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Beyond the sexy tap handles

Meantime taps

Nearly 100 news outlets have picked up the Associated Press story about the art of tap handles. That’s understandable, because tap handles can be pretty cool, although you’ll notice I chose to illustrate this story with the simple but elegant tap handles of Meantime Brewing in Greenwich. The photo was shot at the Brew Wharf, part of the Vinopolis complext in London.

But I’m not sure that I ever ordered a beer because it had a great handle. Handles certainly have grabbed my attention at a pub, and if I already knew something about the brewery (or even the beer) then I may have ended up drinking a beer from that tap.

Thus I wish I had written what Roger Baylor offered at the Potable Curmudgeon. Be sure to read clear to the conclusion:

You can’t read a book without cracking the cover. Admire the tap handle from afar, but delve into the true significance of what it represents, and become knowledgeable.

Words to drink by.

Promoting beer knowledge vs. snobbery

Now the New York Times has written about the city’s first beer sommelier, a already discussed here a couple of months ago.

This will lead to a whole ‘nother round of posts in various blogs, and probably touch upon some more interesting ideas (including still more discussion if sommelier is a wine specific word). I promise not to beat you over the head with too many pointers, but here is an interesting thought from Roger Baylor:

This is the part that I’m having a problem embracing:

“We don’t aim towards pub people,” he said. “We’re about the beer geeks, people who want to try a new experience.”

Whether or not there is a word that accurately describes the function of ordering and recommending beer — a beer sommelier — how can it be so blithely divorced from the consciousness of pub people?”

In my experience, that’s where the “geeks” came from in the first place.

Beer knowledge is important, and to disseminate it through the experience and wisdom of a “beer sommelier” is something worthy of praise, but to imbue it with pretentiousness is both unnecessary and potentially self-defeating.

It’s hard enough going out there every day and having to un-do the incessant dumbing down of beer perpetuated by a half-century of megabrewing theory and practice without mimicking the excesses of wine snobbery.

Feel free to discuss.

The Curmudgeon on swillocracy

Roger Baylor (aka the Potable Curmudgeon) has a much more entertaining take on Miller new ad campaign to position Miller Lite “as a smarter, more intelligent light beer” than previously presented here.

You too should wish you could craft lines such as:

Miller is preparing to tout its eternally insipid Lite with a campaign that exalts rules of living for men, and features a motley collection of hack celebrities swilling alcoholic soda pop straight from the bottle.

or

In fact, the megabrewer’s current television advertising spots are so abysmal that they make the ubiquitous fast food and automotive envy blurbs seem Shakespearean by comparison.

Find time to read all of “Corporate bored rooms of the swillocracy.”

Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier

The Potable Curmudgeon Roger Baylor gives us more than one beer to think about when he posts on Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier.

The beer – just now available in the United States and not well known outside of its Bamberg home – is a delight, brimming with flavor beyond what you’d expect in a 4.3% abv beer, in part because of a sly smoky notes.

Matthias TrumMatthais Trum (pictured here giving a tour of the brewery) points out that the lager contains none of the smoked malt that Schlenkerla uses in its the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier-Märzen or the Urbock, but hints of smoke because it is fermented in the same old copper kettles and fermented with the same yeast.

Quite frankly, you might find it more of a hint of smoke, perhaps because of its underlying rustic character – a plus, I think – and just he right dose of local hops. It is a particularly versatile food beer. It would go quite nicely with something as simple as a tossed salad topped with bits of smoked bacon. Perhaps halibut on the grill, marinaded with a curry and coconut sauce. Or something bold like salmon with in a chipotle barbecue sauce.

But back to a bigger point that Baylor makes:

Franconian beers aren’t always as squeaky clean and technically flawless as similar styles brewed elsewhere in Bavaria. This is not intended as an insult, and it is not to imply that they are deficient or flawed.

Rather, it is to suggest that they bear the delightfully quirky imprint of their geographical origins.

In a region where the countryside is never far away from the heart of the largest city, and a hundred breweries, most of them small, operate within a morning’s leisurely drive of Bamberg, the aromas and flavors experienced in a half-liter of solid Franconian lager can be redolent of all things pre-industrial – woodsy and full, smoky and firm, hoppy and dry, sometimes crisp like the lazy autumn evenings imbibing outdoors, and other times mellow and cool as the summer mornings right after opening time when the town elders gather at the Stammtisch to begin another day’s session.

That’s beer in context.

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