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Archive | August, 2008

#7 – Where in the beer world?

Where in the beer world is this?

Please don’t look at the photo above and think, “That jerk really is determined to stump the readers. Where’s the beer connection? Heck, where’s the beer?”

I picked this photo because I’ve been wanting to pass along a bit of beer history for a while. That might be the whole point of this non-contest contest: a chance for me to post a few photos I don’t seem to have an excuse to use otherwise. And ask you where in the beer world is was taken.

Also, some advance warning. It may be a while before I can post the details. Once we reach Europe in a couple of days finding an Internet connection will seldom get any kind of priority treatment. although I hope to participate in The Session on Friday.

And if you are still with me you deserve a hint on this one. It coulda been a brewery.

The answer: This is a building in Douglas (across the Gastineau Channel from Juneau), Alaska, that Geoff and Marcy Larson looked at quite seriously when they were looking for a location for Alaskan Brewing. It can’t be far from where the old Douglas City Brewing Company operated more than 100 years ago. Alaskan based the recipe for its Amber on one from Douglas.

Would this location have accommodated expansion as easily as the property the Larson eventually chose? Surely not.

It reminds me of a story I’ve been meaning to confirm, that Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan considered Crested Butte before locating New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins. NBB surely couldn’t have grown like it has were the brewery trying to ship beer out of Crested Butte — a beautiful town known for biking, skiing and its wild flowers but not at a transportation crossroads like Fort Collins.

Curious how important those first startup decisions turned out to be.


Saturday musing: Where’s the local beer?

Can I interest you in a local beer?I’m really not sure why I feel a need to pass along these links, because this practice won’t continue past Monday, when we begin 15 weeks of zig zagging around Europe. But here goes:

– Before you hit the link on this one, a little quiz. I’ll give you the tasting lineups at a couple of spots and you guess where the tastings are being held (same city):

1. [blank] will be tasting not only draught Koenig Ludwig, La Chouffe, and Racer 5 but they will also be sampling Paulaner Oktoberfest as well.

2. He’ll be sampling these beers: Dieu de Ciel Peche Mortel, Mikkeller Black Hole, Nogne #100, Avery The Beast and a few Oktoberfests like Avery Kaiser Oktoberfest.

The answer would be St. Louis. These are some fine beers and I’m glad that beer lovers in St. Louis get a shot at them. But shouldn’t there be at least one beer in there that comes from some place inside of 800 miles away?

Speaking of beer a long way from home: I’m not surprised when I see Bear Republic beers here in New Jersey. They are hefty enough to make a long journey. But I did a double take when I spotted Ballast Point Yellow Tail. This is a beer in the spirit of a kölsch, a little fragile for a coast-to-coast trip.

Looking at the beer selection can be a little strange here at mid-state. You can find Flying Fish, but it certainly isn’t everywhere. Climax counter-pressure filled growlers have an OK presence, which makes me grin. And tracking down the Ramstein wheat beers from High Point is a challenge. Weiss beers have a particular homecourt advantage, and High Point’s are good ones, but based on what I see on shelves everybody prefers German weiss beers.

Also from St. Louis. The Post-Dispatch comes up with ice cream and beer mixes. Not every one works: see Boulevard Unfiltered Wheat and rainbow sherbet. Here’s one you shouldn’t try if you have a heart condition: Southern Tier Crème Brûlée Imperial Milk Stout and coffee ice cream with chocolate espresso chips.

Underground breweries? The New York Times had a feature this week headlined “The Anti-Restaurants” which is sorta about underground restaurants. Is there something similar in beer? Yep. It’s called homebrewing.

I fear this will not end well. Just in case you missed the Wall Street Journal story about higher hop prices attracting hop growing newcomers, the link. OK, it doesn’t have to end badly everywhere. Rick Pedersen has been working on getting hops going in upstate New York for almost 10 years, so he knows that hop farmers can’t expect $30 a pound prices on a long term basis.

But I can’t help but think back to my youth in Central Illinois, where my father taught Ag Econ. I heard too many stories about dentists who decided to trade soybeans and ended up with a lawn full of beans. Sure, that’s different than being a farmer, but speculating is speculating.

Sorry to be such a curmudgeon on the weekend; must be getting anxious to be back on the road. And I didn’t mean to be horning in on Roger Baylor’s territory.


The beer myths that keep on giving

Ben Franklin misquotedEarlier this summer Martyn Cornell wrote that the Wikipedia entry on India Pale Ale “so completely, uselessly wrong as to be actively dangerous: the mistakes in it are going to be repeated by other writers too lazy to do their own research, and they are likely to take years to stamp out.” A bit of a discussion about Wikipedia followed with a bit of a sidebar about how dang frustrating it is to see myths get repeated as fact.

We were in the Canadian Rockies at the time, and later it seemed too late to chime that small breweries are also a culprit when it comes to the IPA story. A shorter version of the Wikipedia entry gets shown thousands of times a day to drinkers ordering from brewpub menus or customers reading the blurb on the neck label. In the long run this propagates the information just as dangerously as Wikipedia.

I thought of that this week when we visited Independence Hall in Philadelphia — yes, “America’s Best Beer Drinking City” but this was a home school field trip. The gift shop sells all manner of items quoting Benjamin Franklin, including T-shirts and coasters, proclaiming, “Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.”

The problem is that Franklin probably never said this. Mid-Atlantic Brewing News explained this well nearly three years go (no link to the story – sorry), and Bob Skilnik had more details shortly thereafter.

What do you think the chances are the gift store will withdraw these obviously good sellers from its inventory for the sake of historical accuracy?


The brewery parking lot? Bell’s

Bell's Brewery from the airToday is the 100th day of our adventure, and we’ve posted a bunch of numbers since we figure this pretty much concludes Part I. Part II begins Monday when we fly to Germany.

You won’t find much beer — should I have counted ounces consumed, or at least number of different brands? — but you will notice we spent one night in a brewery parking lot.

The unnamed brewery was Bell’s in Michigan. John Mallett offered and we couldn’t resist. Would you pass on the chance to call friends and say, “Guess where I’m calling from.” OK, maybe it would have been cooler to be inside the brewery (with everybody else gone.)

This aerial map from MapQwest is a tad out of date — it seems as if they expand at Bell’s about every third week.


Budweiser American Ale coming, but we’re going

Budweiser American AleWe’ll be in Brussels (still thinking about this) on Sept. 15, the day Budweiser American Ale officially debuts on draft. We’ll be in Stuttgart at Germany’s second largest beer festival on Sept. 29, the day the first bottles of American Ale go on sale.

Will the American beer world have been transformed by the time we return in December?

I think not, but you might disagree based on the amount of words already generated in beer blogs and at the beer rating/discussion sites (one example). Anheuser-Busch has done a great job of creating interest in American Ale ahead of its release. Of course it helps to have millions of advertising dollars to spend during the Olympics.

And for POS (point of sale advertising), like the tap handle pictured, that evokes a the same classic American tavern/saloon feel many smaller breweries and the places that serve their beer have taken advantage of for more than 20 years.

Not that A-B has done everything right. For instance, this from a company press release:

“Budweiser American Ale defines a new style of ale – The American Ale – with the full-bodied taste profile of the amber ale style, yet remarkably smooth and balanced,” said Eric Beck, brewmaster for Budweiser American Ale.

There’s an arrogance in that quote that begs for a separate post with a snippy headline.

That aside, A-B is providing support that the Michelob Specialty beers didn’t receive a decade ago, and seeing of the powerful Budweiser name offers the same sort of halo effect (no, I didn’t mean with you) it did for Bud Light way back when.

So what does Budweiser American Ale it taste like? I don’t know, but you can check here (Lew Bryson), here (three stars), here (a “huge splash”) and here (“not bad”).

No surprise. Pacific Ridge (5.6% abv, 35 IBU) and American Hop Ale (5.6% abv, 50 IBU) were both solid beers. The thing is . . . neither found an audience, at least big enough to satisfy the corporate decision makers.

Will BudAle?

I don’t expect that will be decided by March. We’ll be passing through St. Louis then, so I hope to visit a tavern with a big Budweiser eagle in the window to see what the locals are thinking . . . and drinking.


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