29 Jun 2009 @ 12:56 PM 

Overall, the trip I took this past week wasn’t specifically meant to be a beer trip. There were weddings, there were parents and grandparents, there was work, and meetings, and an academic conference. There were lots of things that you, the casual internet reader, needn’t be bored with.

The last time I went to Quebec City, I was 10 or 11 years old. I only have two solid memories of the experience:

1. They had a 2-story McDonalds.
2. They had a zoo.

This trip was decidedly different. It was primarily a sober trip, for reasons that I won’t get into. In short, we spent a lot of time near the excellent Centre de recherche du CHUL – the Children’s Hospital.

Still, as it turns out, there was beer.
Avec limes
Our hotel turned out to have a pleasing selection of beer on their menu. They had, in bottles, Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde and Blanche de Chambly, as well as a wide selection of Canada’s finest light lager offerings: Labatt’s, Moosehead, Molson, et al. On draft, they had offerings from a local microbrewery Microbrasserie Archibald (beermapping). I was able to sample La Chipie (an APA listed as a “rousse”), La Matante (a blonde), La Bris du Lac (a Helles Pilsner), and La Joufflue (a wit, listed as a “blanche”). I found the Bris du Lac and the La Matante to be rather unremarkable, pale lagers. They were well-made, but I’m not a blonde lager kind of guy, usually. I wouldn’t order them again if the other offerings were available. La Chipie was really interesting. I’m not sure I would have called it an APA before seeing it listed that way on the website. It had a nice hop aroma, a good hop bite at the end, and a big round malty sweetness to it, but “rousse,” meaning (I think) “redhead” made me think “red ale” which stuck my mind on an Irish Track that the maltiness, and especially the color, fit quite well. La Joufflue was good – crisp and cloudy, heavy on the wheat, and lightly fruity. What really struck me is that they all had a very similar flavor that I was having a hard time placing. I chalk it up to them either using the same hops across all their beers, the same yeast, or a flavor profile in the water.

We also had a little time to walk around the old part of the city, which is beautiful. It’s worth the trip up to QC just to take a walk on the old city wall. It’s just gorgeous.

On our way down, we stopped for lunch at L’Inox Maîtres Brasseurs (beermapping). It’s a beautiful little location in a strip of restaurants with outdoor seating. From what we could tell, they offered two things for food: hot dogs and nachos. We got hot dogs. As it turns out, it’s not really fair to call them hot dogs. What we we received were thin Alsace-style sausages inside baguettes with dijon mustard. They were fantastic. We didn’t get a chance to try more than one beer, since the waitress brought us a pitcher of their blanche (with lots of limes). We had more stops that we wanted to make, so didn’t want to get TOO tipsy. I am happy to report, however, that the blanche avec la citron vert was perfect on a sunny afternoon. Refreshing and clean, light fruit hints, no banana or clove to speak of. One of the things that I noticed here, sitting next to us in the shade, were two elderly women – obviously locals – just chatting it up over a couple of pints of ESB. It was a really great picture, and great to see.
Mmm.. Faro
Our next (and, sadly, final) beer stop in QC was done off of a tip via Twitter from @OldQuebec who clearly has some good search term filtering going on. We stopped by Pub Saint-Alexandre (not yet in beermapping, but submitted), a beer bar down in the old port. They had 200 beers on the menu, none of them American. The list of countries was impressive, but to be fair, outside of the usual suspects (England, Belgium, Canada, Germany), the contributions from other countries were largely their version of mass market light lager: Tsing Tao (China), Cruzcampo (Spain), Mythos (Greek), Moretti (Italy), Asahi and Sapporo (Japan), Corona (Mexico), Steinlager (New Zealand), Sagres (Portugal), Swiss Mountain (Switzerland), Carib (Trinidad). On the other hand, it was also the first place I have ever been able to order a bottle of Faro, and I enjoyed every sip of it. It’s well worth checking out – you can see their beer list on their website.

One thing worth noting about both of the beer places that I went to was that it was ‘pay as you go,’ with no option to open a tab (as far as we could tell), which is fine if you’re prepared with cash. We knew our stay was short, so we were on plastic and it meant running the credit card after every beer, which was a little transaction-intensive over the whole day. Be ready.

More later in the week, as we return to the States. [continued here]

 19 Jun 2009 @ 4:30 PM 

Starting tomorrow morning, I’m traveling away from the internets for a week and will have very little opportunity to make a substantial post on the blog with stops through Baltimore, Boston, central Maine, and Quebec City and then back again.

With any luck I’ll have a chance to stop by a brewpub or two so that I may report back on what there is to find in QC, QC, as well as have a chance to do some decent drinking in Boston at the end of the week.

I will almost definitely posting via Twitter occasionally, so I’ll see you all in the Twitterverse. Regularly scheduled blog content will return in a week or so.

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 19 Jun 2009 @ 03 00 PM

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 17 Jun 2009 @ 9:38 AM 

A little more history for you today, but this time with a poignant question. Behold this piece from Duke’s Digital Collections:

I don’t know about you, but the first thing I thought of after reading this was (click for a larger image, but I bet you know the ad):

Hops are the soul of beer

I think all this begs the question: What is the soul of beer?

I’ll be honest. I’ve always been a little irked by the latter ad, here. Hops are not to beer what grapes are to wine, unless the analogy centers around “a thing that grows on a vine that is ultimately in the beverage.”

If you want to think about it as a soul, I think we can safely say that grapes are the soul of wine. They are the primary source of fermentables, the primary source of variability. I don’t think that’s true for beer. Granted, one of the main reasons that the analogy doesn’t work is because beer has a more complicated list of ingredients than wine. But, let’s face it, as much as I don’t really want to agree with Pabst here, the primary source of fermentables and the primary source of variability in beer – if that’s what you want to call its soul – is really malt. (I am really interested to know what Pabst did with their malting that they thought was so exceptionally different.)

Yes, I can absolutely make my pale ale taste widely different with hops. I can go from grassy to piney to citrusy to cat pee. I can accent the malt or I can completely bury it. I can’t, however, make my pale ale into a stout or a kolsch with hops. For that matter, I can’t even make beer without malt – but I can make beer without hops, even if it won’t necessarily taste like what you and I think of as beer. Hops have only been an addition in ales in the past 500 years…. out of 4000 or so. Has it been soulless for most of its existence?

What do you think? What’s the soul of beer?

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Categories: history, marketing, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 17 Jun 2009 @ 09 38 AM

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 15 Jun 2009 @ 2:06 PM 

I always thought that when people talked about how the beer in England was “warm” they meant “room temperature” or at the very least “cask conditioned” but a little find by my lovely wife titled “In Commendation of Warm Beer” caught my attention today.

We care not what stern grandsires now can say,
Since reason doth and ought to bear the sway.
Vain grandames saysaws ne’r shall make me think
That rotten teeth come most by warmed drink.
No grandsire no; if you had us’d to warm
Your mornings draughts, as I do, farre less harm
Your raggie lungs had felt; not half so soon,
For want of teeth to chew, you’d us’d the spoon.
Grandame, be silent now, if you be wise,
Lest I betray your skinking niggardize.
I wot well you no physick ken, nor yet
The name and nature of the vitall heat.
Twas more to save your fire, and fear that I
Your pewter cups should melt or smokifie,
Then skill or care of me, which made you swear,
God wot, and stamp to see me warm my beer.
Though grandsire growl, through grandame swear, I hold
That man unwise that drinks his liquor cold.

Source: Anecdotes of literature and scarce books By William Beloe (published 1807).

That’s evocative, isn’t it? It sounds to me, from the construction of the line “God wot, and stamp to see me warm my beer.” that the beer is actively being warmed. Is it warm beer … or hot beer?

A little more researching brought me to In Praise of Ale or Song, Ballads, Epigrams, & Anecdotes Relating to Beer, Malt, and Hops (1888). Check this out from page 599!

When beer was the staple drink, morning, noon, and night, it was natural that our ancestors would prefer their breakfast beer warm and their “nightcaps” flavored, hence the variety of comforting drinks.

Warm breakfast beer! The 19th Century is starting to sound pretty awesome. But wait! There’s more!

Southey, in his “Commonplace Book,” records the process of roasting porter, a once fashionable tipple, as practised by Sir J. Beaumont : —

“He had a set of silver cups made for the purpose. They were brought red-hot to table, the porter was poured into them in that state, and it was a pleasure to see with what alarm an inexperienced guest ventured to take the cup at the moment that the liquor foamed over and cooled it.The effect must have been much the same as that of putting a hot poker in a pot of porter, which I have often seen done at Westminster; or a piece of red-hot pottery, which we sometimes use here.”

Holy moly! Hot for certain! In fact, the chapter goes on (and on and on) to talk about how much better for you hot beer is, than cold (I might dispute their science.) and finally gives recipes for what can only be called warm beer cocktails!

Here’s my last excerpt, a recipe for “Egg Flip”:

Take two eggs, and break them into a basin; add about three ounces of sugar, and beat those together. In the meantime, make a pint of table beer or mild porter hot, but do not let it boil, otherwise the eggs will be curdled, in which state they are termed by many “hen and chickens.” When the beer is near boiling, take it off, mix the eggs and sugar already prepared and the hot beer together, by pouring the mixture backwards and forwards from the pot to the basin. Add a wine glass of gin, or any other spirit which may be preferred; but gin is the liquor generally used. Grate a little nutmeg or ginger on the top, and it will be ready for drinking.

If anybody is really looking for a 19th Century feel to a tavern or pub, they should start experimenting with this stuff. I wonder how long it will be before Dogfish Head packages something like Egg Flip, along with a DIY red-hot-poker kit.

If I can find a print copy of this, I will work up a little book review and summary of available recipes. Until then, browse through the book via Google Books, all 632 pages of it. It’s a real treat.

 10 Jun 2009 @ 1:27 PM 

A little while back, the Brewers Association came out with some crazy statistic that is still printed all around their site… because that’s what they do.

The majority of Americans live within ten miles of a craft brewer.

Okay, ignore for the moment that “the majority” is a amazingly non-specific term. This means that it should be incredibly easy for you – yes! you – to support your local brewery. Of course, the easiest way to do so is to Drink Local.

Why should we drink local?

Without getting into a huge rant: For the same reason that you should eat local and shop local. Local small businesses are the soul of your community. When you shop at a big box store, eat at a mass-market restaurant chain, or buy consumables that are not manufactured locally, the majority of the money that you’re spending is getting sent away from your community. In today’s world, a measure of that is inevitable, which is why it’s all the more important to buy local, eat local, and drink local whenever we can.

Only one thing up in Northern Maine?

Only one thing up in Northern Maine?

Thanks to the three-tier system (you don’t hear that often!), drinking local can be even easier for you than eating local, since small companies can be distributed over a large area using existing distribution networks. It’s almost like the system is there to help.

Step 1: Find out what’s local. The largest impediment in drinking local is not knowing what is available to you. Luckily, we have references that can help us out with this. You can check BeerAdvocate’s listing by state and city or Beer Mapping’s awesome use of Google Maps. Either one will put you on the right track of finding out what is near you to drink. How you define local is up to you. “In a 50-mile radius” can be local, and so can “in my state” or even “in my tri-state area” if you’re in one of those weird tri-state areas. If Your Local Brewery is a brewpub, your quest ends here.

Step 2: Check your grocery/package store. You may have noticed that most beer in stores is packaged in some sort of cardboard container that generally contains information about the product inside. If you pick up said container and look at the outside you should be able to find a 2-letter abbreviation that refers to the state in which the beer was made. In most states this abbreviation should be very straightforward, though it may be confusing if you live in an “M” state. They’re not always intuitive. If you’re really stuck try this list as a reference.

However, many small craft breweries, especially newer ones, don’t always have the capability of packaging in cans or bottles. You might have to find their stuff on tap.

Step 3: Check the website of Your Local Brewery Many small breweries will feature an active list of all the places that they are on tap in the local area in order to facilitate you drinking their beer. Failing a list, if you contact them they will be more than happy to tell you where you can find their beer.

Step 4: Ask for it in local restaurants. You know where you like to eat locally. Ask them if they have Your Local Brewery on tap. They may say no, but they may also have no idea that there’s a local business to represent, or that people would be happy to drink said local beer in their establishment. Not only does this make it easier for you to Drink Local, it makes it easier for other people to Drink Local, as well.

Step 5: Spread the wealth. Bring local beer to parties; bring friends to local brewpubs. The more you do this, the more local beer you’ll have in your life. Others will go out of their way to emulate you because it’s so cool to drink local. You know how when you bring home some awesome vegetable from the farmer’s market, someone will inevitably taste it and say something like, “You just can’t beat fresh veggies!”? It’s the same way with beer. And if you’ve never run into that previous sentence, then all the more reason for you to get on board with this because you’re missing out.

Go forth, and Drink Local.

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Categories: industry, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 10 Jun 2009 @ 01 27 PM

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