Last night I walked into the local bottleshop on my way home from work to check out a Pittsburgh Beer Week promotion– discounted pints of a certain IPA that comes out at every year at Christmas. Not sure I agree with hanging on to a keg of this particular beer until this late in the year, but I sort of understand it. Some (misguided) people often like age this beer for up to a year, and it seems to hold up reasonably well compared to most other beers in the style.
It tasted pretty good, and I perused the shelves looking for anything new. Lo and behold, they had tallboys of Oskar Blues G’Knight– a beer that holds a special place in my heart. It was a true gateway beer for me, back when it was called Gordon, that helped me understand what a hoppy beer could be. For me, a fresh, piney, danktastic can of G’Knight is about as good as American craft beer gets. But I almost never drink it. I can’t find it fresh.
Oskar Blues has a large presence in Pennsylvania. Most bottleshops have conspicuous (usually unrefrigerated) OB displays packed with sweet looking cans of Dale’s Pale Ale, Old Chub, and the like. The flagship Dale’s does a brisk business and you can generally find new cans of it fairly easily. But G’Knight, whether it’s the elevated ABV, the new name, or some other factor, just doesn’t sell as well. So it tends to sit on the shelves.
The reason I know this is because OB launched G’Knight in 16 oz cans during GABF week. Since then, I’ve kept an eye out for the new format, because new format = fresh beer. I drank some G’Knight tallboys in New York last December for a memorial gathering for Magnus Skullsplitter, and it tasted great. But this is the first time I’ve seen it displayed at my local bottleshop.
So I ask they guy working behind the counter about them– are they new? I’ve had my eye out for them. He replied: “We’ve had them in the back for awhile now. We had some of the regular cans to get rid of, and if we put the new ones out it would highlight the difference. So once the old ones were gone, we brought them out. They’re not that new.”
Halfway into my recent trip to London, I was feeling somewhat disconcerted by my failure to ferret out a variety of beer experiences. Sure, I’d wandered down to the pub for a pint and a pie, and althought there was plenty of local color (the man sitting next to me was singing “Got to Pick a Pocket or Two” and no, I am not making that up), the pint in question was a pretty forgettable. I’d also had a plate of fish and chips and a London Pride in a cowboy-themed restaurant. Sure. Why not? Still, I had yet to find a really transformative experience.
I wandered the neighborhood, beer radar pinging away. At last, I saw it–a small chalkboard advertising London-brewed craft beer. I inquired within the establishment, and was rewarded with a porter from The Kernel. And it was probably the best porter I have ever had–rich, smooth, and wonderfully warming against the damp, chilly London spring. After further research, I discovered that The Kernel brewery was open for tastings every Saturday, which happened to be the next day. It was ON. Read the rest of this entry »
While enjoying a nice Southern California morning the other week, a conversation with a friend who had spent the last 7 years of his life living in China quickly turned from surfing to beer (as Aleheads conversations often do). We were discussing the burgeoning beer business and how it is gradually catching on in places that one does not usually associate with beer, such as Central America and Japan. I mentioned how cool it would be to be a “beer pioneer” in one of these places, sent by the hop gods to rescue a population from the bland, mass produced pale lager that had come to define their regions beer, earning the respect and admiration from locals and expats alike.
The conversation then went something like this:
Me: “I bet China would be an interesting place to open a craft brewery. I wonder if it would catch on, or how people would react to beers that are so drastically different from what they are used to.”
This beer is older than our last blog post. Not a good sign.
Late February is not the best time of year to live in the northeastern United States. Days are brutish and short. Weather conditions fluctuate wildly; winter storms Magnus and Nemo rain terror upon the morning commuters. You must shovel, and salt. Football is over for five months. Joe Flacco and Ray Lewis are national heroes. Dark times, indeed.
But all is not lost, for you are a beer drinker! February means Hopslam. It means Nugget Nectar and Palate Wrecker. It means bushels of Nugget, Simcoe, Citra, and Columbus packed into this year’s iterations of highly anticipated seasonal offerings from the nation’s best breweries. Depending where you live, these beers are snatched up by thirsty consumers within a few weeks, and often the very same day they are unloaded from the distributor’s truck. On the far coast, Vinnie and Natalie from Russian River feted by the California state legislature beneath the banner: Welcome! Pliny the Younger; hopped, fermented sugar water transcends beverage to become celebrated American institution!
It’s no secret that the utilization of flavor and aroma hops fuel the craft beer explosion in the US. According to RateBeer, nearly 1 of every 10 new beers introduced in 2012 was IPA. And why not? As a beer consumer, once you’ve acquired the taste, a hopbomb always sounds good. I’ve convinced myself that IPA is the ideal beer style to pair with sushi, Mexican food, and barbecue. Is this because the citric/ floral/ coniferous flavors match objectively with raw fish or rice and beans? Naw, I’ve just rationalized a way to enjoy my favorite beers with my favorite foods. I’m an inveterate hophead.
But once you’ve contracted the hoplust, you have a problem on your hands. When the largest grocer in Pittsburgh, Giant Eagle, finally circumvented draconian PA liquor laws through licensing and began to sell beer in stores, I was elated. GE entering the beer market presented Pennsylvania consumers with an economic option between distributors which sold affordable beer but only by the case, and the specialty bottle shops which sold singles and six-packs at dramatically inflated prices. So Giant Eagle’s prices were good, and the selection was surprisingly excellent. But a few years into the experiment, I’ve noticed a disappointing trend- a lot of old beer sitting on the shelves. And a lot of these are IPA’s. Read the rest of this entry »
I’m afraid it’s gotten rather late in the season to post this kind of thing, especially considering that Germany’s real Octoberfest celebration has been over for nearly a month, but I figure better late than never. You should still be able to find pretty much all of these beers on the shelves at large package stores.
And now, on to the concept. Despite writing in the past about my appreciation for the drinkable and bready/biscuity character of octoberfest brews, I have to admit that when I drink them, they’re typically American-made versions of the style, albeit ones that are “true to their roots” like Capital Oktoberfest. I really don’t like the overly sweet, caramel-heavy, generally “orangey-red lager” that some American breweries make as festbiers. But at the same time, I’ve often been quite remiss about tasting examples that are actually German in origin. Indeed, I don’t often find myself drinking beer produced in Germany proper, and I don’t think I’m alone on this among fellow aleheads in the U.S. I like to try to buy American craft brews, and some of them do great German styles. But I was curious about what kind of differences would present themselves in actual German brews.
And so, I found myself at the package store, looking for festbiers that are actually made in Germany. I ended up with five, and decided to compare them against each other. You’ll have to pardon me for including breweries like Spaten, which are owned by InBev. I went with the selection they had and bought singles. The five I ended up with were Spaten Oktoberfestbier, Paulaner Oktoberfest-Marzen, Warsteiner Oktoberfest, Erdinger Oktoberfest-Weissbeer and Ayinger Oktober Fest-Marzen. And now, onto the tastings and comparisons. I’ll rank them all in the end. Read the rest of this entry »
I have to respect an ale…er, lager factory like Wisconsin’s Capital Brewery. Their persona, their brewery’s understanding of self, is so strong and well-developed. They have no real interest in crazy American beer. They just love German and German-y classics, and that’s what they do, and they do them well.
This is a brewery that has made TWELVE DIFFERENT BOCKS, most of them being brewed again year after year. They’ve also made nine other German-style lagers. In their entire history, they have produced SIX ALES. You’d be hard-pressed to find many other breweries making as many different beers as they are, with such a high percentage all being German lagers. They’re true specialists.
That specialism is one of the reasons I get excited each year when we move into September and October, because that’s when Capital really starts to shine with beers like this.
NOTES: 12 oz bottle poured into a pint glass, which just felt more appropriate than my tulip.
This is an old review that I found in the back of my notebook and realized I never typed up. Enjoy!
I sometimes get the feeling that Southern Tier is a bit of an odd craft brewery in beer geek circles. It doesn’t seem like most of the geeky types are at all interested in their regular offerings, but most of their special releases–like say, Mokah or Pumpking–have quite a lot of fans. And yet, they don’t really seem to command respect from all of us, nor are their offerings typically the first to come up in “best of” discussions, with the notable exception of “pumpkin ales.”
I can’t say that I know exactly why this is, but I can say that in my own assessment of their beer lineup, it always seemed like they were making brews for two separate audiences–year-rounders for the casual and newly converted craft beer fans, and out-there stuff for the extreme beer geeks. Few breweries had such a dearth of middle ground.
That was what made Southern Tier’s 2X IPA interesting when they started making it a couple years ago (I’m not sure when it first started showing up). This was a beer that was definitely in the middle, and to be honest I thought it was great. The market needs more beer that straddles a line and that sounds kind of silly, like “value” imperial IPA or “session” DIPAs. That’s what 2X IPA really is, and it’s a tasty beer to boot. And so, when I happened to see “2X Stout” on the store shelves a while back, I thought it might be a similarly good value brew. Unfortunately, I wasn’t quite as pleased by it.
Our friends at Lucky Town Brewing in Madison, MS have been busy to say the least. After months of planning, hard work, scrimping, saving and test-brewing, Lucky Town is finally ready to hit the big time. With the purchase of their first 30-bbl fermentation tank, Mississippi-based Aleheads are now one step closer to sampling Lucky Town’s brews.
Thanks to the efforts of Raise Your Pints, Mississippi is finally allowing high-gravity beer to be sold in-state. That frees up the biggest restriction facing up-and-coming ale factories like Lucky Town. Of course, the legal challenges of brewing in Mississippi are just the tip of the iceberg for a new brewery. There are major financial hurdles to tackle as well. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s a tortured acronym, but I wholly back the sentiment.
Picking a best beer state is pretty easy. It’s California. That’s not taking anything away from Oregon, Colorado, Washington or any other state with a rich and varied brewing tradition. It’s just…there are a LOT more breweries in California than there are elsewhere. More than double the #2 state (Oregon). And we’re not talking about a vast ocean of mediocrity either. With Alesmith, Russian River, Alpine, Kern River, Port, Green Flash, etc…some of the leading lights of the craft beer world make their home in the Golden State.
OK…so what about the best beer city? That’s a little more debatable, but picking anywhere other than Portland is pretty futile. San Francisco, San Diego, Denver, Seattle, Asheville…even Philly and Boston can boast a little. But Portland is head and shoulders above the rest in terms of depth and breadth of local breweries…not to mention the tremendous local support for the industry. I’ve been to all of the big beer towns in the US and there’s just something special about Portland’s love affair with beer. Read the rest of this entry »
Kid Carboy recently emailed the Aleheads group with a Reddit discussion in which a user received an invitation to the “ultra exclusive” Bruery Hoarders Society and felt that they had jumped the shark. The Kid felt that the Bruery was unnecessarily creating an even more exclusive circle within their already limited Bruery Reseve Society and in effect, further stratifying the value of their own releases. The Bruery Reserve Society is at it’s core, a subscription model that, in exchange for a $295 fee per year, provides not only privileges and swag exclusive to the brewery, but also specified allocations of certain releases from Bruery, including the hard to come by releases of Black Tuesday and Chocolate Rain. Membership also provides what is essentially an IPO for the Bruery releases for the year, a chance to buy first rights to the releases before they are available to the public. In a nutshell, you are paying a premium membership fee to get a few bottles of the really good stuff, plus the option to buy further limited quantities of said good stuff, stuff that that Joe Public will most likely never have the chance to purchase outside of a secondary market such as ebay or via a trade. You also get first right to refusal to renew your membership, as they are in limited quantity, but I believe they have increased the number of available slots each year. Read the rest of this entry »
One of the many intriguing beer stories to come out of the ongoing craft brew renaissance in Chicago is Begyle Brewing. Although there are many prospective production breweries, brewpubs and nanobreweries on their way to fruition in the windy city right now, Begyle’s (formerly known as Argyle Brewing) plan for business makes them unique. They intend to model themselves after a CSA organization–which is to say “community-supported agriculture,” except here it’s “community-supported beer.” In return for a membership, patrons of Begyle will be able to fill their growlers on a monthly basis at the brewery with fresh, new beers.
There’s a lot to like here with Begyle, from their hardline stance on building an environmentally conscious brewery from scratch to their desire to integrate their business more fully with their neighborhood than is typical for the industry. I spent a while on the phone with co-owner and brewer Kevin Cary, discussing their plans for the CSA model, their current Kickstarter efforts to raise funding for equipment, and of course, the beer itself.
Kid Carboy: Alright, so you and Matt Ritchey and Brendan Blume are the founders. How did you meet and decide to open a brewery?
Kevin Cary: Matt and I have known each other since we were kids; we went to the same elementary school in Michigan. We ended up as roommates after college, and I had learned to homebrew while I was in school. Matt fell in love with it; he took it even further and wanted to learn every part of the science about it.
Brendan meanwhile operated a pedicab business in Chicago when I met him, and he told me that he had been wanting to start a brewery. This was in the early to mid 2000′s. And now we’re only a month or two from seeing beer on store shelves, although we’ll probably be producing only about 100 barrels this year, tops. Read the rest of this entry »
There are a few big, hot-button issues in the world of craft beer these days. There’s the “Can you still drink beer from former craft breweries owned by macro-brewers?” debate for instance, or the “What really qualifies as ‘session’ beer?” debate.* But the issue of craft beer reselling by non-brewers in the secondary market is the one that generates the most visceral reaction in me personally.
Yesterday, Beerpulse ran a story about beers from certain breweries like Cantillon and Hill Farmstead disappearing from eBay, signifying what may well be the first wave in craft beers being removed from the site entirely, with eBay finally recognizing and admitting to the world at large how ridiculous it was that folks claimed to be spending $100 or more to buy the “collectible bottle” of beer with no intent to consume its contents. It should go without saying that these kinds of sales will just move to other sites such as www.beerauctions.com, but in terms of overall volume, the loss of eBay as a place to unload the goods certainly seems as if it would put a dent in just how much beer is sold on the secondary market. It also means the loss of arguably the most secure and safe means of transaction.
Personally, I say “good on them” to the people making this decision. It was absurd to ever allow such resales with the reasoning of “Urrr, I’m only selling the collector’s bottle and the contents are incidental.” Looking completely past whether or not beer resale is “the right thing to do,” if you’re reading this I feel like you should at least concede the point that the eBay model was always stupid. Is there even one person out there who is buying up bottles of Dark Lord and Kate the Great just to stick them around the house like decorative urns? Find me this person. The only reason such a rationale was ever accepted by the website in the first place was that the folks at eBay clearly had a meeting where the company policy was determined to be ”Look, let’s just look past the illegality of licenseless people selling each other alcohol for as long as we can, k?” Read the rest of this entry »
On the first beer-tasting road trip I ever took a few years ago, I traveled up through southern Wisconsin. On my way, I ran into brews from the Janesville, Wisconsin-based Gray’s Brewing Company on a number of occasions. They always struck me as odd, from the inconsistencies of their packaging, to the off-kilter website. It has since been redesigned, as has that packaging, and I was surprised a few months ago to suddenly find Gray’s beer available in my own neck of the woods in Central Illinois.
Despite my memory of the one oatmeal stout I’d ever had from them being nothing special, there was one other thing to consider: These were beers. Beers that I had never sampled before. And so, I assembled a mixed six-pack with the three available Gray’s Beers. As it turns out, I rolled the dice well on one of the three. I’ve summarized my thoughts on each below, rather than write out full tasting notes. Read the rest of this entry »
I love Chicago Craft Beer Week. The fact that we all get to revel in American Craft Beer Week each year is already cool enough, but when you throw in all the incredible beer events of Chicago Craft Beer Week at the same time, it’s a true embarrassment of riches. In the last two years, I’ve made it to at least one awesome CCBW event during each celebration, like last year’s closing party at Revolution Brewing (it’s at the end of that post, scroll down), and as more and more breweries get on board and the event organization gets better, each year has more and more reasons to get excited.
Reason the first for this year’s third rendition of CCBW: It’s a “week” lasting 11 days. Now that’s my kind of week! You know that when they’ve got so many cool events to cram into a beer festival that 7 days isn’t enough, you’re probably looking at a surplus of opportunities to drink good beer.
As such, with more events being added to the master list daily, you need someone to wade through the big ‘ole list and cherry-pick the absolute coolest of the cool events. That man-boy is ME. So here we go, the coolest events of Chicago Craft Beer Week 2012, arranged in chronological order. Click on each venue in bold to go straight to the event page. Read the rest of this entry »
Ever since writing a post a few months back about the 20-plus breweries in the process of attempting to open in Chicago, I’ve been fortunate enough to develop open lines of communication with some of the city’s nascent brewers. So when I got an email the other day from Arcade Brewery founders Chris Tourre and Lance Curren letting me know about the launch of their new Kickstarter campaign to raise funds and awareness for their project, I knew this would be a good opportunity to conduct an interview and help them get the word out about their unique concept. Through Arcade, these two nouveau brewers are planning a company that will combine unique, comics-based packaging with user-inspired brews.*
Because I interviewed these two simultaneously over the phone, I’ve condensed all of their dialogue into one amorphous mass that I have dubbed “Arcade Brewery.” They didn’t seem to mind.
Los Angeles is a city of diversity, and this reflects a lot in what we eat here, but even more so in what we drink. LA is also a city of dreamers, of folks that punch in every day at gigs to pay the bills, but spend every other waking minute pursuing their passions, their reasons for waking up in the morning and putting on a tie and combing their hair. Some folks are fortunate enough to be able to have multiple passions in their life, and an even smaller slice of those folks who consider beer-making or teaching as those passions. Then, we have Henry Nguyen, who, while pursuing his goal of becoming a university professor, discovered that he really digs beer too, and decided, “Hey, why not do both for a living?” Read the rest of this entry »
Like many Chicago natives, I was caught completely by surprise Monday night when Lagunitas owner Tony Magee dropped a major bombshell via the brewery’s Twitter account, 140 characters at a time. Throwing formal press conferences to the wind, Magee revealed that the company had chosen the exact site of its brand-new brewery, and–get this–it’s on the West Side of Chicago.
Immediately, I began to imagine the impact that this will have on Chicago’s craft beer community. Most of the city’s breweries are quite small in their total output and distribution, with the notable exception of Goose Island. The reason for this is that most of the city’s breweries are relatively new, and as such are fairly small. Some of the city’s best beermakers, like Revolution Brewing and Haymarket Pub and Brewery, are just brewpubs as we speak, but almost all have plans for immediate expansion (such as the Revolution production brewery opening this year). As I covered a few months back, Chicago is a city in the middle of a true craft beer renaissance, with planned brewery projects that number into the dozens. Things have grown like gangbusters in the last five years or so, and within a few more, the number of places producing beer in the city will have doubled.
And now, suddenly, you add a giant into the mix. There isn’t any brewery the size of Lagunitas anywhere within Illinois. When it moves in, with its 250 barrel brewhouse, it is estimated that it will be producing more beer in a year than the likes of Goose Island, Three Floyds, Two Brothers, Half Acre, Revolution, Haymarket, Pipeworks, Finch’s, 5 Rabbit and the rest of the city combined. The overall national production will be even more ridiculous. Granted, only a fraction of that beer will actually be sold and consumed in the Chicago area, where Lagunitas is already distributed, but who knows what kind of reactions and concerns the brewers of Chicago might still have regarding this sort of announcement? Read the rest of this entry »
If there’s one universal truth in the world of craft beer it’s these days, it’s that you, the drinker, will never be able to try all the good beers out there. No matter how many great beers you sample, there will always be more. This is the gift that the explosion of the industry has presented us with; an almost unlimited variety of choice, where new beers and new breweries are circulated into the fold so quickly that it is difficult if not impossible to keep up, provided you live in the right place.
Chicago, undoubtedly, is one of those “right places,” these days. I live downstate, but whenever I’m able to visit Chicago, I can always be sure I’ll come back with a variety of new brews. Thankfully, some of these beers are even headed to central Illinois now. With the first downstate opening of a Binny’s Beverage Depot package store, a number of “Chicago-only” breweries are now available in my neck of the woods.
One of these ale factories is Central Waters Brewing, which produces beer from smack-dab in the center of Wisconsin, in a small town called Amherst. They were a complete unknown to me prior to my five-day Wisconsin Beer Voyage, a year and a half ago, and only recently has their beer become available in Illinois at all. Read the rest of this entry »
Way back when I first started writing for Aleheads and conducted a now totally out-of-date survey of the Chicago brewing scene, one of the places I glossed over in my haste to showcase all the big, burly ales out there was Metropolitan Brewing. Because they focus largely on classical German lager styles, they’ve just never been a place I focused much attention on. Sorry, Metropolitan guys. I know you probably don’t care much, because as I’m always reminded when I visit Chicago, there are plenty of people who are Metropolitan fans. And I’m glad that the brewery has been successful, because there are definitely places and times for traditional German beers.
Anyway. While visiting a Binny’s up in Chicago a few weeks ago, I happened to notice a selection of Metropolitan beers in a mix-a-six rack, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to give them the fair appraisal that they have no doubt deserved since the beginning. So here you go, tasting notes on three different Metropolitan brews. In the end, I was underwhelmed by one and quite impressed by two! Read the rest of this entry »