Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Beer- as good as the person who serves it?

The Democrat and Chronicle's Beer Buddies ran an interesting piece on the bartenders that serve us our favorite beers. It's a treat when you get a knowledgeable, friendly server with the enthusiasm to introduce you to new beers. I think about the peoplefrom whom I learned about craft beer: Carl German from Rohrbach, Joe McBane from the Old Toad, Colette McGuigan from Monty's, the list goes on and on.

Tonight I'll raise a toast to the men and women of the service industry for making my life a bit more pleasant, and my horizons a little broader. Cheers, folks. I salute you.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Pacific Northwest beckons

Beer school takes place again in two days. This time, we're focusing on beers of the Pacific Northwest. The region composed of Oregon, Washington and northern California is considered the hop basket of American craft brewing, and it's the area where modern microbrewing really took off in the '70s.

Come out to Monty's Korner in Rochester, Thursday night at 7pm to taste the best of the Northwest. For free.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Beercraft newspaper column #40- Lawnmower beers

40 columns... I really should be syndicating these things.

“Lawnmower Beers” make yard work bearable.

By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish
Nothing beats a cold beer on a hot, muggy day, although some beers are more refreshing than others. You wouldn’t necessarily want to chase away the summer perspiration with a big, syrupy doppelbock or black Irish stout.

No, you want a lawnmower beer: a brew that both quenches your thirst and perks up your taste buds, without a thick, cloying body; a beverage to reach for after the arduous task of mowing the lawn on a scorching afternoon.

Of course, if you’re like Bruce, you have a riding mower, and if you’re like Mark, you don’t have a lawn at all, but the principle’s the same. Please allow the two of us, for whom yard work is easy, to suggest some restorative summer beverages.

Brooklyn Lager, from the Brooklyn Brewing Company, is a great place to start. Its rich copper color immediately sets it apart from the typical American lager. You can’t help but notice the flowery hop notes and aromatic, almost citrus, spiciness as the scent wafts from the glass; a promise of the flavor to come.

The first cold mouthful is a procession of sweet-tinged malt flavor, perhaps a little toasty, immediately complemented by a full, deliciously bitter flood of hop character. As you swallow, the hop tinge lingers, coaxing you into another sip. All the while, the medium body of Brooklyn Lager lends the beer a substantial quality not often present in the most mainstream American Lagers.

A quick style swap and we find ourselves holding a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. This is one of those “gateway beers” that starts people’s appreciation of craft brewing, but its high quality and classic flavor make it a beer you never grow out of.

It’s also damn refreshing. Unlike the Brooklyn lager, Sierra Nevada’s Pale leads with its hop flavors, which then mellow into satisfying, slightly biscuit-like, full-bodied malt sweetness. The flavor is never too malt-heavy, so it avoids unnecessary sweetness or heaviness of body. Likewise, it isn’t hopped to the point where it becomes an IPA, by American standards, anyway; like most West Coast ales, you’ll still find Sierra Nevada Pale Ale hoppier than many English IPAs.

Our third choice is Prima Pils, from the Victory Brewing Company of Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Now Pilsner (the real stuff, not the buzzword you see on television beer ads) is a style not many American breweries get right, but Victory pretty much nails it.

In terms of body, Victory Prima Pils is lighter than the other two lawnmower beers we’ve discussed, but a Pilsner is supposed to be. A bottle of this stuff is rewarding to open; you’re immediately hit by a tantalizing grassy-fresh aroma, backed by the unmistakable smell of Saaz hops- the signature of the Pilsner style.

Do yourself a favor- please pour this beer into a glass, preferable a slender, conical Pilsner glass. Otherwise you’ll be missing out on the visual delights; a freshly poured glass of Pilsner is like porn for beer lovers. The light golden hue, topped with a fluffy, soapy head rising above the top rim of the glass makes the mouth water and the pulse quicken. Soon, that thick foam will be coating your upper lip, and, quite possibly, the tip of your nose.

The flavor is all malt at first; a bready, ever-so-slightly sweet river of mine malt flavor, immediately offset and countered by the powerful Saaz hops. One of the best things about Pilsner is the paradox; a beer with this much malt character and such a light body. It’s the Czech hops that act as the catalyst for this to happen. The unique combination of body, flavor, aroma and beauty make Pilsner the most refreshing beer style on the planet, and Victory Prima Pils is one of the best examples produced in the USA. Are there better Pilsners? Yes, but they all come from Central Europe.

As you can see, Lawnmower beers don’t have to be feather-light, nor do the need to be watery. The toil you put into your yard work should come with a commensurate reward, so reach for a cold, sweaty bottle of one of these three beers and relax after a job well done.

Now, pardon us while we go heave Bruce’s lawn tractor out of that drainage ditch.

Bruce is a certified beer judge and 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, May 19, 2007

Change on the horizon

I'm planning to switch this blog over to WordPress within the next few days, as I hate the new Google blogger. Trouble is, there are so many archived posts in the Beercraft Blog, and I'm unsure how to port them all over once I set a new blog up.

I'll probably have to keep both blogs running concurrently for a while, unless someone can suggest a better solution?

Oh, yeah, Beer School was great on Thursday. We had the entire Custom brewcrafters brewing crew, as well as Kevin from Constellation Brands. It's starting to turn into quite an event, and Pat, Bruce and I will be looking at ways to ramp things up accordingly on our end. Thanks again to everyone for coming out.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Beer School in session once again

Tonight. Monty's Korner. 7pm. Beer School. We'll be giving an overview and tasting of the beers of Munich (with a focus on Helles).

Pat Hughes, my usual Beer School co-host, will be there, along with my beercraft partner Bruce Lish, making his first appearance at the biweekly event. So come down, and wear Lederhosen if you got 'em.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Guest review time

Calico and I were talking beer a few weeks ago amid the elegant finery of Monty's Krown. She was talking about some Belgian beers I'd never tried, and later she thoughtfully sent me her review, which I've reprinted here (because it makes for a longer blog entry than simply linking to her post).

From Brouwerij Van den Bossche in Belgium, this stout
is unlike any other stout I've had. Although the
brewery describes the taste as having caramel and
chocolate notes and a light roastiness (if my reading
of the Dutch is correct), it doesn't appear to mention
sourness, which is the main note I detected.

I had this on tap in a tulip glass at the Old Toad. My
tasting notes:

Appearance - barely any head, clear mahogany in color.
Some lace.

Aroma - slight lactic sourness mixed with caramel and
raisin notes.

Taste - I'm not getting the nutty roasted flavors I'd
expect in a stout. There is some maltiness, but what
stands out is a mild lactic sourness, surrounded by
dark fruit flavors. Not as sour as a Flanders sour
red, but sour enough to pucker the mouth a little.

Mouthfeel - thin body (again, not what I'd expect in a
stout), finishes pleasantly crisp.

This beer is a bit more like a Baltic porter than like
any kind of stout I've had. It feels more like the
6.5% abv stated on the brewery's website than the 9%
mentioned in some reviews I've read on Beer Advocate.
I imagine if I had more than 11 ounces of this I'd be
able to determine how strong it is, but it does not
feel strong. I could drink another one of these. An
odd, but pleasant, brew.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Welcome back, Empire Brewing Company

Wow, the beer resurgence in Central New York continues! The defunct Syracuse-based Empire Brewing Company is Re-opening!

Sorry about the super-irritating flash ad in the site link. Never buy a car from that ass.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Beercraft newspaper column #39: Hefeweizen

Refresh yourself Bavarian style with Hefeweizen
By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish

Much has been made of the Reinheitsgebot, or “German Purity Law,” which states that beer may only contain water, barley, hops, and yeast. Fortunately, the Germans themselves show little compunction about breaking their precious law when they brew Hefeweizen- traditional South German wheat beer.

In a true Hefeweizen, at least 50% of the brewing barley is replaced by wheat. The result is a distinctive light, refreshing body. If you’re a hop-head, this style probably isn’t for you; the flavor is all yeast-driven. The top-fermenting Bavarian yeasts produce phenols and esters that lend distinctive clove, vanilla and banana essences to the beer. It’s served unfiltered, so the lucky drinker is presented with a tall, curvy glass of opaque peach-hued perfection, topped with a thick, pillowy white head. It’s the perfect beer to enjoy outdoors on a sunny day.

Although only recently becoming common in American stores and bars, German wheat ales like Hefeweizen have been brewed for centuries, starting well before the Purity Law, back when farmers would use whatever grain was readily available to make their beer. Once the Reinheitsgebot set in, Hefeweizen was verboten. Unless, of course, you were well-connected or an ancillary part of the Royal Family, in which case you could drink whatever the hell you wanted.

The big import wave of Hefeweizen to North America began in the 1990s, and we’re happy to say that familiarity with the style on these shores is at an all-time high, with numerous American craft breweries like Harpoon, Saranac, and Southern Tier producing noteworthy examples of the style here in the USA. You can frequently find Harpoon’s UFO Hefeweizen on draft around town.

As is the case with many beers, there are subtypes. Kristall-weizen is a clear variant from which the yeast proteins have been filtered out. Dunkel-weizen is made from dark malt, producing a darker colored, heartier beer. Weizenbock is darker and higher in alcohol content than the traditional stuff.

The most common Hefeweizen in the area is Franziskaner, produced by the Spaten Brewery. You can find it on draft or in bottles (be sure the bottle is rolled between the hands so the settled yeast distributes properly). It pours a rich orange color, with a substantial head. Franziskaner’s crisp, light body and signature banana-clove flavors make the beer a full multisensory experience.

Thanks to the good distribution of Spaten beers in the region, you can find Franziskaner everywhere, in many stores that carry craft beer as well as most area beer bars. Just make sure they serve it up in the proper tall, vase-shaped glass.

In Other Beers
There’s good news on Gregory Street. Joe McBane, manager of The Old Toad, will be opening up his own place in the former MacGregor’s location, hopefully by the end of the summer. That classic Rochester spot is sorely missed, and having a knowledgeable beer guy like McBane take it over is the best thing to happen to Rochester area brew-lovers in a long time. We’re on the cusp of a beer renaissance, and McBane will be leading the charge.

We just finished the fifth installation of our “Beer School” tasting sessions at Monty’s Korner, running the range of Mexican beers just in time for Cinco de Mayo, and demonstrating that you, dear drinker, have fine south-of-the-border alternatives to the common Mexican beer.

The next Beer School will be held on Thursday, April 18, focusing on the beers of Munich, Germany.

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, May 07, 2007

Festival Report: Rites of Spring, Elicottville, NY

Bruce and I poured at the Rohrbach booth at Ellicottville's Rites of Spring beer and wine fest. Thanks to Phin from the Southern Tier brewing Company for setting up a great event.

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Bruce enjoying the Southern Tier sun

As far as beer festivals go, this one was pretty leisurely; not as crowded as TAP NY tends to get. One of the nice things about Ellicottvile is it's really small. We got to hang with everyone from the festival in the town's two bars, including the excellent bluegrass band Goodfellas, who kept us entertained as we despensed beer to the increasingly drunken masses.

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pouring Rohrbach beer for the huddled needy

Friday, May 04, 2007

The bell keeps ringing at beer school

our latest edition of "Beer School," The Beers of Mexico, seemed to be well-received, but when is free beer and pizza not appreciated?

Pat and myself are gratified by the, uh, demographic breakdown of our Beer School attendees. They skew heavily away from the traditional beer tasting audience. Keep showing up, ladies, and we'll keep a-pouring!

The next Beer School will be on Thursday, May 17. We'll be featuring the beers of Munich, Germany. Make no mistake; these are the finest beers in the entire world. If you don't believe me, you're wrong.

Come on out and I'll prove it.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Slow posting

Sorry. My semester's winding down and I'm in full schoolwork mode, which as considerably slowed my posting to the blog over the past week.

Anyway, Bruce and I will be in Ellicottville, NY this weekend for the Rites of Spring International beer & wine festival, sponsored by the Southern Tier Brewing Company and the Elicottville Brewing company. We'll be pouring for Rohrbach.

It's also time for another Beer School. Tomorrow night, 7pm, at Monty's Korner, Pat Hughes and I will acknowledge Cinco de Mayo by taking you through a flight of Mexican beers that have the distinction of not being Corona. We think it's the perfect way to prep for St. Patrick's Day Junior.