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Archive | April, 2009

Speaking of beers with caffeine

Apologies, but I have to point something else out that bugged me watching Beer Wars. When you left the theater did you think that Moonshot was the only beer laced with caffeine? (Excepting the 849 coffee beers out there; mmmm, Meantime Coffee.)

Not true. There’s also MateVeza Yerba Mate gold, and now Yerba Mate IPA. The Gold was introduced in 2007 and brewed under contract by Butte Creek in Chico, Calif. Now Mendocino Brewing makes the beers, which are certified organic. Like coffee, yerba mate contains the alkaloid caffeine. Unlike coffee, yerba mate also contains theobromine, the active alkaloid in chocolate that is a mild, long-lasting stimulant.

Each 12-ounce serving of Yerba Mate IPA — let’s get right to the strong stuff — contains roughly equal to one-half cup of coffee. Seven percent strong with 60 IBU.

I’d like to say I’d take it black, but it’s more like a orange, bright and clear. Somewhat grassy, blame the hops and/or the Yerba Mate. Think of smelling orange blossoms when your hands are just a bit muddy. It certainly qualifies as a “hop tea.”

 

French Laundry loves local beer

OK, it’s not the French Laundry restaurant in Napa Valley ($240 tasting menu, hard-to-get reservations, $50 corkage fee if you bring your own wine), but French Laundry Café & Market in Fenton, Michigan, has announced it will pour only Michigan beers.

In a press release, bartender Jon Foley says the restaurants’s nine handles will offer “the spectrum of styles, coming from a variety of Michigan breweries including Arbor Brewing, Arcadia Ales, Atwater, Bell’s, Darkhorse, Dragonmead, Founders, Frog Island (Michigan Brewing Company), King’s, New Holland, Sherwood, Short’s and The Livery.” Featured selections will be posted each week at the restaurant as well as online.

“This marks a major triumph for us as a business, especially in our solidarity with the Michigan brewing industry,” says owner Mark Hamel. “We believe Michigan makes the best beer in the country and now there’s finally going to be a place to get consistent Michigan draft in Genesse County.”

Looks like a place to head for American Craft Beer Week.

 

Thank god for the road

Michael Jackson at Pilsner Urquell

There’s the sky, here’s the earth
This is the road for all it’s worth
It’s a ribbon, it’s a river, it’s a wave
It’s an arrow and it’s a snake
It’s asleep and it’s awake
And it stretches from the cradle to the grave

Thank God for the road
And the stars that shine above it
No matter what you once thought of it
You always knew you’d come to love it

We are in the midst of an unplanned stop at home, hoping RV repairs go fast so we can be winging toward California. One thing we learned quickly is that when this adventure ends in August we’ll need to do some serious adjusting. Gonna miss the road.

Lyrics: By Butch Hancock, from “Thank God for the Road” on the Flatlanders’ “Hills and Valleys.”
Photo: Looking south across remains of a building at Terlingua Ghost Town just outside of Big Bend National Park.

 

Guinness 250: Can you taste the difference?

Guinness 250Am I so out if it a missed the previous announcement and perhaps considerable discussion?

Last week Guinness launched its 250th Anniversary Stout in the United States. It’s a “new” stout and certainly is being poured in a new manner. The press release states, “This marks the first new stout offering in the U.S. from Guinness since 1966 – more than 40 years ago – when Guinness draught was first introduced to Americans.”

In fact, the press release talks about dispense before what might have changed in the beer itself.

The commemorative stout is carbonated, not nitrogenated like the traditional Guinness Draught. As a result, it has a near-white frothy stout beer head of larger bubble size than that of Guinness Draught, and is poured on draught in a one-part pour or gently from a bottle (as opposed to the two-part pour unique to Guinness draught).

Just so you know, in the press release GUINNESS always appears in capital letters. Yell it from the rooftops.

The press release also states the new stout “uses a unique brewhouse process. This process blends two malt types in a double ‘brew stream’ along with water from the Wicklow Hills, and of course as in all Guinness Stouts, roasted barley to create the deep rich color and enigmatic flavor.”

I will also give you this verbatim because it would seem to indicate the beer undergoes longer fermentation than the non-anniversary stout: “The fermentation process for the Guinness 250 Anniversary Stout uses Guinness’ own yeast which has been extended to allow for more conversion of the natural sugars. The result is a more malty flavor profile.”

“The Guinness 250 Anniversary Stout has a different look and taste than anything our fans have ever experienced,” Guinness brewer Fergal Murray says, “but still retains the familiar character for which Guinness is so well known.”

I’m looking forward to seeing the results of some side-by-side blind tastings.

 

Pilsner Urquell: 5 weeks does not equal 3 months

After touring the Pilsner Urquell brewery last November I promised that when I got a chance I’d take a look at Michael Jackson’s video report from 1989 (the Beer Hunter series) to compare what he saw then with what Pilsner Urquell says is how long they’ve “always” lagered beer.

Michael Jackson at Pilsner Urquell

I tell you, that’s one great half hour of video. Discovery really needs to reissue the three hours of video in DVD form (before our VCR dies). Incredible details about the wooden vessels the brewery was using, the coopering, the whole process. I love watching Jackson wander through the caves, and the Hitchcockian moment where a giant barrel appears to be stalking him. You get thirsty seeing him march around open wooden fermenters, then he climbs a ladder to loom over one and explain that this is one of the things that make Pilsner Urquell different, presumably better. He says that others in the industry have told the brewery it is crazy not to modernize but that its leaders swear they won’t abandon open fermentation. Sigh.

But back to the question at hand. These days Pilsner Urquell lagers its beers five weeks, claiming this is the same amount of time as when Josef Groll first brewed the beer in 1842. On the other hand, the Beer Hunter report in 1989? “Three months,” which on my calendar is one quarter of a year (13 weeks).

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