Sunday, February 28, 2010

2010 Beerdrinker of the Year - Bill Howell

Bill Howell of Sterling, Alaska was anointed 2010 Beerdrinker of the Year at yesterday’s National Finals held in the Mercantile Room of the Wynkoop Brewery. All three finalists (the other two being Phil Farrell of Cumming, Georgia and Logan Perkins of Denver, Colorado) proved that they were more than worthy to be on the national stage with their deep knowledge of all things related to beer. Bill used a combination of wit, knowledge, passion, and a strong commitment to improve the beer culture in the remote Kenai Peninsula community to edge out the competition.

As the winner Bill will receive, among other things, $250 to spend at his home pub (St. Elias Brewing Company in Soldotna, Alaska), a beer brewed in his honor by the Wynkoop for next year’s competition, free beer for life at the Wynkoop Brewery, and worldwide recognition. It is always tough to not win, but Phil and Logan should be very proud of their performance too. Both were entertaining and exhibited great beer passion and knowledge. I really enjoyed spending the weekend with all three of the finalists.

This year was much less nerve racking for me than last year. Driving in from Golden to Denver with Joycelyn for the finals, all I could think of is how much of a mess I was last year. I’m relieved that I won last year on my first attempt in the Finals, and that I don’t have to be a contestant again. This year I was one of the six judges and did my best to help make the competition fun, educational, and tried to ask relevant questions. It was fun being on the other side with such a prestigious panel. (The other five judges were Andy Brown, Wynkoop Head Brewer, Jill Redding, Brewer’s Association, Tom Ciccateri, 2005 winner, Jamie Magee, Yankee Brewing News, and Rich Grant, Visit Denver.) Keep an eye out for more photos and footage of the competition that will come out in the next few days. Beertap TV was back this year filming, the Wynkoop will soon put out a press release, and there were a number of other press organizations in attendance covering the event. And once again, congratulations Bill!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Beer Buzz #66

Here is the episode of Beer Buzz that was just released today - filmed in my basement.

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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Taste Buds #185

Beertap TV just published the Taste Buds program we filmed last week.  Check it out!

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

BeerTap TV

Last Saturday I had the great honor to work with Erik, Eli, Dusty and David of Beertap TV and help them shoot a couple episodes of their great beer-focused programs. After winning the Beerdrinker of the Year last February, Erik asked me if they could shoot a show from my basement. It took us almost an entire year to find a date that worked for all of us, but it finally came together. The gang van pooled up from Colorado Springs to Golden and set up their studio equipment in my downstairs pub & brewery. We filmed three programs – Beer Buzz, Taste Buds, and the first ever installment of a new program they are working on called “Manctuaries.”

Beertap TV is the largest beer-related Internet “television” site in the world. Their shows provide a great resource for beer lovers and interesting content from beer events around the country as well as some great interviews with beer legends. After about 45 minutes of setup, we started by filming an episode of Taste Buds. Taste Buds is a relatively short (10 minutes) weekly segment where the guys sample a specific beer and discuss its qualities. For this episode Erik, Dusty and I sampled Odell’s India Barley Wine. Odell touts it as being part Double IPA and part Barley Wine. It was an excellent strong ale that I found to lean more toward the DIPA side than BW. It was aggressively hopped and carbonated, was relatively light in color (amber), and had a light body with subdued malt notes. Definitely not an old school Barley Wine, but I’m sure the brewers at Odell were shooting for something more on the “India” side. It is a very creative new beer.
Next we filmed an episode of Beer Buzz featuring Erik, Eli and I. Beer Buzz is a longer segment that discusses beer related news and upcoming beer events. During Beer Buzz the guys usually drink a mix of different beers, and I was honored that Erik and Eli wanted to sample some of my home brewed offerings. During the course of the show we consumed my Oaked Golden Strong Ale – a dry hopped Belgian-style ale aged with light toasted oak, my Belgian Dubbel – a Rochefort 8-esque beer, a Strong Scotch Ale that I brewed for our New Year’s Eve party, and finally a Flemish-style Sour Brown Ale. I am proud to say Erik and Eli honestly enjoyed my creations. The main point of discussion for the show was the upcoming Beerdrinker of the Year National Finals. That competition will take place at the Wynkoop Brewery on Saturday, February 27th at 2 pm. Of course Beertap TV will be there to cover the event.

The final program we shot was a new series the guys are working on called “Manctuaries.” Think MTV Cribs for beer lovers. This was fun because they followed me around my basement and we got to talk about the beer hall and brewery that my wife and I have been building over the past ten years. As usual Joycelyn was a trooper and had fun with the guys all day during the filming. Which isn’t too hard, because Erik, Eli, Dusty and David are all great guys and a complete hoot to be around. And I love what they are doing for the beer community with Beertap TV. If you’re ever bored, surf over to their site to keep up to date on what is going on in the beer world, or learn about a new beer you’ve maybe never tried. Register on their site and you will receive email notifications when they upload new content. The shows are always entertaining. Our Taste Buds segment will air Tuesday, and the Beer Buzz segment will air on Thursday.

(Note, after writing this entry, Erik informed me they had a mixer problem and the sound for the Beer Buzz and Taste Buds segments was unusable. Both had to be trashed. Total bummer! Anyway, Erik and David came back up and we re-taped the segments with different content than I described above. I’ll post the links when available.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Who is James Boag?

My buddy Jim Escalante was just in Australia a couple of months ago, and in addition to bringing me back a jar of Vegemite, he tipped me off to a great brewery that I needed to visit - the James Squire brewery in Sydney. Their Sydney Brewhouse is located in the King Street Warf on Darling Harbour. The restaurant and pub is right on the water walkway so you can’t miss it.

James Squire was a convict transported to Australia in 1788. He founded Australia’s first commercial brewery and is also credited with being the first to successfully cultivate hops on the island. Though commonly referred to as James Squire, the actual brewery is called the Malt Shovel Brewery (two crossing shovels emblazon their beer labels), which is now part of the Lion Nathan beverage group. Malt Shovel’s primary brewery is in Camperdown New South Whales, but the Sydney location also has an operating brewery, which produces four of their eight offerings on premise.

I would classify James Squire as startling a line between US craft brewery creativity and a traditional British brewery. Their IPA was a well-balanced copper ale with a definite Fuggle accent - not the high-alcohol citrus hop bomb of most American IPAs. It leaned toward a British example of the style, but fully carbonated. The second beer I tasted was the Highway Man Red Ale. Another beer with exceptional balance between malt and hops. This beer is brewed with English, European, and New Zealand hops and six different grains. At least one of which is roasted according to my taster. The result was a rich Red Ale with just a hint of roast; lots of body and solid hop character. Unfortunately, Ankur (from the Australia office) and I did not have time for a third since we were already late for the APAN gala dinner taking place down the walkway. So we reluctantly wrapped up after two pints and moved on.

James Squire’s motto is “Never Forsake Flavour,” and they don’t. This is another great Australian brewery. Geography plays a key role in the types of beer brewed and where. Oz’s climate is warm, especially up north. So the beers in the north, like XXXX, cater to the drinker looking for refreshment, while the southern breweries like Coopers, James Squire and Lord Nelson, brew beers with more character. Anyway, if you’re in Sydney, head across town to Darling Harbour and visit the James Squire Brewhouse. And by the way, has anyone yet figured out “Who is James Boag?”

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Down Under With Rikki

After a six-year hiatus I have finally made it back down to Australia. I am in Sydney for work attending the APAN conference, but I have had a bit of time to do some sight seeing, and to see an old friend.
Back in 1990 two Aussies, Mark and Rikki (pronounced with heavy Australian accents), took Montana State University by storm. They exploited an imbalance loophole in the Australia/US University exchange program to “attend” school at MSU for one year. Without going into details, I assure you that these two were absolutely crazy! Among other things, they introduced us to rugby, surfing naked through bars, and Vegemite. (Which I initially found hideous, but am now addicted to.) Their stay was only one year, but the impact it had on the people they met in Montana extends to this day. When Joycelyn and I visited Oz six years ago Rikki lived right on Clovelly beach in Sydney. Since then he has moved and now lives with his girlfriend of ten years, Sam, and their two children a couple of hours south of town. Luckily, however, he happened to be in The City on Tuesday for work, which enabled us to hook up for a few rounds that night. We met at the Lord Nelson Brewery, which is located in Sydney’s oldest hotel on 19 Kent Street. ( Located in an old and quaint neighborhood in The Rocks, it is a tad off the beaten path, but a short walk from it.
I was working my way through a few samples when Rikki arrived. He had not changed a bit. Rikki is as big as I am small. Solid as a rock, I would not want to go up against him on the pitch. It was great to see him again and catch up on old times. He also called Mark, who now lives in Perth, so we could chat for a bit. Mark was quite surprised to hear my voice when Rikki called from the pub and passed the phone me! As crazy as these two were, and to a lesser extent still are, they are both complete gentleman and all around class acts. Now their MSU friends are just waiting for the both of them to fulfill their promise to make it back for Homecoming some year. We’ll make sure and pre-post bail for that trip. Rikki had to head back home after a few pints to tend to his newborn baby boy, but I was very happy that my short notice trip worked into Ricky’s plans of being in Sydney so we could meet up.

A few notes about the Lord Nelson Brewery. The décor, menu, and selection of Ales are very much British. (I had a beef pie with mushy pees and mashed potatoes for dinner.) They offered six of their own beers, brewed on premise, but also did not shy away from the competition. A couple of Coopers beers were on tap as well as Pauline Helles and even Chimay! But I focused on their offerings. Below are a few notes on the three beers I sampled while there. If you’re even in Sydney, take the 10 minutes walk to get out of the tourist areas and head to the Lord Nelson pub.

  • Victory Bitter (5%) – Served a touch too cold for a Bitter, but to be expected in this climate where it is over 90 degrees. It had a rich copper color with a very slight caramel note and an earthy Fuggle hop finish. I’d put it in the Special Bitter category.
  • Trafalgar Pale Ale (4.2%) – A very pale beer they bill as a session ale. They are correct. All I could taste were hops and Maris Otter. Simple and very pleasant.
  • Old Admiral(6.1%) – Their Old/Strong Ale. In their words “Red with Black highlights.” This is a bit of a throwback beer that is brewed using brown and amber malts it tastes like. Much more of a “special roast” and “biscuit” malt flavor than caramel and darker roasted malts.
  • Nelson’s Blood (5%) – A Robust Porter. In their words, this time, “Black with Red highlights.” More of the same as above, but with less alcohol. Lots of amber/brown malt. Probably similar to what was brewed in London 250 years ago than the taste of most of today's Porters.

Friday, February 5, 2010

2010 Beerdrinker of the Year Finalists Announced

The three finalists for the 2010 Beerdrinker of the Year were announced this week.  (See the excerpt below from the Wynkoop's press release.)  I hope you can all make it down to the Wynkoop on the afternoon of Saturday, February 27th for the National Finals.  I'll be the short guy in the white wig and robe!

Phil Farrell, a Cumming, Georgia commercial pilot, homebrewer, and beer judge. He has tasted beer in every country in Europe, 1000 of the world’s pubs and 400 brewpubs. He’s known to many in the beer community as the “Chicken Man” because he’s hauled his homebrew club’s mascot, a rubber chicken, around the world and photographed it with thousands of beer people.

His philosophy about beer: “Beer is first and foremost a social drink. It is the most flexible and universally affordable fine beverage there is. Every social gathering and every food item is enhanced with beer. Beer is the greatest gift ever given to the human race and meant to be shared with others.”

William Howell, a Sterling, Alaska, college administrator, retired Navy officer, homebrewer, and beer educator. In 2007 he created a new course for Kenai Peninsula College entitled The Art and History of Brewing, and has traveled extensively across Alaska and the West in pursuit of great beer.

His beer philosophy: “I have been a lover of craft beers since 1984 and a homebrewer since 1989. Since my retirement from active duty I’ve been really been able to “get serious” about beer. I decided it was time to start giving something back to the world of craft beer that had given me so much.”

Logan Perkins, a Denver, Colorado beer enthusiast who has tried nearly 5,000 beers in 45 states, 21 European countries and 5 Asian nations.

His philosophy of beer drinking: “Drinking beer is about enhancing the quality of life through flavors, feelings and friends. I love beer alone, but especially enjoy sharing it with others. I believe in handling, collecting and tasting beers with the same respect as a wine lover. I try to keep everything in moderation, including moderation itself.”