Tuesday, September 30, 2014

It's Been the Ruin of Many a Poor Boy

At the best dive bar in New Orleans: the Erin Rose.

"This town steals your soul. I hate this fucking town."

Those were the words of Random Guy in the Elevator #27 yesterday afternoon. This morning, as I blearily opened my eyes at 6:30 after having gotten to bed only three hours earlier, I could see his point. But it would be too easy to blame this hangover on this city or my bad-influence friends. After living with myself for 43 years, I know deep down I'm the worst influence on myself.

Ray Daniels of the Cicerone Certification Program kicked off the day with his talk "Beer Goggles and Bar Offerings: Helping On-Premise Accounts Do More with Less," in which he discussed consumer trends and why bars do not need 100 taps to have a great beer selection. (And, in fact, why such large selections can lead to a poorer experience for beer drinkers.) Now look out, Great American Beer Festival, Ray is already on a plane and heading your way.

Next was part two of the "General Session" (I missed part one yesterday), which featured some awards, remarks from incoming National Beer Wholesalers Association Chairman Eric Best, and a panel discussion entitled "Main Street Fueling Wall Street" that meandered over many topics. I did some live tweeting but the general thrust of everything seems to be the post-Prohibition, state-based, three-tier system of alcohol distribution is awesome and should not be fundamentally altered. I tend to have different opinions on such things, but it is a fascinating subject to be sure. Then, because I did not want to be in the same room as James Carville and Mary Matalin, I bolted to post this important update.

And now I think it's time to go find something else amazingly delicious to eat, and maybe even a little hair of the dog...

Monday, September 29, 2014

Greetings from New Orleans

Hey there. As most of my loyal readers know, I'm down in New Orleans for the National Beer Wholesalers Convention today and tomorrow. My expenses have been paid by the NBWA, which was the grand prize I received for winning the Best Beer Writing contest they sponsored earlier this year. (Thanks again to those who voted for me.)

Yesterday before the conference proper began, I tooled around the French Quarter for a bit, as one does, before hopping the St. Charles streetcar out to the Avenue Pub, which was featuring a tap event with Bayou Teche Brewing of Arnaudville. There I met up with Jenny Pfafflin of the Cicerone Certification Program and sampled four Bayou Teche brews: Miel Sauvage, a bourbon barrel aged honey beer; Coteau Rodaire, a French farmhouse ale aged in white wine barrels; Acadie, a biere de garde with French hops; and Teche Hombres, a wheat beer brewed with agave nectar and Spanish orange peels. For my money, the Coteau Rodaire was the best of the lot — crisp, dry, and understated. The Miel Sauvage was not overblown with bourbon flavors, which I consider a good thing. The Teche Hombres was too sweet for my liking, while the Acadie tasted soapy, which maybe is a French hop thing or maybe a not properly rinsed glass thing.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Every Two Weeks in Beer: The Road to Oktoberfest

Wolverine's The Massacre Bourbon Barrel Aged Imperial Dark Lager returns this week.

It’s not quite here yet, but you can hear the distant sounds of a tuba as the German band warms up for a certain seasonal celebration involving lots of lager, sausage, and pretzels. In the meantime, you can reap a harvest of other good brews with the cornucopia of cool events going on all around town as we head into Oktoberfest season.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tickets On Sale for Second Annual A2 Art & Brew

Mark your calendars for a fun and tasty event returning to downtown Ann Arbor this fall: A2 Art & Brew, a pub crawl-style fundraiser to benefit the Ann Arbor Art Center. The event takes place Thursday, October 2, from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. and features beers from area breweries paired with savory (and sweet) snacks. Tickets are $50 if purchased before September 29 and $60 thereafter.

Here are more of the relevant details from the press release:
O&W Inc., a fourth-generation family-owned beer distributor based in Ypsilanti, has generously signed on as this year’s A2 Art & Brew title event sponsor. Again this year microbreweries and tasting locations will be paired with eight local artists, by joining two forms of art, the Art of Brewing and Visual Arts, together in a fun and relaxed atmosphere throughout downtown Ann Arbor in order to encourage new and continued support for the Art Center.
The evening will consist of patrons visiting partner microbreweries and tasting locations throughout downtown Ann Arbor in a “pub crawl” fashion. Participants will sample finely crafted artisan brews and tasty bites, while enjoying fun and original works of sidewalk chalk art along the pub crawl route, each specifically created for the evening’s event and inspired by the microbrewery and its showcased brew.

The evening events include a “text-to-vote” contest for Best Brew, Best Bite, and Best Original Sidewalk Chalk Art. There will be a $500 prize awarded to the artist with the largest number of votes received for “Best Original Sidewalk Chalk Art.”

Participating microbreweries and tasting locations include: Arbor Brewing, Kuhnhenn Brewing featured at Conor O’Neill’s, Jolly Pumpkin Café & Brewery, Blue Tractor BBQ & Brewery at Mash Bar, Grizzly Peak at Old German Bar & Bierkeller, Original Gravity partnering with Katherine’s Catering at Bill’s Beer Garden, Wolverine State Brewing partnering with Laura’s Catering at the Ann Arbor Art Center as well as Alaskan Brewing, a featured brewery of O&W, also at the Ann Arbor Art Center.

Participating artists include: Chris Monaghan, Nick Farrell, Brian Little, Jean Spindler, Bonnie Henley, Natalie Gregorarz, Dani Raymond, and Julia Pollington.

The Ann Arbor Art Center is a 100+ year old locally based non-profit organization, whose mission is to support and engage the local art community, while “bringing visual arts to life.” The Art Center operates an exhibition space, a retail gallery store, and delivers art education in a variety of mediums from its downtown Ann Arbor location.

Event: A2 Art & Brew
Date: Thursday, October 2, 2014, 6:00 – 8:30 p.m.
Ticket Pricing: $50 before September 29, $60 after

Tickets can be purchased online at www.annarborartcenter.org; in person at the Ann Arbor Art Center, 117 W. Liberty, Ann Arbor 48104, or by calling the Art Center at (734) 926-4122.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The Every Two Weeks in Beer: Change in the Air – And Your Glass

Seasons may change, but good beer remains.

Change is in the air. The roads, sidewalks, bars, and restaurants are all more crowded, thanks to throngs of students who, like swallows to Capistrano, dependably return to our fair city en masse at the same time every year. Not only that, but the astute observer will have noted the slow withdrawal on tap of various wheats, wits, and other lighter beers in favor of browns, porters, pumpkin beers, and more fall faves. It’s just another reminder of the natural cycle, as well as beer’s long and storied place within it. Be a part of the cycle! Here are some ideas on how.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Dispatches from the BBC: There Finally Is a There Here, Part 2

The second of what will hopefully be more than two posts from the 2014 Beer Bloggers Conference in San Diego, California.

When last we left our intrepid explorer he had visited Golden Road Brewing and Angel City Brewery in Los Angeles. But that was not all the night held in store for this Midwestern naïf. At the time most respectable people were considering turning in for the evening, the bus of nocturnal adventure was hurtling him toward destiny, in the form of The Bruery's barrel warehouse.

This place is in the middle of some dark, nondescript, industrial park nowheresville in Anaheim. Mickey Mouse doesn't even know where it is. As someone on the bus said, "This is where you go to dump bodies." Yet Cambria Griffith and the Bruery crew left the light on for us in the inky blackness, just like the unnamed woman in Hotel California welcomed Don Henley's narrator for the night.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dispatches from the BBC: There Finally Is a There Here

The first of what will hopefully be more than one post from the 2014 Beer Bloggers Conference in San Diego, California.

Of her hometown of Oakland, California, Gertrude Stein famously remarked, "There is no there there." The same could be said of the craft beer scene in Los Angeles. During my last visit in 2009, I searched high and low for a brewery anywhere in this sprawling megalopolis of nearly four million souls. The result was a big, fat goose egg. Could hardly even find a decent beer bar. This, in the largest city in the very state that launched the American beer renaissance? There really was no there here, and most Angelenos didn't seem to notice or care.

I'm happy to report the situation has changed in the past few years, as I got to see during a pre-conference excursion around several of the City of the Angels' new and growing breweries. First up was Golden Road Brewing Co., situated in an industrial campus located somewhere in a lot of traffic. (Seriously, man, the traffic here.)