Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Tried To Say No To Beer, But It Just Wouldn't Listen

It may sound like a cruel joke, especially to some of the folks up north during this crazy heat wave, but it is just about to be Oktoberfest time. No, really. Oktoberfest beers will be arriving any day now. Prove it? OK, how about tomorrow. At all metro Atlanta Taco Mac locations. How did we get this beer so soon? It was made in Atlanta, by Red Brick, that's how. I just got a sneak peek, and it tastes great. I dig the slogan, "This Year It's, OK-TO-BEER" for their Okto-Beer-Fest. Get it? That's called a "pun". Unfortunately good puns are far less common than awful ones. And I like that it takes the noun "beer" and gives the ambiguity of a noun or a verb. It's OK to beer? Damn right it is. I beered last night, and unless something drastically unexpected happens today, I am going to beer it up again tonight. I say "OK" to beer all the time. If beer was trying to get in my pants, I would be what is referred to as a "slut". I would be the mot reliable booty call beer ever had. I wouldn't even care if beer didn't tell its friends about me. Hey, I 'm getting what I want of this relationship, why complicate things? I know I can't have beer all to myself. I just need to appreciate the time I have with beer and not smother beer. Now for all the rest of you beer sluts out there, here are some additional beer events coming up:

  1. The Fred Bar is doing a big Southern Tier take-over tomorrow night. Here is the line-up: Farmer's Tan, Hop Sun, Jah'va, Mokah, Iniquity, Oaked Unearthly, 2010 Old Man Winter, and a firkin of 2XIPA. This is the 3rd cask of 2XIPA we have had lately, and that beer is awesome. I will be out of town, but you guys should get down there and check it out. You will be really glad that you did, trust me.
  2. Every Wednesday at Red Brick is now something special.  Reward yourself for making it through half of the work week without quitting your job or kidnapping your boss. Go down for a tour and see what special beer/cask/rare something-or-other they are breaking out for you. Careful, you just might learn something about beer while you are there.
  3. There are some more August events at Taco Mac that are in the development stage right now, but I do have a date for you that you should put on your calendar: September 13th. That is the date of our Terrapin beer dinner in Duluth. Lots of special beers are being rounded up for this one. Plus, one lucky attendee will win two passes to the Terrapin Hop Harvest party at the brewery on 9/24. Since we encourage you to be responsible drinkers (...what? Don't laugh...), you will also receive hotel accommodations in Athens, and transportation from the hotel to the brewery and back. Pretty sweet, right? All you need to do is get to Athens. Brewery parties are fun, in case I actually had to tell you that, which I can only hope I did not. If you go to a brewery party that isn't fun, well, maybe it's you. That's gonna be a tough realization for anyone who has to have it. "Wait, this party doesn't suck, I do! Oh no! Mom was right all along!" 
That's all I have for now. I hope you guy have a great weekend. And if you see any beer, tell it to call me.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Do You Fred, Take This Saison...."


I don't normally ramble on and on about a particular beer and how delicious I think it is. There are so many great beers out there, that if I told you about every one that I absolutely loved, we would be here forever. But today is different. Last night, I met a beer that I think I considered proposing marriage to at least once.

I want you to find a way to get your hands on this Ommegang Belgian Independence Day Spiced Saison as soon as possible. Deckard's will be pouring it tonight, along with some other tasty Belgian-style beers. The staff is prepped to help you with some great food pairings too. If I were you, I would think about having dinner down there tonight.

We were drinking this Ommegang B.I.D. last night at The Fred (maybe you were too, I don't know). I am a fan of well-made saisons, and frankly, I don't usually mess with ones made in the U.S. But Ommegang is different. They are a Belgian-owned brewery that happens to be in Cooperstown, New York. They make incredible and traditional Belgian-style beers that tend to rock.

But I am not going to bore you with all of the aspects of this delicious beer. Why would I do that? You can't taste this computer or phone screen. I hate reading some person's attempt to describe--in excruciating detail-- what they tasted in their mouth. I can't think of a more worthless expenditure of time. I had some tasty Corn Chex this morning. Want me to tell you about it? No, that's stupid. Why do people think that anyone wants to hear the minutia of their beer-tasting experience? What I will do, though, is tell you where to get this beer and when:

  • Deckard's. Tonight. While supplies last
  • The Fred Bar. Tonight. They poured about one little keg's worth last night, and they had two of them.
  • The following Taco Mac locations next week: Cumming, Dallas Hwy (Marietta), Decatur, Mall of GA, Peachtree City, Virginia-Highland and Windward Pkwy (Alpharetta).
These TM places get deliveries on different days of the week, and each one will be tapping them when they have some room. So I can't tell you RIGHT NOW when each one is getting tapped. Call the store nearest you to find out when that is going to be. Or better yet, follow the stores nearest you on Twitter. That will get you all of scoop you'll need. If you are a Brewniversity member, this is a pretty rare credit by the way. Basically, Atlanta received less than a third of what we normally get of Ommegang seasonals on this one. But based on how good this beer turned out, I expect to see more next year. You hear me, Ommegang? I'm talking to you!

That is all I have for you this week. I will be in Chattanooga tomorrow to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Chattanooga Brewing Co. They made us a cask of their IPA dry-hopped with Cascade. Finally, we can take a cask event to our loyal customers in Tennessee. Speaking of rare credits, there won't be many Atlanta folks with that one on their list....I'm just saying. It's only two hours form the ATL.

Friday, July 15, 2011

No Crazy Cider--Decatur!

Sorry guys, the Joan of Arc and Maid of Orleans cider kegs did not make it to Decatur for tonight. I wish I had known this sooner, but I didn't, so I am letting you all know now. Sorry.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

I See Two Franz, But No Hans

There is a slight misconception out there about what I actually do to "get" beers for you to drink, and this might be a good time to clear it up. There seems to be a number of folks who think that I am out there wrangling breweries to send us their beers. In a round-about way, I do sort of do that. For example, if I am at a brewery that does not currently sell beer where there are Taco Macs, I am sure to extol the assets of what we do, and talk about all of the wonderful people that frequent Taco Mac, and your undying love for beer. But for reasons that are too boring to talk about now, it's more complicated than you might think. A brewery's decision start selling beer in a new state are pretty complex. Much more complex than, "Well, I know that Taco Mac wants it." If you really want to know all the ins and outs of the situation, ask me about it some day. But make sure to pack a lunch, because the answer is going to take a while.

The same holds true of specialty beers from some breweries. Sure, they all have some wacky stuff that may never see the beer coolers of Taco Mac-land. And you want them. I know you do. But again, for some boring economic/production/shipping/prioritization reasons, we don't get them. Not the end of the world. I mean, it's not like there aren't a bunch of great beers around here to drink. But for the most part, when I am at  breweries--whether we get beer from them or not--I am building relationships with these people, and banking on that to persuade them to do the right thing. On their own terms. When the time is right. So I am not actively "getting" beer for you at those moments. I am getting new beers for you to have at some undetermined later date. Except in this one case...which has now come to fruition, and here is that story.

Before I went to Germany, our local rep for Merchant du Vin asked me to do him a favor when I was at Ayinger. To clear up any confusion, MdV is an importer of specialty beers from Europe. They help you get beers like Samuel Smith's from England, Orval, Rochefort and Westmalle Trappist ales, as well as Lindeman's lambics from Belgium, and of course, Ayinger from Germany. You're right, they do have a kick-ass portfolio. The favor he asked me for was to pester the brewery folks to send some kegs of Kirta-Halbe to Atlanta for us. He had tasted the beer at a trip to the brewery one time and fell in love with it. After many requests to get some stateside had been denied, he had pretty much given up. Why he thought that I had any more clout that he does, I don't know.

From L to R: Ayinger beer sommelier, Franz II, Owen, and Franz III
So when we were at the brewery and being introduced to the people there who were going to show us around, one person there to greet us was named Gertrude. Yes, she looked exactly like you would expect an older German woman named Gertrude to look like. In fact, in case you didn't know, German people who live in rural areas wear traditional German clothes all of the time. Those threads are not just for special occasions and beer drinking holidays (they love those over there), this how they dress. And I have to tell you, it looks sharp. (See photo--Nice!) Not that you or I could pull it off walking around Stone Mountain or going to Chik Fil-A, but in Bavaria, that look is killing it. But back to Gertrude. She is the Export Manager for the brewery. I knew that I was supposed to ask her about this beer, but I didn't want to really bring it up and make a big deal out of anything. I mean, I am a guest at their place, so I might as well just shut up and be appreciative of what I have, right? Wrong. I told this guy back in Atlanta that I would ask about this Kirta beer, and I am a man of my word, so I brought it up. "Well, Gertrude, I promised (guy's name you don't need to know) that I would ask you about sending us some Kirta beer in kegs." The brewery people got a kick out of that, because, as I found out later, this is a beer that is dear to the hearts of the Inselkammer family (father and son pictured) that has operated the brewery for three generations. Everyone was polite, but no one made me any promises of sending us any beer at that point. Then we started drinking....

Up in the tasting room, which is also the top floor of the brew house, I got a one-on-one with Gertrude, and we started talking some numbers. She said that it was pretty unlikely, but that she would think about it. Long story short, we had a great day at the brewery, but still no promises. And then, about two months ago, the phone rings. It's the MdV guy telling me that kegs of Ayinger Kirta-Halbe are on their way to Atlanta. Now they are here. So in this one particular case, I did go somewhere and get you some awesome new beer to drink. Some stores already have it, and the rest of them should be getting it soon. Call your local Taco Mac to see what their deal is.

Donald, Gertrude, and yours truly in the tasting room
So what's up with the beer? First of all, it is pronounced "Keer-Ta Hall-buh", with a very soft ending on the "buh". Here is a description of the beer too. You may need to enable the translation from German to English. If you do, be prepared for it to still sound like a German person is trying, with varying degrees of success, to tell you something in English. Or maybe just get off your ass and go drink one. You could try that. It is basically an Oktoberfest-like seasonal beer for early autumn. Not an Oktoberfest beer for mid-autumn. Who can wait for that? Not the Germans. I told you these people like beer holidays. I think they just make them up whenever they feel like it. And I think that is really cool. So, I hope you people enjoy this beer. If we do a really good job making these kegs disappear, maybe I can get Gertrude to send us some Keller Bier. It's an un-filtered lager, and it's delicious. We got to drink it straight out of the conditioning tank, and lots and lots more in their pub later that night. But that's another story.

On a different note, you have virtually never heard me say anything about cider. This is not Fred's Cider Page. But I will tell you that some cider producers make some extraordinary products. For imports, look for Aspall or Etienne Du Pont. But for domestic ciders, there are two new lines available doing some interesting things. Like what? Oh, fermenting cider with Guinness beer yeast for one. Or with a Japanese sake yeast. Or aging their ciders in Sauvignon Blanc wine barrels. You can now get the Crispin Joan Of Arc and Fox Barrel Maid Of Orleans on tap for a VERY limited time. The Joan Of Arc is made from apples, the Maid Of Orleans from pears, and both are aged in those wine barrels I mentioned. Taco Mac locations in Decatur, Crabapple, Cumming and Kennesaw will be pouring them both on Friday (that's tomorrow!). Each location only has one keg of each, and they are the really small ones, so they should go quickly. Deckard's and The Fred Bar have the last two sets, and they will be pouring them at events in the future. Stay tuned for details.

Lastly, don't forget the Belgian Independence Day events at The Fred and Deckard's. On Wednesday the 20th, The Fred will have special Ommegang beers on draft (two new ones and one out of the cellar), plus bottles of Duvel Triple Hop and Liefman's Cuvee Brut being sold by the glass. Deckard's will have those same new Ommegang drafts, plus some themed food specials to match. It starts next Thursday the 21st and runs through Saturday. Go check it out.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Holy Calendars Beer Man!

I am not going to spend any time giving you guys any spiffy looking images in today's post. Not because I don't love you, but because I added this GREAT BIG CALENDAR front and center. In case you couldn't tell, this is a list of all of the Christmas In July beers being poured all around town (it tells you that under my picture--pay attention!). I hope that you guys can make some use of this. All of these dated beers will be new credits for Brewniversity members, unless of course you drank one of these vintage dated items recently, which would be very unlikely. To make a long story short, a Rogue Old Crustacean '10 is a different credit than regular, un-aged Rogue Old Crustacean, and the '09 Old Crustacean, etc. Everybody with me? You are going to need to click on these beers to see where they are being poured. Try it, it's fun! All of these beers are available all day, so if drinking strong, cellared and vintage dated beers in the afternoon is your thing, you are all set partner. We are not going to make you wait until 5:00 or anything.

Here comes the disclaimer: You better call ahead if you have you heart set on a beer that you really want before you drive across Georgia to get it. One store sold an entire case of a certain rarity in one night. I am referring, of course, to beers that are past their release date. If the calendar says that you can get something this Friday, you don't need to call if you are heading in there tomorrow night. If you can't make it until Tuesday, maybe you should call. If you have any questions at this point, please ask the nearest person to help you. It isn't that complicated.

The fun with Christmas In July (the reference is basically because these are all winter releases and, in many cases, actual holiday beers) is that these credits are here today, gone tomorrow and gone forever. So if you dig building your list, these are great items for you to make some progress on that.

Now before I go, I just want to let you guys know that the window of opportunity to get seats for next Tuesdays beer dinner is closing. The brew master and co-founder from Southern Tier, Phineas DeMink will be there. Here is the menu. It costs $60.00 plus tax, gratuity is included.

Southern Tier Beer Dinner
Taco Mac Duluth
July 12th, 2011

Mini Fresh Sweetgrass Goat Cheese Quiches
Hop Sun- Not your average wheat beer, people! Filtered to a golden clarity, then dry-hopped to brighten up the finish. Hints of lemon and sweet malts are balanced by the hops in this highly sessionable summer seasonal.

Rare Tuna Nachos - Heirloom Tomato and Pepper Guacamole - Queso Fresco
Phin and Matt’s American Pale Ale-Great beer doesn’t have to be complicated. Just use vast amounts of whole hops, the finest North American malted barley, and filtered artesian water.

BBQ Foie Gras Potato Skins
Big Red- This beer expresses the nobility of Hallertau hops by placing it at the forefront of this Imperial Red Ale. The complex balance between sweet malts and the bitterness of hops play off of each other in this deceptively strong brew.

Seared Salmon - Jalapeno Mayo - Fried Green Tomato and Eggplant Napoleon
2XIPA-If you don’t just like hops, you downright LOVE hops, this cask of Double IPA is for you. Four hop varieties provide a big citrusy flavor, juicy aroma, and an incredible lingering  finish.

Georgia Peach Whoopie Pies
Mokha-An Imperial Stout brewed with Jamaican coffee & bittersweet Belgian chocolate. This is combination of Southern Tier’s Jah’va and Choklat stouts. Two great tastes that taste great together.

I have a few new things to tell you about as well. Check this stuff out:
  1. Decatur has a firkin of J.W. Lees Manchester Star getting tapped this Friday. That's tomorrow! Sorry for the short notice, but basically July 8th snuck up on me. This beer is super rare, so cancel whatever it was that you were going to do tomorrow.
  2. Next Wednesday the 13th--also in Decatur--we have a special guest from New Belgium in town. Her name is Lauren Salazaar, and she is their Sensory Expert. What that means is that she is deeply involved in quality control, experimental brewing and sour ale blending. The "sensory" aspect of her job is that she is expertly adept at tasting, smelling and generally dissecting a beer using her senses. She will be at the store around 8:00 pm, and will be talking to guests and helping them learn a little more about the beer they love to drink. On tap will be New Belgium Abbey, Abbey Grand Cru, Super Cru and La Folie (her baby I am told). She is from, in case you care, south Georgia originally, so that is pretty cool.
  3. Keep Wednesday the 20th open too. The Fred Bar is celebrating Belgian Independence Day with some super special beers. Two new Ommegang releases will be featured, plus a few big bottles being sold by the glass, and a cellared keg of Ommegang Chocolate Indulgence from last year.
  4. Deckard's is doing Belgian Independence Day stuff too, running from the 21st through the 23rd. There will some of these same killer beers, along with special food features. More details to come as they arise.
That's all for now folks. Enjoy the weekend.

Monday, July 4, 2011

The Horse Represents Strength Maybe, But The...? I Don't Know....

Happy 4th of July everyone. Hopefully you have the fridge stocked with cold beer and the rest of the house filled with semi-dangerous explosives. What a great holiday. It is one of the great beer drinking days of the year. Plus, think of all of the potential excitement (translation: Danger) you have right at your fingertips. First of all, you have your family around. Many of whom you don't like. So that's a reason to have a few beers. Then there is the heat. Better have a couple more beers to help out with that. Don't forget about the grill. Gotta have a spatula in one hand a beer in the other, right? Hey, it's 3:00 in the afternoon, and you've already had eight beers! No big deal. About six more hours until dark, and then it's time to start blowing stuff up. Better have a few more beers before that, just to keep things interesting. So what you have here is an amazing array of opportunities to accomplish a few things, like:
  1. Telling family members what you really think of them
  2. Burning yourself on a open flame
  3. Listening to your family members' opinions of you and your drinking (you're gonna need couple of beers for that one, because trust me, you are not going to like it...)
  4. Blowing up a part of your hand or house, and possibly needing a fire truck or ambulance to come over
All of this, and you have to go back to work tomorrow. It's pretty stressful, so you better open up another beer....

This all reminds me of a very memorable July 4th cook-out from when I was probably 13 or 14 years old. My aunt is married to a very intelligent and cultured guy, my uncle Dave. Well Dave has a brother who had always been "odd". I don't know what you would call your uncle by marriage's brother, but his name is Bill. My cousins called him Uncle Bill, since he was their dad's bother, but I just called him Bill. Plus I was older than my cousins, and I thought I was pretty down with the adults by that time. I didn't need all of the familial title bull crap. I was on a first name basis with these people.

So Bill was also very artistic. Literally, that is what he did, art. He worked in certain trades for money--wood working, painting, etc.--but was primarily an artist. And, as I would learn from conversations I was probably not supposed to hear, a raging alcoholic. However, this particular time of year he happened to have been sober for a while, and the 4th of July cook-out was at his house. Everyone was happy for Bill and his new-found sobriety, so this was a show of love and support for him. We had never previously held any kind of family function at his house. He had a cool little place on a lake with a big yard that went right down to the water. There were the usual picnic tables and grills and all of that. I would estimate, from very vivid memories, that there were about 30 people there. I have a big family, and at that time, everyone was pretty much living within 100 miles of each other.

Everything was going pretty normal. There was potato salad and hot dogs and cookies and flags and all of that stuff. Good old family fun. Kids running around with squirt guns. An idyllic summertime afternoon next to a glistening lake on a perfectly sunny Michigan day. That is, until Bill decided that he had something to everyone...and he meant it. The peaceful afternoon was suddenly interrupted by a commotion amongst the adults near the house. Imperative words were being half-whispered. Confusion. Anger. Indignation. That's all I could figure out. Something was happening over there, and nobody was happy about it. Sure, most folks were still sitting around the picnic tables talking and having pie, but over by the house, trouble was brewing. Kids stopped playing. Pies stopped getting eaten. Everything got quiet once Bill emerged from the huddle of adults near the house. He had crazy eyes. He wobbled across the yard towards everyone, and it was obvious that he was piss drunk. Who knows what, but something caused him to choose today to fall off the wagon hard. Probably the pressure of having his whole family around, sensing their uneasiness about him, his sobriety teetering on the brink the whole time, their judgemental, sideways glances eroding his self-confidence. Just a hunch. Whatever it was, he came unglued in the biggest way.

What he had on his mind, however, still makes me stop and think from time to time. What was trying to say? What did ne want everyone to understand that was so inmportant, it just could nowait? He said just two words, but he said them over and over, to everyone, until he felt, I guess, that he got his point across. At the top of his lungs, to a small crowd of disappointed and bewildered family, he said, "Horse C~~k!". That's right, "horse", then the word archaically used to refer to a male chicken. He turned around so that everyone could hear him repeat it five or six times, "Horse C~~k! Horse C~~k! Horse C~~k!". He took time to slow it down and say it right into one old lady's face, "Hooorrrssse C~~~~k," which caused him to laugh hysterically. That, in turn, caused me and the rest of the youngsters to start laughing. But he wasn't done. Oh no. As the families started to gather up their people and belongings, Bill go up on the picnic table, despite the admonitions of his closest family members, who had gone from horror to damage control at this point. That's when he started the rapid fire from on top of the picnic table, "Horse c~~k, horse c~~k, horse c~~k", followed by a final, punctuational "HORSE C~~K!". There, he was through. As the yard thinned out and only a few disappointed aunts and uncles hung and shook their heads, he apparently had gotten his point across. To this day I am not sure what that point was, but whatever it was, he got it all out on that sunny 4th of July so many years ago.

I hope you enjoyed that special holiday reminiscence. It is a true story. I don't really know what Bill is doing now. He didn't come around much after that incident. I don't see my uncle, his brother, more than once a year either. When I ask, I always here the same thing, "He's doing really good." Nice to know.

Now that is officially July, I want to remind you about a few special event this month:
  1. The educational whiskey school at Deckard's is July 16th. The cost is $25.00 and you can sign up by clicking here. The event runs from 3:00 to 5:00, and you will get to taste 5 whiskies from 4 countries, plus have an expert tell you all about how they were made, etc. I will pair some beers with them so that you have something to sip on while you learn. Obviously you can sip on the whiskey too, but you're a beer drinker, and I know that.
  2. If you are interested in the Belgian beer and Georgia cheese pairing event or the Southern Tier beer dinner, you can click here. The beer dinner is Tuesday, July 12th in Duluth. In addition to a cask of 2XIPA (one of the best I have had recently), we will have the brew master and co-founder of the brewery there. The cheese event is Saturday the 9th at The Fred Bar from 3:00 to 5:00 pm, and only costs $30.00.
That is all I have for you for now. But before I go, I just want to remind everyone that Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The USA" is not a patriotic anthem. I know that you have heard pieces of it attached to all kinds of flag waving, inculding that women's soccer player singing it after she scored a goal. Ugh, did you hear that? Sure, Brandi Chastain whipped off her shirt one year after scoring a goal, and that's going to be pretty hard to beat. But, geez, this girl sings like a walrus getting beaten with an axe. No wonder she pusued athtletics. Certainly wasn't going to get by in life on her angelic singing voice. And please, next time, choose a song that isn't critical of U.S. domestic policy towards returning vetrans. That's what "Born In The USA" is about. Read the lyrics. Pick a song that exemplifies how awesome America is and sing that one. Try the theme from "Team America: World Police". That one can help people from other countries understand who we really are. And that is what is all about, right, understanding? I don't have a beef with Springsteen or anything, but why give the world another reason to think we're stupid?

You folks have a great 4th, and be careful out there.