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 or 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  was set at $6,000 the day after American Beer Blogger failed. I see this as a 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:

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:

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
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: