a companion story, had got to American IPAs. A heck of a lot more drinkers consume US-brewed IPAs these days than those brewed in the UK. And these are beers that showcase Northwest hops.

Protz lists his personal Top Ten IPAs, with five from America:

– BridgePort IPA
– Brooklyn East India Pale Ale
– Goose Island IPA
– Sierra Nevada IPA
– Pike IPA

Great beers every one, but are they the first ones you think of when you say I’ll have an IPA?

But back to the top, the Morning Advertiser reports that Brown intends to write a travel book, rather than a beer book, about his journey. I can’t wait.

Russian River Brewing expansion update

Vinnie CilurzoOne unusual day last fall, Vinnie Cilurzo – owner, brewer and sometimes forklift operator at Russian River Brewing Co.wasn’t brewing.

He climbed on his forklift when a truck driver showed up with much-needed growlers, took phone calls, planned out the next week of brewing and bottling, and set out tasks for his assistants. All before lunch, so that in the afternoon he could work on a business plan for separate production brewery.

At one point he grabbed a 6-gallon carboy in his left hand hand and a hose in the other, quickly rinsing the glass container and dumping out the water. He swirled his right hand about the brewery, his index finger extended.

“I don’t want to give this up,” he said. “This is the thing I can contribute the most to this company.

“I don’t think I’ll ever give up brewing,” he said. “I’ve had other brewers and brewery owners tell me that eventually I’ll have to.”

He shook his head.


He’s about to find out how easy it will be to run and brew at a production brewery.

He expects the brewery, also located in Santa Rosa, Calif., to be up and running in January. He talked about progress last month after making a presentation at the National Homebrewers Conference in Denver.

He and his wife and co-owner, Natalie, struck a deal in April to buy a 50-barrel brewhouse from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Delaware. They’ve acquired property not far from the brewpub and financing, and now are working their way through permitting and construction.

Not surprisingly for those who know the Cilurzos – “We’re conservative,” Vinnie said – they have a well thought out plan. A few of the basics:

Production – The goal is 6,000 barrels in 2008 and 7,000-8,000 in the next few years. “The max would be 12-to- 15,0000 barrels,” Cilurzo said. “I don’t want to get any bigger.”

The hoppy beers – Pliny the Elder (an Imperial/Double IPA) and Blind Pig IPA will be bottled for the first time. “But I don’t know how much Elder we’ll ship in bottles.”

Pliny the Younger (a triple IPA) will be brewed once a year and in 2008 will be draft only.

Cilurzo hasn’t settled on a bottle size for Blind Pig and Pliny the Elder, but is determined not to sell his beers in six packs. He prefers a 750ml-capped bottle or a 16-ounce bottle for those beers.

The non-barrel ‘-tion’ beers – Redemption (a monks’ strength beer at 4.8% abv), Perdition (a Belgian-inspired pale ale) and Salvation (dark and strong) should all be nearly as easy to find as the flagship Damnation (strong and golden). Cilurzo particularly wants to promote Redemption. “It’s everything I believe in, that we need more lower alcohol Belgian-style beers,” he said. “It is something we do at the pub.”

The brewery will us increase production of Santification, a beer 100 percent fermented with Brettanomyces.

All of those are sold in corked and caged 750ml bottles.

The barrel beers (also ‘-tion’) – The barrel room will have the a capacity to produce 560-plus beer barrels (31 gallons each) per year. Cilurzo recently picked up additional used Pinot Noir barrels (for Supplication) and 100 used Cabernet Sauvignon barrels (American oak). He hasn’t decided what fruit he will blend with a base beer (and of course wild yeast) in those barrels. Affordable used Chardonnay barrels are getting harder to find, so there may be less Temptation in the future.

(Just to be clear, when brewers refer to barrels they mean a measure of 31 gallons. Most wine barrels hold 225 liters, a little less than 60 gallons.)

Then there’s Beatification. Once barrels give up their wine character they’ll be used to age Beatification, which is spontaneously fermented using native yeast from within the brewery. Instead of calling it a Lambic, Cilurzo has dubbed it a Sonamic. A single batch may take two years to produce, and multiple batches may be blended for a bottling.

The standard size for the barrel beers is 375ml (again corked).

Distribution – Currently, Russian River sells beer only in California and Pennsylvania. Virginia and the District of Columbia will soon receive beer along with Pennsylvania (Masschusetts would likely be the next state added in the East). In the West, Arizona, Colorado, Oregon and Washington will be the first markets.

One final quick prediction: None will get as much Russian River beer as they want.

The Miller Chill Challenge

Corona MicheladaOK, I have a plan.

I’ve written several times that I think I should try Miller Chill. I’ve been seeing advertisements for six months (New Mexico was a test market) and sales are rockin’. And today I received a press release from an agency that represents Corona with recipes for Michelada, Michelada Roja and Chelada. (Miller Chill is based on the “cheleda” – with lime and salt already included.)

So I see an organized blind tasting in the near future. Since we are headed East it might be a few weeks – or perhaps I’ll rope friends and relatives in Massachusetts into taking the test.

If you check out Rate Beer, Beer Advocate or founding brother Jason Alström’s rant this isn’t going to seem like such a good idea. Guess we’ll find out.

The press release is another sign that Mexican breweries are feeling the impact of Miller Chill.

The Michelada, and variations such as the Michelada Roja and the Chelada, are classic Mexican beer cocktails typically made with an authentic Mexican beer, such as Corona, Pacifico or Negra Modelo, and varying combinations of lime, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce and salt, served over ice. The lime and spices complement each other and provide a spicy, flavorful kick to the traditional Mexican beer. Recipes vary throughout Mexico and the origins of the michelada are not widely known, although most agree the name came from “mi chela helada,” slang for “my cold beer.”

Corona recommends the following recipes:

Recipe courtesy Adobo Grill in Chicago (and pictured above)
– Chile Piquin
– Salt
– Juice of ½ large fresh lime
– 1 oz. Sangrita**
– 12 oz. bottle Corona
– Garnish: fresh lime wedge

Salt the rim of a large, frosted glass with the coarse salt and chile piquin. Fill the glass halfway with ice and then add the lime juice. Add sangrita and top with beer. Garnish with a lime wedge.

** Sangrita is a tomato-based drink with hints of orange and lime juices, chiles and peppers. It can be purchased at Mexican specialty stores.

Michelada Roja
– Coarse salt
– Juice of 1 large fresh lime
– Dash to taste of Worcestershire, hot sauce, soy sauce
– 2 ounces tomato juice or Clamato juice
– 12 oz. bottle Corona or Pacifico
– Garnish: red and yellow cherry tomatoes on a pick

Salt the rim of a large tall glass with the coarse salt. Fill the glass with ice and then add lime juice and Worcestershire, hot sauce and soy as desired, and then add the tomato juice. Top with beer – serve any extra beer on the side. Garnish with tomatoes on a pick.

– Coarse salt
– Juice of 1 large fresh lime
– 12 oz. bottle Negra Modelo or Corona
– Garnish: fresh lime wedge

Salt the rim of a large tall glass with the coarse salt. Fill the glass with ice and then add the lime juice. Top with beer – serve any extra beer on the side. Garnish with a lime wedge.

While you are waiting for the results you might want to check out some of the experiments Donavan Hall conducted earlier this year.

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