Friday, July 30, 2010

Minneapolis beer, and a beer I had in Minneapolis

I just got back from an amazing conference on web design. Absolute gods of the web Eric Meyer and Jeffrey Zeldman started An Event Apart, and it featured them plus a host of other web design rock stars. It's two days of intense, mind-blowing knowledge about standards-based web design. Can you tell I'm still swooning?
Anyway, while I was there, there were several chances to drink beer, thanks to sponsored mixers after all the mind-blowing. At the newish (and very cool) Subo, I chatted with the friendly staff and had a couple beers. First up was a Minnesota beer, Sheephead Ale by Brau Brothers. Subo lists it as a "red ale," and it is a copper color, but it's only called an ale by the brewery. It was very nice, evidently marketed as a pale ale, but the bartender told me it wasn't very hoppy, and he was right. This is a good thing to me, as I'm not a hop-head. Kinda zesty and light. I would have had another, but I saw a familiar label - New Belgium! 
I love New Belgium's Fat Tire (a truly amber ale), but can't seem to find it in Florida. This was not a Fat Tire, but their summer beer, Skinny Dip (also the name of an excellent Carl Hiaasen novel that I highly recommend). Turns out this beer is their "mascot for water advocacy," a subject that any brewer should be interested in. One of the specific programs New Belgium supports is Save the Colorado, a river dear to my own heart, thanks to a week of rafting down in it in the Grand Canyon. (If you have any interest in conservation and/or the Colorado river, check that site out - it's lovely.)
Where was I? Oh yeah, the beer.
It's a blond ale, very light. I would compare it to Sam Adams' summer seasonal, although it has a little less spice and a little more citrus (New Belgium mentions lime leaves). This is a beer, much like Fat Tire, but even more so, that I would urge a Bud Light/Miller Lite/Coors Light drinker to try. It has the summer beer qualities a hot Floridian would want - it's refreshing, it's light - and then adds actual flavor and interest. I think this is what the Beer Advocate forum fellers would call a "session beer" (meaning you could happily drink more than one), although they rate it rather poorly. I don't think I have the same palate as BAers. I would buy this in bulk. Delicious stuff, especially for warm weather.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

International Beer Bloggers & Online Media Conference

The first-ever beer bloggers conference! Doesn't that sound awesome? If you're a beer blogger, that is?
Beer Bloggers Conference
And it's in Boulder, Colorado, making it even cooler in my mind. Of course, it's in November, so I'm guessing it's going to be really friggin' cold. At least to a Floridian. But I have gathered--some from reading about beer, brewing, and breweries, but mainly from looking at the label on the neat beers I've tried and seeing where they come from--that Colorado is up there in the ranking of Cool Beer States.
There will be speakers, including the co-founder of Stone Brewing, but what got me excited is that there are media professionals speaking about writing. Beer writing, of course, and that's something I could definitely learn a thing or two about. I can write, and I can surely drink beer, but that doesn't mean I'll be a great beer writer.
Two sessions that interest me in particular are Julia Herz from the Brewers Association: “Why Beer Bloggers Further the Revolution” and Jessica Daynor from Draft Magazine: “Beer Journalism: Beer Bloggers & the Print Media.”
Of course, the dinners at Oskar Blues Brewery in Lyons and Boulder Beer Company are rather intriguing as well.
I'd really like to go to this. I could learn a lot (okay, a ton), meet some interesting people who are even more passionate about beer than I am, and make some good contacts.
One thing that struck me on the conference blog was a post about five things the event organizers had learned from their other conference - one for wine bloggers:
"2. Making Money – Offline – From Wine Blogging: We learned loud and clear at the first Wine Bloggers Conference that most bloggers do not make more than pocket change from their blog and probably never will."
But this conference costs money. Maybe not a lot to some, but it's enough to give me pause. After all, I have a spouse whose input is needed, a home with items in need of repair/replacement, a dog with a healthy vet bill, etc. And this? This beer blogging thing? Not only am I just starting out, but it's not a money-making endeavour.
As an MBA dropout, I can't help but think . . . what's my ROI? How will this conference help me? My family? I have to ask myself - is this an indulgence?
That being said, the Beer Bloggers Conference looks like a great idea and any beer blogger, aspiring or otherwise, should at least consider attending. I mean, I'm still thinking about it...


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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

More Summer Beer: Wacko

What? It's Florida, people. It's HOT. Wait, it's hot everywhere this year, isn't it? At least on the East Coast. So here's a beer for everybody.
Anyway, my creative friend Kim (aka The Sassy Crafter) suggested this beer to me. It's Magic Hat Brewing Company's Wacko - a summer ale (maybe) with a pinkish/reddish tinge. I liked it; I was worried it would be sweet since they mention on the front label that it's brewed with beet sugar, but it wasn't. Much like Kim reported, it's crisp and light. I think the beets are there for color - I didn't taste anything... beety. Of course, I don't remember the last time I ate beets...
What I usually like about summer ales versus my other favorite "holy Moses, it's hot as hell" beer, American light lagers, is there's still a little herbal snap to it. The hops, I presume (and could be presuming wrong - I'm only now learning the minutiae of the brewing process). Wacko was a little closer to a light lager than an ale; if you'd have taken a couple dollars off the price of a six pack and covered the label, I would have guessed it was a specialty summer beer made by one of the Big Guys - Miller, perhaps. And I don't necessarily mean that as an insult; I like light lagers made by Big Guys. Miler Lite is my Cheap Summer Beer.
I was amused by the reviews over on Beer Advocate - Wacko was mainly given a "C" grade, even though many said it was "drinkable" and would definitely have another one. That's a "C" beer?
I should give you a link to Magic Hat site, but it's really awful: heavy on the Flash, light on easily-accessible information. And they commit the most terrible web sin: music. That YOU CAN'T TURN OFF. Ugh! I understand that you've got an arty thing going on up there in Vermont. I actually like the label (damn you, Ed Hardy, for covering your douchebag-couture with hearts, skulls, and daggers!), but I don't need to watch a little cartoon of the making of it. TELL ME ABOUT THE BEER.

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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

My local beer shop: Dorn's

For all my tightwad-ness, I do like to try new beers and drink some quality stuff every now and then. So I'm very lucky to have Dorn's only a few miles from my house. Their "official" name is Dorn's Liquors & Wine Warehouse, but I rarely buy liquor from them and while I do buy my wine from them, I hate the whole "warehouse" part - makes them sound like the Sam's Club of wine. They are not.

  Dorn's is a tiny little store squeezed into a shopping center between a framing store and a newish restaurant. There's a casual vibe. I'm almost always older than the anyone working (I'm 37) and they're, for the most part, friendly and ready to talk about the products. One of the guys appears to have an endless supply of tiedyed t-shirts.

  They have THE best prices on wine - hands-down (I bought the wine for my wedding last year from them). They also have an amazing fancy cheese selection, as well as other fancy foodstuffs - European chocolates, etc.

  They have a decent beer selection. It's not big, but they've got some interesting stuff, beer you're certainly not going to find at Publix. But what I like best about Dorn's is their tastings: wine, liquor, cheese, and yay - beer!

  Last week they had a tasting with a theme in keeping with the July 4th holiday, "American Originals." Twelve American-brewed beers of varying styles and price points.

  The good: From New York, Brooklyn Brewery's East India Pale Ale. I don't normally like American-made pale ales as they're too damn hoppy for me. Anything that smells perfumey just isn't going to taste good - in my opinion, although millions of people apparently disagree with me. This was crisp and hoppy, but not too hoppy. Very refreshing; I'd drink this by the pool, or heck, on the couch. I made the mistake of thinking my husband would like it and bought him a bottle. What was I thinking? His favorite beer is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (Colorado), and the Brooklyn IPA just wasn't hoppy enough for him.

  Also good was Sprecher Brewery (Wisconsin) Black Barvarian. This is a German-style schwarzbier, or "black beer." While it's a dark color like a stout or porter, it's actually a lager, making it a lighter, smoother tasting beer. The Black Barvarian was smooth and surprisingly sweet, with a coffee flavor that wasn't bitter at all (as it can be in stouts/porters).

  The surprise: From the Virgin Islands, St. Johns Brewers' Tropical Mango Pale Ale. As fruity as it smelled, it wasn't overwhelmingly "mango". I learned from the brewers' web site that they use mango extract, because mango juice/fruit would be too strong. Names aside, this is closer to a fruity light lager than a fruity pale ale. If you turn your nose up at Budweiser et al, you won't like this. But it would be a great Florida summertime beer.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A July 4th memory and my first living beer

I know I'm a little late in this, but I was too busy having fun this weekend to blog.
In the summer of 2004, I travelled to London - my first trip to Europe (does that count? I know it's not "the Continent"). While the highlights were definitely the Roman baths, Westminster Abbey, and the British Museum, the travelling pleasures of England are not the point of this post. The point of this post is an Independence Day memory and "real" beer.
It was on this trip to London that I tasted what they called "live" beer. Unlike most beer, it doesn't get its fizziness from carbon dioxide, but from living yeasts. Live beer hasn't been pasteurized and filtered, so the yeasts that created the beer in the first place continue to live on (for a while). I was entranced by the idea. I mean, if you love beer, then you love fermentation, and by association--at least in my mind--the tiny little things that created such a magical beverage in the first place. 
This was ages before I would hear of "real ale" and CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale). I just thought it was an amazing way to get back to the origins of what beer was supposed to be. Oh, and it was excellent, by the way. I don't have any tasting notes, but I do remember being pleased.
Disclosure: the photo accompanying this post was taken in the hotel bar, the Borough. Honestly, I'm pretty sure it isn't where I was served the live beer. (Amusingly, everyone who worked there was from somewhere else besides England - mainly Australia. Friendly people.) We did go on a pub walk, to more charming, aged bars, but I think I was afraid to take photos in such dignified places. And as I stretch my memory back, I do think it was another modern-looking bar where I had the live beer.
And what does this have to do with the holiday? We happened to be flying home on July 4th, and two things made that hideously long day memorable. First, on the plane with us was a group of school kids. Middle- or high-school. When they learned that we were a group of Americans on our way home, they were so pleased and excited to wish us a "Happy Independence Day"! It was touching; I'll never forget how friendly they were, and how pleasantly surprised we were at the fact. And then later, by the time we touched down in Orlando International Airport, it was dark, and we were treated to a view of fireworks on our drive home on the interstate, likely thanks to Walt Disney World. An appropriate homecoming.

It's never too late to give up your prejudices. --Henry David Thoreau, American author
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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Dumb Beer Laws

Did you know that craft beer above 5% ABW is illegal in Mississippi? Neither did I! What a shame - they're missing out on some great beer (like all those Belgium browns I've been swooning over).
And now, thanks to dumb beer laws, the people of Mississippi--and Alabama--are missing out on a chance to support a good cause.
Abita is putting out a "Save Our Shores" pilsner, with a portion of the proceeds going to efforts to fight the effects of the Gulf oil spill.
Cool, right?
But it's going out in 22 oz. bottles, making it illegal to sell in Alabama, and it's 7% alcohol, making it illegal in Mississippi.
So some of the very people who Abita hoped to help can't even buy the damn beer!  
The Mississippi Brew Blog has more on why SOS will be sold in 22 oz. bottles, and that's where I learned about that particular state's dumb beer law. And I learned about this farce first at Appellation Beer, a blog that if you're not already reading, you should be. It's written by Stan Hieronymus, journalist and dude who knows his beer.
(Abita is also selling S.O.S. gear, and 100% of profits from the sales of their magnets, t-shirts, and hats will go to the effort.)

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