Friday, May 30, 2008

Feel the burn this summer . . . with beer

Not sure what you're thirsty for? Philadelphia's Joe Sixpack serves up his recommendations to wash down your summertime activities.

The summer beer season is upon us and you're still not ready to show off your six-pack?

Can't fit into last year's keg? Didn't achieve the proper shade at your friendly indoor drinking salon? Ashamed of your can?

You need Joe Sixpack's Summer Shape-up Plan!

Get all the details at the Philadelphia Daily News.

FX Matt's canning operation burns down

The good news: only two people suffered minor smoke inhalation, and no beer was lost.

It was supposed to be a night of Saranac Thursday revelry at the F.X. Matt Brewing Co. in West Utica.

Instead, hundreds of beer fans watched as one of Utica's most venerable businesses became the scene Thursday evening of an inferno that damaged a processing building, forced the evacuation of hundreds of neighbors in West Utica and sent a pungent plume eastward across downtown Utica.

The fire poses significant challenges to the brewery that opened in 1888 and once weathered the 13 years of Prohibition. But not for long, vice president Fred Matt said.

“We will rebuild,” Matt said. “We've been in business 120 years. This is a speed bump.”

Asked about the fate of 10-year-old Saranac Thursday, he said he anticipated the party would come back, possibly next week.

Read the whole story and get updates at the Utica Observer-Dispatch.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The rush is over

Things are quieting down around here, now that the prom/graduation season is over. There's a lot less root beer on the schedule the rest of the year.

I had to come in Sunday to fill a couple of kegs (of beer!) and I cleaned most of the returned picnic taps while I was at it.

I came in Monday to clean the draft lines, only to find the building closed due to some holiday. Paris had to fly to Boston, so we had a couple of beers at the Upstream.

So I cleaned them Tuesday, along with one of my fermenters.

Today, I finally got around to printing up new beer lists for the tables, and I started working on updating my brewery-records software. I'm hoping to wrap that project up in a couple of weeks.

Tomorrow, I'll clean the pile of kegs downstairs, and fill a few for the pub.

Friday, I'll make a small batch of root beer just to top off the tanks. Also, I need to order new yeasts. Paris flies home Friday night, so I'll probably have dinner at the Crescent Moon that afternoon.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Friday, 2008 May 23: Vesterbro and Nørrebro

Yesterday: Plan B is Plan A

Still feeling a bit weak, but I can't see spending the rest of the trip in this hotel room. I want to take another whack at Plan B, and Vesterbro is not far away, and then I can meet Paris for dinner at Nørrebro.

Vesterbro Bryghus is a real nice place, fancy wood bar, mirrors, ornate chandeliers, real old-timey stuff.

Vesterbro Bryghus is across the street from Tivoli

Vesterbro's bar

Vesterbro's brewhouse

The beers are drinkable — not great, but not as bad as I had heard. Damned expensive, though: DKK 59 ($12.48) for a half-liter.

Sampler tray at Vesterbro

Vesterbro Red Ale

It was a real nice day, so I got some sun on a park bench on the way to Plan B. Once there, I introduced myself to the owner, a very enthusiastic beer lover. He's justifiably proud of his collection of beers, and of his very knowledgeable staff. He had to leave shortly after my arrival, but he insisted on buying me a bottle of Amager Imperial Stout. It was the not-wood-aged version of the beer I had yesterday; this one was very tasty, but also very very intense. It took me the better part of an hour to finish it. I followed it up with a bottle of Refsvindinge AZ Ale No. 16, a much milder beer. This smoked brown ale worked nicely as a palate cleanser.

Amager Imperial Stout

Refsvindinge AZ Ale No. 16

All too soon, it was time to walk across the water to Nørrebro Bryghus. In terms of decor, this is the most modern of the brewpubs I visited here.

Nørrebro Bryghus, Copenhagen

Nørrebro's brewhouse

Nørrebro's fermenters

Beer seminar and tasting party at Nørrebro

They brew a lot of different beers here; twelve of them were on tap today, and we had a couple of bottles as well.

One of several sampler sets at Nørrebro

Nørrebro New York Lager and Bombay Pale Ale

I think we got off cheap: all that beer and a light meal for DKK 266, about $56.24.

Back at the hotel, we enjoyed two rare beers that Jacob had brought from the Faroe Islands. He says these are just about impossible to get in Denmark, and even the Faroese have a hard time finding them.

Rockall Brown Ale

Green Islands Stout

And that's that. I think I counted fifty different beers this week, not bad considering. Our flights leave Copenhagen tomorrow morning, and we'll get home around 8:30pm.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Thursday, 2008 May 22: Plan B is Plan A

Yesterday: Wasted

I'm feeling a little better this morning. I endured a bowl of breakfast cereal with only moderate discomfort. After catching up a bit of typing, I wandered around town for almost an hour while housekeeping made up the hotel room. (They didn't get a chance yesterday.)

"Plan A" today is to meet Jacob at Plan B, a beer bar he highly recommends. I emailed him asking to delay our meeting from 1:00 to 3:00, just so I could be sure everything was going to stay put.

Plan B is a neat little neighborhood bar with the most amazing beer selection I've seen anywhere. Great beers in the bar coolers and on the eight taps, great beers in the cellar below the bar, and fantastic rare beers in the cellar across the street.

Plan B, Copenhagen

The cellar under Plan B's bar

Plan B's coolers

Paris selects her next beer at Plan B

The beers here are expensive, just like everywhere else in town. Typical bottle prices are 30 to 50 DKK ($6.32-$10.54). A 22-ounce bottle of Great Divide Yeti was listed at 125 DKK ($26.34). These are the ones I tried:

Bov Stout

Wiibroe Imperial Stout

De Regenboog 't Smisje Halloween

Thisted Limfjords Porter

Rodenbach Vin de Céréal

Vetter Alt-Heidelberger 33 (a 33°P, 11.5% abv monster)

St. Sixtus Westvleteren Blonde (DKK95 = $20.02 for this 30-cl bottle)

In addition, Jacob kindly shared a very special bottle of Amager Imperial Stout. This beer had been aged for three months in Stranahans Colorado Whiskey casks. Very nice beer.

One last beer after we returned to the hotel: the can of Żywiec Strong that I had picked up at the Warsaw airport.

Żywiec Strong

I am definitely feeling better now.

Tomorrow: Vesterbro, more Plan B, and Nørrebro

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Wednesday, 2008 May 21: Wasted

Yesterday: Bryggeriet Apollo and Brewpub København

No, "Wasted" is not a brewpub-laden suburb of København. "Wasted" describes this day, as in "this day was completely wasted". I didn't get out of bed — except for "emergencies" — until 1:30pm. I walked to an Apoteket to get some stomach meds; the best they could do was an antacid, which I don't expect will help much. They don't seem to have a Pepto-Bismol-equivalent here.

I haven't eaten since yesterday's lunch. Indeed, I'm afraid to.

This creepy hotel room painting isn't helping at all

Tomorrow: Plan B is Plan A

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Tuesday, 2008 May 20: Bryggeriet Apollo and Brewpub København

Yesterday: Warsaw-Copenhagen

Walked around town for an hour and found all four brewpubs before they opened.

Bryggeriet Apollo is right next to Tivoli

Færgekrone Bryghus is actually inside Tivoli; you have to purchase an amusement park ticket to reach the brewpub

Vesterbro Bryghus is across the street from Tivoli

Brewpub København is on the other side of the Rådhusplads from Tivoli

Apollo opened at 11:30, so I started there. They don't offer samplers, and their smallest glass is a quarter-liter (about 8½ ounces), costing 30 kroner ($6.34) for the Pilsner, and 33 kroner ($6.97) for the other beers.

Apollo Maj Bock, this month's special brew

Apollo Pilsner

Apollo Sommer Øl

Apollo Agger Bajer

Apollo Schwarz Bier, next month's special beer

I had a Hul-Bøf for lunch. It's a hamburger steak with pickled peppers, goat cheese, and a salad, and it was pretty tasty, but...

I didn't feel so good as I was walking to Brewpub København to meet longtime "Beer Me!" contributor Jacob Sjúrður Hansen. Jacob is an incredibly enthusiastic beer geek who attends as many as three beer tastings per week in addition to writing beer articles and teaching beer seminars. His studies as a linguist have taken him all over the world, allowing him to taste a myriad of beers. Actually, I get the impression that his studies as a linguist were simply a clever ruse to allow him to travel all over the world tasting a myriad of beers.

Brewpub København offers seven of their own beers, along with two guest taps including Herslev Maj Bock. Prices vary, but they average about 40 DKK ($8.46) for a 30-cl (10-ounce) glass.

Poor timing: I forgot to take the pictures until after the sampling was complete

Brewpub København Coltrane Stout, from the cask

It could have been the herring I had for breakfast at the hotel, or it could have been the Hul-Bøf, but something had made me sick. I made my way to the restroom and tried to get rid of the offending victual, but without luck; apparently, my rebuilt stomach only includes one-way valves, and nothing once in can get out. This is a remarkably uncomfortable state.

I returned to the table and reassured Jacob and the few others in the bar that I was OK. Drinking a two pitchers of water helped, and I had a couple more beers after Paris joined us around 5:30.

Jacob knows all of the best beer joints in town, and he recommended that we walk over to Ørsted Ølbar.

Ørsted Ølbar, Copenhagen

Jacob Sjúrður Hansen and me at Ørsted Ølbar

They had a lot of good beers, including a few Americans, on tap and in bottles. (And even cans of Oskar Blues Dale's Pale Ale.) But I could only manage half a glass of Mikkeller It's Alive.

I got sick again walking back to the hotel, much to Paris' embarrassment, and again several times during the night.

Tomorrow: Wasted

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Monday, 2008 May 19: Warsaw-Copenhagen

Yesterday: Omaha-Chicago-Warsaw

Nine hours and five minutes after leaving the hellhole known as O'Hare, we landed at Frederic Chopin Airport in Warsaw. I learned three more Polish words along the way: proszę (please, pronounced "PROSH-o"), dziekuję (thank you, pronounced "jin-KU-yo"), and toalety (toilet, surprisingly pronounced just like it looks). So now I know six Polish words — yes, no, beer, please, thanks, toilet — and that should be enough to get me through the four hours here; my flight to Copenhagen (also on LOT) is scheduled to leave at 6:10pm.

Żywiec Porter is a damn tasty beer over here. It's a damn tasty beer at home, but it's (obviously) fresher here. Even their standard Pilsener-style beer goes down nicely. I picked up cans of their Tatra, Strong, and Warka at the duty-free shop. I had time to taste the Tatra and the Warka before I left Warsaw, because my flight didn't actually leave until 7:20pm.

Piwo Żywieckie

Żywiec Porter

After arriving at København-Kastrup, a DKK30 ($6) train ride got me downtown, and a five-minute walk got me to the hotel, where Paris happened to be waiting at the front desk. We had a few beers in the hotel bar and called it a night.

Tomorrow: Bryggeriet Apollo and Brewpub København

Monday, May 19, 2008

Sunday, 2008 May 18: Omaha-Chicago-Warsaw

I spent a few hours at the brewery during the Sunday Brunch; today is High School Graduation Day, and lots of people had ordered kegs of root beer for their parties. Fortunately for me, most of the orders actually went out on Saturday while I was in Omaha. Unfortunately for me, Adam had figured out a system by which his kitchen guys could have handled the kegs, and I could have flown out to Copenhagen yesterday with Paris if I had known. Anyway, of the six orders that remained on Sunday, one didn't get picked up until just after we closed at 2:00pm, and two more never showed up at all.

Anyhow...I went straight from the pub to the Omaha airport, and arrived plenty early to get checked in. I even had a "glass" of Goose Island Honker's Ale at the North Hangar Bar in the B Terminal. (Their six-dollar beers are actually served in plastic cups.)

The flight to Chicago was pretty much on time. It's a good thing, too: Chicago's O'Hare Airport is a GODDAMNED CLUSTERFUCK, and if I had arrived late, I'd probably still be there. The gate where I arrived (C32) literally could not possibly be any further from the International Terminal. The signs in the B Terminal directing people to the International Terminal are completely useless and make you go around in circles. I had to ask for directions twice. You have to go downstairs, then upstairs, then up some more — the only way I found was an elevator that carried no more than four people at a time — then down again to get to the slowest train I've ever been on, then back and forth through the ticket counters until you find the airline you're looking for because there's no map to tell you which one is where. It took me FORTY-FIVE MINUTES to get from my arrival gate to the LOT desk, at least ten to get my boarding pass, and another fifteen to get through Amateur Night at the Security Line, even though there were only five people ahead of me.

I hate O'Hare. I have always hated O'Hare. If I hadn't saved five hundred bucks on the airfare, I wouldn't have flown through O'Hare. If you have a choice, don't fly through O'Hare.

Anyhow...the flight to Warsaw left pretty much on time. (I plan to submit this fact to the Vatican to certify as a Miracle.) The service on LOT Polish Airlines is courteous and efficient, if unintelligible, and the seats are reasonably comfortable. My seatmate Agnes, a Pole from Chicago returning home for the first time in twelve years, helped me with the unintelligible parts. And the cans of Żywiec were free.

Tomorrow: Warsaw-Copenhagen

Saturday, May 17, 2008

California tax proposals target beer-loving, pornography-watching yacht owners

First they came for the Californian beer lovers, and I did nothing, because I'm not in California.

These bastards will come for you, regardless of where you live. If you're in California, contact your Assemblyman and tell them where to stick this bill. Remind them that the only practical way to balance their budget is to STOP SPENDING SO GODDAMN MUCH MONEY. And if you're in one of the other 49 states, when some moron in your legislature comes up with this idea, tell him the same thing.

"Some people are e-mailing, threatening to come and slug me," said Assemblyman Jim Beall (D-San Jose), who hopes to see a $1.80 tax added to the price of every six-pack of beer sold in the state. "We're getting some pretty nasty comments."

Keep those "pretty nasty comments" flowing, folks.

Read the whole story at the Los Angeles Times.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Six weeks?!?

Wow...has it really been six weeks since I've posted anything about the brewery here? Granted, this is my busiest time of year, but I'll admit to being lazy, too.

Since April 2:

  • Filtered new batches of Bugeater Brown and Impromptu Pale

  • Brewed seven barrels of Tin Lizzie Hefeweizen

  • Cleaned the draft lines most every Monday

  • Brewed seven barrels of Stüvenbräu Maibock

  • Cleaned and filled kegs most every Thursday

  • Spent a weekend in Green Bay for the Titletown Open Homebrew Competition

  • Kegged off the old batches of All-American Gold and Tin Lizzie Hefeweizen, and cleaned those tanks

  • Transferred seven barrels of root beer to the cellar

  • Brewed seven barrels of All-American Gold

  • Picked up a pallet of sugar from Duncan

  • Made 28 barrels of root beer

  • Transferred the Tin Lizzie Hefeweizen to the cellar

  • Transferred 14 barrels of root beer to the cellar

  • Made seven barrels of orange cream soda

  • Spent a week in Germany

  • Filled out the tax forms every two weeks as usual

  • Delivered root beer kegs to Lincoln and Council Bluffs

  • Filtered the All-American Gold

  • Attended the annual Nebraska Craft Brewers Association meeting in Omaha

  • Transferred 14 barrels of root beer to the cellar

  • Made 28 barrels of root beer

  • Delivered root beer kegs to Lincoln

  • Filtered and tapped the Stüvenbräu Maibock

This is high-school graduation season, and we go through a ridiculous amount of root beer during May. There are a pile of kegs in the cellar waiting for people to come pick them up for their parties this weekend. In fact, I'll have to be here at the pub to carry kegs out to cars before I can leave for Copenhagen on Sunday.

Last week, someone came to pick up a couple of kegs while I was out. Instead of getting one quarter-barrel of root beer and one quarter-barrel of orange pop, they got the orange pop and my Hefeweizen yeast. About $300 worth of yeast, which I'll replace when I get back from Denmark. They said it didn't taste very good.

Once I get back, I'll try to get the calendar updated with upcoming brews etc. Until then, skål!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Diageo keeps Dublin Guinness site, to build new one

That should probably read "Diageo keeps Dublin Guinness site for now", as they seem determined to destroy all of the traditions dating back to 1759.

In five years, when the new brewery opens after an investment of 520 million pounds ($1 billion) and smaller ones at Kilkenny and Dundalk are closed, Diageo says its Irish brewing workforce will be cut by 250 from its current 450.

The move means a reprieve for the St James's Gate site near the River Liffey, where Arthur Guinness started brewing his stout beer in 1759 after purchasing the dormant brewery with 100 pounds he had been left in his godfather's will.

Reuters has the whole story.

Oktoberfest 'maß' cost climbs over €8

Just a couple of months ago, I took this picture in Konstanz:

A shock to begin the season: A liter of beer in the beer gardens will cost almost 7€ ($10.58)

"A shock to begin the season: A liter of beer in the beer gardens will cost almost 7€" ($10.58)

Now, it seems that even that price was a bit low.

The price of an iconic one-litre maß of beer at Munich's Oktoberfest will climb over €8 ($12.37) for the first time this autumn, the city announced on Friday.

Visitors to the largest folk festival in the world will pay between €7.80 and €8.30 for a litre of beer, organizers announced, a 5 percent increase on last year.

Read the bad news at The Local.

Illinois man designs beer can coffin

I'll take one! As long as it's available in "Falstaff" or "Old Milwaukee" colors.

Bill Bramanti's favorite beer is Pabst Blue Ribbon. He loves it.

Really loves it.

So much so that he's already had his coffin specially made, and it's designed to look like a can of the trendy brew. Bramanti isn't sick, so he doesn't plan on needing it just yet. For now he plans to use it as a cooler.

Read the whole story at USA Today.

The world's 10 most disgusting beers

I've only tasted #3, #7, and #9, but if those are any indication, this guy is probably right on the mark.

Good beer is increasingly easy to find in America, and that is good news. However, there are still plenty of gag-reflex-triggering beers on the shelves, and it is time these offenders of good taste were called out.

Here are my picks for the 10 worst beers in the world.

You'll need to read the article at the St. Petersburg Times to see the list.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Copenhagen (København)

Paris the Infinitely Generous is allowing me to tag along on her trip to Copenhagen next week, May 19-23. There seems to be no shortage of breweries in town; if you've been there or if you live there, please pass along any tips on which ones to visit!

Also, my flight there involves a four-hour layover at Frederic Chopin Airport in Warsaw, Poland. My Polish language skills consist of tak, nie, and piwo, so that should be an adventure.

Actually, my Danish language skills aren't much more advanced than that. Useful-phrases lists for both languages would be mighty handy...

Friday, May 9, 2008

Seven Thousand Tasting Notes

I'm sitting at the bar at the Crescent Moon Ale House in Omaha, waiting for Paris to arrive from Boston. The beer in front of me, Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Fresh Hop Ale, has just been entered in my notebook as Beer #7000. That is, I've managed to write 7000 tasting notes since I started keeping records in January 1992, or about 1.17 beers per day for 16 years.

There are a number of duplicates on the list, so those 7000 notes represent just 5752 different beers. So I guess I'll have to celebrate again when that number reaches 6000.

Beer #7000

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Angered there's no more beer, man stabs drinking buddy

Note to self: always keep enough beer in the house.

A man is accused of stabbing his drinking buddy in the chest after becoming angry that they had run out of beer [...] at 210 S. Rio Grande, which is the address of a homeless shelter.

Read the whole story at the Salt Lake Tribune.