Thursday, July 29, 2010

Beer Travels: Seattle Part 1

One of the best things about out of town weddings, is turning the trip into more than just a one-stop hop across the country.  Earlier this month my cousin Erin was getting married in Seattle (congrats!) so what a great opportunity for Jay (of the popular biteandbooze.com) and I to get out there a few days early and take in some of Seattle's great beer scene.  I had been to Seattle last October for the LSU - Washington game, but there were a few new places to see, and some new places we weren't able to make it to.  In fact, the title image on this blog is from a place called the Taphouse Grill in downtown Seattle.  It's a fantastic upscale beer bar with an enormous draft selection, but it wasn't on the agenda for this trip.  Hey, check it out, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Adams on the flight in!


Just like the last time, no trip would be complete without a baseball game... so I caught the Yankees / Mariners game the Thursday night I arrived... unfortunately Jay wasn't able to get on the flights he wanted to it was just me for this one.  One good thing about Safeco field, is that you can get a few of the Pyramid brews on tap!  Sure, you're going to pay ballpark prices, but at least it's ballpark prices for a local brew instead of a Budweiser, right?  More to come on Pyramid later in part 2...


Friday left Jay and I with a full afternoon of beer drinking to do before the pre-wedding BBQ at our Aunt & Uncle's house in North Seattle... and our original intention was to go visit Salumi, a fantastic artisan meat lunch spot that Eusebio and I had checked out on the previous year's trip.  Unfortuantely they were closed for the week, so we decided to go see what was up at the Pike Place Public Market.


Okay, so the market itself is a bit of a tourist trap, unless you're looking for some fresh fish or veggies, which wasn't the case for us.  Fortunately, right around the corner was the Pike Brewing Company, an appealing brewpub (in this case) located in the lower level of one of the shopping buildings around the market.  We both figured the best bet would be to start with the 6-beer sampler, which included the Naughty Nellie golden ale, Pale amber ale, IPA, Kilt Lifter scotch ale, Tandem double ale, and XXXXX extra stout.  In my opinion it was a nice variety of above-average beers.  None of them blew me away, but I'd have had no problems drinking my way through pints instead of samplers either!  I especially like the Kilt Lifter scotch ale and the XXXXX extra stout, and the Tandem double ale had a very nice Belgian feel to it.


After the sampler was done with, and we had a nice appetizer plate that Jay will describe in detail over at Bite and Booze, I finished off the trip to the Pike Brewing Company with a Monk's Uncle tripel ale, which is one of my favorite beer styles.  The menu declared "Find a better tipple of tripel and we'll all be a Monk's Uncle." and I can't say it quite compared with the best that Belgium has to offer, but for a local American version, it was pretty outstanding.  A great blend of malt and spice with characteristic fruit and floral flavors.  Definitely another I'd try again and a great way to finish off the stop at the Pike.



From there we headed south across downtown to the Pyramid Brewery with a belly full of beer and a thirst for more... but that will have to wait for part 2...

The Pike Brewing Company on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Garret Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery coming to New Orleans...

Thanks for Dustin Davis for bringing this article from NOLA.com to my attention!

Now that the World Cup is over it's time to get back to some local beer events... and here is an exceptional one in New Orleans.  The head brewer from Brooklyn Brewery (which can be found in South Louisiana these days) will be in New Orleans July 23, 24, and 25 to host a series of beer tasting events!  That Friday night he will be at The Avenue Pub on Magazine for a tasting of 5 rare and vintage Brooklyn beers, and the bar will have several other offerings on tap.  It's only $12 for the tasting, so I'm certainly going to try to attend and I encourage others to as well!

Saturday will be the event the food and beer lovers want to attend... a six-course dinner paired with six beers at Boucherie, which from all I've heard is a fantastic restaurant!  I've been to the accompanying Couchon restaurant and was extremely pleased with the food.  And the fact that they had the Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout available!  The cost is $100 all included, and although I doubt I'll be able to attend, it should be a great meal and experience.

I hope to see some beer loving friends in NOLA that Friday night... and enjoy!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Spain - More Euro Pale Lagers!

I could only think of two beers from Spain when I started this endeavor... San Miguel and Estrella.  Both are rather unappealing pale lagers in the true Euro macro fashion.  Like one blog I read said... "When one thinks of Spain one normally thinks of wine or bullfights, but very rarely of good beer."  And that's absolutely true.  I think of bullfights, and the fabulous architecture, and the sun-drenched wineries, but I don't think about craft beer.  I think you'd be more likely to go into a bar and find Heineken and Carlsberg and Newcastle and Budweiser on tap than any local craft brews.  That's unfortunate, but probably true.

Unfortunately there aren't even too many microbrews to be found, although they do exist, with little information in the world of the internet available.  The blog I quoted above mentions one called Birrart trying to establish a craft scene and there are at least two in Madrid according to this About.com article.  The article also links to a list of their top 5 Spanish beers, which are all brewed by the big boys, so even the people aware of the microbreweries seem to prefer the macros!  That's really disappointing Spain.  Tremendously.  Now I'm just sitting her wishing Portugal had beat you guys.  

Oh well, I guess the lesson learned here is... when you visit Spain, try the wine!



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Saturday, July 10, 2010

Argentina - Quilmes & Cerveza Jerome

A little over a week ago I featured Chile in this space and was amazed at the rise of microbreweries in the South American country.  Argentina appears to be on a very similar path, with numerous microbreweries sprouting up throughout the country to combat the mass-produced swill.  The more I've read during this Beer World Cup the more I've realized that the rise of microbrews and the disdain for the big mass-produced pale lagers is a global trend. 

The only Argentinian beer I've ever tried (that I'm aware of) is one of the more mass-produced variety called Quilmes, which sponsors Argentina's national football team.  The brand has grown substantially since beginning in 1920 and now owns about 75% of the beer market in Argentina.  Eventually Quilmes was bought out by the Brazilian brewer AmBev, which later merged with Interbrew to form InBev, which later merged with Anheuser-Busch to form AB-Inbev as the largest brewing company in the world.  So yeah, Quilmes is part of the global empire, and it tasted like it as well.  

Another Argentinian brewery that I have to mention is Cerveza Jerome!  That's right, apparently somewhere in the Andes mountains of Argentina, someone decided to name their microbrewery after me.  Okay, I'll admit that the name caught my eye when I was browsing over a list of Argentinian breweries but once I clicked to see more I realized they brewed a wide range of beers including an amber ale, American stout, Irish dry stout, and several Belgian styles.  Now that's impressive, a small craft brewery high in the Andes mountains putting out a wide range of styles, with above average reviews.  It might not happen anytime soon, but one day I'll check this place out.


Now I need to get one of those glasses... that is sweet.


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Friday, July 9, 2010

Italy - Following In Our Footsteps

You know you're in trouble as a beer country when the lead line to your 'Beer in Italy' wikipedia page is "Beer in Italy is mainly pale lager."  For those that have been keeping up 'pale lager' is most certainly not a good thing.  It's basically a synonym for bland mass-produced beer for doing kegstands with.  I'm all for kegstands, though, especially in Italy, with a keg of Peroni... but it's not the kind of beer you want to really enjoy for it's flavor.  Peroni is the largest brand, but others like Moretti also compete for the market.  In reality though, Italy is all about the wine. 

Hey look, an RSAK cup!  That's right, I even included Peroni in an old post about Euro lagers.  I was psychic or something back in December.  

Like a lot of these countries though, there is good news about the Italian beer scene.  Digging a little deeper reveals a trend of microbreweries that is rising rapidly throughout Italy.  I ran across this article about the trend, and even though it's almost 5 years old, it seems to hold true today.  Essentially Italy is following the same path that the USA took in the late 70s and 80s.  As the big guys (Peroni, Heineken, etc...) became such a large part of the market, there was an inevitable backlash that led to a rise of microbreweries and brewpubs.  According to the article, as of 2005 there were over 100 microbreweries and brewpubs and BeerAdvocate currently lists a combined 137 breweries and brewpubs, so it appears the numbers are holding true and slightly increasing.  

So kudos to you, Italy!  Keep up the good work and I'll be looking forward to hitting up some brewpubs on the next trip.  Whenever that may be.



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Thursday, July 8, 2010

France - Biere De Garde

It's time for France, a country that offers up nearly endless brasseries to choose from to feature.  I haven't featured any French beers in this corner of the internet, but I've tried and reviewed plenty, including staples like Kronenbourg and Fischer Amber as well as some of the lesser-known brews like Gavroche and the Brasserie Thiriez Biere De Noel.  For this one though, rather than feature a specific beer, I figured I'd feature a style of beer that originated in France, the Biere De Garde.
This translates into "keeping beer" as it was meant to be cellared for several seasons before drinking.  Before the days of temperature control yeast would react differently in the summertime so the beers would be brewed in the winter and spring to be cellared and drank during the hotter months.  The style is characterized as a blend between French and Belgian beers, but really the line between some of those styles is quite blurred.  The bieres de garde are intended to have a noble hop profile, but well balanced with malts on the aroma and tongue.  There are usually hints of fruit and spices as well, and they tend to be stronger than average in the alcohol content.  I have enjoyed the few from this style that I've tried so far, including Gavroche, which should be able to be found in Baton Rouge stores.

So next time you see 'Biere De Garde' on the label, don't be afraid to give it a try... you're probably going to like what you find, because unlike their 2010 World Cup campaign, the French got this one right.



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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Portugal - Same Old Story

This is all unfortunately starting to sound like the same story about everywhere.  The beer scene in Portugal is dominated by two large brewing companies which control 90% of the market.   The market leader is União Cervejeira SA (Unicer), a locally owned brewery which produces Super Bock, an American-style adjunct lager that is the best selling beer in Portugal.  I know you can't see me, Portugese people, but I'm shaking my head at you.  Sociedade Central de Cervejas is their biggest rival, a Heineken owned operation most well known for their Sagres Cerveja but also producing brews like Bohemia.  All in all... a bunch of blah.


Portugal IS home to one of the most well-named brewpubs I've ever heard of though... Shakesbeer.  Now that's good shit.  Too bad their website includes their wine list but nothing about the beer.  What the hell Portugal?  I guess they really are all about the wine, especially the port, which I'm sure Jay will talk about over at Bite and Booze.  You know what would be good though guys?  If a micro-brewer in Portugal worked on some damn good stouts or porters and then aged them in old port casks?  Would that now be awesome?  I've just about never had a barrel-aged stout that I didn't like so why isn't this happening?  Maybe it is and I just didn't find out about it, but hopefully someone from Portugal will read this, make it happen, and give me a little piece of credit.  

Until then, Portugal's beer scene is just going to have to suffer the same fate as their soccer team.  A second-round loss.



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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

South Korea - Nothing To See Here...

Well, I said things would be looking up at the end of that last post on The Ivory Coast didn't I?  Sorry, I lied.  There just isn't much of a beer culture in Korea to speak of.  The three big brands are all considered to be very similar to each other, and are all brewed with rice as an adjunct.  For those in the know, Bud uses rice as their adjunct so you can probably expect something similar.  Two of the breweries are listed on BeerAdvocate with an average beer rating of D+.  Yikes... you don't want to take that report card home to the parents!

 
And apparently S. Korea has a 100% tax on any imported beers, so don't expect to find anything else cheap!  I read a few reviews and most of them complained heavily about the prices of standard imports like Heineken, Guinness, and Newcastle.  
 
I did read about a few brewpubs, but none of the reviews were very positive at all.  Another disappointing country on this world tour, but unlike some of the others I really expected some good stuff out of Korea.  Oh well, swing and a miss!


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Monday, July 5, 2010

Ivory Coast - Solibra Beer

Ivory Coast... or Cote D'Ivoire... can't say I found much at all about the beer here.  BeerAdvocate has no breweries listed and there is only one listed on RateBeer called Solibra.  They feature 3 brews, all with pretty poor ratings, but the best one is called Mamba!  The best thing about Mamba beer?  It has a crocodile on the label.  Or is that an alligator?  It even says malt liquor on the bottle so is this really even a beer?  I guess it doesn't really matter... this is the first time I've been really truly disappointed in what I've been able to find on a country... so take this opportunity to review any of the countries that you missed along the way to this low point!   Or go check out the Bite and Booze World Cup tour for some good foods and other drinks... maybe the Ivory Coast had better luck in that department!  And check back tomorrow where we'll check out South Korea... I'm sure things will be back on track.

Sources:
BeerAdvocate

Sunday, July 4, 2010

USA! USA! USA!

Well, it's July 4th, happy birthday to the USofA!, so that can only mean it's time for the World Cup of Beer post about the good ole United States of America.  And while the USA might not quite dominate the soccer world, we kick ass when it comes to beer.  And I'm not talking about the mass-produced swill that isn't even American-owned anymore either.  Sure, I kicked back more than enough $4 34 oz. Bud Selects while watching America play in this World Cup, but that just proves that there is a time and place for even the macros.  I hate to admit it sometimes, but it's true.

 The good thing about the USA though, is that just about anywhere you go you can usually find some microbrews.  Regional breweries used to be all the rage, as back in the day (pre-prohibition that is) shipping beer wasn't very practical so most drinking went on from brews that came from close to home.  Prohibition (really?  who thought that was a good idea?) killed off all but the bigger brewers that had the resources to switch to other beverages and other uses for their lines.  So... once prohibition ended (and then WWII ended) the industry was dominated by all the bigger beers and craft was essentially non-existent.  The 50s, 60s, and then 70s were dominated by the big boys, as they grew, marketed themselves, and bought out all competition.  By the end of the 1970s there were only 44 brewing companies in the USA, but that was soon to change.  

Starting in the late 70s and through the 80s until today craft breweries have experienced remarkable growth!  While some of this is a product of revolt against the bland macros, I have to believe that the growth of the technology sector has made a huge impact.  People are blogging about beer, writing about beer, creating entire websites devoted to rating beer and trading rare beers with other enthusiasts across the country.  People can order homebrew ingredients online and take that love and start their own brewery, like my friend Andrew did with Parish Brewing in Broussard, LA.

 The fact of it is, though... I firmly believe that if I had to pick one and only one country to drink from for the rest of my life, it would be the United States.  There is just too much variety and too many fantastic microbreweries to choose anywhere else.  America!! FUCK YEAH!!

 
Sources:
Beer in the United States
Brewers Association
Parish Brewing

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Brazil - What the hell?

Just when we thought we had this World Cup figured out, and could count on Brazil at least making it to the semi-finals and as a result playing in either the 3rd place game or the championship game, they go any lose to The Netherlands on the same day we featured the Orange side.  Sorry Nunee, but I think Jay and I cursed your team.  

 
Brazil, it turns out, is the 4th largest market for beer in the world, but like all other countries featured, the market is dominated by a few huge breweries.  Unlike most of the world, though... the beer of choice is a pilsener as opposed to a pale lager, with pilseners accounting for 98% of the market share.  

As for one of Brazil's most famous parties... Carnival, there is definitely a huge spike in the beer consumption.  Wikipedia claims (unsourced) that the Carnival accounts for 4% of the yearly consumption, while another article I read claimed that Brazilians drink more beer during Carnival than the rest of the year combined!  I'm sure the truth is somewhere in the middle, but either way it's a lot of beer over a short period of time.

Another interesting thing I read was that Brazilians love to drink their beer served below freezing!  Apparently the higher-class bars use beer coolers that display the temperature so their customers can see that their beer is anywhere from -4 to -8 Celsius, often partially frozen.  I don't really get this, as I've had some beer before that had been previously frozen (in an attempt to cool it down quicker) and it was horrible.  But hey, if that's how they like it in Brazil, that's how they like it.



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Friday, July 2, 2010

The Netherlands - La Trappe Tripel (Koningshoeven)

I'm glad that The Netherlands are in the World Cup, because they just happen to feature one of the better Belgian-style beers out there.  And Belgian beers are probably my favorite of any specific region.  This one in particular might be familiar to readers of this blog, because it's featured in my top ten beers ever list over to the right!  (Fuller's Vintage Ale also made the top 10 and the World Cup of beer, if you want go to back to the England post...)


The interesting thing about the La Trappe Brewery is that they are the only authentic Trappist brewery outside of Belgium. The International Trappist Association is comprised of 15 monasteries, and some of the products they produce are labeled as 'authentic Trappist products' which means that they are produced by the monks on the monastery grounds, and profits are intended to benefit the community.  Seven of these monasteries produce beer, and it is generally considered some of the best beer in the world.  They are Achel, Chimay, Orval, Rochefort, Westmalle, Westvleteren, and the subject of this post, La Trappe. 

La Trappe is one of the easier Trappist beers to find in the states, although I believe all of them but Westvleteren can be found legally.  I was first introduced to the Tripel after picking up a 4-pack at the old Marcello's and fell in love.  This was one of the beers that really put me past the swill and even the Abita-level beers of the world and really got me interested in the world of craft beer.   It features a honeyish, caramel, spicy aroma and a taste to match, all malty and expertly hiding the 8% ABV.  I'd highly recommend anyone looking to expand their beer horizons to seek out a 4-pack of these, and if you like it, there are dubbels and quads available too!  

Enjoy!



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Thursday, July 1, 2010

Denmark - Carlsberg & Mikkeller

Just about everyone reading this blog surely knows about Carlsberg, and with good reason.  They are a huge brewery, and said to be the 4th largest brewery group in the world, I'm sure following the real giants AB-InBev, SABMiller, and Heineken International.  In addition to sheer size the Carlsberg company is an aggressive sponsor of soccer around the world, including the Euro 2008 tournament, and teams like Liverpool and FC Copenhagen. They use the advertising slogan "Probably the best beer in the world" and really, among the big boys, they might be close.  

The flagship brew is the Carlsberg Beer, with the trademark Carlsberg logo and green labeling.  (Not pictured, oddly enough...)  It's a German-style pilsner, with a moderate 5% abv, and hints of noble hops.  Like all green-bottled beers it's prone to go skunky but as far as the type goes, I do enjoy a good Carlsberg.  Especially on tap when visiting Ireland and I'm feeling like something other than a Guinness.
 Another brewery worth mentioning in Denmark is Mikkeller, an 'extreme' microbrewery that are constantly pushing the notions of style in beer.  I know these guys are available at The Cove (but not cheap!) and retail at Calandro's, and maybe a few other places in town as well.  Be ready to drop a few bucks, but if you really want to try something different and possibly mind-blowing in the world of beer, grab a few and give them a go. 



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