Sunday, June 24, 2007

Event: Ohio Brew Week

A reminder that Ohio Brew Week is just over the horizon. Athens, Ohio hosts the week-long celebration of Ohio breweries and microbreweries July 16th through the 21st.

If you haven't been to Athens yet, this would be the time to go. My wife and I are both OU graduates and share fond memories of the place. And the best time to visit is the summer, when the hordes of students haven't overrun the town.

Unfortunately, I won't be able to attend personally this year, but am actively seeking volunteers to go and report back to this blog. Feel free to post a comment if you are willing to volunteer.

Below is a press release from the folks promoting the event:
May 23, 2007


ATHENS, OH—Ohio Brew Week celebrates the diversity of Ohio’s micro-brewed beers and the independent establishments that serve them. The second year of the state’s newest festival will be held July 16-21st in Athens, Ohio at restaurants and venues throughout the downtown area. Ohio Brew Week will feature 50 craft beers from 15 microbreweries around the state. The weeklong event includes seminars on the history of beer, the history of taverns, home brewing demonstrations, beer-related videos and movies, cooking with beer demonstrations, pool tournaments, local musicians and beer song contests. The week culminates with the presentation of the People’s Choice Award during Saturday’s Boogie on the Bricks community festival.

Julie Bradford, editor and co-owner of All About Beer magazine and successful website, will be the keynote speaker for Brew Week. Bradford will speak about cooking with beer, beer/food pairings, women & beer and beer’s impact on society.

This year there will be a cooking with Ohio microbrews competition for amateurs and professionals and beer-related entrees, appetizers and desserts at most restaurants in the area. Prizes will be awarded in several categories. Bradford and other food writers will serve on the panel.

In addition, there will be a progressive dart tournament at participating venues throughout the week. A Brew Choo Choo ride on the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway is being planned, along with an Art Walk through the Historic Arts District in Nelsonville. Formal tasting of individual breweries’ microbrews will be held a different places every night throughout the week. Most of the restaurants and taverns will feature beer-flavored foods, including beer ice cream, and paw paw beer. Each restaurant will also have live musical entertainment each evening. The Official Brew Week meatball eating competition will be held on Thursday.

“Ohio Brew Week celebrates the rich flavors of Ohio microbrews and the contributions this growing industry of Ohio microbreweries makes to the state,” says Dan Gates, director of Ohio Brew Week. “Ohio’s Brew Week is the only week-long event in the world that provides the opportunity to talk directly with brewers, hear nationally-known beer experts and brew writers and editors, and sample some of the tastiest beers made on the planet.”

Ohio Brew Week will be celebration of tastes, adds Gates. “The breweries all have new and flavorful microbrews for this year and the restaurants are creating unusual beer-related foods. Visitors will get a real taste of our Appalachian culture, regional foods, and these craft beers.”

Last year’s first Brew Week showed that interest in micro-brewing is growing in the state and the rest of the U.S., says Jon Sparhawk, one of the originators of the event, “because people are thirsty for new experiences. The visitors last year enjoyed learning about the art form of micro brewing and sampling some of the most interesting and flavorful microbrews around. They also enjoyed experiencing the rich artistic talents in the Athens area: our artisans, chefs and the fun, comfortable places to gather and socialize. 2007 promises to be even more entertaining.”

Throughout the week, 17 restaurants, pubs and taverns in the Athens area will be featuring speakers, demonstrations and beer-related foods and specials. Most of the venues are within easy walking distance of each other. The local bus system will be circulating along the tasting route as well. Attendees will vote on their favorite micro-brewed beer throughout the week with the People’s Choice Award being presented during the band concert on Saturday, July 21.

Athens provides a relaxed and scenic atmosphere for exploring the new flavors of microbrews and for networking with other brewers, and other microbrew fans, adds Gates.

Ohio Brew Week is co-sponsored by Dine Across America and the Athens County Convention and Visitors Bureau and WWS Communications.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Recap: Allagash Night

First, let me start by assuring what few readers I have left that I have not dropped off of the face of the planet (although there have been a few weeks where it certainly seemed like that)! Instead, please consider my hiatus a time of regrouping--I've been collecting things to write about for the last few weeks and finally, now, have the time to put ink to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

On to our story. For about a year, I've been picking up bottles of Allagash's rarer beers. It started when I had my first taste of Curieux that Kyle brought to the initial beer appreciation night. I had had some of Allagash's year round stock, but nothing like this! That was the best bourbon-aged beer I had ever had. I was hooked and couldn't wait to get more.

But, as in any good story, there were complications. Turns out that these beers weren't
distributed in Dayton. Kyle had picked up his bottle at Jungle Jim's, outside of Cincinnati. And the bottles aren't cheap--anywhere from $10-$15 per bottle (which is little compared to a bottle of wine, but substantial when you are used to paying much less than that for a sixer).

Damn. This wasn't going to be easy. But, like any good beer geek, eventually I made my way south. And at first, I was disappointed. The Curieux was completely sold out. I sulked around the aisle for a bit, then discovered that there were several other beers available from the same series. I settled on the 2005 Interlude, vaguely recalling a review I had read around that time. And when I asked around about it, folks confirmed that I made the right choice.

So I waited for the right opportunity to open this relatively rare and unique find. I didn't want to squander it all on myself--something this interesting needs to be shared. I waited. And I waited. And I kept waiting and waiting, never finding the right moment.

In the meantime, I started heading down to JJ's more often--this was right around the time when I saw Garrett Oliver speak there. And each time I went, I picked up another bottle of a rare Allagash and dutifully cellared it next to the Interlude.

Eventually, I realized that I had started to amass a small but respectable collection. Now I really needed an occasion to pop them open! His timing impeccable, Kyle started reminding me that he was still sitting on a bottle of 2005 Odyssey that he had also picked up when he bought the Curieux.

We starting envisioning Allagash Night. But again, when to do it? We tossed around several dates, but it never took hold. Until about 3 weeks ago. I just finished teaching and Kyle was looking to blow off some steam, so we summoned a few of the guys. The instructions were simple--come to my house, but don't come with anything other than Allagash beer.

The hope was that we would get to try the entire line-up. We came close. There were about 16 bottles, all told. And I think we were able to try everything listed on their website except the Hugh Malone, the Grand Cru, the Anniversary Ales, and the Victoria Ale. And we were able to try a few vertical tastings. The complete list is below: I wasn't great about taking notes, but there were a few beers that left a strong impression. I really enjoyed the Four and ended up going back for seconds and thirds with it (for some reason, we had a LOT of the Four). The pairing of Interludes was interesting, too. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the 2006 more than the 2005--the taste was a lot bolder, tarter, more aggressive in the younger beer. I don't think the interesting character in the younger version aged well--it was too muted in the 2005.

All and all, it was a great night. I'm a little burned out on Allagash beers at the moment, but it was interesting to try so many of them in one evening. There was definitely a defining characteristic to all of them. And now I have a great collection of bottles, which I will have to fill with homebrew. (at some point, I'll add some pics, although I can't seem to get my phone to upload them at the moment).

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Session: Mt. Carmel's Blonde Ale

This month's session topic is local beers (thanks to Snekse over at Gastronomic Fight Club for hosting this month and suggesting the theme). This is a relatively easy theme for this blog, since I tend to only write about regional beers.

Unfortunately, Dayton is devoid of breweries and brewpubs, so I went back to my roots and picked up a growler of Mt. Carmel's Blonde Ale. Mt. Carmel Brewing is a relative newcomer to the local scene, but is quickly becoming a favorite. The tiny brewery sits in the eastern suburbs of Cincinnati--only about 2-3 miles from my childhood home (and closer still to my old elementary school). This area is not known for beer (I always assumed it was a Budmillcoors stronghold), so I was shocked when my friend Shane asked me if I had ever tried this beer that was being brewed out of that area. And surprised again at how popular the beer had become--most of my beer-savvy friends have picked up a growler or two and have good things to say.

Husband and wife team Mike and Kathleen Dewey founded the brewery back in 2005 and have built their brewery from the ground up. The couple is continually expanding their distribution area and now distribute growlers to about 30 locations in Cincinnati, as well as more than a dozen combined locations in Dayton and Northern Kentucky. In addition, you can find their beers on tap in more than 20 area locations (including one of my favorite eateries, Dewey's Pizza). In what must have been a coup for the brewing couple, the beers are also available in two locations in The Great American Ballpark, home to the Cincinnati Reds.


They offer a handful of beer styles: a blonde, a copper ale, a nut brown, and a stout. There are no six-packs or single bottles--the beers are available either by the growler or draught. I've tried both the copper ale and the blonde and am partial to the blonde. For this tasting, I picked up a growler of the blonde. I was surprised, however, because the beer that I poured was more similar to the copper, not the pale blonde I had tried earlier (could the growler have been mislabeled?).

No matter, because regardless of the beer's intended style, it was highly drinkable. It had a smooth, round flavor, with a prickly bite at the swallow. The hops were mild and restrained, as were the malt flavors. I picked up faint caramel malt and a slight orange/tangerine flavor. My only critique is that the carbonation was relatively low, and lower as I moved through the growler.

Both of the Mt. Carmel beers I've tried make great session beers. Admittedly, the most recent growler I had wasn't the strongest I've had from the brewery (although I suspect that as a small brewery, they are still working through some occasional QC blips), but everything I've had has been solid. I happily support this small brewery and continue to recommend them to friends. (And I'll be happy when they start offering smaller bottles--a growler is more of a commitment than I'm usually willing to make in an evening!).