April 28, 2011

Get Shorty

But if I had ten pounds then I'd raise a loud cheer
And I'd toast all me neighbours both distant and dear
And I'd shoot back great belly-crippling buckets of beer
And a pox and a curse on the people round here
Wouldn't give you the price of a half pint of beer
Wouldn't give you the price of a cup of good cheer
A pox and a curse on the people round here - Shanty Song, The Pogues
The half pint! It deserves a return to beer bar.

First some bar math.  An Imperial Pint is 20 ounces. You typically don't see this in a craft beer setting but they are available in Irish Bars such as Rosie McCaffreys where you can get an Imperial pint of Kilt Lifter.  A 16 ounce American shaker pint is what most of us typically see. The conical shaped glasses are durable and stackable. Higher strength beers are often served in 10 or 12 ounce glasses be that a snifter or tulip.

We won't get into 14 ounce cheater pints, we'll save that for another time.

The half pint is simply half a pint. In the US it's 8 ounces served in a small glass that fits your hand just right. It's glassware of your father's era. Often, it's the perfect amount of beer when you need to keep your wits about you and it allows you to sample different drafts. It's not as bothersome to your server to ask for several taster glasses and you can relax and give the beer a proper evaluation without filling up.

Shorties are $2.50 at Windsor
It's not offered everywhere but I did see them recently at The Windsor, a new neighborhood pub brought to you by the folks that brought us La Grand Orange and Postino. These are not true half pints (they call them shorties) as they are served in tumblers, but the effect is almost the same.  Shorties are also available at Postino. Moto gives the drinker the option of 12 ounce glasses on their extensive (for a sushi bar) draft list.

My mid-western upbringing demands that I mention that a chaser is a critical compliment to a Bloody Mary. The chaser is typically a 8 ounce pour of lager served in a half pint glass. Generally speaking, in Arizona, once I explain what a chaser is, I inevitably have to split a 12oz bottle with someone. Such was the case at Local Breeze where my wife and I had exceptional Bloody Marys and Oak Creek Pale Ales awkwardly served in pints glasses.

I can't recall where I've seen proper half pint glasses in Phoenix, but with your help, we'll find them or we'll get some beer bars and breweries to take up our cause.

April 20, 2011

Local in the Arizona Standard Timezone

Today's post is brought to you by these calls for local beer:
Should one’s go-to beer come from another time zone? - Roger Baylor, The Potable Curmudgeon
..it's the people that put the local in local beer. Not the brewers nor the breweries nor their marketing teams, it's the consumer. - Andy Ingram, Beer Buzz in the Arizona Republic
The first quote comes from the founder of Rich O's Public House in New Albany, Indiana by the way of Stan over at Appellation Beer. (I'd forgive you now if you clicked on his site and never came back, it's great beer writing.) In his blog, The Curmudgeon really makes the case that beers (even great ones) come and go in any market and in and the best course of action is maintain perspective. There are dozens of alternatives these days and no beer is indispensable. His reaction to the pullout of Avery in Indiana (among others) is that he, "shrugged, yawned and filled a growler of fresh local beer."

We reached a similar conclusion in Wit or Witout You, when we lamented the loss of Avery White Rascal in Arizona. The long term solution is an opportunity for a local brewery to fill the void with a style of beer that is perfectly matched for our climate.

Today's Beer Buzz from Four Peaks own Andy Ingram asks, "What it Local Beer?" Andy acknowledges the point that all of the ingredients save the (often stripped and re-built) water come from thousands of miles away. Yet we all know there is such a thing as local beer. It is different. Both writers share the thought that freshness is that discriminating element and each point out the pervasiveness of the local brewery with most Americans living within 10 miles of one. There is nothing there to disagree with.

Where I might disagree with Andy is the role of the brewer and the consumer in the equation, perhaps only in percentage terms. I think it's admirable for him (he says corny) to credit the consumer in the success of local beer but I think it diminishes the role of the brewer and in some cases causes some unnecessary conservatism. Andy cites adventurous locavores in driving beer's direction, but I doubt that there was a call for civit cat poop coffee beer. If there is a call for every brewery to be required to make an Americanized wheat beer, I'd like that call to stop as much as I would like the 95% macro beer dominance to cease.

I think it's important for our breweries to lead and make some bold choices.  Four Peaks has made some.

Remember that our local time zone encompasses San Diego and Denver depending on the time of year. It's got to be tough to shake off that competition.

Take a bow, then give us another local choice.

April 14, 2011

Wit or Witout You

Pierre Celis (Beer-Pages.com)
I didn't intend to write anything about the passing of Pierre Celis last Saturday, however, you can't write around such a seminal figure in the beer world  for very long. It turns out, it was only a matter of days until there would be a reason to discuss Celis.

Today, Avery Brewing Company of Boulder Colorado announced that it plans to withdraw from 8 states including Arizona. Most of the buzz online in Phoenix seems to mourn the loss of Maharaja IPA, The Czar, The Reverend and other heavy-on-house-character flavorful high gravity ales. My first thoughts turned to White Rascal, Avery's take on a Belgian Wit. When discussing wit and the popularity of Belgian beers in the US, all bloodlines lead back to Pierre.

Celis' decision to change careers and brew an extinct style at the age of 40 in 1966 is undeniably the reason wit bier is a popular and widely available beer enjoyed by both casual and critical beer drinkers. This pale to straw colored crisp, mouth quenching beer has floral, perfume-like and spicy aromas and flavors. Orange, coriander, chamomile, cumin, cinnamon, Grains of Paradise and lactic tartness can vary in intensity, but the best examples are subtle and complex. It's a style of beer that fits the hot climate here. The dry tart finish is a natural.

White Rascal was becoming a fixture on tap at several Valley bars including The Main Ingredient. It was a fresher choice than a Hoegaarden (though perhaps more heavy handed on the flavor intensity). It was clearly a better choice than Blue Moon or Shock Top and it was available in bottles at grocery and liquor stores. The Colorado canned version was soon to follow or so it seemed.

So what will fill the void? Wasatch? Alaskan? New Belgium Mothership? Perhaps. Locally, one could get BJs GAFB medal winning Nit Wit, but really only in their locations. The Rock Bottom version that I had just yesterday seemed to have used the more celery-like Mexican variety of coriander which is considered a flaw. One other local wit is clearly problematic.

In the short-term, the departure of White Rascal is a loss for Phoenix, but it also represents an opportunity for a local brewery to fill the void. One wonders if this will happen before my personal favorite, the milder and elegantly delicate Allagash White, makes it to the Valley and gains prominence. We know from Pierre, that anything is possible.

April 4, 2011

If a Beer Place Opens in the Desert

If a brewery, beer bar, or brewpub opens in the valley and no one puts it on BeerMapping do millions of yeast cells suddenly cried out in terror, and are suddenly silenced? Or something like that.

It's starting to get warm in the valley, so the many, many emails that I get from out of town visitors on where to drink beer in the valley will slow to a trickle. I always make it a point to recommend places that have new offerings to special events going on, but I also have included a link to BeerMapping. Beer Mapping has always served me well on my travels, needless to say, I don't normally use it around town.
A few days ago, I was shocked to discover that the Phoenix Beer Map could use some work.

I recently added:
  • Draw 10 Bar and Grill
  • Film Bar
  • Flanny's Bar and Grill
  • The Garage Bar and Grill
  • The Lost Leaf (unbelievably, yes it wasn't there)
  • Mellow Mushroom - Tempe
  • Yucca Tap Room
I also requested that Old World's location be updated and that the Hungry Monk is not in the Tuke.

Does this represent PHX?
There is much, much more work to be done:
  • No one has rated SanTan Brewing.
  • Taste of Tops needs to be added.
  • I'm sure there are 5 or 10 more places to be added including some more Total Wine locations, other smaller beer bars, the location of SanTan beers at NFL games, restaurants like Il Vinaio, Rico's American Grill, ... (So many more, amirite?)
  • The Black Mountain Chili Beer company is NOT our one of our Top Rated Breweries!

This place does not exist.
We know that among our readers there is a contingent of reviewers of beers and beer places. Many of you are rather famous on RateBeer and BeerAdvocate. A few of you have reviewed places on your own blogs and some national and regional beer blogs. We've stated here that reviews are not the focus of BeerPHXation. We feel, however, that the Beer Mapping Project is an important resource and worth our attention and so we feel a sense of stewardship. We are asking our Phoenix area beer bloggers and our social media followers and friends create an account at Beer Mapping, add new beer locations, rate those locations and consider using the blog mapping code.

It might be a surprise to many of you that the Beer Mapping project was created by someone that many of you follow on twitter, JohnathanSurrat - aka @beerinator. He's rather famous for not taking credit for his serious work and would rather take credit for eating burgers and drinking beer, but that's another story.

So lets make April the month we put Phoenix back on the beer map. Please chime in here and show your support and we will throw some love your way.

April 1, 2011

Where in the Phoenix Beer World?

Do you know where in the beer world this photo was taken?

The concept is simple. We post a picture that is relevant to the Phoenix beer scene and you try and identify it. Sometimes there will be a larger story involved, but often there will not. So, for glory and a tip of the glass next time we see you.

No this is not an April Fools joke. This billboard is outside of a beer focused establishment. A further hint is that earlier in the year this billboard featured an ad for a (now closed?) wine bar. Does this billboard portend the future? Is it good marketing or just a slap in the face?