Monthly Archives: October 2011

World’s Best Beers & Jack Daniels

I follow a blog of two brother who write about whiskey and beer. One could argue that whiskey and beer are really quite the same…add water and carbonation and hops and whiskey becomes a beer.  Maybe some sugar too. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that take the water and carbonation and hops out of beer, add some wood barrel flavors, and beer becomes whiskey.

I am not a whiskey aficionado. I texted a friend on Friday night and asked him what he was drinking–hey it was the beginning of the weekend, most  people are enjoying something spirit–and he texted back a name of something that didn’t sound like a beer. I figured out it was a whiskey and then searched it on the web. It was pricey! But, I was drinking a Rogue Ale and that is not exactly federal government free cheese either.

I am fine with sipping Jack Daniels on occasion and want to keep it in this price range. I am pretty certainly that a don’t want to become a whiskey snob on top of already being a beer snob and a coffee snob. It starts to be expensive to be a snob.  The Beer and Whiskey Bros recently posted this document of the World’s Best Beers (I have to give credit where credit is due).

Samuel Adams seems to come up big in the competition which makes me wonder if S.A. has now become such a big sun in the craft beer market that it is starting to keep the better beers of a local variety from shining. But give kudos to SA for still making quality beers at mass quantities.

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Beer and Rugby

Friday night after eating entirely too much Italian food at Maggiano’s Little Italy in King of Prussia (nothing little about the place), we looped by the Beer Yard in Wayne to cop a case of Steinlager–a brew from New Zealand. We had plans to convene at a buddy’s abode on Sunday afternoon at 3:00 to watch the World Rugby Finals…France versus New Zealand All Blacks. Steinlager is the corporate sponsor of the All Blacks and we wanted to get into the spirit of the game.  We had high hopes for both the beer and the game.

Of course, we rooted for the All Blacks. Here is what the French coach said about his own players who went out and partied too much after eeking out a win over Wales:

“I told them what I thought of them,” he said. “That they’re a bunch of undisciplined, spoiled brats, disobedient, sometimes selfish, always complaining, always whining, and they’ve been (frustrating me) for four years.”

In other words, typical Frenchmen.

France didn’t start to play hard until the second half and New Zealand won the game while not playing particularly well. I played rugby for six seasons and went literally out with a bang my last game I played. I knocked three people out, and put one of them–a player on my own team–in the hospital overnight. Me…I had to get carted off to the hospital in an ambulance where I was diagnosed with a double concussion and had to get fifteen stitches above  my right eye. I can only really see out of my right eye so I figured I was tempting fate to play more. Thus, I sadly hung up my Adidas Steel Cleats and called it a career. It was very disappointing. So, I have little sympathy for the French not playing hard for a half. Such nonchalance is inexcusable.

Beer was always a big part of the post-game convocations. Part medicinal–it is hard to put into mere words how bad the body aches after 80 minutes on the pitch–and part fellowship. The ethos of rugby on the field is play hard, play fair, but leave it on the field. After the game, enjoy hanging out with the other team. Win or lose, it is a great time.

The game was so-so and so was the Steinlager. It is basically a light lager that has little flavor. Kind of like 7-Up. It is not offensive or anything but it is bland and nothing to write home about. We were all trying to convince ourselves that it was OK until my wife–acting as the little boy who observed that the “King has no clothes”–forced us to come to terms that we were drinking an average beer. That was also disappointing. Is there not a way to make the brew more adventuresome and daring? Why make something so so-so? Purely average.

We brought some Dogfish to the table to give us some taste and flavor. Although American rugby has a long way to go before it is world-class, good to know that our beers are among the world’s best.


Indian Summer

Last Saturday in Pennsylvania was the textbook definition of Indian Summer in October.  Above is a pic from patio central with the brew equipment ready to roll.

Temps were in the 70’s, the sun was shining, and a soft breeze blew. The two previous Saturdays, the weather was rather cold and raw, like whaling off of Nova Scotia. Brewing my Indian Summer kit just didn’t make sense when the weather was not in sync. I know I wrote about why I am calling it Indian Summer before…but here is a recap: I am brewing a California Lager “Steam” beer, that is fermenting with lager yeast at an ale temperature. This beer originated in California. Due to the warmer temps in Cali, and the lack of lagering caves and before refrigeration,  pre-surfer dudes did what they could considering the geography.

So, it is brew that should have been fermented cold and it was instead done warm out of necessity. Hence, Indian Summer.  The kit was malt-wise half extract and half actual malted barley. This is the first time I have brewed with any grain and it certainly required more time, equipment (igloo cooler with a screen), and attention. The malt-extract kits are like Betty Crocker cake kits. Just add eggs and and the like, pop it in the oven, voila a cake. The grain kit is like a cake made from scratch. The big difference between the malt-extract and the malted barley comes down to time, measurement, and a need for precision. I hope the taste reflects the additional investment. Along with the brew being organic, I am hoping for Indian Summer in a bottle.

My ultimate goal is to homegrow all of my ingredients for beer on my own land. I want to take my brew-making off the grid. I might still be beholden to Big Utilities for my energy, but I want my beer to be free of outside domination. Call it a moral stance. Not exactly practical yet it does have philosophical integrity.  Thus, I am taking baby steps to Beer Independence.


Prohibition: Paradise Lost

I have been watching Ken Burn’s documentary on Prohibition.   The Temperance Movement saw all alcohol consumption as damnable. It was clear– heaven or hell, saints or sinners, intoxication or abstinence.The beer above is Unibroue’s Maudite (the Damned). Some buddies and I enjoyed this last week. One of my bucket list items is to get to the Belgian-Styled Unibroue Brewery in Quebec. Quebec is a heck of a lot closer than Belgium. Not in favor of using demonic allusions, though.

First, I want to get something off of my chest: If I hear one more pseudo-sophisticate utter “You can’t legislate morality” I might just punch the TV. Murderers, Rapists, Child Molesters, maybe we should apologize for legislating morality on you. Please forgive us. The point of Prohibition is that society cannot legislate morality if it is not definitively immoral. Drinking alcohol can be wrong, it can be right. Depends on how much. Drunkenness is a sin. Drinking alcohol in moderation, not a sin. There is no doubt that drunkenness was a social problem before, during, and after Prohibition. There are a lot of reasons for this that I really don’t have the time to expound upon.

Briefly…hard lives, hard work, hard places…the desire to deaden the pain and promote pleasure. It ran amok as all pursuit of excessive pleasure does.

Although legislating morality is not as black and white as the purists still presume, there is little doubt that stupidity can be legislated. Prohibition aimed too high and as a result created a de facto industry of law-breaking below…it sought to use law to change hearts. Better to change hearts and the law will follow.   One of the cardinal rules of this jurisprudence is never create a law that cannot be enforced. All that happens is it takes a gray area and puts it into the black market. In trying to create heaven, it ushered in hell.

The rule of Not too much, by temperance taught. In what thou eat’st and drink’st.


Going Rogue

We got a writ that the annual St. George’s Oktoberfest was cancelled. Forecasts of cold and rain persuaded the hosts to cancel. It had been cancelled this year already once before…now again. The event is high and holy on the beer calendar and now we had been slain by the weather. My buddies and I were a bit incredulous. Cold and Rain….cancel? Really a reason to kill it? We are men, not old white-haired grannies forgoing the April High Tea in the flower garden due to brisk winds. Though, I do know that the St. George contingent do depend heavily on their wives to bring on the food. It is sort of a family affair. But yet….St. George historically it is said in somewhat legendary terms to have slain a wicked dragon. Would he not done so if it  had been cold and rainy? “Dear Dragon, perchance we could battle on Friday when the weather is to be fairer?” Yikes.

We quickly regrouped and formulated our own Oktoberfest at one of the kingpin’s castle. It is a lovely chateau with a stream, barbecue pit, and most importantly a “Man Cave”…a truly rustic yet entirely suitable location for a bunch of lads to drink beer, eat sausages, smoke cigars, and shoot the breeze…rain and cold be damned. The party must go ON. The essential inner circle of four of us all assented to slay the weather dragon on our own. We got the word out and then made pilgrimages to our local fine beer establishments to obtain high quality brews. No middle of the roaders or lowbrow beers. Bring your “A” beers. Others joined our hunting party and the imperfect storm now started to break our way. A little rain and cold makes the event more dramatic. Men don’t necessarily dig sitting on the beach, staring into the ocean, and drinking Coronas. That is Madison Avenue and Bridges Over Madison County crap…beer chick flick vibe. No, give us something to strive against like King Lear howling in the storm drenched in Shakespearean spirit. We see ourselves as Rogues and not Dandies. There are essentially harmless rogues like us…generally quite responsible who are just up for a good time and nasty rogues…vile characters. We are the former.

The character Kent in King Lear speaketh to another in front of Glouster Castle in one of the most poetical verbal smack-downs ever in print:

A knave; a rascal; an eater of broken meats; a
base, proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited,
hundred-pound, filthy, worsted-stocking knave; a
lily-livered, action-taking knave, a whoreson,
glass-gazing, super-serviceable finical rogue;
one-trunk-inheriting slave; one that wouldst be a
bawd, in way of good service, and art nothing but
the composition of a knave, beggar, coward, pandar,
and the son and heir of a mongrel bitch: one whom I
will beat into clamorous whining, if thou deniest
the least syllable of thy addition.

Quite a sharp-tongued fellow with a wonderfully noxious and expansive vocabulary.  Finical Rogue…if someone called me that, I would have to consult a dictionary to decide how much I should be offended. On Thursday night, I decided to purchase a case of Rogue Ale–the Variety Case.  Rogue even has a homebrew kit of its Shakespeare Stout. Rogue Ale seemed to be a great fit into our beer arsenal for the evening and it is comprised of Morimota Soba Ale, Dead Guy, Chatoe Single Malt Mogul Ale, Somer Orange Honey Ale, and Yellow Snow IPA. Now….that is some beer battlement armor. Consult the sacred e-texts for descriptions of these lovable Rogues. At seventy some shekels for a 12-22 ounce pack, these beers and not for casual drinking. Instead, these worthies are to be savored slowly and appreciatively. What can I declare…these beers are remarkable, almost without peer. Like King Arthur’s Round Table, this case put other knights and knaves to shame. It is not even a fair fight. Their might is so intimidating to put others to retreat except for warriors like Dogfish. Our host had his own weapon store in his beer fridge and most of the soldiery were Dogfish and other high-end brewers.

We finished the night with the Yellow Snow IPA which would be a fine brew for another get-together in the dead of winter. Oh, wait a minute, it might be cold.  The evening was full of great beer, food, and fellowship.