Friday, May 29, 2009

Say Hello To Pearl Street Brewery

Pearl Street Brewery, from La Crosse, Wisconsin, is a new addition to the Madison area. I've been a big fan of the Downtown Brown for quite some time. As I'm sure I've mentioned on this site, I'm not, as a general rule, a fan of brown ales - I find them overly sweet and/or nutty - but I really like the Downtown Brown. Well, Pearl Street is sneaking out of La Crosse and slowly expanding distribution. I was able to get some answers from Joe Katchever, head brewer at Pearl Street Brewery.

MBR: Joe, thanks for the email - how about some background?
Joe: First of all, Pearl Street is a self-distributing brewery and have been for ten years. We first went into bottles 22 months ago after being a die-hard draught beer brewery since 1999. Being one of Wisconsin's smallest, but fastest-growing craft breweries, we have been very busy keeping La Crosse and Western Wisconsin in beer.

MBR: Happy 10th Anniversary. So, being up in Western Wisconsin, how did you get down here to Madison?
Joe: Jennifer from Old Fashioned called us a few times and we explained that we just didn't distribute beer to Madison. She offered to come get some, and how could I refuse that kind of diligence? Since we have been on tap we have gotten an avalanche of calls and emails from Madison people who either want to sell our beers, or just want to know where they can buy some! After a while, I had to address the situation so one by one, we began providing our beers to some of the cooler Madison beer depots.

MBR: So, which cool Madison beer depots, exactly?
Joe: We've been on tap at the Old Fash since around the beginning of the year, but the rest of the story has only unfolded since April 16th, when Nick, Dane and I packed the van full of cases and headed East! As of this week, one can find the Pearl Street bottled beers on sale at Jenifer Street Market, Cork N Bottle, Riley's Liquor, University Avenue Liquor, Star Liquor, Barrique's Fitchburg, Barrique's Cayuga, Neil's Middleton, and Steve's Liquor on University. You'll find our "That's What I'm Talkin' 'bout" Organic Rolled Oat Stout on tap at the Alchemy and our DTB Brown Ale at Brasserie V and, of course, the Old Fashioned!

MBR: Anywhere else?
Joe: I'm glad that Madison has been so enthusiastic about our beer but I've decided to put on the brakes, so we don't run out! We are not taking on any new accounts at the moment so we can continue to provide beer to our current ones. We have started a waiting list of liquor stores and restaurants that will get our beer when it becomes available. Those who wish to be put on the list can email me or call me at the brewery.

So, there you go. Welcome to Madison Pearl Street Brewery. And thanks to the Old Fashioned (again) for going out and getting good beer!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thursday Press Release - Tri-State Taste of Barley, Platteville, WI

I mention this because it's just one of the summer(ish) beer festivals held around the state. Your attendance not only supports the breweries, but the communities and organizations that hold these events. So, since it's too expensive to fly anywhere - take a vacation and head to any number of in-state beer festivals throughout the summer.

-------------------Start Press Release----------------------------

The first annual Tri-State Taste of Barley sponsored by the Platteville Area Chamber of Commerce and the American Breweriana Association was very well received in the community and was a very nice success for the first time around.

Craft Breweries were represented from Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois.

A home brewing presentation was put on by Tom Nickels.

SAFE Grant County Coalition had a setup on responsible use of alcohol that was very well received.

Music was provided by the Americana Band made up of top band leaders from the Dubuque area.

Plans are already underway for a second event to be held next year.

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

On part two of this week's podcast, we drink Mission Street Pale Ale, last year's Great American Beer Festival gold medal winning Pale Ale, and the new Imperial Saison from New Glarus. One of these beers ranks among the most interesting we've ever had. Which one? Listen to find out.

Here's the mp3


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

UW Brewing Summit

Back on May 8th the University of Wisconsin held a "brewing summit". As you may know, the University received a generous donation from MillerCoors of one test-batch brewing system. It's about a 5-10 gallon brewing system that is mostly automated. It has a separate mash and lauter tuns (if I remember correctly, I might be wrong about that), whirlpool (I think), kettle, and a really nice filter. Otherwise, it looks like any other science lab with a garbage can of spent grains in the corner. The system was donated back in September of 2008 and the first class has come to a finish.

The Summit was called for two purposes. Firstly, it was called to get the opinion of industry as to what to do with this equipment. Secondly, it was a good opportunity to let some folks in the industry drink some beer brewed on the system!

Taking the second part first, the beer was good! Surprisingly good. For the most part these students had little to no prior brewing experience and they managed to put together some pretty decent beers across the spectrum: a scotch ale, an amber, a pale ale, a lager, a light lager, and a porter. All of which were drinkable, some of which were pretty darn good.

The first issue raised some pretty interesting discussion. In attendance were a number of brewers and assistant brewers, some education folks from the University, some independent industry training people, and a few miscellaneous others. It was a wide range of people from whom to cull an opinion. Just about every market segment from Lake Louie-sized to Miller was represented. And two questions were put this group:

1) Now that the University has this equipment, what do they do with it?
2) What does the brewing community want from the University?

The first topic is interesting for a few reasons, one of which is for the pure voyeur aspect into the University's internal procedures. For instance, the problem is this: you can only do a "temporary class" for two years, then you have to either make a full-time class or change it in some meaningful way. This policy keeps "test classes" from staying test classes forever. What this means for the brewing program is: there is a limited time to figure this stuff out. In this regard, it becomes necessary to figure out if this will remain a University-accredited course or if it becomes some sort of private or quasi-private enterprise.

A few options were discussed: using the equipment for university accredited course in brewing, use the equipment for industry-funded or university-based research, or open the equipment up to the public and educate the general public on brewing. Of course, none of these are mutually exclusive and it sounds like at least some variety of each of them will be implemented in some meaningful way. But the core of the discussion looked past what to do with the equipment itself and looked more at how this equipment can be used to provide useful members of the brewing industry.

Three options rose to the surface for how to implement a program that would be useful to the midwest brewing industry specifically, but the national or global brewing industry in general. This is also where it was useful to have the wide range of opinions all at one table. On the one end you have a brewing company like Miller who are looking to train brewers to head up new (or recently acquired) breweries in central Africa. On the other end are breweries like Lake Louie who are constantly training a quasi-itinerant workforce to be not just brewers but janitors and engineers. For these smaller breweries this is a lot of time, money, and more importantly, energy that is expended to train someone to work in a brewery just to have that person leave for another brewery (and brewers frequently move around, especially early in their careers).

It was interesting, then, to note the split between the large breweries and the small breweries and the needs of each and what the job description of "brewer" encompasses. First and foremost the brewer is a scientist - a strong understanding not just of fermentation sciences, but malting, and agriculture and how all of these come together to create something unique and interesting. But more than just the hands-on nature of brewing, there is a laboratory aspect to being a brewer as well - knowing how to propagate yeast strains and keep them alive and fresh is crucial knowledge; not to mention how the yeasts interact with the enzymes and sugars created by the malting and mashing processes. But more than than the brewer is an engineer. And not an engineer in the nerdy "draw the distillation column as a square on the flowchart" way, but in the practical "Oh crap my chiller is f-ed and this 32 barrels of beer will go bad if I can't fix this is under an hour" way. It requires not just mechanical engineering knowledge, but the skills to weld and solder and deconstruct and construct things - to troubleshoot. Brewers are also businesspeople who need to know the business and legal climate that their brewery operates in.

So, the bigger question put to the summit was how to accommodate this need for trained people who can be useful with minimum expense. Three options were put forth: 1) operate a brewing school as a department within the university (this would be fairly unique); 2) operate as an entity separate from the university and coordinate a series of short training classes that provide specific knowledge in a short (e.g. 2 weeks to 1 month) time span (similar to the Siebel Institute in Chicago); 3) combine the two and operate a school-like certification and advanced degree in brewing (like the UC Davis Brewing Extension).

While nothing was signed in writing, it certainly sounds like the industry is leaning towards a UC Davis-like program that is heavy on practical knowledge by implementing internships and apprenticeships with breweries and malting facilities in the region. It would coordinate actual classroom science classes (fermentation sciences, enzyme sciences, and engineering sciences) with laboratory time (the UW brewing facility) and real-world internships.

Don't kid yourself these internships wouldn't be "stand around and test beer all day" but the nuts and bolts of running a brewery - fixing pumps, sweeping, scrubbing, bottling, scrubbing, bottling, sweeping, fixing bottling lines, bottling, and, yeah, maybe helping to put grain into a mash tun and hops into the kettle. All for little to no money, maybe some course credit, but, really, the chance to work in an industry that consumers don't, for the most part, have any understanding of or appreciation for.

So, in the coming months and years this brewing program will begin to take shape. One of the few things that was agreed on by all is that something here in the Midwest is necessary. There are so many breweries here, and the industry is growing so quickly that one school (UC Davis) isn't enough.

An interesting aside from this whole conversation is that it turns out that the UW was approached about doing this exact sort of program back in the early 1970s and the University's chancellors turned it down because it didn't want the University associated with alcohol. How's that for some schadenfreude?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

In part one of this week's podcast we talk about Alabama possibly getting rid of their 6% abv limit, a crazy man with a chainsaw, and Labatt suing for beer label infringement. Also, UW chancelor Biddy Martin tells us what her favorite beer is.

the mp3

Monday, May 25, 2009

Beer Review: O'So Hopdinger and Central Waters Glacial Trail IPA

Let's put this IPA thing out to pasture once and for all. Although, to be fair, there's still a Red Eye Serendipity at The Old Fashioned to taste and the Tyranena Rye IPA.

So, after all of this, what can we say about IPAs that hasn't been said before? Well, I'm continually stunned by the sheer range within this genre that we call India Pale Ale. There are some that focus on the flavor of the hops, some that focus on the aroma of the hop, some that just concentrate on the bitterness. There are degrees of balanced: from the insanely unbalanced to the amazingly well-balanced. The malts range everywhere from non-existant to roasty, though never really approach the porter range. Although, to be fair, we didn't even touch the newest rage: black IPAs.

We looked at IPAs at typical refrigerator temps, then we warmed them up and tasted them at room temperatures and found two completely different beers. At lower temps we have aggressive hops and bitterness - the spring equivalent of salty pretzels, that you just can't stop drinking; at warmer temps, creamy milk-like textures with strong notes of alcohol almost like a whiskey.

What were we impressed by?

I have a new-found respect for the New Glarus IPA. I'm not sure that's it's my "go-to IPA", but only because it is just such a great all-around beer that it makes a great baseline - something to drink everyday regardless of the desire for a seasonal IPA.

The Hopdinger (below) also impressed at the warmer temperatures. It became fruity and estery, but still clean and just enough off-balance to let the hops shine. Now, I just need to find me a bottle of that Lupulin Maximus.

All-in-all, an enjoyable, palate-destroying journey. I'm going to let my mouth recover for a little while and we might talk about saisons this summer - New Glarus has an Imperial Saison as its new Unplugged, Great Lakes has its Grassroots saison. Not to mention that I'm a big fan of these husky, musty, dry, sessionable, refreshments; a bright summer counterpart to the winter wit and the fall biere de garde.

O'So Hopdinger BA.(C+) RB.(21)

Appearance: hazy amber body; light carbonation; dense, creamy head - served at 60 degrees
Aroma: musty and resiny, some citrus; pine hops; biscuit and toasty malts are faintly in the background
Flavor: creamy and bright tangerine; not a lot of malt in the flavor, but you can taste the alcohol
Body: medium to strong-bodied with a dry finish reminding me of rye whiskey
Drinkability: These go down real easy, too easy probably
Summary: I really enjoyed this beer at this temperature, a great IPA; A fun, drinkable beer that has some character to it; I love how IPAs change at these warmer temperatures, they become something other than concentrated hop bombs; O'so's website calls this a "pale ale" rather than an INDIA pale ale, but I would put it up there with Ale Asylum's Hopalicious as beers that blur the line between pale ales and india pale ales.

[ed note: I'm surprised by the low scores on BA and RB. Some interesting comments: " I once tried a Bubbalicious gum that was filled with some strawberry liquid, and this kind of smells like that liquid.", "not sure i really understand this one...its earthy and grainy, with a blast of tragic diacetyl", "the malts stick around and give it a balanced and smoother finish than you would expect from the start (or from the scent) there seems to be a little bit of a off-flavor finish however that clashes a little.", " Kind of like eating a metal can coated in shit."

Wow. All I can say is "wow". I definitely didn't get the diacetyl or gummy strawberries or ... ummm ... metal can coated in shit. I will say O'So is a very small operation and there is bound to be a lot of batch-to-batch discrepencies and possibly some bottle-to-bottle discrepencies. What I can say is that I had 3 of these at refrigerator temps and one of them at warmer temps and preferred the warmer (the other two were consumed in the Miller Park parking lot :) It went from being a middling IPA (or PA) to being a pretty darn good one.]

Central Waters Glacial Trail IPA BA.(B+) RB.(77)

Appearance: cloudy and deep copper; foamy head and moderate to low carbonation
Aroma: oranges and grapefruit, a fairly big whif of malt behind the hops
Flavor: bright and bitter; a strong roasted dryness from the malts
Body: medium bodied and with a long hoppy bitter finish; the alcohol isn't nearly as pronounced here
Drinkability: At cooler temperatures (40-50) this is a nice, sessionable, surprisingly-malt-forward IPA, at warmer temperatures, the complexity doesn't hold up
Summary: I really like this beer, and is exactly what I love about IPAs with something a little different (the roasted malts); so, with that said, this what I would grab out of the refrigerator, drink either out of the bottle or pour into a glass and drink a six-pack of; it's a top-shelf seasonable, sessionable, IPA

[ed note: both BeerAdvocate and RateBeer list this as "Glacier Trail" despite the bottle images with the actual name spelled correctly.]

Oh. Happy Memorial Day everybody!

Friday, May 22, 2009

36 Hours In Chicago

Draft Magazine Web Editor, Noah Davis, noticed our little Midwest travel project and decided to write up an itinerary if you happen to be headed to Chicago this weekend linked to an article on BeerMapping by Jonathan Surratt covering 36 hours in Chicago.

So, here you go - 36 hours in Chicago. Jonathan offers up not just the Chicago classics (Hopleaf, Map Room, Piece) but also the locals-only options:
Next is a short walk up Sheffield to Local Option. Local Option isn’t well known outside of the Chicago beer scene, but it usually has one of the best taplists in town. The taplist doesn’t focus just on regional or American beer, it’s a strong reflection on what is happening in beer today. And if you can’t find anything on tap that excites you, ask the bartender if they have anything special in bottles!
Man, I need to hit the Local Option, I'm in that area frequently...

So, thanks Noah and Jonathan!

36 Hours In Madison

So we bring your traveling weekend to close offering you some tips if you plan on sticking around town. Of course, you probably know all of this, but sometimes its fun to be reminded of what's in our backyard.

Welcome to lovely Madison, WI (photo by Luiz Castro)

You’ve successfully braved the traffic in Chicago, construction in Rockford, and you now find yourself in the capital of Wisconsin, where you can Live Like You Mean It (alternate state slogan: “Illinois’ Largest State Park”). Hold on to your hats, because there’s more beer here per capita than any other place East of the Rockies and West of Michigan. In the immediate area around Madison are 10 breweries and brewpubs, and countless more beer bars and gastropubs. We will assume for the moment that you are not here for The Great Taste of The Midwest (if you were, this article would be very short: “Go to Great Taste.”)

Before we get started, you'll want to know two things about getting around Madison. First, the public transport is terrible, so you'll have to drive or walk - this means that one of you will need to remain sober. Second, this town is impossible to drive in - you can print out directions, you can ask for directions, you can know exactly where you're going and you will still get turned around and diverted by one-way streets, streets that change names three times in five blocks, and roads that never run the same direction for more than half a mile. Just suck it up and do what I do: swear very loudly at the steering wheel.

While it's highly unlikely that you've gotten into town at 5pm on a Friday (Chicago traffic at 3pm on a Friday!? HA!), we'll pretend that you did:

Friday 5 p.m.

UW Memorial Union Terrace - While it's on-campus, it is open to the public and is a great place to start your evening. A large, diverse taplist of everything from a house amber to local offerings from Capital and New Glarus to more typical college fare like Labatt's and Miller. During the summer, you can sit on an iconic John Deere Green Sunburst Chair looking over Lake Mendota (one of four lakes in the Madison area) and plan your evening. This location makes for great people-watching and the bandstand is typically active. There are two things you'll need to know about the Terrace: 1) parking can be a challenge, during the summer the school ramps are typically open to the public and available and there is one right near the Terrace, though it can fill up quickly on nice evenings; 2) you need to be a member to buy a pitcher of beer (secret note: on busy Friday evenings, or really most evenings, it's rare that they ever check for your Membership ID).

Friday 8 p.m.

Friday Night Fish Fry - a Wisconsin tradition, fried cod and hash browns (with melted cheese and onions) is your number one bet. From the Terrace you have a number of options: 1) Walk up State Street to State Street Brats; 2) Walk all the way up State Street to the Capitol; 3) head over to the near-East Side.
      State Street Brats is a University landmark bar, with a decent taplist of macros and Leinenkugels, it's definitely more atmosphere than beer-geek friendly. Don't worry, if you want to hit Brats but want to front-load your evening with good beer, it's open late and you'll probably end your night on State Street anyway.
      Capitol - you have two options for Good Beer and Fish Fry on the Capitol. The Old Fashioned is a local quasi-gastropub with a phenomenal taplist of only Wisconsin beers; this summer they are featuring beer from every single brewery and brewpub in the state, so there is beer here that you can't get anywhere else in the state, let alone the world. You can also head over to The Great Dane Pub. The Great Dane is a world-renowned brewpub and this location is the original (there are three others). The food is great, the beer is better.
      East Side - if you're me, though, you get in your car and you head over to Madison's near-East Side, which is quietly turning into a beer mecca in the city. Get your fish on at Alchemy Cafe or Dexter's Pub - both terrific dive bars with great food and amazing taplists.

Friday 10 p.m.
(photo by ibm4381)

Hit A Beer Bar - There are four in the area that are all phenomenal. On the East Side and an easy walk from Dexters or Alchemy is The Malt House. The Malt House has a great taplist divided evenly between Belgian, Wisconsin, and "Pub Choice". The bottle list is extensive, and the scotch, bourbon and whiskey lists are equally compelling (it is the Malt House, after all). Maduro is downtown on the square. While the taplist at Maduro is usually Bells-heavy, it does feature a number of great selections from all over the world, in addition to a great wine selection and cocktails. One thing to beware of at Maduro: it is a cigar bar - if you like cigars, it has a pretty decent selection (though there are better cigar bars in town like Drackenburg's, also on the East Side and has a decent beer selection, and Hemingways, on the West Side, conveniently located near the Great Dane Fitchburg); if you don't like cigars or like smelling like cigars, it may not be your place. Two other beer bars worth heading to are Brasserie V and Monroe Street Bistro on the Near West Side. Both have excellent food, so you can grab a bite to eat there as well. Brasserie V has a selection that focuses on Belgian and American Belgian-like beer. You can find some great beer on tap here that you can't get anywhere else on tap. The staff at the Brasserie is probably the most knowledgeable in the city about great beer. Monroe Street Bistro is an unauthorized "spin-off" of Brasserie V and has a slightly more populist taplist as well as cocktails.

Friday Late Night

Most of the beer bars mentioned above, except Brasserie, are open until bar time (1am or so). Though, really, the action after about 11 pm is all on State Street. Hit up Paul's Bar, The Irish, and State Street wouldn't be complete with at least walking into the Kollege Klub. You can end your night with a brat at State Street Brats or a gyro or pizza from any number of local purveyors of drunk food.

Saturday - I hope you're up early and not too hung over, it's going to be a long day and you'll probably drink a fair amount of beer.

Saturday 7 a.m.

Start your day with a good breakfast and some coffee. It's not a Saturday morning in Madison without the Dane County Farmer's Market. One of the largest producer-only farmers markets in the country, the breadth of food available is astounding. Get there early, grab some coffee from any number of local roasters (Ancora on the square and Michaelangelo's just off the square on State are my preferred haunts), and cruise the baked goods and cheese or vegetables or meats (buffalo jerky anyone?). Grab a 6oz block of goat cheese from Fantome Farms or a 5-year aged block of Cheddar from Hook's and some fresh-baked bread or muffins and take your coffee down to Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Monona Terrace and relax for a minute or two to start your day off right.

Saturday (photo courtesy of Eating in Madison A to Z) - Ready for some brewery tours? You have plenty of options, not to mention brewpubs to stop and grab some lunch. Breweries within an easy drive include: Tyranena in Lake Mills, New Glarus in New Glarus, Capital in Middleton, and Ale Asylum on the Near East Side of Madison. If you're looking for an itinerary, let me suggest the following:
    10am - New Glarus Brewing Company - it's a self-guided tour and quick, the tasting at the end of the tour is reasonable ($4, I think?); the new brewery should be open by mid-summer and they'll have beer available for purchase at the brewery that isn't available anywhere else.
    12pm - Capital Brewery, Middleton, WI - a trip to Madison isn't complete without a beer at the traditional biergarten here. Known for its dopplebocks, Capital is a Madison institution.
    3pm - Tyranena, Lake Mills, WI - it's a forty-five minute trip from Capital to the far east side Madison suburbs; make sure you check what time the tour is on Saturdays (usually held in the early afternoon). Tyranena's tours are fun, and the beer is amazing; they typically have some stuff on tap at the taproom that is not available anywhere else.
    6pm - Ale Asylum, Madison, WI - last stop, Ale Asylum. Tours are by appointment only, but the taproom has plenty of beer that you can't buy around town including a full line of Belgian blondes, dubbels, tripels, and quads.

[ed note: an alternate itinerary would be to start at Tyranena and skip the tour there, but keep heading East to Milwaukee and check out some of the breweries there or hit up a Brewers game]

Want a brewpub for lunch or dinner? Check out The Grumpy Troll in Mount Horeb, Gray's Tiedhouse in Verona, the former-JT Whitneys on Madison's West Side (should be open mid-June), or The Great Dane in Madison (two locations - downtown and West Side) and Fitchburg. Head a little farther West to tourist-friendly Mineral Point for Brewery Creek, or head into Milwaukee (only an hour away) and stop at Delafield Brewhaus, Water Street Brewpub, Stonefly, or Milwaukee Ale House.

Saturday Night

For dinner take the twenty minute drive to Mount Horeb, WI and visit the award-winning Grumpy Troll. A pizza joint upstairs, a more formal dining experience downstairs, the beer is equally awesome both places. Head brewer Mark Duchow mixes up the taplines frequently with everything from an authentic, stone-heated steinbier to a flanders-style red. The Baltic Porter and IPA have won numerous awards.

(photo courtesy of Eating in Madison A to Z)

As you're dragging yourself awake, drive or walk over to Mickie's Dairy Bar near UW's Camp Randall. The breakfast-only diner serves a ton of pancakes, waffles, corned beef hash, and milkshakes. The menu is on the wall, and it's cash only. Oh, it's also a seat-yourself situation, so if all of the tables are full just hang around for a minute; servers may or may not point you in the right direction, but you'll get a table soon enough.

I hope you've found this tour of Madison interesting. Madison has more good food and good beer than anyone could ever possibly consume. If you're going to be in the area, please let Madison Beer Review know and we can always get you pointed in the right direction.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

On the second part of this weeks podcast we discuss the beer-geek forum controversy surrounding The Lost Abbey's Angel's Share beers, which many consumers found to be uncarbonated. At $30 a bottle, there were some pissed off people, and brewmaster Tomme Arthur himself responded with a post on Beer Advocate addressing the issue. Listen for our take on the anger and response.

Here's the mp3


36 Hours In St. Louis

We continue our Memorial Day travels to St. Louis, MO. Ex-home to America's Largest Brewery, it is now the home to one division of an international beverage marketing group based out of Belgium and Brazil called InBev. But there's more, much more, to the city than Budweiser. Our friend Mike at StL Hops has put together a heck of a weekend for you.


5PM - Hey, who got city in my museum?

You've probably just now rolled across the Mississippi and have begun singing "Deep River" like Clark Griswold. The city of St. Louis is laid out in front to you, but where to start? Well, it's a bit too early for dinner, (unless you're my parents) so it's time to stretch the legs. One of the more unusual locations in the area is the City Museum. Not your Father's museum, the City Museum bills itself as an "eclectic mixture of children's playground, funhouse, surrealistic pavilion, and architectural marvel."

Run around MonstroCity or view the World Aquarium, the City Museum presents a hodge-podge of sensory delights that will surely awaken your travel-weary bones.

beer-1222_1280x9607:30PM -Pubgrub

After all of that exploring, you've probably worked up an appetite. Luckily, you're close to the original location of the largest local brewery in St. Louis and the second largest craft brewery in Missouri, the Schlafly Tap Room. In 1989, Tom Schlafly and Dan Kopman incorporated and created the Saint Louis Brewery, soon after they purchased the Swift Printing Company and the rest is history.

Today you'll find that the wooden interior and stainless steel brewery equipment lends itself to warm dining experience. Chef Andy White has turned what was previously a ho-hum menu into a wonderful gastropub experience. Also, this is only location in the area to experience Schlafly beer on cask.

9:30PM - I'm sure you'll see me here.

33 Wine Shop and Tasting Bar is probably the hippest bar in St. Louis, because it's not trying to be the hippest bar in St. Louis. 33 features a casual atmosphere with one of the best hand-picked beer lists in St. Louis. Here you'll find not only over 100 beer selections, but even aged beer and probably the largest selections of sour beer at a bar in St. Louis. If it's not an unbearably humid St. Louis night, check out the back patio, just make sure to go and get your own drinks at the bar.


10AM - Taste of St. Louis

Not unlike my beer, I like my food local, both are usually fresher and tastier when they don't have to travel very far. If you're looking for a local breakfast, Cafe Osage is probably your best choice in St. Louis. With the produce being grown in the vegetable garden across the street and fresh herbs grown on the Café Osage Green Roof, I'd say that's pretty darn local.

12PM - Takin' the tour, takin' the tour.

Oh sure, you could visit another large brewery and go through their fancy-schmancy tour, but then try to ask them a question about brewing and watch the deer in the headlights stare you'll quickly receive. Then again, maybe you're a sadist and you enjoy that type of thing? If you're not though, hit up the Schlafly Bottleworks in Maplewood for one of their hourly tours detailing what it's like to brew beer that actually has some taste.

1293043321_1280x9602PM - 3.14159265
You may be now working up another appetite, so it's time to visit your favorite mathematical constant, Pi. Pizza is a very personal thing and many a divorce and fist fight have been fought over what kind of pizza is best. Luckily, Pi offers something for everyone including you vegan types. Hell, even President Obama digs on Pi.

5PM -Prepare to spend some money.

It's time to hit the East Side! In this case it's to visit Corral Liquors in Granite City, IL. Corral Liquors has one of the largest selections of beer in the St. Louis area and allows you to purchase any single bottle to create your own Mix-a-Six. On the Illinois side you'll find beers from breweries you can't get in Missouri, such as Three Floyds. Port/Lost Abbey and Dogfish Head. If you've got a cooler in the car, throw those beers in, you're going to need them cold for the next place you're going to.

2009_05_16_1516_1280x8536:30PM - Save those quarters for laundry.

Sure it may not look like much from the outside, but every couple weekends a month CP Pinball lights up over 45 pinball machines and lets you get about the best value for $10 you're going to find in the St. Louis area. The best part? Besides the fact it's 10 bucks to play as much pinball as you want for free, it's BYOB. So kick back, crack open a Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA and enjoy some Addams Family Pinball.

Just make sure CP is open the weekend you're visiting, as I said above, Charles only opens the place a couple of weekends a month.

beer-2221_1280x9608PM - Putting the South in Southern Illinois.

Too few places in St. Louis has great food and great beer, it's kind of a shame and something I've been trying to work hard to change. But one of the places that puts it all together is Erato on Main in Edwardsville, IL. Chef Kevin Willmann blends local produce and some of the freshest seafood in the country with his on spin on Southern comfort dishes. The beer list gives you numerous options to choose from, including plenty of draught beers and things you don't normally see on local beer lists, such as sour beer.


10AM - Insert "rooster" joke here.

Are you up finally? Jeez, it's 10AM! You're going to sleep your life away! Well, haul your butt down to Rooster and wash out that coating of sour beer with one of Rooster's mimosas or if you're going down that route, may as well have another beer. I always enjoy a Hitachino White Nest in the morning. Oh, make sure to get a Rooster Slinger, it's the best way to start a morning and to end a trip.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

36 Hours In Indianapolis

Madison Beer Review, Hoosier Beer Geek and StL Hops have teamed up just in time to provide some traveling help for your summer. Looking to drive somewhere other than Chicago? We've put together some travel ideas for the beer geek in a foreign city. Today we'll bring you a weekend in Indianapolis. Tomorrow, a weekend in St. Louis. Friday, we'll take you for a tour around good ol' Madison, WI.

As always, if you have anything to add to these, please comment!


5 p.m.
Meet the Hoosier Beer Geeks' Favorite Bartender

Deano's Vino, Fountain Square, Indianapolis

Dead center of the Fountain Square neighborhood lies Deano's Vino, a bar/restaurant better known to locals as one of the city's more relaxed wine drinking establishments. Don't let that scare you off - Deano's has (just) three taps, all stocking craft beer - usually a Bell's product, something from Crooked Tree, and a wildcard. In addition there's a craft-heavy bottled beer list that's 30+ deep. Sit at the bar (try to get one of the much more comfortable larger stools - shouldn't be a problem this early) and watch and listen as bartender Nick repeatedly lays into the clientele. Do not expect fast service at Deano's - it's not going to happen. Instead, be patient, enjoy your beer, and have a conversation with the folks around you - you'll soon realize that everyone at Deano's is a regular.

8 P.m.
A Table With A View

You won't have to go far from Deano's (just across the street, actually) to check out Shelbi Street Cafe and Bistro's rooftop garden. Choose from the cafe's extensive seasonable menu, add an outdoor rooftop view of the city, and you're sure to have a winner. Shelbi Street also features a nice little beer menu, and the Bread Pudding desert is a nice way to top off a stomach filled with beer.

10 P.m.
No Ducks Will Be Harmed

Don't leave the building! Hopefully you've made reservations early, because Duck Pin Bowling is a popular weekend activity in Fountain Square. Duck Pin bowling is a ten-pin game, but you use a softball-sized ball. It's a very 50's sort of thing, and the 11 p.m closing time means you'll be back to the hotel and get enough sleep in for tomorrow's marathon drinking session.


8 A.m.

Fish or Pancakes?

Be late and expect a wait when trying to eat at the cozy City Cafe. The breakfast menu features interesting spins on classic breakfast recipes, and a regular Saturday morning special option - either a specially (and rarely repeated) pancake option - or a fish option. I tend to trust the chef and go with whatever they're doing with the pancakes, but the fish (for breakfast!) special usually looks like a winner as well. Of course if you'd prefer something else, the battered french toast or the eggs benedict are tasty options.

9 A.m.
A Slight Respite Before The Gauntlet

After filling your belly, head across the street to the north side of Veterans Memorial Park, and the newly redesigned Indianapolis Central Library. Reopened in 2008, the library project was overrun with construction problems and came in way overbudget. But the building is spectacular, and the downtown views from the upper floors are quite an asset.

2 P.m.
Figure out Who's the Designated Driver Beforehand, and Get Your Afternoon Drunk On

Brugge Brasserie, Broad Ripple, Indianapolis

Head to Indy's Broad Ripple neighborhood and settle into a chair on the porch or deck at Brugge Brasserie, where you can watch the locals passing by on the nearby Monon Trail. While the upstairs bar offers a nice assortment of foreign and domestic beer options, you'll want to start off with the Black - a beer that might be Brugge's calling card. Pair your Black with an appetizer of frites (fries); If you've got company order the L'Enorme - the myriad of sauces make for good conversation. For a main course, try anything off the menu - the crepes, mitrailettes (sandwiches), soups, and mussels are all winners here. Before leaving, be sure to have a Tripel (and remember there's a two Triple limit). Stop there, though - you're just getting started with the drinking.

4 P.m.
Nevermind the Bollocks, It's the Broad Ripple Brewpub

Broad Ripple Brewpub, Broad Ripple, Indianapolis

Instead of getting back in the car, head north (by foot) on the Monon Trail about two blocks to the Broad Ripple Brewpub, Indiana's oldest. Established in 1990, the brewpub specializes in authentic English style beer - usually under-carbonated and supremely sessionable. While any of the beers on the menu are worth a shot, we usually start with whatever they've got on cask. If you're lucky enough to catch the porter on cask, watch out - you may never want to leave.

6 P.m.
Watch for Girls Drinking Pitchers of Framboise

If you've still got the stomach for it, take a walk to over to Chumley's Beer House before the college kids show up. Featuring 50 taps (roughly 25 craft), you're sure to find something you haven't had before. If I were you, I'd get out of there before the place gets too busy. Then again, I hate people.

9 P.m.
Pizza is the Perfect Drunk Food

Hopefully you've been eating a little along the way, but you'll want to finish up with the city's best pizza. Bazbeaux Broad Ripple (811 E Westfield Blvd, Indianapolis, (317) 255-5711) features a variety of modern pizza options, all of them tasty. The Quattro Formaggio (romano, cheddar, ricotta, mozzarella, provolone, bacon and mushroom) is a Hoosier Beer Geek favorite. And they've got a few beer options, as well.

10:30 P.m.
You're On Your Own Now

Find your way back to Brugge (for an on-tap Three Floyds Alpha King) or your hotel as safely as possible.


10:00 A.m.
Mass Ave. Awaits

A visit to Indinapolis wouldn't be complete without a visit to the shops and restaurants of the Mass Avenue district. Stop in at Hoaglin To Go (448 Massachusetes Ave, (317) 423-0300) for a filling breakfast before wandering over to Luna Music to check out the latest and greatest in music. Head towards downtown and stop in at Mass Ave Toys (409 Massachusetts Ave, (317) 955-8697) and pick up something for the young one at home.

And if you still want to drink ('re a harder man than I), there are plenty of bars around - The Rathskeller, MacNivens, Chatham Tap and Old Point all have craft beer options.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

On part one of this weeks podcast, we have news in 60 seconds, discussing some new projects from Jolly Pumpkin and Michigan's banning bottles of Point Nude Beach Wheat because of their racy labels. Also, Kyle talks about the very wide variety of beers at the Delafield Brewhaus and Great Taste of the Midwest ticket pleas on Craigslist.

Here's the mp3


Monday, May 18, 2009

Almost Done With IPAs

I promise you, we're almost done with IPAs. Are you sick of them yet? I'll be honest. I'm getting there. My palatte has taken a beating and is shot. I can't taste anything hops and bitter and citrus.

I do this for you, I hope you're happy.

Yesterday, Sunday, was a gorgeous day. I hope you took the time to head on over to the WORT Block Party. It was a blast. Good music. Great beer.

IPAs on tap that weren't/aren't being reviewed here:

Lake Louie Kiss The Lips IPA: one of those under-rated brews, that I often forget about, but it's really a pretty good IPA. I tend to think of Lake Louie for darker beers (the stouts and scotch ales), and sometimes forget that the cream ale and IPA (not to mention the pale) are pretty darn good in their own rights.

Great Dane IIPA: the Texas Speed Bump IPA is a Madison classic, with its assertive, but sessionable, cascade profile it's usually a good default at The Dane; this IIPA ramps up the Speed Bump into my preferred territory for IPAs. I'm not sure it's quite so big as a lot of IIPAs out there, but it's really pretty good and about as "big" as The Dane's typical drink-something-other-than-swill-while-we're-here crowd would tolerate.

I wasn't around for it, but supposedly the Bitter Woman was going to be tapped, and, unfortunately, Grumpy Troll's Maggie did not make an appearance.

Some other IPAs to keep an eye for on the shelves: Lakefront's IPA, which admittedly, I haven't had; Tyranena's Rye IPA, the next in the Brewer's Gone Wild series that I can't wait to get my hands on.

Coming up later this week to officially end our IPAs is the O'So Hopdinger and the Central Waters Glacial Trail.

Which other Wisconsin IPAs am I forgetting??

Friday, May 15, 2009

Colbert On "Soda" Taxes

This could equally apply to "soda" (sugar/high-fructose-corn-syrup) and beer.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen's Coke Party Protest
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorGay Marriage

Beer Review: New Glarus IPA

A few online forums, RateBeer and BeerAdvocate, publish Style Guides for reviewers in their respective ratings systems. Of course, the homebrewers submit their IPAs according to the BJCP Style Guide. Andy Crouch spins a new story on the old story. Roger Protz counters with a more traditional recounting. DJ Spiess settles the issue. IPAs are like gin. Wondered where goes? Ever wondered about the Dankenstein? Want to know how to brew an IPA? This is a good place to start.

Apparently I've reviewed the New Glarus IPA before (must have been a Tuesday).

New Glarus IPA
Appearance: a thick bar of beige on top of well carbonated burnished copper
Aroma: a sticky smell of flowers and oranges and garlic; a well-based malty sweetness behind
Flavor: sticky and caramel; a strong hop presence, but doesn't come off as bitter
Body: strong bodied, it coats my mouth well, making the bottle drink slowly; hops finish clean
Drinkability: While sessionability is probably low, I could drink a couple of these with dinner easily
Summary: very nice; nothing cute or over the top, one of the best overall brews you're going to find anywhere; personally, for IPAs I like a bit more wollop in the hops, a less balanced beer - and dang it, if that makes me weird, so be it; makes me want to ditch the Americans for the British.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thursday Press Release - WORT - No Crap On Tap

It is that time again!

The 12th annual WORT block Party is coming up on Sunday from 11-7. The local brewing/beer appreciation community has come together again to bring you the finest local tap line you will see at a community block party festival.

Check out this tentative lineup!

Brewery Beer
Great Dane Imperial IPA, Pilsner, Belgian Pale Ale, Crop Circle Wheat

Capital Hop Bock, Mai Bock, Wild Rice, Experimental Belgian Wheat

Tyranena Paradise By the Dashboard Light Cherry Imperial Porter, Chief Blackhawk Porter, Rocky's Revenge Bourbon Brown, Bitter Woman or Scurvy Imperial Orange IPA

Lake Louie Kiss The Lips IPA, Warped Speed Scotch Ale

Ale Asylum Sticky McDougal Scotch Ale, Contorter Porter, Hopalicious, Belgian Abbey

Grumpy Troll Root Beer, Spetsnaz Imperial Stout, Maggie (or Eq.)

New Glarus Alt, Stone Soup Belgian, Cracked Wheat, Coffee Stout

The event is free, but the beer is reasonably priced. The music will be excellent this year, with several past and current MAMA award winning groups: See for the lineup. There will be many local food and craft vendors. The party will be on W. Doty Street SW of the Bedford intersection next to the station.

Thanks again to the 40+ of you that have volunteered to help out at the event.

What could be finer than drinking award-winning local beer to support award-winning local radio?

Be there, or live in everlasting regret for having missed it!

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

Today's podcast has news in 60 seconds, with talk about some upcoming beer events at Fromagination, and Bell's Michigan distributor lawsuit.

Here's the mp3

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Beer Review: Bubblejack IPA

[There was supposed to be stuff here, but the editor cut it for a different post. Sorry.]

Rush River Bubblejack IPA

Appearance: An aggressive pour nets a tall, loose, white head on a highly carbonated golden body; lots of floaties, though it's hard to tell if the floaties are yeast from bottle conditioning or hop leafy matter
Aroma: big lemon brightness with some pine and orange
Flavor: hoppy and bitter but warms up well to reveal some citrusiness and pine in the hops, very little malt body at all; some pepperiness and burn at the end
Body: light bodied for an IPA, with a surprisingly clean finish that leaves a bit of lemony/grapefruity bitterness on the back of the throat
Drinkability: light for an IPA makes this definitely on the sessionable side
Summary: I prefer my IPAs with a little more body, but this would definitely do in a pinch; very enjoyable and pleasant surprise for a brewery that seems to be a bit of an enigma

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

In honor of Cinco De Mayo last week, we decided to do a tasting of Mexican beers. Little did we know what awaited us. What is the best Mexican light lager? What is the worst? How does a Mexican "craft beer' stand up to the macros? To find out, you must listen.

Here's the mp3

Monday, May 11, 2009

Them's The Rules - Grumpy Troll Maggie IPA

I don't have a bottle right now to review, but wanted to point you in the general direction of Whole Foods on University Avenue here in Madison. You will find, at least The Grumpy Troll ownership assures me, the Maggie IPA on sale there. This will mark The Troll's first forays into bottling and retail sale.

Which, brings up an interesting issue: this awesome new brewpub law vis-a-vis bottling. Here's what the brewpub law has to say about bottling and sale of beer by brewpubs:

1) Any entity holding a brewpub permit cannot brew, under any circumstances, more than 10K barrels per year. While I don't like this hard cap on barrel limits, the reality is that 10K barrels is quite a bit of beer (to give you an idea, neither Tyranena nor Ale Asylum will brew 10K barrels this year - and probably not next year, either; Lakefront brews right around 10K barrels) and for a "brewpub" (what we traditionally think of when we think of brewpubs) it's a TON of beer (The Great Dane doesn't brew anywhere near 10K barrels in all three of their pubs put together). The "problem" with the hard cap is situations like Great Lakes in Cleveland, which started out as bottling brewpubs (similar to Ale Asylum) but have grown quite large - Great Lakes, a well-respected regional brewery that also happens to be a brewpub, could not exist here in Wisconsin.

2) Brewpubs are permitted to bottle. However, this is subject to some caveats, discussed below.

3) Brewpubs may fill and sell growlers.

4) Brewpubs may sell to wholesalers as much beer as they like (up to the 10K barrel limit)

5) Brewpubs may sell directly to retailers only up to 1K barrels (and for the sneaky: no, the retailer cannot then turn around and sell it to other retailers)

So, that's the rules under the new brewpub law about brewpubs bottling and selling at wholesale or retail. It gets kind of tricky for brewpubs here in Madison though. And, rather than a long dissertation on why, I'll just present the following interesting question:

The brewpub law requires that brewpubs hold three licenses: 1) brewpub license; 2) restaurant license; 3) Class B "liquor license" (allows sale of beer for consumption on-premises). The first is issued by the state, the others are issued by the city of Madison. For the acquisition of a Class B license by a restaurant, the city has a general rule that the restaurant must make more than 50% of its income from non-alcohol related sales in order to get the license. So, does the bottling of a brewpub count against the restaurant license such that the restaurant would have to sell enough food to offset the beer income of up to 10K barrels in order to maintain the restuarant's Class B license? Or, does only the beer served by the restaurant count against its 50%?

Friday, May 8, 2009

Beer Review: Ale Asylum Ballistic

As you can see, a new poll is up. Vote for your favorite Wisconsin IPA over on the right-hand side there.

Ale Asylum, based here in Madison, is favorite of MBR. The Mercy Grand Cru was last year's Best Beer. Interestingly, the Ballistic is the first proper American IPA from Ale Asylum. I say that's interesting because, at least in my mind and in others I've talked to, Ale Asylum has a reputation for hoppier beers.

I had a chance to talk with Otto at Ale Asylum about the Ballistic:

Despite a reputation for hoppy beers, it took you a while to make a proper American IPA; how come?
Who you callin’ proper?

Actually, it wasn’t until this year that we had the capacity to even THINK about doing seasonals. We wanted to make sure adding seasonals didn’t affect the availability of the year round Ale Asylum brands. After expansions in 2007 & 2008, we still weren’t keeping up with demand. It wasn’t until our latest Spring ‘09 expansion that we had the room.

Just Amarillos?
Yup. Tasty little critters, ain’t they?

Is there an Imperial IPA coming down the pike?
Probably not. Our take on the style would have to be so brutally hopped it wouldn’t tickle the taste buds so much as beat them into submission.
[ed note: yum.]

Are you guys hopheads or does it just seem that way?
I think that’s fairly accurate, but we’d probably say we’re “sessionable” hopheads. Everything in moderation, especially moderation.

We do plenty of bouncing back and forth between the other brands in our lineup, though. Gotta keep things interesting. Since we have a nice rotation of seasonals in the tap room we get plenty opportunities to stray.

You're being kidnapped and sent to an island and you can have a lifetime supply of only one IPA not made by Ale Asylum. Which IPA do you take?
Dean and Chris (head brewer) said Centennial IPA from Founders. I said Racer 5, if only because it pains me to agree with them on anything.

And a reminder: FYI: Sticky McDoogle Scotch Ale comes out this June!

Ale Asylum Ballistic (while reviews on BeerAdvocate and RateBeer are generally positive, I'm not going to publish them because the sample size - 18 and 15, respectively - just isn't high enough to be meaningful)

Appearance: head is tall and dense, finely carbonated, a clear russet colored body
Aroma: citrus; oranges, grapefruits, lemons, clementine, tangerine, it's all in there, with a slight alcoholic zing - very little malt in the aroma at all except as a very faint mustiness
Flavor: the foam tastes of all hops, but the body has a decent build of caramel and base malts (maybe Munich or Vienna?)
Body: solid medium body
Drinkability: for as big as it is, it has a pretty high sessionability, though if you don't like citrus hops, you probably won't want too many of these
Summary: improves greatly with proper serving temperature - cold it is just too numbing and overpowering, but as it warms up it becomes infinitely more balanced; really, a very nice beer - I look forward to drinking the other 5 in the six-pack. Unfortunately it's a seasonal, so I won't get a shot at more until next year.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the odd labeling decision to have a person on the label shooting a gun at the customer. While the label is evocative of a James Bond intro or an iPod commercial, pointing hand guns at the customer, even hand guns shooting hops, doesn't seem like a wise decision when it's not entirely necessary (is it ever necessary?).

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Press Release Thursday - Fromagination Events

Some fun events coming up at Fromagination. Call up and reserve your spots!!!

-----------Start Press Release Now------------------------------
Funky Beer & Stinky Cheese tasting
Thursday, May 14th
6:30 pm @ Fromagination
12 S. Carroll (on the Capital Square)

Join Fromagination master cheesemonger Bill Anderson, and Ron Extract of Shelton Brothers, importer of the world's finest beers, for a tasting of funky beer and funky cheese.

From fruity, horsey, and hoppy, to nutty, broccoli, and mushroomy, there is a world of interesting flavors and synergies to experience in the pairing of beer and cheese. Including a newly released beer, a cider, and several new seasonal cheeses, this tasting is sure to excite the palate of both the beginner and the connoisseur.

Cost is $25/person. Attendance is limited to 25. To reserve a spot, please call (608) 255-2430. Advance payment required.

Grilling with Beer and Cheese
Tuesday, May 19th, 6:30pm at Fromagination (12 S. Carroll, on the Capital Square)

Join beer chef extraordinaire Lucy Saunders (author of Grilling with Beer and Cooking with Beer) for a class featuring grilled appetizers of cheese, veggies, and beer. Get some great ideas for grilling out on Memorial Day, and how to pair your grilled delectables with your favorite craft beers. This class is sure to be a hit.

$25/person. Space is limited to 25. Advanced payment required. Call 608-255-2430 to reserve your spot today.

New Glarus Beer & Wisconsin Cheese
Wednesday May 20th, 6:30pm, at Fromagination
12 S. Carroll St., Madison, WI

Join Dan Carey, Master Brewer from the New Glarus Brewing Co., to experience the pairing of Wisconsin craft beer with Wisconsin artisan cheese. From Spotted Cow and Raspberry Tart, to Wisconsin aged cheddar and gouda, this tasting is for loyal "locavores", craft beer lovers, and people who just like to have a good time. Kick back, relax, and enjoy the bounty of Wisconsin!

$25/person. Space is limited. Call 608-255-2430 to reserve your spot today. Advance payment required.

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

Last Sunday was the big Great Taste of the Midwest ticket sales day, an annual ritual for Madison beer lovers, and the Beer Talk Today crew was on the scene.

Here's the mp3


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Top 10 IPAs

In celebration of the four or five different IPAs sitting in my fridge waiting to be consumed and reviewed, the following is a list of my top ten IPAs. And I love IPAs, so some of these are in the tops for my all time beer lists.

*** Special Consideration: Surly Furious, Oscar's Blues Gordon, Central Waters Glacial Trail - all three are great and probably deserve to be on the list, but for various reasons they often don't make the cut when I'm staring at the beer cooler. Surly isn't in my cooler, it's only available in Minnesota; Gordon is often just too pricey for my budget; and the Glacial Trail, well, if I were making this list in the fall when the darker malts seem, I don't know, more appropriate, it probably would have made my top 10.

10. Urthel Hop-It - big and syrupy and incredibly hoppy but surprisingly medium-light bodied; this beer is all about the hops, with nary a nod at balance

9. Two Brothers Heavy Handed - I love that each batch is numbered with a focus on different hops for each batch; last year alone saw: US Tettenang, Baby Cascade, Columbus-West Field, Galena, Centennial, Columbus-East Field

8. Great Lake Commodore Perry - being from Cleveland this beer holds a special place in my heart; I have had more of this out of plastic cups at hole-in-the-wall bars around Cleveland than almost any other beer

7. Dark Horse Crooked Tree - a nice, different, take on the IPA that is really very well-balanced; the Double Crooked Tree is a hop bomb of a whole 'nother level

6. Tyranena Bitter Woman IPA - as good of an everyday kind of beer as you're going to find on this list; it's perfectly balanced, and while it's progeny (bitter woman from hell, scurvy, hop whore, stickin' it to the man) are all great, this is the original and supremely drinkable

5. Avery Maharaja - a perfectly crafted IPA; well-balanced with a slightly darker malt profile than many, the malt and hop complexity are top-notch

4. Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye - similar to the Maharaja, but has 20% rye in the grain bill (and we all know how much I like rye)

3. Stone IPA - with all of its hops, it has a great malt body and surprisingly dry and clean; it is exactly what I imagine when I imagine IPAs.

2. Dogfish Head 120 - this beer holds a special place in my heart as one of the first "come to the light" craft beers that I truly remembered; hoppy and sweet and alcoholic it is a big beer in a lot of ways; moreover, served chilled in a champagne flute, it isn't nearly as cloyingly syrupy as it is when it warms up and loses some of its carbonation.

1. Stone Ruination - like the 120, it's a love-it or hate-it beer; if you have one, you can't drink anything else for the rest of the evening; it's an all-out assault on the palatte with huge hop complexity and a surprisingly strong malt presence; but have no doubts, this beer is all about the hops; just smelling this beer makes my head spin

So there you have it. I'm sure your list is very different from mine, but these are my favorites and I've had a lot of IPAs.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

Today we have a short tasting of some home made brew, then a full tasting of New Holland's Pilgrim's Dole Wheatwine. Then we talk about Wheatwine as a style, New Holland as a brewery, and following craft brew trends.

Here's the mp3


MBR Meet-Up at the Old Fashioned - Thank You!!!

We had over a dozen people at The Old Fashioned last night for a few beers and to chat. Thanks so much for everyone who came out. A good time was had by all. I wish I had remembered to bring the camera.

Thanks especially to Jennifer at The Old Fashioned for hosting us. Also, Dan and Deb Carey and New Glarus Brewing Company for taking the time to come by and talking to us and bringing the Imperial Saison, Dancing Man Wheat and Naked. The Imperial Saison is amazing, and the Dancing Man Wheat is again fantastic. Finally, thanks to New Belgium for providing samplers of the Mothership Wit, 1554 and Fat Tire, we enjoyed them immensely.

We will definitely be doing more of these. Some suggestions were made for brewery trips and for cook-outs, so we'll try to be creative about how we do them.

Thanks again, it was great meeting everyone and getting the chance to hang out.

Monday, May 4, 2009

MBR Meet-Up at the Old Fashioned - Tonight at 7pm

Reminder that tonight at 7pm. Old Fashioned on the square here in Madison.

Just got some news that you're going to want to travel for this one: New Glarus Brewing Company might be stopping by to say hello and bring you some beer.

Oh, not to mention, I've gotten word that New Belgium is dropping off some samples to kick off their entry into the Wisconsin market. Keep in mind this one of the very, very few times you'll be able to get a non-Wisconsin beer at Old Fashioned.

So, make sure you stop in and say hello. A good time, and good beer, to be had by all. Yes, I know it's's a school night, it's a work night, blah, blah, blah. You're going to say no to New Glarus and New Belgium? Yeah, didn't think so.

Surprise! MillerCoors Distribution Agreement Does Not Benefit MillerCoors Distributors

You should read the entire article (warning: PDF) in Modern Brewery Age. Sorry for the late news (this article was published in October), but this is the first time I've run across it and I think it's interesting for both industry folks who aren't aware of this and general consumers caught up in the BeerWars thing to see in what ways the industry has moved on from what was in that movie.

Basically, the article dissects the new distribution agreement that MillerCoors has sent out to its distributors. Quite frankly it's a pretty stunning show of power by MillerCoors that puts its distributors over a barrel and asks them to be happy about it. What would be truly awesome is if no distributor actually signed this thing and just told MillerCoors to bugger off.

The gist of the agreement can be summarized in three parts. First, no, MillerCoors will not negotiate with you - you either sign it or you don't, with the implication that if you don't sign it, someone will and they are perfectly happy dealing with only that distributor (aka "consolidation").

Second, you hand over all control for the sale of your distribution rights. Basically, the agreement states that if you even attempt to sell your distribution rights to any MillerCoors brand that you must appoint MillerCoors as your agent and they will negotiate the sale for you for any brands (not just MillerCoors brands) that are part of the sale. Oh, and if you don't like the deal they make, you can still sell to a third party subject to MillerCoors approval and their right of first refusal. Why would anyone agree to this??

Third, if you don't like it? Tough. You have to go to arbitration to settle any contract disputes. While that may sound innocuous, as the article points out: "... arbitrators are free to fashion remedies they deem equitable and are not bound by legal precedent. Moreover, arbitration rulings are almost impossible to overturn even if the arbitrator fails to follow the law."

Oh there's other fun stuff in there, too, like the ability to set up a second distributor in your "exclusive" territory, go through your books with a fine-tooth comb, the ability to terminate you if you acquire other brands that might shift attention away from MillerCoors (what!?!), and more.

So, yeah, um, MillerCoors distributors ... good luck with that.

Combine this with AB-InBev's notice to its suppliers and vendors that it will now only pay bills at Net120 terms and it's any wonder that distributors deal with these people at all. If you thought the three-tier system and distributors were out to conspire against craft you've got it all wrong, it's turning out that even the distributors are up against the wall in light of the global consolidation.

The good news is that craft brands are proving more and more valuable. The bad news is, if you agree to this agreement and want to distribute anything other Leinie's, you may be facing the recall of your MillerCoors distribution rights.

Beer Review: New Glarus Black Wheat

I'll keep this short and sweet, but a few caveats: I've had a lot of beer this weekend and my tastebuds are about shot, I'm really tired, and the Amazing Race is on TV so the beer doesn't necessarily have my full, undivided attention. But, you know what? This is how we drink beer. We don't sit down and drink beer in a quiet, closed, reproducible environment with bright lights, a moderate chill and well-cleaned glasses.

We drink beer in front of the TV, we drink with dinner, we drink beer standing out by a sandy ball diamond. We drink beer all the time in non-ideal environments. Heck, 95% of the bars in the universe are non-ideal beer-drinking environments. So, why do we think we need to review beer in ideal environments? So long as we are able to identify the factors in our environment that may affect, either positively or negatively, our appreciation of beer, drink beer wherever and however you please.

Interestingly, I've been traveling and moving around a bit the past few weeks and I don't always have a perfect "beer clean" glass to drink out of. So I've started to appreciate the fine art of drinking fancy beer out of a bottle. I've found that hop bitterness tends to be over-pronounced and aromas are non-existent. Maltiness tends to be more subdued and body seems to be lighter when drinking out of bottles instead of glassware.

I didn't quite have the guts to drink this beer out of the bottle.

New Glarus Black Wheat (BA. A-. RB. 96)
Appearance: The huge foam settles out like a waterfall cascading down the sides of the weizen glass; deep, deep brown with tinges of amber on the edges
Aroma: toffee and weizen yeast
Flavor: coffee and chocolate with light clove and banana; the wheat is hard to pick out
Body: a pretty solid medium to full body
Drinkability: It would take me about 3 days to kill a six-pack of this
Summary: Incidentally, both BeerAdvocate and RateBeer list this thing as a dunkelweizen with only 5.7% ABV. Given the biggish body, it seems more like a dunkelweizen bock (I say that like that's some sort of super-common style that everyone brews), so I guess I'm surprised that this this thing is only 5.7% ABV. I really like this beer but it's a little fuller-bodied than weizens that I'm used to, so it's not exactly a warm-weather thirst quencher. But it's certainly a wonderful way to enjoy a mid-spring evening.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

MBR Meet-Up at the Old Fashioned - May 4 (Monday) at 7pm

I sent this out via the MBR Facebook page and the MBR Twitter feed, but I have some more details.

First, what happened is that I was already planning on meeting some people at The Old Fashioned on Monday, May 4 at 7pm. And I though: hey, I've been thinking about doing a meet-up for a while and Monday night's as good as any.

So, here you go. A chance to meet some fellow MBR folks and have some really good beer with some good beer people. I contacted the Old Fashioned, and they are going to set up a booth for us and they've been nice enough to tell us what's on tap.

May 4th is also the first day that New Belgium beer is available here in WI. It's unknown if the bottles will be available at The Old Fashioned tomorrow (draught isn't coming to WI until July). In the meantime, drool on this tap list and I'll see you Monday night!

Central Water's Happy Heron
Sand Creek Hard Lemonade
Furthermore's Fatty Boombalatty*
Rush River's Lost Arrow Porter
New Glarus Cracked Wheat
Lake Louie Kiss the Lips IPA
O'so's Rusty Red
Lakefront's Riverwest Stein
New Glarus Alt
South Shore Nut Brown
Pearl St. Downtown Nut Brown
Rowland's Calumet Rye
Bull Falls Edelbock Lager
Red Eye's Thorn in my side Imperial Stout
Tyranena's Chipotle Imperial Porter
Harbor City Mile Rock Amber
O'so's Big O
Ale Asylum Hopalicious
Grumpy Troll's Maggie IPA
Viking Copperhead
Titletown's Johnny Blood Red
Potosi's Classic Pilsner
New Glarus Black Wheat
Silver Creek's Vintage
Milwaukee Ale House's Monkey Paw
Spotted Cow
* Furthermore Fatty Boombalatty is the beer of the month and is a $2.50 tap. All other beer is between $2.50 and $4.00. Pitchers are $8.50.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Press Release Friday - Midwest Hop Production Workshop

Beer Talk Today interviewed James Altweis of Gorst Valley Hop Farm a few months back. Unfortunately the audio was lost. But, hopefully we can make it up to them. Gorst Valley is leading the drive in Wisconsin for a return to our hop-growing past. This the second workshop they've done, since demand was so high for the first one.

Also involved in this one is Capital Brewery. Capital is doing great things to draw attention to the great farmers and processors here in this state and for that they deserve a lot of credit. So, I'm glad to see Kirby and the folks at Capital helping Gorst Valley to educate farmers about how to grow hops here.

Anyway. Without further ado, here's the press release. Please, if you're interested in growing hops, sign up.

---------------------------Start Press Release-------------------------------

Midwest Hops Production Workshop has overflow attendance. Second workshop scheduled in May with support from Capital Brewery.

The second workshop is to be held May 30, 2009 at Rosemary Garfoot Public Library, Cross Plains, WI.

MAZOMANIE, WI (April 28, 2009) – Gorst Valley Hops, with Capital Brewery, will be hosting another workshop for all interested in sustainable Midwestern hops production. The workshop will be held at Wisconsin’s first LEED-certified sustainably built library, the Rosemary Garfoot Public Library (2107 Julius St., Cross Plains) on May 30, 2009 from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm. The focus of this workshop is the education of current and potential hop farmers in the basics of low impact hops horticulture, harvesting and processing. This workshop will be identical to the workshop held last March, which reached capacity at 90 attendees. Registration may be booked online at

Gorst Valley Hops held their first educational workshop and roundtable discussion of Midwestern hop production on March 14th, 2009 in Cross Plains, WI. Unfortunately, attendance was cut off at 90 people so not all interested parties were able to attend. To rectify this, a second workshop has been scheduled for those still interested in the subject. Please register early as registration will be limited to 60 for this workshop.

The workshop drew crowds from across the Midwest and beyond. The village of Cross Plains marveled at the collection of license plates from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan and Iowa scattered throughout their town. Participants also arrived from farther destinations such as Nebraska and Colorado. The group was an eclectic mix of seasoned agri-businessmen looking to diversify beyond the typical row crops, entrepreneurs hoping to profit from Midwestern brewers’ desire for locally grown ingredients and visionaries dreaming of a life in the country growing a crop that could provide high value from a few acres.

“At the moment, I live within the city limits of Chicago. I can grow a few bines in my backyard, but that’s all the room I have,” said attendee Taylor Harman. “Someday, I hope to open my own little Bed, Breakfast and Mircobrewery using hops grown in a garden out back. This workshop has given me wonderful insight into how I can plan a small hop yard to provide all that I need while maintaining a sustainable focus that visitors to my bed, breakfast and brewery would desire.”

Attendees to the first workshop were instructed on sustainable hops production methods including: production techniques, trellis construction, plant care, establishment costs, harvesting/processing, market analysis, brewery relations, round table discussion, and regional assistance options. Participants were also treated to enlightening and informative presentations on the history and use of hops in the brewing industry by Kirby Nelson from Capital Brewery and Wayne Esser from Esser’s Best Brewery.

Mr. Nelson also emphasized the desire of Midwestern brewers to find locally sourced product, citing the wheat from his Island Wheat beer as an example. “By sourcing the wheat from such a recognizable Wisconsin location, not only do we have a great starting point for marketing our product, but we are also helping an area of our state to flourish in many ways.” Nelson further explained, “We thought we could help out the residents of the island by giving them a new agricultural product they could produce. It also turned out to be a tourism opportunity for them. People now drive to the island to have their picture taken by the signs pointing out the Island Wheat fields. That is the type of promotion that Capital Brewery wants to bring to other parts of this state through the use of other locally grown ingredients for our beer such as hops.”

The workshop concluded with a discussion on the opportunities and challenges facing an industry in its infancy and ideas abounded. Midwestern brewers in attendance re-iterated Mr. Nelson’s desire for a locally sourced product. “With the recent boom in hops prices, I’ve been conditioned to pay a substantially higher price for hops. I wouldn’t mind continuing to pay a higher price if it means I receive a higher quality product grown in the middle of my distribution area instead of coming from Europe or New Zealand,” stated Peter Fauerbach of Fauerbach Brewing Company.

Many challenges were identified as well. Harvesting, drying and processing equipment commercially available is sized for fields of 100 acres or more instead of the fields of 1 to 10 acres most workshop participants envisioned. Additionally, developing strict quality standards for Midwestern hops seemed to be foremost on the minds of many participants. Matt Schueller and Deb Wilson from Renaissance Hops in Seaforth, MN summed it up with, “We are currently growing a product that we want to be known as ‘Midwestern hops’, not just ‘hops’. We want people to identify it as a superior product due to its point of origin and strict production standards. The only way we can achieve this is through a uniform standard of growing, drying, processing and packaging that is unique to the environment and demands of Midwestern growers and brewers.”
To develop these standards, the participants agreed upon the formation of the Midwestern Hop Growers Association (MHGA). Formed under the guidance of Renaissance Hops (Seaforth, MN), Gorst Valley Hops (Mazomanie, WI) and Mission Valley Hops (Traverse City, MI), the MHGA would develop standards for the growing and processing of hops in the Midwest and Great Lakes regions. It would also provide educational resources for prospective growers and testing services for existing ones.

The challenge of harvesting, processing and packaging is being handled by Gorst Valley Hops staff. “We currently have all the equipment needed for turning the whole leaf hop into dense pellets and packaging it in a way that brewers are accustomed to using,” stated James Altwies of Gorst Valley Hops. “We are also creating several designs for stationary and portable oasts (drying chambers) as well as appropriately scaled harvesting equipment suitable for the small acreage grower. Within a year or two, we should have all the equipment we need scaled to sizes viable for Midwestern growers.”

Look for further updates on the Midwestern Hop Growers Association and processing equipment on Gorst Valley’s website:

Gorst Valley Hops is committed to providing high quality pelletized and whole leaf hops to craft and home brewers while maximizing environmental stewardship through sustainable growth and processing of our product and that of other hop growers throughout the upper Midwest. Gorst Valley Hops can be contacted at:

Gorst Valley Hops
9261 Gorst Road
Mazomanie, WI 53560