Monday, August 15, 2011

No More Mr. Nice Guy

That's it... I'm calling myself out.

Let me paint the CLASSIC scenario for you:

FRIEND: HEY TONE!!! What do you think of that beer you're drinking?
ME: Umm, let's see... I don't know... it's NICE though.
FRIEND: Oh... cool.

- - or this scenario - -

ME: (writing/reading a review) ...As I tasted the beer, it had a, uhh, well... a NICE mouthfeel with a uhh, NICE finish. (scratching forehead)

- - - - - - - - -

Let's be honest... how OFTEN have you heard that. From Newbies to Home Brewers. Everyone seeks shelter under that safe word: N-I-C-E. It's a NICE beer... it's got a NICE color to it... it's got a NICE finish though... the smell is NICE...

WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!? Ok granted, I know you like the beer... but am I going to like the beer? Maybe your NICE is my NASTY!

So here it is folks... the challenge to myself and ANYONE else of our fellow readers. The next time you taste a craft beer or someone asks your opinion... STAY AWAY from the word "NICE". Dig for those adjectives!! Here's a few that I fall back on based on what you are describing:

How much head is on the beer, what color is it...?

One-Finger of Head
A Yeti Finger (SEE BELOW, thank you Beercoasters)

How does it look...?

Red Hue

How does it smell...?

Rotten Eggs
Burnt Hair

How does it taste...?

Like a Jolly Rancher
Could someone pick up my tongue that's on the floor?
Flavor like a Chuck Norris Sidekick in FACE!!

How does it finish...?

Wait, what happened?
I think I have a cavity

And the good news is here folks... THERE'S NO WRONG ANSWERS!! You all PASS!! WOO HOO! So forget your old habits... Avoid "NICE" and get into the guts of what the beer is all about. You may surprise yourself the more you try it!

- - - - - - - - -

Another thing that I've enjoying doing lately is pairing up my beverage of choice to a meal. For example... if I'm going to have some hot wings, I'm probably not going to pour myself a spicy Saison beer or something that's real boozy and highly alcoholic (ENTER Harpoon Leviathan Series STAGE RIGHT). Rather... pick something that is not going to over-power your food. For wings, I'd go with a Pale Ale, or something mildly hoppy like a Dogfish 60 min or my current favorite Whale's Tail Pale Ale from Cisco Brewing. Mmmmm... Wings... Beer. Flavor Country, Party of 1.

On the flipside maybe you just finished a nice meal and are about to have some dessert... A Rice Pudding, or Tiramisu type. Light, sweet, creamy, mild chocolate notes... I'd go with a Stone Russian Imperial Stout or a Breckenridge Vanilla Porter. (Thanks Vanilla Mike!!) Pick a beer with some body to it, but isn't necessarily going to blow you out of the water with booziness and/or sweetness. I always love black coffee with a real sweet dessert - because it balances out! Same goes for pairing it up with your beer.

Quick shout out to our new friend, Vanilla Mike, at the Somersworth Village Market in New Hampshire. A few weeks ago, I stopped in and Mike hooked me up with some great info on their selection. This place has an "A+" rating on and is well worth it. I picked up the Firestone Walker Double IPA and per Mike's suggestion, the Breckenridge Vanilla Porter... both of which I've never seen around CT. Check them out if you are in the area! Thanks Mike!!

Happy Early Weekend from Beer411... we are slowly turning into our favorite beer season... FALL! Start being on the lookout for Pumpkin Ales and Octoberfests GALORE!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What do you mean, JUST craft beer?

Here's a post that I've been meaning to do for a while now. Sit down, class is in session.

Every now and again I'll get into conversations with my fellow beerians about what's good, what's on tap, etc. And every now and again, I catch one of my friends, with an Anheuser Busch product.

"Are you kidding me with that beer, " Is my normal retort. And they usually respond with... "What's the big deal?!"

Let me introduce you the documentary that made things a big deal. This, in fact, changed my view point on beer forever.

I knew there were breweries of all shapes and sizes all over the place. But I guess I never really did the math on how big (or small) they really are. And who really are the bigger breweries? This movie is what got my girlfriend and I on the "Say No to Budweiser" kick.

Folks, I get it... you're not always in the Dogfish 90 min or Stone Russian Imperial Stout mood. I get it. (I don't understand it... but I get it.) Sometimes you just want a cheap beer to kick back. But learning about how the bigger boys of the beer world badly bully the brewmaster business around (that was a lot of "B's")... I hope you'll understand my point. Check out my last post about, "Whaler Ale." I just can't support something like that. Once you watch this, perhaps you'll see things as I did. For those that have Netflix, this is readily available to you(Instant Streaming!).

Beer Wars Trailer:

Moral of the story... if you HAVE to go cheap, stick to a Miller Coors product... Go Coors Light if you must. But I implore you (as the Beercoasters say), "DRINK LOCAL!!"

There are times when I'm out with my friends having a beer and they'll see me on my phone as soon as I get a beer. They'll ask me, "What are you doing?" Allow me to introduce you both:

My friends, Untappd... Untappd, my friends.

The Foursquare craz is everywhere... check in here, check in there... Well, Untappd is Foursquare for Beer drinkers. Keep track of WHAT you drink... WHERE you drink it... Make friends... compare notes... even TOAST when you check in! Earn special badges for IPADay, drinking Summer Ales, Being loyal to certain Breweries... AND MORE!!!

I stumbled across this podcast once I got my new job a few months ago. I found myself at a desk all day long. I noticed that a lot of people here listen to music, talk radio, etc... through their computers. I was getting tired of JUST music, so I found these guys.

Toby, Mike and Chris get together via the interweb to bring you a weekly podcast that enlightens you about all things beer. These guys cover East Coast (Mike), West Coast (Toby) and everywhere in-between(Chris). And every now and then, they'll bring on the occasional special guest! Each week they have their tasting flights, beer reviews, "hop" topics, or even Backwash, which is their listen feedback section.

Tune in TOMORROW to hear the boys tackle my latest post about the infamous "Whaler Ale". You can listen to them by going directly to their website, or find them through the iTunes Store.

This last item... I have nothing to contribute. But its certainly NEXT on my list. After my weekend in Baltimore at the Dogfish Brewery and the Heavy Seas Brewery, it got me thinking about how alike the craft beer movement is now, and the American Dream when people came to America for a new opportunity. (Again, see my POST about this one!)

Beer Culture Trailer 1 from Free Mind Productions on Vimeo.

CLASS DISMISSED!! Have a great weekend from Beer411! CHEERS!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Beer says, "You can't handle the truth!"

Hey Beer411 Family... I feel distant. Seems as though I've been doing more research than writing. Time to sit down and have a little family chat. This is only for your own good. Trust me, you'll thank me later. Learn from mistakes I've made, so you don't do the same...

This took place about two weeks ago... I give you Exhibit A. The Whaler Ale tap found at a bar down in New Haven. Being a CT native and a strong support of local beer and the former NHL Hockey team the Hartford Whalers, this instantly appealed to me. And why wouldn't it? At almost any sporting event in CT, at some point, there's one person that starts a "Let's Go Whalers" chant. For those that don't know, the team was moved back in 1997 to North Carolina and became the Carolina Hurricanes. Since then, local supporters have fought to get a team back to CT, but have come up short. Recently, the AHL team formerly known as the Hartford Wolfpack (affiliate to the New York Rangers), was re-branded, the Connecticut Whale. There is CLEARLY a strong backing for the Whalers... they haven't been a team since 1997 and there are still die-hard supporters everywhere in CT.

That being said...

My girlfriend and I were down in New Haven a few weeks ago and came across this tap. Local beer... Whalers... gotta love it. Neither of us have seen nor heard of this beer so we were both interested in where it came from. When I asked the bartender, he instantly replied that it was from the Hooker Brewery. Skeptical but thirsty, I ordered a pint. I'm on the Hooker mailing list... and try and support them as best I can... how could I have never ever HEARD of this? I took a picture of the cool green Whale tap and posted it to Facebook.

Within minutes, to my surprise I received a few comments WARNING me of this beer. One person commented... "Don't do it! It's a Budweiser product!" In fact, when this person first came across this tap, the bartender refused to tell her that the Whaler Ale is in fact a Bud product until she first tried it. Hmmmm... Now, I was REALLY skeptical that this came out of the Hooker Brewery in Bloomfield, CT. As a member of the CT Beer Trail, I begun to do a little research on their site as well. Come to find out, that someone had the same question a few months ago. Along this post, someone was insistent that this beer was out of the Harpoon Brewery.

A sneaky bartender... Hooker... Harpoon... Budweiser... ? Something just didn't add up.

I mean, if this IS in fact from a local brewery, why is it so difficult to find out where its brewed? We should certainly give credit, where credit is due. It's really a no-brainer... Local Whaler supporters + Local CT breweries = SUPPORT! Unless its not local...

The day after we had the Whaler Ale, my girlfriend found a very interesting article online that claimed, the Whaler Ale is not local, but in fact the Budweiser American Ale simply re-branded to tug on the Heartstrings of CT natives. ARE YOU SERIOUS?? How could a company stoop so low.

Now, nothing has been proven... yet. But several reports btw articles and personal accounts have backed the claim that it is a Bud product, which is sad. I even sent some "Backwash" to our friends at the Beercoasters Podcast to see if they can shed some light on the subject. If this ends up being the case, I'm shocked that someone would let this happen. We have some fantastic breweries in the state of CT including, Hooker, New England Brew, Willimantic Brew, Olde Burnside, City Steam, Cottrell... and the list goes on. I'm sure that ANY one of them would have JUMPED at the opportunity to be the official brewery of the Whaler Ale. Support local economy too? It would have been a perfect combination.

So I urge you all, be careful what you are ordering when you find yourself out in the CT beer scene. Don't be afraid to ASK, if you aren't sure who brews the beer. Be smart out there. Because if it looks local... appears to be local... and even tastes like it could be local simply because its different... it may NOT be.

Tread softly Beer411 Family.