Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Hey Barkeep! A taxonomy of beer

I know, we usually do this on the 3rd Friday of the month. Well, we didn't get to it then, so we wanted to get in before the month was over. While an archaic distinction, the question actually gets to the heart of artificial distinctions in the beer categorization system. In the United States we take great care to classify everything that gets brewed within the confines of our classification system that is generally spelled out in the BJCP Guidelines. When we (Americans) drink a beer we first want to know its style - what kind of beer is this? Then we want to recall what the style is supposed be - what are the general characteristics that I typically find in this style of beer? Then we want to compare the current beer to the style - how well does this beer match the style? And, frequently, we rate (BA.RB.) a beer based on that comparison.

Believe it or not, this does not occur everywhere. For examples, the Belgians do not, generally, make these distinctions instead classifying between blonde or brun and blended or unblended; they also have the abbey distinctions (abbey, dubbel, tripel). Very general classifications. On the other hand, the British (and Americans) have a lot of very narrow classifications, many of which are not even internally consistent (e.g., "porters" include both ales and lagers).

Having said all that, we get to the question: What is the difference between an ale, a pilsner, and beer?

To some extent we talked about this a few posts ago when we talked about Richard Owen and his Lake Brewery. We mentioned that the type of distinctions made there (ale, porter, and beer) are largely historical. In other words, "beer" is what we now call "lager" and "porter" generally is classified as a type of ale (though more on that later).

In any event, we can start our classification system at the "phylum" level.

I. We have two phylum of drinks: fermented and unfermented. What makes something fermentable and/or fermented? Fermentation is a biologic process whereby sugars are consumed by yeast and converted to alcohol (there are other products of fermentation as well, but for our purposes we only care about alcohol).

II. The classes of fermented drinks, for our purposes, are going to be grain-based and non-grain-based. Non-grain-based fermented drinks would include wine (grape and other fruit-based wines) and most liquors (though not grain-based liquors like bourbon and scotch and some types of vodka).

III. So within the grain-based fermented drink class we have a couple of orders: distilled drinks and non-distilled drinks. Distilled drinks are also found in the non-grain-based fermented drink order.

IV. Finally, we get to the family of beers. We could have a few other non-distilled grain-based fermented drinks, too - but most of those are temporary products in the distillation process.

V. Within the family of beer we have two genus based on the type of yeast that is used: top-fermented and bottom-fermented. We generally, though not always, call the first one an "ale" and we call the second one a "lager." Every species of beer will fall within one of these two genus.

VI. We can group the species within each genus into two sub-species based on the temperature at which the yeast is allowed to convert sugars to alcohol: warm fermentations and cold fermentations. For the most part, ales ferment at warm temperatures and lagers ferment at cold temperature. There are some beers however that use ale yeast but ferment at cold(er) temperatures - examples of this are the typical porter (though not the "baltic" porter, which, confusingly, is a cold-fermented lager yeast beer) , the alt-bier, and the kolsch. There are even some lager yeasts that ferment at high(er) temperatures to create beers such as a steam beer.

So, there you have it, the taxonomy of beer.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Fauerbach Challenge Brew - The Challenge

On Saturday afternoon, the 4th generation of Fauerbachs, Peter, Neil, David and Fred, hosted a full room at Gray's Tied House in Verona.

The challenge: the homebrewers versus the professional.

At stake for the homebrewers: Fauerbach will brew the winning recipe, will credit the winner on the label of a beer to be marketed as Fauerbach CB, and will provide a scholarship to attend the prestigious Chicago brewing college, the Siebel Institute.

At stake for the master brewer: Pride and the humility to be suffered at the hands of the best of Madison's homebrewers.

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In 1848, a brewery was established by a Bavarian, Mr. Frederick Adam Sprecher, on the corner of Williamson and Blount in Madison. This was the original Sprecher Brewery. In 1859, however, tragedy befell Mr. Sprecher and he died. Later that year, a brewer from the Schlitz brewery in Milwaukee, named Carl Hausmann, and the foreman from the Madison-based Rodermund Brewery, named Mathias Breckheimer, take over the Sprecher brewery from the estate. Five years later, in 1864, Mr. Hausmann left Mr. Breckheimer and formed his own brewery at the corner of State and Gorham called Hausmann's Capital Brewery. Mr. Breckheimer continued to run the brewery at Willy and Blount under the name of Breckheimer Brewing Company. 1868 Crew - Peter Fauerbach front, centerBut in 1868, a Bavarian, and brother-in-law of Mr. Sprecher's brother-in-law, named Peter Fauerbach purchased Breckheimer's Brewery and renamed it Fauerbach's Brewery. (side note: the common brother-in-law was a brewer in Portage named Karl Haertel who owned Portage's City Brewery; coincidentally, Mr. Haertel's daughter would later marry Jacob Best, Jr. heir to Milwaukee's Empire Brewery which later became the brewery we all know and love as Pabst. Pay attention, you will be quizzed on this later). Mr. Fauerbach and his family ran the brewery, pausing only for Prohibition from 1919 to 1933, until 1966 when the brewery was closed because of competitive pressures from Pabst, Miller, Budweiser and other large, Nationally distributed beers. It is interesting to note, that by 1860 Wisconsin was the home of almost 200 breweries, but by just over a century later, rather than growing, this number had shrunk to only 7. Today, this number has rebounded a bit, and Wisconsin is home to almost 50 breweries of varying scale.

Proudly, Fauerbach Brewery has resumed operations. Starting in 2005, Peter Fauerbach, a fourth generation Fauerbach, and his cousins Neil, David and Fred, contracted with Fred Grey of Grey's Brewing Company in Janesville to brew an amber lager and an export lager. Then, late last year Peter was giving a presentation to the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild. During the course of the presentation Peter showed a slide containing the recipe of a bock that was brewed starting in 1956 under the CB ("Centennial Brew") brand that Fauerbach had begun in 1948 in celebration of 100 years of brewing at that facility. The recipe, naturally, intrigued the group of homebrewers who immediately asked to be allowed to analyze the recipe, scale it to a 5 gallon batch, and take a shot at brewing it. Out of this was born the new Fauerbach CB ("Challenge Brew").

Fauerbach CBThe homebrewers, however, found the recipe to be a challenge in and of itself. To understand why, it is necessary to ask someone who was alive and drinking beer in 1956. If you can find someone from that era with a good enough recollection, they would tell you that the beers were earthy and grainy, with a sweet, light flavor and very low bitterness. In fact, they might tell you that it was something like a Budweiser or a Pabst or a Miller. The true historical reason is somewhat cloudy, but brewers of that time used a significant amount of corn in the brewing process. Of course, modern craft beer snobs will snort and haughtily raise their noses at the very thought of brewing with corn. But, the financial situation of the times, and the quality of grain available virtually required it. Buying high-quality grain was very expensive, what would now be considered brewery-quality barley, what is now called 2-row barley, was grown in limited quantities in the state and shipping it was very expensive. However, cheaper barley and grains were easier to acquire. However, the problem with these grains was that they were very husky and did not take to brewing particularly well. To smooth the flavor and ease the brewing process, brewers used an adjunct ingredient readily available here in the Midwest - corn. Today, corn-adjunct beer is derigeur of the macro beer universe. Budweiser and Miller, and even Sam Adams, all use corn in some proportion in their recipes. However, homebrewers, almost universally, do not.

Thus, the homebrewers had some unique challenges to overcome. The use of high proportions of 6-row barley (a style of barley with many, small grains; as opposed to 2-row barley that has much bigger grains) and corn presented problems with the mash. The "mash" is the first step of the brewing process whereby the grains are, more or less, steeped in hot water. In the second stage brewing, after the grains have been steeped, the liquid extracted and then filtered, hops are generally added. However, this again presented a problem because the hops used by this 1956 recipe are not the types that these homebrewers are accustomed to using.

Nonetheless, with the problems resolved, sixteen beers, including one brewed by Fred Grey, were presented for the competition. The competition was judged by six BJCP-certified judges. The style was set forth as a Dark American Lager (Style 4A). If you have ever been in the south and drank a Shiner Bock, you are familiar with the style. Strangely, this confusion of styles would come into play later. In the first round, the 16 beers were split into two groups of eight and the two teams comprised of 3 judges each picked eight beers to get into the second round. In the second round, all six judges picked the three finalists and named a winner. Not exactly the NCAA tournament or the World Series of Poker, but the competition was fierce enough that the brewers could be seen behind the scenes releasing CO2 valves and fiddling with ice to ensure that the beers was served at just the right temperature with just the right head and carbonation to snatch away victory at the last minute. While the judges notes on the finalists are unknown, my own notes compiled during the public tasting, show the same three beers as three of only four high scores (6s or 7s, on a scale of 1 to 7) I gave for the competition. The winner was rather anti-climatic as Fred Grey, master brewer of Gray's Brewery, won the blind tasting competition. My own notes for his beer reveal the treat we are all in for when it is released to the public later this winter: "a dark ruby filtered color, soft muted earthy malt, I could drink this forever, nice finish."

1903 Badger's Football Program.During the public tasting, the invited guests got to enjoy a taste (1 ounce please!) of each of the sixteen beers. The homebrewers' beers covered a surprisingly large group, from hazy and golden to black and smoky. Some tasted like IPAs, some tasted like dopplebocks. All were very drinkable. Homebrewers and Fauerbach family members and media personnel and industry folks all poured for each other and tried to pick their own winner of the "People's Choice Award." There was some confusion among the public about style. Some thought the beer was brewed to a traditional bock style, though the corn would be inappropriate and impossible for this high-alcohol style. Some thought it was brewed to a dopplebock style, though, again, the corn would be inappropriate and the drinkability would not be what the Fauerbachs are looking for. Most did not seem to care however, and were tasting merely to see which they liked the best; which, at the end of the day is what is important. The Fauerbachs are not brewing for BJCP certified judges and some official determination that this beer is the "best version of a style" - they are brewing beers that you and I, and our parents and our brothers and sisters will want to drink at family events. A beer to be enjoyed while watching the Badger's football games. And the public tasting was like sitting down with family to an afternoon brunch - we heard about trips to see the Hamburg Symphony, we heard about interesting writing, we heard about trials and tribulations. And, at the end of the day, after laughing together and getting to know each other in the very setting that the Fauerbach CB is intended, we voted for the "People's Choice" winner. And it was won by a single vote by a homebrewer, for a soft, dark beer with a surprising lemony brightness and subtle fruity bitterness.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Wisconsin's Place In The World

For what it's worth, RateBeer, one of two online forums for users to review and discuss beer, has released its RateBeer Best 2008 rankings.
As it has been for the last 7 years, RateBeer Best was again the largest beer competition in the world -- over 1.4 million reviews of 76,000 beers from over 8000 brewers worldwide were tallied. A particular emphasis was placed on tastings from the last year's performance. Additionally, brewpubs, bottle shops, restaurants and bars around the world were awarded prizes. Cheers to all the winners and to everyone who keeps the magical world of craft beer growing!
We could take this space to criticize the methodology, the experience of those rating, the herd mentality of on-line forums, etc. But, it is what it is. Not only do groups tend to get the right answer (even if the logic or method is wrong), but commercial breweries need to meet the tastes of the crowd. It's all fine and dandy create the fanciest beer the world has ever known, but if nobody wants to drink the thing, does it matter? Of course, that answer sort of depends on your marketing budget and whether you are comfortable charging a high price point for the limited market ... but that's neither here nor there.

Anyway. On to the list.

Best Beers in the World:

Number one is from just around the corner of Lake Michigan in Hammond, Indiana - an oak-aged Russian Imperial Stout from Three Floyds brewery called the Dark Lord. This is an interesting choice because it is such an extreme style, the Russian Imperial Stout. A thick, dark, heavy version of a style known for being thick, dark and heavy. You'll recall we discussed Leinenkugel's Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout, and Leinie's version of this style finished number 96 (out of 100) on the list. The case of the Russian Imperial Stout also shows its first problem with the list: 7 of the top 10 are all Imperial Stouts, 25 of the top 50 are Imperial Stouts, and 40 of the top 100 are Imperial Stouts. It is, by definition, a decadent style, thick, and rich and sweet.

Only two other Wisconsin beers made the top 100, and both of them are from New Glarus: the Belgian Red (cherry fruit beer), and the Raspberry Tart.

Some other notes: only two lagers even made the list, one a wheat trippelbock and one a dopplebock. This is astonishing and shows, in its most obvious, the inherent biases at Rate Beer. Another 22, so 67 out of 100 beers, are dark, heavy styles (porters, barley wines, belgian quads and strong ales, etc.). Of the remaining 33, 11 of them are IPAs and Double IPAs. Leaving only 22 spots for all other styles. Given that, it's amazing Wisconsin got two fruit beers in.

A full quarter of the beers came from only 4 California breweries: Lost Abbey, Russian River (interestingly, owned by brandy kings Korbel), Ale Smith, and Stone. Two from the Sonoma area and two from San Diego. This is not surprising; beer geeks and snobs, many of whom have never had any of these beers, talk relentlessly about how great these beers are.

Best Breweries

We can not be too surprised to see Lost Abbey, Russian River, Stone and AleSmith all in the top 10. Also in the top 10 are two Midwest breweries: Three Floyds and Founders. Number 11 is Surly from Minneapolis. The first Wisconsin brewery, predictably New Glarus, shows up at number 29. The only other Wisconsin brewery shows up at number 65: Tyranena. Noticably absent from the list is Central Waters, Capital, and Sprecher.

Let's look at some styles containing Wisconsin beers in the top five for the style:
Specialty: New Glarus Belgian Red, New Glarus Raspberry Tart
Wheat: New Glarus Dancing Man
Dark Lager: Sprecher Black Bavarian (number one in the style)

Conspicusly absent: Central Waters' Bourbon Barrel Stout, Tyranena's Hop Whore, any of the Calumet beers (although this is more of a distribution problem than a quality issue), Lake Louie's Louie's Reserve (in fact the Scotch Ale style isn't even on the list), and Capital's Autumnal Fire. Capital may try to convince you that it is surprising not to see the Island Wheat on the list.

One other thing that I want to point out before we get to Brew Pubs, Restaurants and Retailers. The best breweries in the United States, the four California breweries, Three Floyds, the Colorado breweries (Great Divide and Oskar's Blues) and even Surly, do not brew in 12 ounce bottles. While Oskar's and Surly distribute in cans (cans!?), all of the others primarily distribute in 22 ounce "bombers." It's just an observation, and I'm not sure I could even guess as to any connection, but I did want to point that out. Even the two top-rated New Glarus beers are the only non-12 ounce beers that New Glarus distributes.

OK. On to the rest of the list:
Best Bars - none in Wisconsin, but within driving distance:
Chicago: The Map Room (4), Hop Leaf (9)
St. Paul: The Happy Gnome (31)

Best Brewpubs:
Wisconsin: Great Dane, Downtown (16); Grumpy Troll, Mount Horeb (40)
And, just rub salt in the wounds, here's some brewpubs that also distribute into our state that our breweries, who cannot also be brewpubs, must compete with:
Indiana: Three Floyds (1)
Delaware: DogFish Head (3)
Illinois: Goose Island (5)
California: Bear Republic (20)
Ohio: Great Lakes (24)

Best Beer Retailers:
Wisconsin: Discount Liquor (Milwaukee, 31), Woodman's (Madison, 49)

Best Restaurants - None in Wisconsin, but within driving distance:
Blue Nile Restaurant and Lounge - Minneapolis, MN (9)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What Makes It So "Vienna"?

Capital's Winter Skal is a Vienna Lager. We saw on Monday that New Glarus' Snowshoe ale was similar to Vienna Lager, only it uses ale yeast. And we pointed out that there is such a thing as Vienna malt that is frequently used in Vienna lagers and red or amber ales (and many other types of beers as well). Vienna malt is considered a specialty malt (as opposed to "base malt") although it can be used for up to 100% of the grain bill of a particular beer. It has a maltier flavor and aroma than typical American base malts like a 2-row or 6-row base malt. It also has a slight dry, biscuity, breadlike flavor and aroma and gives a golden amber color. These flavors and aromas are derived from a slight high-temperature roasting (like in an oven) once the malt has been dried; this roasting process reduces (though does not usually eliminate) the fermentability of the malt, but adds color, flavor and aroma.

Why Vienna?

Well, RateBeer tells us that the Vienna lager was "given this name because the style was developed around Vienna, Austria." That seems rather obvious. The question still remains why Vienna? And what gives it these characteristic flavors?

For the first part, we look to Wikipedia, which tells us that the Vienna lager was invented in 1841 by Anton Dreher in Vienna, Austria. Beer Advocate tells us that the Vienna lager typically uses a German-style triple decoction mash to emphasize the maltiness and that the style is similar to, but not quite, an Oktoberfest or Marzen. Finally, the BJCP tells us that the Vienna Lager is "soft and elegant" with a light toasty aroma and a dry finish. Overly caramel flavors should be avoided; Vienna, Munich, Pilsner, and 2-row malts can be used.

Capital Winter SkalCapital Winter Skål (BA.RB.)
Appearance: a thin bubbly white head and a highly carbonated light, watery-copper body
Aroma: malty and sweet, with a slight dry, metallic brightness
Flavor: not as strong as malty as one might think, but a light brassy-maltiness; the finish is quick and dry
Body: the carbonation keeps the medium body from settling and the flavors from fully realizing themselves, though it keeps the finish clean
Drinkability: while I could drink these in moderation, I'm not sure I'd want to
Summary: light and thin, the carbonation keeps the flavors from settling; while this could be a really good beer, like Capital's Oktoberfest, it ultimately feels more like a play at consumer appeal and in the end sacrifices the soft, subtle complexity typical for the style.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Since It's So Cold Out, Let's Talk About Snowshoes

New Glarus' Snowshoe red ale is out on the market. So, today we'll learn how to decipher a label because there is lots of great information on the label of the Snowshoe. Like reading a wine label, if you can read a beer label you can often learn quite a bit about the beer. If you are reading this without the benefit of a bottle of Snowshoe Ale in front of you, you can follow along on the New Glarus website.

So, let's start at the top and we'll make some points that you can learn by gathering information that is not on the label. First, it is called "Snowshoe ale." Because it is an ale, we know one thing already: it is made with a top-fermenting yeast, fermented at room temperatures (between 60 and 70 degrees or thereabouts). We can also make some assumptions: it probably will not be high-alcohol, it probably will not be full-bodied, it probably will not be highly hopped. Why can we make assumptions? Because of the conspicuous lack of information on the label. First, the label just says "ale", it does not say "barley wine ale", or "wine-style ale" that would indicate a barley-wine, one of the few high-alcohol styles that does not typically carry the prefix "imperial." Thus, for that matter, we can assume that it will not be very highly hopped; the term "imperial" is typically used in two instances: styles that contain a lot more hops that is typical for the style, or styles that are much higher in alcohol than is typical for the style. Because "imperial" is nowhere to be seen on this label, we can assume that it is not high-alcohol, and we can assume that it will not be very highly hopped (it may still have some hops, but it shouldn't be extraordinarily bitter). We can also assume that this is not a full-bodied ale. We can assume this because it is not a "stout" or "porter", two styles of ales are associated with being full-bodied; few other ales are full-bodied.

So, what do we know just by reading "ale"? We can safely assume that the alcohol will be between 3% and 7% alcohol, that it will be light or medium-bodied, and that it will not be overly bitter. One word down, and we haven't even started reading the fine print yet.

As we start on the side of the bottle, in the fine print, we first learn that we should "settle in" with this beer. This seems a little counter to our assumptions. We typically "settle in" with heavier beers, or beers with higher alcohol. Yet, we have already made some assumptions that run counter to this, so, we can take note of it, but frankly write it off to marketing hyperbole.

The next sentence tells us that there are American and German malts. This is not really surprising, this mixture of malts. Given the fact that we are in America, and not Germany, breweries here typically use American base malts. However, Germany makes some base malts and specialty malts that are unique to their beers such as Vienna (technically, Austrian) and Munich malts. Unlike 2-row and 6-row malts, typical American base malts that provide the generally malty flavors of beer, Vienna malts provide a stronger malty flavor and very slight "biscuity" (bright and bread-like) flavor. Munich malts are similar to Vienna, but forego the bicuit flavors in favor of a deeper coloring and an even stronger malty flavor. Both Vienna and Munich malts are typically used in German-style lagers (such as marzens, Vienna lagers, and bocks), but neither are foreign to amber-style ales. While it is possible that an American ale would use a German Pilsner malt, this is not likely without a little more fanfare as it would be unusual enough to make special note of. So, we now know that this beer likely contains some American 6-row or 2-row malts (both light malts, 6-row, having more grains is a little grainier, while 2-row is a little cleaner) and some German Vienna or Munich malts. Based on that knowledge, we can now assume that this will be a red or amber ale.

The next sentence, about a "complicated decoction mash process" requires a little knowledge about how beer is made. The first step of the brewing process is called "the mash." During the mash, malted grains and other specialty grains or adjuncts (if used) are basically steeped in hot water. This steeping process releases proteins and enzymes and sugars that are used by the yeast (added later) to ferment the beer. There are few types of ways to release these proteins and sugars: infusion, adding hot water directly to the grains, then re-adding more water to either raise or lower the temperatures as needed; or, decoction, where the grains are added to warm water, then some of the liquid is removed, brought to a boil, then added back to the liquid. Because of the boiling, "decoction mashing produces a richer malt profile with complex caramelized flavors that are the hallmarks of most continental European beer styles, particularly Pilsner, Marzen, Bock, and especially Dopplebock." [cite] So, now, after three sentences, we can start to get an idea of what we will be drinking: a richly malty beer that is much like a lager, but made with ale yeasts and a warm fermentation to add a bright flavor to it. We can legitimately think we might be drinking an alt-bier.

We are also told that this beer is made with "Yakima Golding" and "Bavarian Hellertau" hops. We know that the Yakima Valley is in Washington State, and that Bavaria is in Germany. Interestingly, both of these hops are traditionally aroma hops; thus, we can guess that this will be a lightly bittered beer, with a complex aroma profile. Goldings are stereotypical hoppy aromas, mild and slightly grassy, with some spiciness; Hellertau are also mild, with more emphasis on the spiciness and a subtle floweriness.

Of course, we could have just read the second paragraph and be told all of this. "Expect this beer to be a beautiful copper-red, with a fruity ale body and a spiced hop finish."

New Glarus Snowshoe AleNew Glarus Snowshoe Ale
Appearance: Poured into a willi becher pint, a large, thick two-finger bright white head forms on top of a crystal-clear deep golden-amber body; lacing is extensive and the head holds very well
Aroma: a spiciness is immediately obvious, with some strong malt aromas, and subtle earthiness, all on top of hints of freshly baked pepper and rosemary bread
Flavor: tastes exactly like its aroma, where the spiciness comes through, followed by deep malts and a light breadiness; a lingering dry earthy bitterness holds the finish, almost a cracked-pepper flavor; as the beer warms up the ale fruitiness comes through more accentuating the hoppy bitterness
Body: very soft body, that pleasantly coats and lends a thickness and mouthful without adding fullness of body
Drinkability: a great beer for winter football action, it is light enough to drink in moderation, but firm enough to provide sustenance
Summary: it would be nice to see this beer offered around town on tap at local bars, it is a good slightly different competitor to Capital's Winter Skal and provides something lighter with greater repeat drinkability than Lake Louie's porter and the stouts that are typical for the winter

Friday, January 18, 2008

A Reply To Pamela Bean

In case you missed it, you can read Pamela Bean's column in yesterday's Wisconsin State Journal before you read my reply. It is in reference to a bill that Representative Theresa Berceau, of the 76th district (pretty much all of Madison), proposed that would raise the tax on each twelve ounce bottle of beer by 2.4¢.

OK. You're done reading? Good, glad to have you back. Let's get the preliminaries out of the way. I find it rather shocking that Ms. Bean is "saddened" by the fact that only two legislators support a tax raise. Nobody, least of all politicians go around announcing support for a tax increase. Sure, they may vote for it when it comes up for vote. But, really, how many, if you were to stop them on the street and just ask point blank, would admit to fully supporting any tax increase? Now, taking that number, how many of those Wisconsin politicians do you think would admit to fully supporting a tax increase on beer?! After having just been raked across the coals for their support of SB 224 (The Great Dane Bill)? Yeah, I would guess not many. Of course, just because they do not admit to it, does not mean they will not vote for it.

Another preliminary, because I know you're dying to do the math in your head. 2.4¢ per bottle, is 14.4¢ per six-pack, 28.8¢ per twelve-pack, and 57.6¢ per case. Assuming only twelve ounce bottles. Most, but not all beer bottles, are twelve ounces. For example, some bottles are 22 ounces; you can about double the tax to 4.8¢ per bottle for those.

Well, with the hop price increases, the malt price increases, price increases on the bottles themselves, price increases on boxes and printing and plastic, beer prices have been going through the roof lately. One could reasonably say, enough already. And, the industry may just say this it (through its appointed lobbyists, of course). The price of a six-pack of beer has gone up considerably, and will continue to go up considerably for the near future. It is all the industry can do just to keep up with and absorb raw material prices. I understand that the tax does not affect the prices that the manufacturers pay, but the manufacturing cost increases have cut into margins so much that these price increases are being passed on to the consumer. Add another 15¢ and that just makes it another reason to buy wine (not made in Wisconsin in any significant volume, by the way) or hard liquor instead.

And that brings up another point. Why is the tax only pointed at beer? If you were to look at Ms. Berceau's handy-dandy powerpoint presentation, you'd first be inundated with a whole mess of really bad facts about alcohol. For example, did you know that:

  • We lead the nation in moderate to heavy alcohol consumption among pregnant women

  • We rank 48th worst in the nation in alcohol-related per capita health care expenses

  • In Wisconsin, alcohol and drug abuse is 4th leading cause of death, behind heart disease, cancer and stroke

  • Only Montana has more driver fatalities where the blood alcohol concentrations exceed .08

  • Wisconsin had almost 45,000 alchohol-related driving citations in 2006

  • 72% of [sexual assault] victims experienced rape while intoxicated

The list goes on. But, you will notice something about that list. None of it is specific to beer. "Alcohol and drug abuse is the 4th leading cause of death ..." In that case, it's not even alcohol alone, let alone beer, that is getting us on the list!

Well, Ms. Berceau argues, "[b]eer accounts for 81% of all alcohol that is drunk in hazardous amounts in the U.S." OK. "Wisconsin ranks 4th highest per-capita for alcohol consumption from beer." Uh huh. "The average Wisconsinite consumes 1.52 gallons of pure ethanol annually from beer." Interesting information, but I don't really see where this is going. Even her slide titled "Is the Beer Industry Innocent?" (btw, we are supposed to answer "no" to that question), not a single bullet-point applies specifically to beer (2001 expenditures for for alcohol ...)

All I'm really seeing is that people like to drink beer. And sometimes people do stupid things when they drink alcohol. A lot of people in Wisconsin do stupid things. So, because those stupid things increase state costs, we should tax only people that drink beer? Why don't we only tax stupid people? That seems a far better plan and gets right to heart of making those responsible pay for their actions.

Or maybe, it is like the lottery. Where we make the poor, who buy a disproportionate amount of the lottery tickets, pay for an education system that fails them. Except in this case, we can make the poor, who pay a disprortionate amount of their income for beer (as opposed to hard liquor and wine), pay for the health system that won't admit them.

We should, according to Ms. Berceau, raise the tax on a barrel of beer from $2.00 per barrel, to $10.00 per barrel. A five-fold increase! And this goes directly to the heart of my favorite slide, titled "What does this mean for the heavy drinker?"

  • Under the Current State Beer Tax: If you drink a six-pack a day by the end of the week you will have paid $.25 in state tax

  • Under Rep. Berceau’s Proposal: If you drink a six-pack a day by the end of the week it will cost you an additional $1

But here's what really gets me: she's intellectual dishonest about the whole thing. Near the end of her power-point she sets up some straw men ("Arguments against increasing the Wisconsin beer tax."). For example, Argument 1 is what I alluded to earlier: it is a regressive tax. Her response is "all of our taxes are regressive taxes." Fair enough. But then she asserts: "to the extent that family expenditures rather than family income better reflect lifetime income, expenditures on alcohol are progressive." What that means is that as we earn more, a greater percentage of our income is spent on alcohol. "Alcohol." Not "beer." Please, let's keep this focused. It makes sense that as we earn more, we can now afford to buy luxuries like vodka, gin, and wine. When we are poor, all we can afford is beer! Her second strawman is that "Beer is a blue collar drink ..." now pay attention to the second part of this sentence "... the beer tax hits average working people of modest means hardest because they drink the most beer." Sounds like what we just said earlier doesn't it? Except it's not. The argument is not that the poor, or "those of modest means" if you will, drink more beer - it is that the beer they drink is a greater percentage of their income. Not only that, but "alcohol" expenditures for "those of modest means" cut into money that is otherwise paid for necessities like heat, groceries, gas, and other bills. For everyone else, it merely cuts into discretionary income that would otherwise go to movies. Of course, Ms. Berceau's response: "Beer consumption is approximately evenly split across upper and lower income levels." Thanks. That helps. It goes on like this for a while.

At the end of the day, do I have a problem with a tax that will hardly affect any of us monetarily? Not really. But what I have a problem with is singling out beer, and the drinkers of beer, as those to be burdened by this tax. Why not single out wine? Or vodka? Or, really, all alcohol? Heck, why not legalize drugs and tax those so that drug addicts can pay for their own treatment? Ok, that's another argument for another forum on another day.

So, this doesn't really end up as a "reply" to Pamela Bean. Except that she is apparently "for" Ms. Berceau's bill. And, I can't say that as a publication we are endorsing a policy "against" Ms. Berceau's bill. All we are saying is that it isn't fair that beer is singled out, and the arguments being used in favor of this bill may not be entirely honest. But, it's politics, what else is new?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

My Book Report - Richard Owen and Lake Brewery

OK, not really a book report because I'm not reporting on a book. However, the Wisconsin Historical Society is a treasure trove of information; without even leaving the house, one can get lost there for hours. As I was searching through the archives doing research on Wisconsin brewing history (side note: in 1860 we had almost 200 commercial breweries in the state of Wisconsin, 40 of them were in Milwaukee alone!), I stumbled across an article from the Milwaukee Journal published March 19, 1916.

View Larger Map - and thank you to Kathy for getting us the information for this location.
A gentleman by the name of Richard Owen is generally credited with establishing the first commercial brewery in the state of Wisconsin. Mr. Owen, along with Mr. William Pawlett and Mr. John Davis started the Milwaukee Brewery in 1840, serving its first beer in July. The brewery itself was located at the foot of Huron Street right on the lake. Interestingly, it appears that Huron Street no longer exists in Milwaukee; apparently in the intervening one hundred and sixty eight years they've changed the name of the street, or maybe it's gone. I know we have some readers over there in Milwaukee, perhaps one of them can post in the comments where, on a modern day map, this brewery would have been. Then, in what would today play out in a multi-million dollar trademark infringement suit, another Milwaukee Brewery opened, so Owens changed the name of his brewery to Lake Brewery.

So, this Lake Brewery (nee Milwaukee Brewery) brewed "ale, porter and beer" and also distilled scotch whisky. You could pay $5 for a barrel of beer, $7 for a barrel of ale (also, presumably, porter), and $2 per gallon of whisky. In today's dollars (based on the CPI) this would equate to about about $120 for a barrel of beer, $170 for ale, and about $50 for a gallon of whisky. A little pricey, but hey, considering it is brewed in less than 5 barrel batches, it's a steal. Also of note, this article makes a distinction of historical interest: Lake Brewery brewed both ale, porter and beer. From the comfort of 2007 that sentence does not make a whole lot of sense. However, the English brewed ales (top fermenting yeasts) and considered this, for some unknown reason, to be a markedly different beast than what the Germans brewed that was colloquially called "beer." This German "beer" is what we call a lager, and it is brewed with bottom-fermenting yeasts. And we now know that the two, ales and lagers, are just different species in the same genus we call "beer." Interestingly, and most of you probably know this, but beer and whisky are in the same family - fermented barley beverages. Nonetheless, this still doesn't account for distinguishing between ale and "porter." Well, the British invented the porter, but it was a cold-fermentation ale, so it wasn't really what they called an "ale" (warm fermentation), but wasn't quite "beer" either (it used ale yeasts, not lager yeasts). So, because of the technical distinctions, the British classified the two separately.

However, Milwaukee lacked two important items for Mr. Owens' brewery: a copper kettle and barley. One being decidedly more important the other, Mr. Owens owned a boat (what the article characterizes as a "sloop") and he brought barley over on that boat from Michigan City, Indiana. Why go so far? It is hard to know, although sourcing from Wisconsin was not an option since barley was not grown here at the time. A few guesses can be made. First, Mr. Owens, originally from Isle of Anglesey, North Wales, had been working in Cleveland, Ohio and Buffalo, New York manufacturing millstones (bet you didn't know they manufactured millstones in Cleveland and Buffalo, did you? No? Me neither.) In 1837, he traveled by a steamship called the Madison to Milwaukee. (Why someone would take a boat from Buffalo to Milwaukee is still a bit of a mystery - a horse would have had to have been faster. But, being from Anglesey (an island), he was probably more comfortable on the boat than on a horse.) In any event, Michigan City was likely a port along the way, and Mr. Owens probably noted the sale of barley in this location. Given that it was only a one or two day boat trip from Milwaukee, it was close enough for his purposes.

The copper kettle presents a unique problem. At the time, aluminum did not exist; brewing was done in copper kettles and Milwaukee had no coppersmiths. Moreover, copper just happened to be one of the primary exports of Anglesey, North Wales. So, Mr. Owens probably had a certain fondness for it and demanded a certain quality that did not exist in his five barrel wooden box. In any event, he got a line on a 12 barrel copper kettle in Chicago. In 1841, it took him four days to go roundtrip from Milwaukee to Chicago - a trip that we now take for granted and get frustrated if it lasts more than two hours. Soon afterwards, in 1844, Milwaukee had a coppersmith and a brand new forty barrel kettle was created for Lake Brewery.

By 1845, Lake Brewery was at full capacity. It was consuming 12,000 bushels of barley a year. For another 19 years Lake Brewery provided Eastern Wisconsin with beer. In 1864, Mr. Owens called it quits and sold off the brewery. It continued for a while under the name M.W.Powell & Co. (quite a snazzy name for a beer, if you ask me). Meanwhile, Mr. Owens stayed in Milwaukee where he died in 1887 at the age of 76. As of 1916, four of Mr. Owens children were still living, so if you have a relative who would have been alive in 1916 and were named Chistopher Owens (Milwaukee), R.G Owens (Milwaukee), A.H. Owens (Wauwatosa), or Mary Saville (San Antonio, TX), you may be related to Mr. Owens.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Some Things To Look Forward To

This was a very busy weekend for us for the site, so we'll just give you a heads up on things to look for:

A. Brewery Profiles. We are going to start a monthly feature (besides "Hey Barkeep") where we will profile one of the many Wisconsin breweries and brewpubs. We'll give you an in depth look at the people that own, run and work with these breweries. We're very excited about this and we think this will help to define the shape of Wisconsin's craft brew industry; we'll see where the breweries are looking to expand and experiment, what attracts them to certain styles and the heritage that they are embracing or challenging.

B. Wisconsin Brewing History. Similarly, we are going to start running some articles that explore the history and heritage of Wisconsin's brewing tradition. This line of articles is brought on a by a few different projects that we have going on. The first is the one mentioned in "A" - an interest on our part to stay informed and inform the current Wisconsin brewing industry. But, is also encouraged by an awesome event occuring at the end of this month: The Fauerbach Challenge Brew.
From the press release: Fauerbach Brewing Company of Madison has given an original recipe from the brewery archives to the Madison Home Brewers and Tasters Guild. Fauerbach offered a challenge to members of the Guild to compete to develop their next beer. The Guild is the sponsor of the annual Great Taste of the Midwest, an outdoor beer festival held every August in Madison.

On January 26, seventeen Guild brewers will compete for the winning version of the Challenge Brew recipe. Also competing will be Fauerbach’s master brewer. Beers will be judged by nationally certified beer judges.

Fauerbach believes that the challenge might be the first of its kind, and plans to bring this beer to market in March. The packaging for the beer will carry the name of the winning brewer and the Madison Home Brewers and Tasters Guild. In recognition of the Guild’s participation, Fauerbach will sponsor a scholarship to a Guild member to attend the Siebel Institute in Chicago - a school for master brewers.

Fauerbach Brewing Company, a venerable Madison institution from 1848, closed in the mid 60’s under pressure from national brands. Three years ago Fauerbach beer returned in the craft brew class. This Challenge Brew or “CB” will join an Amber Lager, and a Export, a Dortmunder style beer.
The return of Fauerbach Brewery is a huge bonus for the Wisconsin brewing industry. The fact that they are embracing the social nature of modern business practices in the vein of Samuel Adams Homebrewers Competitions and Flying Dog Brewery's Open Source Beer Project is that much more exciting. There are also rumors circulating that Potosi Brewing, one of the original breweries in the state is getting a facelift and opening at least a brewing museum and possibly resuming brewing operations. Beyond the fascinating information to be found in our rich brewing heritage, these current events and the modern brewing process is illuminated and maginified only by understanding from whence it came.

C. Artists Series Merchandise. We have firm commitments from some artists to kick off our Artists' Series merchandise. This is great news for us, the artists and Wisconsin non-profit organizations that provide support for our communities and keep us all healthy enough (both mentally and physically) to read fine journalism and enjoy even finer beer.

D. We're Taking the Show on the Road. We have some speaking engagements around town. So, keep an eye out for us coming to a location near you. We've been known to speak about SB 224 (The Great Dane Bill), beer styles and glassware, Wisconsin breweries, and to lead tastings. If you are interested in having us come and babble endlessly about beer and/or brewing in a moderately coherent, sometimes entertaining, and always educational presentation or tasting just let us know and we will be more than happy to get you on the schedule.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Would You Like Some Chocolate With Your Oatmeal?

Sand Creek Brewing Company is almost as well-known these days as a contract brewer of numerous Wisconsin craft beers as it is for its own award-winning beers. Sand Creek has shown themselves to be a very versatile brewery; their own lineup is split approximately 50/50 between ales and lagers with a few hybrid styles (and a Cranberry Ale, which, because we are generous, we won't review - we'll just say, you should try one before you buy a whole six-pack) thrown in for variety. However, while the Cranberry Ale may not be everyone's cup of tea, the bock, oktoberfest, and oatmeal stout have all won awards at the World Beer Cup. Interestingly, the same year that the Sand Creek Chocolate Oatmeal Stout won the gold medal in the Oatmeal Stout category, another Madison-area brewery took the bronze medal - Angelic Brewery for their Sinner's Stout (of course, Angelic is no longer a brewpub, but the brewmasters there, Dean and Chris, have now gone on to form a brewery that we all know and love as Ale Asylum).

Oscar's Chocolate Oatmeal StoutOscar's Chocalate Oatmeal Stout - a mild 4.5% ABV and a mere 25 IBUs.

Appearance: Pours thick, but not oily with no head; thin wisps of tan and minimal bubbles on a black body
Aroma: malty, roasty and dense aroma; very little bitterness, though a sweet brightness accentuates an earthy graininess
Flavor: thick and muted, the chocolate is surprisingly subtle, while the oats add a thickness that keeps the roasted malt flavors front and center; the finish comes quite quickly with a sharp bitterness that fades into a continuation of the chocolates that came up front
Body: full-bodied, with flavors that linger for a bit, but fades surpsingly quickly, though the roasted flavors hang around
Drinkability: it may be hard to drink more than one, but it is nice to have one.
Summary: to paraphrase Dennis Green "It is exactly what we thought it would be. It is exactly what we thought it would be." If you are looking for a muted flavored-full bodied stout this is your stout; perfect for non-spicy stews, and other late-winter meals, or something to sip while contemplating if the writer's strike is ever going to end

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Never Thought It Would Matter If You Were Lactose Intolerant Did You?

Are you lactose intolerant? Never fear, much of the world is, too (about 60%). According to a 2005 study from Cornell University, tolerance for lactose (the sugars in milk) was developed where dairy herds could be raised safely (e.g., most of Europe). They found that in places that are cow-unfriendly, such as hot and dry climates in Africa and Asia that lactose intolerance was found in up to 100% of the population (e.g., Zambia).
According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, some 30 million to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant, including up to 75 percent of African Americans and American Indians and 90 percent of Asian Americans. Common symptoms include nausea, cramps, bloating, gas and diarrhea that begin about 30 minutes to two hours after eating or drinking foods containing the milk sugar lactose. The use of lactase enzyme tablets or drops or lactose-reduced milk and similar products can help the lactose intolerant digest dairy products. citation.
So, if you are African American, Asian American, or American Indian there is a very good chance that you are lactose intolerant.

Ummm...what does this have to do with beer? I'm glad you asked.

Milk Stouts.

"What," you say, "in the heck is a 'milk stout'?"

The beer is not brewed with milk, nor is it blended with milk (unlike Laverne De Fazio's drink of choice). Rather milk sugar, technically referred to as "lactose" is added before the beer is left to ferment. Lactose, as a sugar, is not fermentable by brewing yeast. However, it does impart a full body and smooth, sweet quality to the beer. And, it adds an ingredient to the beer that makes about 60% of the world, 75% of African Americans, 75% of American Indians and 90% of Asian Americans very, very uncomfortable.

In fact, brewers in the UK now call this style of beer "sweet stout" (regulations in the UK prevent the use of "milk" in name of the drink because it was deemed misleading). The BJCP (Beer Judging Certification Program) Guidelines adopt this British-ism for Style 13B to describe a low-hopped, roasty, coffeeish, sweet full-bodied ale. To quote the BJCP: "Often tastes like sweetened espresso." For such a "heavy" beer, these are often moderately low alcohol, typically in the 4-6% ABV range.

So, be careful those of you who are lactose intolerant; stay away from the "milk" or "sweet" stouts. Unfortunately, that means you can't have Lake Louie's Milk Stout (BA.RB.):

Appearance: a deep black walnut coloring with very little head but a few thin tan wisps; the beer pours thick, but not oily
Aroma: nutty with a compelling toffee-like sweetness, the underlying roasted coffee aromas are subtle but firm
Flavor: like eating chocolate covered coffee beans; while the front is roasted and malty, the smooth sweetness comes on quickly and turns the flavor into milk chocolate; the finish is a faint burnt coffee bitterness; the finish is clean and the palate clears between sips
Body: smooth and soft, this medium bodied stout isn't quite as thick as one might expect; the flavors cling to the inside of the mouth, but do not overstay their welcome
Drinkability: the medium body makes this an easy beer to drink if you like coffee, except without the caffeine.
Summary: while not for the lactose intolerant (no, you can't order it with soy), the flavors are bold and assertive, but approachable in a different sort of stout, a great addition to the Lake Louie lineup.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Make Way (Weight) - Brew Ha Ha Two Ha Ha

We mentioned in our last post of 2007 that Furthermore was one of our breweries to keep our eye on in 2008. Some of you were skeptical. While I should say with some assurance that I sypathize with your concerns, I can tell you that I have "seen the light" with respect to the beers. Hopefully, we can help you be persuaded. But, that's another article for another day.

For now, it suffices to say that Furthermore has a new brew, called the "Make Weight." It is a Belgian Tripel recipe mashed-up with two pale ale recipes to create a drinkable, American-ized version of a style that can often be hard to approach. This is to the Belgian Tripel, what the Autumnal Fire is the Dopplebock.

The Make Weight was unveiled at the High Noon last Saturday night at 10:30pm to the chaotic strains of Milwaukee noise-pop extraordinaires Decibully (MySpace). At 8.5% alcohol by volume, a good time was most likely had by all. Furthermore's other beers were also available at the bar, and, given the cold(ish) weather, a stout seemed appropriate.

Three Feet DeepThree Feet Deep is Furthermore's traditional "Dry Irish Stout" that while light in the body is subtly accentuated with peat-smoked malts.

Appearance: For a "light" stout, this thing is still black; while some ruby coloring comes through on the edges, it is a dark, dark brown. The head pours up nice and thick in a one-finger tan cap that falls away in time, leaving some legs behind on the glass.
Aroma: roasted and lightly smokey malts dominate, and one can't help having the feeling that there isn't really much left to take in; while some chocolate sweetness comes through, there is little hop aroma
Flavor: While it starts aggressively enough with nice roasty malts the thin body and smoky dryness finishes this drink off quickly; while the smokiness stays around to add to some complexity in subsequent sips, there is little left to hold interest
Body: definitely on the thin side for a stout, the two flavors are strong enough to make up for it, and the creaminess typical of the style is lacking - though it is hard to attribute this to hard water or the more moderate carbonation
Drinkability: Definitely not as complex as many other stouts, the dry irish style is not a style that most of us are used to drinking in a stout - the russian imperial and heavier, more modern stouts are definitely the current standards; yet this is a very drinkable beer
Summary: A good beer that is oddly refreshing for a stout; more assertive and flavorful than a mild, and almost a porter, it is good to drink out of a bottle at a concert, this is a rarity in modern stouts - it seems that convention may take some time to catch up with this style; in other words, the citizens of Wisconsin will have to get used to having a stout that isn't heavy or a sipping beer.

And, this is fairly typical of the Furthermore modus operandi: drinkable beers that add a twist to modern stylistic conventions

Friday, January 4, 2008

Is It Beer Or Is It Wine? It's Both!

Welcome to the sweet, sweet world of barely wines. Or, if you prefer, barley wine-style ales. The wine lobby thinks they have a corner on calling things "wine" so us humble beer folk often label our strong ales, which can be as strong, or stronger than wine, as wine-style ales.

The BJCP kindly tells us that an American (as opposed to British) Barley Wine (category 19C) can range from light amber to dark copper and sometimes a ruby brown color with high viscosity. These beers should have an intensely malty aroma with underlying hoppiness throughout. The flavors should be sweet and malty, but not with specialty malts such as roasted barleys or chocolate malts. Some fruitiness and alcohol flavors are appropriate (and unavoidable).

The British, as typical, are not as aggressive with the hops, so will be more relaxed in some of the bitterness and fruity or floral aromas and flavors. The cousin of the Barley Wine is the Winter Ale, which is distinguished by more use of specialty malts (such as caramel, chocolate, or more usually, mildly roasted malts) and spices (such as clove, pepper, anise, etc.) which would be inappropriate in a barely wine.

So, what makes Barley Wine so wine-like? Perhaps it is the higher viscosity body, the sweet flavors, the high alcohol or the barrel aging. Maybe it is the fact that these beers age so well. In fact, a young barley wine may be too sweet, too bitter, too viscous - some may find it cloyingly alcoholic. But let a barley wine sit for 2, 3, 4, 5, or 10 or 15 years and it will mellow out wonderfully. It will lose its bite, its barrel aging will begin to assert itself, the bitterness will fade and hop flavors and the malt flavors will become one in an amazingly complex union of sweet, fruity, earthiness. It will make you talk like a wine-dork.

So, where can I find one of these? Well, not surprisingly, not a lot of Wisconsin breweries make them. Tyranena made one as part of their Brewer's Gone Wild Series called the Spank Me Baby! (BA.RB.) Viking makes one called the Berserk. (BA.RB.) Pearl Street Brewery in LaCrosse makes one called Old Skeezer, though neither Beer Advocate nor Rate Beer have any information. JT Whitneys has their Mad Badger. (BA.RB.) With the exception of one other (reviewed below) we know of no other Barley Wines being made in the state of Wisconsin.

Kosmyk Charlie's Y2K Catastrophe AleAnd Central Waters brews their Kosmyk Charlie's Y2K Catastrophe Ale. If and when you find and drink this beer, because like most Central Waters beers these days it can be hard to find, please, please, please do not serve it at refrigerator temperature. The best advice I can give for this beer is to pull it out of the refrigerator about thirty minutes before you actually want to drink it; do not open it, but set it on your counter and walk away for thirty minutes. Go watch Threes Company or Family Guy or half of Law and Order. Then come back and split the bottle with someone else. Yes, it is only a twelve ounce bottle, but do you REALLY need a full pint glass of a 10% ABV beer? One glass will be plenty to pour into two red wine glasses and last you through dinner or sip while watching the end of Masterpiece Theatre. (BA.RB.)

Appearance: A deep ruby red with a thin white cap in a small snifter. While it is on the darker side for the style, the coloring is crystal clear and bright given its deep red hue. Even the head leaves legs on the side of the glass.
Aroma: big and malty aroma with a scent of alcohol and cherries. There is a slight hoppy fresh pine and citrus brightness on the back of the nose.
Flavor: Thanks to the handy-dandy VinTemp, we know that the beer is served at the perfect temperature of 54.5 degrees. Sweet and sharp alcohol starts the show. Meanwhile the soft malty flavors start to assert themselves. Soft and earthy flavors show through an intensely sweet bread-like maltiness. Caramel and cherries give way to a sharp hoppy bitterness that leads into the finish. You are left with a long, bitter and fruity taste to savor as you contemplate the slow ethyl warming in the gut reminescent of a fine whiskey. As it continues to warm into the upper-50s a slight smoky dryness starts to come through.
Body: Surprisingly medium-bodied; while it seems like this should be a full-bodied beer, the overload of base malts and gentle use of heavier specialty malts makes this pleasantly light and viscous.
Drinkability: It seems silly to talk about the "drinkability" of a barley wine; but when I look at a barley wine, I look at whether I enjoy the bottle I am drinking - whether I feel like it is a task to finish my glass; this beer is light and warming and pleasantly sweet - each sip brings a new taste to discover and the beer changes as it continues to warm.
Summary: An enjoyable beer to drink either alone or with a fine French Bourguignon. While its brash and in-your-face youthful flavors are fun to taste even at colder temperatures (this beer could easily be consumed at upper-40s temperatures), it should age very, very well and will mature nicely in five to ten years.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

So, You Drank Too Much For New Year's?

The Perfect Hangover BreakfastChances are, you didn't drink as much as this guy. So, you probably won't have six months of blood-thinning regimens and a four-week headache to cure the hangover.

But, you may have a splitting headache.

Ever wondered what you would be told if you walked into the Mayo Clinic and complained of a hangover? They'd probably point you here, where they would tell you that the best way to prevent a hangover is to drink responsibly. Of course, the whole problem is that you didn't follow their advice in the first place, the world is spinning beneath your feet and your own breathing sounds like a freaking pinball machine in your head.

The Mayo Clinic would then inform you that alcohol is really a pretty nasty drug: it causes you to urinate more frequently, thus causing dehydration (we saw, before that this also exaccerbates colds); it irritates the lining of your stomach and induces vomiting; it decreases your blood sugar making you irritable and physically weak; it causes your blood vessels to expand giving you that splitting headache. Pretty nasty huh?

So, what can you do? Well, the Mayo Clinic would tell you "hangovers go away on their own." Anyone who has ever actually experienced one will tell that it seems to take an eternity. Short of waiting out the eternity, there are few things that you can do that will help.

- Drink Water or Fruit Juice; as much as you would love to drink a gallon of coffee, the caffeine will only increase your dehydration and make matters worse; and, while it seems obvious, drinking more alcohol, the so-called "hair of the dog," is not a good idea either

- Eat a Light Snack; the food will boost your blood sugar and salt levels, the sucrose in fruits will help to burn the alcohol faster

- While pain relievers may work, they could make matters worse or cause severe liver damage, so just Go Back To Bed.