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I’ll Drink to That Too

January 6, 2011

Hat tip: DarwinCatholic

A Niche Unfulfilled

December 31, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!  I apologize for sporadic posting, but I figure that I should post when I have something to say rather than fill this space with meaningless drivel.  🙂

At any rate, my family and I just returned from a brief trip across the Cascade Mountains to take in the snow and Bavarian culture of Leavenworth, WA.  It was a nice trip, however the town’s hotels were booked solid, so we elected to stay a bit farther down the road in Wenatchee.  Lovely places, both.

While east of the Cascades, I felt it my duty to find and enjoy some brews from that part of Washington.  It was harder than I imagined.  Several stores were visited, and yet the closest thing I found was Snoqualmie, which is still west of of the Cascades.  What I had my heart set on, was Iron Horse, Roslyn or maybe something out of Spokane.  Most of what I found were the ubiquitous Red Hooks and Pyramids.  Sorry, but I can get that at home with ease.

It was near the end of our trip that I noticed a bottle or two of Iron Horse Quilters Irish Death in the window of a wine tasting boutique in Leavenworth.  Yes, a wine tasting boutique.  It was a quaint little place, and I think it’s called Bavarian Cellars (but I wasn’t paying too close attention since I was out on a beer hunt).  From what I can tell, it’s associated with the Maison de Padgett Winery.  That all well and good, but I was there for beer.

And so beer is what I tasted.  Iron Horse had both the Quilters Irish Death and the Hop Spoke there representing Central and Easter Washington.  Western Washington had one sole entry from Elysian… Jasmine IPA.  California was represented by Stone with the Arrogant Bastard and the Smoked Porter.  Oregon was represented by Ninkasi with the Believer Double Red Ale, Total Domination IPA, and Tricerahops Double IPA.  It was an okay selection.  I was not in the least wowed.  But hey, they had Iron Horse beers.

I recognize we are dealing with a wine boutique, so beer seems to be an afterthought.  I credit them for being the only place in town that recognizes a market for boutique beer.  Hell, it brought me in.  Even though it brought me in, I don’t know that it can hold me.  So, I’d offer some advice:

  • The beers were relatively flat… and warm.  Not ideal tasting conditions.  A refrigerated draught system would enhance both aspects of the beers available.
  • The focus wasn’t apparent, unless it was continental United States on the Pacific Coast.  It seemed that they cast their nets a bit wide.  Washington alone boasts enough breweries to round out the tasting menu.  Moreover, this beer menu could be split for “tours” of Washington’s different regions.
  • Leavenworth is a little town, where just about every business (whether German-inspired or not) decks itself out in old-world Bavarian decor.  The beer menu could also be expanded to include authentic German beers.  Additionally, two Washington breweries (Alpine and Baron) also specialize in traditional German style beers.  Why not add some German flare?
  • The gal pouring me samples was pleasant, but I believe she learned more about the beer from me than I did from her.  Yes, I am a beer geek, and I am always eager to learn more about the beer which I consume.  Yes, this establishment’s core business is wine.  Yet, I felt that this was something else that was lacking: a resident beer expert.

All was not lost!  I did enjoy the beer that was offered in the tasting.  The conversation about/over the beer was pleasant.  I also came away with two bottles of Quilters Irish Death (although I had intended to pick up the hop spoke instead).

What struck me, though, is that this place was the only establishment in town offering beer in the manner it did.  Several wineries had tasting rooms throughout the shopping district.  Yet we are talking about a town with tons of tourists and a German flare.  Something is amiss.  I smell an opportunity for enterprising beer geek… one that I’d take if I weren’t so set on moving back to Texas someday.

Lastly, Andreas Keller has a killer jägerschnitzel.

How evolved are you?

December 6, 2010

Head on over to Beer and Whiskey Brothers and weigh in!

Repeal Day

December 5, 2010

It’s December 5th.  It’s a special day around here.  For one, it’s my birthday.  Secondly, and more relevant to more people, it’s Repeal Day.

The 21st Amendment

Ratified December 5, 1933

Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

Section 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use there in of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

Section 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

Today is an important day.  It is a day in history, in which liberty won out.  Liberty was chosen over the nanny state.  Today, we celebrate Repeal Day, the day in which the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified by three quarters of the states.  It repealed Prohibition by repealing the 18th amendment.

During that dark period crime rose and the societal ills for which alcohol was blamed were not solved.  Breweries and distilleries across the nation closed down.  Prior to Prohibition, there were over 1400 breweries in the United States producing a variety of styles.  Prohibition was repealed by degrees.  First, the Volstead Act, defining “intoxicating liquors”, was amended in April 1933 by the Cullen-Harrison Act to provide that beer with a strength of up to 3.2% alcohol was not “intoxicating”, and thus not prohibited.  This paved the way for American light lager to dominate the beer landscape for decades thereafter.  But times change.  People are discovering the tremendous variety of beer available with craft beer.  This is were we are today:

Raise a glass, and toast to our freedom.

I’m going loco for the Loko!

November 18, 2010

In the new lately, there has been a flurry of stories regarding caffeinated malt beverages like Four Loko.  Here in Washington, the ban on them begins today.  Last week, I decided to see what all the fuss was about seeing that the ban was imminent.  For $2.69 + tax, I bought a can of the “Orange Blend.”  (Yeah, that’s Miller Lite glass.  Fitting, no?)

I poured a little out into pint glass, as I wanted to see what the stuff looked like.  Electric orange.  Carbonation is next to non-existent.  Frankly, I think the little fizz I got was due to packaging (freshness).

The stuff smelled of booze.  At 12% ABV, that isn’t surprising.  As a craft beer lover, I was set to be unimpressed.  The stuff tasted awful.  It reminded me of the orange punch at McDonald’s when I was a kid.  It’s sweet.  Very sweet.   But, into the sink it went.  Totally sink-worthy.

Spiked orange punch with caffeine infused.  Yeah.  I understand the popularity.  It goes down easy (if you like the taste).  So, what we have is a beverage that is sweet, caffeinated, boozy, and cheap.  This is why it’s popular.  You take out the caffeine, and it will still be popular.  But what I really don’t understand is the quick rush to ban this stuff.  Or maybe I do.

It all started with a series of instances where college kids were ending up hospitalized or dead because they drank so much of the stuff.  But last time I checked, binge drinking was nothing new under the sun for college kids.  Even before the thought occurred to someone to combine alcohol and caffeine, people were getting themselves into the same sort of trouble.

Here’s my problem.  It’s reactionary.  It isn’t well thought out.  It’s anti-liberty.  And it fails to address the real issues of binge drinking and underage drinking.  Personally, I hate the stuff.  But I’m also offended at the notion that I’m not wise enough to make a responsible decisions regarding my alcohol consumption.  Potentially lost in all this mayhem, are craft beers brewed with tea, chocolate or coffee.  But for now, it appears we’ve avoided that tragedy.

This saga isn’t over yet.  Four Loko appears to be altering the recipe to remove caffeine.  So we’ll be left with a beverage that is sweet, boozy, and cheap.  I don’t expect much to change.  I think that the real issue is the sweetness of the beverage.  It will still be easy to drink, like chugging kool-aid.  It will still be cheap for the budget-conscious, college-age boozer.  Those under 21 will still find access to it by way of fake id’s or “of-age” friends.  We’ll still see alcohol poisoning.

In the end, this is political theater and strikes me as foul.

“Girlie Beer”

November 5, 2010

What the hell is that?  Jay Brooks is on the story.  From what I gather, it’s intended to be the latest marketing ploy to get women interested in beer.  If you ask me, it’s a project that is doomed to fail.  Why?

  • It removes or maintains the focus away from the flavor of beer.
    As if rhinestones on my goblet will improve the flavor.  Try brewing something with flavor.  Expand your repertoire to include pale, amber, and brown ales.  Experiment with yeast and hops.  Try a sour.  Try a sour with fruit.  The world of beer is complex and varied.  So are people’s taste buds.  A friend’s wife loves hop forward beers.  My wife would rather have a kriek.  This same friend does not care for Cascade hops so much.  Me, I enjoy them.  This hardly seems like a gender issue.
  • It stereotypes women.
    The message is that women care more about packaging rather than flavor.  Really?  You can’t be serious.  The message is that women can’t handle or dislike strong, complex flavors.  Come again?  See above.
  • This really about your bottom line and increased sales.
    It isn’t really about the beer at all.  This is evident from the products produced by your massive breweries.  It is evident in your marketing campaigns.  It is evident in the other gimmicks used to package your products.  Wide mouth cans anyone?  How about the vortex bottle?  And temperature sensitive labels?  I believe Butthead said it best:  “Huh, huhhuhuh. Cool.”


There’s a Tear in my Beer

November 4, 2010

Boo.  Ugh.  Phooey.  Yeah, I’m upset.  No, I’m not gonna go postal, but I am disappointed in how one of the measures did on the state ballot.  It appears that I1100 is not going to pass.  I wanted it to pass.  I wanted the state out of the retail liquor business.  I wanted them to focus on enforcement.  I wanted to see how things would change without the mandatory three-tier distribution system.  But alas, it all comes down to a massive FAIL… a public relations fail.  Stefan Sharansky has the scoop.


…and contrast:

The NO Campaign put together an effective message.  Flawed as it may be, it drove home a point.  The point was that I1100 and its cousin I1105 were bad for our communities.  Mothers and emergency responders where brought in to discuss the potential havoc these initiatives could have on our communities.

The Yes Campaign, was less than effective.  The video posted here shows a state employee or representative or bureaucrat in a rather clumsy fashion.  The message… the state is in the business for the money.  Period.

Cynicism versus fear.  Human nature tells me that fear will win out every time.

Election Season

October 18, 2010

I dislike election season.  No, I hate it.  I’m something of a political junkie, but I hate the continuous onslaught of campaign ads.  I find nearly all of them misleading.  They are complete with misrepresentations, shoddy statistical analysis, and more.  As someone who values truth and honesty, this grates on me.

But how does this relate to beer?  I’ll tell you.  I talked about it a few months back, but now things are picking up steam.  One of the initiatives in question does more than just remove the state of Washington from selling liquor, it also takes on the much-maligned three-tier system.  Producers of beer, wine, and other spirits would be able to circumvent the distributor, if they so choose.  But, the WA Brewer’s Guild is against it.  Much attention is given to the potential negative effects should this initiative pass in November.  It’s an interesting move, really, since back in July it seemed as if their opposition was based mostly on the economic impact.  Now, it’s more about protection?  From their initial press release, they were suspicious of a freer market.  Now, based on the video ads, I deduce that now they have faith in the market and now our communities will be destroyed buy this initiative.  I’m not sure I understand their message, except for “NO, don’t change it!”  Seems to be a fear of the unknown.  But to get a peek at what MAY be in the future of WA, we can look to Stefan Sharansky’s comparison to WA and CA.  CA is more lax or liberal in their alcohol regulations, but we don’t see any of the ill effects the “No” campaign would have you believe.

Here are a few more links to Stefan’s work on this issue:

In the end, I’d like to see I-1100 pass.  I think it will be a net good for the public.  My beloved craft breweries will survive because I’ll still refuse to purchase mass-produced light lager, and will continue to direct my beer purchases towards the local producers.  I know many more WA beer drinkers will do the same.  And I believe the fear-mongering to be unfounded.  I vote in favor of freedom, and I-1100 is a vote for greater freedom.

Mixing Business and Pleasure

October 12, 2010

This past weekend, I had the misfortune (or is that fortune?) of being away from home on business travel.  Early Friday morning, I was wisked away from the wet, cloudy Puget Sound region down to warm, arid southern California.  Palmdale, to be specific.  First impressions: wow, it’s brown.  Sage brush everywhere.  And joshua trees.  This isn’t the SoCal that most people envision.  No, this place is the desert.  It has a different climate than Los Angeles, the closest major city.

Being one that is adverse to boredom, I began to set about planning for at least one excursion into the city.  I had also recalled that Mike, from Thank Heaven for Beer had moved to the Los Angeles area some time ago.  I contacted Mike, to set up a time to meet, share some beer and chat.  We settled on Saturday, based on the way my work schedule was shaping up.  Well, the way things were going, my schedule kept getting delayed later and later.  Finally, by about 7:00 pm, I was back to my hotel room, starving and plum tired.  I was tempted to just grab a quick bite to eat and call it a night.

I’m glad I didn’t.  I called Mike for directions, grabbed my stuff, and hopped back into the car.  Pasadena, here I come!  (Holy crap, Californians drive FAST!)  Mike and his wife were wonderful hosts.  Their warm hospitality filled my belly with Cincinnati chili and some great homebrew.  First up, Mike served his interpretation of an English pale ale.  It was crisp and refreshing.  You know when you get one of these because the hops are more subdued, giving room for a slightly maltier nose than its American counterpart.  Next, we shared a sour beer with wheat and rye.  This beer was probably my favorite of them all.  Even though it weighs in at around 8 or 9% ABV, this is a beer that would taste absolutely amazing after an afternoon of yard work.  The nose on this beer was rather funky, like a wet gym sock.  Don’t let that deceive you, though.  The flavor was anything but funky.  The alcohol was well-disguised with a really nice tang from the “bugs.”

Mike also shared some lambic-style beer that is still a work in progress to some extent.  About seven months in, it had some of that tartness you’d expect.  Right now, none of it is sitting on fruit, although he several ideas for what to do with this one.  Fruit.  Geuze.

Probably the most unique of the beers Mike shared, was his Death by Chocolate.  He’s chronicled some of his efforts on this beer.  Weighing in at about 23% ABV, this is a dessert beer.  I can see myself sipping this beer with a slice of decadent chocolate cheesecake.  Sipping this beer took me back to various times where I was able to sip on some port.  Simply put, this beer is much like port, but made with barley.  Raisins and chocolate really came out in the flavor profile.

While all this beer was being consumed, great conversation was taking place as well.  We spent a couple hours chatting about all sorts of things beer related.  Future brewery plans.  Current plans for a nano-brewing effort.  The local beer scene.  Large vs. small breweries.  The future of craft beer.  Homebrew successes and failures.

Due to the events earlier in the day, our visit was somewhat limited.  But sometimes, these things can’t be avoided.  I may have the opportunity to make it back down there.  We’ll see.  You can bet that I’ll make every effort to make another visit happen if I’m down that way again.  Not only is Mike a great guy and host, he’s an accomplished brewer that has a bright future in the industry.  You can see from his arsenal of brews that he’s not a one-trick pony.  No, he shoots for the extraordinary and is having great success in that regard.

Beer Czar

October 1, 2010

Much ado has been made in recently months about President Obama’s various czars.  It is true, that he has appointed more czars for various different purposes thus far.  However, he isn’t alone, and edges out George W. Bush.  What many of you may not know is that the appointment of czars is nothing new: it’s a nearly 80-year-old tradition.

Seeing that Barack Obama is only about halfway into his first term, he may encounter a need for more czars.  In fact, I think that craft beer is one area that could benefit from the increased influence of the federal executive branch.  For too long, craft beer has been off the radar for most Americans.  This was painfully obvious at the so-called “Beer Summit” last year.  It is time to increase awareness of craft beer and the appointment of a beer czar is the way to do it.  Are you listening, Mr. President?

I hereby volunteer to serve my country and fellow citizens in this capacity.