Beer and Pavement

Session #71: Brewers and Drinkers

Posted in Beer, The Session by SM on January 6, 2013

Better late than never, eh?

This month’s session is brought to you by The Homebrew Manual and focuses on the relationship with beer between brewers and drinkers. I consider myself both, but I know of many who are more one or the other. It does taint one’s appreciation of beer, but I don’t think one is necessarily better than the other.

Let’s start with me. I used to be a drinker only. My thinking was that I could never brew something as good as a commercial brewer. And many of the homebrewers I knew proved this to be true. Their beers were mediocre at best and didn’t offer the same wow factor that many commercial breweries offered. I just didn’t see the point of brewing 40-50 bottles of something that wasn’t nearly as good the various different beers I could find at the store or in bars. That and many of these homebrewers seemed ignorant to the tide of craft beer developing under their noses. High IBU’s and ABV’s seemed impossible. “Throw more spice and have another malty beverage!”

So, I threw myself into the craft beer movement. I bought every new release. I built a cellar that might not be the largest you’ve ever seen, it’s still solid in its variety and quality. I lost track of how many beers I had before Untappd (BU), but I have since achieved Legendary status (500 unique beers recorded) with a solid progression toward Extraordinary (1000 different beers). I steeped myself in the culture and blogging community so as to further my enjoyment of craft beer.

Then – I don’t remember whose beer it was – it hit me. It is possible to brew beer at home that’s as good or even better than what the pros produce. It was like a second epiphany. So, I tried some homebrewing. At first, it was a kit that seemed pretty pedestrian, but I didn’t care. It was mine. From there, I completely changed the hop additions and developed an incredible single-hopped Simcoe IPA and the rest was history.

Now, granted, I’ve never moved beyond extract brewing. Some would argue that I don’t really brew. However, I haven’t moved on to all-grain for two simple reasons. First, extract brewing requires less time and is generally simpler. I can steep some specialty grains before I boil for added complexity. Extract brewing is just so easy. Second, my beers have generally been considered “better than extract.” Few have been able to sense the extract and all have loved my beers. I’ve done some insanely hoppy IPA’s/DIPA’s, potent imperial stouts, a ridiculously popular saison, and there’s a boozy Belgian Quad bottle conditioning right now that is loaded with that raisin flavor/aroma brewers strive for.

So, I’m a brewer and a drinker. I don’t think one understands beer better than the other. Brewers can break down a beer into its components, altering the enjoyment from aesthetic-based to one of utility. Each beer is judged like a puzzle, stirring inspiration for the next batch while developing metacognition along the way. Drinkers, however, are not lost in the details and enjoy beer in the moment. Where the brewer tries to experiment with technique and ingredients, the drinker collects and hoards his own variety. Both can be generous with knowledge and refreshment. Both know their stuff. But, most importantly, both appreciate and love beer.

As is usual for this blog, I can find an applicable comparison to musicians and music fans. I am of the latter and not the former. I wish I could play music. I tried teaching myself guitar and bass at one point, but there just wasn’t time in my schedule. Despite my love of the DIY movement, I’ve never really felt that playing music was in the cards for me. However, I don’t appreciate music any less than musicians. I have several musician friends who – for whatever reason – like to read this blog, talk music with me, or come hear me spin. I’m more than a fan. I curate.

But I digress.

Does one need to brew (or play music) to properly appreciate beer (or music)? No. The appreciation is just different. I know a lot more about beer and appreciate a well-made pale ale or Pilsner because of what I know about brewing. However, there are some times when I want to suspend that knowledge and just enjoy the beer for what it is at that moment. Who cares what causes the head retention or that tartness. I just want to appreciate the beer for being a beer.

I don’t ever want to be the brewer that analyzes every beer, sucking out the enjoyment. I don’t want to swayed by technique over the ephemeral. Conversely, I don’t want to drink a beer blindly, ignorant to the efforts that went into making it so great. It’s all about balance.

We need balance in the beer community as well. Drinking beers with only brewers or drinkers makes for a dull, monotonous experience. Beer, as complex as it is, can become a rather boring thing if only seen tasted smelled experienced through one perspective. Beer needs a diversity of thought to be fully appreciated. So, there’s plenty of room for both brewers and drinkers. Also, those of us who float somewhere in between.

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Session #64: Pale in Comparison

Posted in Beer, The Session by SM on June 1, 2012

The Beer Babe had the following mission to propose for this month’s session:

Your mission – if you choose to accept it – it so seek out and taste two different pale ales. Tell us what makes them special, what makes them forgettable, what makes them the same or what makes them different…

I have to admit that the pale ale is not currently my favorite style of beer. Extreme beer has me roped in, but I also like other, more diverse styles of beer. The pale ale is just so plain, so run of the mill these days. Everyone brews a pale.

It hasn’t always been that way. I used to exclusively order pale ales, particularly Columbus Pale Ale back in the day. It was so bitter and fulfilling compared to the macro lagers of my youth that I couldn’t imagine anything more flavorful. When I was lucky enough to try a flight at a brewery, the pale ale was what I used to judge a brewery’s quality. The pale was king until it’s Indian cousin (and his imperialist friend) came along and changed my life forever.

Still, I wanted to participate in this month’s session. With a summer holiday arriving just before, I figured that I had ample opportunity to try some pale ales and put together a post. The two pales I landed on were Deschutes Red Chair NWPA and Tallgrass 8-Bit Pale Ale.

Now, before some beer purists get their boxers in a bunch, I recognize that these beers are technically considered American pale ales (APA). This was purposeful. I prefer the sharp bite of hops over biscuit-y sweetness more prevalent in the British version. So, most pale ales don’t typically do it for me. Now, I don’t need to be knocked upside the head at all times by hop bombs, but some fruity, piney aromas and bitterness provided by American hops is one of the things that dragged me into the craft beer world. So, this is as close as I’ll get to trying two pale ales so closely together*.

The first of the two APA’s I tried was the Deschutes Red Chair NWPA. It was a nice evening at the community garden. Most of the kids in the ‘hood had just finished their last day of school and so we threw a little barbecue. I grabbed a sixer of Red Chair and even “slummed it” by drinking from the bottle.

At 6.4% ABV and 60 IBU, this beer teeters on the edge of being another great northwestern IPA. However, it goes down much smoother, almost too smooth as I had three before having to drag my kid (and myself) home for her bath. This beer is a gentler, kinder IPA, something I always hope for in a pale ale, even if it makes the purists cringe. Even from the bottle, I could enjoy this beer’s pine forest aroma. It’s just a great and easy drinking beer for a beer geek with some extreme beer fatigue. Mind you, that’s not extreme beerfatigue. I’m talking about extremebeer fatigue. Those are two very different things.

Later in the weekend, my daughter and I embarked on a 60-mile (round trip) bike ride split by a night of camping and live music, better known as the Pedaler’s Jamboree. The featured beers of the fest were those canned creations from Tallgrass. One such beer was waiting for me in a cooler at the end of the first day’s ride: 8-Bit Pale Ale.

8-Bit’s measurables put it much closer to your average pale ale (5.2% ABV, 40 IBU), but it’s still at the high end of the spectrum. Everything Red Chair had, 8-Bit did subtler, but that wasn’t a bad thing. After biking all day in 90+ degree heat, I was happy to have an easy drinking beer with just the right balance of sweetness, bitterness, and floral hoppiness.

And yes, I drank it out of the can. What else are you supposed to do when camping? Besides, how could anyone not love the cartoonish design adorning this 16 oz can? My daughter hoped she could have some but she was out of luck.

The tone of this month’s session felt like a review was in order, but I don’t really feel like ranking these beers or even comparing them. They’re both dynamite examples of (American) pale ales. Red Chair screams Northwest with its piney aromas and 8-Bit comes off more citrusy like its Midwestern wheat-based brethren, but that’s about as different as they get. Otherwise, both beers were smooth going down and made me reconsider my extremebeer pretensions. Whatever that means.

*It should be noted that I finished off a four-pack of Green Flash Rayon Vert not too long ago. That beer is considered a Belgian-style pale ale. I love this beer, but it felt as though it was cheating when this session was considered.

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Session #63: The Beer Moment

Posted in The Session by SM on May 4, 2012

Pete Brown charged the beer blogosphere with this month’s session. We have been asked to write about our beer moments, whatever that is. Mr. Brown left it up for interpretation, but it’s not that easy.

Just as there are many kinds of beers and contexts in which we drink beer, there are many different moments for which one finds a love for beer. To only write about one moment would ignore the many others that make beer so enjoyable. There are moments when the anticipation of a rare beer comes to a head, a discovery or epiphany is reached, or a moment in context with something else, only circumstantially connected to beer. All of these moments are valuable to the beer enthusiast.

So, I’ve opted to describe a few of my favorite beer moments. There are more than I can include in this one post, but I’ll pick a few favorites that keep me coming back to beer, particularly of the craft variety. And since I do the whole beer/music thing here, I may even give a musical metaphor for what I’m describing.

Beer Moment #1: Pshh… A bottle opening is maybe the greatest sound I know. It’s akin to dropping the needle on a record. What’s being released is more than some CO2. That single “pshh” is unleashing the anticipation for what’s inside. Especially when a beer has been bottle conditioned, that sound represents magic. The only thing left is to pour the contents once contained by that now-slightly-mangled cap into your glass.

Beer Moment #2: The smell of whole hops or even those wafting from an IPA or DIPA is all the intoxication most hop-heads need. In that moment when we hover our noses just above the glass, we discover citrus fruits, pine needles, even cat pee (and we like it!). This is the smell that turns most beer drinkers into beer thinkers. Who knew that beer could taste or smell this way? It’s the same as that moment the B3 organ enters a song or the silence is broken with the pounding of drums. It cuts the air, destined to destroy your tongue. Even those who don’t care for hops acknowledge its power.

Beer Moment #3: This is one for the beer hunter. There’s that moment when we enter a store, hoping to find what they’ve come so far to obtain. Sometimes, it’s a Tweet or Facebook post that prompts us to drop everything and run to the store. On several occasions, I’ve hit the store in a narrow window in order to score my Hopslam, CBS, or some other rarity only known to a few of us (or so we think). We nervously cradle our bottles to the check-out, pay, and dash to the store, only to stop once securely in our cars to admire our booty. I feel the same rush when I find a record that has long eluded me only to finally become mine when I least expect it.

Beer Moment #4: Sometimes I go to a rock show expecting almost nothing. It may occur during an unknown opener or while a band I came to see but am not so sure about starts to play.Then, it happens. What they’re playing is good, brilliant even. What have I stumbled upon? Does anyone else know about this? The same goes for that one beer I bought on a whim while on vacation or at the local watering hole. That moment of discovery is hard to top.

Beer Moment #5: While released anticipation, hop bombs, the hunt, and discoveries make beer enthusiasm a fun and worthy hobby, it’s hard to beat the moment when we reach pure satisfaction. I’m talking about the cold Oberan chilling your throat on the first hot day of the spring; the time you drank your beer while floating down the river straight from the can, despite beer snobbish pretensions; the warmth of an unholy imperial stout filling your being with booze and sweetness; or the first beer you’re served at happy hour after a long week of work. These are the times when a beer makes you smile. It satisfies like no other indulgence. It’s perfect for every situation, but especially the one you’re in at that moment the beer touches your lips. For me, this also happens when my favorite band hits their stride playing that song or I barely realize I’ve been driving for an hour until one of my prized albums comes to an end, requiring me to search the iPod for another long-player.

Beer fills many moments, but these are five moments I think of often. It reminds us we have souls and feelings. These are moments we feel alive. One doesn’t have to have a beer to have his/her own moments, but I’ve found that it helps. What is your beer moment? Are any of yours like these? Is there something else to fills these moments for you that isn’t beer?

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The Sessions I’ve Missed

Posted in The Session by SM on April 10, 2012

During my recent hiatus/momentary lack of inspiration[1], I missed some opportunities to participate in sessions of different sorts. I had contributed to several monthly Session posts before running out of ideas a month or two ago. One of those missed sessions happened on Friday. The topic revolved around what drives beer bloggers, something I’ve struggled with in recent weeks. In an effort to keep things fresh around here, I’ll attempt to respond (albeit late) as briefly as I can[2].

What drives us to blog about beer – or at least what drives me – is the quest to promote beer (especially of the artisinal variety[3]) to the masses. We do this because we feel a specific perspective has yet to be shared, a perspective that will make it clear to skeptics why craft beer really is as amazing as we all think it is. And if we’re successful at making our case, the craft beer boom will continue, insuring that there is quality craft beer selections in every bar, restaurant, grocery, bus station, and elementary school to quench our undying thirst for the sweet, dank, pucker-inducing, bubbly, good stuff we crave.

Of course, this is what drives most bloggers who write about any product. We want what we love to succeed and feel we can make the case for said success through promotion via social media, in this case, the blog. Maybe it’s more narcissistic than that[4], but I believe that the motivation behind beer blogging is a good one that goes beyond “look what I got to drink.” The same goes for film, music, about whatever one blogs.

Still, maybe what really drives us to blog about beer is the excuse to drink more beer. There’s nothing wrong with that.

1 Call it an existential crisis or whatever. I was beginning to both feel the pressure to post as well as the the fact that not too many people really care about what I think.
2 This is part of my new strategy to keep posting. Maybe if I go back to shorter posts, I’ll get more content out there, stuff I can develop down the line. Plus, I often over-think my posts and that’s not possible if I keep them short.
3 I interchange “artisanal” and “craft” all the time. Let’s not get hung up on the labels. I get that for some, these two terms are not the same. Additionally, “craft” beer has a very different meaning in the UK. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll stick to the American definition, in case that wasn’t clear before.
4 Who am I kidding? Blogging is an exercise in narcissism. It’s better that we acknowledge this and move on.

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Session #59 – I Almost Always Drink Beer, But When I Don’t, I Drink Żubrówka

Posted in Beer, Life, Mikkeller, The Session by SM on January 6, 2012

This month’s session almost threw me for a loop. Here’s the premise from session curator Mario Rubio of Brewed for Thought:

With the New Year looming and a month of Christmas and Holiday parties to enjoy there are plenty of opportunities to get into a different beverage besides beer, alcoholic or otherwise. It was with this in mind that I was reminded of a conversation I had one day with Jay Brooks. Looking for advice on how to squeeze some blood from this stone of beer blogging, Jay told me a lot of writers have to look outside of beer to help make a complete income. Upon bringing this up as a Session topic he even offered up a much better title than I would have thought up.

So as we are all incredibly interesting people, and almost always drink beer, let’s talk about what we drink when not drinking beer. Maybe your passion for coffee rivals that of craft beer, or it could be another alcoholic beverage such as scotch. My daughter being a root beer fan would appreciate her dad reviewing a few fizzy sodas. Maybe you have a drink that takes the edge off the beer, be it hair of the dog or a palate cleanser during the evening.

Beer cocktails, wines, ciders, meads, you name it as long as it’s not beer. Try to tie it in with craft beer in some way for extra credit. Be creative and I’ll see you guys in the new year.

Why would this throw me for a loop? Well, aside from my morning (and sometimes afternoon) coffee and water, I’ve cut out just about all other drinks. I feel that I can have a beer that will satisfy me better than any cocktail or glass of wine could ever do. So, why would I want to wast my liver and bladder on another drink?

Then, I considered the past holiday season. Every Christmas Eve, we have a Polish dinner. It’s tradition to toast each course with a shot of Polish vodka. We’ve always preferred Żubrówka or Bison Grass Vodka. However, the Eastern European market here in town was out. To add insult to injury, all the liquor stores in town don’t carry it. Our dinner guest supplied a nice Polish vodka, but it was absent the bison grass and just didn’t taste the same.

What exactly is Żubrówka and why is it so good?

Well, the Żubrówka one buys here in the States is different than what can be had in Poland. The original contains a blade of grass that grows from bison pastures. We’re all adults with a decent amount of education. So, I’ll let you figure out the connection from there. Anyway, said grass contains a carcinogen, making it extra “effective”. The US government looks down upon such ingredients. The American version shares the same green tint, herbal flavor, and even a blade of grass. However, there are no carcinogens. Still, my wife who’s had the Polish version, says it’s pretty close to the original. This means that a certain amount of herbal goodness, akin to an apple pie, exists in this green-tinted treat.

The spirit is an integral part of our family’s history. My wife’s family has a Polish background and she spent some time in Poland while her brother served in the Peace Corps there. Żubrówka was plentiful. Even the children were served their share, mixed with apple juice for a drink called a “szarlotka”. When we were married, we concluded the ceremony (and started the party) with a shot of Żubrówka for all. It’s tradition for our liquor cabinet to be stocked with the grassy booze, but our supply ran out and was left empty somehow.

After the Christmas Eve without our favorite accoutrement, we were determined to not let another holiday pass us by without some Bison Grass Vodka. Thankfully, Wine & Cheese Place in St. Louis (or in Clayton to be more specific) exists. I normally go there for beer, but this was a vodka emergency and a bottle of the green stuff was to be secured. W&C pulled through and we had vodka shots for New Year’s Eve!

Of course, I also consumed some Mikkeller Nelson Sauvin Brut (an awesome “New Year beer…fermented with ale yeast, brettanomyces and enzymes…aged three months in Austrian white wine casks”), Life & Limb 2 (Dogfish Head/Sierra Nevada-collaborated imperial stout with distinctive notes of chocolate and maple syrup), and Schalfly Reserve Barley Wine-style Ale (a 2008 vintage where the only thing I could taste was oak and no malt after 3+ years in the bottle). So, I didn’t drink just vodka harvested from the grass of buffalo dung, but the vodka certainly helped to ring in the new year the right way even if leaving me a bit hungover.

Cheers to Mario for forcing me out of my comfort zone and to reflect on and appreciate what is a rather enjoyable spirit, Żubrówka.

Session #58 – A Christmas Carol

Posted in Beer, The Session by SM on December 2, 2011

This month’s session idea comes to us from Ed Hardy at Beersay and here’s what he had to…er…say:

The idea for me was based loosely around the visits of three ghosts to Ebenezer Scrooge, but relayed in a post about the beers of Christmas past, present and future.

What did you drink during Christmas holidays of old, have you plans for anything exciting this year and is there something you’d really like to do one day, perhaps when the kids have flown the nest?

So, we’re going all holiday up in this joint. I do love a good holiday ale loaded with frankincense and myrrh. Or something like that.

Xmas Past
For a beery memory to share, I’m going to go all the way back to last year. It’s not as much about what beer I drank, but rather about the silliness that resulted in my consumption. After a beer or two and a glass of homemade egg nog, we sat down for Xmas Eve dinner with friends and family. My wife makes the greatest Polish feast imaginable every Xmas Eve. It is easily my favorite meal of the year. I prefer to celebrate said meal with a nice beer. For last year’s feast, I chose Mikkeller’s Santa’s Little Helper.

Then, things got a bit weird…

For whatever reason, our guests that evening were not into drinking beer with this particular dinner. So, I had the entire 750 mL bottle to myself. You can probably imagine what happened after that. And if you imagined that I would go outside intent on knocking the snow off our satellite dish with snow balls only to eventually turn to climbing onto the roof in order to clear the snow by hand, then you would be correct.

Xmas Present
I’m not exactly sure how to handle this one as it is only December 2nd, meaning that this Xmas actually qualifies as Xmas Future, but whatever. I’ll at least tell you my plan. The start of our season usually happens on St. Nicholas Day (Dec. 6). Friends throw a big party with a giant, flaming bowl of mulled wine. It’s good stuff, but I always show up with some seasonal beers. Other than the Mikkeller (again), I currently have a Jolly Pumpkin Noel Calabaza, but I think I’ll take a sixer of Sierra Nevada’s Celebration Ale, assuming there’s more in the stores.

After that, my beer club has a Holiday Party/Yankee Swap/Ugly Sweater Contest planned. I’ll bring something nice to drink (possibly the Allagash Odyssey I scored at last year’s party), possibly a Boulevard gift set for the swap, and I don’t know about the sweater.

As far as our own Xmas festivities, I’ll take it easy this year on Xmas Eve. There will be no drunken roof climbing this year. I always enjoy a bomber all to myself on Xmas Day. Other than that, it will be typical beer consumption for me.

Xmas Future
I have lots of ideas for future Xmas. Let’s list them, since that’s kinda my thing this month:

  • Xmas Homebrew – I want to brew a special Xmas brew on Xmas Day one of these years. Of course, it will probably have to be something that isn’t necessarily Xmas-y as it will take time for fermentation and such to occur. Ideally, I’d like to brew something big that can be enjoyed during the following Xmas as a way to start a tradition.
  • Travel – One of the best Xmas celebrations I ever had was the year we visited family in California. I’d love to do a beer-themed Xmas trip one of these years. Maybe Colorado, San Diego, Asheville, Portland, Chicago, or even Belgium would all be great trips. Someday, someday…
  • Neighborhood Tasting – I’ve always wanted to do a tasting with my neighbors. They all like to imbibe and have a good time. I’m the resident beer nerd. They’re always asking me about craft and homebrewed beer. I always thought it would be cool to have them all chip in and I’ll buy a load of beer for a tasting. There’s a neighborhood party and progressive dinner, a beer at each stop would be ideal.
  • Beer Gifts – My wife always gets me cool and unique gifts for Xmas, but one of these years I’m going to get her to give the gift of beer. I’m thinking glassware, all-grain equipment, a beer trip, or some membership to a special mail-order club or something. Even a stockpile of beer books would be cool.
  • Sharing Craft Beer with My Daughter –My three-year-old is obviously not ready for beer, but I’ve given her tiny tastes here and there. I look forward to the day I can sit down and share a beer with her on special occasions. The day we crack open a special beer I’ve been cellaring could be a lot of fun. Here in Missouri, it’s legal to serve your kid alcohol within your home. I’m not talking about getting plastered. I’m talking about sipping on a great beer and enjoying the aromas and flavors within. It will be a valuable experience where  I can teach her about good craft beer. By the time her peers are all doing keg stands, she won’t want to take part unless it’s good beer.

Well, those are my Xmas beer thoughts for the past, present, and future. Be sure to check out the other posts in the Session over at Beersay. Also, have yourself a happy holidays and all that. Cheers!

Session #57 – Beery Confessions: Guilty Secrets/Guilty Pleasure Beer

Posted in Beer, The Session, Travelog by SM on November 4, 2011

This month’s session is “Beery Confessions: Guilty Secrets/Guilty Pleasure Beer” which is not the sort of thing budding beer bloggers want to share. We have reps to protect. However, if anything, it should demonstrate that even I will stoop to a lesser beer out of sheer pleasure and not just necessity. I’ll skip the opportunity to tell you about an embarrassing drunken escapade. There are just too many of those to share. Instead, I’ll stick with the guilty pleasure angle.

This past summer, my wife and I traveled to Spain, spending much of our time with a close friend. Spain is not known for great beers, but I had a lot of fun searching out the best. There were fresh pilsners to hold me over and even a few interesting craft finds. Overall, I can’t complain about the beer I had, but there is one beer choice I made on several occassions that I’m not completely proud of.

As most beer nerds do, I checked out the tap handles at every bar, cafe, and restaurant we passed. While in Barcelona, we would often hang out at the cafe just below the apartment we were renting. Like most, smaller establishments, they had two beers on tap from the same brewery: Damm. One tap was reserved for the brewery’s flagship beer, Estrella Damm, while the other was reserved for my new guilty pleasure, Damm Lemon.

Yes. The beer geek who goes for 10% imperial stouts and DIPA’s measuring close to 100 IBU’s chose a shandy. The Damm Lemon (or “damn lemon” as it became known in our circle) was comprised of six parts cervaza to four parts lemon. It was the weekest of session beers in that it was low in alcohol (3.1%) and even lower on anything resembling beer.

My first clue should have been when I finally decided to order a damn lemon. First of all, my Spanish is terrible. I try to piece together what to say, usually pronouncing everything with a French accent. So, I think I asked for a “cervatha de la lemón.” I don’t know whether the girl laughed at my lame attempt at ordering in Spanish or the fact that I was ordering a shandy. Somehow, I suspect both. She corrected me and told me it’s called a “lata” or something that sounded like that. I drank two and recieved the same odd look both times. The second time around made me think that I was choosing a girly drink. Normally, this doesn’t bother me, but my inner-12-year-old cringed at the thought. Although, in retrospect, it may have been more of a case of “Why is this old guy drinking a kid’s beer?”

When our friend arrived in Barcelona, I introduced him to Damm Lemon and he loved it. we made a pact to purchase a sixer one night for dinner. The agreement was realized one evening after a long day of sight-seeing, tapas, and plenty of drinking. We were already a little buzzed. So, some 3% lemonade beer wasn’t going to hurt. We dutifully finished the entire sixer despite tipsiness to start with and what I remember to be a rather decadent dinner of various things soaked in olive oil, bread, lots of pork products, and a boatload of cheese.

I tasted many good things during my trip to Spain, but none could be quite equal the guilty pleasure Damm Lemon turned out to be. We even tried ham-flavored potato chips and that doesn’t seem as guilt-inducing as a shandy. Still, I don’t regret a thing and would likely do it again.

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Session 56: Thanks to the Big Boys

Posted in Beer, The Session by SM on October 7, 2011

When I saw that The Tale of Ale‘s idea for this month’s session, I threw-up a little in my mouth…not because beer from Bud-Miller-Coors (BMC) is that nauseating. No, it was more of a physical memory of what I mostly did with industrial rice lagers back in my college days. Either way, I committed to be a part of this community and contribute and that’s what I’ll do.

To say thanks to the “big boys” is not an easy thing for me to do. I’ve been anti-anything-corporate for a long, long time. Beer-makers are no different. When the goal is solely to improve the profit margin, quality be damned, I’m not interested in what you’re selling.

Music is bit more difficult to judge based on this criteria. I recently wrote about the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind. That album changed the game for me. A whole new world of music was opened up for my isolated self. Nirvana was a gateway into indie rock and the possibilities it held. Twenty years later, I’m still looking for the next Nirvana. I may never find it, but it’s been a lot of fun looking.

So, my music tastes might not have ever developed had it not been for one of the “big boys” of the music industry. Had Geffen Records not signed Nirvana, released Nevermind, and promoted the hell out of “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” I would have most likely never discovered Sonic Youth, Pavement, The Breeders, Pixies, Sleater-Kinney, etc. For this, I have to tip my hat for a moment to major labels, the BMC of the music industry.

That brings me back to my acknowledgement of the big boys of beer. Like most beer enthusiasts, I can trace my beer journey to a can or bottle of a product they called beer. I remember the fresh, clean images on a Coors advertisement. There’s the carbonation, slight bitterness, and sweetness found in a bottle of Miller Lite [sic]. Oh, and I almost forgot my first buzz at the bottom of a Budweiser can. Had the marketing and distribution powers of the big boys never existed, beer may have never entered my gullet. Had that not happened, I might not have continued down the beery trail I refer to as “the last 15-17 years.” (I was no saint and did partake in under-age drinking. Do as I say, kids, not as I have done.)

If I owe the big boys a thanks, I guess it’s for just being there. Without the big boys, I never drink my first Bud or listen to Nevermind. If I don’t do those things, then I never get the chance to enjoy a Russian River Supplication. I would have never seen Pavement, Archers of Loaf, Guided By Voices, or any other 90’s band all the kids are clamoring to see these days. I would have never consumed Dark Lord or enjoyed the value in a Lagunitas Hop Stoopid. My basement wouldn’t be lined with records that all hold some meaning and lots of memories. None of this happens without shitty rice-adjunct beers and David Geffen taking a chance on Nirvana.

So, for all of that, I say “thanks” to the big boys to helping me discover my hobbies, my passions. I couldn’t have done it without you. I guess.

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Session 55: Label Art

Posted in Beer, The Session by SM on September 2, 2011

I pay a lot of attention to label art for both beer and records. The album cover is one of the most revered pieces of accidental art/marketing ploys in modern history. However, I don’t know that I’ve ever really written about either all that much. Regardless, for this month’s session, we’re writing about label art. This month’s host is Hop Head Said… Basically, the goal is to choose one’s favorite artwork as depicted on bottles, cans, caps, and coasters.

This was a difficult choice to make. I love so many different craft beer labels. It’s hard just to choose one. I collect Stone bottles as I love the entire approach they have for marketing their beers. It used to be more difficult to accumulate these bottles before they came to Missouri. Now, it’s much, much easier.

I considered Mikkeller and Stillwater. I actually met the guy behind Stillwater’s artwork, tattoo artist Lee Verzosa, and he’s a nice guy. However, I write a lot about these breweries and figured it would be hard just to choose one label that rose above the rest.

Then, I considered the beer label that answered my prayers. It was a Friday after a long week of work. I wanted to sit back with a good beer. In fact, I had recently rediscovered my preference for really hoppy IPA’s. So, I went to the store in search of the hoppiest thing I could find. It so happens that Bell’s Hopslam had recently arrived. It’s label featuring a man being crushed by some giant hops was the sign for which I was looking. The rest is history.

Has there ever been a better image to represent the recent progression to bigger and hoppier beers? The image perfectly encapsulates this trend and matches the name perfectly. The beer itself is much more nuanced than the name Hopslam would suggest, but the image does the trick in warning consumers of the hop bomb within. Here are a couple images I’ve used of the infamous label and caps (which were a new touch this year).

Click for source.

Mine. (Notice the retro rotisserie.)


Update: Here’s how the rest of the session went down.

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