Saturday, February 24, 2007

Choose Responsibly NOT Illogically

As a lover of beer and wine, I obviously like to drink now and then...ok more than that, but it's always about drinking responsibly so I have a high degree of irritation for neo-prohibitionists. Those people that pass nonsensical laws that make it difficult for one to grab a drink. Laws that include now allowing people to grab a beer on election day (God forbid we have a drink after voting!), to not being allowed to grab a six pack on Sunday before the big game. None of these laws are doing anything REAL, i.e. stopping alcoholism, or stopping drunk driving. There are of course tons of neo-prohibitionist lobbyists in D.C. making sure that their puritanical laws are enacted and enforced, but beyond the corporate beer/wine/liquor lobbyists their aren't many consumer lobbyists charged with discussing drinking responsibly not illogically. Until now that is. I've come across a website dedicated to the organization Choosing Responsibly. The organization is run by an former College President (at Vermont's Middleburry College). The goal of Choosing Responsibly is:

Our mission is to promote general public awareness of the dangers of excessive and reckless alcohol consumption by young adults. Through a program of research, publication, education, and related activities Choose Responsibility seeks to engage young people, their parents, and public officials in serious deliberation on the role of alcohol in American culture

This is a BIG mission. One of their more interesting views is lowering the drinking age to 18. While the neo-prohibitionists might be gnashing their teeth, if you look at it logically it makes sense. John McCardell Jr. the aforementioned head of the organization has seen, through his years of working in higher education, an epidemic in binge drinking by underage drinkers. Because these young adults can not legally drink they do it behind closed doors and in copious amounts instead of in the open in a more controlled atmosphere. They also have some interesting facts that go against those that the neo-prohibitionists spout: less alcohol related deaths that they correlate to raising the drinking age, can be just as likely attributed to higher safety standards in vehicles and the increased stigma of drinking and driving regardless of age. The agurement goes on that its not about setting up laws and restrictions that young adults are going to break, but educating them on drinking responsibly and helping ending the epidmic of binge drinking. If we tell our childrent that its ok to drink and we lift that stigma, it becomes less likely that they will over drink. This is not agrigorical, but a fact that plays itself out in other countries where the stigma of drinking is lifted. Having just been to Germany I have seen it first hand, where kids as young as 16 our allowed to drink beer, and at 18 can drink liquor. The binge drinking is just not there as it is here.
Its a fascinating argument and one that sadly will probably not go anywhere due to cowardliness of our politicians. Can you imagine one standing up for common sense? Stating that an 18 year old has all the rights as an adult accept one? That an 18 year old is smart enough to drive a car, serve and possibly die for our country, is smart enough to choose the leaders of our country, but not smart enough to lift a pint of beer, or glass of wine?

Left Hand Warrior IPA

I have a soft spot in my heart for Left Hand Brewery, one they are from Longmont and I have a friend from there, two they were one of the first CO craft breweries I visited, and three, they make darn good beer. I have tasted many of their fine brews. This was my first time trying this a seasonal beer made with fresh wet hops.
The Beer: A brew made with fresh hop flowers right after the Hop Harvest of the fall. Came in one of Left Hand's BIG BEER's. Poured a nice smooth clear amber color with a thick tan head. As expected lots of full floural hops on the nose. The mouth is efferevescent full of hops, like chewing a hop flower, strong, no malt to help balance it out here. Beyond the strong biting hops their is an alcohol astringency here that almost over powers everything. This is an ok beer that with a little bit of balance could have been a great beer. Here's what the folks over at BA had to say.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Victory Prima Pils

During my time in Germany I began to understand the greatness that is Pilsner. Growing up and going to college, the only "pilsner" (and I use that term loosely) was Budweiser or Coors or Miller. So going to Germany I found true great pilsner, from the very over produced Bitburger (which for being mass produced is quite tasty) to the regional Jever, and of course the Czech, Pilsner Urquell and Budvar. Now that I am back, I am trying to find a beer that can quench my thirst for a good pilsner. To me the imports don't taste the same here as they do over there so I needed to find an American Pilsner, and that meant a craft brewery. For the most part Craft Brewery's have opted to stay away for Pilsners instead going for Ambers, or Pale Ales as their flagship beers, so I was happy to find out about Victory Prima Pils. I am a big fan of Victory and have tasted a few of their beers.
The Beer: Poured in a traditional Pilsner glass, poured a nice slightly hazy straw yellow, plenty of tiny champagne like bubbles and capped with a quarter inch foamy white head. The nose is spicy, hops, citrus and a bit of stone. The mouth is much of the same, full bodied to the max, hoppy and biting, vibrant I would call it. Reminds me of a North German Pilsner like Jever, very spicy and complex. So far away from the American Pilsners that people think of. This is what it should be. Here is what the folks at BA had to say.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Quick Note

I'll borrow the article from Brookston Beer Bulletin who reports this great news for craft beer lovers. In the year 2006 Craft Beer sales incrased by 11.7% and over the last three years almost 30%. As Macrobreweries lament losing profits and lower sales, it is reports like this that show people may be drinking a little less beer over all, but that people are going towards drinking BETTER beer. And thats always a good thing.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Beer: Business and Financial news

A lazy Sunday morning, allows me to surf around the internet looking for news about Beer. Beer business is a huge market, and involves some of the largest companies in the world so here is just a sampling of things that I found:

Molson Coors profits up: Of course the profits aren't up becuase they have been making better beer, or even selling more beer. Profits are up because they have decreased their costs. That would be business code for they laid off a bunch of employees. I understand working towards effieciency as that should always be the goal, but this is a bit of a wolf in sheeps clothing report to me.

New Global Beer Merger? Thats the report out of Brazil where rumors are starting hot and heavy that A-B and Belgium Brewery Giant In Bev are going to merge. These two companies are the respective leaders in revenue and volume would create by far the largest brewing company in the world. What would this mean for you the consumer? Less choice. The more merging that is done the more the big beers (even if thats Stella Artois and Hoegarden) will fill the Beer cases at your local store, and the less room there will be for your local Craft Brewery.

Miller to Launch new Beer: A beer for the Lime and Corona crowd. Miller will be introducing a new beer in certain markets, that is modeled after the Mexican Chelada, combining beer with lime and salt. A low calrorie beer that will compete against Bud Light, and Coors light. Good luck with all that as I just don't see this as a huge market for such things.

Put your Imperial stout DOWN! At least thats what will be happening in Singapore come next year. Starting January 1st of next year beers will be taxed based on their alcohol content. Beer below 5.5% will actually decrease while beer above 8.0% will increase.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Double dose of Dogfish head

My first beer posts back in the states will be about as far away from German style beers as one can possible get. I sat down this week to enjoy two from the Great Dogfish Head Brewery out of Deleware. I have talked about their beer before of course as this is one of my favorite breweres, and I love the experimentation that goes on there. While not all are successes, I appreciate the effort to do something new.
Chateau Jiahu: One of the most unique beers I've ever had, well according to the label its actually a"malt beverage" not a beer, but whatever. Made with Hawthorn fruit, honey, grape concentrate, Chrysanthemum flowers, this is like Midas Touch, a reproduction of an ancient beer. Go to the website to find out a little more about the history. The beer was packaged in a big bottle, the label an amazing piece of artwork. The beer weighs in at a nice 8%, pours a nice cloudy yellow orange, with plenty of carbonation but minimal head. The nose is full of honey, citrus, orange blossom, and floural notes. The mouth is more of the same, mild, with floural notes, citrusy notes, yeasty, loads of frozen white grape juice flavor, and very bubbly, like a champagne. Very interesting, not sure I would get this again and again, but it has its place thats for sure.
Raison D'Extra: One of my favorite beers is the Raison d'etre so when I saw this at my local Spec's, a Souped up version so to speak I had to grab a couple of bottles. WARNING: as this beer is an alcohol BOMB! The beer weighs in at 18%! Pours a dark rich cloudy copper brown, again with minimal head, and nice carbonation. As expected the nose is full of brown raisins, brown sugar and caramel, suprsingy not a lot of alcohol. The mouth has lots of raisins, maple syrup, not a lot of hops and this is where the alcohol starts to show up hiding some of the nuances you know want to come out. Like the 120 minute IPA, I think this beer will mellow out stretching and concentrating the brown sugar and raisin flavors with a little bit of age.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Its good to be home

Yes, I am back in Houston, Texas from my three month stay in Cologne Germany. I loved my time in Germany and I made a lot of great and wonderful friends, but I am also glad to be back home. Now that I am back I'd like to take a post to write about my thoughts on my stay. Be patient as this will be a bit of a stream of consciousness effort.
My overall assessment is that I continue to be amazed by the variety of beers that German Brewers put forth, from the unique Rauchbier, to Black Lager, and finally the home town Kolsch. All very different beers, but all uniquely German. One of the things that I love about German and to an extent all most of Europe is the regional brews. Cologne of course has Kolsch, Dussledorf has altbier, Bavaria has their bock's, and weizen's, Easter Germany has their bohemian style pilsners. I love that about Germany as each region puts their soul into their regional beer, as its the closest I have seen of beer making matching the terrior that oenophiles talk up so much about in wine. Whereas here in the States no one region has a beer to call their own. The closes is what some have called California Pale Ale's after the style of Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale, but that really isn't' the same as what occurs in Germany.
One last comment on German beers in regards to Hefeweizens. I have not always been a fan of this style in the states, but the ones that I was able to drink in Germany were absolutely amazing, full of banana and cloves. I couldn't figure out why the German versions in the states weren't as good until one day I was talking to one of my German friends. The hefeweizens that are imported into the states are all pasteurized. The thermal treatment of these beers kills some of the flavor profile thereby creating (in my mind) a blander beer. All this means is that I will have to start looking for American versions that aren't baked to dullness.
During my stay I also had the opportunity to become more familiar with Belgium Beers. In this day and age of globalization its difficult to find beers that you can't get over here in the states, but I did my best and think I succeeded.
All in all this was an amazing opportunity for me, both professionally and personally and it opened my eyes to a whole new world of beer experiences.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Review: Microbrews: Ten year Retrosprective

Note: Based on a comment made by Wortwurst the author of the site, I realized that I had spoken too soon. His review is only HALF Complete as there will be 200 total beers.

I have spoken about the wonderful website Microbrews: A 10 year retrospective a couple of times (here, and here), and the project has finally been completed. To review, the gist of this site is that 10 years ago the book Microbrews: A Guide to America's Best new Beers and Breweries, was published, the creator of the site, went about to see how many of those 100 beers mentioned were still around. He finished the project earlier this week and the results are in. Out of the 100 beers published, they were created by a total of 79 breweries. Of those 100 beers only 47 are still active, of the 79 breweries only 47 are still active. I guess its not to surprising that a little over half of the beers and breweries have failed to make it 10 years. As the author states, thats about typical for self run businesses. Its still sad that some good beer has gone to waste. Please go check out the site, and peruse at your leisure.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Floris Chocolate Beer

Cologne has a lot of Museum's. One of my favorite's is the Schokolade Museum, and the incredible gift shop they have. I have a weak spot for very dark chocolate and they have that in abundance. This past week I was visiting the museum with a friend of mine and came across a stash of Chocolate beer. Now this isn't a typical Chocolate Stout, but an actual straight up Belgian Chocolate Beer.
The Beer: The beer weighs in at 4.2% and is made with real chocolate. It pours a nice light cloudy copper color, with good carbonation, and no head. There is a thin film skimming over the surface of the beer. The nose is full of chocolate, almost like a yoohoo, and a tad bit of bitterness. The flavors are chocolate, and a tangy tartness that tasted like very rich almond extract, very overpowering. Over all it tasted like carbonated milk chocolate with a bottle of almond extract poured in. Not a good beer at all. I think this is something that could have been very good, even excellent, but this missed the mark by quite a bit.