2009 Knickerbocker Battle of the Brews

January 27, 2010

I can’t believe I hadn’t blogged this yet…

Back in November 2009 I entered the Knickerbocker Battle of the Brews. It was my first homebrew competition, and I was mainly entering to get feedback on some of my beer other than my friends and family telling me “it’s good, I like it”.

I entered two beers I had handy at home. One was an English Pale that I knew was a bit off and wanted to see what the judges thought of the flavors, and the other was the Imperial Honey Amber that I was really happy with. I was on the fence whether to enter the honey as a specialty beer or a braggot, but settled on specialty as there was a bit more malt than honey in it.

Come the day of the judging, I stopped by at the posted time for the award ceremony and the place was oddly dead. There were a few groups of people still milling about and chatting, but it looked like they were packing up for the day. I walked over to one of the organizers and asked what the deal was… Apparently they finished the judging early and just wanted to get the hell out of there! Fair enough. I can’t blame them, though next time I think I’ll camp out on location for the day.

Anyway, I gave them my name and one guy repeated it and asked me “Didn’t you win an award?” That took me by surprise, and I replied “I don’t know! I just got here. You tell me!” they looked through the many remaining judging folders (I guess being mailed back to non-local competitors) and pulled my folder. Sure enough, my Imperial Honey Amber took 1st Place in its category (Specialty Beer)!!!

I was quite shocked, and think I smiled for the rest of the evening. The judging comments were great – objective, critical, and praising all in one. Best judge comment: “I would pay good money for a beer like this!”

The English Pale Ale didn’t do as well, but I got good feedback. Consistent feedback of mild acetone notes. Ah well. I’ll be able to put all their feedback to good use, and that was the whole point of the exercise. Winning was a bonus!

The Imperial Honey Amber will be the first of several beers I’ll be regularly brewing to come to a consistent recipe.

Flying Dog Canis Major Tasting Tonight!

April 18, 2009

I’m really looking forward to the live tasting of Flying Dog’s Canis Major series tonight! Bo Carlson and heads of Flying Dog host as we taste some of their stronger, wilder beers.

These beers should be readily available in most beer stores (not likely your local supermarket), and in some locations you may find a Canis Major 8-pack of 7oz bottles. I was not so fortunate, so I have a 4-pack of each.

The lineup:

  • Gonzo Imperial Porter
    7.8% ABV / 7oz = 0.91 BP / 12oz = 1.56 BP
  • Double Dog Double Pale Ale
    11.5% ABV / 7oz = 1.34 BP / 12oz = 2.3 BP
  • Horn Dog Barley Wine
    10.2% ABV / 7oz = 1.19 BP / 12oz = 2.04 BP
  • Kerberos Tripel
    8.5% ABV / 7oz = 0.99 BP / 12oz = 1.7 BP

What’s a BP?

This is going to be a powerful evening. If you’re splitting the special 8-pack with a friend, you’re in for 4.43 BP or just about 4.5 regular beers. Hoarding the 8-pack will get you almost 9 regular beers! If you’re going with 12oz bottles, you’re looking at 7.6 normal beers if you have one of each!

That said, plan your night accordingly. I’ll be home and will be providing crash space for my guests. If you’ll be out on the town for the tasting, call a cab, have a designated driver, or plan a long late meal at a good greasy spoon.

See you online tonight!

Beer Wars

April 16, 2009

I got back from watching Beer Wars. I thought it was a great documentary about the craft beer movement in the US and the mammoth commercial giants that pretty much own the US market.

While it was interesting hearing from many of the craft brewers about their successes and struggles, I felt like I left the theater missing something. As I sit here at home a hour and a half later, I believe I put my finger on it.

I wish the three tier system was better explained in the movie, since understanding of that system is pivotal in understanding exactly what the craft houses are up against. While it was sort of explained, mentioned many times, and further alluded to throughout the film, it was never stated matter-of-factly how the system actually works. We heard why it is bad from the craft perspective, and why it is good from the corporate giant perspective, and even why we have it from the government and historical perspective. But if so much of the movie focused on this system, it would have been nice to have it really clearly explained.

I loved the virtual tour of Sam Calagione’s and Rhonda Kallman’s lives as we follow them through their respective beer brewing and marketing endeavors. While we see Sam’s brewery grow and add equipment, as see Rhonda going from store to store, bar to bar, investor to investor trying to get her label off the ground. Rhonda’s story really is an eye opener to how hard it can be to get started, while Sam’s shows what can be had with the right energy in the right place at the right time. Neither had it easy, and seeing what they’re up against on the macro brew side was staggering.

If you haven’t been following news articles and reading books by various brewers and business owners about the craft beer explosion in the US, this movie is a great introduction. If you’re well-acquainted with the movement, this movie is still quite entertaining. Seeing it “live”, or for the first time ever via Fathom Events was a blast. I was fortunate enough to be in an audience of about 200 beer enthusiasts, and half the fun came from the audience “participation” from the shared laughter and groans to the well-voiced raspberry during a quiet scene involving Budweiser, which got the entire theater laughing and applauding.

I will say though that I was very disappointed with the panel discussion afterward. First, Ben Stein was a horrible choice for a host. Either he was playing naive or he was ignoring the fact that we all just watched the movie by reading questions that were clearly answered in the movie itself. He did most of the talking despite being the host there to moderate the discussion. He misdirected several questions, which caught panelists off-guard and interrupted them to correct his own error.

Second, and maybe it was the format chosen, but they included additional commentary via pre-recording. Normally this isn’t bad, but one was a snip of Todd Alstrom bashing Moonshot beer, leaving him in a deer-in-headlights mode along with Rhonda Kallman, the founder of Moonshot, who was left to answer that comment live on the panel. I thought it was uncalled for and served no purpose but to add a bit of drama where there should have been none. The panel was designed to reflect on the movie and their experiences in the industry and draw parallels and disconnects, at least per the movie’s site.

I wished the panel was longer, I wish the panelists were better introduced, I wish Ben Stein was bound and gagged after introducing the panelists, and I wish they actually did spend more time reflecting on the movie per their own experiences and actually engaged each other in conversation about these observations. You know, be more of a panel and less of a Q&A with Mr. Stein.

All that said, I still thought it was worth the money and enjoyed the whole experience. Some folks are Twittering about the “high cost” of the movie, but really… it was $15. It was live. You were among the first to see it. You have that experience to carry with you.

I anticipate getting this documentary once it’s released to DVD, if for no other reason than to remind myself of the rewards and pitfalls of entering this profession should I ever make that leap.

Trappist Tasting a Success on Twitter

January 17, 2009

The Twitter Taste Live beer tasting I blogged about previously was a success. People from all over gathered together to drink good beer and blog their tasting notes. Rather than rehash what I wrote previously or get into tasting notes, I’ll comment on the event itself.

The forum was open, rather than led. We had a rough schedule that kept us on course, and for the most part we followed it well. It was interesting to hear of some people unable to find certain beers in their location. I had no problems myself, then again this area has a healthy craft beer market and distribution.

There was a good mix of tasters online, from the casual drinkers to the beer geeks. Everyone seemed to have a blast. Many side conversations were had and many a new friend was made.

If you enjoy trying quality beer and have the time to spare, check out one of the future beer tastings. You can learn more here.

Twitter Taste Live BEER!

January 14, 2009

There’s an online Trappist Ale tasting going on this Saturday, January 17th, starting at 8pm Eastern. What you will need to participate:

Need more info? Just ask. You can find me on Twitter as beercommdood.

Also, look for two more upcoming beer tastings: