Archive for the ‘Random’ Category
In late June I had the opportunity to travel to Europe for work. While my days were full with meetings, I did squeeze in a bonus day in Brussels and plenty of beer drinking in the evenings. The trip took me to Brussels, Paris and Berlin. Today’s final installment, Part 3, describes my beer adventures in Berlin.
I was only in Berlin for two nights, but wasted no time seeking out great beer. My hangout the first night was the Berliner Republik die Hauptstadtkneipe, a great restaurant and bar on the River Spree near the Friedrichstrasse S- and U-Bahn stations. I sat at the large U-shape bar while watching Portugal vs. Spain soccer in the Euro Cup 2012. The bar was lively, with quite a few Spain fans and many locals anxiously awaiting Germany’s semifinal game the following night.
I had one mission in Berlin: To try a beer in the Berliner Weisse style, a sour beer with an unbelievably low ABV. Other than Dogfish Head Festina Peche, which is supposedly modeled after this style, I have never tried a Berliner Weisse. They had one available in a bottle, Berliner Kindle Weisse, a 3% ABV beer. The bartender begged me to let him add grenadine (Germans these days usually add green or red syrup to this sour beer), but I wanted to try the original. It was pretty sour, but not nearly as sour as an American Wild like beers from Russian River. It was fine, though I didn’t really enjoy it.
I perused the beer menu, looking for my next beer, and was surprised to find that 11 of the 19 beers on tap were Pilsners! The Paulaner Premium Pils in a .5L mug I had was refreshing, but a little boring. I later moved to some Kostritzer Schwarzbiers, which I’ve had in the US and very much enjoy.
Perhaps the best part of the night was chatting at the bar with a Berlin couple, ordering great German food based on their recommendations (hearty potato and sausage soup…best of my life; sausage in ketchup/curry sauce with fries, a Berlin specialty), and enjoying the round of Jager on the rocks they bought for the group.
The next night I completely switched gears and visited Weihenstephaner’s Berlin location, in a pedestrian-only area known as Neue Promenade. Weihenstephaner, located in Bavaria, is the oldest brewery in the world. After having an authentic Berlin beer experience last night, I decided to go with one of my favorite German breweries tonight, even though the beer is from southern Germany.
Weihenstephaner’s outdoor beer garden was packed, and the Euro Cup 2012 semifinal was playing on 2 large TVs, with Germany taking on Italy. I started with a Hefeweissbier Dunkel and it was delicious. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal of jaegerschnitzel with mushroom cream sauce and spaetzel with an original Hefeweissbier, and capped the night off with a Vitus (Weizenbock).
I almost ordered another beer, which would have been a Korbinian (Doppelbock), but thought better of it with my early morning flight the next day.
One final thought: I love the lack of open container laws here. Berlin residents flock to the local parks and green spaces to relax on the grass while drinking beers. What a perfect way to enjoy a sunny afternoon.
In late June I had the opportunity to travel to Europe for work. While my days were full with meetings, I did squeeze in a bonus day in Brussels and plenty of beer drinking in the evenings. The trip took me to Brussels, Paris and Berlin. Today’s installment, Part 2, describes my beer adventures in Paris.
Ok, so my beer adventures in Paris really consisted of visiting the same fantastic bar every night, Académie de la Bière. It’s far and away the best beer bar in Paris and is the only place you need to consider when quenching your thirst in the city of love.
The inside of Académie de la Bière is small and cozy with a great vibe, and has a nice 4-seat bar and a several dark wood tables. There is also a large seating area outdoors in a heated tent. Since I was traveling alone, I sat at the bar. There were 12 beers on tap, with an additional 150 beers available in bottles. Their specialty is Belgian beers, which are all served in the appropriate glassware, but there also some nice French beers available.
I started with a delicious Chimay cheese, steak frite and a Westmalle Dubbel. Later on, I struck up a conversation with the friendly bartender. I asked for the best French beer and, without hesitating, he presented me with an Agent Provocateur by Brasserie Craig Allan, complete with special glass. It was a very enjoyable beer, with a nice spicy Belgian mouthfeel, a little sweetness with just a touch of hop bitterness.
Next I asked him to recommend a dark French beer. I was presented with L’Alsacienne by Biere du Gambrinus, an 8% ABV beer. The L’Alsacienne was basically a Belgian Strong Dark Ale, with rich malty and dark fruit flavors. It wasn’t quite St. Bernardus Abt 12, but in the ballpark.
On another visit I tried a couple additional French beers. My bartender specifically warned me against having La Bier Du Demon, a 12% ABV beer, but I could not resist. He was right. The self-proclaimed “most alcoholic pale beer in the world” was very sweet and did little to cover the high alcohol. Really not enjoyable. I also tried a much better beer, L’Angelus Blonde, which had a nice clean taste, with a pronounced sweetness like Avery beers.
Académie de la Bière
88-bis Boulevard De Port-Royal, Paris
Directions: Take RER B train to Port Royal. Upon exit at Port Royal, turn left and Académie de la Bière will be on your left, approximately 1 block from the Metro station.
One final note: Don’t bother with the Frog Pubs chain in Paris. I went to the Frog XVI location near the Trocadero metro stop and was extremely underwhelmed. It’s upscale with leather couches and loud music, and has the personality of a downtown Bellevue bar. Their beer was below average and was a rip-off at 7 Euros a pint. The one good thing is I met a cool Brit and we had a great conversation at the bar, which helped me ignore the inferior brews I was drinking.
Look for Europe Beer Travels Part 3: Berlin, in the coming days.
In late June I had the opportunity to travel to Europe for work. While my days were full with meetings, I did squeeze in a bonus day in Brussels and plenty of beer drinking in the evenings. The trip took me to Brussels, Paris and Berlin. Today’s installment, Part 1, describes my beer adventures in Brussels.
The first stop was Cantillon Brewery, a traditional Lambic brewery founded in 1900. Cantillon, run by Jean-Pierre Van Roy and his children, Jean and Julie, focuses on traditional brewing methods.
If you’re not familiar with Cantillon, they brew their Lambic just as it has been brewed in Brussels for over 100 years. They brew on 19th Century equipment and allow their beers to ferment naturally by allowing wild airborne yeast to flow through open slats in the roof while wort is in the coolingship. After fermentation, the beer is stored in large wooden barrels for 1-3 years.
For just 6 Euros, you get a 15-page guide to help you on a self-guided tour of the small brewery. Included in the entry fee is 2 taster glasses, but additional tastes are also available for 2 Euros. I sampled lambic, gueuze (a blend of 1, 2 and 3 year-old lambics), kriek (lambic soaked with cherries for 6-months) and faro (lambic blended with candied sugar).
Belgian Beer Cafes
After my stop at Cantillon, I spent the late afternoon and evening sampling fine Belgian beers at various beer cafes throughout Brussels, including Moeder Lambic, Poechenellekelder and the Delirium Cafe.
While I sampled some fantastic beers, I must admit how spoiled we are in a beer mecca such as Seattle. In addition to amazing tap lists, we have access to virtually all the top Belgian beers in bottles. And in Brussels, since most Belgians are bottle-conditioned, there was a fairly modest tap list at all of the establishments. The bottle list was enormous, but most of the bottles we can get in the U.S. This is no knock on Brussels, just a statement about how good we have it in Seattle.
Another observation is the lack of bar seating at many beer cafes. While Moeder Lambic and Delirium featured long bars with barstools, other establishments such as Poechenellekelder, A La Mort Subite and La Becasse do not offer an option to belly up to the bar.
Look for Europe Beer Travels Part 2: Paris, in the coming days.
Ready for the big holiday this weekend? No, I’m not talking about Easter. In case you need any extra motivation to drink, Saturday, April 7 is both National Beer Day and Session Beer Day. April 7 is historically significant because it was the day in 1933 that ended Prohibition, when brewing and the sale of beer under 3.2% ABW (4.0% ABV) was legalized. The 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment, was later ratified on December 5th of that same year.
Celebrating these holidays is easy. Simply visit your favorite watering hole for a beer, or crack one open at home. Observe both holidays by making that beer a lower-alcohol session beer, defined by Session Beer Day founder Lew Bryson as a beer less than 4.5% ABV.
Here are some tasty local brews that weigh in at less than (ok, some are equal to) 4.5%. Cheers!
Fremont 77 Select Spring Session IPA (4.0%)
Foggy Noggin Bit O’Beaver (3.4%)
Black Raven Morrighan Stout (4.4%)
Irish Dry Stout
Hale’s Kölsch (4.5%)
Maritime Pacific Old Seattle Lager (4.3%)
Munich Helles Lager
Odin Freya’s Gold (4.5%)
Snoqualmie Perfectly Great Amber (4.0%)
American Amber / Red Ale
American Blonde Ale (4.5%)
American Blonde Ale
Fish Tale Organic Blonde Ale (4.0%)
American Blonde Ale
Local beer blog celebrity Kendall Jones from the Washington Beer Blog (credits include Craft Beer + Food organizer and the role of Beer Boy on The Today Show) is hosting the February Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday. The topic is simply: growlers. Here’s my take.
In the craft beer world, you’re either a growler guy/gal or you’re not. I’m not. Growlers suck. Seriously.
Now, some would say growlers have plenty of benefits. Growlers provide the freshest beer, in some cases right from the source. Growlers provide access to draft-only beers, as well as special releases available only at the brewery. Growlers provide an easy method for transporting tasty draft beer for consumption at your home. Growlers can provide a cost savings vs. drinking pints at the bar. Growlers are good for the environment (in theory).
But they still suck. Here is why.
Growlers must be filled flawlessly
I’m by no means on expert on growler fills, but I’ve had enough flat, oxidized growlers to know that consistency in properly filling growlers is a big problem, at least at some establishments. Let’s look at the array of filling technique advice. Some folks say you should bottom-fill a growler using a tube. Others say you can just fill from the top. There are even more pro tips: Use a CO2 purge, make sure the growler is cold, cap on foam, use plastic polyseal caps (not the cheap white metal ones), and fill using counter pressure. With all the varying information out there, it’s no wonder growlers aren’t consistently filled flawlessly.
Whether any or all of these advanced techniques are used, this much is clear: Oxygen is bad for beer. At a minimum, the growler should be filled to the brim and immediately capped tightly to minimize contact with oxygen.
Unopened growler shelf life
If your growler was not filled and capped properly, the beer will start to oxidize and go flat the minute you walk out the door. Let’s assume your growler was filled and capped properly. How long will a perfectly filled, unopened growler stay fresh? One would think there would be a widely accepted answer. There is not.
Opinions vary wildly on shelf life. Some folks claim a properly filled, refrigerated growler will last just as long as bottles, meaning months or even years, depending on the beer style. 99 Bottles, which uses a sophisticated PEGAS CrafTap system to apply counter-pressure, boasts a shelf-life of at least 3 weeks for refrigerated, unopened growlers. Others say an unopened growler will keep about a week. Still others say to drink it within a day or two for maximum freshness.
Confused yet? I thought so.
The clock starts ticking
While there is great debate over how long an unopened growler will last, there is little debate over how long an opened growler will keep. Once a growler is opened, it should be consumed that day for best results. Some folks say it can last a couple days, but I always find the beer to be relatively flat the next day. It’s just like an open bomber of beer … it’s never as good the next day.
Now that we’ve established a growler should ideally be consumed in one sitting for the best tasting beer, let’s look at growler sizes. Most growlers out there are the standard 64 oz. glass jug. I have a closet full of them. They’re dusty. The 64 oz. growler holds four pints of beer or a little over five 12-oz. beers. Now I certainly have been known to knock back some beers on the weekend, but I usually limit myself to one 12-oz. beer per day during the week. Growlers are just not practical on “school nights”, though they would work on the weekend, provided you don’t mind drinking the same beer all night.
What about 32 oz. growlers, you may ask. I really like this trend towards more variety in sizes, and may try one of these someday. Still, growlers’ large size equates to zero flexibility. Once it’s opened, you’ve committed to consuming the rest of the growler.
But growlers provide the best deal, right? That was always my assumption too. I assumed that getting my growler filled at my local brewery would be far cheaper than buying bottled beer at the store. After all, they have no cost for packaging and don’t have to pay for distribution, etc. But a 64oz. growler fill is still around $10 in the Seattle area, although there are some cheaper fills such as $6-7 at Georgetown and $6 at Big Time. Fills are more expensive, of course, for special beers.
Let’s compare that to a 6-pack, which you can get for $6-$10 at the store. Depending on the exact beers you are comparing, I can generally get a 6-pack for the same price or usually less than a growler. Keep in mind this is 72 oz. of beer, with the flexibility to crack a fresh 12-oz. beer one at a time. For the same price, would you rather guzzle a growler, or crack open a fresh bottle of beer every night of the week? To me, the 6-pack is a far superior packaging method for the consumer.
But what about draft-only beers?
I know what you’re thinking: most Seattle-area beers aren’t available in 6-packs. Some aren’t even available in bottles or cans at all. I, too, love to drink these tasty draft-only beers from our Seattle-area breweries. As long as I’m traveling to the source anyway, however, I would rather just drink a fresh pint of these beers right at the brewery or my local watering hole. I really don’t need to bring home a growler of 12% Barley Wine.
Other things that suck
Here are some other things that suck about growlers. They take up a lot of space. Many establishments only fill theirs (or charge more for outside growlers) so you are encouraged to buy a new one. They are a pain in the ass to clean and dry. Growler newbies cap the growler before fully dry and end up with a mold experiment. You have to remember to take them with you in the car. They have a stupid-ass handle that makes it difficult to pour with one hand.
So there you have it. Flat beer sucks. Incredibly large, impractical glassware sucks. Growlers suck.
OK, so we’re all going to get fit in 2012, but what about your beer aspirations? Here are mine.
1. Don’t be a beer douche
As we try more and more beers, including some rare gems, it’s easy to begin to look down on other beers and other drinkers’ palates. This is your annual reminder to not be a douche.
2. Drink local
Support your local breweries. If you are local to the Seattle area, check out my Seattle Brewery Guide.
3. Host more beer-tasting events with friends and family
Beer-tasting events are one of my favorite ways to spend time with friends, and I hope to host more in 2012. See How to Host a Kickass Beer Tasting Party for tips.
4. Avoid the hype
It seems like there isn’t a week that goes by without the release of a new beer. With reading all the twitter chatter and hype, it’s easy to want to race around town in search of these new releases. There’s plenty of great beer available anytime. I hope to save money and disappointment by avoiding the hype.
5. Start homebrewing
I haven’t homebrewed since the years right out of college. I plan to do a little homebrewing this year just for fun.
Finally, no article is complete without some gratuitous beer porn:
Cheers to 2012!
Looking for some last-minute gift ideas for the craft beer lover in your life? Look no further.
This craft beer lover would be happy with any of the below gift ideas are under the tree or in my stocking.
Rather than a gimmicky beer holster, the craft beer lover would rather receive beer! Find out his/her favorite style and go to your local specialty beer store. Tell them the style and ask for recommendations. Worried that your beer lover has tried everything? Get a gift card from the shop.
T-shirt or sweatshirt from favorite brewery
Let your craft beer lover sport their favorite brewery threads and earn street cred at the next festival.
I received a Beer of the Month club membership (specifically the Rare Beer Club) from my wife last year and was very excited. Although I did not keep my membership for the entire year, I was impressed with the quality and diversity of the beers. I did experience multiple bottles broken in transit, but all were replaced with no questions asked.
Beers are enhanced when served in the proper glassware for the style. Give the gift of glasses for their favorite style or perhaps a glass that works well with several styles, such as a snifter.
I love it when I receive a new Beer Advocate or All About Beer. What are your magazine favorites?
Is your craft beer lover thinking about brewing? Get them a starter kit. My homebrewer brother-in-law highly recommends Northern Brewer, but there are several local shops as well.
My wife probably regrets this, but she purchased me a copy of The Beer Journal a couple years ago, which has helped document my beers (I’ve since graduated to Excel) and encouraged me to spend even more hard-earned money on beer.
So, what’s on your list this year?
I began tracking my beer tasting notes in Excel almost 2 years ago, after running out of pages in my beer journal, and thought it would be fun to do a little statistical analysis of the 557 beers.
- There are a shit ton of IPAs/Imperial IPAs available in the area.
- While California tops Oregon and Washington in ratings, I tasted far more WA and OR brews, which probably increases the chances of tasting average beers. The CA beers bottled and sent up here are the good stuff.
- I tend to favor “extreme beers” when rating, probably due to their huge flavor profiles.
- Anything malty and sweet (as long as it has good carbonation/mouthfeel) is going to score pretty high with my palate.
- I love Belgians (average rating: 4.0).
- I’ve done a decent job drinking local (27% WA beer), but there is certainly room for improvement.
- The state data provides a good idea of the beer distributed in the Seattle area: We have a great selection of WA, OR and CA beer and also see plenty of beers from CO, AK and HI. Several other states are represented here, but usually by a small number of breweries (some examples include: Dogfish Head in DE, Goose Island in IL, Big Sky in MT and Ommegang and Southern Tier in NY).
Here are some stats:
Washington vs. Oregon vs. California
CA (average rating: 3.74)
OR (average rating: 3.49)
WA (average rating: 3.38)
Top 5 Favorite Styles
Weizenbock (average rating: 4.8)
Belgian Quadruple/Belgian Strong Dark Ale (average rating: 4.6)
Doppelbock (average rating: 4.0)
Imperial Stout (average rating: 4.0)
Imperial IPA (average rating: 3.9)
Average ABV of Top 5 Favorite Styles
5 Least Favorite Styles
American Lager (average rating: 2.3)
Oktoberfest/Marzen (average rating: 2.4)
American Blonde Ale (average rating: 2.5)
American Wheat Beer (average rating: 3.0)
American Amber / Red Ale (average rating: 3.0)
Average ABV of 5 Least Favorite Styles
5 Most Tasted Styles
Imperial IPA (28)
Barley Wine (27)
Pale Ale (25)
American Porter (24)
Beers receiving highest rating of 5
Beers receiving worst rating of 1 (it has to be pretty f’ing bad to get a 1 from me)
Czech Republic (3)
New York (9)
Whether you are hosting a small BBQ, throwing a large summer party, or tailgating before the game, things are always more interesting when you add a fun game to the mix. All great outdoor party games have 1 thing in common: They keep 1 hand free for a beer. The party keeps rolling as guests can drink and socialize while playing the game.
Here are my favorites:
I first started playing cornhole during Minnesota Vikings tailgating many years ago. Upon moving to Seattle 5 years ago, most Seattleites had never played or even heard of the game. I built some boards, painted them in Seahawks colors, and have served as a cornhole ambassador of sorts, hosting an annual cornhole party, lending the boards to others for parties and work events and even making boards for friends as a wedding gift.
Cornhole, played with 2 large boards (2’ x 4’) with a 6-inch hole near the top, involves players lobbing corn-filled (or synthetic) bags with the goal of going in the hole (3 points) or at least landing on the board (1 point).
You don’t need to be a rich girl in Heathers to play croquet. You also don’t need 2 hands. Grab a beer and get your croquet on.
3) Ladder Golf
Ladder Golf is played by throwing a bolo, made of two golf balls connected with a rope, at a 3-rung ladder. The top rung is worth 3 points, the middle is worth 2, and the lower rung is worth one.
4) Beer Frisbee
I haven’t personally played this one, but it looks pretty fun and is beer-related. You set-up a pole (you can get PVC pipe or anything else that will work) on each side of the yard with an empty beer bottle (or can) on top. The opposing players attempt to knock the bottle off by hitting it or the pole with their Frisbee. The defenders prevent the opposing team from scoring by catching the Frisbee and the bottle before they hit the ground.