Sunday, 31 August 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A selection of Swedish beers from Dugges for today's photo:

Photo by flickr user rojo2001.

Review: Podge Belgian Imperial Stout

Podge Belgian Imperial Stout from Picobrouwerij Alvinne
Rating B+

Appearance: Very deep brown color, slightly cloudy. Moderate head, some lacing.

Smell: Served far too cold, aroma was very closed. After warming it my hands for a good ten minutes, cocoa powder, coffee, dark fruit, and light Belgian phenols emerged.

Taste: Caramel, cocoa, roast. No coffee on the palate. Somewhat boozy finish, unsurprising considering the 10.5% abv. A little reminiscent of a whiskey aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, good carbonation. Slightly slick.

Drinkability: Nice Belgian stout. Looking forward to trying more from this brewery.

Stella PSP Brand Dilution

Now here's a bit of brand dilution I can't understand for the life of me:

Not only do I not see the connection, but I see some overzealous regulator crying foul on "targeting children" as well!

High Prices Lure New Hops Farmers

Via Maureen Ogle, The Wall Street Journal has a story on new farmers of hops. Following the laws of supply and demand, these entrepreneurs are responding to high prices with more production:
Mr. Polley is among a small but rising number of newcomers to attempt to grow hops on a commercial scale outside the Pacific Northwest, America's haven for hops. One of the most obscure crops in a long line of agriculture commodities to enjoy a recent price boom, hops are sprouting in numerous other locales, from Colorado to Wisconsin to New York. The growers aim to capitalize on hop prices that are as much as sixfold higher than a few years ago, as well as the nation's boom in small-batch "craft" brewers, like Colorado's New Belgium Brewing Co. and Odell Brewing Co., which are thirsty for locally grown hops.
The latest issue of BeerAdvocate magazine also has a feature on growing hops. My dad and I looked into it once, but apparently the climate in Florida (surprise!) isn't ideal.

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A lovely glass of Okanagan Spring Pale Ale from My Beer Pix for today's beer photo:

Review: McChouffe

McChouffe from Brasserie d'Achouffe
Rating: B+

Enjoyed at The Elm Tree pub in Cambridge. I really like this brewery, so I was eager to give this one a try...

Appearance: Very deep garnet in color, with an enormous head. Surprisingly little lacing.

Smell: Rich and malty, with a hint of smoke and dark fruit. Belgian yeast filters through.

Taste: Scotch ale, with a Belgian twist? Caramel, raisin and fig. No smoke on the palate. Bitterness is well-balanced.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, good carbonation.

Drinkability: A little heavy after a while, but nice.

More Sour Beer on the iPhone

When will the bad beer-related iPhone apps end? Now, you can play virtual quarters. Eliminates the pesky need to leave the house and socialize with other human beings, and nothing says "responsible drinking" like playing a drinking game against yourself...

Here's another ridiculous beer application, which apparently does nothing else but help you count how many beers you've had. If you need help counting, you're probably not going to be able to remember to use your iPhone anyway.

Politics and Beer

A great beer haiku from Captain Hops, to keep in mind this campaign season:

There’s much to debate
With civility and beer
We’ll do it justice

Friday, 29 August 2008

Review: Quintine Hercule

Hercule Stout from Brasserie Ellezelloise
Rating: A-

Enjoyed at The Elm Tree pub in Cambridge.

Appearance: Very dark, thin head, little lacing.

Smell: Very "cold" and "dark" smelling, if that makes any sense at all. Hints of anise and alcohol.

Taste: Rich malt and roast, with a very crisp finish. Dark fruit, and a little nuttiness. Alcohol is well-concealed.

Mouthfeel: foamy somehow, despite not appearing to be highly carbonated. Medium body.

Drinkability: Nice one! More please.

Obama Targets Young Beer Drinkers

Some timely beer-related campaign news, via Best of the Web. As James Taranto spins it, tongue firmly in cheek, "Barack Obama is using beer on draft, registering drunk college students to vote:"
At the University of Detroit Mercy, Lauren Wolfe, a 25-year-old superdelegate, set out cautiously with her clipboard to hit the bars to register Democrats to vote. Wayne County, which houses the university, has more than 1,400 businesses licensed to sell alcohol.

"We were shocked by the amount of people that really responded," says Ms. Wolfe. "We had one guy who had just moved from New York and knew that his vote in New York didn't mean as much as it did in Michigan. He was like, 'I'm so glad that you guys are here because I probably never would have actually switched my registration.'"
Go to where the votes are, I suppose? Fortunately for the now-finalized McCain-Palin ticket, I suppose, turnout among my demographic is notoriously and perennially low. I'm sure Maureen Ogle could draw some comparisons to the old practices of buying rounds on election day?

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Beer Thief Roundup

There never seems to be a dearth of stories on would-be beer thieves. Here's a round-up of recent news in this vein:
  • A couple of teens attempted an innovative kayak getaway after stealing beer from a tiki bar
  • Two University of Virginia football players were arrested for stealing beer from a gay bar
  • Twenty three people were arrested for stealing thirty cases of beer from what must have been the most crowded 7-11 ever
  • And in Colorado, the same man was arrested for stealing beer from a 7-11 (poor 7-11!) on two consecutive nights
Beer thieves... they're a special breed, and go to a special circle of hell prepared just for them - it's always hot, and a cold one is always just out of reach.

Review: Rodenbach Grand Cru

Rodenbach Grand Cru from Brouwerij Rodenbach N.V.
Rating: B+

Enjoyed at The Elm Tree pub in Cambridge.

Appearance: Ruby in color, with a rather thin head. Not quite bright. Leaves some lacing.

Smell: Sour malt and light fruit - strawberry?

Taste: Malt, pickle, and a hint of smoke. Cherry? Very little in the way of hops, but that's to be expected from the style. One comment at the table suggested "salt and (malt) vinegar crisps" as a tasting note. The barmaid suggested "pickled onion." Dry, which is appreciated.

Mouthfeel: Moderately carbonated, light-medium body, slightly oily mouthfeel.

Drinkability: "Arresting" at first, but you get used to it. Acidity does burn at the back of the throat toward the end of the glass. On the whole, I'd have to say a little overrated.

Back in Action

My internet connection is working once again, my thesis is bound, and I went to a bar last night that specializes in Belgian beer. What does all this mean? Lots of posts to follow shortly, sorry for the hiatus.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Jessica Simpson Hawks Vitamin Beer

Reader Hugo sends in a new product which I doubt federal regulators will smile on... Jessica Simpson is apparently now hawking Stampede Light Plus, a "vitamin-enhanced beer" which claims to supply you with plenty of B-vitamins.

Of course, beer (and especially unfiltered, bottle conditioned beers) are full of vitamin B-rich yeast, but I'm curious what else Stampede is required to put on its label, along with this health claim...

Bottle Cap PSA

An interesting anti-drunk driving ad on Flickr, via Digg.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A nice shot of one of the better Asian lagers, for today's beer photo from flickr user feaverish:

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Sybeeritic Now a Liquid Solutions Affiliate

Despite the dodgy internet connection, I've managed to sign up as an affiliate for Liquid Solutions, an online beer retailer. On many of the 400+ beer reviews on this site, you'll now find a link to buy that particular beer (if available) at Liquid Solutions. The button looks a little like this:

As a lot of the beers reviewed are not widely distributed, I hope this makes tracking them down (and trying them!) easier for my readers.

Trapped in the Dark Ages

Apologies for the intermittent posting - I have no internet connection at home at the moment and it doesn't look like it will be back until Monday. It's like being trapped in the dark ages! Regular posting will resume soon...

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A great American Pale Ale, Anchor Liberty, in today's beer photo. I've come to appreciate this one more in the past year since it's one of the few APAs I can find in Cambridge.

How's "Beer Inspector" for a Job Title?

The Sun recently featured Annabel Smith, a beer inspector for Cask Marque, the independent organization which keeps real ale service up to spec in the United Kingdom:

Each establishment is surveyed officially twice throughout the year, but also receives up to four undercover visits from Cask Marque’s testers.

To retain an exclusive reputation the organisation is swift to act if a pub consistently falls below the required standard.

Annabel says: “The Cask Marque plaque remains our property.

“A landlord will be asked to remove it until our levels of quality have been reached.

Besides being an interesting job title, the story also provides an example of non-regulatory consumer protection. Without any government involvement, Cask Marque maintains quality standards through voluntary consent to inspections, in the hopes of drawing more business. Win-win, all around.

(via Fark)

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A cellphone cam shot I took of this year's Cambridge Beer Festival for today's photo:

Photoshopped Beer

For those who are beer geeks in both senses of the word, here's a tutorial on drawing beer in Photoshop (via Boingboing). The finished product looks pretty sharp:

Waterfall of Beer or Honest Politics?

The Economist's Free Exchange blog writes that the emergence of honest politicians who say what needs to be said would be refreshing but unlikely:
But then I guess a waterfall made of beer would be refreshing too, and slightly more probable.
Sounds good to me! The post raises a legitimate question... would you rather have honest politicians, or a waterfall of beer?

Olympic Beer

Via China Law Blog, Ben Ross reports that this may be the most affordable Olympics ever - even the beer!
Tickets range from around $4 (USD) to $20, and with the dirt cheap concessions (they sell beers for 70 cents!) this Olympics has turned into the biggest bargain entertainment I have ever experienced. So far I have seen, boxing, handball, soccer, basketball (no US), water polo, judo, beach volleyball (twice) and baseball (twice), drank heavily at most events and still probably haven't spent more than $100 USD. There is never going to be another Olympics this affordable ever…unless they decide to have it in Myanmar at some point.
Chinese beer typically comes in glass bottles of around 600ml which can cost less than 70 cents, but I can't imagine glass at a sporting event, so these are probably concession cups.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Review: Sun Dance

Greene King Sun Dance from Greene King / Morland Brewery
Rating: B-

Appearance: Golden honey in color, quite bright, with a thin white head. Some lacing.

Smell: Crisp and sweet, with some light citrus notes.

Taste: More citrus, with some honey malt. Fairly light, all around. Finishes clean and pleasant enough.

Mouthfeel: Light-medium body, carbonation fits the style.

Drinkability: Not quite refreshing, but not too "filling," either. A light lunch kind of beer.

Beer in St John's Hall

As some readers know, I'm coming to the end of my graduate studies at Cambridge. Nostalgically looking over the last issue of my college's alumni newsletter, I noticed the following plea:
When was beer replaced by wine as the usual beverage at Hall? Peter Linehan would be grateful for information bearing on the date of this crucial transition in the College's history. Answers on a postcard please to Dr Linehan, St John's College, Cambridge, CB2 1TP or by email to pal35 AT cam DOT ac DOT uk (obvious edit there...)
The College of St John the Evangelist, the greatest of the colleges in my completely unbiased opinion, was founded in 1511, and sometime thereafter not only replaced beer with wine as the beverage supplied at formal halls, but as a porter informed me, prohibited beer from being taken into hall as well (what folly!). I haven't tested this prohibition, although I have brought homemade mead to a formal at Clare.

I thought I would put this request for information on the interwebs in case anyone who knows when my college made this "crucial transition" chances upon this entry through the power of Google. I'm sure Dr Linehan would be much obliged.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Review: Etoile d'Or

Etoile d'Or from Marks & Spencer
Rating: C+

Last beer from the M&S "Beers of the World" pack - glad it's finally over!

Appearance: Highly carbonated, light golden in color. Poor head retention, despite the addition of "wheat protein," according to the ingredietns. Some lacing.

Smell: A pleasant spring/mineral water aroma at first, sweet corn coming out as it warms, but a fairly light and inoffensive lager.

Taste: Fairly crisp and clean, a big improvement on the last beer in this pack. Corn is there, but not distracting. Bitterness is fairly well-balanced for the style.

Mouthfeel: Light-medium body, prickly carbonation. Fairly clean finish. No unpleasant aftertaste.

Drinkability: For the style, not bad. Given what the rest of the pack tasted like, I had been expecting the worst. Firmly middle of the road. Certainly not what one expects, or hopes for when he hears the words "Belgian beer."

Economist on Real Ale

The Economist takes note of real ale's resurgence in the UK, thanks in large part to the efforts of CAMRA:
Sales of real ale have bucked beer’s downward trend. According to TNS, a market-research firm, the volume of real-ale sales has grown by 3% over the past year, whereas total beer sales were flat. Among all alcoholic drinks, only cider and wine performed better. Around 600 breweries now produce real ale, says Adrian Tierney-Jones, a journalist and beer expert. Their number has doubled in 15 years.
What is the driving factor of this growth? The Economist offers several explanations:

Beer boosters argue that consumers prefer a higher-quality product...

Others point to the backlash against big business and globalisation that also fuels sales of organic food and locally-grown vegetables... Patriotism plays a part as well: one T-shirt at Earls Court flaunted a bulldog relieving himself on a European Union flag.

But perhaps the most likely explanation is that despite its folk origins, real ale is "mostly imbibed by the same rich or aspirational classes who helped to popularise (non-native) wine." It's this driving force which, in my opinion, will open up opportunities for craft brewers throughout the developing world as middle classes grow and their aspirational tastes become more sophisticated.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Embargo Implications for A-B InBev?

As business becomes more global, the lines between domestic and foreign businesses grow increasingly blurred. In the case of the embargo on Cuba, which restricts American businesses from doing business in the communist island, this can mean hefty fines:
Minxia, a Maryland-based subsidiary of China’s MinMetals Corporation, $1.2m for dealing in Cuban metals. Gate Gourmet, a Swiss-American group, was ordered to pay $600,000 because it supplies in-flight meals to Cuba’s national airline...
This may spell trouble for newly formed A-B InBev:
InBev, a Belgian-Brazilian brewer that recently bought America’s biggest beer maker, Anheuser-Busch, for $52 billion, has a joint-venture with Cuba’s government which claims 40% of the island’s beer market. As a director of a European company with a big investment on the island puts it, the best strategy is to “try to stay under the radar and make damned sure you are here when the United States’ government finally sees sense.”
Good luck staying under the radar after being quoted in the Economist.

Saturday, 16 August 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Its trendiness among urban hipsters is no protection when a can of PBR goes head-to-head with a hollow point in today's beer photo:

(via Gizmodo)

Review: Castillo Cerveza Especial

Castillo Cerveza Especial from Marks & Spencer
Rating: D+

The penultimate beer from the dodgy Marks & Spencer Beers of the World pack, Castillo is a "truly classic example of Spanish beer..." at least according to the label.

Appearance: Pours a very clear golden amber, with lively carbonation. Thin white head with mediocre retention. Some lacing.

Smell: Very light aroma. Corn and a vaguely medicinal note. Smells slightly artificial in some way...

Taste: According to the label, I should look for "authentic Spanish flavour." Not sure what Spain tastes like, but to judge from the beer, it's somewhat vinous, slightly too sweet, with a non-descript bitterness that falls flat on the tongue. Corn comes out more and more as it warms.

Mouthfeel: Light-medium body, prickly carbonation. Unpleasant aftertaste.

Drinkability: Might just be the worst of the pack so far. Avoid.

Beer Culture and Maker Culture

Via Make, Black Star Co-op will be hosting a beer social in Austin. Sounds like a great event, and even greater that it was featured on Make.

The intersection of beer culture and maker culture is alive and well. Aside from the obvious (brewing your own beer), it includes building your own kegerators, counter-flow wort chillers, beer cellars, and "brewing sculptures." What's your craziest beer-related DIY project?

Video Teaches Proper Way to Pour Stella

This over-the-top "instructional video" just goes on and on:

Is this an attempt at a viral ad, or actual in-house material?

Black Velvet in the NYT

Yesterday, I mentioned the Black Velvet cocktail - now I notice that it came up in The New York Times recently, as well. Apparently it's the anchor of the cocktail menu at James, a new restaurant in Brooklyn:

This is an old drink. Traditionally a 50-50 mix of stout (Guinness, almost invariably) and Champagne, it’s reported to have been created to honor the passing of England’s Prince Albert in 1861. “So it’s got that Old World feel,” Mr. Calvert said. “And we wanted something beer-based, which, in Brooklyn, seemed appropriate.” James veers from the standard recipe, however, by melding the Champagne with a Belgian ale, Leffe Brune, rather than a stout.

It’s a pleasing variation, with the ale’s malty sweetness — its flavor evoking the scorched top of a crème brûlée — bringing a new, lighter dimension to the old pub standard.

If James’s Black Velvet is any indication, beer and Champagne can coexist just fine. Especially, perhaps, in Brooklyn.

For reasons some readers will know, I'm a fan of sparkling wine as well as beer, and generally approve of champagne cocktails. I'll have to give this particular combination a try...

Friday, 15 August 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Doppio Malto's Mahogany IPA in today's beer photo:

Photo by flickr user uomoelettrico.

Beer Photoshop Contest on Fark

The always-amusing Fark recently held a Photoshop contest to design an ad for a quintessentially "Fark" beer. The winner, in my book, by a large margin:

e4tango, ftw!

Ice Cream Float with Young's

Because it was too good not to share... Young's Double Chocolate Stout with a couple scoops of vanilla ice cream makes one great float. That is all.

Be Prepared!

I'd like to see this guy loaded up with Old Chub and Gordon. (via Gizmodo)

Thursday, 14 August 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A great picture from the Roots brewery:

Courtesy of Portland Beer.

DuClaw Announces Real Ale Festival

Reinforcing the emerging trend of "real ale" gaining ground in the U.S., I received an email from DuClaw Brewing today announcing Real Ale Festival 2008. To be held on Saturday, September 6th, the festival will include beer from twelve different local breweries, cask ale, and music. DuClaw is a pretty good Maryland brewpub chain - if you live in the area, mark it down in your calendar.

Barley Prices on the Way Down

Alan has written a couple of posts recently that indicate that barley prices, which have caused inflation throughout the brewing industry over the last couple of years, are beginning to turn around, on the heels of good harvests. Is it anything more than coincidence that oil prices have also begun to fall over the last month?

Oil Prices
In addition to good harvests, is the air coming out of a commodity bubble?

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A great picture from the Roots brewery:

Courtesy of Portland Beer.

Beer Layering Made Easy

Boingboing Gadgets links to a product called the Brütül "Lagerhead" which makes pouring a black and tan (or "half and half," if you're Irish) easy. Cute idea, and yours for just $11.95! I suppose the same thing could be used for a black velvet (or Bismarck).

Dumb Beer Law Olympics: Pennsylvania DOT

A recent post by Megan McArdle has lessons both for how your past can haunt you, and how intransigent government bureaucracy can be:
At the age of nineteen, way back in 1992, I purchased a beer in a Philadelphia bar...

While consuming my one (1) beer, I was apprehended by agents of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board. They called my parents, fined me, and made me attend a class on the horrors of underaged drinking (did you realize that drinking can lead to uncontrollable vomiting?)
That should have been the end of it, or at least you'd think... What Megan didn't realize was that she had incurred the wrath of the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation:
I went to apply for a District of Columbia driver's license this morning, only to be informed that I cannot, because the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania wants to suspend my driver's license.

The problem, you see, is that at the time of my conviction, I did not have a Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Driver's License. Indeed, I had no driver's license at all, being one of those benighted city people who get their first driver's license at the age of 23. The laws of the State of Pennsylvania, however, say that the Department of Transportation is entitled to suspend the driver's license of anyone arrested for underaged drinking. And the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is, apparently, determined to exercise this privilege.
Apparently Megan is not the only one to have been caught in this bureaucratic tiger trap. Admiral suggested I hold a "Dumb Beer Law Olympics" on this blog... I think this Pennsylvania horror story should qualify. Send in more and we'll vote for gold, silver and bronze.

Pabst Building Retro Portfolio

A Salon column points out that many traditional regional beers are now owned by Pabst:
First they came for Olympia, and I said nothing. Then they came for Old Style, and still I said nothing, because I live 1,000 miles away and Old Style sucks anyway. Then they came for Ballantine, and -- ooh, is that a micro-brewed hefeweizen?

First slowly, and then boldly, with the 1999 purchase of Stroh's and its associated brands, Pabst sucked up many of the best-known old-school mediocre beers in America. If your dad liked a beer, and was on a budget, chances are that his swill-of-choice is now owned by Pabst.
The quasi-retro regional beers included in the Pabst portfolio include Olympia, Ballantine, Stroh's, Schlitz, Old Style, Old Milwaukee, and Haffenreffer "P-Stock." As the company says on its website:

Each of our brands follows time-honored, uncompromised brewing processes that are more than traditional – they’re legendary. Our brands are like family and hometown friends – a familiar part of your life, timeless and always true to character. With more than 25 different and distinct beers, you’re sure to discover a beer that is more than just a drink – it’s a part of your heritage. [emphasis added]

The strategy seems to be working for them so far.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

John McCain, Paris Hilton and Beer

I'd like to use this post to pose an important question to eminent beer historian Maureen Ogle:

See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

Is John McCain, born in 1936, old enough to remember "when beer was served in a bucket" as Paris Hilton asserts?

From the comments, Maureen Ogle responds:
Technically, he's not. Buckets ruled back before Prohibition, when 99.9% of beer was sold in kegs and at saloons. There wasn't really any way to "keep" beer at home.

So people either went to the saloon to drink, or they sent their kids there to grab a bucket of carry-out. (Or, people sent a co-worker, since most employers allowed people to drink beer during breaks.)

But when Prohibition ended in 1933, lawmakers created legislation designed to prevent that kind of easy drinking.

At the same time, however, bottled/canned beer became the norm and home refrigerator became commonplace. Bye-bye bucket.

BUT: old habits die hard. In the 1930s and 1940s, many people living in urban, working class neighborhoods still used the bucket for carryout. (Many did not yet have refrigeration and laws are always easier to evade in big cities.)

By the 1950s, the bucket, legal or otherwise, had gone by the wayside.

So, would John McCain remember buckets? Doubtful. He's too young! Now if he'd been born in 1906 . . .

Besides, he was born into the wrong "class." His kind of people definitely didn't do buckets.

Outrage: UF Bans Beer Pong

Eric writes in to share the shocking news that our alma mater the University of Florida has banned beer pong!
Just more than a week after the Princeton Review cited UF as the best place to party, the university revised its alcohol policy, specifically prohibiting some popular college-drinking activities.

No more quarters, beer pong or other drinking games. No more keg stands, where students guzzle beer from a keg while being held upside down. Or alcohol ice luges, where liquor is consumed through a giant block of ice... No kegs, mini kegs or beer balls would be allowed at all under the revised policy...
Fortunately, very few students over 21 actually live on campus where these new rules could be enforced, a fact the university seems to recognize:
The policy applies to students on-campus or off-campus, although Sikes said off-campus enforcement would be only in extreme cases
Still, it will let the administration feel that they are "doing something" to stop the problem, even if no one expects it to have any effect whatsoever. UF's new president, Bernie Machen, launched something of a crusade against drinking when he first arrived, and his attitude does not appear to have changed. I was not a fan of Mr Machen before for plenty of other reasons, but I honestly struggle to find any (non-athletic) positive points in his presidency.

Some of the local reportage on the story has a Ric Romero-esque flavor to it:

My journalistic instincts tell me that ignorance here is a much more useful tool than knowing. Having no idea what beer pong actually entails, I could assume that its a kind of mating ritual popularized at the University of Florida in the 1960s by servicemen returning from Vietnam. That would explain the rumor that Charlie Crist employed beer pong in a desperate attempt ti entice his high society girlfiend into marriage.

Wikipedia says otherwise. Something about players tossing table tennis balls down a ping pong table and attempting to deposit the sphere in a glass of beer.
Mr Grimm's "journalistic instincts" and wit are just as impressive as Mr Machen's ability to run a university.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A great picture from the Roots brewery:

Courtesy of Portland Beer.

Czech Beer Spa Gives New Meaning to Suds in the Bath

Say what you will about the healing properties of mud baths, saunas or lavender-scented candles, but soaking in a stainless-steel tub filled with Czech beer put my body and soul at ease.

I was in the brick-lined cellar of Prave Pivni Lazni (original beer spa), run by the Chodovar brewery in the tiny Czech town of Chodova Plana, and I was about to slip naked into the first tub I'd ever seen with taps for hot water, cold water and bathing beer.

Alone behind a curtain, I disrobed and stepped in, parting the beer foam that had settled on top of the heated blend of half Il-Sano mineral water and half dark lager. Warmed to 93 degrees Fahrenheit and mixed with curative herbs, confetti-sized bits of hops and yeast, this murky bathwater was far from thirst-quenching, which made the cold glass of lager resting on a nearby empty keg so welcome.

Sounds interesting... For the record, the writer says tasting the bath "water" is a very bad idea.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Grass, viewed through a glass, in today's beer photo:

Photo by flickr user emmietray.

Madonna Understands Price Discrimination

A pub owned by Madonna and Guy Ritchie is being investigated for price discrimination in the first degree, charging tourists up to 40p more per pint. If proved, The Punchbowl in London's Mayfair, could lose its license. I guess she really is a material girl.

Price discrimination is a common business strategy, used by everything from airlines who charge more for tickets booked closer to the travel date (usually less price-sensitive business travel) to movie theaters who charge less for more price sensitive seniors and students and "ladies' nights" at bars and clubs.

What standard should be used for determining whether price discrimination is acceptable in an economy? Is the problem here a different price being charged, or the fact that it was not transparently presented?

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A neon signed Brussels pub in today's beer photo, from Stonch's beer photo contest.

Review: Jester's IPA

Jester's IPA from Batemans Brewery
Rating: C+

Appearance: Red-tinted leather color, fairly clear. Lightly carbonated, with a thin, fine-bubbled head. Some retention, good lacing.

Smell: Interesting Christmas spices in the nose, but fairly flat smelling. Hints of caramel and biscuit.

Taste: Fairly hoppy, in a very English way - earthy and herbal. Hints of Christmas spices again, a touch of diacetyl, and a slightly acid finish.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, lightly carbonated. Slightly slick.

Drinkability: Interesting, especially the spice note, but the sum in this case is less than its parts. In fact the slightly cidery/acidic finish had me worrying that this might have been sitting on tap too long, as this is a slow time for the bar in question. Not a big fan.

Reverend Gives Beer a Try

Hugh sends in this satirical news item from Lark News:
After stepping down from the pastorate last month after fifty years in ministry, Albert Finley did something no one expected: he had his first beer.
"I was curious what it actually tasted like, after all these years of preaching against it," he says.
The good Reverend Finley tries a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and finds himself hooked:
Finley says he relishes the flavor of hops and barley, and favors darker stouts and the more robust ales to the pale lagers. He always thought post-ministry life would be "sort of puttering around the house, praying for the world and so forth." But beer has changed his mind.
"I subscribe to a beer of the month club, so every week I have a new bottle in my fridge to try. Sometimes that’s my main reason for waking up," he says.
Maybe his next sermon will include Jesus turning water into weizen?

Friday, 8 August 2008

Cheongju's Sewang Brewery

A slight departure from beer to share the Marmot's history and photographs of the Sewang Brewery in Cheongju, Korea. The brewery, which has been producing rice wine under the management of the same family for three generations, is a Registered Cultural Property by virtue of being Korea's last architecturally "old" brewery still standing:
Sewang Brewery was founded in 1929 by brewer Lee Jang-beom, and has changed remarkably little since then. The beautiful wooden brewery building, designed by a Japanese architect and constructed by Korean builders, was completed in 1930. Built of fir and cedar transported all the way from Mt. Baekdusan, the factory has managed to make it through the decades virtually in its original condition. It helps, of course, that it still does what it was purpose-built to do — produce high-quality takju (a.k.a makkeolli) and yakju using old-fashioned techniques handed down over three generations. This is very, very special place where architecture, history, cultural tradition, and the fine rice and water of Jincheon-gun blend into one.
Read the whole thing.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Today's beer photo:

A slightly different perspective on things, photo by flickr user zcott...

Beer Periodic Tables

Molly posted a photograph of a Periodic Table of Beer Styles, which I tried to track down. Unsurprisingly, there are several versions of this idea floating around the internet:
If anyone successfully places an order, please let me know.

Review: Monty Python's Holy Grail Ale

Monty Python's Holy Grail Ale from Black Sheep Brewery PLC
Rating: B-

I received this as a going-away gift from a friend. I love the name, and according to the label, it's "tempered over burning witches," too!

Appearance: Attractive honey color, quite clear, with lively carbonation. Big fluffy white head, with good retention. Very nice looking in the glass.

Smell: Soapy at first, giving way to some grain, nut, and herbal hops. Not a hint of burning witch, alas.

Taste: Light fruitiness at first, with a solid backbone of bitterness. Subsequently takes a turn to very hard mineral water. Interesting roastiness at the finish, but an astringently bitter aftertaste. Improves as it warms, the maltiness fleshing out and covering the mineral astringency.

Mouthfeel: Light-medium body, highly carbonated, with a very slight diacetyl slickness.

Drinkability: Looked great, smelled okay, tasted less okay. Still, worth getting (and keeping!) for the label alone.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Great British Beer Festival's Top Ten

Melissa Cole names her top ten beers from the Great British Beer Festival at the Times Online:
This week is scribed in every beer lover’s calendar, as Earl’s Court in London hosts the Great British Beer Festival. There are five days to try more than 450 British and international beers, ciders and perries.
I won't be attending, but if you are, give Melissa's article a look.

Review: Ashadha

Ashadha from Marks & Spencer
Rating: C

This is the second of the dubious Marks & Spencer "Beers of the World" pack that I am giving a try.

Appearance: Pale straw in color, very clear. Lively carbonation forms a big white head with good retention and lacing.

Smell: Lagery, slightly soapy. Not nearly as corn-filled as the first M&S beer from this pack that I tried. Smells somewhat green, if that makes any sense.

Taste: Very clean. Fairly well-balanced, but boring. Crisp, acidic finish. A slight corn tinge to the aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Light-medium body, moderately carbonated.

Drinkability: An improvement on the other beer, for sure, but still just a thirst-quencher.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Today's beer photo:

From Stonch's beer photo contest.

A-B/InBev a Result of Corporate Taxes?

The Wall Street Journal's Political Diary blames InBev's acquisition of Anheuser-Busch on corporate income taxes:'s the real question: Was the takeover basically financed by the savings Anheuser expected from escaping America's increasingly uncompetitive corporate tax system? According to the Tax Foundation, Belgium's corporate tax rate is 33%, but the effective tax rate can be half the nominal rate thanks to adjustments for something the OECD calls a "notional allowance for corporate equity." Bottom line: InBev was paying around 20% of its profits in corporate taxes, compared to Anheuser-Busch's rate of 38.4%... a research analysis by Morgan Stanley finds the combined company's corporate tax bill will be lower than in the U.S. and that the tax differential indeed figured into the economics of the sale.
InBev did promise to make A-B more profitable... is this one of the ways in which they'll accomplish it?

How Do You Review?

This post on Lifehacker got me thinking... what is your preferred way to review beer? Trusting your memory is never a good idea. Since your recollections of taste and aroma fade or change over time, it's best to write down your perceptions while you taste.

When possible, I prefer to review in front of a computer. With handwriting like mine, it's as a rule more convenient to type than to write long-hand. Additionally, you have the advantage of reading what others have said, sometimes pointing out things you might otherwise have missed. Obviously, though, it's not always possible to review in front of a computer. When drinking with friends at a bar, or at a beer festival, how do you review?

Napkins are ubiquitous at bars, but can make you look suspicious. I have a Moleskine planner with interspersed blank pages that I have used on occasion, which looks slightly less weird, but I don't always have it on me. At beer festivals, my programs often have notes scrawled in the margins, but they're hardly legible. What is your preferred solution? How do you review?

Monday, 4 August 2008

Best Beer Haiku Yet

Captain Hops presented his best beer haiku yet today:

On a lazy day
We drink beer in the sailboat
Still tied to the dock


Review: Birra d'Oro

Birra d'Oro from Marks & Spencer
Rating: C-

This is the first of the dubious M&S "Beers of the World" that I'm giving a try. Since it's supposedly an Italian beer, I poured it into a Peroni half pint glass. According to the label, it is brewed in Piedmont and is "light, and freshing, ideally suited to Italian food." It also, according to the ingredients list, contains maize.

Appearance: Bright golden in color, quite clear, with very effervescent carbonation. Fluffy, white, two finger head with good retention. Leaves attractive lacing on the glass. Looks nice, at least.

Smell: Canned creamed corn is the dominant aroma, with some spicy hops underneath.

Taste: Matches the aroma, primarily sweet corn, but well-balanced by bitterness. Finish is sparkling mineral water. Lingering, bitter aftertaste.

Mouthfeel: Light body, highly carbonated.

Drinkability: This is a thirst quencher, but that's about it. Mediocre.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Some sidewalk art from English artist Julian Beever in today's beer photo:

Which beer is real?

Scammed by M&S?

I bought a five-pack of "Beers of the World" at Marks & Spencer last month, fully expecting disappointing macro lagers but noting that at least they were all macro-lagers that I had not tried. My suspicions were aroused, however, when I discovered that not a single one of the beers in the pack is in the BeerAdvocate database.

The pack includes:
  • "Ashadha" Indian lager
  • "Castillo" Spanish beer
  • "Birra d'Oro" from Italy
  • "Etoile D'or" from Belgium
  • Oh, and another "Castillo" - now I feel even more scammed!
I suppose this is some one-off, custom-labeled marketing gimmick. The package notes that all the beers are brewed in the EU, including the Indian beer (although the label indicates is brewed under license and under the supervision of an Indian brewmaster).

Others be warned: stay away! I'll report back on how they actually taste, but my expectations are now even lower than they were originally...

Saturday, 2 August 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

An Oberon cap in today's beer photo:

Photo by flickr user cbellman.

Beer's Napa Valley Prepares for DNC

In proof that everything is political, Colorado brewers are rolling out the red carpet for the Democratic National Convention coming to Denver, the "Napa Valley of Beer," this month:
  • Great Divide will be producing a "Liberally Hopped Pale Ale"
  • Avery will come out with a beer called "Ale to the Chief"
  • Breckenridge Brewery will be recasting one of its brewpubs as "CNN Grill" for the duration of the convention and produce a creatively named "CNN Brew"
  • Wynkoop will offer "a special 'Obamanator' Maibock strong brew just for the DNC"
  • and Coors, a company whose Chairman ran for Senate as a Republican, is donating ethanol fuel for the DNC's "green" convention, and is providing all the beer for DNC Host Committee events
Are these breweries supporting their home city, letting their political colors show, or just hedging their bets, like Wal-Mart, recognizing that this is likely to be a good year for the Democrats?

Schlitz Poised to Make Comeback?

In the comments, Douglas asked how Schlitz came to fall from its heights in the 1950s and Maureen Ogle answered:
In the 1970s, the family decided it wanted heftier returns on its dividends and handed the company over to a trio of bean counters.

The bean counters slashed costs, and in the process, the beer went downhill. Fast.
Douglas sent in a story from his local Gainesville Sun indicating that the brand may be poised to make a PBR-style comeback:
After decades of dormancy, the beer is back.

Schlitz’ owner, Pabst Brewing Co., is recreating the old formula, using notes and interviews with old brew masters to concoct the pilsner again. The maker of another nostalgic favorite, Pabst Blue Ribbon, it hopes baby boomers will reach for the drink of their youth, otherwise known as “The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous.”

"There’s still a lot of people who have very positive, residual memories about their experience. For many of them it was the first beer they drank and we wanted to give it back to those consumers.”
Apparently sales have picked up in Milwaukee recently, and market tests are underway elsewhere, but it remains to be seen whether Schlitz can capitalize on nostalgia the way PBR has.

UPDATE: Forbes now has a story up on Schlitz as well.

Friday, 1 August 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

The sky, seen through an empty pint glass, in today's beer photo:

Photo by flickr user takeontom.

Review: Golden Newt

-She turned me into a newt!
-A newt?
-I got better...
Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Golden Newt from Elgood and Sons Ltd
Rating: B

Surprised to see I'm only the second reviewer of this beer on BeerAdvocate...

Appearance: Rich golden amber in color, quite clear, with a fluffy white one-finger head. Moderate retention, some lacing.

Smell: Fragrant, with floral hop notes and ale fruitiness on top of a biscuity/grainy malt backbone.

Taste: Well-balanced: bitterness is solid. Full of juicy fruit and biscuity malt notes, but finishes on a clean, dry note.

Mouthfeel: Moderate carbonation, light-medium body. Slightly objectionable aftertaste lingers.

Drinkability: Above average for the style.

Top Ten Brewers in 1950

Maureen Ogle has a post listing the top 15 brewers in 1952, from an old issue of Business Week. Looking at the list today, one appreciates how dynamic this industry really is. At the time, Miller had just cracked the top 10 for the first time.

See how many of the top 15 brewers in 1950 you recognize. The predominance of German names is particularly striking. How many are still around today?

"Big Beer" and Craft Brewing

Thanks to a reader for sending in an article from my own local paper, the Sun-Sentinel, on "big" beer and the craft brewing industry:
After a shakeout in the mid 1990s, the nation's remaining 1,400 craft brewers have a stronger hold on shelf space and restaurant menus. Anheuser-Busch and Coors are making their own line of full-flavored beers. And the Brewers Association's book Start Your Own Brewery has sold more than 1,000 copies.

"A brewery in every town is not so crazy to think about in the future," she said. "It all goes back to the movement of consuming products that are locally produced.

"Who would have ever thought that Denver, Colo., would become the Napa Valley of beer?" she said. More than 60 breweries lie within in a 100-mile radius of Denver.
The story also includes an interview with CEO of Deschutes Brewery, Gary Fish.