Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Beer fest and Beer school

Since I'm going to Belgium on Thursday, Pat Hughes will be assuming all Beer School duties. The topic: Award-winning beers. The Time: 7pm. The Place: Monty's Korner, Rochester.

While you're sampling some of the finest beers anywhere, you can rest assured that I'm conducting exhaustive research on Belgian brew in order to properly advise you, the consumer. Pics will be posted.

Oh, and look for the Victory Brew Fest at Monty's Krown on Saturday, June 30. Victory Brewing Company rep Steve German will be on hand with an array of cask, draft, and bottled things for you to try. Unfortunately, I will miss it, because I will be drinking trappist ales at the source.


Monday, June 25, 2007

A work in progress

The best beer bar in Rochester won't serve its first beer until August. Currently, it's an eviscerated shambles.

The old MacGregor's on Gregory Street is well along in its renovation, but there's still plenty of work to do. When this place opens, it is not going to be a warmed-over MacGregor's; the building is getting a complete refurb from the basement to the roof.

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The as-yet-unnamed bar still looks forlorn

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Come have a fine beer in their inviting atmosphere

"Hey Mark," you say. "How can this be the best beer bar in Rochester before the place is even built?" I just ask you to trust me. Joe McBane, former cellar manager at The Old Toad, is a wizard at finding excellent, unexpected beers from all over the world. He has poured me too many rare and pleasant surprises to count, and the man knows how to keep his beer fresh and at the proper temperatures.

Oh, and he's English, so that has to give him SOME beer cred, right?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Beercraft newspaper column #42: Fruit beers

Beer + Fruit = pretty good stuff

The best thing about getting into craft beer is the sheer variety of tastes that opens up to you. But let’s face it, sometimes beer alone just isn’t enough. Sometimes you need some fruit in that beer.

Fruit has been used as a flavor agent in beer for hundreds of years, and, thanks to our Belgian friends and the ingenuity of American brewers, fruit beers are enjoying something of a mini-renaissance.

It sounds strange, but beer didn’t always taste as delicious as it does today. A lack of chemical knowledge made it harder for brewers to control the brewing process; yeast wasn’t even understood until the 1800s. In Belgium, the spontaneously fermented beers came out champagne like in texture and quite sour. To make it more palatable, the Belgians came up with a practical solution: add fruit.

Thus the cherries and raspberries of Flanders’ fields became the hallmark ingredients in Lambic, the classic Belgian fruit beer. These have since been joined by currants, peaches, apples and whatever else the marketers in Antwerp could think up to diversify the product range. The Kriek (cherry) and Framboise (raspberry) are the acknowledged classics, however. Depending on the brewery, they can range from astringent and dry to very sweet and fruity.

You can find plenty of different lambic in various flavors at Beers of the World, but if you’re looking for lambic on draft, it’ll be tough to get anything but Lindemann’s Framboise- a light, tart champagney beer that clubs you over the head with raspberry. It’s very pretty in the glass, a deep red hue with pink foam (you probably shouldn’t sip these before climbing on your Harley). Raspberry essence swirls into your nose ever time you raise the beer to your lips, creating, uh, “the ultimate raspberry experience.”

If you want an edge in impressing your date, order her up a Framboise and watch the delight spread across her face. Unless she’s allergic to raspberries. No one is delighted in the emergency room.

Lambics are by no means the only beer style flavored with fruit. Most others, however, have been lost to the ages. But American craft brewers, have spurred something of a resurgence in fruit beers, and most of the big players on the craft beer scene have one in their product lineup.

For example, there’s Magic Hat #9, from the Magic Hat Brewing Company of Burlington, Vermont. Like all beer from Vermont, the Magic Hat is swathed in hippie ethos and trippy packaging, but the contents of the bottle are enjoyable even without hallucinogens.

#9’s soft golden color offers the first hint of the apricot that suffuses the beer’s aroma and flavor, and the crisp bite of fresh apricots is prevalent in each swallow.

Fortunately, what you’ll get in #9 is mostly the essence of the fruit, and not an overwhelming apricot flavor. Underneath is a light-bodied, decently balanced brew. You’ll taste the sweet malt, and each sip will finish crisp and hoppy, with just a bit of bitterness.

If you’re at the Wings game, or out at their brewery in Ogden, you can have a glass of Rohrbach BlueBeary ale fresh from the tap. A longtime staple of Rohrbach’s line of beers, the BlueBeary is another example of the value of restraint. The essence of blueberry is captured without the beer turning into something you’d pour on your pancakes.

Because we like our interviews easy, we spoke with Bruce Lish, brewer at Rohrbach and co-author of this column. “BlueBeary is a great crossover beer,” Lish says. “A lot of people who don’t really like beer enjoy it.”

Lish also points out the popularity of the “Black and Blue,” a half-and-half of BlueBeary and stout. The two flavors complement each other very well and the parfait-like layering of the dark stout on top of the golden BlueBeary has enormous visual appeal.

There are plenty of other fruit beers out there; you’re certain to find others you enjoy. Fortunately, most look just like regular beer, so the guys can enjoy a pint with their machismo intact.

That’s important, even in Vermont.

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Boston again

I just got back from another trip to Boston, where I hung with some friends and enjoyed the sunshine. Not much to report beer-wise; the best thing I had was Harpoon IPA.

At least I had a lot of it.

I'm going to Belgium next Thursday, and there's a definite beery slant to the trip. Stay tuned, good readers, as Mark frolics among the Trappists.

Friday, June 15, 2007

It "fell off a truck."

93,600 bottles of beer were stolen from 3 tractor trailers in the Toronto Area.

Fortunately, it was Corona and not something good.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Someone pass me an ice cold, imported J.W. Dundee's.

I really don't think I expect too much from stadium concessionaires, but being asked to pay a buck more for a J.W. Dundee's at a Rochester Rhinos game on the basis that it's an import is fucking retarded.

You see, J.W. Dundee's is brewed at the High Falls Brewing Company, about six blocks from the stadium where the USL Division 1 soccer team plays its home games.

Granted, the concession company the Rhinos use, Delaware North, is the shittiest, most backward in the industry. Their employees show up untrained (it'll take you 25 minutes to get a chicken sandwich out of them), their supervisors clueless. But surely a large enough number of annoyed fans have brought their attention to the fact that DUNDEE'S IS A FRIGGIN' ROCHESTER BEER for them to do something other than arrogantly say 'Well we classify it as an import.'

By the way, these geographically challenged idiots classify Labatt Blue as a 'domestic.'

My advice, drink before and after the game. Leave the concession company to rot in its own inventory. At least then it won't taste like the cheap plastic cup in which it's poured.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Beer school and barley wine

Hi folks.

We're doing Beer School tomorrow night at 7pm, at Monty's Korner. The subject: Beers of the Great Lakes. Some of the finest craft beers on the continent come from their shores, and, dammit, we're gonna taste 'em. Patrick is out of town, but hopefully Bruce will be there.

We tried theBlue Point No Apologies Imperial IPA on cask last night at The Old Toad. Absolutely fantastic. The cask conditioning lent a rich smoothness and really accentuated the hop aroma. What surprised me whas the subtlety of the beer's finish, which completely lacked the sharp hop bite usually found in barley wines. Still, the alcoholic flavor was nicely balanced in the beer. You may not find it on cask, but give it a try if you're looking for something strong.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

A makeover for Genesee!

The High Falls Brewery has officially unveiled the new packaging and brand image for Genesee and Genny Light. It's kind of a fusion between classic heritage and modern retro.

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Compare to the previous "el-cheapo" packaging:

What I like best is that it shows commitment to the brand that built the brewery. Hey, I'm proud to be a Rochesterian, and Genesee is part of our heritage- the last vestige of what was once one of the greatest brewng towns in the USA. Thanks to the guys at the Genesee Brewery for not forgetting that.

Anyway, here's the full press release:


Extreme Makeover for Genesee Beer and Genny Light

A Package Redesign and New Website for Legendary Heritage Brands

June 7, 2007, Rochester, NY – The famous Genesee Beer and Genny Light brands have just received a packaging makeover which is prominently featured on a new website exclusively dedicated to the legendary Genesee Brewing brand name. “This is all part of our renewed focus on reinvigorating our core brands.” said President and CEO Norm Snyder. “The Genesee name has a proud heritage that dates back to the late 1800’s and is a cornerstone of our regional cultural heritage.”

The new designs pay tribute to Genesee’s proud past but with a contemporary treatment that will appeal to both existing core consumers as well as new consumers of competitive brands. The initiative started with establishing an identity for the Genesee Brewing Company – an entity that High Falls Brewing Company owns but has not actively marketed since the company was founded in 2000. Elements of Genesee’s familiar “red-eye” logo from the 1960’s and 1970’s are the foundation of the parent identity as well as the flagship Genesee Beer brand. A script type face for “Genesee” lends a classic look and feel to the brand that has been in existence since 1878 when the brewery first opened on the east bank of the Genesee River. Snyder added “The Genesee brand name has tremendous equity that resonates with consumers and distributors throughout the country. Our Brewery has been producing beer under the same name at the same location since the end of the 19th century and we’re very proud of that fact.”

Lower calorie sibling Genny Light is brought back into the Genesee family with the oval logo treatment and script typeface. “We had two primary goals for this initiative.” said Gregg Stacy, Vice President of Brand Marketing. “The first was to create a cohesive brand family look for our Genesee products. The Genesee Brewing Company identity provides a parental brand foundation that ties all of the Genesee brands together. We successfully repackaged Genesee Cream Ale in 2005 and it was time to bring Beer and Light in line with the classic heritage look that has helped Cream Ale sales rebound.” Such alignment strengthens brand recognition and communicates positive brand positioning in the trade and at retail. In addition, the visual alignment with Genesee Cream Ale creates more cohesion for displays and merchandising at retail. Stacy continues, “Our second goal was to capture the true personality of the Genesee brand name. Genesee Beer and Genny Light hold very unique positions in that they are some of the last true regional brands brewed in the United States. Genesee Beer in particular has been brewed at the same location since 1878. It was very important to us that the redesign capture the true essence of these brands.” The Mirus Group of Pittsford, New York designed and produced the identity as well as new primary and secondary packaging, point of sale materials, advertising and trade sell-in support.

Hometown Favorite Gets a Homepage

In addition to core point of sale support materials and targeted out of home advertising, for the first time, the revamped Genesee brands have their own dedicated website – www.geneseebrewing.com. “The new Genesee site is a lot of fun and is sure to be a hit with Genesee history buffs and brewerania collectors” said Stacy. “We built in a museum page with shots of old ads, collectible items and a streaming video section with television and radio spots from the past. An on-line Company Store will sell a variety of “Gennywear” including hats and shirts. LogicalSolutions.net of Rochester, New York designed, produced and hosts the web site.


High Falls Brewing Company is located in Rochester, New York and is one of the state's oldest continually operating breweries. The company brews it’s family of JW Dundee's Lagers & Ales including Honey Brown Lager, Pale Ale, Amber Lager, Pale Bock, Hefeweizen, IPA, Porter and Festive Ale as well as its famous Genesee Brewing Company line including, Genesee Beer and Genny Light and Genesee Cream Ale. High Falls also markets imports Steinlager from New Zealand, Toohey’s New from Australia and Imperial from Costa Rica.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Beercraft newspaper column #41- Beers of the Finger Lakes

Beer can add body to your next wine tour

By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish

Wine tasting in the Finger Lakes is a time-honored activity. Every weekend, hundreds of area residents tour the rolling hills, going from winery to winery, swishing, sniffing, (sometimes gulping) frowning at color, comapring “legs,” reciting lines from the movie Sideways, and growing less sophisticated wth each progressive tasting room.

That’s fine. We do it too. But there’s more to the Finger Lakes than just wine; there is also beer. Just to mix things up a bit, why not add a stop at one of the region’s breweries on your next wine tour?

You can start reasonably close to home. Custom Brewcrafters’ taphouse, at 93 Paper Mill Street in Honeoye Falls, features a tasting room. They’ll also give you a free tour of the brewery on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.

It would be a shame to leave without a growler of their best beer: CB’s Double Dark Cream Porter. It’s opaque and full bodied, with lots of malt sweetness and hints of mocha and toffee. While rich and hearty, the Double Dark is still accessible enough for novice palates.

Hopping back in the limo bus (you’re not freakin’ driving are you?), it’s time to trek to Lodi, on the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake, home of the Wagner Brewing Company, 9322 Route 414. Although possibly overshadowed by Wagner’s vinyards and winemaking operation, their brwewery consistently pumps out award-winning beers.

Wagner’s India Pale Ale, Sled Dog Doppelbock, and Dockside Amber Lager are staple beers of the region, which can be purchased in bottles directly from the brewery or in beer stores. In addition, you’ll always find an interesting seasonal or two.

The Sled Dog Doppelbock is of particular interest. It’s a sweet, heavy, high-strength lager, with very little hop character. Expect a full-bodied, bready mouthfeel, and a hint of raisin in the flavor profile. It’s 8.5% alcohol by volume, so you might want to bring a Mormon to drive you home.

The Brewery hosts a pub night every Friday evening on the brewdeck. It’s food, beer and live music in an outdoor setting that’s chock full of, uh, scenicness. Wagner Brewing’s full lineup of beers and Pub Night schedule can be found at www.wagnerbrewing.com.

Since you’re already close by, head on down Cayuga Lake to the Ithaca Brewing Company, at 606 Elmira Road in Ithaca. The brewery opened in 1998 and has grown rapidly over the course of the last decade. Their bottled beers are available in four states and beers by Ithaca Brewing feature regularly on local taps.

Of note is the CascaZilla, the name of which is a descriptive pun playing on the proximity of the Cascadilla creek and the prominence of powerful cascade hops in the brew. Pouring a rich copper color, Cascazilla is one of the most palatable of the currently trendy “extreme” hoppy beers. The aroma and flavor are all hops, but brewmaster Jeff O’Neil’s recipe pulls the hop punch at the last moment with a malt balance. It’s refreshing, complex and tantalizing, and showcases what can be done with American-grown hops.

Of course, Ithaca Brewing offers a wide range of beers. They’ll educate you while you taste, fill your growler, and try to sell you a T-shirt. Find them online at www.ithacabeer.com/

There may always be a sociological gap between highbrow wine and plebian beer, but when you incorporate a couple microbreweries into your wine tour, you become a more well-rounded connoisseur of fine beverage. After all, if happiness is a cellar full of good Finger Lakes wine, than a fridge stocked with Finger Lakes beer must be ecstasy.

At the very least, it can lead to a temporary euphoria. 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 http://beercraft.blogspot.com. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to beercraft@rochester.rr.com.