Thursday, December 31, 2009

Arizona Beer for the New Year!

I’ve always been an Arizona Booster, even when I wasn't actually in Arizona!

I read somewhere to “beware of thoughts that come in the middle of the night.” I had a flash of brilliance last night, thinking that perhaps it would be nice to pick up growlers of Arizona beer to enjoy while ringing in the New Year. Good plan, right?

So I sanitized my Old World Brewery and Brewer’s Den growlers and all day long contemplated the thrill of having the jugs filled after work. I swung by the Sun Up/Brewer’s Den location on Camelback Road and plunked down 10 bucks for a growler of what will likely be some of their last Nut Before Christmas Nut Brown Ale, then I hopped on 7th Street and tootled north to Old World Brewery where I plunked down 8 bucks for a growler of their Dark Knight Porter. But at Old World, I got something more.

First, the commentary, then the background, I guess.

Sun Up Brewing’s Nut Before Christmas Nut Brown Ale is, sadly, uninspiring. I tried their Vanilla Porter earlier this year and liked it very much, but this limited edition is best left alone. There is no discernible flavor up front and just a tiny hint of sweet nuttiness in the finish. I’ve been left wishing I’d gotten a jug of their IPA instead.

On the up side, the Sun Up brew pub/restaurant was hopping when I dropped in around 1:00 PM to get the growler topped off. There was easy, casual banter going on between the wait staff and the clientele seated at the bar and the bar tendress indicated they were nearly out of the Nut Before Christmas Nut Brown, so I can only gather that business is good. Will I be back? Hell yes, I’ll be back! Who wouldn’t buy beer from a brewer named Uwe? (I went to high school with a dude named Uwe. You think? Nah.) Listen; if I was looking for Big Mac consistency, I’d be buying the Miller/Coors/Bud products more often. You buy a seasonal beer from a craft brewer and you take your chance, right?

The Old World Dark Knight Porter is another deal altogether. Some time ago I stole a line from Edward Abbey when describing this dark devil. Dark Knight Porter “is faithful and never disappoints.” Is this to say every glass of Dark Knight has been a winner for me? Nope. (See my comment about Big Mac consistency.) But tonight, if there were to be a head to head comparison, the Old World Porter would easily trump the Sun Up Nut Brown Ale. The Dark Knight Porter poured coffee dark and opaque with a thin head. It smelled sweet and vaguely of caramel. The taste was initially a bit sour with a distinct smoky component. Certainly, the Dark Knight Porter is more flavorful than the Nut Before Christmas.

The other upside for Old World is the actual experience of visiting their shop. I rolled up to the front of the building to find what I thought were construction workers pouring over the place and for a moment I thought that perhaps they’d gone into some sort of remodeling mode (turns out they were just jazzing the place up for a party). A worker promptly pointed me to Patrick Fields who, again, recognized me. (Repeat offenders here will remember that it was Patrick Fields who greeted moviegoers as they exited the premier of the film Beer Wars at Desert Ridge, and it was Patrick Fields who handed out his business card to every swinging Richard and Regina and it was Patrick Fields who remembered yours truly as “the guy with the blog” in the midst of the dozens gathered there that night. Patrick Fields, folks, the hardest working man in Arizona craft brewing.)

Today, I wasn’t in the building more than 30 seconds before I’d been taken round back for a look at the latest operational workings and a sample of their upcoming First Anniversary ale. I got a look at the bottling machine, and the labeling machine and a sample of their new venture in root beer (more on that in a bit). Bottom line: for me it isn’t just about the beer when I visit Old World Brewery.


It’s been just over a year since I first visited Old World and though I didn’t say as much back then, I truly doubted their staying power. Today, nearly a year later, I have to say that my instincts were wrong (as usual). With a bottling and labeling line up and running, and an arrangement for Republic Distributing to proliferate their product, with a deal to sell bombers at places like Fry’s and A.J.’s Fine Foods and an up and coming root beer product, Old World looks to have dug in their heels for the long fight.

When I told Patrick about the recent “gimmick poll” here at Beer Rant and the proposed option of having Beer Rant focus only on beers from the western United States, he quickly quipped: “How about just beers from Arizona?” That’s a thought.

So, what have we got at Old World? The Dark Knight Porter is a staple in Old World’s repertoire of about half a dozen beers that run the gambit from a wit to a red to a porter. Not surprisingly, the lighter beers are the flagship brews for Old World, their Wit being a gateway brew in the same fashion as Blue Moon in the broader beer market. Patrick estimates that they are the first local brewer to have three beers in initial distribution. But there’s experimentation afoot at Old World, too. In a week, maybe two, they plan to have a first anniversary Scotch ale that will tip the scales at about 8% abv. Patrick says some of the Scotch Ale will be cask conditioned and that they’ll be switching from clear growlers to brown glass growlers. Also, there will be first anniversary glasses available. Old World seems to be coming into their own.

Don’t like beer? Fine.
I was surprised to learn that Old World is now producing a root beer line called Cole’s Old West Root Beer and the sample I tried in the taproom was first rate. I took home a growler of Cole’s Old West Root Beer for Mrs. Beer Rant and she gave it a definite thumbs up. According to Patrick, growlers of Cole's Old West are selling faster than growlers of their beer. Hmmm. There’s certainly a broader market for non-alcoholic beverages out there, I’d imagine.

My hope, my plan, at this point is to have at least one posting a month about Old World throughout 2010. That is my hope, that is my plan. Help keep me honest, folks.

In the tank:
Sun Up Brewing Nut Before Christmas Nut Brown Ale
Old World Brewing Dark Knight Porter
Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 2009

On the desk:
An empty glass, formerly occupied by Nut Before Christmas Nut Brown Ale.

It's time for bed. Happy New Year, folks. God’s blessing for a 2010 full of health and the promise of happiness and prosperity. See you next year!

See you tomorrow 2010!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Nogne O Winter Ale

I can’t pronounce it, but I can darned sure drink it!

I’ve already mentioned that I haven’t been tearing through the holiday beers as much as I did last year. Could be a number of reasons: (1) we’re more broke this year and I know that some of these holiday offerings will be on the sale rack in a couple weeks (2) I’ve had a houseful of women kinfolk this past week and consequently, I’ve been drinking less in an effort to keep my wits about me. (Men are generally less intelligent than wimmin and it only gets worse when the ladies congregate and a fellow gets a belly full of barley pop – I tend to say the dumbest things about six bottles into the evening!) (3) perhaps I’ve settled on a few seasonals that I know I’ll like and have wisely decided to pick only a couple of rare birds for sampling.

In any event, Mrs. Beer Rant and I stumbled upon a bottle of Nogne O in the seasonal rack at the Arrowhead outlet of Total Wine and More the week before Christmas. The bottle wasn’t pricemarked and some stooge had probably returned it to the wrong shelf but I decided to take a chance, agreeing with the Missus that we’d discard the bottle at the checkout counter if it proved to be too pricey. Well, the beeping scanner put the price at 8 bucks and change. I looked at Mrs. Beer Rant. Mrs. Beer Rant looked at me. I said something like, “I’ve never had a beer from Norway,” and that was that.

Damn. I wish I’d found a second bottle and bought that one too!

At 8.5% abv, this Nordic beauty trips the line between a hardy winter warmer and a sly seasonal session beer. It pours dark brown and opaque with a rich, robust tan head. I sampled it at slightly lower than the label recommended 53 degrees but no matter. Winter Ale smells like a porter, has a medium thick mouth feel and is literally like no beer I’ve ever tried before. It’s almost liquor like in taste but with no alcohol bite whatsoever. There is a hint of chocolate in there and I believe this beer is something like an imperial stout or porter would taste if one could get past what is often an overpowering alcohol bite. Terrific!

To top it off, I enjoyed this single bottle of Nogne O Winter Ale relaxing in the backyard while the grandkids cavorted through piles of freshly raked leaves. I may never know perfect, but I'm up to my eyeballs in good enough. Thank heaven.

Here’s what some better beer bloggers and reviewers have to say:

NY Press (I especially like this one. You think craft brewers in the U.S. have obstacles, read about what goes on in Norway for a real eye-opener!)

If you want a great laugh, if you appreciate obscure references to the band “Sexual Chocolate,” or if you just want to hear two Hawaiian dudes try to pronounce Nogne O, go to the Two Beer Queers review of Winter Ale. If you don’t save their site as a favorite, Norse raiders will pluck your nose hair while you sleep!

For an obscure reference to Bing Crosby, check out this review of Winter Ale at Spokane Food Blog.

Frequent abusers here will know that I’m no fan of Dogfish Head and their recitative attempts at uber-quirkiness. I rarely buy a full six-pack or 4-pack of their product until I’ve assured myself that the contents will be palatable; their Festina Peche is no exception. I thought the bottle I sampled was miserable and evidently the beer drinking masses agree; at least the beer drinking masses that shop at the Sunflower Market just up the road from Beer Rant HQ. If you “hurry” you can buy a 4-pack of Festina Peche for the 75% reduced price of 3 bucks and change! I say “hurry” because this same stack of beer has been in the markdown bin for the last three or four months! (For the record, I love Dogfish Head’s Pumpkin beer and their Chicory Stout.)

Schadenfreude? Perhaps. But I’m gratified to see that my beer tastes are pretty much in line with most of the drinking public, especially when it comes to fermented orange juice concentrate. If I had to make one drunken prediction for 2010, I’d have to say that Dogfish Head will finally come out of the hallway and rejoin a classroom full of well behaved, if somewhat precocious kids. Face it; you can’t continue to fool people into buying 9, 10 and 12 dollar four packs of weird beer forever!

(Fine, I’m a Beer Jerk.)

Still looking for:
More Shiner Holiday Cheer, more Nogne O, and Pyramid Snowcap

In the tank:
Deschutes Obsidian Stout
On the desk:
Nothing but an empty Deschutes bottle.

Vote the poll, people! Vote the poll!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The garage is my fridge!

In praise of….

Cooler weather! We’re a day or two into winter 2009 and I’m already reminded of something I really like about having cooler weather; I can store beer in the garage without benefit of a real refrigerator! Hey, I’m not complicated or picky. So long as the ambient temperature out there hovers between 40 and 55 degrees, I’m okay with that.

Mind you, we don’t entertain Old Man Winter here the same way they do back east, or in the high Rockies – they’re really throwing a party for that frozen bastard on the east coast! Here, it’s finally just cool enough to be pleasant, but no snow and no frostbitten fingers! And beer that's always just on the verge of being ready to decant. (Is that a beer douche word? Probably.) Nice.

I’d hoped to post something meaningful before Christmas Eve arrived, but seeing as I’m working right through tomorrow evening after which I’ll be out at the kid’s house, it just doesn’t seem likely now.

I’m not tearing through the Christmas/Holiday beers the way I did last year. I’ve settled on a couple standards and I’m still planning to pick up some favorites from last year. Perhaps I’ll try to capture the newly sampled holiday beers after the holiday blows through. In the meantime, here's a picture or two of recent holiday conquests, including Anchor's 2009 Merry Christmas and Sam Adams Winter Lager.
I have a bottle of some nice Norwegian beer that I think I'll take to the kids house for Christmas Eve. There's also some New Belgium 2 Below, some Dundee's Festive Ale and the remainder of a six-pack of Anchor 2009 Merry Christmas - all out in the garage of course.
On the wish list: More Shiner Holiday Cheer, More Gordon Biersch Winter Bock and some Deschutes Obsidian Stout, for which I've had a strange craving lately, though it isn't a holiday or winter seasonal beer! Here's hoping you find what's on your wish list too.

As it’s likely that I won’t be back on here until after Christmas Day, my very warmest Christmas wishes to you and yours.

In the tank:
Nothing. Some of us still have to get up at 3:30 tomorrow morning to go to work!
On the desk:
Nothing. Some of us still have to get up...oh, I already said that.

Be sure to vote in the “gimmick poll.”

Sunday, December 20, 2009

"Douche" is such a harsh word...

When you mock the macrobrews and those who drink them, remember that there once was a time when we had no choice!

First, thank you so much to the bloggers who dropped by to comment about the last post. My sentiments come from the heart, truly. Please feel like you can put your feet on the coffee table here, anytime!

Now to today’s point: Since my last post about Beer Rant's 20 followers, I’ve had a new joiner who runs the blog LOST in the beer aisle. (Great title, by the way.)

A recent post there seeks to know the traits that make a “beer douche” and I made a point of adding my comment, which I’ll try to replicate here with some detail.

I consider anyone who flatly refuses to drink a macrobrew a “beer douche.” Now, before you tune me out or try to send a pipe bomb to Beer Rant HQ, let me explain.

"Back, when I was a young trooper coming up through the ranks..."
Some of you younger folk, the sort who have had craft beers and micro brews available to you all through your drinking years, don’t know what it was like to spend your early beer drinking days drinking the likes of Miller, Coors, Budweiser, A1 and Milwaukee’s Best. I do. Simply put: macrobrews don’t have the same foul, onerous baggage for those of us who were given no other option back in the day.

I drank stolen A1 beer before I was of legal drinking age. I cut my teeth on Miller High Life. I packed my belongings in empty Ranier beer 12-pack boxes when I last moved from Colorado to Arizona in 1988 (about the time the craft beer renaissance was getting off the ground, I might add). Fact is, there wasn’t anything else to drink back then and, to coin an old phrase from the poor side of the tracks: “Oatmeal is better than no meal.”

There used to be a saying to define loyalty that went something like, “you dance with the one who brought you.” Well, for better or worse, Coors and Miller (and some brewers who no longer exist) got me where I am today. I’m more than happy to toss a few bucks their way now and then and I definitely won’t turn up my nose at them if I show up at someone else’s picnic to find them in the ice chest.

One new feature going forward:
I’m going to try to let readers know what I’m drinking or have been drinking when I post. (Not that it matters, perhaps, but maybe I can clue you in on beers I’ve tried, even if I don’t get around to actually doing a post about them.) “In the tank” means I’ve sampled that particular beer that day. “In the glass” means it’s on the desk in front of me as I write.

What I’m drinking today:
In the tank: Pickled Santa
In the Glass: Dundee’s Festive Ale

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Please! A Little Recognition for the Followers Here!

A few weeks ago, when my list of “followers” stood at about 17 or 18, I mentioned that I would one day get around to mentioning all of them individually. Well, by some miracle, my list of followers has jumped to 20 and I suspect I’d better get around to sending a shout out to each of them – especially those who also blog – before the number jumps back down to 3…or spikes to 30 (yeah, right). I hope that some of you have gotten inspiration from Beer Rant in the same way that I’ve gained inspiration from your work.

Cracker is a fellow traveler on the Internet Superhighway who I first ran into on the great site Beer Reviews Online. He’s a quick wit and we orchestrated a beer trade a year or so back. He’s a recent addition to the follower’s list here at Beer Rant and I’m honored he’s chosen to do so. You can see his frequent comments at Beer Reviews Online. I think Cracker is nearly the all-time most prodigious beer reviewer on BRO. Well he’s close.

'Chipper' Dave is a widely followed beer blogger in Colorado. His work strikes me as a good deal more professional than the junk I post here at Beer Rant so I often go to his blog for newsy posts. I seem to recall it was at his site that I first became aware of the Beer Mapping Project. Some day I hope to cross paths with him when I visit Colorado, but in the meantime, it’s a pleasure to know that he drops in here from time to time.

The Beer Babe is another beer blogger that I put in the “more professional” category. If memory serves me, I think I first happened across her blog through the Aleuminati beer social network site. In any event, she’s developed into an accomplished beer writer and, while I doubt she consults Beer Rant for good, industry-related stories, I’m happy to know she follows what goes on here and drops by to visit now and then.

Kelly calls his site The Beer Bitch, though I’d say the reviews there are very level headed and not the least bit bitchy. I particularly like the consistent rating system he uses on the blog and rather wish I had the same discipline and spine to offer more than my tepid “wouldn’t buy this one again” negative comments when I sample a stinker. Another plus is the list of reviewed beers by brewery – pretty handy and a feature I’m tempted to rip off so be forewarned and know that I told everyone I was planning to do it right here!

Aaron Walton is chief cook and bottle washer at B(eer)log and easily my favorite thing about his beer blog are the photos. (Little surprise there since he also has a blog called Aaron Walton: The Photography of Aaron Walton.) In late 2008 one of my resolutions was to try to use as many of my own beer images here at Beer Rant as I could and not pirate beer pictures off the web; my photography skills are lacking but I’ve stuck to this commitment the best that I know how for better or worse. Over at B(eer)log, it’s a similar situation with the only difference being, the pictures are really, really great! If I were going to write a beer book, I’d ask Aaron Walton to shoot the photos for it. If I were a craft brewer trying to break into the business and get my product and image out there, Aaron Walker’s pictures would be in my slick promotional brochures and flyers. Okay, I’ve gushed enough. I hope he’s not just a follower here but I hope he does drop in now and then.

Mike “Mikey” Riedel scribes over at Utah Beer and he’s on the cutting edge of what goes on beer-wise in the Beehive State. (Actually, it was through his blog that I became aware of the book Beer in the Beehive, which I later managed to track down at Red Rock Brewing in Salt Lake City.) Frankly, I don’t know how he manages to keep up with all the news up there but it’s pretty clear he has really good connections or contacts in the world of brewing, especially in the greater Salt Lake City area. If numbers in the current poll continue the way they are and I’m in need of guest columnists for Beer Rant, I’ll be barking up Mikey’s tree shortly after the New Year and when I finally follow through on forming a consortium of rocky mountain beer bloggers, I’ll be asking Mikey to sign on.

Good Burp is run by another beer blogger in the Phoenix area and here you’ll get a good notion of what makes a beer drinker and blogger tick. G.B. isn’t afraid to pull any punches when pointing out poor service at a booze retailer or sampling stinky beer. G.B. is another blogger who I'll likely be asking for a guest post if the current polling numbers continue trending the way they are at the moment.

J.K. Wise runs Highway to Ale and I’ve got to confess that, up until a month or so ago, I was unable to enter the blog – computer kept giving me some odd error message. Now that I’m able to get in, I appreciate it as a terrific site and am thankful to have J.K. as a follower.

The folks at True Brew Blog are home brewers and I suspect they’re doing a lot of brewing and not a ton of blog posting. I hope they’ll come back with some hair raising tales of seasonal winter brewing to jumpstart things but for now, I just hope they’re dropping in here at Beer Rant now and then since they were kind (and brave) enough to publicly admit they are “followers” here.

I became aware of Musings of a Smartass because Virgil G posted a request that other bloggers drink and comment on beers during Smartass’s medically ordered sabbatical from the suds. I think I drank a Kona Pipeline Porter for Smartass and have since visited his blog several times. His work is often too cerebral for a lout like me but a recent post about moving a refrigerator is classic and event a knot head like me can grasp the humor! To think that someone as smart as Smartass bothers to visit Beer Rant once in awhile boggles the brain.

A Journey Through Beer is a beer blog started up by my son-in-law, the Marine. Simply put, I’d have to say that I think his Journey Through Beer has been interrupted by children. He doesn’t post as often as he’d probably like but he was gracious enough to sign on as a follower to Beer Rant, so I’m just going to have to cut him some slack. In any event, the sorts of trouble I give him on his blog are nothing compared to the grief he gets when he shows up here at Beer Rant HQ. (It’s a father-in-laws prerogative to berate the son-in-law, isn’t it?)

Rhyan and Nick run Adventures in Making Beer and it’s possible I first crossed paths with them in connection with one of my (two) attempts to brew beer using the Mr. Beer set-up but I’m not positive. Rhyan is one of those most avid of beer converts, having only just first sampled beer in January of this year! Yet in those short few months, he’s taken to brewing the stuff himself. Check out their older posts to see a rundown of their beer brewing and beer blogging goals. Lofty? I think not. Certainly doable. Sign on as a follower so they can make their goal of having 20 followers! I did.

Virgil, the trucker hat guy, runs Vbg-log, which is the site through which I became aware of Musings of a Smartass (see above). I think Vbg-log was one of the first beer blogs I encountered on the web and likely it was one reason I decided I’d like to try my hand at beer-blogging, too. To know that Virgil’s tire tracks can be found here at Beer Rant now and then is a reassuring thing to me somehow.

Whitney blogs at Whitney Thinks and more frequently at the Mother Daughter Diet Diary. I have a suspicion Whitney happened into the Beer Rant neighborhood strictly by chance. I’ve not seen many comments from her, though she did leave a very kind offer to send Shiner on my son-in-law’s blog and for that, I’m sure she ranks as good beer folk.

Steven runs a blog called Striving for the Crown but it’s only open to members. I’d lightly tap on the door to see if I could gain entrance, but I have a terrible fear of rejection. Just know that I’m happy that Steven drops in at Beer Rant from time to time and I’m happier still to know that he’s man enough to admit it by being listed as a follower here.

Of the twenty kind souls who’ve confessed to being followers of Beer Rant, five don’t list a blog of their own on their Google profile, so to Matt and Scott, to J. Tingle and David Rife and also to Brewme_SLC, I can only send my thanks and appreciation.

Strangely enough, about two weeks ago, when my follower list stood at 18 or 19 followers, I silently said to myself that it would be nice if I could sign on 20 followers before the end of 2009. Well, it happened and probably through no great feat of endeavor on my part. I just get on here now and then to blow smoke about beer or beer drinking. But know this: followers may come and go and it’s possible that as this big dizzy orb of ours continues to spin you may one day fall away as followers of Beer Rant and likely as not it’ll be because I’ve said something really stupid, but until that time, thank you for signing on for the trip.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Holidays to you all.

Reminder: Vote in the Gimmick Poll to see what stupid thing ought to be the driving force behind Beer Rant in 2010. I might just follow up on the majority decision...or not.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Gotta Getta Gimmick!

I've touched briefly on the gimmicky stuff the big brewers are doing to remain in the public eye (color changing cans, "smooth pour" bottles, and so forth) and I'm thinking that Beer Rant might need a gimmick going into the new year.

I've posted a poll (to the left) seeking some input. Perhaps I could try to drink only beers from the western or rocky mountain states. Maybe I could boycott a particular state altogether. Perhaps you'd like to read a serialized fictional story with beer as the primary plot line. (I haven't given this one a lot of thought but I think it could be done.) Could be you're sick of my stuff and you'd like to see some real talent come in and post guest columns now and then.

Cast your vote between now and the first part of January. If you've got some other suggestion, leave a comment for this post. I'm not sure I'll have the fortitude to carry though with a gimmicky new year's resolution but we'll see.
(I think this is the 125th post at Beer Rant....just saying.)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Good Thing

This will be short.

I want to get the word out about an event called Arizona Strings, that involves buying and drinking Sierra Nevada products (in the Phoenix area) and seeing proceeds from your purchase to go benefit Operation HomeFront.

The event is only being held at certain venues in the greater Phoenix area this coming Friday but you can find a list of participating watering holes at the Arizona Strings website.
I’m proud of the folks at Sierra Nevada for doing this great thing. I’ve already sampled some of the 2009 vintage of their Celebration Ale and by golly I’ll do so again on December 4th!

Drinking great beer and helping an outstanding cause. What could be better?

Colorado Beer Facts

Denver Colorado Beer Facts