Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Yelp, Schmelp.

If you read this regularly, then you are probably wondering why I have been absent for a few weeks. If you read this regularly when you are sober, then you will realize that there has been an incredible amount of special events lately, which means that I have been all over the place day in and day out. Sorry, but I could not fine the time to say hi and update you on what is happening. Too much was happening. Hard to update happenings in the midst of happenings. But everything is normal now for a few hours, so here comes some news. Possibly exciting news, possibly not, but definitely a new and nonconstructive way for you to waste more time. I signed up for Twitter a while ago. Yes, please welcome Fred to the 21st Century. And then, before I ever sent one tweet, I got hacked. Apparently I was telling all of my Twitter followers how I made hundreds of dollars working from home, and how easy it was. Which was strange, because I don't work from home and can barely recall what home even looks like. So I canceled that. Now I am on Instagram. You can follow me at "fred_the_beer_guy" and see photos of whatever I happen to be taking pictures of at the time. I do not have any children or pets, so don't worry. You won't be subjected to that.

Why would you be interested in my pictures? Well, a few reasons. First, I go to a lot of beer places, and you seem to be interested in that. Why wait for me to return from a trip to share pictures with you? See them as they happen. Next, in case you haven't noticed, I like to explore some out-of-the-way eateries when I travel. Like the picture above of La Altena in Chattanooga. Look a little rough around the edges? It is. Maybe you would expect the place to be a little busted up inside? Maybe the booth seats are torn, but repaired with duct tape? Right and right. But if you also suspect that the food would be exceptionally killer, you would be right a third time. Trust me people, if you need a gyro sandwich in Brussels, Chinese food at 2:00 am in D.C. or a burrito in Chattanooga, I have you covered. I might take you on a turn down a street you don't normally go, but you will thank me for it later.

Another reason you might want to follow me is that I plan on sending pictures from a trip to England and Scotland that starts February 7th. We are going to be touring breweries, real ale pubs, and Scotch whiskey distilleries for ten days. Want incredible Thai food in London? I know a place. The best Thai food I have ever had, no question. (There is a place in Las Vegas that gives it a run for its money, and has a great beer selection. Talk to me before you go.) So I will periodically be sending pictures back of the cool places we go around the UK, so if that seems interesting, then follow me on Instagram. After I get back from that trip I am going to Mexico to select the perfect barrel of Herradura tequila to have bottled up for Taco Mac. You might want to see a picture or two of that process. And if I get kidnapped by a drug cartel, you can call the embassy and help broker my ransom.

But enough about that. Let's talk about this week and beer events like we normally do. Tonight you can swing by the Taco Mac in Woodstock to taste the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp beer with me. I will be there until around 7:00-ish. Depends if anyone comes by or not. Tomorrow at the same store you can meet Bob Southard, the winner of the Southern Home Brewer's Challenge, whose Chocolate Cherry Porter was made by Red Brick and is one of our beer of the month. Bob is a great guy, and if you want to pick his brain about how you can win the 2013 contest or just say "congrats" and drink a beer with him, stop by in the evening and introduce yourself.

Saturday is big. The Atlanta Cask Ale Tasting starts at 3:00 pm and goes until 6:00 pm. This event is held on the patios of Taco Mac Prado and 5 Seasons Prado. Tickets are still available for what is one of the most prestigious beer events in Atlanta. We are merely the property that shares this event. We are not the organizers. I have no motivation to tell you to get off your butt and come to the ACAT except purely out of the kindness of my heart. If you love beer and are not at this event, well...maybe you just like beer a lot. Love might be too strong a word for you where beer is concerned. Look, now you made beer cry. Are you happy?

The last thing I have to talk about now is next Wednesday, January 30th. We are doing a "Kill The Keg" night at Crabapple. The last keg of my Beer Camp beer will get tapped at 6:00 pm. Can we kill it in less than 15 minutes? That is the time to beat from when we had Beer Camp beer three years ago. I made a special Brewniversity credit for "Sierra Nevada Kill The Keg", so anyone that comes out on that one night will have access to that rare, one-time credit. You will get the beer and the unique credit, in case you have already had this beer at another store. If you haven't had the beer, you can drink tow and get one credit for the beer and another for the Kill The Keg. Come out on Wednesday and make history.

The chances to drink this beer between now and then are: Woodstock tonight, Suwanee on Monday and Virginia-Highland on Tuesday. If you are a Charlotte drinker, you have Monday and Tuesday, February 4th and 5th, and that is all folks. I will be at all of these except V-High. I have a separate thing that night that is for employees only. Sorry V-High people. Catch you next time.

I gotta run. Thanks for reading, and sorry I was AWOL for a while there. See you around.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

"Get Tired Of Travelin' & You Want To Settle Down"

Tacky? Who says that's tacky?
Another whirlwind year has passed, and it is time to rest up for a moment before it starts all over again. I was in D.C. to visit family over the holidays, but don't worry, I didn't forget about the beer lovers down south. Last Friday I left my brother's house in a rental car, picked up a friend at the airport and went to Baltimore to visit our friends at Heavy Seas. They were nice enough to not only let me make a cask of IPA, but they also let me make a cask of Siren Noire straight out of the whiskey barrel that it was aging in. I just happened to be there the day before they were going to keg it all, so lucky me, and lucky anyone who comes to drink it when it arrives in Atlanta. Should be early to mid-February if I had to guess.

This is my second year making the same trip to Heavy Seas to make casks, and my second visit to one of the best dive bars I have ever experienced (pictured below), just down the road from the brewery. One liverwurst on rye with onions and mustard, plus one bowl of chili: $6.00. I don't recall how much the pitcher of Rolling Rock was, but whatever it cost was too much. That is just god-awful beer, and I am not snobby about beer. I drink PBR. All the time. I drank Bud at the football game I went to Sunday. But that nasty Rolling Rock had my taste buds begging for a Bud or Pabst. Anything but the horrendous torture of that putrid Rolling Rock. I can't believe we finished the whole thing. (OK, so it was bad, but who just leaves a pitcher partially full?) But once we got to the brewery the beer was much better, and life seemed worth living again. I made a Loose Cannon cask with Grains of Paradise, lime leaves, toasted oak, and Amarillo hops. The cask of Siren Noire got cinnamon and maple sugar. So that would make it a chocolate, maple, cinnamon, bourbon, barrel-aged Imperial Stout. I think it might be a masterpiece.

Short on charm, but the people were as cool as they get.
After we finished up at the brewery we visited some Baltimore beer spots, including the new Union Brewing, who won a gold at GABF this year, and they are less than a year old. Impressive. Nice people too. We occupied ourselves on Saturday exploring more of the Baltimore beer scene, with a lengthy visit to Max's Taphouse. It's a "must" if you are in the Fell's Point area. Interestingly, Fell's Point is named after Admiral Fell. I have no idea who he was, but we stayed at "The Admiral Fell Inn". The admiral fell into what? How sick of that joke are the people who work there? My god, it must be terrible. "Oh, ha ha. I see, another comedian. Good one sir. Enjoy your stay." And then they people talk about how much of an idiot that person is for thinking they were original in some way. As if every single person that stays at or near "The Admiral Fell Inn" doesn't think of the same joke in about 1.5 seconds. No, I was not that guy. Refused to be that guy. Resisted great temptation to succeed in NOT being that guy. Why not "Admiral Fell's Inn", or "The Admiral's Inn"? Or just put out some coffee and muffins in the morning and call it "Admiral Fell's Bed & Breakfast". Who knows, maybe they did it on purpose, because here we are, talking about "The Admiral Fell Inn", which is, by the way, in a fantastic location, and I recommend staying there if you are ever in Baltimore. If you go, and I suggest that you do, I can tell you a lot of the great beer drinking joints in town, even the Most Pretentious Beer Place Ever (which you should avoid), and where to get gourmet hot dogs at 3:00 am. Basically, I got you covered in Charm City.

On Sunday we went to back to D.C., and much to my surprise, one of the better beer bars in that city was three blocks from my hotel. This hotel is where I will stay every time I go to D.C. on business from here on out. Here is why: Three blocks from the Metro station and the beer bar RFD (Real Food & Drink). On the edge of Chinatown (this is important later), so that had a touch of weirdness. A restaurant, for example, called New Big Wong (who would want to eat at Old Big Wong?), and a store to buy Kung Fu supplies (i.e. weapons). The Metro train took us out to FedEx field for the Redskins/Cowboys game, which was an 8:20 pm kick-off for those of you that live in a cave or some semblance of an appliance box under a bridge. I am telling you it was cold, people. I am talking December 30th, outdoors, windy, at night, up north. The game did not go in my favor unfortunately, and we did not eat much during the game. Why? Take a nice hot Polish sausage off the grill, put it in a bun and walk back to your seat. The sausage is about the temperature of your refrigerator before you even bite into it. Nasty. And it was $8.00. Want some nachos? You got about 25 seconds before that cheese starts to congeal and you are going to need a chisel to get it out the dish. Mmmmm...plastic. When the game was over and we finally made it back into town on the train, it was roughly 1:30 am Sunday night/Monday morning. Do you think there was a restaurant open in Chinatown at that time of night? Hell yes there was, and a really good one. Ming's. Open until 3:00 am...on Sunday, two blocks from our hotel. Like I said, best hotel location ever. "The Admiral Fell Inn" was, in its defense, across the street from Max's and the 3:00 am hot dog place, so it was a pretty choice location too. We really lucked out across the board.
A masterpiece? You decide.

But now I am back to work, with a few weeks to relax in GA before a ton of travel starts up again in February. If you did  not get a chance to taste the Beer Camp beer that I brought back from my September trip to Sierra Nevada, it has been tasting great. I am going to give you the list of the remaining tap dates and places below. In and around those dates, you may want to check out the East Roswell store on Saturday. They are celebrating their first anniversary with a cask of Red Hare Watership Brown with maple, vanilla and bourbon. That gets tapped at 6:00 pm. They have some other special beers lined up as well.

On Monday the 7th they are tapping a cask of Eagle & Lion Stout at Mall of GA. I think there is an important football game going on that night...better check the schedule. I will be in Chattanooga on the 12th to help tap a cask of Terrapin Wake & Bake at 2:00 pm. This marks the arrival of high-gravity Terrapin beers into Chattanooga for the first time, and those folks up there are psyched as you can imagine. Last but not least is that awesome Allagash beer & cheese pairing at South Park in Charlotte on Wednesday the 16th. You can sign up for it by clicking here. Normally I would tell you that these events don't grow on trees and that they are worth every dime you spend on them, but this particular one is even better than worth it, it is a steal. I am going to paint a red cross on the building that day, because $25 for that kind of beer and a super-knowledgeable guy to pair the cheeses for you is like charity. Anyway, that is all I have for you right now. It sure is good to be back home, but I will get bored with that soon enough. Take care folks.

Hop Secret 644 Schedule:
Jan. 4th--Decatur
Jan. 8th--Mall of GA
Jan. 9th--Dallas Hwy. (Marietta)
Jan. 11th--Canton
Jan. 14th--Old Milton Pkwy.
Jan. 15th--Perimeter
Jan. 18th--49er (Charlotte)
Jan. 21st--Lindbergh
Jan. 22nd--Duluth
Jan. 23rd--Woodstock
Jan. 28th--Suwanee
Jan. 29th--Virginia-Highland
Jan. 30th--Crababble (Last keg in GA! Help kill the keg in 15 minutes!)
Feb. 4th--South Park (Charlotte)
Feb. 5th--Huntersville (Charlotte)

PS-- Like every year, I am going to help you with your New Year's Resolutions. You should resolve to drink more beer this year. It stimulates the economy, promotes world peace, and it makes you happy. Everyone wins. You're welcome.