Saturday, December 31, 2011

Epic Fail: American Beer Blogger

Dead on arrival. Sadly, that was the predictable fate of a recent stab by Greenleaf Productions to produce, market, and launch a 6 episode series to a cable channel about all facets of the "ever growing" craft beer market. It seemed like an exciting concept, and one any beer lover would rally behind. So why did this project fail so epically?

The idea was to raise $60,000 through Kickstarter, a fund raising platform for creative projects. For AAB to go forward, they would need to receive $60,000 in pledges by January 14th, 2012. With Kickstarter, if the goal is not reached,  the money pledged is returned to those who donated to the project. Greenleaf only gave themselves a 60 day window to raise a substantial amount of money. They would need to maintain a steady $1,000 a day pace in pledges over a two month period. When this pace quickly sputtered, a "phase two" of fundraisers was initiated. $60,000 in such a short time frame was a very tall order indeed. The last ditch efforts and late rallies to raise funds were all too little too late.

Was Kickstarter the right way to go? To rely on donations from the public to fund the shooting, editing and marketing of the series to a cable channel is risky to say the least. It appeared that Greenleaf was taking a big gamble here. The troubling part was, they only seemed to be willing to gamble with someone else money. Who is to say that a cable channel the likes of A&E, Travel, or Discovery would even bite at this idea? The answer to that question, might be the reason ABB never really had a chance.

The premise itself. American Beer Blogger? Really? This idea was apparently hatched in a bar. The series would be watching a beer blogger as he called a brewer, or bar owner, or beer store owner/manager, setting up a visit, going there and looking around, asking questions, tasting some beers and having some fun. If you are a beer geek, I am sure you would love to see a series like this. The problem here is, you are playing to a very selective audience. Quite frankly, I don't think the general public would be all that interested in following around a guy who blogs about beer. Not to mention the fact this was done over 20 years ago. The Beer Hunter was a series that aired on the Discovery Channel in the late 1980's. It followed world renowned journalist and author Michael Jackson as he hunted down the world's greatest beers. Following a beer blogger basically doing the same thing Jackson did 20 some odd years ago? It just does not carry the same weight.

This template and format has been used in one form of another over the years with a number of food, drink, and travel shows. A beer related series was attempted just two years ago. Discovery aired Brewmasters a series that followed Delaware's Dogfish Head Brewery founder and owner Sam Calagione. Brewmasters was not picked up for a second season. The focus on beer alone is problematic for an objective viewer. That leads to another big reason this project was DOA. The guy doing the blogging.

Who is Lew Bryson? Good question, because outside a small group of beer geeks, or beer industry insiders, no one seems to know who he is.  Bryson is a "free lance" drinks writer that has written about beer and whiskey for years. Sounds like Peter LaFrance. What? You never heard of him either?  My point exactly. Bryson indeed has a blog about beer (he has even authored a few regional beer travel books), but if you take a look, you will see lots of big gaps. "The" American Beer Blogger really does not seem to do a whole lot of beer blogging. He appears to be pretty active on Twitter and Facebook, just not as a blogger.

I'm sure Bryson knows his stuff, and is a likable enough fellow, but the fact he was such an unknown to the public, did not help here. Bryson was not a good choice in my opinion. He is just not a marque name in the beer world. The project only reaching an embarrassing 10% funding says it all really. A "new" Kickstarter that was set at $6,000 the day after American Beer Blogger failed. I see this as pathetic money grab at the pledges ABB received on the Kickstarter that did not reach the goal. They have reached this goal, made one pilot episode that aired on a local PBS station. Have not heard a peep since.

Greenleaf  seemed to be banking on Bryson and all the industry contacts he made over the years, coming up big with pledge money. That just did not happen. Bryson seemed to have called in all his favors but with few takers. No one (with the exception of one bar owner) really stepped up for him, and that has to be humbling. Bryson even went so far as to make an impassioned plea on his blog (Paying It Forward) that was just shamless pandering for money. While breweries, distilleries, and beer distributors have no problem sending Bryson samples of finished product for review and opinion? They were not so quick to reach into their pockets and pony up the cold hard cash ABB needed to go forward with six finished episodes.

Had Greenleaf gotten someone like Garrett Oliver, a world renowned brew master (Brooklyn Brewery), author, and all around beer expert? A re-tooled version of this project might have had a fighting chance. Bryson just does have the chops to carry a series, and Greenleaf hitched their cart to the wrong horse. A bigger and better known name might have made all the difference here.

I would love to see a series like this, but in this day and age? There is a better place for ABB. Youtube. This kind of thing has been done on Youtube for a few years now, and its done daily. Beertubing and Vlogging about beer can be done quite easily. All you need is a Youtube account, a digital camera and you are off to the races. Video beer reviews, video tours or breweries and distilleries, you name it, and its there on Youtube. Videos dealing with any and every aspect of the craft beer market is there at your finger tips. Bryson might want to try his hand at this. He might find some success, and actually build a world wide audience. Will a show on the beer market ever make it to a cable channel the likes of A&E, Discovery, Food Network, or the Travel Channel again? Maybe. As The American Beer Blogger with Lew Bryson? Doubtful.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Baconize your beer! Pork fat rules: Fat Washing

Rauchbier is a German beer style where malt used in brewing of beer is smoked over a beechwood fire. This process give the beer an intense salty, sooty, smoky aroma and flavor, akin to bacon. This style is not for the timid, but for those who love those aromas and flavors in their beer? Its a match made in heaven. Many brewers have followed suit and produce their own example of rauchbier. Others have experimented with other styles, and other woods to smoke with amazing results.

But what about a beer where bacon was actually used in the brewing process? Believe it or not, the idea and concept is not as crazy as you might think, and some adventurous commerical brewers, have started to infuse real bacon in their beer. This might just be a fade, some say a gimmick, but the trend is gaining momentum, especially so on the brewpub level.

How does it happen? The process itself is know as "Fat Washing". Fat washing is mixing a melted fat,  in this case bacon fat, with alcohol, chilling and cooling the mix­ture until the fat solidifies. The mixture is slowly skimmed and strained,  removing the solids and the fat itself.  The end result being total removal of the fat, but the aroma and flavor of the fat (bacon) remains. Basically you are left with a bacon flavored alcohol, and depending on the spirit used, be it vodka, rum, or bourbon, the aromas and flavors of bacon can range from subtle to intense. This technique is nothing new, it has been practiced in the perfume industry for years.

This bacon infused alcohol is then added to the beer some point in the brewing process, along with a nice dose of smoked malts, to shore up the bacon character. This is a true bacon beer. A handful of commerical examples exist, and odds are you are you will find this one on the brewpub level. The Brooklyn Brewery, of Brooklyn, NY has produced a commerical example of a bacon beer called Reinschweinsgebot, a bourbon, bacon infused, bacon smoked brown ale. The Watch City Brewing Company of Waltham, MA brewed up a bacon beer called Smokey Joe Brown that has gained a cult following.


Bacon beer, could it get any beer? As a beer and bacon lover, I hope the trend continues.






Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Flip the Switch: Dave's Electric Beer

I was able to spend a few months in Southern Arizona recently. That was a very good thing for me as a beer lover, as I got to enjoy a number of different brewpubs and breweries in the Tucson/Phoenix area. It also gave my a chance to get out to Bisbee, AZ and try a legendary brew from Arizona, Dave's Electric Beer. The picture you see is a pint of Electric beer poured at Dave's Electric Brewpub in Tempe, AZ. This beer was not brewed at the brewpub however, this is the original from the brewery in Bisbee. It can be found at a number of local watering holes in Bisbee, and I'm happy to say I drained many a pint of Electric Beer on its home turf.

So what makes Dave's Electric Beer worth seeking out? A lot really. I won't repeat myself, but if you are interested in the history of this beer and the brewery, look here:

http://beersinthehenhouse.blogspot.com/2010/05/craft-beer-legend-daves-electric.html


This beer has been brewed in Arizona since 1988, and that is pretty long by mico/craft brew standards. It is a testament of how good this beer really is, and how important a role it has played in the craft beer history of Arizona, What I love about this beer so much,  is that it is a local beer, first and foremost serving the local market. If you have ever been to Southern Arizona, you will understand why a beer like this makes so much sense. Electric Beer is basically a helles or pale lager by style, and in my opinion a good example. I would take this beer every time over a national brand or an import from Mexico. Beer geeks don't seem to get beers like this. They will pan them for not being "bold" enough, or average or mundane. Sorry, but like a Bavarian or an Arizonan, I want and need  my daily share of my liquid bread.

Dave's Electric Beer pours to a beautiful, bright, golden color, with a rocky, white head, and a lively carbonation. The nose on this beer is nice, with good crisp, pale malt aroma with light grassy hop aroma. The palate is crisp and clean, with more good pale and pilsner malt flavor, on a very smooth, polished body. This beer finishes with more good, crisp, pale malt flavor up front, then ends with just enough grassy hop bitterness to balance this beer out.

Excellent, easy drinking, flavorful beer. A fantastic thirst quencher in the heat of Southern Arizona, and an awesome beer to have a few pints at one of Bisbee's legendary bars. This beer is what is is intended for, a good, local drinking beer, and I for one love that.

For more information visit:

http://daveselectricbrewpub.com/home/

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Old Cactus Juice: Sonoran Old Saguaro Barleywine 2004 Vintage

Where ever I travel in the world, be it for business or pleasure I'm always on the hunt for a new beer. Back in 2004 I paid Phoenix, AZ a visit for the first time, and enjoyed many a beer from the Sonoran Brewing Company. I've made a few visits to Arizona since, even lived in AZ for a few months on a work assignment. I love the state of Arizona, and I love the beers from the Sonoran Brewing Company. One of my favorites is their limited release barleywine called Old Saguaro.  I first tried this beer back in 2004. Here was my impressions of this beer back then:

Old Saguaro (pronounced "suh-whar-oh") is a barleywine by style, and is an exceptional one at that. A Saguaro is the variety of cactus, most of us see when ever we see a desert land scape of the Southwest.  No cactus juice is used in the brewing of this beer, however. Here is what the brewery has to say about it from the 4 pack
holder:
Old Saguaro is a barleywine styled ale. Barley wines are traditionally strong beers(they are not wine) with an alcohol content similar to wine. Rest assured no grapes or saguaros are harmed during the hand crafting of Old Saguaro. Just lots of malts and hops, with somewater and yeast, resulting in a smooth, malty, robust brew that you can always count on to relax with.



Well said, and I could not agree more. I've enjoyed many a barleywine in my day, and Old Saguaro is one of
them. This beer is aged at the brewery for 6 months before its release, and the 2004 vintage that I
enjoyed, and brought back with me for my beer cellaris truly outstanding. Coming in at 9.2% abv by volume,
this is the perfect beer to sit in relax with as you watch the Southwestern sky fall.


Old Saguaro pours to a beautiful, bright, deep tawny brown color with a slight tan head that fades, and soft carbonation. The nose on this beer is very iinviting with lots of sweet malty and caramel aromas, paired with just a hint of peppery alcohol. The palate is firm with some soft touches, as flavors of biscuit and caramel malts fill with mouth. Hints of estery fruit play along as this beer glides over the tongue.Old Saguaro finishes with more sweet malt and touchesof estery fruit up front, then ends with a slightly warming, peppery burn.

So how does it taste with 7 years of age on it? In a word, amazing.
 
I was careful to pour this one as it is sedimented with yeast. The 2004 vintage pours to a beautiful, bright, deep tawny color, with no head, and a soft carbonation. The nose on this beer has become more polished with malty aromas of toffee and treacle paired with peppery alcohol. The plate on this beer has become smooth and silky on the tongue as flavors of sweet malts and toffee glide over the tongue. This is paired with a wonderful flavor of plum and sherry that has come from age. I say plum and not prune as it has a more fresh than dried fruit flavor that is just wonderful. Old Saguaro 2004 finishes with more good toffee and plummy flavors up front, then ends with a soothing, peppery burn that lingers.
 
This beer has held up exceptionally well in my cellar. Old Saguaro has stood the test of time, and shows that a good barleywine can improve with age. This beer was fantastic young, but I believe 7 years of age has made Old Saguaro even better.
 
A fantatic beer from a fantatic Arizona brewery. If you see this one, do not hesitate to purchase it, and cellar a few bottles. My rule of thumb with barleywine is to always try it young, and always cellar vintages for future enjoyment. I'm happy to say Old Saguaro Barleywine 2004 was a great beer when I first tried it, and its as good if not better 7 years later. For more information about this beer and the brewery, visit their site at:
 
http://www.sonoranbrewing.com/

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Phoenix Rising: Sonoran 200

Extreme beer has been a huge trend in the craft beer world for the past 5-10 years or so, and its a trend that does not seem to be going away. I have mixed feeling about this, and I believe some brewers do an extreme beer just because they can, or they are trying to "one up" another brewery who claims the most extreme beer on the plant. I can live without that element of the extreme beer trend. My opnion on that can be found here:

http://beersinthehenhouse.blogspot.com/2010/07/end-game-brewdog-end-of-history.html

That being said, I truly believe extreme beers have a special place in the beer world, and there are some phenomenal examples of extreme beer.

The Sonoran Brewing Company of Phoenix, AZ is a good example of a brewery doing an extreme beer right, and for all the right reasons. I was fortunate enough to purchase a bottle of their Sonoran 200 on a recent stay in Arizona. Established in 1996, Sonoran Brewing is a very small, local, craft brewer, that is doing some amazing things with beer. I have enjoyed a number of their beers, and this is a very impressive brewery. Sonoran 200 is a great example of what extreme beer should be all about, and yet another great beer from this brewery. From the label:

We have done it again. Brewmasters Scott Yarosh and Zach Schroder are proud to present Sonoran 200, the second beer in our continuing series of Extreme Brews that will we be releasing every 100 batches. Sonoran 200 is produced from 2-Row Malt and pure Agave Nectar. We increased the Agave flavor and sweetness by infusing more Agave Nectar into the brew after the four week fermentation was complete. Then we Oak Age the whole batch for six months until just the right balance of Agave Nectar and Oak flavors were achieved, giving Sonoran 200 its distinctive characteristics.


Agave is a plant that grows in Mexico and the Southwestern United States. Agave is known world wide in the production of tequila. Sonoran Brewing pays tribute by marketing this beer in a beautiful, square, corked bottle, traditionally used with many tequilas. Agave nectar used in this beer, pays tribute to its indigenous Southwestern roots and adds a wonderful sweetness to this beer. Many might not know this, but agave nectar has been used as a sweetener like honey, or maple syrup for centuries. It gives this beer another dimesion of sweetness and make an already fantastic extreme beer, even better in my opinion.


Sonoran 200 pours to hazy, opaque, caramel color, with no head, and no carbonation. The nose on this beer is wonderful, with lots of sweet malt, and agave nectar aroma of toffee , caramel and dried fruit. The palate on this beer is surprisingly lean for such a potent brew, coming in at a mighty 19.37% abv. Flavors of sweet malt, toffee, caramel, dried fruit such as raisin, prune, and fig, glide over the tongue. Sonoran 200 finishes with more of those big sweet malt, caramel, toffee, and dry fruity flavors up front, then ends with a slightly warming and cloying finish that lingers.



This is a very sweet, very strong, satisfying, delicious beer. This is one to sip and savor, and one that would make an ideal desert beer, digestif, or a beer to relax with a good book and a roaring fire. Its 19.37% abv strength is hide well, and it such, a smooth, mellow, sipping brew. A perfect night cap on a cold night in the Sonoran desert. The beauty of a beer like this is, you can drink it in a number of ways. Chilled, on the rocks, warm, room temperature, as a mix, you name it.



Beer geeks might not appreciate its cloying sweetness, but they don't get it if they pan this beer for that fact. Cordials and schnapps are sweet, we expect them to be, and Sonoran 200 should be treated as such, in my opinion. The use of caramel malt and agave nectar has wonderful caramel and dry fruit aromas and flavors that gives this beer big sweetness, in a very good way. This beer is like drinking a liquid Sugar Daddy or dulce de leche. Fantastic stuff. Sonoran 200 retails locally for about $25 a bottle. It is a very rare, very local, very special brew. One well worth seeking out.



For more information, visit the brewery's site at: http://www.sonoranbrewing.com/







Monday, October 11, 2010

Drink with the Devil: San Tan Devil's Ale

Arizona can be a pretty hot place to live. The summer has some real scorchers and it can be very, very hot even in the Fall and Winter months. As a craft beer lover, you want a beer with a lot of flavor, but you also want a beer you can drink a few of, and one that can slake your thirst in the hot Arizona sun. The San Tan Brewing Company of Chandler, AZ clearly gets it right. This craft brewery/brewpub brews up some pretty flavorful yet very drinkable beers. I was fortunate enough to pay this brewery a visit last weekend, and was happy to enjoy one of their signature brews: Devil's Ale.
This beer is a classic example of APA or American Pale Ale, brewed with both Cascade and Centennial hop varieties that define this style. This beer has tons of flavor yet remains very drinkable and enjoyable. I was really impressed with this brewery, and was really impressed with this beer.
Devil's Ale pours to a bright, deep golden, to light amber color with a nice, white head, and a moderate amount of carbonation. The nose on this beer is just excellent with zesty, vibrant aromas of citrus and grapefruit. The palate is firm, with good pale and biscuity malt flavors, touches of caramel, paired with a really nice lemon/citrus hop flavor. Devil's Ale finishes with more good pale and caramel malt up front, then ends with a dry, grapefruit and citrus hop bite that slightly lingers.
An outstanding beer that would match well with a number of dishes on San Tan's menu. This place is on point on so many levels, from the crafting of the beer, to the service, to the food, to the atmosphere.

San Tan even has it own custom made beer glasses that are hand blown by an artisan glass maker. These should not be confused with the mass produced, machine made beer glasses that the Boston Beer Company has made for them. The quality of the SanTan glass is phenomenal and a true work of art. This glass is designed to enhance the aromas and flavors of the beer, and anyone who is serious about beer will tell you, the proper glass, does make a difference. You can purchase the glass as well as their beers in six pack cans, and growlers to go.
For more information about this outstanding AZ brewery visit:
http://www.santanbrewing.com/




Sunday, September 12, 2010

An American Fall Classic: Post Road Pumpkin Ale


Now here is a beer style that is uniquely American and one that I look forward to every Fall. Pumpkin ale has it roots in American Colonial history and was a style that for centuries had been all but forgotten until the craft beer revolution of the 1980's. The style has been brewed by colonists since the late 17th Century when malt supplies ran short during hard times in the colonies and brewers were forced to improvise. Pumpkins were native and plentiful, especially so in New England, and made for a good fermentable when malt was scarce. In the colony days the pumpkin gourd of choice for colonial brewers, but were used more so for their sugars than for flavor. It is out of this tradition that modern American brewers pay tribute, and these days, you will find many examples of pumpkin beers on the U.S. market.
Post Road Pumpkin Ale was one of the very first commerical examples of pumpkin beer and to this day it remains one of the best. It was first brewed by the Post Road Brewing Company of Framingham, MA which was a contract brewer who had this beer brewed for them by the now defunct Catamont Brewing Company of White River Junction, VT. The label was sold when Post Road went under in the early 1990's and since that time has been owned by the Brooklyn Brewery of Brooklyn, NY. Brooklyn contract brews this beer as well, it it is brewed for them by the F.X. Matt Brewing Company of Utica, NY. This beer has become a Fall classic and is a bench mark example of the style.
Most versions of pumpkin ale, including Post Road are going for the "liquid pumpkin pie" effect and are heavy with spices such as cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg. Some examples feature more of the meaty/squashy pumpkin flavor that would you would find in colonial times. Post Road Pumpkin Ale gives the beer lover a bit both. This is a delicious, hearty pumpkin ale, with great spicy flavors as well as great pumpkin flavors.
Post Road Pumpkin Ale pours to a beautiful, bright, orange color, with a nice white head, and a moderate amount of carbonation. The nose is the first thing that really grabs your attention. Fragrant sweet and spicy aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and pumpkin flood the nose. That palate is very flavoful with accents of malt, and meaty/squashy pumpkin flavor. Post Road finishes with more great pumpkin flavor up front, then ends with spicy flavors of nutmeg and cinnamon that lingers.
This is a classic example of pumpkin ale with a very clever use of pumpkin pie spice and real pumpkin. The brewers are not too heavy handed with the spices that really allows those squashy/gourdy pumpkin flavors to come though. Well worth seeking out, this beer is easy to find in U.S. markets during the Fall season and is probably the most popular of all the pumpkin beers on the market today. For more information visit: http://www.brooklynbrewery.com/