Wednesday, September 30, 2009

GABF Hardware and Best State For Beer

Last week's announcement of the Great American Beerfest ("GABF") winners got me thinking... BUT first, major congratulations are in order to DC/Baltimore area breweries that came away with medals:

-Brewer’s Alley Restaurant and Brewery, MD
Brewer’s Alley India Pale Ale won Bronze for English-Style India Pale Ale

-Clipper City Brewing Co., MD
Clipper City Marzhon Vienna Lager won Bronze for Vienna Style Lager

-DOG Brewing Co. MD
Pub Dog Black Dog Stout won Bronze for Classic Irish Style Dry Stout

-Flying Dog Brewery, MD
Horn Dog Vintage 2007 won Gold for Aged Beer
Dogtoberfest won Gold for German Style Märzen
Gonzo Imperial Porter won Gold for Imperial Stout
Barrel Aged Gonzo won Silver for Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer

-Devils Backbone Brewing Co., VA
Gold Leaf Lager won Gold for International-Style Pilsener
Natural Born Keller won Silver for Kellerbier/Zwickelbier
Danzig won Silver for Baltic-Style Porter
Vienna Lager won Silver for Vienna Style Lager

-Great American Restaurants ( Sweet Water Tavern ), VA
Crazy Jackass Ale won Gold for Rye Beer
Wits End won Bronze for Belgian-Style Witbier

-Rock Bottom Brewery – Arlington, VA
Dude! Where’s My Vespa? won Gold for Coffee Flavored Beer

-Starr Hill Brewery, VA
Dark Starr Stout won Gold for Classic Irish Style Dry Stout

Also the “Mid Size Brewery of the Year” went to Flying Dog and Brew Master Rob Malone of Frederick, Maryland.

All of this talk about the GABF got me thinking again about the best city or state for beer. As you can see from the results of the HolzBrew poll on the right, California won the poll easily. What if we look at the state whose breweries have won the most GABF medals? I logged onto the GABF website and downloaded the results of the last four years, 2006 - 2009(it actually took a little Excel work in order to extract the necessary data, that's why I stopped after 4 years). The top 10 states in order of total medals were:

California: 158
Colorado: 134
Oregon: 67
Wisconsin: 51
Illinois: 43
Pennsylvania: 40
Washington: 35
New York: 28
Michigan: 25
Delaware: 21

According to this analysis California is the best state for beer in the US. BUT is this really fair considering that California is the most populated state in the US? I mean California can sustain a lot of great breweries with such a large population. What if you adjust the rankings to account for population? By using the 2008 census estimate, I divided the total awards won from 2006 - 2009 by the population of that state. This yields the following results (stated in medals per million residents):

Colorado: 27.1
Delaware: 24.1
Alaska: 21.9
Oregon: 17.7
Wyoming: 15.0
Montana: 9.3
Wisconsin: 9.1
Utah: 7.3
Washington: 5.3
Vermont: 4.8

Congrats to all GABF winners,


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Best City for Beer in America?

What's the best city in America for beer?

Thankfully this is not an easy question to answer. My initial knee jerk answer lends a few great ones, perhaps Denver, San Diego, Portland, or possibly Boston. But after thinking about it for awhile, its clear that there is no "best" city for beer and I think that's alright (as Americans we love #1, ain't that right?). That being said I think that there are at least some relative parameters for measuring your city's beer worthiness.

1) A wide variety of local brewed beer.

Let's face it, with the exception of the occasional barleywine or imperial stout, beer is a beverage best enjoyed fresh. Nothing is better than enjoying a freshly poured pint at or near the actual brewery. So in order to be great your town has to have accessible breweries or brewpubs. I think a a variety of local brewers is also important because it ensures more in the way of choice. Choice of what you ask? Choice of style, lager or ale, hops or malt, inspiration from afar (e.g. Belgium) or inspiration from home (e.g. west coast pale ales).

2) Great beer bars and restaurants.

A great beer city, has to have great beer bars with variety of draft and bottle selections as well as a knowledgeable staff. The knowledgeable staff part is key. I hate going to a place that has a wide selection of draft options and asking the waiter or waitress about a particular offering and they respond either that they "don't like beer" or "I mainly drink miller lite."

Also, not to be overlooked are great beer restaurants. In case you haven't noticed, beer is good by itself, but great with food. The trend in good beer restaurants the last couple of years has been beer and food pairings also beer used in the preparation of the food itself.

3) Great beer stores.

If you are like me, you like to try something new almost every week. That being said, I can't necessarily afford a trip out to my local watering hole for $8 - $12 pints of the newest Belgian IPA, but I can afford to purchase a four pack of the BIPA at a store for $10 and enjoy it all week long.

4) Great beer distributors.

This one kind of takes a back seat and isn't readily apparent, but it allows the first three items on this list to exist. You've got to have at least one to two distributors in your area who have a passion for good beer instead of just being sales focused. As highly as I regard great local beer selection, I think its still awesome if you get the chance to try stuff from either other US markets or even internationally.

So, how does DC rate in all of this? I think we do pretty well in items two through four, but we are still about a half dozen local breweries away from making it great.

How's your city hold up? What's your favorite beer town?


Friday, September 18, 2009

Where the Wild Things Are

"Inside all of us is a Wild Thing"
— Where the Wild Things Are

Inside a bottle of Victory's Wild Devil is a wild yeast, whose name is Brettanomyces (or Brett for short).

From the Victory website:

"Bold, spicy, menacingly delicious HopDevil takes on an entirely new dimension when subjected to a ‘wild’ yeast fermentation. A sharp, tart edge has been added by this fermentation that plays into the caramel sweet malt deliciously and creates complex interplay with the citrus accented hops."

I picked up a bottle of this last night from Whole foods on my way home. Now I'm a big fan of Victory and I particularly love Hop Devil, so a Brett version of the Devil sounded intriguing. Here goes:

Look: First, I had to cool this one down quickly as I picked it up at room temperature and didn't get home from work until late. So in order to chill rapidly I used my Cooper Cooler. I think the combination of this naturally being a well carbonated brew and the spinning method used to cool it caused a massive eruption upon opening. Once the overflow settled down I poured into a Chimay goblet-style glass. Poured up a brilliant orange color with lots of off-white foamy head. After a few minutes the head dissipated some, but remained to some extent all the way through my consumption.

Smell: The smell is quite complex. Some citrus and floral hops, caramel malt, and wafts of the Brett horse blanket, leatheriness. Definitely funked up.

Drink: The taste is complex, but more muted than the nose let on. Citrus and piney hops up front. The caramel malt that is so noticeable in Hop Devil is there, but is blended in with some definite earthiness. The Brett funkiness kind of jumbles the flavors up, but not necessarily enhancing things.

Overall: B-, definite street-cred bump to Victory for trying something different like this, but it isn't quite mind blowing. Not bad, but not great. I think I'll keep to the standard Hop Devil and Victory's other fantastic offerings.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hotlanta and HolzBrew Happenings

During my stay in the glorious south I learned a few things. Chiefly, that Atlanta is a bad ass city for beer. I was somewhat surprised considering that until 2003 the state of Georgia was restricted to beers with 6.0% ABV or lower. Second, Sweetwater is the king of the thing in Atlanta.

While in Atlanta for the Hokie - Tide game (the game that need never be mentioned again, from hereon forward) I managed to sneak in a little beer travel. On the flight, I remembered to bring a BeerAdvocate from last year that featured Atlanta. We were put up in Midtown at the Hotel Palomar (great name, sounds like Shalamar). The closet bar to the hotel was Marlow's Tavern and as this trip was for a bachelor party, we spent many an hour at Marlow's. I was pleasantly pleased to find that Marlow's had a nice selection of draft craft. I got by with a steady diet of Sweetwater's 420 Pale Ale and IPA.

Other haunts that we hit up while on the prowl were The Vortex, a biker style bar with an impressive selection of draft and bottled beer; Engine 11, a cool bar setup in an old firehouse, make sure to ask for Quickie, he'll buy you a shot on the house; Taco Mac, this place wins hands down for most robust draft selection I have ever seen with 140 on tap; Sidebar, a sister bar to Engine 11; Front Page News, a New Orleans style bar with a bloody mary bar and plenty of Sweetwater on draft; and STATS, a massive sports bar, that I was lucky enough to find Terrapin Rye Pale Ale at.

I tried a whole lot of different beers while in ATL, but I'd have to say Sweetwater's IPA was the most impressive. A very balanced IPA, the maltiness and hopiness are quite evenly dominant. The hops provide an intense floral flavor. The malt gives a bready and biscuit flavor.

My only regret was that I did not get to visit the famous Brick Store Pub in Decatur. Oh well, I guess you've can't check everything off the list, because then you'd never have a reason to go back.

Other happenings lately in the homebrew world, I racked the Tripel Sunrise today to secondary. I siphoned off a little for a taste and was pleasantly surprised. Real sweet and fruit juicy up front with a noticeable hop kick. The only thing negative was that it was somewhat dirty in appearance, with lots of yeast in suspension. But considering that I plan to shelf it for at least another 2.5 months before bottling, I hope some of that yeast with fall out of suspension.

I also brewed a Belgian brune ( or brown) ale today. This one I kind of threw together without much in the way of research, but sometimes I find that you are pleasantly surprised when brewing with nothing but an idea. I racked the wort on top of the Tripel Sunrise's yeast cake. Instead of using my usual immersion chiller setup, which frequently takes well over an hour to chill to 75 degrees, I immersed the copper tubing in a bucket of ice water and ran the wort through the tubing. Next time I am going to have to add more ice, because the wort came out around 95 degrees, which is most likely going to mess with my brune.

Last, I have been kicking around a brew project in my mind for the last week or so. Operation barleyquor, why stop at barleywine? Barleyquor would be a naturally fermented libation hopefully reaching 25% ABV. Is it even possible? I have no idea. I have read up on some homebrewers making 120 IPA clones such as Homebrew Chef at 21% ABV. I think this would be a great novelty to brew that could be enjoyed over the next couple of years.

That's all for now. Stay inspired!


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Football is here!

"I don't know what a Hokie is, but GOD is one of them."
-Lee Corso

Though usually reserved for discussion of beer and brewing, HolzBrew has been taken over by rabid Hokie hysteria. Tune in Saturday at 8pm to watch the Hokies (preseason #7) start off their season against #5 ranked Alabama. You'll witness some fireworks for sure and a great start to the 2009 college football season. I guarantee you'll see some great defensive plays (courtesy of St. Bud Foster). If the Hokies O-Coordinator Brian Stynespring can put together an offensive unit that doesn't lay a goose egg, I think we have a chance at a "W."

I will be down in Atlanta to witness the spectacle first hand (and hopefully drink some of the area's best brew). I can't wait to find some Sweetwater or Terrapin fresh on draft.

Let's go Hokies!