Beer Oddities

I have had a dickens of a time getting myself to sit down. And my notes are piling up to dangerous heights. This would have been the perfect early January post, except now it’s March. But that doesn’t make any sense. And then I thought of the fiscal year. So I hereby declare that March is the end of my fiscal year and, hence, this is really a year end review. Many short pieces follow, so if you have any ADD tendencies, you really should enjoy the following. However, I have put them in chronological order in case you have some obsessive tendencies. I will try to cover any other quirky behaviors in future posts. “I’m a beer writer, not a doctor, Jim!”

May, 2015

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Dan and Hedi, soon to be full time Coloradoans

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Nice view from the large beer garden.

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Apparently, this beer is not distributed outside of Wisconsin.

In many ways, leaving the field of education is much trying to leave the Mafia (or so I’ve seen in movies). You get pulled back in and, for me, happily. While doing a school district-owned cable science program and working on my Ph.D in Science Education (alas, an ABD’er, but shed no tears) I came into contact with many people doing great work all around the country. Two of these folks, Dan and Hedi, run the Wisconsin Fast Plants program on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. They invited me out to help host a series of segments on the program. In a makeshift studio with a wonderful crew we knocked out a number of segments in several days. http://fastplants.org/index.php. They were also kind enough to schedule the video shoot during Madison Craft Beer Week. Rock on! ngraspberry

The beer highlight of the trip was a visit to the new New Glarus brewery. In the past, I have eschewed both fruit beers and sour beers. They both tended to overpower my palate. Fortunately, brewers are taking a more subtle approach to both of these styles. New Glarus has some absolutely stunning combinations, including the Raspberry Tart. Next time, I’m driving there so I can take a load home.

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The original brew masters, I believe.

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These guys were entertaining. Sounded somewhat like bugling elk…

 

 

 

 

 

 

June, 2015

I had the opportunity to attend the Colorado Brewer’s Fest in Fort Collins, CO which may rival Denver in craft breweries per capita. I attended the fest with one of my wife’s co-workers and his brewing buddies. They are all experienced home brewers, so I got the opportunity to ask lots of questions, and hear evaluations of beer. Each palate is different, so it served to widen my vocabulary about the nuances in various beers.

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November 8th, 2015

Pat was out of town, so I decided to trip-trop, trip-trop over to Avery’s fine facility in Boulder. It was probably the closest brewery where I could get to my 1000th beer on Untapp’d (see previous post- http://beeredland.com/2013/08/13/untappd-its-like-boy-scouts-for-beer/)

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The line-up Samael’s Oak-Aged Ale on the far right.

 

 

 

 

 

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The staff was as excited as I was

 

 

 

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December, 2015

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A Holiday Surprise

As many of you know I am a retired elementary school teacher. I left a PhD program to follow my passions of beer and food. I work nearby at a Whole Foods store as a cashier. I also do preschool story times, and kids events. I love talking to people! When kids come through my line they almost always get a magic trick. I was stunned when Jamie and Eric came through my line and gave me this bottle of Goose Island BCS. I have heard about it for quite sometime, but (at age 60 as I write) I am just not interested in standing in lines anymore. It was fantastic and I was sipping so slowly. I was able to make it last for an Edenic 90 minutes.

New Holland Brewing

At $16 per four pack New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk Stout is a tad pricey. But, shucky darns it is so incredibly tasty. A sipping beer that pairs well with any chocolate dessert or even as a dessert in and of itself. As luck would have it, I happened to run into one of the beer manager’s at my local store, Superior Liquors, and he mentioned that he had some newly20151104_105726 released holiday varietals in the back, coffee/chocolate, raspberry, and chile. There wasn’t enough room to display them. Oh my! More temptation. I tried to save one of each to pull out occasionally when friends came over, but the temptation was too great! Watch for them next holiday season!!

 

Much more to talk about in future posts as I am back in the saddle again.

“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline — it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.” — Frank Zappa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hans and Trena

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The Great American Beer Festival 2015…A Virgin No More

GABF My second year. The day did not begin as planned. Pat dropped off Chris and I near the RTD bus stop. Last year I had to stand in the aisle all the way to Denver, not a terribly big deal, but I couldn’t write any last preparatory notes. I vowed to take an earlier bus. The best laid plans “aft go agley”. The first bus didn’t even have standing room. Oh, no. Would this be the pattern? We struck up a conversation with a couple of fellow beer geeks (notoriously friendly folks for the most part). He suggested an Uber ride that we would split. An excellent suggestion so he booked the ride. The great advantage here is that we would be dropped off right in front of the convention center and not have to walk the distance from Union Station. A note for next year.

In the past you would join an incredibly long line that would snake around and through the building. This year a second entrance was added and we were herded inside, safe from the vagaries of Denver weather, although it was sunny and warm for this day. It could just as easily been an early snowstorm. I had a back pack this time with camera, a water bottle, notebook, pretzels, and beef jerky and was worried once I saw the “Absolutely No Backpacks” sign. We started to make frantic phone calls to people we knew. Not to worry as it turned out. It must be my gray hair, nobody gave me a second glance.20150926_105513

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My brew bro and buddy, Chris.

There were 750 breweries and 3800 beers, so I had meticulously planned our route to achieve the following objectives-

  1. last year’s medalists (gold, silver, bronze) who would be pouring those same beers this year
  2. Reviewing the recommendations of various blogs
  3. Revisiting breweries that I enjoyed from last year
  4. Recommendations from other attendees
  5. a few local folks
  6. Getting Garrett Oliver’s autograph
  7. Dragon’s Milk bottle caps
  8. Bluebonnet Brewing

The main exhibit hall is alphabetically organized into islands based on geographical regions. So depending on our entrance point we could work through A to Z or Z to A to minimize traipsinGABF_MAP_VERT1g all over the hall. If a select brewery had too long of a line, we would move on down the list. There are simply too many good beers to sample and fine folks to talk too. Once the gates opened there is usually a rush to a handful of breweries (New Glarus, 3 Floyds, Russian River, to name a few), but those lines usually greatly shorten at some point during the 4 hour session.

I am keen on maximizing my time and also figure that I can usually taste about 25 samples before my palate is dulled. I pour out a lot and take regular water and pretzel breaks. I also like to find a place to sit and write after 6 beers or so. I had prepared two charts that have been excerpted below. I am interested in brewing heavier beers, especially barrel-aged ones, so my list is skewed toward that end, but I also like ESB’s (Extra Special Bitter) and we brew a very good one. Chart A shows the styles we wanted to investigate further, 3 beers to a style. I had five styles chosen- Wood & Barrel Aged Strong Beers, Aged Beers, ESB, Wood & Barrel Aged Strong Stout, and Barleywine Style Ale. These would give me a strong background for our own beer brewing. I also list the state and island station. This means we have to walk a bit more, but we can better judge beers of similar types.

Chart B lists all of the breweries in station alphabetical order. This list includes additional breweries that I have found interesting although I hadn’t picked out any particular beer to taste. Again, if a line was too long when we passed by, we would simply go on to the next brewery. Despite the organization, you still do a hefty amount of walking.

Chart A

Wood & Barrel Aged Strong Beers

Lonesome Dove     Sun King                                 IN          E8

Barrel-Aged 666     Sun King                                 IN          E8

Buffalo Bock           Minneapolis Town Hall           MN        Z3

…………

Chart B

Breweries In Alphabetical Order By Station

Bell’s Brewery                    C12

New Glarus                        D31

JAFB Wooster                    D10

Sun King                             E8

Three Floyds                      E31

Brooklyn Brewery               G9

Kane                                    H3

Goose Island                       I1

……….

First st
op was connecting with brew brother Chris’ brother who is a partner in Bluebonnet Beer Company (http://bluebonnetbeerco.com/) out of Round Rock, Texas. Final objective, accomplished first.Bluebonnet Beer Company

 

 

 

Objectives 1,2, and 3 (notable breweries) were achieved through the execution of our planned route. Objective 4 (attendee recommendations) would be a flexible situation…we might get some or not. Objective 5 (local folks) would be met once we received texts beckoning us to their stations.

Objective 6 (Garrett Oliver’s autograph) was the second order of business. Backstory needed. At the festival last year I happened across the folks from Brooklyn Brewery, head brewer Garrett Oliver. I was working on my dissertation and kept finding myself drawn to his writing about beer and food, chiefly, The Brewmaster’s Table. I really didn’t think he would be there, but when I asked the representative responded that he would be right back. I was stunned, but gathered myself, waited patiently, and was able to snap this selfie.

 

 

 

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This year, I quickly repeated the story to Mr. Oliver in order to get his autograph. Objective 6 accomplished.

 

 

 

For the previous year, I have been under the spell of Dragon Milk’s Stout by New Holland Brewing out of Michigan. This is a truly tantalizing brew. Milk stout aged in bourbon barrels, smooth and complex. I even wrote an exceptionally humorous email to the brewery, but never heard back.After a few four packs, I decided to start saving bottle caps. I wanted to present them to the reps at the festival.
Unfortunately, only an underling was manning the booth when I approached. She thought it was funny, but it just wasn’t the strong reaction I was hoping for. Ah, well, next year.

If you scroll back up to the map you will see an area called Silent Disco between Islands S and T. I was curious, but that was shoved to the back of my mind as we were searching out fine beers. We chanced upon the area. People with headphones gyrating to an unheard beat. One of the funniest things I saw all day. And a signal that it was time to walk back and catch the bus. I like to be at the bus stop by 4 pm when the session closes. That way I am virtually guaranteed a seat for the ride home.20150926_141125

 

 

 

 

Recommendations for next year-

  1. Uber there and bus ride home
  2. Keep the same number of styles. I like to focus on the 3 or 4 styles I want to brew and taste similar offerings.
  3. Take Chris again. It’s great to have another palate. That way we can get two different samples and compare observations. We do pour out a lot.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Cheers, Scott

 

 

Pumpkin Schmumpkin…Pretty Much: A Fairly Short Rant And A Revelation

20150826_163949Study the photograph carefully. I am trying to understand the attraction of pumpkin beers. For heaven’s sake, it is just the middle of September!! Just for comparison I took a bite out of that monstrous zucchini (thanks Marjorie and Michael, we spiralized it). Not pleasant.  Then I took a couple of mouthfuls of canned pumpkin and it was pretty much tasteless. I wouldn’t feed that to my dog…wait a minute…errr, I sometimes do feed it to my dog. In fact, she enjoyed the rest of the can over a period of days and it’s good for her digestive tract.

Back a bit, zucchini is pretty nearly tasteless in raw form. To make it edible, people bake it or sauté it, usually with bacon, which makes it pretty darn tasty ( yum…sautéed zucchini, bacon, and green chilies- I’ll get back to you on that).  Or they grate it and put it into bread or muffins, but not before adding a lot of spices. Looking at my backyard, I’d almost rather add cottonwood leaves or pine needles to my beer.

When eating pumpkin pie, I taste the spices, but feel the fullness of the soft, but solid squash. So for a beer, you can add the spices, but it is damn near impossible to get the fullness, because it is a liquid. Other foodstuffs are much lighter, almost any fruit for example. Drinking a raspberry ale well give you the taste and an equivalent sense of fullness, just as if you are eating raspberries. Many other less dense fruits would and have worked similarly. Last year’s medalists in the Great American Beer Festival’s two fruit beer categories (6 medals total) included 3 apricot beers, 1 raspberry beer, 1 peach beer (Colorado’s own Pagosa Springs Brewery’s Peachy Peach), and 1 passion fruit beer. To be totally frank, pumpkin beers do get their own category, and I solemnly promise to seek those out at the upcoming GABF.

I do readily admit that some palates are far more sensitive than mine and perhaps one can tell the difference between the spice constellation and the pumpkin, but I feel you could brew a beer with just the spices then many people would “taste” the pumpkin.

I do appreciate brewers experimenting with different ingredients. Some additions make sense from an aesthetic point of view and others don’t.  Moreover, like all of us, I don’t always like the final result, but I can appreciate the effort. For example, the Denver Beer Company’s Graham Cracker Porter is a favorite with a lot of folks. Graham crackers seem to be an appropriate addition to a porter.denver-beer-graham-cracker-porter I can appreciate that it is a well-made beer, it just doesn’t appeal to my palate.

 

 

 

 

On the other hand, Wynkoop’s Rocky Mountain Oyster Stoutoyster simply seems frivolous, an unnecessary addition meant to garner press. Others, obviously, may disagree. In contrast to the Wynkoop effort I point to Ballast Point’s Indra Kunindra. This is a foreign/export stout. Stouts have a long history in parts of Asia and the brewers have added Madras curry, cumin, cayenne, coconut, and Kaffir lime leaves, often used  ingredients  in certain Asian cuisines. It expanded my palate on what a stout can offer. I’m not sure I will be clamoring for another, but I enjoyed this one.

I suppose you could make the argument that here on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains that steer testicles are a local ingredient. Although balls are plentiful, I feel this is more akin to slicing off a shark fin for soup or grinding a rhino horn for some potion.

As a beer geek and home brewer, I want any beer to taste good and be aesthetically sound as well. Those beers are honest even if they don’t excite my palate.

To some pumpkin beers…with a caveat.  You will notice that there is quite a range in the color so please realize that there are several styles of beer represented here. Some would fairly say that this is like comparing apples to oranges, but my intent is to determine which beer best approaches the taste and/or feeling of pumpkin pie.

Black O’ Lantern Stout 6.5% ABV Wasatch Brewery

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Again I can appreciate a brewery’s effort even if I don’t like the beer, but should this beer loom up before you, RUN! It tastes like latex. Ick. Ick. Ick. This should never have been released for public consumption. I had to pour out the bottle after two sips. And I only took two sips because I couldn’t believe how bad the first sip tasted.

Punkin Brown Ale 7% ABV  Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

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Surprisingly light for a brown ale, both in color and mouthfeel. Just the barest hint of spice on my palate. I didn’t pour it out which is about the highest recommendation I can make.

 

 

Smashed Pumpkin  9% ABV  Shipyard Brewing Company

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Very mild spice notes. Without looking at the label I might not be able to identify it as a pumpkin beer.

 

 

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Imperial Pumpkin 9% ABV  Dry Dock Brewing Company

The sharp-eyed reader will notice there is no review. I can’t find my notes for this beer. Ah well, it’s back to the liquor store and I will up date this soon.

 

Imperial Pumpkin Porter 8.6% ABV  Epic Brewing Company/DC Braul

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Would I be doomed to taste mediocre (or worse) pumpkin beers? Fortunately, this one was quite enjoyable. Not a spice assault on the senses, but a nice balance. I would gladly drink this again.

 

 

Pump[KY]n 17.22% ABV Avery Brewing Company

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A pricey brew at $12.59 for 12 ounces, but a delicious one. It smells faintly of pumpkin pie, spices, and baked squash, plus it has a full mouthfeel. Of course at 17.22% ABV, after a couple of sips, who the hell cares? But, seriously, this was by far the best of the bunch. Parenthetically, while enjoying this brew on our backyard patio, a yellow jacket nosedived right into the glass and expired (I assume happily, I certainly would have).

Cheers,

Scott

Photo credits- all mine except

Graham Cracker Porter https://www.applejack.com/beer/Denver-Beer-Graham-Cracker-Porter-w0867425v3

Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout  http://www.wynkoop.com/blog/wynkoop-releases-first-cans-of-rocky-mountain-oyster-stout/

Thoughts On Mortality And Beer In Pagosa Springs, Colorado

Our daughters termed it “Mansion Camping”, a five bedroom house with huge dining and community spaces, including a theater, and also surrounded by the San Juan National Forest.

This20150801_164211 was a huge family event and gives a glimpse into another “Modern Family”.

 

 

 

Roll Call, Mouseketeers! rollcall

Pat, my lovely wife of 26 years, and I. Our 25 year old twin daughters, Logan and Brenna, along with Brenna’s boyfriend, David . Pat’s adult children from her first marriage, Sarah and Max. Along with Sarah came husband Erich and 1 year old Owen. Max was accompanied by Heather, his now common-law spouse, and her 8 year old daughter, Penny. Finally, Donna, my 86 year old mother, was boldly going to face the projected mayhem.

This could very well be my Mom’s last big vacation. She remains an ebullient, active woman, but is just getting older. She gets frustrated with herself if she forgets someone’s name (five kids, 12 grandkids, 2 great grandkids, and various spouses and significant others, and her sisters and brother and their offspring) or can’t come up with a word. She complains about getting old and her declining abilities. “You are doing fine for someone your age. You’re 86, most people your age are dead.” She appreciates the joke.

Having everyone together for a week was a meaningful event. People just starting their journey and people closer to the end.

I had severe asthma as a child where I had to remain bedridden for days at a time because I could not breathe deeply enough. I was forced to confront my mortality at an early age. I remember asking my Mom, “When I die, will I be just like I am, but in heaven?” She answered “Yes” and that was a comforting thought, somehow some part of me would go on. Eventually, science replaced religion in my belief system. All of the molecules in my body will travel elsewhere. Having originated in stardust, they will return there. I find this cyclical nature most comforting. And I find it everywhere, in people, in food, and in beer. For 5000 years, people have been using harvested plants to make beer. By drinking a beer, you become a participant in this cycle.

Back to the mansion…

When we arrived in Pagosa Springs, the cleaners had not finished, so we traveled into town to Riff Raff Brewing Company. Pat and I had seen the place as we had traveled to see friends in Durango the previous month. The name would have been enough to draw me in as I felt I have a particular affinity to riff raff. Ah, the lovely coincidences of life. I would get to visit one of the three Pagosa Springs brewpubs, even before officially checking in.

Riff Raff BrewingRiffRaff2 (1)

Excellent place. Beers tasted-El Duende, Plebian Porter, Stepchild American Red, Skallywag English Pale. All were excellent, but the American Red was our favorite. We would return here for lunch a couple of times and to fill up our growlers. Shaded area outside, friendly staff.

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Pat and I had to do some grocery shopping on the
western edge of town. 20150803_092209While pulling out of the parking lot we saw the Pagosa Brewing Company across the street. It seemed fortuitous and even Pat thought the sign was a sign. We entered through the huge beer garden and perched ourselves at the bar. I was stunned at the number of beers on tap. We shared the taster tray of 13 beers. At this point, I was a bit skeptical about the large number of beers on tap (for a smallish place). When I remarked on this to Pat, a regular sitting next to us stated, “Yes, they do 60 brews a year.” Yikes! Quantity does not necessarily equal quality in my mind and suspicions were confirmed when neither Pat or I liked the first three tasters which were mediocre to unenjoyable. I was visibly nervous now. Three down and ten to go. Fortunately, there were several fine brews in that remainder with our favorite being their Peachy Peach saison. We did not eat here, so I don’t know about the food. Beers tasted- Ancestral Ale, Peanut Butter Stout, Raging Raspberry, Grog, Rodeo Rider Red, Wolf Creek Wheat, Chili Verde Cerveza, Pagosa Pale Ale, Peachy Peach, Poor Richard’s Ale, Kayaker Cream Ale, Soaker’s Stout, Powder Day IPA.

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I tend to order clothes online or Pat buys them for me. I don’t like shopping (unless it’s a liquor store or an army-navy surplus store), but Pat (that knowing and bewitching woman) promised we would end up at Wolfe Brewing Company. As our house was a ten minute drive outside the eastern edge of town and the grocery store was on the western side, we had passed Wolfe Brewing several times, so I was happily anticipating an eventual visit. Another large beer garden with tents. Good beer, excellent food, and friendly staff.  Beers tasted-Boegarden Jack Wit, Snuffy’s Hollow Stout, Yippee-ki-yay, Putt Hill Smoked Porter, Pagoslow Palezner, Taxi Dog Amber. My only objection to this place is their awful wolf graphic. 2330
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So raise a glass to your ancestors and descendants in Pagosa Springs, local brewpub, or in the comfy confines of your home. Cheers!

 

God made yeast, as well as dough, and loves fermentation just as dearly as he loves vegetation.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Photo Credits- All mine except for the exterior of Riff Raff Brewing, http://pagosadailypost.com/restaurant-reviews/riff-raff-brewing-company/,  Jimmie, http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=105×4836605, and Wolfe Brewing Company logo, http://www.wolfebrewingco.com/

Back To The Blog With Bikes And Brews

Back to the blog and in “more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff”. Pretend you are Wayne and Garth doing that fade back into time…doodle-loodle-loo, doodle-loodle-loo.waynegarth

 

 

 

 

Beginning in February I had a number of minor health problems…”old age ain’t no place for sissies”.

SKIP TO THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE ALL CAPITALS IF YOU DON’T WANT TO READ ABOUT OLD GUY STUFF!

First up, bowel obstruction. I had always thought there was something blocking the way, a inadequately chewed piece of medium rare steak, a long forgotten piece of Bazooka, or maybe a large Lego. Nothing so dramatic as we found out. The doctors believed that the small intestine just got kinked up around my appendectomy scar tissue. It eventually relaxed without surgery, although I did have an NG tube (and all that goes with the insertion) in me for 24 hours.

Secondly, about a month later, I was back in the ER with a urinary tract infection, probably caused by dehydration. Three rounds of antibiotics were necessary to clear up the infection and E-coli. Jiminy Crickets! I will spare you any further details of my subsequent trip to my urologist, because it makes everyone cringe.

ANYWAY, HEALTHY AND WHOLE AND WELCOME BACK TO THE OTHER READERS.

More time travel explanation.tardis

The next few posts will be starting from the most recent events and going back, so pay attention to the dates as there will be an exam- part multiple choice, part essay.

Biking and Brews

Mike and I did this ride last September, but we had to cut it short, bypassing the last three breweries, as we were selling our house and I received a notice for a previously unscheduled showing. In the meantime, another brewery has opened in Lafayette. The next ride will take participants to seven breweries, four in Lafayette and three in Louisville. It is an eleven mile ride that begins and ends at 12Degree Brewing on Main Street in Louisville. There is only one significant hill (although you do have the option of doing two steep hills) and the majority of the ride is on residential streets or bike trails. We will meet at 12Degree Brewing at 11:00 am on Sunday, August 23rd. Without stops, the ride is an easy 90 minute circuit, so plan accordingly.

1st Leg   12Degree to Liquid Mechanics

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Heading north on Main Street, turn right on Griffith which ends at 96th. Watch the traffic here when you cross. Continue north in the bike lane across South Boulder Road. Go past the shopping plaza on the right and the development north of those. You will see a small dirt trail that drops down to a wide sidewalk. Continue on that sidewalk until it changes to a gravel path. You will come to a T intersection, stay to the left and then make a right which will take you into a quiet residential neighborhood on Waneka Lake Trail.  Once you see the lake, turn left and peddle past the picnic grounds and boathouse. You will see two trails, one that is right beside the lake and a lower one. I like the lower one as it is less crowded but they both end up at the same place, a small parking lot on the east side. Ride east and take a left at the stop sign. Follow Caria Drive all the way to Baseline. Turn left and stay on the sidewalk. Liquid Mechanics will be on your right.

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2nd Leg   Liquid Mechanics to Odd 13

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An easy 1 mile ride. Cross Baseline, take a right on N. Carr Ave and then a left on W. Geneseo St. You will cross N. Public Rd and go 2 more block to N. Gough Ave. Odd 13 Brewing is on the northwest corner.

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3rd Leg  Odd 13 to Post

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Another short ride. Head 8 blocks south on S Gough Ave. Turn right on Emma St.   Cross S. Public Rd. and you will see Post up ahead on your right.

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4th Leg  Post to Front Range

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Head back to S. Public Rd and turn right. Take a casual ride down the sidewalk, but, if there are lots of folks, move onto the street. Turn right onto City Center Circle. DO NOT FOLLOW THE MAP AT THIS POINT. You are now in a parking lot and can cut across diagonally to a stop sign and Dixon St. Follow Dixon for a few yards to a traffic light which will get you safely across S. Boulder Rd. You will see a strip mall on your right. Front Range Brewing is in the mall. Pedal around to the back for a more secure place to park your bikes.

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5th Leg  Front Range to Crystal Springs

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A lovely little jaunt along the Coal Creek Trail. At the first paved road, turn left and peddle up and around the hill. Take your first right onto CTC Blvd and your first right onto Taylor Ave. Follow Taylor Ave around. Crystal Springs is located in an unassuming building about half a mile down on your right.

Alternative route. If you want a nice view and get your heart rate really going, stay on the bike path across Empire Rd. This takes you to the top of the one hill. You get a short rest going down, but just after exiting the underpass you will take a left turn and climb up another steep hill. This path ends at Taylor before the curve south, so take a right and cruise down to Crystal Springs.

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6th Leg  Crystal Springs to Gravity

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Head back up Taylor and reenter the bike path just passed Lockheed Martin. When you reach the bottom, turn left back onto the Coal Creek Trail. When you see a series of sheds, take the path to the right. You will jog over to East St. Peddle north. You will see a VFW lodge on the left and Gravity is on the west end of that building.

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7th Leg  Gravity to 12Degree

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Carefully cross Pine at some point. Turn left onto Main Street and 12Degree Brewing is two blocks down on the right. Congratulations! You have ridden about 11.6 miles and tasted some great beer.

Once again, a group of us will be doing this ride on Sunday, August 23, beginning at 11 am in front of 12Degree Brewing, 820 Main Street, Louisville, Co 80027.

Update!! We completed this ride recently. Check all of the brewery hours. I did not know that Crystal Springs was now closed on Sundays for private parties and special events. We did check out the hours while at the first stop, so we simply cut that visit out of our route.

Cheers, Scott

beer-quotes

 













 

The Great American Beer Festival, Part Two “Into (And Out Of) The Den Of Elixirs”

Anyone can drink beer, but it takes intelligence to enjoy beer- Peter Cogan

I know you have all been waiting with bated breath and body a-tingling for the much delayed Part Two. As you will recall (or if you would care to re-read-http://beeredland.com/2014/11/14/the-great-american-beer-festival-part-one-to-the-door/), Part One took me up to the entrance to the Colorado Convention Center steps and the GABF. As I stepped into the cavernous exhibit hall, this feast for the eyes and ears (and soon my taste buds) slowed my walk. After all, it would be the only first time. I picked up my taster glass and proceeded to orient myself as there were nearly 700 breweries pouring at this year’s festival.

The tickets for this particular session are only available to members of the American Homebrewer’s Association (AHA), so I believe it is a generally more knowledgeable crowd, although, as I observed later, it was not without its share of  noticeable over-imbibers. And because of the special nature of this session, participants are given an actual glass for tasting, not one made of plastic as in the other sessions. Of course, this leads to readily perceived gaffes when a glass is dropped, shattering to the near simultaneous ovation from bystanders. Membership does have its privileges, but also its opportunities for embarrassing faux pas. I heard several breaks throughout the afternoon and was wondering if I would shatter mine from a grip too tight.

I am far from an obsessive type when it comes to planning for beer festivals. I peruse a particular festival’s website and prioritize a few breweries and/or a style of beer. I locate those first and then meander about and see what is interesting, drinking plenty of water and eating pretzels throughout. However, I felt the massive nature of this festival required much more forethought. Fortunately, a clearly designed map was available and, by choosing a style of beer (stouts), I was able to plot a course through the hall. 2277 As you can see from the map, the breweries are organized into rectangles with 30 some breweries per rectangle, grouped by region. I mapped out my route from the entrance to the farthest brewery on my list. This did not include several visits to the long line of porta-potties down an access ramp and through a mass of smokers. If a particular brewery had a huge throng, I would simply move on to the next one on my list, always keeping an eye out for a return to a skipped brewery or for something intriguing. I figured I could taste about 25 beers at 1 ounce per taste before my palate would be dulled. At a festival this size, I see no reason to wait in a line of more than ten people unless there are extenuating circumstances (of which there were two).

Throughout my two hours of active tasting, I sampled 24 beers (1 ounce pours)- 2 Porters, 19 Stouts, 1 IPA, 1 Saison, and 1 Pumpkin Ale. My favorites were

The Bruery’s Black Tuesday

Weasel Boy’s Cabernet Barrel-Aged Anastasia

JAFB-Wooster’s Russian Front Imperial Stout

Sierra Nevada’s Narwhal Imperial Stout

My two digressions which do not include tastings where friends of mine were volunteering.

  1. I broke one of my own rules by standing in a long line at Three Floyds Brewing. There is history here which you can read about (http://beeredland.com/2014/09/05/old-shoes-high-school-reunions-and-zombie-dust/). Suffice it to say that I grew up in Munster, IN and, years after I left, a phenomenal craft brewery developed there. Although the brewery produces beer that attracts near fanatical devotion, the stout they were pouring didn’t appeal to my palate.
  2. I waited at a table to take a selfie. I am an ABD’er (all but dissertation). Playing a part in my decision to change careers was Garrett Oliver’s book, The Brewmaster’s Table. the-brewmasters-table-1When my route took me by the Brooklyn Brewery where Garrett is head brewer, I popped over to quickly relate my story. When informed that Garrett had just stepped away momentarily, I waited with giddy anticipation. For me it would be the equivalent of seeing the Beatles, and, although I knew I wouldn’t be reduced to screams of mania, I was worried about getting out a few coherent sentences. When he returned, I repeated the story and he remarked about the “beauty of digressions”. 20141004_145711                                                                 That brief, but meaningful encounter was the signal for my grand exit from the GABF. As I walked outside into the warm autumn afternoon sunlight I spied a deserted taster’s glass. I picked it up and looked around to see if anyone was returning for it. After a brief time I put it into the outside pocket of my messenger bag, for easy retrieval if someone caught up to me to claim it.

There was still a full hour left in the afternoon session as I reached the bus terminal. Thankfully, I was able to sit on the ride back. I hadn’t even finished expanding on my hastily scribbled notes when we arrived at my stop. A little tired from the intensity of the entire day, I ambled homeward

I was a mere 400 yards from home when the strap broke on my messenger bag. The second taster glass flew out of the bag and shattered on the ground, my thoughts about sharing brews with dual mementos vanishing with it. No one was even around to cheer. Ah, well! I picked up the pieces which I still have in a plastic newspaper bag. I still have my original taster glass which is now tucked safely in the back of my beer glass cabinet. I have repaired the strap on my messenger bag and am looking forward to my second GABF on Saturday, September 26th, 2015, hopefully with some BF’s in tow.2276

Wanna come?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beergood

Rating Beer…A Confederacy of “Numerists”

A little bit of beer is divine medicine- Paracelsus

I believe the vast majority of Americans (perhaps, the world) believe that numbers equate with truth. If you and I each have a glass of beer, there are two beers in all. The outside temperature is 45°F on my thermometer. I was born on January 3rd. I have $57 in my bank account (oh, dear!). Definite, indisputable, safe (except for the money thing). In situations such as these there are no gray areas, just black and white. But I believe almost all of life just can’t be categorized so simply, especially if humans are involved. I was debating with a friend from high school who was demanding that things are usually simpler than they appear and I was arguing the exact opposite. There is always more depth and complexity to be found if one chooses to dig. My friend was very comfortable looking at the world through his particular lens, because he could almost immediately evaluate any situation and never have to challenge his underlying beliefs. “How do you know what you know?” has been a favorite phrase of mine for years. I have been “unfriended” on Facebook for proposing alternative views to such statements as “Everything President Obama does is bad” or “Everything Israel does is right”. A restrictive lens may make you feel more comfortable, but it masks the beautiful, terrible complexity of life.

As a long time educator, if my students left my class feeling good about themselves, being excited about learning, looking forward to the next challenge, then I succeeded. If they went onto college, great. If they took another path, that too was just as great. I was slowly disillusioned when my district’s vision become overly focused on test scores and college prep and not on the joy and value of lifelong learning. Yet many people look on those scores as a defining characteristic, some sort of inviolable truth. Getting this test scores means you are this kind of person, and that is simply dangerous thinking, because any such number relies on a large number of fallible, human factors.

But, wait…this is about beer and ratings. I do rate beer on one site, Untapp’d (http://beeredland.com/2013/08/13/untappd-its-like-boy-scouts-for-beer/) and there are two others that I often consult, Beer Advocate and Rate Beer. So if I rate a beer as a 5, what does it mean other than I think it’s one of the best beers I have tasted? But what exactly does THAT mean? Because I am human (on most days) my tastes may be similar to yours or differ quite substantially. It is the description that I like to focus on, same as with a book or movie review, as that will give me much more information, even though it may be harder to digest or, in this case, swallow. I need and I want you to go beyond the number which seems woefully inadequate by comparison.

So from this post onward, I will rate two beers, one that is served in one of our fine, local craft breweries (this will take awhile as there are probably 15 within 10 miles of here) and another available at my favorite beers stores. But before you read any of my reviews, I must digress to talk about my tastes in beer, so you can “read between the ratings”, or taste, anyway.

I tend to have fairly wide ranging and somewhat seasonal tastes in beer. I favor IPA’s and Belgian ales in the spring and summer and extra special bitters (ESB), porters and stouts in the winter and fall. But certainly not invariably! Because of the vagaries in our weather caused by the Rocky Mountains, it is not unusual to get a brief snowstorm in May and even early June, thereby making perfect stout weather Moreover, given the low humidity in Colorado, the temperature drops significantly after sunset, so I can enjoy a stout almost any evening, even during the hottest months of summer. But even on those hottest days, the shade of a large cottonwood tree provides enough cool shade under which one can enjoy the dark elixir. In fact you could probably hold a leafless branch over my head and I would enjoy a stout. Time for confession…I could be sitting naked in the middle of a desert and happily enjoy a stout, provided there was ample sunscreen available (and deepest apologies for the image now embedded in your consciousness).

If all you know about stouts is Guinness, then I have some “splainin” to do. The Beer Judge Certification program details six subcategories of stout- dry, sweet, oatmeal, foreign-extra, American, and Russian Imperial. You can read more about the types here (http://www.bjcp.org/2008styles/catdex.php) as well any other style of beer. I heartily encourage you to check out your favorites and begin to develop the vocabulary to describe it.

Beer Review

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Espresso Oak Aged Yeti Imperial Stout by Great Divide Brewing

9.5% ABV (Alcohol by Volume), $9.99 for a 22 ounce bomber

Style- American Double/Imperial Stout

 

American Imperial Stouts are inspired by Russian Imperial Stouts which were a favorite of Catherine II of Russia and other members of the court. The American versions are often barrel-aged with additions of coffee or chocolate. They have much higher ABV’s than their historical counterparts. This one pours very thickly, even the head is a light chocolate brown. Aroma has elements of chocolate and coffee (espresso was added during the brewing process). Oak aging adds some vanilla overtones. I could taste the hop bitterness on the back end and it provides a nice balance. This is a cozy- night-by-the-fire sipping ale. Due to its long finish, this bottle will easily last for an hour or more. This is a fine dessert beer when matched with dark chocolate.

 

Local Brew Review (to follow)

Awsome girls

The Great American Beer Festival- Part One “To The Door”

Note:” Emotion recollected in tranquility”. The Romantic poets were one of my concentrations in English at Indiana University. And I have always remembered that Wordsworth quote. Only now, I would argue that Wordsworth was probably a procrastinator. “No, dear, I didn’t write today, because I’m not feeling tranquil enough”. Well, we are in the process of moving to another house in town, and we went to Italy.  I am finally getting to the beginning of a long list of posts. Thanks!

William-Wordsworth-001

This is not me. This is Wordsworth.

 

 

 

 

I have never seen The Rocky Horror Picture Show and I have heard that the crowd yells “Virgin!” if they find out it’s your first time.

RockyHorror

 

 

 

 

 

I have never been to Casa Bonita, a local Mexican food place known for its awful food but CASAlavish, tacky atmosphere (cliff divers, no less). I don’t think anybody calls out “Virgin!”.

 

 

 

And until this past October, I had never attended the Great American Beer Festival  (GABF), although I have heard about it for years, chiefly how it has grown from a fairly intimate event to an absolutely massive undertaking with thousands of tickets selling in 30 minutes or less. gabf-post

In the past year or so I have started this blog and also began brewing beer with my friend, Chris and also being joined by a slowly increasing but ever engaging cast of characters.  I thought it was time to steel myself and dive into the expected horde of humanity. I WRITE ABOUT BEER, FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE!! I convinced myself that it was akin to some kind of professional certification. And it was only a short bus ride away.

My wife dropped me off at the bus stop and there was already a small crowd there, some wearing yellow GABF volunteer  t-shirts. I have found craft beer drinkers to be a pretty sociable bunch so I started chatting with a yellowed-teed couple (come to think of it…almost every couple I meet is young… or younger, anyway). When I revealed that it was my first time, the guy’s eyes light up and he says, “Oh, a virgin!” Walked right into that one.

A little about bus routes. This particular bus line originates in Boulder so Louisville is the first stop after leaving Boulder.  To my great surprise, all the seats were already taken, so I ended up standing.2276 Fortunately it is only about a twenty mile ride. There were a handful of riders who must have thought they had stepped into a Twilight Zone episode due to the surprising number of passengers on a Saturday morning bus until some kind soul would detail our destination.

The bus was able to make one more stop to let on a lucky few aisle-standers, but for the remaining trip, he would just slowly cruise into the bus lane, stop briefly, and inform the waiting customers that another bus would be by soon.2277

 

 

 

The ride proved to be a short one as I was happily engaged in conversations about beer. “This must be what it’s like in heaven”,  I thought. We poured out of the bus at Union Station which is about a mile from the Colorado Convention Center. I knew how to get there but I didn’t need to as hundreds of people were covering the same ground and many with yellow volunteer shirts. It was just like the Underground Railroad, except it was during the day and didn’t have anything to do with escaping slaves.

Where do I begin? Well, technically, you begin at the end and, fortunately, there is someone with a huge sign telling you where the end is. It is noon and this tasting session runs from 1-5 pm. I suddenly noticed that besides the great number of shirts bearing brewery names, many people are either wearing pretzel necklaces or costumes or both. A poor person’s ComicCon? I continue to be intrigued as the line starts to move forward. To be accurate, “forward” in this sense shouldn’t convey a nearing to the entrance because we are snaking around and even under the building, heading in each of the cardinal directions at least once. I wind around the entire city block before I finally see the entrance. This is where any semblance of a line disappears, merging into a solid block of humanity.2279

It takes about 15 minutes to reach the doors, have my ticket verified and receive my program and taster glass. I’M IN!!!!!!

Cheers,                                                               Scott
2282

Old Shoes, High School Reunions, and Zombie Dust

 

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This is is my favorite pair of shoes. They have seen miles of usage and recently underwent the spraying of our deck, hence the speckles. I almost always put them on when I get up in the morning and when I come home from work (or other events in which my wife would die of embarrassment should I try to sneak out of the house with them). It reminds me of what Mister Rogers used to do at the beginning of every episode, slip into his comfy sneakers.fredrogers

 

 

 

 

 

The shoes (slides, properly) came to mind as I attended my 40th (Ye Gods!) high school reunion. My attendance at these events has been rather spotty. I went to the 20th and then  skipped a couple, finally getting to our 35th. Actually, I should probably thank Face Book for that. I had a number of former fifth graders asking me to join and I also wanted to have some sort of oversight  on my twin daughters’ activity. Soon after I started to make all sorts of connections  to people still living in the Midwest and, surprisingly, to several classmates who live within 20 minutes of our home. Because of these connections, I have met classmates traveling through the Denver area, had others stay at our home, even hosted members of a band, one of whom is the daughter of a high school friend.

Back to the shoes… I can’t throw them out. I tried to hide them in my closet, but I always end up digging them out. They are so comfortable, even though they could fall apart at the seams at any step. Come to think of it, I also have a sweater like that… Anyway, I feel at home in these shoes which is why I was reminded of them as I traveled back to Indiana. BudsSeeing my oldest friend, Brian and his gracious spouse, Linda, made me feel like I was slipping into the slides once again. We hadn’t seen each other in five years, but it seemed just like yesterday. Comfortable and familiar. Old shoes.

 

 

Curiously though, Brian wasn’t the first classmate I met, as he got tied up at work and couldn’t meet me at their beach house. I had to drive by myself  to Munster and the pre-reunion party at Cheers. At the last reunion I was shocked to walk into this place and be assaulted by a fog of cigarette smoke. I was grateful that health-sustaining laws were passed in the meantime. I pulled into the parking lot about 20 minutes early and was a bit reluctant to go in without Brian. He was always so much sweeter than I was. But I decided that was silly as I am a nearly grown man.

2190 The gods (including the beer gods) were smiling down on me that night as the first people I saw were my friend, Joann, and her beau, Ted The Man (my nickname-another long story). Besides our lengthy communications on FB, Joann and I had dinner in Denver once as she was in town for a conference. Eventually the conversation turned to beer and, naturally, Three Floyds Brewery in Munster (for more information on Three Floyds, see my post http://beeredland.com/2014/08/23/anticipations-and-expectations-part-one-the-three-floyds-and-new-belgium-collaboration-gratzer/).

I have a sister in New Buffalo, MI and her eldest son,Zach, is a partner in a craft brewing venture, Burn ‘Em Brewing in Michigan City, IN.

burnem

 

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After visiting the new but already award-winning set up, she took me to a liquor store where I could buy as much 3 Floyds beer as I could get. When checking out at the counter, I related my story to the cashier.She immediately pointed out the single bottles of Three Floyds’  Zombie Dust on the counter. There was a small sign that said “Two per customer”. She offered the sole remaining bottle as well and I said that I didn’t want to get her in trouble. She cheerfully related that she could not get into trouble as she was the owner. I left with a number of bombers, a six pack of Robert the Bruce, and THREE bottles of Zombie Dust! SCORE!!

A short digression…

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This is my normally oh-so-sweet nephew, Keith. He visited my sister the day after I left. It appears he is holding my beer hostage. I was promised that it is now in more trustworthy hands.

 

 

Back to Joann and Ted The Man at our booth in Cheers… Joann had mentioned in an FB post that I would have to try Zombie Dust. That night she told me that she had bought a six pack for me. Awestruck! Years earlier she had delivered a six pack of Robert The Bruce Scottish Ale. Could my beer god actually be a beer goddess? Anyway, the exchange was delayed as the bar was filled with former classmates and I was the only one with a real camera. Our paths crossed many times that evening when Ted The Man informed me that had had given one bottle away, to whom I didn’t know. Joann was mortified now and couldn’t possibly give an old friend a five pack. I hope I eased her dread when I told her that everything was fine. My friend, Brian, had earlier told her that I would have been thrilled with one. To which I retorted that I would have probably been happy with just the six pack cardboard container. Old shoes.

Flash forward to the reunion dinner.

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This is Bruce who is the husband of Alison, the reunion organizer. You can see the five pack. It was Bruce who received the sixth bottle. You can probably sense the devilishness in his demeanor (except when I was tagging photos for Face Book, when I hovered the cursor over Bruce’s face, my name came up as the suggested tag…WHOA, I’ll be noodling on that for awhile).  And further mischief continues to this day. A few days after my arrival back home I received this photo in a text message from a 219 area code.

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The suspects are one, well, two actually. Bruce and Alison are tormenting me now. Old shoes.

 

 

 

 

 

Once my beer is shipped, I will raise a glass to old friends, new friends, and future adventures. I may even bring along my old shoes.

Cheers, Scott

PS. Three Floyds’ Zombie Dust is an outstanding beer!

Beer may cause you to digress-and lead a happier life. Michael Jackson (not that one)

 

Mister Rogers Image- http://www.riprense.com/Mister_Rogers.htm

Brian and I- Melody Fisher

Bruce and I- Joann Wleklinski, my camera though…

Dark Lord Bottles- Alison Corban Norton

Anticipations and Expectations- Part One. The Three Floyds and New Belgium Collaboration Grätzer

More than a bit of back story is necessary. Five years ago I was finally returning to Indiana for my 35th high school reunion. I was staying with my old, old friends, Brian and Linda, at their house on Lake Michigan. I was going to arrive first and open up the house. After my domestic duties were completed I peeked into the garage refrigerator for some much needed refreshment. Ah, heavenly beer! Although I would have partaken of the water from the lake before drinking a Miller Lite, even a PBR might have quelled my thirst. However, I discovered a label I didn’t recognize, so  I inspected the bottle. Hmmmmm…Three Floyds Brewing. Never heard of it. MUNSTER, INDIANA!!!! Gott im himmel! Was ist los? How can that be? A craft brewery in Munster, the town that I had left 30 years ago? I popped the cap and it was, to my surprise, a great beer. I was able to taste a few more during the weekend’s festivities. All were outstanding as was the company of people I hadn’t seen for years.

In the intervening five years I have gotten a hold of Three Floyds’ Robert the Bruce on two separate occasions, both as a result of the fine efforts of two other high school classmates, Dan and Joanne. Delicious!

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All of this brings you to the present when I walked into Superior Liquors to peruse the aisles for interesting beers. New Belgium Brewing is always doing some taste bud tantalizing work in their Lips Of Faith (LOF) series. The bottle’s distinctive artwork immediately caught my eye. A collaboration with none other than Three Floyds. And on a style that partner in suds, Chris, had recently brewed, a grätzer or grodziskie, a historically Polish, smoked wheat beer. The gods (or Grods) ARE kind. I grabbed the bottle and drove back home, yearning all the way, even though it was only two miles. I set up in my favorite drinking spot on the back deck, overlooking the open space, glands salivating. I poured, expectations running amok, for the forthcoming rapture. A quick assessment of the aromas emanating from the glass caused me a quick bit of concern. A little sour, I thought. With my typical devil-may-care attitude a took a huge gulp and swished it around my mouth. Arrrrrgh! My sour-sensing buds went off standby and into high alert, seizing up. Oh, no…lacto. It was smoky, but incredibly sour. Yuck, yuck, yuck! I HATE SOUR BEERS!! Or rather, I believe my palate is overly sensitive to them. I thought a few more sips might deaden the sensitivity  somewhat, but I was mistaken. It pains me to say that this was the first beer that I had to pour down the drain.

So disappointing and yet, I realize it was entirely my own fault. I have studied beer enough to have fairly accurate predictions about what most beers should taste like. I do not read other reviews before I taste a particular brew, but I do read the brewery’s description, attending to ABV’s , IBU’s, and any unusual ingredients. In this case, I simply set the bar too high at the outset and, unfortunately, it turned out to contain one of my least favorite tastes.  More later…Pliny the Elder.

Cheers,

Scott