Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve!

New Year's Eve used to be a big deal for me, but now I am kind of an anti-climactic NYE celebrant. My plans to see a concert in San Francisco were shot down by the fact that I was broke from my whirlwind fall travels the previous 3 months. So tonight, it's all about taking it easy with a couple of friends. The fridge is packed with some interesting items, some of which are new for me. There are 3 Mikkeller beers; a coffee stout (Black Hole), an IPA (Stateside) and a Belgian style beer made with spice and cocoa (Santa's Little Helper). I have a Gouden Caroulus Noel 750 ml, a Smuttynose IPA from Maine, a Dieu Du Ciel Peche Mortel from Montreal (quite possibly the greatest stout of all time), various 1 & 2 year-old barley wines from Bell's & North Coast, and 2 De Dolle beers-an Oerbier and an Oerbier Reserve. Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head.

Matt & I are working on the next few beer dinners next week. The menu for January's dinner with Duck Rabbit should be up on the web site tomorrow. President and brew master Paul Phillipon will be there. February will be Sierra Nevada, and the beer that I helped make in November will be featured. March is Allagash, and head brewer Rob Tod will be in town from Maine for that.

Let's get down to what beers are going in around Taco Mac land. There is a lot, so you need to plan on drinking a lot of beer this week. I know that you won't let me down.

  • Dark beer is great all year, but really gets a lot of attention in the winter. You can find Sweetwater Happy Ending at Dallas Hwy, Woodstock, Windward, Perimeter, East-West and Lindbergh. Terrapin Wake 'N Bake has arrived at Mall of GA, Windward and Dallas Hwy. The curiously delicious Holy Mackerel Mack In Black has gone on at Johns Creek, Peachtree City (they have the HM Belgian Gold as well), Decatur, Lindbergh. You can find Allagash Black at Johns Creek and Kennesaw. The Mall of GA store also has North Coast Old Rasputin, Victory Donnybrook and Duck Rabbit Wee Heavy for you dark beer lovers. Cumming has Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Stone Smoked Porter (a Fred favorite, also available at Kennesaw) and Red Brick Porter. Like beer in the morning (it's OK, I won't tell)? Then hit Lindbergh for Breckenridge Oatmeal Stout.

  • Just because you already opened your presents this year, that does not mean that winter seasonal beers are gone. Rogue Santa's Private Reserve is available in Decatur and Kennesaw, Breckenridge Christmas can be found at Woodstock, Cumming and Crabapple. The new Red Brick Winter (a dark Belgian style) is on at Perimeter, and V-Hi has Avery Old Jubilation (awesome beer). The rare and delicious Highland Cold Mountain is about to start flowing at the Mall of GA (heretofore referred to as G-Mall).

  • Can't get enough Belgian and Belgian-styled beers? Allagash Grand Cru is on tap at Kennesaw, Woodstock, Metropolis and G-Mall. Old Milton Pkwy and Kennesaw also have Ommegang Three Philosophers on draft. Hurry. Metropolis is pouring Delerium Nocturnum, which is out-of-this-world good beer. Woodstock has a keg of Maudite right now. I drank a year old bottle of Maudite the other day that was just about as delicious of a beer as you can get. Go buy some and put it in the fridge for a year. Wow. Don't miss the Jewbelation 12 at Dallas Hwy and G-Mall. Once it is gone, we are just going to have to wait for the Jewbelation 13 next year.

  • Are you just an old-fashioned hop head? We have beer for you too. Lagunitas Imperial Red (another 100%, satisfaction guaranteed, Fred favorite) is at Decatur and V-Hi. Decatur has Weyerbacher Double Simcoe, and G-Mall has Weyerbacher Hops Infusion. Haven't tried Left Hand Warrior IPA yet? Peachtree City and G-Mall are waiting for you. Metropolis has Avery Maharaja for the midtown hop heads. Ellard Village has DFH 90 Minute IPA. Don't forget about some of these old favorites that were new favorites a few years back. Those guys need your business, too. Did you like Sweetwater's "The Creeper"? G-Mall has Houblon Chouffe, which is the Belgian inspiration for "The Creeper." It is beyond awesome.

  • Last posting or two ago I mentioned some special Rogue kegs getting tapped. Windward, Perimeter, Cumming, Johns Creek and Metropolis are getting into theirs now. The rare Oskar Blues Mama's Little Yellow Pils is going on at Perimeter and East-West this week. Two kegs of Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale surfaced somehow. If you missed this beer the first time around, head over to East-West or G-Mall. During the hop shortage in '08, Sierra bought hops from New Zealand, which has a totally backwards harvest season from the USA, to make this beer. Pure genius. Last but not least, the Southampton Double White had some production issues, and the brewery is now scaling back distribution to our area temporarily. If you can find it, get one now. It may not be around again until spring.

I hope that everyone has a happy, healthy and prosperous '09. I promise that I will learn how to put photos on here a little better, like this one of the barrel-aging room at Russian River Brewing C0. in Santa Rosa, and get some fresh material for you. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Creep-ing Up On Vacation

For those of you who missed the article in Thursday's paper, Sweetwater's hopped up Belgian tripel, aptly called "The Creeper" came out last week. Each Taco Mac (except Philips Arena and our Tennessee store) received at least 1 keg last week. The problem is, they are only 7.75 gallons each. The good news is that this beer, at 10% ABV, gets served in an 11 oz. glass, which will help keep it around a little longer. If you are interested in this beer, I suggest that you hurry. This is the first release from Sweetwater's "Dank Tank", which will be providing random releases of odd-ball beers. "The Creeper" may not be seen again for a long time. It is also a very impressive take on a rarely seen style of beer.

Another impressive beer is Lagunitas' Cruisin' With Rueben And The Jets, the latest in their Frank Zappa series. It is a stout made with light hints of white pepper and chocolate. Sounds stranger than it tastes. Limited release, so get moving.

Lakefront Brewing Co. from Milwaukee has made it into GA lately. Many stores are picking up all 5 bottled beers that are available. These are well-made beers from a brewery who was making micro-brewed beer before it was popular to do so.

Today marks the first day that on-premise Sunday alcohol sales are legal in Newnan. Our store is celebrating that with Holy Mackerel's Belgian Gold and Mack & Black. These are from the Gordash Brewing Co. in Florida, and are really interesting. The Belgian Gold is pretty self-explanatory, but very good. The Mack & Black is a very unique beer, in that is dark without being super heavy, yet high in alcohol, but with a fruit addition that is barley detectable. All I can say is, it works. Newnan is also tapping Oskar Blues Mama's Little Yellow Pils, Rogue Santa's Private Reserve (also available in Decatur and Johns Creek), Victory Donnybrook Stout and a well-aged keg of North Coast Old Stock. Hopefully there are a few extra taxis on the streets of Newnan today.

Suwanee has just plugged in their Rogue Paul's Black Lager. They also recieved some 2007 Anchor Christmas bottles from their distributor. Apparently they did not sell out of last year's batch, so we are able to buy it now. That beer ages beautifully for a few years, and the 2007 was very spicy, so the age has done it justly. Peachtree City also has these bottles, along with some 2004 Schneider Aventinus. If you have never had an aged Aventinus, you frankly have not lived. It ain't cheap people. I'm just warning you.

I mentioned Houblon Chouffe last week. It is in at Decatur, Mall of GA and Lindbergh. This beer is the inspiration for "The Creeper". Try them side by side. Just a suggestion. Lindbergh is also one of the few stores selling Highland Cold Mountain. Did you know that Highland Cold Mountain is named after an actual mountain near Asheville called Cold Mountain? In fact, the movie "Cold Mountain" was set in the area. However, they shot it in Romania or somewhere in eastern Europe, much to the chagrin of the film company in Asheville who thought they easily had the contract. This film studion is next door to Highland Brewing Co., whose owner, Oscar Wong told me that story. Anyway, the beer is great. Some Gwinnett area stores got draft, and others only got bottles.

Can't get enough hops? Decatur is pouring Weyerbacher Double Simcoe. I am headed there today to watch some football. After last night's Cowboys game, I would say that "bitter" adequately describes my mood today, so maybe I will have one. They also have Allagash Black on draft, and "dark" also typifies my mood.

Did I say dark beer? Woodstock has Left Hand Imperial Stout, Duluth has Victory Baltic Porter (a Fred favorite), and Johns Creek has Victory Old Horizontal barley wine.

Ellard Village is the only store to pick up Southampton Double White on draft so far. This is another new brewery to make it to GA recently. They also have bottles of IPA and Altbier, so keep your eyes peeled for them.

Lastly, Crabapple has installed Butte Creek Organic Pilsner. Many of you may not be excited or impressed by that, but I am. I am hoping to lead the push for this beer to be our go-to recommendation for people who want to try a quality beer without going too far from their comfort zone. When I arrived in Portland last year, my friends took me to the beer bar in town called the Horse Brass Pub. It has been their since the 70's, and is renown on the West Coast as a destination for beer lovers. My friend John is a bartender there. Check it out sometime. Anyway, my friend told the bartender on duty when we got there that I had just gotten off a 5 hour flight from Atlanta. He responded with, "Oh, well then you need something you can put down in a hurry. Something to freshen you up." And he poured me a Butte Creek Organic Pilsner. Clearly this man was a genius, and it was exactly what I needed: cold, crisp, and hoppy, without any cloying bitterness to slow you down. We have always used imports like Stella or Peroni for customers looking for something in this department, when there is a perfectly good alternative made right here at home. As import prices continue to rise, it is time to put our foot down and tell them to take a flying leap. Peroni is owned by SAB/Miller/Coors now, and Stella is owned by InBev, who just bought Anheuser-Busch. I think these people have enought money. Butte Creek is this tiny little brewery in California with about 5 people working there on a busy day. The pictures above are of one of their brewers and my friend Jason, who is a normal sized person. Look at the size of that guy! He could eat Jason. The other picture is of an old bottler which they still use. Seriously, I assumed that it was just too big to move, so that they just worked around this monstrosity in the middle of the brewery. No, that is what they use to bottle beer.

Anyway, I will be back home in Michigan for week celebrating Christmas in a winter wonderland. Have a happy and safe holiday season. Thanks for reading.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Holy Seasonal Beers!

'Tis the season to really step up your beer drinking. "But, Fred, I don't know if I can possibly drink any more beer than I already am!" you may be thinking. Nonsense. The stakes are way too high for that kind of thinking. Quitters never win.

We recently received a bunch of odd-ball Rogue kegs, and here is the scoop:
  • Love & Hoppiness- Kennesaw
  • Paul's Black Lager- Suwanee & Mall of GA
  • Brewer- Old Milton Pkwy, Dallas Hwy
  • Old Crustacean- Metropolis
  • Glenn- Woodstock, Metropolis, Crabapple
  • Yellow Snow- Suwanee, Perimeter
  • Latona- Cumming
  • Juniper- Peachtree City
  • Double Dead Guy- Duluth
These kegs ship out next week, and I have no idea when they will be getting tapped. I have never had 5 of these on draft before, and I am sure that these are rare to you folks as well, so check with the stores who have the beers that you are most interested in drinking for when they will be tapping.

Dank Tank? Yes, Sweetwater has a fermenter dedicated to weird offerings, and it is called "The Dank Tank." The first DT issue, a 10% ABV Belgian tripel called "The Creeper" is shipping out to all 21 GA area Taco Mac stores that I represent next week. Look for it soon, because it will be gone in a hurry.

Oskar Blues Mama's Little Yellow Pils is coming soon to Newnan, East-West, Perimeter and Kennesaw.

Victory's new Donnybrook Stout (nitro poured Irish style) is going to be featured at Old Milton, Duluth, Decatur and Newnan in the next week or so. Stay tuned.

Ayinger Celebrator draft is going in at Kennesaw and Lindbergh right now. SW Festive '07 is being poured at Dallas Hwy, and small kegs of He'Brew Jewbelation 12 (12 malts, 12 hops, 12 % ABV) are at Kennesaw, Suwanee and Peachtree City. The PTC store also has a Stone Double Bastard keg, as does Metropolis. Feeling like a stout? Hit Ellard Village for Victory Storm King and Rogue Shakespeare, or Crabapple for Great Divide Yeti, and PTC for Left Hand Imperial Stout. Ben and the gang are gettin' their hops on at Kennesaw. Grab a Lagunitas Hop Stoopid, Gordon IPA or Left Hand Warrior Wet Hop. Lindbergh and Decatur are waiting for kegs of 3 Philosphers to come in next week, and multiple stores are praying for inventory of Houblon Chouffe to show up next week. Red Brick's Winter Ale is a Belgian-style now (the old Winter recipe is now a year-round Porter), and going in at Kennesaw and Woodstock. Johns Creek is putting in Victory Hop Wallop, Tommyknocker Rye Porter and North Coast Old Stock to warm you up. Decatur has the Hop Wallop now as well, plus Lagunitas Brown Shugga'. Our facilities manager is currently working on installing a beer engine in Decatur for cask ales to be available at all times. Hopefully that is operational by Jan. 1. If you never got to taste the Belgian tripel from Lagunitas, you can find 22 oz. bottles of We're Only In It For The Money at Newnan and Metropolis. It is the latest in the series of beers named for Frank Zappa albums. Cruisin' With Rueben & The Jets is next and should be in next week. It is a stout brewed with chocolate and white pepper. Hmmm.... If you love Lagunitas beers like I do (the back bar from their employee lounge is pictured above), head out to Woodstock for Lucky #13 on draft. While you are out that way, hit East-West Connector for Lagunitas Gnarly Wine and Left Hand Snowbound Spiced Ale. Then call a cab. Ouch. Mall of GA has probably the last keg of Terrapin Oak-Aged Big Hoppy Monster yet to be tapped in town. They will be getting into it this weekend. They have also brought in about 25 new bottled beers over the last few weeks. So if you are a Passport Club member looking for credits, dodge the craziness at the mall and treat yourself to some refreshments.

The week before Thanksgiving I was invited, along with representatives from 3 other beer-centric establishments (all from CA) to "Beer Camp" at Sierra Nevada in Chico, CA. The event was basically a seminar in beer making, beer culture and Sierra Nevada history. After a day of that, including an extensive tour of their facility, we were tested on the information we were given. The top scorer in the group (me) got to work with one of their brewers to develop a recipe for the pilot system. The following day we all helped to brew the beer, and when it is done, the batch will be split between all of the participants. So, keep your eyes peeled for Hop Secret 393 to show up around the first of the year. Why the funny name? There was a bale of experimental hops there that Sierra was given by one of their growers to play around with. It had never been used to brew beer with before, and did not even have a name. It was simply called "Hop 393." It smelled great, and the temptation to use it was impossible to resist. The beer is designed to showcase this hop (along with others) in a medium bodied red ale. Think Celebration Ale with more body, and the hops toned down a little. It should be interesting, and with the help of their employees, you know it is going to taste great. I will have a full recipe and technical specs when we roll out the beer. We should receive about 10 kegs, and I will be on hand with photos of the whole thing for each keg tapping. The Sierra staff photographer and archivist just sent me his pictures, and I will post some here very soon. Have a great weekend, and get out there and drink some beer already!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Calendar

I am trying to put together a Taco Mac special events calendar that can be posted and viewed via the blog.

Monday, December 8, 2008

I'm Back & Don't Miss This Cask!

Loyal Readers!

Thanks to Patrick, the Albequerque Beer Geek, for helping with the legibility of my blog's heading. What an improvement.

I apologize for my recent absence. The Thanksgiving holiday was nice in regards to having a little time off, but it put me behind in my administrative work something fierce. You may be asking yourself, "What kind of 'administrative' work does this guy do? He drinks beer for a living!" Well, I have been hard at work putting a ton of new beers into the computer system. Our IT department is handling their end of this procedure today, and a plethora of new beers, vintage-dated cellar items and casks are going to be available. I have also just finished placing a handful of special/rare Rogue kegs around to our stores.

The main thing that I have been working on however, has been in-store training. 3-5 days a week I have been in a store teaching our employees about beer and administering tests. The results have been positive in most cases, and hopefully the general level of beer knowledge continues to improve. The difficult thing is to try to get people to be passionate about something that they normally are only casually concerned with. Now I know what anyone who ever tried to teach me math or science felt like.

I will be giving you a list of new beers that are getting tapped around town as soon as I sort through all of the e-mails from the last 2 weeks. But, in the meantime, try to get down to the Metropolis store on Wednesday for a very special cask tapping. We have an Oskar Blues Old Chub, aged in Stranahan's whiskey barrels. It is going to be awesome. Stranahan's is made in Colorado from the mash from the Oskar Blues beers (Dale's Pale Ale). They used to use Flying Dog mash, but Flying Dog recently moved all brewing operations to Maryland. The whiskey is very mellow, and compares closest to bourbon, but does not have any corn or wheat in the mash, so it has a fuller mouthfeel, and less smokiness than bourbon. I have met the distiller, Jess Graber, and this is a real Colorado mountain guy, dusty cowboy hat and all. I really like the whiskey, and I think that it will enhance the taste of the Old Chub perfectly. We will have a bottle of Stranahan's on hand for tasting purposes as well.

I will be back this week with a beer update, as well as with photos and stories from Beer Camp at Sierra Nevada (entrance pictured above) last month. It was a blast, and the beer we made at camp should be here just in time for the new year. More on that later.