July 30, 2012

Year Three

Our preferred Birthday Cake if anyone is willing!
http://beerfordessert.com/  see below. 
It went unnoticed by our PR firm and the entire home office, but our little blog turned 2 this month.

As with our last anniversary, I paid the domain bill, reviewed the New Beer Rules of Phoenix and re-read our first post.

We're on uncharted ground here as I explained in a piece about local beer blogging. It seems as most local beer blogs don't make it more than 18 months before people throw in the towel. Life happens. People get tired of writing beer reviews when Ratebeer and Beer Advocate own that market. The number of beer events has increased but our coverage and calendaring of them has not kept pace.

I still think that we're the best beer blog in the city, but we came here to get out of everyone's way.

We'll write the opinions. We'll highlight the best. We'll be critical. We'll ask the questions. We'll offer perspective and analyze trends. We will tell the stories that won't otherwise be told. We will tell people what needs to happen in this city until the real experts find us and tell us we're idiots. They will tell us we're wrong and we will learn from them. I know. It seems like an arrogant and egotistical premise.
I thought I'd start off year three with a mention of some new voices or at least ones not previously mentioned in this forum.

AZ Beer Calendar
Andrew Bauman and Tim Weeble have been managing AZ Beer Calendar. It's bare bones and functional, much like the one on ASH's left navigation calendar. Someday perhaps they can evolve it toward what Jess Harter has done at Mouth by Southwest. Andrew writes at a number of places and seems to start a new blog every week. Until I can figure out what he's up to next, pin him down at one of his homebrewing blogs here.

The Beer Czar
Not a new voice, just one that was not on my radar until mid-2011. The Beer Czar started in 2009 but had less than a handful of posts in 2010. The blogger with a Michigan connection seems to be on a regular once a week schedule now mixing beer travelogue, tips and reviews for those newer to the beer hobby. I'm guessing that offspring #3 was in 2010. Glad to see new posts this month!

Cold, Hard Brews
I met this team of bloggers the other night at Whole Foods during the Odell Beer Class. They describe themselves as new to craft beer and hope to get new folks tasting and involved in the scene. They got high praise from the folks at the Flagstaff Ale Trail. Let's hope that they can find an audience and a voice.

The Saint Arnolds Society
I'll admit to being in the dark about TSAS. They are clearly homebrewers in ASH and have linked back to BeerPHXation, but their identity remains a secret to me. Seems like the focus is getting small groups together and network. I'd love to see them at the Rose and Crown before the Science of Beer event, but I'll be out of state. I find that they have a clean economical and frequent post structure, I just wish I could subscribe via vss and it wasn't so hard to deep link to them.

Beer for Dessert
What birthday would be complete without cake and this kind of chocolate cake is my favorite. I'm going to guess that Bri found our blog on a visit home from the PacNW. Beer for Dessert provides a link back to us and so I'm hoping that our appropriation of her cake pic will be OK. Please let me know if you tackle one of her recipies, I'll be right over.

Finally, I'd like to mention A Fool and His Beers who hails from Kingman. When you stop feeling sorry about the fact that we only get 5 or 6 thousand beers here in Phoenix, think about what life would be like if you main source of local beer was the Hualapai Mountain Kwik Stop. It sounds like it might be a great place and have a responsive staff, but here in Phoenix, some of us "beer geeks" like to beat our retailers and breweries up over a buck.


Fool, (aka. The Mysterious Writer of this blog) even likes to gently poke me about my beer rules and that's an OK rule in my book.

July 26, 2012

One Party System | New Times Limits Beer Vote

It was pointed out to me today by ASH Communications Officer, Tom Boggan that the New Times Reader's Poll dropped the ability to vote for Best Local Beer. This was an option last year. The only remaining beer related category is Best Brewery. He also mentioned that we've reached a point where we really should have a Best Beer Bar category. I completely agree.

A quick run through of the poll reveals that the write in category is gone from year's past. (This means that you can't write this blog in for Best Beer Blog--the outrage!)

Clearly there needs to be more beer categories as the Readers Poll of 2011 demonstrates. Breweries took 6 categories last year, some in non-beer specific areas

Brewery Specific

Best Brewery: Four Peaks Brewing Company
Best Local Beer: Four Peaks Brewing Company

Non Brewery Specific

Best Gastropub: Four Peaks Brewing Company
Best Happy Hour, Tempe: Four Peaks Brewing Company
Best Sports Bar, Tempe: Four Peaks Brewing Company
Best Neighborhood Bar, Southeast Valley: SanTan Brewing Company

One hopes that the editors will add these categories and fill them in with sensible choices. It's already an opportunity lost for voters.

Reader's polls are not something that we'd be interested in here. Without trying very hard, I can think of at least a half dozen local beer awards that also have mainstream cross-over appeal. ASH seems like it is an informed and unbiased bunch. Perhaps I will see of they are up to the task.

* I should disclaim to all readers that are not my mother, that I serve as the ASH President.

July 24, 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.

July 23, 2012

Growler Law | Heart of Glass

Back in April, BeerPHXation was the first to break the news that there was a change in the growler law. The change would enable Bars and Liquor Stores the ability to sell growlers of beer for off-premise consumption where this had once been the sole province of breweries. Breweries enjoyed a special relationship with customers though the growler and did so without legislative restriction. We wrote a little something about that as the language of the bill became clearer.

HB 2606 goes into effect August 2nd with a number of requirements on the nature of the container. We riffed a bit on how the language of the law specifies glass and would seem to preclude stainless steel growlers. (I've been told by at least two business owners that their liquor agents indicated that their operating rules would allow them. We shall wait and see.) I've highlighted the relevant passages in Title 4 of the Arizona Revised Statutes.

4-244.  32
c) A Bar, Beer And Wine Bar, Liquor Store, Beer And Wine Store Or Domestic Microbrewery Licensee Who Dispenses Beer Only In A Clean Glass Container With A Maximum Capacity That Does Not Exceed One Gallon And Not For Consumption On The Premises As Long As:
(i) The Licensee Or The Licensee's Employee Fills The Container At The Tap At The Time Of Sale.
(ii) The Container Is Sealed With A Plastic Adhesive And Displays A Government Warning Label.
(iii) The Dispensing Of That Beer Is Not Done Through A Drive-Through Or Walk-Up Service Window.
It's been assumed by most people in the industry that the current practice of using electrical tape to seal will be sufficient to meet the plastic adhesive seal requirement. The "shrink wrap" method uses a heat gun to tighten the plastic around the lid and technically there is no adhesion, only shrinking. So we are left with the actual container: clean glass, under 1 Gallon, with government warning.

To the letter of the law, I submit to you these examples. In most cases, I wouldn't expect bars and stores to fill them, but as we go through the list, you might see why a brewery would start to get nervous as all control over the branding is lost. Heck, I'd be saddened if I saw beer in most of these.

1) The Out-of-State Brewery - It says beer. It also says, "sorry we have no idea which brewery" and it's most likely not American Amber after the first fill. I didn't snap a pic, but it has the federal warning on the back.

2) The Father's Day Gift or "look what I found in Dad's fridge while visiting, let's go get it filled". Note: It's 1 quart, it has the warning label and it's cheap. If you weren't sensing the discomfort from a local brewery in the last picture, well, we're on our way.

3) The Wine is the New Beer. Impress your wine friends and re-affirm that high hopped beer tastes like skunks. It comes in half and one gallon government approved vessels.

4) The Bootlegger. Hey, it's glass and it screws on. High proof liquor makes sanitation a lock! I spotted this 1 gallon variety at Target. Coincidentally, some Target stores have the necessary license to to make this happen.

5) The Heinekener. Just like the "Wine is the New Beer", this one is a skunkifier. The Heinekener lets others know that we like to overpay for the illusion of premium. Comes in various sizes, screwtop, warning label and instant sanitation. Plus, who could resist a gin-aged IPA?

6) The Late 90's Homebrewer. This for all of you that took a 10 year hiatus to raise a child and want to get back into the hobby. Root around in the garage and you've got a literal bottleneck waiting to happen at the draft tower. Use this time to talk to other customers about how cool brewing is. Sealable? Perhaps not.

7) The "Alcoholism Doesn't Run in my Family, It Rides in the Passenger Seat". Sir, that's plastic. We can't use that even though it has a label and is clean and those little ones... Can I call you a cab?

8) The Hipster. This warrants no comment.

I've obviously taken this to an extreme, but there is a certain kernel of truth in each of these examples and you can see where those of us that care about the image of beer have our concerns.

Edit-- This paragraph missed the initial cut, but it's the point of the whole post:
The larger point is this. Before the law, the breweries would use their judgement as to what a suitable container would be. Invariably, it would be one that they issued with their branding on it. Now that a number of license holders can sell in growlers and they can do so without worry about branding, well. You're likely to see a great variety of glass containers filled.

Wherever possible, I will use a growler with the correct brewery's logo or I will use an unmarked government labeled growler.

It seems like a reasonable thing to do.

July 18, 2012

How Beer Geeky is Your Mobile?

Or things to fix while in an airport while waiting for a plane.

First a story.

Three years ago at the GABF I tweeted about my first glass of Black Folie-- a 52/48 blend of New Belgium's La Folie and Redstone Meadery's Black Raspberry Nectar. The tweet read in part, "I <3 Black Folie". This was almost immediately  auto-corrected by my Motorola Droid as, "I <3 Black Folk".

I love Black folk as much as any other folk. There wasn't a problem with the statement in and of itself. It was just wholly out of place. I caught it before it went out. The next day I added La Folie to my spell check custom dictionary.

I'm on a Galaxy Nexus now. It's another Android product. Due to the Google grand unification of all my data, my custom dictionary entries follow me around. 

During a recent trip, I added a few more entries. I thought I'd share. If you want to calibrate your phones geek factor against mine, then you should type these terms in a text and see what comes up. Tap them in in lower case (especially proper nouns) and post any funny business in the comments. A sampling:


You may consider adding these and maybe olllllo and BeerPHXation too?

I also own an iPad, but I've been a bit lax on keeping those beer terms up to date on my Jobs Machine. The auto-suggest on Apple products is rude and intrusive. It doesn't let you add entries on the fly like you can on Android. I wish I could port my custom entries. I imagine I'd have to use iTunes in some ridiculous process to get my useful but #appleunclean data to the iPad.

Side note: I googled for images of Black Folie. Apparently this is a lingerie of some type. 
Caveat Googlor.

July 9, 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.

We've also had no guesses on this photo. No guesses on this one either.
You're slacking Phoenix. We love you, but you have to get better at this beer drinking thing.

Answer after the jump.

July 6, 2012

The Session #65 | To Pub Alone: That is the Question and the Answers.

Session Host Nathaniel Southwood of Booze, Beats and Bites asks the questions:
How do you feel about going to the pub alone? Do you feel it’s necessary to be around friends to spend time in a pub?
Yes, we have no Pubs.
Let's wade into this seemingly straight forward request and provide some context. Nathaniel hails from Norwich in the UK in a town where there is  "a church for every week of the year, and a pub for every day." 
This is a land where the Pub was born and its designation has much more meaning than it does in the US and in particular the desert Southwest.

Coincidentally (and also during the time that we're struggling with the definition of "Craft Beer"), some in the dead world of beer blogging are trying to wrap our heads around what a pub is and why we don't have them.  You should read Alworth's post as well as the companion piece, The Story of American Beer. The is much to agree and disagree about (as the comments of both reveal). The takeaway is that we have what we have because of history.

The UK pub experience is born from conditions that Charles Bamforth lays out so eloquently in, Beer Is Proof God Loves Us: Reaching for the Soul of Beer and Brewing:
The folks lived in row upon row of small houses, all joined together in grey, damp blocks. Two rooms down and two up and a toilet a freezing trek away down the narrow back yard, with newspaper to clean oneself up and often no light to ensure a satisfactory result. Baths were taken in front of the coal fire in the living room, in a pecking order of father first, mother next, then the children. For those with coal-miner dads it was no treat to be the youngest offspring.
Was it then a wonder that the pub held appeal? Warm, cozy, buzzing with camaraderie and escape. (Emphasis mine.)

There are some other C's that we can draw a circle around for the UK pub experience besides Cozy &  Comaraderie:
Cask Ale
Chips & Cod

The Barfly. Tavern culture.
In the US, Puritanical roots, prohibition and the lager-beer mono-culture have made our establishments more about financial transactions and consumer expediency than Oldenburg's third place. (Our readers in their 20's should bear with me here, the pre-craft beer drinking experience was not what it is today.) Alworth alludes that the craft beer era has begun to move us away from the Bar and Tavern (dark places where drinking alone is conducive) to open craft beer breweries and taphouses. We can sub out Cask Ale for Craft Beer. Our Fish and Chips might be Fish Tacos. Our Pub proxies contain some of the C's but very rarely all of them. We have a ways to go, of course. The afternoon crowds at beer establishments are filled with iced tea drinkers and well... see Rule 2
It is not a crime to have beer at lunch.
Also, see above.

Where are our places of warm, cozy, buzzing with camaraderie and escape? If you're in Arizona. Hit the google and type in your area code and pub. Here's my search for my work address (Biltmore area). Do any of these places exude Bamforth's appealing pub? No. They do not.

OK, you pedantic bastard. What about drinking alone in your pseudo-pubs. Can you do that?
In Arizona, there are places to drink beer (sometimes cask), enjoy meals without being run off after you're finished, see familiar faces. Often I'll meet new people or beer reps or beer industry folk, chat with the owner or longtime staff (continuity). There is an enjoyment of the space itself. It's cozy and comfortable. I did this not an hour ago by myself at OHSO. I have deemed this place to be Arcadia's Beer Town Hall™. Jon Lane is one of Arizona's up-and-coming Publicans (as much as our "pub" scene allows). There are couches too and places to work if you wanted. Stretch out with a magazine of newspaper. They would not run you out after your meal is done and you beer glass is more empty than full. They would not kill you with over attention or fill you with water glass after water glass after water glass. (I know this trick, servers.)

In fact, I'd argue that it's almost essential that you go to these places by yourself on occasion. How else will you have the time to visit with strangers or eavesdrop? When else would you blurt out sports trivia or beer facts depending on the most recent nearby audible snippet? You are all there for the same reasons. You enjoy the fine beer and the chance to converse or silently feel connected to something outside of home or work. You may have the same or better beer at home and yet you'd rather be out and about. If you find a proper place, you are engaged and you are not alone.

Pubs in the valley? What's your take? I held off on naming them. I'd like to hear from you.

July 2, 2012

Sonoran and Matney Redefine the FFF Word

There is no escaping history at Lons.
There are some things that you cannot escape. So called, "craft beer" would like us to think that they do not rely on marketing. Almost every beer drinker that I know claims not to be influenced by advertising, marketing or the beer label, but I maintain that this is simply willful ignorance. In fact, your entire being is filled with cultural reference and mass media ephemera. The best you can do is identify it and deal with it. If you have the patience to read on, you'll see what I mean.

Last week saw the release of Sonoran's FFF, "Family, Friends, and Flyfishing" I missed the Sonoran FFF release dinner last week, and worse, I didn't notify any of you. If you're not familiar with FFF, it it the second Chef Series beers, the first was a collaboration with Lon's Chef PachecoFFF was created as a collaboration between Sonoran and renowned Chef  Eddie Matney. Jess Harter of MXSW tells the story here. It's clear to me that these Chef series beers are aimed to address the fine dining market and re-cast Sonoran as a small-batch brewer focused on ingredients and niche styles. There is nothing wrong with this approach in my opinion. A brewery needs to differentiate and this is a good strategy. Thus far, the beers from Sonoran accomplish this differentiation.

Get ready for a completely derailing aside.

In my own experience (and perhaps people of my cohort group--early Gen X), there are 2 prior definitions of FFF, both from music. The first is the Public Image Limited song FFF from 1986 Compact Disc which stands for:
Farewell my fairweather friend.
Bad times, now they must end.
Bad times - they must end.
On you no one can depend

PILs Compact Disc was notable for it's generic product cover art and this song is... well rather sneering. It is John Lydon after all.
The second reference is from 1997's Megadeth album Cryptic Writings. The F's stand for:
Fight for freedom, fight authority
Fight for anything, it's my country
or, if you're into this kind of thing, 'F' is the 6th letter of the alphabet and we'll just leave it at that.

I bring this up for absolutely no reason other than to lay my preconceived notions on the table. Whether you believe in marketing of not, FFF did not spell, "Family, Friends, and Flyfishing" to me. It was laced with a whole lot of baggage for me. 

Back to he beer. 

Thankfully, it is not a post-punk sneer, nor is it a macho debbil worship anthem.
Grapefruit Beer = Grapefruit garnish

I had FFF last week during lunch at Lons.

It's starts with a medium malt and you are hit with a nice dose of basil. There is very little hop bittering. I'm guessing 15IBU. The bitterness is coming from the grapefruit. It's served with a sliced grapefruit and that can make it pithy bitter (it's OK with me but others may find it too much). It finishes dry with a fresh grapefruit flavor. I'm positive that any brown sugar is fermented out, so I don't think that adds anything other than more alcohol that's not saddled with malt heaviness.

If you are at all interested in beer and basil, I wrote something over at Food & Flourish. This beer seems to use a clean American Ale yeast, so there is no Belgian phenolic to amp up that basil.
Lon's Halibut
FFF, most likely would have paired better with a salad. I had the house fish and chips. Lons adds some seasoning to their batter and serves it with a parsley/caper aoili.

I can't attest to what will happen to grapefruit long term in a beer, especially in a lighter body beer. My recommendation is to drink it now while it is fresh.