Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Shooting Creek Brewery Blog and News

We've been following the progress of Shooting Creek Farm Brewery for a while now. I am happy to report that they are finally in the production phase, and the first batches of the brewery's Buffalo Brown and Rebel Ale have been sent to the distributor. The beer will be available on draft in the Blacksburg area very soon, if it has not started showing up already. Bottled beers should be on shelves soon too.

We won't see Shooting Creek beers around here yet, so I'm looking for reports from you Floyd County folks. Let us know where you find the beer. Hopefully I'll be able to track some down this Summer and try it out for myself.

Shooting Creek manager Jason Anderson has started a blog to let folks know what's going on at the brewery. Visit pint sized ambitions to find out what the Shooting Creek team is up to.

Congratulations to Jason and Brett on reaching this milestone.

Monday, March 30, 2009

GABF Medals By State

Rick Lyke, who writes the self-titled blog "Lyke to Drink" posted an interesting analysis of Great American Beer Festival winners in the period from 1987 - 2007. The states of California, Colorado, Wisconsin, Oregon and Pennsylvania come out on top with the most awarded beers. Virginia ranks in the upper middle with 48 accumulated medals. Not too shabby if you ask me. Regionally, Maryland checks in with 33, North Carolina at 18, and Washington, DC with 2.

Rick points out that the most awarded beer is Alaskan Smoked Porter, with 6 Gold, 4 Silver, and 5 Bronze medals in the 20 year period. Anheuser-Busch holds top honors for the most awarded brewery. However, what is likely of more interest to readers of this blog are the top craft brewers. They are Rock Bottom Brewery, Alaskan Brewing, and Pizza Port / Port Brewing, who take fourth, fifth, and sixth places respectively, for total number of medals earned.

See Rick's post GABF Medals: A Few States and Breweries Are Almost Sure Bets for more information and a larger, detailed map.

I missed this interesting article back in October when Rick posted it. I was directed to Rick's analysis by a reference on Twitter to a post on Strange Maps. Hat tip Chris O'Donnell.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Southern Tier Beer Dinner at The Melting Pot

A few weeks ago I saw a newspaper ad for a beer dinner at The Melting Pot featuring beers from Southern Tier Brewing. I've never eaten at the Melting Pot, nor have I had the opportunity to try many Southern Tier beers. This looked like a good time to change both of those conditions, so last night my family headed over to the restaurant and partook of the meal.

As I said, we've never eaten at Melting Pot and didn't know what to expect. We ordered an extra plate of food for our son, and our beer dinner began. There was no printed menu to tell us what we'd be eating, or even how many courses to expect, so we just went with the flow. All of the beers were poured from bottles. The first course featured Southern Tier Oak Aged Unearthly Imperial IPA. The beer was paired with a chipotle cheddar, bacon, and garlic dip with honey-wheat and french bread. The beer was also used in preparing the fondue. The Unearthly Imperial IPA was tasty and paired very well with the spicy fondue. The beer has a bitter hop finish that, by the end of the course, was somewhat masked by the chipotle flavor in the cheese.

The beer for the second course was described as "an unfiltered wheat with raspberry." We didn't see the bottle but I assume the beer was the aptly named Raspberry Wheat Beer. This was paired with a Strawberry Almond Vinaigrette salad. Neither Colleen nor I are big fans of fruit beers, and Colleen expressed some trepidation over this course. After our first sips of the beer we confirmed our feelings towards this style. However, once we started eating the salad we found the pairing worked quite well, and we enjoyed the beer very much. For my tastes, fruit beers cannot stand on their own, they must be enjoyed with a proper food partner.

Next up was the "main" course. This consisted of shrimp, pork, duck, and beef, along with a vegetable sides of potatoes and broccoli, and a pot-sticker. These were all to be cooked in a vegetable broth fondue. A large assortment of sauces were also served for flavoring the meats. The beer for this course was Big Red Imperial Red Ale. Our son's platter arrived at this time as well and we all got down to the business of "cooking." The big malt flavor of the beer is balanced by the bitter Hallertau hops, and was a fine match for the assorted meats. Neither food flavor nor beer overpowered the other.

The final course of the evening featured Jah*va Imperial Coffee Stout. This beer is made with Jamaican coffee and chocolate malt. The beer was paired with an assorted dessert tray consisting of strawberries, brownies, bananas, chocolate covered marshmallows, rice krispie treats, and cheesecake. The accompanying fondue dip was comprised of melted chocolate and Kahlúa. This was accompanied by flaming brandy during the preparation. The Jah*va Stout was robust with strong espresso and chocolate flavors and could be described as "chewy". By this point in the meal we were all feeling quite stuffed and slowly picked at the desserts.

This was a bold beer dinner for The Melting Pot to put on. Three of the four beers served were high in alcohol. The ABV ratings of the beers, in order served, were 11.0%, 4.5%, 9.5%, and 12.0%. And these weren't 2 ounce samples either! As much as it pained me, I chose to not empty my glass with each course, except for the Big Red Imperial Ale. The dinner was not a group event, but served individually to diners as they arrived. Each course was introduced by a description of the beer to be enjoyed. The service was prompt and efficient. It would have preferable to have had some printed information available on what foods and beers to expect. Perhaps the bottles could have left on the table for reference as well.

In addition to trying out some new beers, we all enjoyed the fondue experience. We left the restaurant feeling very full after a tasty and fun meal. I understand that The Melting Pot holds regular events such as this. I did sign up for their mailing list so I should be hearing about future happenings. I expect we'll go back for another. I realized after we left that I never looked at the standard menu, so I don't know what sort of beers The Melting Pot usually has on hand. Does anyone know? I guess I could make a return visit, purely for research purposes.

Mobile phone photos of the dinner here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's Time to Open That Special Bottle of Beer

The Wall Street Journal reports that February 28 was the 10th annual Open That Bottle Night. Dreamed up by WSJ wine writers Dorothy J. Gaiter and John Brecher in 2000, OTBN takes place on one weekend in February each year. Enthusiasts finally break out that bottle of wine they've been saving for a special occasion, but never got around to actually opening. OTBN gatherings are held in restaurants and private homes around the world. Friends and families gather to share a special occasion that otherwise might not ever happen.

Reading the accounts in the Wall Street Journal article made me think about the special beers I've been saving, waiting to enjoy at just the right moment. How often do you pick up a bottle of beer, contemplate opening it, only to think, "I'll save that for..." and set it back down? I know I've done that many times. But why? Beer is meant to be consumed. Sure, some of the bottle art is interesting, but nowhere near as enjoyable as the liquid inside.

Delay no more. Open that special bottle of beer. There will always be another special beer, for another special occasion. What beer are you saving for just the right moment? Drinking it will certainly bring more pleasure than just contemplating it.

There's also a web site devoted to Open That (Wine) Bottle Night at openthatbottlenight.com.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Choose Responsibility Appears on The Colbert Report

Choose Responsibility President John McCardell made an appearance on Comedy Central’s The Colbert Report Thursday evening. The problems of underage binge drinking are no laughing matter, but this segment helps to raise awareness. McCardell brings up a good point that the problem is not simply one of drinking and driving. The current laws have driven drinking underground, thereby increasing the risks to our young people. Watch the clip and then visit Choose Responsibility's website for more information.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Mountain Bikes to Descend on Devils Backbone Brewpub

Mountain bike enthusiasts will soon converge on the newly opened Devils Backbone Brewpub in Nelson County. A chance encounter, at Devils Backbone, between owner Steve Crandall and mountain bike enthusiast Woody Elliott led to the creation of the Devils Backbone Challenge. Crandall lives on 700 acres of mountain wilderness near the brewery, and is making his property available for the event.
On March 28, ... the first-ever Devils Backbone Challenge will go off from the Devils Backbone Brewing Company in Wintergreen. The race will be the centerpiece of what the mountain biker, Richmonder Woody Elliott, and the owner, Steve Crandall, intend as a celebration of fat tires and beer in one of Virginia's most stunning settings. They hope to create a party atmosphere with live music, an outdoor barbecue, even Big Wheel races in the brewery parking lot for friends and family of racers.

Shawn Tevendale, an expert/pro-level racer with Charlottesville's The Bike Factory, has worked hand in hand with Elliott to organize the event.

"Races that I've done in the past: What made them successful from a racer's standpoint?" Tevendale asked. "Things that jump out to me about the best events I've been to is when it's a festival-type atmosphere. It's a mountain bike race, but it's got a festival, it's got a party."

Several courses will be set up for the races and will showcase the beauty of the region. Says Crandall, "This area's been one of the best kept secrets, I think, in the state." I think his statement applies to both the natural beauty, and the burgeoning craft beer scene in the area. That's a secret we want people to know about.

Read more on the Devils Backbone event here. Race registration information is here.

Update: Nelson County Life has pictures from a practice run of the bike event. See their story and pictures here.

Update, March 26: Due to inclement weather the Devils Backbone Mountain Bike Challenge will be postponed until Saturday May 23.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Today is the day we celebrate the life of St. Patrick. Kidnapped and taken to Ireland as a small boy, Patrick later returned to share his faith with the people of the Emerald Isle. St. Patrick is honored as the patron Saint of Ireland, his adopted homeland. His feast day is celebrated by those of Irish heritage, and by many who are not.

In many places it my seem the celebration has become more of a drinking holiday than a celebration of St. Patrick and all things Irish. The idea of a Budweiser St. Patrick's Day beer stein might be a bit odd, but that's okay. Today everyone is Irish. Celebrate as you wish, be safe, and have fun.

St. Patrick is also our parish patron Saint, so we'll take a wee reprieve from our Lenten sacrifices. We'll honor St. Patrick quietly with a meal at home and raise a pint or two. (However, there will be NO green beer served here.) In whatever way you choose to mark St. Patrick's Day, and whether you claim Irish decent or not, make it a celebration worthy of the day's namesake.

Glac bog an saol agus glacfaidh an saol bog tú
Take the world nice and easy, and the world will take you the same.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

St. Patrick's Day Festival at Blue & Gray Brewery

The 7th Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade and Festival was held at the Blue & Gray Brewery on Saturday. Despite the cool weather and threat of rain, the festivities were well-attended. Folks arrived early to enjoy Irish music, a corned beef, potato, and cabbage lunch, along with plenty of Blue & Gray beer. The rain started falling at about the same time the parade began, but that dampened the enthusiasm of neither the participants nor the spectators. Folks were having a good time despite the cool weather. Tables and chairs were set up under a heated tent so people could stay dry while enjoying their lunch.

Another batch of Minor Dementia Stout was ready in time for the celebration. While many folks enjoyed this limited, occasional release, I enjoyed an old favorite, the Blue & Gray Stonewall Stout. The stout was just the ticket to accompany the corned beef, and help ward off the chill.

As always, proceeds from this event go to charity. Many worthy organizations, such as Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts were on hand as well. This parade is very popular with the kids, and there are always many families in attendance. Hats off to the folks at Blue & Gray, along with the many volunteers, for putting together another fun-filled day.

A few photos from the festivities here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Tuppers Beers - Finally!

After a long wait, area beer fans will soon be able to enjoy Tuppers Beers once again. The Tuppers have reached an agreement with St. George Brewing Company in Hampton, VA to brew their beers. According to news posted on the Tuppers website:
Tuppers' Hop Pocket Brewing Company and the St. George Brewing Company have agreed to work together to return Tuppers' Hop Pocket Ale and Tuppers' Hop Pocket Pils to the market. The tentative target date is late May. The Ale will return first, followed shortly by the Pils-- both will be on draft before they return in bottles. Initial distribution will focus on the Washington metropolitan area, but plans are to expand to the area in which the beers were formerly available and then expand to further markets.

This is exciting news indeed. Hop Pocket Ale was frequently available locally but the Pils was seldom seen. I look forward to seeing both of these beers, and perhaps other beers from Tuppers, later this Summer.

Read the complete notice from the Tuppers here.

This announcement was initially made yesterday to the DC-Beer mailing list. Thanks to the ever-alert Thomas at "Yours For Good Fermentables" for letting us know that the Tuppers web site had been updated with the details.

The Session #25 - Love Lager

This month's edition of The Session is sponsored by John Duffy at the "The Beer Nut" blog in Ireland. In announcing this month's theme, John writes:
So for this Session, let's get back to basics. I'm sure I'm not the only one whose early drinking career featured pale lager in abundance, so consider this a return to our roots as beer drinkers. Don't even think about cheating the system: leave your doppelbocks and schwarzbiers out of this one: I want pilsners, light lagers, helleses and those ones that just say "beer" because, well, what else would it be?

So basic lagers it is. Often maligned as flavorless, bland, and ignored, this group of beers owes their undeserved reputation to those truly flavorless, bland beers foisted upon unsuspecting and ill-informed drinkers by the big factory brewers. Despite that confusion, there are indeed plenty of good, full-flavored lagers available for our enjoyment.

Although Pale Ales, IPAs, Stouts and other ales get most of my attention, there's always a basic lager or two on hand. Whenever I'm selecting beers for a party, I keep at least one lager on the menu. Friends who drink macro-lagers will usually be willing to try a craft lager. Starr Hill Jomo Lager is an excellent lager that I've used to introduce folks to craft beer. Brooklyn Lager is another craft lager that's readily available locally.

My aversion to inappropriately ice-cold beers is well-documented. However, when a very cold beer is warranted, a cold lager is often the best option. A good lager will stand up to being enjoyed extra cold better than a double IPA or a stout. Old Dominion Beach House Golden Pilsner is a good Summer lager, excellent after a day of yard work. Locally, Blue & Gray Classic Lager is a popular choice. After a day of tasting beers at a festival, it's often a crisp lager that I'll end my day with. The lower alcohol is welcome, and the fresh, sharp flavors refresh the palate.

For this Session review I selected Dominion Lager from Old Dominion Brewing. Dominion Lager is readily available at the local grocery store and is a staple in my beer refrigerator. This Dortmunder-style lager pours a copper-tinted yellow with a thick white head. The head is long lasting and leaves behind sticky lacing. The aroma is that of sweet bread, with some citrus and grass notes. The flavor is bready malt with a hint of tartness. Bitter hops come through in the finish and linger in the aftertaste. Overall, this is a simple yet refreshing beer.

Good lagers are certainly not hard to find. If you think lager is synonymous with bland, think again. Don't let the reputation of the boring American macro-lager get in your way of enjoying a refreshing, classic beer.

Be sure to check back at The Beer Nut for the Session roundup. Meanwhile, you can participate in The Session live via Twitter by adding #thesession to your posts and following along here.

Update, March 10: John has posted his summary here. Apparently this was a graded assignment. Some bloggers' interpretations "failed".

Monday, March 2, 2009

2009 Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines

"What's your favorite beer?" What's your favorite beer style? These and similar questions are posed to me quite frequently. I am sure that any reader of this blog has been asked the same questions. For me, those are not answerable queries. My best answer is frequently along the lines of "this one", while pointing to the glass in my hand. The answer depends on my mood, the foods I'm eating, the season, and a host of other factors. The 2009 Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines released recently give another reason why such a question has no easy answer. These guidelines list 138 different styles of beer!

The guide gives a brief description of each style, along with some technical minutiae such as Alcohol by Weight, IBU, and SRM. The guide does not list commercial examples of each style so anyone wanting to find an example of a specific style may have to do some more digging. The styles are grouped into Ales and Lagers, and then by country of origin. This does make it easy to compare similar styles. If you are curious as to the differences between an American-Style Strong Pale Ale, an American-Style Strong Pale Ale, or an American-Style India Pale Ale, it's here. Or perhaps you are in a debate over the what separates a South German-Style Hefeweizen from a South German-Style Kristal Weizen. The Beer Style Guidelines will help you with that dilemma too.

All kidding aside, Brewers Association Beer Style Guidelines are an interesting and informative reference. And it's available for free. Visit the Brewers Association beer styles page to download the guidelines. While you are there, be sure to look around the site. Besides style descriptions, the Brewers Association presents a wealth of beer-related information, including history and food pairing suggestions.