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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Heaven Hill's Larceny

Time for honesty: usually when I get samples, even whiskey samples, they generally sit on my kitchen table for at least a couple days. The boxes are annoyingly wrapped, I've a tendency to procrastinate (I hear a whisper of chuckles from my editors), and, well, they'll still be there tomorrow.

But today, when I got this box from Heaven Hill...I was pretty sure what it was, so I opened it as soon as I got home. Sure enough, it's the new Larceny. Here's the description: "Larceny is a true small batch Bourbon produced from dumps of 100 or fewer barrels that have been selected from the 4th, 5th and 6th floors of Heaven Hill’s open rick warehouses in Nelson County, Kentucky. Larceny is drawn from barrels that have aged from 6 to 12 years at this high storage, and is bottled at a full-bodied 92 proof, or 46% alcohol by volume."

But the key -- heh, heh -- point is that Larceny comes from the wheated bourbon that Craig and Parker have been making since Heaven Hill bought the Old Fitzgerald brand back in 1999, and Larceny references the story of John Fitzgerald. Or at least, one of the stories. It's the story that Fitzgerald was a treasury agent who had the keys to distilleries' bonded warehouses...and used them to pilfer whiskey -- the best whiskey, as he apparently had plenty of time to taste them. 

Enough talk. Let's drink! Well, it smells like Heaven Hill: hot sweet corn, light cinnamon notes, an edgy oak note. Mmmm, tasty. This is what I love about Parker's booze: it's always stuffed full of flavor, from the cheapest bottle of Heaven Hill white label all the way up through Evan Williams, Elijah Craig 12 Year Old, all the way on up to the Parker's Heritage bottlings. This is no exception, and it's sharp and lively with it. Imagine a hot sheet of whiskey glass snapping in your mouth and flashing to liquid; it's that quick and light. It's not sweet, it's spicy, oaky, shot with cornbread and a drying heat. The finish is encouraging, a warm tingle through the whole mouth.

I could see drinking this all night -- with a small application of water and a certain amount of pretzels or nuts -- with a group of friends, talking till it's gone. And at $25 suggested price, it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a spare.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Small Batch Budweiser

That's right, I said "Small Batch Budweiser." I just got a press release from Anheuser-Busch about "Project 12," a "friendly competition" in which brewmasters at A-B's twelve American facilities (rumors continue to float that one will actually be closing sometime in the near future, possibly the Newark, NJ brewery) brewed beers "using the proprietary yeast directly descended from the original Budweiser yeast culture used by Adolphus Busch in 1876 and still used by Budweiser today."
“The key to this project was the common yeast – which is a very important and often under-appreciated contributor to the flavor and aroma of beer,” said Jane Killebrew-Galeski, director of brewing, quality and innovation for Anheuser-Busch. “We are proud of all these beers – the variety and the quality – but we want consumer feedback. So, we’re looking forward to what we hear when we sample this summer. Our objective is to allow our brewmasters to show some creativity, but the beers must fit the hallmarks the Budweiser brand is respected for, such as quality and consistency, and have a very crisp and clean taste.”
Okay, it's Bud that isn't Bud. But they stayed fairly close to the farm. Each beer is a lager "using all-natural ingredients." Six were selected to be part of a national sampling program to pare it down to three that will be released in a sampler pack this fall.

The beers are named for the ZIP code of the breweries. Here's what they made, briefly.
  • Budweiser Small Batch 91406 (Los Angeles):  A deep-amber lager with 6 percent ABV that uses four different types of hops.
  • 63118 (St. Louis):  A deep-gold 5 percent ABV American lager that uses the same types of hops (Hallertau and Tettnang) commonly used at the St. Louis brewery during  the 19th century. 
  • 43229 (Ohio): A light-amber lager using eight different types of hops with 6 percent ABV. 
  • 23185 (Virginia): A light-amber all-malt bourbon cask lager aged on bourbon staves and vanilla beans and with an ABV of 5.5 percent.
  • 13027 (New York): A bright-golden lager brewed with six imported and domestic hops and with an ABV of 7 percent.
  • 80524 (Colorado): A deep-gold, filtered wheat beer with 5.2 percent ABV using lemon peel, orange peel and coriander.
Why do we care? "The six sampler beers also will be sampled during “Budweiser Made in America” over Labor Day weekend in Philadelphia. The two-day music festival benefits United Way." I never knew we were a big Budweiser town. Wait, we're not. So is it about our music scene? Probably not. Is it about our being the birthplace of America? Maybe... Is it about getting a lot of attention for Budweiser in a town where Yuengling Lager is kicking their ass? Maybe... To be clear, I'm not really sure what that's about.

But I don't see this being anymore of a wavemaking, attention-getting breakthrough for Budweiser than any of the other projects A-B has tried. People just don't seem to want craft beer called Budweiser (which Shocktop is not), no matter what is wrapped around it, and I don't expect this to be any different. I'd be happy to try some of these, and I suspect they'll probably be good (except maybe that bourbon cask thing...I'm suspicious, but maybe they learned something from Goose Island). But I don't see this being anything significant.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Miley Cyrus a Victory fan?

"Another Uncle Teddy, by Jove!"
Recognize this line?

"So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."

It may look like a smudge; it's a tattoo.

That's right: it's part of the Teddy Roosevelt quote from "The Man in the Arena" prominently displayed at Victory Brewing. And now? It's prominently displayed on Miley Cyrus's left arm. Really. And before you give me crap for reading the Inky's "SideShow" gossip column, let me remind you that there are times when you're so bored in a waiting area that you'll read everything in the paper; and that I was, at least, reading the paper; and that you never know what you'll find. Like this unexpected common affinity between Miley Cyrus and Bill Covaleski, for instance.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

DuClaw expands to Pennsylvania

I've been a big fan of DuClaw beers for a long time; this brewpub-originated beer started in Bel Air, Maryland, and has expanded to a small chain of pubs in the Baltimore area, fed by a production brewery. But you had to go there to get it. 

Well, I just got a press release from DuClaw that says they're expanding into Pennsylvania. 
DuClaw Brewing Company will host a launch party on Sunday, July 22, at Al’s of Hampden in Enola, PA, to celebrate with the brewery’s new Pennsylvania fans. The DuClaw crew will be on hand to answer questions, introduce guests to rare beers from their lineup and give away free prizes. Top sellers HellRazer IPA and EuForia Toffee Nut Brown Ale, perennial favorite Venom Pale Ale, the brewery’s unique Belgian Spiced Ale, Mysterium, and Serum xxIPA will be available at launch in 12 oz. bottle six packs and o\n draft, with several special edition brews and one-offs in both 22 oz. bottles and on draft to follow.
Known for their impressive variety and ever-rotating roster of seasonal brews, DuClaw Brewing Company will continually add exciting new additions to the line-up of beers available in Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon, Mifflin, Perry, and York counties through Westy’s Beer Distributors.
Yeah, yeah, I know: nowhere near Philly. Just stay cool. This is actually a good thing: it proves DuClaw is savvy enough to not grant whole-state distribution privileges to one wholesaler. We'll get our chance. And meanwhile, I can get DuClaw in south-central PA. Which is nice.