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Archive | February, 2009

#28 – Where in the beer world?

Where in the beer world?

Where in the beer world?Do you think you know where in the beer world these photos were taken?

Please leave your answer at a comment.

Hint: The photo on the right. Yes, you can figure they don’t sell New Belgium’s Fat Tire Amber Ale because it’s not available to them. Not because they don’t want to.

Bonus hint (since last week there wasn’t a single guess, wild and crazy or otherwise): Don’t go here looking for any Anheuser-Busch, Miller or Coors beers here. Or even some of the other beers generally available in local grocery stores.

Last week’s answer: The photo was taken at the National Brewery Museum in Potosi, Wis., that opened last summer. Worth your time.

Answer added March 8: Owners Scott Shor and Rich Carley opened The Charleston Beer Exchange only a few months ago. The rather small store is packed with only specialty beers. They also have six draft lines to fill growlers, often rare beers that may not otherwise be available in Charleston. There’s a list on their blog.

5 beer answers, questions included

First the answers, then the questions.



Was IPA brewed strong so it could survive the journey to India?



Michelob: The New Hipster Beer?


Not in my liftetime.

Do we need two new beer styles and a total of 141 (one hundred and forty-one)?


Let’s have one more beer.

What’s that Czech beer sign mean?



What should you give up for Lent?


Taking the soul of beer to the streets

Yesterday morning Glenn Payne, a man who wears several beer coats, sent a quick question from his UK home to many beer types. He asked, “Who’s the soul, who’s the cutting edge of beer; who’s taking it to the street?”

He explained it will be the topic for his presentation at Mondial de la Bière in Montreal this summer.

Of course I’m interested any time somebody asks about the soul of beer, but I was as struck by the question about who’s taking it to the street. It reminded me of something Manuele Colonna said when we were in Rome. By the time I got around to digging out the notebook with that quote Payne had plenty of answers. Among those was one from Ray Daniels, another guy with many beer coats, and these days known as the Circerne dude. He started:

Everyone in the craft industry takes it to the street by living the life of craft beer. Sure there are stars that the punters all clamor to see. But their popularity isn’t based on a pretty face, a million dollar ad campaign or a name made in some other industry and transplanted to beer. The craft beer industry has been built by authentic entrepreneurs who daily breathe life and spirit into their companies and their brands. The accumulation of that personal passion in all its diversity makes this industry interesting and engaging. And it makes the beer distinctive.

You can read the rest here.

Sure enough, what Colonna said fits right in and is a reminder the US doesn’t have a monopoly when it comes to beer passion. When Colonna and two partners started Ma Che Siette Venuti a Fa, a bar which serves beer from small breweries from Italy to Denmark, in 2001 nobody in Rome sold craft beer.

Bar owners went with “name” beers pushed by distributors. “They weren’t interested in what the people in the streets wanted,” Colonna said. “Not the normal people.”

Payne’s request does suggest another question: Do cutting edge beers represent the real soul of beer? Not going near that one today.


Diacetyl: An assignment for you, Daniel Bradford

Jay Brooks lists his “Top 10 Least Favorite Defects” (part of an ongoing series he posts each Tuesday) and diacetyl isn’t in there. A bit of a surprise, until Jay explains he has a high tolerance for that buttery, butterscotch flavor.

Popcorn, diacytelIn this case he means diacetyl must be there at a pretty high level before he notices it. For some, many in fact, drinkers tolerance means they consider diacetyl desirable.

I am reminded of the presentation that Lauren Salazar, who oversees the quality control program at New Belgium Brewing, made at the National Homebrewers Conference in Denver almost two years ago. The “doctored” beers included Fat Tire dosed so heavily with diacetyl that it smelled like standing in front of the popcorn machine in a movie theater.

“Diacetyl is one of the first words you learn (in judging beer),” she said. “We are American brewers. We are paid to hate diacetyl. You know how much British brewers hate us for that?”

Anyway, this is a shout out to you, Daniel Bradford. For those of you haven’t noticed, the All About Beer magazine publisher has set out on a quest to become a beer expert. I have no idea how to define a “beer expert” but I think understanding diacetyl would be a step in the right direction.

Of course that means spending time in the countryside around Bamberg, Germany, drinking fresh lagers. Then heading across the border to the Czech Republic for more golden lagers. You’ll also have to down plenty of pints of cask ale in the UK, then compare those experiences with drinking cask ales in the US Northeast. You’ll encounter diacetyl, for sure. How tolerant should you be?

This is not simply a matter of understanding precusors, VDK and all that good stuff. Or arguing whether Northwest hops and diacetyl don’t like each other. There’s something cultural involved.

Looking forward to your report, Daniel.


The tyranny of the tasting note

Last week during The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers New York Times chief wine critic Eric Asimov called for an end to tasting notes.

At least if I read blogger Alder Yarrow (Vinography) correctly. Yarrow, who is one of my favorite wine writers, nicely recaps Asimov’s presentation called “The Tyranny of the Tasting Note,” mostly agrees and then disagrees a bit. He also has a link to another of his own posts you must read: Messages In a Bottle: Appreciating Wine in Context.

But back to what Asimov had to say, channeled through Yarrow:

The biggest barrier to increased wine appreciation amongst the general public, Eric began, lies in a chronic anxiety that marks most novice’s relationship to wine. This anxiety arises from most people’s assumption that to enjoy wine they need to know something about it, and manifests most obviously in the conversations that they have with wine critics and writers whenever they meet them, e.g.:

“I know I should know something more about wine, and I really would like to learn. I’ve been meaning to take a class…or is there one book that you really recommend?”

In short, most people assume that the key to enjoying wine lies in the path towards connoisseurship, rather than simply drinking wine with a meal as if it is just another food group. Most people, it seems, wrongly put wine on a pedestal, according it some status that is not reserved for anything else.

Not a place we should want to see beer headed. To understand what I mean make sure to read the comments, like this one:

When two or more people get together in the same room with a glass of wine, the same peculiar dance begins. One or more folks will swirl it and make a comment on the legs as they perform the Viewing of the Wine; one or more will wave the glass under their nose and raise their eyebrows as they enact the Smelling of the Wine; one or more will take a drink and immediately swallow in the Tasting of the Wine. Then, almost synchronously, a quiet reflection will come upon the room as the entire gaggle, even those who have not performed The Tasting, engage in the Judging of the Wine. Some will over-emphasize the importance of the Tasting of the Wine and not enough of the Judging; those folks will often follow up with the Spilling of the Wine, and sometimes (sadly enough) the eventual Purging of the Wine.

My point is that this is not natural human behavior.

Beer — or at least those who brew it, who sell it, love it and speak on its behalf — would like to be afforded the same respect as wine. But it is one thing to be taken as seriously as wine and another to be taken as seriously as wine.


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