Friday, May 21, 2010

Why I love beer.

For American Craft Beer Week, I just wanted to state the reasons that I love beer. It has now become a large part of my life and my thinking. Not the alcoholic, “I need a beer right now!” taking over my thinking, but rather simple thoughts about what beer would taste good with lunch, or what new beer is coming out that I look forward to.

The Session series of blogs, and the bloggers who write them, has made me think of beer in a new light. One of the main things that I love about beer is the Beer Culture. Last night was Oliver/Stillwater collaboration release. Just walking into the bar, I knew that I would see some people I know, be able to have conversations with new people and have a great time. Which it was. It also helps that their collaboration beers were awesome.

Walk into a small town brewpub, and whether or not they have great beers, you will almost always find the nicest people in town. Almost always a friendly conversation awaits. It seems that it doesn’t matter if you were a regular there or not.

Another thing that I love about beer is the select distribution. Many beer geeks hate that they cannot get beer from every brewery. Releases of beers like Dark Lord, Pliny the Younger/Elder, Kate the Great or any other great seasonal release are dreamed about by people who live in areas that are not served by the distributors of these beers. I do not mind not getting these beers at my local. Yes, I would love to try them, but what I love even more is when traveling, being able to stop into the local beer bar and pop open a beer that I have been hoping to get. It gives trips a little more special meaning.

And finally, I love the taste, feel and smell of beer. When opening a new beer, I try not to have expectations. I never want to be disappointed, but it happens. I want to be able to think of the beer to the style, but I don’t want to be locked into the mindset. I want each beer to be themselves. When drinking a beer for the first time, it is a great feeling. You are tasting and smelling that the brewers are proud of (usually). In some beers, you can taste the passion and intensity in the brew.

These are some of the reasons why I love beer.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What's new at Max's?

I have just decided to look at Max's website and noticed that it is a new one.  Sleek and smooth, much more info and updated than the last one.  I am glad that they are looking to improve everything else now that the tap lines are new.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Session #39, Collaborations

For this episode of The Session, Mario Rubio over at The Hop Press, asked about Collaboration beers and said for us:
Feel free to have fun with the topic. Drink a collaborative beer. Who’s brewed some of your favorite collaborations? Who have been some of your favorite collaborators? Who would you like to see in a future collaboration?
This is one area that I struggle with.  I can only think of a couple collaborations that stick out in my head.  Maybe I shy away from them, or just don't think much of it when I drink them.  Are all Mikkeller beers considered collaborations?  What about the Rogue John-John, a collaboration between brewer and distiller?  Can a food and beer pairing be a collaboration?  Who knows.

I will talk about beer and a tri-collaboration that I realized this year was delicious and want to try again next year.  Stone (the master collaborator), Jolly Pumpkin and Nogne O have been having a collaborative effort for a Special Holiday Ale for the past two years.  I have just grabbed my first this year, and am looking to find last year's.  The beer uses ingredients from all three brewers, and each brewer takes a turn producing a beer.

This is what I posted on that beer-experience:
The three brewers are taking turns brewing this beer. 
This is the second release of Special Holiday Ale, which was first brewed in San Diego in 2008.  Each brew is following the same recipe, including Michigan chestnuts, white sage from southern California and Norwegian juniper berries, but differences in brewing and aging practices produce different beers.  Cheers to being different! Ska!
The beer pours a deep mahogany, small head that disappears quickly.  The smell is dominated by the sage and juniper, but I could smell a hint of the chestnuts.  On the first sip, I could get the sage (the minty taste was first thing I noticed) and juniper upfront, and the chestnuts came about as the beer warmed a bit.  The malt is hidden by the spices, but is still present (I was tasting a sweetness that I figured was from the malt).  The alcohol is also well hidden, as I expected more from a 8.5% beer.

The Special Holiday Ale was silky smooth in my mouth.  It is a little thinker than I would like, but very very smooth.  I would love to have this beer again, it was a spice bomb, yet very drinkable.
This beer really opened my eyes to something that I will look forward to.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and sometimes still get the taste in my mouth.  Unlike other more heralded collaborations- specifically Life and Limb/Limb and Life- this beer had no external expectations to live up to.  And what came out of it was a very memorable experience.  I am not saying that Life and Limb wasn't a very good beer- it was.  But the crazyness over the beer was much more than the taste of the beer.  

For me, I am looking for a good beer.  If it is a collaboration, I think the benefit is that you are able to taste something from a brewery that it wouldn't normally brew, a style that it doesn't specialize in or sometimes something crazy.  I cannot wait for the next collaboration, just as I cannot wait for the next new beer from any other brewery.  I like to see experimentation, the good and the bad. 

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Homebrewing on Good Eats

One of my favorite shows on television is Good Eats, which airs on the Food Network.  I enjoy it because the host, Alton Brown, explains why you should do what you do when cooking.  I came across this episode today, and thought it was a very basic approach to homebrewing.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Country Roads took me to West Virginia

A couple weeks ago, I traveled to Morgantown, West Virginia for a friend's Bachelor party.  While the going out til the wee hours of the morning then waking up for white water rafting was fun, I found a city that was dying for a great beer culture.  Pieces were starting to get in place, but there were still some major building blocks to go.

As with other states, until a last year West Virginia was a state that didn't allow beers that were over 6%.  Think of all the beer that is left out.  If most beer geeks list their top 10 beers, I would bet 8 wouldn't have been allowed.  Yes, there were ways around it, drive to Maryland or Pennsylvania, but technically, that would be illegal.

I arrived in Morgantown at around 3 on Friday afternoon.  With my friends in the middle of a round of golf, I did what anyone else would do.  Found myself a brewpub.  I headed downtown and arrived at Morgantown Brewing(Brew house in pictures to the above and below)  Lucky for me, they opened 2-3 minutes before I arrived.  I walked into the brewpub and found a great open space, that held two rooms.  The first room had tables and a U-shaped bar.  The second room held the brew house as well as another bar and some video games.

I took up a seat at the bar (I was the only one there, save for the employees) and ordered their Alpha Blonde Ale.  Nice blonde, but nothing that I would go back for.  The beer menu said it perfectly:
"perfect for the session connoisseur and the timid domestic drinker looking for an introductory craft beer. "
It would be a great beer to give someone to introduce them to craft.  It was very mild on the flavors, but there were good flavors there.  After the blonde, I had to give their Zach Morgan IPA a try (it helped that I got a curry chicken salad sandwich to match).  The IPA was a very good, simple IPA.  This was a beer that I thoroughly enjoyed on a beautiful, warm day, if only I had sat outside.

About this time, another guy pulled up to the bar, and we started chatting.  His name, Travis Carrow.  He is doing his best to get good beer to West Virginia, with the creation of West Virginia Craft Beer Appreciation Society.  He updated me on a brew fest they held the weekend before (that would have been awesome to go to).  They were able to get 50 different brews poured for the participants.  He also filled me in on the law changes that have taken place in the past couple of years, and what the beer drinkers of the state are hoping to accomplish in the future.

Travis also introduced me to the Brewer and Assistant Brewer.  Both nice guys doing their best to make good beer. Next I had what I feel was Morgantown Brewing's best beer, 80 Shilling Scotch Ale (even though I do not normally like Scotch ales, this was a very very good one- even though I wouldn't order it again).  The next night, I brought all the guys down for dinner there.  One friend, who works as an assistant brewer at a larger brewery and loves scotch ales, was thrilled with the 80 Shilling, it made his weekend to get such a smooth, malty beer, when you expect the weekend to be full of adjunct lagers.  That next night, I had the Old Morgantown Amber Ale and the Two Weeks Lager, two more good beers, but the prize of the brewpub is the Scotch Ale.  I left the brewpub and headed to a bar that Travis said was the best in town. 

Jay's Getaway is probably not even known to most of the residents or college students in Morgantown, but it will be in my mind for any future trips back. (I had to use a BA page, since it doesn't have a website, the "A" rating is well-worth it.)  Inside there were only 6 taps- yes, the best beer bar in Morgantown has 4 taps.  Where they make up for it is the selection in their fridge.  It is not 400 bottles, truthfully it probably was around 70.  (Beer refridgerator in picture at right.)  But all of the beer was quality.  As I walked into the bar, the bartender was stacking the fridge with the new beer she was able to get it.  She was thrilled to finally get Flying Dog on the shelves.  It was great to hear from a second person that they want to improve Morgantown's beer culture.

It was unique going from a thriving beer city (Baltimore) and visiting a city that wants to have a strong beer bars and breweries.  I could see the people working hard to bring good beer to the city and state, and know in the future Morgantown will be proud of their beer culture.