Friday, October 31, 2008

Living, loving and writing the Beer Life

Nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion. -- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

I started this blog because I'm passionate about beer. I love everything about the "elixir of the gods" -- the culture, the history, the camaraderie... and yes, its glorious ability to act as a delectable social lubricant.

But I love to write even more than I love to drink a good craft beer (or play a great video game). When asked what my one, true passion is (other than my wife of course)... I always answer: "writing." Lord Byron, the 19th century poet, said it best: "If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad." And I probably would. Not the clock tower/high powered rifle mad mind you. Writing acts as a release valve for me, and oddly enough... a different form of social lubricant that oils up the squeaky cogs of my "mad" brain.

I'm a writer. And after years of wordsmithing I think I've reached the point where I can call myself that without it sounding odd (to me) or egotistical (to everyone else). It's what I am, not what I do. I know that because I'm most happy when I'm writing... about anything. Well, almost anything. I probably wouldn't be too passionate about the lifestyles of the broke and infamous, but... ya never know. In the past I've written about George Lucas' Star Wars and PC video games, and I'm sure I'll eventually stumble onto some other topic that will "light my fire." At the end of the day it always boils down to one thing for me: passion.

I've always thought of "writers" as mythical beings, and I really do believe that "the pen is mightier than the sword." Writers have the power to make people cry, rejoice, rebel, change and even create nations. There is no limit to what a great writer can do... as long as they have passion. Sadly, any Tom, Dick, or Jane with the ability to turn on a computer can "write" about their cat (or their inanely boring life) through a blog. And because of this the luster of being a real "writer" seems to have faded to some degree. See, most of them don't have passion.

But I digress... what the hell am I getting at?

Over the years I've run into a number of "colleagues" that are jaded as the day is long. Why? They've lost their passion. I refuse to let myself become jaded. Hell, I still get giddy when -- no matter how big or small -- someone asks to profile me, or use one of my quotes, or tells me that I'm "relevant," or that my blog has made it onto a "best of" list... as was the case yesterday when the folks at the Culinary School Guide informed me that this lil blog o' mine made it onto their 100 Best Beer and Wine Blogs. All that stuff is not only very humbling, but -- even more than the money -- validates every single letter I've ever written.

A lot of great things have happened since I started this blog. I look at this space as my lucky charm. Furthermore, my life is richer for it. Writing, like all things, requires constant practice, and banging away here in my little corner of the blogosphere has not only opened doors to things I never thought possible, but has helped me perfect my craft. More importantly, it has introduced me to a brewery full of new friends.

It is said that the craft beer community -- top to bottom -- has a camaraderie unlike any other. Having experienced it personally time and time again, I can attest to the truthfulness of that statement. There really is nothing like it anywhere else, and it is my sincerest desire that the global wave of popularity craft beer is riding right now doesn't ever ruin that.

So thanks very much to all my friends, and all the people who keep coming back for more beer madness. The word "appreciate" doesn't even begin to describe my heartfelt gratitude! Oh, and thanks for letting me indulge in a little self reflection with this post. Now... let's get back to drinkin' some damn fine beer shall we?!


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Redhook doubles back with Double Black Stout

Redhook Ale Brewery's Double Black Stout is back! Ironically, the lyrics to AC/DC 's famous song, "Back in Black," is perfect for the occasion:

Back in black
I hit the sack
I've been too long I'm glad to be back
Yes, I'm let loose
From the noose
That's kept me hanging about
I've been looking at the sky
'Cause it's gettin' me high
Forget the hearst 'cause I never die
I got nine lives
'Cause I'm back
I'm back in black!

Double Black that is! After an 8 year hiatus Redhook's much loved Imperial stout has been let loose from the brew house. Even though it's only going to be available for a limited time, at least it's back on store shelves.

Eight years ago I wasn't much of a Beer Geek, so I've never had the pleasure of tasting this most succulent of stouty suds. According to the PR release "Double Black Stout is a smooth, imperial stout enhanced by the addition of rich, flavorful coffee and dark malts to create a big, roasted flavor." I love my morning coffee as much as I love my afternoon beer... so pairing the two is a match made in adult beverage heaven!

I ain't gonna lie: I love this beer. It's so smooth you'd think you were drinking satin. There is no harsh bitter taste from any component of the beer, making it perfectly balances. No wonder beer fans have been clamoring for this bad boy! Since Widmer decided to stop brewing Snow Plow (it's going to be harder to get than a straight answer from a "professional" politician) -- Double Black Stout just became my fave winter brew.

Speaking of... Double Black is only being sold in 22 oz bombers at -- get this -- the unbelievable price of $4.99. Ya, there's no one (1) in front of that four people! For a mere five bucks you can suck down an entire bomber of this 7% ABV stout and feel all nice and toasty. With the economy in the crapper, most six packs costing $9 or so a pop, this is probably one of the best deals around! I'm going to snatch up all the bombers I can find in my neck of the woods, so if my fellow beer geeks in the area can't find it at their local liquor store... come see me.

But wait... there's more! Following DBS, Redhook will be unleashing three additional limited release beers throughout 2009. The next one (don't ask, I don't know what it is) will hit the shelves in March. So stay tuned!


Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Brothers Widmer release Brrr

Brrr it's cold outside! It puts me in a -- singin' mood! Bare with me...

Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the beer is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let us drink! Let us drink! Let us drink!

Thanks to lyricist Sammy Cahn and composer Jule Styne for that little bit of inspiration. In 1945 Cahn and Styne created the legendary winter song "Let it Snow."

And thanks to Kurt and Rob Widmer for making legendary beers. Widmer Brothers Brewing up Oregon way is one of my all-time favorite breweries. I can/will/have drink their Hefe all summer long, Snow Plow all winter (more on that later) long, Drop Top Amber anytime, and don't even get me started on their W'08 Crimson Wheat. Put it this way: if I was stuck on an island like Robinson Crusoe (if you haven't seen the new NBC series Crusoe yet - do so!) and could only have beer from one brewery, well... Kurt and Rob would be stuck there with me.

But I digress...

We got our first "official" snowfall here in Colorado Springs the other day. So the weather outside is in fact frightful, and Mother Nature went ahead and "let it snow," so it's the prefect time for a brand spanking new beer from the Brothers Widmer called "Brrr," right?! It's the first new winter seasonal they've made in four years.

According to the PR release, Brrr is "a moderately strong dark red ale that embodies the notable 'Pacific Northwest' citrus hop aroma and flavor." How understated of their wordsmithing PR people. At a winter warming 7.15% ABV, it's "moderately" strong alright!

I recently received a few bottles to try prior to its release to 17 Western states (AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, OR, MN, MT, ND, NM, NV, SD, TX, WA, WI, and WY) later this month. When you first crap the cap (I love Widmer's bottle caps; they each have a different, wacky prost on the underside of each one!) you will definitely smell the citrus hop aroma. As many long time readers know I'm not big on hop bombs, so my first thought after sniffing the hoptacular scent of cannabis' cousin was that I wasn't going to like this new winter brew.

Brrr does pour a dark red and has a super big head. The first sip was... hoppy. So for those of you who love your hops -- and I know there are many, including my wife -- you'll absolutely love this brew. According to the PR sheet Brrr should provide "a tangible, but not excessive, flavor that ultimately transitions into a candy-like malty sweetness and quick finish. Caramel and chocolate malts provide flavor complexity, and an enticing color." There was none of that on the first few sips as my "unrefined" palate was attempting to adjust to the violation of an overly hoppy invasion. However, after the third sip the hop napalm subsided and I did notice a subtle "transition into a candy-like malty sweetness."

This is a good beer. Some of you will certainly think it's great. I probably wouldn't drink a whole lot of this only because it doesn't suit my palate profile, but a lot of you will. No matter what though, it will definitely warm you up on a cold winter's night.

Sadly, Brrr will be replacing Snow Plow as Widmer's regular winter seasonal for the foreseeable future. Snowplow happens to be my favorite winter beer. I've bought 1 - 2 cases every winter for a few years now, so I'm not happy that Snow Plow is getting the heave ho. I've been told that it may come back, and I hope it's permanent. Everyone I've turned on to Snow Plow has loved it. Breaking News! I've just learned it's not totally gone! It will be released on the West Coast (and by "West Coast" they mean OR, WA and ID) in 22oz bottles for a limited time this winter. And yes, I'll be hitting up my Oregon relatives to snag me a few!

Anywho... Brrr should be in a store near you (well, if you're on the Left Side of the U.S.A. that is; sorry East Coasters) next week and I want to know what you think! Once you try it send me some feedback.

Oh, you can watch Erik Boles and I drink and talk about Brrr on the next episode of Beer Buzz (Episode 004) on Beer Tap TV!


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Cicerones in the making!


A Cicerone (pronounced sis-uh-rohn) is one who has proven expertise in beers. Think the beery version of a wine "sommelier." The titles “Certified Cicerone” and “Master Cicerone” are protected certification trademarks and can only be used by those who have passed the requisite test of knowledge and tasting skill.

Yes... even you can become one!

Ray Daniels, a legend in the beer industry, is the man behind the Cicerone plan. He'll be on the West Coast in November to conduct Certified Cicerone exams as well as a workshop. Exams are scheduled as follows:
  • San Diego (Stone World Bistro and Beer Garden) - Nov 15*
  • Berkeley/Oakland (More Beer) - Nov 16
  • Seattle (Pike Brewery) - Nov 17
* A Certified Cicerone "prep" class will be held during the morning of the 15th. This course will run from 9 am to noon during which time key content from the Certified Cicerone exam will be covered (from draught system parts and operation to beer styles, off-flavors, brewing and beer & food pairing). The 3-hour course is designed to provide a quick overview of the exam and help you gauge whether or not you're ready for this most difficult exam.

Awesome! But I don't live on the West coast! Well, my Cicerone wannabe... you are in luck! Ray will be conducting two Midwest Certified Cicerone exams in November as well:
  • Ann Arbor (Vinology) - Nov 9 (11 am - 3 pm)
  • Chicago (Siebel Institute) - Nov 23 (11 am - 3 pm)
Sadly, I'm not SMRT to take this test, but I bet some of you are! If you're interested register through the exam site.

Contact Ray Daniels if you have any questions or wish to reserve a spot in the class. Ray can be reached at

Good luck!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Spooky Brew Stories

I love this time of year. The air is crisp, the leaves have changed colors, and Halloween is on everyone's mind. Scary ghost stories, werewolves, vampires, goblins... Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein!

Heck, this year Colorado even has the Sci-Fi Channel's Ghost Hunters pluming the depths of our state. They're in Colorado Springs checking out the Briarhurst manor as well as in Estes Park (home to a great brewery by the way) looking into The Stanley Hotel. The ghost-filled Stanley is actually where the great author Stephen King got the inspiration for his classic horror novel, The Shining. He in fact wrote some of the book while staying there.

So, with all this spookiness in the air I ask you my fellow beer brothers and sisters -- do you have a good ghost story that deals directly with beer or even better, a brewery?

And it doesn't have to be relegated to the confines of the great state of Colorado. I know of one (which I'll be sharing shortly) regarding Lemp Brewing Company in St. Louis, Missouri. But I want more. Lots more! So send me what you know! Otherwise I'll set a Brew Ghoul on you.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back in Double Black!

No, I'm not talking about my favorite rock band AC/DC (although they are coincidentally coming out with a new album next week called Black Ice)...

I'm talking about Double Black Stout from Redhook Ale Brewery. After being MIA for eight years, Double Black Stout is back! But only for a limited time. This bad boy of brew will be released nationwide the first week of November and will remain available until February '09... or until supplies run out.

According to the press release (I've never had this beer and I have no idea what it tastes like, so if any of you have... chime in!):

Originally created by the brewery in 1995, Redhook stopped producing Double Black Stout in 2000 and craft beer enthusiasts have been reminiscing about it ever since. Double Black Stout is a smooth, imperial stout enhanced by the addition of rich, flavorful coffee and dark malts to create a big, roasted flavor. The beer can be found at specialty food stores and beer markets for $4.99 SRP per 22 oz bottle.

"For eight years now, Double Black Stout fans across the country have clamored for its return. We decided to go one step farther and use it to launch an entire series of limited releases," said Doug MacNair, brew master for Redhook Ale Brewery. "By giving Double Black another chance to shine, we're raising a glass to our craft beer heritage - and we think our loyal drinkers will be very happy with the result."

If that weren't cool enough... after the Double Black Stout has left the building, Redhook will crack open three more "limited release" beers throughout 2009. Developed by Redhook's expert brewers, these unique craft beers will be different than anything the brewery has ever created. The next limited release will hit shelves in March 2009.


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Beer Tap TV is back!

Bigger! Badder! Beerier!

New forums, blogs, beer guides, calendar of upcoming events, BTTV meet ups, and more importantly... more shows. Right now there are 4, with more to come. What are you waiting for... check it out!

Taste Buds is the retooled original with Erik and Dusty throwing back brews and giving their own personal spin on 'em. It's the show that takes your taste buds on an adventure!

The Brewmaster Chronicles takes you behind the scenes... WAAAAY behind the scenes. We'll sit down with Brewmasters and Head Brewers from craft breweries all over the world and see what makes them -- and their brews -- tick. One is in the can, as we talked with Jason Yester of Trinity Brewing. Look for it soon.

Tapping the Keg is a show that features brewery openings as well as new (or annual) beer release parties. We've already shot two shows, one at the Trinity Brewing Company opening, and the second at Bristol's Winter Warlock release party. Look for them to appear shortly.

Beer Buzz is a weekly show that keeps you informed on all the wild and wacky things going on in the beer world, from the noteworthy to the nutty. Episode 001 is below. Erik and I taped Episode 002 last night and should air tomorrow.

Come join us!


Thursday, October 2, 2008

For the Love of Fran's Food

Fran (my wife for those who don't know) is now part of the blog-o-sphere! That's right, after insatiably blogging about beer for the past year... I finally managed to get her into the scene. She's the Yin to my Yang. The Wino to my Beer Geek.

I don't make beer, and I don't do "proper" reviews about beer. I just drink it and write about it. What I also don't do is cook. I'm so bad I would probably burn boiling water. I can clean like a mad man (ahem), and I can BBQ adequately well... but I leave all the real cookin' to Fran.

Not only does she cook, but she cooks with beer. And let me tell you brothers and sisters of the Beerhood... she cooks like nobody's bid'ness. In fact, she's good enough to be the head chef at some restaurant (maybe the one we've always dreamed about - or was that a nightmare?). Anywho... check out her recipes, both with and without beer, at For the Love of Fran's Food.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Pre Great American Beer Festival party @ Trinity!


Jason Yester and Todd Walton from Trinity Brewing Company are hosting a massive, mega, off-the-friggin-hook, pre Great American Beer Festival party next Wednesday, October 8. This pre-festival festival kicks off at 11am at the brewery on 1466 Garden of the Gods Road in Colorado Springs.

These two guys are the rock stars of the beer world in Southern Colorado, so this is no ordinary shindig. Jason has managed to get a bunch of "one time only, wacky cool beers" from a hoary host of Colorado brewers to tap. Check out the lineup SO FAR:
  • Brewer's Bitter (TommyKnocker's)
  • Southwestern Braggot (Carvers)
  • Gordon (Oskar Blues)
  • Awaken Cask dry hopped with Oaxcan coffee and Chickory
  • Flo Cask dry hopped with wild Colorado hops aged on French oak
  • Patientia (Arctic)
  • Bourbon Stout (Rockyard)
  • Chille Ale (Shamrock)
  • Kaiser Imperial Octoberfest (Avery)
  • Ale to the Chief (Avery)
  • Imperial Red (Amica's)
  • Cranberry Saison (New Belgium)
  • Hot Shots Harvest Ale (Pump House)
  • Octoberfest (Lefthand)
Aside from the awesome beer selection expect to see traveling brewers making guest appearances as they head up to Denver for the completely sold out GABF!

This is bigger than big people... you do NOT want to miss it!


This comes straight from Jason!

Ale to the Chief. A 100% Brettanomyces beer reminiscent of a Belgian Pale, but hopped with American cascade and dry hopped. Brewer, Steve ‘The Breeze’ Breezly.

Awaken Cask (Trinity). Naturally carbonated traditional English cask of our Awaken aged/served on a cold coffee toddy and Chicory. Brewer, Jason Yester.

Bourbon Stout (Rockyard). A Large and chewy Stout aged on ‘Four Roses’ bourbon barrels. Brewer, Jim Stinson.

Brewer’s Bitter (TommyKnocker’s): Fresh hop ale, heavy fruit hop, hops added less than 24 hrs after Harvest, Brewer, Steve Indrehus

Chile Ale (Shamrock). Amber Cold toddied with locally grown ‘Mira Sol’ making a spicy and aromatic glas of beer. Brewer, Alan Stiles.

Cranberry Saison (New Belgium).

Flo IPA Cask (Trinity). Naturally carbonated and served through a hand pump. This cask was dry hopped with wild Colorado hops and aged on French oak. Brewer, Jason Yester.

Gordon (Oskar Blues). Large and chewy Double IPA. I true treat and one of the first of it’s style in Colorado. Brewer, Dave Chichura.

Hot Shots Harvest Ale (Pump House). Brewed using Amarillo Hops less than 24 hrs after harvested. Distnct notes of peach and apricot are created by those hops. Brewer, Dave Mentus.

Imperial Red (Amica’s). A scarlet colored ale with light roast notes, a huge hop aroma, and an enormous hop character! Brewer, Mike Lacroix.

Kaiser Imperial Octoberfest (Avery). Extremely Large and toasty lager with light ester undertones. Brewer, Steve ‘Breeze’ Breezley.

Octoberfest (Left Hand). Light in body, toasty, and balanced, this is a true German-Style fest beer. Brewer, Joe Schiralde.

Patientia (Arctic Brewing). Oak-aged sour beer showcasing distinct notes of caramelized pineapple produced by Brettanomyces. Brewer, John Dunfee.

Southwestern Braggot (Carvers) A unique and very fruity beer brewed with the green fruits of Prickly Pear Cactus. Brewer, Erik Maxson.