Monday, September 25, 2006

Notes: Oktoberfest Origins

I was curious about the history of Oktoberfest, and why it always ends just as October begins. This may be old news for some, but I thought I'd post a couple informative links to aide the uninformed.

The first link is to the official Oktoberfest site. Lots of good information. Be sure to check out the FAQ section to see a calendar for the next six (6) years and the answer to the why Sept. question.

The second link is to a BeerAdvocate article that does a nice job summarizing the history of the event.

I've been trying to get my hands on as much Oktoberfest and as much Pumpkin Ale as possible. Two (2) Oktoberfests worth mentioning (I don't have time to do a full review, so just a few comments will have to suffice):

  • Once again, Sam Adams Oktoberfest is a solid beer. However, it seems to me that the best Sam Adams O'fest was about 3-4 years ago. Although I enjoy it and look forward to it every year, it's never been as good since.
  • Summit's Oktoberfest was a lot stronger than I had expected. Lots of great tastes--a nice, chewy malty flavor. I think the high alcohol was a little out of balance though, because it came off kind of harsh.
Will continue to hunt for more O-fests. Also plan to record some notes about pumpkin ales sometime soon.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Notes: German Beers

Alexandre Enkerli's comment in the last post about German Engineering vs. Belgian Art has me thinking. Enkerli's article references several links to Thomas Perera and Ron Pattison's opinions on German beer drinkers, brewing, and Reinheitsgebot. The premise these articles is that Reinheitsgebot is "a load of old bollocks" and that it may be holding German brewers back from creating artistic masterpieces, a la Belgian (and to a large extent, American) brewers.

I think I tend to agree. I was running through the list of beers I've recently had and very few of them are German. This probably is due in large part to personal taste, but I am starting to realize that I do tend to gravitate toward the more experimental, the more insane. I do like certain beer styles--mainly bocks and rauchbiers. However, my beer mecca wouldn't be Germany. If I could plan my beer itinerary [based soley on the beer available, and not on other cultural aspects of the place itself], it would either be Belgium, England, or a handful of places in the US (the Pacific Northwest and Colorado would top that list).

And I'd venture to guess that many of my closest beer culture friends would tend to agree. Now, is this because of personal preference for more experimental beers or is it because German brewers produce solid beers in a limited range of styles, or is it both? Can you even seperate the two? I'm still working this out in my own head.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Notes: Craft Brew Culture

A post on Alexandre Enkerli's site last week dealing with craft brew culture really got me thinking about beer folks as a cultural group. Enkerli is a homebrewer and a cultural anthropoligist who had given a presentation entitled Brewing Cultures: Craft Beer and Cultural Identity in North America at the joint conference of the Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) and the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society (AFHVS) in June of this year. As I read the presentation, I kept thinking, "Yep, that's me," or "yeah, I've noticed that, too."

The most fascinating part, and the part I kept thinking about, was the role of and relationship to women in this group. I posted some comments on Enkerli's blog, and we started an email correspondence on the topic. He asked for my observations about women and craft beer. What follows are notes from our discussion:
RELATIONSHIP I'm married and have been working to get my wife more involved in the hobby for years. She's supportive of my hobby, but it's always been my hobby. There were certainly echoes of my own situation in your description of the interplay between husband and wife and brewing. I do have to consciously carve out time for brewing, but it has more to do with having two small children (3 and 6 months) than needing permission (because it was easier to devote the time pre-kids). I should note, however, that I was kicked out of the kitchen years ago.

MALE-DOMINATED GROUPS We have a group of guys who meet each month or six weeks. It's basically a guys night out, but the premise behind it is beer appreciation. We each bring something interesting to drink and try. This summer we tried to get spouses, significant others, and families involved, so we held a summer picnic. There were a lot of families there, and I think we educated a lot of folks, but I think it was viewed more as a "let's see what the guys are doing."

WOMEN AND CRAFT BEER My wife is receptive to trying new beer, but isn't a beer drinker by nature--wine is more her speed. She does tend to like Wit beers, though, and generally prefers fruitier or wheat beers to IPAs, Belgians, and Porters (my favorites). I've been searching for a couple of years now to find a recipe that would elicit a request for me to brew it again. I don't think her tastes are atypical, so I'm surprised more brewers don't try to target that niche.

In fact, there are only an handful of women I know who have an interest in brewing. Most have never brewed on their own (but have with me or others), but they have excellent taste in beer and tend to drink a wide variety of beers, including those outside the realm of wheat and fruit beers.

An interesting related observation--every year, I go to an AleFest, in which about 300 different beers are available for tasting. I always notice two things--1) most of the folks there seem to fall between 25-35, which is a lot younger than folks in the two homebrew clubs I've belonged to (in Boston and in Dayton, where most folks are generally older). and 2) There are a lot more women than I expect. It's not 50/50, but it's probably close to 60/40 (in contrast, in the homebrew clubs I belong(ed) to, it's was more like 90/10)

WOMEN IN BEER MEDIA This is a pet-peeve of mine. I think your description about women in craft beer media as being protrayed as purveyors of beer is dead on. I subscribe to Brew Your Own, and the covers often annoy me. Often they have brewers or beers on the cover, which is fine, but about every 3 issues, they have a young, attractive woman filling the "bartender" type roll you describe. Also, check out the link to my local homebrew store: The pic at the top drives me nuts because it's so stereotypical. It's disappointing because the store prides itself on its excellent beer selection, then stoops to the lowest common demoninator for its imagery. Overall, big-chested women hawking craft beers cheaps the image.
In addition, there were two other topics we touched on:
LOCAL BEERS [KJG] In thinking about your discussion of regional followings (and hooray for you for the nod to the Sox. Too bad about this year, though), I realized that whenever I travel for any purpose, I make it a point to find a local brewery or try a local beer. Beer isn't the purpose of my travel, but it's a nice perk b/c I get to try beers that aren't available at home, get to meet beer folks with different perspectives, and get to see bars and piubs different from the ones I'm used to. In fact, I'm to the point now that I often do a BeerFly search on the location before I even book my flight! And I can't imagine I'm the only beer geek who does that.

[AE] The regional/local dimension is clearly one I want to look at a bit more. It's all about "glocalization" and the whole "think global, drink local" thing. Here's one of my crazier posts on the subject: Beer and travel go well together. For instance, most cities have a couple of good brewpubs and they are nice places to get a sense of the local environment. (Some people do the same thing with vegan

Before beerfly, people used to post messages on the HBD before going somewhere, in order to know where the good beer is. It's a fascinating thing as people discover other places through beer. This is one of the things the large breweries haven't understood. We want our beer to be local and we use beer to go local. Given the geographical mobility of a lot of Americans, it can have a real impact.

COMPETITIONS [KJG] In addition, as related to beer knowledge and status, I wonder if it wouldn't be worth mentioning the various competitions that take place, both on a homebrew and craft brew level. I know quite a few homebrewers who brew almost solely for contests. They do well, and acheive a certain status within the group.

[AE] Competitions are a big issue. As you say, some homebrewers brew for competition. Our brewclub, the MontreAlers, has organized some competitions and many members are certified judges. But it's a can of worms for me. It's related to the whole "German engineer" part of the equation, which is fine. But I tend to be more of a "Belgian artist."

Please post comments--I'm interested to hear what y'all have to say on the subjects above.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Review: Dewey's Pizza

I wanted to take a minute to recognize Dewey's Pizza, a local chain that I believe originates out of Cincinnati. Their gourmet pizzas are incredible (even without cheese, for those of us who don't eat dairy) and the staff at our local Dewey's is always great! Places usually cringe when they see a gaggle of small children, but the folks at Dewey's have always treated us well, even going out of their way to entertain the kids. Our oldest likes to watch the guys make the pizza.

But perhaps just as importantly, they always have a great draft brew selection. I see a lot of beers on tap that I can't get anywhere else in the area. There's always a seasonal Rogue, Arcadia, and Bell's (Bell's porter is on my list of best beers). In addition, there's always at least one rotating tap. I've seen Allagash and Barrel House selections, and last week, they were serving one of my favorites--Victory Hop Devil IPA. It was the first time I've had it on tap and it was incredible. So, although this is a little cliched, kudos to Dewey's for getting it right.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Review: Brother Thelonious, II

Blogged about North Coast's Brother Thelonious a while back, but finally got a chance to try it this weekend. A solid Belgian-style ale. Dark and malty, with a spiced yeast flavor. The review on BeerAdvocate was mixed. I'd agree that is is a standard, strong representation of the style, but it's not the most amazing Belgian I've ever had. That being said, I was very impressed and may be picking up a few extras to cellar in the basement!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Review: Home Again/AleFest

Whew! Forgive the hiatus. It's been an exhausting 3 week period. My wife's step-sister got married in Vegas, and then, about a week later, our good friends from college got married in Rochester, NY. Especially exhausting because we were traveling with an almost-3-year old and a 5-month old.

But I did make time for beer. Dayton's AleFest was last weekend. This was the third year I've been (I believe it was the 8th annual). We drank lots of good beer, but I was a little disappointed by this year's event. Some of it was external--it rained like hell while we were there, and some of the folks who were supposed to come bailed at the last minute (you know who you are). Some of it was me--I've been drinking good beer long enough that I'm shifting from trying lots of new beers to appreciating ones I've tasted before. A lot fewer new beers for me to try, since I've tried most of them before (boo hoo for me, right?).

But some of it related to the AleFest in general. After about the first hour, tables starting running out of beer. About half-way through, about every third or fourth table was empty. I was eager to try the Mt. Carmel brews, but that table kicked early. So did the Clipper City beers, and lots of Belgians. I believe Great Lakes ran out early, too. It made for long lines at the tables that were still serving. I wonder if this phenomenon of tables kicking early is related to the growing number of AleFests. Are the contributions from each brewery being stretched thin? Because it didn't appear that there were a lot more people at this AleFest than the last two.

All that being said, we still had an opportunity to try some great beers (I think the only reason I'm slightly disappointed is because the last two years set the bar so high). It's not probably terribly interesting to recount all the beers we tried (if I could even recall all of them), but here are some of the highlights:
  • Dogfish Head's Randall The Enamel Animal--something I had been waiting to try since I first heard about it. Dogfish Head creator Sam Calagione's super-hopping system is a carbon filter with 1/2 lb. hops packed into it. At AleFest, they were pushing DFH 90 Minute IPA through. Interesting taste--more hop flavor than bitterness. I would like to have had more time and a larger sample to really enjoy this beer. It was something I could see drinking in the back yard, relaxing in the hammock.
  • Rogue's Chipotle Ale was incredible. Smokey, almost like a Rauchbier, with a hot kick right at the end. I'm not a fan of chili beers, but this is one I'd try again.
  • Rodenbach Grand Cru--an acquired taste, meaning that I was the only one in the group who liked it. Sour, with an almost vinegar taste. I haven't had a lot of Farmhouse Ales, so this was a new taste to me. More sour than their website leads you to believe. Wonder if our batch was any good?
  • Boston's Bistro had a couple of cask-conditioned ales: Arcadia's IPA and Cincinnati's own Barrel House Boss Cox Double Dark IPA. Wish more places regularly carried cask ales.
  • Unibroue's table was well stocked. I tried the 2005 Terrible, the Chambly Noire, and the 15, all of which were excellent (not surprisingly).
  • Finally, The Pub, a new bar that is said to be moving into The Greene soon, had a couple of interesting beers--an English Ale and an English Pale Ale. I think the Pale Ale was cask-conditioned. I believe that these brews were contract-brewed for The Pub. Look for more updates about the Pub once it gets settled in. (Sorry, no links to The Pub itself. It appears that The Pub doesn't exist in cyberspace yet, either.)
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