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Archive | November, 2008

Being right and wrong about the New Yorker

I give Jeff Allworth credit for bucking the crowd and suggesting the New Yorker feature on Sam Calagione and Dogfish Head Brewery wasn’t perfect in every way.

It wasn’t.

But his post titled “Wrong” is just as wrong when he writes “I see that he [Burkhard Bilger] has done a great injustice to the world of craft brewing” and that “Calagione’s model for brewing seems to be: pull something out of your ass, think it through incompletely, run with it, and sneer ‘neener neener’ at the naysayers along the way.”

In the second case he totally overlooks innovative and terrifically drinkable beers. Later he implies that Dogfish Head’s brewing style is less than disciplined — despite the fact the story documents Dogfish Head’s growing level of sophistication when it comes to quality control.

That’s not my real point, since Sam hardly needs my help defending himself. Instead . . . My initial reaction to the story was “How can you write about ‘extreme beer’ and not mention a brewery whose clock is not set to Eastern Standard Time?” Then I refocused and viewed it as a feature on one brewery (and its founder). It gets a lot better.

Jeff’s post makes me realize others viewed the story as I did on first reading. So he’s right. Even if he’s wrong.

Further reading: The Beer Advocate discussion includes input from the author, Sam and plenty of Garrett Oliver (in case you missed it).


#19 – Where in the beer world?

Where in the beer world?

Do you think you know where in the beer world this photo was taken?

I’m not asking for an exact location. Heck, at the time we snapped this I wasn’t totally sure of the name of the place.

But take a shot at the country and the city, think about what you know about pub culture, and leave a comment.

No hint this week. I thought that my hint last week that the “V” had double meaning would lead somebody to think of Vienna. Obviously I was wrong.


The Pilsner Urquell tour didn’t suck

We were forewarned by Ron Pattinson (read the comments too) not to expect too much from the Pilsner Urquell brewery tour. However, rather than requesting a behind-the-scenes look during which I could ask my usual geeky questions, I wanted to see and hear how the brewing giant SABMiller presents Urquell to the public.

I’m glad we went.

It was worth it if only to wander through the lagering cellars and imagine what they were like when they were full of more than the few barrels that remain.

Pilsner Urquell cellars

Back to the beginning. The tour costs 150 Czech Koruna (less than $7.50), 100 more if you want to take pictures inside the factory (that’s what they call it). You’d think somebody there read Ron’s post, because they carefully warned us that the tour takes about 90 minutes and we might want to use the toilet before embarking.

In fact, it lasted 80 minutes (perhaps because there were only 11 of us, including four Czechs taking the English tour for reasons unknown) and didn’t start with a movie. We saw one movie as part of the introduction to ingredients, and it did a pretty good job of talking about stuff like triple decoction without using the word. We saw a second short movie taken at the brewery in the early 1900s.

As at Budejovicky Budvar a couple of days before we breezed past cyclindro-conical tanks and primary fermentation was mentioned only in passing, but unlike at Budvar we never saw actual lagering tanks — just the wooden ones where beer is aged for tourists to taste (the literature we received also indicated this beer is compared with the brewery’s industrially produced beer). Of course we wandered about the old shiny copper brewhouse, but could view the new one only through glass.

What made the tour worth it was the walk in the cellars. The tour guide emphasized many times to stick with the group so nobody would get lost. It was easy to imagine when the cellars were full of barrels. When we finally get back home I’m looking forward to watching Michael Jackson’s Beer Hunter video from the 1980s. Not only to compare what it looks like, but for answers to some of the questions Ron raised, like if lagering has been shortened over the years.

We stopped briefly at wooden open fermenters where the “tasting” beer undergoes primary fermentation. While I was taking pictures the tour moved on to the halls with lagering barrels, for what the guide called “the best part of the tour, tasting.” Now behind, I hurried through the first set of barrels, passing a man carrying a clipboard.

I stopped to take a picture of the barrels, dang hard to get them in the low light since I was determined not to use the flash. When I turned around I saw the man (a brewer?) at the other end drawing a sample. That’s the picture above.

By now Sierra was worried I was lost and she came back to drag me into the next room with barrels, where everybody was already drinking. A friendly fellow poured a sample into a small (100-200cl) glass. This was beer made in the old way, using open fermentation in wood and then lagered in the cellars in wood. It was not filtered. It was very good.

Nobody was talking, and by the time I tried to take a couple more photos and had enjoyed less than half the glass the tour was ready to move on. The guide said anybody was welcome to a second beer. Nobody took him up on it. Except me. I hurried back to the fellow pouring beer, handing him an empty glass while I finished the first (resisting chugging).

He smiled, poured one and seemed to suggest I could take one for each hand.

I declined.

Why I don’t know.


#18 – Where in the beer world?

Where in the beer world?

Another hint, added Nov. 24: The picture was not taken in North America.

Do you know where in the beer world this photo was taken?

Go ahead, take a guess by leaving a comment.

This isn’t really a contest, but there will be prizes. Details when we return from Europe in December.

The weekly hint: You could argue the “V” has a double meaning.


2008 Yule Photo contest: Kick my butt

Alan and Jeff (aka Stonch) are back at it, announcing the 2008 Yule Beer Blog Photo Contest, here and here.

They’ve already got a wealth of prizes lined up, so get your entries in. I’ll see what I can find, but I’m oh-for-two in this event and I expect you can do better (thus the invitation to “kick my butt”).

Here’s a photo I won’t be entering, taken in July at Dieu du Ciel! in Montreal shortly after the pub opened on a weekday afternoon.

Where in the beer world?

As you’ll see if you visit Alan or Jeff’s blog it looks way too much like last year’s winner.


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