Monday, August 31, 2009

America v Germany

The Atlantic ran an article by Berliner Clay Risen debating the relative respect Germans afford American beer and vice versa. Germans think American beer is crap (but largely are unable to get quality American beer) and Americans think German beer is boring.

I talked about this a little on the WPR radio piece that I did a few weeks ago, and which I'll post later this week so you can listen in full. I think the Atlantic article actually covers the issues pretty well. But, I think the list can be shortened to one reason:
5. Openness/curiosity - Unlike England or Germany, America has no real beer tradition of its own. What is American beer? It's everything and nothing. English ale and Czech pils are both accepted. Americans import their styles, and so beer is nor a national symbol or a part of ist culinary patriotism. You'd never find a German brewery that makes a Belgian beer: The German beer culture is too proud of itself. In contrast, in America such internationalism is the ideal.
You'd never find a German brewery that makes a Belgian beer. And that, I think, says it all. But, Germans need to understand that they don't need to make a Belgian beer. But they can learn from Belgian brewers and incorporate and experiment. And, they can look down their noses at beets and cracked pepper and apricots and blueberries, but they can experiment without violating the Reinheitsgebot.

I don't need a Weihenstephaner tripel, but maybe their dunkel with a tripel-like kick would taste really nice. We'll probably never know. As Mr. Risen says, "Germans are uninterested in innovation or even a wide variety of choice, because they feel they have already found perfection."

Friday, August 28, 2009

Hey Barkeep! Where Can I Get Some Good Cask Ale?

I received an email from a reader, Trent:
I have a friend who spent a lot of time in England. He was talking about all the great cask conditioned ales that he would get there. So my question is, where can you get cask conditioned ales around Madison? I did a little research and found some mention at Great Dane, possibly Grumpy Troll, and I think Alchemy has a firkin but that's probably something totally different. Anyway, I thought I would go to the source. Do you have any suggestions of where to go? I would love to surprise him by finding something near Madison.
I would love to surprise me by finding something near Madison.

First, let's get some terminology right.

Cask Ale: beer, typically an ale, served from a naturally carbonated keg
Firkin: The keg itself

You might hear the phrases "from a firkin" or "on cask" - these are different ways of saying that the beer is a cask ale. You might also hear the phrase "real ale" - this is a British-ism for cask ale.

Obviously, this raises more questions.

What does "naturally carbonated" mean? We've talked about ways to carbonate beer before (here and here). Basically, CO2 is a byproduct of the fermentation process, prior to bottling the CO2 is let off into the air and the liquid stays flat. However, most of us prefer to drink carbonated beer.

The two primary ways of carbonating beer are force carbonation and natural carbonation. Beer is force carbonated by closing the beer into a tank so that air can't escape and force CO2 into the tank. The CO2 has to go somewhere, and the liquid absorbs it. When you open the bottle, the CO2 escapes and you get bubbles and head. Natural carbonation occurs by adding active yeast to the bottom of the vessel (either a bottle, or in this case a keg) and letting it eat some of the residual sugars (fermentation) and produce CO2 which gets absorbed into the liquid. If you see a bottle that says "bottle conditioned" this is what happened. Over time the bottle will actually become more carbonated and (slightly) higher in alcohol.

Cask conditioned beer is beer that has been naturally carbonated in a keg.

But there's a problem here that you may not have picked up. The vast majority of beer served on-tap in the United States (and throughout the world for that matter) is via a CO2-based tap system (or CO2/Nitrogen mix for you nitro nerds). Subjecting a naturally carbonated beer to a CO2 system would cause some problems (not the least of which is that all the yeast would be flushed out of the system in the first pitcher!) So, there are two types of Cask serving methods, which we'll talk about in more detail later: gravity system (where the barrel is tipped up and the beer is poured out of a tap physically located on the keg) and a hand-pump (which works a bit like an old water pump would).

So, the question is, where in Madison can you get cask ale? The answer is all three Great Danes, Maduro, and Alchemy. From what my spies in Milwaukee tell me, there's only one there: Sugar Maple. That's it.

For, why that's true, I talked to Bill Rogers, owner of The Malt House here in Madison, and all-around genius beer guy about why Malt House doesn't do cask.

MBR: Do you have a cask at The Malt House? If you don't, do you intend to put one there eventually?
Bill Rogers: We don't have cask ales now, though I've thought about how to do it. I think that gravity fed casks above the large ale cooler might work.

MBR: What do you think is the biggest reason against adopting casks? Is it supply side (breweries don't package in casks) or is it demand-side (consumers don't ask for it) or is it simply too big of a pain (different plumbing and training)?
Bill Rogers:I think you've hit on both of the issues with casks. First, even at The Great Taste of the Midwest, where there are 700 different beers, we only have about 50-60 casks and many of those are filled specifically for the fest. Most brewers don't use that kind of packaging, and those who do usually only have a few casks in their cooperage inventory. They're afraid to let them get too far afield for fear that they'll never see that keg again.

On the other hand, it takes specialized equipment to be able to serve casks, there are not many places that sell the gear, and fewer still who know how to install and use it.

There are two ways to serve cask ale as you've no doubt seen. There's the gravity feed mechanism used behind the bar at the downtown Great Dane, and the hand-pull from the cellar method [ed note: the Hilldale and Fitchburg Dane uses this type, or at least they did]. Each requires special equipment.

Gravity feed casks often (as is the case with the Great Dane) have a spring loaded bed that each cask rests on. As the cask empties, the spring slowly and gently raises the back end of the cask so that all the beer can drain from the faucet on the bottom of the front face. The casks also need some degree of chilling, because the ambient temperture in the barroom is too high for a pleasant draft. This is usually fixed by placing a stainless steel web of tubing over the top of the cask and running chilled glycol through it. Then you cover the whole thing with an insulated blanket to keep in the cold.

Hand-pull casks are usually kept in the basement, in or out of a walk-in cooler. You probably need a separate walk-in cooler for cask ales, because they should be dispensed at 45-50 degrees instead of the 38-40 for normal draft systems. The Map Room [ed note: in Chicago] has its own cask cellar separate from the draft celler, and separate from the bottle cellar. Those kept outside a cooler may need the same stainless chilling saddle as the barroom variety.

The hand-pull actually pumps the beer up to the serving faucet. It's just like an old-fashioned well water pump. No gas pressure can be applied to the keg to move the beer. That's the important part of cask ale service. The only allowable force for dispensing the beer is gravity or the bartender operating a hand pump. CAMRA does not even allow taverns to top off the cask's head space with CO2 if the pub wants to call it cask ale or real ale. All CO2 in the cask must be naturally produced by the beer, in the vessel it's served from, according to them.

[ed note: CAMRA is the CAMpaign for Real Ale; it is a UK-based organization that educates consumers and publicans on the benefits of cask/real ale]

That works fine for many UK pubs, but cask ale goes flat and oxidizes if not finished within 3-5 days of tapping. Many pubs, especially here in the US where CAMRA does not operate, prefer to top off the cask with CO2 using a device called a cask breather. The cask breather sits atop the cask in the place of the spile (the semi-porous plug at the top of a tapped cask) and allows up to 3psi of CO2 to replace the beer as it's poured. Spoilage is averted because CO2 is pretty inert. The low level of CO2 applied also does not affect the natural carbonation level. So, there's another special piece of equipment needed...the cask breather.

In short, it takes a dedicated publican or cellarman to properly install, maintain and use cask ales.

MBR: What do you think is the biggest reason in favor of adopting casks?
Bill Rogers: They're cool. They harken back to simpler times centuries ago when ale was delivered in its finishing vessel, was placed on the bar, tapped and drained. Flavors are often fresher and the beer is softer on the palate.

MBR: Favorite cask beer?
Bill Rogers: Not sure I have one. The only beer (outside the Dane) that's regularly available here is Two Hearted. I get mine at Maduro. The Great Dane had a beer once called 7 C's that I seem to remember being great on cask. The 7 C's were seven different varieties of American hops that started with the letter C. Potter's Run IPA was always a great cask ale too.

[ed note: I had a few cask ales at the Real Ale tent at the Great Taste of the Midwest. My favorite of those was a tie between the Founders Double-Dry-Hopped Centennial IPA and the Schlafly Imperial Brown. Two Hearted at Maduro is pretty darn tasty, too.]

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Press Release Thursday - Water Conservation and Craft Brewers Conference

Trust me, this is not the last you will hear of this conference. It's a great idea to get the industry together and discuss common problems to achieve workable industry-wide solutions.

----------START PRESS RELEASE------------


MILWAUKEE – AUGUST 21, 2009 --- The first independent conference on water conservation for craft brewers brings together water policy makers in the Great Lakes and experts in water saving systems from Bridgeport Brewing Co. (Jeff Edgerton); New Glarus Brewing Co. (Dan Carey), Odell Brewing Co. (Doug Odell), and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (Fred Strachan). Dick Leinenkugel, Secretary of Commerce for the state of Wisconsin, delivers the keynote address for The Great Lakes Craft Brewers & Water Conservation Conference.

The conference will help craft brewers save water and save money. With many water utilities in North America increasing fees by 25% or more in the next year, this conference will pay for itself through practical systems for water savings. Early registration is just $195 per person, until September 18, 2009.

Policy panel discussions cover the Great Lakes Compact, which affects 20 percent of the world’s supply of freshwater. Presentations include:

Dick Leinenkugel, Secretary of Commerce, State of Wisconsin, discusses the M-7 Water Council and initiatives to foster water technology and innovations in his keynote address on Monday, October 26, 2009

Jeff Edgerton, Assistant Brewmaster, Bridgeport Brewing Co., Portland, OR, discusses water savings and retrofits, from rinse water reclamation to re-use of bright tanks, and how procedural changes added up to significant annual savings

Dan Carey, co-founder and Master Brewer, and Randy Barr, New Glarus Brewing Co., both will conduct tours of the Hilltop Brewery’s new wastewater treatment center, which is the first of its kind to be installed outside the Pacific Rim

Doug Odell, co-founder and “head water guy”, Odell Brewing Co., Ft. Collins, CO, talks about how to work with your local government – and a few innovative systems that let Odell achieve a ratio of just 3 gallons of water to brew a gallon of beer

Fred Strachan, Supervisor, Water Process & Systems, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA, discusses water audits and equipment monitoring to track water usage throughout the brewhouse and pub operations, and how to work with your water utility

The panels and presentations will begin on Monday, October 26, at the Pilot House, Pier Wisconsin, in downtown Milwaukee, an architectural jewel overlooking Lake Michigan. Monday evening features a dinner buffet and reception with award-winning cheesemakers of Wisconsin and craft breweries, with tickets available to the public, $60.

On Tuesday, October 27, the group will meet for Doug Odell’s presentation followed by a bus trip to tour the wastewater treatment facility at the New Glarus Brewing Co.’s Hilltop Brewery.

Early registration for the two-day conference is $195, including lunches and the reception until September 19, when the rate will raise to $250. Space is limited to 250 attendees. Online registration and details are available at

For more information, contact, or call 800-760-5998 to reach conference organizer, Lucy Saunders, F&B Communications LLC.

“I think the Conference is a great idea. Craft Brewers have the opportunity to be leaders in water conservation and sustainability. All we have to do is apply our natural penchant for innovation and we can change the norm. Many of us have made good progress but there is more we can do through collaboration.” Doug Odell, co-founder, Odell Brewing Co.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

PorterPalooza #1 - Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter


Not much text to accompany the review today. Unfortunately, or fortunately maybe, I have a ton of other beer writing and reading that I'm doing right now. Most of it related to this damned obsession.

As I may have mentioned on this site before, I'm originally from Cleveland, Ohio and Great Lakes Brewing Company was my hometown brewery. I grew up, in beer-drinking terms, with Dortmunder GoldBurning River, Commodore Perry and Edmund Fitzgerald. These beers mark and define many of my preferences and biases whenever I approach these styles. Indeed, these beers are stylistic definitions in some cases.

So, I was back in Cleveland this past weekend and nostalgic for some comfort food in the manner of Edmund Fitzgerald Porter.

Appearance: Served at 55 degrees as recommended by the bottle, it is a deep, deep brown with a thick tan/off-white head that holds up strongly; looks a lot like the picture to the left there, but with ruby coloring on the fringes
Aroma: roasted malts and floral hops; the hop aroma is pretty forward though still secondary to the roasted malts; other chocolate and caramel malt aromas come through as well
Flavor: roasted and coffee-like with a nice espresso-y bite; it's not a huge flavor, this isn't an "imperial porter" or even a stout, but it really does much like a muted stout would; hops help to clean it up and it leaves a dry, coffeebean flavor in the finish
Body: somewhat soft and definitely medium to full-bodied; a bit on the "fuller" side for porters, but it isn't so substantial as to be overly filling
Drinkability: I definitely can't drink more than two, but it pairs great with lots of fall cook-out type foods and is great on the dinner table; it's also an easy sipper as it warms up well and is good for bars and watching Ohio State football
Summary: a classic; time has given me a preference for less body, but this definitely is a great porter that I would drink when I want a stout (since I like my stouts less full-bodied as well)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Woman To Be Beat With Stick For Daring To Drink Beer

Sorry for the lack of a post on Friday. I was out of town and didn't get anything up. I was busy all weekend, so unfortunately today's post is a bit of a rush-job. But, I thought this was interesting enough to comment on.

A woman, a model actually, in Malaysia is going to be caned this week. What was her crime? Drinking beer at a hotel nightclub last year.
'Sometimes I feel sad and stressed as I have tarnished my family's name. But now after spending time reading the Koran, I feel calm and am not afraid of being caned,' she said.
Tarnished her family's name for drinking a beer. Of course, Amnesty International thinks that the caning should be called off.

But, Amnesty International's interest in the case has nothing to do with arbitrary enforcement of a hypocritical religious law by a non-religious governmental entity; Amnesty just wants the caning to end.

Ultimately, I'm not sure I have a point with this article other than to call your attention to the fact that there are places on this planet where you can be caned for drinking one beer. Not to mention the fact that a full 40% of the citizens of this same country would not be caned by the civil government for the exact same activity.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

On part two of this weeks podcast, we have our interview with Jeff Shehan, pub brewer for the New Holland brewing company. Does Jeff have the best job in craft beer? We think he just might.

Here's the mp3


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Obsession With Porter Begins

I'm not an addictive personality. I don't have the attention or commitment levels necessary to be addicted to things. But, I do get obsessed, more precisely, I suppose, I get infatuated. You should have been around for my Early-80s Post-Punk infatuation. My eardrums are still recovering.

On Monday I indicated that New Glarus' Old English Porter (review to follow) has triggered what I can tell will be an infatuation with porters. Now, don't get me wrong. I've loved porters for a long, long time. But we saw what happened this summer when I got infatuated with IPAs. So, I can feel it coming for the porters.

And just like the Early-80s Post-Punk infatuation, I like to do my research and know what I'm getting into. Let's review, quickly, what I know, or think I know about Porters. Let's see, porters, off the top of my head: Lake Louie Porter, Fuller's London Porter, Tyranena Brewers' Gone Wild Porters, Great Lakes Porter, Bells Porter, Grumpy Troll Baltic Porter, New Glarus Smoked Porter. All of these I can put some sort of flavor memory into my brain.

What I love about porters are the wonderful malt-based coffee and roasted notes, but the malt complexity that can show through with a nuanced touch. Some of the heavier porters can support a pretty hefty hop bill, but I like mine on the "aggressive English" side, which I suppose means I don't want Centennials in my porters, but rather a hoppy English porter. I've found I tend to like porters much like I like my doppelbocks, restrained but full of complexity. I'm not looking for 8% ABV burn and I don't want to blow my palate out. I want a nice, hefty-ish beer that I can have two of and not feel overly full, that warms up well but drinks easy.

The BJCP divides porters into 3 categories: brown porters, robust porters and baltic porters. For the purposes of this obsession, I will avoid Baltic Porters. It's not that I don't like them, but I don't want to cloud my judgment and Baltic Porters are another group unto themselves that I feel is best left for another round of infatuations.

Brown porters are the lighter, sweeter variety of porter; basically a more full-bodied (though not "full bodied") brown ale or mild. The brown porter has the roasted notes in the background, hops are definitely restrained. Commercial examples include: "Fuller's London Porter, Samuel Smith Taddy Porter, Burton Bridge Burton Porter, RCH Old Slug Porter, Nethergate Old Growler Porter, Hambleton Nightmare Porter, Harvey’s Tom Paine Original Old Porter, Salopian Entire Butt English Porter, St. Peters Old-Style Porter, Shepherd Neame Original Porter, Flag Porter, Wasatch Polygamy Porter." To the extent I can find these, I want to explore these more.

A robust porter, on the other hand, is something short of a stout. Its flavors focus on roasted and black malts and hops can be either English or American and can be more forward in the profile. The BJCP suggests "Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Meantime London Porter, Anchor Porter, Smuttynose Robust Porter, Sierra Nevada Porter, Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Boulevard Bully! Porter, Rogue Mocha Porter, Avery New World Porter, Bell’s Porter, Great Divide Saint Bridget’s Porter" as commercial examples. Oh look. Great Lakes and Bells; what do you know?

I can tell already that my "ideal" described earlier hits the Robust Porters in the center of the bullseye. Great Lakes, Bells, Great Divide, Avery, Sierra Nevada, Anchor. I've had all of these, though never as part of a style study. So, I can't tell if my preferences are true preferences, or if I have an American bias just based on the versions of the style that I've had. So, one thing I want to do is try some porters, other than Fullers, more along the "brown porter" line to really compare them.

So, what about some history? Wikipedia take me away. But, for the record, I prefer Michael Jackson's account, if for no other reason than he uses the word "soubriquet", which is pretty badass if you ask me.

So, how did "Porter" come about? Honestly? Who knows? What everyone can agree on is that the word "porter" to describe a style of beer first started showing up in the mid-1700s in England. By the late-1700s, Guinness Brewery in Dublin was making two porters of varying gravities for domestic consumption: Guinness Porter and Guinness Extra Stout Porter. They started making a third porter, called Foreign Extra Stout for export to the colonies in the Caribbean. They stopped making the regular porter and dropped the "Porter" name from the label, leaving us with Stout and Foreign Extra Stout.

It seems that there are two basic stories for porter's beginnings: the first, subscribed to by Michael Jackson, being that porter was an amalgamation of the three kinds of beer being brewed at the time (ale, beer, and twopenny) and that rather than waste beer by combining it in the glass, brewers started brewing a fourth beer that replicated this concoction; the second being that porter was simply a "bigger" and "aged" version of the brown-er ales. Frankly, I don't see why the two can't co-exist. What can't be denied is that it became very popular in the mid-1700s, pushed by brewers as a premium British product to compete against the (Dutch) gin craze that was taking over London at the time.

Some technological changes allowed porter to become an international hit. First, malt kilning became a more refined science allowing, for the first time, more than "pale" and "brown" malts. Now brewers could also have black malts that weren't simply burnt to a crisp. Moreover, the style hit at a time when industrialization in the transportation industry was starting to make fads global. So, British troops and expatriates in the the states, Caribbean, and throughout all of Europe could have the same refined beer. As Jackson notes: "Britain's Industrial Revolution preceded those of other parts of Europe and North America. The darkness of Porter as a style would have covered up cloudiness and the roasty, bitter, tastes masked flavour defects - both important factors as beer was shipped farther from the brewery."

One final thing to note before we taste the New Glarus Old English Porter. Like most beer that attempts to replicate styles as they would have been presented before the days of forced carbonation and refrigeration, this beer is sour. Why is a porter sour? Well, in the early 1700s and indeed up through the late-1800s, everything that aged for any amount of time would have been sour. We saw this when we talked about Old Ales and Barleywines earlier this year. The reality is that the only thing that they had to store and serve beer in  was wooden casks. The wooden casks let in brettanomyces, and, as the young kids say, it brought on the funk. To counteract this funkification, often "old" (barrel-aged, sour) beer was blended with young (non-soured) beer before serving it. It is this soured style that New Glarus has attempted to recreate.
Our interpretation is a Brown Porter based on the style popular in 1870's London. It was brewed with mostly floor malted English malts including the fame pale ale malt, Marris Otter. A touch of smoked malt produced by Briess Malting Company of Chilton Wisconsin was also used. Half of the batch went through a souring fermentation, in the traditional way, to promote the characteristic wine-like acidity. Lastly the beer was aged on wood to extract sweetness from toasted oak.

New Glarus Old English Porter
Appearance: served in the low-50s, a nice, tan one-finger head; body is crytal clear and deep walnut brown with touches of ruby throughout where the light comes through, the edges thin out to a golden tawny coloration; little lacing, with some light legging
Aroma: the sourness is notable at the front; the sourness mixes with the sweet, brown malt and biscuit aromas to create a memorable smell of newly polished leather boots (thanks to Mrs. MBR for the evocative imagery)
Flavor: the sour, again, is predominate and it comes through like a wine tannin or vinegar tartness; the smoked malt and oak definitely come through in the finish; a slight nutty and caramel sweetness; Mrs. MBR says almost all of the flavor is in the top or side of the mouth and the sourness of sour patch kids in the middle of the taste, with a smoky finish similar to espresso beans without the coffee flavor
Body: medium-bodied and mouthfeel, the beer itself is pretty clean with some residual sweetness left behind in the finish with the smoke, oak and cherry tartness; Mrs. MBR notes that it doesn't seem to have a lot of body, but she thinks she is distracted from the body by the intense flavors
Drinkability: the medium-body gives this the sessionability that I like in porters, hefty, but not heavy - enough for two or three; I would definitely breeze through this four-pack pretty easily and it is enjoyable enough that I would definitely want another.
Summary: I really like this beer, and this seems to be about the perfect temperature for it; it is a very pretty beer that is sophisticated enough for an oversized cab or merlot glass. It seems a little too refined for a shaker pint, or even an imperial pint. And, it would pair well with anything from barbecued chicken to braised rib tips, which means that it will remain seasonal through the winter. This should definitely age well and I'll have to buy another four-pack just to lay down. I hope that some age will temper the sour a little, because I do like it, but I feel like I'm missing some of the beer in the sourness. But otherwise, another strong addition to the Unplugged series.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

Part one of this weeks podcast is our coverage of the Great Taste of the Midwest 2009. We scoured the festival to find out what the best brewers in the Midwest are up to. What breweries are brewing sour beers? Who has a beer called "Brett Farve?" Who's beer did a Belgian brewing professor claim could not have been made outside of Belgium? Who did we call "the Bobby Flay of craft beer" and what was he doing at the festival? You must listen in to find out.

Here's the mp3


Monday, August 17, 2009

Audience Participation: Excitement Builds

We're in that slow period between the Great Taste and the release of the fall seasonals. The last of the hefeweizens are still falling off the shelves. The first Oktoberfest of the season has been spotted (Sprecher, oddly enough). New Glarus' Fall Unplugged, the Old English Porter, is just hitting the shelves and the R&D Golden Ale has been available for a few weeks now. Tyranena's Hop Whore is soon to be released. Furthermore's Sh*&ty Barn Party is right around the corner, which means a fresh batch of Fatty Fallen Apple and possibly a surprise or two from them. Autumnal Fire is probably in the fermenters. Central Waters has stouts and barleywines in the bourbon barrels. A new brewpub in Sun Prairie.

All kinds of stuff is just around the corner. Any of it interest you?

I can tell you that I'm excited about Oktoberfest season. The New Glarus Old English Porter is fantastic (we'll have a review later this week) and is really making me excited for porters this winter. Fullers London Porter. Lake Louie Porter. Tyranena's porters ... mmmm ... So, yeah, I'm excited about porters this fall. I hope you like reading about porters.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Some Things That You Should Read

It's that time again. Time to check around these interwebs and look at some interesting articles about beer and the brewing industry.

Wired writes about a beer that has been brewed using a yeast that is 45 million years old. You read that correctly. 45 million years old. A scientist figures out how to reanimate dormant yeast, and, of course, what do they do with it? Brew beer. "Normally, Hackett ends the primary fermentation process by 'crashing the tank'—lowering the temperature to shock the yeast into dormancy. But that didn't work on Cano's yeast. 'It was just sitting on the bottom and nibbling on the sugar like a couch potato,' Hackett says. A strain that had survived 45 million years in suspended animation was not about to go quietly." You can buy the beer from Fossil Fuels Brewing Company.

Andy Crouch pleads for bars to ditch the shaker pint. "So tedious is the shaker pint’s design that breweries have taken to slapping all manners of logos across them. The shaker’s uninspired design, combined with the emblem army, discourage brewers from actively considering how their beers look to the customer." It's a sentiment that I can fully get behind. Don't give me this crap about dishwashers and stacking. I only point to wine glasses. Be inspired. Think about what your beer looks like - I have seen some downright gorgeous beers - none of them have been in a shaker pint.

Finally, the New York Times looks at the new batch of Chicago micros. Metropolitan, Half-Acre (brewed at Sand Creek here in Wisconsin), Piece, Three Floyds (technically, across the border in Munster, Indiana). "On a Tuesday night in early June, you could barely buy your way into Piece Brewery and Pizzeria in Wicker Park. Eager drinkers packed the sprawling brew pub to get their hands — or rather their taste buds — on Baron Von Awesome, a summer release from Piece’s brewer, Jonathan Cutler. This American wheat beer appears every year, something a bit lighter to help cleanse the bitter memories of Chicago’s wintry chill." While many of these breweries are brand new and still out ironing out some kinks, they show great promise. Piece and Three Floyds are obviously the entrenched players - always solid beer. Metropolitan and HalfAcre both make solid, if unspectacular, if beers that would be go-to beers if I lived in their neighborhoods.

Before we leave. I love Geggy Tah and I found a video that you should watch.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I Hope You'll Follow Along To The End

Last Thursday, no make that a two weeks ago today, I was sent an email from a friend who happens to be a brewer starting up a brewpub in Sun Prairie.

What? You didn't know that there was a new brewpub opening in Sun Prairie? Huh. Well, shame on you. There's a new brewpub opening in Sun Prairie.

Anyway. His brewpub isn't entirely the point of this post. This friend of mine, Joe Walts, has been test-batching beers that may, or may not, end up at his brewpub. As a fair bit of disclosure, one such test-batched beer ended up at my wedding. He tested a mint porter at one of Furthermore's Shitty Barn parties, he's tried a cardamom stout that was excellent, he's made a Belgian Blonde that was nice, not to mention india pale ales, pumpkin beers, and a sour concoction that may eventually see the light of day.

Joe is a good brewer and his plan for his pub is excellent - think of The Malt House, if it were a brewpub. What I mean to say is that it is a return, or maybe a departure to, the British Pub. A place where the local community congregates to discuss the issues of the day over a pint and some light food. People come and go from these places. They meet their friends at these places. These places are the neighborhood. TVs aren't necessary. Pool tables are superfluous. Dart boards ... well ... a dart board wouldn't hurt for a little authenticity, eh? Anyway, you get the point.

The point of the pub is collegiality and neighborliness. Something that I think we've lost in a day where we're too busy driving from point a to point b to stop on our neighbor's lawn and ask how the kids are doing. Maybe you'll see each other at the kids' soccer games.

But, hell, in a universe where Facebook brings together friends from not only all over the city, but the state, country and world, who needs neighbors? I can drink a beer at home and play Farmville with my high school buddies until the cows get lost and come back home again. If I want to discuss politics I can just log in to and post my missives in the comments. If I want to find out the latest in beer, I can just head over to ... ... ...

But you know what? When you're in a strange city far from your family and long-lost friends and acquaintances, having neighbors is a great thing. Having a local pub filled with the people who live in your neighborhood, suffer from the same crappy traffic, put up with same egotistical alderman, and have to tolerate them damned whippersnappers and their boomboxes, can be pretty great thing. Going out of town and need someone to watch the cat? Neighbor. Grilling out on a gorgeous summer evening and have 8 hotdogs but only 6 buns? Neighbor. Have a lawn that needs to be mowed, but your mower blade rusted because you left it sitting out in the rain for two straight weeks and you just haven't had a chance to run to Home Depot because it's entirely the wrong direction from where you work? Neighbor.

So, wouldn't it be great to have a place where you can say hello to the guy whose lawn mower you'll be borrowing? It'd probably be even greater if that place had good beer.

Oh. Wait a minute? You were taking me literally? Ha! I was talking figuratively. Maybe I should have been more clear.

One of Joe's neighbors in this Wisconsin Beer Community is Gorst Valley Hops. What's interesting is that both Joe and Gorst Valley are relatively new to this neighborhood. And anyone that's ever moved into a neighborhood knows that the new guys have to stick together because the old guys like to point and laugh until you figure out that trash day is on Thursday.

You may have seen Gorst Valley Hops' booth at The Great Taste of the Midwest last weekend. Heck, you might have been the really drunk guy that asked Gorst Valley Hops to fill up your sampler glass. If you are a brewer you probably saw a Gorst Valley sales rep who tried to give you a card and let you know that while Gorst Valley's hops are currently sold (to Lake Louie, if you wanted to know), they are taking orders for next year.

Gorst Valley is committed to bringing hops back to Wisconsin. In the 1800s, Wisconsin was one of the largest hop growing centers in the world. A blight wiped out those crops, but recent price inflation has made a more stable (and local)source a higher priority. To that end, Gorst Valley has been arranging "hop growing seminars" to teach local farmers what it takes to grow hops here in Wisconsin. They are finding varieties that grow well here. Heck, they are even taming ferile Wisconsin hops in the hopes of deriving a pure Wisconsin breed that we can claim for our very own.

Moreover, Gorst Valley is being a good neighbor and are committed to the brewing community. This year's crop is staying in-state. Every year Gorst Valley is going to reserve a portion of their hops for homebrewers to buy direct from the source. And, Gorst Valley gave their neighbor Joe Walts some Cascades that have ended up in a bottle that is now sitting in my refrigerator.

This beer is not destined for Joe's brewpub. Heck, even mentioning this beer and RePublic Brewpub together might give you the wrong impression. This is not a RePublic Beer. It is simply a beer that Joe, a brewer, made using some hops given to him. But both Joe and Gorst Valley asked my opinion of this beer. And both were insistent that I publish it for all the world to see. Because, you see, transparency is vital to a community. You know what happens when you keep things from your neighbors? Your neighbors turn out to be Jeffrey Dahmer or Dick Cheney.

I hope you've read all the way to here and I hope this post has had a point. I'm not entirely sure it has.

Joe Walts' Pale Ale featuring Gorst Valley Hops Cascade

Appearance: A thick three finger (at least!!) head in my stemmed glass. The 53 degree body is murky and resembles the brown of the bottle I poured it from. While the head foams up impressively, it falls away somewhat quickly leaving a little residual lacing on the sides of the glass.
Aroma: I smelled the signature Cascade grapefruit and pine and orange as soon as I opened the bottle and before I had even poured it out. The aroma in the glass is more pine than citrus, but a faint oranginess lies behind the somewhat forward malts; there is a breadiness to the malts
Flavor: a very light bitterness is predominate, there is some caramel sweetness in the malts that might come from either the malt itself or as caramelization from the kettle boil; it is not overpowering, but nor is it distinct; I'm having a hard time describing the flavor only because there is no one flavor that really seems to jump out at me; as I make may through the beer, the bitterness and citrus pucker of the taste is a little more forward
Body: the bottle conditioned creaminess is prominent and I suspect that some of this has to do with the rather warm-ish temperature that I chose to drink this at; the body is otherwise soft and medium built, with a clean malt finish, but a lingering hop bitterness that begs for another drink
Drinkability: well...I went through this one pretty quickly; a sessionable beer in that I wouldn't feel bad ordering a pitcher of this and accidentally drinking it myself; at this warm temperature it warms up well, which means it's perfect for long discussions at a pub
Summary: If I were given this beer in an unlabeled bottle and asked to review it (ummm....) I would put it squarely in the Pale Ale or even American Amber category. Given that "pale" seems to lean ever-more-amber-ish these days, this probably qualifies as a pale ale. Which is to say, this is not an American Pale Ale in any sense other than that it uses American, as opposed to British, hops. As for the hops themselves, it's hard to tell if it's the hops or the application or my own personal biases that leaves me wanting a little more; it is so tantalizingly close to that almost-but-not-quite-over-hopped, American, profile that I want just a little bit more. Which is probably why I went through this bottle so quickly. The Cascade is a low alpha acid hop, so I wasn't expecting much in the bitterness, but I could have used more. The cascade is a very aromatic hop, and I was somewhat disappointed it didn't stand out more against the malts.

OK...I'm a sucker for my own curiosity. This one is straight out of the refrigerator at 42 degrees. ...

Appearance: the same (a big head)
Aroma: a little more citrusy, and some grassiness/earthiness comes through; the aroma is even more muted than at the warmer temperature (to be expected, I guess)
Flavor: again, even more muted; the bitterness is more pure with the typical citrus-like pucker, but not as pronounced and it doesn't reverberate as long
Body: not as creamy, but still finely bubbled; seems a little thinner; wonder what this would taste like straight out of the bottle?
Drinkability: At this cold of temperature, none of the flavors are strong enough to bring me back for more, there is some of the bitterness, but unlike the warmer temperature where it was tantalizing, the suppressed flavors leave me waiting for this one to warm up rather than to have another one
Summary: I like it at the warmer temperature better;

FINAL SUMMARY: I'll admit to my biases - and my biases are towards hoppier (i.e., more bitter, bigger) beers; at cold temperatures this is a mediocre to average American craft pale ale (though in a different way - Joe and I have talked about this at length and this beer does not suffer from the problems that so many craft breweries do, with the higher mash temperatures leading to syrupy light bodies and unbalanced profiles). At the warmer temperatures this is a good American craft pale ale. Having talked to to Joe a little about this beer, I know he wasn't trying for a big hoppy beer - he was shooting, I suspect, for something like what I had when this beer is at its warmer temperatures. Something that is relatively unassuming, but tasty, that can be ordered by the pitcher (for sharing at a table, not for drinking, Kollege Klub-like, by a single person). Something that would fit at an American British Pub. For Gorst Valley, I would say that this seems a little muted on the citrus, though it's definitely there - particularly in the bitterness that comes through in the finish - but the aromas are more in-line with the pine that often comes through in Cascade hops. It does seem on the low end for the specs given by HopUnion, but it might just be Joe's nuanced touch.

All-in-all a very favorable experience. A beer that I would be happy to drink at a brewpub. And hops that are tasty even at lower dosages.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

On Part one of this weeks podcast, we taste the new New Glarus R&D Golden Ale, the first in their R&D series. Stay tuned Thursday and next week for our coverage of the Great Taste of the Midwest 2009, including more on this beer!

Here's the mp3


Monday, August 10, 2009

Great Taste In Review

At 10am on Saturday morning, I dropped off Mrs. MBR and drove off to park the car downtown. There was a light rain and it was 61 degrees. I started walking back to the event in a light drizzle, by the time I got there at 10:35am it was pouring rain and shaping up to be a miserable, wet, muddy day. It was amazing to think that within 3 hours it would be 30 degrees warmer and sunny. A beautiful, if muggy, day to taste some beer. The view from the "other shore" of Lake Monona was fantastic with its gauzy, sunny sky and sprawling skyline of Madison.

It was a warm, muggy, summer day - perfect for session beers. And while Surly and Founders and Three Floyds and Bells and Great Lakes and New Holland all had their big beefy, burly, beers, to me the day was won by the lighter fare.

Mrs. MBR and I were standing near the monstrous Bells "M*A*S*H"-themed outpost and noticed the small, unassuming brewpub from Mineral Point, WI called "Brewery Creek". I've talked about Brewery Creek here before and professed my love for their shandy. A shandy is a part-beer (typically a light, sessionable, lager) and part lemonade (or ginger beer). Leinie's sells a shandy that is entirely too sweet, but Brewery Creek's, as I've said before, is made with real lemonade and would have been perfect on a day like Saturday. A quick glance revealed nothing on their table that looked like the shandy and we were crushed. I meandered over in any event just to see what they did have and, lo and behold, three different shandy.

The first shandy we tried was called "The Bride of Frankenshandy" and it was a shandy based on their Kolsch mixed with what tasted like grapefruit juice and ginger beer. It was spritely and refreshing, but always was a beer first. The second shandy was called "Return of Frankenshandy" and was a porter with pomegranate and lemonade. While the tartness mixed with the porter was a little bizarre, it worked. But the creme de la creme of the bunch was the "Shandy from the Black Lagoon" - a stout shandy. A freaking stout shandy. The smokiness and roastiness of the stout carried the lemonade perfectly; the lemonade cut the body and provided a wonderful tartness to quench a summer thirst. I kid you not when I tell you that a stout shandy was not only the biggest surprise of the day, but was, honestly, the best beer I drank all day. Yeah. Seriously.

Following in the shandy theme was Flossmoor Station's Apsession. A light-bodied, 3% ABV American Mild, a golden version of the British Mild, made with apricot juice. The apricots aren't terribly tart, but provide a refreshing, different sort of sweetness. Like cranberries, apricots can be hard to work with in a brewhouse - too much doesn't taste right and too little isn't strong enough to notice. But Flossmoor managed to get it just right in a tasty, lightweight brew that you could drink all day and never feel its effects.

A more traditional session beer, Schlafly's Dortmunder, was a nice light (compared to typical American craft ales) flavorful German lager. The Dortmunder weights in a 5.5% ABV, so it's a little beefy for a session beer but its full flavor, but not overbearing body won the day with a nice balance of delicate pale German malts and noble spicy and somewhat floral hops.

Finally, two beers from Brugge Brasserie in Indianapolis were refreshing, if not a little bigger. The Voyager is a Belgian-American Pale Ale with a muscular 75 IBU and 6% ABV. It is definitely hop-forward but the dry Belgian yeast keeps it from dragging on too long. There is a nice sweetness that comes through before it finishes and makes for an absurdly fresh beer for as big as it is. A "secret" beer from Brugge Brasserie was the Shonone (I think I've got that right?). You had to ask for it by name and it wasn't listed on their table; but, if you knew it was there (and I got word from a little birdie to ask for the "Shoshone" - which apparently caused the fine folks pouring beer much amusement) they would pour a wonderfully sour and refreshing dark Flanders Red.

Finally, some beers that deserve some special mention: First, the New Glarus Golden Ale and Olde English Porter. The former is the first R&D Series beer from New Glarus - a glorious Belgian Abbey-style Blonde that is hoppy, crisp and dry and about as perfect a Belgian beer as can be had anywhere in the world - Belgium included. The Olde English Porter is, indeed, made to an exacting historical recipe that sees the light-bodied porter split after the boil into two batches - one of which is "soured" the other of which is fermented in a more normal fashion. These two split batches are then recombined into one batch again and conditioned in toasted oak barrels to create a strangely sour, but otherwise thoroughly typical, if not lighter-bodied, version of an English porter. Second is the Bluegrass Brewing Company's Rye 75 IPA - a solidly made IPA with a hefty 75 IBU and a big portion of rye malt in the grain bill. Other breweries make rye IPAs, but this one deserves some notice as the equal of Founder's Red's Rye and Bear Republic's Hop Rod Rye - the two best of the style that I've had.

Two new traditions were also continued this year at The Great Taste of the Midwest. One was the "real ale" tent dedicated to finely carbonated, cask-conditioned beer. While really rare in the real world here in the United States, real ale is a real treat when done right. I didn't get to try much here because, really, I didn't want to spend my whole day in this tent - which I'm sure would have been entirely possible. I picked and choosed and ended up with a dense, creamy, uber-hoppy Founders Cask Double Dry Hopped Centennial IPA, a dark, roasty and rich Schlafly Cask Imperial Brown Ale, and a surprisingly tasty 4.2% ABV Pub Ale Golden Mild from Duluth, Minnesota's Fitger's Inn.

Another tradition that was expanded was the educational seminars that at least attempted to teach the drunken masses something about beer and food pairings. This year's talks were about grilling with beer with Lucy Saunders and Free State Brewing Company, beer and chocolate with Gail Ambrosius, and beer and cheese with the fine folks from Fromagination. The talks were great and tastings were provided for each of the subjects. In subsequent years, I can only hope that the folks with The Great Taste will spend a little more time to get this tent a little more organized and publicized - and perhaps a bit more sound-baffling from the real ale tent next door that makes it much too loud to actually hear the speakers at times.

This post is getting entirely too long, so I'll tell you about my conversation with Gorst Valley Hops' James Altweis later this week. But, lastly and certainly not leastly, thanks to the folks that put together The Great Taste of the Midwest - it went off wonderfully, was well-organized, well-attended and well-run. Everyone had a blast and the $1 cab rides and numerous shuttles ensured that nobody had to drive home afterwards. So, thank you.

1. New Glarus Olde English Porter. As Beer Talk Today notes in the comments, I think I was sloppy in my explanation. The recipe itself is not historical, but rather the recipe is made to mimic the historical, sour, style.

2. The Brugge Brasserie "Shonone" was actually "Shannone". Apparently "Shannon" is the wife of the brewmaster, so "Shannone" was the password to get the beer which was actually the "Diamond King".

Friday, August 7, 2009

Press Release Friday - Goose Island at Sardine

I know it made the list for events, but I was sent a taplist that I thought might interest you:

-------------START PRESS RELEASE----------

Goose Island are hosting their 3rd annual Great Taste of the Midwest
Soiree at Sardine (617 Williamson St, Madison WI) Friday August 7th.
Festivities kick off at
5pm with complementary Goose Island beers and wonderful Sardine food until 7pm.

This years beverage selection include:

Goose Island Demolition (Special Release)
Goose Island Fleur (First time available in WI)
Goose Island Sophie (First Time available in WI)
Goose Island Naughty Goose (First Time available in WI)
Goose Island Juliet (First Time available in WI)
Goose Island Pere Jacques
Goose Island Matilda
Goose Island IPA
Goose Island 312
Goose Island Summertime
Goose Island Nut Brown
Goose Island Oatmeal Stout
Goose Island Honkers
Goose Island Gourmet Soda - Root Beer
Goose Island Gourmet Soda - Ginger Ale
*Plus some tasty surprises

More On Drinkability

The inimitable Lew Bryson linked to an article in the LA Times that looked at the phrase "easy to drink" in wine culture. It seems that it has become a bit of a slander in the wine universe to say that a wine is an "easy drinker", or in other words, "essentially, if you like 'easy to drink' wines, you're not up to drinking the really good wines." Lew (and the LA Times) notes that wine that is complex and bold tend to get the highest ratings.

And, one look at BeerAdvocate and RateBeer listings show exactly the same sort of bias starting to form with beer criticism as well. Of course, the best selling beers in the world are all light and "easy to drink" - Budweiser, Miller, Stella, Spotted Cow, etc.

And here we run into that stupid word "drinkability" again.

Of course, when we say that we can drink a lot of one particular beer in a session, we say that beer is "sessionable". It seems pretentious and nerdy to be so precise and use a word that doesn't really have any "real world" applicability outside of beverage criticism. And it seems counter-intuitive to say that a beer that is "easy to drink" is not "drinkable" but rather "sessionable".

But "drinkable" means something entirely different. Presumably every beer on the top of those lists that I linked to are "drinkable" - people want another one. They are great beers that people like. But, how many Pliny The Youngers, a Russian Imperial Stout, can you really drink in one session? See? Not that "sessionable", it's not "easy to drink". But it is very "drinkable" - you'd love to have another one; just not right now, thank you very much.

So, maybe the problem the wine-folk are having is that they haven't welcomed the word "sessionable" into their vocabulary. What I like about the word is that it is completely non-biased. "Easy to drink" implies simplicity, light, and unthinking. But "sessionable" beers, indeed the best sessionable beers, can be complex and interesting and full of wonderful flavors.

This is all just a reminder that there will be a lot of beer to taste in Madison this weekend. Just make sure to keep in perspective the drinkability, sessionability, enjoyability, and "easy-to-drink"ness.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Press Release Thursday - Pearl Street Special Taps At The Great Taste of the Midwest

From Pearl Street's Brewmaster Joe Katchever:

Thought you'd like to know that PSB will be conducting two special tappings during the Great Taste! At 2:35 we will tap the DANKENSTEIN IIPA. The Dankenstein was voted "Best over-the-top beer" at last years Great Taste by the Isthmus. Fire-brewed Imperial IPA. The name is derived from the fact that it was brewed with an unlikely mix of malts stitched together with a hodgepodge of the stinkiest hops we could find. This one is destined to be quite dank with a starting gravity of 19.2 and colossal quadruple-hoppings. This is one of our famous rotating house beers fleetingly available only in the brewery's Tasting Room. However, a single keg has been secretly transported under the cloak of darkness from PSB to share with our friends, critics and future lovers at the Great Taste! 9.5% 109 IBUs

At 3:35 We will unveil Smokin' Hemp Porter!
A deep-colored rich and delicious porter brewed with Canadian hemp seed and a bit of barley malt that has been smoked over a fire of peat moss. This is truly a taste sensation wrapped in a glass. This small-batch brew is in very limited quantity. This is really tasty! I am extremely happy with how this experimental beer turned out. The interplay between the hops, hemp and smoked malt is delightful and am looking forward to enjoying a glass or two at the Taste.

The DANKENSTEIN will be coming out in 4 packs in the Madison area soon!


Today's a radio kinda day, I guess.

Just wanted to give y'all folks a heads-up that I will be on Wisconsin Public Radio's "Here on Earth" program tomorrow, Friday August 7 from 3pm to 4pm. It sounds like it's going to be a fun program about beer and brewing in Wisconsin and The Great Taste coming up this weekend.

So, if you like that kind of stuff, well, tune in. You can go here to find out what station to tune-in to. (hint: in Madison it's 970AM, 90.9FM, and 107.9FM)

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

On the second part of this week's podcast, we check out Beer on the Twit-o-sphere, and in news in 60 seconds we discuss Brew Dog's "irresponsible" high alcohol beer, and Sierra Nevada's new Estate Ale made with 100% hops and malt grown on their own estate. Is Sierra Nevada on it's way to a $700 bottle? Does Kyle know what terrior is? Listen in.

Here's the mp3


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Great Taste of the Midwest


View Great Taste - Madison Area Locations! in a larger map

OK, this is the official post on your Great Taste of the Midwest Weekend. This post will come in three parts. The first part you've already seen - it's the map created by Chris at BBLodge (I hope. If it's not, go here)

The second part of this is a list of some of the cool stuff going on Friday Night, the night before the Great Taste. There are pre-Great Taste Parties going on, literally, all over town. And, I've received word, there will be a bus to take you around. Following is the schedule:

The Onion Shuttle bus will be running between the following from 7pm until 1am (continuous, but no schedule)

Alchemy (Also in the Atwood Neighborhood, a long-ish, but do-able walk to Malt House and Dexters)
Two Brothers begins at 8pm
5 Two Brothers taps including a sour red from the pub

Glass Nickel (On Atwood Near Alchemy)
Founders w/Surly begins at 6pm
7 taps dedicated (Canadian Breakfast, Hand of Doom oak aged Imp IPA, 2008 Old Curmudgeon [ed note: It has been made known to me that these are not the Pre-Taste Party kegs, but rather the special kegs that Founders is bringing for the Taste itself], among others)

Brasserie V (On Monroe Street on the near West Side)
Duvel Green (tap version) premier & Ommegang(s) on tap
begins at 7pm

Dexters (On Johnson near Milwaukee - an easy walk to Malt House)
Dark Horse begins at 8pm
7 taps dedicated - Fore, Perkulator, Crooked Tree, Double Crooked Tree, Boffo Brown, Rod Red, Reserve Black and maybe some Scotty Karate

Malt House (E Washington at Milwaukee on the Near East Side)
Jolly Pumpkin begins at 4pm
Featuring Bam Biere, Weizenbam, and Calabaza Blanca. The patio is now open!

Local Tavern (Downtown)
New Holland begins at 4pm
10 New Holland taps including 5 versions of Mad Hatter IPA (regular, Cask, Imperial, Oak Aged, and farmhouse)

So, that's the bus schedule. The bus is a joint effort between The Onion and Beechwood/Specialty Distributing, so, please make sure you thank them. Also, please remember that there is no set bus schedule, it will just be circulating from bar to bar. It should take somewhere near 30 minutes for the bus to make this loop, so a rough estimate might be to expect the bus to take somewhere around 30-45 minutes to come back around to the bar where you got off the bus. Unfortunately there are some things going on that are not on the bus line (though all are walkable from the bus).

Also going on Friday Night, The Old Fashioned (Near both Maduro and The Local) has an entire tap line dedicated to Wisconsin breweries. The list is still being finalized, but you can count on taps from Tyranena, Pearl Street, New Glarus, Furthermore, Central Waters, Red Eye and more.

Goose Island is at Sardine at 7pm. Sardine is an easy walk just down the hill from Maduro and The Great Dane.

Also, Jordan's Big 10 (on Regent, a not-too-far walk from Brasserie V and an easy cab downtown), from 3-8pm has:
Three Floyds: Robert the Bruce & Alpha King
Stone: 13th Anniversary & Levitation
Dogfish Head: Midas Touch, Sah'tea & Chateau Jiahu

Finally, Maduro's Cigar Bar (Downtown less than a stumble from The Local) is dedicating all of its taps (about 10-15 taps) to Bells starting at 4pm.

Great Lakes will be leaving Dexters and then going to Argus (next to Maduro and near Great Dane) at 8pm.

Finally, Part 3 is some general information.

Dexters is running a shuttle from their pub to The Great Taste on Saturday morning. They serve a great breakfast, so show up, grab some food and get a ride over to Olin Park.

Wondering what else there is to do is Madison? Check out MBR's 36 Hours in Madison Guide.

MBR and BBLodge have put together a website that summarizes a lot of this information, has the list of breweries attending the Great Taste, and has some great travelling tips.

So, there you go. Please have lots of fun this weekend but be safe. Take cabs if you can. There is NO PARKING AT OLIN PARK so make sure you know how you are getting there. Bikes and walking from downtown are not out of the question and cabs should be plentiful.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

Although this is already a bit out of date, as it was recorded just before the new infamous White House Beer Summit, today's podcast has our opinion on the Obama-Gates-Crowley beer, as well as a tasting of Old Dominion Brewery's Dominion Pale Ale.

Here's the mp3


Monday, August 3, 2009

I'm All For New Package Sizes

7ozs, 250s, 12ozs, 22s, 500s, 40s, 750s, 1/2 gallon growlers, 1/6 barrels, 1/4 barrels, 1/2 barrels. All great vessels for pouring beer. Heineken and other breweries have tried refrigerator-sized kegs, but the problem is that they lose their carbonation if not consumed immediately - basically they are just large growlers.

But now MillerCoors is testing a new, recyclable, 1.5 gallon refrigerator keg that holds its carbonation. "The boxed product, which is designed to fit into refrigerators for drinkers to consume periodically, rather than for one-time party use." Strangely, the price per ounce will be higher than a case of cans, but MillerCoors is betting that you'll pay a premium for "draught quality" Miller Lite. "The tap comes with a 8 or 16 gram C02 container to release the CO2 into the keg and a tap handle on it."

This type of package size could be pretty interesting in a craft universe. Perfect for those beers that you just like to drink every day. I could see breweries playing with bottle/keg conditioning with this package size to create truly creamy draft-style milk stouts and pale ales and Irish reds that just don't seem to carbonate right in a bottle. It would also be great for seasonal offerings, like Furthermore's Fallen Apple, where a 6-pack isn't quite enough, but consumers aren't going to go back to the store for a second 6-pack before the "season" is over. Moreover, this could really open up some interesting new markets. Small retail facilities like coffee shops or small bars wouldn't need to install a tap system, they could just buy a few of these to sell to the occasional customer. The biggest question is whether this will, in fact, filter down to the craft world. Although, as noted in the above articles, it's really nothing more than a small CO2 canister attached to a mini-keg.

I would buy a draft keg of New Glarus IPA, at $30 every two weeks for the rest of my life.