Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Search for the 2010 Beerdrinker of the Year

Just a quick note for you beer lovers out there seeking to be the next Beerdrinker of the Year. Your beer resumes need to be emailed into the Wynkoop no later than Thursday, December 31st. Your resume must include your beer philosophy, details on your passion for beer, and your 2009 beer experiences. It should "detail the entrant's understanding of beer and its history and importance to civilization, and the entrant's efforts to educate others to the joys of great beer." And all of this can not exceed three 8.5 x 11" pages in 12-point font. There are a few other rules, so make sure and check out the official Beerdrinker of the Year web site for all of the details.

As an example, and to view the resume that got me into the finals, check out my 2009 resume. All of the beer resumes received by the Wynkoop are reviewed and thinned down to the top 10, at which point they are sent out to a panel of experts around the country to select the three finalists. Those lucky three will be flown to Denver for the finals on February 27th, 2010, at which time seven wigged & robed judges (of which I will be one) will ultimately select the winner.

The winner will receive free beer for life at the Wynkoop, $250 at their local brewpub or beer bar, apparel, and their name will be engraved on the Beerdrinker of the Year trophy at the Wynkoop Brewery.

A good resume will take some work, so hopefully you've already started, or are touching up a previous year's application. (I submitted a resume in 1997 and 2005 before my 2009 resume got me to the finals.) If you are reading this blog you are surely a beer lover, and I encourage all of you to take a shot at the ultimate beer accolade!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Primo Beer!

Growing up in Montana in the mid '80s, listening to the Surf Punks was the closest thing most of my buddies and I got to visiting a beach. I can't remember the specific song (help me out if you know), but in the middle of one of their pieces, a band member interjects, "Primo Beer". I always thought he just meant, "great beer". But then I was informed by one of my more worldly friends that Primo was a brand of Hawaiian beer. (Remember brah, our exposure to island culture was limited - so I didn't know any of this.) That was 25 years ago, but I still remember this clearly.

Well, I just returned from our 50th state, and I finally saw, and had the pleasure to drink, a Primo! This is somewhat weird, because I was in Hawaii three years ago, drank plenty of beer, and never saw that brand on any bar or restaurant's beer list. If anyone has more background on these guys, please add a comment. This brewery dates back to the late 1800s, but I believe they were silent for some time. Anyway, they're back. And that is a good thing. What I expected was a bland American-style mass produced lager-type of beer. It was light, clean and refreshing, to be expected given Hawaii's climate, but a touch richer in color than the garden variety mass produced lager. The flavor was also pleasing with more body than the big guys. This is all off of memory, because I did not take notes, but very pleasing and refreshing. If you can find a Primo give it a shot and let me know what you think. I'd call it a superior, local substitute for the big guys when you're on the islands.

Now I'd like to segue from clean & light beer to coconuts. There are now several breweries in Hawaii (nine according to http://beervana.blogspot.com). Probably the best known is Kona Brewing. During my short stay on this trip I sampled a Coco Loco Coconut Brown Ale from Kona Brewing, and I also found another coconut beer, Maui Brewing Co's Coconut Porter.

First I'll start with Maui's Coconut Porter. Their motto printed on the bottom of the can is "...Like hot chicks on the beach." I'm not sure how that relates to their beer, but it is fine with me. This 5.7% abv beer won a gold medal in the Herb & Spice Beer category at the 2006 World Beer Cup competition. For a moderate strength beer, it packed a lot of flavor. The coconut used in this beer is "hand toasted" according to the label. I could detect some coconut flavor, but in my opinion it lent more of a toasty or roasted barley type of flavor to the beer than anything else. The coconut played the same role as roasted barley and turned the Porter into more of a Stout tasting beer. It was a very pleasant, albeit heavy, beer. It probably even tasted better, because I drank it at LuLu's Surf Club in Waikiki as I watched the sun set into the ocean. It doesn't get much better than that.

The second coconut beer I had that evening was Coco Loco Coconut Brown Ale from Kona Brewing. Coco Loco was a much different beer than the porter. Basically a traditional Brown Ale, but spiced with coconut. I was not able to detect the coconut in the flavor nearly as much as I picked it up on the nose. Very effervescent. A very "tropical beer" aroma if there is such a thing. Much lighter and more refreshing than the Porter, and like the Porter, also an excellent beer. I'm not much of a gadget beer guy, but after seeing two coconut beers in the same day, I figured it must be some sort of a Hawaiian specialty and that I should try them. It was a pleasant change up.

Securely on board with the craft beer movement, Hawaii now has something to offer beer lovers. Most bars still serve the obligatory brands (Stella, Bud, etc.), but if you like to drink local, try out Primo for something light and refreshing, or hunt down an offering from one of the other craft breweries, which usually offer the full slate of traditional styles from Golden Ales, to Hefeweizens, to Pale Ales, to Stouts.

Enough about Hawaii. Tomorrow morning I'm off to Montana for Christmas where it is safe to say I probably won't be watching any sunsets into the ocean. I'm trading in my Aloha shirt for Sorels.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Beer of the Month Clubs

One of the things that really helped me learn more about beer and beer styles was being member of a “beer of the month” club.  Two friends and I signed up for such a club back in 2000 (it was originally a Michael Jackson club, and was later purchased by C&H Clubs Inc.) and we’ve been members ever since.  I’ll never forget our first shipment.  It was a beer that, at the time, I had never heard of – Olde Suffolk by the Greene King Brewery in Bury St. Edmunds in England.  This beer blew me away.  It is Old Ale made by blending a two-year-old oak aged beer called Old 5X and their Best Pale Ale (BPA).  Though once common, the practice of blending is now very rare in England.  (But still widely practiced in Belgium.)  Olde Suffolk is a very complex dark ale, providing a slight oaky tartness along with earthy hops, a sold malt body, hints of dark sugars, and a mineraly English finish.  Needless to say I was sold on the club after this first shipment.  Not all of the selections have been as good as the first (that would be an impossible task), but their selections seldom disappoint.

Joining as a team like my friends and I did helps us keep the cost down while still getting to sample new, usually difficult or impossible to find, beers each month.  Initially we were subscribed in the International category, where we received two six-packs of two different beers each month.  So we each got four beers – two each of two different types.  Recently we switched to the International & Domestic category where we each get four different beers – two of which are domestic and two that are International.  It doesn’t sounds like much, but our club allows us to order more of any particular beer, so if we find a special gem in our monthly selection there is a way to get more.  Anyway, the point is, there are different categories and options to suit different beer drinker tastes.

I love variety, so this club has been perfect for me.  Not only do we get four different types of beers each month, but also they are often styles that may be something we would pass up at the liquor store.  So we’re “forced” at times to try something we normally would not think of.  Obviously some offerings are better than others, but I’ve never been disappointed, even on the styles I would have never though of buying on my own.  And each shipment comes with history about the style and the brewery, as well as tasting notes and suggestions for things like serving temperature, serving glass and food pairings.  So it is truly a learning experience that really helps develop beer knowledge as well as a better understanding of history and geography.

Our club costs $43/month, or about $14 per person.  I handle the payment, delivery and distribution.  My counterparts direct deposit their payment into my bank account each month so we don’t have to worry about much about exchanging money.   So we enjoy teaming up.  With that said, most probably join alone.  No problem with that either - more beer for them!

If you want to sample unique specialties every month and learn more about beer in general, I highly recommend such a club.  (I’m a long time member that has enjoyed it so much I joined a second club of theirs called the Rare Beer Club.  It is similar except I receive two rare specialties, usually strong beers packaged in cork finished champagne bottles.)  If you’re not sure how well you’ll like such a club, start off with a three-month subscription and try it out.  You may end up like me and still be a member nine years later.  Since Christmas is right around the corner, it also makes a great gift for any hard-to-shop-for beer lover.  For more information about C&H’s Beer of the Month club visit their web site at http://www.beermonthclub.com/join-gift.htm.  I’m not advocating any particular club; these guys are just the ones I’m familiar with.  If you have other recommendations, please drop a comment.