First Sign That Beer is Getting Trendy?

22 07 2010

The New York Times’ Wednesday food section came out yesterday with not one, not two but THREE separate mentions of beer. My mind was blown.

Occasionally, the Times has given us beer drinkers a bone by mentioning beer. There was that article about Belgian beer. Then there was that article about sour beers. And then there was that article about why Growlers are cool again.

But this week, there were three totally separate articles about beer.

1. There is apparently a beer tasting happening this week in SoHo. (Or TriBeCa?) Tickets cost $40. So, if you are in SoHo and have $40 to spend on a tasting, there is one somewhere.

2. Building a Better Beer Can Chicken. Correspondent Melissa Clark apparently hasn’t had much success in the past making a beer can chicken. It involves placing a can of beer inside of a whole chicken and then cooking it with indirect heat. Her complaints were that the outside cooks too quickly and the inside cooks too slowly. The solution: more consistent heat and give your chicken a good slathering of spiced mayo. The pictures look pretty good.

Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

3. Did you know that you can cook with beer? Yes you can! (Long time readers know this to be true). The author, John Willoughby, begins the article by admitting he would rather drink a pilsner than a stout. But using stout in food can help emphasize earthy, roasty or smoky flavors. (It is not often that we let our snark flag fly high, but in this case we are going to let it fly wildly in the wind.) < snark>It is precisely this “forward thinking revolutionary idea” or cooking mushrooms in stout that makes the NY Times the paragon of trend setting of our time!</ snark> In all seriousness though, it is a good idea to cook mushrooms in stout. And their lamb chops in a stout-citrus glaze look pretty amazing. One thing they neglected to mention in the article was that when cooking with beer, a little can go a long way. Cooking beer tends to accentuate the hop bitterness. Adding a little bit of beer toward the end of the cooking process can caramelize the sugars without increasing bitterness.

Sabra Krock for The New York Times

Keep up the good work New York Times! It is stories like these that help you seem current in these times of new trends. We hope to see more cooking with beer as well as some beer and food pairings. Maybe there will be less emphasis on wine and more on beer in the future. At least we can dream.





5 Ways People Admit They Are Beer Amateurs (Plus 5 More)

7 07 2010

Long time supporter of the Blog, Johnny Automatic, sent us a link to an article from The LA Weekly called “L.A. Beer Experts Mythbust 5 Complaints of Amateur Beer Drinkers“. It is a lovely little article that looks into commonly help myths held by people whose main source of beer knowledge comes from the Industrial beer guys. We won’t rehash the entire article since you can follow the link. But I will sum up their findings.

1. “There’s too much head on the beer.” In short beers should be poured with some head. The bubbles help aerate the beer and bring the aromas into your nose. Head makes your beer taste good.

2. “This glass isn’t frosted.” Don’t serve beer in frosted glasses. For the love of beer, just don’t. Frosted glasses cause two things: Too much foam (causing your beer to go flatter faster, as well as spray all over the place) and it causes aromas to be locked into the beer instead of in your nose. Frosted mugs cause bland, flat beer.

3. “Why such a small pour for higher alcohol content beer? What a ripoff.” Higher alcohol beers often have bigger flavors, aromas, higher IBUs and generally will be more complex. Drinking an entire pint will exhaust your pallet as well as get you super drunk. By the end of a big pour of a big beer, you may be cursing instead of praising it.

4. “What’s up with this girly tulip glass?” While we may not want to admit it, the traditional pint glass we are used to having our beer served in is one of the worst vessels to serve a beer. It does nothing to promote aeration, collection of aromas, support head retention or show off the form of the beer. There are many other glasses that do these things much better though. And so we choose those glasses to help accentuate the beer we serve. Plus, if you think holding a funny looking glass threatens your masculinity, you may want to speak with a shrink.

Blue Mountains? Pfft!

5. “This beer isn’t cold enough.” This is one of the most common complaints I get as a beer server. Americans tend to drink their beer ice cold. Thanks to companies like Coors (See picture to the right), we believe that all our beer should be cold enough to give brain freeze.¬† Much like the frozen mug above, ice cold is too cold for beer. American lagers can be served as cold as the high 30s(F) but most ales should be served as warm as 55(F). 55 degrees is hardly room temperature, and it is not warm. If tomorrow was 55, you would be reaching for a sweater most likely.

Five More Things Beer Amateurs Say

1. “Beer in a can?!” This is not your grandfather’s beer in a can. This is space aged modern beer in a can. The beer can you all know and love is even found in the Museum of Modern Art’s design collection. It is nearly perfect in design. No more spoilage, rusty metallic taste, or crappy quality. Some of the best beers in America are now coming in cans with all the added benefits: they are lighter, don’t shatter, prevent skunking and oxygenation, less expensive and are easier to recycle. Plus they get colder faster and stay that way longer. Think of them like tiny kegs. Plus, you have no problem drinking soda from a can.

2 “Don’t worry about pour it. I’ll drink it straight from the bottle.” There are so many things

Photo Credit: eschipul CC

wrong with this! first of all, one tastes with more than one’s mouth. The process of tasting involves the mouth, nose, and (to a lesser extent) the eyes and ears. Imagine ording a fresh, sizzling steak at a fancy steak house but before it arrives, you put on a blindfold, nose plug and earplugs. And while you are at it, you put on some thick gloves. Essentially, that is what you are doing when you drink straight fromt he bottle. Secondly, your beer has been created specifically by a brewer for color, aroma, carbonation, head retention, mouth feel, aroma and taste.¬† By pouring the beer in a glass, you get the whole intended product. Finally, it looks uncouth to drink from the bottle. You wouldn’t want to drink from the wine bottle, why is a beer bottle ok?

3. “Hold on, let me check Beer Advocate/Rate Beer.” Smart phones are pretty cool. I’ll give you that. And having a beer app on your phone can help settle bets (or cause new ones)like whether Orkney Skullsplitter is a Barleywine or a Scotch Ale (true story). But when you start looking through the menu with beer advocate by your side in order to find the beer with the highest ranking, that is tacky. As a waiter it tells me two things: “I want the best but I don’t want to risk” and “I don’t trust your opinion.” To address the former point first: trying new things often comes with risk. As long as you come toward your beers with an open mind, an opportunity to learn and a willingness to be surprised, you cannot fail. On the latter point: I , as a beer server, like my job a lot. And my lively hood depends on being a good at it. I have carefully developed my pallet. I have learned the beer styles and have tried many outstanding examples. I keep up on the beer news and follow the trends. I read the beer blogs and follow beer advocate and rate beer. 40+ hours of my week is devoted to bringing people beer. I believe I am very good at my job. But instead of trusting me to help you find something, you trust your phone–something that has never had a beer in its life. Leave beer advoacte at home. This goes the same for beer tomes.

4. “Do you have cider beer?” This one is easy. And it is a small point. It is really a pet peeve for me and my colleagues. But it needs to be addressed. Beer is fermented grain spiced with hops. Cider is fermented apple juice. They are two different things. If I went to a wine bar and asked for “vodka wine” I would be laughed at. If I went to a Bourbon bar and asked for “Whiskey Rum,” I would lose all respect. There is no such thing as “cider beer.” (Now, there is a cocktail called a “snakebite” that is lager and cider mixed together. But it is not “cider beer”.)

5. “Can I get a lemon for my beer?” We’ve discussed this one before. In short, you don’t need it. Think of lemon as ketchup on your steak: completely unnecessary. That being said, there is a time and place for everything. Leave your lemons at home.

What about you? What do you hear at the bar or liquor store that makes your flesh crawl? What makes you think “noob”? Or, what is your pet peeve?





Picnic and BBQ Beer Stuff

24 04 2010

Summer is quickly approaching here in the Northern Hemisphere. And in the United States, the unofficial beginning of summer (Memorial Day) is just a month away. And with that, it means the return of drinking outside is here! Whether at a picnic in the park or in the back yard, there are a lot of ways to enjoy your beer outside. Here are some gadgets and tricks to help make your outside drinking a little bit better.

Of course when you are drinking a serious beer, you are drinking from serious glassware. But sometimes, you are not drinking serious beer. And what you are looking for is ease and convenience. That is usually when you bring out the red Dixie cups. But they are so bad for the environment! That is why you need the sturdy, reusable, melamine “kegger” cups from One Hundred 80 Degress. $14 for a set of 4.

But if you want your plasticwear to be a bit more “high class”, Crate and Barrel have some pretty nice wine glasses made of acrylic. So you can throw them in your picnic basket or cooler and not worry about them shattering.

But where to put your drink while eating? Balancing a beer in your lap can be a death defying act. And putting in the lawn leaves your beer open to contamination or tippage at the first strong breeze. The Steady Stick has you covered. Able to hold a class of wine, cocktail glass, or bottles and cups, the Steady Stick gets pushed into the grass or sand to help give you a hand with your drink.

Carrying a cooler around can be such a burden. And those hard sides can make it difficult to pack. But this Rolling Can Cooler can carry a couple of six packs, ice packs, and be still have room for lunch. It’s soft sides make it easier to pack up. And it has wheels and a collapsible “luggage-style” handle. All this for less than $40!

Let’s say you are one of those lucky jerks who lives in California, where it is beautiful all the time. And it rains less than a month out of the year. And you live by your grill. Well, you should have an outdoor kegerator! For less than a thousand dollars, you can have your own tap beer prepared to your exact specifications just a mere few feet from your grilling spot. Have a couple thousand to drop? This deluxe model holds a keg and several dozen bottles and cans and has place for ice and cups!

Oh no! Lets say your friend has just shown up to your BBQ with an awesome bottle of beer that you have just been dying to try! But it is warm! You just don’t have the time to wait to cool this puppy down to the right temperature. Have no fear! Science is here! First grab a big stock pot. Fill it about half way with ice and add a cup of salt. Any salt will do. What this does is lower the freezing point of the ice to below 32 degrees (0 Celsius). Then fill with water. What you have there is a flash freezing tank. Your water will rapidly drop to around freezing. After submerging the beer bottles or cans into the freezing cold water, it will be completely surrounded by cold, allowing for a quick and even chill. Just submerging in ice will allow for pockets of warm air to surround your beer, thus lengthening the chill time.

Let’s face it, there are times when bringing a beer is illegal. Municipal parks and some venues don’t allow alcoholic drinks or glass bottles. Its a crying shame. You didn’t here it from me, but there is a way around it. If you are crafty enough.





Monday Beer News Round-Up

19 04 2010

Columbia, Missouri- Two employees from the city’s solid waste dump have been fired by salvaging over fifty cases of beer from being destroyed in the landfill. Apparently on April 1, 2010, some 1500(!) cases (18,000 bottles) of beer were taken to the landfill to be destroyed. After about half the cases were broken up, two employees (locally known as the “beeroes”) gathered up as much beer as they could in their trucks. The event, now known as “Operation Safe Suds” later got back to the guys in the main office who then fired the two employees for “stealing” the beer. There is now a movement to get the men their jobs back. Please post this picture around in solidarity of the patriots who lost their jobs in the name of saving beer.

Photo Credit: Treehugger.com

Boulder, Colorado- The Brewer’s Association released this week the top 50 breweries in America and the top 50 craft breweries in America. There are no real surprises this year. A-B still tops the overall list followed by MillerCoors and then Pabst, Yuengling, Boston Beer Co. round out the top 5. As for top craft breweries in the United States: Boston Beer Co., Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Spoetzl and Pyramid make up the top 5. Rankings are based on overall sales in 2009.

Aloha, Oregon- A 7-11 clerk was stabbed by a suspected beer robber. The clerk decided to chase after a man after he saw the suspect allegedly take half a case of beer. After catching up to the alleged thief, the clerk was stabbed in an altercation with the other man. The clerk survived the attack but was hospitalized. Police say the attacker is still at large and appreciate any information on the events in question. The police also say that in the case of a small burglary, such as this one, it is best to let the assailant go and let the professionals take care of it.

Indio, California- This weekend was the Coachella Music Festival, one of the biggest music festivals in the United States (if not the world!). Linked here is a cute picture of Ms. Beyonce (Sasha Fierce herself) Knowles drinking a Heinekin backstage at her husband’s (Jay-Z) show. Not all that newsworthy. But fun nonetheless.





Read This Book: Ambitious Brew- The Story of American Beer

18 04 2010

Ambitious Brew- The Story of American Beer
by Maureen Ogle
Published by Mariner Books Boston, MA 2007
Available at most book stores and on Amazon.com

Maureen Ogle’s Ambitious Brew- The Story of American Beer is, in itself, ambitious. To write the history of American beer is inherently different from, say, The Battle at Gettysburg or the opening day of Disneyland. It is a history that spans centuries, geography and incorporates science, technology, politics, popular culture and religion. And as is the case with many books that attempt to be comprehensive, it is hardly what it sets out to be. Ogle’s book begins in Milwaukee in 1840; a daring, if not controversial, time to begin a book on American history. At this point, the United States had been a country for about 60 years. And Europe had been on the East Coast of modern day USA for about 200 years. But this points to a reality of what this is really about: corporate, industrial beer.

Beer had existed here before 1840. Indigenous American Indians all had alcohol, much of it corn based–making it more closely related to Budweiser than anything in Germany or England. And famously, the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts instead of Virginia because they were running low on supplies, particularly beer. But people soon learned that the Eastern Seaboard was a poor environment for making beer. Barley did not grow well in the craggy soil of the North, nor the swampy mud of the South. There is a myth that the Founding Fathers brewed their revolution over flagons of foamy ale. But they more likely drank whiskey, coffee, tea and cider in their meetings. Ben Franklin, for one, while a lover of beer, was well known for haunting coffeehouses of his day.

For the most part, beer in America was rare until the 1800’s. Beer became more popular due to two occurrences: the opening of the West and the rise in immigrants. As rich, arable land became available and German and Czech immigrants¬† arrived, beer became easier to make and more favorable. This is why Ogle chose to start here. She follows the great brewing families of the 19th century: the Millers, the Buschs, the Pabsts and the Uiliehns. For the most part, she moves quickly; the rise of the beer barons and the empires, the battle for the top, the debate over prohibition, post-war mergers, the “dark ages”, the rise of micro and craft brews, and beer’s modern renaissance.

It is a quick read. At times it can get a bit bogged down in the details. It can become confusing when thirty years of brewing history gets condensed into three pages, especially when it comes down to remembering which eccentric relative is which. But overall, it is very illuminating. Ogle does a very good job debunking some common misconceptions about industrial beer. For instance, many people think that American breweries use adjuncts like rice and corn to make beer less expensive. However the use of these ingredients was a very well thought-out decision. Up until recently, it was actually more expensive to brew with rice and corn than just barley. It was not until the 1960’s and ’70’s that corn was a cheap commodity for brewing. Furthermore, people in Post WWII wanted bland food and drinks. The 1950’s saw the rise of Wonderbread, vodka and TV Dinners. Research and development teams were looking for ways to strip flavor from their products everywhere, not just in beer. People were looking for ease and convenience and had become used to bland wartime rationing, both on the home front and on the war front. Beer was just one of many products that fell into that trend.

Beer in America is hardly over. Which makes it difficult to end a book on American beer history. Ogle ends it with a “State of the Union” in the American beer world. She lists the top ten breweries in America with Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors on the top (interestingly enough Miller now owns Coors and A-B is now part of the Belgian company ImBev). And while all three (now two) are looking to best each other, they are acting like lobsters in a bucket, pulling each other down as they loose ground to newer, smaller competitors. Ogle attempts to bring it all together by mentioning the new Golden Boys (and Girls) of the brewing world: Dogfish Head, Russian River, et. al. And calls for more cohesion between the Old Guard and the Vanguard. By promoting a unified beer industry that shares and educates on the virtues of beer, all could rise together. Overall, an idea that is not half-bad.





Celebrate the Return of Beer

7 04 2010

Photo Credit: Kent Wang CC

Today, April 7th, is the 77th anniversary of the return of beer in the United States. On this day in 1933, a law signed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt altered the alcohol ceiling as mandated by the Volstead Act (18th Amendment) to allow beer to be consumed by the American public, marking the beginning of the end of Prohibition and eventually leading to the 21st Amendment.

On the news that beer would be allowed in the U.S., cities throughout the country shut down as impromptu parades began. But to realize what a momentous occasion this (and the remaining effects of prohibition on the American public) one must know that Prohibition did not begin in 1919 with the 18th Amendment.

Read the rest of this entry »





Just Look at This Beer Bottle Lamp!

20 03 2010

Just look at it!

Uncommon Goods

(via Uncommon Goods)

Here is another great way to display your favorite beer bottles. It fits a standard sized light bulb and holds six twelve ounce beer bottles. I could see a whole Stone or Speak Easy theme going into a lamp. $40 plus shipping and handling at The Uncommon Goods.