Friday, December 29, 2006

Visitation spike

Wow, over 3500 hits in 24 hours. It's amazing what a link from Ebaum's world can do.

As long as I have all of you here, why not tell us something about the beer you like? Anything you love or hate? Any great beer travel experiences?

Come on, we're all on the edge of our seats!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The best beer under $10

I live in country.

Although I mostly write about craft beers, premium German imports, and microbrews, it's important to remember that the beer economy rides on a wave of North American megabrewery lager. And that's not necessarily a bad thing. I drink it too.

For my money, the best mainstream American Lager is still Genesee. Call it regional pride if you want, but I'm all about the Genny. They'd all but given up the ghost in the national market, but the brewery is primed for a resurgence.

Plus, hipster dudes, Genesee has the virtue of being every bit as ironic as your trucker hats, '70s T-shirts, clunky glasses and oversculpted cowlicks. Next time you're out, try one instead of the PBR you're otherwise going to order.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Make a splash on New Year's Eve

New Year's Eve is a funny night. People celebrate a transition; a passing from the old to the new. Yet we do so with the same old, tired routines year in and year out. We go to parties. We watch the ball drop on television. We have a champagne toast at midnight. Zzzzzzz.

Why not change it up a little and really make a splash? Instead of champagne, toast with beer!

Not just any beer; what could be more depressing than a crystal flute full of Coors Light? Fortunately, the country of Belgium brings us several choices that could easily replace champagne and cast you in a very sophisticated light to the ladies. Try one of these:

These beers do not taste like beer from other nations. They're more effervescent and complex, with that Belgian floral character so many North American breweries fall short of replicating. The lambics, flavored with fruit, are especially popular with the fairer sex.

So this New Year's Eve, introduce people to a new range of tastes, score some sophistication points, and enjoy the flavor of some of the world's most unique brews. You just might spare yourself that champagne hangover in the process.

In with the old, out with the new indeed.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Michael Shea's discontinued

I hadn't realized it, but has been oficially discontinued by the High Falls Brewing Company.

Hey, Shea's wasn't a great beer, but it did have the virtue of being introduced to the market around the time of my 21st birthday. I was young and financially challenged, and a twelve of Shea's was a decent value for the money. Plus, it was tastier than (of course, so is greyhound vomit).

Of course, when Shea's was introduced, craft brews were extremely rare on store shelves. As the craft brewing industry grew, poor Michael Shea's was eclipsed by high-quality reasonably priced pale ales from brewers like F.X. Matt (Saranac), Otter Creek and Magic Hat.In bars, Guinness has been flexing its marketing muscle, throwing up Harp and taps left and right. The poor Rochester brew got squeezed out of its own market.

Maybe this weekend, we'll have a good pseudo-Irish wake for this mediocre pseudo-Irish beer. I'm sure we can still scrounge up one of the few remaining cases.

Or maybe I'll have a Smithwick's instead.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006


"Europeans drink their beer warm."

How many times have you heard that statement? How many time have you uttered it? This is one of those misconceptions that drives some of the more...strident beer geeks crazy.

Some ale styles need a higher serving temperature to release all their flavors. By contrast, lagers taste better when served a little colder. American light lagers can be chilled to near freezing if you's not going to make much difference. has a brief guide to proper serving temperatures. Believe me, it makes a difference.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The naughty elf has been sampled.

My local has been carrying the "Bad Elf" series of Christmas beers that the NYS Liquor Authority tried to ban. They're excellent.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Getting the band back together

You heard it here first! There's change a brewin' at the High Falls Brewing Company.

You can expect the Rochester regional (maker of J.W. Dunedee, Honey Brown, and Genny Cream Ale) to refocus on what used to be its core brands: Genesee Beer and Genny Light.

These working-class beers built that brewery into the fifth-largest in the country, but have fallen by the wayside over the last decade as the company's sales philosophy changed. The success of Yuengling and Pabst Blue Ribbon among young, hip drinkers, however, is spurring a relaunch of these stalwart American beers.

Expect an upgraded brand image, new art and packaging styles, and the same old American adjunct lager taste. Hey, it beats the hell out of Budweiser. Remember, "Geneseeing is Believing."


Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Off-topic: humor column

I was planning to post this week's newspaper column, but, since it's been bumped, we're gonna have to do something different. This is my annual Christmas column that published this week

Last-minute shopping
by Mark Tichenor

There’s nothing more galling than wandering through the refugee camp that is a shopping mall around Christmas, looking for, well, anything, really, that will relieve you of your social obligation and let you get on with your life. In this situation, it’s important to remember what the holiday spirit is all about.

You see, gift-giving isn’t just about the joy of getting, there’s also the pleasure inherent in giving a present. But sometimes we find ourselves in the awkward position of having to gifts to people we don’t care about, barely know, or dislike.

A friend of mine once received a quesadilla maker. You know, those revolting little melted-cheese tortilla sandwiches you find on the appetizer menu at Denny’s? A frying pan seems like the perfect implement, should anyone get the desire to whip a batch up in their own kitchen. But he got a specialized, hinged tool, the only possible purpose of which is to make quesadillas. Not waffles. Not pizelles (whatever those are). Just quesadillas.

Needless to say, the thing remains unopened five years later, but, like all crappy gifts, it’s still hanging around taking up space in his closet.

I took a lesson from this. When you must give gifts out of obligation, you might as well enjoy yourself.

This year, why not give the gift that says “I dare you?” I dare you to frown when you open this. I dare you not to force a smile and embrace me with a big thank-you hug. I dare you not to use this gift, but I also dare you to try and use it.

As noted above, specialty cooking appliances are a great place to start. A whole range of products are available to, theoretically, enable the creation of all kinds of wonderful foods right there in your friend’s kitchen. Why, if correctly equipped, they could create a whole delicious meal! Quesadillas as an appetizer, followed by hearty fajitas, made on the purpose-designed fajita grill.

After the main course, You can make some homemade yogurt in the yogurt maker (step 1: add yogurt) as a palate cleanser before moving on to runny, semisolid homemade ice cream or smores, made in (I swear this exists) their very own smore-making apparatus.

Following the meal, it’s time for some holiday cheer, so everyone can gather around the cascading beverage fountain (word of caution, it foams over if you fill it with beer).

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

No print column this week

Well, the Beercraft column has fallen victim to the crass commerce of the season. A large last-minute ad has bumped us off the page, so my fevered 6am typing was kind of in vain.

The column will be back next week, and we'll use the downtime to do some actual research and write something insightful for a change. As always, questions and column ideas are welcome.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Santa's Butt ban lifted

Local beer fan John Schmidt reported over on Beer Advocate that TV media has picked up on the banned importation of certain Christmas beers into New York State.

It's good to see that common sense has prevailed and the prohibition was lifted. Shelton bros, enjoy the sweet taste of free publicity!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Oh for chrissake, gimme a freakin' break!

I had no idea this drama was unfolding.

What's the real motivation here? Banning these six beers because their labels could be appealing to children is illogical and inconsistent with the way the Liquor Authority handles other brands of booze.Is someone trying to punish the brewers of these beers?m If so, why?

Face it, no matter how attractive these labels are, they're nothing on a bottle of Captain Morgan with its loveable pirate. And what's a kid more likely to find in daddy's stash, a six-pack of some obscure microbrewed seasonal Christmas ale, or an 80-proof fifth of the good Captain?

Memo to the Liquor Authority. Kids don't give a fuck what is on the label of their illicit alcohol. They're not going to stand outside the Piss N' Pay trying to cajole some hood into buying them "Bad Elf Barley Wine" at $10 a six-pack. They'll be gunning for the CASE of Golden Anniversary retailing for $5. The idea that underagers will prefer this stuff over whatever else is cheap and easy is stupid.

They just want to get drunk and be cool. Just like we did. But now, I, at 35, want a bottle of Bad Elf. Guess I'd better head off to Massafreakin'chusetts.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I guess it's 'happy anniversary.'

The next issue of the Beercraft column will mark one year of print publication, although somehow we've managed to write 29 of the biweekly rants (hey, I was an English major, not a math prodigy). Thanks to everyone who's taken time out of their day to glance at the blog or read the column.

We now look forward to another year of thinking up beer-related shit that's fit to print. Cheers!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Beercraft newspaper column #28- Porter

Porter- dark, deep and delicious

It all started with a wives’ tale.

As the story goes, beer drinkers of the mid-seventeenth century had peculiar tastes. In order to get the proper flavor, nutrition, and alcoholic kick to their pint, a customer would order ‘three-threads,’ a mélange of three different ales from three separate casks. As you can imagine, when running a busy alehouse, this was just time-consuming enough to be annoying for the pourer. It was also expensive, as it necessitated the brewing of three different types of beer just to sate the desires of a single drinker.

Enter one Ralph Harwood, a brewer who, according to legend, made a palatable replacement for three threads at his brew house in 1722. He called his beer “entire butt” (shut up), to represent the completeness of his one brew.

Supposedly, his beer caught on with the porters of the day who, unlike the ones you’ll encounter in fancy hotels, actually carried through the streets all the crap that made Georgian London function properly. Being cerebral types, they came up with a name that captured all the subtle nuances of this nutritious, strong beer: ‘porter.’

While the story makes fantastic marketing copy on the back of a bottle label, it’s actually pretty dubious. Still, there’s no denying that heavy, dark porter was the dominant beer style sold in London from the mid 18th century until the mid 1800s. Then it vanished.

Oh, not overnight, but advances in the science of brewing made possible the creation of lighter bodied (and lighter hued) beers with more subtle and refined flavors. In essence, beer made a jump in sophistication, and there ain’t no place for coach passengers in the first-class lavatory. By the end of the 19th century, pale ale and IPA were king, and porter had all but disappeared.

No one really made the stuff until the microbrew movement of the 1970s, when the eager brewers dusted off the old history books in the desire to make anything that wasn’t Schlitz. Soon, beer taps were flowing with the chewy opaque black beer once again, and the beerophiles celebrated.

Then the beerophiles took an Aspirin.

Then the beerophiles celebrated anew, and the party continues today. Porter is now a mainststay of most craft breweries, and there’s a huge variety from which to choose. Might we offer a couple of humble suggestions?

Custom Brewcrafters Double Dark Cream Porter, from Honeoye Falls NY, is the best beer that brewery makes. As the name would imply, it’s very dark, but the taste is sweet with a bit of nuttiness and a clean finish. CB’s isn’t a light-bodied beer, and its hefty mouthfeel make it a fine winter warmer.

A couple of places around Rochester, notable Monty’s Krown, Monty’s Korner and The Old Toad, offer Double Dark on hand-pump, carbonated with nitrogen instead of carbon dioxide for a silkier, more complex draught.

A great way to fortify yourself before camping in front of a Best Buy for a Playstation 3 or a Wii or whatever the hell you’re out there for is to drink a big imperial pint of Stone Smoked Porter. It comes from the consistently excellent Stone Brewery of California, and sports a somewhat chocolate/coffee flavor with a smoky intensity that doesn’t overpower the flavor of the beer itself.

The best thing about Stone Smoked Porter is its complexity. Smoking the malt in a kiln gives it a bit of a woody essence, and it finishes dry. Each lingering sip will unveil new flavor notes, but, as we’ve discovered, huge slobbering gulps of this beer are satisfying as well.

Finally, there’s the limited-run Brooklyn Smoked Porter, currently on tap at The Old Toad. It comes with an international pedigree. Brewed by Brooklyn’s Head brewer, Garrett Oliver, in Sheffield, England, at the award-winning Kelham Island Brewery, the porter is an intriguing blend of dark roasted malt and mocha flavors.

Maybe it’s the English brewing conditions, or just Oliver cutting loose, but this porter is one of the finest seasonals the Brooklyn brewery has yet produced. As is the tragedy with all such beers, it’s in a very limited run. So hurry up.

Bruce is a certified beer judge and former commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How to slaughter a Monday

I love my job.

The ability to create my own weekly schedule (as can Bruce and our buddy Carl; we all work for the same company) allows the opportunity to gt the best out of the worst day of the week. Instead of spending Mondy toiling for "The Man," the three of us hopped in the Element and headed to Syracuse for a quick pub crawl to Clark's Ale House and The Blue Tusk.

Aside from the incredibly irritating crazy Lady babbling away inside Clark's, we had so good a time that we were able to forget it took place in Syracuse. Middle Ages Wizard's Winter Ale, Stone Smoked Porter, and Young's Double Chocolate Stout more than made up for the insanity of the moment.

It amazes me, not only that two of the country's best beer bars are in a crummy town like Sorrycuse, but also that they're within a block of each other. I dunno, it just seems like an odd distribution. At any rate, they can have my Mondays any day of the week.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Gems of the week

Ithaca Brewing Company Gorges Porter is a delicious beer. It's a smoked porter that doesn't overdo the smoke. You get an opaque black, sweet, mellow beer with a dry and complex finish.

Had I not been eating the world's hottest chicken wings, I would have ordered a second pint.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Boston Redux

What better way to spend a three-day weekend than by travelling to the nation's most historic city - a city saturated with culture and academia - and swilling a bunch of beer?

That's how I roll.

We spent a pleasant evening last night in It's not the best microbrew I've had, but it's pretty good, and the oatmeal stout was pretty on-style and had a tantalizing oak-aged flavor, the source of which I know not.

Who knows what tonight shall bring. On my last trip, the Beer Works was a pleasant surprise, so perhaps another visit to Landsdowne Street is in order. Since you're undoubtedly on the edge of your seat, I'll keep you posted.

Oh, and I bought a new car. It may be funny-looking, but it's perfectly suited for travelling to far-flung destinations and bringing home case upon case of interesting beer.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

On vacation

I'm in Boston for the next three days. Expect a boozy update on Monday.


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Boss Blogs, Brit Beer and Books

My buddy Mike Cialini, obviously inspired by the excellent blog you are currently perusing, has posted his first beer review.

Actually, Mike's blog, Leave the gun, take the cannoli, is one of my favorites. His grammar and spelling are an affront to the English language, but the man has a gift for over-the-top satire. Most priceless is his near-pathological disdain for the sport of soccer.

Enough pimping my friends. I've been reading a book called Beer, The Story of the Pint, by one Martyn Cornell. It's a well-researched look at how the brewing industry in Britain developed up from Celtic times.

As a lover of the Teutonic brews, I Sometimes tend to dismiss British beers offhand. Reading about their development and place in society makes me want to dive back in and explore the gamut of milds, bitters, stouts, and pales that come from the isles. Look for my oh-so-fascinating insight in future posts and columns.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Beercraft newspaper column #27- Beer and football

Beer and football, the classic pairing

Beer and football go hand-in-hand for many fans, and probably for some players. Every Sunday, all across the nation, couch cushions are compressed by our giant American butts, and thousands of kitchens reverberate with the repeated thudding of refrigerator doors as we repeatedly consume the unofficial beverage of football. Today, your trusty beer writers will help you with your beer needs, so you can score a “touchdown” with your buddies.

When having people over for the game, it’s important to choose your beer wisely. So let’s look in the “playbook.” How many people? You might choose a lower-priced brand for economy of scale. How cold is it outside? Perhaps a stronger, more warming imperial stout or doppelbock is in order. Are the Bills playing? You might want to grab something extremely low in alcohol for when your guests attempt to drown their sorrows.

We’re of the firm belief that sporting events and beer snobbery don’t mix. You can drink the finest Belgian trappist ale, but casting scorn upon one of your buddies for popping open a Coors Light is “unsportsmanlike conduct.”

In order to please everyone, why not get a mixed case of microbrew? Lots of breweries, including Saranac, Magic Hat, and the High Falls Brewery, have variety packs that mix several styles. That way light and dark beer lovers alike can “play the option,” without “encroaching, ” and you don’t have to “scramble” to please a finicky palate.

Of course, the food you serve along with the beer has something to do with the quality of the afternoon. Bean dip is nice, but then you risk an “offensive backfield” and possibly a “pass rush.” We recommend pizza, which goes better with beer than any other foodstuff. But not that thick sicilian crap that’s like biting into a sponge with sauce and cheese on it. Keep it nice and thin, New York City-style, and you’ll stay “in bounds” with your friends, and not suffer a “Forward pass thrown from behind the line of scrimmage after ball has already crossed the line of scrimmage.”

Whew. Even though football may have a lot of rules, beer drinking has refreshingly few. The cameraderie, the excitement, and the flavor of a fine brew almost make up for the abysmal play of J.P. Loss-Man and company. We’ll leave you now to enjoy the game, dole out the high-fives, and come up with your own stupid puns.
Although, now that we think about it, why should you have to buy all the damn beer anyway? It’s your house, isn’t it? Those guys are going to come over and not even take off their shoes, tracking dirt all over the carpet you just vacuumed (or not, if you’re us). They’ll plop down on your couch, scratching themselves and putting their feet on your coffee table. And will they bring any beer? Noooooo. But you open your fridge and they’ll be all over it like a hipster on a Pabst Blue Ribbon. Some friends you have!

Be smart about it. Go over to someone else’s house and be an abuser of hospitality rather than a victim. To alleviate a portion of the ill will you’ll generate, bring along a six-pack of something wonderful, like Phin & Matt’s Extraordinary Ale from the Southern Tier Brewing Company, or Long Trail Brewing’s Hit the Trail Ale. Just stay away from the Candian stuff. They do for beer what they did for the game of Football. Oh, and make someone else drive you home. That way you can get there in relative “safety.”

Sorry, we couldn’t resist.

Bruce is a certified beer judge and former commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Boardman Street Brewery will open soon.

It's getting to that time of year where my Beercraft partner, Bruce, opens the homebrewery. He and fellow berewer Bob Thomas make the best homebrew I've yet tasted (sorry, Pat, yours is good too). As a former commercial brewer, you'd pretty much expect that from Bruce.

I've been on the fringes of homebrewing, stirred a couple of kettles, that sort of thing. I've never really wanted to get deeper into the hobby. Maybe it's the six hours of weekend required to brew a batch, or maybe it's the long wait between brewing and consuming. Most likely, I've been spoiled by having Bruce's excellent beer at my fingertips, with little to no effort on my part.

Anyway, we're probably going to take a look at homebrewing in some upcoming columns, so if it's something you've been thinking about trying, feel free to use us as a source of discouragement.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Beercraft newspaper column #26: Women who love craft beer

What could be more of a guy thing than beer? Kicking back with a few brewskis is practically a ritual in the Cult of Guydom, along with belching and the scratching of one’s personal regions. Women go for froo-froo mixed drinks, alcopops (like Smirnoff Ice), or wine.

Actually, that’s not necessarily the case. Most women enjoy a cold one as much as any guy. And now, an increasing number of women are discovering, and brewing, craft beer. “Out of the 83 members of the Upstate New York Homebrewers’ Club, 8 are women,” says Kira Barnes, homebrewer and certified female.

Barnes, a cataloging librarian at RIT, brews beer and hard cider along with her husband, Thomas. The two of them are currently studying to become judges in the Beer Judge Certification Program. Upon completion of this surprisingly difficult course, Barnes will be sanctioned to judge beer competitions on a national level.

Not all female beer lovers aspire to such goals; a bunch of them, like Helen Bravenec of Austin, Texas, just like to swill beer. Bravenec, a violinist earning her Master’s Degree at Eastman, used to drink Miller Light, Coors Light, and other mass-market offerings. It was when she moved to Belgium that she started drinking the flavorful stuff.

Many women first develop a taste for lighter, sweeter beers. The fruit-flavored Belgian lambics are popular among the XX-chromosome set, as are witbeers like Hoegaarden and Blue Moon. But an increasing number like to delve into hoppier or more robust brews as well.

“I like my beers just slightly bitter,” Bravenec says, “but not over the top.” She lists Otter Creek Copper Ale, Pilsner Urquell, and good ol’ Saranac Pale Ale as some of her favorites.

Barnes prefers the more strongly and strangely flavored brews. Berliner Weisse, Okocim Baltic Porter, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, and the laughably strong EKU 28 all have a place in her pantry.

She points out that, like wine, a good beer appeals to more than one of the senses. “A beer has to be more than flavorful for me to like it,” Barnes explains. “If it's a style that's supposed to be clear, it should have good clarity; it should be pleasant to drink from the initial aroma to the aftertaste.”

So is craft beer finally getting its due with women? Barnes thinks so, and actively advocates for beer among her fellow females. “I was at a get-together in Kansas City with a woman who was drinking Michelob Ultra. She mentioned something about liking beer but having to stick to the low-cal stuff. I suggested she try New Belgium Skinny Dip, a summer seasonal brewed with coriander and lime leaves, which was only about 90 calories a bottle. She actually wrote it down, so I hope she followed up on it.”

In Other Beers:
The first, and hopefully not the last, Real Beer Expo took place on Alexander Street this past weekend. Festival organizer Joe McBane brought together what’s probably the largest sampling of cask-conditioned ale the area has ever seen. Altogether, 20 breweries had sampling tables.

Events like this are a perfect way to get your feet (and tonsils) wet if you wants to expand your range of tastes. They give you a little glass, and you just hold it out at each brewery table for them to fill. It’s kind of like…a beer buffet! Beerfet? Anyway, it’s a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon, and you learn a lot.

The fall season has brought with it the usual resurgence of pumpkin ales. These are brewed with actual pumpkin, and can be quite nice as a change of pace. The best ones, like Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale, have a nice cinnamon-clove essence. The lesser examples taste like someone scraped a pumpkin pie plate into your beer. Still, for a once a year thing, we can deal with a bit of excess.

Bruce is a certified beer judge and former commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to

Monday, October 23, 2006

Ale Expo wrap-up

From my view as a patron, the Real Ale Expo was an unqualified success. Not a huge crowd, but you'd kind of expect that for an outdoor evening festival in the autumn, the focus of which was cask-condition beer.

Still, there was a great variety, and the lighter crowd made for little to no waiting for your pour. I particularly enjoyed the cask condtioned Phin and Matt's Extraordinary Ale from the

So thanks, Joe, for putting together a great evening. I'll be disappointed if you don't repeat the Expo next year.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Rochester Real Ale Festival

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Joe McBane, bar manager from has busted his ass to put together an ambitious project with potentially amazing results. The Real Beer Expo will take place on Saturday, October 21st, from 5-10pm.

This is huge. enjoys a cult following in the US, but still exists way out of the mainstream. This is the traditional "English Pint" style of ale that's carried over since before the Victorian Era. This is authentic ale, the way it was drank by the great people of our time: Naturally carbonated, not overchilled, cloudy with sediment.

20 craft brewereies will be represented under the tent in the lot behind the Sibley Building. If you're a fan of real ale, welcome to paradise. If you've never tried it, Isn't it time those horizons expanded a bit?

Monday, October 16, 2006

Avery Stout- completing the circle

Lately, I've found myself caught in a craft beer loop, a comfort zone with a circle of four or five micros to which I return again and again. It's still a decent variety, and I've grown to trust the quality of these breweries.

Last night, however, I happened upon a draft pull of Avery Stout from Colorado's and it was a treat. The beer is nutty and chewy, with a strong roasted flavor and enough body to back up what the opaque mahogany color and full aroma suggest.

Come to think of it, I've never had a disappointing Avery beer. I guess there's always room for my circle to get a little larger.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday's overrated beer: Stella Artois

On the surface, comes across as ironic- a mass-market light lager among a nation of ancient and singular beers, owned by InBev, a brewing juggernaut among farmhouses with vats in them.

But if you spend any time in Belgium, you'll see that the folks really like their Artois. Stella and inBev co-owned lager Jupiler make up the vast percentage of Belgian beer sales. I guess you can't drink Tripel every day.

Until the mid '90s, Stella was rare around these here parts. Times change, however, and now the beer is brewed in Canada and pumped to us through large-diameter pipelines, or so it would seem based on how quickly Stella has saturated the American market.

In truth, it's a pretty good beer. Fresh-tasting, with a grassy finish, Stella mekes a great summer cooler. But what makes it overrated is the same thing that makes it ironic: Stella rides the reputation of the Belgian brewing tradition- a tradition which, at least in its modern incarnation, the beer completely ignores.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Off topic: What is a fan?

My buddy Mike Cialini turns in a great analysis of Yankee Fans on his blog.

Being a true Yankee fan is more difficult than being a diehard supporter of any other team. Sure, it's great when they win, and we get substantially more to cheer about than anyone else's fans, but with each playoff exit, the torment that Yankee Fan has to endure by the smug and the envious is a heavy cross to bear.

Thing is, I could've been a fan of any team. My dad introduced me to major league baseball when I was six. He could've taken me to Exhibition Stadium, to kindle a following of the Blue Jays. He could've taken me to Three Rivers and I'd be bleeding brown? yellow? But no, he took me to the Bronx, to see the team he had followed since the days of Mantle, Howard and Berra. He took me into the upper deck of the most amazing place I've ever been in my life.

Ths week has been harder on Yankee fans than most. The chemistry seems to be gone, or at least that's how the media portrays it. Joe hung on to his job by a D-train strap, A-rod had a season most players would kill for and is being inexplicably run out of town on a rail. And then Corey. As a student pilot myself, I can only say trust me, he died doing something he loved.

Now, back to the consumption of beer.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Beercraft newspaper column #24- Learning about craft beer

An adventure in flavor: learning about craft beer

By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish

Perhaps you’re new to the world of craft beer, but would like to learn more. Perhaps you aim to be an authority on craft beer. Perhaps you’ve been saying to yourself, “I would like to become known around the pub as an insufferable, pompous jerk; the kind of patron that bartenders want to hit with a tap handle.”

No seriously, while those folks exist, most people are capable of developing a taste for craft beer and still maintain a pleasant cameraderie with their fellow drinkers. And the jump from big-brewery lagers to flavorful micros is actually comortably short.

Most craft beer newbies, however, run into two obstacles. One is taste aversion. Lager from national breweries is brewed to be consistent and palatable to millions of people, so they strive to make their appealing to the lowest common denominator. In contrast, microbrewed beer is avaiable in a bewildering array of styles, flavors, and strengths.

People just discovering craft beer also have to deal with myriad preconceptions, some based in fact and some absolute nonsense. It’s commonly assumed that all craft beer is stronger than the canned stuff, or that Bock beer is made from the leftovers scraped out of the kettles or that all English beer is served warm.

Ten minutes of conversation with an experienced bartender, or with the guy shoving the dolly at Beers of the World, will be enough to get you started separating beer fact from beer fiction. More adventurous people will just jump right in and dispel the myths with their tastebuds.

And a good place to start is with brown ale, a style that served as the training-wheels beer for lots of people in the know. It’s a darker, slightly sweet British style with very little bitterness. You can find plenty of different examples, from the imported Newcastle Brown to various examples from regional microbreweries. Brooklyn Brewing Company’s Downtown Brown ale is a flavorful standout, as is Long Trail Brewing’s Hit the Trail Ale.

Brown ale might wind up being your thing, or you might grow bored with the style’s relative blandness and long for beer with a bit more bite. So try pale ale. Expect a rich amber color, a floral aroma, and substantially more hop bitterness than brown ale.

The most famous example, of course, is Bass Ale. It’s available everywhere, and still sets the world standard for pales, even though you can find tons of imported and American microbrewed pales that blow it out of the water.

Pale ales are, in fact, one of the most common microbrewed styles. American hops lend a flavor that’s noticeably different from the British stalwarts. A nice example is Dale’s Pale Ale from Colorado’s Oskar Blues Grill and Brewery. You’ll know it when you see it on store shelves; it’s one of the few microbrews available in cans. You might also find yourself faced with a cool bottle of Fat Angel, from Vermont’s Magic Hat Brewing Company, and that’s not so bad on a brisk autumn day.

Once you’re enjoying these beer styles (could take a few pints, could take a few sips), the pantheon of craft beer will be a pleasure to explore. One of the best things about tasting beer is the staggering variety of flavors and styles. We, as drinkers, owe a great debt to craft brewers who constantly experiment, tinker with their recipes, and develop entire new styles of our favorite beverage. It never gets old.

Bruce is a certified beer judge and former commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to

Monday, October 09, 2006

Quiz night at The Old Toad

As is the custom in many English-type pubs, features a weekly quiz. I'm siting in its midst.

"Oh fun," you say. "A barroom trivia quiz." how much lighthearted entertainment that must provide.

Excuse me while I upchuck.

The Old Toad's quiz is like taking your SATs. The questions are impossible (Who was the Prime Minister of Portugal from 1832-1841, etc.) It takes an hour to administer a 20 question examination. It takes a second hour to review the friggin' answers.

And the quiz takers are more competitive than, well, something really competitive. They're all grad students and shit, and hair is removed from scalps after every incorrect answer.

Bottom line, it's a fun evening, providded you're two bars away.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Oh, by the way

I had a pleasant surprise at Thursday night- a brief coversation with head brewer for Brooklyn Brewing and the author of The Brewmaster's Table.

People were practically elbowing me out of the way to hang with the G-man, possibly the only "brewing celebrity" on the micro scene, but I was able to briefly discuss Brooklyn Blonde Bock, which is pretty darn good. Nice to see the guy makes it to the sticks every now and then.


Friday's overrated beer: Beck's

I've long had a personal bias toward German beer. My favorite styles, and the best examples thereof, come from Germany and the Czech Republic. For all of it's worldwide brand presence and high sales numbers, however, does not fare well in comparison with its teutonic competition.

This flagship of the German brewing industry is not a bad lager, but there isn't a single reason for it to enjoy such worldwide acclaim besides marketing dollars. Hundreds of other German lagers sport a more rounded malt character and better hop balance, but you'll never find them outside of Europe.

Beck's can usually be found at restaurants and bars that need premium a premium beer menu, but don't want to put a lot of energy into it. It's on the shelf next to Heineken, Sam Adams, Corona, and Bass. While I'd certainly chose Beck's out of that police lineup of beers, All I'd be able to focus on while sipping is "Man, this stuff is overrated."


P.S. Happy Birthday to me.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Ideas, ideas, ideas.

OK, so I have to write a beer column that's due today. No problem. I work well under deadline pressure, and it's not too dificult to bang out 800 words of reasonably coherent prose.

But I lack the one necessary ingrediant: a topic.

So I'm calling upon anyone who A. likes beer, B. has happened across this blog, and C. is bored to such a profound degree that they'll take the time to hit the "comment" button and suggest a beer-related topic.

It's your unproductive work day. Make it count.


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Beer in Buffalo

We're going up to Buffalo tonight to see one of my favorite bands, who've come all the way from The Netherlands to do a US tour.

While we're there, we'll get the opportunity to hang in some Buffalo beer bars. Now I have to make decisions. The Maybe the

Ah, screw it. Wherever we wind up, I intend to fill myself with beer from one of the most consistently good micros in the northeast.

So here's to good, groundbreaking indie rock and its perfect companion, beer. Maybe I'll even buy a T-shirt.


Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday's overrated beer: Yuengling Lager

I live in Western New York, a region that until three years ago had but a cursory knowledge of Yuengling beers. You could get the lager at about two restaurants, as well as our local beer superstore, but that was pretty much it.

Yuengling, however, made a huge marketing push in our area for their Traditional Lager. Bars had the lager on special all the time, at insanely low prices. Because people are sheep, it soon became the order du jour when out on the town. The campaign was extremely effective, especially among young adults.

Yuengling is America's oldest brewery. That gives them all the street cred they need, but they can't really get a pass for their lager. It's not thin or watery, but it is full of that delicious corn adjunct flavor. Corn corn corn corn corn.

You see, barley, the grain from which beer is made, is a more expensive cereal than corn. So less discriminating breweries use corn to kinda round out the barley. Sometimes you can barely taste it. Other times, as in the case of Yuengling, the corn flavor and aroma grabs you by the nose and shakes you.

Oh, by the way, the Indians call it maize.

So, while not a terrible beer, it's cheaper and worse than the yuppies who order it think. That's why I consider Yuengling Lager overrated. I like my corn, err..maize, on the cob, not in the pint glass.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Brewery tours: friggin' whee

The post below this is newer, but for some reason the act of posting erased this entry. Effeng blogger. Anyway, I kinda like this one, so I repasted it.

I've been on a bunch of brewery tours, of both micros and famous international-type beers. I'm here to tell you they're always waaay overrated. When you get right down to it, dumping grain into boiling water and letting it sit for a month...isn't very interesting.

Even the Guinness tour. "You're going to Dublin? OMG! You have to do the Guinness tour!" I can't tell you how many seasoned world travellers gushed about the freakin' Guinness tour. As if Arthur Guinness himself would take me, along with seven other lucky winners, around the factory in a little boat down a black-and-cream river of stout. And, one by one, each other lucky winner would do something verboten to fuck it up, and small rhyming freaks would cart them away, until it was just me and my Grandpa at the top of the brewery.

Turns out, it's a self-guided tour through the former brewery, past a bunch of old barrels and videos about how Guinness is made. The tour culminates nicely in a round glass room high atop the building, where they give you one lousy freakin' pint of Guinness, and then "hey, me boyo, why dont you hurry yer arse out of here so the next wave of American tourists has a place to stand?"

As you can imagine, touring a microbrewery is even less interesting. Usually, you're "touring" a space the size of a small apartment, while an irritated guy whose job it is to make beer, not conduct customer relations activities, points at the fermenter and says "that's the fermenter, where the beer ferments."

I guess what I'm trying to say is a brewery is like your hot neighbor's panty drawer. It's nice to see the panties serving their inteded consumer function of being removed in your presence, but much less interesting to see them just sitting, bunched up, in a drawer.

Unless you're really into that sort of thing.


Beercraft newspaper column #23: "Light" beers

Three wimpy cheers for our choice of light beers!

By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish

Americans have always loved beer, but as our populace grew fatter, we began to look at ways of living a healthier, less overindulgent lifestyle. Enter “light” beer: you get a fraction of the calories without sacrificing the gratification of drinking a bunch of alcohol.

Now, the obvious question is “if you’re so concerned with your weight, why try to swill down a beverage so culpable for fat production that they named a type of gut after it? Wouldn’t you just switch to wine or something?”

It’s kind of like veganism.

You ever look in a vegan’s fridge? It’s probably chock full of foodstuffs made of bean curd or wet grain, molded into the shape and approximation of meat. “Not Dogs.” “Tofurkey.” “Veggie Ribs” (we’re not kidding, these things exist).

There’s nothing wrong with choosing to eat only vegetable products, but for crying out loud, why does it all have to distantly resemble meat?!? Can’t it just be freakin’ vegetables? WHY?

But we digress.

It turns out, people really like beer. It’s the beverage associated with good times, good friends, and satisfying, resonant belches. People wanted to lose weight, but they still longed for their brewskis. Thus, the light beer market was created, and the megabreweries jumped in with every marketing dollar they could muster.

Light beer, when it first appeared in the 1970s, was received with great fanfare. It had lowered calorie content, yet was exactly like regular lager, in the same way that your bathtub is exactly like a swimming pool. Still, it gave people something to swill while mingling awkwardly, along with the misguided idea that they were sticking to rigorous diets. Thanks to very high-budget marketing, light beer soon became a dominant presence in the market and a necessary part of each megabrewery’s brand portfolio.

Obviously, Americans are still drinking the stuff by the kegful, so we’re not going to try to crusade against it. Instead, here are a couple of the more, um, palatable light beers you might find:

Amstel Light is the best-known imported light beer, and it isn’t half-bad, for what it is. Kind of like a Heineken, without the intense flavor, Amstel still manages to deliver some authentic beer taste. You may need to drink twice as many, but Amstel still offers a modicum of, um, “refreshment.” At 3.5% alcohol by volume, it can’t actually be classified as water.
Beck’s Light also comes to us from European shores. With less alcohol than Amstel (and correspondingly less flavor), Beck’s also manages to retain some beer flavor and color. It’s fizzy, but still palatable, and a good alternative at the office Christmas party when you want to be social, but still don’t want anyone to experience the real you.

A good friend of ours drinks Miller Lite almost exclusively. It’s ironic considering the guy looks like a beer keg with feet. Anyway, it’s actually not the worst of the worst, sharing the skunky cabbage aroma and corny taste with its heavier, more caloric cousin: Miller High Life. Once again, the fizz factor is very high, so you can pretend you’re drinking a beer soda.

Look, we can’t do this anymore. Between you and us, all these beers are wimpy and watery. It’s the nature of the beast. Take our advice. If you want to drink a robust, delicious beer and still cut back on the calories, the answer might come as a very pleasant surprise. Guinness Draught.

Yep. We’re talking about that jet-black stuff with the dense, creamy head. People think it’s heavy because of the dark color, roasty flavor and velvety nitrogen carbonation. In reality, it has just one more calorie per ounce than Miller Light. The black patent malt gives it a full flavor unequalled by any light lager.

Of course, you may have to develop a taste for stout, but if you can acquire a taste for that nasty, swampy, fetid ultra-light slurry water, choosing the Guinness should be a no-brainer.

By the way, some people actually enjoy light lager, and more power to them. Beer should make you happy, in whatever form you prefer. Far be it for us to judge; our motto is “Drink what you like.”

Even if you’re wrong.

Bruce is a certified beer judge and former commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Fall is gimmick beer time

Every autumn, a bunch of microbreweries put out a pumpkin ale. This is a wonderful beverage for anyone who enjoys beer and pie at the same time. Personally, I prefer to chew, swallow, then swill.

We'll be doing bonus reviews of various pumpkin ales over the next few days. Hope you enjoy novelty.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

All beer and no play...

More intensive blogging will resume shortly. Currently, I've been traumatized by having to write a column on 'light' beer.

Foks if you wanna drink beer, drink beer. If you don't want the calories, drink something else. Why choke down a watery near-beer when you could have a delicious, full-flavored

Monday, September 18, 2006

Getting ready for the colder weather

Yesterday was likely the last 80-degree day we'll see this year. It's time to clear the fridge of the pilsners, hefe-weizens, and light lagers in order to make room for the porters, stouts and barley wines of winter.

It's almost like the turning of the leaves, as bright gold and amber becomes chocolate brown and black. The strong, darker ales aresimply my preference during the colder months. They're warming and hearty, just the thing after a day of being outside in the snow.

And I'm already looking forward to the first Pilsner of the next summer season.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

Thursday's Beer from the Other Side of the World: Tiger

Singapore is known for a lot of things: Security, order, horrific punishment of litterers and vandals. It is not, however, known for beer.

Maybe this is a shame. I picked up a bottle of and it surprised the crap out of me.

To be honest, I expected a thin, light, ricey lager; that's pretty much the norm for asian beers available in the USA. What I got, however, was a fragrant, heady beer with a pleasantly golden hue. The first sip showed Tiger to be the product of a a quality brewery. It's dominated by malt sweetness and aroma, but the bitter hop finish is a perfect counterpoint. The result is a beer that's sweet and hearty, but still eminently refreshing.

I'd say Tiger tastes similar to Efes Pils, another awesome beer from a brewery that, from an American standpoint, isn't only easy to overlook, but it's hard to find in the first place. Thanks to Singapore's Asia Pacific Brewery for creating a gem.

I just hope they don't cane my ass for chucking the bottle cap.



Monday, September 11, 2006

Beercraft newspaper column #22- Oktoberfest

Ein Prosit, Der Gemütlichkeit! Oktoberfest ist da!
By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish

In Munich, you can almost smell it in the air.

As the summer wanes and cooler breezes blow through the cobbled streets, the restaurateurs and hoteliers of this old Bavarian capital brace for their busiest time of the year. Over by the main train station, on a flat plaza called the Theresienwiese, workers will erect tents that dwarf anything the circus could bring to town. Soon, these tents will house the largest beer event — indeed the largest public celebration — in the entire world: Oktoberfest.

First held in 1810 as an extravagant horse race to commemorate the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig of Bavaria to Princess Therese von Sachsen-Hildburghausen (pause for breath), Oktoberfest has come to embody that part of the German national character that doesn’t involve being punctual, cleaning obsessively, and occasionally taking over Europe. Nowadays, the festival hosts over 6 million visitors from around the globe.

Anyway, the main festival has spawned hundreds of knockoffs around the world, so most everyone is familiar with the rituals. Link your arms. Sway back and forth. Wait for the world’s drunkest band to yell “Zicki-zacki! Zicki-zacki!” and respond with a hearty “Heu! Heu! Heu!”

But what many folks outside of Germany might not get to experience is the Oktoberfest beer. It’s a style all its own, brewed every fall and spring (in spring, however, it’s called “Märzen”).

Oktoberfest is darker than most lagers; a rich amber color. It’s also considerably sweeter, the malt producing most of the flavor with just enough hops to bring the beer in balance, leaving no residual bitterness. After a few of them, you’ll probably notice a slightly higher alcoholic content (in the neighborhood of 6.5% alcohol by volume). We recommend serving it in the traditional Mass glass. It’s one liter of pure liquid deliciousness.

Unsurprisingly, the best Oktoberfest beers are brewed by the big Munich breweries: Spaten, Paulaner, Löwenbrau, Augustiner, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr and Hofbräuhaus. These are the only beers allowed for sale at the big Fest in Munich, and each brewery has its own ridiculously huge tent.

All of these beers are available in the US during the fall, but they tend to go quickly and aren’t always restocked. Check with your favorite specialty beer store and buy by the case.

The Germans, of course, would argue that a festival beer is meant to be enjoyed socially, not in the isolation of one’s own home. Fortunately the 19th annual Irondequoit Oktoberfest is coming up on September 15. Also, you can find the brews on tap in many bars, pubs and restaurants in the area. Unfortunately, you’ll be hard pressed to get anyone to serve you the beer in the proper one-liter glass.

The Oktoberfest beer style has caught on among American microbreweries as well, and throughout the fall it’s easy to find some very good examples. Examples by Saranac, Custom Brewcrafters, and the Ithaca Brewing company are available in the area. American producers may not have the authenticity of the multiple century-old Munich breweries, but they’re usually excellent beers in their own right, often a bit more bold than their Teutonic counterparts.

So let’s all give a hearty toast and enjoy the coming of Autumn in the Bavarian way- not by wearing comical leather shorts, but by raising our glasses high and giving the traditional Oktoberfest toast: “Oins! Zwoa! Drei! G’suffa!” This is how beer is meant to be enjoyed.

In other beers:
The High Falls Brewery continues to re-introduce Genesee Cream Ale to Rochester. Vice President of Marketing Gregg Stacy has held tastings of the old stalwart at Monty’s Korner and Johnny’s Irish Pub, and surely there are more on the way. It’s nice to see the brewery fostering interest in one of its classic brands.

Dundee’s IPA, also from High Falls, is out and available around Rochester, and it’s very good. If you’re not a fan of floral, bitter beers, this probably isn’t the brew for you. But hopheads can rest assured that the IPA holds its own.

Bruce is a certified beer judge and former commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to

Friday, September 08, 2006

Friday's overrated beer: Carlsberg

Carlsberg is one of the great names in brewing. They perfected a lot of what goes into modern lagers. They've funded incredible art museums. Truly a class company.

Too bad their beer is so damn average. It's very bland, mildly skunky,absolutely unmemorable. That's the best I can say about it. If you want a good Danish lager, go for Tuborg (which is owned by Carlsberg). Problem is, Tuborg is much harder to find in the States.

Even Carlsberg isn't sold on their own brand. The slogan is "Probably the best beer in the world." Probably? Who the hell is their ad agency? I guess, with a beer as average as Carlsberg, you don't want to overstate the case. People might ask for their money back.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Oktoberfest on the wind

It's almost time for the festival of festivals,

I've always loved this form of ritualized beer drinking, and so did my German mother. Hell, until I was seven, I thought the German word for "three" was "G'suffa!" So we're gonna hold our own Oktoberfest. Cheesy German oom-pah music, Spaten Oktoberfest beer (served in the 1-liter Mass glass, of course), pretzels, and Wurst. If you want to join in, let us know.

Officially, there are ten days to go until the blessed event, but what the hell, I'm going to start right now!


Monday, September 04, 2006

Beercraft newspaper column #21- beer basics

Beer 101: What am I drinking anyway?

Lager or ale, what are the differences? It all boils down to the type of yeast used during fermentation. Due to its microscopic nature, yeast was the last ingredient in beer to be recognized. The German Beer Purity Law of 1516 originally listed three ingredients as the building blocks for beer; barley malt, water and hops. Yeast was added later as technology improved and humans discovered that by looking through a microscope they could see a whole new life to beer. Literally. They found tiny little animals living their entire life cycle in beer. That is enough to make some of us envious. This yeast consumes the sugars that are produced by the malted barley. The waste products that the yeast excrete are alcohol and carbon dioxide. Two very necessary components in finished beer. Who said potty humor can’t be educational?

Ale yeast was isolated first and is much easier to handle. Ale is considered to be “top fermented, and lager “bottom fermented”. This has nothing more to do than the feeding habits of the two yeast strains used in beer production. Fermentation temperature and duration are other factors that differentiate the two beer styles. Ales are fermented in the range of 60-70 degrees for five to ten days. The warmer fermentation temperature allows the yeast to produce esters which give the ale a fruity flavor and aroma. English ales are legendary for this flavor character. Look for a Fullers London Pride for a tasty example. Porters and stouts are also a part of the ale family.

Lager yeast was isolated in the latter part of the 1800’s. Lager beer is fermented in the 40-50 degree range for ten to fourteen days. Yeast move slower in lower temperatures, the slower fermentation does not produce the esters found in ales, thus producing a much cleaner flavor. After fermentation, the beer is aged, or lagered, for a period of two to four weeks at a temperature of 33 degrees before filtering. Before the invention of refrigeration, lager was fermented and aged in caves for natural temperature control. Lager only became popular after refrigeration became economical. Your Budweisers and Heinekens fall into this family. We’ve all heard the marketing gimmickry tied to lager beers. “Cold aged” and “Cold filtered” are done out of necessity and are not secret patented processes. Warm filtering would be a challenge. Thankfully not all lagers are created equal. Oktoberfest, Munich helles, European Pilsner and dopplebock are also members of the lager family.

Whatever your personal taste desires, be it heavy, light, dark, sweet, or hoppy there are ales and lagers that will fit any occasion. Remember this the next time you reach for “the coldest tasting beer in the world”.

In Other beers: The Keg on Gregory Street is now proudly serving Ithaca Beer Co.’s Cascazilla, a very fine strong red ale. The waning days of summer are winding into Autumn. A friendly reminder of this was the first taste of Custom Brewcrafters Wee Heavy. Barrel aged and cask conditioned at Monty’s Krown.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Curse you, IKEA!

I wanted to post about beer today, but the wife dragged me to the closest IKEA, which happens to be in Burlington, Ontario, about three hours from my house when the threat level is orange.

Upon my return, I was promptly assigned the task of assembling the shitty particle-board furniture we'd procured.

I just finished. The only beer-related thing I can add is that the IKEA cafeteria sells which is unavailable in western New York. I would have relished this Danish beer, had I not just returned from a week in friggin' Denmark.

So cheers. I'll make a point of drinking something interesting tomorrow, and babbling about it.


Monday, August 28, 2006

Off-topic: Shitty soft rock and commerce

Soft rock of the female vocalist kind is annoying. Extremely annoying. For the past twenty years or so, we've been force-marched down the sonic trail blazed by Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey et. al; a trail of third-party singers spewing second-rate songs. A trail of formula schlock that's all constructed exactly the same, has the same obligatory modulation in the same obligatory place, with the same schmaltzy saccharine lyric themes. It certainly isn't rock, nor is the high-frequency shrieking particularly "soft."

OK, if you like this shit (and incidentally, if you do, you're wrong and you have por taste), that's fine.


Why do I have to deal with this crap in office environments? Why is it more professional than classical, jazz, or for that matter, metal? Moreover, why, when I'm sitting at a small mom-and-pop diner, where the owner has complete control over what plays in his store, am I forced to try and enjoy my spinach and feta omelette while some banshee-voiced hussy vomits overproduced garbage into my ears?

I am calling a personal boycott. I will not patronize establishments that play "soothing" soft rock radio at me. Silence is preferable. Good taste is even better. Sorry, I am unable to tune it out, and I know I sound like MattD, but that's where I stand. Hey, stick it, Mariah.


Stone Brewery lives up to the hype

I haven't had much beer from the but I was always a bit leery of the hype they get in beer-geek circles.

I had several glasses of the IPA last night, and I must admit, the beer holds up. Very nicely balanced, good bitterness, and a unique, spicy finish. This is a very, very good beer.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Back from Copenhagen

Having returned from moy ardurous journey, I must admit I was pleasantly surprised to find a minor microbrewery revolution going on over in Copenhagen. Several "Bryghus" have opened around town.

Interestingly, microbrewing over there seems to be the providence of ex-Carlsberg brewers; I don't think it's really hit the hobbyists level yet. Still the beers these places are producing are top-notch and bang on style. They cost an arm an a leg, but then again, so does everything else in Copenhagen.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Microbrewing in Copenhagen

Batting 1.000 so far.

On our first night in Copenhagen, some friends of ours directed us to the Excellent stuff... the porter was roasty and complex, and bang on for style, and the Heveweizen was extremely authintic, reminiscent of Paulaner. I hate European keyboards.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

No posting from the plane

I'll be signing off until Friday, when posting will commence from the quaint little town of

We'll be updating the blog from overseas with pictures and beer reports and stuff, all the while remaining culturally receptive and not posting any inflammatory cartoons.

So, until Friday, Sayonara! (or whatever they say for "goodbye in Denmark...why can't they learn to speak English like normal people?)


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Beercraft newspaper column #20- Brooklyn Brewery

Mediocre Beer? Fugggedaboudit!

By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish

After prohibition, the American brewing industry was basically destroyed. Hundreds of beer producers went out of business, and huge cities that once had a brewery in every neighborhood were bereft of local beer.

It wasn’t until the 1970s that the craft beer movement began to reverse the fortunes of regional brewers. Mostly, the companies that opened were small, serving the brewery/restaurant, the immediate area, and perhaps some other cities through beverage distributors.

When you’re opening a brewery in New York City, however, small just doesn’t cut it. Brooklyn Brewery thought big, and because of their availability and high quality, they’re enjoying considerable fame well beyond the isle of Manhattan.

Brooklyn’s head brewer, Garrett Oliver, is probably the only commercial beer maker who could justifiably be considered a celebrity. His book, “The Brewmaster’s Table,” demonstrates the versatility of beer as a partner to good food, and can (or at least should) be found in the kitchen of every craft beer fan.

We’ll let Mr. Oliver handle advice on the food pairing, but let’s talk about some of our favorite Brooklyn beers.

First up is Brooklyn Lager. Supposedly brewed in the style of pre-prohibition lagers, it pours a darker color than the typical American macro brew. There’s a definite sweetness in the aroma, and that carries to the flavor. The beer is balanced, though, with a distinctive hoppy finish that rounds the sweet characteristics out. a light mouthfeel and prickly carbonation make the Lager pleasantly refreshing. This would be a perfect choice for a summer night on the porch.

You’ve read our quibbles with American Hefeweizen. It’s rare that a microbrewery nails the style, or indeed brews a wheat beer that’s even palatable, so Brooklyner Weizen is a very pleasant surprise.

The trademark banana/clove aroma wafts pleasantly above the beer’s tall white head. Underneath the foam is the light, refreshing, slightly sweet flavor of a real Hefeweizen, although the color isn’t quite spot on. However, we’ve never let color get in the way of slurping down an exemplary brew, and Brooklyner is certainly that. It’s a comfortable 5.1% alcohol by volume, so you can enjoy a couple without feeling too much of an effect.

If you like your beer dark and strong, we’d recommend the Brooklyn Monster Ale. It’s a barley wine weighing in at 11% alcohol by volume, so you might not want to consume it out of 20 ounce pint glasses.
The first flavor you pick up in the Monster ale is malt sweetness, which is common in this style of beer because sweet masks the taste of the alcohol. Due to the strength of the brew, however, there’s still a noticeably warming alcohol essence. The edge is taken off by the bitter hops in the finish, which rounds the Monster out nicely.

Brooklyn Monster ale is suitable for cellaring; a year or two in cool storage, out of direct sunlight, will mellow the flavors, creating a more harmonious blend between sweet and bitter and introducing new flavor characteristics to the palate.

In Other Beers:
Hooray for the death of a blue law! A couple weeks ago, Governor Pataki signed legislation eliminating restrictions on the sales of beer on Sunday Morning in New York State. Now you can get started right away… Er, we mean you don’t have to kick yourself for forgetting to pick up a six-pack on Saturday night for the Sunday football game.

Certainly someone will complain about how this will Hurt the Children, but the ban really didn’t make any sense. It’s good to see New York’s government move progressively and decisively in improving the quality of life for its citizens! Cheers!

Bruce is a certified beer judge and former commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Beer and sausages

For today's blog post, we shall gape in glee at the menu of the most famous brewery/restaurant in the world, the

I've always loved the HB beer, and it's at its best when consumed, one liter at a time, in the big beer hall on a chilly spring night. If you have any Hofbrauhaus stories, post a comment and share them.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Friday's Overrated Beer: Red Stripe

Ok, we're starting this again...

This beer is as overrated as a Caribbean vacation. A corny, skunky, utterly sub-average lager made popular by its sun-n'-fun connotations, Red Stripe is like Corona, but without the unique and delicious flavor.

now let's throw in the lowbrow, borderline racist ad campaign the importes of the Stripe are currently running on nationwide TV. You know, the clown in the sash mugging Jamaicanly for the camera as he hands Red Stripe to the tourist? I can't put my finger on it, but something about that ad makes my teeth grind.

Bottom line, if you're not on a cruise ship, or island paradise fenced off from the poverty and misery that surrounds it, you got no business drinking this dishwater. Do us all a favor and find a good Pils.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Milk stout, we hardly know ye,.

I had a milk stout last night, mainly for the pleasure of sampling a beer style not commonly found in the USA.

Milk stout (also called sweet stout) is a mild yet full-bodied dark ale with unfermentable sugars added (most commonly lactose) to give the beer sweetness and counteract the roasted malt character. Thought to be very nutritious, English doctors used to recommend it to nursing mothers back in the day.

It seems to be mostly a London style, although a couple of American Breweries ( of PA comes to mind) also produce a milk stout. Still, it seems the style has never really caught on among American microbrewers except as a novelty. To some extent, this reflects the current state of the style in its home country as well, since it has certainly fallen out of favor since the '50s. Kind of a shame, really.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Czech Republic gets its due

The Czech Republic is one of the most important beer nations in the world. It was there that lager was introduced and Pilsener was invented. Since the American craft beer scene is dominated by ales, many beer fans never really learn about the awesome beers of this region, or the heritage and importance of the breweries that produce them.

This article in the New York Times gives credit where credit is due. Read it and expand your horizons!


Monday, August 07, 2006

Here comes a Regular

Thought I'd take a moment to pimp one of my favorite blogs: Monroe County, NY Bars.

Snazzy title aside, it's a day-by-day journey through the varied bars of my hometown (Rochester, NY) and the surrounding area. The Bar Man's stated goal is to visit all of the bars in the area within a year; a pretty ambitious feat to say the least. No way this dude is married!

If you live in Rochester, consider this blog an essential guide to the watering holes in your area. If you're reaing from somewhere else, you get to view the settings and cast of characters almost anthropologically, or perhaps voyeuristically. Either way, it's a great exception to the self-indulgent nature of most weblogs.

Bar Man, next time I go out, I'll hoist one to you!


Beer is alive and well.

I just read today's headline post at the Brookston Beer Bulletin. This is a must-read for anyone who really likes good beer.

Newspapers across the country delight in any opportunity to make themselves seem "upscale" in their feature pages. They do this in two ways: They build up something considered sophisticated (like wine) and they tear down something lowbrow (like beer). With the exception of Eric Asimov's work in the New York Times, When's the last time you've seen decent beer coverage in a daily newspaper? But every single fish wrap in the country has a soccer mom droning on about the wonders of merlot, or whatever the hell vino she saw in "Sideways."

Newspapers know that craft beer is gaining market share at the expense of the megabreweries, and it's percisely the sophistication of beer drinkers across the nation that is driving this. People are putting down the can of Schlitz and picking up a good IPA. Customers want something that tastes good, and they're beginning to vote with their wallets. It's incredibly encouraging for the craft beer industry, and points toward a much more positive outcome than the article dissected in the Beer Bulletin would suggest; a light lager at the end of the tunnel?

But you'll never read about that in your newspaper.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Beercraft goes overseas!

On August 17th, I'l be travelling to Copenhagen, Denmark in a tireless quest to discover and spotlight great beers. There will be photos and stuff, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here's a picture from Insider Magazine of Bruce and I at the Genny Cream Ale tasting.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

New York State loses a blue law

Finally, Governor George Pataki has abolished the archaic law prohibiting sales of alcoholic beverages before 11am on Sunday.

I'm not saying I want to go on a Sunday morning binge or anything, but any sports fan will tell you that it's a bitch when the game starts in ten minutes, the guys are over at your house, you forgot to plan ahead for beer, so your fridge is empty except for a tub of butter-like "spread," and you can't get any brew until halftime.

Thank you, Governor Pataki, for eliminating this extra bit of bureaucratic nonsense from the books.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Beercraft newspaper column #19- High Falls Brewery

High Falls Brewery and the split personality

By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish

The old joke goes, “how’s American beer like having sex in a canoe? They’re both fucking close to water.” For a long time that was true. After World War 2, American tastes had shifted toward light, thin, pale beer, and this style was produced by hundreds of regional breweries.

Most of those breweries are gone now, either swallowed up or forced into insolvency by the giant conglomerates. Many of the remaining regionals, like Utica’s F.X. Matt Brewery, have survived by repositioning themselves as craft brewers.

In Rochester, the High Falls Brewery straddles the line between artisan brewery and producer of mainstream lager. The former name of the brewery is still emblazoned on what’s been the signature beer of Western New York for most of the 20th century, and for us at least, no trip to Frontier Field is complete without a liberal amount of ice cold Genesee.

Sales of Genesee and Genny Light have declined, however, thanks to the huge marketing budgets of larger American and Canadian mega breweries. So under the watchful eye of Head Brewer Dave Sclosser, the brewery is reconciling the marketing of its traditional Genesee brands with the finding of new markets for its J.W. Dundee’s brand craft beers.

Currently, the Dundee’s line consists of Honey Brown Lager, American Pale Ale, American Amber Lager, and a rotating seasonal (currently Hefe-Weizen ). As well as sin-store availability, they’re going over huge in PaeTec Park and Frontier Field.

With its distinctive aluminum bottles, widespread presence, and a major award or two, the J.W. Dundee’s line of craft beers is carving out a Saranac-like niche in the Northeast. J.W.Dundee’s IPA, which made its debut at the Flower City Brewer’s Fest last weekend, should win some major street cred for the High Falls Brewery.

“This IPA should silence more than a few people who think that we can't/won't make some really hoppy beers,” says Dave Schlosser, High Falls’ head brewer. “I think all beers should have a balance to them, and our IPA is no different. It is certainly dominated by the hop aroma, flavor and bitterness, but there is a strong malt backbone to the beer that carries the hops nicely.”

While satisfying the beer snobs, High Falls refuses to abandon the beers upon which the company was built. Greg Stacy, Vice President of Marketing, sees tons of growth potential among the young hip crowd for that staple college campus generator, Genesee Cream Ale.

Stacy is taking a grassroots approach with the Screamer, personally holding tastings in bars, brainstorming with his team to develop new drinks (anyone for a cream and tan?), and giving away tons of cool promotional stuff. As a history buff himself, he’s trying to remind consumers that Genesee isn’t just a brand name, but a part of Rochester’s character and culture.

It’s working. According to Stacy, sales of Genny Cream Ale are on the upswing. Schlosser notices it too. “The funny part about it too is where it is growing,” he points out. “It certainly has grown in some of the younger more hip bars as a retro product, but it is also available in bottles at places like 2 Vine and Black and Blue”
High Falls has just launched a Cream Ale website,

It’s heartening that, as the brewery makes its transition to craft beers, it’s still optimistically growing the “beers of Rochester.” Whether you’re drinking a Dundee’s, a Cream Ale, or straight Genesee Beer, you’re patronizing a brewery that, while quite large, remains Rochester owned and operated, and more impressively, still here. When you consider the economic battery that our area has endured in recent years, that cold Genny starts to go down pretty smoothly.

Bruce is a certified beer judge and former commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to

Monday, July 31, 2006

Flour City Brewer's Fest wrapup

This was a good time. The festival seemed to go off without a hitch. Thanks to the Rohrbach Brewing Company for organzing it and keeping things running smoothly.

Highlights of the festival: Flying Bison Oatmeal Stout and Southern Tier Phin and Matt's Extraordinary Ale. No surprise there.

Of course, the weather didn't coperate. It never does. Thunderstorms once again drove festival goers underneath the fringes of the brewers' tents, but did little to deter the crowd.

So I got a little glass to add to my collection of useless little glasses. Perhaps I'll buy a bunch of beers and use my little glass to have a private beer festival in my own home. Whee.


Friday, July 28, 2006

A glass, or seven, of Rochester tradition

Thanks to Greg Stacy of the High Falls Brewery for the cool Genny Cream Ale jacket, and for that matter the cool Genny Cream Ale. It's pretty good on draft. In fact, Bruce and I both think it would be pretty damn good on cask!

Anyway, let me pimp the brand new (launched yesterday)

Look, if we're gonna have a bunch of hipsters in chunky glasses and trucker hats ordering "ironic" beers, we could at least ensure that they go for the Rochester-brewed choice. I'm sick and tired of Pabst Blue Ribbon running away with the growing hipster market segment. So, Rochester hipsters, put down the Wilco album, belly up to the bar, and do your duty. Drink a Genny Cream Ale today.

Oh, and it was good to meet some of our readers last night. I appreciate the props for the column and blog. If you're a regular reader of our Freetime column, do us a favor. Drop them a quick e-mail at and let 'em know this column is reaching somebody.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Come taste the screamer!

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That's right. The High Falls Brewery is once again taking up the reins of this, um, time-honored classic American beer. And hey, for what it is, it's not bad. So if you're in Rochester, come drink some Genesee Cream Ale, and get some cool schwag. We'll be the first in line.


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Beercraft newspaper column #18- Hard cider

Hard Cider- the lager alternative

By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish

Let’s face it. Not everyone likes beer. We’ve pondered this position for many years and cannot come up with any other answer than the fact that they aren’t trying hard enough. It’s probably going a bit overboard, however, to say these folks have poor taste. Many beer haters we know are absolute connoisseurs of hard cider.

As soon as humans learn that certain fruit juices can be magically turned into tasty intoxifying beverages that don’t make you ill (unlike water, historically) they will indeed produce this beverage for daily consumption. Cider was most likely the first fermented beverage to be produced in colonial America. Easily produced at home, it enjoyed continued popularity even through prohibition. Cider met a decline in the United States after the end of the Second World War as light lager rapidly overtook the American palate.

Cider continued to be produced in Europe during the post war years, especially in the British Isles. The start of CAMRA (The CAMpaign for Real Ale) in Britain brought cider back into the world spotlight in the early 1980’s. It once again began to show up on store shelves and on draft in American bars. Recipes for cider also began to appear in the pages of homebrewing books.

Some people are surprised by cider’s breadth of flavors. Like wine, they range from very dry to very sweet, and each brand has unique complexities. The most commonly available ciders in the US, Woodchuck, Hornsby’s, and Woodpecker, tend toward the more easily marketed sweet side, but with a mimimum of searching, one can find several choices to please the more sophisticated palate.

Dagan Celtic Cider, produced in France, is closer in color to fresh pressed cider, but filtered. This cider is much drier than the overly sweet Woodchuck, and is in line with most of the true “craft” ciders that we have tasted in the past. The apple flavor is subtle and refreshing with just a hint of sweetness.

Doc’s Draft Cider is produced at the Warwick Valley Wine Co. in Warwick, New York. This cider is lighter in color than the Dagan and is a touch sweeter, but still much drier than Woodchuck.

The third cider producer is Bellwether Hard Cider, located on the west shore of Cayuga Lake. Bellwether has been producing fine ciders for about six years and offer five distinct varieties. Two are still, which means no carbonation. The other three are carbonated. They range from off-dry to semi-dry with one flavored with tart cherries.

Bill Barton, the proprietor of Bellwether gave a tour and some history about cider making. They use 100% local apples in their products and have planted their own orchard recently. The cidery is located at 9070 Route 89 in Trumansburg, New York and is well worth a visit while on a wine tour of west Cayuga Lake.

Although Bellweather is a bit of a haul for a casual beverage purchase, it’s a perfect stop if you’re on a Cayuga Lake wine tour, and the crisp, fresh cider provides an excellent counterpoint to the ubiquitous Finger Lakes reislings. Bill told us that they are working out details for distribution in the Rochester area. We will keep you posted on any developments, but keep your eyes open in the Rochester Public Market.

So if you’re not a beer lover, be happy; you still have something to live for. Just remember, a cider a day keeps the doctor away, but swig down thirteen and you’ll need a new spleen (sorry, it’s hard to rhyme with ‘liver’).

Bruce is a certified beer judge and former commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to

I can't say enough about the Flower City Brewer's Fest

...Mostly because I screwed up my deadline days and missed my chance to cover it before the next issue of But hell, our blog readership is only a smidgeon smaller than out print readership, so we'll cover it here. BeerAdvocate has a page with all the details of the event.

Bruce and I will be in attendance, of course. Looks like we'll be hitting the second session. Then calling a cab.


Monday, July 24, 2006

High Falls steps it up

Good times at High Falls Brewery. Head brewer Dave Schlosser is releasing J.W. Dundee's IPA, the first India Pale from the Rochester Brewery since High Falls IPA in the mid '90s. It'll premiere at the High Falls Brewer's fest July 29th.

Also, Genesee Cream Ale is making a resurgence. Look for a push on this venerable Rochester beer at both Monty's Krown and Monty's Korner. Hey, it's a premium beer in the South...

Anyway, we'll see you at the festival. Second session. -Mark

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Happy Anniversary to Me! And a gripe about fine dining.

Well, the 16th was my first wedding anniversary. We're celebrating it today by holding a clambake. Shitty weather for it, bute we'll cope.

So it's off to Beers of the World for a couple of cases. I'm tempted to go with American micros since I haven't been giving them their due lately. Maybe or something from What goes well with clams?

Anyway, Last night after the game, I stopped by the a fine dining restaurant where a friend of mine bartends. As is fitting for a place whose entrees hover around $20 per dish, the wine list was excellent and extensive.

But the beer choices sucked.

Heineken, Stella, Labatt Blue, Bud, Coors Light. This beer menu belongs at a baseball stadium, not a place of gastronomy. Why is beer always so totally ignored by chefs? There's a whole world of it out there, and you're stuck with Coors light to complement your Crispy Skinned Maple Leaf Farms Boneless Duck Breast. Gimme a place with a beer cellar, thanks very much. Oh, and waiter, you don't have to open it at my table. I have a keychain for that.



Thursday, July 20, 2006

The High Falls Brewer's Fest

Hot on the heels of Belgium comes to Cooperstown is the High Falls Brewers Fest here in sunny Rochester, NY.

On July 29, brewers from all over the northeast will gather at the High Falls festival site for your sampling pleasure. The festival is sponsored by the Rohrbach Brewing Company, who will of course have a booth there.

So bring $20 and a designated driver, or at least the phone number of a cab company. Some of these breweries pour beer that needs to be sampled again and again. -Mark

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Recovering from Belgium Comes to Cooperstown

We had a great time at Ommegang's Belgium Comes to Cooperstown festival. Thanks to Chris from Ommegang for inviting us down.

Right now, I'm trying to discover from vast quantities of tripel, a sleepless night (thanks, asshole with the bongo drum), and a drive back to Rochester. A full review is pending.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Beer works, not bad for an engine of commerce

We went to the on Wednesday. It's cavernous and modern, with lots of "BEER WORKS" themed merchandise on display. Things like this always make me worry; in my experience places that lead with the decor and the crap pimping usually come up short in the quality of the beer.

However, Beer Works did not disappoint, once you got past the cutesy beer names. The Buckeye Oatmeal Stout was very good, balanced with a dry finish. I'd also reccommend the It's light in body with a sweetish malt character.

Beer Works is a chain now, but they haven't forgotten what got them there. Keep brewing, guys!


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Boston, Pt. III

There seem to be two types of bars here: corporate-owned, tourist-oriented faux-Irish megapubs and relatively comfortable holse in the wall. Having spent considerable time in both, I can say that Boston is a pretty good drinking town, although many bars lack the variety to which I'm accustomed in my native Rochester.

Still, there's plenty of Harpoon IPA, and that's just fine by me. Here are the better pubs I've visited so far:

There will be more. Tonight, my friend Patrick and I will be checking out an area microbrewery, although we've yet to decide on which one.


Monday, July 10, 2006

Boston follies

This is a pretty cool town. Lots to do, lots of places with good stuff on tap. We wound up in which lives up to its billing and, as far as I can tell, is the only genuinely Irish bar in Boston.

Thanks to the folks who threw me suggestions. I'm going to continue avoiding the tourist traps and smell out Boston's best beers. In case you were wondering, is certainly not it.


Saturday, July 08, 2006

Hellooo Beantown

I'm in Boston all week on business. during the day, anyway. At night I'll turn into a partyin' fool! Don't tell my wife.

Anyway, It'll be fun to sniff out the best of B oston's beer bars; rest assured I'll be cataloging them here.Any suggestions would be tres appreciated.

Hell, if I get crazy enough, I might even swig a Sam Adams!


Thursday, July 06, 2006

It's a Belgian dip

Admittedly, I'm not the biggest fan of Belgian beers. I like 'em, but unless I'm in the proper mood, my first choice isn't going to be that funky trappist ale that tastes vaguely like somebody's basement.

That said, I've been enjoying as of late. I drank an awful lot of it a couple of days ago to drown my sorrows after Germany got Eliminated by the Italians. In doing so, I've reacquainted my palate with some of the more complex and subtle characteristics of Belgian ales.

It's fortuitous, then, that we're heading to a festival of Belgian ales sponsored by Brewery Ommegang. You'll get a full report. With pics. Because I won't remember.


Monday, July 03, 2006

Beercraft Newspaper Column #17- Brewery Ommegang

Ommegang brings Belgium to Upstate New York

By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish

It’s only Monday, but that doesn’t stop your intrepid beer writers. We raise our glasses of Ommegang Witte and inspect the apricot-colored liquid within. Then comes the first sip. The light body of the Belgian witbeer (wheat beer) cools the mouth pleasantly. The flavors of coriander and orange peel, so characteristic to this style, are augmented by a citrusy grapefruit flavors. We are happy men.

And not just because Chris Sayer, Regional Sales Manager for what might be the most unique brewery in the United States, is buying.

Of all the world’s great brewing nations, tiny Belgium is held in highest esteem by beer lovers. The beers produced within its commercial breweries and venerable Trappist monasteries are unique and complex and the traditional methods of Belgian brewcraft diverge radically from the clean-room fanaticism of beer makers in neighboring countries.

The things that make these ales great have also served to limit their brewing to within Belgian borders. Natural airborne yeasts, century-old storage casks, and the devotion that comes with a cloistered blend of brewing and religion make these beers difficult to reproduce on this side of the pond. Many breweries flirt with Belgian styles, but rarely do they accurately match the real stuff’s parameters.

Cooperstown’s Brewery Ommegang, however, pulls it off, thanks to some heavy financing from Duvel, its parent brewery in Belgium, authentic imported yeast, and a commitment to tradition which is reflected in everything from the corked bottles to the architecture of the brewery itself.

Let’s be clear. Brewery Ommegang is not just another microbrewery that decided to go heavy on Belgian styles. It is a Belgian brewery in design and function, built to be so from the ground up. The place even looks more like a small cathedral than a brewhouse.

Standouts among the Ommegang range of beers include Sayers’ favorite, Rare Vos. “It’s a very nice session beer,” he explains,” very easy to drink and very pleasant in the summertime. It’s also nice and malty, which I like.”

The pale golden Hennepin, an example of the farmhouse ale style, is rich, complex and strong. To describe Hennepin’s flavor as “well balanced between maltiness and bitterness, with citrus fruit hints and a grassy finish” really doesn’t do it justice. It tastes like, well, good Belgian ale.

Then there’s Ommegang Three Philosophers. Hopefully you like your beer strong. It’s a Quadrupel, which is apparently a Flemish word for “owwww, get me an aspirin.”

At 9.8% alcohol by volume, Three Philosophers needs to be consumed with some respect. But this very malty brew with lots of cherry and alcoholic warming in the finish is not a chugging beer. It almost resembles port whine in its character and mouth feel.

Ommegang’s beers are readily available throughout the region. Wegmans and most specialty beer stores carry them in bottles, and some are available on draft at enlightened pubs.

Or you could sample them in their natural habitat. This July 15th, the brewery will be hosting its annual Belgium Comes to Cooperstown festival, offering a chance to try a diverse assortment of beers from various Belgian and American breweries, as well as the full line of Ommegang ales. If you’re new to Belgians, the festival will provide fantastic insight into the staggering diversity and iconoclasm of beer from one of Europe’s more diminutive nations.

In other beers:
The California Brew Haus up on Ridge Road remains a bastion of good beer, although their clientele has lessened as Kodak slimmed down. Even now, the selection of bottles to be found within their coolers is staggering: four Scotch ales (from Scotland!), several English bitters, beers normally found only within the beer halls of Munich, and a full selection of American micros. It may be a bit out of the way, but the Brew Haus staff knows their stuff and deserves your business. After serving up some delicious Augustiner Edel-Hell, they sure as hell have ours!

Bruce is a certified beer judge and former commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Mixed blessings

I have to say, I'm thrilled that France beat Brazil. But I'm not so happy about the England Portugal game. Now that Brazil's out, I have no idea what the moronic American commentators will prattle on about. Oh, and Ronaldinho can suck it.

In memory of England's 2006 World Cup run, I toasted wth an I tried to drink a Portugese beer, but every time I went to pick it up, it fell on its side and rolled around.