Thursday, March 31, 2005

Hop crop, pt. 1

Oh, crystal ball!

Already sprouting tiny (and apparently delicious) shoots in their little shipping packets, the new season's delivery of hop rhizomes has arrived. Now I just need to decide which ones to plop in the ground - meaning, decide which beer I'm likely to brew in September when the cones are ready for picking - and which ones I ought to pass around to friends and family to grow in their gardens like the little Johnny Hoppyseed that I am. The choices: Santiam, Willamette, Northern Brewer, Goldings, and Hallertau.
Any suggestions? I'm leaning towards the Santiam simply because it's unfamiliar, apparently a more recently developed American variety with some noble hop characteristics. And it's purty, too! Stay tuned for the exciting [Hey, they grow about a foot a day in the summer, okay? That's excitement!] developments as the first harvest in our new digs gets underway...


Monday, March 28, 2005

Instant collector's item

Thanks, ATF, for making an item from my basement eBay-worthy! Now if only they'd bring back prohibition, I'd really be in the money... What's odd about this story is that it doesn't take into account the hardcore legal loops you have to jump through (with the ATF, mind you) just to get the label for your domestic liquor product approved. So what, they were okay with all the fine print (and Rogue does it well, what with its "free range coastal water" on the ingredient list), but they neglected to notice the big-ass American Flag posted right on the front of the bottle?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Erin Go Braugh!

What did I say? What do you care! What are you even doing at your computer?! Go now, get thee to your local public house wearing your best emerald attire for a pint of something tasty. Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone - slainte!

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Make mine a...

Choose wisely.
What kind of self-respecting beer blog wouldn't have at least a passing mention of St. Patrick's Day? Whether you're an unlucky Irish potato farmer (what, you didn't hear they've got a potato glut this year? Don't you read Potato Grower magazine? Let the snake jokes commence!) looking to raise a glass or simply a fratdood who wants to see if you can make your poop turn green, chances are you'll be tipping a pint of something foamy tomorrow. Take the opportunity to argue over its health benefits, the direction of its bubbles, its alcohol content, or whether you're allowed to enjoy anything else - wherever you are, and whatever you do, do make yours a Guinness.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Hops spring eternal

Ah, spring! With the whiplash season change we've had here in the Bay Area, it's worth taking a moment to consider some post-winter, bee-stingin', allergy-sneezin' brews for those moments of repose in the midst of your cleaning. And whereas there are some beers that are eternal and perfect no matter what the time of year (or time of day, for that matter), it's only appropriate - if not reverent - to take a moment for the beers of the new season.

The spring barley harvest has always been the perfect time for brewers to crank out a new batch to highlight the crop. For some, it will be a full, crisp, citrusy ale in the range of 7-8% a.b.v. with a little wheat (or whatever else your harvesting thrown in) and "secret" spices - for others, it will be a simple, provisional ale for your farm workers with low alcohol and no shelf life to speak of. In both cases, you'll likely see it called biere de mars. In the modern world, however, we're stuck with slightly slimmer choices. Most breweries now only make biere de mars as a quickie seasonal specialty snuck in there between their generally more popular winter and summer quaffs, so search them out while they're still on the shelves.
Another classic of the season is the German märzen. If the weather's finally changed in your neck of the woods, the blooms are on the trees, even notorious liquor scribe Michael Jackson is driven to exclaim:

"I love having a pint of Bavarian or Bohemian lager with that sort of double decoction malt characteristic to it, that freshness of malt characteristic, and that very light delicacy of hop characteristic on a springtime afternoon in a beer garden."

How can you argue with that man? You cannot. Go now, find your hammock. The only thing standing between your garden and a beer garden is the beer (although a hop arbor would be nice, too). Enjoy it while it lasts.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Drinking by numbers

You like your Belgian ales. You've had your dubbels, your tripels, and sure, even your quadrupels. but when was the last time you had an abbey beer you could drink more than one of? Like, say, a singel? Of course, all these names are little more than marketing rhetoric at this point, so be suspicious when someone decides to tell you what those terms actually mean. In the meantime, have yourself another Belgian blonde and say, "welke yummy singel!"

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Ahh... Only in Belgium!

Must... tell...others... ... It's!
Maybe you've noticed a new beer making the rounds in your local grocery. Maybe you've been in the Belgian section of BevMo and seen shrink-wrapped six packs of a different witbier next to the Hoegaarden and thought, hmm, I wonder why it's only $6.99? So you do some quick research online, and find out the following about this mysterious brew they call Wittekerke:

More interestingly (here's the "only in Belgium" moment), it turns out that the beer is the complete fabrication of a Flemish soap opera by the same name. That's right: there's a tv show called Wittekerke, and they have a beer that has transcended the mystical ethers between fakeyland and your local liquor store. And you say you're a big fan and want to visit the brewery? You may just have to settle for Bavik, because the town of Wittekerke doesn't exist, either. And why's it so cheap? Seems to be a result of being a) sold in cans, b) aimed at undercutting the more well-known (and somewhat pricey) Hoegaarden here in the States, and c) not very exciting.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Not exactly what I had in mind

Obviously, like most people in the professional brewing industry, the geniuses at Miller Brewing read my post the other day about fruit-flavored lambics - otherwise they wouldn't be going ahead with this brilliant idea. But whereas I was surmising that the age old art of wild-fermenting wheat beers and dosing them with local varieties of cherry and rasberry to balance the tart acidity, this seems just... gross?

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The big just keep getting bigger

I should have tilted my glass.
I should have tilted.
I have to be careful ImBev doesn't come and try to buy my garage, too. You'd think they'd at least teach the chiefmeister how to pour a drink for their "we ownz you dood" press conference. It'll eventually dawn on me that I should stop harping on the Belgian megabrewing industry (but c'mon, how fun is it to tease A-B?) when they eighty-six me from the country, but in the meantime I do have to wonder what the effect on the European beer market is going to be as the mergers continue. The mid-megabrewers are consolidating at an amazing pace, shutting down such brewery archetypes as Berliner Kindl in the process. The PR response? "Europeans don't want as much beer as they used to". Alcopops are apparently all the rage (do they have B-to-the-E there yet?), thus supposedly spelling doooooooooom for all the little local privatbrauereis out there tapping pints for the townsfolk. But hey - in Great Beers of Belgium, Michael Jackson writes of fruit lambics as being the alcopops of the beer world. Can Frank Boon save the day for beer?! Find out next time!