Saturday, May 1, 2010

Thanks, Mom. It Means So Much To Me.

Why have I been quiet for over a week? Did you not see the line-up of beer events lately? Sorry, I'm only human. There have been a lot of happenings these days, not to mention trying to keep up with some non-beer stuff. That's right, I do have a life outside of the beer world. I know, I know...not what you wanted to hear, but now you know. Please try to diversify yourself in your hobbies, even if it just a little bit. A "hobbyist" with only one interest is sometimes called a "weirdo" or, more frequently, "obsessive and deranged". You'll want to avoid that.

We had the Detroit Red Wings force and win a game 7 on the road to advance in the NHL playoffs (Remember: I am from Michigan people, and that is one of the few bright spots we have in sports after MSU tanked in the hoops tourney.). I went to Philips to watch the Hawks lose a tough game 5 at home on Wednesday, only to have our hopes reingnited by a game 6 thrashing of the Bucks in Milwaukee last night. That forces a huge game 7 tomorrow at Philips Arena, so that is where I will be on Sunday at 1 pm. Good thing I gave up church about 30 years ago, because that can wreck a Sunday afternoon in a hurry. I will add that to my list of things to thank my mother for when I inscribe her Mother's Day card before sending it out this week:

"Dearest Mother-

Thank you for working so tirelessly to raise my brother and I, that by Sunday morning you were so wiped out that you let us watch cartoons all morning and then basically run around and raise hell all day in between meals, which were delicious by the way. And that, Mom, and I am convinced of this, is how God really wants it to be in the first place. So now, when I pass a church on the way to doing something far more interesting and enjoyable on Sunday, I say to myself, 'Thank God I am not in there today! Praise Jesus, I am really going to enjoy the Lord's Day today. Amen!' And it is all because of you, Mom. Let's Go Hawks! Let's Go Hawks!"

Thank you, readers, for sharing that emotional moment with me. Don't forget to send your mother something next Sunday, or if you are lucky enough to have her nearby, take her out to lunch. Or brunch. Moms love brunch. Unless she wants you to go to church first. In that case, make up some excuse on the fly. But it had better be good, because she will know if you are lying. She is your mother after all.

So to recap last week, the Stone casks were awesome. I think my favorite so far was the Oaked Arrogant Bastard from last Friday. We still have one more to go this Wednesday in Newnan. It is a Stone IPA dry-hopped with Centennial. The Rogue dinner on Tuesday was a big hit. We had oysters flown in from a farm 6 miles down the bay from the brewery in Oregon. Yep, someone had to go to the freight arrivals area at Hartsfield-Jackson Int'l on Monday and pick up a box full of fresh Yaquina Bay oysters packed on dry ice. Everyone went nuts for them. How nuts? I never got a chance to taste one, and there were almost 200 of them. The Rogue Creamery cheeses and the cocktail we made were a big success too. Matt made a cucumber & mint simple syrup to mix with Rogue Pink Spruce Gin, which was delicious and paired with the oysters. The most notable beer was a keg of Chatoe Rogue Single Malt. This beer is made with malt and hops grown entriely by Rogue. They have a barley farm as well as a hop farm, and this beer, which was exclusively for Rogue's own pubs previously, is made from those harvests. Rare? Duh. Tasty? You bet. You missed out? Bingo.

In addtion to the cask I already mentioned, we have a Brooklyn Beer School for Brewniversity members this week. If you need help deciphering what that is, I don't know what to tell you. Attendees will be treated to numerous great beers, a tasting seminar by Rich from the brewery, plus a special surprise. It is sold out, but we may schedule more of these as time progresses. It appears to be a popular concept. Stay tuned for more developments as they unfold.

The rest of May will involve getting prepared for the June 12th Beer Connoisseur Magazine/Taco Mac Beer Festival at The Prado. The parking area in front of our store all the way down to 5 Seasons will be closed off that Saturday. There will be a live band (a good one) and some other entertainment, in addition to all kinds of good beers. The list is coming together nicely, and once the web site is ready, I will be directing you all there for info & tickets.

There is also Atlanta Beer Week scheduled for May 16th-22nd. What is Atlanta Beer Week? Well, like Charlotte, San Fran. & Philly, Atlanta is going to organize a week full of beer events all over town. Right now I have things planned for Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday. Details to come. These events are all inside the perimeter for the inagural year of ABW. As (if) this thing grows in the coming years, we will extend events outside the city. Right now we are just trying to see if you folks are interested in making this a yearly occurance. Again, there is a web site, and it should be updated by Monday. Hopefully this is something that has legs. I mean, the one in Charlotte has a ton of great sounding events, and the SF and Philly ones are definite travel destinations for beer freaks. What have we been waiting for?

On the upper right is a slide show from day 4 of my trip to England. We started the day out by visiting Fawcett Maltings. I believe the guy who gave us a tour was a 7th generation Fawcett, so these guys have been producing beer-making grains at this place for a long time. He was very idiosyncratic in a totally British way, especially with his sense of humor. He made jokes that were so oddly dry and spoke so fast with such a heavy accent that I think we missed half his jokes, and probably looked like a bunch of idiots. He did say, "Brilliant!" like the guys on the Guinness commercials on TV, which I got a kick out of. Anyway, it has differnt types of malting procedures that range in technology from ancient to modern. A "floor maltings", and this is one of 2 or three left in England, is where the malt is dried on a huge floor in a room with open windows. The barley is raked to help is dry evenly without molding. Why? Because back in the old days, that is all they had. How would you dry thousands of pounds of damp barley? They spread it out on the floor about two feet deep, then a guy drags a huge rake through it over and over again for days. They also had large industrial driers as well as kilns. Dried malted barley is different than roasted malted barley. One is for the basis and backbone of beer making and comprises the majority of a beer recipe's make up, and the other (kilned or roasted barley) is added in smalled amounts for color and flavor. If that is too simple for some of you, I am sorry. I assume that most of you know all of this stuff already. To make along story short, a maltings is a huge grain processing plant. Few people ever go to one, but they are missing out on some interseting stuff. If you want to get know beer, and I mean really get to know it, there is only one step further back to its origins, and that is the farm. Pretty sure the farms where barley grows in England were not too interesting in February. "Here is an empty field that will have barley growing in it once it is spring. Right now it is covered in snow and mud. Any questions?" That would be a short tour.

After that we went to a compact little brewery that makes Moorehouse ales. Great people there, and what a small operation. The pictures pretty much detail what was going on there. Thankfully there was a pub across the street with a swell innkeeper who didn't seem to be ruffled by 18 Americans swilling beer after beer before lunch time. Great beers if you can find them. Highly awarded amongst the British ales. See the markers on the handles.

After that we headed to The Grey Mare for lunch and some hand-drawn Thwaite's beers. You can find these in bottles in the States, and I highly recommend them. One of the big wigs from the brewery stopped in to give us a little talk about the history of the brewery and a run down on all of their beers. Great guy, again a little difficult to understand at times. And as round as he was tall. The casks were outstanding. Too bad we had to roll out so soon. As you can see it was snowy where we were that day, and a big-time snowball fight broke out next to the bus. It was a very serene and pastoral setting until we got there. But we have to keep moving.....

On to Fleetwood on the Atlantic coast, where we were staying the night. Go ahead and look up the Fleetwood Cask Ale Festival on Google or something. It was unbelievable how many different beers were available, all true cask ales served from firkins in the most attentive way imaginable. These people care about real ales, and this was a celebration of them in an incredible fashion. In fact, it was overwhelming after a while. There were simply too many, and almost none of them I have heard of. Take GABF for example. I have heard of and/or had beer from about 90% of those breweries. That seemingly overwhelming beer list can be whittled down in a hurry. Not here. Even after 4 days of drinking different cask ales across the country, I had not even scratched the surface. The people there were great, although a little confused about 18 American men & women in this small coastal city for a beer festival in February. I think it is safe to say that they have not seen that many Americans in their town since WWII.

The hotel in Fleetwood was old and drafty, but charming in many ways that made up for that. You can look at the pictures. Remember that if you click on the slide show it gets bigger and you can manipulate it. Anyway, apparently the hotel bar (and everything else in town, including The Steamer) closes up around 10 pm. However, the overnight hotel employee wears many hats. For example, if there are a buch of guests who feel like they could use a few more beverages after hours, that is his job. He showed us to a separate hotel lounge, and brought us drinks, along with some fellow travelers we made friends with, until way past a sensible bed time. Personally, I think that he was amused by a little bit of revelry in an otherwise pretty sedate environment. He was a young guy, and I got the feeling that he would have joined us in a hearbeat if he wasn't working. In fact, if we would have had any single women with us, I am sure that he would have.

Day 5 came way too early for some people, yours truly not included. I know when to say when. And usually about two hours after that I shut it down for the night. This was no exception. A short night's sleep and a long bus ride will fix you right up though. Day 5 found us wondering, "What are we going ot do with all of this beer we bought?". We had the bus for one more day, and the fridge was packed. It was put up or shut up time, and the pros needed to rise to the occasion. But that tale is for another day. Until then, take care of yourself, and don't forget your mother next Sunday. Bye.