Archive | January, 2012

Input from blog readers please; and more Monday musing

If you read blogs and don’t write a blog then your answer to the question Alan McLeod asks, “What If I Posted A Series Of Posts For A Fee?” will likely be read with great interest by Alan and others who write blogs.

Go. Comment.

Otherwise, a few links I’ve collected in recent weeks and haven’t managed to passing along.

* Alaskan Brewing has finalized its biofuels project. Soon it will be three years since I wrote about Alaskan getting its mash filter press online. There’s a bottom line here beyond the financial bottom line. This is good for the Alaskan environment.

* Best of the rest, I guess. The explanation Livability came up with for how it picked its “Top 10 Beer Cities” could be more illuminating. “Most beer lovers already know about the big beer cities. The keg has been tapped on places like Portland, Asheville, Fort Collins, NYC, and Chicago. What we’ve been brewing is a list of places beer nuts might miss. These are cities where great beer is being made and more importantly it’s being enjoyed, even celebrated.” No. 1 on this list of Albuquerque. For the record, I’d rather be drinking beer right now in Albuquerque than Asheville, but that’s my personal bias. However, Asheville has a population of 83,393 and Albquerque’s is 448,607, so I am struggling with the concept of “big.”

* Tableside whole-hop infusions. “Here’s how it works: Order any Bull & Bush (a Denver brewpub) beer on tap and then pick one of five hops varietals grown by Jack Rabbit Hill Hops in the Western Slope town of Hotchkiss. The beer will be served in a French press with the crumbled hops cones added. The customer can then choose how long to wait before pouring the beer and tasting the effect.”

This is going to result in a lot of crappy beer experiences. But I predict the idea has legs.

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What would Procol Harum drink?

Bring on the vestal virgins.

The White IPAs are upon us. This is not a bad idea, marrying Belgian White beers with New World hops, at least until somebody starts writing new style guidelines. Last year’s collaboration beers from Deschutes Brewery and Boulevard Brewing proved that. Boulevard’s version even won a medal at the Great American Beer Festival (in the American-Belgo-Style Ale category).

The skinny:

* Deschutes Chainbreaker White I.P.A. It will released be in the Northwest in March. Not the same recipe as in the collaboration with Boulevard (no sage, for one thing). 5.6% ABV, 60 IBUs.

* Samuel Adams Whitewater IPA. Available now in the Brewer’s Choice Variety 12-Pack and soon in six-packs. Hops from the American Northwest and Australia. 5.8% ABV.

* Saranac White IPA. “We’ve taken a delicious American IPA bursting with Citra hops, and given it a whole new direction by adding the refreshing fruitiness of orange peel & coriander and the softening characters of wheat malt and oats.” 6% ABV.

And, yes, there’s every chance I posted this only so I could add still more links to different versions of “Whiter Shade of Pale” . . .
- A version with strings (tent included).
- Joe Cocker. I apologize if you get an obnoxious ad.
- Gov’t Mule.
- Percy Sledge. Not at his best, but comes with lyrics you can read.
- Annie Lennox. Honest to goodness, you have different Annie Lennox versions to choose from. I went with artsy.
- Willie Nelson. Yes, there’s every chance I’ve spent too much time fully vetting these videos.

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Chocolate memories, courtesy of Boulevard

What if Dumon in Brugge sold Boulevard Chocolate Ale?

Boulevard Smokestack Chocolate AleHaving once accidentally driven a car into a large pedestrian-only square in Brugge I can assure you this is a city best enjoyed on foot. You can just stop and stare at the architecture. That the streets are narrow and winding becomes charming instead of exasperating. And there are the chocolate shops.

We are partial to Chocolatier Dumon. I cannot guarantee the chocolate there is any better, although I know it’s pretty good. First of all, I’m a sucker for molded chocolate “art,” even if everything we tried to bring back from our first trip didn’t make it in one piece. Second, the variety is spectacular. It’s a great place to just stand and inhale.

And that was the first thing I thought of when I worked the cork free of a bottle of Boulevard’s Smokestack Chocolate Ale. Cocoa dusted truffles. Rich dark fruits. Caramel and rum. A rush of aromas that themselves must be fattening.

Plus, on a personal note, there’s the Brugge (or Bruges) factor. In the movie “In Bruges” Colin Farrell’s character (Ray) mutters, “Maybe that’s what hell is, the entire rest of eternity spent in f*cking Bruges.” He’s nuts. You want to spend New Year’s Eve here; you hope your niece marries somebody Flemish and the reception is here on a bright June day. No doubt that Chocolatier Dumon and the city of Brugge itself provide a halo effect for Chocolate Ale.

Last year seemingly every beer drinking soul in Kansas City went nutso over this beer brewed in collaboration with local chocolate hero chef Christopher Elbow. There were stories about people following delivery trucks and trying to bribe drivers into selling them a bottle directly. Some liquor stores were asking $25 a bottle (instead of the standard $9-$12) and we won’t even mention eBay. The beer disappeared fast.

I can’t tell you how fast it went here in St. Louis, because Sierra and I were still in New Mexico. However a month after the madness had subsided in Kansas City we visited St. Louis and drank it at Pi Pizzeria on Delmar. It was even brighter on tap.

Last year Boulevard produced 1,600 cases of Chocolate Ale, a standard run for a Smokestack seasonal. This year they brewed two-and-a-half times that, more than any of its limited releases ever. It’s on the shelves. I’m not predicting how long it will last.

I’m pretty sure they won’t have to advertise every bottle comes with a chocolate memory of Brugge. But they could.

Feb. 15: Boulevard Brewing announced it was offering refunds on a limited number of batches — up to a third of the bottles of chocolate ale sold — that the brewery said didn’t meet its standards. You can watch the announcement here.

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The essence of beer lies in its aromatic gas

Emptying beer mugs in Munich

It was nearly one hundred years between the time philosopher Henry Finck proposed humans literally have a “second way of smelling” and University of Pennsylvania psychologist Paul Rozin established the role of retronasal smell in perception of flavor.

In 1886, Finck suggested that smell was responsible for at least two-thirds of gastronomic enjoyment. In an essay titled “The Gastronomic Value of Odours” he began: “Amusing experiments may be made showing that without this sense (smell) it is commonly quite impossible to distinguish between different articles of food and drink. Blindfold a person and make him clasp his nose tightly, then put into his mouth successively small pieces of beef, mutton, veal, and pork, and it is safe to predict that he will not be able to tell one morsel from another. The same results will be obtained with chicken, turkey, and duck; with pieces of almond, walnut, hazelnut . . .”

This parlor trick may also be attempted with beer. Much of what we call the flavor of beer — particularly hop flavor — seems to be happening in the mouth, but really our olfactory system is responsible.

Further in his essay Finck turns to the topic of beer. Perhaps it will help you in studying for the Cicerone exam.

Tea and coffee might be called feminine beverages, inasmuch as the fair sex seem on the whole to be more addicted to their use than men. But for the drink next on our list the female population of most countries does not show such a decided appreciation. The reason commonly given by ladies why they do not like beer is that it is “so bitter;” but the real reason is that women are rarely enabled to drink beer under favourable circumstance. The essense of beer lies in its aromatic gas. If that is allowed to escape the beer tastes stale, flat, and bitter, and gives rise to headaches and indigestion; whereas, with the gas, it is palatable, wholesome, and an aid to digestion. To get it in this state it must be taken from a keg freshly tapped and runk on the spot without much delay; and since women of the higher classes in this country (the United States) do not frequent localities where beer is kept on tap, they never have an opportunity to find out how good beer really “tastes,” for bottled beer consumed at home is always vastly inferior to keg beer. In Munich, however, which is the paradise of beer-drinkers, women are fond of beer as the men, because it is considered perfectly proper for the best families to visit the festively illuminated beer-gardens in the evening.

In Munich, too, every mug and glass has a lid to prevent the gas from escaping too rapidly. This gas must not be confounded with the artificial foam which dishonest bar tenders produce in a glass by holding it far below the faucet, a practice which not only compels the gues to pay for half a glass of empty foam, but which allows the real gas to escape prematurely. Every beer glass in Munich has a mark up to which the liquid must reach by a legal enactment, consequently little or no foam is dished up with beer, and the brewers admit that the best beer has no foam on top. Waiters, in pour out bottled beer invariably make the mistake of holding up the bottle as high as possible so as to get a foam.

From wine and most other drinks beer differs in this, that it must be swallowed in large doses to be full appreciated. The most confirmed beer-drinker is overcome with nausea if he attempts to empty a glass with a spoon; and under no circumstances should a glass serve more than three or four swallows. The greatest amount of bliss is apparently vouchsafed to those who can gulp down a whole pint at ounce. Such magicians are as common as blackberries in Germany; and they often give vent to their satisfaction by a sort of gastronomic grunt — a prolonged ääh! A Munich Fliegende Blätter once had a picture of an artist sitting in front of a country tavern drinking beer. The host watches him with a look of dissatisfaction, and finally asks: “Don’t you like my beer” “Certainly, replied the arits; “it is very good.” “Why then,” retorted the host, “don you say ääh! when you finish a glass.”

Drink up.

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So who’s drinking all this ‘new’ beer?

Maps, tents, mountains, beer. Taking a piss by the side of the road. Set to music. I’m a sucker for these sorts of things. Don’t know how I missed this video — about a) Deschutes beer, b) central Oregon, c) young people with tattoos, d) freedom, e) fill in the blank — for more than a year. I suggest watching it full screen, and that you won’t be back. That’s OK. It stands on it’s own.

I found “Landmarks” because about a week ago Deschutes Brewery began selling beer in St. Louis amidst considerable excitement, and a local story included a link. It’s a commercial, yes, that speaks to a specific audience. Enjoy it and move on, or if you plan to spend part Monday thinking about the FUTURE OF BEER (please read that with your James Earl Jones voice) then understand this is part of it.

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