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Archive | February, 2011

Session #49 reminder: Get ‘regular’

The SessionDon’t forget The Session #49 on Friday, when the theme is “regular beer.”

The Session is open to anybody, so if you don’t have one and want to write a post I’ll publish it here. If you are a blogger, email me with the URL Friday 4 or post a comment here, and by early the next week I’ll write a wrap up with links to all the posts.

As the announcement should have made clear this is a pretty open-ended topic, but just to help out . . . one excerpt from Travels With Barley and one thought from a brewer.

In Travels author Ken Well wraps up a chapter recounting a night drinking with Dogfish Head Craft Brewery founder Sam Calagione.

“Late that night at the Rusty Rudder, Calagione and I sat at on open-air table with a couple of his buddies we’d bumped into, sipping Shelter Pale and just getting acquainted. And I knew Sam was a real Beer Guy, not a Beer Geek, when toward the end of evening, with our cash rapidly depleting and an ATM nowhere in sight, we decided to extend the night by one more beer. So we pooled our pitiful reserve of pocket-crumpled dollar bills and loose change and ordered — what else? — two pints of the really cheap Miller Lite on tap.

“And drank them, I must report, with great pleasure.”

When I asked Port Brewing/Lost Abbey co-founder and brewing director Tomme Arthur to define regular beer he got right to the point.

“Regular beer is the stuff tickers* find boring. Enough said.”


* Soon, maybe even this week, I will post a mini-review of “BEERTICKERS: Beyond the ale.” An even shorter version: it’s worth your time and the cost of a rental.

Is that a beer fault? Or intentional choice?

Rather than languishing as the 22nd comment on the previous post this question from Tom seems worth making a new post.

There seems to be a conflation between intentionality and fault running through a good portion of the comments here. My question: if AB continually produces a beer with a particular flavor profile, with components that are marked as a fault by certain drinkers but not by others, doesn’t that point to a certain level of intentionality on AB’s part that makes that fault not so much a fault but an intentional choice by the brewery? Sure, some people may or may not like it, but to call something a fault would imply the brewer didn’t intend it to be in the beer. And I’m guessing AB wants that flavor in their beer. Whether we as drinkers like it or not. A rough similar analogy would be with diacetyl/butter flavors in British beers–there seems to be a lot more tolerance for this as a flavor component of beer in England than in the United States. Thoughts?

Not to rehash the analytic versus hedonistic argument of last week but acetaldehyde hardly seems to be what provokes such vitriol toward Budweiser and its brethren at the beer ratings sites.

Just for the heck of it I took a quick look at the Budweiser ratings at Rate Beer. (As a quick aside, seems curious that Bud had been rated 2,994 times, while the “impossible to get” Westvleteren 12 a comparatively high 1,886 times.)

No mention of green apple, grassy aroma or flavor or acetic (vinegar) character, all attributes of acetaldehyde.

Anyway, Tom asks a good question.

Do you feel the hate? Do you feel the love? Do you drink the Bud?

Questions, questions, they abound today in the beer blogosphere.

* Mike Sweeney at STL Hops asks, “Can a beer ever be life changing?” It sprang from a tweet about Pliney the Younger: “Great beer = yes! Life changing = no” Read the answers (comments).

* Mark Dredge of Pencil an Spoon fame tries various beers with Jambalaya. As much as he loves Thornbridge Jaipur it doesn’t work with the dish. But Budweiser does.

I’ve got no problems drinking Budweiser and as a beer it fascinates me, particularly its history. It’s very pale, doesn’t bellow out a huge aroma (most people drink it straight from the bottle so forget late hops), but has that classic bite of apple. It’s clean and crisp, cold from the fridge it’s uncomplicated and easy to drink: it is what it is. With jambalaya… it was perfect. I wanted it to just be ok, but it was spot on.

I ask, why aren’t more people who take the time to drive across a town or a country to find a beer different this open minded about Budweiser?

* Alan McLeod, not surprisingly, manages to pose a pocketful of questions without using a question mark. (Disclaimer, and he politely links this direction.) You need to head on over to understand the headline at the top.

I had just viewed Zak Avery’s video salute to Bell’s Hopslam before I got to reading Alan. Curiously — those of you studying Struck and White today will understand no irony was involved &#151 when I went to add comment that this is where he could find love and good video I found he’d already done that himself.

Will blogs go the way of Miller Chill?

Stuff recently noticed, perhaps because a press release headed my way or I was goofing off.

  • Blogs Wane as the Young Drift to Sites Like Twitter (NY Times) – No mention of beer or wine or cucumber blogs, but this gets my obligatory bit of navel gazing out of the way early this week.
  • Saint Arnold Brewing had made Saint Arnold Farmer Brown’s Ale the third release in its “Movable Yeast” series: Saint Arnold Farmer Brown’s Ale. It is an alternate version of Saint Arnold Brown Ale made with saison yeast. A limited supply of 60 barrels of Saint Arnold Farmer Brown’s Ale is being released today and will be available on tap at the brewery (for weekday tours only) and at select bars and restaurants throughout Texas. This release was created by brewing a regular batch of Saint Arnold Brown Ale and splitting the wort into two 60 barrel fermenters. One fermenter was pitched with the usual Saint Arnold yeast to make Saint Arnold Brown Ale and the second fermenter was pitched with saison yeast to create Saint Arnold Farmer Brown’s Ale. (From a press release)
  • More love for the Cicerone program (NY Times) – A headline that reads “A Quest to Add Sophistication to Beer’s Appeal” only scares me a little bit. Impressive fact: 3,500 people have passed the beer server exam, which means there are more Cicerones of some rank than there are active BJCP judges . . . and the number of Cicerones is growing much faster. I would have put this story at the top, but I didn’t want Ray Daniels’ head to get any bigger.
  • Summit Brewing in St. Paul, Minn., is swtiching from twist-off caps to pry-off caps. Pry-off caps offer a much tighter seal to prevent oxygen from entering the bottle, which means beer may stay fresher longer. A subject I’m not done ragging about. (From a press release)
  • “It’s the coolest thing, the beer business.” “It’s the coolest industry on the planet. Doesn’t everybody want to be in the beer business?” Love that quote from John Stroh III. On Feb. 8, 1985, Detroit’s Stroh Brewing Co. announced it was closing its brewery after 135 years. At the time, it was the third-largest beermaker in the U.S., with a capacity of 7 million barrels. That was just seven months after Larry Bell sold his first beer, made in a 15-gallon soup pot at his small brewery in Kalamazoo. The story is part of a package at about Michigan’s “beer boom.”
  • Drink that IPA now (please)

    Six of the top eight new “craft beer” brands in the United States in 2010 were IPAs of some sort (sometimes “imperial” or “double,” sorry Mr. B), according to Symphony IRI, which tracks beer sales in various channels.

    Curiously, although “American-Style India Pale” annually draws more entries than any other category at the Great American Beer Festival, before 2010 no single brand could be found at Walmarts across the country. Now there are three — Sierra Nevada Torpedo, New Belgium Ranger IPA and Samuel Adams Latitude 48. Sierra Nevada introduced Torpedo in 2009, the other two were new in 2010 (Latitude for just the last four months and still it was the second best selling new “craft beer,” behind Ranger.)

    What does this mean? That IPA is going mainstream, going viral, about to trend on Twitter? Something like that. Plus thousands more people will get the story behind India Pale Ale wrong. (Save yourself the pain — just tell them to go buy Amber, Black & Gold and/or Hops and Glory.)

    One bit of explanation. Symphony IRI tracks packaged goods through a variety of channels, such as supermarkets, convenience stores and big box stores. The places lots of people buy lots of stuff. IRI doesn’t get data from every single liquor store, including perhaps the one where you buy special beers. They don’t track sales in bars or brewpubs. Places where IPA was already on the radar.

    However, when the Brewers Association finishes collecting information from its members and announces “craft beer” sales totals for 2010 they’ll likely reflect what Dan Wandel of IRI told BA members in a conference call on Thursday. He reported that dollars sales of what IRI calls craft beer (pretty much the same definition as the BA) increased 14 percent and case sales 12 percent.

    Supermarket sales of Torpedo soared 154 percent in 2010. IRI now lists it as the 11th best selling craft brand (its definition, so no Blue Moon White, which would be No. 1). However that’s classifying seasonals and variety packages as brands. The top-selling six actual beers are Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, New Belgium Fat Tire, Shiner Bock, Widmer Hefeweizen and Torpedo.

    Two more data points: IRI began tracking 53 additional IPA brands in 2010 and IPA’s share of what constitutes the IRI craft universe grew from 9 percent to 11 percent.

    Many of these new drinkers may well tweet “I’m drinking such and such IPA at such and such pub” without even knowing that’s short of India Pale Ale (see above). That might be just as well, because they start hearing about beers brewed for a long journey as sea, built to last, full of hops that act as preservatives and they’re going to be tempted to stick a few in their cellar to see how they age.

    An interesting idea, but not necessarily a good one for American IPAs. To quote from the Brewers Association style guidelines, “The style is further characterized by fruity, floral and citrus-like American-variety hop character.” And those American hop aromas — love ’em or hate ’em — are highly volatile. Much more so than the hops that would have flavored nineteenth century India Pale Ales.

    After a couple of months many of those floral, citrusy, catty aromas that identify an American IPA will fade from even the most carefully bottled and handled beers. Subject them to a little bit of heat or agitation in transit — you know, like on a moving boat — and they’ll be plain old pale ales even sooner.

    The best time to drink an American IPA and have it taste like the brewer intended was 600 words ago, when you read the headline.

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