Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Oktoberfest Beer


If you are even vaguely the same as us in the love of beer, you will change your beer selection with the seasons. Stouts and porters in the winter, holiday ales during the holiday blitz at the end of the year, saisons in the spring, and of course, Oktoberfest beers in the fall. Mmmmmm, Oktoberfest beers. There are several Oktoberfest beers available right now at your local vendor, but did you know that there are actually 2 types of Oktoberfest beers?

The one that is sold here in the U.S. is the Märzen (5.8% ABV) style beer.  It is an amber beer style that was developed over 200 years ago to celebrate the original Oktoberfest. The Märzen name comes from “March beer” because it was historically brewed in March to be at peak flavor for the Oktoberfest celebration. Today this style is available year round in the US due to popular demand. This full bodied beer with its rich malt flavor and dark toffee note, has an underlying fruitiness and masterful hop balance.

The second Oktoberfest beer is less well known because it is not sold here, but is only available at the festival in Munich. This golden Oktoberfest lager is the only beer served in Paulaner Oktoberfest tents today. It also happens to be the best-selling Oktoberfest beer in Germany.  Brewed once a year, and only available while supplies last, Oktoberfest Wiesn is the pinnacle of German brewing: deep golden color, full-bodied and wonderfully mellow, with a balanced harmonious taste and the pleasant fragrance of hops. At 6% ABV, it is stronger and bolder that the usual lager.  I drank 7 liters of this delight while in Munich and was so very proud that I was still vaguely functional at the end of the evening.

Whichever beer brand you choose is irrelevant in that all of the German Oktoberfest beers are fairly similar, but try them while they are still available.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Florida and Tampa Bay Area Great American Beer Festival Winners 2017



Another GABF on the books and a few Florida came home with some bling. It is quite surprising to us that with as many fine, fine breweries that we have here, there were so few winners. Are the breweries in Florida not submitting?  We wouldn't think that the beers here are in any way substandard, but why are so few winning?  Hmmm, anyway, here is a list of the winners from Florida and those from the Bay area.  We are very proud of our winners and would appreciate if you visited these fine establishments and congratulated them on their wins ..... oh, and don't forget to try their brews. - Bon

Bay Area Winners:

Gold - Mischievous Black, Six Ten Brewing, Tampa       
Dark Lager

Silver - Ringmaster Raspberry Berliner Weisse, Big Top Brewing, Sarasota
Berliner Style Weisse

Gold - Three Tun, Brew Hub, Lakeland       
Ordinary or Special Bitter

Gold - Rome City IPA, Brew Hub, Lakeland 
Session India Pale Ale

Silver - Milk Bone, Pinellas Ale Works, St. Petersburg 
Sweet or Cream Stout

Other Florida Winners:

Gold - C Porter, LauderAle, Fort Lauderdale   
Field Beer

Silver - No Crusts, Funky Buddha Brewery, Fort Lauderdale             
Field Beer

Bronze - Duke Snider's Imperial Stout, Walking Tree Brewery, Vero Beach
Imperial Stout


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Craft Beer vs. Corporate Beer

While we know that the large corporate beer companies are buying up craft brewers, and we realize that we need to support real craft brewers and not these corporate giants, how do we know which brewery is really craft and which are not? Well, we are happy that you asked. The Brewers Association has created an symbol that small brewers may place on their label to help you identify real craft brewers. The craft beer lover has a right to know when they are purchasing from an independent craft brewer or from big beer and this symbol will help you do exactly that.


Craft brewers who want the seal do not have to be a BA member, but they need to meet criteria. The criteria are:

1. The brewer must fit the BA craft brewer definition:
•Small – Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales).
•Independent – Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
•Traditional – A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.

2. The brewer must have an active TTB license to commercially brew beer in the United States.

3. Breweries will sign a licensing agreement that will cover many bases, including if a brewery sells. If they are no longer a craft brewer, they aren’t allowed to license the seal. They’ll have to remove it from future packaging.

We ask that you look for this label, we ask that you support the small brewer. Cheers, Bon

Thursday, June 1, 2017

TBS Official Beer of Summer 2017

Have you ever tried a beer that you were sure that you were not going to like, but when you tasted the beer you were blown away by how much you enjoyed it?  On a recent jaunt to the beaches we were offered a rather dismal, but not surprising, array of crappy corporate beers .... and TropiCannon, by Heavy Seas Brewing.

In the first part of the surprise, Heavy Seas Brewing from Baltimore, Maryland, is one of those brewers who makes beers that usually don't excite us.  When given a choice of one of their beers vs. other beers, we almost always choose 'other' and while the beers are not usually bad, they usually aren't terribly impressive either. Part 2 of the equation is that we don't particularly like beers with fruit, and while we are not reinheitsgebot (the German beer purity law) purists, we feel that fruit is better used in sissy drinks with umbrellas. 

That is why we are surprised that we liked this beer so much. TropiCannon Citrus IPA (7.25% ABV) is a variation of their flagship Loose Cannon IPA, but with loooooots more citrus.  In this version they added blood orange, grapefruit, mango and lemon flavor, and reduced the piney flavor found in the Loose Cannon, to create a wonderfully refreshing IPA that was so delightful that we now can't get enough of it and actually seek it out. 

While the ABV is too high for this to be a true session beer, we found it very easy to drink several at a time, staggering away from the bar with a satisfied smile.  This is why we have chosen the TropiCannon Citrus IPA as our official Beer of Summer.  Cheers, Bon

Monday, December 12, 2016

Travelling in the Philippines

Do you have a hobby? Perhaps one that involves enjoying beer?  Obviously you are part of the beer culture, else you wouldn't be wasting your time reading this drivel.  We actually have 2 hobbies, that we manage to combine into one.  Obviously beer is the first, but we also have a love for travel, so as often as we can, we tie them together into a rolling drink-a-thon. This time we decided to try somewhere quite unique, a bit risky, a bit .... raw.
This is not the first time that we have visited a third world country, in fact there have been several, but none quite so third worldish as this.  As with many countries once ruled by the Spanish, there is a huge gap between the haves and the have nots.  Manila is a huge city of 13 million people with hordes of desperately poor people living in the shadows of shiny glass high-rises.  Even as poor as they are, they are always quite respectful, which actually is a bit disconcerting.  There is a reverse racism that we noticed after several days which took aback a bit.  "Hello, sir", "good morning, sir", will come at you from almost everyone that you meet, but they don't speak that way to each other, only to people who are obviously westerners.  Should you be one of those deluded souls who believe in white race superiority, this is the place for you as that they fall all over each other to serve you.  There are beggars, to be sure, any city with this much poverty has many, but just smile and wave while saying nothing, and walk on you way, they will leave you alone.  The child beggars are a bit more aggressive and will follow you for a few blocks with their hands out, but just keep your eyes straight ahead and keep walking.  In a country as desperately poor as this, you are a target, so leave your bright and shiny things at home (i.e. jewelry, expensive watches, etc), dress modestly and do not wave cash around.  Most people speak at least some English, and should that fail, try a bit of Spanish, after all, the Spanish ruled here for several centuries.  Money is all counted in Spanish as well.

Your first contact with hustlers will come as you leave the airport.  There will be an army of hawkers trying to convince you that the $1,800.00 Peso (about $36.00) flat rate cab is the way to go with traffic as bad as it is in Manila, and man, it is bad, stunningly bad.  However, a Taxi is also stunningly cheap, and you a typical cab ride, even in really slow traffic, will cost you less than $500.00 Pesos.  Don't bother trying to find a bus or the subway, there aren't any, just take a cab and be happy. Other than a cab, the only public transportation is the ubiquitous Jeepney.  These diesel exhaust spewing monsters are all privately owned, all competing for the same riders, all on the same routes which are printed on the sides of the vehicle. In theory the amount charged for the ride is figured by distance. You get in and pass the money forward, but for the life of me I never mastered the pricing and am quite sure that I was royally screwed.  To be completely honest, with an exchange rate of about 50:1, a royal screwing amounts to only a couple of bucks.
If you get tired of dealing with the crush of humanity or choking on the filthy air, there are options for you to get away and into a world more familiar to the average boring American.  The shopping malls in Manila are awe inspiring. These are massive temples dedicated to the gods of commerce are staffed with security guards stationed at the entrances to keep out the poor and smelly people.  One of the examples of reverse racism that you may come across is that all Filipinos will be searched as they enter, but as a westerner you will most likely get a pass.  Now I pride myself in my ability to finding my way around almost anywhere without getting lost, but the malls in Manila are maddeningly convoluted and HUGE.  The Robinson's Place Mall has everything that a homesick tourist needs to make them feel safe, secure and boring.  It is also where those without an adventurous palate can find solace with the 30+ restaurants, most with familiar choices (TGIFridays, anyone?). The Mall of Asia is one of the largest malls in the world should you need exercise in a place with slightly cleaner air.


"WHAT ABOUT THE BEER!"  
To be sure, we have not really visited a country that doesn't have a thriving underground beer scene ... until now.  Craft beer is a luxury that a country full of desperately poor can ill afford.  San Miguel is by far the largest brewer and has little competition.  Why?  Because it is frigging cheap, that's why.  A bottle of San Miguel will set you back about a buck.  The San Miguel Cerveza Negra (5% ABV) is a quite serviceable dark lager that will do in a crunch, but the craft breweries were really scarce, in fact, we only found one simply because we were lost and took the wrong exit from the Robinson's Place Mall (like I said, confusing), and there it was. It is true that you can find a few craft brews around town in the bottle, but our goal was to find a brewery where we could sit and chat about beer with locals.  


The Tap Station on Adriatico Street was honestly the only place that we could find within several miles of our hotel serving craft beers, and luckily, it was quite fine for our needs.  Their own beers, CraftRevolt Brewing, are color coded on the board on the board by price along with a few guest beers.  You will find most of their beers are session-able brews with modest alcohol content, but with familiar flavors and at reasonable prices.

The bottled craft beers that we tried were quite sporadic in quality.  The Tarsier Wheat Beer (4.6% ABV) made by Crazy Carabao Brewing had the funky armpit foulness that you get from unclean brewing equipment, or perhaps unwashed kegs.   Brew Kettle Belgian style Wit Bier (5.3% ABV) by the Asian Brewery, Makati, Philippines, is as good as any American knockoff of a Belgian classic.  In our not so humble opinion, the best craft brewer that we found was Joe's Brew out of Manilla. The Fish Rider Pale Ale (5% ABV) has a super drinkable balance between hops and malts.

We did get to spend a bit of time on the island of Boracay, about an hour's flight south of Manila.  Here you will not find the masses of desperately poor .... poor to be sure, just not desperately poor.  You will still find the hawkers trying to sell you anything that your drunken ass will buy, but the beggars are not so prevalent.  You will see gross, fat westerners with their tiny Filipino lovers .... male or female, but try not to judge, they need money and gross, fat westerners have it to give.  You will also see gloriously blue, clear water and swaying palm trees.  Hotels range from cheap dives to shiny new resorts
with the north end of the strip more of the latter .... a bit to sanitized for our tastes.  There is no sea wall and not concrete sidewalk here, hotels and restaurants are located directly on the beach where you can stroll along underneath the shade of the coconut palms.  Our recommendation to find a good selection of craft beers in the Red Coconut hotel bar and decently priced fruity drinks with umbrellas.  For dining you must try to find the Hobbit House restaurant where all of the staff are little people, and the food is actually quite good.  Little people.



We will give you one last piece of advice that should satisfy all of your cravings for finding good beer in the Philippines, consider, if you will, that the exchange rate is about 50 Pesos to the Dollar .... do the math.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.” - Mark Twain

Cheers, Bon





Tuesday, November 22, 2016

2016 Thanksgiving Beer Recommendations


Do you ever get stuck in a rut that you just can't (or won't) escape from? For instance, normally, our 'go to' beer for Thanksgiving is the venerable, magnificent, Saison DuPont. We drink this every year, and have for years on end. Why? Because it pairs so very well with almost every dish in the Thanksgiving feast.
This year, though, we have decided to change things up .... a bit. For this year's debauchery, we are going to recommended a few similar beers for the snobs to try, along with us, they are:
1. Straffe Hendrik Wild Belgian Tripel Ale - Brewed by Huisbrouwerij De Halve Maan, Brugges, Belgium, it is funky, earthy and ... wild. This should be the perfect accompaniment to the bird
2. Dogfish Head Biere de Provence Saison - Brewed with lavender, marjoram and bay leaves it should pair well with dressing.
3. Dogfish Head Saison du Buff - Brewed with Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme making it a perfect pairing for almost everything on your plate. Now try getting that song out of your head.
-Cheers, Bon

Monday, November 21, 2016

Identifying Contaminated or Infected Beer

You have almost certainly heard us bitching about infected or contaminated beers.  There are many ways to contaminate a batch of beer, each of which produces it's own distinct flavor or smell.  This article from the November issue of Draft Magazine gives you a great insight on what is funking up your beer. Cheers, Bon
beer off flavors
As beloved as beer may be, the beverage also has many enemies. Outside forces like oxygen, sunlight and time do their best to ruin beer, but even compounds found in and on malt, hops, water and yeast—the very ingredients that make beer delicious—can act as spoilers. With all the things that can go awry when making a beer, it’s a small miracle that most of them make it to the shelf free of flaws. Every now and then, however, you do run into a stinker, and it’s important to know exactly what caused the offending flavor. Here’s a baker’s dozen of those we encounter most often.
Acetaldehyde
Tastes like: green apples, fresh cut grass, cucumbers
Caused by: yeast. Acetaldehyde is naturally produced in the early stages of fermentation, but is usually converted into ethanol (AKA sweet, sweet booze) later on. Too much of the green apple flavor in a beer usually means the brewer used unhealthy or inactive yeast, fermented at too-low temperatures, or packaged the beer before the yeast was finished fermenting. (Fun fact: acetaldehyde is also one of the compounds produced by our bodies when we digest alcohol. Certain groups of people have a hard time breaking the compound down further, so it accumulates—this is why some people will become flushed in the face after drinking.)
Astringency
Tastes like: Not a taste so much as a sensation of dryness on the tongue
Caused by: polyphenols in malt, hops or spices. Most commonly it’s the result of poorly managed sparging—the brewing stage during which a brewer rinses malt with water to extract any residual sugar. Sparge too long or at too high a temperature and polyphenols from the grain husks will end up in the finished beer, making it astringent. An overzealous addition of spices—such as those commonly used in pumpkin ales and winter warmers—can also contribute some astringency.
Autolysed Yeast
Tastes like: meat, sulfur, vegemite, barbecue potato chips
Caused by: dead yeast. Yeast are hardy little critters, but they’re not immortal; they do eventually die, and when they do, they basically burst open (the word autolysis literally means “self-destruction”) and release their innards into the beer. This has a number of effects: It reduces the head on a beer, accelerates the creation of haze, and can even restart fermentation, resulting in overcarbonation. But the largest effect is in the flavor and aroma: The meaty bouquet of autolyzed yeast is so intense that it’s often used to add flavor to soups and barbecue potato chips. Yeast autolysis usually only occurs in very old bottles or cans, so make sure the beer you’re buying is fresh.
Bromophenol
Tastes like: ink, an old TV, an electric fire
Caused by: contamination of brewing ingredients via packaging materials. Malt or hops packaged in recycled paper or cardboard or inside material treated with fire retardant will sometimes impart this off-flavor to a finished beer.
Butyric Acid
Tastes like: parmesan cheese, rancid butter, vomit
Caused by: bacterial infection, usually by a bug called Clostridium. The offending microorganism is sometimes found in glucose and cane sugar syrups used in brewing, but can also contaminate a beer during the long, warm stand of a sour mash, which is why butyric acid is commonly encountered in poorly made Berliner weisses.
Chlorophenol
Tastes like: duct tape, antiseptic, Band Aids, plastic
Caused by: chlorinated water or chlorine-based santizers. Brewers and homebrewers who use untreated tap water commonly run into this off-flavor, which is formed through reactions between alcohol and chlorine.
Diacetyl
Tastes like: butter, butterscotch, buttermilk
Caused by: yeast. Dactyl is a natural byproduct of fermentation, usually created by yeast in the early stages but later reabsorbed. It can also be a sign of bacterial contamination in draft beer lines. The flavor of diacetyl is so buttery it’s also used to flavor popcorn, and though unpleasant in most beers, it is appropriate in some English-style ales.
Dimethyl Sulfide (DMS)
Tastes like: cooked corn, overcooked broccoli, dirty vegetable oil
Caused by: a compound in malted barley that’s transformed by heat. DMS usually develops during the boiling stage of the brewing process; it’s formed when temperatures reach 140 degrees but is driven off with a vigorous boil. This is part of why brewers strive to cool wort as quickly as possible after boiling: The longer the wort stays warm, the more chance there is for DMS to develop.
Indole
Tastes like: dirty sponges, halitosis, diapers
Caused by: coliform bacteria. These bugs, a family to which the dreaded E. coli belongs, are usually an indication of unsanitary food or water, but they can also thrive on improperly cleaned brewing surfaces and equipment. Brewers who make beer or store ingredients near farm pens or litter boxes have to be especially careful to avoid it.
Isovaleric Acid
Tastes like: American cheese, sweaty socks
Caused by: old or improperly stored hops. Isovaleric acid is a fatty acid found naturally in many plants, cheeses and, yes, foot sweat; it becomes a problem in hops that have been stored warm or for too long. Brettanomyces can also sometimes produce this compound.
Metallic
Tastes like: iron, blood, pennies, 9-volt batteries
Caused by: metal ions in brewing water. Municipal water left untreated by the brewer may contain some metallic elements, but non-passivated brewing and serving equipment such as kegs, keg couplers or draft faucets may also leach ions into the beer.
Papery/Oxidized
Tastes like: wet paper, cardboard
Caused by: Oxygen. Exposure of beer to air causes the creation of a compound called trans-2-nonenal, which has a distinct papery flavor and aroma. It often occurs over time in very old packaged beers, but can also be found in fresher beers aged warm or exposed to oxygen at some point during the brewing process.
Skunky/Lightstruck
Tastes like: skunk, really bad weed
Caused by: ultraviolet light. Hops, when exposed to sunlight or some fluorescent lighting, react with other elements in beer to form an incredibly pungent compound with the telltale aroma of skunk must. If you’ve ever tasted beer packaged in a clear or green bottle, you’ve probably encountered this off-flavor. Brown bottles offer decent protection from the ultraviolet light that gets the reaction started; cans are even better. But even beer poured into a glass from an un-skunked bottle, can or keg isn’t safe—a glass exposed to sunlight can skunk in as little as 10 seconds.