Monday, March 31, 2008

Samuel Adams Hallertau Imperial Pilsner

Is this a good idea? What with the hop shortage and all?

I vaguely recall reading about a worldwide hop shortage a few weeks back. The damned thing was threatening to kill all the microbreweries that weren’t savvy enough to lock in to a sweet weed deal with their hop dealer. Evidently Samuel Adams cuts a different deal and it’s probably a good thing.

I have a copy of Michael Jackson’s 500 Beers, which is sort of my bible when I go down to the local exotic grocer (Sunflower Market: Sunflower seems to be the only place close by that stocks at least a few of the obscure beers listed in Jackson’s book.) Anyhoo, I had a pile of gift certificates lying around (Thank you, honey. You’re a good wife.) so I buzzed on down there (with the book) to see what I could find. I did find a couple that are in Jackson’s book that I haven’t yet tried so I picked them up, along with a bottle of Young’s Chocolate Stout for fun.

I was about finished with my reconnaissance when I happened upon a display of Samuel Adams six packs; the standard stuff really: Boston Lager, Cream Stout, Black Lager…blah, blah blah…love them all but been there. Then, tucked behind a row of the regular stuff I found three or four little four packs of something different: Samuel Adams Hallertau Imperial Pilsner. WELL, WELL, WELL. What’s this?

Here in the AZ, we don’t generally see the exotics unless we’re willing to go on a hunt. I stumbled on this by blind luck and you’d better bet I picked up a 4-pack.

It wasn’t cold when I purchased it so I rushed home and tossed a couple in the freezer. Quaffed the Chocolate Stout to kill a little time then cleared my palate on some pretzels before settling down with the Hallertau Imperial Pilsner (“HIP” from here on out.)

I’m no beer judge. Hell, I couldn’t judge black currant jelly at the county fair. But I think this beer is probably what good, over the counter beers used to taste like as recently as the 1940s and 1950s. You might remember. Back when restaurants displayed signs proclaiming “workers will be served first.” Before people started cutting corners with everything. I like it a lot.

As for reviews and whatnot, I’ll put a few links here so’s you can go see what better minds than mine have had to say about HIP.

I’m always really tempted to pirate material from Beer Advocate, but I’m just not enough of a weasel. (I especially like the way they finagle free beer to review. Very smart.) Go over there yourself and see what they had to say about HIP. Enjoy yourself over there and don’t forget who suggested you go over there in the first place:

Here’s what some posters over at Chowhound had to say a few months back:

Finally, here’s a nifty post from 2BeerGuys. They’ve even included a couple of links to other reviews of HIP – nice touch.
Here’s a link to their new home, in case you want to see what’s new as well:

Think I'll go down there and rescue the other two or three 4-packs tomorrow. Never know when you'll have a chance to taste beer the way it must have tasted back in the day.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The CCC and Beer! (Warning: History Lesson Follows)

In the early months of 1933, immediately after his inauguration as president, Franklin D. Roosevelt set about creating a number of government programs and policies to try to help jump start the economy. The first 100 days of FDR's first term as president have become the standard by which all other administrations have been measured.

For my money the two most important things FDR did in those first 100 days of 1933 were the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was signed into law on March 31, 1933 and the legalization of beer...the date of which escapes me at the moment so you'll just have to trust me that it occurred as part of the first 100 days. The Civilian Conservation Corps (the CCC) went on to provide worthwhile work training and simple employment for some 3 million young men between 1933 and 1942 when it was abolished shortly after the dastardly attack on Pearl Harbor.

The legalization of beer, a minor reversal of prohibition, allowed Americans to spend a bit of their spare pocket change (and there was damned little of that in 1933) on a cold brew from time to time. The purpose being to get those bits of spare change to circulate through the economy. Remember that part of the problem during the Great Depression was that people were keeping a tight hold on their money. Legalizing beer gave some of the less timid a good excuse to spend a little. In turn, a whole industry geared up to meet the pent up demand and breweries around the nation began brewing (and hiring) again.

So, in honor of the birthday of the CCC and the anniversary of the legalization of beer by FDR in 1933, I present you with a link to Independence Brewing where they advertise Bootlegger Brown Ale a brew that is based on a recipe or concept adapted from a grandfather's favored home brew. As luck would have it, their granddad also served in the CCC in Texas.

This is the only beer I've managed to find that can claim a direct link to the Civilian Conservation Corps. I hope to one day actually sample some.

I like it when everything comes full circle.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Beer Photography 101 - Composition

When setting up the shot, composition is everything. You should pay close attention to the near, middle and distant action and set the shot for the appropriate depth of field. This example plays on the near and distant action, and is composed so as to give the viewer something pleasing to look at and consider in both the foreground and the background or middle distance.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Remembering A-1...And Their Ball Team!

I can't say I really liked A-1 beer the time I tried it, but then again, I was under age and the A-1 was warm -possibly stolen - I don't remember exactly. What I do remember is that the cans had pictures of famous figures from western history on them; the Bill Williams Mountain Man, I think. I wish I'd saved a can or two.

You see, A-1 beer, an authentic Arizona beer, is defunct now, gone after being swallowed up by some larger brewer. That's sad. It's sad that we only miss the skunky, working man beers when they're gone forever. I still see six packs of Schlitz in cans on the store of the local grocery store - maybe I should buy a set for old time sake....come to think of it, I don't think I've actually tried Schlitz. (How is it that Schlitz has managed to hang on all these years? Is their beer like the Colonel's chicken? You know, with the "secret ingredient that makes you crave it fortnightly, smartass!")

Anyway, the real reason for this musing about A-1 beer is to provide a suitable forum to share this nifty photo of some of the A-1 women's baseball team from the late 1940s. I think it's cool and makes me wish even more that A-1 was still around....and their ball team, too.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The perfect pour? WTF?

A little something in honor of St. Patrick’s Day.

I rarely read the business section of our local rag, but a big photo of a pint of Guinness on the cover of yesterday’s business section of the Arizona Republic caught my eye and there I was, rooting my way through the stock pages and the futures forecasts to find the article.

The article touted “the science of the perfect pour” and revealed that the barkeeps at a local pub have received tutoring from Guinness’ national quality control staff. I’m a bit too old to be allowing myself to be tutored on the “science” of pouring liquid from one container into another, which reminds me of a story:
My grandfather was paying a visit to his doctor and the subject of alcohol consumption came up. The doc wanted to know how much granddad drank every day.
“A pint?” the nosy doctor inquired.
“Spill more than that,” was granddad’s reply.
Pappy’s favored drink was Jim Beam, which reminds me I’ve still got a short snorter hidden in the garage someplace.

Anyhow, it seems a bit too pretentious to be worrying about how a beverage is poured. Chances are, it’ll taste the same no matter what – especially after four our five. The pour is for appearances only and that brings us to the kernel of this nut: if you’re drinking for appearances, you’d better pick up a different hobby.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Beer Archeology

Quick. Can you identify the especially significant feature on this Coors relic found in-situ on a desert tract northeast of Phoenix? It’s an authentic “two-holer” can!

Some of you may recall this short-lived alternative to the old-fashioned pull-tab opener on beer cans. It was doubtless an early response to the kook environmentalism of the 1960s and 1970s that, instead of tackling the big problems of the world (like laziness, draft evasion, and pointless sex with strangers) elected to take on the pull tabs that seemed to be infesting every highway interchange and vacant lot where stood a crying Indian chief. Actually, it’s come to be a pretty good idea, but this first, flustered attempt strikes me as a bit odd.

Mind you, I was not old enough to be drinking beer when these two-holers first made their appearance but I grew up in a tiny mountain town, upstream of the Coors plant in Golden, Colorado and every beer-related novelty went through the community like wildfire. Perhaps because so many folk up there worked at Coors or maybe they were all really tuned in to marketing strategies and packaging innovations. (I’m thinking they were just a bunch of bored drunks, actually.) Anyway, for whatever reason, this two-hole can opening precursor to the current “lift and pop” can tab wasn’t particularly well received by the local hillbilly focus group and I don’t’ think the system lasted more than about a year before it was replaced with something else.

For those of you who don’t remember this packaging innovation, basically what you did was you pushed in on the smaller round opening to release the pressure before pushing in on the larger opening, which was for the drinking.

I view this Coors relic as just that, an archeological find, with just enough original character for the scholar to place it in its historical context. Sure, a million beer can collecting geeks have these in pristine condition, “un-popped” and on display under Plexiglas. That’s fine. This example is like the 42 Mercury that didn’t get to spend all its winters in a cozy garage, but instead was used to haul cinderblocks and pull tree stumps, with its paint fading slowly all the while. And, just like we need to see authentic 42 Mercury’s to appreciate how things age, we should take a closer look at the beer cans we encounter in nature and pause to consider where they sit in the timeline of beer packaging. In this case, the second thought that comes to mind (after, “cool, there’s a two-holer from the 1970s”) is “Hmm. If your goal is to reduce litter, it doesn’t do much good to design a can without a detachable pull-tab if the whole can ends up being the projectile.”

I’m a bit sorry I didn’t pick up this relic. We’ll just have to be content with a photo or two. Keep looking down. You never know what sort of beer can history is under foot.

Colorado Beer Facts

Denver Colorado Beer Facts