Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy Birthday To Me!


Fall is my favorite time of year for many reasons:
  1. Football season. The pinnacle achievement of western civilization.
  2. All of the awesome fall beers. Beer being the crowning achievement of the rest of history for the entire world everywhere.
  3. It isn't 100 degrees anymore. No kidding. That summer sucked many things that are inappropriate to allude to in a tasteful forum like this.
  4. My birthday is September 30th, which depending on where you are, has the potential to be the one of the nicest days of the year. This year is a "significant" birthday as far as how old I will be.
I will be in Boston with some friends tomorrow. We are going to see Roger Waters perform The Wall at The Boston Garden. If that last sentence does not make any sense to you, then you're fired. I was able to get some great tickets with pre-show VIP party passes. Not too shabby. On Friday there is an Oktoberfest party at Harpoon Brewing Co. Then on Saturday we have Yankees/Red Sox tickets at Fenway Park.

You guys have a great weekend, and don't wait up for me. Please check the calendar at www.tacomac.com for some great casks this weekend. There is something going on at The Fred & Metropolis. When I get back we will be doing a cask in Cumming on Wednesday the 6th. Maybe I will see some of you there. Bye.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Bring Out Your Fred!


For attentive readers, that is my second reference to Monty Python & The Holy Grail in a post's title. For those of you that are not familiar with this movie, please try to figure out what your problem is. For those of you that do not find this movie funny, please see a doctor. Clearly your funny bone is fractured or has gone missing. Better yet, if you don't think Monty Python & The Holy Grail is funny, go directly to the nearest mortuary. You have no pulse and are therefore dead. Nice knowing you.

But seriously, the Fred Brick launches tonight. Here is the descriptive info that I put together for our employees and customers:

What is Fred Brick?


The Idea:
This spring I was approached by the crew from Atlanta’s own Red Brick brewery about doing a collaboration beer. I am Fred, Taco Mac’s Beverage Director, which means that I am the “beer guy” for a group of 25 restaurants that take great pride in offering a great selection of beer. Naturally I jumped at the chance to have a little bit of say in a brand new beer made right here in Atlanta.

So I sat down with Red Brick brew master Dave McClure over a few pints to discuss this project. We quickly came to a unanimous agreement on some of the positive and negative aspects of the current climate in the beer world. We decided that we would use this beer as not only an example of the partnership between our two companies, but also as a way to make a statement about some issues that we felt needed addressing. What can I say? We take beer seriously.

What’s Going On?
Did we come up with a new style hybrid? Or a mash-up of previously unheard of flavor combinations? No. Did we unearth some antiquated recipe from Babylonian texts recently found in an archaeological dig? No. How about a 13% alcohol Belgian something-or-other? No. Did we push the absolute boundaries of bitterness using some experimental new hop strain that can double as nail polish remover? No. We made a very drinkable beer with a full, balanced flavor and reasonable alcohol content. Why? Because bigger is not always better, and more of everything isn’t always a good thing.


Somewhere along the line a movement towards “extreme beer” took off like a wildfire. I jumped on board like the rest of the beer crazies out there. But after a while, I began to tire of constantly being hit over the head with more this, more that, more EVERYTHING. What happened to enjoying well-made beers with character? When did brewing become a competition to see who could overdo every aspect of a beer’s recipe? And are there true appreciation of these beers, or just shock value and an element of accomplishment by having drunk one? I can make food so spicy, for example, that few people could even eat it. But is it any good? A chef can make a dish hot, but still have a balance of flavor that makes it good and hot. So my question is this: Are people losing the ability to appreciate well-made beers because their interpretation of what “well-made” or “good” is constantly changing?


History:
Let’s take something like a Steam Beer, for example. During the Gold Rush, Steam Beer producers were up and down the west coast. Lager beers were very popular back east, so the new west coast brewers used the lager yeasts fashionable at the time. But without massive icehouses to ferment at lager temperatures, they used the warmer and more available temperatures more suited for ale brewing. The resulting beer had a bit of a fruity taste from the higher fermentation temperatures, as well as a good dose of those famous west coast hops. The kegs also had a lively carbonation level, so when they got tapped, the hissing sound reminded people of steam being released. And like that, a style was born.


One thing about Steam Beer is that it was prolific, yet quite varied. Each brewery would have had its own version of Steam. And it is certain that darker and lighter versions existed, different hop rates and varieties were used, etc. The same way that Pale Ale is quite varied these days, Steam was back then. In fact, until recently, Steam was the only indigenous American beer style. All other beers were American versions of European styles brought over by immigrants. As the Gold Rush ended and America became increasingly industrialized, the small producers of true Steam beer began to die out one by one. Only San Francisco’s Anchor Brewing Co. remained, and it too was on the verge of extinction in the late 60’s when it was bought and slowly revitalized. Now when people think of Steam beer they think of a brand, not of a style.

Today:
As people moved away from flavorful beer in 20th century America, the entire concept of beer with character nearly died. People’s ideas about what was “good” or “well made” were being skewed by advertisers into thinking that lighter was better. Three large breweries dominated the brewing scene in America and “light” beer became what to this day is considered “beer” to the majority of Americans. Is the same thing happening in the craft beer segment now? Are people being driven into thinking that beer has to be overwhelming to be “good”? So when Dave and I sat down to decide on what style to make, Steam beer seemed like a great choice. In order to look into the future, it always helps to take a look back.


In addition to the style being a little unique and historic, we also liked the “single hop” concept. Although it is getting some attention again now, making beers with only one type of hop is also a very old practice. When people traveled everywhere by horse, they used the things that were grown and produced locally. English brewers did not have a lot of access to Czech hops, for example. Our Steam Beer uses an older American hop called Liberty for all of its flavor and aroma. There is also the addition of 50 lbs. of Georgia-grown oats to make this Steam beer as distinct from any other one ever made, just like those brewed up and down California during the Gold Rush would have all been distinct from each other.


Brew Day:
Some co-workers and I went to Red Brick on Friday, August 13th for “brew day”. Please make no mistake: All of the technical work was done by Dave and his crew of professionals. The Taco Mac people just hung around and helped out here and there, mostly trying to stay out of the way. I do not take credit for anything more than drinking beer with Dave one evening and coming up with the concept. So if you like the beer, thank Red Brick. The name was, well, something that just fell into place.


I hope that you enjoy Fred Brick. Our little project is a 5.2% Steam Beer (aka “California Common Beer”) that will be available throughout Taco Mac land while supplies last. If you are interested in seeing a slide show of the brewing day, go to www.fredsbeerpage.blogspot.com. There are a few slide shows on the right side of my blog. It should be the most recent one. If you are interested in touring Red Brick, they are located at 2323 Defoor Hills Rd., Atlanta, GA 30318. Tours are Wednesday, Thursday & Friday from 5-8 pm and Saturday from 2-5 pm. You can check them out at www.redbrickbrewing.com as well. Cheers.

Lastly, I need you to put October 27th on your calendar. We will be hosting a Halloween-themed beer dinner at our Duluth store. I am selecting fall/sppoky beers from five different breweries and our NEW chef is making the menu. The first draft looks out-of-this-world, but I just found out that a certain brewery is not making a particular beer that I wanted this year, so we need to edit and rewrite a little. Stay tuned.

Have a great weekend and go out and get your hands on some Fred Brick. If you are in Athens for the Hop Harvest Party at Terrapin, be sure to say hello. I will be the guy that looks like the guy in the picture at the top of this blog.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

This Beer Really Snuck Up On Me. Really!


Last week I was approached by a guy offering me a new beer made in the southeast. Not only was I totally unaware that someone who I have been acquainted with before was now making beer professionally, I was at that moment in possession of the actual finished product. So when I say that this beer snuck up on me, I mean it actually popped out of seemingly nowhere. And it is good, really good.

Why all of the secrecy? The people behind it have their reasons, and I don't feel like undoing all of their cloaking efforts right here, right now. Suffice it to say that one of the people involved has not completely removed himself from his current profession. The beers are being contract brewed in South Carolina now, with plans to eventually open a brewery in Decatur. Now before you get your panties in a bundle over contract brewing, settle down. It is an extremely prevalent practice and, frankly, the smartest way to get started. Ever heard of Terrapin? That's how they got going. Why invest a small fortune in a brand-new or even used brew house when there is perfectly good equipment available virtually for rent? Why not brew your beer somewhere that has excess capacity, generate some income, gauge your sales expectations, then eventually build the brewery you want from scratch? The only reason to do it any other way would be because you, or someone you know, is made out of money and doesn't mind taking a huge risk of losing it. In addition to all of that, if you are still tweaked over contract brewing, you probably drink one more often that you know. So please come down from your high horse.

Wild Heaven offers a Belgian-style golden ale called "Invocation" that clocks in around 8.2% ABV. Their "Ode To Mercy" is an imperial brown ale with oak and coffee influences. It is 8.5% ABV. So these beers should not sneak up on you, because I just told you how strong they are. Don't drink eight of them and go home and call up old girlfriends or boyfriends in the middle of the night. They don't want to hear you crying any more now than they did when they were with you. Don't drink and dial, people. Put the phone down.

Now you may be wondering, "Gee...I hope he tells me where I can get these beers. I mean, I don't read this stupid thing for my health. Ugh!" Well, I got your back beer people. You can get both of these beers on tap TOMORROW at The Fred and Taco Mac Perimeter. They should be hooked up and ready to go by 5:00 pm at the latest. Please call Perimeter at 678-336-1381 and/or The Fred at 404-671-FRED (that was not my idea, but I like it) if you need to be absolutely sure that it is ready to go. I have made all of the necessary arrangements myself to assure that everything is in place. However, I do not deliver beer for a living, so I cannot guarantee that someone else doesn't screw it up. I can guarantee that it is HIGHLY unlikely that anything will be amiss tomorrow. Enjoy. Trust me on this one....these beers are good.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Congratulations, Mrs. Mac. It's A Taco!


Yep, that's right. We are the proud parents of a brand new Taco Mac location. It's not my baby, but I did help push it out. I don't want to imply that it was easy by any means. Because like a real birth, there was a whole lot of screaming, crying and plenty of swearing. However, unlike most births, there was also a fair amount of drinking. Alcohol may lead to plenty of babies being made, but civilized people rarely drink during the delivery. Or so I am told.

So the Charlotte store is open, and the photo is of a 3-D metal sign that we had made to represent Charlotte's own Olde Mecklenburg Brewing Co. In fact, 17 of the 140 beers on tap at that store are beers brewed in North Carolina. And there are more to come. Lots of small breweries there can self-distribute (not legal in most states), so they are just now starting to come out of the woodwork. We will be seeing a heavy rotation of local beer up there, plus our usual favorites and home-town Atlanta beers. If you are looking for a reason to take a field trip, I recommend Charlotte. Plan on staying the night. Trust me on that one. I know some of you, and you might just enjoy our new place a little too much to get back on the road. Don't look around. You know who you are. Stay the night, make a friend, maybe make a baby or two. Whatever floats your boat.

Here are some notable events coming up that you should know about:
  1. Taco Mac has just about all of the kegs of Red Brick Oktoberfest in the area. I know it is still 95 degrees every day, but the restaurants are air-conditioned. Get in there and get prepped for fall. Football season starts tonight with USC/Hawaii I think, so it's officially fall in my book.
  2. Friday the 10th is a big day. We are helping to launch SweetWater Crank Tank Rye'd Ale. This new rye beer is helping raise awareness and participation in Spin For Kids, a charity bike ride (get it, Rye'd?) to benefit Camp Twin Lakes. It is not part of the Dank Tank series. Much more approachable and less expensive. It is going to last a week, maybe two, so don't screw around and miss it. This will only be available in GA stores. You can check out the charitable event at www.spinforkids.org. Great cause. Marie is heading up a team of riders from around the office here.
  3. Friday the 10th will also see the release of O'Dempsey's Inukshuk IPA at The Fred. Randy Dempsey will be there at 6:00 to meet people like you and talk about his beer. I get a strong feeling he will also explain what in the hell an Inukshuk is. I know what it is, but I don't have time to go into it right now. Hey, you've got a computer. Maybe it can help. The beer will taste better than an Inukshuk for sure. That I guarantee.
  4. There is also a cask of Terrapin Hopsecutioner with some bourbon and oak treatment at Metropolis on Friday the 10th. Can you say irresistible?
I know....that is a lot of choices. Just remember: Like a mother to her newborn baby, Taco Mac loves you. We love you like you love your beer.

That is all I have for you today. I hope you have a great Labor Day weekend. Please be safe. But if you can't, just remember that You Tube is full of idiots hurting themselves trying to impress their friends. Those are hilarious. So make sure that someone has a camera before you try your little stunt.

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.