December 22, 2012

Two Ounce Culture

I often ask my beer friends and those that claim an allegiance to a beer culture they seem to think exists only in sampling form, "What was the last beer that you remember having three in a row of."  I can tell you my last four of three. It was New Belgium La Folie, Four Peaks KiltLifter, Four Peaks Eight Street and Coors Banquet. Not tasters mind you but, full pours-- as the brewer intended.

Tonight, there is a certain Berliner Weiss that I'd like to think that I'd have three of if my circumstances permitted. I'd like to remind those that have the opportunity of this quote that I read via Andrew Sullivan on consumable culture. 

These days, the shorter a book is, the more likely I am to read it. The prospect of being finished with something, soon, is enticing. I am always eager to be moving on to what’s next—the next book, the next film, the next performance. I feel "the dread of not getting out / Before having seen the whole collection." The thought of spending a month, or several months, with a single work—a "The Magic Mountain" or an "In Search of Lost Time"—is somehow enervating.
Of course, there is a pernicious logic at work here. Why read a long novel when you can read a short one? Why read a short novel when you can watch a movie? Why watch a movie when you can watch a TV show? Why watch a TV when you catch a minute-long video of a kitten and a puppy cuddling on YouTube? As soon as we start to think of art simply as something to be consumed, discarded, and replaced, we rob it of one of its greatest powers: its capacity to free us from the grip of easier but shallower pleasures. Source.
To those drinking 2 ounces at a time and checking into Untaped tonight, by all means, don't read the New Yorker piece...maybe a local brewer will explain this to you someday.

December 7, 2012

What in the Phoenix Beer World?

Do you know where in the beer world this photo was taken? How does it relate to Arizona beer?
The concept is simple. We post a picture that is relevant to the Phoenix area 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. Please, no social media cheating!

In this instance, tell us precisely what this is in this picture was taken.

December 5, 2012

Happy Repeal Day. Practice Civic DisoBEERdience.

Today marks the 79th Anniversary of the repeal of National Prohibition. On December 5, 1933 FDR signed an amendment to the Volstead Act which officially ratified the 21st Amendment. The Cullen-Harrison Act had already allowed for, "New Deal" Beer to be brewed at 3.2%.

Prohibition had a profound impact on the country. During Prohibition, the nation experienced a rise in organized crime, a three-fold increase in consumption by those who continued to drink. It effectively crippled an important industry that created jobs in a number of supporting sectors--transportation, packaging, agriculture and manufacturing to name a few. The demonization of alcohol created a society of hypocrisy and undermined the rule of law.

Arizona had statewide prohibition on January 1 1915, a full 5 years before National Prohibition. We are still experiencing the effects of 19 years of failed public policy enacted 84 years ago. Our growing craft beer industry faces some of the same struggle that faced breweries in territorial days. Prohibition changed our drinking habits from one of moderation to a culture of binge drinking. We do not include drink with our daily meals as we once did. We confine our drinking to the dark late-night places of the world. Here in the valley, there are still many neo-prohibtionist sentiments. On the topic of the growing Mesa entertainment district, one elected official's wrongheaded belief:

Earl Taylor Jr., principal at the downtown Heritage Academy, and Jared Taylor, the school’s business manager, were the only speakers in opposition, saying students safety  could be compromised by downtown bars.
Jared Taylor was elected this month to the Gilbert Town Council with strong backing from “tea party” factions of the Republican Party. Earl Taylor called liquor “the Number 1 enemy of strong characters and the Number 1 cause of the deterioration of the family.”
While there is no official celebration of the anniversary of Repeal Day that I'm aware of, I ask you to consider partaking in an Act of Civic DisoBEERdience. This of course is a play on the practice of Civil Disobedience.

Practice DisoBEERdience. It's not illegal to drink beer during the day on your lunch with a meal and yet on a daily basis I see people flock to brewpubs and breweries and consume iced-tea. I understand that some companies have restrictions on alcohol during the day. Those policies are over-reaching reactionary bunk. We know better. Our beer culture espouses moderate responsible consumption of flavorful beers enjoyed with others and paired with good food.

What about the Civic part of  Civic DisoBEERdience? On Friday and Saturday December 7th and 8th Heritage Square will host the Phoenix Brewers Invitational. The festival is free to attend, but will cost you $10 for a mug. You can buy $1 tickets for 3 ounce pours or combine 3 tickets for a full 12 ounce glass. Tickets are transferable across both days. The Fest kicks off Friday at Noon with a toast by Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. Beer is being recognized as an economic driver and place-maker by cities like San Diego, Denver and Chicago. It's time that we join those beer cities. It's time that we salute our local leaders that have the courage to embrace beer. Beer is a source of civic pride and growth.

Come down to Heritage Square for lunch. There will be food trucks. Check out the beer offerings. Remember, it's free to check out. Buy a mug and tickets. Remember you can come back after work and still use them. Go have a beer. Three ounces or more. Root beer if you truly must. But come on down.

November 29, 2012

Where In The Phoenix Beer World?

Do you know where in the beer world this photo was taken? How does it relate to Arizona beer?
The concept is simple. We post a picture that is relevant to the Phoenix area 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. Please, no social media cheating!

In this instance, tell us precisely where this picture was taken.

November 20, 2012

Honey, I Had an Affair Last Week

No, not that kind of an affair. I had a date with one of Arizona's, perhaps the country's, most anticipated beer events of the year, the Beer for Brains Foundation's RAREaffair. Going to this choice charity soiree was a no-brainer.

Because two brains are better than one
This year's Affair boldly went where no beer has gone before — the Arizona Science Center. A Light Rail-friendly location, ideal for those who imbibed a bit much, the AZSC was a superb venue choice. The first few floors were wide open and featured interactive exhibits, live music, airbrush artist painting (see pic at right), sweet and savory noshes from more than a dozen restaurants and, of course, a plethora of palate-pleasing brews, spirits and wines. And since this is a beer-focused blog, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention some of the standout brews.

  • BJ's Whiskey Barrel-Aged Tatonka Stout (my fave of the night — awesome, Mr. Osborne)
  • Oskar Blues Barrel-Aged G'Night
  • Bell's Roundhouse Rye IPA
  • Ska On the Sly Again
  • Lost Abbey Framboise de Amorosa
  • Crispin Bird on a Wire
  • College Street Chocolate Stout
  • Four Peaks Barrel-Aged Sirius Black
  • Deschutes 2011 Abyss
  • Left Hand Ambidexterous Ale II

Head brainiac, Louis Dolgoff
But let us not forget the real reason why this event even happens in the first place — to unite as one and help battle brain cancer. We stand with "Dogfish" Louis Dolgoff, head brainiac at the Beer for Brains Foundation, as he works tirelessly to rid the world of the disease that took his wife, Laurie. Lou's vast knowledge of fine ales, food and promotional events is the perfect platform for various fundraising events throughout the Valley. If you haven't been to one, you might want to get your brain checked.

Wanna get involved? Visit the Beer for Brains Foundation online to learn about upcoming events, shop merchandise, donate money, volunteer your time and more. And don't forget to give a big thumbs up to the BFBF's Facebook page.

I'd like to leave you with a quote from our fearless leader, Mr. Rob Fullmer, who sums it up perfectly: "We're lucky to have (the RAREaffair). We're unlucky that it even exists at all." Word, Rob.

November 2, 2012

The Session #69 | The Perfect Beer World

The Session #69 brings us meta-questions on the Perfect Beer World. It appears to be a topic that the Session regulars are finding difficult to work with.

The Perfect Beer World? We are probably in it.

It's true that there are problems. Beer is still struggling for acceptance and there are regulatory concerns. Carlos Brito does not have your beer drinking interests at heart. James Bond drinks Heineken. We can't define craft beer because some of it sucks. We can't agree on the Shaker "pint".

We live in a world where there are more and more and more beer choices, perhaps more choices than at anytime in history and yet we can't stop complaining about it.
I'm guilty of it. Our mission here:
A local Phoenix Metro beer culture celebration and admonition.
I would say, I spend 60% of my blog time on the admonition and 40% of it on the celebration. The Perfect Beer World exists where the good ideas; the good beers; the good breweries still need plenty of hard work to get things done. We want that struggle. We need that struggle.

Consider that in a perfect beer world there would be no beer spoiling agents. But then we would probably have not needed hops or alcohol. We would not have wild ales or perfectly oxidized old ales. I want my hops and alcohol. I want flaws. I want inconsistencies.

Anything is possible in the beer world that we live in right now. Anything worth having.

October 19, 2012

Hey Are We OK With This? | Chained Pumpkin Brings the Boys to the Yard

It's time for a new randomly re-occurring feature. "Hey Are We OK With This?"

First, it's time to get out the big paint brushes. I have feelings about out-of-state chain multi-multi-multi-tap operations. Skeptical ones. The Yard House is one of these places. It was recently bought by the Darden group--the people corporation that bring us Red Lobster and Olive Garden. I should say, that they are mostly not for me. A ton of people go to them. I tend to favor something smaller and local. Still, there are people that I know that work for these places. Good people. Smart people. Beer people.

Sebbie Buhler
I also seem to be in a minority when it comes to Rogue. I like 'em. They have a ton of homebrew cred thanks to their strong presence at the past few National Homebrewer Conferences. There is also the modest  talent of John Mayer. If you can get a few words out of this painfully shy man you'll find that he's a genuinely sweet man.

Chris Studach
I've been a longtime fan of the Pacman Yeast, Morimoto Soba, Shakespeare Stout, the Hazelnut Brown and the Chocolate Stout. If you want to further gauge my bias, I've met both Chris Studach and Sebbie Buhler a number of times.

Alan points out reports of distasteful labor practices. Most of the Facebook chatter in Arizona on Rogue centers around higher bottle prices. Some simply hate the Voodoo Maple Doughnut Bacon Ale. This is, perhaps, in part because it pretty much is what it says it is--a Voodoo Maple Doughnut Bacon Ale. Zach favors it, but go read the vitriol in some of the comments.

I don't know what I expected.
Well, what of these two things?

One hundred percent of the draft Rogue Pumpkin Patch Ale allocations go to the Yardhouse.

Period. You won't find it anywhere else in Arizona.

Maybe you don't care about this particular brewery or that particular drinking establishment. It doesn't matter. You have to come to terms with the fact that this is the direction that the industry is headed.

Rogue is a big name brewery. Is it natural to assume that they might broker some deals with big name bar and restaurant concepts? Let's also be aware that there are other deals like this. Unadvertised ones. It's not only draft accounts. This type of "arrangement" is growing on the retail side, too. (I'm looking at you Bevmo. You're wrapped up in some brewery exclusives that give me cognitive dissonance.) Again, there are people I know working for these places. But I know just as many, if not more on the other side of that equation. Good people. Smart people. Beer people. All of 'em.

So I ask. These brewery to single big box exclusive arrangements?
Hey Are We OK With This?

I am not.

October 18, 2012

What's So Great About Denver?

Outside of Rockies baseball, just about everything. The old-fashioned brick buildings in LoDo. The friendly people. But most of all, it's Denver's thriving beer scene and its grandiose annual gathering, the Great American Beer Festival. Game on.

And it begins. On a plane. With my brother-in-law, Paul. He's a first-timer, but soon we were with GABF veteran Matt Wells of Lost Abbey — a chance meeting at Sky Harbor. We talk beer and toast to the week ahead with a Bloody Mary. Yeah, it was going to be that kind of week.

Craft beer and food at its freshest
First stop is Freshcraft. A personal fave from my inaugural 2010 trip, the Forgy brothers not only serve delicious gastropub fare and beer, they're genuinely really nice dudes. I recommend the steak au poivre sandwich paired with Trinity's Emma's Coffin pumpkin saison. A surprisingly good combo.

Alas, it's time for today's main event, the Colorado Rare Beer Tasting. Held at the Rackhouse Pub, which is adjacent to Stranahan's Whiskey Distillery, this tasting touted some of the best Colorado had to offer. Standouts included MillerCoors-owned AC Golden's De La Vigne batch 1 and Chardonnay Sour; Tweak, Avery's Mephistopheles infused with massive amounts of coffee; Elevation Beer Company's beautifully balanced honey-infused quad, Apis IV; and River North's Belgian saison aged in Stranahan barrels.

A trip to Falling Rock for a few 50/50 Eclipse beers was in order, but soon the clock strikes 2:00 and it's time to crash.

With no concrete plans other than the first GABF session at 5:30, it's time to take advantage of all the Mile High City has to offer.

Do you believe in the Yeti?
And what better way to start the day than with a Belgian Yeti at its birthplace, Great Divide. Though the tasting room was packed, the good vibes were high and the beer was even better. Not to mention I snagged one of the last rare barrel-aged Old Ruffians on the way out. Score!

One of the day's highlights was the Cigar City soiree at Freshcraft. Being this is one of my favorite breweries, plus the fact they don't distribute to the west, I was giddy. Marshal Zhukov's RIS, Cinnamon Apple IPA, Guava Grove saison, Ligero Black lager. Need I say more?

The calm before the storm
But the day's biggest highlight belonged to the first GABF session. With early-entry access, it was oddly calming seeing the convention center nearly empty, knowing that in mere minutes thousands of people will swarm the floor. And swarm they did. Bagpipers blew. Knowledgeable volunteers poured beer after beer, and head brewers and brewery owners mingled with groupie-eyed beer geeks (myself included). But what stood out to me most wasn't the thousands of brews from which to choose, but the true camaraderie and passion shared by most patrons there. Arizona was well-represented, my friends — more on that later. Oh, and the beers weren't too bad either. From Russian River's Toronado 25 to Sun King's Pappy Van Muckle, the possibilities, and inebriation levels, seemed endless.

And what GABF night wouldn't be complete without a trip to Falling Rock and Star Bar.

Been looking forward to this day for awhile. 22 beer lovers. A limo bus taking us to a few of the best Colorado breweries. 'Nuff said, right? Wrong. How about add a rolling bottle share of rare beers to and from each brewery? Because that's how we roll. 

Yup, it's that time
Stop 1: New Belgium in Fort Collins. If Jesus built a brewery, this might be it. The third-largest craft brewery in the country, New Belgium bucks the big brewery trend and focuses on quality, philanthropy, its workers (it's employee-owned) and bikes. Bikes? Yup. And cool New Belgium-emblazoned cruiser bikes, to boot. Employees are given one free after a few years of service.

Get your Friek on

Stop 2: Odell in Fort Collins. Though Doug Odell's brewery might be substantially smaller in size than New Belgium, it's big on producing some seriously bad-ass beers. Arizona Odell rep JR Wheeler was there to greet us and give us an insider's tour. We saw where expansion will take place, visited the barrel cellar where we tasted a pineapple gose out of what can only be called "Cube 1," and drank Friek directly from the bright tank. Now if we can just get JR to crack open that Woodcut 1.

Ten Fidy Friday!
Stop 3: Oskar Blues in Longmont. The party bus was definitely in full swing by the time we hit up Oskar's Weasel Tap Room. No tour this time around, but Ten Fidy Friday was going strong. A flight of all Fidy versions was in order — 2009-2012, nitro whiskey, and a sour barrel-aged version. All were fantastic, but sour Fidy was the bomb. Alas, it was time to go to Boulder for this writer's most anticiapted stop.

"A" is for amazing beer
Stop 4: Avery in Boulder. Because what better place to make our second-to-last stop than at the brewery with the biggest ABV beers? I was like a kid in a candy store deciding what to get for my flight. Not to mention the on-premise-only bottle list, which consisted of some real treats. Landed on Whiskey Sour Reverend, Odio Equum, Ale to the Chief (double dry-hopped) and Erimita IV for the flight, plus a bottle of their #8 barrel-aged series sour, Meretrix, to share. Pucker up!

Stop 5: Crooked Stave in Denver. I was in my happy place by the time we rolled into the Stave. I can see why it was one of the most talked-about spots at GABF. Nestled just north of Denver's Highlands neighborhood, the tasting room is microscopic compared to all the places we visited, but, man, do they make some absolutely amazing sour beers. Case in point their GABF silver medal-winning Sentience, a bourbon barrel-aged wild quadruple. Thank you, Chad Yakobson.

Stop 6: My bed at the hotel. A rest was much needed after this one-of-a-kind experience.

The bus tour troops. Can you spot the drunk one?

There's no sugarcoating the fact your fearless writer was struggling Saturday morning. Friday may have knocked me down for a bit, but Saturday was our last day in town so it was time to rally.

Sadly, Arizona only took home two medals this year. But a big congrats goes out to BJ's Derek Osborne who won gold for Jerry Maker in the Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer category. And Flagstaff's Lumberyard IPA took the silver medal in the American-Style Strong Pale Ale category. Check out our very own Rob Fullmer's live blogging notes from Saturday as well as the complete list of GABF winners.

And I thought I was a big dude
Sorry, babe, Sam says he's married
The members-only session on Saturday seemed just as packed as Thursday, but the beers were flowing and there was still a lot on my must-try list that needed checked off. I went all groupie and snapped pics and mingled with favorite brewers, and even got to meet baseball legend Frank "The Big Hurt" Thomas — who knew the guy had his own beer? One thing that really stood out was the number of brewers who manned their own booths and poured for their patrons. Patrick Rue, Vinnie & Natalie Cilurzo, Sam Calagione and Garrett Oliver were just a few of the many familiar faces in the crowd. And speaking of Garrett Oliver, this is why I love the man. Kudos to you, Garrett, for stepping up and ensuring GABF fans get to meet their beer heroes.

So, what did I take from this beer-perience? First and foremost, Denver knows how to put on one hell of a party. What a fantastic beer town, and city in general. But what really made me proud was seeing the large number of Arizona peeps who made the pilgrimage. Paul Mangan, Dakine Beckman, Jon Petroff, Bryan Myron, Isaiah Garfias, Mr. Fullmer — the list goes on and on. It was an honor drinking with you in Denver. Let's keep the momentum going and make Arizona a force to be reckoned with in many Great American Beer Festivals to come.



October 17, 2012

What in the Phoenix Beer World?

Do you know what this photo is referencing? How does it relate to Arizona beer?

The concept is simple. We post a picture that is relevant to the Phoenix area 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. Please, no social media cheating!

There is a GABF connection. Some information stumbled upon on the show floor. The answer portends something new for Arizona.

October 15, 2012

Who In the Phoenix Beer World?

Do you know who in the Phoenix beer world this photo refers to? How does it relate to Arizona beer?
The concept is simple. We post a picture that is relevant to the Phoenix area 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. Please, no social media cheating!

In this instance, Johnny was at the GABF touring a brewery (which one?) and decided to tell people that he was with the AZ Alpaca Association sourcing spent grain for alpacas. We furthered the lie a bit and said that he was also starting a business knitting alpaca growler covers. Given the growth in Craft Beer and its expansion in just about everything else, the alpaca story almost seems plausible.

Tell us precisely who Johnny really is. Extra points if you know which brewery was toured. Answer after the jump.

October 13, 2012

Live Blogging the GABF awards

Note: This is an update based upon live notes and a second source of notes. There was a server error midway through and some content was lost.

Well we shall see how well this works.

Factoid: GABF required 132 tons of ice.

A cabinet member, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack attended show.

Toast to Danny Williams with Porter Pride. Danny was the GABF cellar master and was lost to cancer this year. Porter's Pride bottles were given to medal winners. The porter has rich chocolate notes becvause of the addition of locally sourced chocolate.

Members of Santan Brewing filing in.
Anthony and Santan Crew
Gov. John Hickenlooper
"Its a fact that Sam Adams was the first governor that brewed but I'm not convinced he was a brewer." A nice joke about the industry definition of Craft Beer.

Now up in the rafters with the Four Peaks team. Local Sierra Nevada guys behind me. I think Andy Ingram chose a dark corner on purpose. No photos... too dark.

Pro Am award. Locally, Papago Brewing has Mooney's Irish Red by ASH member Ken Saxe. Unfortunately, No AZ medal this year.

The Wells Fargo theater holds 5000. I'm guessing 3800 in attendance. Already showing growing pains. 4000 beers judged by 666 breweries.

Awards broadcast underway by the Brewing Network.
Justin of the BN streaming the awards

No medal for Doc Osborne this year in Pumpkin /Field beer. Not a good sign for AZ.

No repeat for Chocolate beer for College Street.

Battery change.

Note. We were promised surprises this year with the Brewery of the year. Stay tuned.

On to category 15... 70 to go.

Sierra Nevada guys behind me cheering their Fresh Hop Gold win.

Choc Brewing in OK wins Silver in indigenous ale for a Gratzer. That's the beer to try this GABF. 100% Smoked Wheat beer.

BJs Chandler wins Gold for Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer. AZ is off the scneid. Congrats Doc and Jeff.

Ted Golden and Andy Ingram are 11 rows and 2 rows apart. Can't tell who is the place kicker.

The Tomme almost takes a spill coming up the steps.

I think Iron Hill has 3 medals and Lost Abbey has 2. No clear overall winners yet.

Following the program.
Alyssa from FP following along in the program. (Pic)

Keith Stone gets a bronze. Audible roar from crowd as PBR wins gold. Mickey's and Old Style round out the macro categories.

Wow. Shiner has 2 gold. Maybe 3? 3 medals for sure. Devils Backbone has a pair. Interesting. Oops DB now has 3.

OK. Back to ales. C'mon AZ.

Kolsch.... no Sunbru. :(

Lumberyard wins silver for American Style Strong Pale. Four Peaks will not repeat its World Beer Cup Medal.

203 entries in IPA. Firestone Walker finally gets on the board for Bronze in Imperial IPA for Union Jack. No repeat for Mid-size Brewery of the Year for them?

Very interesting year. Lots of smaller breweries stepping up to the stage. Tap-It wins gold IPA? I think most of us will want to try that beer again. It seemed fairly standard to me.

Firestone Gold for DBA. Traditionally they pick up a few medals in these next categories. No repeat imminent for Walker?

Not a good year for AZ.

Iron Hill making a statement. In the running.

Wookie Jack wins Gold for Black IPA, Wookie Jack. Perhaps I was too eager to dismiss them. By the way, there is some strategy involved. Its not all about number of medals. You have to declare some of your entries for contention. Also there are size and type of brewery considerations.

Devils Backbone Gold... real drama coming up. Troegs has 3 golds too I hear. No medals from Sun King. They had the most medals last year but messed up the strategy part.

Lost Abbey Gold. Wow. This is getting tight!

Green Flash Gold in Category 72 puts them on the running.

No Gold medal awarded in Robust Porter.

Devils Backbone collects another Bronze for Foreign Extra Stout.

Iron Hill Bronze for Imperial Stout.

2 categories to go.

Did I overlook Pizza Port Solano beach? San Clemente?

Barleywines. is the last category. Sun King gets Gold. First medal this year. They had 7 or 8 last year. No clear winner apparent for brewery of the year???


Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year
Devils Backbone Brewing Company - Basecamp, Roseland, VA

Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year
The Church Brew Works, Pittsburgh, PA
Steve Sloan

Brewpub Group and Brewpub Group Brewer of the Year
Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company, Madison, WI
Rob LoBreglio

Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Funkwerks, Fort Collins, CO

Mid-Size Brewing Company and Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Troegs Brewing Company, Hershey, PA
John Trogner

Large Brewing Company and Large Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Pabst Brewing Company, Los Angeles, CA
Gregory Deuhs

October 8, 2012

Overheard While Drinking | How Do You Get Your Competitors To Talk About Your Beer?

"The best thing about the [secret beer release event] was that the competition couldn't stop talking about it. It's great when [competitors] are telling people about the beer you're releasing."  - a local beer wonk

October 2, 2012

Secret Beer Release Revealed | Have it Thursday, Oct 4

As discussed here, the magical brewery for the mystery tapping is... this.
I'll mask all of the info to preserve the illusion for those wanting to show up surprised.

It will go off here.
Papago Brewing
Thursday, Oct 4.
5PM - 8 PM

On tap will be: (highlight below to read)

Magic Hat #9 will be available on draft.
There will be bottles of #9, Circus Boy, the current seasonal Heart of Darkness.
Also available are variety packs featuring #9, the seasonal, the current IPA on Tour release and a specialty beer.
Is it the brewery you expected?

"It's a brewery, that if you saw it on tap, you would order it." - Ron Kloth, Papago Brewing.

October 1, 2012

Come in Here, Dear Boy, Have a Cigar. You're Gonna Go Far.

World Class Beverages will have a special release party on October 4th at Papago Brewing. It will feature a out-of-state-brewery that will soon begin distribution in Arizona. It was a "stone cold lead pipe locked secret" at the beginning of September. I was asked to write about the release, but was told to embargo the story until at least October 2nd or 3rd.

It's a cool promotional idea and fairly unique. I can't remember when the last secret release was. One of the more interesting aspects to me is how long the secret can be kept. I even had our own Mike Lauersdorf grill a particular bar owner about it and that individual did not reveal a single detail.

On September 14th, the World Class Beverages Arizona Facebook page began putting out hints.

A confidently posted answer appeared on September 21. Was it a guess? Or was this someone who heard through other means? I don't know.

Over the next few days, people began to answer in poorly constructed hints or just flat out identified the brewery. A good percentage of those people, I'm surmising, were told about the answer and could not resist in letting people know that they are in the know.

If you're one of those people, shut it. You deserve a Cigar, the exploding kind.

Be a little more clever. For example, if the brewery in question were Dogfish Head don't answer, "Gee, me and the DOG can't wrap our HEADs around that one. It's as slippery as a FISH." You would be an idiot. You may as well have typed out the answer. In fact, in this day and age of Google, you couldn't even use the Latin species name, Squalus acanthias.

You see, "IT IS NOT CIGAR CITY!" You see what I did with the title and all. That's what you did. Except you told people the answer. I did not!

With that. Here are my hints.

  • I haven't had the brewery's beer in a number of years. It will be fun to taste them again and project whether they will have any impact here in Arizona. Which beer does this knock off?
  • It's not one of the top requested breweries that people ask me about, but it is one that east coast transplants ask about.
  • Their twitter account is more of a fortune cookie than a relevant source of information.
Answer for those not on Facebook tomorrow or the next day. I will honor the embargo, because I think this is a fun promotion and I don't want to spoil it.

September 24, 2012

The Thinnest of Threads

I've taken a small hiatus from the blog. I'll add it has been a painful separation. A combination of personal and outside commitments has hit me in the gut right now and the first thing to suffer is the format where my critical inner voice gets outwardly expressed.

Not to worry though. The future is bright and lengthy--and I still get to enjoy beer. It's a yardstick that we should all feel fortunate employing.

As we speak, I'm a Draught Works in Missoula Montana. I had a rather lengthy discussion with brewer Jeff Grant on the growing scene in the Bitterroot Valley. The laws in Montana are such that in the production environment, a brewery can only serve me 3 beers per day on their premises. The powerful bar and restaurant lobby have kept this archaic law on the books well past it's prime. It seems to only encourage drinking and driving (though if you are cautious and wise you can walk or bike to enough places in Missoula) and it seems to be at odds with the exploding beer community here.

Despite all of this, Jeff tells me, Draught Works is making a go of it selling all their beer across the bar. That's growler sales and 3 pints to each customer per day period. No packaged sales. No distributor. No jockeying for bar and restaurant handles. No endcap or shelf wars in the grocery stores.

The beers here are top-notch. We talk as he fills tiny tasters. The catalog is a mix of lagers, classic styles and a notable English Summer Session. I update Jeff on the goings on in the Phoenix Valley--how I feel that the future might be smaller places in the Fate Brewing / Mischief model that comes to us from Colorado Boy's Tom Hennesey. I can't help but look over his shoulder at the tanks and the rafters, the touch of brick. I feel as though I am looking at a scaled down version of Four Peaks. In a way, I am.

Jeff is an alumni of Four Peaks. Coincidently, on Saturday before my departure, I ran into Ted Golden of Four Peaks sporting a Draught Work trucker hat. When Jeff Grant leaves me to my beer and reading, I scan a post from Jeff Alworth's Beervana. He writes:

"I would argue that there is more to a beer than its sensory components and that knowing something about a beer can make it more enjoyable. Pleasure and enjoyment is made of a whole lot more than nerve endings, so why should we be suspicious of enjoying beer for reasons beyond what our senses tell us?"

Alworth goes on to discuss how the story of a beer can enhance our enjoyment and even touches on how the human brain is wired to intimately associate sensory to higher brain functions like memory. Oddly enough, we're on the same page but a step out of time.

All of these things together(the beer, the story, the conversation, the coincidence, the blog post) work, nay conspire, to make my 3 beer afternoon seem fleeting and yet outside of time.

September 5, 2012

The War on Thursday II | This Time It's Personal

Well, not really that personal. There are some fine events once again on Thursday (Sept 6) and though I am involved in one of them, I was not the one that planned it. I would have had it on Wednesday.

Let's start with the Hungry Monk tapping of the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp offering - ApriQuat. Publican's Jim Lolli of the Monk and (King) James Swann of Whole Foods Chandler were on the team that brewed ApriQuat along with members of the the famous Hamilton's Tavern in San Diego. If my mental notes are correct, James was the recipe writer. 

ApriQuat is a contraction of apricots and kumquats, two of the ingredients that comprise the 5.4% ABV, 31 IBU Citra hopped ale. It's been tapped in San Diego at Hamilton's but I've yet to see any tasting notes save this

My role is merely a bar tending hanger-on. I compete a Three Card Monte wherein you could be served by a President (me), a King (Swann) or a Jester (HopHead Fred).

Equally worthy of your Thursday time and dollars are the following events at Papago Brewing and Taste of Tops. The Jewbelation Quinceanera® at Papago Brewing brings friend of the blog, Zak Davis to the valley to deliver on a long promised one off conceived at Papago in 2009:
For Shmaltz's 15th anniversary, they should release a special tequila barrel-aged version of Jewbelation 15® and call it Jewbelation Quinceanera®. Well 3 years later (yes - a little late), he will be tapping one of just ten kegs of this super special brew in the place where it all began... Jewbelation Quinceanera® - a 15% ABV 15th Anniversary Strong Ale aged in Siembra Azul premium tequila barrels.
How this pairs with Leah Huss' Spinach and Artichoke dip (featured recently in the Arizona Republic) is anyone's guess right now. I will offer a free beer to the first person that writes 5 lines in the comment section on this pairing.

Finally, there is the Sour Soiree going on at Taste of Tops. If a picture is worth 1000 words then these words will be uttered through puckered lips!

Your best choice here? I'd have to say stick to your neighborhood and drive safely.

August 30, 2012

A Growl. A Map. A Plan?

Yesterday, I mentioned Jess Harter's East Valley Growler Guide as well as Shannon Armour's New Time List. I then issued a challenge to the industry to provide comprehensive information on growler locations, event listings and a framework to create an independently edited Arizona Beer Portal.

This morning I was please to find this response from Chuck Noll.

View Growler Filling Locations in a larger map

It's a Growler Location Map of bar and store accounts that World Class Beverages put together. It's open source right now, I'm not sure if that's by design or not. It's a start and I'd like to take credit for getting the ball rolling, alas, we're looking at mere coincidence based upon the map's edit times. Work began on this at least 12 hours before my post.

It's a work in progress. Breweries aren't listed as of yet. I look at this as like minds thinking alike. It's a good sign.  

But back to the big picture. Arizona breweries have the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild and the Arizona beer distributors have the Beer and Wine Distributors of Arizona as trade organizations that represent their interests. Would it be possible for these entities to support a highly filterable single web source of the best beer events, locations, calendars and news? Are they capable of setting self-interest aside? Would they enlist independent editors and allow the consumer to select the information that's relevant to them.

This doesn't have to be all about Craft Beer if there are filters in place to allow people to subscribe to the information they desire. 
  • Would you like to know about any event in your zip code? Done. Can we add that to your calendar?
  • What if you wanted to be notified of pint glass giveaways? Sure. In fact, here's a map.
  • Care to know what  the next Bud citrifed product is? You got it. Can we text you?
If there is money out there in the beer world to do the type of advertising I see for every barrio liquor store in my neighborhood, (the entire inside and outside of the store are wrapped in product signage) then there is money for this project.

Our craft beers are distributed by some of the very same companies that are able employ people like Jay-Z who oddly talks about a mashable creative music scene based on our rich American musical heritage. In the same instance, he is also pushing industrial light lager--a product that represents the usurpation of robust beer styles into a homogenized and hegemonic industrial commodity. It's jarring to my soul.

I'll be clear. This is a big money proposition and there undoubtedly is some legal wrangling involved. It's nothing that couldn't be solved by a 501c(3) and the expertise of lawyers and accountants that I'm sure might already be on the payroll.

Does the industry have the will to pull this off?
As consumers, can we compel them?

August 29, 2012

Growler Trends After 663 Hours and a Bitch or Two.

We're 663 hours into the new growler law era (Look for our growler law coverage herehere, here and here) and I come to you with some updates.

James Swann of Whole Foods Chandler reports that Ska's Modus Hoperandi was among the top selling growler pours along with Ballast Point Sculpin. Four Peaks Peach has also been a big winner. James offered that the number of women coming in to by Papago's Orange Blossom was a surprise--not so much the beer or that it was women buying it. It was just a steady stream of women, by themselves, getting the beer and immediately leaving.

Ryan Jones of Taste of Tops was surprised at how many growlers of New Belgium Abbey are being sold. IPAs are generally selling well. Opening day, it was Bells Two Hearted but as their supply kicked it has shifted the other hop-centric offerings.

OHSO is boiling water
Sonoran White Chocolate Ale, Papago Orange Blossom and Oak Creek's King Crimson are the top three at OHSO according to Jon Lane.

Lane has a minor inspection hurdle to clear and he's read to brew most likely next week. This week he posted picture of the 1bbl brewhouse boiling water.

Jess Harter at Mouth By Southwest has put a winning guide to growler locations in the east valley with 16 locations and counting. I unreservedly applaud Harter's efforts. Still, I can't help but think that we truly won't be the beer city that we all long for until we get comprehensive beer coverage across the entire valley.

Our pulp publications have failed us and the largest one seems to be headed for it's own failure.* You should not have to pay money to learn about beer events.

This isn't a call to Harter. It's a call to the the industry to figure out how to build an event driven Arizona Beer Website and provide an unbiased editorial group with a feed of information and some start-up funds. Let writers write. Give them some freedom to editorialize. You're going to have to pay them too.

And No. It isn't this site or any that exists right now.

The well lit interior.
In other news, I recently penned a column on the soft opening of Angels Trumpet Ale House for Downtown Phoenix Journal. My experiences have been overwhelmingly positive and there is no doubting that the linked article is a glowing piece.

Others have experienced the common problems that befall a new business. One experience in particular bears a note. If you agreed to be seated on the un-lighted patio because the place was packed and you could not read the menu, perhaps just order a beer and come back another time. There are places that cater to dining in the pitch black, this is not one of them. If you couldn't see before your food arrived, it's silly of you to bitch about it online.

To those who have yet to visit, my advice is to check it out. If it fails to meet your expectations, talk to the owners and give them till at least their official Grand Opening on September 15 before you go internet tough guy.

*Edit I am aware of and enjoyed reading Shannon Armour's top 10 list of places to fill growlers in the New Times. That type of content has it's place. I'm looking for something similar to the weekly band guide that they publish--A definitive Valley-wide guide.

August 20, 2012

Flanny's Flaunts Tap Takeover Muscles

That headline would have been worded differently after last month's Four Peaks tap takeover. It may have said something like, "Flanny's Flummoxed After Four Peaks Tap Takeover."

Now, now, before the Flanny's fanatics come crashing down on me, I'd like to note that last month's Four Peaks tap takeover was a success on many levels – super-rare beers, super-big crowd, always-nice beer folk. It's obvious Arizonans love their flagship brewery. Unfortunately, the elbow-room-only crowd killed a few of those rare beer kegs faster than our server could get the beers to our table. Suppose I could have just bellied up to the bar instead, but one would think preordering the brews before the kegs were tapped would guarantee us said rare beers. Guess not. Bitter beer face indeed. 

L to R: Deliverance, Mo Betta Bretta,
Cuvee de Tomme, Red Poppy
Fast forward a month later to the next tap takeover: Port / Lost Abbey. I was pretty determined to miss this after the Four Peaks event, but my love for both Lost Abbey and Flanny's persuaded me to give it another go. And, boy, am I glad I did. Not only did we see some Lost Abbey beers rarely or never seen on tap here in the Valley (Cuvee de Tomme, anyone?), but the crowd size was much more manageable and there was plenty of staff on hand to help patrons in a timely manner – a vast improvement over previous tap takeovers. Oh, and another cool thing: the young lady sitting to my right had a Budweiser bottle in front of her (shudder). But, after a few minutes of banter, Bud girl replaced that bogus bottle with a tulip of Serpent's Stout. Ah, the power of beer-suasion.

What the Flanagans have done for the East Valley beer scene, hell, the Arizona beer scene, is impressive. From cask nights to these extremely popular tap takeovers, it's safe to say John and John have tickled the tastebuds of AZ beer drinkers everywhere. Now, if they could just get Firestone-Walker onboard for a tap takeover. Oh, wait... 

August 17, 2012

Remixing the King of Pop(ped corks) - Michael Jackson | Need Your Help!

This week I happened upon the Julia Child PBS remix. Julia would have been 100 on August 15.

The video is an auto-tune creation by melodysheep, aka John D. Boswell. PBS also did remixes for Mr Rodgers and he-of-happy-little-trees painting host Bob Ross.

These creations made me wonder if we could enlist someone on the inter-tubes to do such a thing for Michael Jackson. It would be a great way to introduce new beer drinkers to the man credited with documenting leading the international and craft beer renaissance of the 70's and 80's. These auto-tune mixes seem to surface every week or so now. Why not Michael?

This clip alone has many of the familiar elements of the PBS remixes.

"My name is Michael Jackson, but I don't sing."
"I drink beer. That's what I do for a living."
"I travel the world, sampling beers and writing about the ones I enjoyed."

"We'll go Beer Hunting in Bohemia, Bavaria, Brabant, Britain and the Bay area of San Francisco."

Corks popping, bottles glugging, English brass interstitial flourishes and of course the majestic opening sequence with the quirky klezmer clarinet break.

Part two details the lambic brewing process.

It's all there creative types. Maybe pass this on.
You have to admit. it might be fun.

Can we do that?

August 14, 2012

The War on Thursdays

This is an unusual year in Phoenix as we're still talking about beer events beyond April. In years past, most of the industry packed up their tents for Flagstaff only to return sometime in September.  As I talk to breweries and beer cultural veterans, most feel as though a busy beer summer is the new normal.

We're deep in the guts of August--a very hot and unrelenting August--and it seems as though most beer businesses are targeting Thursdays as the battlefield. As an example this week's (August 16) Thursday:

Four Peaks Beer Dinner at Lons:
Alaskan Beer Dinner at T. Cooks:
Each of these are spectacular and given the caliber of the Chefs and the restaurants, $65 is not a bad price. The beers are admittedly standard line-ups for the most part, but that's not the point of beer dinners. The star should be the pairing and one should be prepared to think about a familiar beer in a new way. You don't go to a pastry shop and exclaim, "Oh they're using flour. Good God can't they find something a little more exotic!" (Well maybe YOU do.)

Normally, ASH has it's Happy Hour on Thursday. It's been moved to Wednesday at Hungry Monk perhaps to make way for Flanny's Port/Lost Abby Tap takeover. Though I serve as the ASH President, I don't schedule the Happy Hours. I can imagine that given the firepower put out by the distributors the beer bars and the breweries, ASH may have to pick a different day to hold their humble event.

I'll mention also that Whole Foods Chandler always has a Thursday special. This week it's Craft Cans and a Growler Fill Happy Hour. Consult one of many Facebook groups for details on that.

Facebook, it seems is the weapon of choice for Thursdays War. It's getting increasingly difficult to link to these events without having an account and it's truly a shame. Once in awhile there is a website link, but it's often incomplete. For example, the Four Peaks menu above was on Facebook, but the menu is not available on the Lon's website. You shouldn't have to have a social media account to drink beer.

I repeat. You shouldn't have to have a social media account to drink beer.

I'd love to hit any of these, but I have 2 other conflicts. The first is a showing of Riff Trax Live - Manos Hands of Fate which is being satellite-simulcast into Valley theaters. Riff Trax is alumni of MST3K and it is a guaranteed 2 hour belly laugh. Personally, I could use that as much as a good beer dinner.

The second conflict is that I have agreed to judge Wit beers for Crescent Crown's Homebrewing Club.
(Homebrew winners before Beer dinners!)

RULE 5A facebook account should not be required to drink good beer. Every business should have a website and update it as frequently as other social media or at least provide a feed via their website. Using Facebook only is as bad as restaurants having a PDF wine list and no beer list on their flash driven website.

RULE 6: Thou Shall Not Ignore The Other Non-Thursday Days of the Week for Beer Events.

August 6, 2012

Jet Set Wit

Over the weekend, I flew to and from Milwaukee on US Airways*. I was tipped off that they had added Shock Top--a Belgian-style unfiltered wheat ale brewed with real citrus peels and coriander spice. It's made by the Shock Top Brewery in St Louis, Missouri according to the can. (Why must they do this? We all know it's ABI.)

I hadn't had one before. It's a bit too orange soda for me. If I'm going to give my money to a Belgian-Brazilian multinational I'd prefer a Hoegaarden with it's touch of bitterness and not so sweet finish.

I know that smaller airlines are adding craft beers. I'm guessing that it's easier to do when your flight segments are regionalized and you can ensure that canned versions are available in all of your destinations. A larger carrier probably has work with larger brands. US Airways has 200+ destinations and they rank #10 in carrier size. Maybe a New Belgium or a Sierra Nevada will be able to someday be everywhere that larger airlines fly. Until then, I think we're relegated to major beers on major carriers.

I didn't come to bash Shock Top. Think about it. Shock Top hit the market in 2006. If I told you in 2005 we'd be drinking Wit beer on airplanes someday, we'd probably be thinking, "Ooh wit bier on a jet plane! How Continental! What a bright future we have."

And, the future... It is bright.

*Disclaimer- I am married to the most attractive US Airways employee ever.

August 2, 2012

Be a Knowledgeable Growler User

Midnight struck on August 2 and Arizona began a new era for the growler. (Look for our growler law coverage here, here, and here). There are several things an informed beer drinker should know about growlers and so I write.

Growth and History
The new law has the potential for incredible growth. I wrote a general piece on what this all means for Food & Flourish Magazine. If you are interested in learning about the history of growlers, the linked source I cited in F&F was not included. Jess Kidden, a beer historian, has some amazing photos, scans and stories on growlers and a great many topics. Please visit Jess here:

The Law (or approximations thereof)

Rogue Scenario
Tanqueray Scenario
Next, a reading of the law alone won't give you the latest thinking from the Arizona Liquor Control Board (AZDLLC).  According to Chuck Noll of World Class Beverages as related in the comment section here, ceramics and other non-glass growlers like stainless steel are not allowed. Previously used retail containers are not allowed for refills (the Tanqueray scenario) per Federal Law, though it is acknowledged that this may be impossible to determine in some cases (the Rogue scenario).  Read Chuck's comment and the ones south of it and you're as knowledgeable as anyone in the industry on the legal aspects of a silly matter as complicated as an inert and sealable gravity assisted beer containment device could ever be.

Growler Citizenship
While the law maybe favorable to the consumer, that's not the end of the story (remember things are evolving here). A business has every right to refuse to fill your oil can for any reason under the sun. A business so licensed may decide to get into or out of the growler biz at any time. Filling growlers is not all that easy. Lots of beer in the form of foam goes right down the drain.  Beers sold on premise represents bigger check averages. There may be restrictions on certain beers. No one here would be happy if 3 gentlemen came into a place at a 5PM Hopslam tapping and killed a torpedo before the happy hour crowd arrived.

There should be no whining about this. Respect the establishment's decision. Shop elsewhere if you're prepared to fall on your sword over it but remember the bad karma you racked up will certainly slap you back in the face when the tap list changes. You'll want to come back.

I don't have specific word on this but I can imagine that some breweries will want to stick with tradition and only fill their logo'd growlers. The tradition in the craft beer era has been that growlers were filled only at the brewery and Federal regulations dictated labeling conditions. They enjoyed a special relationship with the customer and had complete quality control.

With this change they stand to gain outside sales but may lose more lucrative across the bar sales. They lose branding and marketing too.

The brewery remains the freshest place to get your beer and you should consider a visit.

Growler Maintenance 
When you finish a growler give it a good hot rinse immediately and dry it upside down. Don't forget to give the cap a scrub in hot water as well.

Before you fill it again, inspect it for organic matter. If it's good, use a hot soak and cold rinse.

I'd avoid using the dish washer for cleaning because of detergents contain surfactants. You may also have jet-dry and other anti sheeting agents in your washer. These products kill beer head and foam is the first thing to fade in growlered beers.. Rinse agents are difficult to remove from glassware even after repeated rinsing. If you clean your glassware in the dishwasher, google "beer clean glassware" and do the test. You'll see what I mean.

 Sheeting (left), Salt (center) and Lacing (right)
Photo; Brewers Association

If your growler is soiled, use a bottle brush and a hot soak. But you really don't need to because you rinsed it right away, right?? You can also use PBW (Powdered Brewery Wash), a non caustic homebrewing cleaning product. It won't leave a slick finish like Oxiclean will. Homebrewers use Oxi sometimes, but I wouldn't recommend it for cleaning glass used for finished beer. PBW is the right product and works wonders with Phoenix hard water.

I use Star San for sanitizing, because that's what I use for brewing. I make 5 gallons of it at a time. Honestly, I don't think you need to keep it sanitized, because you're going to keep it cold and drink it under 24 hours, so there is little point.

Should you decide to use it, be very careful. In it's concentrated form, it will eat through formica and stain surfaces. You don't need a lot of it. You just need to have wet contact for 3 minutes. You'll need to buy a oral syringe to make very small batches since 1 ounce of concentrate makes 5 gallons. If you use distilled water, batches are good almost indefinitely. Using the labeled concentration, Star San is completely safe and is no rinse--it's OK to have a little left swirling around in the container when you're done. A spray bottle of Star San is very handy for storing and using on growlers and the cap.

You can get all of these care products (and professional advice) at Brewers Connection, Brew Your Own Beer, What Ale's Ya, and Hops and Tannins in the Valley. (See here for locations). While you're in there, pick up a few replacement growler caps.

A cold growler foams less. If it's not busy at the bar, ask them to cold rinse your growler and store it in the cooler before filling. Have a pint or two while you wait.