Saturday, November 27, 2010

In Praise of...Brew Masters on Discovery Channel

Watch it!

This is just a quick post to get out ahead of Sunday night’s television lineup.

Mrs. BeerRant and I watched the first episode of Discovery Channel's Brew Masters this morning – TiVoed from a week ago or earlier.

I like it, A LOT. Mrs. BeerRant liked it too (and she’s way pickier than me when it comes to television watching. Picking husbands? Eh, not so much, I guess. Lucky for me.)

I’ve gone on at length here about my feelings regarding Dogfish Head’s brews. For my previous posts about DFH Brewing go HERE. I’ve tried one of their raisin concoctions, a peach disaster, an IPA, a chicory stout, an Indian brown ale and their pumpkin beer. I like the chicory, the brown ale and the pumpkin beer, which puts them at a 50% success rate in my book. (No reason to give up on someone at 50%, hell if that was the case Mrs. BeerRant would have left me years ago!) Bottom line: I like enough of their beers to continue trying them simply on their record alone, but factor in the personality behind the brewery and I’m always willing to give them a shot. So far, the series Brew Masters is at 100 percent.

I think you’ll find that the first episode of Brew Masters shows Sam Calagione to be a personable, fun-loving but hard-working guy; an image you probably picked up on in the documentary film Beer Wars, as well.

Now, the question that pops into my head is whether there’s just a bit of the Emperor’s New Clothes at work during the tasting session, in which all the folks gush over the release of Bitches Brew brewed in honor of the anniversary of the Mile’s Davis album of the same name from the 1970s. I’ve often tasted beer in front of the brewer and, though I didn’t think it was top notch, I’ve said it was good – that’s a weakness of mine and I rarely put myself in that position these days, preferring to spout off here where I can go all “beer jerk” if I don’t like a particular beer. Anyhow, I wonder if Sam got the same sort of feedback when he developed that travesty that is known as Festina Peche. Ugh.

Okay, back on track…

I really, really liked Brew Masters and we’ll set up the old TiVo to catch the next episode. Rather than read any more of my blather, here’s what the cool kids say about the show:

Brew Public
I especially like this write up because it mentions something I noticed when watching the first episode of Brew Masters: The Blue Moon commercials. As I’d suspected, the craft beer literati and the microbrew snobs have come out retching and kvetching about this. Never mind that in the first episode of Brew Masters, we were shown what a small percentage of the beer market is actually occupied by the likes of Dogfish Head Brewing. So you don’t like Coors. So you don’t like Blue Moon. Fine. Shut the fuck up, drink your $9/four pack beer and let the unwashed masses underwrite your beer-related television viewing entertainments through their purchases of the vastly cheaper beers made by the likes of Coors. (Cheaper and less inspiring, for sure.) Or, show some testicles and boycott the damned show, boycott Dogfish Head, boycott Coors and boycott the Discovery Channel. If not, at least shut the fuck up.

The Brew Lounge
One of the comments posted at this blog takes a swipe at the inaugural episodes rap-music fixation, perhaps having forgotten that the beer being brewed is to honor the re-release of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew by Sony Records. (Or something…)

Wall Street Journal
I don’t actually read the Wall Street Journal much.

Here’s what Beer Advocate posted about Brew Masters.

I’m bushed. Must be all the turkey I’ve eaten the last day or so….or the beer.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Beaver Creek and Colorado Native

Been in a bit of a funk of late – thankfully not for lack of good people around me. There’s just this sort of self-starting internal glumness that settles in now and then, accompanied by a bit of writer’s block (if I may be so bold as to call myself a “writer” for hell’s sake) and no matter whom you’re around or where you go, the pervasive gloominess hangs on for some reason.

Well, in spite of all that there are a couple of neat things to relate here at BeerRant, so I’ll be about it before this shadiness, this crankiness gets worse.


I rarely venture far outside the greater Phoenix area and when I do it’s almost always work related. A jaunt up I-17 to Flagstaff the last month of October was no exception. I spoke at a conference near the NAU campus on a Thursday afternoon and made a trip out of it, attending the conference all day Thursday and half of Friday. But what to do with my spare time on Thursday night? I did a bit of research on local brewpubs and by the time I’d arrived Thursday morning I’d pretty well determined that I would walk over to Beaver Street Brewery, just up the street from the conference center and the NAU campus.

It was dark by the time I set out from the conference center to make my way the two or three blocks to find Beaver Street Brewery’s operation. (I’d stopped to chat with other conference attendees and share an overpriced bottle of Fat Tire before heading off on my own.) I negotiated some road construction in the dark and managed to find Beaver Street with little difficulty. I was seated promptly and had menus in hand immediately. I kept one eye on the world series game while I scanned the menu to make my selections. Bowl of chili and a pint of their R&R Oatmeal Stout. I didn’t have my Beer Engineer’s Field Book during this trip, but a 3x5 index card made a nice substitute. Here’s what I jotted on that card:
R&R Stout. Dark/opaque with a sturdy head. Faint hint of chocolate in the smell and noticeable in the taste. Every bit as good as [Deschutes’] Obsidian Stout. Heavy lacing.

Every bit as good as Obsidian Stout. What higher endorsement do you need, people? The chili was darned good as well and the cornbread muffin – oh yes. I apologize there isn't a picture of this sturdy stout.

During my meal I spied a sign on the back bar advertising something called Lumberyard Red in cans. Thinking I’d likely need a beer or two back at the hotel, I asked the waitress if they had any package beers cold, when she replied in the affirmative, I had her add a 12-pack of the Lumberyard to my tab, then I settled up and made my way back to the hotel where I watched a couple more innings of the world series before changing over to a Charlie Brown classic. I sampled the Lumberyard there in the hotel and am happy to report that I can recommend it as well. I’ll give a better set of tasting notes soon.

I'll go back to Flagstaff as soon as I can, and when I do, I hope to be able to visit Beaver Street Brewery again.


When I first sampled Colorado Native Lager during my visit “back home” this summer, I wasn’t aware that it was a Coors product. I liked it then and I like it now, and perhaps I like it even more (you’ll see why in a second). You’ll see in the blog posts I made regarding the Colorado trip, I didn’t make reference to Colorado Native. Well I sampled it at a Baker Street Pub and snapped a photo with my phone camera, which I can’t download. I do have notes in this here Beer Engineer Field Book and the notes indicate I sampled CNL on two consecutive days. On July 21st I noted that it was “a bit dark for a lager” with a “faintly roasted taste…” and on July 22nd I played pool with my nephew and drank Colorado Native Lager along with some Black Butte Porter and some Mirror Pond Pale Ale. Good company.

More recently, I was chatting with my brother who was in Colorado the same time I was and he raved about a local beer he discovered in Vail or Winter Park or some such place. (I never venture any farther than Clear Creek County when I get to Colorado.) Turns out he was talking about Colorado Native Lager!

I like Colorado Native Lager just fine, I liked it before I knew it was basically a Coors product and I might actually like it more now that I do know it’s a Coors product. It kind of tickles me to get in another gulp of local product at the exclusion of those folks at Golden City Brewing.

Here’s the grading for Colorado Native at Beer Advocate. I wonder if all these folks know it’s a macro brew concoction.

Here's a cool blog post about Colorado Native’s label. Mentioned here is the fact that the ingredients for Colorado Native are 99.8% Colorado grown and that their back label includes something called a SnapTag. (Hmmm. I wonder what ingredients aren’t from Colorado and whether they might be able to do without them for the sake of a perfect 100% score.)

But that’s not the last word. Here's why I REALLY like Colorado Native Lager: I stumbled on a blog post at Mile High Beer. Seems the folks at CNL are going to distribute hop rhizomes to anyone who makes a request. I sent in my request and got a nice email reply. That’s cool. I hope to have that hop rhizome early next year. In the meantime, I’ll post a picture of a hop bud that I retrieved from a local hop plant up stream from the Coors plant, in Clear Creek County. (I’ll give you a hint; it’s not from a hop plant in Idaho Springs or Georgetown.)

Let’s hear if for all the Colorado Natives. (Now excuse me, I'm off to buy a Colorado Native Lager t-shirt.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stinker Alert! Buffalo Bill's Bad Batch! (Sorry)

The Jury’s In.

This year’s batch of Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale is a stinker. At least the Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale that was shipped to the Phoenix, Arizona market is a stinker.

I picked up a single of BBPA at the local Total Wine store on Saturday (not wanting to blow the dough for a full six pack in case my suspicions were confirmed) and on Sunday, I popped the top, and poured the contents to find a sour smelling, floater infested glass of tangy pumpkin ale, not at all in a league with their previous year’s efforts.

So for the 2010 historical record: A six pack of Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale purchased at Cost Plus was found to be sour smelling and tasting with intermittent flaky, paper-like floaters. A random single of Buffalo Bill’s Pumpkin Ale purchased at Total Wine was found to be sour smelling and tasting with small speck-like floaters.

Sorry Buffalo Bill. See you next year.

On a Positive Note.

In my quest for a single bottle of BBPA, I snagged a single of Lakefront Brewing’s Pumpkin Lager, remembering how enjoyed their pumpkin offering last year in Denver and a single of Abita Brewing’s Pecan Harvest (and some others) remembering with fondness a bunch of Shiner Holiday Cheer’s that I’ve enjoyed. (You remember that one from Texas that’s brewed with pecans and peaches…ah, delicious.)

I first enjoyed Lake Front’s Pumpkin Lager at a little Mexican restaurant on the west side of Denver almost a year ago exactly. The upside then was that they were having a special on this one and I originally recalled that it was on draft, but the more I think about it, the more I begin to recall that it was served in bottles. My brother-in-law was even coaxed into trying one and enjoyed it, I believe. I enjoyed it so much that when I returned from the Denver trip (last year’s Denver trip, not to be confused with this year’s Denver trip), I eagerly hunted the shelves of the local booze outlets hoping to find more, but to no avail.

Imagine my thrill at finding Lake Front Pumpkin Lager at Total Wine this past weekend. I don’t know if it was simply setting and circumstance, but my notes this time don’t measure up to that initial sampling. Here are the two separate entries.
October 7, 2009
More spice than pumpkin. Very good spiced pumpkin taste. Enjoyed as a prelude to getting my ass kicked at pool
(Did I mention that my brother-in-law is an accomplished pool player?)
October 17, 2010
Cloudy bronze. Weak head. Slightly sour smelling but with noticeable pumpkin smell. Vaguely sour, not especially spicy. Not as good as I recall it from Denver a year ago.

Indeed. I believe the October 2009 sample was all the more tasty because of the pleasant company of my brother-in-law. Setting and circumstance, people.

The notes for Pecan Harvest are certainly more hopeful than for BBPA this year and even as compared to the Lakefront Pumpkin Lager:
Copper colored with a thin head. Good – not like anything I can think of. Nutty roasted tasting – a bit rich and probably not something you’d want to drink a bunch of.

No, not a bunch, but just right if two or three is your goal for an afternoon under a tree in the back yard.

That’s it. I’ve got a busy rest of the week and a busy weekend coming up, then, this time next week I’ll be preparing for a two-day jaunt up to Flagstaff on work-related business and I’m hoping to visit Mogollon Brewing during my free time on Friday. (See them at

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Bad, Better and Best of Fall Seasonals (So Far)

Did Buffalo Bill lay an egg this year?
I’m beginning to wonder. The six pack my daughter picked up for me at the local Cost Plus store tastes a bit sour and at least one of the bottles had some unusual floaters in it. In the interest of fairness, I’ll procure a single or two at the local Total Wine and do a comparison. Is it possible that Cost Plus got the remains of last year’s batch?

On a brighter note.
Sierra Nevada’s Tumbler seasonal is at least a bit better than sour pumpkin ale. My notebook for this offering reads thus:
Definitely brown. Weak head. Has kind of a corny lager smell. A bit sour and pretty weak.

I've come to expect more from the scientists at SN Brewing and this one just doesn't measure up, I'm afraid. I'll continue to look for their Torpedo (for example) instead.

Best of the batch.
I recall first sampling New Belgium’s Hoptober on tap at the Baker Street Pub near my sister’s place outside Denver last year. It was good, though I recall being surprised because I’d expected a somewhat darker, marzen or Oktoberfest style beer, when in fact this one was just a nice, straight up hoppy, light-colored ale.
Well, this years offering (in bottles this time) is no surprise and certainly no disappointment. The notes on this one:
Pours like a pilsener – straw yellow with a white head. Strong hop notes in the smell at first. Citrus/orange taste up front. Dry. Active beading. Medium-heavy lacing. Good – better than Tumbler.

"Better than Tumbler," indeed. (Sometimes this blog damned near writes itself.) Hoptober will be one I'll stock up on and enjoy for Thanksgiving - it's never too early to consider the holiday's, is it. (At right is a shot of the Hoptober from Denver 2009)

We’re heading into the best part of the year for beer lovers, people. Brace yourself. Pace yourself!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tilt Shifting with Deschutes Hop Henge Experimental IPA

I don’t profess to be a photographer of any merit, but once in awhile I snap a picture that’s actually almost as good as the beer that’s represented. My experience with Deschutes’ Hop Henge Experimental IPA is a case in point.

Here’s a picture I took of the pour, in an admittedly contrived set up. I accentuated the pose by running it through a process called tilt shift. (You can monkey around with your own photos by visiting a cool website HERE. Enjoy. And if you use the process to doctor photos for your beer blog, please drop me a note so I can see your work, too.)

As for the beer, here’s what my notes, word for word, from back on May 6th:
Lovely pale ale color with off white head. Perfumy fragrant candy sweet faintly citrus mostly sweet. Quickly dry piney tasting and sweet. Surprisingly thick mouth feel and amply bitter. A couple weeks past its expire date of 4/16/10 but not a problem.

I’ll confess that I don’t even know if this is still available (I hope it is.). Here are some Hop Henge related posts on the web:

Why do the fatheads over at Beer Advocate feel the need to post their pictures with a caption that reads, “Displayed for educational use only; do not reuse”?

High praise over at Rate Beer, where they’ve managed to post a shot of Hop Henge in modified livery…without the worrisome disclaimer about “educational use…” but still just a bottle/label shot without a pour to actually prove they’ve ever come in contact with the a real bottle of the stuff. (It must suck to be that busy.)

Deeper into the beer sampling trenches, you’ll find this nicely done bit at The Brew Site. I especially like the comparisons from year to year.

Here are a couple more beer pictures I doctored using the tilt shift trick:

(Sigh) The Great American Beer Festival is about to kick off in Denver…I’ll be on the porch here at Beer Rant HQ…just like every other year.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Grimm Realities and Some Photos

I see that I’ve only posted about two new posts a month for the past few months. Here’s to consistency, I guess. Guess I’ll ramble on and post some pictures that I’ve had in the hopper for some time.

I’ve sampled plenty of new beers and probably some duplicates (I need to set up a spreadsheet to track what I’m trying) but nothing really jumps out at the moment. Perhaps the big news isn’t what’s in the glass so much as where it’s coming from.

Recall that I got word, third or fourth-hand, that Old World Brewery was out of their location on Lone Cactus and moving into new quarters (much) further south. Well, perhaps it’s karma or just dumb luck, but as events would have it, the new location is within a mile or two of where I ply my trade as a low-level government functionary.

I’ve never sampled beer in Mogadishu or Kabul but I’ve had a few in a now-famous hell hole called Juarez and I was served beer by a one-eyed gal at the Pine Knot Saloon near Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico, so I’ll venture that by outward appearances, the “new” Old World venue is not far off the mark, friends. The concertina wire on top of the fences in the neighborhood ought to be enough of an indicator but add a sign on the fence across the street that informs potential trespassers (and lost drunks) that the guard dog is trained to attack and, well, I rest my case. (Thank God I’m too old to be out late partying these days.) Still not convinced? Okay, how’s this: The place has bars on the friggin’ windows, people!

Still, I wish them the best in their move and I’ll drop by again (in the daylight) to see if any of the old gang is around for a tour of the new digs.

While I was in Colorado recently, my nephew raved about a new brewery opening up in Loveland, Colorado. I’ve not sampled any of their offerings but I’ve visited their website
HERE and find it’s very nice! Besides, my nephew knows his beer, so if you’re within the distribution region of Grimm Brother’s Brewery, give them a try and post me a comment here so I’ll know I haven’t been led astray.

Enjoy some pictures…..

Bell's Two Hearted Ale has got to be one of the best beer's I've tried in the last year. I frequently balk at paying $10 or more for a sixpack of beer, but not when I'm buying Two Hearted. I know it's not a "western beer" but I don't mind jumping the fence now and then when the beer his so damned good!

I first tried Blue Moon in cans during a rare visit to a local golf course. Since then, I've purchased a few of them for home consumption and I figured the first one out of the chute ought to be special so I opened the can with an old school opener and set up an ensemble pour. I'm not one for gimmicky packaging tricks but I really do think they need to develop a can opening that better replicates a bottle pour if they plan to stick with this whole can fad.

This time of year I really begin to start thinking about fall and its promise of cooler weather and shorter days. This line of though invariably leads to thoughts of Oktoberfest and Winter seasonal's and then, especially to what I think might be one of the better beer labels out there: New Belgium's Two Below. That's cold! Now, don't get me started on New Belgium's newer line of labels as exemplified by their Ranger IPA - "cheap and uninspired" are words that come to mind and if people pass up the beer because the label is lame, it won't matter how great the beer is. For the record, I've tried the Ranger (may even have done a write up here, I forget) and it's darn fine stuff, the label's just lame.

My birthday was last week and a sweet, dear friend gave me three bottles of Baltika beers from her native Russia, along with a sweet Baltika glass. Naturally I had the Porter first, but now they're all history. Here's a head shop of one of the Baltika's she gave me in year's past. I'll post a picture of the cool glass some time soon.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Catching Up: Eddies: The Documentary and Other Business

Sorry I Took So Long Ed (and Michael)
I watched Eddies: The Documentary about a week ago with my son-in-law. We lounged around his place leisurely swigging some Session Black Lager. It’s really a terrific piece of work and I hope to do a more detailed write up at a later date but except for the fact that filmmaker Michael Peterson doesn’t delve much into the history of Big Rock Brewery, I can’t find anything not to like about the work. Beer drinkers and fans of the filmmaking craft – especially amateur filmmakers – will find a lot to like here!

One noteworthy aspect of the film is the fact that it covers contestants who manage to deliver entries of varying quality and even some who completely fail to come through, so at the end there is no suspicious feeling that Peterson has tweaked the content to provide a better filmic outcome. (Winning entries are evidently not actually aired on television and I thought the sequence near the end where Eddie himself considers running one of the entries in a television spot is especially humorous and a revealing look into the mindset of corporate folks at all levels.)

You need to go to the website Eddies Documentary and have a look at the synopsis and what other folks have had to say. One commentator states that by the end of the film you’ll want to make a film and you’ll want a beer. I’d echo that sentiment and will admit that I’ve already given thought to how I might acquire bottles of Big Rock product in order to conduct a film shoot here in Arizona, USA…but how, I don’t know. I’m pretty good at laying my hands on beer, but not a filmmaker.

Last of the Colorado Notes…For Now
I covered my nice visit to Breckenridge Brewery in Denver and in that post briefly mentioned a nice visit to Tommyknocker Brewery in Idaho Springs (where I grew up in the late 1960s and early 1970s). Well I stopped there on July 20th on the way back to Denver after a day in Clear Creek County. I ate a plate of their outstanding onion rings and had a pint of their Hop Strike Black Rye IPA (Cascadia Ale to some, perhaps. See my previous musings on this style here and here.) Tommyknocker’s version of this emerging style tips the scales at 7% abv, presents an opaque brown and smells vaguely (and rightly) of grapefruit. The taste is strangely nutty and hoppy at the same time and it’s one of the better examples of this new style that I’ve tried. The waitress told me it’s only been out a month or so.

To round out the meal I enjoyed a Pick Axe Pale Ale (which I’ve had in the past and which I would enjoy again later in the Colorado trip during a lunch with my nephew and his son in Georgetown - that's when the picture was taken). Finally, to put an exclamation point on the visit, I bought a six pack of their TundraBeary to carry back down the hill to Denver. (I enjoyed that immensely, bottle by bottle over the next few days.)

Old World. New Digs?
So I’m sitting here at BeerRant HQ, checking activity on my new Facebook page (which I’ve only had a week or so) and I see a note from one of my nephew’s who says something about Old World Brewery closing down and moving. WTF?

I go to the Old World Brewery website and it’s about as nondescript as ever, so (heh, heh, heh, I’m an insider now) I click on their Facebook link and find a string of comments intimating that they’ve closed down their operation on Lone Cactus and are relocating (much) further south to the area around 25th Avenue and Van Buren.

I’m bothered by this for reasons I can’t explain. Perhaps it’s simply that I no longer have a “local” brewpub in close proximity to my house. It’s sad.

Evidently the “New” Old World will open some time in October. Eh. End of an era.
Last of the 2009 Jubelale and Goodbye to a Great Man
Drank my last bottle of the 2009 Jubelale this evening and will have done so in honor of my Uncle Buff Rutherford who passed away yesterday - gone to be with my mom (his little sister) who went on ahead just this past May 29th. Buff was a man's man, a working man and by the work, you'd know the worker: rock solid and trustworthy. The world's a little less well off today for his loss.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Breckenridge Brewery - Off On a High Note.

I’m sorry to have begun the Colorado recap on a down note, posting a “Beer Jerk” entry about Golden City Brewery. I’ve had a positive bit of feedback from a patron of theirs and that’s heartwarming. Nevertheless, my sentiment remains the same: real beer folk offer a smile and a kind word to all who enter their establishment. (That’s the operative word here, folks. The door was open. An open door signifies something in this world. I’ll let you all do the math.) What part of "Publick House" is unclear?

Now, on a more positive note, I’m at that stage where I’m mentally summarizing the things, places and people I saw in a week of Rocky Mountain memories, returning to the high mountain town where my mom was born and raised in order to allow her brothers and citizens of the town she loved so much an opportunity to say goodbye one last time in a church from 1876.

1. Everything seems smaller each time I return.
2. The summer weather, no matter how hot, entices me to stay forever, but I always know what comes around in late October.
3. A minister with a southern drawl and three missing fingers on his right hand is a fellow I want to have as the leader of my church, any day.
4. There is never enough time to see all the family.
5. Sadly, I feel more and more like a tourist each time I go back there.

I hopped off a plane about 10:30 on a Monday morning, picked up a rental car and headed toward my sister’s place on the west side of town. I’d done a bit of preliminary reconnaissance to determine that the Breckenridge Brew Pub was along the same alignment of 6th Avenue as my sister’s place, so knowing that everyone else would be at work, I made a detour to a little place on Klamath Street just south of the 6th Street alignment.

I pulled into a small side parking lot and snapped a few pictures of the outside of the building - wondering if perhaps I was too early to find them open. (Given later events in the trip, the colossal irony of this now nearly knocks me out of my chair.) The door was indeed open and I entered to find the place empty save a barman and a fellow working in the kitchen (Initially I didn’t see the back of the plant where the bottling line was chugging away mightily.) I hopped onto a stool at the bar and over the usual pleasantries the barman supplied me with a beer list and a menu. I pondered the options, perhaps too long, and settled on a pint of their Ball Park Brown and I ordered bowl of a meat soup that really turned out to be more of a stew that might easily have crossed the table in your mom’s kitchen. The Ball Park Brown presented a dark brown with a thin beige head and a thin mouth feel. It tasted a tad sour, not unlike some manifestations of Old World’s Dark Knight Porter (ah, I love the unpredictability of microbrews, don’t you?)

My host, the barman, was Stuart and, perhaps seeing my interest in the operation, he offered to walk me into the back of the building to see the tanks and the bottling line. Sweet! I gazed upon the tanks and had a peek at the bottling line, where they were just then in the process of bottling up their Vanilla Porter. Stuart stepped around to the line and, plucking a fresh bottle off the line, presented it to me as a memento of the visit. That was nice.

We returned to the bar where I had my lunch and a pint of their Oatmeal Stout. As a lead up to the pint, Stuart explained that they’ve got their stout in a nitrogen “fortified” version and a non-nitrogen version. He poured me a side-by-side sampling and the fortified version is altogether more appealing to the eye for sure and frankly the taste difference is amazing as well. The nitrogen infused stout is a good deal smoother than its non-nitrogen cousin. Stuart told me that they no longer offer growlers of the nitroginated stout because it just doesn’t pour the same once people get it home and they get a lot of wastage trying to pour it from the tap into a growler. To which I offered my theory that a growler beer requires an aggressive pour if a cash and carry customer hopes to come close to replicating a pub pour at home. Stuart seemed to agree.

As Stuart diligently went about the tasks of the typical barman (counting bottles, jotting notes, interacting with the bottling crew and trying to field the inane questions of a visitor) I finished my lunch and beers.

It was altogether a terrific first stop on the Colorado trip and a personal exchange for which I’m grateful. I mentioned the purpose of my visit and we commiserated briefly on the vagaries of life and Stuart offered condolences; all the things one would expect from any public house worth its salt. Made me wish I lived just up the street.

I just wish I’d gotten a chance to go back before catching the flight home a week later. Next time.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Golden City Brew-Ha Ha. Gimme a Coors.

Wherein a native Coloradoan gets a lesson in just how much has changed in 33 years.

I’ve returned from a trip to Colorado and, by and large, it was a nice, if somewhat poignant visit for me. Nevertheless, from the standpoint of new beers sampled and new places visited, there was one significant negative experience that I’ll relate now to get the ugliness out of the way.

Last Friday I went out of my way to find their establishment and, arriving to find an adjacent beer garden full of laughing patrons, I entered through the open front door and approached the counter where I enjoyed the pleasure of being ignored by two or three folks for a couple of minutes, while a line formed behind me – a line occupied by at least one individual who was obviously past the point of intoxication.

Eventually, a woman washing dishes in a back room leaned around the doorframe to ask, “Have you been helped?”

“No,” says I, finally hopeful that I’d gotten in with the right person in the joint. I quickly stated that I’d like a glass of stout.

“We’re closed,” came the reply from the dishwasher. The stunned look on my face must have provoked her into adding that they were only filling containers or some such. (Remember, the beer garden outside is FULL of people.)

I was still attempting to register this nugget of knowledge – and I’m sure the dumb expression on my face told the story – when a second woman, similarly clad in a red t-shirt, sauntered into view. She cast a look toward me and based on her expression I felt the impulse to further explain myself (I frankly don’t recall if she bothered to ask my business). I restated my request for a beer and then trailed off saying, “….but I understand you’re closed.”
The snotty tone of her monosyllabic reply echoes in my head even today, a full week later: “Yeah,” she said, with a sort of rising inflection at the end that implied, “what are you, a moron?”

I stammered something about the price of a t-shirt and said maybe I’d buy one, though in my mind I knew immediately that I’d never, ever purchase another Golden City Brewery product again in my life. I took the brief walk of shame toward the door and out into the fading light of a Colorado evening. My hopes of sampling a local stout dashed.

Golden City Brewery touts itself as the second largest brewery in Golden, Colorado. For now, my money will go to support the biggest brewery in Golden, Colorado because, for all their big business, stomp-the-little-guy swagger, Coors still makes decent beer and their staff aren’t wankers – at least not in my experience.

In closing, let me state that before heading over to Golden to be ill used by the staff at Golden City Brewery, I sampled a bomber of their Mad Molly’s Brown Ale. Here are my notes, verbatim (remember, I jotted these before heading out to find Golden City Brewery):

Smells of chocolate in the bottle. Pours whiskey brown with a thin but respectable head. It’s either too carbonated or I’m using the wrong glass or both. Slightly nutty, vaguely chemical. Thin mouth feel means it works on a hot day. Not great. 4 or 5

So the one GCB beer that I did manage to purchase (at a liquor store) was okay – let’s say mediocre. But get this straight: It’s okay to make mediocre beer, perhaps it’s even okay to make bad beer if you behave like a decent human being, but if you make mediocre beer and you and your staff are jackhole’s to boot, we’re going to have problems.

Check back soon; I’ve got nice things to say about Breckenridge Brewery and Tommyknockers Brewery!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Beer Moment: Cold Beers on a Hot Patio

I’ve subtitled this as a “beer diary” from the start and with that title comes the fact that from time to time there will be some heavy baggage to carry here – or I can stop posting and cash in my chips, I guess.

I’ve been out of the loop for a month or so.

I’m growing my beard out some these days, which isn’t too unusual for me given that I try on the beard now and then just to see how gray I’m getting. (I think John Steinbeck wrote that growing a beard is the only thing a man can do better than a woman.)

Difference this time ‘round is that I’m keeping the beard for now because it’s the way I would have last appeared to my mom as she lay sick and dying in a hospital bed.

Mom passed away very suddenly on May 29th. Just about 2 months after a wonderful 80th birthday party, at which we were all blessedly oblivious to the cancer that was even then taking her away from us.

I haven’t been drinking heavily as a form of painkiller as I thought I might under the circumstances; though I have had some beers for sure. I’ve had occasion to stop off at mom’s place a time or two in the last few weeks and I always take a moment to have a cold beer out on her patio – just one, maybe two – never too much to count me out for the hour long drive back to my place. (I had coffee and donuts one morning, too by the way.) It’s good therapy, there in the shade, with the incessant heat licking at the edges of the patio cover and at the edges of my soul; watching the wildlife.

Mom was a lot of things in her life but never a quitter. She lived in France shortly after the war, she worked in the then traditionally all-male banking industry, she nursed more than one dying husband and she wrote a book. She was awesome and largely under appreciated. She’d probably be a bit disappointed that her youngest son chose to first eulogize her on a beer blog. “You learned to drink in the army,” she once admonished me.

At times like this, I think the tendency is to make wild promises about how one will lead ones life going forward. “I’ll go to church every Sunday.” “I’ll give more to charity.” “I’ll stop swearing.” “I’ll never drink again.” “I’ll only cheat at cards if I plan to give the profits to charity, while not drinking or swearing.” You get the picture.

For now, I’ll just keep the beard. Beyond that, I am what my mom made me and I’m sure that at some point she’ll tell me what needs changing. I'll get myself straightened out and post some more here soon.

Monday, May 17, 2010

American Craft Beer Week

Let me see. Last year I started off American Craft Beer Week (ACBW) with a plan to taste a new craft beer each day of the week. I promptly fell ill and didn’t finish out the effort.

This year, I’ve neglected the first day, really. I did have a Bridgeport Brewing IPA with lunch here at Beer Rant HQ but my real effort was focused on tending a couple of grandkids and helping them make a birthday present for their mommy. (Shhhh. Don't tell.)

I guess you could say I got a jump on ACBW. Friday evening I had occasion to travel to Tucson for an event at the Arizona Historical Society and luckily, Gentle Ben’s brewpub was not more than about 500 feet from the Society museum. So, after my event was over, I strolled over to Gentle Ben’s with a couple of friends and sampled their Red Cat Amber and I took a growler of their Porter home. I’ll simply say here that the Red Cat Amber was passable, but not extraordinary. The Porter on the other hand was terrific and I’ll give it a more detailed post later – perhaps later this week.

I see that Arizona’s ACBW events are primarily centered at places like Rockbottom and BJ’s around town. I’ll probably not get out to any of those venues during the work week but I do have some rare and unusual limited edition beers in the fridge, which I may crack open. (A couple of them are produced in locales that have recently proclaimed a boycott against Arizona, so they may be the last of their kind I sample here at Beer Rant for the foreseeable future – sorry, I can be just as spiteful and petty as the next fellow.)

You can look up Arizona ACBW events at the American Craft Beer Week website.

We’re looking down the barrel of our first 100-degree day here at Beer Rant HQ. The weatherman says Wednesday. I’ve got some winter seasonals hidden in the back of a closet here. Maybe I need to crack those open this week in honor of our hitting the century mark.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Of Hangovers, Work, Golf and the Common Cold

Been under the weather the last week or so. Had a marathon session of work-related (read: non-beer) presentations to give at a local conference in the midst of feeling a cold coming on. I didn’t help my cause any by overindulging at the local brew house a little over a week ago. All this to say I’ve shied away from the barley pop the last little bit. I even gave my free drink ticket to a co-worker during the after conference reception – not simply out of a self imposed sense of sacrifice, but because it’s not a good idea to drink in front of the bosses. Right?

I did join some fellows from work for 18 holes of golf this past Saturday – perhaps the last decent weather day we’ll have in the Phoenix area for a spell. I’ve played golf exactly once before – when I was in the Army, at a little par-3 course outside Gowen Field in Boise, Idaho. It sucked back then, but I must say I enjoyed the most recent outing and I sampled my first Blue Moon and Fat Tire from cans. I have to say I preferred the Fat Tire in the can over the Blue Moon in a can. That’s just me. The golf? I put two in the water, one in some guy’s backyard and still managed to keep a good humor.

Make That A Cascadian, Mac.
he detectives over at The Full Pint put the word out on Cascadian Dark Ale. There’s that emerging beer trend we were talking about. I note with interest that the bottle dating is a “best before” date, which means I’m even more inclined to find a small refrigerator to cellar all these creations.

Rare and Unusual
’ve got three dandy looking prospects in the fridge waiting to be sampled: Avery’s Brabant Barrel-Aged Wild Ale, Deschutes 2009 Abyss and Sierra Nevada’s 30th Anniversary Stout. The Abyss may have to wait a spell but I’m eager to pop the top on the Sierra Nevada anniversary stuff. As for the Avery, well I bought it on false pretenses at Total Wine – not knowing it was 9 bucks for a 12-ounce bottle until I’d already checked out. Probably my last big beer fling if things keep going the way they have been. Look folks, the economy’s in the crapper, the whole nation is down on Arizona, I’ll likely have to resort to drinking only Arizona beers in retaliation and lately it seems I’m drinking more and enjoying it less that ever before. I need to back up and regroup a bit here.

Maybe that’s just the Alka-Seltzer night nurse talking.

Work Yet To Be Done...

Yes, I’m going to get ‘round to posting a review of Eddies: The Documentary. Oh hell yes, I will.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Old World Beers Out in the Big World!

I neglected to mention that during our recent foray to the Scottsdale Whole Foods Market a few weeks back, I espied bottles of Old World Brewing product on the shelf.

Hmmm. What do I see on that shelf, cozied up next to the likes of Pabst Blue Ribbon, Rogue's Dead Guy, and Sonoran Victory IPA, Corona and Bud Light Lime? Why it's Old World's Irish Red Ale, Nitro Blonde Ale, Old World Wit and Dark Knight Porter. Literally a style to suit any taste.

I guess that little brewery just off the airstrip at Deer Valley is really coming into its own. Reminds me, it's been a month or more since I stopped in for a glass of something cold. That's too long. But if I continue to see their beers on more store shelves around town, will I drop into the tap room as frequently if I can just buy bombers at the store? No worry there. Seems like the best of both worlds.


Monday, April 12, 2010

"Cascadia Dark Ale," people! Let's hear it!

I wonder if Germans in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries were aware of new and emerging beer styles. Given that in those days people were often born, lived and died without having traveled more than a few miles from their homes, I suspect that folks just drank what they were given and they liked it or hated it without much regard for what was “emerging” elsewhere in the country or on the continent. (I use this period and location as a general illustration; certainly the same could be asked about folks living in England, Ireland, Scotland – anywhere.)

We’re a lot more plugged in now – for better or worse; I have to remind myself to shut off the 24-hour news when I’m around Beer Rant HQ. A phrase or expression dropped in friendly conversation can find its way ‘round the earth in no time and don’t get me started on the whole viral video thing. It makes an old-timer’s head spin. I sometimes wish I could have been born, live and die within a few miles of where I was born.

In any event, a phrase from the Deschutes Brewing Brand Ambassador a couple of weeks ago, has stuck in my mind and, I’ve stumbled onto it again in my Internet travels. I’m a little late to the party, but dare I say that I smell an emerging beer style on the horizon.

First, a related Quick Riff:

Widmer Brothers
W ’10 Pitch Black IPA

Dark coffee color but not opaque with a robust beige head. Smells faintly of grapefruit but not like an IPA. There is a balanced maltiness and hoppiness. Looks like a stout, labeled like an IPA but really neither.

I’ll admit this isn’t much of a review but bear in mind that this sampling was done on March 14th, 2010, before my conversation with Erik Frank, the Deschutes Brand Ambassador. In that brief discussion, Mr. Frank made mention of a new style akin to a dark IPA and he used the term “cascadia.” Hmmm.

Go back to my comment that Widmer’s Pitch Black IPA is neither a stout (though it looks every bit the part) nor an IPA (though it did have hints of hoppiness and a grapefruit smell).

Now, jump over to a post that Lisa Morrison recently made at
Hop Press. Ms. Morrison – in very few words – sums up the emerging “Black IPA” or “Cascadia” style and she makes an excellent argument for enshrining this as a distinct style. I don’t cotton to the label “Black IPA” since the name IPA already comes with a shipload of baggage (not the least of which is the dubious history behind the origin of the style). Is the Cascadia style ready to be set apart as a separate style for beer judging – I don’t think so, yet – but if it’s dark but not a stout, and it’s hoppy but not an IPA, then what the hell is it?

I vote “Cascadian Dark Ale” or any name that includes “Cascadian” or “Cascadia.” If the danged thing originated and “emerged” in the Pacific Northwestern United States, then for heaven’s sake, call this new beer “Cascadia” something or other.

And, to bring this little commentary full circle, I’ll just say I feel like some simple blacksmith somewhere in Germany just tasting a rauchbier for the first time, or a dimwitted carpenter in Ireland who’s just taken a quaff of his first pilsner. Where do I go from here? Lord only knows, but I’m ready.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Beer Moment: Carbon Footprint. Winter Beer in Summer Climes

That stash of Norwegian Nogne O Winter Ale that I picked up for a song is living out its last days in a cabinet in the garage, but alas, the temperature here at Beer Rant HQ is consistently hitting the mid 80s and it won’t be long before the remaining Winter Ale migrates inside the house to be hidden in the back of a dark, relatively cool, closet.

On the drive home this afternoon I figured I’d better pop the top off one of those Winter Ales and once home I promptly placed one into the freezer for a prompt cool down while I proceeded to work in the yard, waiting.

I’m dry setting some pavers in a shady corner of the yard. The Japanese boxwoods that once were there are gone – failure to thrive. I figure this little niche is a nice nook for the grandkids to play and cavort and a few pavers will make a nifty little flat spot for them to do whatever 4- and 2-year olds do when they’re visiting Papaw. (Turns out I'm better at cultivating grandkids than I am at cultivating Japanese boxwoods.)

It’s pushing 86 degrees in the backyard and I’d imagine that’s as far from Norwegian climes as I’m likely to be ever in my life this time of year – dry setting pavers in the desert southwest, waiting eagerly for that dark, licorice Norwegian goodness. I didn’t finish my work – the prospect of cold beer was too enticing.

Gee, we’ve got it good in this country. Fresh bananas in northern Washington in the winter and dark, robust Norwegian Winter Ale in Arizona in April with the thermometer pushing 90 degrees!

Please spare a prayer for the folks in West Virginia – you know which ones I’m talking about – then thank God every day if you don’t make your living underground.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Deschutes' Woody Beer Wagon

Spring training baseball in sunny Arizona one week, the ski slopes of Breckenridge, Colorado the next. Tough gig, right?

Better than a beer festival....
A week ago this past Saturday I actually managed to make a beer plan come together; I managed to make time to see Woody, the Deschutes Beer Wagon at a local Whole Foods Market. I’d stumbled on a link to Woody's Twitter Feed while cruising the Deschutes website. The itinerary indicated Woody would be heading south to participate in Spring Training activities in the Phoenix area and for the next week, I feverishly schemed to figure out the best place to see the beer wagon. Spring training is the notorious hangout for snowbirds and locals who skip work to take in a few innings and some beer. There was a time when I could take a day and play hooky from work on short notice, but that luxury seems to have evaporated. Bottom line: Spring Training was out.

The nice part about the whole planning process was that I communicated frequently by email with Erik Frank, Deschutes’ Brand Ambassador and the guy who tows Woody all around this great country extolling the virtues of the various Deschutes products.

Based on the Woody Beer Wagon itinerary, I settled on a Saturday afternoon visit during a stop at the Whole Foods Market in Scottsdale. My son-in-law and I arrived early so I plated a serving of curried rice and chicken and enjoyed that with a bottle of Deschutes Inversion IPA. Ahhh. We enjoyed or lunch and stayed out of the way while Mr. Frank set up his traveling beer show. I think the Marine had some wings and an Obsidian Stout – he’s a Deschutes fanatic, too.

Now, if I go on at length about what a terrific person Deschutes has running the beer wagon, I’ll probably just come across as gushy or patronizing. Let me just put it like this: Deschutes has chosen the right man for the job as Brand Ambassador/Beer Wagon Concierge. Mr. Frank strikes me as having a balanced skill set that allows him to pour delicious samples of beer while waxing eloquent and philosophical about the Deschutes product line, then quickly packing up the show and hopping into a truck and trailer rig for a 500 mile jaunt to the next gig.

In our brief discussion with Mr. Frank, my son-in-law and I learned of some emerging trends in how hops are used in the brew and we heard tell of a new beer that Deschutes is preparing for larger release. (You lucky folks in Bend, Oregon may already be sampling it in various versions and manifestations, I don’t know.) Just as noteworthy, I sampled some Deschutes beers that I’ve yet to try: Green Lakes Organic, Hop Henge, and….The Abyss, which is ranked in the top 5 beers in the universe and rightly so I can say based just on a couple of samples last week. As a result of those samples, I bought a six-pack of the Green Lakes Organic and a bottle of The Abyss. Let’s talk about the Abyss – or rather, let’s see what some others have had to say; my sampling was not conducive to a decent review but you know I bought a bottle so that should be endorsement enough.

….lest the abyss gaze into thee.
The Abyss ranks a formidable A+ on Beer Advocate based on ratings from the masses. (The fact that “the brothers” have yet to review this beer just floors me. Are they that broke that they have to wait to be sent free beer to sample – even when others rate the beer so high? Geez. I’ll probably go all Beer Jerk one of these days and spell out my thoughts on the current trend in beer mooching, but not here, not today.)

Hedonist Beer Jive had nice things to say about The Abyss – and the commentary regarding packaging gimmicks hits close to my heart. When it comes to beer labels, I’m a sucker for foil-wrapped, glitter-encrusted gewgaws!

There’s very recent commentary regarding The Abyss over at The Next Bar Stool and a three-year old post at Beervana. I’m curious to know if the reviewer at Beervana got around to trying The Abyss a year or two later. I can attest that the 2009 version we sampled is completely ready for prime time, despite the fact that the label indicates it’s actually best AFTER November 1, 2010. I’m thinking I’ll try this bottle soon and pick up another one for storing.

My only regret is that I failed to sample the Mirror Mirror – admittedly because I have a prejudice against barleywine style beers. I’ll wear my shame like a carbuncle until the day I can overcome this sad bias, but rest assured I will because some of you will recall that there once was a day when I disliked IPAs.

Brand Ambassador. I can’t define it, but I know one when I see one and Deschutes has one pulling that Woody Beer Wagon. Happy trails Erik Frank. And thank you Deschutes for more great beer.

(I’ll post something on Hop Henge and the Green Lakes Organic in the future. I’m off to see those grandkids now!)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Racer 5 IPA: Tipped in Honor of Alan Kulwicki

I still owe you a write up on my visit to the Deschutes Woody Beer Wagon appearance at Whole Foods in Scottsdale but in the meantime, today is a special day to remember a champion.


On this date in 1995, Alan Kulwicki, the reigning Winston Cup stock car racing champion was killed in a plane crash en route to a race in Bristol, Tennessee. (Talk about a hideous April Fool's joke.)

Kulwicki will arguably be the last owner/driver in NASCAR’s top series to have meaningful success. (My apologies to fans of Ricky Rudd - of which I am one for sure - who made a decent go of it. My apologies to fans of Robbie Gordon but your deluding yourselves since Robbie is more interested in racing off-road. My apologies to fans of Tony Stewart who, although he is an owner/driver who could still conceivably win a championship, he won’t be held in the same esteem as the likes of Kulwicki who won the 1994 championship with a colossally under funded team. Indeed, Kulwicki was such an underdog, he scratched off the letter “T” in the word Thunderbird on the front of his racecar so that it read “Underbird.” Adding a flourish, he had an image of Mighty Mouse affixed to the front of the car as well. One more somewhat chilling bit of history: when one of Kulwicki’s cars was undergoing restoration several years after his death and after it had been run by another race team, workers found a Saint Christopher medal tucked inside the lining of the driver’s seat. The medal was later confirmed to have been placed there when Kulwicki owned the car.)

So today, I tip a mug of Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA in honor of Alan Kulwicki, a NASCAR champion taken out at the height of his success. In many ways, Alan is like so many craft brewers out there taking a big swing at the pinata for the little guy. God bless all of you.

It might have been more appropriate to tip back some Big Boss Porter in honor of Alan’s Polish heritage, but alas, there was no Big Boss available. We work with what were given here at Beer Rant HQ – just like Alan Kulwicki did.

Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA
Has a distinct piney/citrus smell. It’s bottle conditioned and you can see the sediment in the bottle, though my sample was from a ceramic mug, so I don’t have any information regarding color or clarity. Taste is sweet and candy-like. A decent representation of the IPA style but not sure I’d rush out to find more unless I was doing an IPA-tribute sampling because it only seems to be available in bombers.

Promise: A post on the Deschutes Woody Beer Wagon is in the works but in the meantime, Beer Rant’s mom turns 80 this weekend so you know where I’ll be!

Monday, March 22, 2010

One Last Time: Cinder Cone Red, People!

I’ll confess: if I was ever seriously inclined to switch this blog to a fan site devoted solely to one brewer, I think that brewer would be Deschutes Brewing in Oregon. (Sorry local guys – I love you too though.) But with that said, I swear, this will be the last time I go on at length about Cinder Cone Red.

Since no side-by-side comparison is possible, I’ve gone back and compared notes for both the Cinder Cone Red and the Red Chair.

The first entry I have for the old Cinder Cone Red is dated June 28, 2008 and it reads simply:
“Deschutes Cinder Cone Red. 5.4 abv. Seasonal ale. Vegetable smell in the bottle. Dark red, active beading. Nice cream colored head. Sweet taste with hints of caramel or maybe licorice? I like everything I’ve tried from this brewer!”

The next entry for CCR appeared on August 2nd, 2008 under the heading “Beer Pairing.” I evidently thought it would be a good idea to try CCR with chocolate. My notes read: “Cinder Cone Red and Norwegian chocolate. Tastes a bit like chocolate pie! Very good.”

My first sampling of Red Chair is noted in an entry dated November 22, 2009, wherein I wrote:
“Deschutes Brewing Red Chair IPA* (Bomber 1 pt 6 oz). Beautiful orange amber color with a foamy beige/orange head (aggressively poured). Correct pine-citrus smell. Dry from the start and definitely hop driven but (as the label claims) not overly bitter. Despite a relatively low 6.4% abv there is a warming characteristic here. I didn’t originally like IPA’s when I began paying attention to beer. Now I find I like IPA’s if the abv is within a reasonable range and even if a particular IPA isn’t something I like, I can now at least tell if it’s a faithful representation of the style. Red Chair IPA is both: it’s a great beer and it represents the IPA style. Another hit for Deschutes!”

(*You’ll note that the first entry was for a sampling of the Red Chair IPA, not the Red Chair NWPA. The IPA was part of Deschutes’ Bond Street Series.)

The next entry for Red Chair (this time the Northwest Pale Ale) is on March 15, 2010 wherein I wrote:
“Light bronze with ample off-white head. Smells fruity but not of citrus. More like a faintly sweet apricot or peach. Quite malty. Mouth feel a bit thicker than you might expect. A faint hop bitterness emerges at the finish.”

I should point out that this entry was made after I learned that Red Chair was replacing Cinder Cone as Deschutes’ spring seasonal.

I’ll miss Cinder Cone and I’d be less than honest if I said I was going to be as diligent in my efforts to track down next year’s Red Chair as I have been in tracking down past year’s Cinder Cones – eh, that’s just me. Perhaps as time and distance insinuate themselves into what was once a great friendship between me and Cinder Cone, then perhaps you’ll see me doggedly pursuing six-packs of Red Chair…next year.

Up next: Perhaps a search for Woody, the Deschutes traveling beer wagon, rumored to be in the Phoenix area in honor of Spring Training baseball!! Yeah.

For those of you who are really into beer blogs (you’re here so you must be), Deschutes has a nifty BLOG of their own. You can noodle around here and find out what’s going on at the brewery and with their beers.

Free Stuff! In my previous post I noted that the first two followers to post a comment with their mailing address would receive a complimentary copy of the documentary film Eddies: The Documentary. I won't post addresses, but I'll pass them along to the filmmaker who will mail you copies directly from Canada.

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