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.

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.