Beer, Wine and Spirits. Tastings and Travel. News and Events. Classic Flavors from Breweries, Wineries and Distilleries Across the Drinks World.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Visit to Anchor Brewing in San Francisco

For anyone with a love of American craft beer the Anchor Brewing Co. in the Potrero Hill section of San Francisco is hallowed ground. The day that Fritz Maytag acquired the failing brewery in 1965 the craft brewing revolution was dawning.

Maytag moved the brewery in 1979 to its current location in a former Chase & Sanborn Coffee roasting plant. Andrew Cox gave me a tour of the facility where I got the chance to see Anchor Steam being brewed and walk through the entire process. One of the things about a visit to any brewery large or small is the sensory overload that takes place between the aromas, temperature changes from one area to another and the noise level in areas such as the bottling line.

During the visit we ran into Bruce Joseph in Anchor's distillery and got to talk about turning out micro distilled whiskey, gin, brandy and grappa.

I had the chance to try two of the newest products from Anchor during my visit. Joseph gave me a taste of Anchor Genevieve, a 94.6 proof old school gin that has a distinct grain note at the start, plenty of citrus along the way and then a long spruce and juniper berry finish.

I also had the chance to sample the 2007 version of Anchor's Our Christmas Ale. The 33rd edition of the brew is due to be released on Nov. 5 by Anchor. It is a rich dark color and a festive flavor experience. I found notes of cinnamon, vanilla and perhaps a flavor that I can only call root beer-like. No, its not sweet, but it does have a hint of sweetness. A great holiday treat, likely best served eithyer before or after a meal.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Beer & Wine Could Flow in Mills River, N.C.

Voters going to the polls in Mills River, N.C., will get the chance to cast ballots on three separate alcohol propositions next month.

Voters will decide on separate ballot questions that would permit the sale of beer and wine at convenience stores and supermarkets, and the sale of beer and wine at hotels and restaurants.

Proponents of the measures say local residents now drive out of town to buy beer and wine, which costs businesses additional sales and results in a loss of tax revenue for the community. The lack of ability to sell beer and wine is also given as a reason that some chain restaurants have not placed a location in the growing community.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Lager Library: Guinness: The 250-Year Quest for the Perfect Pint

Beer has been flowing from St. James's Gate in Dublin since 1759. Guinness: The 250-Year Quest for the Perfect Pint by Bill Yenne traces the amazing history of this brewing giant and how its iconic stout became a national symbol of Ireland.

Yenne, the author of more than 40 books, is a fan of what he calls the "World's Greatest Beer." In the book (Wiley, 250 pgs., $24.95) he showcases how Arthur Guinness parlayed a small inheritance and a marriage into an established Dublin family to build the roots of a brewing powerhouse. Guinness became hugely popular domestically and abroad, now being sold in more than 150 countries.

The book gives an in-depth history of Guinness along with facts on the personal and political lives of the main corporate characters. For instance, in 1761, Arthur Guinness, 36, married Olivia Whitmore, 19. The couple would have 10 children and Oliva would suffer 11 miscarriages.

Yenne also details the marketing story behind Guinness. In one chapter he discusses the 1994 "Win Your Own Pub" promotion that ran in the U.S. I was lucky enough to be a guest journalist on a Guinness-sponsored trip to Cobh in County Cork to see Jay Mulligan of Boston win the first pub in what was an annual contest for most of the rest of the 1990s. PROMO magazine named the contest as one of the most significant promotions ever held.

If you enjoy Guinness, this book should certainly be on your reading list.

Western Australian Barmaid Fined $1,000 For Crushing Beer Cans Using Breasts

A story out of Pinjarra, Western Australia, causes me to question the reputation of Aussies as fun loving, live and let live types.

It seams that Luana De Faveri, 31, a barmaid at the Premier Hotel has an interesting talent that she put on display for patrons at the bar, which is south of Perth. Ms. De Faveri can crush beer cans with her breats. We do not have photographic or video proof of this rather odd capability, but Australian authorities apparently have the goods on her. Peel Police testified to witnessing the activity.

The Mandurah Magistrates Court in Australia says the can crushing violates the Liquor Control Act because Ms. De Faveri allegedly must expose her breasts as part of the demonstration. The court fined Ms. De Faveri $1,000 after she plead guilty to two separate violations, although something tells me that this was not the first time her cans were used for can crushing.

Why would I think such a thing? Well the court also fined a co-worker, Tracey Amanda Leslie, $500 after she plead guilty to assisting in the act by hanging spoons from Ms. De Faveri's nipples. Manager Roy Williams was fined $1,000 for failing to stop the activity.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tuesday Tasting: Finger Lakes Riesling

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we travel to the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York for some riesling.

Those of you who know me or who are regular readers of Lyke2Drink know that I work for Eric Mower and Associates, a marketing communications agency (www.mower.com). A client we are doing some projects for at the moment is the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance, a voluntary association made up of the more than 90 wineries in the region and grape growers. I work on the business and play host for the FLWA Vintners' Roundtable. This program is a virtual tasting conducted via conference call that links winemakers and food and beverage journalists. I offer this disclaimer because we had one in the series of tastings last week that focused on Finger Lakes Riesling. My notes for this Tuesday tasting come from that session.

Several journalists were on the call including Ronn Wiegand of Restaurant Wine, Sandra Silfven of the Detroit News and Rob Lane of the Finger Lakes Weekend Wino blog. You can check out their reports as they appear to measure the objectivity of my tasting notes.

I spent a good chunk of my life living near the edge of the Finger Lakes so my first experiences touring vineyards was in this region.The region is known as a tough place to grow grapes. However, through the leadership of some early stubborn winemakers and research that takes place at Cornell University, Finger Lakes vineyards have grown in stature. The area is rightfully recognized as one of the best places on the globe to make riesling. For the FLWA tasting we gathered a wine from each of six vineyards that were spread around the region. Interestingly, we had a vineyard founded in the 1960s, one from the 1970s, another from the 1980s, one from the 1990s and two that were founded during this decade.

If you want to know what the "Finger Lakes Riesling Style" is all about, this tasting explained it: it is all about diversity. We had dry to sweet rieslings in the tasting, reflecting the various winemaking styles and conditions. One thing about the wines from the region is that while they can have some high residual sugar totals, they also boast solid acidity totals that tend to balance things out. You get plenty of fruit and soil characteristics with each wine.

Here are the six wines we tasted:

Dr. Konstantin Frank 2006 Dry Riesling: -- ($17.99) This Keuka Lake vineyard was founded in 1962 by a founding father of vinifera wine in the region. It is one of the most decorated vineyards in the east and this riesling already has a trophy case full of gold medals. The wine has 0.7 percent residual sugar and .72 grams of acidity. The nose has inviting fruit aromas. You get a nice mixture of apple and pear flavor notes with a good slate mineral base to the wine. Fred Frank presented this wine and made the point that after harsh winters limited crops in 2004 and 2005, the 2006 harvest was solid and 2007 is looking like another good year. The winery plan to plant more riesling vineyards around the region to keep up with demand.

Hunt Country 2006 Semi-Dry Riesling: ($13.99) Another Keuka Lake winery makes this riesling, whixh has 1.5 percent residual sugar and a .73 acidity level. Winemaker Chris Wirth presented this wine, which is made using 3 yeast strains giving it a round and vibrant taste. There is apricot and a nudge of tropical fruit to this wine that leans towards the dry of the semi-dry chart. Wirth came to New York from California and says winemakers in the region are much more willing to share ideas in the Finger Lakes. "It used to be that way in California 25 years ago," he says.

Rooster Hill Estate 2006 Semi-Dry Riesling: ($15.99) Another Keuka Lake vineyard and a wine that surprised me in the tasting. Owner Amy Hoffman and winemaker Barry Tortolon presented this wine which has 1.6% residual sugar and a .88 acidity. This vineyard was planted in 2002 on an abandoned 35 acre site that was once a vineyard. Rooster Hill spent significantly to improve drainage in the vineyard. The wine is a rich semi-dry style riesling with plenty of fruit and a slight acidic edge that balances each sip. I found a touch of honey and peach in the wine.

Standing Stone 2006 Riesling: ($13.99) From the east side of Seneca Lake, this winery was formed in 1991 on the site of historic vineyards that supplied Gold Seal Vineyards with grapes. Owner Marti Macinski said they have learned that grapes on the land lend themselves to a variety of riesling styles depending on the conditions so the winemakers work to "get out of the way" of the grapes and let them do what they want to do. The 2006 wine has 2.0 percent residual sugar and a .844 acidity level. This wine drinks much more dry than the sugar level would suggest. You get clear tropical notes and a hint of fresh orange in the base.

White Springs Farm 2006 Red Label Riesling: ($12.99) This Seneca Lake winery is not far from Geneva. Derek Wilbur presented this wine, which has a 4.5 percent residual sugar and .89 grams of acidity. Wilbur has been making wine in the region for 25 years and says the 2006 vintage is proof that Finger Lakes vintners have come of age. "We've produced some stunning wines where 20 years ago we would have thrown up our arms," he says. Wilbur says that one year Finger Lakes winemakers making wines like California vineyards and the next they have to act like European wineries, reacting to what the climate serves up. This wine has plenty of honey, peach and apricot notes. While this wine is on the sweet end of the non-dessert wine scale, it could match well with a summer salad or even some pork dishes.

Wagner 2006 Riesling Ice Wine: ($22.99/375 ml) A Seneca Lake winery founded in 1979 it is also the home for a pretty decent microbrewery. Laura Wagner presented this wine which has 11.8 percent residual sugar. The grapes pressed to make this wine are picked and frozen post harvest, which allows the winemaker to control quality, quantity and pricing. The wine has lush pineapple and apricot flavor notes that are perfect for the end of a meal.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Diageo Wants to Quadruple Johnnie Walker Sales

Can Johnnie Walker outsell Absolut in the next three years? Is it possible for the world's best selling Scotch to overtake the world's best selling vodka? Can the whisky even surpass the sales of Captain Morgan Rum?

That is the goal that Diageo laid out for wholesalers at a recent meeting. All they need to do is quadruple sales by 2010.

Diageo is expected to fuel the growth by continuing to boost marketing spending, which was up 20 percent in 2006. The company is also bringing on line the first new major distillery in Scotland in 30 years to be sure it has enough liquid down the road to keeping filling Johnnie Walker bottles.

Sales of the range of Johnnie Walker products were up 9 percent in the U.S. last year. While the company will continue to count on growth in the U.S., emerging premium spirits markets like China, Russia, Brazil and India will be critical to meeting the massive sales bogey. There are just not enough new brown liquor drinkers in traditional western markets to fuel the growth path.

Diageo has managed the Johnnie Walker franchise in recent years to create multiple levels of brand experiences for customers. From the Red Label entry point to the prestige Blue offering, with other bottlings in between, Johnnie Walker is one of the broader whisky offerings on the planet. Each label is distinct in flavor and the price points match well with various competitive brands. Diageo's marketing efforts spread across advertising and sponsorships also expose the brand to core customer groups. The work that has been done during the last 10-15 years gives Johnnie Walker brand managers at least a fighting chance to come close to the stated objective.

To back the effort Diageo is building a $82 million distillery in Roseisle, which it expects to open in 2009. The new environmentally friendly plant will reclaim water and conserve energy. That distillery will produce spirits for Diageo's blended whisky. The first whisky should be ready by 2012.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Tuesday Tasting: DeProef Brewmaster's Collection

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we crack open the mail bag for six big Belgian ales courtesy of SBS Imports.

De Proefbrouwerij is a newcomer compared to most Belgian beer producers. It was founded in 1996 by Dirk Naudts in the the village of Lochrsiti. Naudts had been a brewmaster at the Roman Brewery in Oudenaarde, Belgium, and at St. Lieven in Gent. The DeProef brewery is a small 9 barrel system designed for making experimental brews and small batch products.

The DeProef Brewmaster's Collection covers quite a bit of Belgian beer ground. Here are my notes from sampling the beers across three sessions.

La Grande Blanche Imperiale White Ale: This 7.5 alcohol by volume ale is hazy with a pretty firm, but short head. Good tropical notes and mild spice.

Zoetzuur Flemish Ale: A sour-style Flemish ale, the beer is 7 percent alcohol by volume. A good solid beer that has had a small amount of cherry juice added which serves to finish the sour notes with a balance of sweetness. You either love or hate this beer. Not much middle ground, but that is perfect for the style.

Saison Imperial Belgian Farmhouse Ale: The wild yeast captured in this 8.5 percent alcohol by volume beer makes it a real treat. There is a wine-like characteristic in the background and some hints of spice.

Lozen Boer Abt: This Abbey-style ale honors the "cow smuggler" and has plenty of dark fruit overtones, perhaps a touch of apricot, with healthy malt throughout. Nice dark reddish hue. At 10 percent alcohol by volume it packs a solid punch.

Reinaert Flemish Wild Ale: The pale golden color does not adequately communicate the spicy, hoppy notes in this beer. The beer is fermented three times using two yeast strains, which gives it quite a bit of depth. The use of brettanomyces (wild yeast) is a tip of the hat to Belgian lambic makers.

Signature Ale: This brew is the result of the combined talents of Naudts and Tomme Arthur of Port Brewing and Lost Abbey in California. The beer benefits from four malts and two yeast strains, plus the aggressive hop levels that are common among American brewers. The result is a golden brew with a rocky head and 8.5 percent alcohol by volume. Plenty of citrus notes and solid hop bitterness.

Monday, October 15, 2007

To Your Health: Red Wine Fights Off Food Poisoning and Stomach Ulcers

A study conducted by the University of Missouri suggests red wine helps fight off food poisoning and a virus linked to stomach ulcers.

In the study researchers wanted to find if red wine had additional health benefits beyond the positive cardiovascular findings of previous studies. The Missouri scientists found that red wine helps fight E coli, Salmonella and Listeria, all common food poisoning pathogens. The study also suggests red wine helps prevent the spread of Helicobacter pylori, which causes stomach ulcers.

The researchers said that the alcohol in red wine plays a role, as does acidity.
The compound resveratrol, which is found in red grape skins, is also believed to play a part because white wine did not have the same impact of food borne illness pathogens.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Is Bordeaux Replacing Bitter in the British Pub?

A pair of reports out of the United Kingdom suggest that wine could some day replace beer as the favorite drink of British pub regulars.

First, a study commissioned by French wineries and funded by the French Ministry of Agriculture states that by 2039 more men will be ordering wine at pubs than calling for pints. The report says that many British men already have a pint at the start of the evening before shifting to wine. The primary reasons given were that a second pint of beer gave them a bloated feeling (68 percent) and the wine selection in the pub was better than the beer offerings (52 percent). The one statistic in the French study that has to trouble U.K. brewers more than any other is that 72 percent of the 1,000 British men surveyed said they consider wine to be a more sociable drink than beer.

Before you dismiss the study as purple stained French propaganda, consider the numbers just released by the British Beer and Pub Association that show the British are drinking less for the second straight year. The 2006 figures show consumption of alcohol down by 3.3 percent in Britain. From 2004 to 2006, pure alcohol intake fell from 9.4 liters to 8.9 liters.

The report shows that beer makes up 43 percent of the nation's alcohol consumption; wine 29%; spirits 20%; and cider and other drinks 8 percent. In 1990 beer held a 57 percent share and wine was 18 percent of the market.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

2007 GABF Medal Winners Announced

The premier beer festival in America is entering its final hours in Denver. I was not able to make it to the Great American Beer Festival this year, but if you check out some of the other blogs listed under Real Simple Beer Syndication in my blog roll you will get a flavor of the event.

Every beer lover in America needs to make at least one pilgrimage to Denver for the GABF. One of the highlights is having the chance to taste the best beers in America and seeing happy brewers walk around Denver on Saturday night with medals around their necks.

Here is the list of the 2007 medal winners just released by the Brewers Association:

Large Brewing Company and Large Brewing Company Brewer of the Year Pabst Brewing Company, Woodridge, IL Bob Newman

Mid-Size Brewing Company and Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year Sponsored by Crosby & Baker Ltd. Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Paso Robles, CA Matthew Brynildson

Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year Sponsored by Microstar Keg Management Port Brewing & The Lost Abbey, San Marcos, CA Tomme Arthur

Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year Sponsored by Brewers Supply Group Redrock Brewing Company, Salt Lake City, UT Kevin Templin

Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year Sponsored by Briess Malt & Ingredients Co. Montana Brewing Company, Billings, MT Travis Zeilstra

Category:1 American-Style Cream Ale or Lager - 24 Entries Gold: Lone Star, Pabst Brewing Co., Woodridge, IL Silver: Old Style, Pabst Brewing Co., Woodridge, IL Bronze: TAPS Cream Ale, TAPS Fish House & Brewery, Brea, CA

Category: 2 American-Style Wheat Beer - 19 Entries Gold: Pyramid Crystal Weizen, Pyramid Breweries, Seattle, OR Silver: Brewmaster Reserve, Widmer Brothers Brewing Co., Portland, OR Bronze: Honey Weiss, Diamond Bear Brewing Co., Little Rock, AR

Category: 3 American-Style Hefeweizen - 46 Entries Gold: Whitetail Wheat, Montana Brewing Co., Billings, MT Silver: Easy Street Wheat, Odell Brewing Co., Fort Collins, CO Bronze: American Hefeweizen, Gella’s Diner and Liquid Bread Brewing Co., Hays, KS

Category: 4 Fruit Beer or Vegetable Beer - 94 Entries Gold: Leinenkugel’s Berry Weiss, Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co., Chippewa Falls, WI Silver: The Great Pumpkin, Elysian Brewing Co., Seattle, WA Bronze: Raspberry Tart, New Glarus Brewing Co., New Glarus, WI

Category: 5 Herb and Spice Beer - 58 Entries Gold: Summertime 69, Gunnison Brewery, Gunnison, CO Silver: Sigda’s Green Chili, CooperSmith’s Pub & Brewing Co., Fort Collins,CO Bronze: Frederick Miller Classic Chocolate Lager, Miller Brewing Co., Milwaukee, WI

Category: 6 Coffee Flavored Beer - 36 Entries Gold: Coffee Bender, Surly Brewing Co., Brooklyn Center, MN Silver: Java Porter, Blind Tiger Brewery & Restaurant, Topeka, KS Bronze: Pipeline Porter, Kona Brewing Co., Kailua-Kona, HI

Category: 7 Specialty Beer - 17 Entries Gold: Judgment Day, Port Brewing & The Lost Abbey, San Marcos, CA Silver: Maui Gold Summer Ale, Maui Brewing Co., Lahaina, HI Bronze: Doble Diablo, Thunder Canyon Brewery, Tucson, AZ

Category: 8 Rye Beer - 22 Entries Gold: Crazy Jackass Ale, Great American Restaurants, Centreville, VA Silver: Rockchuck Rye, Snake River Brewing - Lander, Lander, WY Bronze: 1065 Right On Rye, Rock Bottom Brewery - Bethesda, Bethesda, MD

Category: 9 Specialty Honey Lager or Ale - 39 Entries Gold: Honey Moon Summer Ale, Blue Moon Brewing Co., Golden, CO Silver: Midas Touch, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE Bronze: Hawaiian Honey, Chicago Brewing Co., Las Vegas, NV

Category: 10 Other Low Strength Ale or Lager - 14 Entries Gold: Half Wit, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery - Reno, NV & Chandler, AZ, Huntington Beach, CA Silver: Firestone Extra Pale, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA Bronze: Firestone Lager (Mini-Hell), Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA

Category: 11 Experimental Beer (Lager or Ale) - 34 Entries Gold: Imperial Chocolate Pumpkin Porter, Midnight Sun Brewing Co., Anchorage, AK Silver: Veritas 002, Port Brewing & The Lost Abbey, San Marcos, CA Bronze: Victor, Allagash Brewing Co., Portland, ME

Category: 12 Gluten Free Beer - 8 Entries Gold: RedBridge, Anheuser-Busch, Inc., St. Louis, MO Silver: New Grist, Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee, WI Bronze: Shakparo Ale, Sprecher Brewing Co., Glendale, WI

Category: 13 American-Style Sour Ale or German-Style - 12 Entries Gold: Cuvee de Castleton, Captain Lawrence Brewing Co., Pleasantville, NY Silver: Skull & Bones Cuvee, Bristol Brewing Co., Colorado Springs, CO Bronze: Le Terroir, New Belgium Brewing Co., Fort Collins, CO

Category: 14 Wood- and Barrel-Aged Beer - 26 Entries Gold: Oak Whiskey Red, Twisted Pine Brewing Co., Boulder, CO Silver: Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale, Alltech’s Lexington Brewing Co., Lexington, KY Bronze: Buffalo Bock, Ram Restaurant & Brewery (Indianapolis), Indianapolis, IN

Category: 15 Wood- and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer - 72 Entries Gold: Bourbon Wheatmiser, Goose Island Brewpub, Chicago, IL Silver: Bourbon Barrel Anniversary Ale, Olde Peninsula Brewpub & Restaurant, Kalamazoo, MI Bronze: Relapse, Newport Beach Brewing Co., Newport Beach, CA

Category: 16 Wood- and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer - 21 Entries Gold: Cuvee de Tomme, Port Brewing & The Lost Abbey, San Marcos, CA Silver: Temptation, Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa, CA Bronze: Barrel-Aged Cherry, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery - Reno, NV & Chandler, AZ, Huntington Beach, CA

Category: 17 Aged Beer (Ale or Lager) - 30 Entries Gold: Broad Street Barleywine, Rock Bottom Brewery - King of Prussia, King of Prussia, PA Silver: 2003 Pilgrim’s Dole, New Holland Brewing Co., Holland, MI Bronze: Alaskan Smoked Porter 2004, Alaskan Brewing Co., Juneau, AK

Category: 18 Cellar or Unfiltered Beer - 31 Entries Gold: Organic Zwickelbier, Redrock Brewing Co., Salt Lake City, UT Silver: Cambridge Amber, Cambridge Brewing Co., Cambridge, MA Bronze: Hop Angel I.P.A., Chelsea Brewing Co., New York, NY

Category: 19 Smoke-Flavored Beer - 25 Entries Gold: Smokey the Beer, Blind Tiger Brewery & Restaurant, Topeka, KS Silver: Alaskan Smoked Porter 2006, Alaskan Brewing Co., Juneau, AK Bronze: Smokin Willie Porter, Moose’s Tooth Brewing Co., Anchorage, AK

Category: 20 International-Style Pilsener - 10 Entries Gold: 4K Pils, Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR Silver: Southside Pils, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant Group, Chattanooga, TN Bronze: Pig’s Eye Pilsner Beer, Pig’s Eye Brewing Co., LLC, Woodbury, MN

Category: 21 German-Style Pilsener - 47 Entries Gold: Pikeland Pils, Sly Fox Brewing Co., Royersford, PA Silver: Prima Pils, Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA Bronze: Kingfisher Premium Lager Beer, Olde Saratoga Brewing Co., Saratoga Springs, NY

Category: 22 Bohemian Style Pilsener - 33 Entries Gold: Gordon Biersch Czech Lager, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant Group, Chattanooga, TN Silver: Pallavicini Pilsner, Pug Ryan’s Brewery, Dillon, CO Bronze: Detroit Lager, The Beer Co’s - Detroit, Detroit, MI

Category: 23 Münchner (Munich) Style Helles - 34 Entries Gold: El Amigo Light, Mission Brewery, San Diego, CA Silver: Gorch Foch, Three Floyds Brewing Co., Munster, IN Bronze: What in the Helles?, Steamworks Brewing Co., Durango/Bayfield, CO

Category: 24 Dortmunder/European Style Export or German-Style Oktoberfest/Wiesen (Meadow) - 18 Entries Gold: Move Back, SandLot Brewery at Coors Field, Denver, CO Silver: Green Side Up, SandLot Brewery at Coors Field, Denver, CO Bronze: Widmer Export Lager, Widmer Brothers Brewing Co., Portland, OR

Category: 25 American Style Light Lager - 27 Entries Gold: Old Milwaukee Light, Pabst Brewing Co., Woodridge, IL Silver: Pabst Blue Ribbon Light, Pabst Brewing Co., Woodridge, IL Bronze: Coors Light, Coors Brewing Co., Golden, CO

Category: 26 American-Style Lager - 33 Entries Gold: Hamm’s, Miller Brewing Co., Milwaukee, WI Silver: Miller Genuine Draft, Miller Brewing Co., Milwaukee, WI Bronze: McHenry Lager, Clipper City Brewing Co., Baltimore, MA

Category: 27 American Style Specialty Lager - 16 Entries Gold: Icehouse, Miller Brewing Co., Milwaukee, WI Silver: Mickey’s Ice, Miller Brewing Co., Milwaukee, WI Bronze: Mickey’s Malt Liquor, Miller Brewing Co., Milwaukee, WI

Category: 28 Vienna Style Lager - 37 Entries Gold: Balto Märzhon, Clipper City Brewing Co., Baltimore, MD Silver: Dos Rios, Glenwood Canyon Brewing Co., Glenwood Springs, CO Bronze: Stoudts Ofest, Stoudts Brewing Co., Adamstown, PA

Category: 29 German Style Märzen - 58 Entries Gold: Victory Festbier, Victory Brewing Co., Downingtown, PA Silver: Stewart’s Oktoberfest, Stewart’s Brewing Co., Bear, DE Bronze: Michelob Marzen, Anheuser-Busch, Inc., St. Louis, MO

Category: 30 American Style Amber Lager - 44 Entries Gold: Steam Engine Lager, Steamworks Brewing Co., Durango/Bayfield, CO Silver: Toasted Lager, Blue Point Brewing Co., Patchogue, NY Bronze: Old Scratch Amber Lager, Flying Dog Brewery, Denver, CO

Category: 31 European Style Dark/Münchner Dunkel - 18 Entries Gold: Dunkelstilsken, CB & Pott’s Restaurant & Brewery (Highlands Ranch), Highlands Ranch, CO Silver: Capital Munich Dark, Capital Brewery Co., Inc., Middleton, WI Bronze: Munich Dunkel, Redrock Brewing Co., Salt Lake City, UT

Category: 32 American-Style Dark Lager - 12 Entries Gold: Roadrunner Red Lager, Thunder Canyon Brewery, Tucson, AZ Silver: Henry Weinhard’s Classic Dark, Miller Brewing Co., Milwaukee, WI Bronze: Elevator Dark Horse, Elevator Brewing Co., Columbus, OH

Category: 33 German Style Schwarzbier - 23 Entries Gold: Gordon Biersch Schwarzbier, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant Group, Chattanooga, TN Silver: Redrock Black Bier, Redrock Brewing Co., Salt Lake City, UT

Category: 34 Bock - 23 Entries Gold: Troegenator, Tröegs Brewing Co., Harrisburg, PA Silver: Gruffmeister 8 Maibock, Foothills Brewing, Winston-Salem, NC Bronze: Butthead Bock, Tommyknocker Brewery, Idaho Springs, CO

Category: 35 German Style Strong Bock - 22 Entries Gold: Samuel Adams Double Bock, Boston Beer Co., Boston, MA Silver: Warning Sign, Rockyard American Grill & Brewing Co., Castle Rock, CO Bronze: Instigator, Sly Fox Brewing Co., Royersford, PA

Category: 36 Baltic-Style Porter - 13 Entries Gold: Killer Kowalski, Flossmoor Station Brewing Co., Flossmoor, IL Silver: Foothills Baltic Porter, Foothills Brewing, Winston-Salem, NC Bronze: Amnesia, The Grumpy Troll Restaurant & Brewery, Mount Horeb, WI

Category: 37 Golden or Blonde Ale - 48 Entries Gold: Red Brick Blonde, Atlanta Brewing Co., Atlanta, GA Silver: Kiwanda Cream Ale, Pelican Pub & Brewery, Pacific City, OR Bronze: Mississippi Blonde, Bent River Brewing Co., Moline, IL

Category: 38 German Style Kölsch/Köln Style Kölsch - 45 Entries Gold: Saint Arnold Fancy Lawnmower, Saint Arnold Brewing Co., Houston, TX Silver: Colorado Kölsch, Steamworks Brewing Co., Durango/Bayfield, CO Bronze: Gordon Biersch SummerFest, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant Group, Chattanooga, TN

Category: 39 English-Style Summer Ale - 24 Entries Gold: “312” Urban Wheat Ale, Goose Island Beer Co., Chicago, IL Silver: Sandbagger Gold, Montana Brewing Co., Billings, MT Bronze: Green Flash Extra Pale Ale, Green Flash Brewing Co., Vista, CA

Category: 40 Classic English Style Pale Ale - 32 Entries Gold: Pale Ale, Diamond Bear Brewing Co., Little Rock, AR Silver: DBA (Double Barrel Ale), Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA Bronze: Summit Extra Pale Ale, Summit Brewing Co., St. Paul, MN

Category: 41 English-Style India Pale Ale - 38 Entries Gold: Squatters IPA, Utah Brewers Cooperative, Salt Lake City, UT Silver: India Pale Ale, Goose Island Beer Co., Chicago, IL Bronze: Beech Street Bitter, Pizza Port - Carlsbad, Carlsbad, CA

Category: 42 American Style Pale Ale - 68 Entries Gold: Firestone Pale 31, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA Silver: Piranha Pale Ale, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery - Roseville, CA & Portland, OR, Huntington Beach, CA Bronze: Full Frontal Pale Ale, Piece Brewery, Chicago, IL

Category: 43 American-Style Strong Pale Ale - 91 Entries Gold: Nectar Pale, Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA Silver: Hop Bomb IPA, Rock Bottom Brewery - Bellevue, Bellevue, WA Bronze: Bent Nail IPA, Red Lodge Ales Brewing Co., Red Lodge, MT

Category: 44 American-Style India Pale Ale - 120 Entries Gold: IPA, Odell Brewing Co., Fort Collins, CO Silver: Blind Pig IPA, Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa, CA Bronze: El Camino IPA, Mission Brewery, San Diego, CA

Category: 45 Imperial or Double India Pale Ale - 72 Entries Gold: Hopsickle, Moylan’s Brewing Co., Novato, CA Silver: Moylander, Moylan’s Brewing Co., Novato, CA Bronze: Double Trouble Imperial IPA, 21st Amendment Brewery, San Francisco, CA

Category: 46 American Style Amber/Red Ale - 66 Entries Gold: Stone Levitation Ale, Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, CA Silver: Hop Head Red, Green Flash Brewing Co., Vista, CA Bronze: McCarthy Red, Emmett’s Tavern & Brewing Co., West Dundee, IL

Category: 47 Imperial or Double Red Ale - 38 Entries Gold: Organic Deranger, Laurelwood Brewing Co., Portland, OR Silver: Hog Heaven, Avery Brewing Co., Boulder, CO Bronze: Extra Special Red, Odell Brewing Co., Fort Collins, CO

Category: 48 Bitter or Pale Mild Ale - 43 Entries Gold: Pub Bitter, Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR Silver: Squatters Organic Amber Ale, Utah Brewers Cooperative, Salt Lake City, UT Bronze: Snake River Pale Ale, Snake River Brewing Co., Jackson, WY

Category: 49 Extra Special Bitter or Strong Bitter - 38 Entries Gold: The Wise ESB, Elysian Brewing Co., Seattle, WA Silver: O’Brien’s Harvest, Hale’s Ales Brewery, Seattle, WA Bronze: Big Sea ESB, Free State Brewing Co., Lawrence, KS

Category: 50 Scottish Style Ale - 26 Entries Gold: 1065 Brown Bear Brown, Rock Bottom Brewery - Bethesda, MD, Bethesda, MD Silver: Laughing Lab Scottish Ale, Bristol Brewing Co., Colorado Springs, CO Bronze: Commando Scottish Ale, Pizza Port - Solana Beach, Solana Beach, CA

Category: 51 Irish Style Red Ale - 25 Entries Gold: Red Rocks Red, Rock Bottom Brewery - Westminster, Westminster, CO Silver: Crimson Phog, 23rd Street Brewery, Lawrence, KS Bronze: Enchanted Rock Red Ale, Fredericksburg Brewing Co., Fredericksburg, TX

Category: 52 English Style Dark Mild Ale or English- - 49 Entries Gold: Lil’ Pip’s Mild Ale, Hoppers Grill & Brewing Co., Midvale, UT Silver: Nut Brown Ale, Blackstone Brewing Co., Nashville, TN Bronze: 1069 Brown Bear Brown, Rock Bottom Brewery - Campbell, CA, Campbell, CA

Category: 53 American Style Brown Ale - 45 Entries Gold: Doryman’s Dark Ale, Pelican Pub & Brewery, Pacific City, OR Silver: Redrock Nut Brown Ale, Redrock Brewing Co., Salt Lake City, UT Bronze: Bitch Creek ESB, Grand Teton Brewing Co., Victor, ID

Category: 54 German Style Brown Ale/Düsseldorf Style - 32 Entries Gold: Alt, Herkimer Pub and Brewery, Minneapolis, MN Silver: 1065 Firechief Ale, Rock Bottom Brewery - Bethesda, MD, Bethesda, MD Bronze: Gordon Biersch Alt, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant Group, Chattanooga, TN Bronze: Gordon Biersch Hefeweizen, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant Group, Chattanooga, TN

Category: 55 South German Style - 60 Entries Gold: Hefeweizen, Beaver Street Brewery & Whistle Stop Café, Flagstaff, AZ Silver: Stoudts Weizen, Stoudts Brewing Co., Adamstown, PA Bronze: Top Heavy Hefeweizen, Piece Brewery, Chicago, IL

Category: 56 German-Style Wheat Ale - 35 Entries Gold: Boscos Hefeweizen, Boscos Brewing Co., Memphis, TN Silver: Dark ‘n’ Curvy, Piece Brewery, Chicago, IL Bronze: Gordon Biersch Hefeweizen, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant Group, Chattanooga, TN

Category: 57 Belgian-Style White (or Wit)/Belgian- - 47 Entries Gold: Nit Wit, BJ’s Restaurant & Brewery - Reno, NV & Chandler, AZ, Huntington Beach, CA Silver: John’s Generations White Ale, Millstream Brewing Co., Amana, IA Bronze: Mothership Wit Organic Wheat Beer, New Belgium Brewing Co., Fort Collins, CO

Category: 58 French- and Belgian Style Saison - 35 Entries Gold: Saison Vautour, McKenzie Brew House, Malvern, PA Silver: Liquid Sun 1087, Rock Bottom Brewery Scottsdale, Scottsdale, AZ Bronze: Southampton Saison, Southampton Publick House, Southampton, NY

Category: 59 Belgian and French-Style Ale - 24 Entries Gold: Tiburon Blonde, Marin Brewing Co., Larkspur, CA Silver: Southampton Double White Ale, Southampton Publick House, Southampton, NY Bronze: Domaine DuPage, Two Brothers Brewing Co., Warrenville, IL

Category: 60 Belgian-Style Sour Ale - 28 Entries Gold: High Mountain Cherry Ale, Rubicon Brewing Co., Sacramento, CA Silver: Supplication, Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa, CA Bronze: Kriek de Hill, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant - Media, Media, PA

Category: 61 Belgian Style Abbey Ale - 55 Entries Gold: Triple Dipsea Belgian-Style Ale, Marin Brewing Co., Larkspur, CA Silver: Green Flash Trippel, Green Flash Brewing Co., Vista, CA Bronze: Four, Allagash Brewing Co., Portland, ME

Category: 62 Belgian Style Strong Specialty Ale - 58 Entries Gold: Celis Grand Cru, Michigan Brewing Co., Webberville, MI Silver: Redrock Reve, Redrock Brewing Co., Salt Lake City, UT Bronze: Batch 8000, Bell’s Brewery, Inc, Galesburg, MI

Category: 63 Brown Porter - 23 Entries Gold: Pioneer Porter, Fredericksburg Brewing Co., Fredericksburg, TX Silver: Prospector Porter, Tommyknocker Brewery, Idaho Springs, CO Bronze: St. Charles Porter, Blackstone Brewing Co., Nashville, TN

Category: 64 Robust Porter - 62 Entries Gold: Pt. Reyes Porter, Marin Brewing Co., Larkspur, CA Silver: Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, Great Lakes Brewing Co., Cleveland, OH Bronze: Planet Porter, Boulder Beer Co., Boulder, CO

Category: 65 Classic Irish Style Dry Stout - 24 Entries Gold: Moylan’s Irish Dry Stout, Moylan’s Brewing Co., Novato, CA Bronze: Blarney Sisters Dry Irish Stout, Third Street Aleworks, Santa Rosa, CA

Category: 66 Foreign (Export) Style Stout - 23 Entries Gold: Zonker Stout, Snake River Brewing Co., Jackson, WY Silver: Custer’s Last Stout, Montana Brewing Co., Billings, MT Bronze: Russian Imperial Stout, Sacramento Brewing Co., Sacramento, CA

Category: 67 American-Style Stout - 28 Entries Gold: Sticky Stout, Pizza Port - Carlsbad, Carlsbad, CA Silver: Big Bear, Bear Republic Brewing, Healdsburg, CA Bronze: Terminal Stout, Rock Bottom Brewery Chicago, Chicago, IL

Category: 68 Sweet Stout - 18 Entries Silver: Double Cream Stout, Bell’s Brewery, Inc, Galesburg, MI Bronze: Milkman Stout, Capitol City Brewing Co. - Arlington, Arlington, VA

Category: 69 Oatmeal Stout - 36 Entries Gold: Blue Corn Oatmeal Stout, New Mexico Brewers Guild, Santa Fe, NM Silver: Oatmeal Stout, Schooner’s Grille & Brewery, Antioch, CA Bronze: Alaskan Stout, Alaskan Brewing Co., Juneau, AK

Category: 70 Imperial Stout - 44 Entries Gold: Abyss, Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR Silver: TAPS Imperial Stout, TAPS Fish House & Brewery, Brea, CA Bronze: Russian Imperial Stout, Rogue Ales, Newport, OR

Category: 71 Strong Scotch Ale - 28 Entries Gold: MacPelican’s Wee Heavy Strong Scotch Ale, Pelican Pub & Brewery, Pacific City, OR Silver: Scotty Karate Scotch Ale, Dark Horse Brewing Co., Marshall, MI Bronze: McKenzie Wee Heavy, McKenzie Brew House, Malvern, PA

Category: 72 Old Ale or Strong Ale - 32 Entries Gold: Old Woody, Fish Brewing Co., Olympia, WA Silver: Outback X, Bend Brewing Co, Bend, OR Bronze: Imperial Nut Brown Ale, Tommyknocker Brewery, Idaho Springs, CO

Category: 73 Other Strong Ale or Lager - 32 Entries Gold: Derail Ale, Durango Brewing Co., Durango, CO Silver: Dragonstooth Stout, Elysian Brewing Co., Seattle, WA Bronze: Bottleworks VIII, Flyers Restaurant and Brewery, Oak Harbor, WA

Category: 74 American-Style Wheat Wine Ale - 9 Entries Gold: Star Brew Triple Wheat, Marin Brewing Co., Larkspur, CA Silver: Wheat Wine, Portsmouth Brewery, Portsmouth, NH Bronze: Wheatmiser, Goose Island Brewpub, Chicago, IL

Category: 75 Barley Wine Style Ale - 48 Entries Gold: John Barley Corn Barleywine, Mad River Brewing Co., Blue Lake, CA Silver: Cereal Killer Barley Wine, Arcadia Brewing Co., Battle Creek, MI Bronze: 3 Guy Off the Scale Barley Wine, Dark Horse Brewing Co., Marshall, MI

2007 Great American Beer Festival Pro-Am Beer Competition - 48 Entries Sponsored by Briess Malt & Ingredients Co. and Hopunion CBS LLC Gold: English Style India Pale Ale, Allentown/Bethlehem Brew Works, Allentown, PA Beau Badem & AHA Member Chris Bowen Silver: Kentucky Weissbier, Alltech’s Lexington Brewing Co., Lexington, KY Brewery Team & AHAMember Bill Caldwell Bronze: Sculpin IPA, Ballast Point Brewing Co., San Diego, CA Ballast Point Brewers & AHA Member Doug Duffield

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cognac Harvest 25 Percent Below Predictions

Cognac is the most famous brandy in the world and its made from a grape most people have not heard of, the ugni blanc. Disease in the vineyards, including mildew, are cutting this year's harvest of the ugni blanc significantly.

Cognac can come from only one small region of France. With demand for Cognac growing, a bad year hurts brands like Martell and Hennessy because they are unable to count on a reliable supply of grapes.

The Bureau National Interprofessionel du Cognac says production could be off by 25-30 percent. That will likely cause prices to climb in future years.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Chicago Mayor Calls for Hike in Beer, Wine and Liquor Taxes

Chicago residents and visitors will likely be paying more to enjoy a drink under the budget proposal submitted this week by Mayor Richard M. Daley. In a move that is becoming all too common across the country, another governmental body has decided to try to shake a few more coins out of your pocket when you decide to relax with an adult beverage.

Chicago's budget is huge: $5.4 billion. Mayor Daley projects a $196 million shortfall, so he is offering up a series of taxes and fees that total nearly $300 million. Increases in property taxes and fees for vehicle parking permits will hurt the most. The tax increase on beer would equal an 85 percent jump, adding 8 cents to a six pack. The tax on wine and liquor would jump by 50 percent, with a bottle of wine going up 7 cents and a bottle of spirits increasing by 24 cents. These taxes are on top of federal and state taxes charged on alcohol.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Drink Art: The Peasant Dance by Pieter Bruegel

Drink Art is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that looks at famous works of art depicting men and women enjoying life and drink.

The Peasant Dance
Pieter Bruegel (Bruegel the Elder)
Belgian, 1525-1569

While most artists of the time spent their careers painting the rich and famous, Pieter Bruegel (Brueghel) was content with chronicling the lives of ordinary folk. We know quite a bit more than we might otherwise realize about the customs and dress of citizens of Holland from the mid-1500s because of his works.

Only about four dozen of Bruegel's paintings survive, along with several hundred drawings. It has, after all, been more than four centuries since his death and the European continent has been ripped by wars on a regular basis. One of Bruegel's most famous works is The Peasant Dance, which features people dancing, eating and drinking. A Bruegel painting can normally be picked out because the subjects are in motion, trying to get as much out of life as possible. Bruegel is also recognized as one of the first western painters to focus on landscapes.

The Bruegel's were a Flemish painting family. Bruegel the Elder's two sons Pieter and Jan are recognized artists, as are several members of the clan.

The Peasant Dance, which was painted in 1568, is part of the collection at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, Austria.

His art is the inspiration for Bruegel Belgian Amber Ale from Brewery Van Steenberge. The 5.2 percent alcohol by volume beer has a scene from The Peasant Dance on the label.

Keeping the Scotland in Scotch

Where does your Scotch come from? The British government is taking steps be make sure the answer is Scotland and to give consumers more assurance that products labeled as "Islay" or "Speyside" are actually from those appellations.

The United Kingdom Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is working on tighter definitions on Scotch whisky classifications, including requiring that all aging be completed in Scotland. The new rules would require all labels to list a Scotch as one of five types of product: Single Malt Scotch whisky, Single Grain Scotch whisky, Blended Scotch whisky, Blended Malt Scotch whisky and Blended Grain Scotch whisky.

The U.K. is acting as the European Union is offering greater protection to Scotch makers against distillers from outside of the country labeling products as "Scotch" or calling a whisky made elsewhere as a "Highland Malt." The rules under review would also place requirements that brands that use Highland, Lowland, Speyside, Campbeltown or Islay on the label actually come from spirits that are 100 percent from those regions.

The worldwide demand for Scotch has caused price increases for top brands and is leading to both counterfeiting and efforts by some distillers to bulk ship product to other locations for aging and packaging. Scotch is a major contributor to the Scottish economy in terms of exports and tourism spending. The U.K. government's actions are meant to protect the brand equity that Scotch has built in the last several decades.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Miller and Coors Combine United States Operations

The rumors of a possible marriage between the second and third largest brewers in the United States have been around for years. Today SABMiller and Molson Coors Brewing Co. are announcing they have signed a letter of intent to combine the two companies' U.S. and Puerto Rico operations.

Miller Brewing Co. and Coors Brewing Co. will have annual combined beer sales of 69 million barrels and net revenue of $6.6 billion. The joint venture, to be called MillerCoors, will allow the brewers to cut costs by $500 million and compete more strongly in the U.S. market. Anheuser-Busch is the dominant domestic brewer, but both imports and craft beers have been gaining share in recent years. The most valuable brand properties of both companies happen to be light beers. Miller Lite and Coors Light do battle with A-B's Bud Light and Michelob Ultra in the low calorie segment. The companies have also experienced recent successes with brands like Miller Chill and Blue Moon.

Pete Coors will become chairman of MillerCoors. SABMiller CEO Graham Mackay will serve as vice chairman of MillerCoors. Molson Coors Chief Executive Officer Leo Kiely will hold the same title in the joint venture, while Miller CEO Tom Long will be appointed president of the joint venture.

SABMiller and Molson Coors will each have a 50 percent voting interest in the joint venture and five representatives each on the board of directors. SABMiller will have a 58 percent economic interest in the joint venture and Molson Coors will have a 42 percent share.

The companies hope to close the deal by the end of 2007.

Cleavage Creek Raising Funds for Breast Cancer Research

A new wine label from California's Napa Valley is dedicated to funding breast cancer research. Winemaker Budge Brown is introducing Cleavage Creek Winery with the pledge to donate 10 percent of gross sales to fight the disease.

The first Cleavage Creek wines will be released on Oct. 15. Brown lost his wife of 48 years, Arlene Brown, to breast cancer in 2005. He wants to use the label to focus efforts to find an end to the disease.

Cleavage Creek will release eight varietals, including a 2005 Reserve Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005 Reserve Napa Petite Sirah, 2005 Cabernet-Syrah, 2004 Merlot, 2004 Merlot-Syrah, and 2006 Reserve Chardonnay, all produced from grapes grown in Brown’s vineyards. A 2003 Secret Red and a 2006 Secret White complete the group. A total of 2,000 cases of wine to be available for sale in the first year. Each bottle of Cleavage Creek wine honors a breast cancer survivor with their picture on the label.

The wines will be priced in the $18 to $50 range and will initially be available for purchase via Internet and phone. You can get information on the wines at www.CleavageCreek.com.

Monday, October 08, 2007

From Munich to Durham and Charlotte to Denver, It's Beer Festival Season

Even if you were unable to get to Munich for the 174th Oktoberfest that wrapped up on Sunday or cannot break away to get to Denver for the 26th annual Great American Beer Festival that kicks off on Thursday, you don't have to feel left out of the beer festival scene.

Germany's Oktoberfest was attended by 6.2 million visitors this year, down by about 300,000 from the record set in 2006. Those who did show up were thirsty, consuming 6.7 million liters of beer, up 10 percent.

In Denver, they are getting ready for the GABF, which runs from Oct. 11-13. The GABF will pour more than 1,800 beers from 474 American breweries to more than 40,000 beer fans.

While I am not earning any frequent flyer miles going to Germany or Colorado this year, my beer festival card has been filled the last two weekends.

On Sept. 29th it was the ninth annual Charlotte Oktoberfest at the Metrolina Expo Center just north of Charlotte, N.C. The festival was presented by The Carolina BrewMasters and Creative Loafing, a local alternative weekly newspaper. These photographs were taken by my Son-in-Law Mike Wirth at the event.

The Charlotte Oktoberfest featured a nice range of southeastern beers, along with other brews from around the U.S. and the world. The King Don's Pumpkin Ale from Catawba Valley Brewing, Atlanta Brewing's Oktoberfest, Old Hickory Brewing's Barleywine, Rock Bottom Brewery's Keller-fest Cask Oktoberfest and Terrapin Brewing's India Style Pale Ale were among my favorites. A highlight of Charlotte Oktoberfest is the chance to sample beers made by homebrewers from around the region. This year among the beers being poured was Tom Nolan's Baltic Porter, which was brewed last year by Foothills Brewing and won the gold medal in the GABF Pro-Am category.

On Saturday, it was the 12th annual World Beer Festival in Durham, N.C. at the historic Durham Athletic Park. This event is put on by the good folks at All About Beer magazine. I spoke at both the afternoon and evening session, as did fellow beer writers Gregg Glaser and Lew Bryson. I found some fantastic pumpkin beers at this festival including Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale, Big Boss Pumpkin and Dogfish Head Punkin. The coffee beers also hit the spot, with King Mocha Java Stout, Meantime Coffee Porter and Kuhnhenn Creme Brule Java Stout big favorites.

One of the special treats at the World Beer Festival is the Pop the Cap Cask Tent, where for a donation to the group you get the chance to sample some great cask aged brews. This year I really enjoyed the Liberty Steakhouse Barleywine and several of the other specialties they served up.

I did not have to pass through airport security to attend these two festivals, but it was still a happy trip.

Friday, October 05, 2007

The Session #8: Beer & Food

The Session #8 this month looks at the relationship between beer and food. Captain Hops over at Beer Haiku Daily is the host of this edition of Beer Blogging Friday and has selected an important topic because, even as the public’s appreciation of craft beer has increased greatly in recent years, it is still difficult to get a decent beer at many restaurants.

It’s hard for me to figure out why so many restaurants fail when it comes to doing a good job in offering a food-worthy selection of ales and lagers. It takes just as much effort to pour a mediocre beer as it does to serve a great beer. The bottles take up the same amount of refrigerator space. They require the same amount of handling. And, in most cases, the restaurants literally leave money on the table offering inferior beers. Taking time to match beer with the foods they serve will mean more sales and happier customers. It should be a no brainer, but it’s not.

Even more frustrating is that some restaurants feel they are doing a great job if they offer one or two craft beer options. I’m happy when a restaurant offers a Samuel Adam’s Boston Lager or a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, but why do so many stop there? For every place like Tim Shafer's At Lake Norman in Sherrills Ford, N.C., or Chez Sophie in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., that treats beer seriously there are dozens that come up short. It really does not have to be this way.

Last week I had the chance to attend a luncheon hosted by Anheuser-Busch at Blue, an upscale restaurant in the Hearst Tower in Charlotte, N.C. The theme of the event, held during the annual Charlotte Shout culinary festival, was matching food and beer. Blue’s Executive Chef Gene Briggs prepared five wonderful courses and A-B’s Paul Mancuso, brewmaster at its Newark, N.J., brewery, and Gary Dronen, brewmaster at its Williamsburg, Va., brewery, took a group of local media through a mini beer appreciation course. This photo is Mancusco, on the left, and me talking about growing up in Upstate New York and our mutual professional experiences with the Matt Brewing Co.

Briggs commented during the event that he feels beer is a much more food friendly beverage in many regards than wine. He pointed out that beer will stand up to spices, vinegar and a wider range of food preparations. “We host both beer and wine dinners at Blue and the beer dinners sell out faster,” Briggs noted.

Some of the beer and food pairings featured during the A-B and Blue luncheon worked better than others. The first course was served as hors d’oeuvres and featured oyster shooters and charmoula shrimp that was matched with Bud Light Chelada and Michelob Ultra Fruit Infused Cactus Lime. For those of you who have not yet experienced A-B’s take on a chelada, it features Clamato juice, lime and salt flavorings. This was not my favorite brew during the event. On the other hand, the Michelob Ultra Cactus Lime was actually refreshing and perfect as a wash for the oyster shooters. It was my first encounter with the fruit infused Michelob Ultra products and, while I’m not about to head out and buy a case, I would not turn down one on a hot sunny afternoon.

The second course featured seared diver scallops with local pumpkin caponota and green beans, served with Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale. The pair went together quite nicely showing that spicy food and spiced beers can coexist.

The third course was applewood bacon wrapped Bay of Fundy salmon that was paired with two A-B brews, the newly reformulated all-malt Michelob and Skipjack Amber, one of the regional specialties that the company has rolled out around the country. Both beers could work with the salmon, but I felt the Skipjack was actually a better match because it stood up to the smoked bacon flavor. Skipjack uses four varieties of malt and is a nice amber color.

The fourth course was lamb loin rubbed with ras el Hanout over eggplant frittes and a Tunisian Tastira sauce. The beer matched with this plate was Brew Master’s Private Reserve, a rich holiday seasonal beer. The beer was firm enough to stand up to the meat and sauce. A pretty decent match for a holiday meal.

The final course was a wonderful molten chocolate cake with Italian cherries, paired with Michelob Celebrate Chocolate and Michelob Celebrate Cherry. I had previously tasted the chocolate variety, but this was my first encounter with the cherry version. I felt that both beers went fairly well with the cake, but I still believe that the Michelob Celebrate Vanilla Oak is the best beer in this series.

The A-B event at Blue showed how a thoughtful chef can match a range of cuisine with beer in a fun and creative way. I wish that instead of local journalists being in the seats that the group was made up of local restaurateurs.

Finally, I thought I'd offer up one of my favorite beer as an ingredient recipes discovered a few years back during a visit to Vermont. This is perfect for a crisp Fall day.

Old Grafton Inn Vermont Cheddar Cheese Soup

2 12 oz. bottles of beer (I'd suggest using a good New England IPA from Otter Creek, Magic Hat or Harpoon)
1 qt heavy cream
1 lb. Grafton Cheddar Cheese -- grated (If you cannot find Grafton Cheddar, go for Cabot)
2 Tbsp. flour
1/3 cup of melted butter
1/8 tsp. ground white pepper
1/4 tsp. salt

Heat melted butter and mix in flour to make a roux. Cook until smooth, remove from heat.. Boil beer and whisk in roux. Cook until thickened. Add cream and bring to just under a boil. Whisk in cheese until melted. Season with salt and white pepper.

Serve with croutons - Serves 8

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tuesday Tasting: Four States of American Gin

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we taste gins from four American states.

Gin is one of the more interesting spirits in the drinks world. It is as clear as vodka, but unlike the process of making vodka, which takes away flavor, the distiller actively adds flavors to gin. Some gins have more than a dozen different botanicals added along the way.

The juniper berry is at the base of most gins, but the rest of the flavors can include roots, citrus, berries and nuts -- even bark. It is a drink with plenty of personality. For all of the heavy smoke and wood of a great whiskey, a fine gin can be upbeat and light. They are different ranges of the distiller's chart.

Many early American microdistillers have focused on vodka and brandy. Some have gone into making run and whiskey. A few others have ventured into making gin. Recently, I was able to gather four of these gins, all from a different state to give them a taste.

Bluecoat American Dry Gin: Philadelphia Distilling uses 100 percent certified organic botanicals in making Bluecoat. This 94-proof gin has plenty of aromatic botanicals, turning your glass into a perfume factory. It has a great flavor that finishes with an orange peel note.

Cricket Club Gin: The 86 proof gin from Oregon is a London dry style with clean, crisp citrus zest in the nose and flavor profile. There is a warming pine note around the edge.

Jackalope Gin: From Peach Street Distillers in Palisade, Colo., this 80 proof gin has a nice nose and plenty of aromatics that lean towards the juniper and bitter root side. This gin is just now reaching the market.

New Holland Artisan Spirits Gin: This 85 proof Michigan gin has a light, slightly sweet and aromatic flavor that finishes with a hint of perfume.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Record $59,200 Spent for Antique Single Malt

An unidentified private investor outbid Bowmore Distillery for a 157-year-old whisky from the Islay maker, paying a record $59,200 at a sale run by McTear's in Glasgow, Scotland.

The Bowmore Single Malt was bottled in 1850 and the company hoped to display it in its new visitor center on Islay.

The record bottle had been in the family of William Mutter, who ran the predecessor distillery that became Bowmore.