The distribution side of the beer world (and really the entire beverage world) is pretty sordid and confusing. You might have seen a beer movie about that very topic. Check out the article below and take the survey. It is written from a software angle and is just a start to the conversation, but this is a topic that drinkers, shop and bar owners, brewers, and distributors need to work together on.
By Joe Ruvel · December 23rd, 2010 · Comments Off
By Jasmine · December 21st, 2010 · 5 Comments
We predicted this would happen. Last year the BevMo Beer Festival was small. Quiet. Chill. In short, awesome. The problem with awesome things is that other people hear how awesome they are and then want to do them too. And then it gets crowded. My jacket gets stolen (a whole other story). Beer gets slopped everywhere, especially since there were no dump buckets (yes, beer drinkers are swallowers, not spitters, but not every beer is a keeper).
Despite all that, the festival was still pretty great. This year’s Scaldis Noel and He’Brew’s Jewbelation were winners, as usual. There was a surprise in Ale Industries’ Orange Shush (or Kush) and orange juice beermosa. I want that to come free with my next breakfast buffet. Joe calls it “ballsy”.
Other notables: Drake’s Jolly Roger, Marin Brewing’s Hoppy Holidaze, Telegraph’s Winter Ale (we tried this again at a Fondue/Holiday beer night–really a lovely, tasty beer. Check out the Beer at Joe’s Facebook page for more on that evening). Deschute’s Jubeale was slightly underwhelming this year. The beer I kept coming back for though (in fact, the only beer I managed to have seconds of) was Anderson Valley’s Winter Solstice Ale.
Also, it’s possible that I somehow made off with a six-pack of Velvet Merkin from the Firestone-Walker table, a beer that I have yet to hunt down in San Francisco stores. Maybe there really is a Santa Claus.
By Jasmine · December 14th, 2010 · 1 Comment
The Day: The Day before Halloween
The tasters: Jasmine, Joe and Luke
The palate cleanser: Freshly roasted pumpkin seeds
Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale: Alright, let’s just say it. This is an Anheuser-Busch product. We are not fans. We do not want to give them love. That said, this was voted “Most drinkable” of all the beers. That is, after all, what A-B does best. This beer is no different. Very clear, pale oranish, spicy nutmeg smell, with a hint of sweaty feet, like it’s lager based. Not very interesting. The smell is more exciting than the taste.
Harvest Moon: Harvest Moon is a Blue Moon product, which is owned by Molson-Coors. We are not fans. We want to give them even less love. Happily, this is a pretty poor excuse of a pumpkin beer. It smelled like an amber beer. That was it. There was a strange aftertaste. We don’t think it is even brewed with pumpkins. The label says it has “the flavor of vine-ripened pumpkins”.
Buffalo Bill’s: Slightly cloudy, smells pumpkiny more than spicy, which is unique to this one. A light must or yeast smell as well. It has a slight sweetness, almost like a cider. Has a medium drinkability–meaning that while you might not want to drink it all night, you can handle more than one. This would win for best overall pumpkin flavor if it hadn’t been for our last late entry. But it still wins Second Place.
Dogfish Head Punkin’ Ale: no pumpkin or spice smell. Oddly, we detected a slight lemon dish detergent scent. You immediately notice that it is boozier tasting than the others (7% alcohol while the first three clock in around 4-5%). Some brown sugar flavor, some cinnamon. Great complex flavor, but not really pumpkiny. There was a light pumpkin aftertaste with some bitterness.
Shipyard Smashed Pumpkin: The smell was more fruity than spicy. Smells and tastes a lot like a Belgian beer. Although it has 9% alcohol, it tastes less boozy than the Dogfish. This was hyped up a bit to us by the folks at The Jug Shop. I was told by two different employees that it was chosen as their staff favorite. I guess I can see why. It’s a rich, heavy beer. It has more weight, more alcohol afterburn. But it ranked at the bottom of our drinkability list. It’s more the kind of beer that you want to sip by a fire. Which is okay, but not particularly memorable to this tasting staff.
A late entry–the next day, Luke and I went to Beer Revolution and discovered among their bottles a Kern River Pumpkin Ale. At that moment, we were drinking the Kern River they had on tap, which was delicious (the Isabella Blonde, maybe? We can’t remember). Rebecca told us that the pints we were drinking “cost five dollars instead of four because I spent six hundred dollars in gas driving a van down there and back to get it”. So we grabbed that bottle and took it home for the panel.
It was voted number one. It had the best overall pumpkin flavor–with both nutmeg and cinnamon flavors and actual pumpkin (which we are all well aware is a pretty light flavor in general). It was medium-bodied, plenty drinkable. Just delicious. If you can find it, or anything from Kern River Brewery, we suspect, get it.
A final, not quite in the running entry is Midnight Sun Brewing’s T.R.E.A.T. The reason it’s not technically in the running is because only Joe had it. Also, he claims it’s “not fair, like it’s cheating. It tastes like a pumpkin pie wrapped in chocolate. It’s delicious, it’s amazing. But I don’t really think of it as pumpkin beer.”
I guess it’s like putting bacon on your hamburger. Of course it’s going to be better than the ones without, but purists might say it’s not a fair fight. You might say, that’s how I roll.
By Jasmine · December 13th, 2010 · Comments Off
What is it about seasonal anything that gets us all so excited? I see a chalkboard sign outside a coffeeshop for Eggnog lattes and run inside to buy one. I am a black coffee drinker. It tastes like crap, just like it did last year. Yet I always fall for it. Is it nostalgia? Or the theory of scarcity, as in, I can only get eggnog lattes one month out of the year, so my brain screams at me to get it now?
I do the same thing with holiday beers. As soon as the calendar turns to October, I start hunting for pumpkin beer. Once Thanksgiving passes, I start looking for anything with a winter snow scene on the label. Both impulses have mixed results. Most “pumpkin” beers may technically have pumpkin in them, but it’s the spices that we’re really tasting. And what I want to drink next to a Christmas tree and a fire (something dark, with bitter chocolate and cinnamon notes) is totally different from what most Belgian companies brew as their holiday release (usually a paler ale, with spices, sure, but with a lot of alcohol and sweetness).
Coming up we have three seasonal reviews for you. First, the Beer at Joe’s staff (Jasmine, Joe and Luke) line up as many pumpkin beers at we can find and give you a side-by-side comparison. Next, we’ll tell you about this year’s BevMo Holiday beer festival and what the best American holiday beers we drank there were. Finally, we are still recovering from the Third Annual Beer at Joe’s holiday party held, as usual, at La Trappe. Mike pulled out some special 2008 bottles of Belgian holiday beers from his cellar, so we’ll tell you how those are drinking two years later.
Cheers, and may your holidays be full of good beer and great friends!
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By Joe Ruvel · December 1st, 2010 · Comments Off
So much good beer to be had this Chanukkah – all thanks to Shmaltz Brewing Company. Go find your inner Jew!
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