Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lazy Holidaze

Sorry for my absence, but not too much has been going on lately. Two Tuesdays ago Chad from Sierra Nevada & I went to Smith's Olde Bar to see Steve Kimock (pictured). Smith's is a great place t0 see a show, and I got to meet the owner, Bo. Classy guy all they way. If you feel like getting out to see some live music, see who's playing there first. It is a small enough place that you can see the band from anywhere, but big enough to draw some great acts. Never heard of Steve Kimock? That's OK with me. This guy sells out the Fillmore in San Francisco, but plays small clubs in the southeast. Let's keep it that way. One more great thing about Smith's is that it is non-smoking upstairs. You can actually enjoy watching a band without second-hand smoking a pack of cigarettes. I quit smoking in 2005, and now I can't stand it. I know smokers, I'm one of those people. But face it, it's a nasty habit, it stinks everything up, and it doesn't make you look cool. I mean, Fonzie didn't smoke. Elvis? Non-smoker.

Other than that I have had some less-than-exciting projects to work on, and only a few cool things going on. Mostly I have been excited to see how many folks came to The Fred last weekend. I have a good memory with faces and names, so it was great to meet all of the people I didn't know, who know me from reading my blog. Thanks to Samantha and Kimberly, I now know that there are actually females out there who read the Beer Page. Nice people too.

The truth is, November is the beginning, as I am sure it is for most of you, of the year-end wrap up business. December is a whirlwind, so November is the time to start tying up loose ends in preparation for the new year. December has a few cool things happening though. Our company holiday party is the 8th. Let's just say that every year, somebody is "that guy", and the challenge is to make sure that it isn't you. So far so good for me. I like to wait until everybody else starts getting loose before hitting it very hard, and then making a clean exit before getting too blitzed. This is a work function after all, even if beer drinking is part of what I get paid for, I can't be the guy with the lampshade on his head. Or like last year, the guy that actually got asked to leave. From a private function at a rented facility. That's not easy to do. Let's see what he does this year. Stay tuned.

Also, the following Tuesday the 15th is Matt & Fred's All-Star Holiday Extravaganza II. That is our name for our monumental December beer dinner, where we feature 6 winter or holiday themed beers from 6 different breweries and a gourmet meal. The traditional eggnog break takes place between the last course and dessert. Matt makes a specially crafted eggnog, dusts it with nutmeg, and I spike it with Rogue's Hazelnut Spiced Rum. Didn't know Rogue made spirits? They make a few rums, two gins and a rye whiskey. All very good.

In between these two events is a special invite-only event. If you are a Dean or Chancellor level Brewniversity student, you received an E-vite from me personally about 10 days ago. An RSVP is required for this event, so if you did not view this thing, you need to now. If you don't, you are going to be sorry. If you know someone who may have received it, but you are not of that level yet yourself, you need to remind them to check their e-mail. They can bring a guest, and if you tipped them off to check the E-vite, that guest better damn sure be you. Last time I checked, about half of the E-vites were not even opened. Who has over 750 beers on their list and does not open an e-mail from me? Hint: Chances are it is something good people! Hello!

That will be followed up with the release of two of New Belgium's Lips Of Faith series. This is the name for their top-tier specialty beers, and we have the Fall Wild Ale and La Folie. We should be tapping those company-wide on 12/16, and I will be at The Fred with Chip, who is our NB guy in the Atlanta area. I realize that there are many people who think that Fat Tire is the name of the brewery. Same people who think Anchor Steam is the name of the brewery. Taste why it is called New Belgium. They make Belgian-style beers really well. On that note, I have a pet peeve to air out. Please stop calling Belgian beers, "Belgium beers". Ugh! Makes me cringe. It is not called "America cheese", it is American cheese. The country becomes an adjective modifying "beer" or "cheese" in these cases, and therefore its spelling and meaning are changed. Whew. I feel better. Not that any of you wonderful people who read this would make that mistake. Clearly you are highly educated and prefer high-brow literature. However, I notice it being used incorrectly verbally and in print. Help stop the madness.

We also have a cask of Bell's Two Hearted Ale getting ready to be tapped at our Old Milton store. When? Not sure right now, but soon. If you have not tried this beer, then you must be dead, incarcerated or mentally ill. This IPA was created around '97 when I worked at Bell's, and has been taking over the world ever since. It is one of a few single-hop beers that I know of being available right now. What is a single-hop beer? One made with a single variety of hop, and that hop only. The hybrid of the famous Cascade variety called Centennial was relatively new in the 90's, and Two Hearted (named for a river in MI) uses it exclusively. Most beers are made with 3 or more different hop varieties. The beer is great, and the cask should be out of this world.

So that is a preview of December, leading into the Christmas season. I am not sure what January will have in store for us. I am planning a trip to San Diego for February, so I should have lots of pictures from Stone, Alesmith, Green Flash, Lost Abbey etc. when I get back from there. But first I am going to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl. No, the game isn't in Las Vegas. But if you have never been to Las Vegas during Super Bowl weekend, you're missing out. If you don't like football, I guess you can pass, but if you love the NFL, trust me on this one.

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. Hopefully there were not too many explosive family arguments, burnt food or tryptophan-induced comas. I am off to a wedding tonight of my friends Jason and Stephanie. This a black tie wedding with a six-course wine dinner. Yeah, I am wearing a tuxedo tonight. Crazy. The reception is at the old stone courthouse in downtown Decatur. Should be a pretty swanky affair. I need to brush up on my "sophisticated" persona. That means that as far as jokes go, I have absolutely no material.

Have a great week everyone, and I will keep you posted on any cool events, especially that Two Hearted cask once we set the date. Peace.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

It's Official.....Now Get Drinking.

It is official that the new downstairs bar at The Prado is:
  1. Nicknamed "The Fred". I am flattered that my name was chosen as the reference for this cool spot, naturally. But make no mistake folks, I still have a day job, so don't expect to see me there all the time. Katy is the manager, not me, and she and her crew are capable beer freaks. I am still the beer guy for our company, which is a full-time job. I will however be helping make sure that the draft and bottle selections down there are top-notch. You can expect to see me there for all of the special events there to come. More on that later.
  2. The phone number is 404-671-FRED. Pretty cool. I can't take credit for that. If I knew how to do that, don't you think I would have had my own number spell out my name?
  3. You will need to have 50 beers on your Brewniversity list to gain entrance to The Fred after it has been open for 3 months. Will it go up to a higher number later? We'll have to wait and see. If we decide to do that, you will be sufficiently notified, I promise. The idea is that this special little drinking spot is for our loyal customers, new and old, not just anyone off the street. So if your list is short, get to work. Don't say I didn't warn you. You have over 2 1/2 months from now, which is plenty of time. If your list is long, then it is doubtful that our required number catches up with your list, unless you start drinking the same beers all the time (unlikely) or go on the wagon (highly unlikely).
  4. If you have still not been by, remember that this place is only open at night W-Sun., and only serves appetizers as far as food goes. The entrance is down the hill along the patio of the Taco Mac. The best way to find the door is to go into Taco Mac and ask an employee to point you in the right direction. Basically, if you get to the sporting goods store on the left, you just missed it, if you are going downhill.

So, about the beer down there. The selection has some great examples of major beer styles, including brands you have probably seen. Like IPA? We have Avery. Are you an amber ale drinker? Highland Gaelic. German beer? We have three. Belgians? Three of those. Local beers? Yes, but not their flagship brands, their specialty beers. Want something unusual? Stone Vertical Epic 9-9-09, Smuttynose Small Batch Belgian Tripel, and Ommegang Adoration. Cask beer? Probably the star of the entire beer selection down there is the cask-conditioned Lagunitas Little Sumpin' Sumpin Extra. Is it as good as it sounds? Better.

Bottled beers range from must-haves (Sierra Nevada Torpedo) to bizarre (Hitachino XH aged in Shocyu sake barrels). Cocktails are top-notch, old-fashioned to funky (we have cucumber liqueur!). Six nice wines round out the spirits portion of the menu. Try the Black Cava for Two. It is two glasses that are one third sparkling Spanish wine (called cava), two thirds Bell's Kalamazoo Stout. That drink was introduced to me in 1994 by Larry Bell (owner of Bell's) at an employee party at his house (I am a former Bell's employee for any new readers). I have been wanting to break this thing out for 15 years. It is awesome, and everyone who has tried it is now a true believer. Sparkling wine isn't for sissies! Not if you put some heavy dry stout into it.

The food features some herbed steak fries with a secret sauce, a 5 cheese crab dip served with pitas, an olive and pickle jar, bratwurst egg rolls (you didn't expect that!), and finally some salami and cherry pepper (hot) finger sandwiches that are baked and crusty. Everything is delicious.

The special events I mentioned will begin with our holiday beer dinner. Matt & Fred's All-Star Holiday Extravaganza II is on 12/15, and will be a can't-miss event for the holiday season. The menu will be out soon (Matt & I are tasting beers Monday). It will feature six different holiday or winter themed beers, and Matt's home made egg nog, which will be spiked (duh) with Rogue Hazelnut Spice Rum and dusted with nutmeg. It was a big hit last year, so now it's a tradition. This thing will sell out quickly, so look for the menu and sign-up to get posted on by this time next week hopefully.

The picture is of my friend Jason who works at The Fred. He goes on a lot of my beer trips. Here he is at New Belgium, sporting some pretty sweet safety glasses. I have been meaning to show him the pictures from that trip. Here you go buddy! So that is what I have been up to. What about you?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Cat Is Out Of The Bag

OK, for those of you that did not already know, here is the secret that I have been hinting at lately. Underneath the new Taco Mac at The Prado is a special, separate beer bar. See photo above. The actual entrance is still being decided on, but if you are in the area and want to check it out, the managers in the restaurants upstairs will direct you. But wait! There's a catch. You have to be a Brewniversity member, and you have to have at least 13 beers on your list. Now here comes the disclaimer: We may raise the required number of beers for admission in the (possibly very near!) future. Why, you may be wondering, should you care? "Taco Mac is great!", you are thinking. "There's no reason for me to go anywhere else." Very true. Taco Mac has everything you need to have a good time drinking beer, watching the game, all of that stuff that we are known for.

The downstairs bar is a completely different animal. There are twenty draft beers, and about 40 bottled beers, plus some nice wine and high-end spirits. The beer selection looks like this:
  • Draft beers have a seasonal specialty from all three of the local breweries, a Sierra Nevada seasonal, three Belgian lines, three German lines, some rare stuff and some vintage beers. We also try to represent some major beer styles with strong versions from breweries we like. You don't need to like extremely esoteric beers to enjoy coming here. We have a great amber ale, a great pilsner, etc. But if you want an '08 Victory Old Horizontal barley wine or St. Bernardus Christmas, we have those on draft too.

  • Bottles beers have a few old favorites and style representatives, but this is where we stretch out a little. There are many large, cork-finished bottles of Belgian beers, plus some 500 ml and 12 oz. bottles of wacky foreign beers. Don't worry though. We also have things like Anchor Liberty if you are looking for a nice old standard (I love that beer, so it gets preferential treatment. When is the last time you had one?)
  • The liquors are focusing on some more unique brands. We have some signature cocktails, as well as some more traditional, classic drinks. Fresh juice and premium ingredients transform old mundane drinks into something special. When is the last time you had a real whisky sour? Good stuff.
  • Now if you are into light beer, we don't really have anything for you, and you probably wouldn't be reading this if light beer is your thing.
As you can tell from the photo, the decor is different than a Taco Mac as well. The concept that we are working on is heavy on the intimate pub thing, with quality conversation and company to match the libations. The crew is composed of some of our best employees culled from every corner of Taco Mac land. If I stole your favorite bartender from your favorite store, I'm sorry. They were not stolen, just relocated.

The rest of the story is yet to be told really. The future direction of this little thing we are doing depends a lot on your feedback and patronage. We also plan on doing some special events there in the upcoming months, so if you are not familiar with where the old Frankie's was, we are on Roswell Rd. just south of 285. If you know where 5 Seasons in sandy Springs is located, we are about three doors down. Hope to see you soon, and get to work on your Brewniversity lists!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Fall Beers Are Cask-ing A Spell

If anyone had problems with Pay Pal recently, everything is fixed now. Instead of selling 32 seats and saving 10 for me to use, it sold 10 and saved 32 for me. So if you tried to sign up for the Merchant du Vin dinner next Tuesday and got nowhere, that's why. People have been buying tickets just fine since Sunday. This is the last of the $50 beer dinners, and the last one in an intimate setting until February at the earliest. Our December dinner is in a larger, less secluded setting. We won't have any speakers to present each beer of the chef to talk about the courses. The holiday dinner is more of a big dinner party really. So if you want to learn about beer and beer/food pairings, next Tuesday in Duluth is for you.

Here is a cask beer update for you folks who like fresh and unique stuff:

  • This Friday there will be a cask of Terrapin Hopsecutioner (oaked?) at Metropolis. This beer debuted at last week's beer dinner and stole the show. This is your chance to beat everyone else to the punch, because kegs of this beer are not in wide distribution yet.

  • Next Friday we are doing two casks. Metropolis will have a firkin of Allagash Curieux that Donald sent to the brewery to be filled a few months ago. For those cave dwellers out there, Curieux (cure-ee-o) is a Belgian-style tripel aged in bourbon barrels. It is phenomenal. Mall of GA Taco Mac has a cask of Heavy Seas Hang Ten. This is a 10% ABV weizen dopplebock, and is also outstanding.

  • The new Prado store opens Wednesday. The beer engine will be pouring a cask-conditioned keg of Rogue Mocha Porter. We have some other kegs for that beer engine, but I can't reveal all of my secrets at once.
Lastly, because I gotta run and get this new store off the ground, is my Brewniversity reminder. I told you folks on Saturday about getting your membership up to at least 13 beers because of a "thing" I can't discuss right now. Depending how things go, your membership level may become more and more important. So my advice is to start drinking different beers when you are in Taco Mac. If you are one of those people, like me, who gets on a streak with certain beers, it is time for you to diversify.

The picture above is of a "pit stop" on a tour of New Belgium Brewing Co. during GABF. Down in the underbelly of the brewery, about halfway through their tour, they put a cask of Hoptober for thirsty guests. Nice touch. Beer tasted great too.