Working for your passion

I saw this ad over the weekend and realize I really need to find a new job. I couldn’t agree with Sam Adams more:

By the way, my first batch of home brew should be ready this weekend. I guess that will really be the test as to whether or not I could work there.

Learning to Home Brew

My wife loves me. Really.

How do I know that? For Christmas she got me my first home brewing kit. And since I’m a self-professed non-expert (just a fan) she kept it simple and got me the introductory kit from Mr. Beer.

I’ve spent lots of years drinking beer and watching the occasional show on Discovery on brewing and such. But I’ve never actually STUDIED brewing. So I poured over the instructions and read them over and over trying to make sure I hadn’t missed a step. And then over the weekend I meticulously followed the steps and brewed my first batch of home beer.

Of course, I have questions and here’s the realization. I’ve known there’s a community of beef aficionados and had heard of many people with home brewing as a hobby. But it’s fun to discover all the resources and help forums.

So for those of you who want to make the leap from consumer to producer, take a deep breath, pull a mouse up to the Home Brewing Wiki and feel confident that you’ll be able to figure it out… at least I’m hoping I’ll be able to.

Winter hits Northern Virginia

It’s gotten cold here in Northern Virginia.  17 degrees when I walked the dog this morning.  And the wind chill?  Let’s just say BRRRRRRRRRRR…….

So it was perfect night to come home and enjoy the butternut squash soup my darling wife had made for dinner.  I opened the fridge and looked for a hearty winter brew to compliment it.
And here’s where I have to take back my previous post.  I had picked up some of Old Dominion’s Baltic Porter.  Paired with some sourdough bread, savory soup and fresh sharp cheddar cheese it provided a smooth compliment to the meal and an even better after dinner beverage.   Dark in color, smooth, chocolate-like flavor and a pleasant aftertaste.
I have to agree with David over at Musings Over a Pint that this is a fine example of another good seasonal brew from Old Dominion – and I do hope they keep up the quality when they move to Delaware.  I just wish that a beer named after my state was still going to be in this state.

Beer gone to the dogs

Every now and then I find it’s fun to attach a theme to my beer purchases. For example from one of my earlier posts you could infer a summer/winter seasonal theme.

So I found myself examining the brews at Wegman’s a few weeks ago and looking for something that would catch my eye. And with thoughts of my 9 month old chesapeake bay retriever I was drawn to two 6-packs that prominently featured dogs in the name or artwork. Heck, there are worse themes to go with, especially considering on my favorite beers of late is Smuttynose’s Brown Dog Ale.

First up, is Ellie’s Brown Ale from Avery Brewing Company. Now it’s not just that the dog on the label looks exactly like my Chessie but I’ll definitely be heading back to pick up more of this. Fresh from the Rocky Mountains, this dark ale features a nice chocolate taste that is more reminiscent of a porter than what you usually think of as a typical ale. Smooth and fulfilling as an after dinner drink it’s been the perfect brew to chill after a hard day’s work and enjoy.

Now if one beer label looks like my Chessie, of course I also had to reach for the beer that reminded me of my 12 year old Black Lab – Black Dog Ale from Spanish Peaks Brewing.  And just like my Lab, this beer was smooth and calming on the soul like that big dog head resting on my lap.  There’s a very nice malty flavor to it that makes a pleasant and smooth drinking experience.

So the lesson I learned was what?  That beers that remind me of my dogs can’t go wrong? No, not quite.  But it did point out that putting together a “beer theme” can be a fun way to pair up beers you may not have thought of before.  Or at least it adds some joy to the shopping experience.

The choice formula changes

The hardest thing in life is choice.  And since I love a great seasonal beer there’s no better feeling than peering at the choice of brews in the beer aisle. My usual rule is to choose the small, local brew if I’m weighing an option of two similar brews.

As I mentioned in my last post, I was recently face with a choice of two seasonal winter brews. Either Old Dominion’s Baltic Porter or Michelob’s Winter Cask Ale.  Usually it would be an easy choice – my rules for local small guy would make me go with the Dominion.
But here’s the rub.  Old Dominion is no longer local.  With the recent news that Old Dominion is closing the Ashburn based brewery.  So now my math has changed.  A beer that’s local in name only or an attempt by a large St. Louis based brewery to try something different with better quality.
My decision?  You’ll need to read the previous post to find out :-).

Multiple Beer-sonality

Or as one might say “An Ale of 2 Seasons”.

I usually don’t venture to the Giant unless it is to explore the expanded beer section. And what a variety I had to choose from the other night.

The weather is getting colder which is an opportunity to put aside the light and refreshing taste of the summer ales and embrace beer’s dark and heavier side. So my taste buds were automatically drawn to the holiday porters. A choice had to be made between a holiday Dominion Porter and Michelob’s Winter Bourbon Cask Ale. Well since I no longer have any loyalty to Dominion it was an easy choice (more on that later).

Ahh… but as I walked back up the aisle, there was that last remnant of summer calling my name. Kona Brewing Company’s Longboard Lager. So I grabbed a 6 pack and pondered the dichotomy of the situation.

And you know what? It works! At the end of the day and during a dinner the lighter lager refreshes. And for an evening of relaxation the darker cask ale provides a satisfying respite. If this keeps up, I’ll have to find some other summer/winter mixes to enjoy. Give it a shot and let me know what you think.

If You Must Celebrate Oktoberfest With Only One Beer

…. Make it Ayinger’s Oktober Fest-Marzen.

I received an amazing gift over the weekend in the form of beer gift basket. I decided to open one of the individual Oktober Fest beers this evening.

I opened the freezer and reached in to grab the frosted glass. The bottle opener paused on its own as it moved to remove the bottle cap. Poetry and art in a bottle cap? You know when someone puts that much effort into a bottle cap the beer that is about to come is going to be great.

Smooth amber crawls up the glass replacing the frost. A white foam gathers at the top saying “smell me”. And when the lips touch the beer…..

Well, here’s where the story is best told by others.

Suffice it to say, I’ll have to find some more. I usually espouse the virtues of local brews. But it was a wonderful break from my usual pattern to try the Ayinger.

My hopes for Bud Ale fade

I hate to admit it… I’ve been looking forward to trying this new Budweiser American Ale. I’ve been thinking, “Wow, here’s a major brewer that’s finally listening to their customers and are saying we can deliver more than just a full and lite version of my swill. Maybe they’ll impress me.”

My delirium about expectations of a major brewer faded last night. I attended the National’s baseball game and Miller Lite was sponsoring a “1/2 way to St. Patty’s Day” promo complete with Irish dancers, bag-pipe playing firemen and green Nat’s hats with a Miller Lite logo on it. As I sat in the stands during the 3rd inning feeling a bit parched, the Beer Man came through. I thought “what they heck let’s get in the spirit and try a Miller Lite” (yes, my wife and kids did look at me like I had suddenly developed leprosy).

WHAT WAS I THINKING???? Ohhhh I felt suckered all right. But then I remembered, that this is the kind of marketing schtick that major beer brands go through. Create a bit of hope, pull you in and sell you some sort of beer flavored water.

Which brings me back to Budweiser American Ale….. Are you guys for real with a flavorful beer that adds to the experience? Or are you resorting to the same thing in a different package (with a higher price point) with the hopes of digging deeper into my pocket.

We’ll see.

Sierra Nevada makes me Hoppy :-)

I usually don’t fall for the marketing hype of “anniversaries” and “specials” in terms of products. Hey, I do marketing for a living. I know what’s going on the mind in that product manager (“oooo, new label and a schtick. I’ll convince the distributors and put it on the shelves for a short while and see if I can increase the margin.”)

Well, let me say this to the marketing manager at Sierra Nevada….. THANK YOU!!!! I picked up a six pack of the Sierra Nevada Anniversary ale. It’s a very nice hoppy IPA that flows great and tastes even better after a stressful day at work. It went even better with the calzone and calamari we had from the local pizza joint.

They describe it much better on their website so feel free to bounce over there and get the description and such. But i’ll leave it at this….. it’s a limited release, I highly recommend you run out and grab a six pack. You’ll be glad you did.