Tag Archives: growlers

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 12/9/15

Wednesday has arrived and with it unseasonably warm weather here in the western Piedmont of NC.  The big story in beer yesterday was the first hearing on the merger in front of the US Senate.  I had forgotten how much I hate the beginnings of Senate hearings.  Too much speechifying.  I will say, that most of the senators seemed at the very least troubled by the size and scope of the merger.  Anyway, here is some beer news for your perusal. Oh yeah, this is a little late this morning because there is a bug in the newest version of MS Word that crashes when you run spellcheck and in the at least 2 months since this bug has been known Microsoft has yet to see fit to create a fix for it.  I used Grammarly to spell check today.

  • Like I said, the senators did seem somewhat troubled by the size of the merger. In fact, one of the witnesses, a professor in antitrust law did point out that without SABMiller selling off MillerCoors, the merger would be an illegal monopoly.
  • Two companies of this size merging is not going to create a more competitive marketplace as the CEO of ABInbev said yesterday. That statement is patently idiotic.  It is someone pissing on your shoe and then telling you it’s raining.  My only issue with this hearing is that the main effects of ABInbev are felt at the state level where the 3-tiered system of distribution is regulated.  That is why I was heartened that one of the witnesses who was leery of the merger was the head of the independent wholesalers.  The second tier of alcohol distribution is where any deleterious effects will be felt.
  • I am honestly fascinated by the story of the fight over selling beer in Colorado grocery stores. I have no idea what the end game for this is going to be. It does highlight the fact that outside of excise taxes, the federal government has very little direct effect on beer sales.
  • If you are in Charlotte Douglass Airport, especially if you are flying out towards a non-Southern destination, and you don’t stop at Bojangles for a biscuit and tea, you are a fool. These other places are fine too I guess.
  • Another beer gift guide.  I hate people buying me beer for presents. Not all people, just most.  I have a few friends who know beer and will get me something interesting, but usually it ends badly. I would prefer to get a gift certificate or gift card to a place that sells good beer or better yet a growler.  Now, I’ve read a few of these gift lists and glassware always makes an appearance.  That is a simple and relatively inexpensive gift, but one of the stainless steel growlers that can keep unrefrigerated beer cold for up to 12 hours is an even better gift.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 9/30/15

A little late but better than ever, here are the Five Articles.  We start off with two more GABF articles and then jump back into our regularly scheduled programming of distribution fights, arguments over regulation, and beer consolidation.

Growler Taste Test: Railhouse Brewery KA-BAR Brown Ale

I like knives.  Other people like guns, but I like edged weapons better.  I’m never going to accidentally shoot myself in the foot with my knife.  Though I have sliced open a finger or two through carelessness with a really sharp blade.

While I am partial to folding blades the one fixed blade that I want is the old school USMC KA-BAR.  The KA-BAR is like blue jeans, specifically Levis.  Why?  They are not the flashiest or the newest product out there, but they have survived and become iconic because their simple design is timeless.  Say what you want but you put on a white dress shirt with a pair of good jeans and nice shoes and you can just about go anywhere.  Or I should say anywhere I really want to go.

The same is true of the KA-BAR.  Its simple design has not changed significantly since World War II because the design was so good and so simple as to be timeless.  Like Levis every other design by every other manufacture is based on that original.

The owners of Railhouse Brewery in Aberdeen, NC are all US military veterans so it seems fitting that they would name a beer after the KA-BAR and it is even more fitting that is of a classic English style.

20150722_183441The KA-BAR Brown Ale is an American interpretation of the southern English-style brown ale.  The Southern or London style brown is a darker, maltier, and stronger version then the Northern style whose primary exemplar was Newcastle until the classic recipe was changed.  The London style is still less hoppy and not quite as strong as its American counterparts.

The KA-BAR pours a deep dark brown color and develops a thick foamy off-white head.  The head has good lasting power and develops a malty chocolate/coffee aroma.  There is little hop aroma to be had.

There is also little hop taste evident.  The bitterness in the taste mostly comes from the bitterness of the chocolate and coffee malts.  The chocolate taste in particular has more in common with bakers chocolate then with any chocolate bar you will buy in the grocery store.  It has a quick soft feel on the palate.

The KA-BAR is a great interpretation of a London-style brown ale.  Incidentally, if you are lucky and find KA-BAR on tap, you might get to see the tap handle produced by KA-BAR Knives like this one here.  Apparently, this is one of those tap handles that manages to disappear when the wholesaler reps come to collect them.  I wonder why?

A classic knife and classic beer deserves a playlist of equally timeless and classic music.  I present The Man In Black, Johnny Cash.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 7/21/15

Its Tuesday, you’ve made it through Monday and the rest of the week should be a breeze. Here are a few things about beer to read.  As craft beer goes forward, the two major areas that will affect the next phase of growth are changes in alcohol laws in all the states and the combination of consolidation and encroachment from large beer producers.

Growler Taste Test: Blowing Rock Schwarz Bier

I had a customer from Philadelphia say the other day, in Philly she would go to a bar and ask for a lager.  They would hand her a Yuengling.  When she does that in Charlotte, they ask which one.

If you ever have the chance, you should go to the medal winners’ page on the Great American Beer Festival website. First, there is the sheer number of beers you’ve never heard of much less drank.  For our purposes today, there is also the mind boggling number of categories.

The Beer Judge Certification Program style guide is even more complicated with categories and subcategories and then different styles underneath. To make it even better, there are still styles of beer that aren’t categorized because they have been lost to history.

All of that is a preface to talk about schwarzbier.  This isn’t a style recently resurrected from history, but it is a style not too familiar to the general public. The name is German for “black beer” and it is best described as a dark brown lager.

20150713_170235The Blowing Rock Schwarz Bier has a pleasant dark brown look with a thick long lasting off-white head.  It has a good lager like aroma with hints of roasted chocolate and coffee. The hop aroma is very low with just a touch of herbal and floral hops.

For a dark beer, it has a light medium mouthfeel.  There isn’t a lot of alcohol feel and taste to it.  There is a heavy chocolate and roasted coffee taste with a hint of hops underneath.  It has a low carbonation that along with its chocolate taste makes this definition of a smooth beer.

Blowing Rock has created another well-constructed beer that isn’t trying to be anything other than a good drinkable beer experience.

When in doubt about what to listen to with beer, I usually go with The National.

Growler Taste Test: Sunken City Crooked Road Cream Ale

In some circles the concept of the lawn mower beer is one to be sneered at and derided.  In their mind the term connotes the mass produced American light lagers.  If that is all you think of when you think of lawn mower beers, you are sadly missing out on many good craft beers.

The cream ale is one such style that could be called a lawn mower beer. It was created by ale brewers to compete directly against the American light lager in pre-Prohibition and is an ale brewed and fermented the same way the American light lagers are including using corn as adjunct.  The style took a bit of a backseat after Prohibition ended with only a few brewers continuing to make it, but like many styles the craft beer boom has seen its return.

20150706_181701The Sunken City Crooked Road Cream Ale is a good example of the style.  It pours with a nice pale straw color with a foamy off-white head that hangs around for a while.  The aroma is very malty with little hop presence and a corn sweet back end.

The taste is close to the aroma with a very malt forward attitude and a corn sweetness in the back end.  It also sits light on the tongue and has just enough bitterness to make you want to take another sip.  It is a very drinkable light summer beer.

We Southern craft beer drinkers are always looking for a good lighter beer to drink on those many hot summer days.  Crooked Road is a beer made to drink after you finish cutting the grass or sitting out on a boat pretending to fish as you drink beer when the sun and humidly are high.  In other words, it is a great summer lawn mower beer that has a great and somewhat complex taste.  Just watch out, it has a pretty good ABV.  If you drink too many and fall asleep on said boat you may wake up with a bad sunburn.

A summer time beer deserves a summer time playlist:

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 7/1/15

Links for a Wednesday.  Sorry they are late, I watched the US/Germany match twice last night.

  • The craft beer business is in an interesting time. It took a while but the big mass market brewers finally took notice a few years ago and started buying some craft concerns.  Goose Island was one of them. This allows the smaller beer companies to get an expansion to other markets.  However, this comes at a time when the local food, slow food, farm to table movements are gaining steam.  The idea of beer is an agricultural product has caught hold.  That means it tastes best when it is made with fresh ingredients and you can get the product as close to its kegging/bottling/canning date as possible.  Drinkers and brewers are starting to notice this fact. Most of the breweries that have started commercial operations in the last couple of years are nano-breweries producing small amounts of beer for their local customers.
  • Growlers are spreading across the nation. Every time they are allowed in a new market, local news covers it like it is the strangest thing in the world. “You can go to a bar and take home the beer? How is this possible?”
  • Craft brewers are at the forefront of making brewing more environmentally sustainable. Again, this goes back to the increased localization of craft brewing.  Even with their massive operation coming to Asheville and the surrounding area, Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues, and New Belgium are taking extreme care to be environmentally friendly and to be part of the community as much a large national corporation can.
  • Here is a slide show and short write up of the NC Brewer’s Celebration held in Charlotte over the weekend. I was not able to attend, but I can tell you a lot of people went to the festival.  Then a lot of them came over to Craft afterwards.  A lot.
  • And we are still arguing over what is craft beer and what isn’t. It is a tiring and somewhat silly argument.  All I want is this, brewers to tell me where their beer was made and what they used to make it.  If it tastes good I’ll drink it.  If it is local even better.  If the ingredients are as fresh and as local as possible then I’ll jump for joy (metaphorically).  Just stop using the term craft as a cudgel against mass market beer.  Actually, let me change that.  I just ask mass market brewers to stop creating brands and then alluding to them being craft. I just want truth in advertising.  We the consumers know what is good and what isn’t.

Growler Taste Test: Lookout Brewing Black Mountain IPA

Brewers usually fall into two categories.  There are more and different ways to group them, but 95% of the craft brewers fall into these categories.  The first category are the experimenters.  They are always looking to try things and throwing whatever catches their fancy into a batch almost just to see what happens.  They can create great and innovative beers, but they can also create something barely digestible.

The second category are the unostentatious. They are more concerned with making sure the beer they brew is always good and drinkable.  They aren’t trying to prove how smart they are or how creative they can be.  They may not shock the world and blow minds with their recipes, but every beer is good and high quality.

Lookout Brewing is a small brewery located in Black Mountain, NC that produces unpretentious beers for the “porch life.”  Porch sitting is one of the best things about the South.  You just sit out on your porch and listen and watch the world go by.  It is best done with the adult beverage of your choice (mine are usually bourbon or beer) and possibly a cigar or pipe.

20150525_190739The Lookout Brewing Black Mountain IPA is a balanced and smooth rye IPA.  It pours a clear dark amber/light brown with a good fluffy off-white head.  There is a moderate hop aroma with a sweet peppery rye malt aroma.

This is a smooth beer.  It doesn’t stay on the palate too long and has a nice carbonation.  It’s medium and dry mouthfeel helps highlight the spicy nature of the rye.  It also uses a honey malt which adds to the sweet complexity without making it cloying.

If you like a good sipping beer, this is a very good choice.

Porch sitting brings to mind watching Andy Griffith play blue grass on his show and my aunt’s 70s soul music from going to my grandmother’s house after church on Sundays.  Here is a playlist of bluegrass covers of R&B and rap songs.  This may be my favorite playlist of all time.

Growler Taste Test: Benford’s Smoked O’Hickory Brown Ale

The last couple of years has seen the rise of two families of beer that had been shunted off to the side as historical contrivances:  smoked beer and sour beer.

I am more partial to smoked beers in all their forms.  My moment of conversion came with a taste of the Alaskan Brewing Smoked Porter. Up to that point I had avoided smoked beers out of some strange smoked taste fear.  Now I am all in on the style.

IMG_20150615_160543Benford Brewing’s Smoked O’Hickory Brown Ale is a smoked beer that partially uses grains smoked there on the farm.  It pours with a pleasing chestnut/reddish brown color.  The aroma is, of course, smoky, but it has an undercurrent of a slightly sweet breadiness.

As a smoked beer and a brown ale it tastes of lots of malt.  The taste reflects the aroma well by being forward with the smoke, but tamping that down slightly with a modest bready quality.  There is not much of a hop taste that I could detect.   The hop bitterness comes through as a dryness that keeps the beer from sticking to your tongue too long which would make the smoky nature too much to take.

Warning, if you haven’t had a lot of smoked beer this could be a bit much for you.  I have seen customers order this beer at Craft and not be able to finish it.  Smoked beer, like sour beer, takes some getting used to.  However, if you do like smoked beer this is a well-made, lighter choice then the usual smoked porters, gratzers, or rauchbiers.

Benford is a small brewery located in Lancaster, SC on a farm about 40 miles south of uptown Charlotte.  I knew little about this brewery until we started tapping their beers at Craft.  It is an actual working farm with the water for the beer coming from a spring on the property and using the spent grain as food for the livestock.

As soon as I finished this beer and read about the brewery I knew what the first song was going to be in the playlist: “Hickory Wind.”  I choose the original version from The Byrd’s Sweetheart Of The Rodeo. Enjoy it and the rest of the playlist.

Growler Taste Test: Blowing Rock Belgian Dark Ale

Brewing in the English and German traditions is easy (relatively).  You can reverse engineer the beers in these traditions because their styles are concrete and well known.  You know the basic ingredients in an IPA and the parameters of the style are written and universally accepted.  The same is true for the American tradition.  Then there is the Belgian tradition where styles are more like guiding principles. That is the joy of Belgian beer.

There is a defined BJCP style category of Belgian dark strong ale.  However, if you go to any publication and you try to find a definition of a Belgian dark strong ale you will basically get some version of “this is a dubbel with more alcohol.”

The Blowing Rock Belgian Dark Ale is an amber colored Belgian strong dark.  It is brewed with Belgian candi (beet sugar syrup) and it is a very dangerous beer.  It pours a nice amber color and gives off a pleasant caramel, cinnamon/all spice, bready, and raisin aroma.  There is a lot of stuff going on in this beer.

For a dark beer that sits at 9.5% ABV, it is really light on your tongue. You get little to no hop flavor, but a lot of caramel and dark fruit taste with a little all spice on the backend.  I call it a dangerous beer because not only does it have a light taste it hides the taste of the alcohol well.  As you sip it, you forget it’s 9.5% ABV until you are three pints in and then you remember as you sway on your bar stool.  This is a really well made beer made for sipping and relaxing.

Now, this is a beer that is made with a dark beet sugar and as you drink it you will think of caramel and brown sugar.  Brown Sugar. That is a great song.  So, for the accompanying Spotify playlist, I started with Brown Sugar by D’Angelo and then kept going down the rabbit hole into 70’s funk and R&B.  Enjoy: