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 http://beercraft.blogspot.com. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to beercraft@rochester.rr.com.

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 http://beercraft.blogspot.com. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to beercraft@rochester.rr.com.