Saturday, January 30, 2010

Ahoy, Bon Voyage, & Warp Speed Mr. Sulu!


Last night we hosted a get together of brewery people and beer luminaries at our Lindbergh Center store. Everyone is in town for the Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting which is supposed to be being held at 5 Seasons Prado from 4-7 today. We are waiting to hear if the weather will postpone this until tomorrow. Either way this is one of the most anticipated beer events of the year, and we are very happy to have it next door to our newest store. There is sure to be plenty of pre- and post-game partying at Taco Mac and The Fred. Katy has The Fred stocked with some great beers this week:
Einbecker Winter Bock, Hitachino Ginger and a barrel-aged He'Brew Lenny's RIPA just to name a few of the drafts off the top of my head. The forecast for today: hazy. Everything should be very hazy by around 8 pm....and I ain't talkin' about the weather here people! Just kidding. I support responsible drinking. I don't practice responsible drinking, but I support it when other people do. Good job, guy. Real proud of ya.

So we had a cask last night at Lindbergh of Heavy Seas Peg Leg Stout with oak chips, dry hopped with locally grown Maryland hops. It was delicious. I really like this beer anyway, but the wood and dry hops went great with the creamy finish the cask service gave the beer. Heavy Seas owner Hugh Sissons was there, and he acted like he didn't have anything to do with making sure that this exceptional cask was there along with him. Great guy, and it sounds like we should start seeing a lot more specialty beers coming from his Baltimore brewery this year.

Next Friday for you snoozers who missed the Rogue Mogul Madness cask a few weeks ago, we have another one at Metropolis. These casks were dry hopped with Amarillo hops, and they are delicious. We will be getting into it at 6 pm.

"But I don't live near Metropolis, Fred, and I love cask ales!" Yes, I feel your pain. And as promised, we are bringing the cask beer to you. In fact, this February firkins will boldly where no firkins have gone before. As promised we will have cask events to celebrate a two-year anniversary in Cumming (2/24) and one-year anniversary in Canton (2/26). We will also be taking one to Peachtree City for no particular reason other than it is about damn time we did. That date is TBD. There will be a 4th one going to Metropolis as well. I know. But it is their "thing", so settle down east side folks, your turn is coming. These casks for the February events are from our friends at Sweetwater, and they are an IPA dry-hopped with Centennial hops. Don't know what that means? Well it goes like this: Cascade hops are the quintessential American ale hop. Ever had Sierra Nevada Pale Ale? Cascade hops. Lots of them. Some genius made a super-charged Cascade hybrid, and voila, Centennial hops were born. Ever had Bell's Two Hearted? All Centennial. So imagine a Sweetwater IPA, extra hopped up with big, citrusy Centennial hops and served all smooth and velvety out of a cask, and...... Hey, did you just wet your pants? You know who you are! I can't see you, but I know that was a little too much stimulation for some of you. I am excited too, but please remain seated and take a deep breath. It isn't until February anyway. For those folks who feel jilted that these casks are not coming to your area, don't worry. I have four more firkins that are being filled with various things by Stone. OH GOD! THERE YOU GO AGAIN! Oh, you pissed all over the rug! OUT! Outside! BAD BEER GEEK! Bad! I never should have told them about the Stone casks. It was too soon. They weren't ready. Look at them out in the yard running around in circles, air-humping.

So that covers the Ahoy and the Warp Speed Mr. Sulu. The "Bon Voyage" is for my friend Bob who is moving to California on Monday. He is a great friend and one of the single coolest people I have ever known. We'll miss you, Bob. Stay off of those high fences. It isn't the fall that gets you, it's the landing that hurts.

I gotta go. Sounds like the ACAT is on after all. That beer isn't going to drink itself.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Don't Hate The Player, Mom. Hate The Game


There, you see what I did? I made Brett Favre mad, so he destroyed my beloved Cowboys last week. Not sure who's decision it was to throw that last touchdown, but that wasn't necessary. The game was already over for the most part, and it isn't very sportsmanlike to rub someone's nose in the fact that you kicked their ass. But whatever. We'll see if karma doesn't come back and screw the Vikings for that tomorrow. Truthfully, I am sort of rooting for Favre to win the Super Bowl this year now that Dallas in eliminated. Then maybe Favre will go away for good and stop un-retiring. That is getting to be a pretty worn out routine for a guy who is normally considered to have a lot of class. Enough about football. Now I just have to remember what it is that I do on the weekends once football is over.
The February beer dinner has recently been posted on the www.tacomac.com web site. The date is Tuesday the 23rd, and it is being held at Lindbergh. Instead of the single-brewery format, we have changed things up a bit for this one. Here is how it works:
  1. Instead of a half-hour reception with one beer and one passed hors d' oeuvres, we are going with a more lengthy reception. There will be four cheese and beer pairing stations set up across the mezzanine, and guests can move freely from one to the other. The pairings will surprise some that are unfamiliar with beer/cheese pairings. For example, I had no idea until recently that porters and stouts went well with blue cheeses. So this will be a great opportunity for guests to learn first hand what some great pairings are. You can look like a genius at your next dinner party using what you learn with us. Not that your standard wit are charm are getting tiresome, I'm just saying that maybe everyone has already heard all of your jokes. That could be why they aren't laughing at them. Or else you are not very funny, and in that case you should go with the cheese pairings from now on.
  2. Each of the next three courses will have cheese implemented into the dish somewhere. There will be an app/salad course, a main course and dessert. The cost is $65.
  3. The beers have beer hand selected by me based on the menu that Matt has put together. The beer selection is quite diverse, and I am extremely happy with this menu. The dessert "beer" is actually a beer cocktail that we serve at The Fred. It is mixture of 1/3 sparkling wine and 2/3 Bell's Kalamazoo Stout. It is a true Black Velvet that Larry Bell himself taught me to make in his home 15 years ago, and it is delicious. You should try it at your next dinner party, and give those knock-knock jokes a rest.
There were about 15 open spots the last time I checked, so if you are interested, you better get on it. We are only going to do about 6-8 of these a year, and each one will have a different twist. The old one brewery, five beers, five courses concept is getting done all over town. It was time to innovate. Wait until you hear about my plans for April......(top secret).

Last week was jam packed as usual. Hopefully you made it out to Metropolis on Tuesday for the Bell's event. If not, you missed a really good time. The beers and the people were an outstanding mix. It was the first time I had seen Larry in almost ten years. I left Bell's involuntarily in May of 2000 after working there for 7 years. As expected, he was pretty much the same guy I remembered, and we got to reminisce briefly over some old times and catch up on some old acquaintances. The Van Twee beer was exceptional, and the cask of Cherry Stout was great too.

Friday we tapped one of the best casks in recent memory at Metropolis, Left Hand Fade To Black Export Stout. Wow was that beer tasty. Great crowd too. That is Jen in the picture about to enjoy a big ol' mug of stout. The element of smoked malt came out more in the cask than it does in the bottle or standard draft. If you did not get to drink this beer I am truly sorry for you. Luckily we should be seeing for Left Hand casks this year. Stay tuned.

For those of you frustrated about all of these events being mainly in-town, I have good news for you. We have increased our inventory of empty casks, and are currently having 4 filled by Sweetwater. They will be going to Canton and Cumming for upcoming anniversaries, as well as Peachtree City and Metropolis. I am also in the process of sending 4 to Stone Brewing. Those will take a while to return, but I am sure that they will be worth the wait. They are going to be spread around the company geographically. I understand the frustration on this matter, but the situation that led those frustrations to arise is complicated. The important thing is that it has been fixed, and the cask program will be ongoing and show more diversity in the following months. I have no idea what Sweetwater is going to put in those casks at this point, but I am looking at a late February release date for now.

On another note, please take a look at the current All About Beer magazine. There is a big article about the Terrapin/Left Hand four city beer dinner tour that we participated in last year. There is a great photo of our own chef Matt Deckard in there. My feelings may have been hurt by not being included, but I will be appearing in a small article, with photo, in the March issue of Atlanta Magazine. We took pictures for it on Friday during the Left Hand FTB cask event. Mom will be so proud. Actually my mother is in the substance abuse rehabilitation field, so that poses an interesting family dichotomy.
"How are things going in the rehab world Mom?"
"Fine. How are thing going in the encouraging-to-get-people-drunk-all-the-time field, son?"
"Pretty good Mom. People really seem to like getting buzzed."
"And I suppose you think that's OK? That people ruin their lives with drugs and alcohol."
"Hey, I'm not telling anyone how to live their...."
"IT RUINS PEOPLES' LIVES!"
"Are you baking cookies?"
"Peanut butter. I know those are your favorite."
I actually lose weight over the holidays because I don't drink. Anything. At all. As long as my mom is around. I eat cookies and cake and stuff with gravy on it, and I still drop a few pounds. I know, it sounds crazy, but it's true. I drink a lot of beer.

Some upcoming things of note are:
  • This week's cask is Heavy Seas Peg Leg Stout at Lindbergh. We are hosting a reception for the Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting's participating brewers this Friday, so we will have that cask available for them, as well as for you. Expect it to get tapped around 7 pm. There will be many beer luminaries in the building, so if you like to meet those folks, they will be strolling around from time to time.
  • On Wednesday, February 10th we will have owner Jake Leinenkugel at our Prado store. He will be there to meet people, drink a few beers, and just hang out in Atlanta for a little while. I have met this guy before, and he is extremely cool and fun to talk to. Put that date on your calendar if you are interested in having a beer with that guy. It is a great excuse to check out The Fred bar downstairs. I will keep you posted on web site developments for The Fred, but it should be up in a week or sooner at www.thefredbar.com.
Thanks for reading folks. I hope you have a great week, and that you got your tickets for the Sweetwater Brew Your Cask Off event in March. I have sent in my entry, and we are very excited about everything relative to the BYCA tasting. Tickets are going to be scarce, to jump on 'em ASAP. Bye.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

"I Come From Lake Titicaca!"

OK, I know that you did not come to this blog to read about sports, but did anyone see the Hawks’ game on Friday? I finally went to a game this year, and it came down to Jamal Crawford’s (Go Blue!) buzzer beating 3-pointer. Hawks won 102-101 on a nationally televised ESPN game, beating a strong Phoenix Suns team. This team continues to make progress, and the people of Atlanta, for the most part, don’t seem to notice. For a game that good, there sure were a lot of open seats. Two years ago they forced a playoff Game 7 with the eventual champion Boston Celtics. Last year they got through the first round of the playoffs against the Miami Heat. We have a winning team who looks to go deeper in the playoffs this year, and everyone is still talking about the Falcons finally putting two back-to-back winning seasons together, even though they did not make the playoffs. Hey, I am a huge football fan myself, but I suggest you head down to Philips Arena one of these days and check out the Hawks. We had a blast last night. There’s a Taco Mac adjacent to the arena as well, so you can grab a couple good beers before the game.

So speaking of football, I came clean about my Cowboys disease last week. To my surprise I did not lose any followers to this blog following that confession. They played great last week, and it sure has been a long time since being a Cowboys fan felt this good. Next up is the Minnesota Vikings tomorrow afternoon. I think they have a solid chance of winning if they play like they have lately. The biggest factor working against them is that Brett Favre “magic”. If he has one of those games like he is capable of having, that could spell trouble. I mean, in 2003, a day after his dad died, he threw 4 touchdowns against a good Oakland Raiders team. In Oakland, on Monday night with the whole country watching. So I just hope that his porch didn’t collapse and kill one of his hound dogs this week, or that he doesn’t have to shoot one of his favorite tractors or something. I am not trying to say that Brett Favre is a hillbilly here, but if your image is too “folksy” for Levi’s so you hawk Wrangler jeans on TV, you might be a redneck. If you are a fabulously wealthy, future hall-of-fame NFL quarterback who has been to almost every major U.S. city, and your ideal place to settle down is in Mississippi, you might be a redneck. If you mispronounce your own last name, you might come from a long line of rednecks. If I were the Cowboys staff, I would be sprinkling Vicodin all over the Metrodome this week. Favre used to love that stuff. Just leave random bottles in the locker room and players’ entrance area and see if #4 doesn’t pick one up for old times’ sake. Let him get so goofed upon pain killers that he forgets what team he’s on. On second thought, he was pretty awesome when he was popping pills. I think he was Super Bowl MVP when he was washing Vicodin down with Budweiser 7 days a week. What an inspiration to today’s youth. See kids, if you do drugs, all of your dreams will come true. And if they don’t, you couldn’t really care less, because YOU ARE ON DRUGS! It’s a win-win situation. Luckily none of this really matters, because everyone knows that kids desperately want to do what you tell them not to do. And the authorities will take your kids away from you if you tell them that they should do drugs. So what is a youngster these days to do? A quandary like that sure makes a kid want to steal their parents’ liquor and go find some pot. There is one upside to this predicament however. Your kids are going to have a get a job to afford those drugs, so they will have to stop freeloading off of you. At least for their drug money.

The cask of Heavy Seas Loose Cannon IPA that we tapped at Crabapple on Wednesday had a little surprise for us. It had the end of a muslin bag hanging out of the bung and a sticker on the cask that said “Local Hops”. We contacted the brewery to find out that the beer was dry-hopped with Cascade and Chinook hops grown in Maryland. The beer tasted great, and after doing my best McGyver-ing on the tap, we got everything working just fine. Great turn out too. (For those who may be confused, a muslin bag is basically a cheese cloth bag used to put hops into in order to add them to a cask. The bag keeps the loose hops from getting into the actual beer, but allowing the beer to come in contact with the hops. A bung is the plug that goes into the hole that a cask in filled through. That hole, ladies and gentlemen, is called the “bung hole”. So when Beavis is searching for “TP for my bung hole” in the legendary “The Great Cornholio” episode of Beavis & Butthead, he is speaking incorrectly. In fact, when anyone uses the term “bung hole” very rarely are the speaking of the hole in a keg that you fill it through. And yes, people who work at breweries snicker when they say “bung hole” as far as I have seen.)

Friday’s cask at Metropolis was a Rogue Mogul Madness dry-hopped with Amarillo hops. It was delicious. Holy hops Batman. If you missed it, we have another one to be tapped next month. This week’s cask at Metropolis is Left Hand Fade To Black Export Stout. If that did not just make your mouth water, then either you have not had LH FTB before, or you are dead. This beer is ridiculously good. Those guys know how to make dark beers. If you miss this one, you need to seriously consider your priorities. No excuses. I don’t care who dies, visits from out of town, or has a dance recital. These people in your life need to learn to work around your drinking calendar. Set the tone early. “I am sorry honey, but daddy has to go out drinking again. Have mommy take lots of pictures of whatever it is that I won’t be going to tonight. There is a strong chance that I might look at them some day. I hope that you don’t steal my liquor and go buy any pot while I am gone, but that is a chance that I am willing to take.” My friend Donald is going to come on this beer trip to England with me and 16 other people. He had to convince his wife that he can go on this trip without her--and it is not exactly cheap to fly to England and go drinking for a week. Oh, and we leave on Valentine’s Day. Do you think he pulled that off by having a stong reputation for “being there for her”? Hell no! He set the tone early that his drinking comes first. And that’s important for people to know. You need to let the world know, “I am selfish, and I like to drink a lot of beer. You are a part of my world, but you come second, maybe. I am not really sure where you fit in, but that is irrelevant at this point. You’re not first, so just understand that.” The best thing about giving people low expectations is that it is so easy to be impressive when you meet or exceed them.

Don’t forget about the Bell’s event at Metropolis on Tuesday (see multiple previous posts). There will be some excellent beers all over the place. Speaking of Michigan breweries, be on the lookout for some Founders beers out there. They just arrived in Atlanta last week. Those guys know how to make some great beer.

If you can find tickets, there is a really cool event at Sweetwater in the end of March. There are 75 invites for outside individuals to make their own special casks of beer. How those invites went out was up to the brewery. This week is the deadline for participants to submit their own personal ingredients to augment their choice of two base beers. You could pick from a huge list of hops, yeasts, herbs, coffee, spices, fruits, etc. Then in February the contestants go to the brewery to add their ingredients to their casks of beer. Once the beer is ready, the brewery will have a huge cask tasting/judging of all 75 different beers. That part is open to the public, if they have tickets. Taco Mac has 4 teams participating. Katy (from The Fred) and I just submitted our recipe for our team today. I am very excited about this event. Google “Brew Your Cask Off” and you will find the details about getting tickets. I can’t tell you what our recipe is at this point. Top secret. Matt (our corporate chef) has a team, Tim (Canton) & Donald (Metropolis) have a team, and Jason from Mall of GA has the 4th team. I want to give the guys at Sweetwater credit for coming up with this awesome idea. Hopefully this becomes one of Atlanta’s premier beer events for a long time. You should try to get a ticket.

That’s all for now readers. I hope that everyone has a great week. I will give you a peek at my England itinerary once it gets finalized. I promise to take lots of pictures.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Superstar!

I hope everyone survived the icy roads yesterday. Side streets were indeed a little treacherous, but once you got on the highway, everything was pretty smooth. Being from a colder region of the country, I did not "freak out" over the situation, but I can see how parts of the metro area seemed impassable if you have no experience with winter driving. Here now is some advice from someone who does have experience in that field: why don't you slow down and pay attention? I realize that those are two things of the last things most people want to do while they are driving. I hate to interrupt your terribly important phone conversations for a second, but every once in a while, especially when conditions are challenging, it is important to actually pay attention to your driving. I know, that's crazy talk. Especially when the phone conversation goes like this:

"Oh my god, it is like so icy out here. I mean, I am like scared to even be driving, and.......Why is that guy giving me the finger, and.........Oh shit! Aaahhhhh!" Crash. "Are you still there? Oh my god, I just totally wrecked my car. And it looks like 28 more cars are about to pile up behind me. Oooh, hey, I gotta go, the OnStar guy is calling me. Yes, again. I know, I should be shot." And that is how I imagine that one person ruined a ton of peoples' day by causing a 29 car pile up on I-20 yesterday. Congratulations, I hope your injuries are serious.

OK, but back to some beer stuff. And yes, I talk on the phone in the car too. But that is different, because nobody ever thinks that they are the problem. For example, as George Carlin pointed out, everyone driving slower that you is a "god-damned idiot", and anyone driving faster than you is a "crazy mother f***ker!" You, of course, are doing everything perfectly, even while driving 60 mph in the left lane with your blinker on and sending text messages. Or if you are Tiger Woods, sexting instead of texting.

The photo is of our two casks from Wednesday, and that is Mary Katherine from Metropolis in the shot. We had Weyerbacher Winter and Weyerbacher Double Simcoe. Bob from the brewery was there too. Both beers were excellent, but I felt the Winter, pulled through the beer engine, was the more outstanding of the two. Not to disparage the Simcoe, which was absolutely delicious, but I appreciated a less hoppy diversion for a change.

No such diversions will be available at our cask events this week though. Wednesday our Crabapple store is doing their first cask in recent memory. They have a Heavy Seas Loose Cannon IPA, one of the first big IPA's Atlanta ever received. This brewery jumped on the Atlanta market way before the rush of new brands hit us over the last few years. This beer is going to be great. I will be there, and I expect to tap it around 5:30 or so. On Friday we will most likely be pouring a cask of Rogue Mogul Madness dry-hopped with Amarillo hops at Metropolis. This should be a great tasting beer as well, and anyone who is curious about what dry-hopping can do for a beer should put this on their calendar. I will also be there, and we will tap it at 6 pm. However, if the Left Hand Fade To Black cask shows up before Friday, it will be hard not to keep us from getting into that. Maybe that one goes next Friday, stay tuned.

Next Tuesday (the 19th, not 4 days from now!) is the Bell's event at Metropolis from 6-8pm. Owner Larry Bell will be in town, and we have a cask of Cherry Stout, a keg of Hop Slam and a very special keg of Van Twee. The Van Twee is Bell's collaboration with De Proef in Belgium. It is a Belgian dubbel with a little porter influence, tinted with Michigan tart cherry juice, fermented with Belgian yeast and carbonated with Michigan beet sugar. Reports are glowing to say the least. I have yet to try it myself. This is a small keg, so you will need to be on time or you are going to miss out. These are the types of beers that separate the hardcore beer drinkers from the mere "hobbyists". Do you want quotation marks around your status? I don't. Be there! Be there! Be there!

That is it for now. Before I go I want to share with you the news of a sickness that I have. I have been afflicted with this sickness since I was a small child in the 70's. So far, there seems to be no cure. Many times I have tried to rid myself of this illness, occasionally becoming disgusted by its shameful origin. But it won't seem to go away, and I have resigned myself to accept it, embrace it, and carry on with dignity. When push comes to shove, all I can say is GO COWBOYS! Big game tonight. I know, I'm sick. Enjoy your weekend.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Late Breaking News!


Sorry for the short notice, but I really hope that you all read this before Wednesday. We have two casks to tap at Metropolis on Wednesday. We will be tapping both Weyerbacher Winter and Double Simcoe at the same time. I think Donald likes to do that at 6 pm if I recall correctly. I know, we have been doing so many things at the new store, it's like we forgot about this place. Actually, I warned you that Donald was about to heat things up over there in the new year. Here it comes.

Why the short notice? It turns out that Bob from the brewery is in town that day. We wanted to jump on the opportunity for you folks to ask him any of the questions that have been wracking your brains regarding beer, hops, and WTF "Weyerbacher" means. OK, that last one has been wracking my brain. Hope that you can make it over there. I know that its cold outside, but that's a weak excuse. The store is heated. Don't be lame.

Happy new year everyone. I will do my part to help you folks enjoy it as much as possible. I think that we are off to a good start.

From My September Trip-Sierra Brewhouse

From My September Trip-Sierra Brewhouse
This is the top floor of the brewhouse, with buckets of fresh hops about to go into the kettles.