Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tullamore Dew 10 Years Old


I'm doing an Irish whiskey tasting on September 11 in Somers Point, NJ (e-mail me if you're interested; my New Jersey Breweries co-author Mark Haynie is organizing it, and I'd be happy to put you in touch with him), and one of the new Irish whiskeys we'll be tasting is Tullamore Dew 10 Years Old. There are a number of new Irish whiskeys out, which is fantastic (and yes, I will have that David Quinn/Jameson interview up soon: I'm taking the recording along on my vacation to work on when everyone else inevitably falls asleep before I do).

So here's a preview before we get to the tasting. As you can maybe see in the picture, the 10 is a bit darker than the standard bottling of Dew. It's "aged in Spanish and American Oak casks," which is to say, bourbon and sherry. Let's have a whiff.

It's quite similar to the standard bottling, but fuller; the sherry comes in more as a cushion than an up-front 'yum' kind of thing, an underpinning. There's a bit of vanilla from the bourbon oak, and fresh malt character.

Sip time. The standard bottling first, for calibration: hot, sweet, a bit thin, but pleasant. Oh my, the 10 is quite different. It's fuller, with real body, to begin with, and then the roots show: this reminds me of Powers, distilled at the same Middleton distillery as Tullamore is now. Don't get me wrong: that's a good thing. Because that pot-still character -- be it from the pot still, or the blending, or the raw barley they use in some of their spirit -- is coming through creamy and delish, and I'm liking it. Oh, I am, I'm melting a bit. Going back to the standard bottling: definitely sharper than the 10, though the pot-still is evident now; just not as forward and rich as in the 10.

My boss and mentor, John Hansell, tasted the 10 back in June, and pointed out -- quite correctly -- that the 10 is not particularly distinctive from the standard bottling and the 12 Years Old bottling. Good point. But at $35, the 10's a good deal, and I'd probably buy it instead of the standard bottling, and as John suggests, use it for mixing and sipping both. It's both good enough, and a good enough value, to make that a workable premise. Good stuff.

Samuel Adams Patriot Homebrew IPA

You know Boston Beer does their big Longshot contest every year, giving a couple homebrewers the chance to put their beer in the Big Time and get it brewed, bottled, and distributed by Boston Beer. Pretty cool stuff, and just one more way Jim Koch proves that he really does Get It.

But didja know they also have a New England-only contest for homebrewers to win a chance to get their beer on draft at Gillette Stadium during the New England Patriots season? Now that is sweet, 18-1 or not.

Best of all, after the disappointment of not being able to make one of last year's Longshot winners, a double IPA that just couldn't be brewed because of hops shortages (not prices, we were told: the hops just couldn't be bought at all), this year's Patriot Homebrew, from Massachusetts resident Adam Walsh, is a by-God IPA. And Boston Beer sent me two bottles, so I'm going to taste them. Yes, it's only available at Gillette Stadium, on draft, but...I did make that promise...so here we go.

Wow, that pours pretty! Big head (and yeah, I know, the Sam Adams glass is for Boston Lager...big deal), and deep amber/copper body. There's a wicked sharp pine/pineapple aroma coming off it (with a sweet teasing hint of peach or nectarine) that promises hop!!! and man, it does deliver in the mouth. There's no compromise about this baby, you're getting a bitter shot to the chops that rocks you, and then lingers like feedback echo, with a little bit of alcohol heat underneath to keep things cooking and clean. But it's not whiprazor sharp hopjuice, there's plenty of ballast under there to keep it lined up and on-target.

I was just playing Burnout Revenge last night, see, and this beer drinks like the heavy van in the Crash game. You launch something like the 4X4 pickup or the custom crash vintagemobile, and you've got speed, zing, all that jazz -- but hit a ramp in the wind and you're screwed. Put the heavy van up the ramp and BOOM. It's going right where you want it, and where you want it is getting smashed. This is like that.

Only issue is a slightly green character to the hops. Normally I like that, it's fresh, it's cool, but this is more leafy than hoppy. Not great, but minor. It actually seems to be diminishing as the beer warms a bit.

Going to a Pats game? Brother, do they ever have your beer ready. Thanks, Adam; thanks, Jim.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Another New Poll at the PLCB Blog

I just posted another poll at Why The PLCB Should Be Abolished. This one assumes that the PA legislature finally gets up its courage and does away with the Case Law entirely, and then asks, "What would be the most likely unintended consequences?"

Because you know there will be unforeseen changes when we get normal about buying beer...

Me, talking about New Jersey Breweries

Video beerhound Jeff Linkous (who does the New Jersey beer-centered blog Beer-Stained Letter) interviewed me yesterday for a couple pieces he's doing, and then did a video spot on New Jersey Breweries. It came out pretty well: take a look.

And remember: we've got two launch events in New Jersey this Friday and Saturday! It's Friday evening at J.J. Bittings in Woodbridge, and Saturday afternoon at Tun Tavern in Atlantic City. Here's the details, come see us!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Institute: first visit

I dropped by The Institute at 12th and Green in Philly for the first time today. I wanted to have a drink with a friend, talk a little treason, and she suggested this brand-new place: good call. It's in the Brandywine neighborhood, a new one for me, but as I parked and looked around...well, if I had the money I'd be buying a few houses and lots -- Northern Liberties and Fishtown are practically around the block, and this place is ripe for upscaling. I think Charlie and Heather Collazo are getting in almost as early as Paul and William did with Standard Tap and Johnny Brenda's.

The joint? Not real big...for now. Charlie told us he has plans: a basement kitchen ("about two months," he said, because the low ceiling necessitates busting through the concrete floor first), a second floor lounge ("with a DJ booth, sofas"), and, down the road a bit, a rooftop deck with a cedar fence and I kid you not, a waterfall. Sounds like a summertime place to be.

Meanwhile, it's comfy, though the bar itself is kinda small. Taps were excellent: two Founder's (IPA and Rye; I got the IPA, it tasted like fish), PBC Walt Wit and Rowhouse, Yards ESA, Bar Harbor Blueberry (yeah, I had one, it was hot), Sly Fox Phoenix, Hennepin, Bear Republic RIS, an Ace Pear, a PBR tap, and the ubiquitous Lager.

Worth the trip? Maybe not on its own, at least until the kitchen opens and Charlie doubles the taps, but if you're in the area, you ought to stop by.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Where I'll Be This Week

It's a busy week coming up for me. After writing about 8,000 words worth of stories this week (plus some blog posts), it's all about events.

I'm doing an interview for a video documentary on River Horse this Thursday, the 24th, and then, in a nice bit of synchronicity, I'll be hosting another Firkin Night at the Hulmeville Inn with a cask of River Horse Special Ale, dry-hopped in the cask with a big wad of Cascades. Hey, get your American Pale Ale groove on, baby! They'll also have Hop Hazard and Imperial Cherry Amber and I'm hoping the Double White holds out. That's 6-9 (or until the firkin kicks; last month's only took 110 minutes!)

Friday I'm doing a private tasting for a birthday party; I am available for private and business entertainment, doing beer or whiskey tastings, education, or dinners (contact me if you're interested).

Then Saturday I'm judging at the big Battle of the Brewery Bands at Stoudt's. Here's the skinny on this amazing, amusing event:

THE BATTLE OF THE BREWERY BANDS

Local brew bands get to show off their other talents in a musical fight for the “Golden Keg” and the benefit of their choice. All proceeds will be donated to the winners' favorite charities. The winning band will have 50% of the proceeds donated to the charity. Second place winning band will receive 20% for charity, and the additional 30% will be divided up among the rest of the bands to donate. Everyone is a winner for charity. The event is from 6-10 pm, ticket price is $20 which includes beer, food, music and a good old ass-kickin' time. Participating breweries will bring a keg of their choice. Only 600 tickets available, call now for tickets 717-484-4386-X204.

Judges for the event will be: Tom Peters - owner of the great Monk's Cafe in Philly. Lew Bryson - me. Kevin Trayner - Ale Street News beer writer. Francine Scoboris - Berks County Living editor.

Brewery Bands participating --chosen charity
Tröeg's "Starsan" - Capital Area Greenbelt Association
Victory's "Brewers Blues" - A Hospital in Philadelphia
Legacy's "Brews Brothers" - Humane Society
Union Barrel Work's "Sunset Limited" - American Cancer Society
PA. HomeBrew Club's "The Yeastie Boys" - Hospice
Stoudt's "Bad Strudel" - Relay for Life

It ought to be fun, and it's sure as hell gonna be loud. Come on up to Adamstown and join us!

Finally, Sunday marks the first official launch event for New Jersey Breweries at the Grey Lodge Pub at 11 AM. Get all the details here or here, which is probably gonna be more up to the minute!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Pabst and The King

The InBud deal is bringing some strange stuff to the surface. Pabst felt the need to release a statement yesterday that initially read like this:
In response to the many inquires we have received regarding the acquisition of Anheuser Busch by InBev: No doubt, the AB-InBev combination will create a formidable competitor. And it is true, Pabst Brewing Company will be the last of the famous iconic U.S. brewers to be fully independent and American-owned.
As a Pennsylvanian, Yuengling is pretty iconic to me, but I'll admit that's a parochial attitude. Still..."In response to the many inquiries"? Hoo boy.

Then, of all people, Michael "Eulogy" Naessens released a statement on the deal...since he's Belgian and a CPA. Who knew? I had to chuckle over this bit, though:
“Budweiser was the king of beers when the U.S. beer market was an absolute monarchy and people had little choice. Now it’s more like a constitutional monarchy, with craft beers leading the revolution.” says Naessens.
Hail to The King, baby!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Apostel Bräu Pilsner

I got a box of German beer samples from Schwelmer Imports in Brooklyn a while back, new stuff they're bringing in with the help of Horst Dornbusch (disclosure: Horst arranged and led a press junket to Bavaria I went on three years ago, paid for by the Bavarian Brewers Guild...on which I didn't have the best time of my life. Beer was good, though). I just opened one: Apostel Bräu Pilsner, from the Eichbaum Brauerei in Mannheim. I meant to do tasting notes on it...but the deep golden liquid has disappeared. From my glass. Into me.

It never developed much head, which was disappointing. It's different from most German pilsners I've tried. It's not whelmingly bitter, and has quite a bit of body, with the bitterness wicking in at the end to clean things up. Don't know that I'd order it first off, but I suspect that if the price was right, I'd ride this horse all night long. Solid, workmanlike...German.

Biggest American breweries? Right here in PA, baby

In a conversation on Uncle Jack's blog, he and I realized that the biggest production facilities of the two largest American-owned breweries (well, once A-B actually gets bought by InBev, that is, and as opposed to beer marketing companies, like Pabst) are right here in Pennsylvania. That would be the newly operational "Upper Macungie" brewery of Boston Beer in Fogelsville, PA, and the St. Clair brewery of D.G. Yuengling & Son -- "America's Oldest Brewery™" -- outside of Pottsville, PA. (Before we get into it...yes, there's a certain amount of interpretation here: BBC makes about 1/2 of their beer under contract. There is, however, no doubt that they are the two largest breweries, so I'll leave it up to barroom conversation to make the final call.)

As I said there, this could potentially be huge for Yuengling, if they capitalize on it. And if I were Pabst...I'd get my ass out there beating the bushes to buy a brewery post-haste and become America's largest brewery. Pabst: still an icon, still American-owned, and just one brewery short of being what their drinkers want them to be: honest. Hmmm...City Brewing, Latrobe? Wouldn't that be sweet? After all, Pabst used to own that Upper Macungie plant, their last. Time to put together a deal, gentlemen.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

You want InBev/A-B analysis? Here you go.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Belgians Buy Budweiser
www.colbertnation.com
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive


Yeah, that's comedy. "That's a rude awakening." Thanks to the folks on BeerAdvocate for pointing this one out!

Shocking! Iowa's keg registration law is ineffective!

From today's Daily Iowan, the student-run newspaper at the University of Iowa, Iowa City:
A keg-registration law passed in 2007 apparently has yet to be effective in combating underage drinking.
Even the police admit it:
"There haven't been any [convictions] that I am aware of," said Sgt. Troy Kelsay of the Iowa City police. Police were able to track some stolen Liquor House kegs, he said, but noted, "That was for theft, not for providing alcohol to underage drinkers." (Some empty kegs were stolen off someone's porch, and when the thieves tried to claim the deposit, they got busted. Best use of a keg registration law I've ever heard!)
Well, the working police admit it. The bureaucrats are still toeing the party line:

Iowa City Police Chief Sam Hargadine said he does believe that the law has reduced the number of kegs that get into the hands of underage drinkers."It has been very effective," he said. "It sends a message to all those over 21.""
Ah, it sends a message. Some of my favorite words: they mean, "We can't quantify any results at all, but we'd hate to think we wasted every single damned minute we put into working on this dumb-ass project." As usual, the folks on the front-line know better:
"It's a good waste of our time, I guess," said Charlie Uthe, a Liquor House employee.
The New Dry contacted for comment gave a typically evasive response:
Shellie Striegel, the community health action partnership project manager, worked vigorously to pass the keg law in many counties prior to the legislation." I would hope that people would begin to take the law seriously," she said. Taking down the buyers' names makes a statement that hasn't been made before, she said: The authorities are aware of who are buying kegs and watching where they go." (They see you when you're drinking, they know when you're of age...)
"Makes a statement," "sends a message," same difference. But it sounds like people do take the law seriously, Shellie: exactly as seriously as it merits. As the chief himself said:
"It is a tool available to us," the chief said. "But we're busy. It's not like we're just sitting around waiting for a call to come in."
No, I hope you're out patrolling, maybe looking for evidence of property damage, DUI, you know: real consequences of the destructive drinking behavior that is the real problem...that keg registration has yet to show any evidence at all of affecting, anywhere. Great article.

Monday, July 14, 2008

New Poll on the PLCB blog

"What factor is most likely to block any meaningful reform of Pennsylvania's Liquor Code?" is the new poll at "Why the PLCB should be abolished." Go take a look, and realize that every answer (except the obviously fun last one, and I hope you all catch the reference to one of my fave cult movies) is, unfortunately, a right answer. This is going to be an uphill fight.

Hey, if you voted early...something went haywire with the poll. I re-posted it, and the first two hours' votes were lost: come back, vote again!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Milestone

Huh. Blogger tells me I passed 500 published posts with that last Website update post. Whoopee. Yay me.

New Jersey Breweries launch events

We now have three signings scheduled for the launch of New Jersey Breweries.

The first is a brunch signing at the Grey Lodge Pub on July 27 from 11-2; in Philly, admittedly, but there's always been a lot of NJ drinkers there, and Scoats will have plenty of NJ beer on hand.

Second is at J.J. Bitting in Woodbridge, NJ, on August 1 at 5:00, probably going to about 8 PM. Bitting is just down the street from the NJ Transit Woodbridge station, so that's an easy one to get to (and get home from, if you catch my draft--er, drift).

Third is the next day, August 2, at Tun Tavern in Atlantic City, 1-4 PM. Hey, New Jersey Breweries, me and Mark, AC, and fresh Tun Tavern beer: I know it's a casino, but how can you lose?

Hope to have more events to announce soon, watch this space.

If that's what you buy, that's what you get

You know, I leave Portfolio and the beer coverage gets...well, you decide. Sports columnist Franz Lidz has a piece in his "The Windup" column today called Buy Me Some Peanuts and Flat Bland Beer, about "a beer-tasting tour of selected ballparks." The ballparks included Shea, Citizens, Camden Yards (do people really call it "Oriole Park"?), Wrigley, and Fenway, with a short mention of Dodger Stadium.

Now...as most of you probably know, Citizens has one of the best beer selections in MLB, and, thanks to our illustrious Don "Joe Sixpack" Russell, one of the fairest pours. We can get a great selection of local brews, fresh and solid from the tap. Which is why I was baffled to read this:
Nearer to home in Philadelphia, I cajole my oldest daughter, Gogo, into joining an expedition to Citizens Bank Park. She agrees to go if I promise to buy her a soft pretzel.The pretzel is soft and salty and soggy, like it's been soaked in a bathtub overnight. At McNally's tavern at the end of Ashburn Alley in the outfield concourse I get a Rolling Rock, which is a formidable color Gogo calls "hot yellow." I wonder for a moment what they do with the bathwater after they've soaked the pretzels. We return to our seats, where I follow up with a Coors Light, a name I've always considered a redundancy.

Buddy, buddy, buddy...it's like you planned to fail. If you're going to go to America's Best Beer-Drinking City™, what the hell are you doing ordering up the same damned beer you can get at every other park in the league? Not even Ying-a-ling? What are you doing ordering Coors Light if you look down your nose at it? If you want to get beer like that, stay home and suffer through the Mets!

I've been to Citizens a number of times and I've always been able to find a solid craft beer pretty easily. You aren't going to get them from walk-by vendors, but the guy's obviously willing to go out of his way if he braved McNally's. So how come he comes to our town and gets Coors Light? Rolling Rock? Shoulda dug deeper into the story...which would have taken all of five minutes to walk to a Brewerytown stand, order a HopDevil, and take one friggin' hop-laced sip... Ah, me.

If Lidz wants to complain about the folks who go to the ballpark and get soused on expensive, mainstream beer, okay. He does a little of that at the beginning of the piece. If he wants to look into the constant rumor that beer at ballparks is watered down, okay: again, he does look into that (and finds that it's bullshit, what a surprise), but briefly. But if he was seriously looking at finding beer choice, variety, or character at ballparks...why didn't he look further than the end of his nose?

InA-BuddaBevida suddenly much closer to reality

InBev and A-B's little dance of bluster and bucks may be coming to a quick end as a report of a sweeter deal comes out this morning. According to a variety of sources, InBev is ready to boost their offer to $70 a share, a $4 billion increase on their initial $65/share offer, and A-B's board is suddenly nodding, grinning, and, presumably, rubbing their hands together in anticipation of all that moolah.

This would create what is undeniably the world's largest brewer: $36 billion in annual sales, over 322 million barrels of beer, selling 300 brands on six continents. Wow.

They only have to deal with minor stuff: "so-called social issues including what the combined company would be called still need to be worked out." Hey, guys: the name in the subject line -- with its Belgian/Brazilian/Budweiser flair -- is all yours for a modest fee!

I'll have more to say, but that's the news for now. Looks like Bud's getting a Brazilian trim.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Website updates I

I've completed updates for Pennsylvania Breweries on my main site. Please take a look, and if you see anything I'm missing, or think I got something wrong, comment here or send me an e-mail. Thanks!

New York Breweries updates are next.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mark Haynie is an author

That's right, folks: New Jersey beer writer Mark Haynie is now officially a published author. That's because I just got word that copies of New Jersey Breweries arrived at the warehouse at Stackpole Books this morning, almost three weeks ahead of schedule.

Congratulations, Mark! Together we've written a book that takes readers through the breweries and brewpubs of New Jersey, from the big A-B plant in Newark to Tun Tavern in AC, from High Point in rural Butler to smack-dab-in-the-middle-of-it Gaslight in South Orange. Completed in late November, updated in February, and now in print. Take a look at some samples here.

It took us almost five years to put this together; not from want of my editor, Kyle Weaver, pushing me. We didn't believe there was enough to do the book. We were wrong. There's beer, brewers, and bars a-plenty in here, and you'll be glad we did it. Look for it on Amazon, or watch for Mark and I doing a booksigning; I'll post them as we get them scheduled.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Changes, gradual in nature

As you can see, I've changed the picture at the top of the blog for the first time since I started it up 18 months ago. Not really significant of any great change in direction, just felt like changing the picture.

That's just a small change here, though; the big changes are taking place over at my long-dormant website as I start to crank up for the release of New Jersey Breweries. I've been doing some housecleaning over there this morning, and I'll be doing long-overdue guidebook updates this week.

If you have any updates that I need to get done on the PA, NY, or mid-Atlantic books, please send me an e-mail, and thanks!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Top Ten: Mid-Atlantic Drives

The monthly not-usually-drink-related Lew's Top Ten. I like scenic drives, usually on two-lane roads. When I'm faced with getting from here to there, and time is not crucial, I much prefer to go over hill and dale on secondary roads. You see more, and the diners and stores aren't so same-same-same. These are some of my favorite finds; as always, this is an unranked list.

1. PA Rt. 44 from Jersey Shore, PA to Coudersport, PA. Classic upstate Pennsylvania: small towns, swooping curves and hills through the woods, and a hunting camp around every corner. Alternately, the run up Rt. 287 to Wellsboro is also very nice.

2. NY Rt. 20 from Esperance to Richmond Springs, then down Otsego Lake -- the Glimmerglass -- to Cooperstown. I first drove this when doing the research for New York Breweries, and the long vistas north of Rt. 20 were entrancing, while the run down to Cooperstown was both visually and historically breath-taking. Having Ommegang and Cooperstown Brewing so close doesn't hurt, either.

3. NY Rt. 28 from Kingston to Big Indian, through the Catskills. Nothing like it on a warm summer day, with big clouds building over the Catskills. The first time I drove this was just magical.

4. The Skyline Drive, from Front Royal to Waynesboro, VA. History unfolds: Jackson's Valley campaign, Phil Sheridan's destruction of the Shenandoah, and the healing of the CCC. Or you can just go for the view, which is tremendous, especially at 35 mph. Relax.

5. PA Rt. 22 from Lewistown to Mundy's Corner, then down to Johnstown on Rt. 271. Long runs along the ridges, and a few roller-coaster rides over them. Too bad Johnstown Brewing closed, it was a nice bookend to this trip.

6. From Fortress Monroe to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, up Rt. 13 to Rt. 175 and out to Chincoteague. The Bay Bridge-Tunnel is worth every dollar I've ever paid to cross it. The technological wonder, the isolation in fog, the excitement of seeing the battleship Iowa curving about at high speed in the bay and the quiet power of a nuclear attack sub slipping out on the surface one foggy afternoon. Eastern Shore is a world apart, and Chincoteague even more so.

7. From Kitty Hawk down to Ocracoke City on the Outer Banks. This is my idea of "going down the shore:" 20 people on the spotless beach, a fun little town to visit if I want, and a free ferry for moonlight cruises. Yes, sir.

8. North through Letchworth State Park, then up Rt. 39 to Geneseo. Wait till the Genesee is at high water and run this one: the falls are awesome, the winding roads exciting. The run up 39 to Geneseo will take you out on glacial plateaus that look over miles of lowlands.

9. The Lake Run in the Adirondacks: Indian Lake to Blue Mountain Lake, up to Long Lake and swing around to Tupper Lake, in to Saranac Lake and on to Lake Placid (then wind it up with a trot down to Keene Valley to the Noon Mark Diner for some pie...).

10. Along the Delaware River, from Washington Crossing State Park on PA Rt. 32/Rt. 611 to Easton, PA. It's great to do this scenic and historic drive on a foliage-lit fall afternoon, have dinner and a couple excellent beers in Easton, and then return at night with a full moon reflecting off the river. Beautiful.

Friday, July 4, 2008

The Session #17 -- Declaring my Independence

It's The Session, beer blogging on a common topic, and this month it's "drinking anti-seasonally." See all the links soon here.

Rob DeNunzio ("Pfiff!") declared that this month's Session would be about "Drinking anti-seasonally." Rob has a bit more than the usual beer geek's animus towards light lager, and I think he wanted us all to drink heavy in the heat.

Screw that. I chose to interpret this differently, aided by the calendar and Thomas Jefferson. Today is Independence Day in America, The Glorious Fourth of July, and I chose to celebrate for The Session by going to a brewpub owned by Englishmen and drinking English-type real ales brewed on an English-made system with English yeast. That's anti-seasonal, in my book.

My wife's brothers are here for the long holiday weekend. This morning, Carl and I loaded up our bikes and headed to Stockton, NJ, up along the Delaware River. We rode the Delaware & Raritan State Park trail 12 miles to Frenchtown, then 4 miles up a decidedly more dodgy single-track to Milford. We racked and locked the bikes, changed into fresh t-shirts, and parked our butts at the bar of the Ship Inn. We each got 20 oz. pints of cask Best Bitter, and got thoroughly stuck into them.

The Ship Inn is a Ringwood yeast brewery, a yeast that raises the hackles of many a geek. To use Mr. DeNunzio's title: pfiff. Beer is as beer does, my momma always said (no, she didn't, but what the hell, Tom Hanks never played ping pong with the Chinese, either), and this is good beer. So good we had another, and then got a 5 liter polypin to take home.

I'm a solid American, a patriot, and I'll be picking up my craft beer (Sierra Nevada Summerfest and Flying Fish Farmhouse) later today. But those pints of English ale, hard-won by a long ride and standing determinedly session-strength against a craft onslaught of "Bigger! Bitter! Stuffed with more flavor than you can taste!", were a counter-move that made my day. Glad we smoothed things over with the Limeys.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Just when you thought it was safe to have a beer...

Hops shortage? Piff. Malt increases? Whoopee. Transportation costs? Hey, happens to everyone.

Major caustic shortage.

That should get your attention. Due to "facility failures beyond their control," the largest producers of caustics in North America are immediately cutting allocation to 15% of contract to all existing customers (more info on that here). Every brewer I know of uses caustic to clean their steel. Like the hops problem, big users (municipal water treatment plants...) are already locking down existing supplies.

One more disaster to cope with.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

New Jersey Breweries Launch

We've got the first of several launch events for New Jersey Breweries to announce:

Co-author Mark Haynie and I will do the Pennsylvania launch at the Grey Lodge Pub on Sunday July 27th, an 11 AM to 2 PM brunch affair. Scoats is going to have a number of New Jersey beers on, from Flying Fish (of course!), Cricket Hill, Climax, Ramstein, and River Horse...and maybe some others.
We would have liked to have our first event in New Jersey, it would have been appropriate, but...it's just how the schedule worked out. Watch for the official New Jersey launch, coming up soon!

A little speculation on skin and wine

We went out to dinner last night to an Italian-themed BYOB here in Newtown, Florentino's (which is excellent, BTW: a great find for us, and it's become our celebration spot). We were celebrating Cathy's latest promotion; she's doing very well with the new company. I took along a bottle of wine I picked up last week (and I was surprised to learn that it's available by special order from the PLCB), "Drink 'n' Stick," from "Some Young Punks," an Aussie outfit we were introduced to at a wine tasting in Portland, ME, last year.

Drink 'n' Stick is a Shiraz blend, a type we've come to enjoy, and we enjoy the irreverent labels and attitude of the Young Punks, too. Drink 'n' Stick, for example, has a "paper doll" label with a young woman and a variety of plastic press-on clothes to dress her with. As you can see by the succession of pix on the right, you can undress her, too, right down to the skivvies she's wearing in the actual paper label. Woo-woo and ooo-la-la, eh? (I apologize for the quality of the other two labels: they're small copies of two of SYP's other wines from the back of the Drink 'n' Stick label, but you get the idea.)

I swear, that's not why I got the bottle. I got it because we'd had a bottle of one of their other wines, "Passion has Red Lips," and really enjoyed it (better than this one: it was a bit inky and thick, and the fruit and acidity were smothered), and they were both quite reasonably priced. (I've yet to have a bottle of wine that cost more than $25 that I really thought was significantly better than a $15 bottle. This troubles me.)

But as we were eating, Cathy picks up the bottle, looks at skivvies-girl, and asks me, "If this was a beer label, would they have approved it?" Good question! Given the stuff that has been banned on beer labels -- Santa, the Mannekin Pis statue, Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People" (and just why didn't Liberty take a minute to pin up her magnificent decolletage, anyway?) -- and then seeing this, it sure looks like a double standard to me.

Wine gets other breaks, too. For instance, wineries are often considered "farm" businesses, which gets them special considerations on taxes, permits, and sales...even when they have no vines on their property and buy all their grapes. Wineries are usually allowed to sell bottles of wine for take-home at festivals. Wineries in PA get to have stores to sell their products, other than at the winery. Brewers get none of that (don't even ask about distillers, the PLCB keeps a tight rein on spirits).

Fair? Well...no, but neither are the wildly different rates of taxation on beer, wine, and spirits: beer gets a huge break there. Federal's different, but most states are even more so: Pennsylvania, for example, charges only 8¢ a gallon tax on beer; wine is much more (and much more complicated, too). So it's not all one-sided.

Made for a fun conversation over an empty bottle of wine, though!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Flies, Skeeters, Michelob, and Noah

Hey, I've been gone...case you didn't notice. We took a trip to the Adirondacks to go camping with my brother-in-law Chris and his kids. We love it up there, but...a ton of mosquitoes and bugs, and it rained and rained and rained. At one point Cathy said, "That's it, I'm not cooking in the rain any more. Lunch is on me, let's go into town." Good thing we did, because about halfway through lunch I was sure there was a big cow and a flat rock outside...

We salved our soggy pride with Sly Fox Phoenix Pale Ale, cans of that all-malt Michelob, some assorted Saranacs, Lake Placid Ubu, Long Trail IPA (really interesting hops in that one, and bursting with flavor), and one scary-delicious bottle of Blue Point Old Howling Bastard. It got clear and starry after everyone but me and Chris and the Bastard hit the sleeping bags, and that was pretty good.

We also had a great lunch on the way home at the Northampton Diner in Mayfield, near Great Sacandaga Lake. A hustling, bustling old classic diner, and we sat at the counter right opposite the grill. The food was good, and all I could think was how great it would be to be having coffee and pancakes there next winter.