Thursday, December 27, 2007

Saranac steps up...

Most of the Saranac (Matt Brewing Co, Utica, NY) beers that I have tried are about average. None are every really bad, but none are ever really top notch. One of my favorite beer stories has always been the $1 drafts of Saranac Black and Tan at the now defunct local Ground Round restaurant one night with a good friend that was driving. I asked what they had on tap and they had their usual macroswill, but the bartender finished with "oh and we have this Saranac Black and Tan that we are trying to get rid of for $1 a whack." I had just graduated from college and money was tight, so this was like manna from heaven. I put a $10 down on the bar and left with change. Life was good -- comparatively it was a decent beer and the price was right.

I recently picked up two new Saranac six packs, Imperial Stout and Imperial Pilsener (the first two offerings in their High Peak Series). I couldn't resist, Kappy's (one of my local stores with a great selection) was selling each beer at $6.99 per six pack. Saranac has always had a great price point, but $6.99 for beers with 9.0% and 8.5% abv respectively is absolutely unheard of . I figured I would give them both a shot and man, I am glad I did. The Imperial Stout is excellent. It has a fresh ground coffee and bitter chocolate aroma with rich roasted malt flavors that are well-balanced by a nice hop profile (six different dry hops according to the website). The 9% provides a comforting warming in the belly within the first couple of sips. For the price, this beer is an absolute steal and it is the best Saranac beer I have ever tasted.
The Imperial IPA pours a beautiful garnet-copper color with a huge fluffy white head with tons of sticky lace. The beer smells as good as it looks. While certainly not the best Imperial IPA I have tried, it holds it's own and for the price, I almost feel guilty...almost. Saranac has really hit a homerun with these two beers and I look forward to the next release...I just hope the price stays the same, they could easily sell the stout for $11-12 per six pack and I would not think twice about picking one up. This is even more of a value than those $1 drafts of Black and Tan. Buy them if you see them.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Bad things happen in threes...

My mother-in-law often says that bad things and deaths often happen in threes. Well, here is a good example. Looks like the folks over at soon to be MillerCoors are coming out with three new styles of Miller Lite ("never watered down, so you can raise it up" - whatever the hell that means). They will be releasing an amber, a blonde and a wheat beer. I can't imagine that these "craft-light beers" will be any good, but I guess there are two possible positives we can take from this:

1. A beer with Miller Lite on the label may actually taste like something
2. These three new beers might just convince some Miller Lite drinkers to try a few different beers styles.

Check out the whole article at:

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Bostonbeerman Podcasts

Here is the first of my Bostonbeerman podcasts - check it out in iTunes, it is enhanced with images.

I hope to have a new one in a couple of weeks.

If you don't have iTunes, you can also check it out and subscribe here.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Beer blogging hiatus

My apologies for the sad lack of posts over the summer and now into the fall. I have been swamped with work and a new, non-beer related teaching gig. I promise to get back on the blogging horse as soon as I can. I did manage to try 30 new beers on a 10 day trip to Scandinavia -- more when I return.


Thursday, July 5, 2007

Session Five - Atmosphere for Enjoying Beer...

Session Five is all about great atmosphere when drinking beer. The guys over at Hop Talk suggested that we blog about our favorite beer experience--that is, great places to drink beer and our favorite people to drink it with.

My wife and I try to book one European trip each year and as a result, I have had some incredibly memorable beer experiences. The most recent was in Brugge, Belgium. I purchased four bottles of Westvleteren 12, three made the journey home, but I had to have one in situ. I sat in the window of my hotel room with my feet dangling down toward the canal and enjoyed each and every sip--the beer exceeded my expectations. That was a pretty amazing experience.

Other memorable pints include: the bottle of Corsendonk Abbey Pale Ale I drank on my wedding day while driving from the church to the reception in a Bentley; the Murphy's Stout I had in the middle of Killarney National Park in Ireland; a few pints of Samuel Smith's Extra Stout and fish and chips at the historic Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese on Fleet Street in London (we pretty much had the place to ourselves); randomly finding Masala Mama IPA in Minnesota; and a pint and an Oude Jenever at the incredibly quaint, yet gritty t' Doktertje in Amsterdam (you can see some pics at

These were all amazingly unique beer experiences that I will probably never replicate, although I sure as hell hope I do some day. The beer and the atmosphere were great for each of these events and I experienced all but one of them with my best friend, my wife. The bottom line is that time shared with friends generally makes for the most memorable experiences.

For the last couple of years, my high school friends (and another good friend) and I have planned a late-summer weekend at my friends place on Biscay Pond in Bremen/Damariscotta, Maine. The location is amazing. The house is right on the pond and is perfect for kayaking, swimming, fishing, marathon Texas Hold'em poker tournaments, and of course drinking cold beer on the deck (actually we drink beer while doing all of the above listed activities). As an added bonus, the house is just a few miles from the ocean and the freshest seafood you can find.

We don't see each other nearly as often as we used to and the trip is just an opportunity to get together with the guys and act like jack-ass high school kids again. We pretty much just kick back, relax, and enjoy some juvenile buffoonery--most of our time is spent busting each other's balls about anything and everything. The one drawback is that the crew generally grabs Corona, Bud Light, or Coors Light as their drink of choice, which explains why I bring a case of Murphy's Stout. However, I think one of the boys has been converted and is slowly moving to the darkside. :)

One of the highlights of the trip is dinner at a great place called King Eider's Pub. My first time here was a fantastic surprise. The food is great, including some of the best crab cakes I have ever tasted, great burgers, and several fresh seafood specials. The atmosphere is very cozy--hardwood floors, low wood-beamed ceilings, brick, and a great little bar with just eight seats. The restaurant is in an historic building and broken into several sections (pub, dinning room and a great oyster bar), it feels very much like a comfortable home, and provides the perfect atmosphere for throwing a few back with your friends. The staff is very friendly and the service is great.

Damariscotta is a quaint fishing village over an hour from Portland, so you can imagine my surprise when I looked up at the taps and saw Ayinger Oktoberfest as well as some great local (Pemaquid Scottish Ale) and international beers. Then I took a peek at the beer menu and found Delirium Tremens, a few more locals, and an array of beers from Samuel Smith. To top it all off, they have a kick ass selection of single malt scotch, including a few "hidden treasures" with limited distribution. So there you have it, quaint atmosphere, good food, great friends, and some excellent beer, who could ask for more.

I could almost hear that classic old Lowenbrau jingle in the back of my head, "Here's to good friends, tonight is kind of special..."

Friday, June 22, 2007

Really Old Brown Dog Ale...

Smuttynose Old Brown Ale is a fantastic American Brown Ale that was inspired by Olive, the dog that graces the label. Unfortunately, Olive died on March 15, 2007, just a month after the release of Really Old Brown Dog Ale. If you are a dog person, the label image will just about bring you to tears.

Really Old Brown Dog Ale is part of Smuttynose Brewing Company’s impressive Big Beer Series. It is bottle conditioned–I cellared this one for about 4 months, but I have another that I am going to save until next year.

For those of you not from New England, Smuttynose is located in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The name comes from an island on the Maine/New Hampshire border. The label states: "Olive, iconic mascot and spirit guide of our brewery, first appeared on our Old Brown Dog label and has returned 13 years later, to pose for our Really Old Brown Dog, a luscious, malt-rich, full bodied old ale featuring deep notes of complex fruit. Much like our beloved Olive, this beer will mellow and age gracefully."

This beer has a rich garnet brown color that pours to a thin, tight head with decent Belgian lace. It has a very pleasant raisin and currant aroma with a touch of milk chocolate. The Really Old Brown Dog is medium-bodied with a nice, light carbonation, and it finishes with a tea-like dryness. Actually it is much drier than I had expected. Hop flavors develop more and more with each sip and help balance off the rich malt sweetness. It is pretty complex, with tastes of pear, plum, candy sugar, chocolate, caramel, pepper, and even the faintest touch of espresso at finish. This beer is 7.0% abv and I find it very smooth and drinkable.

While it is very good, I am anticipating that my second bottle with taste even better after an additional year. I am toasting Olive while I drink this one. My little beagle is curled up against my leg as I type--there really is nothing better in life than a great dog.

Here's to Olive.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Session Four - The Local...

Snekse over at Gastronomic Fight Club is hosting the beer blogger session this month. We were asked to review a local beer made within 150 miles of home. This was a tough call for me. My first thought was to choose one of the Harpoon 100 Barrel Series sitting in my cellar--I have been very impressed with most of these beers. My next thought was Mercury Brewing Company. Their Ipswich Stout is amazing and Ipswich Ale is one of my favorite summer beers. Of course I could have chosen one of the great offerings at Cambridge Brewing Company or The Tap's Leather Lips IPA. All of these beers, well except for the Harpoon, are made within about 25 miles of my house.

However, I decided to choose a beer made just a couple more miles away in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. It seems like I am always drinking this beer. I offer it in my beer appreciation classes, a good friend made sure it was available at his wedding last month, I went to a BBQ tonight and there it was, and I pretty much buy a case of it every other month. I love Smuttynose IPA. This unfiltered IPA has a very cool label that depicts a couple of old timers sitting on folding chairs in front of a trailer, kicking back and quaffing a killer beer...could this be a vision of my retirement!

The first sniff and first sip are all grapefruit hop goodness. This beer always tastes extremely fresh to me. Smuttynose IPA is a respectable 6.6% abv and pours to a beautiful orange gold color with a great big frothy head with lots of Belgian lace all the way down the glass. The hop flavors are citrusy, herbal, flowery, and piney. The first sip pretty much tastes like a freshly cut grapefruit. However, the bitterness fades into an interesting sweet caramel malt flavor. Overall, this beer is almost all hops. It is pretty dry at finish, but a very drinkable and remarkably refreshing IPA. Smuttynose just hit 15,ooo barrel production last year for the first time, so maybe you will see this beer at your local sometime real soon. If you do, put on a plaid shirt, grab a folding chair, and sit back and enjoy.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


When is comes to beer, one of my mantras is "quality, not quantity." Numbers are usually not that important to me, unless I am on the golf course or picking my fantasy baseball team, but I am reaching a pretty big milestone.

No, not 40 years old, I have a few more to go before that. I am approaching my 1,500th beer tasted and rated. I have 35 more to go and I figure I will get there by late June. I try lots of beer and it can be hit and miss. I am looking for a tried and true homerun. Any suggestions....please leave a comment.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Road trip to San Francisco...

I just came back from a business trip to San Francisco and as usual I tried to squeeze in a little beer research. Before leaving I made a reservation for the free tour at Anchor Brewing Company, a must for all beer lovers (call a few weeks in advance to make your reservation). It was a fantastic tour--stepping inside their 1937 building (they have occupied it since 1979) and seeing their pristine, handmade copper kettles was worth the trip alone (click here for a 360 degree view).

I had a chance to talk to the guides (Lindsey and Dan), a few other employees, and even the owner and brewmaster, Fritz Maytag--yes, he was there on a bright and sunny Friday afternoon and I was told he is there almost every day. As expected, the tour was packed full of interesting details about the brewery's history, but I was surprised to learn that the small staff of less than 60 employees hand produces about 85,000 barrels of beer per year. For some reason I thought they were a much larger operation--probably because of its great reputation and availability. I absolutely love the Christmas Ale and feature it in my beer courses each year. Plan on spending about 2 hours at the brewery. The tour lasts a little less than an hour, but afterward you can enjoy samples at a leisurely pace in their very cool tasting room.

During my pre-trip research I also picked up a couple of great Beer Fly reviews from Beeradvocate. My first stop was the Rogue Public Ale House in Washington Square. Rogue is located in Newport, Oregon, but I was excited to see they had a pub in San Francisco. John Maier is one of my favorite brewers and I was like a kid in a candy store looking at the beer board--Shakespeare Stout, Chocolate Stout, Chipotle Ale, Dry Hopped Red Ale, Morimoto Soba Ale--everything looked so good. I went with the Imperial Younger's Special Bitter (YSB), Glen Strong Ale, and Imperial Russian Stout. All three beers where fantastic. Although the place was packed, Dan Pearson, the Director of Commerce, Culture and Tourism (I love this company!) took the time to answer my questions about the beers and the pub, which opened in 2003. He gave me a sample of Brew 10K, a new beer celebrating 10,000 batches of Rogue goodness. It is a new recipe "using some of the best ingredients John Maier has ever brewed with...Vienna, French Special Aroma, and Maris Otter Pale Malts; Yakima Summit and German Saphir Hops, Free-range Coastal Waters, and PacMan Yeast." It was so smooth and drinkable yet packed a whopping 10% abv. I also purchased a bottle of Issaquah Bull Frog Ale, which I have yet to try, and some cool Rogue swag.

I also took a trip to lower Haight Street on Friday night, the area was jumping. I was really looking forward to visiting this infamous beer bar, Toronado. The place was absolutely packed, but since I was flying solo and playing the role of George Thorogood, I was lucky enough to find a single seat at the bar. Although I love Belgian beer, I was a little disappointed to find that it was Belgian beer month. The board listed some interesting Belgian beers, including Brouwerij De Halve Maan's Brugse Zot, a beer I have never seen in the United States (see the image to the left of my main blog page). I was really hoping to drink some local California beers that I cannot get in Massachusetts and I am sure I would have had even more to choose from had it not been Belgian beer month.

I was excited to see Russian River Brewing Company's Pliny the Elder on the list and made that my first beer. Simply put, the beer was outstanding. It was great to see so many people drinking it, I would have to guess that a dozen or more people on my side of the bar were enjoying it. My second beer was Pliny's little brother, Blind Pig IPA, another fantastic beer from Russian River. These are the first two beers I have tried from Vinnie Cilurzo's Santa Rosa, California brewery--I was very impressed and will certainly have to update my Top 99 Beers.

The bar was full of friendly locals, including a woman named Chungho who introduced me to the bartender, Johnny. He gave me a couple of recommendations and took the time to chat about the beer list even though he was very busy. I also discussed the San Francisco beer scene and baseball with a cool guy named Jason. It might sound corny, but I really felt at home at this bar. I would have stayed there for the rest of the night, but I asked Jason if Magnolia Pub and Brewery, on the upper section of Haight was worth the trip and he suggested that it certainly was worth a visit, so off I went.

Magnolia was much quieter and laid back than Toronado. It is kind of a small intimate space with a bar at the back, so I bellied up and checked out the beer list and menu. I paired a delicious cask conditioned IPA with a mildly spicy andouille sausage, pepper, and onion pizza--the perfect midnight snack! The staff were super-friendly, knowledgable, and very attentive. For a small microbrew pub, their beer list was pretty extensive--too bad I only had time for one beer. I will surely make another trip to the pub on my next visit to the area.

I topped the trip to San Francisco off with an amazing lunch on Saturday at the The Slanted Door (Vietnamese restaurant) in the Ferry Building. I started with a Grapefruit, Jicama, and toasted pecan salad and dungeness crab with cellophane noodles paired with a very smooth Trumer Pils from Berkeley, California. I can't wait to get back to the area, there are so many amazing beers to try.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Beer Blog Friday Number Two...

Here is my contribution to the 2nd Beer Blog Friday--my thanks to Alan at A Good Beer Blog for hosting the event this time around.

I decided to stay traditional and go with Westmalle Dubbel. This beer pours to a thick, marshmallow head that dissipates pretty quickly. The first scent is a crusty bread aroma with touches of peppery spicyness and dried fruit. Pretty well-balanced with sweetish raisin and spiced plum flavors. I have had this beer before, but I was still surprised by the somewhat aggressive carbonation that really makes for an interesting mouthfeel. It is medium-bodied and just a bit dry, but very drinkable. The clove and peppery spicyness peaks about halfway through the glass. I also found some very subtle banana and milk chocolate flavors. The Dubbel is not as complex as the Tripel, but it is still quite good. It leaves just the slightest bit of warming on the back of the throat. I could certainly drink another one right now. I give it a 4.3 out of 5.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Re-visiting a local friend...

Ipswich Oatmeal Stout is on of my favorite local beers. I haven't had it in a while, but I picked up one of their mixed 12 packs a few weeks ago. You really can't go wrong with any beer in the bunch, the IPA and Dark Ale are very good and the Oatmeal Stout and Ale are exceptional.

This beer pours a rich black with a solid dark tan head that slowly dissipates. It starts with coffee and fresh chocolate chip oatmeal cookie aromas with touches of citrusy hops. The first sip brings roasted nuts, rolled oats, espresso and dark chocolate flavors, but it doesn't end there, the hearty malt flavors are balanced by a subtle hop finish that lingers on the edges of the tongue and the back of the throat. This is an exceptionally fresh tasting beer that can hold its own with any stout and is right up there with the best oatmeal stouts I have tasted. The beer is full-bodied with light carbonation--it is somewhat dry at finish, but exceptionally drinkable at the same time. Citrusy hops and mocha flavors battle it out with each sip. The complex flavors collect at the back of the tongue and throat and linger--I think the coffee flavors win out in the end, but the hops still hold their own in a complex, delicate, balancing act. This is a beer to be revisited again and again. I give it a 4.6 out of 5.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Here's to beer, I mean Budweiser...

I just spent about 5 minutes on the Here's to Beer site (notice no link). I discovered the site in an add on the back cover of the March issue of BeerAdvocate Magazine. Upon first glance of the ad, I had a sinking suspicion that the site was created by one of the all powerful macro breweries. After a little investigating, it turns out that Here's to Beer, Washington, D.C. is none other than my dear friends Anheuser Busch, St. Louis, Missouri. Of course they don't want us to know who they really are, how sneaky.

My first thought was why are the guys at BeerAdvocate throwing this on the back of their magazine. Before I go on, I have to say that I love what Jason and Todd at BeerAdvocate have done for the beer drinking community--their festivals are great and their site is amazing. I realize that they have to pay the bills just like the rest of us, but Anheuser, not A-B, please.

I have received one issue of the magazine and this ad combined with a review of an A-B product was a disappointing discovery. However, I sought out a few previous issues, it looks like they have rated quite a few A-B products in their nascent venture into print. I counted three in just one issue.

The Here's to Beer site features three really dumb videos and a few links about the brewing process, but my most disappointing find was a big time link to Ok, so it is official, they are in bed together.

I have never officially met Jason and Todd, but the one thing I can say is that they know good beer. So why do they rate Budweiser 3.65 and 3.7 respectively. I am not even sure how to respond to those ratings...disgust, disdain. I have always seen BeerAdvocate as a haven for beer geeks, has our base been infiltrated by The Man.

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Ultimate Annoying Pop-up Ad...

It is bad enough that Coors Light infiltrates just about every sporting event on television (especially now that baseball season is approaching), but how about having a Silver Bullet train stream across your computer screen every day at 4:53pm. The company is trying a brilliant new ad campaign on websites popular with men in the 18-34 bracket. Thankfully I moved out of that bracket last year and I am generally not surfing the web just before 5pm.

Think about it though, getting a perfectly targeted email 7 minutes before quittin' time. Now if I could only get the monks at Chimay or Westmalle to run an add across my museum's website page and the campaign would work for me.

Read the whole article

Monday, March 19, 2007

Olive the Smuttynose "Old Brown Dog"

I am deeply saddened to share that Olive, the "Old Brown Dog" featured on the Smuttynose label died on March 15th, just a few days short of her 16th birthday. My sympathies to her parents and her family at the brewery, she was such a beautiful dog. The shot on the label is stunning (one of my favorite labels). Any of you who know me realize that dogs are one of the few things that I love more than beer. The brewery has created a fitting tribute to her at

My thanks for Lew Bryson at Seen Through a Glass for sharing the sad news.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Visiting an old friend...

I try a lot of new beers each year. The first thing I do at a bar or a package store (New England lingo for beer store) is to check to see if they have anything that I have not tried in the past. As I have mentioned in other posts, this can sometimes be hit or miss. However, since I try so many new beers I often neglect some of my all time favorites.

Tonight I visited an old friend, Ayinger Celebrator Doppelbock. I first tried this beer when I was 17--it was the first truly great beer I had ever tasted. It is a phenomenal beer and in my opinion the best Double Bock beer in the world. It pours to a rich dark brown/mahogany color and has an amazing sweet chocolate and bready malt aroma. This beer is 6.7% abv, but ridiculously smooth and drinkable, with a buttery, toffee flavor at finish. Hints of molasses and roasted nuts are balanced by a nice bitter hop tingle. Although $2.99 per bottle may seem expensive, it is worth every penny. I have to remind myself to buy this beer more often--it is always a good idea to go back to those old standards, especially the ones that set the mark for the style.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Price points and common cents (sense)...

Don't get nervous, this isn't an SAT question: If a 30 pack of Budweiser, Coors Light, or Miller Lite costs around $20 and a 24 bottle case of Ipswich Ale or for you non-locals (any good microbrew) costs about $22, then what the hell are the jackasses that buy those 30 packs thinking. That's 67 cents for a Bud in a can and 92 cents for an excellent hand crafted beer in a bottle. For starters, I think all beer drinkers can agree, the bottle is always better, unless you still crush cans on your head and in that case I am thinking you probably can't read this.

Let me phrase it another way. If a 10 oz serving of ground frozen hamburger was $5 and a juicy t-bone steak was $7 which one would you choose. Ok, so if you are reading this blog, I am probably preaching to the choir. So why is it that Budweiser and Bud Light are the two best selling beers in America and Miller Lite and Coors Light are 3rd and 4th. The stuff really isn't a value and it certainly doesn't taste very good. It is it the advertising or is it some kind of macho peer pressure--are you supposed to drink Bud because it is an All-American working man's beer or will Coors Light keep you looking like the bikini clad women in the commercials. Perhaps it is a combo of both the marketing and the fact that old habits are hard to break. Do your part, help someone break that habit and teach them a little bit of common cents.

Friday, March 2, 2007

1st Beer Blogger Friday...

Today is the first Beer Blogger Friday--a day when beer bloggers from around the world unite! In honor of St. Patrick's Day, we will be reviewing stouts. The only rule is that it cannot be "your father's Irish stout." My thanks to Stan at Appellation Beer for setting up the event. It looks like Al over at A Good Beer Blog will be hosting the next event.

I decided to review one of my all time favorite seasonal beers, Brooklyn Black Chocolate Imperial Stout 2006-07. Simply put, this stuff is amazing. As with many seasonal brews, the recipe for this beer changes each year and I have to say that Garrett Oliver has really outdone himself this time.

Weighing in at a whopping 10.6% abv, this beer is certainly unrelated to any of the beers my father drinks. Despite the high alcohol, I find this beer exceptionally, almost dangerously drinkable. It pours a rich black tar color with a decent tan head with lots of Belgian lace. Ok, check, this beer looks incredibly appetizing.

Upon pouring, the beer fills the nose with a sweet blend of dark chocolate, mocha, and cocoa aromas. It smells like a great dessert and it very well could be the perfect after dinner winter brew. This beer has a slightly syrupy mouthfeel, but surprisingly finishes a bit dry. Did I mention it was drinkable...holy crap, it goes down way to smoothly, but it carries a comforting warming sensation in the back of the throat.

A wide range of chocolate, cocoa and espresso flavors bounce around the palate with each sip. I have paired this beer with tiramisu, dark Belgian chocolate, and with a Richardson's Dairy Brickle Pie on my 35th birthday (for non-Boston locals, this is a dairy in Middleton, MA that makes all their incredibly rich ice cream on premises with their hormone free cows). Among other things, the pie has a coffee ice cream base and complemented the beer well. I often have this beer as a dessert in itself. This is the last beer I serve in my beer appreciation courses this year.

My advice, light a nice fire, grab a good book and sit back with a couple of these and relax cold winter's night away.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Friday is Beer blogging day...

Stan over at Appellation Beer came up with the great idea of making Friday beer blogging day. It gives us beer geeks a chance to collaborate on beer tasting. This Friday, March 2nd, a bunch of beer bloggers from around the world will join together to taste and rate a stout of their choice. I have narrowed it down to three beers - please help me decide which one to rate - maybe I will just rate all three!

Ipswich Oatmeal Stout
Victory Storm King Stout
Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout

Your vote counts, help me choose.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Welcome Cambridge Center for Adult Education...

A warm welcome to my students from the beer tasting course at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education. Feel free to post a comment to this post about your favorite beer from week one of our first class. Anything in particular that you liked about this beer?

Just click comments and let me know what you think.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Open source beer...

Free, well I mean open source beer. Check out Harry Lanman's article from the February 18, 2007 Boston Globe about a group of students and artists that are producing and marketing the first open source beer.

They got the idea from discussions about open source software. Open source software producers maintain that customers live with software and use it regularly, so they should be able to tweak it and work out the bugs. Standford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig, the champion of open source software has written extensively and eloquently on the subject.

The Linux operating system and Mozilla Firefox browser are two examples of successful open source software. Richard Stallman, who manages Linux licenses once opined "think of 'free' as in 'free speech,' not 'free beer.'" He and others understand that software costs money to make and that one should be able to recoup those costs to pay the bills. However, they maintain that the knowledge that went into it should be free and shared with the public.

When the students announced their open source beer, they called it "free as in free software."
Check out the full article here:

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sam's cup overdoith...

The Boston Beer Company, aka Sam Adams unveiled their newly designed "ultimate" beer glass. I like good glassware as much as any other beer geek. I have my Pavel Kwak rounded bottom glass, authentic glasses from most of the Trappist brewers, nonic British pints, etc. To put it simply, all beer should be served in the proper glass.

When I first read the title of the article, I thought it was some kind of joke, perhaps the brewery created a 20 foot giant glass for marketing purposes or something. However, as I read on, I came across this line of nonsense: "According to the company, the new Samuel Adams Boston Lager Pint Glass is the first glass specifically designed to showcase beer as brewers intended." What the hell does that mean--every other brewer who has designed a glass for their beer had no intention of showcasing the beer as the brewers intended. One visit to any reputable beer bar in Belgium will disprove this jackass statement.
I included the above image of a Westvleteren 12 in an authentic glass to prove my point.

Ok, maybe this is the first beer glass designed specifically for a Boston beer company named after a colonial patriot that is run by a brewer with the initials JK. I can accept that, and The Boston Beer company brews very good beer, but to say that Sam Adams has revolutionized the beer glassware industry is no more than a bunch of marketing horse pucky. Were they "world renowned sensory experts" or marketing/sales experts that designed the glass? Did I mention they are $30 per 4 plus shipping and handling? The glass is interesting, but I wouldn't call it ground breaking...perhaps wallet breaking.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Golf and Good Beer...

Ok, it is that time of the year. I just picked up a six pack of Sam Adams Double Bock--arguably their best beer--and that means spring is on the way. I know, I know, winter in New England extends well into April, but hope springs eternal this year. I can't help but think about sipping a nice cold one after a round of golf.

Golf and good beer, these are two things that you would expect to be synonymous. Golf was invented in Scotland and any single malt scotch drinker will tell you that the Scots know good malt. Scottish brews are generally not mass marketed in the United States, but there are some outstanding Scottish beers. Orkney Skullsplitter, Belhaven Scottish Ale, Caledonian 80, Blackfriar, and McEwans all come to mind.

Of course the beer I equate most with golf is Belhaven St. Andrew's Ale, a great beer and one of the most revered golf courses in the world. Obviously this is not always the case. Budweiser was the official sponsor of the Ryder Cup at The K Club in Ireland. Now how sad is that. It really is a disgrace, but it just goes to show you how powerful Budweiser is as a brand. Come on, Smithwick's, Guinness, Murphy's...anything but Budweiser in Ireland would have been fine.

The official beer sponsor of the PGA is Amstel Light (and Buckler non-alcoholic beer). This is a step up from Budweiser, but certainly not the best available and not an obvious pairing with golf. Although I guess it does make sense for an outdoor sport that is generally played in the heat to team with a lighter, easily drinkable beer.

I prefer something more substantial, a beer with a little more soul. I find that pale ale's (both American and British) like Sierra Nevada, Smuttynose Shoals, Ipswich, Samuel Smith's, and Fullers London Pride all offer a certain rawness, character, and thirst quenching refreshment that perfectly suits the 19th hole. Other styles such as hefe-weizens, witbiers, kolschs, and traditional lagers all offer great refreshment and drinkability.

When you play a round of golf, you don't just go out hacking away and chasing a little white ball around...well, hopefully you don't. Golf is a sport that brings people together. It is a chance to escape the doldrums of everyday life, to spend 5 uninterrupted hours with your friends, surrounded by beautiful landscapes and in most cases nice weather. So when you finish your round and head to the clubhouse or local pub, don't end the day settling for a sub-par, run of the mill beer. As you kick back to reminisce about that one incredible ball you hit out of the rough on the par 4 11th hole, drink a beer worthy of that shot and a great day out on the links.

Image: Adare Manor Golf Club, Adare, County Limerick, Ireland - est. 1900.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Beer Haiku

Haiku is a form of Japanese poetry that generally has three lines. The first is 5 on (roughly translated as syllables), then 7, then 5. Most true haiku makes a reference to a season, but I am using my poetic license in these beer haiku. Give it a try, post your beer haiku...all the kids are doing it these days. Here are four to get you started:

Westvleteren 12
Fine ale brewed by monks with love
The best in the world.

Saint Arnold was right
Said to drink beer not water
Show me to his church!

My favorite drink
Beer the nectar of the gods
Hops, malt, water, yeast.

Budweiser is crap
You are paying for their ads,
Water, rice, and corn.

Give it a try, post your haiku by clicking comments.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Hunting for beer and finding an elephant...

Searching for new beers is my favorite hobby...well, ok it is an obsession. I will drive 35 minutes and pay tolls to get to my favorite packie (liquor store) because the selection is incredible. Family, friends, and co-workers, who know how much I enjoy finding new beers, bring back beer for me when they travel.

I am the guy at your party who looks into the deepest, darkest corner of your refrigerator to find that one oddball beer that may be hiding back there. My first order of business at any restaurant is to swing by the bar to take a peek at the taps to see if there is something interesting on draft. You get the idea.

As you might imagine, this quest for new beers intensifies when I travel. Any first visit to a city or town is an opportunity for discovery. I sniff out micro breweries faster than my beagle hunts down rabbits in the backyard. Usually I do a little pre-travel reconnaissance work to find the best beer bars in the area. I sampled 42 new beers on my 10 day honeymoon, 24 new beers on a 7 day trip to London, and 30 new beers this spring while vacationing in Holland and Belgium for 8 days. I salivate thinking about great places like The Sunset Grill in Boston, the Brickskeller in Washington, D.C., The Yardhouse in Southern California, or t' Brugs Beertje in Brugge, Belgium.

Chasing down these new brews sometimes comes at a cost. Just because the beers are new does not guarantee that they are going to be good (unless you are in Belgium of course). I see it as a risk/reward process. For every dish soap tasting, light American lager that is included in the typical micro brewery sampler, there is a chance that one of the other 5 beers in the set just might surprise me. I hit the jackpot on November 11, 2004 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The first day of the 2004 Museum Computer Network conference had just ended and I decided to make a trip to the Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota. The collection is housed in a beautiful Frank Gehry building on the banks of the Mississippi River. The museum had an interesting exhibition on view entitled
Chicano Visions: American Painters on the Verge featuring the collection of Cheech Marin. Yes, that Cheech Marin, from the Cheech and Chong movies, he has one of the largest Chicano art collections in the world -- who knew.

Well, it was getting late and the museum was closing so I decided to ask the guards at the front desk if there were any brewpubs or restaurants in the area where I could try a few local beers. One of them recalled a microbrewery somewhere on Washington Street South, but she could not recall the name. They pulled out a book of restaurants and found the place, the Town Hall Brewery. I asked if it was within walking distance, but they told me I should take a taxi. It ended up being about a mile away. I probably should have mentioned how famously cheap I am when it comes to taxis, but it generally isn't a bright idea to wander through an unfamiliar city at night.

After about 20 minutes of waiting and a 5 minute cab ride, I was belly up to the bar looking over the menu. In remarkably predictable fashion I ordered up a beer sampler and a pulled pork sandwich. There is something about pulled pork paired with beer that I just love -- it is a great comfort food combination. Surprisingly the sampler included 8 beers. So, I pulled out my Palm Pilot beer database and got to work. As you might imagine, this usually generates a few weird looks, but most often the bartender is intrigued and asks how I like the beers. All of the offerings were solid brews, but it was the seventh sample that really caught my attention.

I waited for the bartender to swing by again and asked him if the IPA was on tap all the time or if it was a special batch. He looked at me with a wry smile and immediately knew I was not from the area. "Pretty good beer huh," he said as he approached. I had only taken a couple of sips at that point, but I told him that the Masala Mama India Pale Ale was very impressive. "If you like it, you should try the cask version when you finish that sampler," he said. Asking me if I want a cask conditioned beer is like asking a kid "do you want whipped cream and chocolate fudge sauce on your ice cream." I ordered a pint of the cask Masala Mama, finished the last beer in the sampler and my dinner, and washed it all down w
ith a large glass of water to cleanse my palate.

I knew I was in for a treat when the bartender delivered the beer -- it was a beautiful amber copper color with a massive creamy head. I almost fell off of the bar stool when I tasted it. Don't get me wrong, the regular Masala Mama IPA was fantastic, but this beer was something special. Halfway through the glass I knew two things: 1.) I could not leave the bar without ordering another one, remember I was taking a cab back to the hotel, and 2.) this beer would be ranked pretty high in my database.

In fact, this tremendous IPA now sits firmly at number 15 out of over 1,4oo beers I have sampled and rated. The beer had an amazing fruity citrus and floral hop aroma and the first sip was pure grapefruit hop flavors with touches of sweet caramel malt. It was exceptionally drinkable and the glass was covered in an intricate web of beautiful Belgian lace. If I lived within 100 miles of this place, I would make a monthly pilgrimage.

By the time the bartender brought the second pint, he knew he had a convert in his midst. "I told you," he said. We talked a little more about it and he mentioned that Mike Hoops, the head brewer created the beer. It may seem kind of silly, but I asked the bartender to give kudos to Mike and to tell him to keep up the good work. I find that the art of brewing often goes unrecognized and this beer was a masterpiece.

No, I did not have a third pint that night. I had to get up early Friday morning for the conference and it was already getting late. I started the night hunting for a couple of new beers and with a few strokes of luck I ended up finding an elephant.
I did come very close to making a return trip to the brewery a few nights later, but I had more hunting to do -- although I knew I was not going to discover anything nearly as good as Masala Mama India Pale Ale. If I did, I was going to have a hard time convincing my wife to move to Minneapolis.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Mr. Rogers, Arnold Palmer and Rolling Rock...

The question that accompanied this old trivia answer is "name the three most famous things from Latrobe, PA." Rolling Rock was synonymous with Latrobe, PA -- ask your dad or your grandfather. However, in May 2006 the brewery was sold and the good old "33" will no longer be brewed in Latrobe. Take a guess at which brewing powerhouse flexed its muscles and shut down the brewery. Good guess, Anheuser Busch.

Friday, January 26, 2007

While I tell of YuleSmith treasure...

I just had a wonderful beer. YuleSmith Holiday Ale is the first beer I have tried from AleSmith Brewing Company in San Diego, CA. This beer was truly amazing. It is a Double India Pale Ale that looks, smells, and tastes absolutely fantastic. I gave it a whopping 4.7 out of 5 and if I had another bottle of this stuff, the rating might get higher. In fact, I think I will make a trip out to Julio's in Westborough, MA just to get another bottle to cellar for a couple of years - it has an incredible raw pine aroma - it may smell more like Christmas tree than any other beer seasonal brew I have tried. Here is my rating:

"8.5% abv - pours to a monster cauliflower head - lots of great Belgian lace - rich dark copper color - pure raw pine hop scent with a whiff of sweet caramel - slippery mouthfeel with a gentle tingle on the tip and sides of the tongue - dryish at finish - this beer smells more like Christmas tree than any other beer I have tasted - some sweetish dry fruit flavors try to help balance the bitterness - mild warming sensation from alcohol, but it is remarkable how well it is masked by the flavors of this beer - sweet caramel taste competes with the dry fruit sweetness at finish and really helps balance this beer off - it has plenty of hops, but it is not all hops - bottle fermented and superbly crafted - this is a tremendous double IPA - I wish I could get an air freshener that smelled like this beer, it smells so good - looks, smells, and tastes exceptional"

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Funny ads don't always increase sales...

SAB Miller has temporarily pulled its popular "Man law" commercials. Despite creating a buzz with the humorous ads that parody some of the ridiculous things "men" worry about, such as "is it ok to leave a sporting event early to beat the traffic" or "should the high-five be retired."

I have to admit, the commercials are pretty funny, especially those featuring Eddie Griffin. Although humorous, it seems the adds did not increase sales of Miller Lite last year, hence the decision to try something else.

Click here for a full article in the Houston Chronicle:

Click here to check out the manlaw website:

Monday, January 22, 2007

Brewing has gone to the dogs...

Elena beat me to it in her recent comment. I had intended on posting this hilarious and true link today. A brewery in The Netherlands has developed a non-alcoholic beer for dogs! Leave it to the Dutch, they love their beer and their dogs.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Beer Jingle Quiz

Ok, I know that this may be a somewhat generational post, since some of you younger folks won't have any idea what I am talking about -- let's see how many of the following beer jingles you can match to the beers. I will include a couple of current ones so everyone can have a crack at it:

"Darling when will you be mine, cuando, cuando, cuando, cuando..."

"Here's to good friends, tonight is kind of tonight, let it be ____."

"Head for the mountains of _____ beer!"

"Don't hold back, cuz there's a party over here so you might as well be here where the people care..."

"People all over the world, join hands, start a love train, a love train..."

"After midnight, were gonna let it all hang out, after midnight, were gonna shake jump and shout..."

"Doobee, doobee do..."

"If you've got the time, we've got the beer. _____ beer."

"What'll you have? ______. Smoother, smoother, smoother flavor..."

"Ya da da da da da da da da da da...."

Post one or all of the answers. A little hint, youtube has lots of these beer commercials.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Budvar sellout or shrewd business decision...

It looks like Budvar will be partnering with Budweiser in distributing the original "Budweiser Budvar" in the United States. However, as I read it, Budvar will still be labeled "Czechvar" in the US. Both sides agreed that this arrangement could not be used as leverage in their century old trademark dispute over the rights to the name Budweiser.

Friday, January 12, 2007

What is the worst beer you have ever tried?

Sometimes I can be a bit of a beer snob. What can I say, give me the choice between a hand-crafted beer and crappy mass-produced swill and I opt for the former. I like to say that "I have never met a beer that I didn't like." What I mean by that is I would choose beer over just about any other beverage. So, when given the choice between Milwaukee's Best Light in a 16oz can or soda or water, I would generally take the beer.

However, three beers standout as the worst I have ever tasted. The first was called Sweet China. I doubt they even make this beer anymore. It was 95% lager and 5% pineapple juice. Now why in the hell would someone go putting pineapple juice into a beer.

The second is Cave Creek Chili Beer. Ok, picture a Corona Light (which is bad enough) with a chili pepper crammed inside the bottle. It tasted like the juice inside a jar of jalapeno peppers. I love spicy food, but this beer was completely unappealing.

The third worst beer is Southend Brewery Blonde Light from the Southend Brewery in Charlotte, NC. I am hoping that I got a bad batch, but I don't think that was the case. Here was the review I gave it:

“ This beer gets a whopping 0.2! - virtually no hop or malt taste at all – flat – no smell, but has a strange cheese doodle aftertaste – not a winning combination – they get .2 points for successfully making a beer that tastes like an artificial cheese product – that must be hard to do”

There are a bunch of beers tied for fourth and I bet many of you can guess which American companies make those beers. Now let me know the worst you have tried...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Welcome to The Bostonbeerman Blog

Feel free to use this site to ask me any questions about beer or the class.

Simple question to get things started! Of the 8 beers we have tried so far, which one is your favorite and why?