Sunday, February 28, 2010

Well, I made it back from England in one piece. The trip was awesome, and I am going to break it down for everyone in chunks. There is not one of you out there with the attention span to sit through a description of all 7 days of this trip in one sitting. That is nothing personal against the highly intelligent and sophisticated readers of this blog. It is just that we did a ton of stuff, and I took a lot of pictures. I am going to try to put together some slide shows that have some relevant themes. I know that astute readers may have heard that before, but this time I really mean it.

Depending on when you might have ran into me this past week since I have been back, I would have either told that I was an absolute idiot, or that I was a genius who knew exactly what I was doing all along. What I did was plan a jam-packed week of special events and appearances that started literally the day I went back to work. Sounds stupid, right? I mean, how about easing back into it? Ever heard of jet lag, Fred? Those are valid points. However, my life is back to normal now. I didn’t stretch out the catch-up from a week away from work any longer than necessary, and other than a cough I picked up on the plane, I am pretty much back to normal.

It all started with the mail. Once I got home, dropped off my gear and called my mother to tell her that I was home safely. Then it was time to check a week’s worth of mail. The problem is that just past my mailbox, sitting innocently down on the corner is one of my favorite bars. Yes, I had been drinking endlessly in another country for the last 6 days. Yes, I was exhausted. But there is a trash can on the corner for my junk mail, and the idea of some cold American beers and familiar surroundings just seemed like the right thing to do. Plus, once you have the car warmed up, you might as well just drive it, right? It’s what the car wants, and that is what is really important here. The problems started when a friend of mine joined me a short time later. What I could not tell from speaking to her on the phone was that she had what is called a “head start” in her drinking. Apparently the weather was just as dreary and cold here as it was in England, so once the sun came out last Sunday (the 21st), some people felt like drinking. All day. Starting early and skipping lunch. So much so that by dinner time when we met, it became clear quickly that this person was in rough shape. Without boring you with the gruesome details, I had to guide this Hindenburg into the hangar, which took a substantial amount of time and was definitely “unexpected”. So the day started at 12:30 am Atlanta time in a hotel in London and ended at 11:00 pm, and I got to observe a massive amount of puking. Ah, the good-ole USA.

So needless to say I was pretty worn out Monday morning. I had an appearance that evening at The Fred. Modelo Especial and Negra Modelo had just launched in Atlanta, and we had the brew master in from Mexico for a little reception. It was a nice event, and the customers who attended were treated to a special surprise: Free Beer! The generous folks from Modelo picked up the tab for the nice food Matt made for the event, and all of the beers. If you are a Brewniversity member with 750 or more beers, these are the types of invites that you will receive from me. I know 750 is a lot of different beers, but trust me, the rewards are worth it.

Tuesday was our cheesy beer dinner. There was an hour long reception featuring 4 beer/cheese pairings (plus accoutrements), followed by a 3-course dinner that had cheese featured in the dishes. The beers were from different breweries and covered 7 different styles. It was great, and that format will be used again someday, just not soon. Our next dinner is in April and will feature Rogue products. That’s right, but not just beers. Oysters from a farm near the brewery in Oregon will be flown in, and we will use Rogue beers, serve cocktails using Rogue spirits from their distillery, and utilize the cheeses from their creamery. Other Oregon products will be sourced as well. Yes, it is going to be killer. You should be able to sign up for it by mid-March. The tentative date is 4/27, and we are thinking Prado for the location.

Wednesday we tapped a cask of SweetWater IPA that had been dry-hopped with Centennial for a 2-year anniversary celebration at our Cumming store. The beer was outstanding, and it had the greatest, fluffiest head you’ve ever seen. Great turnout too, and the beer was gone in just over an hour. We did another one of those casks Friday at Metropolis before I went to the Hawks/Mavericks game. Dirk was just too much and Jason Kidd had a triple-double; Hawks lost in OT. Good game though.

Saturday….oh yeah, I was busy on Saturday too…I went to SweetWater to make our cask for the Brew Your Cask Off event coming up in March. You should already know about this event if you read this blog regularly. Otherwise, you can clearly use a computer, so just Google it. My cask was made in collaboration with Katy, our manager of The Fred. It is a porter style flavored with molasses, cinnamon and nutmeg. It is also dry-hopped (but not too much) with Cascade and Glacier. We have high hopes for this beer. We named it The Full Retard in homage to the classic performance by Robert Downey Jr. in Tropic Thunder. In fact, in order to help our beer come judging time at the event, we had shirts printed up that say “Go Full Retard!” Yeah, we are going to hell. But it has double meaning: it implies that we are not only cheering for The Full Retard, but also that you could, like my friend last Sunday, go and get fully retarded-ly drunk. No, I don’t care about political correctness. Life is too short for that. People like to make fun of each other. That is what we do, it is natural, and most of the time it is hilarious. Pull the stick out of your butt and lighten up already. And don’t think for one minute that we don’t love The Full Retard. We thought about it very carefully, nurtured him all afternoon, and can’t wait to share our Retard with the world. Katy and I then went up to Canton to tap another cask of the dry-hopped SW IPA for that store’s 1-year anniversary. All beer stuff, all day.

So that was a pretty heavy week coming off of a really heavy week, but now everything is back to normal. During this time the web site for The Fred got activated. You can go to www.thefredbar.com to check it out. Since this place is occasionally closed for special events, please take a look at the calendar once in a while if you are heading down there. We don’t want you to waste trip if we have a function of some sort going on down there. And if you have not been there before, the beer list is pretty ridiculous. Check it out.

This week looks like it should be fun. I am going to Charlotte on Wednesday through Friday. I am going to meet with beer distributors in preparation for our new stores that are opening up there in 2010. We are also going to be doing some “market research” on the beer scene in the area. I think we all know that means “beer drinking”. On both sides of this trip I am going to try to get over to our Crabapple store though. Monday the 1st marks day 1 of their 10th anniversary celebration. Each day there will be a special release of a rare and/or vintage dated beer. Monday kicks it off with a keg of the Terrapin 30 Strong that was made to commemorate Taco Mac’s 30th anniversary last spring. This strong ale was made with 30 different ingredients, and tasted great last year. The 9 months of mellowing should make it that much better. Do yourself a favor and go check that out. Follow them on Twitter to see the whole line-up if you like, or just get over there as much as you can this week. Have fun, and I will talk to you later.

Pictured are the some of the beer engine handles at the pub at Fuller’s brewery in Chiswick (the “w” is silent), just outside of London. We left Atlanta at 5:00 pm Sunday and arrived at 7:30 am Monday in London. I couldn’t really sleep on the plane, since it was only 1:30 am according to my body. Sitting on a plane didn't exactly make me tired. We were on our bus by 9:00 and drinking beer at this brewery by 11:00 am. And that is how it started…..More to come.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Time To Put The FC In The UK. Yeah, Baby!

That's right, I leave for England tomorrow. So technically you could say that Delta Airlines put the FC into the UK. This is my first trip into any other country besides Canada. I know that I will be taking more of these trips in the future for sure. I mean, I paid $29.00 for an outlet converter that is good in 165 countries (which I think is all of the ones that actually have electricity), so I need to get my money's worth out of that sucker. Couldn't find one that was just for England, which is different than most other European countries. Great planning guys. "Hey, we've got a bunch of countries all jammed together on a peninsula. Let's make everything different. We will show the world our fierce independence and the greatness of our nation by making everyone adapt to THIS kind of electrical outlet!" I guess they use the same money now, which was probably huge for European drug dealers. No more pesky conversion rates and long lines at the bank to trade out currency. Imagine how much better at math their drug dealers must have been than ours. That probably gave them a distinct advantage when they got out of jail. Essentially they were criminals who were excellent at numbers. Sort of like a stock broker.

This is what my trip is looking like so far:
  1. Get to the airport in Atlanta tomorrow around 2:00 pm. Find Ed immediately. He gets access to the Delta Sky Lounge and the free drinks, and he can bring two guests. Drink heavily (this time I have a reason, more on that later). Flight leaves at 5:30 pm.
  2. Arrive in London at 7:00 am. No time for napping, that's what airplanes (and the previously mentioned heavy drinking) are for. On the bus at 9:30 with 17 other Atlanta/Athens folks. Tour and beer tasting at Fuller's before lunch. Beer drinking and touring of Hook Norton Brewery after lunch. Pub crawl of Chipping Norton. I don't know what Chipping Norton is, but I assume that it is a place, one that is presumably in England, and that the pubs there have a lot of interesting beers.
  3. Tour of Marston's Brewery on Tuesday morning, some traveling through the country side, lunch, etc. Then we hit the UK Pub Of The Year for happy hour. It is called the Kelham Island Tavern. Next it looks like we are drinking beer all over that town, including in the train station, and something called The Fat Cat. They have interesting names for things and places over there, which will be more apparent later.
  4. I am very excited about Wednesday. We get to tour the Samuel Smith's brewery and have lunch in their cellar bar. I can only imagine what awaits there. This visit will be followed by a nap on the bus, which will most likely be interrupted by a strong need to urinate. Just a hunch. By 5:00 pm we will be touring the York Brewery and having dinner afterward. We will be drinking most of the time that we are awake, so if I don't actually say that, it is still safe to assume that we will be drinking. What did you think the bus was for? It has fridge for what I consider one, and only one, reason: keeping beer cold.
  5. On Thursday we are going to visit a malting house. That is the name for the building in which barley is malted for beer making. Hopefully it uses the old-world process of floor malting, where the malts are raked over an enormous floor during the drying process. This is known to be relatively uncommon in the modern era, and practiced most widely in England. We have a noon tour of the Moorehouse Brewery, followed by some cellar tour of what must be a pretty awesome pub. It is called the Grey Mare Inn. Sounds old and tweedy, doesn't it? Then it is back on the bus headed for Fleetwood. Pretty full day so far......but wait, there is the Fleetwood Beer Festival that night. I have seen the huge line-up of beers being offered, and I have only heard of about 5% of them. This should be a busy evening. By busy I mean blurry, with difficulty balancing and forming complete sentences at times. Again, just a hunch.
  6. The next day we are back in London, and having lunch at the Cock Hotel. Here is proof that the English have a far more refined sense of humor than we do here in America. I think it is safe to say that if the Cock Hotel were in, maybe, Cleveland for example, they would have changed the name a long time ago. I personally know at least a dozen people who would steal the sign out front just to have it around and snicker that, "It's called the Cock hotel! Get it? Cock!" Yes, I have those friends too, just like you do. So childish! So after I steal as many things as possible from the Cock Hotel, we are off to pub crawl the great watering holes of London. There is a handy little thing called the CAMRA Guide, which will send you into all of the right places. CAMRA or the Campaign For Real Ales is a group that came about in the 80's (I think) in England to support the true, cask-conditioned (aka "real") ales that were getting harder to find in England and the rest of the world. They were the driving force behind a renewed appreciation for and the proliferation of the beers that made England famous, but were beginning to die out. Without CAMRA, big business was taking over British brewing like it did in America in the 50's & 60's. Without CAMRA, probably no FC in the UK.
  7. Lastly on Saturday we are doing all of the touristy stuff in London, which I am looking forward to very much. It just would not be right to go all the way to England and not see the sights. Luckily that won't take all day, so back to the CAMRA guide and London pub crawl part two. This night will include all kinds of stops, including the London Pub Of The Year, Bricklayer's Arms.
  8. Then we head home Sunday morning with a lot of photos and good memories. I am traveling with some really cool people, so we should have a blast. Hopefully I do not find out what an eight-hour flight is like with a bad hangover. I have done five hours back from California felling rough, and that is bad enough. I would have jumped to my death if the flight attendant had opened the door for some reason. I was actually hoping that she would for about two hours of that flight.
When I return I have a full week ahead of me. Since you won't hear from me for a while, here are the important dates:
  • We have Sweetwater IPA casks that have been dry-hopped with Centennial hops. Metropolis will tap one on Friday the 19th while I am gone. Cumming will tap one on Wednesday the 24th to celebrate their two-year anniversary. Canton will be tapping one on Saturday the 27th to celebrate their one-year anniversary. The fourth one is going to Peachtree City in early March.
  • Tuesday the 23rd is our next beer dinner. It is sold out, sorry. If you have not seen the menu, you can view at www.tacomac.com. Click on "Events". We are very proud of this menu.
  • If you are a Dean or Chancellor level Brewniversity member, you should have received an invite from me for something on Monday the 22nd as well.
  • Doesn't sound like a full week yet? Well I am going to the Hawks game on Friday and making a cask of beer at Sweetwater in the afternoon before going to Canton for their cask event Saturday night. All of this after a week of traveling in England. No, I am not asking for sympathy. Just hoping that someone out there will remember all of this in case they find me wandering around aimlessly somewhere. Point me in the right direction and remind me where I supposed to be. Thank you.
You guys have a great week. I am all packed and got my camera battery charged up to take lots of pictures for you. I promise to try to include a slide show from this trip. Talk to you soon.

PS- Still the hottest Austin Powers girl is still Elizabeth Hurley for me. I know....over Heather Graham and Beyonce Knowles. I think it's the accent.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Envelope Please....

There have been a lot of winners since we last spoke, and I am definitely feeling like one of them. It all started with the Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting last Saturday. The event was a huge success despite concerns about the weather. I will tell you one thing, for as much as Atlantans freak out about marginally bad weather, this thing was packed. Hey, the next time a winter storm threatens to cripple the city, all we need to do is tell the beer community that some awesome beer event is about to be canceled unless the street get cleared. These guys will make that shit happen. Nobody is going to shut down their good time, especially mother nature. So it may have been a bit crowded, but I liked this ACAT venue over each of the past two years. Owen Ogletree and his crew, plus Dennis' guys from 5 Seasons, did a great job in spite of some difficult obstacles. So here are the results:

1st Place Classic Style: Left Hand Fade to Black Foreign Export Stout
1st Place Speciality: Sweetwater Spice of Life (Festive Ale aged in rum barrel)
2nd Place Overall: Twain's Sour Brett Brown Ale
3rd Place Overall: French Broad Rye Hopper
HM: The Bruery's Two Turtle Doves

For some attentive readers, you may recall the Left Hand Fade To Black Foreign Export Stout cask that we had recently at Metropolis. I said that this may might be the single best cask that we had ever had. I urged everyone of you to come out and taste it. And I guess I was right, according to the experts from the ACAT. To all of you who missed this beer at either place, I just want to ask you, "Why don't you listen to me?" Sorry. I am not a parent, but now I realize why parents say that to their children all the time. I really want you to experience, like a parent would, the best that life has to offer. And when you don't listen, it hurts. OK, not really, but it definitely hurts you. I drank a bunch of that beer. If you didn't, don't start crying now. You can't bring it back. I tried to tell you, but nooo, you wouldn't listen.....(This is called "tough love" for you parents out there. It is like reverse psychology, but the intention is that you make your child cry and therefore regret their actions. So basically you don't teach them anything, except that their parents are mean and don't love them at all. So they will probably mature into a rebellious teenager who flunks out of school. In fact, this style of parenting is known to produce many special attributes in young adults. Namely: drug addiction, unwanted pregnancy, lip piercings, terrible musical preference [see: Avril Lavigne], stupid-ass hair cuts, Taco Bell, skinny jeans, FaceBook dependency, propensity towards malls, adherence to only vampire-based literature, and a complete and thorough inability to spell or construct a complete sentence without electronic support. Good work America! Our children are an intellectual garbage heap. Luckily they are sexually promiscuous as well, so there will be more and more of them before we know it, and their glaring deficiencies will start to seem normal. By the time we figure out that reality shows and MTV are scientifically proven to deteriorate the brain, they will have taken over the airwaves, and there won't be any coverage of this scientific discovery.). I know what you are thinking. "Well get another cask of that beer already. We'll come this time!" Oh if only it were that easy. Fade To Black is winter seasonal series. What's that mean? That means that not only is it gone for the most part, but that next year the FTB seasonal will be a different style of beer altogether. OK, enough about that beer. It was damn good though. Those guys know how to make some dark beer alright.

Next up was the Guinness Perfect Pour contest at Lindbergh. This is the 3rd year in a row that we have hosted this city-wide competition to see what bartender can pour the best pint of Guinness. Brew master Fergal Murray comes into Atlanta every year to participate as one of the judges. You can read about the event, his visit, etc at:

http://beerconnoisseur.com/talk-with-fergal-murray

The winner turned out to be our own Megan Martin from Johns Creek. Before you start screaming, "Rigged!", just remember that we did not win the previous 2 years in our own building. Megan did a great job, and if you have never attended this event before, you really should. It is a rowdy night, and the most fun you will probably ever have on a Monday night.

The week wound up with me cutting two radio ads for 790 The Zone (AM sports radio). They start running on Monday, and I think that they turned out pretty well. I have a great face for radio. Then on Saturday the last of the Sierra Nevada/Dogfish Head collaboration Life & Limb kegs got tapped at Manuel's Tavern. I live 2 blocks from Manuel's, but I would have gone across town for it if necessary. The beer was great, and there was a noticeable difference from when we tapped ours in December. Good turnout too, and the keg was gone in an hour. It was a small keg, but that is still pretty good. Everyone had a good time for sure. Today is Super Bowl Sunday, tomorrow I am going to a show at The Tabernacle, then heading to Asheville, NC to visit some breweries and go to another show up there on Tuesday. I will be back in time for Friday's Smuttynose event at Metropolis. Here is the scoop:
  1. Cask of Old Brown Dog dry-hopped with Willamette hops.
  2. Six specialty Smuttynose drafts: Terminator G-Bock, Imperial Stout, Baltic Porter, Strawberry Weiss, Wheat Wine & Oaked Big-A IPA
  3. Start time will be 6 pm.
That's all for now gang. Catch me at Metropolis on Friday if you can make it. Other wise I am off to England next Sunday so you may not hear from me for a while. I will have some fun photos for you when I get back. The one above is the main area of the ACAT. There was a second room full of cask beers and beer lovers too. Bye!

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.