A Letter to Ab-InBev and MillerCoors

To whom it may concern,

I normally begin my correspondence with “I hope this letter finds you well”, but I know you have found yourself in quite a bind. You’re losing market share every year, and I’m sure your pocketbook is all the lighter for it. With each passing day, I see you desperately clinging on by way of expensive advertisements that have seemed to make your problems worse. It is in this letter that I intend to attempt to aide you in the matter of addressing these problems, all of which stem from one simple fact:

You’re doing it wrong.

It seems you think those moving from your product to craft beer are foolish at best, or cretins at worst. I can assure you this is not the case, and the veil of your advertisements is quite transparent. There’re only three breweries that advertise on a large scale: yourselves and the Boston Beer Company. When a brand new brewery comes out of nowhere with a million dollar advertising budget, we know who is behind it. The Boston Beer Company has worked very hard to establish a quality brand name in Sam Adams, and as such stands behind that name. Only you would hide your product under different brands in an attempt to fool consumers. How then can you ask the beer drinker to stand behind your brand when you yourselves do not? Each time you make a lame attempt to pull the wool over our eyes, you lose our confidence, and since there was little to none to begin with, you now find yourselves in negative territory.

To address your purchases of smaller, quality breweries, you really should give this a second thought. News of such acquisitions travels fast. Consumers, already aware of your poor track record, immediately look for another brewery to support. Again, we have no faith- even in your ability to leave well enough alone.

Your skill in brewing beer with little flavor is truly remarkable, and has never been contested. Your companies have survived prohibition, world wars, ingredient rations and even the Great Depression, and without your current practices. Yet now you falter, now you display desperation. You have become so out of touch with the market and beer drinkers that you cannot see that there is but one solution to your problems:

Quit trying to con everybody and just start brewing decent beer.

Thank you,

Benjamin Webster
Ben Webster is a co-founder and the educational writer for Beer Drinkers Society.

Craft beer and Southern Charm in a New Web Series

Krystal reviewing beerOne day I ran across a southern gal reviewing craft beers on Instagram. Her reviews were charming, filled with colloquialisms that I’d never heard applied to craft beers AND she knew her stuff. I dug a little further and found out the reviewer, Krystal, is a creation of a craft beer-loving actress named Meredith Riley Stewart. Stewart was using the character to show her love for craft beer and at the same time spread awareness of her upcoming web series, Southern Dish.

Today, the first episode of the Southern Dish pilot season will be released. The series follows Krystal, a good southern gal from Catchatubbee that moved to New York for a more exciting life. During these early episodes we get a GLIMPSE into Krystal’s life, her friends and the patrons at her new bar named Southern Dish. But after watching some early footage and Krystal’s beer reviews, I wanted to learn more about her move to New York, her southern take on the North and what she thought of craft beer. So I interviewed Krystal….

How did you first get into craft beer?
Well honey let me tell you what. In the South, where they call 4% abv high gravity, anything higgher is Satan spawn. But when I moved up north I went to beer week in Philadelphia and New York and fell in love. There’s lots of breweries doing crazy stuff like Rogue’s Sriracha or Dogfish brewing some recipe from Tutankhamun’s tomb or some shit like that. But Unibrou opened my eyes because they’re French. I met the brewer at The Philadelphia Beer Week. Funny man in a tiny little bowler hat. We hit it off and were thick as thieves. Their La Fin Du Monde is the best in the world. That’s the one that made me think, “Maybe it ain’t all Bud Light and Miller Lite bullshit. Maybe I aught to try some of this high gravity beer that would send me straight to hell.”

Why did you start reviewing craft beer?
If there’s one thing I got, it’s opinions. I built a soap box on which to preach. So I got a camera, I have a face for TV and this beautiful hair. I’m not one of these high highfalutin reviewers, with all their smellin’ and swirlin’ and swishin’. I just wanna enjoy a good beer.

You’re a good southern lady, but it’s most common to see a mustached man fussing over his beer. Has the fact that you’re not that fussy, facial-hair covered gent helped or hurt your viewers’ perception of your reviews?
I don’t much worry with what other folks is sayin’. My favorite quote is from Loretta Lynn “If you’re lookin’ at me you’re lookin’ at country.” I just do my thang and hope I can turn some more ladies onto craft beer.

What’s in your fridge back in New York?
Southern Tier, which sounded appropriate for my southern leanings, but it has nothing to do with the South. My favorite Halloween tradition is to buy a fresh Pumking and compare it to last year’s. Then there’s some of Stone’s new stuff from their Enjoy After Series. I’m gonna get at that when I get back home. And finally some cans of Porkslap Pale Ale. The can is hilarious because I like those little fat pigs stickin’ their bellies out. That’s how I always get lured into a BBQ restaurant. Those happy pigs with a fork and knife that look so happy that you’re about to eat their momma. Course, I always got some menner cheese (short for paminto cheese) in there too. I’ve had to teach many a Yankee about menner cheese.

I’m trying to bridge that gap from the war of the ‘60s. You know 1860s. That’s my goal in life to bridge that gap between northerners and southerners. I invite my neighbors in to cuss and discuss this predicament. I’m gonna do my best to educate these Yankees. Especially teach them about menner cheese and how to make grits. I wouldn’t recommend buying grits north of The Mason Dixon. It’s a travesty. It’s embarrassing.

What is your hometown of Catchatubbee like?
Catchatubbee is like Mayberry, if they were all damn Gomer Pyles, with a heavy sprinklin’ of redneck. We have the same road kill and fireworks stands as every other city in the South. My mommy and daddy couldn’t send me to beauty school, even though I was a 4H champion hair braider. Of course it was horse hair. I was modelin’ and photographin’ and braidin’, but it was for horses. No matter, once I was in, I was in.

Why did you decide to leave Catchatubbee?
Honey when you live in a town like Catchatubbee, the interest of locals is pretty limited. Hell, a little town near Catchatubbee called Opportunity had to change its name to Opp because no one could spell it. I realized there wasn’t any opportunity down south for me. I decided there was more to life than dancing on a pole at Petticoat Junction.

Krystal Union SquareWhy did you move to New York?
Well, I knew I had to get the hell outta that town and I saw an ad for a mail order bride. It was a real estate magnate who wanted to piss off his children and wanted a savvy southerner. And that was me. So that was my real reason for going up to New York City.

Who is your husband? Have I heard of him?
He is such a well-known magnate that I don’t wanna throw his name around or else it’ll end up in The New York Post next to a picture of Kim Kardashian’s butt. He’s 86 and I just dote on him. I make sure he takes his pills and fix him dinner. And I have my place on the side where I bar and get to be queen.

Ok, I’ll take the hint. You’d rather talk about the bar than your husband. Tell me about your employees. Who are some of your regulars?
I brought my best friend Darlene up. She had a sorry ass husband that wun’t never gonna take her anywhere but the package store. I’m trying to get her into craft beer, but she’s into pie. Then, there’s my bartender, Mike, who takes care of business and my cute little bar back, we call him “Cute But Stupid”. I call him “Cutie Pie” to his face… Maybe that’s why Darlene says she likes pie.

I have a favorite regular, but I don’t know her real name. We call her “Whatawino” because she comes in, buys a bottle of wine and pretends she has a date that never shows up. She’s a sad story. I put her on my prayer list. There are other beer chugging regulars, but that’s about everyone whose names are worth mentionin’.

What is the most outrageous thing that’s happened at your bar?
I think the surprise is worth waiting for. Good times are had by all who enter Southern Dish.

We’ll all have to subscribe to The Southern Dish’s Youtube channel for more craft beer reviews and interviews with Krystal with Leslie Jordancelebrities like Leslie Jordan and visit SouthernDish.tv to see what messes Krystal and her friends get into. New episodes will air every Thursday and as Krystal told me “If you laughed then share it.”

Enjoy Your Craft,
Ben Esely is a co-founder and the Brewer Interviewer for Beer Drinkers Society.

Stone 2014 Old Guardian Review

IMG_1168As I’ve probably said before, I’m a huge fan of Stone. And, whether or not I’ve mentioned it, I love a good Barleywine. The Old Guardian that Stone releases every year is something I look forward to , much like a child does their Christmas gifts in December. It’s always awesome & I’m always greedy and buy at least six bottles to sock away for future drinking enjoyment. Sometimes, said bottles last me up to two years. This release (2014) Bottled on January 24th 2014 did not last that well, as I greedily consumed every last bottle except for this one, that made it past the one-year mark.

First off, I have to say that I adore the simplicity that is the malt and hop bill of this beer. It changes a bit every year, but the good folks at Stone have always abided by the “KISS” rule when it comes to their malt-bills, for the most part. (KISS=Keep It Simple, Stupid!)

I will post a clone recipe that I came up with, that’s damned close to the original release of OG (Old Guardian) at the end of this review. I started with the recipe from the book in the photo, “The Craft of Stone”, and added a few tiny tweaks to adapt it to what I remember my first OG tasting like. If you aren’t an all-grain brewer, I’m sorry… I wouldn’t attempt a beer of this complexity with malt extracts, just because they’ve never given me the results I wanted. (Not to say that I haven’t had some excellent beers brewed with such, but you get where I’m going with this.) Anyhow, on with the show.

Stone 2014 Old Guardian pours a rich burnt amber, with well-suspended chunks of sediment that stay aloft throughout the drinking experience. The head kicks up quickly, forming a pillowy, foamy beach-sand tan cap with somewhat uneven bubbles, that fades in less than a minute after the pour. It leaves small patches of angelic lacing, that cling to the glass, and don’t really seem to want to go anywhere as I sip this booze-monster.

Speaking of Booze, with age, OG has become incredibly deceptive in this department, smelling more like the atypical raisins, dried figs, and caramel malt notes one would expect from a beer of this magnitude. 11.6% ABV, you say??? No. Freaking. WAY. And yet, there it is. Hints of cinnamon and allspice berry jump out at me, like over-sugared kids at a birthday party, and the hops are almost all but gone. There is a slight grassiness that remains behind, but other than that, the heavy hopping this beer gets has taken a huge backseat to the rich toffee-tinged excellence that is Old Guardian. The alcohol warms the sinuses as the beer reaches room temperature, but still doesn’t betray the massive ABV that hides behind all that malt. There is a nod at creme brûlée here too, but not in the way that a certain New York Brewery (that shall remain nameless) beats you over the head with the same aroma, and flavor. Sipping time, here I come!!!!

Sweet Baby Moses. I’ll start off here, saying that the booze is a bit more apparent on the palate. Not in a harsh, fusel-alcohol or “hot” sort of way, but in the sense that it adds a surprising amount of dryness to what was a much sweeter beer 14 months ago. The roasty malt takes center stage, dancing in drunken revelry with dates, nut brittle, cacao, and more raisin and spice. There is an inherent nip of saddle leather on the finish, as well as some tingly pepper. The carbonation has died down considerably, so much so that when I opened the bottle, the “PSSSST” you normally get from a beer was more of a “pss”. The particulate matter doesn’t seem to influence the flavor much, as I wrote notes for tasting this with and without, using two different glasses, and don’t really pick up much difference. The hops are gone completely from the palate, and the creaminess of this magical unicorn of a beer makes it a danger indeed. It is far, far too easy to put back!!!

To wrap things up, I’ll say this, and be brief. If you still have just one bottle of this release left, hang onto it for just a bit longer. I believe it would hold up and improve for another year, at least, since the oxidization monsters “Cardboard” and “Cooking Sherry” have yet to rear their ugly heads. If you have multiples, DRINK ONE NOW!!! Take notes, and compare when you open the next one! Your palate, and your brain, will thank you.

As Usual, thanks for taking the time to read my brain-droppings! I hope they entertained you, made you think, and possibly made you chuckle. If you have any questions, beer-related, homebrewing-related, or otherwise, please feel free to reach out to me here, or at mattdabeerguy01@gmail.com .

Cheers, folks, and keep being awesome Humans!!!

<Matt The Beer-Guy>

Breaking the rules: Real Ales Black Quadruple two years late.

Real Ale Black QuadrupelI’ve always thought it foolish to accept convention. As a child I would incessantly ask my parents questions, and follow any answer with a couple of rounds of “but why?”.So when I decided to learn about the aging of beer, and I kept reading “rules” that you can’t do this or that, I asked “but why?”. Some of the time I would get good explanations as to why a rule exists. Most of the time I received answers like “well that’s what this website said” or “I don’t know”. With those answers in mind, I decided to break all the rules about aging beers.The current belief among several individuals is that the only beers worthy of aging are beers that were brewed with aging in mind. Beers with a “best by or before” date are only good to that date, no matter what. Beers that age well will have that stated on the bottle. I broke the rule.

For this installment, I chose to put Real Ale’s Black Quadruple in my cellar. I thought it was a great candidate with high alcohol and dominating yeast and malt characteristics that are found in the most commonly aged beers. To my surprise, there was a “best by 10.08.13″ label and a note to the side in all caps that said “DRINK SOON” (ok, so “drink soon” was in a very small font size, but it’s a warning and warnings are menacing-and they give stories about drinking a beer weight, when exaggerated for effect.)

A year and a half later, with no one at home I decided to give this beer a try.

Any apprehension about how well this held up was gone as soon as I removed the cap. All I can say is that the Brewers at Real Ale were so wrong concerning the warnings, this beer is brilliant!

The Black Quad is more a deep brown with ruby and garnet tones at this stage. Despite the beer being perfectly clear, no light passes through the center of the glass. Very little khaki head arises and none really stays, just enough around the edge to give way for a good amount of lacing.

The nose hasn’t strayed too much in the cellar. Fruity esters of figs, pears, and dark cherries are backed up by roast and chocolate. The taste reaffirms this the nose with a touch of bitterness.

The mouthfeel is noticeably thinner, and this is juxtaposed by the carbonation that has the prickly quality.

The fact that there was so little deviation over its time in the cellar made me wonder about the possibility of pasteurization, but the yeast ring and layer of sediment in the bottle most likely  proves that theory incorrect. As batch 002 of their Brewers Cut series, this beer is supposed to be “one and done” but maybe we’ll see it again. I know next time, if there is a next time, I’m buying a case.

The rule? While in many cases the best by date is valid, it should not be treated as an absolute. The “best by date” is just an arbitrary number in many cases. Brewers could use these if they are unsure about how long the beer will last, so they put a date on it (most often a year). This doesn’t mean that any beer is fair game. You should trust your taste buds to let you know when a beer can be aged. After all, they’re the ones who will have to deal with the consequences.

Ben Webster is a co-founder and the educational writer for Beer Drinkers Society.

Denton’s Iconic Oak Street Drafthouse & Cocktail Parlor Turns 3-Years-Old

Mikey Modeling OSDH's 3 Year Shirt (Photo by Rasy Ran)

Mikey models OSDH’s 3 Year Shirt. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

This coming Tuesday, March 10th Oak Street Drafthouse is celebrating 3 years of serving great craft beer to Denton. We sat down with owner, John Williams to discuss the last 3 years of Oak St Drafthouse’s history and John’s history in the town he loves to call home.

Williams started his carrier in the bar industry at Lucky Lou’s in Denton’s Fry Street area. He spent 10 years managing the bar and building Lou’s selection of craft beers and fell in love with the whole craft beer scene. He then decided it was time to branch out on his own, “I left to start my own thing and be my own boss.

He realized communities develop around craft beer and wanted to be at the center. “I saw where it (craft beer demand) was going, the lack of service and the potential of what it could be. So I developed Oak St around that,” says Williams.
And develop he did! If you visit OSDH now, you’ll most likely find a large crowd sipping craft beer, from one of more than 70 taps, while they play board games or chat around a graffiti-strewn picnic table.

John Williams at Oak Street Drafthouse

John Williams enjoying the Beer Garden at OSDH. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

Why Denton?
All the ties and all the relationships I’ve built made Denton the place to open up shop and be successful. The fact that the community in Denton is strong with a small town feel and overall the people are friendlier and more laid back makes this a great town,” he says.

Williams has deep roots in Denton. He was born in Denton, graduated from Ryan High School in 1998 and UNT in 2004 with a major in Business Management and Entrepreneurial Studies and a minor in Hotel and Restaurant Management. His parents and grandparents were also born in this town and his grandfather was an entrepreneur that owned a couple of burger joints, like JB’s Dairy Bar, in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

Williams and Oak St have become prominent members of the Denton community by organizing events and giving back to the town. Williams is a member of The Denton Chamber of Commerce, is a board member of The Denton Main Street Association (the group behind such downtown events as Wassail Fest), started The Social Run with The Denton Area Running Club and was instrumental in the development of Oaktoberfest. You’ll even find Oak St employees helping the community. On March 28th they’ll be out and about cleaning up the downtown area with Keep Denton Beautiful and hosting upcoming events like Pints for Paws that will benefit the Denton Animal Shelter and Charity Mondays, where 10% of profits go to local charities.

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Desmond with a bright smile behind the bar. (Photo by Rasy Ran)

Of course the awesome team at Oak St would be just as invested in Denton as Williams! “The staff I hired at Oak St is the main reason we have been so successful.  They are friendly, craft beer knowledgeable and make the customers feel comfortable. This creates an environment that makes people want to come back time after time.

Oak St Draft House changed my life. I have never worked for a better business owner or with such a great family of coworkers. I stress the family part because of the family I work with and the family of all the great customers who come in are what make Oak St Draft House what it is. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it,” says Mikey Russell.

With so much accomplished in the first 3 years, I can’t wait to see what more Williams and The OSDH Team do in the next 3 years!

Enjoy Your Craft,
Ben Esely is a co-founder and the Brewer Interviewer for Beer Drinkers Society.
Rasy Ran is the photographer for Beer Drinkers Society and owner of Rasy Ran Photography.

I thought I was tasting beer as well as possible until I began studying for the Certified Cicerone exam.

Unless you are on the level of a Master Cicerone, you’re not tasting beer as well as you could be. I thought I was tasting beer as well as possible until I began studying for the Certified Cicerone exam. Exercise after exercise I found there was a whole lot to beer that I was not able to experience, as evidenced when I took my first sip of Franconia Kolsch and identified the use of Munich malt in the beer.

Here are some tips I have utilized to help me gain a deeper understanding of the flavors found within beer.

Smell EverythingSmell Everything.
At the grocery store, pick up everything that you can and smell it. It will help identify flavors found in your beer, because roughly 80% of what people consider taste is actually from smell. Sure flavors like oranges are readily apparent, but how familiar are you with currants or coriander? The more flavors you can familiarize yourself, the better. To really take it up a notch, carry this beyond foodstuffs. Some Sommeliers  have gone so far as to smell dirt and lick rocks to experience the mineral nature of the earth. Everything should be fair game when it comes to exercising your sense of smell.

Drink Blind.Drink Blind
Blind tastings (tasting beer with no ability to see the label or otherwise know what beer it is) will do worlds of good for your tastings. It forces you to use the complete range of your tasting and smelling senses to identify flavors and deduce what beer you’re tasting. It sounds easy, but trying to pick out the subtleties of flavor can be extremely difficult between beers of the same or similar styles

Of course, Drink More Beer.
I have heard many beer aficionados speak poorly of what they might consider weaker versions of prominent styles, Drink More Beersuch as pale ales or lighter porters. (As compared to IPAs and imperial stouts, respectively). However, subtler styles such as pale ales and porters can showcase flavors that get lost in bolder beers. Also, try to experiment with two beers of different styles that use the same malt or hops and pick out the similarities. Exercises like this are how Master Cicerones increase their skill level.

Eat Better Food.
If you have even read one review of a beer, you have seen descriptors used to describe smell and taste like stone fruits, caramel, toffee, or grass. There is always an association to another food, so it should be apparent that eating better and more varied food will improve your skills. Fresher is better, of course, as you will never use descriptors like “McDonald’s cheeseburger” or ” Twinkie” in reference to a beer.

Drink wine and liquor.
Fermentation makes very complex flavor profiles not found in unfermented beverages. Looking to wine and liquor, Drink More Wine and Liquorwho have a longer documented history of in depth tastings, can serve to aide in your understanding of beer. Of course, this will be of direct use to beer aged in wine or spirit barrels, but there is another reason, to train your tastebuds to look past dominating flavors. Tasting leather and tobacco behind the burn of alcohol in a scotch, or chocolate or decaying leaves behind the acidity of red wine is a skill that is directly applicable to the tasting of beer, because you’ll then be able to find underlying flavors of your beer in this same way.

Compare Notes.Compare Craft Beer Notes
Many online resources are available to compare tasting notes with others who might have more experience than yourself. You should not only compare their notes with your own, but keep a tasting diary so you can revisit beers and see how your tasting has improved over time.

Become a Certified Cicerone.
Even if you have no intention of working in the beverage industry, the Certified Cicerone program is the best way to taste beer better. There is nothing that compares to learning the details of beer from Ray Daniels and other Master Cicerones. As a warning, you have to bring your A game if you plan on pursuing this, as it is notoriously difficult.

Ben Webster is a co-founder and the educational writer for Beer Drinkers Society.
Photos by Rasy Ran Photography.

What Brewers could learn from the world of wine. Simplicity

Simplicity hops malts beerWine can be looked at as beer’s more mature younger brother. While evidence suggests that beer may have been invented earlier, wine has experienced years of refined interest with little of the stigma and lulls that have affected beer such as the poor quality beer that dominated America in the last century. Wine’s perceived superiority may not seem that way to the craft beer aficionado, but if two people talked about what they drank the night before, one a Chateau Lafite Rothschild, the other a Hair of the Dog’s Dave, it would be assumed that the person who drank the fine wine was more affluent and mature. This would be in spite of the fact that in this example the beer is not only the rarer of the two, but equally expensive per volume. Beer still has a ways to go in leveling the playing field. In this series we will offer some ideas brewers could use in that regard.
Wine is fermented grapes at its simplest form. There are only a single variety of grape and yeast in most wine. Beer on the other hand is far more complex, often containing several varieties of both malt and hops, and many times from crops grown in several locations. Some beers even use multiple strains of yeast in addition to the other ingredients. The benefits of using several types of each ingredient are control and consistency. Any variation in the quality of one ingredient is less pronounced due to the fact that it simply makes up a smaller portion of the recipe as a whole, therefore creating a consistent product over time. Also, the use of several ingredients allows the brewer to gain the control to utilize the best qualities of each ingredient.

Now what if a brewer used only one malt from a single piece of land, one yeast strain, and one variety of hop, also from a specific local? It may seem as though the beer would be lack luster, but there would be many benefits, especially when applied to full body styles such as barley wines because of the massive amount of flavor inherent in the style.

Hop Vines at Jester King Brewery (photo by Rasy Ran

Hop Vines at Jester King Brewery (photo by Rasy Ran)

The first of these benefits is transparency and, by result, the application of the vintage to beer. More often you might hear the term “vintage” used for beer that has been aged. In this context we are using “vintage” to describe a beer that varies from year to year. A minimalist beer would allow variations from year to year to be more noticeable. Things like drought and temperature could vary the quality of the malt or, more likely, the hops in such a way as to give the consumer sense of terroir (the flavor imparted to a beverage by the environmental conditions its ingredients were exposed to) that connects them on a deeper level to their drink. We not only see this practiced with fine wines, but also with single malt scotch, where each region has different qualities found in the finished product due to the environment and other factors surrounding where the scotch was distilled or the wine was made.

Another benefit would be a better understanding of beer ingredients for consumers. When a beer is minimal, each ingredient can be more easily identified. Subtleties of different malt and hop varieties would be more pronounced and therefore more easily appreciated. This can be seen in some of the traditional German styles, such as Pilsner.

Brewers can use minimalist beers to showcase their talent, as it takes far more technique and skill to make a complex beer from few ingredients than from several. Also, beer that is minimal enough to showcase variations of vintages could be used to sell contracts for specific amounts of beer before the beer is ready, known as futures. While futures contracts could be used for any beer, successful use of them comes when tied to a product where yield and/ or quality are variable. Look for a more in depth article on beer futures in the future, pun intended.

Ben Webster is a co-founder and the educational writer for Beer Drinkers Society.