Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Is winter the best beer season?

Last summer I was really impressed with some good "summer ales" coming out. You know, not just the brewery's most bland offering, but some good crisp, often hoppy, and innovative ales. It's getting better, but winter is just the best, the absolute best. Not only do you get all the great special releases and holiday ales that come out, but you get the big stouts and barleywines for the cellar. But wait, it gets even better, then you get, the really great strong hoppy beers. I'm talking about Bell's Hopslam and Troeg's Nugget Nectar, two perennial late winter all-stars. But this year it got even better, there was Firestone Walker Double Jack and Founders Double Trouble, then Ithaca 13, then Fegley's Hop'solutely. Pretty awesome, I can't imagine it getting any better than this. I can drink a huge stout with a nice fresh double IPA to back it up, craft beer at its finest. I do wish it was warm though...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Psstt... Growlers

In case you haven't noticed, growlers are blowing up. From your favorite craft beer bar, to Duane Reade, to the home-distributor down the street, virtually ever type of beer-selling-place has growlers to go. A growler can really be any size must commonly the 64oz container. It's filled with draft beer and has a limited lifespan. Growlers are great in that they are reusable, but the onus often lies on the customer to insure that cleanliness before refill. Growlers provide the customer with draft beer at home; Draft beer is fresh beer and those qualities are carried over when a growler is consumed in a timely fashion at home. Another benefit is that many beers are released as draft-only, thus the goal of enjoying them at home is worth the premium. And often, it is a premium. I do like growlers, and have acquired many over the years, but sometimes I think the novelty seems to overcome the benefits. This novelty often results in higher prices with a deadline for consumption. A full size growler (64 oz) which is either 5.3 beers (12 oz 6 pk bottle size) or 4.5 beers (14 oz traditional bar pint), should hypothetically be cheaper then a 6 pk or it should definitely be cheaper than 4.5 beers at the bar, but often it's not. To the retailer, draft (keg) beer is significantly cheaper by volume than packaged beer, so what are the financial considerations and factors weighing into the price? I don't know, but I do know save for the premium I'm willing to pay for draft-only releases, I'm drinking a lot less growlers lately. The other consideration is this whole landscape of both on and off premise accounts selling growlers. On premise needs higher margins, but why sell growlers? There are so many questions and this post is a bit lengthy, so we will leave it there for now. But I think this is one we will have to come back to.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Cellar 2011

OK, with my confessions out there regarding my credit card bills, I've redone the inventory. The cellar list will be updated and subsequent adventures documented. This is what I've been doing. Let's see just how far this whole movement can go.

Beer Collector Phobia

It's a serious problem affecting beer geeks throughout the continental US. Symptoms include prioritizing beer over everything else in life, but not the drinking of it. Other symptoms include the particular hoarding of rarer or whale beers because of their perceived value. I would like to say that as a hoarder, I have a serious problem. At what point have I gone too far -- stored up too much beer to drink, spent too much money? When have I reached the point that i'm not enjoying what I paid for? Well that's all perception. I do admit that I have a problem drinking my beers, I often ask my friends to pick something out because I am incapable of doing it. I know that's what the beers are for, but I understand why I do it; It's like being a kid again. I've always enjoyed collecting things -- baseball cards, comics and now beer. The difference among those is that beer is gone when I drink it and it also has a lifespan. I know it sounds odd to compare my childhood to buying an alcoholic beverage, but this is a new level. The hunt is so enjoyable for me. From the spotting of the release on beernews, to the tracking of the beer's movement on beeradvocate, beermenus and the various online beer stores, to the final purchase in the store, is a very satisfying process for me. I've kind of become addicted to it, but once the beers are home, well that's a different story...

Friday, January 14, 2011

Goose Island going Crazy

There are a couple of beers and breweries I attribute to really developing my interest in craft beer. None more important then the first time I had Goose Island Bourbon County Stout back in 2006. At the time, I was just getting into big stouts but this beer really changed my perception of what beer could be, especially in a 12 oz bottle. It was so expensive, but it was so good, it started a paradigm shift on how I focused my attention to beer and new beers, and is probably the beer to blame for the over two hundred bottles I now have sitting in a dark cool room. Not sure how long ago it was, but Anheuser-Busch bought Goose Island and contrary to my belief at the time, Goose Island has gotten better and gone crazy!
There is an assumption among hard-core beer geeks that the Big 3 are all evil and I tend to agree -- the mass dissemination of BMC in this country has given American beer a low class blue collar image especially in Europe and abroad. We know now that when A-B bought Goose Island, it really didn't hurt the brand, in fact it might have made them go crazy! In 2010, Goose Island came out with an insane amount of new beers and most excitingly, various iterations of Bourbon County Stout. The hype train rolled and the beers delivered. They also released a variety of Belgian Style sour beers that I really enjoyed as well. Which begs the question, did A-B help Goose Island? Take for example the beer -- Madame Rose that was released this year -- Greg Hall had special Cherry Trees brought over for Belgium and a care-taker implemented to have the cherries to make this beer. It's just really impressive, and the beers have all been stellar. In my opinion A-B is letting them do what they want and giving them the dollars to do it, and I couldn't be more happy about it, is this a benefit to the buy-out?

If I started posting again...

Would you guys come back and read it again? Just Kidding. Slacker doesn't even do justice to the complete absence of my blog in 2010. And believe me, I haven't stopped doing the craft thing, in fact I've often gone into debt over it and had many sleepless nights. I think I have finally completed my highest beer buying season of the year: The Holidays. I've spoken about it before, but I'll reiterate it here, that Winter is by far my favorite beer month. This season was no exception, with the release of many exciting (and expensive) beers.
NYC has just continued its craft beer snowballing effect. An influx of craft beer bars joins pre-existing bars going craft to create an almost unwieldy universe of bars and choices.
I want this blog to ultimately be the story of my adventures with craft beer in NYC and in the world. It's not beer reviews and it's not a calendar of events -- it is my observations on everything I see in my own biased view of the craft beer world. Hope you enjoy it.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Start Posting again!

So I obviously haven't posted for awhile, things have been difficult, and life needed some sorting out. But I should bring this blog back as it was something that I really enjoyed working on it. I need to update the cellar as much has changed, and there have been a lot of cultural changes continuing to the growth of craft beer. Beer related news is blowing up, it is almost becoming too much. When I first started reading i guess it was 2 yrs ago. I would never miss a story, now there are ones I just have to skip because there just isn't enough time. I want to post commentary here, and I won't feel bad about it. As the craft beer industry expands, there just becomes too many choices (paradox of choice) -- you have to be selective, and some I will hate. But they are my opinions and should be taken as such. I feel its a grounded opinion, you decide.

Stay Tuned!