Archive | November, 2010

Hold your nose, then sip

Is that your nose?OK, not necessarily something you want to do in public. But both a good way to learn a little more about the beer you are drinking and your own senses.

I was reminded of the value of tasting without first smelling while grinding through an academic paper related to hops (I try to tackle several a day because I have quite a collection). In this case the researchers were evaluating the bitterness intensity of various samples, and panelists wore nose plugs.

No need to do that at home. A simple squeeze will do. Take a sip without the benefit of “olfactory influences,” then one with. Or vice versa. Doesn’t even have to be a hop-heavy beer, although the results can be pretty interesting with a dry-hopped one.

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The beer garden? Look for the chestnut trees

Urban Chestnut Brewing

This is Urban Chestnut Brewing in St. Louis. I was there Friday, the brewhouse arrived today, and I expect they’ll have beer long before I get back.

Founders Florian Kuplent and Dave Wolfe have a great story. Probably one of the reasons Draft magazine named UCBC one of a dozen breweries to watch in 2011 although they haven’t brewed a drop of beer.

So I’m looking forward to returning and reporting what I find. I just wanted to show you the place. The Midtown Alley neighborhood certainly is urban. They brewery occupies a building, erected in 1928, that was a garage and now is on the National Register of Historic Places (rest assured they won’t be covering the front with signs).

The massive white building looming in the background is an art deco Spanish mission mansion built in 1921 and designed by famous architect Thomas P. Barnett. It’s for sale. There’s a Baptist church across the street from that, the Salvation Army has an outpost a few blocks to the east, the famous Fox Theater is three blocks to the west, Pappy’s Smokehouse is right around the corner (next to Buffalo Brewing) and . . . well, you get the picture.

You’re gonna want to sit at the communal tables in front of the tap room (in the distance). That’s where the beer garden will be. They are planting chestnut trees.

I’m going to type that again because it makes me smile. They are planting chestnut trees.

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The book that never was

Michael Jackson’s Great American Beers: And Where to Find Them

Jackson spent several months in the United States in 1995 and 1996 researching this book. He conducted “pod tastings” where brewers brought him what they considered their best beers. One described the experience: “. . . like a an audience with the Pope.”

In 2002 he explained what happened (or didn’t happen):

“I visited every state in the course of my research (even brewery-less Mississippi). Unfortunately, by the time I had written half the book, about 50 per cent of the material was already out of date. Breweries were opening and closing at such a rate, brewers moving jobs, and product-lines changing, that the task became impossible. Despite being a very fast worker, I realised that, the time I finished the book, 75 per cent of it would be outdated. I have never in my career abandoned a project, but this one is sidelined for the moment.’

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Sunday viewing (and reading)

I appreciate moving pictures as much as the next person, so for both those who like to watch and those who like to read . . .

* Jack Curtin just posted something you should know about Sam Calagione.

* Laura Deibler sent along the YouTube video of her husband, Dan, singing a variation on Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” It speaks to the power of music, homebrewing and Trappist beer. Plus I really like the wink Dan gives Laura just over two minutes in.

* You think it was just chance that on the morning that Discovery channel debuted “Brew Masters” CBS Sunday Morning had a beer segment? The beer part, including Charlie Bamforth and Wynkoop Brewing, starts about four minutes in.

* Sorry, couldn’t figure out how to embed the next video. It’s from the Bloomberg The Mentor series. Jim Koch of Boston Beer provides advice to the guys from Oceanside Ale Works in Southern California. You gotta laugh when they say that Samuel Adams spills more beer than they brew in a year. At least if you are old enough to remember Jim Koch saying the same thing about Anheuser-Busch and his brewing company.

* I’m a sucker for any beer description that includes “It’s a cracker.” But throw in a Ry Cooder reference and you’re getting a link from me. Even if you are describing a Black IPA called Conqueror.

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Firestone Walker 11 and friends

Firestone Walker Anniversary BeersFriday I snapped a photo of the three bottles of Firestone Walker anniversary beers, posted them to posterous and promised drinking notes, an oath automatically repeated at Twitter and Facebook. A bad idea, and I can’t even blame the alcohol since we hadn’t poured any beer yet. Fact is I didn’t take any notes and I’m not sure I’d have much new to tell you if I had.

You can find glowing adjectives all over the Internet, and I’ve already written about the process in detail, both here and in print. So a few brief observations:

- One of my friends at the table said he’d read some comments on the line that Eleven (released in 2007) had started to go downhill. Not the bottle we opened, at least to my taste. I have one left and will wait at least two years before opening it.

- Last year, when we pulled together bottles of Eleven, 12 and 13 we decided just two at a time was probably enough. We really should stick to that plan. The newest release and one older. Certainly they are different, more like cousins than siblings, but they also are 10% abv (if you are lucky enough to have squirreled away a 10) and stronger. Besides, it’s a anniversary beer, one that a lot of work went into, and opening a single bottle seems to be a celebration unto itself.

- I sometimes struggle to explain what I mean when using the word texture to describe a beer. It’s not just mouthfeel, but also the layers of flavors and aromas. The best way to understand what I mean it so drink one of these anniversary beers.

- The 14 (the newest, in case all these numbers we leaving you feeling a little lost) has a hop brightness not present since the 10. Will that change how the beer ages? Be patient.

Of course we talked about the beers as we drank them — even looked at the blending notes — as well as other things beer and things not beer. That’s the way it should work.

When I got home I thought of the conversation I had with winemaker Matt Trevisan that became New Beer Rule 6 (The best beer was in the empty glass.)

Once again, I ran out of Eleven first. Dang, I’m going to miss that beer. It will be a tough last bottle to open.

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