I Bet I “Can”!

4 08 2010

Several times now, we have been praising the lowly beer can. We have become “canvangelists” and promoting beer in a can whenever possible. The benefits are great and the costs are low. The benefits are as follows:

  • They cost less than glass
  • They break less often
  • They weigh less than glass (resulting in less expensive shipping costs and a smaller carbon footprint)
  • No skunking
  • They get colder faster and stay that way longer
  • They are easier to recycle
  • The beer inside stays fresher, longer

People are hesitant about drinking beer from a can. People of an older generation may remember beer cans when they were tin. They remember the tinny, rusty flavors they imparted to the beer. But those days are over. The inside of the beer can is now coated in a plastic epoxy that prevents metallic tastes from entering the can. And even people who never drank beer from the old design may be hesitant as they associate beer in a can with cheap, uninspiring American lagers. But in the short time since Oskar Blues introduced craft beer in a can, the trend has taken off. And I have wagered with several tables a beer that I can name more delicious craft beers in a can than they can name cheap, uninspiring beers in a can. I even offer to let them count malt liquor. I have yet to have any one take me up on that bet. But I am going to prove my point here, today. Let us begin with the bland, cheap, uninspiring beers that most people associate with beer in a can.

Uninspiring Beers (By Brewery):

  • Anheuser-Busch

Bud Light
Bud Ice
Bud Ice Light
Busch Beer
Busch Light
Busch Ice
Hurricane High Gravity
Hurricane Ice
Hurricane Malt Liquor
King Cobra
Natural Light (Natty Light)
Natural Ice (Natty Light)
O’Doul’s N/A
Busch’s N/A

Total: 15

  • F.X. Matt

Utica Club

Total: 1

Photo Credit: Totsie 14 CC

  • Heinekin International Brewers

Heinekin Light
Tecate Light

Total: 4

  • Molson/Miller/Coors Brewing Company

Miller Genuine Draft
Miller High Life
Miller Light
Sharp’s Miller
Coors’ Banquet Beer
Coors’ Light
Keystone Light
Magnum 22 Malt Liquor
Milwaukee’s Best
Milwaukee’s Best Light
Mickey’s Malt Liquor
Olde English “800” Malt Liquor
Red Dog
Steel Reserve 211

Total: 18

  • Pabst Brewing

Colt 45 Malt Liquor
Lone Star
National Bohemian (Natty Bo)
Old Milwaukee
Old Milwaukee Light
Old Milwaukee Ice
Old Style
Pabst Blue Ribbon
Pabst Blue Ribbon Light
Schlitz Malt Liquor

Total: 13

Grand Total: 51

And now we go on to focus on Craft beer and decent corporate beers. (Big, Big, Big Thanks to CraftCans.com for pretty much doing all the work for me.) According to CraftCans.com, there are currently 117 craft brewers in the world who are putting their beers in a can! They have a grand total of 283 individual beers in a can. That is more than 5 times the amount of beers in a can that the Big Boys are doing. And that is not even counting the very tasty beers in a can that corporate giants like A-B and Diagio are doing. If we included Guinness (Diagio), Boddington’s (A-B), Tetley’s, Belhaven Scottish Ale into the list, we are nearly at 290 tasty beers in a can. Let’s even say that my list above is incomplete. Let’s say, I happened to have forgotten or missed some 10 more uninspiring light American lagers, we are still nowhere near the amount of great beers that come in cans.

Still not convinced that great beers come in a can? Here is a list of some excellent breweries that have begun canning their beers.

Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Avery Brewing
Brooklyn Brewing
Caldera Brewing
Cisco Brewers
Harpoon Brewery
Lancaster Brewing Company
Maui Brewing Company
New Belgium Brewing Company
Oskar Blues Brewery
Pyramid Brewery
Saranac Brewing Company
Ska Brewing Company
Sly Fox Brewing Company
Spoetzel Brewery
Surley Brewing Company

Those are all some rather well known and highly acclaimed beers. Why would a brewery risk its reputation and profits on a beer can if they did not think it would help the bottom line?


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?

Tracking Beer Trends

29 04 2010

The thing about beer is that it takes a while to make. The most basic of ales will take about three days from mash in to kegging. More complex beers can take weeks, months or even years to fully condition. For that reason, brewers are always thinking ahead in the calendar. Brewers are always trying to think ahead of the curve, trying to figure out what will be the new hot trend in beer culture. In many ways, a brewer has to think a lot like a clothing designer or film producer. Today, we look and see what we believe are going to be the new hot beer trends by seeing what Was Hot, Is Hot, and Will Be the Next Hot Thing.

Aging Techinques:
Lately, the craft brew seen is thinking beyond just what goes into the kettle or the fermenter, but also what goes on after fermentation. Much like wine, beer ages to make a more complex product. Beers over 6 or 7% ABV can age very well. And American barleywine-style ales are notorious for being too harsh when young and should be aged to mellow out their hops and alcohol. Bottle conditioning on yeast was big for some time. But that is now fairly common for many craft brewers. Lately, oak aged beers have been all the rage. Stone has an Arrogant Bastard that is aged on fresh American oak barrels. While many cutting edge breweries such as Founders have begun aging their beers on used bourbon barrels. But we predict that the next big hot trend for aging a beer will be in traditional British style casks. The aging on live yeast gives a subtle carbonation. And slightly chilling at cellar temperature allows the subtle aromas and esters to shine. The Seattle Cask Festival last month sold out for the first time ever. And more and more beer bars are offering cask conditioned beers. It seems like Real Ale is about to hit it big here in the States.
Was Hot: Bottle Conditioned
Is Hot: Oak and Bourbon Barrel Aged
The Next Hot Thing: Cask Conditioned

Extreme Beer:
Sam Caliogne of Dogfish Head Brewery wrote a homebrew book called “Extreme Brewing.” In it, he talks about continuous hopping, dry hopping, the use of fruit, spices, and wild yeasts. That all seems relatively tame now considering the current “extreme beer” wars going on. When Samuel Adams released its first extreme beer, Utopias, a few years ago, people were amazed. A beer over 20%ABV was unheard of. Now with Brew Dog’s icebock- Sink the Bismark- at 41%ABV, Utopias seems down right balanced. Founders released a beer with 200 IBUs but has been outdone by a British brewery that claims 323 IBUs to take the title for the hoppiest beer in the world. It is hard to tell when this is all going to stop. Furthermore, how much more the beer community will tolerate. It seems that some people are claiming that brewing a big beer and then concentrating it through icing should be considered cheating. Likewise, having 323 IBUS through concentrated alpha acid solutions should not count either. We believe that the pendulum is going to swing back to the likes of Dog Fish Head, Russian River, and Lost Abbey. After people get tired of seeing what outrageous beer the Brew Dogs will attempt to do next after a while, they will go back to well balanced and interesting beers. We believe the use of “hop varietals” such as Oskar Blues using only Summit for the Gubna and Harpoon only using Delta will allow beer geeks to really get to know a hop without being distracted by anything else.
Was Hot: Big Hops, Interesting fruit, and Wild Yeast
Is Hot: Bigger Hops, Bigger Alcohol, Outrageous Claims
The Next Big Thing: Hop Varietals

Sour Beers:
As America’s palate becomes more adventurous, people have been looking to traditional styles to try different things. Sour ales from Belgium offer a new flavor sensation. Fruit lambics are especially interesting for people who don’t really care for English or German style ales or people who are just bored of them. But as people try all the Lindeman’s and all the St. Louis lambics, they are wanting to try more. Saison, the spicy cousin of lambics have become very popular in the past few months. Omegang’s flagship beer, Hennipin, is a very delicious Saison with notes of peppercorn and fresh grass. New Holland recently released a Saison called Golden Cap which sold out at The Brickskeller within a week. And many smaller breweries have tried the style as a less energy intensive way to have a Belgian in their rotation. Berlinerweiss is a sour wheat ale from Germany that is served with a shot of raspberry or Woodruff syrup. More and more, people have been interested in trying this particular type of beer as it becomes more popular in Europe. We predict that Berlinerweiss will soon leave the hardcore beer nerd community, just as lambics did and will start becoming more main stream. But we aren’t sure if the sour ale Gose from Germany will be catching on anytime soon.
Was Hot: Lambics
Is Hot: Saisons
The Next Hot Thing: Berlinerweisses

Next Hipster Beer:
Whether we like it or not, there will always be hipsters. There have always been hipsters. And no amount of wishing will make them go away. The only way to beat them is to play their game better than they do. Urban Outfitters has made a fortune by “courting the youth market.” And Pabst Blue Ribbon was saved from the brink of extinction by tricking the hipsters into drinking them. (Cue record scratch) “What is that?” you may ask me. “Hipsters were tricked into drinking PBR?!” Yes! PBR was bought out by  MillerSAB a few years ago. And instead of folding the brand, they decided to exploit it. PBR already had a reputation as a cheap and nonthreatening beer. It was the beer for the working class. And something your dad may have drank when he was a kid. A beer rich with retro nostalgia and irony (two things hipsters consume like water). A very well placed and well time advertising campaign involving NPR, indie rock shows and dive bars put PBR on the forefronts of hipster everywhere. After listening to PBR ads on Wait…Wait…Don’t Tell Me! and All Things Considered and then going to the Flaming Lips Show and seeing the PBR shirts and half off specials at the local drive bar, it all fell into place. And MillerSAB reaped the profits. But as PBR becomes the “old thing” and cast aside (much like Yuengling before it), breweries are trying to cash in on the Hipster Market. Schlitz has been doing an admirable job. And they might just get it, too. But don’t underestimate the work of F.X. Matt and Utica Club. They might just be the next big thing.

Was Hot: Pabst Blue Ribbon
Is Hot: Schlitz
The Next Hot Thing: Utica Club

The Next Big Hops:
This is the sort of thing the average beer drinker does not think about. Afterall, hops is hops, right? Wrong! (kind of). We know that hops give beer bitterness, flavor and aroma. But what we probably don’t know is that different hops do different things. Zeus, for instance, is popular as a bittering hop for its high alpha acids. While Centennial is known for its citrus flavors. And Northern Brewer is known for its earthy aromas. You have the Noble Hops from the Czech Republic and Germany with its funny names like Hallertauer and Saaz. Then there are English Hops with similarly funny names like Fuggles and Kent Goldings. For the most part, caring which hops is which is something that only brewers and true beer nerds care about. But guess what! Brewers are the ones who make these decisions. For a while, it looked like Amarillo hops was going to be the new big thing. It creates the backbone for both Bell’s Two Hearted Ale and Dogfish Head’s flagship 60 Minute IPA. But the Hop Crisis of ’07-’08 helped push the Amarillo to the back burner for more of the traditional hops like Saaz and Centennial. Summit Hops have received a big boost by being the hop Varietal for Oskar Blues Gubna Imperial IPA. Likewise, Delta was used for Harpoon’s single hop ESB batch 31. However, while Oskar Blues is seen as a trend setter, Harpoon hasn’t. We predict Summit to be the next big hop trend.
Was Hot: Amarillo
Is Hot: Anything you can get your hands on!
The Next Hot Thing: Summit