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???

Results: http://506227.cache1.evolutionhosting.com/wp-content/uploads/12_GABF_winners.pdf

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.