Beer and Pavement

It’s All Relative

Posted in Beer, Intersections, Life by SM on April 18, 2012

The boyz from Hot Knives went ape for a box of Founders. They mistakenly confused their booty for the entire lineup[1], but how were these west coasters to know?

Anyway, it’s interesting to hear their take on the beers. For the most part, they know what they’re drinking. The hoppy beers are balanced and lie more east than west when it comes to IPA character[2]. However, where Founders gets it right every time is with their stouts, imperial stouts even. Overall, they were stoked to get something so rare…for LA.

This got me thinking about how regions can have completely different takes on the same products. Founders is based out of Michigan and generally only ships to states in the Great Lakes region along with Missouri and a few other eastern states. To those of us in Missouri, they’re fairly common[3], to the point that a few of these beers are considered disappointments on particular years[4].

The love for regional beers or music by those outside said region is always interesting to me. Beers and bands enjoy a certain kind of love close to home, some genuine and some obligatory. It’s more of an ownership thing that’s tempered by familiarity. A brewery or band succeeds when they get all kinds of love from outside of their homes, love that is based on performance and not just hype.

In the above video, the hipsters[5] were excited by Founders’ hype on the west coast, but they were won over by the imperial stouts. Still, I wonder what the reaction would have been if Founders wasn’t all that good at brewing beer. I know that I’ve had some hyped beers from out of market and were somewhat letdown. Conversely, I’ve had others that did not disappoint, living up to and sometimes passing the hype. In the end, how the beer tasted, looked, and smelled won me over, not the hype associated with a scarcity based on regional distribution/limitations.

This is where I was reminded to appreciate what a rare treat it is that we in Missouri get great beers from Michigan (Founders, Jolly Pumpkin, Bells, etc.), Colorado (Avery, Great Divide, Ska, etc.), New York (Southern Tier, Schmaltz), California (Green Flash, Firestone Walker, Stone, etc.), the Pacific Northwest (Deschutes, Caldera, etc.), as well as places in between and from our own state (Schlafly, Boulevard). However, sometimes it takes an outsider’s appreciation to do the reminding.

Relatively speaking, Founders is pretty common around these parts. However, it’s probably a jolt to these LA food/beer bloggers. It’s the same when someone here shows up with something from Russian River, Three Floyds, or Dogfish Head – all breweries not commonly available in the Show-Me state. Although these breweries are great no matter where you are, they are even that much better where they are not normally found.

It reminds me of the time I saw Guided By Voices play on Coney Island.  One summer weekend, a few of us drove all night to see them play in the inaugural Village Voice Siren Fest. As we rolled our collective eyes over the showmanship of the band, the crowd of New Yorkers went completely nuts for windmills and epic kicks.

See, living in Ohio during the 90’s and half of the last decade, one had many opportunities to see GBV in all its glory. I saw or could have seen the band play on every tour from Bee Thousand through Half Smiles of the Decomposed, plus special gigs in between[5]. So, their shtick was pretty played-out for us by then.

The difference was that New York had not been able to experience nearly as much Bob Pollard as we Ohioans had[6]. To them, it was all new or at least novel. To us, it was the last decade+ and we were ready to move on, forgetting how much we loved GBV and all those shows and all the theatrics we now detested. So, GBV’s popularity that day was mostly relative to them performing in front of a crowd not blessed to see them all that often[7].

Anyway, a good reason to keep beer distribution regional and small is the joy we get when we have a beer out of market, like the Hot Knives boys and their box of Founders. Some of the enjoyment we have – whether it’s beer or music – is relative to where we are, what’s normally available there, and with whom we’re sharing the experience.

I’m glad someone in LA got to try some Founders. They now know what the midwest has to offer that west coast IPA’s cannot always fulfill. I’m also glad that this video reminded me of what a nice craft beer option we have here in Middle Missouri with Founders in almost every grocery, restaurant, and bar.

1 It was a nice haul, but there are a few key bottles missing: Cherise, Pale Ale, Dirty Bastard, Red’s Rye PA, Porter, All Day IPA, Curmudgeon, Harvest Ale, and Backwoods Bastard. Plus, there are the super rare bottles like CBS, Better Half, and Blushing Monk.
2 With my limited palate, I am finding that I prefer the West Coast IPA to those of the east. A “balanced” IPA seems to be code for “tons of sweetness to balance out all the hops.” I’m growing a bit weary over Eastern and Midwestern DIPA’s. The IPA’s are fine. It just seems there’s way too much sweetness going on.
3 Of course, this has only been the case for a few years. Founders was one of the first big craft brewers to plunge into Missouri’s waters. Since then, it’s been an avalanche of new beer.
4 The Devil Dancer just didn’t do it for me this year. I blame the ridiculous amount of hops needed for a triple IPA (whatever that is). If the crop this year was even a tiny bit off, it affected the whole beer. Also, I really don’t care for fresh KBS. That beer needs a year to age before it’s good.
5 I once saw them play a tent in Dayton on a snowy St. Pat’s Day. My brother got us kicked out.
6 Guided By Voices gigs and things like cow tipping are probably the only two things that Ohio can say they get more opportunities to do than New Yorkers.
7 See #6. Why do I even have this footnote?

Another note…The use of “hipsters” as a descriptor was not meant as an insult. Hipsters tend to be creative and fashionable types. What’s not to like about that?

Beer & Music Pairings

Posted in Intersections by SM on March 21, 2011

This was once a central focus of this blog, but I struggled to make it work. Now, I have the methodology. It’s time to pair some beer with indie rock.

(via Hot Knives)

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Posted in Beer by SM on July 6, 2010

I won’t even try to tell their story1. I’ll just goof up the details2.

Two Danish bros travel around Europe and the US, use the facilities at several fine craft breweries to create some of the best, if not most interesting beers around. There’s nifty packaging and even niftier names to boot. And they don’t just do the obscure styles. They do the beers we love: the imperial India pale ale, imperial stouts, Belgian styles, etc.  And there’s also all those experimental beers, the sours, the stouts made with weasel poop3, and variations upon variations of their top sellers.

Again, Mikkeller may or may not be the best brewery in the world, but they are certainly the most interesting.

A friend came over for beers and dinner. For the evening, I broke out two Mikkeller brews. We split a bottle of the I Beat yoU DIPA they brewed at Scotland’s Brew Dog and the infamous and hard-to-fathom 1000 IBU.

One of the more interesting series of beers Mikkeller has released is their run of single-hopped IPA’s. In the arms race of the imperial/double IPA, Mikkeller has found a niche in isolating hops and playing with the style in ways few American brewers would ever try. Using a rather simple recipe, the Mikkeller boys isolated a hop with each batch, making it possible to taste side-by-side the differences in hops. I’ve sat in on a session where someone provided four such beers. It was amazing the variations we found in aroma and taste among the hops4.

Well, they’ve done ten of those beers. Someone thought it might be a good idea to toss all ten of those hops into one beer. Someone else might think this would never work, not I. The resulting beer is all flower5 on the nose and has a really complex taste that goes beyond bitterness. Sure, it’s bitter, but not too bitter. You catch one hop upon first taste and another as it goes down your throat. It even becomes more convoluted as it warms. Really, it’s a beautiful beer wrapped neatly inside a gimmick.

We then moved to a bigger, badder version of a Mikkeller DIPA. The 1000 IBU is becoming a favorite of mine, an expensive favorite6, but a favorite nonetheless. Considering that the average Joe can taste 100, maybe 120 IBU’s7, one would think a beer ten times the IBU’s would be virtually undrinkable. When I first thought of 1000 IBU’s, I thought of this:

That didn’t happen. Thankfully.

No, instead, what this beer revealed is unbelievable balance and subtlety. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a hop bomb. It’s just that it tastes so…so…well, good. An even more amazing feat than 1000 IBU’s was to make a beer at 1000 IBU’s that was delicious. The sweetness found in its malt bill is maybe more impressive than the 1000 international bitterness units.

For me, Mikkeller represents the best of hipsters8. There’s genuine ingenuity. The classics are celebrated and even enhanced without losing touch with tradition. There’s style in their packaging that is not only aesthetically pleasing but also demonstrates depth and careful planning. Once again, I don’t know that Mikkeller makes the best beer, but I know that they make some of the most interesting brews. The two beers above suggest they make interesting and great beers.

And since I’m on a positive hipster beer kick9, you should check out one of my favorite reviews from Hot Knives collection of great beer reviews in zine form. They give Mikkeller’s Black Hole Stout the proper treatment. I don’t think I’ve posted anything about these bros before. Let’s just say they are the equivalent of Mikkeller in beer blog form. They’re a little punk and DIY. They’ve got that hipster10 thing going. Oh, and they know good beer. So, once again, while I’m on a pro-hipster, beer roll, you should shoot over to Hot Knives for some real beer writing.

1Actually, I’ll tell you just enough. You can check out their story here. Be sure to click on the American flag.
2Of course, that’s what footnotes are for.
3Yes. There is a beer made with weasel poop. Well, actually, it’s a coffee stout made with coffee that comes from weasel poop.
4My favorite is the Simcoe variation with its grapefruit aroma and flavor. I’m anxiously awaiting the Citri version.
5My drinking buddy for the evening actually said, “This beer smells like a flower.”
6Thirteen bucks for a bottle that measures just over twelve ounces. Luckily, this town is about out of these beers.
7“IBU” stands for “international bitterness units”. It’s a measurement of bitterness in beer based on the amount and types of hops you use to brew a beer. Beers described as “hoppy” typically range between 60 and 80 IBU’s. Really big, bitter hop bombs begin to approach 100. To give you perspective, Budweiser has around 11.
8Before you jump all over me for bashing hipsters or even just bringing them up, I think I will demonstrate a positive view of hipsterdom which benefits us all. Usually, hipsters make great music, but in this case they make great beer.
9See. There’s nothing wrong with critiquing hipsters if you’re also willing to praise them.
10That was a bonus “hipster” there.

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