Saturday, November 29, 2008

Beer Book: Christmas Beers

  Posted by Jay Brooks

This may be the best Christmas present for a beer lover … ever, at least in terms of its connection to the season. Christmas Beer, or the full title, which is “Wishing You a Merry Christmas Beer, The Cheeriest, Tastiest and Most Unusual Holiday Brews, is all about beer for the holidays. Lavishly illustrated with more holiday beers than you knew even existed, author Don Russell — better known to the world as Philadelphia beer columnist “Joe Sixpack” — recounts tale after tale of the traditions and history that made holiday beers so special. There are also recipes, trivia and Russell’s list of the “World’s 50 Best Christmas Beers.”

Christmas Beer

Published by Rizzoli Books with a list price of $19.95 in the U.S.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Michael Jackson’s Final Word on Belgian Beer

 Great Beers of Belgium – Sixth Edition 

Boulder, CO – Thursday, November 20, 2008 – 
Michael Jackson’s legacy as “the beer hunter” prevails in the new sixth edition of the 
Great Beers of Belgium. This final text, 15 years in the making, displays Jackson’s 
superior talent as a writer and his tireless passion as a lover of beer. 
This updated version contains listings covering 326 different beers across 13 style
 groups, on more than 500 pages of text and enhanced with nearly 
800 color photographs. The text includes over 50% more information than the third 
and last edition published in the U.S. in 1998. “Michael Jackson’s fascination with 
Belgian beer drove him to continuously research and expand this book,”
said Ray Daniels, Director of Publications at the Brewers Association.
 “This final revision gives the most complete picture of Belgian beer ever 
assembled in the English language.” Along with an image of the beer bottle and
 appropriate glass, Jackson intricately describes each beer’s character and flavor.
 He takes care to provide the reader with the background of each brewery and the
 personal stories of the people behind these amazing beers.
 “Revised and updated shortly before his death, this work represents the pinnacle of 
Jackson’s meticulous research and masterful writing, presented in a beautifully 
illustrated visual environment,” said Daniels. Originally a newspaper reporter,
 Jackson began to fully focus on the worldwide resurgence of beer in the mid 1970’s.
 His award winning television series, “The Beer Hunter” has been shown in 15 different 
countries. Jackson’s accolades extend to all mediums of journalism and in 1997,
 he was the first non-brewer to be inducted into the ConfĂ©dĂ©ration des Brasseries de Belgique, 
The Union of Belgian Brewers. The book is supplemented with practical information for 
travelers to Belgium and those who seek good Belgian beer in communities around the world.
 It is perfect for at-home reference and as a travel companion. Visit the Great Beers of Belgium
 Web site for more information and sample listings. The book may also be purchased online at
 the Brewers Association’s Beer Enthusiast Store, at

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I guess Beer is the new Intellectual drink now.

So smart en up and read this.  It's long so don't get cought reading it at work.  It's still about beer you know.

 Thanks Laurie for passing this along.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

It's Time for NY Hops again?

Hops, anyone? New York State may be getting back on the beer-brewing map. (Thomas McDonald for The New York Times)

New York is famous for high finance, skyscrapers and the Erie Canal. But hops?

Well, yes. In the 1800s, farmers, eager to serve beer-thirsty immigrants from Ireland, Germany and other parts of Europe, started planting hops upstate. Breweries thrived. By the middle of the century, New York State was the nation’s leading producer of hops.

Then fungus arrived, killing the golden crop known as 
humulus lupulus. Upstate New York, it turns out, gets too much rain in the summer growing season, leading to humid conditions that fungus thrive in. In the days before effective fungicides, powdery mildew and downy mildew started killing the party.

Around the same time, irrigation systems were built in eastern Oregon and Washington, which have dry summers. Business moved west, particularly to the Yakima Valley, where it remains today.

But the sold-out New York Brewfest on Friday night at the South Street Seaport is one indication that hops may be returning to New York. Commercial growers and home brewers have been peppering Ian Merwin, a professor in the horticulture department at Cornell University, with questions about growing hops upstate.

Demand for hops has increased because of the popularity of home brewing and because some hops growers in the Yakima Valley are now growing Pinot grapes instead.

“There is the potential if the supply remains limited for hops growers,” Mr. Merwin said.

He added that home growers with just a few hops plants probably will not attract much fungus, and that commercial growers may enjoy a “honeymoon phase” before hops-specific pests start showing up.

“If you’re lucky, it could be 10 to 15 years,” he said.

By then, New York might be back on the beer-brewing map again.

By KEN BELSON The New York Times

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Feel the Blade's Pain

This past week's festivities, centering around a business trip/fun quest to NYC and the celebration of the 50th anniversary  of El Treasuredente's arrival in this part of the solar system, brought to the fore an issue that I've been pondering for some time: namely, in the days of mega-tap draft systems and vast numbers of sometimes unfamiliar beers, how can we be sure that we are actually being served the beer we've ordered?
    I am well aware that my palate is not the most sophisticated, and that my beer vocabulary may not be as broad as some, but i think that most members of our humble association (if it indeed existed) would agree that i have some experience with a wide variety of beers and make at least an effort to differentiate among them and to identify their myriad flavors and components.  Yet twice this week i have questioned the identity of beer that was presented to me (once privately, once to the establishment).  Possibly i was wrong, but maybe not.  And there is a secondary question: is not the customer always right? 
    On my NYC trip (following the work portion) my friend Chico and I made our first visit to Manhattan beer mecca the Gingerman (11th and 36th , near Park, where, I had excitedly read, they were serving the rare Duvel Green on draft.  The beer came in the appropriate, lovely green-scripted  tulip, but... there was no head at all, no hint of the golden beauty and champagne effervescence of bottled Duvel-- indeed, very little hint of the complexity or depth of flavor of the best of Belgian-styled ales. Indeed, I would almost have sworn i was drinking a pilsner of some sort.  Very disappointing. A very inferior beer. Was it run to the wrong tap? Was it old? Is the brewer foisting a "light" beer on the American market?
    The Gingerman has an amazing selection of drafts and casks and I would otherwise recommend it highly- I washed the disappointment away with a fantastic Sierra Nevada Chico Estate pale ale -a bit darker/fruitier than the usual SN product, though very much within their narrowly-defined, hop forward style.  I finished with a Green Flash tripel- i love their products and that, too was excellent. Still... I doubt I am the only one to wonder, and I'd bet that somebody asked the question that I failed to ask. I'm sure the beer was expensive to acquire, but It does no one any good to sell an inferior or questionable product.
    Then, on the trip to celebrate the mathematically-inclined one's birthday, we stopped by our city's most renowned beer bar, where the Landmaster and i ordered the Harpoon Glacier Fresh Hop Ale. We had enjoyed a bottle of the same beer just the night before and were anxious to try it on draft. And here both of us have little doubt that what was served was simply not the same beer. No hops at all, no quality. Mediocre at best-- and we very much enjoyed the "same" beer in the bottle. When we asked the bartender, he sampled and then said the beer was as it was supposed to be .  He did not offer to exchange it despite our obvious incredulity.  Were the lines tangled? Were they trying to offload some junk? Does no one ever challenge them?
    Of course my self-doubt has crept in as I write this-- after all, we're talking about two very well known beer bars with (presumably) sophisticated staff.  Maybe my palate is to blame? And yet, i don't think so.  We as consumers should not be afraid to voice our opinions on this subject-- in the long run we get what we want, and the bars become more responsive to their customers. If we express any doubt at all, the bar should have the courtesy and professionalism, not to mention the respect for its clientele, to exchange the beer we are questioning. I'd be sure to return to such a bar sooner. And that's a win- win.
Down in one
The Blade

The Ginger Man 11 East 36th Street, NY, NY 10016 Email: Tel: 212-532-3740

Monday, November 10, 2008

How to Open a Beer with your Rng

New brew pub opens in Windham

Cave Mountain Brewing Co. opened six weeks ago on Main Street in the Greene County village of Windham. The business is currently pouring its own beers — Oktoberfest, Highlander grog, English nut brown ale, hefeweizen, American blonde ale, Irish red ale, Centennial IPA and oatmeal stout — and will add seasonal specials like smoked porter. A half-dozen beers from other New York craft brewers are also on tap. Food highlights include tuna skewers, ale-battered onions rings and deep-fried cheesecake.

The owners are Tim Adams, a chef and former home brewer, and his wife, Amber.

Located at 5359 Main St. (Route 23), Windham, Cave Mountain Brewing is open from 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and from noon on weekends. Call 734-9222.

I didn’t find a Web site, but there’s a note from the owner here.

 If you don't aleady check Steve Barnes blog you should.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Steve Barns Say We gett'en a Biergarten

wolffs-logo2.jpgThe renovated North Albany firehouse that was home to the nightclub Noche will be reborn in the spring as Wolff’s Biergarten, according to the owner of the business.

Matt Baumgartner, who owned Noche from December 2005 to spring 2007 and also owns Bombers Burrito Bar on Albany’s Lark Street, tells me it will be a traditional beer-garden space with communal seating, 50 German and Belgian beers and a rustic sausages-and-schnitzels menu. Instead of table service, customers will order and pick up food from an open kitchen, equipped with grills for the sausages. Renovations are set to begin next month to turn what was once an upscale, swanky club into a comfortable, casual restaurant with more wallet-friendly prices. Baumgartner’s partners in Wolff’s Biergarten are James and Demetra Vann, who were partners in Noche; James Vann is also vice president of Bombers.

noche-exterior.jpgBaumgartner says the building’s garage door and expansive open space — it was where the fire truck parked — make the location, at 895 Broadway, ideal for creating the sort of convivial beer garden he’s enjoyed in New York City (Radegast Hall & BiergartenZum Schneider) and Munich.

“It will be significantly different from Noche — much more casual,” says Baumgartner.

Gone will be Noche’s low leather booths along the building’s south wall and the bright-red, cast-iron spiral staircase going to the building’s second floor. The gorgeous, 32-foot-long walnut bar built for Noche will remain: That’s where the beer taps are. Baumgartner envisions darts and other games, televisions and additional amenities to attract crowds seeking a fun night out or a quick bite. He expects to be open for lunch and dinner as well as Sunday brunch.

“I want it to be a place where big groups — eight to 10 people or more — go for great beer and sausages, hearty cooking (and) good conversation,” he says.

Baumgartner sold Noche in March 2007 to Jack Valente, whose family has owned Valente’s Restaurant in Watervliet for more than 50 years. Under its new owner the club foundered through the rest of 2007, was renamed Jack Rabbit Slims last December and made a run at becoming a venue for live music. Jack Rabbit Slims closed in May.

When Noche first opened, Baumgartner estimated he and his partners had spent about $500,000 to renovate the space. How much Valente paid for Noche was never publicly released. Baumgartner says the building’s owner approached him about leasing the space again after Jack Rabbit Slims closed.

In addition to investing in businesses in the industrial area around Broadway, about a half-mile north of Clinton Avenue, Baumgartner also lives there, having bought a former factory building and renovated it into two loft residences.  

In related news, Baumgartner says he finalized financing earlier this week for the Schenectady version of Bombers. He bought a building on State Street, near the Proctors complex, and plans to begin structural work the week after Thanksgiving. Long delays on the project mean he will be renovating two restaurants simultaneously and trying to open both in the spring.

He says with a laugh, “There will be a lot of driving back and forth.”

Friday, November 7, 2008

Field Trip to Southern Cal.Anyone?,0,3246874.story?track=rss
A craft beer revolution is brewing in Southern California
Posted: Wed, 5 Nov 2008 00:00:00 -0800
Local breweries such as Pasadena's Craftsman Brewing, the Bruery in Placentia and Dale Bros. Brewery in Upland are putting their twist on the regional-beer movement. 

It's been 75 years since actress Jean Harlow christened the Los Angeles Brewing Co.'s first shipment of Eastside beer after the repeal of Prohibition. Beer making in L.A. has been sporadic since then, but there are signs that a craft brew revolution is brewing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tripel Karmeliet Named World’s Best Ale

Tripel Karmeliet is a historical “3 grain” beer, using barley, wheat and oats, and is refermented in the bottle. The recipe originated in a Carmelite monastery in 1679. Today it is brewed according to the same recipe at the Bosteels Brewery in Belgium.

The were also three other big awards. Primator Exkluziv was named World’s Best Lager, Kaltenberg Konig Ludwig Weissbier was declared the World’s Best Wheat Beer, and our own Rogue Shakespeare Stout was named World’s Best Stout/Porter.

The rest of the awards are available at the World Beer Awardswebsite.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Farmhouse Ales - Book Review

An introduction to farmhouse ales is a liberating experience for those who live by the rules of endless possibilities. InFarmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition, Phil Markowski provides a vivid literary experience by clearly defining the elusive quality that holds such allure for the beer enthusiast, whether as a brewer, historian, or beerficionado. Enhanced by a superb historical essay on Saison by Yvan DeBaets and a well-grounded foreword by Tomme Arthur, this volume stands as a comprehensive guide to the brewing traditions that so clearly define France and Belgium. 

Traditional Farmhouse Ales comprise the family of beers known as Biere de Garde and Saison, although the line that separates the two styles is often blurred by traditions that have struggled to endure, despite the upheavals of changing borders and paradigms, World Wars, and industrialization that led to the closure of countless small farmhouse breweries. 

My personal experience has consisted of esoteric discussions that seek to delineate the differences between Bieres de Garde and Saisons. Our conclusions echo the subtle intangibles that Markowski so clearly defines. In his observation about Saison, he states, “These vague and varied descriptions will frustrate anyone foolish or stubborn enough to try to pin down these wildly complex, deceptively simple rustic ales,” and of Biere de Garde, he says “If there is any accepted physical or sensory standard, French brewers may quietly acknowledge it, but will put their own spin on it to make it their own.”

Markowski pushes onward, however, seeking to define them by presenting their historical significance and the conditions under which they developed. He examines the terroir, including the climatic conditions that led to their development, the geology that affects the water of the region, European grain profiles, Belgian and specialty hops, adjuncts, spices, and the complex nature of yeasts that stray wildly from (or may include) the single-strain traditions of lager brewing. His discussions include technical details on decoction, infusion and step infusion mashing, and the results of storage or “garding” under a variety of conditions. 

Not only does he present detailed information for the seasoned brewer, but he also encourages creativity on one’s own terms. His descriptions are so vivid that even a non-brewer can envision working in his own simple farmhouse brewery, with mash tuns and hoses, cool ships and vats, replicating the delicate nuances of these distinctive beers. 

Markowski’s proficiencies in chemistry and math define the scientific art that makes the crafting of these beers possible, even for one who does not have the advantage of living in Hainaut, Nord or Pas de Calais. His descriptions present visuals for the mind’s eye and paint the palate with flavors so intense they become real. With your senses fully piqued, he stimulates action by providing sources for ingredients so you, too, can create your own magical interpretation of these beers.

He inspires by providing full details of examples that define each style, noting a full description of each brewery and technical specifications that comprise each beer: Plato readings, ingredients used, temperatures, and storage or garding. He follows each with clear tasting notes that serve to illustrate the broad range of possibilities in these refreshing beers. In the words of Markowski, “…almost anything goes.” 

For more information: Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the Belgian Tradition


I feel a Farmhouse Ale Poll coming on.  Which ones do you think should be included?