Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Goin' Back To Cali...Cali

That's right folks, an LL Cool J reference in my blog. No, I never thought I would see it either. But I do seem to spend a decent amount of time in California, don't I? I think it's because California, above all else (translation: California, Uber Alles!), is pretty damn awesome when it comes to beer. I am going out to San Francisco tomorrow for the Craft Brewer's Conference. Yes I know that I am not a professional brewer, but apparently this is THE industry event of the year, and the "networking" (translation: drinking beer with other beer people) opportunities are huge. I plan on networking the hell out of this thing. 

The day time is filled up with seminars on everything from: "Delaware Calagione and the Lost Temple of Yeast" or "Improving Brewhouse Efficiency for Small Brewers" to "High Gravity Panel Discussion". This is serious business. There are six different seminars, each lasting about an hour, on different categories of the beer business going on at once every hour for three days. Want to learn about opportunities in emerging markets like Brazil or the UK? You can do it there. Feel like brushing up on wholesaler laws or brewery taxation issues (Zzzzzzzz)? Me either. Want to listen to the owner of Russian River discuss the technical aspects of barrel aging, or the brewer from Brasserie de la Senne discuss the emerging new brewery scene in Belgium? That's more like it. I am very interested to hear Sierra Nevada owner Ken Grossman on "What's Next in Sustainability Practices Within Craft Breweries". That brewery's green technology has been trailblazing for years, so let's see where they are taking it in the future, shall we?

So you get the gist of what this event is all about. You can read more about it here if you want: http://www.craftbrewersconference.com/ . Otherwise just wait until I get back and I will tell you all about it. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the private parties and hospitality receptions. I guess if you are in the beer business and you have to sit through educational seminars, you require beer breaks, beginning around noon, all day and night, until 1:00 am. And if Lagunitas wants to throw a party for CBC attendees (and they do!), they do it big. Thursday night they have the entire Fillmore Auditorium set aside for CBC people. Live band, all that. If you do not know what the Fillmore Auditorium is or what it means to American music history, please fire yourself. This party alone might be worth the cost of admission to the entire conference. Stay tuned for details.

But while I am gone, we have some special events for you. I am going to list them here, plus some events for the following weeks since I tend to get a little behind while I am gone and not post anything for a while. Here we go:

  1. The Fred has a Heavy Seas event on Thursday featuring a cask of Black Cannon Black IPA and kegs of Holy Sheet! and Aaarsh Red. Come by and see Atlanta's most eligible bachelor, Heavy Seas one and only Kevin Fox. He will be on hand to talk about life, his beers, the playboy lifestyle....You know, the usual.
  2. Mall of GA is tapping a cask of Left Hand Fade To Black Smoked Baltic Porter on Friday this week. Now you folks in the NE part of metro Atlanta have something to look forward to this weekend.
  3. Crabapple has a 2009 Smuttynose Imperial Stout keg to tap on Friday along with a Dogfish Head My Antonia. See, now the Alpharetta/Roswell people don't have to be jealous of the Gwinnett people. One love people. One love.
  4. Next week on Wednesday the 30th we have another Black Cannon cask at Cumming. Can they break their own record of 31 minutes to kill a firkin? Will you be there to be part of history? Only you can answer that.
  5. There is a Chancellor-only event on Saturday the 2nd. But if you aren't a part of it, you probably don't want to hear about it. If you are a part of it, here is your reminder.
  6. Stay tuned for more details, but on Monday April 4th there is New Belgium event at Deckard's American Tavern. Typically get a case of the Mondays? I got a solution for you: beer. It's awesome. Mondays aren't. Be there.
Before I go, I just want to say how excited I was to drop a Dead Kennedy's reference into my blog earlier, only to find out that "California Uber Alles" is featured in a Tony Hawk video game and is downloadable for the Rock Band video game. Thanks Wikipedia. Thanks for ruining that for me. I gotta go now and get packed. As soon as I land tomorrow I get in a van with some Terrapin and Left Hand people to go visit the Russian River, Moylan's and Lagunitas breweries. Work, work, work....Talk to you next week.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Boom Goes The Dynamite

Event Update! No, I am not going to remind you about the Foothills Sexual Chocolate cask tomorrow in Charlotte. You are either already going, or just wish that you were. No sense reminding those of you that are going that you are, in fact, driving to another state tomorrow. Pretty sure you're not going to forget that. Or if you live in Charlotte and are especially forgetful, well, hopefully you wrote it down somewhere.

This is actually not a reminder at all. It's an update. Look up above where I wrote "Event Update!" See, I told you. It actually should read: "Late Breaking Emergency Beer Event! Drinkers Needed!" I found out on Thursday that some much anticipated kegs from Colorado are arriving as we speak. That is, if you speak quietly while you are reading. I don't. And I don't speak while I am typing. OK, so not exactly while we speak, but right the hell now. You get the picture. We will be featuring the following beers at The Fred on Wednesday:

  1. A firkin of Left Hand Black Jack Porter
  2. A keg of the Fade To Black Smoked Baltic Porter. I know, you already had that, but so what. It's awesome, and we had one in the cellar anyway.
  3. A keg of Left Hand TNT. This is a Dunkle Weizen Bock made with some Lapsang Souchong tea. I don't drink a lot of tea, but it sure sounds good. Apparently this type of tea has a notable smoky character, albeit a light one. If you need me to explain Dunkle Weizen Bock, I will. Quickly. Bock: A strong and malty German lager. Weizen: A wheat beer. Dunkle: Dark (as opposed to "Helles" or light). Put 'em all together. Got it? Germans pretty much tell you what you are getting up front. 
  4. A keg of Left Hand Stranger Pale Ale. This is a new recipe replacing their old Jackman's Pale Ale. It is going to be super fresh and tasty. When I saw the name I thought it said "Strangler", not "Stranger". Big difference one letter makes. I thought maybe they were trying to tap into the S & M crowd or something. I mean, that is definitely a demographic that most companies stay away from. Freaky leather and latex fetishes or not, people love a cold beer. There is no denying that.  The Stranger, however, is a pale ale. The Strangler, I imagine, is something way different. 
So you can be the first kid on the block to have some TNT and a little Stranger, plus the cask of Black Jack if you can find your way to The Fred on Wednesday. See you there.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

When Cask Beers Attack, You "Nose" It

Another interesting weekend segues into another busy week.....

About half-way through Round 1
The SweetWater Brew Your Cask Off event was Saturday. I was pretty excited to get a last-minute invite to be a judge. By last-minute I mean I was drinking Mean Joe Bean Friday night at Deckard's with SweetWater's owner, the infinitely energetic Freddy Bensch, and he sprung the offer on me. Apparently someone had backed out, and since none of our four entries were actually mine, I was eligible. Obviously I wasn't going to turn down the offer, so the 2011 BYCO went from starting at 6 pm, to starting at noon for me.

They went from number 1 to 90
I got to meet some really interesting people there. I sat next to a local morning radio personality, rubbed elbows with some guy from Top Chef, and had a nice chat with the on-air law enforcement/terrorism expert for CNN. Not too shabby, right? The founder and owner of All About Beer magazine was there too, but I have met him before. Anyway, nine groups of three judged ten casks each, taking the field of 90 entrants down to 30 advancing to the second round. Then about half of the judges judged the beers that advanced to the second round, and then after that the remaining judges judged the beers that made it through to round three. That round resulted in the three eventual winners. Confused yet? Don't worry, the specifics aren't really important or all that interesting really. We tasted some really good beers, and we tasted a few really bad ones. All of them were numbered, and then later lettered, to maintain their anonymity. All in all though, the beers were far more good than bad, and the overall beer quality was way above last year's BYCO.

Round 2 is under way

Once the event started getting into full steam, I had already been on site for over six hours. I had also been drinking beer either from the casks or from the taps inside SweetWater's tasting room for over six hours. Not that I am complaining about any of that, but when a few thousand excited beer drinkers started packing into the tents, I had had enough. Taxi! Yes, I dipped out around 7:00-ish. Sometimes you have to quit while you're ahead. But in case you missed it, here are the winners:

1st PLACE:  Cask #38 Final Gravity Home Brewers | Lika-Titi-Coco Porter
Porter with dates, vanilla and roasted coconut chips
2nd PLACE:  Cask #1 The Porter Beer Bar | The Sch’it
Hoppy porter with cactus sugar
3rd PLACE:  Cask #75 Fontaines | Two Pump Chump
Super hoppy beer with cardamom, orange peel and white pepper

Cask #62 Cypress Street Pint & Plate| Samhain
Pumpkin spiced porter influence by some Highland Park scotch

Now let's talk about what's going on this week:

  1. Salute To Smith's at Crabapple, Cumming, Mall of GA, Metropolis, and Perimeter locations on Wednesday. If you don't know what this is, please read last week's post. Seriously, I don't have all day to repeat myself. I love my readers, but you really need to work on your short-term memory. I suggested that last week and you already forgot, didn't you. See what I'm talking about?
  2. Mikkeller onslaught at The Fred this Thursday. Check it out: Draught-- I Hard Core You, Single Hop E. Kent Golding, Ris A la M'ale, It's Alive; Bottle-- Black Tie 500ml, Draft Bear 750ml, Green Gold 11.2oz, Not Just Another Wit 750ml, Red & White 1.5L.
  3. Salute To Smith's at Canton, Dallas Hwy, Decatur, Ellard, and Newnan locations. Who likes free stuff and awesome beer? Me too! What a coincidence.
  4. Cask of Peak Organic Spring Simcoe at our Woodstock location on Friday as well. If you play your cards right, you could hit this and the Salute To Smith's at Dallas Hwy in the same night.
And what about next week? Yeah, we have events next week. I am going to be in Charlotte for the cask of Foothills Sexual Chocolate on Tuesday the 15th. I will be there with everyone else who knows what's good for them. I know 99% of you don't live in Charlotte, but it isn't exactly on the other side of the world. There are so many locally made beers up there that do not come down here, it really is worth the trip up there one day if you like to rack up credits on your Brewniversity list. And frankly, I like a change of scenery every once in a while.

Deckard's American Tavern is having a St. Hoptrick's Day event on Thursday the 17th. Unless you are the "go to an Irish pub and drink green beer until I puke all over my stupid beads" kind of person, you might enjoy drinking Bell's HopSlam, Port Hop 15, Sierra Nevada Hoptimum or Terrapin Hoptaneous Combustion instead. Not into hoppy beers? What about Heavy Seas Aaarsh Red, Highland Gaelic or Rogue Kell's Irish Lager? There will be special food items too, including Shepherd's Pie and Irish Fish Cakes. In case you don't get it right away (and I didn't), if you pronounce the "Aaarsh" in "Aaarsh Red" like a pirate, it sounds kind of like "Irish Red". Maybe I am dense, but I didn't get that for a while until one day it just kind of clicked. Anyway, it is a high-grav red ale, like around 8%. Heavy Seas doesn't make any bad beers, and the rest of the line-up is pretty strong to say the least.

OK, that is all I have for you right now. April is going to be jam-packed with events too, but the end of March will not. I am going to the Craft Brewer's Conference in San Francisco from the 22nd through the 26th, so that week is wiped out. But stay tuned for April details, because it's looking pretty killer already. Have a great week everyone. 
PS- I did not say anything about your short-term memory in any previous posts to my knowledge. Maybe I did, I don't really know. Don't stress out about it. Forget the subject ever came up. Which you may have already done. 
OK, who farted? Really? Everybody at once?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Isn't It What It Is, Or Is It What It Isn't?

Wow. I can't believe that I got back from Europe a week ago already. Where have I been since then? Well, I had to dig myself out of the hole that comes from being gone for 10 days first, then I flew to Jacksonville for a concert. I know, WTF? I had a few bucks laying around that I didn't spend on Christmas, and there happened to be a show down there that I really wanted to see. Plus there is an awesome beer bar there called Kickbacks. I met the owner when we all went to Montreal last June for a beer event. Kickbacks has 84 beers on tap and a hundred or so more in the bottle. The food is excellent too. If you are ever in Jacksonville and you want a good beer, that is your place. Order the Monte Cristo sandwich, and prepare to have your world rocked. Strangely enough, I ran into somebody I knew from Atlanta while I was there. Like I said, if you are in Jacksonville and you like good beer, you need to go to Kickbacks. Apparently I am not the only one from around here that knows that.

The trip to Europe was incredible. As you may remember from previous trips, it is going to take me a little while to get the pictures all organized into a slide show, etc. I did get some video too, so hopefully I can get that whole thing figured out and let you see some of that footage. I think the best videos are from inside the tasting room at Ayinger and from the brewery tour at Schneider.

Speaking of video, I also got some good footage at the Guinness Perfect Pour on Monday. This event, for those of your whose address includes "Under A Rock", is held annually at TM Lindbergh. Bartenders from across the city compete to see who can pour the most perfect pint of Guinness. The judges are Guinness big wigs from Ireland and the U.S. The judging criteria are pretty specific, but I am not going to go into that detail now. If you really cared about that kind of stuff, you were there Monday and saw it all go down anyway. We get to host the thing for a few reasons, but one big one is that Lindbergh has two levels, so attendees can watch from the ground level, or from the balcony. We even installed a closed-circuit TV thing so people could watch on the flat-screens. It was a blast. Lots of bar & restaurant people, lots and lots of beer, a Car Bomb or two here and there, you know....Last year our own Megan Martin won, but she got knocked out in the first round this year. The winner this year is a guy named Buggs who was pouring for Tap. The fact that he also works at TM Perimeter went unmentioned however....until now. But hey, no one's really keeping score.

Last night (Tuesday) we had a sold-out Fuller's Beer Dinner in Cumming. See? I have been busy, people, not blowing you off on purpose. If I knew the person that scheduled all of these crazy events that I need to attend, wait...that's me. Anyway, the only things better than the quantity of the turnout were the quality of the people, the deliciousness of the food and the tasty beers. Who knows? We may see another beer dinner up there this year after all.

Now that you have patiently read about what has already happened, let's talk about what is coming up. Friday is the release of the newest SweetWater Dank Tank beer at Deckard's American Tavern. If you want to taste the Mean Joe Bean (a coffee-infused Imperial Porter that tastes great!), you can get one after 6:30 pm this Friday. Some limited glasses will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you are one of those people that is late all the time, don't get your heart set on one. And furthermore, if you are one of those people who is late all the time, do you have any idea how much your friends hate it? That is if you have any friends left. Most of the people that you don't seem to talk to anymore for some reason were actually just sick and tired of waiting around for you all the time. They found other friends who aren't so selfish and self-centered that other's people time has absolutely no value to them compared to their own. You know how to ruin what would have been a good time? Be late. Miss the start of the game. Get a crappy spot in an already crappy line. Miss the previews before a movie. Make people wait on you so that by the time you get there they regret inviting you in the first place because they knew all along that you would pull some kind of shit like this, and right before you finally arrived they were talking about just leaving without you because you are such a tool anyway. But now you come waltzing in with some bullshit excuse that you just made up because no one wants to hear the truth: "You know guys, I am just a disorganized and inconsiderate person when you think about it. But now I am going to say I am sorry, so you are supposed to forgive me". You can't really get away with saying that, so you just say, "Oh my god, what is up with the traffic today?" That is how you ruin a good time.

PS- If you are running late, please try to be more honest about how far away you actually are. Have you ever heard someone says, "Dude, I am sorry, but what is up with the traffic today? It really sucks. I will be there in like 10 minutes."? Translation: You aren't going anywhere for at least 25 minutes.

So, yeah, the Mean Joe Bean thing is Friday. If you want a glass, try to be on time. And by the way, we live in a big city called Atlanta, maybe you've heard of it? The traffic is going to suck on Friday. We already know that, so don't bring it up. There are plenty of places without traffic problems. They are called "towns" and there are very rarely any stellar beers being released there. So to quote what every person I know, every person they know, and virtually every person in the country says every 45 seconds: "It is what it is". So sick of that. What isn't what it is? There's a rock. It is what it is. There's a person who eats out of a trash can and sleeps under a bridge in a cardboard box. It is what it is. Of course it is what it is. What else is going to be? How does saying that make it any better? Here's an apathetic jack-ass that can't think of anything more profound to say about a situation, person, or object except to state that it is, as anyone can plainly see, what it is. Hey, pal, I am not impressed by your ability to state the obvious. And just by saying, "It is what it is" and implying that there is nothing you can do about it doesn't absolve you of having an opinion or emotion. Divisive partisan politics are destroying America, but "it is what it is". So we just accept that? Somehow people's brains have eroded to the point that anything difficult or complex is excused by saying, in essence, "I am just too god-damned lazy to think or do anything about that. It is what it is."

If you are near the TM Suwanee on Friday, they are tapping a cask of Peak Organic Spring Simcoe. Unfortunately I am double booked so I will not be able to be there, but don't let that stop you.

Saturday is the SweetWater Brew Your Cask Off event at--you guessed it!--SweetWater Brewing Co., also in Atlanta. This is the thing where 80 bar, restaurant, home brewing, media, beer industry people got to make their own special SweetWater casks. See in January we got to look at a list of possible ingredients (like a hundred or so), plus the characteristics of 6 base beers, and select the items that we wanted to put into our casks. Then in February we went to the brewery and, one team at a time, prepped and added our stuff to the casks (under the supervision of a SweetWater brewer) and the brewery filled them with the base beer we chose. Three weeks later, the beer is ready to drink. So if you bought a ticket already, or if there are still any available, you can join me while we sample 80 different cask beers. They have the street in front of the brewery closed off, live bands, all of that kind of thing. We have 4 teams entered, and last year one of our groups took 3rd place. We are planning on improving on that this year. My team made a porter with sweet potatoes, pecans, cinnamon and nutmeg, plus a good dose of low Alpha hops to balance it out. Hopefully it turns out as good as it sounds.

I have something for you on Wednesday the 9th, but I will come back to that in a minute. First let's talk about Thursday the 10th. The Fred Bar is busting out some major Mikkeller stuff from the cellar. On tap will be: I Hard Core You (a collaboration w/ Brew Dog from Scotland), Ris a la M'ale, Single Hop IPA--East Kent Goldings, and It's Alive! In the bottle will be: Black Tie, Draft Bear, Green Gold, Red & White, and Not Just Another Wit. Now listen folks: These beers are expensive. You have been warned.

So back to the 9th. We are doing a Salute To Samuel Smith's at 10 stores; 5 stores on the 9th and 5 stores on the 11th. The whole idea is to remind everyone that Samuel Smiths has been making "craft beer" in a small, artisan brewery in England for a long, long time. I have been there (see slide show), and it is the real deal. In fact, in 1989 I was working at a beer distributor while I was in college. People in the U.S. had never even heard the term "craft beer", and there merely a handful of people who knew that a "microbrewery" actually existed. How do I know? I lived in Kalamazoo, Michigan where Bell's had been in business for 4 years, and most people in that same city had no idea what a microbrewery was. Go ahead and look at the date of origin for just about every American craft brewery. How many were open pre-1988? Go ahead, keep looking. This may take a little while. But there was Samuel Smith's, showing the world what a Pale Ale, a Porter, even an Oatmeal Stout tasted like. And great versions of them on top of that; recipes that are still considered world-class. Yes, the American craft beer scene is getting all of the attention right now. But ask some of those brewers about when and where they fell in love with a Samuel Smith's beer, I bet they will have a story for you. I can tell you exactly when and where, at 18 years old, a Samuel Smith's Taddy Porter made drinking good beer a lifestyle choice that I, obviously, have held onto ever since. In fact, without that catalyst, where would I be, career-wise, right now? My degree is in English and Philosophy for god's sake. What in the hell is that going to do for anyone? Thank you, Sam Smith's Taddy Porter. I am in the beer business now, and not trying to teach illegal immigrants and gangsters how to diagram a sentence.

So the thing goes like this: You order the limited-time-offer (only 24 per store) Salute To Smith's and you are going to get a Sam Smith's India Ale first. Once you finish that, you are going to get a Sam Smith's Oatmeal Stout and a FREE T-SHIRT! The whole thing is going to cost you exactly the cost of the two beers ($15.00 plus tax & tip), AND it will show up as a new credit on your Brewniversity list. It will be listed as "Salute To Sam Smith's" as a bottled beer. Pretty cool, huh? These two beers are their flagship brands and they want to remind everyone, like I said earlier, that "craft" beer was being made way before most of us got on the bandwagon. Time to give props to the old-school brewers people. Here is the only drawback: Until you guys can either A.) All become the same size person, or B.) Assist me in becoming clairvoyant, t-shirt sizes are going to be limited to what is in stock when you arrive. Please state your case when you arrive and the store will do the best to get you what you need. Most shirts will be L & XL, but again, there are only 24 of them per store. If you get there and there are only 3 left and none of them are your size, don't purchase the offer. There is no amount of wishing, hoping, complaining or practicing Voo-Doo that will make another size appear. The program starts at 5:00 pm on the specified nights, and here is where you will find it:

  • Wednesday, March 9th: Crabapple, Cumming, Mall of GA, Metropolis, Perimeter
  • Friday, March 11th:  Canton, Dallas Hwy, Decatur, Ellard, Newnan
I hope that you folks make this a big success. I am excited to be able to offer a free t-shirt and a new credit to our customers for doing nothing more that drinking two incredible beers. Enjoy.

The last thing I have for you today is the date for the Foothills Sexual Chocolate cask that we are tapping in Charlotte as part of Charlotte Beer Week. If you have been looking for an excuse to get to that store, or are just a freak for the Foothills Sexual Chocolate, join me on Tuesday, March 15th at Taco Mac South Park. Should be pretty ridiculous. Have a great week everyone.