There is nothing more iconic about beer and Baltimore than National Bohemian Beer and the one-eyed, handlebar-mustachioed Boh man.Read More
Maybe, just maybe, if you buy Silvia a beer or schnapps she will serenade your table for a while. What could be better on a sunny day in the biergarten with a fine German beer in hand?Read More
So, there I am, standing in line with hundreds of Dogfish minions waiting for the WOCAAW gates to open. And then here comes Sam, grinning with his characteristic huge smile, greeting his peeps as he goes, offering high fives all around. I hold out my book and ask him to sign it for me, and...Read More
My brother and I were standing in the back of the bar looking across the room when a young man with a hard hat walked through the brightness of the door and then up to the bar. The helmet on his head shined from the lamp above the brim. I told my brother, I don't know what, but that is a great scene for a joke.Read More
The Blue Tusk is a place to go for some of the best beers from around the world. All About Beer included it in the 125 Places To Have A Beer Before You Die. It was also listed in the 2010 Beer Traveler issue, 150 Beer Bars.Read More
Homebrewing? Why would I when I have a fridge (plus several boxes in the cellar) full of excellent beer. But still, the call of the kettle is alluring.Read More
They wanted dinner but I wanted to take them on a ride into history on the oldest continuously operating ferry in U.S. history. What we discovered was good food with lots of character and the beginnings of a new beer phenomenon.Read More
I had learned already never to empty the well of my writing, but always to stop when there was still something there in the deep part of the well, and let it refill at night from the springs that fed it.Read More
Three Things — three questions for you to ponder and consider extemporaneously from your perspective, as we look ahead to what this year, and beyond, will bring to the world of beer.Read More
As a drinker of good beer I have had an interest in aging beer. While exploring the Untappd app, I discovered the Lists feature which proved as an excellent beer cellaring journal.Read More
Oud bruin is an “old ale” tradition, indigenous to East Flanders, typified by the products of the Liefman brewery, which has roots back to the 1600s. Historically brewed as a “provision beer” that would develop some sourness as it aged.Read More
This episode of The Session again takes us all around the world — Burma, Bend OR, San Francisco via Portland OR, Belgium, San Jose CA, into many ventures and experiences of the Bottle Shop: Good, Bad & The Ugly.Read More
As I read and study and practice all things beer, I've come to have a more keen awareness of bottle shops. Not only the one where I work but those that I've added to my network of stops along the way.Read More
I hear it every year, "What, Oktoberfest beers in August? It's too soon!"Read More
My first encounter with a New England IPA was a gift from a friend. It was like a drug deal from the back of a mini van.Read More
THE SESSION #125— BEER BLOGGING FRIDAY The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry.
This month's theme is SMaSH Beers and is hosted by Mark Linders at Bend Beer Librarian. The question posted by Mark is SMaSH beers (single malt, single hop).
Really, There is a SMASH Beer
I enjoy the topics that people come up with for these BEER BLOGGING FRIDAY themes. Sometimes the strike a familiar cord and I can't wait to jump in and begin sharing my thoughts on whatever the topic chosen. Then other times, I have to admit, I simply let the theme go, like a gentle breeze that was here and it's gone. Then there are even some times I'll begin writing with some clever — I think it's clever — take on the chosen topic, never to finish it. I hate that, but it happens all to often.
But SMASH beer? I thought I'd heard of everything under the beery sun but that... is it a term, a style, a joke? Mark obviously is a home brewer and SMASH beers seem to be a style that is popular among that group. So I had to do a bit of research beyond what Mark had provided in is introduction.
Rate Beer knows that SMASH is a real thing! They list 50 beers under the label of SMASH beers.
I can say I haven't had any of these beers noted as SMaSH beers. Nor do I think I could find any at my local beery shops. That isn't to say that I haven't had a single malt, single hop beer, it's just that it wasn't identified as such. Honestly, I've seen brewers promote the fact that they were multi-malt and multi-hop more often. Southern Tier is an excellent example.
Draft Magazine declares the perfect SMASH six-pack in their Sixer: SMaSH beers piece. Of these six, three were ID of SMASH and three did not. So perhaps I have had a SMASH beer and didn't know it.
Reviewing my list of unique beers tasted on my Untappd account, I didn't find anything referencing a SMASH beer. Entering "smash" into the Search and scrolling through that list, I didn't I'd any that I've had nor would have easy access to.
So, my conclusion is this:
- I didn't know SMaSH beer was a style — formal or otherwise — but I do now it is
- I do know that when I see one, I will very intentionally try it
- And perhaps I will update my notes for this writing when I have this new expanded thinking of SMASH
THE SESSION #122— BEER BLOGGING FRIDAY The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry.
This month's theme is Views on Imported Beer and is hosted by Christopher Barnes at I Think About Beer. The question posted by Christopher is based on the writer's location, either North America or otherwise:
- For American and Canadians: What place do imported beers (traditional European) have in a craft beer market?
- For Non North Americans: How are American beers (imported into YOUR country) viewed? What is their place in your market?
In The Beginning
It seems like so long ago now, probably because it was, when I first began exploring the world of beer. It wasn't anything like a study, but a casual curiosity. A good beer was Michelob, a special beer was Becks. I felt the need to stand out from my peers, so mine was the dark one. Imports were premium beers — for those who wanted to treat themselves to the finer things. I still remember my beer epiphany, the moment I had a really good beer. I've written about this before, but I do like to think about it again. A bar in Baltimore, a bit of time before a weekend conference, a bartender perhaps wanting to upsell me. Nonetheless, I was interested in learning more. So he suggested this English beer, Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale. Smitten, I was. After that, nothing was the same. It was difficult to find this beer, but I did. It was more expensive than my normal beer. So it was on special occasions I would bring home a 500 ml. bottle. That must have been around 1991.
I began working in a local fine wine, beer and spirits shop that was opening just a few minutes from my house just over nine years ago. It was a move to help pay some schooling bills and thought to be a temporary job. I gave it two or three years. Right! That was nine years ago. Why am I still there? Well two things really, I enjoy the people and two, I enjoy learning about the stuff. All of it, wine, spirits and especially the beer. And the good beer (some call it craft) business certainly has changed over this time.
The more I learn about beer, the more I realize I don't know. There are many people who are willing to teach. And, I'll have to say, I've done a lot of study on my own. Grin!
So, good beer began with me as imported. Then the American scene has grown up, again. And we don't have to look across the pond to find good beer, there is plenty to be found on our own shores. And for that matter, right in our own backyard. It continues to surprise me the number of small town breweries are popping up. And they are producing some really good beer.
Do Americans Need Imported Beer
Do we still need to seek our "good beer" fix from imports? Of course not. But I still often do. That is, because the American beer scene has started a new beer revolution, that has caused me to learn more about the beer I'm drinking. And if you haven't noticed, many of those great American beers have Old World names, referring to the classic European styles from our brewing legacies. Oatmeal stout, kolsch, altbier, gose, guese. Check out the Beer Judge Certification Programs list of beer styles. How many were founded in Europe and are now taking on an American swagger.
Last year we celebrated the 500 year anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot, aka the German Purity Law of 1516. Some of the interviews of contemporary German brewers described were how hand-tied they felt from the restrictions of that law and the need to brew to those simple list of ingredients to remain in the German brewery associations. They wanted to break out and explore the world of ingredients like many of the new American brewers. Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head stated in an April 2016 The Daily Meal article that, "The reinheitsgebot is nothing more than modern art censorship."
Now that the good beer movement has introduced and attracted partakers to what well made beer is like, many are willing to venture beyond the IPA and discover the classic styles, whether from to old-country or domestic versions. Pilsner is making a comeback in America. Of course it is, it is a great beer.
So yes, imported beer does matter. It is a great teacher of history, technique, ingredients and geography. For example, as much as you hear about terroir is important to wine, the same holds true with beer. Try an American made pilsner, then have one from Germany or a Pilsner Urquell from the Czech Republic. Same style, far different beer experience.
I recently taught a beer tasting class where the focus was on four iconic beers, three of which were imports. The purpose being that many of the beers we enjoy today have a lineage back to Europe. In order to fully appreciate the beer being produced and offered in pubs and bottle shop today, it is best to understand from where they came.
The era of industrial American light lager not only reduced the choices of what beer drinkers were offered, it turned many off to beer, period. With the establishment — or re-establishment — of an American good-beer industry and culture, beer drinkers are exploring and expanding their tastes. And while Americans are being introduced to classic styles after our IPA binge, brewers are leading the way with their versions of the classics, take the list of gose that has been introduced and become so popular during the last few years. The concern that foreign brewers are keenly aware, are the Americans are doing such a good job of it!
Due to their Bavarian accent, citizens of Munich pronounced "Einbeck" as "ein Bock" ("a billy goat"), and thus the beer became known as "bock". To this day, as a visual pun, a goat often appears on bock labels.Read More
In early December 2017, I to traveled to Lansing Michigan. I was only there for a couple days, so any in-depth beer research was limited. But I did come home with some local beer bounty.Read More
Brown by any other name is still the same color but not necessarily the same beer
THE SESSION #120— BEER BLOGGING FRIDAY The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry.
This month's theme is Brown Beer and is hosted by The Fatal Glass of Beer
What Is Brown
Brown my any other name is still the same color — marrone, marron, bruin, brun, bruin, braun or brown—or is it. And beer styles may be similar but still very, very different. Some brown or brownish beer styles include: Oud Bruin, British Brown Ale, American Brown Ale, Brown IPA, London Brown Ale, dunkel, dubbel. So its a wide field. Brown is not black but a brown ale can be black. Take the Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron for example.
I had the pleasure of touring the Dogfish Head brewery in Milton DE a few years ago. Part of the tour took us by the Palo Santo Marron wooden tanks. These were impressive to stand near. It has been reported that the barrels costs $140,000 and were questionable whether those costs would ever be recouped. The founder, Sam Caligione (Youtube: his take on Palo Santo Marron), said in a New Yorker magazine article (see reference below) that if worked for a publicly owned corporation that he would have been fired for this move. I assume they have paid for themselves, but it does make for a good story.
For the greater story, jump over to an excellent 2004 article by the New Yorker entitled A Bitter Brew which describes the story of the journey to Paraguay, the discovery of the wood behind the beer as well and the man behind the wood (and beer).
A Big Drink
My first experience with this beer was not a pleasant one. The tasting notes on the side of the bottle suggest caramel and vanilla. Remembering my first sip all I could think of was a huge black licorice bomb, which at the time I thought was too big and not pleasant at all. I had purchased a four-pack, so I had three more to level out my opinion. The second seemed more mellow, but still a big beer. By the time I'd finished the fourth, I was a convert. Now it is one of my favorite beers and high on my DFH list of brews. To drink one, it is an opaque black beer (darker brown) and pours a big tan colored head that quickly fades. As read on the label, you get notes of caramel, vanilla, bittersweet chocolate. At 12% ABV you are going to get some boozy character, but it is a very well balanced beer. There are hints of the wood but not overpowering like you might expect. BeerAdvocate labels is as an American Brown Ale and rates it at 93 points.
The Tree & Its Wood
Palo Santo wood is highly prized for its properties, even before it became famous for its beer improvement characteristics. In an article 11 Things You Never Knew About Palo Santo, it describes when Spanish monks first discovered the wood and experienced its ability to seemingly cleanse and heal, they named the tree “palo santo,” which means “holy wood” or “the wood of the saints.” The tree grows in the South American rainforest and its scientific name is bursera graveolens, or “a bag of oil” and the naturally aromatic wood from this truly unique tree is used in several ways for energetic and healing purposes. Its primary use is to burn small palo santo sticks as incense (which you can find find online at such places as Amazon.com). On the hardness scale, it is measured as three times harder than oak and one of the hardest in the world.
I find this beer fascinating not only as a wonderful drink to enjoy, but also for the effort exerted to bring it into being. The fusion of the wood and beer, ancient culture and domestication makes me pause as I sip it in — and not only because its 12% ABV. Not all browns are created equal — this certainly is a deep shade of brown.