Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Monastic Reflections

While we were in South Carolina last week we went wandering round World Market. I like strolling through the food aisles at a World Market, sweets and biscuits from Blighty, sausages and mustard from Germany, Indian curry sauces, all that good stuff. It is also from World Market that I buy my imperial pint nonic glasses from which I do most of my home drinking. Most stores have a decent enough beer section, admittedly with a lot of the usual suspects but still with the occasional engaging rarity.

As we bimbled about, I spied a gift pack of Chimay, bimbling around stores is not something I usually like, but there are exceptions. The gift pack had a 12oz bottle of each of the three Chimay offerings and a branded chalice, which we spent the week referring to as the "shalice".

First a confession, up until last week, Chimay was the only Trappist brewery I had never had a beer from, for some reason I had never bothered to pick them up. As we were on holiday I decided the time was ripe to rectify that little oversight. That night I sat with the "shalice" and drank the three beers, without the aid of a camera and not scribbling notes, though I did put my thoughts into RateBeer (yes, I know I bash the excesses of RateBeer at times, but it has its uses). Don't worry though, I am not going to regurgitate those notes here, other than to say my favourite was the Cinq Cents as it is called over here, or the Blanche as it is called elsewhere.

As I sat sipping the Bleue, I got to thinking about the Trappist beers and which ones are my favourites. While all of them are very nice, I still think it is a toss up between the Rochefort range and those from Achel. Narrowing it down to one from each monastery, I would go for the Rochefort 8 and Achel 8 Bruin, and trying to choose from those two is nigh on impossible. Perhaps I will soon buy myself a cowl and surplice to use the packet of Trappist High Gravity yeast I have in the fridge.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Pubs Are Great

As I am sure you are aware, last week was Thanksgiving, and Mrs V and I jumped in the car on Tuesday afternoon and went to Columbia, SC, to spend the holiday with her family. The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday and the shops have insane sales which encourage slaves to consumerism to unleash their base natures in random acts of violence. I went to the pub instead, and walked seven and a half miles into the bargain, for which I got an over fizzy pint of Boston Lager, a St Bernardus Abt which smelt distinctly of caramelised bananas, and Left Hand's wonderful Sawtooth utterly abominated by the use of nitro. Oh, I almost forgot, I got a bloody huge blister as well. At least the bratwurst in a bun was top notch.

Despite the less than stellar drinking experience, my few hours sat in the Flying Saucer in Columbia, reminded me of why I love going to the pub. I was sat in a comfy, battered old armchair with my book, lost in the world of the Scots language with barely a care in the world. The Saucer wasn't wildly busy, there were a few people in watching the American Football, the service was efficient and in the midst of it all I could shut everything and everyone out for a wee while.

On Saturday night we met up with friends at Hunter Gatherer, Columbia's only brewpub and quite possibly my favourite place to go for a drink in the city. Again it was everything a pub should be, a laid back atmosphere, efficient staff and good food and booze - their ESB is fast becoming a favourite of mine, and their seasonal stout was a good solid offering. Thankfully one of the things that gets right up my nose didn't happen. There have been occasions when the service in a pub has been abysmal when they discover you won't be ordering food straight off the bat.

Both these trips to the pub got me thinking that there is so much more to a good pub than just an impressive selection of taps. A proper pub is place where you can socialise with your friends or bury yourself in the corner with a book and really doesn't matter because you get well treated either way.

Friday, November 25, 2011

My Local - Guest Blog

We're staying in the UK for this week's guest blog. Ten Inch Wheels chronicles life in London from the perspective of a Yorkshireman and goes beyond being a blog just about beer. It is always a good read, and his photos are excellent as well, so I heartily recommend reading more of his posts, once you have read the one below of course!

You're home. As you walk up the slope from the station platform, an inch of snow crunches underfoot. The Pennine air is fresh and frigid, biting your face. Snowflakes hang in the streetlights. You turn left onto East Parade, the pub windows glowing a hundred yards away. Through the doors and the heat from the coal fire wraps round you like a blanket. A nod from one of the regulars. 'Yes, love?' from the barmaid.

Locals aren't always local. Mine's about 230 miles, give or take, from where I live - but The Boltmakers Arms in my home town of Keighley is my 'local'. You'll have heard of Keighley because of Timothy Taylor. Taylor's is - but me no buts - the greatest brewery on earth, and the Bolts (as it is universally known) is their de-facto brewery tap. It's a tiny pub - really a converted cottage - and almost always busy. Some nights it can be so packed it's difficult to get your pint to your mouth. If you're lucky you can snag a seat by the open fire. It doesn't matter if you're on your own. This is Yorkshire. If you haven't got your nose in the paper, someone will want to chat.

I've known the Bolts a long time. When I first started going in, it had been run for years by Eric French. Kept a good pint, did Eric. His main punters came from the printworks over the road and the mill round the back. Both long gone. I think I was the only one who liked the decor as it was back then; a palimpsest of decades of Taylor's ad hoc makeovers - Red vinyl benches, formica tables and Bakelite lampshades. When Eric retired The Bolts had a couple of wilderness years and a refit before the current guv'nor Phil Booth took over. The Taylor's pumps are front and centre on the bar. You'll never find a better pint of Landord. No, really you won't. I've looked. Phil pours a pint of Taylor's flagship brew to such forensic perfection it can make a returning native weep.

The Bolts is one of about five Taylor pubs in the town centre. They're all good, but there's something very special about the Bolts. Something you can't quite define that makes it all just right. Maybe it's the easy bonhomie between the generations - the flat cap chatting with the baseball cap. That fire, or even the size of the place which helps you feel as comfortable as you would in your own living room. Ultimately at all comes down to it being a classic town pub that happens to serve extraordinarily good beer. And you can't ask for much more than that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Vintage Time!

I can't remember where I read it, perhaps Pete Brown's "Hops and Glory", but there is a story that in the making of the British Empire there were two foodstuffs that were vital, beef and beer. Wherever we founded a colony we sourced the local beef, but made sure that the beer came from home - random thought, imagine if under the reign of George I there had been a United Kingdom of Great Britain, Ireland and Hannover, some of those old beer styles might still be around.

Whether the English that came to the New World landed in Virginia with a view to making money or further north to establish a colony of Puritans, they all brought their beer with them. Mourt's Relation, the major primary source for the Plymouth Colony, says that they chose their final landfall partly as a result of running low on beer. English beer clearly had a reputation with some of the native Americans as it was one of the first things asked for by Samoset, having strolled through the woods and greeted the newcomers in their own tongue.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and is the day when my Samoset Vintage is officially ready for drinking. I say "officially" because I took a bottle to our homebrew club prior to entering it in the Virginia Beer Blitz to help me decide whether it is an old ale or a barleywine. I am aware that in reality there is no difference, but I had to choose the most suitable BJCP sub-category. The beer itself received an Honorable Mention, so I guess it is pretty good!

On top of a base of Munton's light DME, I added chocolate malt, Briess Special Roast and Caramel 40. The hopping was a blend of Admiral, Northern Brewer and East Kent Goldings, to give me 59 IBUs and all that was fermented with my good friend Nottingham. I ended up with an abv of 9.3%. Bottled in January, it has sat in the cellar at a fairly steady 60 degrees Fahrenheit for 11 months.

Next weekend I will be brewing the 2011 vintage, the recipe really hasn't been finalised yet, though with the size of mash tun being somewhat on the small side, I will be using more DME to bump the gravity.

Well, rather than wittering on, have a happy Thanksgiving people!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Of Horses and Ships

My good friend Max over at Pivni Filosof is asking the following question today on his blog:

"If you had a brewery with a capacity of 3-5hl a batch, what sort of beer would you have as your "workhorse"* and which would be your "flagship" and why?"

As a beer lover and homebrewer it is the kind of question which inevitably crops up fairly often, usually though in the context of the kinds of brews that would form the core range. Having to decide though on two beers to really be the heart of the line up is more challenging.

As with any business plan, it is important to consider your market and what they expect when they drink beer from your brewery. It would be all too simple to say, I live in America therefore I need a big hoppy pale ale. You have to remember that I live in Virginia, and so what are the local beer tastes? Given the success of the core ranges of Devils Backbone, Starr Hill and Blue Mountain, one thing is clear - lager has a following in this neck of the woods.

Again it would be too simple to extraoplate from that and give in to my love of Czech lagers by making my workhorse something akin to Budvar or the magnificent Kout na Šumavě desitka. I am not convinced that the majority of the American public really understand pilsner lagers, equating them with brands like Miller and Budweiser.

Dark lagers though are very much taken to, if our experience of brewing Morana and the Barclays London Dark Lager at Devils Backbone was anything to go on. Both 10 hectolitre batches sold out in less than a month if I recall. Thus I would  make my workhorse beer a Czech tmavé.

As for my flagship beer, I think this is the right venue for allowing my preferences more rein, and so this decision is easier in many ways, though my market still needs to be considered. I love history and brewing beers based on recipes from years gone by, so my flagship beer would be something from the 19th century, some from Scotland perhaps, something to confound the expectations of know it all beer bores who think Scottish beer is all about sweetness and a lack of hops. I would recreate William Younger's 140/- ale from 1868, which Ron Pattinson wrote about.

So there you go, a dark lager and a historic beer to mess with peoples preconceived notions of a nation's brewing traditions.

Friday, November 18, 2011

My Local - Guest Blog

This week's guest post on the theme of "my local" comes from pithy blogger, beer taster, beer retailer and one of the few people I know with a beer named after him - Zak Avery. Over to you Zak......

To me, there's a clear difference between "your local" and "your favourite".

To get to my local, I walk for about 4 minutes. To get to my favourite - depending on which favourite you mean - is anything from a 20 minute busride to a longhaul flight. Even then, I'm cheating a bit, because I walk past two pubs to get to "my local", The Black Bull in Rothwell.

The Black Bull is typical of good, suburban British pubs. Everything about it is instantly familiar, from the almost-lurid pattern of the brown and red carpet to the elbow-height, dark wooden wainscotting. True to type, there is a bit of exposed brickwork, and an area of bare floorboards that leads up to, and around, the bar. At 6.30 on a wet Thursday evening, there is already an assortment of drinkers assembled, but the pub is quiet. The gleaming chrome fonts offer familiar megabrands, the optics on the wooden barback are the usual suspects. The selection is nothing to write home about.

Of course, there's a reason that I walk past two pubs to get to this one. It's not the slightly-too-loud jukebox, the quiz machine, the Sky Sports TVs, the raised area with the pool table. It is, of course, the beer. Ordinary, beautiful, humble, dazzling British bitter. They have three handpumps, and will rotate beers through them with a decent amount of speed - tonight there are only two on, which is as it should be mid-week. It's better to offer one cask ale in perfect condition than three that are past their best, and The Black Bull knows that. I've never had a bad pint here. Tonight, I'm drinking Adnams Southwold Bitter, in an Adnams glass, at the perfect temperature. Other times, Tetley's Bitter (in a Tetley's glass), Acorn Barnsley Bitter (in an Acorn glass), Ossett Excelsior (in an Ossett glass).

The Black Bull is an ur-pub, outside of fashion and trend. This is the sort of place that any visitor to the UK should try to experience in order to get an insight into the real drinking culture of the country. While I love drinking in beer geek bars (and I use that term with love), while I love being asked "This is £9 a pint, is that OK?", while I love the current preoccupation with offering the best Scotch egg known to humanity as a humble bar snack ("This Scotch egg's a fiver, is that OK?"), I also love the brilliant simplicity of a pub that just wants to be a good, ordinary pub serving good, ordinary beer.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Plea for Beer

Swiss theologian Karl Barth wrote, in volume 1 of his Church Dogmatics, that people are not able to "let God be God". I wonder at times if we have the same affliction in the beer loving community? Are we incapable of simply letting beer be beer?

I have written before that I think the term "craft beer" is daft and that I believe "microbrew" to be effectively meaningless. All that is truly important, at the end of the day, in the beer world is not how much beer a brewery makes, whether or not the company making the beer is foreign owned, publicly traded or a cooperative or even the form of dispense a brewer deems most suitable for his or her product. The defining aspect of any beer is the desire for more.

I have had many a beer from a "small, independent and traditional" brewery, to use the Brewers Association's definition of a "craft brewery", which sucked, just as I have enjoyed plenty of beer from the multinational corporations which form an effective Anti-Craft in the minds of some. The things which surround the liquid in the glass are just that, peripheral.

Rather than rambling on, I'll let Monty Python describe the situation far more clearly that I can....

Monday, November 14, 2011

Necessary Session Brewing

When I started brewing my own beer, in admittedly miniscule amounts, back in 2009 it was to fill a gap in my beer drinking life. As you probably know, my first beer love was stout, and given the paucity of warm fermented beers being brewed in the Czech Republic at the time, I decided to take things into my own hands. That first batch of beer was a dark mild kit that I added some rauchmalt to and used a different yeast to the one in that came with it. I would like to think that I am a better brewer today than I was then, but that core reason for making beer is still part of my reason for doing so, I want to make the beers that are not readily available in the shops.

I try to be proactive and brew my own bitters, milds, alts and anything else that can be tricky to find commercially. However, I do spend quite a bit of time wondering why more craft brewers aren't making these styles? I tend to think there are two possible answers to that question. Firstly that there genuinely is no market for sessionable beers and secondly that the only way to be recognised in the bigger picture is to do something more extreme than the last brewer, a beery keeping up with the Joneses if you will.

I have posted before that I am not convinced that there is no market for sessionable beers in the US, after all, the vast majority of beer drunk in this country is below the 4.5% abv threshold for session beer. Admittedly there is a very vocal minority of beer drinkers who deride anything that doesn't rape your tongue and leave you on your arse after half a pint, but they, like most blinkered fundamentalists, are unrepresentative of the wider beer drinking community. Of course, it is much easier to drink a six pack of some 10% abv monster beer sat at your kitchen table because negotiating your way to bed doesn't involve being in control of motorised transport. Being a pub-goer then becomes difficult because you have to keep in mind that too much of a big hitter can get you into trouble, but then the pubs don't help by having banks of taps with nothing under 6.5% - a quick aside, I did a little study on the average strength of brewers' wares over here and 6.7% abv seems to be a fairly consistent average.

Another point that seems to mitigate against session beer is price, and people's attitude to getting the biggest bang for their buck. For many, given the choice of paying $6 for a pint of a 7% IPA over a 4% stout, they will go for the IPA because it will get them to where they want to be, quicker. On the basis of paying a consistent price for each percentage of alcohol by volume, the 4% stout would be about $3.50 per pint. Personally I believe that beer prices in the States are artificially high as a result of the three tier system in place, whereby a brewery sells to a distributor, who in turn sells to the retailer. Each company has to make a profit, and so the mark up gets shifted down to the consumer. Interestingly though, it is not unusual to see higher pricing for higher gravity or special beers, and yet no lower pricing for session beers. I suppose then, there is an element of truth to the claim that "there is no market" for more sessionable beers, simply because that market has been stifled by ridiculous pricing conventions, not to mention that the brewing industry does not enjoy the benefits of being a free market.

That then is one of the contributing factors to my ongoing desire to make low alcohol beers that taste good, because the options in the commercial beer world are, at the moment, quite limited. Admittedly it is getting better, thanks to the work of Lew Bryson, and those brewers prepared to stick their necks out and make something which is unextreme, perhaps unsexy but most definitely very drinkable, which is after all the main point of beer, the drinking.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Guest Blog - My Local

This week's guest blog is by Leslie from Texas, the person behind Lushtastic and one of Houston's leading bloggers, so rather me wittering on, I hand you over to her:

When I first discovered an old gas station turned coffee shop, turned amazing craft beer bar, nestled in the quiet Garden Oaks neighborhood of Houston, I was in love. The Petrol Station*, with their laid back atmosphere, 2 huge patios, rumors of expansion and possible brewpub dreams, great food menu (get the garlic-parmesan fries with everything), and ever evolving and changing craft beer selection, I knew there wouldn’t be another place I loved in this town more to get my craft beer fix.

I started frequenting Petrol after a visit with my dear friends, Christine and Jordan, and now I feel like family. Troy, the best beertender ever, knows the styles I like to drink and always has a recommendation for me when I can’t decide (which is often, as I am quite indecisive with their list). He even made a Chocolate Yeti “Beeramisu”, with homemade marscapone, for my friend Cathy’s birthday party we had there.

Not only is Petrol a perfect place to drink a delicious craft beer and eat yummy tacos (the special on Tuesdays), owner Ben Fullelove goes out of his way to acquire seriously awesome beers for other events, like the Dogfish Head Scavenger Hunt he hosted in October of 2010, that featured a different rare, vintage Dogfish beer at a different bar each day, some to take home, some to drink on premise (Texas law says if an establishment has a mixed-liquor license, no beers are available to-go). I participated in the hunt every day for 10 days, figured out the clues, knew the password and had all the beers. I got a sweet t-shirt and a 4pack of beer out of it too.

Petrol sells growlers too, a few times a year they offer a limited number of these to-go containers and they always feature an entertaining graphic. It has become almost a cult following of Houston beer nerds, everyone trying their hardest to collect all of the Petrol growlers. The last round involved selling them out of the trunk of Ben's classic Lincoln across the street from the bar in their parking lot, and sold out in something like 15 minutes.

Then there are Ben’s beer dinners. Coming up for Houston Beer Week in November, he is collaborating with Jonathan Jones of Xuco Xicana to face-off in a beer dinner vs. beer dinner against Kevin Floyd of Anvil and forthcoming Hay Merchant, who is teamed up with Chris Shepherd of the upcoming Underbelly. It will include 10 courses and 10 beers, and it is sure to be epic. Previously, he has worked with Chef Jones on two beer dinners, I attended both and they were fabulous. The first one took place during Houston Beer Week in 2010 and the second was earlier this year in March. Both of them paired rare beers (to our market) with fabulous creations from Chef Jones. I have been to some great beer dinners in my time of enjoying craft beers, but these take the cake, by far.

When someone asks me where to go in Houston for good beer, good food, or a good patio, I always recommend Petrol. Hell, I recommend Petrol for almost anything, I have all of my blog interviews there and any meetings I can possibly schedule there as well. The only downside, if you aren't a regular and used to it, may be the wait time for food when they are busy. Their small kitchen seriously limits how much food they can make quickly during busy times. These guys take their time, but I have never seen that as a bad thing, only an indication that the food is fresh, made-to-order and always stellar.

*Petrol Station, 985 Wakefield Drive, Houston, Texas, 77018

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Getting Old

One of my most precious beer memories comes not from the hospody of Prague, the brewpubs of Nelson County or even the pubs of Kent on a sunny day. Rather, it comes from an arts festival in Berlin in 2008, when wandering around eating various types of wurst I spied the name Schumacher Alt and made a bee line for it. What followed was a revelation, a beer with the flavours that I love in a warm fermented beer with the crisp dry  finish and prominent hop bite that I love in a Pilsner.

The manly brew of which I speak is of course altbier, which as everybody and his uncle knows translates as "old beer", as opposed to the pale lager which was in the mid 19th century, new. I could argue here that 19th century pale lager was the craft beer of the day, but that would be too much fun.

Ever since I started homebrewing, I have wanted to make an altbier. As I am prone to do, I spent hours poring over style descriptions, the websites of alt luminaries such as Schumacher and Zum Uerige and various other media in order to get a real handle on how my project would shape up. From the outset I knew that I wanted to brew a straight up alt, not a sticke, doppelsticke or any other derivation thereon. I wanted a reasonably sessionable beer, call me crazy but I actively like drinking.

The one sticking point though has been the absence of a refrigeration chamber for lagering the beer in. Recently though I had a idea, and yes it hurt. I quite often buy 2.5 gallon bottles of water for brewing with, and so I wondered if I would be able to fit the 2.2 gallons of beer that I get out of a batch, once it is off the trub, into one such bottle.

As you can see, the hole in the bottle is in a slightly awkward place, so with a measured 1 gallon jug, I poured 2.3 gallons of water into a used bottle and hey presto, it comes to about half an inch below the hole. Suddenly I found myself with a surplus of lagering vessels, but still no refrigeration chamber. Then again the power of the mind fell upon me, with excruciating vehemence this time, I have a fridge! Any spare water in the bottles after brewing, I would store in the fridge, simply turn the bottle upside down and it should work fine, so I put the bottle in the fridge, and as you can see, I have a viable lagering system! Well, viable for doing altbier and kölsch, which is just as well as they are styles I really like.

Having solved my little lagering issue, I finally got round to designing a recipe for the beer itself, and here it is:
  • 50% Bohemian Pilsner Malt
  • 49% Munich Malt
  • 1% Carafa III
  • 31 IBU of Spalt Select for 90 minutes
  • 4 IBU of Spalt Select for 20 minutes
  • Wyeast 1007 German Ale liquid yeast
Apparently, this will give me the following details with my system
  • OG - 1.048
  • FG - 1.012
  • SRM - 13 (copper to red)
  • ABV - 4.8%
I will be brewing this beer, which I am calling Old Cobbler's, on Saturday, and then lagering it for all of December. When we get back from our Christmas trip to France, I will bottle it in preparation for being able to drink again after my annual beer fast, which many people call "January".

Monday, November 7, 2011

Utter Bollocks

I read an article this morning about why the writer has never drunk Budweiser. As I skimmed through, admittedly at the point of giving up with the rest of the article as it bashed all things Anheuser-Busch, it offered a description of the origins of Bud. Apparently Bud was created to satisfy the desire for the new pale lager style that was sweeping the world, the style in question was

"watery Pilsner, a style that originated in Czechoslovakia as a ladies’ beer; a wimpy alternative for the delicate palates of proper Czech ladies who couldn’t stand the big German Alts and Lagers or the muscular Belgian ales."

Now, I have read over the years an awful lot of shit about Pilsner, but this one takes the sušenka (that's Czech for biscuit by the way). Where to start? At the beginning is always good. In the late 1830s, fed up with the inconsistent quality of their warm fermented brews, the good people of Pilsen, to use the city's name at the time, smashed open barrels of beer in protest. The Burgers of the city, with an eye for opportunity, started the Bürgerbrauerei, and hired a Bavarian lager brewer by the name of Josef Groll to come and make a new Pilsner Bier. Are you with me so far?

With the brewery built and ready to start production in 1842, Josef Groll set to work with the local ingredients, pale Moravian malt, hops from the nearby Saaz region, Pilsen's incredibly soft water and a Bavarian yeast - either brought by a dodgy monk a la mythology, or more likely brought from his dad's brewery in Vilshofen. All this took place in a country that no longer exists, Austria, or at least the Austrian Empire (which only became the Austro-Hungarian Empire some 20 years later). The Czechoslovakia in which Pilsen would become Plzeň would not exist for another 77 years, and it would gone in fewer years than that to become the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

169 years ago this Friday, Josef Groll's beer was first tapped in Pilsen, and it caused a sensation because the colour was much paler than any lager the Austrian Empire had seen up to that point, the previous palest lager was Anton Dreher's Vienna lager, which was a touch darker. Thus Pilsner Urquell was born, not as a ladies beer, but as the new beer for a city entering the industrial revolution, a drink for the workers.

But what about the altbiers, the German lagers and Belgian ales that were available for them to drink in their beer geek cafes on the back streets of Pilsen? Why didn't they just drink those instead? Well, you are a smart, intelligent person, so you know I am taking the piss a bit there. The term "altbier" has a very young provenance, around the same time as Pilsner in fact - and only came about as a result of the new craze for pale lager sweeping the German speaking world. But altbier is manly and tough don't you know? Well, kind of I guess, if you like beers that are 4.6% abv, about 40 IBUs of noble hops and lagered for a couple of months, because everyone knows that the extra 0.2% abv between Pilsner Uruqell and Schumacher Alt makes all the difference in gender specificity for beer. Perhaps manliness is defined by the colour of the beer you drink, good to be a stout drinker I guess!

Anyway, you get the point. If you are going to make ridiculous claims about beer styles from far away lands about which you know nothing, at least do a modicum of research in advance rather than repeating your nonsensical, unlearned drivel. Unless of course you are planning to work on the second edition of the Oxford Companion to Beer.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Finding A Local - Guest Blog

Today sees the beginning of a new series of guest blogs here on Fuggled. Taking on the theme of "My Local" the bloggers I have invited will be talking about the pub scene where they live. So rather than me wittering on much longer, I will hand over to the first guest bloggers of the series, Boak and Bailey:

We've just moved to Penzance which is a really, really long way from London -- a short bus ride from Land's End, in fact; in the Atlantic; near America.

With all of our friends hundreds of miles away, as the nights draw in, and the sea starts to crash over the promenade, we're beginning to realise just how much we're going to need a friendly local pub.

But which will it be?

Our actual local -- the nearest pub geographically -- is described online as "grubby inside, grubby outside, and with a hostile atmosphere". It certainly doesn't look welcoming. We're going to give it a miss.

So, downright rough pubs aside, based on what we've seen so far, we've got a choice of lovely pubs with bad beer, or soulless pubs with good beer.

The long-term project is to drink in the lovely pubs often enough that we get to know the landlords and then explain why we only ever drink Budvar from bottles. If that goes well and we "do a Barm", our problem might be solved.

As it is, we've more-or-less decided that, spiritually speaking, our local is a 20 minute bus ride away in a village on the way to St Ives. The beer is great, the regulars are chatty, and the landlord, who brews out back, is happy to geek out about hops with us.

If only it were nearer... As it is, we'll probably never be able to go often enough to earn the sacred right to hang our own glass behind the bar, or be greeted by name when we walk through the door.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Running for Stout

International Stout Day is now but a day away. When I learnt about the project, I contacted several pubs in Charlottesville to see if they were doing anything special, and hopefully to persuade them that having multiple stouts available would be a good thing. For the sake of full disclosure, this may have been an act of unrepentant self interest - I love stout and am always happy to see more of it on tap in my favourite drinking holes.

Naturally, the first place I asked was Beer Run, and of course they have extra stouts on tap in honour of the day. Making a guest return is the world's most famous stout brand, Guinness, which has been replaced of late with a rotation of other stouts. Where would International Stout Day be though without a nod to Guinness?

Also on draft will be Founder's Breakfast Stout (I am assuming a little here as it was a picture of Breakfast Stout that Beer Run used to advertise their draft stouts). I have to admit that I have never tried this one before, it is, I believe, an Oatmeal Stout, so I imagine I will enjoy it muchly when I swing by tomorrow. The third stout on tap is Beer Run's regular strong stout, Bluegrass Brewing Company's Bourbon Barrel Stout. I don't often partake in the Bourbon Barrel, mainly because at about 9% abv, it packs too much of wallop to have a few pints and then drive home.

In a nod to the history of stout, Beer Run will also have a few porters on tap - and while talking about the difference between the two styles, I recommend Martyn Cornell's excellent post on the subject. On draft will be porters from Flying Dog, Troegs and Left Hand.

Plenty of dark goodness to be had then at Beer Run. What are other Charlottesville pubs up to? What about your locals? Anything good going down to honour my joint favourite beer style?

Late update: just heard from the guys (or possibly gals) at Beer Run, that there will be no capping fee on any bottled stout tomorrow! Trust me, they have an excellent selection to choose from.

Of Bostonian Beer...

 A couple of weeks ago I was up in Boston for a work related conference. Having only ever been to the city for a few hours previously, to vi...