Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Seattle-Based Two Beers Brewing Releases Fall Seasonals

Claiming its spot as the first fresh hop style brew released in Seattle, Two Beers Brewing is proud to announce the arrival of its 2011 Fresh Hop. Hop-enthusiasts can enjoy their first taste of this long-awaited beer beginning September 2 at the Two Beers Brewing tasting room, with Fresh Hop hitting shelves in 22-ounce bottles and appearing on tap across the Pacific Northwest beginning September 5. Accompanying Fresh Hop 2011 as Two Beers Brewing’s seasonal offerings are its Heart of Darkness Imperial CDA and Pumpkin Spice Ale.

“This is our favorite time of year,” said Joel VandenBrink, Two Beers Brewing founder and head brewer. “There’s nothing like the flavors of fall and what better way to welcome in the season than with a delicious, handcrafted local beer.”

First brewed in 2009, Fresh Hop enters its third season on the brewery’s fall lineup. This Northwest-inspired brew’s strong citrus aroma – featuring hints of grapefruit and passion fruit – can be attributed to the freshly picked, Yakima Valley-grown Centennial hops used to create it, harvested from Puterbaugh Farms, the family hop farm of Assistant Brewer Tyler Pickel. Copper in color with deep caramel malt tones, Fresh Hop 2011 settles in at 6.2 percent ABV resembling an aggressively dry-hopped mid-range IPA, but packing the punch only fresh hops can deliver. In addition to Centennial hops, this beer features locally grown Amarillo, Simcoe, Nugget and Columbus hops, helping this popular beer achieve its bright and delightfully bitter flavor.

“The creation of this beer is an annual tradition for the Two Beers Brewing team. We get a call that the hops are ready and by that night, we’re in the field pulling the vines down ourselves,” laughed VandenBrink. “We enjoy the work that goes into this beer, as well as the tribute it pays to Washington-grown hops and their important role in our industry.”

“This is an exciting time of year for consumers and pub owners because it’s when you get to experience beer at its best,” said Bob Brenlin, part-owner of Latona Pub, Fiddler’s Inn and Hopvine Pub, all known for their outstanding craft beer selection. “The aromas and flavors created by using freshly picked hops are like none other and the Two Beers Brewing Fresh Hop really delivers – so flavorful and aromatic, it’s as if there are hops just floating in your beer.”

Also joining the Two Beer Brewing tap list in September is the highly anticipated Heart of Darkness Imperial Cascadian Dark Ale (CDA). First brewed this spring as a limited release with help from the crew at LOT No. 3 – a Bellevue-based restaurant owned by the Heavy Restaurant Group – the Heart of Darkness Imperial CDA will be available on tap only at the Two Beers Brewing tasting room and in 22-ounce bottles at select retailers. An imperial version of the emerging “Black IPA” style, the Heart of Darkness Imperial CDA mixes dark roasted specialty malts with highly citrus and floral hops, and is then dry-hopped with Columbus hops for a smooth finish. Flavors of molasses, dark cherry, oak and chocolate will grace the palate of all those that enjoy this unique, handcrafted brew.

Last but not least is the brewery’s popular Pumpkin Spice Ale, expected to hit taps throughout the Northwest beginning October 1. This perfectly spiced, deep copper colored ale – brewed with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and allspice – was met with great interest for its complex flavors and aroma during its first run in fall of 2009. Malt forward with a nutmeg and clove aroma, drinkers of this fall-focused brew will enjoy cinnamon and ginger lingering on the tongue, with allspice rounding out the back end of the palate.

Two Beers Brewing will continue to distribute its five year-round offerings this fall, as well as a host of packaged products. In addition to Fresh Hop 2011 and Heart of Darkness Imperial CDA, craft beer enthusiasts can pick up Persnickety Pale Ale and Evo. IPA in 22-ounce bottles. Also available are Two Beers Brewing’s new 12-ounce cans – sold in six-packs at select retailers including Whole Foods and Central Markets – featuring Panorama Wheat, Evo. IPA and Trailhead ISA.

Offering twelve beers – including five year-round, seven seasonal and a host of intricate infusions – Two Beers Brewing also offers pints, growlers and kegs-to-go in its 4,800-square-foot SoDo brewery and tasting room, in addition to being available on tap in more than 300 restaurants and bars in Washington and Idaho. For more information, be sure to follow Two Beers Brewing on Facebook or visit


Southwest Floridians raise glass to craft brews

Floor-to-ceiling stacks of rainbow-colored six-packs, from Louisiana and Japan and Brazil, line the walls behind the scenes of the newly opened Bell Tower Shops brew pub. In the cooler, which extends the length of the bar and stretches around the patio, tangles of keg lines feed Belgian Trappist ales, dark stouts and American IPAs to the 54 taps (41 of them unique) from which bartenders pour frothy brews to their big-brand-weary patrons.

"We actually don't offer Budweiser or Bud Light or any of those really mainstream domestics here," said Jason Pollard, who works in World of Beer's Tampa-based corporate office.

"We're all about representing the little guys, all of the great microbreweries that are out there doing their thing."

World of Beer is not alone.

It seems the Southwest Florida beer-drinking public is tiring of the same old same old, and restaurateurs are paying attention. From Cape Coral barbecue joints to swanky establishments on Fifth Avenue in Naples, craft beers are taking center stage, or, at least, a prominent side one.

According to Mike Duvall, the specialty brand manager in charge of craft beer for Fort Myers alcohol distributor JJ Taylor, sales of microbrews have skyrocketed in the last four years.

"In 2007, 2008 we had three, maybe four craft beers in our lineup," said Duvall, a self-proclaimed beer geek.

"Today we offer 41 craft breweries, and more from our specialty importers."

Duvall credited JJ Taylor's craft-beer expansion to increased demand, and to an increased supply of Florida-based craft breweries.

In 2007 the state had just three craft brewers distributing beer off-site. In the years since at least 10 more have opened, and even more are in the works.

The critically acclaimed Cigar City Brewing opened in Tampa in 2009, making beer from Cuban espresso, Spanish cedar, guava and citrus woods. The national beer community took note - rated the brewery A-plus world class - as did South Florida restaurants that wanted more locally made products on their menus, and more options for their increasingly beer-savvy clientele.

At Zushi Zushi, a sushi and Thai restaurant on Fort Myers Beach, 28 beers are available on tap and by bottle, including the usual Buds and Millers. But the restaurant also offers Sapporo, Drifter Pale Ale and Franziskaner, a citrus-y German wheat beer beloved by co-owner Barry Schrayer.

"Once we start going through the list people are kind of in shock, but it's nice cause they usually try something different and out of the norm,"said Zushi Zushi manager Gina Mazzant.

That's not always the case.

Buffalo Wild Wings offers 24 draft beers at its east Fort Myers location, but general manager Casey Hill said Bud Light is still king, "probably 10 to 1."

According to Duvall craft beer makes up only about 5 percent of JJ Taylor's beer sales, but that number is up from less than 1 percent four years ago, and zero percent before that.

"Behind Bud, people want a lot of local beers. Cigar City is really selling well for us right now," Hill said.

"With craft beer, it's a better flavor, a better taste. You get more bang for your buck, and people are catching on to that."

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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Loose Cannon American Hop3 Ale - Heavy Seas Brewery - Baltimore, MD

Here I am. It's the middle of the week, and I'm craving a nice Hoppy Ale. On a whim, I figured that I would give the Heavy Seas Brewery a shot. I'd heard good things about it, and considering the fact that it's out of Baltimore...I figured that it certainly couldn't be bad. Baltimore is known for producing some fantastic craft beers...I was hoping that the Heavy Seas lived up to that moniker. Here's what the website had to say:

American Hop3 Ale

Approx 7.25% ABV

Burnished gold with a rich citrus hop aroma, it is wonderfully drinkable with a big hop flavor. We’ve knicknamed it Hop3 (hop cubed) ale to reflect the enormous amount of hops in this beer: over 3 pounds per barrel! It is hopped 3 ways: in the kettle, in the hop back, and dry hopped. Pairs well with strong cheeses and steak. 2nd Place CAMRA award winner at the 2010 Great British Beer Festival



Well I'll was a classic IPA. It certainly was hopped up, but it really didn't blow me away. It truly seemed to follow all of the general rules that one might think of when considering an IPA, but it was not over the top hoppy. In fact, it had a little too much of a creamy aftertaste to it. Cleary, I was a little disappointed. There just wasn't enough bitterness to it. It'll do, but if you truly want a Hopped Up Ale, you're better off going for something a little more like a Dogfish.


6.5/10 - It'll do

Practical uses for beer (besides getting buzzed)

Drinking beer is a pastime and passion for many folks. It's cold, sudsy, refreshing and just plain delicious. But what many beer lovers might not know is that it's also very versatile. Beer can be used in a variety of practical applications (besides getting buzzed) — from plant fertilizer to fire extinguisher.

Here are some interesting practical uses for beer that I've found around the web:

Beer bath: Forget bathing in champagne (which is way too expensive), take a bath in some beer to invigorate and exfoliate your skin. It is said that the yeast in beer makes for softer skin.

Jewelry and copper polish: Drop that tarnished gold and silver into a glass of beer, let the beer's acidity work its magic, then polish it with a dry cloth. It'll be shiny and looking like new in no time. You can also use beer to put some shine on copper pots.

Hair repair and highlighting: Let a glass of beer sit out and go flat (sad, I know) then wash your hair with it to add shine, body and resilience. For natural highlighting, forget the lemon juice and pour beer on your hair, then sit out in the sun to let the rays to the rest (rinsing it out afterward). Dogfish Head Brewery even sells shampoo and soap bars made with their own brew!

Fertilizer: After a party, there always tends to be a few half-full beer bottles and cans lying around (alcohol abuse, if you ask me). But there's a way to reuse this leftover brew to help fertilize plants. Simply pour it out onto the desired spot in your garden or household plants as the yeast and natural extracts in beer make for great plant food.

Fire extinguisher: If you've got a small kitchen or grill fire and no proper fire extinguisher, grab a beer, give it a good shake and spray it over the flames to put them out.

Lawn repair: The fermented sugars in beer can clear up those unsightly brown spots on your lawn as it stimulates plant growth and kills fungi.

Kidney stone and bladder infection relief: Believe it or not, beer could help someone pass a kidney stone or get over a bladder infection as it acts as a diuretic, flushing the kidneys and bladder. Larry L. Alexander, M.D., medical director of Central Florida Regional Hospital's emergency department told Men's Health, "It helps dilate the ureters [the tubes connecting the kidneys and bladder], which may help you pass a stone quicker and easier. Plus, the alcohol will take the edge off the pain." But stay away from this method if you're on antibiotics or narcotic pain medication.

Cooking: And, of course, beer makes for a great meat marinade, is a tasty addition to barbecue sauce and batter (for fried fish, chicken, etc.) and adds extra flavor to baked goods like bread, cookies and cake.


Central Pa. beer lovers join growing movement toward brewing their own

They tinker in garages, basements, driveways and apartment balconies with equipment like turkey fryers, coolers and propane tanks.

Like mad scientists, they concoct recipes for hoppy India pale ales, chocolaty porters and bacon infused stouts.

Some people spend their spare time collecting antique cars, golfing or watching football. Others — and, the ranks are fermenting fast — brew beer.

Home brewing is enjoying a resurgence. It is at least the third or fourth bump in popularity since it was made legal in 1979.

The American Homebrewers Association, based in Boulder, Colo., which had 11,724 members in 2006 has more than doubled its membership this year to 27,000. The group estimates there are more than 1 million home brewers in the United States.


The revival is attributed to a number of factors, from the popularity of microbreweries to books, social media sites and home brew competitions. The do-it-yourself and buy-local movements have helped to boost growth.

“There is a general movement to do things locally, whether that is supporting a local farmer or business, but ultimately when it comes to beer, home brewing is as local as it gets,” said Gary Glass, director of the American Homebrewers Association in Boulder, Col.

The association has noticed a demographic shift as the ranks of brewers age 30 and under, better known as the millennial generation, swells, Glass said.

“The millennials tend to look for means of self-expression, and home brewing is certainly that,” he said.

Those are the 30-year-olds who grew up watching their fathers sip Samuel Adams, Yuengling and Appalachian Brewing Co. The popularity of craft beer has obviously fueled the home brewing trend.

“You know, it’s all the same trends along with microbrewing. It seems like craft beer and the increased number of breweries being opening has increased as well. I think the home brewing trends do follow that a little bit,” said Artie Tafoya, operations manager at Appalachian Brewing Co. in Harrisburg.

Fifteen years ago, when ABC established itself in Harrisburg, Tafoya said people were home brewing but enthusiasts were a little more scattered and a little less organized. Today, there are more home brew groups and organized contests for amateur brewers.

Appalachian hosts an annual home brew contest in May. The winner assists with brewing his or her beer at Appalachian’s brewpub in Hampden Twp.

Between 80 and 120 beers are entered representing several styles. The contest grew out of an onslaught of local home brewers approaching Appalachian to sample their beers.

“We don’t have a lot of time to taste home brews. That’s why we do our contest, to sit down and tell them what we think of their product. Plus, you have to be careful. You don’t want to offend them,” Tafoya said.

He said not everyone has a knack for brewing.

“What I have found with most people, and it falls along the lines of professional brewers, you either make good beer or you don’t,” Tafoya said.


Home brewing looks like a complicated hobby, if only because of the vast amount of equipment and containers required to make it happen.

Beginners can invest $80 to $120 on equipment and an additional $25 to $50 on ingredients. Systems can be as basic or as elaborate as the brewer wants, but the set-up is no indication of how good the beer will turn out, said Alan Miller, a home brewer from Dauphin.

“You can go at this however you want,” he said.

Brewing beer involves a time commitment. Brewing a typical five-gallon batch can swallow up a good part of a day, and that’s in addition to the four or more weeks required to ferment the beer.

So why do these weekend warriors do this, aside from being able to sample the fruits of their hard labor?

“I think there is a variety of reasons people get into it. When we poll members, the common answer is it’s a form of artistic expression, but an equal number of people are into it due to the technical aspects,” Glass said.

This fall, Miller and Albert de Bock of Lower Paxton Twp. will take their home brewing hobby to the next level when they open a small microwbrewery, Millbock Brewing Co.

It will fill an over-sized shed on de Bock’s property and produce about 100 barrels of mostly European style beers with a twist in the first year. De Bock, who is from Holland, said he got hooked on home brewing after he didn’t want to pay the price for beer imported from the Netherlands.

He bought a simple stovetop home brew kit purchased from the Discovery Store. (The beer bombed, but then thanks to a recipe from Food Network chef Alton Brown, de Bock was set on the right path.)

He hasn’t looked back, and even though he’s moving to a larger brewing system, the premise remains the same: “It’s still a hobby at the moment.”

De Bock and Miller are members of the Regional Harrisburg Area Brewers, a midstate home brewing club that meets monthly at Scotzin Bros., beer- and wine-making supply store in Lemoyne.

The group is hosting a Home Brewers Fest Sept. 10 at the Dillsburg Tavern with demonstrations, contests and beer tastings.

“People can’t grasp you can make this and have it be drinkable and good,” Miller said.

One of the founders of ReHAB, Corey Carlisle of West Hanover Twp., said membership in the group is about 100 members, although about 15 members are active and attend the meetings. It’s a great resource for sharing information.

“All these people who have been brewing for years, they’ll answer any questions,” he said.

Carlisle started brewing about 14 years ago. At the time, making beer was a lot cheaper than purchasing it. Today, he brews two or three times a year.

“I think at this point it’s not that it’s cheaper, it’s just that you can make a good beer,” he said.


Monday, August 29, 2011

After decades, beer gardens are back in vogue - Leinenkugel's in Power Plant Live leads the charge in Baltimore

A year ago, Hope Tarr found herself marveling at a new beer garden inBrooklyn.

Tarr, who co-created an iPhone app that tracks beer gardens in New York City, had grown up in Baltimore listening about these outdoor promised lands where German suds flowed freely and the oompa music never stopped.

Her dad used to talk about Blob's Park Bavarian Beer Garden in Jessup reverentially. "The promise was always, when you're old enough, I'll take you to Blob's," she said.

Now, in Brooklyn, she'd realized what the fuss was about. Here was a place that was outdoors, green, and cheap — a rare holy trinity in New York City.

In the last two years, it seems as though everyone else has caught up to her dad. Hugely popular before and during World War II, beer gardens are enjoying a renaissance in the Mid-Atlantic. In 2009, Pittsburgh got the Hofbrauhaus, a replica of a Bavarian beer hall, complete with beer garden. In Washington, the Biergarten Haus, which can accommodate as many as 600 people, opened last summer.

And Baltimore is getting its own new beer garden, Leinenkugel's, which has a soft opening Sept. 2, and a grand opening the following Friday in Power Plant Live.

A year ago, Tarr tracked 50 on the iPhone app she and a partner created, Beer Gardens NYC.

"This April, there were 54. And now there's 64," she said. "All of these have opened from Memorial Day weekend forward. It's truly an explosion."

Cordish Companies was paying attention to the trend, and they've bet that it will play out just as successfully in Baltimore. They've spent $1.6 million to build Leinenkugel's Beer Garden at Power Plant Live, the last piece of the complex's recent $10 million renovation.

Baltimore already has a couple of brew pubs and at least one "high-end beer hall," but when it opens, Leinenkugel's will be the city's first proper beer garden in generations, and a test of Baltimore's appetite for the new trend.

Beer gardens, which consist of family-style seating outdoors and usually serve German-style brews, have been in existence in the United States since the 1800s. They were especially popular in cities with heavy German immigrant populations like New York City and Baltimore.

The historic American Brewery on Gay Street had one as early as 1867, and the Mount Clare Mansion — Baltimore city's only surviving plantation — was also turned into a beer garden after the Civil War.

During and after World War II, the Deutsches Haus, formerly on the corner of Cathedral and Preston streets, was a popular hub for the city's burgeoning German residents and returning GIs.; crowds would gather there at lunch to listen to zither players and oompa music.

But beer gardens hadn't enjoyed that kind of popularity until this most recent boom. Tarr credits the economy with bringing them back in style.

"Beer gardens are very recession-friendly. You can have a good beer for anywhere between three dollars to seven or eight dollars," she said. "Particularly in New York, even a movie and a bite can get pricey. This is a good way to go out on the cheap and still have a good time."

Jake Leinenkugel, the CEO of Leinenkugel's, said consumers are getting pickier about how they spend their entertainment dollar.

"People are spending less money. They're looking for what I call 'better beer experiences,'" he said.

Another contributing factor to the concept's revival is the burgeoning interest in craft beer. People who might not be familiar or interested in German culture are flocking to the new beer gardens because their product comes from microbreweries and has a distinct taste.

"In general, people instead of buying expensive things are moving up on the quality of their beer," said Stephen Demczuk, president of Raven Beer.

In Maryland, there hasn't been a critical mass of German-inspired restaurants since at least 1972, when the Deutsches Haus closed officially. But Blob's Park in Jessup has stayed around, improbably, since 1933, and The Old Stein Inn had been open since 1983 until January, when a fire forced it to close temporarily. Last year, Alewife, which bills itself as a high-end beer hall, opened on the west side. Its owner, Daniel Lanigan, already has two others in Boston.

Demczuk himself is betting on the trend. Later in September, he'll start renovation of the old Haussner's brewery at Eastern Avenue and Clinton Streets, where he'll move production of Raven beer and where he'll build a German-style restaurant and beer garden to be called The Raven Brewery and Pub. He's eyeing an opening date in 2013.

Leinenkugel said he got a visit from Jake Miller, Cordish's business partner, a year ago with a proposition: Cordish's Power Plant Live in Baltimore was expanding and they wanted to incorporate a beer garden to the mix.

"They wanted a connection with an obscure yet known brewery that had a fan base and had an interesting style of beer," Leinenkugel said.

Company vice president Reed Cordish, who had kept an eye the growing popularity of beer halls in New York, saw the concept as "ideal for the city and Power Plant Live."

"To do a true beer garden, you need as much outdoor space as you do indoor space," Cordish said. "It's hard to find much outdoor space in Baltimore city. There's very few restaurants that have significant outdoor patios."

With its all-glass interior, it looks like a pristine greenhouse. The walls can be rolled up depending on the weather, and the roof is also movable. At least 32 brands of beer will be on tap — many Leinenkugel's, but also regional brand names.

Overall, the restaurant will be able to accommodate 125 people indoors and outdoors. In the winter, heating lamps will warm the gravel-covered patio and the fireplace will be turned on.

Food at Leinenkugel's will range $6-$22, and beers will cost anywhere between $5 and $13. There will be premium options as well: the restaurant will have two mobile draft tables that will start at a minimum at $120, said general manager Jesse Ochs.

Leinenkugel was accustomed to tourists and curious gawkers coming to the 144-year-old brewery, which seems ripped from a Hallmark card. It sits on a river in Chippewa Falls, in the scenic north woods of Wisconsin.

Until now, they had never considered taking the name outside of Wisconsin. But the offer from Cordish intrigued him because it came with little risk — they're only licensing the brand name to Power Plant Live.

Already popular in the Midwest, Leinenkugel has tried to aggressively expand its footprint in the Mid-Atlantic in the past five years. It's now at 500 liquor stores and groceries in the region, and its opening the in-name-only Leinenkugel's will provide a new audience of customers.

"They took a lot of pressure off of us," he said. "I would hope it's a win-win. We look at it as a long-term build. What we want to be is one of the top five craft brewers in the Baltimore area."

For Cordish, the stakes are higher. As a brand new construction, it will also be an expensive project — $1.6 million, Cordish said. But the developer, who declined to give specific revenue or sale projections, is bullish on the project.

Baltimore beer experts have mixed feelings about the upcoming beer garden.

Dominic Cantalupo, one of the co-founders of Baltimore Beer Week, said the menu is not as adventurous as the one at Max's Taphouse in Fells Point or Mahaffey's in Canton. But he thinks it'll succeed.

"They have a decent bottle selection, enough to get the beer geeks to go there," he said. But even with competition from the savvier beer bars around, "they'll do well because of the sheer number of people at Power Plant."

Still, Cantalupo and Demczuk said if the trend catches on, it'll be slow.

"Just in our beer week, we had 300-plus events," Cantalupo said. "Philadelphia had over 1,100 events. There's a difference in population."

Tarr is also doubtful beer gardens can sustain their momentum. But she doesn't think they'll be as rare as they were before now.

"Beer gardens are going to be around for a while in a very real way," she said.

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Guinness Draught - Dublin, Ireland

Guinness...just the name either makes you smile, or makes you cringe and contort your face into all kinds of weird positions. The first time that I had to wait 119.53 seconds for a fine pint of Guinness was around 1988. I was a rookie on the John Abbott College Rugby Football Club and part of our "Rookie" night festivities was to "Shoot the boot". This entailed filling a Rugby Boot with a Pint of Guinness and downing it in one huge gulp. It was sort of like shoving an entire loaf of bread down your throat. At the time, I played for another Rugby team...the Beaconsfield RFC, and they served up the black stuff at their local bar...the Green Hornet, therefore, I was never without access to Black Gold. The two Rugby teams, as well as many nights spent at the Old Dublin in the city meant that I was downing a lot of Guinness before I even stepped foot into America.

Am I biased? Maybe a little. But let's start off by pointing out the obvious...Guinness, is not for's not even easy to's more of a tradition and a novelty. People drink it to remember, or maybe to forget. People drink it to feel or taste the history of not just Ireland, but of immigrants everywhere. Guinness has more than flavor, it has experience. Here's what the website had to say:

Guinness® Draught

Swirling clouds tumble as the storm begins to calm, settle, breathe in the moment, then break through the smooth, light head to the bittersweet reward. Unmistakeably GUINNESS®, from the first velvet sip to the last, lingering drop. And every deep-dark satisfying mouthful in between.
Pure beauty. Pure GUINNESS®.

What's the proper way to pour Guinness?

There are six steps for the perfect pour:

1. The first is to make sure you have a clean, dry glass.

2. Second, the glass should be held at a 45-degree angle under the spout.

3. Third, fill the glass three-quarters of the way.

4. The fourth step is let it settle, watching the bubbles trying to get back into the solution.

5. Fifth, fill the rest of the glass, topping it off so the head is proud at the rim.

6. The sixth step is to serve.

That whole piece of theater, that whole ritual, is very important to Guinness. The image of the perfect pint is what we want to have because most people drink their beer with their eyes first. A pint of Guinness should be served in a slightly tulip shaped pint glass (as opposed to the taller European tulip glass or 'Nonic' glass, which contains a ridge approx 3/4 of the way up the glass).


Some other things you may not know about Guinness:

1. After finishing a pint of Guinness you can count the rings in the glass. This will tell you drink how many sips/gulps you took. An Irish person should only see between 5 and 7 rings.

2. If you want to know when a pint of Guinness has properly settled, take a coin and tap the glass gently. If the glass makes a sharp sound, then it has settled. Otherwise if it produces a bland sound then it has some more settling to do.

3. Blackcurrant juice can be added to a pint of Guinness to improve the taste if you are not a fan. This should not be tried in Ireland, as most people will frown upon it.

4. Guinness and steak pie is a common dish that uses Guinness as an ingredient. It is actually quite nice. The alcohol level becomes reduced in the Guinness when the dish has been fully prepared.

5. Putting a shamrock on the Guinness head using the tap is a very skilful task. Not many people can do it properly. You may see shamrocks on the heads but these can be added using a shamrock shaped stamp.


First of all, this is a Stout that bares the standards for all Stouts to meet. The other day, I was at a local Brewery where I ordered their version of a Stout. The first words that came out of the waitresses mouth when I asked about the Stout was that "it was their version of a Guinness". Here was a waitress trying to sell me on their Stout by citing it's resemblance to the that's respect.

When I crack the can, the insides explode. The hiss and rush of carbonation abounds as the head begins to form in the can. I execute the two-part pour at a 45 degree angle and watch as the bubbles churn in the glass. The head forms perfectly and I sit back to enjoy tradition. It's a Stout, so it's bitter, and creamy...and thick. It's everything that it's supposed to be. I try very hard to take the seven sip approach to the pint. Every time I grab a Guinness, I get more than I bargained for. If Guinness had one knock on it, it would be that you had to put so much effort into the execution of the pint. So much work for a pint gets old after awhile...but for a true pint experience, Guinness cannot be beat. It is hands down, a great Stout.


9/10 - Tradition has a name, and it's Guinness

Pottsville-based Yuengling to debut new beer at Pocono Downs' inaugural PA Oktoberfest

Every so often, Yuengling adds a new variety to its roster of beers.

The time has come for the Pottsville-based regional brewing powerhouse to unveil its latest creation - and local beer aficionados will have first dibs on it.

The weekend of Sept. 16 to 18, America's oldest brewery will debut its Oktoberfest seasonal brew at the first PA Oktoberfest at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs in Plains Twp. Presented by Times-Shamrock Communications, the three-day festival is modeled on the German city Munich's ever-popular yearly celebration of Bavarian culture.

The event will include authentic German food, music, dancing and, of course, dozens of types of beers. In addition to Yuengling, Spaten, Blue Moon, Samuel Adams, Victory, Weyerbacher, Beck's, Hofbräu, Straub and Wilkes-Barre-based Stegmaier will be among the brands represented.

The initial idea for Yuengling Oktoberfest came last year when the company's fifth-generation president, Dick Yuengling, announced plans to host an Oktoberfest in Bethlehem. That event is scheduled to take place in late September and early October.

"Basically, I guaranteed I'd make a darn good Oktoberfest in front of 400 people," Mr. Yuengling said with a chuckle during a recent phone interview.

As it happens, the Yuengling team is still in the process of developing the beer, Mr. Yuengling said.

"We've been experimenting: What we want the tasting character to be like. Trying to come up with a good blend of malts and hops," he said. "It's not going to be overwhelming in taste. We don't want to put something out there that's too heavy.

"Basically, we know what we're looking for."

Expanding product line

Oktoberfest will bring the Yuengling product line to nine, from the original Premium to the thick and rich Porter to the flagship Traditional Lager, which put the company in the enviable position it's in today.

The amber-hued "Lager," as it's affectionately known by the local drinking masses, was reintroduced by Yuengling in 1987, two years after Mr. Yuengling took the reins of the company, founded in 1829 by his German immigrant great-great-grandfather, D.G. Yuengling.

The beer first caught on big with students at The Pennsylvania State University. As word of mouth spread, the company realized it was on to something, and began selling its product in the Philadelphia market. It took off there, then spread to states up and down the East Coast.

Sales-wise, Yuengling hasn't had a down year since 1992, said Mr. Yuengling, noting the brewery was selling between 75,000 and 80,000 barrels of beer when he first joined the company more than 50 years ago. Last year, it sold 2.2 million barrels, he said.

By the mid-'90s, demand for the product had exceeded the brewery's capacity, so a second facility was built just outside Pottsville. Then, in 1999, the company purchased the old Stroh's brewery in Tampa, Fla.

At present, Yuengling products are sold in 13 states. In the coming weeks, Ohio will become the 14th, a decision the company made after learning that plenty people there had been making regular Lager runs into western Pennsylvania.

Expansion is important, but not at the expense of the product, said Mr. Yuengling, who went so far as to take the beer out of the New England market several years ago.

"We don't want to get too big. We don't want to open markets just to open markets," he said.

Daily tours

As the brand expands, so does its devoted cult following, which is in abundant evidence during daily tours at the original Pottsville brewery.

"People come in from all over. It just floors me," Mr. Yuengling said. "That's very rewarding, that people come and visit us. And it's from all over the world."

While Mr. Yuengling remains intensely involved in the company's day-to-day operations, he very much has the future of the company in mind. His daughters are being groomed to take over for him, and he's even begun to think about the seventh generation.

"I have eight grandchildren. Hopefully one day they'll step in and take over," he said. "Our goal is longevity. Stay alive, stay healthy, and we'll continue to grow."

The first PA Oktoberfest will take place at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs from Friday, Sept. 16, through Sunday, Sept. 18. The festival, presented by Times-Shamrock Communications, includes German-style food, a wide selection of seasonal beers, music and more. Visit for more information.


Saturday, August 27, 2011

Brooklyn Local 1

Brooklyn...the name conjures up images of a hard working, beer-drinking people that were not afraid of putting in a hard days work, as long as it gave way to a hard-playing evening. This is what I expected from the Brooklyn Brewery. The first time I laid eyes on the tall "Local 1" bottle, I knew that I would be subjected to a serious Brew. I expected the best, so I saved it to enjoy during a seriously anticipated Soccer match over the weekend. The Brooklyn Brewery had been okay so far, until I heard that they were actually a front for a much larger mega-brewery. What the hell, good beer is GOOD beer, and I was more then willing to sample the best that the Steeplechase Smile had to offer. Here's what the website had to say:

Brewed by Brooklyn Brewery
Style: Belgian Strong Ale
Brooklyn, New York USA

In Williamsburg, Brooklyn, we forge barley malt and hops from Germany, aromatic raw sugar from Mauritius and yeast from Belgium into our latest beer, Brooklyn Local 1. Behind the full golden color you'll find an alluring aroma, a dynamic complex of flavors. Belgian flair, Brooklyn fortitude and a dusting of our special yeast. To create this beer, we use the old technique of 100% bottle re-fermentation, a practice now rare even in Europe. It gives this beer a palate of unusual depth. Enjoy it locally or globally, as an aperitif or with your favorite dishes. It is particularly nice with spicy seafood and with fine cheeses.



You know, the last time that I hit up the Brooklyn Brewery, I was a little unimpressed with their Summer Ale...I hate to say it, but history has repeated itself. Once again, I was a little unimpressed by the Brooklyn Boys. Their "Local 1" seemed to lack character. It was a little boring. It's billed as a Strong Ale, but it truly seemed tame. The taste was a little off too. For a strong brew, I could clearly taste too much fruitiness and a serious attempt to over-craft this brew. Disappointed...yes, but probably because I expected so much. In the end, the "Local 1" is a great table beer to be enjoyed with friends.

RATING: 6/10

Saint Stephen's Stout - Sackets Harbor Brewing Co.

This evening, my wife Teri and I headed out to Sackets Harbor to sample the best that the Harbor had to offer, both in food and in Craft Beers. Our destination...the Sackets Harbor Brew Pub located on Main Street. We chose to sit on the deck and to begin our evening with the Duck Nachos and a fine Stout...the Saint Stephen's Stout. First off, let me tell you, the Duck Nachos were outstanding. I know that I don't usually start off talking about food, but the Nachos were just that good. At $10 for six chips...we were weary, but they were amazing. The addition of the blueberry's and apple pieces just made them that much better. As for the Stout, we chose the Saint Stephen's Stout...a Stout that the waitress described as their nod to the world of Guiness and other fine Stouts. Here's what the website had to say:

Saint Stephen's Stout
Color: Rich Chocolate in color
Body: heavy
Aroma: malt, hints of chocolate
Alcohol %/v: 6.4

St. Stephens Stout is an award winning traditional Irish stout. Brewed with roasted barley flake to enhance the oatmeal texture and hearty flavor. Award winning chocolate malt give this brew its rich color and a hint of freshly ground coffee flavor.



At first I was skeptical. The beer presented as suspect. The head was not as thick as I would have liked it but what the hell, we were being adventurous. It seemed a little watered down though. As I took my first sip, I was pleasantly surprised that it was served at the proper temperature for a Stout, it was warm but not hot. Perhaps this brew had promise. Over dinner, I found that it was a pretty complimentary Ale to the swordfish that I ordered. It was just a really good brew. Creamy but not thick, it was a pleasure. It proved to be pretty easy to drink, with a nice bouquet and a truly pleasant, full-bodied presentation. I was impressed.


8/10 - Not to bad at all

In beer stakes, nobody keeps up with Czechs

PLZEN, Czech Republic — With beer prices roughly the same as water, Czechs are the undisputed world leaders in beer drinking. So, it has been a hit to national pride that their phenomenal thirst has lessened over the last five years.

But, brewers insist things may be looking up in a country where packed bars and beer gardens — and loud foreigners getting their fill of the national drink — are as much a part of the Prague experience as the architecture and meandering Vltava River.

Early indications give hope the slip might be a hiccup: The beer industry association is forecasting an increase of one to three percent in consumption this year.

That would be plenty of beer. According to Credit Suisse's World Map of Beer for 2010, the Czechs drank per capita a belt-busting 161 liters; Germany was a distant second with 109 liters; the British managed 86 liters, and Americans, 79.

For Jiri Vesely, the Czech Beer and Malt Association executive director who recommends a nutritious liter a day for men and two-thirds of that for women, any sign of more beers being downed is as good an economic indicator as any to prove that consumer sentiment is strong.

"People were afraid that they could perhaps lose their job," Vesely told AP, explaining away the drop in sales. "We reached the bottom last year and the first half of the year is quite optimistic."

He predicts a heady five percent jump in exports in addition to the encouraging increase at home. "The horrible weather in the best consumption months — July and August — scared me. But I'm sure from the point of the whole year that there will be a slight increase," he said.

Czech statistics are a little more modest than Credit Suisse's, with preliminary figures pointing to 144 liters drunk per capita for 2010, down from 163.5 liters in 2005 and 150.7 in 2009. That is worrying to brewers and world-renowned brands such as Pilsner Urquell and Budvar.

Production also dipped — and exports fell 10.4 percent year-on-year in 2009 for the first time since the country was created after the split of Czechoslovakia in 1993.

At the Pilsner Urquell brewery an hour's drive from Prague, spokesman Jiri Mareck said the company now exports to 50 markets, with Germany, Slovakia, Britain and the United States the largest recipients.

"We can leverage more to other countries when the European economy is slowing down," he said Friday as visitors toured the grounds and drank the product. Underground, amid huge kegs of beer, water dripped from cold ceilings as a worker held up a candle to check on the color and quality of the fermenting pilsner.

Vesely said a 33 percent increase in excise tax rates since January 2010 has been partly to blame for declining consumption. But wine is also being drunk more these days — much of it made in the Czech Republic.

Vesely argues wine can't compete, going so far as saying that beer is "one of the most healthy beverages that people invented."

"But you have to drink it every evening or every day," he said. "It's no use to leave everything for Friday night."

He believes Czech beer — costing little more than a euro ($1.40) in a bar — is superior that from other countries because of a certain "drinkability."

There "something that's difficult to explain and impossible to measure," he said. It's a "characteristic of beer that makes you drink — even if you're not thirsty."


Friday, August 26, 2011

Belhaven Scottish Ale - Scotland

It's Friday night, and I'm at my local distributor of liquid gold, where I'm debating on which thirst quenching Ale to go with this evening. The Manager approaches me and asks if there was anything in particular that I was looking for? I answer, "Something different...something unfamiliar". She then proceeds to tell me how her current favorite is the Belhaven Scottish Ale.

I'm intrigued. Lately, I've been so focused on American Craft Beers, that maybe, just maybe, I've neglected the Imports? You see, the problem with Imports is just that...they're Imports. They spend a long time traveling to my living room and often, the best part of the beer is lost in travel.

I ask her just what it is that she loved about this beer? She then proceedes to tell me how light and creamy it is, and that it's just a really great smooth beer. I figure that I certainly owe the Imports a little time, so I quickly snatch up one of the few remaining bottles on the shelf. Here's what the website had to say:

Belhaven Scottish Ale

Abv 3.9% and 5.2%

Malty and hoppy, we at Belhaven love the classic Scottish Ale and we've been brewing it longer than any of the other beers we produce. Delivering a sweet, smooth and creamy finish, Scottish Ale has a stunning ruby colour in the glass. Magic.



Like I said, my biggest worry with Imports is that something is lost in travel. The first thing that I wanted to really pay attention with the Belhaven Ale was if there was any carbonation lost or if a little funk was present in the beer. After breaking the seal, there seemed to be no issues. This beer would maintain it's flavor well. The coloring was this fantastic ruby reddish brown, and as I poured, I noticed that it produced just a slight head.

As I took my first sip, I was pleasantly surprised by the smooth creaminess of the brew. It just seemed so light and fluffy. If there was one thing negative that I had to say, it's that it seemed to lack a bit of punch. I like my Ales to pack flavor in...this one just seemed to be a nice, easy drinking Ale. That said, it was far better than any other Pub Ale out of Scotland that I've had the pleasure of trying.


9/10 - One fantastic Beer

Cigar City brewing beer that tastes like Tampa

TAMPA (AP) — When a friend gave Joey Redner a taste of a beer that had been aged with Spanish cedar — the wood used to wrap and box cigars — he knew it was an idea worth stealing.

The aroma and flavor instantly reminded the then avid home brewer of his hometown’s historic Ybor City and the hand-rolled cigars Tampa is famous for. And he knew that if he ever owned a brewery, his beer needed to evoke the same memories.

“It just blew me away because when I smelled it, it was like waking down 7th Avenue in Ybor City, walking past a cigar shop,” said Redner, who now owns Cigar City Brewing. “It was a win/win. It was good and it really pinpointed it on the map as coming from my city.”

Plenty of brewers name their beers for the regions where they are made. But Cigar City takes it further, using ingredients such as Spanish cedar, guava, Cuban espresso and citrus woods to craft beers that also taste of Tampa’s heritage.

Doing so also has helped prop up the craft beer industry in a state once mocked for its offerings. Cigar City has become the most visible brewer in a suddenly hot Florida beer industry.

“Cigar City led the way and said, ‘We’re going to make big beer, we’re going to make hoppy beers, we’re going to have sour beers and funky oak-aged spiced beers’ and the response has been amazing for them,” said Ben Davis, the owner and brewer at Jacksonville’s Intuition Ale Works, which opened last fall. “They’re the best brewery in the state of Florida. They’re definitely bringing credibility to our entire state.”

For years, Florida was a joke among craft beer lovers. “The wasteland” is what Davis said it often was called. For perspective, Portland, Ore., had about as many breweries in its city limits as Florida had in the entire state.

Now Florida craft brewing is seeing a surge. There are only three Florida craft brewers who were distributing beer offsite before 2007 — Dunedin Brewery, Orlando Brewing and Florida Beer, a Melbourne company that bought beer brands that were previously brewed in Key West, Miami and Tampa.

Then Saint Somewhere Brewing Company opened in Tarpon Springs in 2007 and began selling Belgian-style ales. The next year Bold City began brewing in Jacksonville. Then Cigar City launched in 2009. Since then, at least seven breweries have opened around the state, with several more preparing to open.

Redner became a fan of craft beer during a 1994 trip to Portland.

“I spent the rest of my time in Florida trying to find those beers and failing,” Redner said. “And then you start getting into home brewing because you think, ‘Oh, well I’ll just make it myself.’”

He also kept an eye on the market and when he felt interest was growing in Florida for craft beer, he hired brewer Wayne Wambles, who shared his interest in creative recipes.

Tampa’s nickname is “The Big Guava,” so Redner made a Belgian-style saison using guava. Cuban heritage — and Cuban coffee — also is important to the city, so Redner made an ale that included Cuban roasted espresso. He and Wambles also took one of their ale recipes and brewed three different batches with three different kinds of mushrooms, achieving an added earthiness to beer. They’ve used peaches, jalapenos, cocoa and pumpkins in their beers. And one of the more popular styles is an oatmeal raisin cookie ale that tastes like a liquid cookie.

He and Wambles now are working on a three-beer series taking a high gravity Belgian-style ale that already has notes of sweet orange peel, coriander and ginger and aging different batches with Spanish cedar, lemon tree wood and grapefruit tree wood.

“The overall idea is for the consumer to drink all three beers side by side and since they’re all the same base beer it allows them to understand what each wood does to the beer,” said Wambles, adding that the Spanish cedar will add grapefruit, sandalwood, clove and white pepper notes while the citrus wood will give the beer tart to sour flavors.

Distribution quickly spread statewide, as well as to Alabama, New York City and Philadelphia.

Many of the guests who come into Cigar City’s tap room end up buying bottles or quart- and gallon-sized growlers to bring home to states where the beer isn’t available. People like Keith Dion, 37, of Savannah, who calls Cigar City “the beer mecca of the South.”

“They’re one of my favorite breweries. They are very creative with their ingredients and push envelopes and take chances and risks which not a lot of breweries do,” said Dion. “They don’t seem afraid here to try new things and to (say) ‘We’ll throw this in the kettle and see how it tastes.’”


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pint of the black stuff ... on ice: Guinness bids to conquer crowded U.S. beer market with new 'black lager'

Guinness is set to make an attempt to conquer the crowded U.S. beer market with the launch of a new 'black lager'.

The stout brand, famous for its dark hue, creamy head and the 119.5 seconds maker Diageo says it takes to pour the perfect pint, is to break with tradition by offering the new drink in the U.S.

Guinness Black Lager - already trialled in Northern Ireland and Malaysia - is a 4.5 per cent strength brew and gets its black colour from the roasted barley added into it.

The company says new beer combines the refreshing taste of lager with the unique character and flavour of Guinness.

And in a further break with tradition, the new beverage must be served cold - even over ice.

Guiness believes its latest beer - with a suggested retail price of $8.49 for a six-pack - will help it keep up with an expanding marketplace.

Doug Campbell, brand director at Guinness, said: 'The US beer market is evolving and we believe this is the right time to introduce a lager to meet consumers' needs.

'Guinness Black Lager will appeal to a range of drinkers; those who want a refreshing tasting beer with real character, and our loyal Guinness consumers, who want a variety of unique experiences and a refreshing taste profile for certain occasions.'

Guinness is already the third most-imported beer in the U.S., with 1.3 per cent of a $101billion dollar market, but its numbers are dwarfed by generic lager giants Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors.

But will the American consumer, more used to light-gold lagers, take to the new drink?

The company describes the new taste as light and crisp with a subtle hint of malt, and a slight hop finish. One mid-afternoon suds sipper got a preview taste.

'Oh,' she said, surprised. 'I actually like it and I’m not a big Guinness drinker. It looks like you’re drinking a Guinness, but it tastes like you’re drinking a lager.'

Purists are sure to be perturbed by Guiness's apparent break with tradition, but Fergal Murray, the company's master brewer, denied that they were abandoning their heritage.

'It is a Guinness lager and it’s going to be positioned against other lagers in the marketplace,' he said.

'It's in line with everything we’ve ever done in terms of getting great beers out there in the market.'

The new drink is packaged in 11.2 oz bottles with blue and silver accents. Unlike the signature Guinness stout, Black Lager is made to be enjoyed right from the bottle.

It is set for its full U.S. launch on September 1, to coincide with the start of the American football season.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Serious Beer: 8 Amber Ales from Oregon

With a couple of exceptions, Oregon-brewed amber ales are a mellower and maltier bunch than their California counterparts. The beers are a little less assertive, but the best strike a delicious balance of malt and hops.

We managed to get our hands on eight Oregon ambers, but that's just enough to whet the appetite. Oregon is known for its small breweries and brewpubs, and many great beers don't make it outside the bar, let alone into bottles. Did we miss some local favorites that visitors shouldn't pass up? Sound off in the comments section.

Deschutes Brewery Green Lakes Organic Ale Bend, 5.2% ABV
Opening aromas of bready caramel malts lead a bit of toast and the beer's slightly fruity English yeast character. Floral and tangerine citrus hops become more prominent at midsip. The finish is crisp and dry. Green Lakes Organic Ale is extremely well balanced.

Rogue Brewery American Amber Newport, 5.6% ABV
This beer pours a slightly hazy amber color with a dense off-white head. Burnt caramel accents the sweet malt aroma. The mild apricot and grapefruit flavors of Rogue's blend of English and American hops provide balance. Smooth yet snappy bitterness provides a clean finish.

Oakshire Brewing Co. Oakshire Amber Ale Eugene, 5.4% ABV
The aroma begins rich and biscuity, followed by cocoa powder and a bit of roast. Oakshire Amber tips more toward the malty side, with just enough hops to even things out. It starts off a bit chewy, but finishes dry.

Full Sail Brewing Co. Amber Ale Hood River, 5.5% ABV
Pours a dark amber, almost brown. There's a good deal of depth in the beer's rich caramel character. Accents of bitter chocolate and floral and citrus hop flavors offset the malt. It's one of the maltiest Ambers we've tried.

Laurelwood Brewing Co. Free Range Red Portland, 6.1% ABV
Free Range Red was the most hop-forward beer we tried this time, with Cascade hops supplying a prominent citrus and somewhat spicy character. The aroma is light caramel with some bready notes. The malt component was definitely on the lighter side.

Vertigo Brewing High-Altitude Amber Hillsboro, 5.1% ABV
This medium amber ale has a smooth caramel malt character with hints of toast. Grapefruit and orange flavors provide a measured and balancing bitterness. Without any one element dominating, this was very sessionable.

Golden Valley Brewery Red Thistle Ale McMinnville, 5.5% ABV
Red Thistle smells a bit like bread dough and butterscotch, offset by woody and spicy hops. It was a little thinner than other ambers we tried, and it finished slightly tart.

Widmer Brothers Brewing Drop Top Amber Ale Portland, 5.3% ABV
Drop Top is perfectly clear and deep gold in the glass. This light-bodied beer has aromas of cocoa and malted milk balls. The malt flavor is rather sweet, barely offset by a mild hop character. We found it to be very easy to drink, but it lacked some of the richer malt and bolder hop flavors we enjoyed in other ambers.

Serious Beer Ratings

5/5 Mindblowing; a new favorite
4/5 Awesome, stock up on this
3/5 Around average for the style
2/5 There are probably better options
1/5 No, thanks, I'll have water.


The First Annual "Craft for Crap" Celebration at Beer Belly (Los Angeles)

Not since the L.A. County Sheriff's Department conducted a guns for gift cards exchange during the 2009 holiday season -- nothing embraces the spirit of giving like giving up your assault rifle for a $200 gift card to Best Buy -- has there been a more noble social exchange program than Beer Belly's First Annual "Craft for Crap." A celebration!

Owner Jimmy Han, aka HopHead Jim, is reaching out in a humanitarian effort to invite you to bring your friend you call "ghetto bag boy", or that special Coors Light-drinking girl, to Beer Belly on Sunday, August 28 at 3 pm. Bring the crappiest beer they can find in the back of their fridge or the cooler in the garage, and Beer Belly will exchange a fine craft beer for the crappy one. Maybe, just maybe, they will see the light. There is a limit of one craft for crap exchange per customer, otherwise HopHead Jim would be broke by midnight, sooner if the LBC (birthplace of the ghetto bag of beer) shows up.

Cismontane Brewing will be in the house to celebrate this momentous occasion by sharing some craft goodness: Citizen (a California Common), Black's Dawn (Imperial Stout), and Coulter (an IPA). These are three of the finest local beers and showcase two great, new brewers in Evan Weinberg and Ross Stewart. Han will also have his usual stellar line-up of other craft beers to choose from.

If you are one of the growing legions of sophisticated craft beer drinkers but still hang out with guys (girls are too cool for this) who show up to your house with a ghetto bag of assorted crappy beers -- you know the bag -- two bottles of Bud, one can of Coors Light, a PBR tall boy, and a few Coronas from the summer of 2010, this is your chance to convert a bad beer drinker. Don't you love it when they proudly point out that they classed up the bag they brought you with a Heiny from a wedding reception?

Just like the household hazardous waste round-ups, load up the car with crappy beer and come home from a glorious day at Beer Belly empty-handed but with a full heart, uh, belly.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Birth of Beer: German Lager Traced to South America

This is the story of a stowaway -- a microscopic spore, about 500 years ago, that somehow hitched a ride from South America and ended up 7,000 miles away in Bavaria.

That would be the end of it, except that the spore was a species of yeast that happened to like cold weather. And Bavaria, with its cool climate, is the home of lager beer, perhaps the most popular alcoholic beverage in the world today. It would not have been possible without the mysterious arrival of that yeast, which found its way into long-ago breweries.

"Our collaborators sampled strains on five continents, and this was the one clear match," said Chris Todd Hittinger, a genetics professor, now at the University of Wisconsin, who was called in by an international team to sequence the genome -- the DNA -- of the newfound yeast, which they called Saccharomyces eubayanus. "They're extremely prevalent in the beech forests of Patagonia, but we haven't found them elsewhere."

How did they get from South America to Europe? We'll never know, say the researchers, but it may have been carried in a piece of wood, or the gut of a fruit fly, that was inadvertently carried across the Atlantic on an early European sailing ship.

"The possible man-aided migration from South America to Europe [if it really happened] is indeed uncommon, but not unique," said Jose Paula Sampaio, a leader of the study, from the New University of Lisbon in Portugal.

One spore would have been enough. It would have multiplied and combined with other yeasts native to Europe. German emigrants, settling in Milwaukee or St. Louis in the 1800s, would have spread it further. If you've ever had a Miller High Life, or a Heineken, or a Coors Light, those are all lager beers -- part of a $250 billion-a-year industry.

'The Champagne of Bottled Beers'

If not for that long-ago biological accident, people would, of course, still be drinking. Fermentation is part of nature, and other forms of beer date back to the beginning of civilization. But what would people choose? Ale? Merlot? Green tea?

Patrick McGovern, an adjunct professor of archeology at the University of Pennsylvania who has extensively studied the history of drink, said he found the study very interesting, but was doubtful about the idea of spores making the long trip from South America to northern Europe.

"Perhaps some Patagonian beech was used to make a wine barrel that was then transported to Bavaria, and subsequently inoculated a batch of beer there?" he asked in an email. "Seems unlikely."

Hittinger said he'd anticipated such questions: "Let me hasten to say that we have not ruled out every other possibility," he said. "But we've looked a lot and haven't found any other good matches."

McGovern said he hoped the study would provoke more research. "Despite my reservations, history and archaeology are full of surprises," he said. "Nowhere is this more true than of the seemingly miraculous process of fermentation and the key role of alcohol in human culture and life itself on this planet."

The researchers say their study, published in this week's edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is not some light-hearted paean to the world's barflies. This began as a study of biological diversity.

"All of us are interested in Saccharomyces biodiversity to help answer basic research questions in ecology, metabolism, biodiversity, genetics and biomedical science," said Hittinger in an email to ABC News. "Describing the origin of lager yeast is a happy (and tasty) bonus."


Monday, August 22, 2011

Grab a cold one with this custom beer can car

The combination of alcohol and automobiles is never a good one, except perhaps in the case of this custom beer can car. Originally built for the beer company Stroh, this unique can shaped product mobile is currently on Ebay.

If you've always lusted after a Volkswagen powered vehicle shaped like a can, your opportunity has finally arrived. The can seen here is one of the fiberglass can cars produced by Florida based Automotive Innovations in the early 1980s. The company initially designed the cars for Budweiser, but were widely used by Stroh Brewery for promotional purposes. Although these cans were built using Volkswagen mechanicals, they were not kit cars, instead leaving the factory titled as new Pop Top Can Cars complete with a manufacturer's certificate of origin.

The can shaped car business was good until 1984 when according to Ron Wharton, who owned Automotive Innovations and designed the car, Mothers Against Drunk Driving decided that vehicles and alcohol should not be mixed, even for promotional purposes. The resulting bad publicity campaign from MADD forced Stroh Breweries to discontinue promotional use of the Pop Top Can Cars. This meant the end of production for the unique product mobiles. If you are interested in more back story of the Pop Top Can Cars, Hemmings ran two articles about them a few years ago that can be found here and here.

According to the owner, this former Stroh product mobile drives beautifully and is currently registered. If that wasn't enough, there is space on board for a 15 gallon keg with everything needed to run it. The Pop Top Can Car is currently listed with a buy-it-now price of $7500 dollars if you. Whether you are a business owner in need of a promotional or just an enthusiast of all things Beer, this is a rare chance to try and figure out what to do with an original Pop Top Can Car.


Bottoms Up: Local beer experts discuss peers' pints

WASHINGTON - For years, D.C. has been a beer mecca. A number of bars have filled pint glasses full of suds from all points on the globe except one area: their own backyard.

Move to the past 12 months where a number of homegrown breweries are tapping kegs of fresh brew made inside the Beltway. Three breweries have started operations in the D.C. city limits, while others have operations in the suburbs.

With the local movement growing at a whirlwind pace, it can be hard to keep up with all the cool beers coming onto the local scene.

Two local brewmasters, Dave Coleman of 3 Stars Brewing and Brandon Skall of DC Brau took some time out of their busy DC Beer Week schedules to sample and discuss new local beers with Greg Engert, the beer director at ChurchKey.

Port City Optimal Wit

This witbier was the first offering in the wave of local breweries, coming from an Alexandria brewery that first opened its tap lines in January.

Lighter than most craft beers (5 percent ABV), Coleman, Engert and Skall commented on the spice and a subtle citrus flavor that came through upon the first tasting. Engert says the flavors come from the coriander and orange peel that's used in the brewing process.

The beer is similar to Portland, Maine's Allagash White, which Engert says "sells like crazy around here."

"For a local brewer to come out with a witbier makes a lot of sense," he says, adding that the beer can be paired with "tons of food."

"This is a beer you can drink year round," Skall says, but lighter beers brewed with citrus notes don't necessarily have to be enjoyed during the summer.

"I'm not so much a die hard believer that's certain styles of beer have to be drank at certain times of the year," Skall says.

The group says the seasonality behind certain brews was something born out of necessity centuries ago that now primarily serves as an effective marketing tool.

"It's not like we live in a primitive era," he says. "We have air conditioning. You can drink porters if you want."

Baying Hound Lord Wimsey Mild Pale Ale

Despite the niche market people like Coleman and Skall are carving out in the District, one local brewery is operating on an even smaller scale.

Baying Hound Aleworks, based in Rockville, is considered a "nanobrewery," which falls between craft brewers and people brewing their own beer in their kitchens.

"It's obviously more professional brewing than home brewing, but just on a very, very, very small scale," Engert says. "It stems from hobby brewing, but it gets to a point where his beers are damn good and people want to drink them."

Paul Rinehart, the head brewer at Baying Hound, is only producing 12 and 22 oz. bottles of his beers for sale.

Engert says Rinehart's "mild" pale ale gives off a fruity nose and has a subtle complexity due to the way the fermented yeast and English hops were used in the brewing process.

The yeast is visible as a glass is poured, making the beer cloudy. Skall says that's part of Rinehart's process.

"This beer is all conditioned in the bottle," Skall says. "Where we might pump [carbon dioxide] into a beer to get it carbonated before we get it into a keg or can, these will actually be done with a little bit of sugar added into the bottle that reactivates that yeast and allows it to carbonate again inside the bottle."

Coleman compared the beer to a really fresh pub ale you would find in casks in England. Engert agreed, saying that's the reason this beer is so unique to the area.

"By the time casks get here, they are just not going to taste the same as they would over there," he says. "This is a fun way to taste beer you would have to go to England for."

The Citizen

Is it possible to find a fresher pint of beer than one that came from its third batch ever? That's the batch of DC Brau's Belgian Pale Ale this group drank, which can be found on tap at numerous bars in town.

Skall says the beer is actually more of a Belgian Strong Blonde that features yeast also found in popular Belgian import Chimay, which gives the beer a peppery essence.

Engert says there is a lot happening in this beer to give it its depth of flavor.

"What I like here is there is residual malt [which allows for flavor over aeromatics], there is a spicy hop presence that interacts with the other flavors, but also bolsters that peppery note you get in the nose."

Skall says that comes from his brewing process, in which they don't filter or fine any of their beers.

"With filtering, you pull out some of those flavor compounds and proteins," he says.

"You can tell that this has been conditioned properly," Engert says. "That's why the flavors are so well developed. You get something different when you go to the glass every time."

"I think the beer is fantastic," Coleman says. "This is the type of beer you can drink all day. You can see that Brandon and [Jeff Hancock, Skall's partner] really put their minds to it when they were developing the recipe."

Engert believes Skall's recipe may be the perfect ingredient to a number of food dishes across town.

"This kind of beer can accentuate some of the flavors we might find in a dish," Engert says. "It's like the final seasoning a chef can hit [a dish] with."

3 Stars/Oilver Ales B.W.Rye

While 3 Stars hasn't started selling any of their own beers yet, they have rolled out a collaboration with long-time Baltimore brewmaster Stephen Jones of the Pratt Street Ale House.

The beer is a rye-based India Pale Ale that rings in at 7 percent ABV. The beer is a combination of English and American hops with a 10 percent rye build used in the malting process.

"It's got a strong, spicy bite from the rye," Coleman says. "The hops really come through in the nose, it's got a bitter finish on it."

Engert says the biscuit notes the beer has comes from ringwood yeast, a special type of English yeast Jones often uses in Oliver Ales. He likes the way that yeast interacts with the rye used in the malt.

"Rye is great in giving you that dry, grainy flavor, a little bit of that spicy note that should - and often does - work elegantly with Centennial hops," Engert says.

"There's a great balance between the sensation that the English malt brings out, and then the American hops -- I think they counteract each other and work together to produce some complex flavors," he says.

"Ringwood is known for having this caramel-y quality, almost butterscotch-toffee quality which is amazing with that biscuity, toasty quality we get from the malts themselves," he says.

The group looks to Jones as a local "caskmaster" for his ability to bring English-style flavors to local beers.

"And he listens to Motorhead while he brews, so he rules," Skall says.

While the range of beers coming from local breweries is wide, all three men stress that is a good thing, because it allows people to try something new and fresh from their own backyard.

"The thing that's great about [these beers] is that they are going to be available for everyone," Engert says. "I think of Optimal Wit or The Citizen of being styles that lots of beer drinkers like. So they're awesomely accessible for those types, but then for the hardened beer nerd, I think there is something subtly interesting on that level."

"Whether they are a seasoned beer veteran or new to the scene, everyone can enjoy it," Coleman says.


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Magic Hat Humble Patience - Burlington, VT

Tonight I present my final review of Magic Hat's "Night of the Living Dead" series...Humble Patience. So far, I've been pretty impressed with Magic Hat. Their brews have been above standard and on par with some of the more impressive craft beers that the industry has to offer. The company tells us that "Humble Patience" is an Irish-Style Red Ale full of flavor. Here's what the website had to say:

Humble Patience

The result of mystical exhortation and stranger portents in the sky. Humble Patience, our Irish-style Red Ale, is conjured forth from the fundamental elements of nature intended for those moments of spiritual freedom when artifice is finally abandoned. Humble Patience is complex without being heavy… a marriage of many riches. An Irish-Style, deep ruby Red Ale with tantalizing layers of flavor that dance across the tongue from sip to swallow.

TYPE: Irish-style Red
YEAST: English Ale
HOPS: Apollo
MALTS: Pale, Crystal, Chocolate, Cara, Roasted Barley

ABV: 4.6
GRAVITY: 13.00 Plato
SRM: 34.0

AVAILABILITY: August 1 to October 15



This was probably the most drinkable of all the brews associated with the "Night of the Living Dead" series. It's coloring was not quite red but more of a mahogany, with a slight tint of ruby. Flavors appear in layers, with a nice roasted flavor followed by hints of chocolate. Was it deep and complex?..not really, but if you're looking for a nice, easy going, darkish beer...then Humble Patience is for you. Easily the best offering from Magic Hat to date...I would certainly seek it out again...but it may not be easy. The beer was retired in 2005 after 12 years of brewing since 1993. Currently, it's only available from August 1st to October 15th, so get it while you can. This is just a really good Fall, seasonal beer.


8/10 - Sweet Brew

Glass is half-empty in Rhode Island - Demand too great for craft brewers

The craft beer industry is going through growing pains, and Rhode Islanders are among the people feeling those pains most acutely.

Earlier this year, three major craft brewers - Avery, Dogfish Head, and Great Divide - announced that they were pulling out of some markets because the demand is outstripping brewing capacity. In other words, craft beer has become so popular so quickly that brewers can’t produce enough of it to satisfy everyone.

In each case, Rhode Island has been among the states where, for now, those brewers have stopped distributing. Massachusetts, thankfully, has been unaffected, though it is easy to imagine that beer aficionados in the Ocean State will hop across the border and grab their Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA, Great Divide Yeti, and Avery Maharaja in Bay State liquor stores. So don’t be surprised if it suddenly becomes more difficult to find your favorite beers in places like Attleboro and Seekonk.


Governer Martin O'Malley toasts the Burley Oak Brewery and its role in the economic developement of Berlin, MD

BERLIN -- Gov. Martin O'Malley received a warm introduction to "Beer-lin" with a stop at the Burley Oak Brewery.

Mayor Gee Williams coined the new pronunciation as he welcomed O'Malley to the new brew pub.

"Very few people could get me to throw back a beer at 10 a.m.," O'Malley joked as he toasted the microbrewery's suds with a crowd of locals and business owners.

O'Malley, in town to highlight best practices in economic development, toured the brand new facility, admiring the gleaming copper fermenting kettles, mash tun and other pieces of equipment that turn water, malt, hops and yeast into beer. When it's open, the brewery -- which was once a cooperage, making oak barrels -- is expected to produce about 80 barrels of beer a month, according to owner Bryan Brushmiller.

Brushmiller spent more than a year getting the brewery going, working on not just the building but getting legislation introduced so he could get a brewer's liquor license. A $10,000 facade grant from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development's Community Legacy program helped with the building's exterior.

O'Malley's tour of the brewery came after he handled the ribbon-cutting of the new office of the Berlin Chamber of Commerce. The Main Street storefront, which was once the town's post office, will serve as the town's Chamber of Commerce office, its visitors' center and an art studio.

"Much of what we're celebrating wouldn't be possible without the commitment and support of the governor," Williams told a crowd downtown.

The Chamber of Commerce received $125,000 from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development's Community Legacy program to renovate the building at 14 S. Main St. into a multipurpose office.

"This is a great project," O'Malley said. "It's a historic building. You're bringing together businesses, civic life and art all in one place."

REPRINTED from|head

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Magic Hat #9 - Burlington, VT

So I've really gotten to know Magic Hat over the last few days, and so far I've been pretty impressed. Although their packaging has been a little over the top...packaging does not make a brew. What they have presented though is a pretty fair series of complex and flavorful Ales. To date, they've represented Vermont pretty well. They've almost been able to make me forget Ben and Jerry's and the injustices that they've brought to me over the years (that's another story completely). Tonight, I sample their #9 offering. Here's what the website had to say:

#9 — Not Quite Pale Ale

A beer cloaked in secrecy. An ale whose mysterious and unusual palate will swirl across your tongue and ask more questions than it answers. A sort of dry, crisp, refreshing, not-quite pale ale. #9 is really impossible to describe because there's never been anything else quite like it.

TYPE: Not Quite Pale Ale
YEAST: English Ale
HOPS: Cascade, Apollo
MALTS: Pale, Crystal
ABV: 5.1
GRAVITY: 11.80 Plato
SRM: 9.0

Summer comes bearing sweet gifts. Artists gather. Crowds assemble. The amps glow red. The soul is fed. Jams fill the day. The mind expands as the music holds sway. This is the season of sun and heat, fests and beat, rhythms sweet. Ask not for whom the bands tool... open the box an let the quadruple bill roll.



First of all, I wasn't expecting to find a summer beer nestled amongst a case a "Fall-Oriented" brews, but what the hell...the #9 is one of Magic Hat's more popular selections. Why is it so popular?...because it has summer written all over it. It poured really well and almost immediately I was hit with the scents of summer. From the orange tint to the the distinct scent of apricots as well as other fruity overtones...this beer has summer in every sip. Although the fruitiness is very doesn't overpower this "not quite Pale Ale". #9 is a great selection for that Labor Day weekend BBQ. Crisp and clean as it goes will not be let down.


7/10 - Labor Day weekend must

Magic Hat Hex Ourtoberfest - Burlington, VT

I heard an interesting story about the Magic Hat Brewery. According to my good friend Jason, there were once two employees from the Pyramid Brewery who wound up leaving Pyramid to form the Magic Hat Brewery. I have no idea why they left...maybe it was over a disagreement with the parent brewery, or maybe they were not being paid enough...who knows. Bottom line though, after years of standing up their little brewery, Magic hat wound up buying out Pyramid back in 2008. Ironic isn't it? Sweet revenge...maybe, who knows.

My second sampling from Magic hat brings me to the Hex. Here's what the website had to say:

Fall: Hex

A malty amber ale with hints of toffee and caramel and a slightly smoky finish.

TYPE: Ourtoberfest
YEAST: German Ale
HOPS: Apollo, Hallertaur
MALTS: Pale, Vienna, Crystal, Cherry Wood Smoked Malt, Malted Rye
ABV: 5.4
GRAVITY: 14.00 Plato
SRM: 18.0
AVAILABILITY: August 1 to October 15



Another hit from Magic hat! I was once again impressed with how clean and sharp their Ourtoberfest was. So smooth indeed. You can definitely taste the complexity of the brew. Everything from the pour to the finish of their Hex was awesome. The only hit on it was that I thought it was a little over-carbonated...this probably diminished it's status a little. Other than that...a great brew.


7/10 - A Good Beer