Bottoms Up

Beer and wine in the Bay Area and beyond

Archive for September, 2005

Philly’s Take on Ben Franklin’s Beer

Don Russell, who covers major league baseball for the Philadelphia Daily News, also writes “Joe Sixpack,” a beer column that appears in his paper every other Friday. This Friday, he wrote about the beer that the Brewers Association has chosen to be produced in time for the 300th anniversary of Franklin’s death.

I wrote about it Wednesday in the blog. (See below.) Don’s excellent column looks at the beer from the viewpoint of a guy from Philly. Here’s the link. But caution, you may have to register with the paper; it’s free, takes a few seconds and you’ll never be bugged with e-mail solicitation

Posted on Friday, September 30th, 2005
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Bud’s Wild Blue With Blueberries!

DENVER _ Would you believe it? A blueberry ale from Anheuser Busch? This is no lie _ the makers of Bud Light _ are test-marketing two blueberry ales in the Midwest and yesterday afternoon, I had a chance to sample both.

It sent my mind lurching back to 1989, when I first sampled Grant Johnston’s prize-winning Bluebeery Ale at Marin Brewing in Larkspur, CA. The craft beer movement was still tiny then and not in my wildest imagination would I have believed that a decade and a half later I’d be sitting in a hotel lobby in Denver, sampling Blueberry Ale from Budweiser.
Whew. The mind reels and boggles.

There’s more: a very decent Marzen, a pale ale that has been in the Anheuser Busch lineup from time to time and A-B’s fall seasonal: Jack’s Pumpkin Spiced Ale, under the Michelob label. There’s also a 10 percent alcohol by volume Michelob Reserve out there somewhere. But they didn’t have a sample.

Another sign that the world’s largest beer company is changing course: A-B’s public relations folks also produced the brewer who helped design the beers. He’s Florian Kuplent, a German-born, German-trained brewer who worked in Belgium and for the late New England Brewing Co. in the U.S., before signing on with big Bud.

Before I even tasted the beers, I fired questions at the PR team about marketing strategy, why the maker of the world’s top-selling beer (It’s either Bud or Bud Light) would do something like this. I asked if the fact that sales of craft beer were up 7 percent last year and are growing at a similar rate this year had anything to do with it.

Also, I noted that Miller’s now owned by a beer company again, South African Breweries, and InBev, the former Interbrew is growing rapidly figured in their strategy.
But they demurred, so we focused on the beer.

First, the blueberry ales, starting with the best:

— Wild Blue*** is an 8 percent alcohol by volume ale, made with malted barley and a touch of rice. Hops, I believe, were noble _ Hallertau and Tettnang. “We only use aroma hops,’;’ Byrne said. Whole blueberries are added to the mash.

This one was delicious, fruit aroma, taste is dry with just a bit of sweetness, then a hit from the alcohol. Very drinkable. I wondered aloud how this one would develop, if they put it in wooden barrels for a year or two. No response on that one, but I believe, I’m right. A lactic edge and no rice would make this a spectacular beer.

— Blue Horizon*, a five percent, all-barley malt beer, is a great name. But it was a true alco-pop. Sweet and a bit fizzy. A decent alco-pop at that. This one, no doubt, will survive. Modern tastes run to sweet. Personally, I’m voting for Wild Blue.

— Jack’s Pumpkin Spice ** was an interesting beast. Again, all barley malt, 5.5 percent beer. “Golden Delicious” pumpkins from a farm in Oregon, were added to the mash, along with a spice blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Pumpkin nose, spicy taste. Like a pumpkin pie, If you like pumpkin, this would be worth a try. It will be on sale on tap and in bottles in 12 and 18 bottle Michelob Specialty Sampler Selection boxes until mid-December. The 18-bottle sampler includes two pilsner glasses as well. A-Bs next seasonal rolls out in December Each season will bring a new beer, Byrne said.

— Marzen *** is a very respectable, 5.2 percent version of an Oktoberfest lager. It’s a 100 percent barley malt beer, a blend of two-row and caramel cara-pils malts, Hallertau and Tettnang hops. It’s also dry hopped _ hops added after the wort cools. Most American-style Marzens tend to be quite malty with lots of hops. This one’s more like the fest beers being served this year in Munich: Crisp, malty mouth feel, dry finish. Excellent fest beer.
— Pale Ale** also is a dry-hopped, all barley malt beer. Byrne explained that it’s more like an English version of a pale ale, rather than the American style, with over-the-top Cascade hops. This is a middle-of-the road pale ale. To be British, in my opinion, it needs more malt, less dryness.

Anheuser Busch says all the beers _ with the exception of the blueberry ales _ will be available nationwide this month.

Posted on Friday, September 30th, 2005
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Brewing the Beer That Was

DENVER _ The opening session of the Great American Beer Festival is still a day away, but things are jumping here. I’ve just left a most interesting session. The assignment: Choose a beer that American patriot Benjamin Franklin would enjoy.
The idea came from the Benjamin Franklin Tercentenary _ the non-profit commission, created by Congress, to honor Franklin’s 300th birthday on Jan. 17, 2006. The Brewers Association, the Boulder, CO-based America craft brewer organization, jumped on the idea. Five brewers across the country _ each with a reputation for research and brewing expertise _ brewed a sample barrel of beer, trying to be as true to Colonial America as possible. The beer had to be an ale, of course. Lagers weren’t brewing in America for another 50 years. It also needed to be quite strong. Head-knocking ales were popular in Colonial pubs.
So on this day, Ray Daniels of the Brewer’s Association assembled a panel of judges, including three well-known brewers, John Mallett, of Kalamazoo Brewing (Bell’s), Kalamazoo, MI, John Harris, Full Sail and Steve Bradt, of Free State Brewing, Lawrence, KS. Joining them was Nicola Twilley, director of Public Programming for the Franklin Tercentary.
In fact, Nicola’s husband, Geoff Manaugh, a poet, novelist and beerlover, came up with the idea to brew a beer. It was a great idea, Nicola said. Ben Franklin loved his beer. She’s not sure if the famous beer quote: “Beer shows that God loves us and wants us to prosper” was actually uttered by Franklin. “I’m still researching it, but it sounds like him,” she said.
Oh yes, the fifth judge was me, but mostly, I listened and took notes. The tasting was held at Wynkoop Brewing, the woodsy, jumping brewpub, founded by Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper
The beers were:
— One. Came From Chuck Skypeck and Jiummy Randle, Bosco’s Squared, Memphis, TN. A medium brown, unfiltered beer with a lively head. It had a sweet nose with just maybe a bit of tartness and was 7.5 percent alcohol by volume. Chuck, who was there, said ingredients included 10 pounds of raw cane sugar. This was an ingredient that was commonly used in Colonial America as an inexpensive source of fermentables. Two of us loved this beer. I did and so did Geoff, who wasn’t a judge. But the experts didn’t like the sweetness. Hops were Cluster and Willamette.
— Two. Came from Tony Simmons of Brick Oven Brewing, Pagosa Springs, CO. This was a dark brown, 6.6 percent ale, made with barley, flaked corn (another inexpensive fermentable in Franklin’s day), Kent Goldings, the English hop, a variety of barley malts, including black patent and biscuit; 1.5 pounds of molasses, two percent of the fermentables, was added 15 minutes before the end of the 90 minute boil.
The beer had an off-note, slightly medicinal _ the brewers told us, it was phenols, a sometimes unpleasant byproduct, associated with some ale yeasts. But John Harris loved this beer. Putting aside the phenols, it was indeed a fine beer.
— Three. Came from Zac Triemert, of Upstream Brewing, Omaha,NE. Nicola, John Mallett and Steve Bradt loved this beer. It was a 5 percenter, made with pale malt, Gambrinus honey malt, wheat, roasted barley, Simpson’s Golden Naked Oats and molasses. Hops were Golding.
— Four was a very dark, 6 percent beer, Matt Van Wyk of Flossmoor Station, Flossmoor, IL. It was a blend of malts, Golden Naked Oats, and Chocolate Wheat.
— Five waas a 4.5 percent, very dark ale made with a large portion of molasses.Hops were perle and in a gesture to Franklin, who published a similar recipe, spruce branches were mixed into the mash.
This blog is becoming encyclopedic, so let’s cut to the results.
John Harris loved number two and eventually he brought the rest of the panel around. He blew away my phenol argument. This was Colonial Philadelphia, he said. Beer was made quickly, placed in wood casks and served in a tavern without benefit of refrigeration. An off-note or two was to be expected, he said.
The problem with Number three was it was too perfect; it was an excellent, very drinkable beer. Could it have been produced in Franklin’s day? That argument carried the day.
The winner was Brick Oven’s beer. The next step is for the Brewer’s Association to publish the recipe. Then, brewers everywhere will be encouraged to make it. A keg of the winning beer will be opened in Philadelphia on Jan. 17, 2006. Happy birthday Ben .
Salud.

Posted on Wednesday, September 28th, 2005
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Back in the Bloggle er Saddle Again…

It’s been a long month of html hell, which began when I innocently tried to post a funny e-mail I got from a brewer in the East. I kept getting the message: html error, so I kept trying and according to my web guru, Zach, I screwed up the blog.

At one point, if you tried to read the post in Internet Expolorer, all you got was white screen. In Foxfire, everything was black. It was readable only in Safari, the Mac browser.

Anyway, Zach said it’s fixed so here’s the post, minus the graphics and typography:

The headline says: Beer Retirement Plan

“It will be so good to retire. (Picture of grandpa in rocking chair.)

“Investing for your retirement: “If you had purchased $1,000 of Nortel stock one year ago — It now would be worth $49.

“With Enron, you would have $16.50 left of the original $1,000.

“With WorldCom you would have had less than $5 left.

“But, if you had purchased $1,000 worth of BEER one year ago, drunk all the beer, then turned in the cans for the aluminum recycling refund — you would have $214.

“Based on this information, our current recommendation is to drink heavily and reccyle.

IT’S CALLED THE 401-KEG PLAN.

No graphics, but it is kind of funny. There’s even good beer in cans these days: Have you tried Dale’s Pale Ale from Colorado? Good stuff. And g’nite for now.

We’re baaaaaaaack.

Posted on Monday, September 26th, 2005
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