Friday, May 31, 2013

Here A Cask, There A Cask, Everywhere.....

You know the rest of the song.
Drew Buehler's special cask. Tasted awesome tonight in Duluth!

Here is a quick update on these crazy SweetWater casks that will be available at Taco Mac and Taco Mac only over the next few weeks. We did a contest in the winter for all of our stores. They submitted ideas to the brewery for what cool ways they could trick out some standard SweetWater beers. The head brewer picked the best five recipes, and we made five of each a few weeks ago. We are getting into the first round of them next week, so here is the first leg of this delicious beer adventure. This is going to be fun. If you don't like what I have for you next Saturday, just give up. Stop drinking beer, pick up a different hobby, you're fired. Check it out:

  • It all starts on Wednesday, June 5th at Taco Mac in Marietta, which is one of the winning stores. This cask is a Georgia Brown with cardamom, cocoa & orange peel. Sounds awesome. Tap time is 6:00 pm.
  • Next we will be at the Decatur Taco Mac on Friday night, June 7th. This one is an Exodus Porter with chicory, vanilla & cocoa. Chicory should give a slight smoky quality. Can't wait to try that one too. That is at 6:00 pm as well.
  • Saturday the 8th is the "In-Town Cask Crawl". Get a load of this: At 3:00 pm we will tap an IPA with grapefruit, apricots, orange & rosemary, plus a whole bunch of extra hops at the Virginia Highland store. Next we head up 10th street to Metropolis at 4:30 for another IPA, this one with orange, grains of paradise, Cascade, Chinook, Summit & Citra. Then we go to up Piedmont at 6:00 pm to Lindbergh for a cask of Happy Ending with mint, lactose sugar & cocoa. Three casks in one day, all within a 3.5 mile radius. I think we have a winner of an idea here. I hope to see a few folks make the trek with us. The great, big, grueling 3.5 mile journey for three unique and delicious, fresh, local beers. Who's with me?
That is all I have for now. I will follow-up with the rest of the calendar next week, but I wanted to give everyone the line-up for next week so that you can plan ahead. Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Thorny Situation

This sign means good beer is behind door # 1.
Remember when I went to England earlier this year? Remember that Spike from Terrapin brewed a collaboration beer while we were there? Remember that the brewery was called Thornbridge, and that their beers were killer?  I seems like a long time ago, but it takes a while to make an Imperial ESB with rye malt, then ship it across the ocean all the way to Atlanta, GA. But it's here, and it is almost time to drink it. Mark your calendars for Tuesday, June 4th (that's next week people!), and head down to The Fred Bar to taste the Thornbridge/Terrapin Coalition. It will be pouring from a cask, as well as the regular taps. How rare is this beer? There are only four reviews of it from the entire U.S. on, and none of those are from Georgia. So, yeah, it is pretty special. Here are the other Thornbridge beers that will be on tap that night:
  • Thornbridge Beadeca's Well (a smoked porter, 5.3%) 
  • Thornbridge Halcyon (an IPA, 7.4%)
  • Thornbridge Kipling (a pale ale 5.2%)
These beers are not cheap, but neither are you, so I guess I will see you on Tuesday. Spike will be on hand around 6:00 pm to tell you about the beer and his story about brew day in Britain. Don't miss it.
Do I make you Thorny, baby?
I also want to take this opportunity to tell you about the cask this Friday, May 31st at Taco Mac in Duluth. This is the final cask from the series made by some of our loyal customers with O'Dempsey's. Drew Buehler's creation has figs, black cardamom, cocoa nibs, Jim Beam barrel staves, and vanilla beans in a cask of O'Dempsey's Your Black Heart Russian Imperial Stout. Tap time is 6:00 pm. If you are a credit seeker, then you will want to know that this will be a distinct and original credit from every other cask that has come before it, and that this credit will never be used again. 

Lastly, I am about to publish the calendar of when and where we will be tapping the different SweetWater casks that we made recently. Below are the details on the five different flavors. One is coming soon to a Taco Mac near you. I strongly recommend that you get out and drink a few of these. SweetWater casks do not come around very often, and I can absolutely guarantee that we will not have the opportunity to do this again for a long, long time.
  • IPA w/ grapefruit, apricots, orange & rosemary
  • Brown Ale w/ cardamom, cocoa & orange peel
  • Imperial Stout w/ mint, lactose sugar & cocoa
  • IPA w/ orange, grains of paradise, Cascade, Chinook, Summit & Citra hops
  • Porter w/ chicory, vanilla & cocoa
OK people, that is all I have for you right now. In case you were missing my voice on the radio lately, you will be happy to know that I should resume telling you about the beers of the month again starting in June. This time around I will be on 680 AM instead of 790 AM. Same ads, just a different channel. And the next time I get taken off the radio, I expect to see a flood of nasty e-mails from you people, unlike last time. Not one single outcry of indignant rage. You guys can do better than that. C'mon now.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Frankly, I Can Do Without The Bread

Why am I sliding off the table? Whoooa!
They say that man can not live on bread alone, and I get the meaning of the saying. Diversity is the key to enjoying a full life. But if you look into it, the saying actually comes from the Bible, and means something completely different. Go ahead, look it up. People mistake the true meanings and origins of things all the time. In addition, meanings change over time to suit different situations. The same phrase that extolled you to respect the word of god, now means that you need art, music, literature, and the pursuit of things solely for the enjoyment of them, in order to lead a rich life. Go figure.

I am only taking you on this diversion to reinforce my position that you and I can not drink just beer and beer alone. I know that this is Fred's Beer Page, but occasionally we take a look at some different beverages that I enjoy. Hopefully you enjoy them too, or are at least open minded enough to try them. If not, well, you're probably not a very pleasant person to be around, and you are definitely not a fun person to drink with, that's for sure. Stay at home please. But for everyone else, let's talk tequila for a minute.

All alcoholic beverages have one thing in common: sugar. No sugar, no alcohol. It's just that simple. If you don't know why that is the case, that's OK. I will tell you now, and everyone else will laugh at you behind your back. Just kidding. We will laugh in your face. Here is goes: sugar = food for yeast; yeast + food = fermentation.
  • fer·men·ta·tion 
    a. The anaerobic conversion of sugar to carbon dioxide and alcohol by yeast.
    b. Any of a group of chemical reactions induced by living or nonliving ferments that split complex organic compounds into relatively simple substances.
Alright, so that concludes science class. Back to the booze discussion. So what you have with many alcoholic beverages is a balance between the sweetness that the sugars leave behind, and whatever other flavors are in there--naturally or otherwise--that complete the picture. In the case of some spirits, the flavor is particularly clean, and following the condensing process of distillation, the pure flavors of the resulting liquor are fine on their own. Think rum and vodka. The raw ingredients used to make those (sugar cane for rum, and various grains, primarily wheat, for vodka) leave very little residual flavor behind. When you start talking about tequila, you are talking about a process and a raw ingredient that is vastly different. Take an intimidating looking desert plant with big, sword-shaped leaves, and dig it up. Don't just dig up any old one you find. You have to dig one up that is seven years old. Six years? Sugars aren't developed enough. Eight years? Sugars are so overdeveloped that the plant starts to rot from the inside out. Seven years, no more and no less. Once you dig it up there is a large, globe shaped thing that looks like a green and white striped pineapple anchoring it into the soil. Nothing about this looks delicious at this point, and remember that the temperature in the field where these things grow is roughly five degrees beneath the temperature on the surface of the sun. Then you need to start shaving the leaves and rough exterior from the "piña" (I told you it looks like a pineapple) with a razor-shape blade on a long stick. The men who do this for a living are called "insane". No, they are actually called "jimadors". Ever heard of el Jimador tequila? Now you know why they call it that. Look how smart you can seem to friends and strangers now! You're welcome.

As if the jimadors didn't work hard enough already, these piñas aren't even close to being ready to make tequila. Split them open, and then toss them in huge ovens. Let them roast to caramelize the sugars inside them, then let them cool. (They are delicious just like that. Tastes like a squash drenched in honey). Grind them up, add water and yeast, and let it ferment. After fermentation, you start the distillation, which is basically a process of separating the alcohol from the water through heating, and then condensing the vapors. I know you didn't come here for a science lesson, but real quick: As the liquid starts to get hot, alcohol is released in the form of a vapor. Alcohol boils at a lower temperature than water. Once the vapors hits a cool series of condensing coils, the alcohol returns to a liquid form, free of the water. Voila, you have hard liquor. 
Ovens steaming away.

In the case of tequila, the piña imparts the spicy, peppery notes that you should be familiar with if you have ever had straight, un-aged tequila. When you barrel age tequila, those spicy notes get complimented by the traditional effects of oak that you may recognize from whiskey: toast, vanilla, caramel, etc. These flavors work in concert with the honey and pepper flavors from the agave piña, and you have a delicious, golden liquid bursting with complexity. If you have not had a chance to taste the Herradura Double Reposado that we selected while on a trip to Mexico in February, I suggest that you do so soon. We actually selected two different barrels, both very different from each other, and the first one is here now. The second one will be here in a month or so. This one is bright, citrusy and spicy. Just one sip of it takes me back to the sun drenched hacienda in the agave growing region of Jalisco state around Guadalajara. Once this stuff is gone, it is gone forever. The next barrel is distinctly different (that's why we bought two instead of one), and you will get to appreciate the differences when that one gets bottled and arrives at our doorstep. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. If you are afraid of tequila because of what you did in college while drinking it, don't worry. It happens to everyone. You're an adult now. Don't be scared.

Beer stuff! That's right, we have beer stuff to talk about too. The new pale ale from O'Dempsey's, called Cold One, is available at the Dallas Hwy store right now. Stop by and grab a "cold one", or two. 

Stay tuned for a listing for the 25 casks of special SweetWater beers we have. These are going to get tapped in a flurry of activity over the next few weeks. Here is what we have:
  • IPA w/ grapefruit, apricots, orange & rosemary
  • Imperial Stout w/ mint, lactose & cocoa
  • Porter w/ chicory, vanilla & cocoa
  • IPA w/ orange, grains of paradise, Cascade, Chinook, Summit & Citra hops
  • Brown Ale w/ cardamom, cocoa & orange peel
Looks like a pretty fun line-up. Like I said, stay tuned. I should have that calendar ready for you next week. The last thing I have for you is an event at The Fred on Tuesday, June 4th. We will have some beers from Thornbridge in England, which is a brewery I visited recently while I was over there. These beers are outstanding, and they are part of the new guard of English breweries that are making beers outside of the "traditional" English styles. Great stuff. Terrapin did a collaboration beer with these guys while I was there, and we will have that beer (an Imperial ESB) on draft and in a firkin, plus the following:
  • Thornbridge Beadeca's Well (a smoked porter)
  • Thornbridge Halcyon (an IPA)
  • Thornbridge Kipling (a pale ale)
FYI, these beers aren't cheap, but you're worth it. Spike from Terrapin will be there to tell everyone about his experience brewing with these British dudes and to explain the beer he made with them. I hope you can join us. Have a great Memorial Day weekend everyone. Bye!


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Talk To Me Goose!

Folks, I don't often give you advice on how to run your personal or professional lives, unless it involves how, when, where, and to what extent you drink beer, but today is different. But don't worry, I am going to tell you about cool beer stuff soon enough.

Friday is the last day that I get to work with someone who has been my right-hand person for seven years. She has been more than a friend. She has been a sounding board for my wacky ideas, a collaborator on many of them, a great listener to my rants full of explosive profanities, and most importantly, been the one person who has always had my back through thick and thin. The inside jokes, the ability to speak to one another without words, and the unspoken affirmation of knowing that someone else really, really gets you, are qualities that can't be taken for granted. So all I have left to say on this subject is that if there is someone in your life, personal or professional, that you feel that way about, I wrote a poem for you. Feel free to use it wherever you like. It took me a long time to craft this, and I feel that it speaks to the deepest parts of the human experience. Enjoy.

Thank you for being a friend, 
Traveled down the road and back again, 
Your heart is true, you're a pal and a confidant. 
And if you threw a party, and 
Invited everyone you knew, 
You would see the biggest gift would be from me 
And the card attached would say,  
"Thank You For Being A Friend." 

But don't get all weepy on me over there. People move on in life. I am still really close friends with a guy I met at college orientation when I was seventeen. Just saw him in April. It's not like this girl is going off to storm Normandy and free Europe. She's going to work with dogs in Alpharetta. Get a hold of yourself. Geez. 

So here is the beer stuff:
  • Cask of O'Dempsey's Your Black Heart at The Fred Bar tomorrow (Friday) night. This one has all kinds of crazy additions, and it is coded as a new Brewniversity credit for American Craft Beer Week. O'Dempsey's folks will be on hand, and they are a fun bunch if you have not met them yet.
  • Put 5/29 on your calendar. There is an Ommegang event at The Fred featuring those Game Of Thrones beers on draft. Don't ask questions, just be there.
  • The last cask of O'Dempsey's Your Black Heart from our "Winner's Circle" of customers is getting tapped at the Duluth store on Friday, May 31st. This one is also full of wild and unusual additions. Can you handle it, or are you chicken? (Apologies to any real chickens that are reading this. Who knew?) 
That's all kids. Have a great weekend. Go thank a friend for being who they are. Those people don't grow on trees.

PS-- I can assure you that no Golden Girls were injured in the posting of this blog.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Who's Been Tappin' That Cask?

I bet you thought I was going to let this entire week go by without posting something, didn't you? I bet you
were expecting me to say, maybe some time late next week, "Oh, man...where does all of the time go? Blah, blah, blah.". Well if so, then I would like take this opportunity to thank you. I felt your bad vibes dragging me down all week. I vowed to overcome them, and I did. Now you have some bad karma to deal with, so good luck.

Zoe The Intern. Trial by fire.
We had a great turnout for the Monday Night cask of Eye Patch IPA with Topaz hops in Alpharetta on Wednesday. The beer was great, and we got to learn a little about what Topaz hops are all about. They are from Australia originally, and they have tropical fruit notes, along with some earthy, grassy flavors that you might associate with English hops. We managed to kill the cask in right around an hour, so I clearly wasn't the only one who enjoyed it. Monday Night brought along their college intern, who was on her second day of work. She got volunteered to tap the cask, whether she liked it or not. She was a little apprehensive at first, but I have to give her credit, she didn't chicken out. She managed to make a little bit of a mess, but otherwise, hats off to Zoe The Intern. Her crew back in Tuscaloosa would be so proud.

Next Friday the 17th at The Fred Bar there is a cask of O'Dempsey's Your Black Heart Russian Imperial Stout to help celebrate American Craft Beer Week. I am not sure what they have done to doctor this one up, but the O'Dempsey's people always seem to find a way to do really interesting things with their casks. I am sure that they will be bringing us something tasty for ACBW. Drop by and find out. Probably going to tap it around 6:00 pm if I had to guess. That is kind of standard operating procedure. Hopefully you've picked up on that by now.

Don't forget about the cask on Friday, May 31st in Duluth. This is the crazy O'Dempsey's Your Black Heart Russian Imperial Stout with figs, black cardamom, cocoa nibs, Jim Beam, and vanilla beans. Can you guess what time we are going to tap it?

That is all I have for now. I just got back from a trip to Chattanooga, and it was mighty fine. I met some great new faces, and ran into some of the usual suspects. Surprisingly, I ran into two separate groups of folks I know from Atlanta who just happened to be up there at the same time. I always enjoy my time up in Chatty town. If you haven't had a chance to visit Chattanooga yet, what are you waiting for? Cool town.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Howdy, Neighbor

Get ready to welcome the Carolina Brewery to Atlanta next week. We will be pouring their Flagship IPA
and Sky Blue Golden Ale at Taco Mac Prado on Tuesday, May 7th. The owner of the brewery will be in town, so stop by and say hello if you are into that kind of thing. We have been selling these beers for a while in Charlotte, and they liked Taco Mac so much, they decided to start selling beer in Atlanta. They won a silver medal at GABF for Sky Blue last year, and their IPA won a gold in 2006. Long story short, these guys make good beer, and you need to drink it.

The following day at the Windward Pkwy Taco Mac we have our first cask of Monday Night Eye Patch IPA. This one has additional Topaz hops added to it, and should be really tasty. We are going to be dialing back our cask events this summer, so you may want to get in on this one. Wednesday, May 8th, 6:00 pm.

Friday the 17th we have a cask of O'Dempsey's Your Black Heart Russian Imperial Stout at The Fred Bar. We have done a ton of tricked-out casks with O'Dempsey's and they are always really good. Come out and celebrate American Craft Beer Week with us.

On Friday, May 31st we have a very special cask, created by one of our Chancellors, Drew Buehler. This is another O'Dempsey's Your Black Heart Russian Imperial Stout , but this one has figs, black cardamom, cocoa nibs, Jim Beam, and vanilla beans. We will be tapping it at 6:00 pm, Taco Mac Duluth. Come by and show Drew some love. He's a solid dude. You'll like him.

Stay tuned for more details on the 25 casks we recently made at SweetWater. Those are ready to ship, and I will be laying out a calendar with those dates very soon.

In case you still are not following me on Instagram, here are a few photos from my recent visit to Dogfish Head. If you were following me on Instagram (beer_fred_tmac), you would have seen these when I actually took them, and you would have seen about five times as many. But hey, it's a free country. You are free to see less cool pictures, and you are free to wait six days to see them. Whatever floats your boat.
Pretty nice day in Milton, DE
The building is strangely located, pretty much in the middle of a neighborhood of large, new homes. It is as if someone dropped a sizable, funky-looking brewery in the middle of a gated community in Alpharetta. Apparently it wasn't such a big deal when the brewery was small, but now the neighbors have their panties in a bundle over the amount of large trucks and hordes of tourists that are coming and going all day and night. Most people I know would give a limb to live in the shadow of Dogfish Head. Not these stiffs.

On the left here is a cone that holds the hops before they are shot into the brew kettle. If you don't get it, say the first two words kind of fast. There was another one called, "Ooooh, Me So Hoppy". Good stuff.

Below is part of an oak-aging tank. They had two. They are in the room with the Palo Santo wood tank. It looked a lot like this one, except it had a sign on it that said, "Palo Santo". The people at the brewery were extremely cool, and we got to try a really nice, light bodied pale ale called Firefly in their sensory tasting area. It is made for a big concert festival up there. If you guessed that it is called the Firefly Festival, don't be too proud of yourself please. It wasn't hard to deduce that.

That is all I have for now folks. Have a great week.