Esquire Beer Geek Article Didn’t Butthurt My Feelings

By: Will Mueller @brewsconsin.wordpress.com

There has been a bit of a buzz on the Facebooks as of late regarding a certain Esquire article titled “The Most Mockable Things That Beer Snobs Do” that has geeks all over the world calling for the “imbecile” author’s head. After laughing my way through the “douche’s” article and realizing that in some way I exhibit every one of the behaviors listed, I think Aaron Goldfarb (terrible pseudonym) hit his target gravity exactly.

There is no denying that beer events, as Goldfarb says, are “predominantly male gatherings of dorks squeezed into obscure brewery T-shirts,” and crowds are “scruffy, pale, and a few pounds overweight but mostly in the belly.” During Madison Craft Beer Week this year my restaurant released a Sci-Fi-themed ale and had about half a dozen “Comic Book Guys” waddle in two hours before the tapping asking if they could just get a taste. Two hours later the entire bar area was packed with a similar ilk and a mad dash for the beer was on. We sold the beer for $4/10oz but could have charged $8 or $10 just none would bat an eye. In the articles I have read of Goldfarb’s, a whopping two in all, he comes across as Beerstradamus. But I’ll stop tugging the guy off since I didn’t even know what the hell Esquire was until I read all the beer geeks ironically complaining about its pretentiousness. I’ll just go ahead and explain why I embody all of the of the annoying things that beer geeks do, even though I claim to live in the low range of the geekiness spectrum. For every “annoying” action of my own, I have seen ten-fold how geeky geeky can get.

NOTETAKING

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I don’t take notes per say, but I do check every unique beer I have into Untappd and have been doing so since December 20th 2012. And, whether it is a testament more to alcoholism or geekiness, I am currently at (checking smartphone) 462 unique beers and plan to hit 500 before my first year of Untappd is up. Pretty sure I get a badge for that. How many badges do you have? While I don’t put much stock in taking notes or rating the beers, I do walk into a bar and intentionally order something I haven’t checked into and usually check in after my first sip. If you want to know what beer I drank last for whatever reason, friend me on Untappd @bigbeardbrewsconsin or @brewsconsin on Twitter, because for some reason I feel the need to put all of that information out there.

ADVOCATING

My brother's birthday cake from last year.

My brother’s birthday cake from last year.

When people ask me for a light beer I generally point them to the shelf that has Miller Lite, PBR, and 12 Mexican beers that all taste the same (like butts) and if they are unsure I try to get them into a gateway beer like New Glarus Spotted Cow or Capital Supper Club. My favorite beer order is when someone asks for a Miller 64. I tell them, “I don’t have it, but I do have Miller Lite and water. Do you want me to make you one?” Sometimes I think I am the only person who gets that joke. The customer will usually order a Corona Light or something and we will both walk away from the experience wondering how we failed to connect. I just want people’s mouths to be happy. Is it wrong for me to think they can do better? Why can’t I just be happy for them for liking what they like? I’ve never classified myself as a beer geek, but somewhere along the line I became the self-righteous snob with annoying behaviors that Esquire is accusing me of being.

FORUMS

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While not active on any of the forums, I probably have signed up for and have an account for all of them. And, when I am not busy getting drunk (the last few months apparently), I do have my own beer blog and have done more beer writing with my $50,000 in journalism degrees than I have using those skills trying to get a grown-up job. I might be more inclined to get involved, but in reality, I just don’t care that much what strangers think about beers. I usually only care what I think about beers (because I am a self-righteous snob…and lazy). But, when the beer community got all in an uproar about being judged for acting exactly like they act I decided to chime in. Perhaps my blog will become a forum and I can quit my night job?

APPROPRIATE GLASSWARE

Dia De Los Muertas. Drinking a beer finally resurrected from the dead.

Dia De Los Muertas. Drinking a beer finally resurrected from the dead.

I pretty much drink everything at home out of a pint glass or a tulip and am pretty anal about glassware in my house. I like to have even numbers of glasses and matching sets. Pint glasses are the only exception. I don’t want to have more than one of the same pint glass, but I want them each to tell a story of where I have been and how I came upon that particular pint glass. I do, however, get off on bars like the Malt House here in Madison where every beer comes in the glass the brewery wants the beer served in. I don’t get there much though, since it is usually jammed packed with beer geeks from the local club. If you want some good geek talk that is the bar to be a fly on the wall of for sure. They’ll astound you with stories of brewing rituals and dazzle you with official-sounding terms like cold break. They might even try to cut into a few local favorites for you. They’ll make no real points, mind you…but it is going to be a lot of fun.

RELEASE PARTIES

My favorite annual collaborative release.

My favorite annual collaborative release.

There is something special about getting the beer before everyone else. When the Wisconsin Brewing Company beers came out this week I was quick to point out that I tried most of them when they were test batches at the Great Dane and tried the others at the pre-opening friends and supporters party. I tend to get invited to these things because I occasionally write about beer and free press is usually looked upon as a good thing. In fact, WBC just unintentionally got a shout out here, so  I guess their evil plan to wine and dine me worked. And all it cost them is two free beers and one handful of chocolate candy corn I regret taking on my way out the door. Why do they even make that stuff? I have run a few beer release parties in the last few years and intend on doing several more collaboration releases for 2014 with a few of my favorite local breweries. Beer releases are great because the geeks always come. Even if your beer is just okay, it will be talked about it like it was something great. Why? Because at the end of the day the beer will be gone and the few who tried it will be so grateful that they will sing its praises to all those less fortunate than themselves.

DRAIN POUR

We found these warm fellers in a cabin during a long backpacking trip. What would ordinarily be drain pour was like gold to thirsty hikers.

We found these warm fellers in a cabin during a long backpacking trip. What would ordinarily be drain pour was like gold to thirsty hikers.

Admittedly, this is one of the downfalls of snobbery. But to be honest, there are certain flaws that beer can have that are just not enjoyable to drink. As a BJCP Certified Judge (official after next weekend’s point is tallied), we judges dump a lot of beer. Everyone has to learn to brew somewhere, and a lot of homebrew batches just don’t turn out that well. Some taste like poison; Though nothing one can do in the normal brewing process can cause actual poison, the bottles and glasses don’t get finished. Often times we save really bad ones for the classes to help others learn what beer shouldn’t taste like. Sometimes in the commercial brewing world bad batches exist. Sometimes beer gets too old, intentionally or unintentionally, and doesn’t stand the test of time. I usually finish beers, even questionable ones, but everyone should have their limits of what they are willing to finish. If it tastes like cardboard, band-aids, or butter…by all means, DON’T finish it. Something went wrong. It is okay to let that beer go, it wasn’t meant to be. Just accept that you are a fat, bearded, pale, middle-aged snob and be happy because your mouth is happy.

#notbutthurtatall

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Wisconsin Brewing Company #003 Porter

WBC#003I just so happened to be at the Great Dane in Fitchburg yesterday following an Ultimate Frisbee game and was fortunate enough that is was also the release day for Wisconsin Brewing Company‘s #003 Porter. I hadn’t been able to try any of the previous WBC releases so I bought a pitcher to share with the team.

I Say:

The nose is of dark roasted malt and the ensuing roast flavor is coupled with chocolate overtones and a strong malt backbone with a well-balanced bitterness. The beer had a nicely retained off-white head and a surprisingly full body for a beer that weighs in at a mere 5.2% ABV.  Kirby really nailed this one! This Porter was a refreshing way to replenish some nutrients after having a good sweat on the Ultimate field without being too filling.

They Say:

Kirby is using a blend of caramel, special roast and deep chocolate malt to create a deeply rich tasting Porter. Wisconsin grown Brewer’s Gold Hops add the needed bittering to balance the malt intensity. The resulting beer is bold and assertive, yet is quite sessionable.

 

The Porter is available at the four Madison-area Great Dane locations and the Vintage Brewing Company while supplies last. The Porter is the third beer in WBC’s test series following the IPA and the Golden Amber Lager. Now that Dark, Hoppy and Light styles have been covered, it is anyone’s guess as to what Kirby will brew next. Perhaps a Scotch Ale or something Belgian?

In Our Opinion: Capital’s Mutiny IPA Will Be Huge In 2013

In Spring of 2010, when Capital Brewery released the brilliantly-marketed “Supper Club”, then Brewmaster Kirby Nelson told Milwaukee-based Suds, Wine and Spirits:

Supper Club is rolling along and doing very well. It is a great addition to our lineup. Wisconsin Amber is still the flagship beer, but Supper Club is catching up.”

While we don’t believe Capital’s new Mutiny IPA will be as big for the brewery as Supper Club was/is, we think Capital’s step away from their malt-forward German-style brews will diversify their fan base and increase their standing in the marketplace.

mutinyThe Beer

Mutiny pours amber in color and has a beautifully-retained off-white head. With a bit of caramel sweetness, the malt provides a good backbone to balance the 70 IBU’s derived from American varietals of hops. Mutiny weighs in at 6.2% ABV, and while it has a little bit of a hoppy bite to it, it goes down smooth and doesn’t fill you up like some of its higher gravity counterparts.

Why Will Mutiny Be Big?

It is our belief that price, drinkability, distribution, marketing and packaging will all play roles in Mutiny’s success.

For starters: How many really good IPA’s can you get in cans? A lot of venues don’t allow glass bottles limiting the beverage options one can fill their cooler with. Sure, Dale’s Pale Ale is good, and Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo really hits the spot sometimes, but those brands are far from local and a tad on the pricey side (in our opinion).

Say you are a homer like us, and you like to drink local whenever possible. In our opinion, Mutiny is by far the best canned IPA in the state, and at a low cost of $10.79 for 12 cans, a thrifty craft drinker would be nuts not to have this beer in their everyday lineup.

Capital brewery also has a well-known brand and has established tap lines and shelf space all over the state. They have a track record of making consistent products that do well in the market; they will have no problems flooding the market with their newest beer. Mutiny is marketed as their “coming out of our shell” beer after parting ways with long-time traditional German-style brewmaster Kirby Nelson.

Mutiny is Capital’s statement to craft drinkers in Wisconsin saying that they too can brew an American IPA. They did a pretty good job of it to boot.

While the hop craze seems to be dying down a bit over the last few years with Belgian and farmhouse ales taking some of the spotlight, there is still a loyal army of hop-heads out there waiting to pounce on anything with dank citrusy bitterness they can get their hands on.

Capital understood that this hop-loving sect of the craft-drinking population generally steers clear of their malty brands. With that knowledge they created Mutiny, giving hop-heads a reason to drink Capital at an affordable price and in a can that they can take anywhere. We’ve got a twelver in the office fridge and think you probably should too. Mutiny will have a great year and a great future in Wisconsin.

The Farmhouse Ale Style: Fad or Fashion

A couple years ago an emerging Black IPA beer style peaked the interest of craft brewers/drinkers and soon swept over the marketplace like a tasty plague. Pretty soon Black IPA wasn’t just a specialty beer, but a regular brand from breweries like Stone and New Glarus. While the rage of Black IPA’s seems to have slowed as of late, it seems “Farmhouse Ale” has taken its place. But what is a Farmhouse Ale?

farmhouseDefining a Farmhouse Ale

While Farmhouse Ale is not listed in the Beer Judge Certification Program style guidelines, a quick internet search (and a slightly lengthier read of Phil Markowski’s book “Farmhouse Ales”) tells us that Farmhouse Ales are usually categorized as the Biere De Garde’s that originated in northern France or the Saison’s that originated in southern Belgium.

Both beer styles were traditionally brewed in the winter time in farmhouses for distribution amongst field workers during the growing season. Because these beers were brewed by hundreds of different brewers, each with their own strain of yeast and limits on available ingredients, the beers likely varied widely in flavor profiles.

What Markowski Says About Biere De Garde

  • Golden to deep amber with a high amount of clarity
  • Faint hop aroma masked by a toasty malt character
  • 6-8% ABV
  • “Favors and displays upfront malt character and sweetness, generally balanced with a paradoxal dryness”

BJCP STYLE FOR BIERE DE GARDE

Brewsconsin Reviews New Belgium Lips of Faith Biere De Garde Collaboration with Brewery Vivant

What Markowski Says About Saison

  • Deep golden to light orange with higher than average carbonation levels
  • Fruity and sometimes spicy Belgian aromatics
  • Flavors can contain spiciness attributed to yeast and often have a detectable level of hop bitterness
  • “Flavor is typically dry and refreshing with fruit and spice flavors dominant”
  • 6-9% ABV

* Traditionally were 3-5% but modern versions tend to be 6-9%

BJCP STYLE FOR SAISON

Brewsconsin’s Review of Goose Island’s Saison’s; Pepe Nero and Sophie

Fad or Fashion?

Markowski’s  defines and classifies two fairly loose styles, Saison and Biere De Garde, as Farmhouse Ales. While Farmhouse might be all the rage right now on the market, it is fair to say that for the most part brewers are being fairly true to style…at least the modern version of it. Even beers like Spotted Cow from New Glarus which would usually be classified as a Cream Ale sort of works as a Farmhouse Ale. The addition of corn likely could have been used by farmhouses looking to get a little extra sugar into their beers so the alcohol would help them keep from winter when they were traditionally brewed until the growing season.

While I originally thought that the Farmhouse Ale was just a marketing tool, I realize now that the style does have a deep-rooted history and that modern brewers’ takes on the styles are usually quite enjoyable and fitting based on all definitions I have researched.

What Next?

If Black IPA was the last craft brewing marketing fad and Farmhouse Ales are just coming into their own (Belgian IPA’s had a quick run in there somewhere, even a few Belgian Black IPA’s reared their heads), what will be the next fad beer style? Also, does that style exist yet? While Farmhouse Ales are modern interpretations of classic styles, Black IPA kind of invented its own style. In fact it is still a specialty category in the BJCP style guidelines. Either way, it is exciting to be here still in the early stages of this craft brewing revolution.

*This blog was powered by Ommegang Hennepin and Goose Island Pepe Nero

beers

Brewsconsin Beer Review #8 – Lakefront Brewery Chad

Whose Turn?

chad

Over the next seven years or so Lakefront Brewery’s “My Turn” series will release about three beers a year allowing employees to design their own beer for limited release featuring their name. Beer four in the series is an American-Style Barleywine known as Chad named after its creator Lead Cellerman Chad Sheridan.

Who is Chad?

Chad started at Lakefront Brewery in June of 2005 after his “beer guru” and and Beer Barons of Milwaukee Homebrew Club member Johnny O’Brien dropped his name to Brewery Owner Jim Klisch at the Chilton Beer Fest. Chad has worked there ever since and recently completed a short stint at the Siebel Institute of Brewing Science and Technology.

Where did the recipe come from?

lakefront

“I drank up all the Beerline Barleywine that was in stock at the brewery the first year I was employed,” said Chad. “I took from the Beerline recipe 1/3 Organic Munich Malt, 2/3 Organic 2 row Pale Malt, 10% of bill split between Organic Red Wheat flakes, and I added Organic Dark Rye to the grain bill to add something spicy without changing the overall profile of the original base beer. The hops we had in stock were Organic Bravo, and so we used a bit more for additions in this beer than the Beerline had. So this beer has double the IBU’s than the previous version.”

Chad went on to say that one of the first beers he remembers seeking out to consume and one of the first all-grain beers he made with guru Johnny O in his early brewing career was a Barleywine.

“These beers were made for every ale-ment and for every person,” said Chad. “Barleywines get better with age, so being able to have beer that is ever changing and can stand the test of time. That is another reason for picking this style.”

Chad in the words of Chad

“The final product is rich, malty, multi-layered, and amber colored with off white head. It has rich strawberry rhubarb pie flavors and aromas with grapefruit, papaya, and other citrus notes in the nose. complex dried fruit and malt forward flavors dominate, undertones of toffee an peppercorn caramel, Chad finishes slightly malt syrup sweet with spicy pleasurable alcohol warmth. I really think this is a dessert kind of beer. This is a Barley Wine for a Brownie. That’s how I recommend enjoying this beer!”

Brewsconsin’s Opinion

Chad pours deep copper with an off-white/tannish head. The initial aroma is that of an Old Ale’s sweetness without the cardboardiness that often comes with it. The beer is very malt-forward and slightly biscuity with a nice balance of hop bitterness. Chad is full-bodied, has medium carbonation and just a bit of comforting alcohol warmth. Chad finishes bittersweet with a lingering something that makes us want to eat chocolate…or as Chad himself suggests, brownies. Damn son!

At $5.69 a bomber we would call this a steal!

Rate Beer: 4.2

Beer Advocate: 4.2

How does Chad like having a beer with his namesake?

“It’s nice to have a few brief moments in the craft beer spotlight,” said Chad. “Even if it is on the coattails of the Klisch brothers. There is a warm and pleasant feeling in my belly as of the moment. Whether from the glass of Chad in my hand at 11am, or the joy of my beer getting people a little less sober. It’s all Great! Maybe I’ll be around long enough to get another ‘Turn’!”

Big Beard Brewsconsin Beer Review # 7 – New Belgium Rampant Imperial IPA

rampantnb

New Belgium’s Rampant is a medium-bodied beer comes across as a little thin for the style and has a bit of hot alcohol warmth coupled with a very biting hop bitterness that is accentuated by high carbonation. Hop flavor comes across as a bit soapy but the head retention is great and the lace in my glass in beautiful. This beer will get you drunk and is a good deal financially for an Imperial IPA. It doesn’t touch Hopslam, but really, what beer can?
I feel like this beer has been produced for the masses as opposed to the Lips of Faith series that won me over after thinking of New Belgium for so long first as proprietors of Fat Tire instead of the innovative craft brewers and energy conservation gurus that they are. While I don’t think this beer will be one of he brands they are known for, I think it will be interesting as New Belgium tries to build a brand somewhere above your standard craft six-pack but beneath the four-packs and bombers. Central Waters’ Satin Solstice comes to mind as a beer that has nestled its way into this category…though Central Waters doesn’t up their price for their Imperial.

Price is fair @ $10.99/6

My Beer Advocate Rating 3.38

My Rate Beer Rating 3.3

Review: Comeback, The Wisconsin Beer Movie

Before I start, I just want to say that I respect that Caitlin Iverson and Tim Tynand put their time and efforts into producing “Comeback, The Wisconsin Beer Movie”, a movie that focuses on the craft brewing industry in Wisconsin. It was great to hear Wisconsin beer people talk about Wisconsin beer and learn a little history along the way. Obviously a lot of time and effort went into producing this film, but honestly I didn’t enjoy it all that much. Here’s why:

The film which was shot as a documentary had no real story line. We occasionally hear from Tanner at Port Huron, but never really learn much about his brewery or at what stage they were at when the movie concluded. I am not really sure what the argument of the movie was other than that a long time ago big breweries automated and made more beer than the little guys and tried to buy them out. I don’t think enough emphasis (if any at all) was put on the fact that prohibition was really the hurdle small brewers couldn’t overcome and what led to their extinction.

The video editing and production in this film left a lot to be desired as well. There were a lot of jump-cuts or strange cross-fades that leave the viewer confused as to what they just saw or if they saw things in the right order. Additionally, Robin Shepard’s interview which was the most used throughout the film was marred by by wind that could have been avoided by interviewing in a better location, with appropriate equipment, or possibly could have been removed during post-production.

The overall point of the movie (as I understood it) was that Wisconsin people like Wisconsin beer. I would have liked to hear from a lot more people on the street or in the bar as to why they might be loyal to Wisconsin breweries. Clearly it is the masses that are shaping the revolution, but their voices seem to be absent from this film which is less than an hour long.

At the $5 I paid to download the film (now $9.99 the next day) I would say it was worth the watch just to see what it was all about, but I don’t think I will watch it again. If you are interested in checking it out you can download it here, but be wary, it comes as a .mov file and might not open on your Mac.

comeback

Big Beard Brewsconsin Beer Review # 6 – Zywiec, Poland’s Number 1 Beer

zywiecZywiec (Gee-vee-ettes) pours a crisp golden color and omits a citrusy lemon zest aroma. The beer itself has a cereal grain taste with a medium to thin body and has a medium bitterness as well. Moderate amounts of noble hops in the flavor profile give this beer a little bit of a spiciness. The beer finishes dry and moderately bitter.

Got the beer as a gift from good friends, one of whom is from Poland, thus I do not know how to rate this beer by price. For what it is, it is good, but not normally my style.

My Beer Advocate Rating 3.4

My Rate Beer Rating 3.3

Big Beard Brewsconsin Beer Review # 5 – Sprecher Citra Bomb

beer_194629What I really like about this beer is that it is out of Sprecher’s normal mode of traditional or German-style brews. It is completely unlike the rest of their brand and even comes in a different bottle. Citra Bomb has a strong malt backbone with a moderately high level of bitterness. Good hop flavor with decent aroma really make the beer fit the IPA style, though it is kind of a tweener between IPA and Imperia and I am not sure the hops came through as much in the aroma as I would expect for 100lbs.

At $6.99/bomber it might be a little much for me to buy again anytime soon, but I am glad to see Sprecher putting out some new and fun stuff.

Good, but not great as per what I expected.

 

My Rate Beer Rating 3.7