May 25, 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. 

UPDATE: Hint-- It's on the west siiide and the 3 food groups served here are Angus Beef, Fries and Big Sky Beers.

May 19, 2011

Not a Hater, Not a Canboi: The case for measured enthusiasm for canned beer.

FTC disclosure: All free.
You can't go anywhere these days without someone telling you about the latest craft beer to come out in a can. Cans are better for the environment. Cans are cheaper. Cans prevent oxygen from getting into bottles. Cans are easier to chill.

In fact, there's a craft beer can fest this weekend in Chandler, the Ameri'CAN' Beer Festival. You should go. There are some tremendous beers being served.

For the record, I like cans. I don't love cans. Full disclosure: I was a judge at AmeriCAN and I have been given canned beers to taste by many of those breweries. I will also be at the festival supporting those breweries.

Cans are the right tool for the right job, but they are not the future of all beer. There are perhaps 100 decisions made before a beer gets from the brewery to you and the can is only one of them.

Package or Process
Recently, Four Peaks put Hop Knot to the taste test pitting draft against bottle against the soon-to-be-released canned version. Early indications are that the canned version has superior hop aroma over the bottle and draft versions. Though I did not take part in the taste test. I did have the opportunity to taste the canned version and compare it to the draft version a week ago and I can confirm the taste test findings. Canned Hop Knot has more hop aroma than draft.

The can wins then, right?

Well, not necessarily.  The increased hop aroma might have more to do with the canning process than the actual container. My understanding is that canned beer is packaged at higher carbonation level to assist in purging the can of oxygen. The slightly higher carbonation might cause aromas to be volatilized more efficiently rendering more initial aroma. Might a change in the kegging or bottling process even the slate with cans? I admit, that's the extent of my theory of beer packaging. Still, I must concede, to the consumer, this point is meaningless. You want more aroma, grab the can.

But process is important. If you want to take advantage of things like a cans lower oxygen intrusion, then you have to make sure all of the oxygen is out in the first place. Canning lines require a rock-solid process to make sure cans are properly purged and filled before the lid goes on. The wider opening increases the potential for unintended things like wild yeast and oxygen to get inside. Some breweries are going to be better others at this. If you want to know which ones, hold on to some cans for 3 or 4 months and check for oxidation.

Distribution and Care
Can also have the distinction of preventing beer from being light struck. All things being equal this is undoubtedly true. But there are hours, days and possibly months between when a beer leaves the brewery and gets into your hands. If you've ever had a problem with a brown bottled craft beer getting light struck, that beer was mistreated in probably a number of ways. It either languished on a palate outside in the AZ sun or sat too long on a sunny shelf. While a similarly mistreated can of beer won't get skunky, It'll certainly get warmed up in the sun and it will do so much quicker. (Cans that cool off quicker also get hotter faster.) We should encourage distributors and retailers to treat all beers properly.

Cans have a cheaper price per unit, but there are a number of capital costs to overcome as well as economies of scale that must be in place before any savings can be passed on to the consumer. Bottles can be purchased in smaller quantities than cans and it is far easier for a brewery to change out a paper label than it is to have ten of thousands of new cans manufactured. It's for this reason that you don't see very many limited production runs of specialty beer in cans. As much as I love Oskar Blues for it's can-only mentality, that decision limits that brewery to 6 beers.  If you want to understand the depth of what that brewery is capable of, you have to go to the brewery and get a tap or growler. Once you do, you'll wish they had a bomber line. Whiskey Oaked Dale's Pale or Devious Dales... only in the brewery or brewpub.

Call me old school, but sometimes I prefer a bottle. Cans are what screw tops are to wine and you'll find undeniable evidence of this in restaurants across the country. The screw top, like the can is a superior technology, but you're just not going to see them on white table cloth establishments. We've made the case for large format bottles here. The shorter version of that post is that people going to finer restaurants want sharable bottles, wine with corks and romantic presentation. It's hard enough to get good beer in restaurants and though we have seen cans in nicer places, it's currently being treated as a novelty. Don't expect breweries to lead this charge, when it may be far more pragmatic to push keg and bottles.

Beer comes to us in a variety of ways. Don't be a Canboi.

May 16, 2011

Spring AZRW 2011: Best Beer Bets

Here are our Spring Arizona Restaurant Week picks for best beer menus. Our criteria was that beer menus had to have at least one local craft beer. Menus also had to feature styles that represent the wide palate of flavors contained in beer. We did not rate whether each beer was the best representation of style.

You'll find biscuit, bread, yeast banana, clove, spice, fruit, caramel, chocolate, toffee, citrus, pine, resin, dark fruits, grape, cherry, corn, coriander, effervescence, light, medium and heavy body flavors and sensations in most of these menus.

See our five best bets after the jump.

May 13, 2011

Adding Beer to JuxtaPalate's Spring AZRW Picks

Who is this JuxtaPalate (aka Ty Largo) guy and why should I care what he thinks?
He's a gouramand, an epicurean, a guy who like the finer things and writes about it. He's patterned a  career out of putting his finger on the pulse of things and... bah.

I think he calls himself a Restaurant Publicist. He's a Food and Beverage expert in my opinion.

He's a friend of mine and his recommendations always demand my attention. He has conflicts of interest in his opinions, but he will always tell you what they are.
Moment of honestly: I work with Citizen Public House. Beckett’s Table and Arizona Restaurant Week. They rock, but you already knew that.
Here are his Spring AZRW picks and my beer recommendations based on each restaurant's beer list.
After the Jump

Arizona Restaurant Week - Beer Menus Spring 2011

Arizona Restaurant Week (AZRW) begins today May 13 through May 22 and it overlaps American Craft Beer Week. It seems natural that there would be some emphasis on beer with AZRW. Unfortunately we find that not to be true.

We wrote an Open Letter to Arizona Restaurant Week (AZRW) last July to encourage participating restaurants to make craft beer a larger focus of this event. The Fall 2010 iteration of AZRW was sponsored by World Class Beverages, a craft beer focused distributor.

The results for the beer drinkers among us for AWRW 2010 were poor; of the 105 participating Phoenix restaurants:
  • 82 (78%) had a beer or wine menu (2 were specified as BYOB)
  • Of these, 80 (76%) listed a wine menu and 32 (30%) listed a beer menu.
  • Of those who had a beer list, only 14 (13%) had at least one local craft beer to choose from.
This Spring 2011 edition of AZRW shows little improvement, of the 78 participating Phoenix restaurants::
  • 56 (71%) had a beer or wine menu (2 were specified as BYOB)
  • Of these, 54 (69%) listed a wine menu and 21 (26%) listed a beer menu.
  • Of those who had a beer list, only 14 (18%) had at least one local craft beer to choose from.
Bear in mind that this is restaurants taking the time on the websites to inform their potential customers about the beers that they have. It is not an indication of the quality of the beers.

We're done ranting and razing about the shoddy treatment beer drinker get for now. If you're interested on our thought on beer pairing check out our Ignite page. You should also read a local Brewmaster's opinion.

To save everyone a great deal of time, here are all of the beer lists from AZRW participating restaurants.
See the list after the Jump!


It seems Blogger was down to read only mode for a few days. They also removed our last Where in the Phoenix Beer World? post. They are allegedly going to restore it.

In the meantime we have some Arizona Restaurant Week posts that are getting backlogged.

Stay Tuned.

May 7, 2011

Where in the Phoenix Beer World [Online Edition]?

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

We were struck by the sarcastic humor in the beer groupings. We're also hoping that it extends to Artisans which has been a diluted buzz word in foodie circles. Wendy's advertises that their breakfast sandwiches use artisan bread. 

Bonus points for catching the typo (a pet peeve of ours). 

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. Hint we're researching Arizona Restaurant Week.

We should also mention that Stan has picked up the game that he started with WITBW. His playing field is world-wide so it's a tougher game.

May 4, 2011

Fünfte Mai?

Today is Cinco de Mayo which for many in the US is an excuse to drink cheap imported lagers or get wasted on tequilla. I think it is a better time to enjoy a Vienna-style lager. What? Drink a beer from Austria for Mexican Independence Day? First, let us burst the myth that Cinco de Mayo has anything to do with Mexico gaining its independence. I think chef Silvana Salcido Esparza of Barrio Cafe summed it up best in a recent New Times blog posting:
You see, it's the same bullshit story year after year. I start to hear the Cinco de Mayo radio ads for those crazy parties that even include wet tee shirt contests, and it drives me right into LOCA overdrive.

I want to be clear and to the point: Cinco de Mayo is not Mexico's Independence Day.

​In fact, it's a rather small celebration that -- in that country -- comes and goes without much fanfare, except that most of the Mexicanos remember to eat mole on that day. This rich and exotic Poblano dish, that many times is made with over 30 ingredients, comes from Puebla, Mexico.

Cinco de Mayo celebrates a minor battle between Mexican and French forces near Puebla on May 5th, 1862. The true Mexican Independence Day is September 16th.

Returning to Vienna lager, we must go back to 1841, the year Anton Dreher introduced lager beer to Austria at his famous Schwechat brewery. Despite it's coppery reddish-brown hue, this was considered the first pale lager in contrast to the darker Munich Dunkel style popular in Germany. We call it amber lager today due to Bohemian Pilsner coming on the scene shortly after with the first truly pale yellow colored beer. The Pilsner path leads us astray from our story though and ends in the dead end of the macro lager many people are enjoying today.

Vienna-style lager and its toasty, melanoidin-rich malt profile made the trip across the Atlantic following the brief, ill-fated reign of Austrian Maximilian I in Mexico in the mid 1860s. Maximilian brought along his own brewer to brew Vienna-style lager to be followed by German immigrants in the latter half of the 19th Century who carried on Old World brewing traditions in Mexico. As a result, despite Vienna lager practically being extinct in its country of origin, it lives on in Mexico in the form of beers such as Negra Modello and Dos Equis Amber.

If you are heading out today to celebrate Mexican non-Independence Day, consider ordering a Vienna-style lager to pare with your Mexican fare. As renowned beer write Michael Jackson described the style in his book Beer Companion:
While the golden lagers of Mexico do nothing more than wash down its spicy foods, these darker, sweeter brews can marry the flavors. They work well with the corn used in broths, tarts and breads, with the pumpkin flour and the shredded chicken and pork stews. The chocolaty Negra Modelo is perfect with chicken mole.