Saturday, September 25, 2010

Providence Craft Beer Week

I am currently writing an article for the Providence Phoenix about the first annual Providence Craft Beer Week. Taking place Saturday, October 1st through Friday, October 8th a number of local bars and restaurants are hosting representatives from different breweries. Add in a couple of Oktoberfest celebrations, a beer dinner, and beer festival, and it is shaping up to be a pretty awesome week in The Biggest Little.

- Oskar Blues, Mon
- Dogfish Head, Tues
- Southern Tier, Weds
- Smuttynose, Thurs

The Avery:
- Trinity Brewhouse, Sun
- Heavy Seas, Mon
- Harpoon, Tues
- Smuttynose, Weds
- Wachusett, Thurs

E & O Tap:
- RedHook, Sun
- Blue Point, Mon
- Cisco, Tues
- Abita, Weds
- Ithaca, Thurs

Wild Colonial Tavern:
- Harpoon, Mon
- Cisco, Tues
- Dogfish, Weds
- Narragansett, Thurs

English Cellar Alehouse:
- Shipyard, Mon
- Cisco, Tues
- Victory, Weds
- Wetten Importers, Thurs

Brown’s Graduate Center Bar:
- Cisco, Sat
- Dogfish Head, Weds

The Apartment:
- Long Trail, Tues
- Shipyard, Weds
- Victory, Thurs

Snooker’s Billiards:
- Shipyard, Tues
- Long Trail, Weds
- Wetten Importers, Thurs

Harry’s Bar and Burger:
- Blue Point, Weds

Scurvy Dog:
- Long Trail, Thurs

East Ave:
- Merchant du Vin, Thurs

Union Station:
- Oktoberfest celebration, Fri

Loie Fuller:
- Oktoberfest beers on tap and authentic German food available, all week
- Oktoberfest costume celebration, Sun 10th

Doherty’s East Ave Irish Pub (Pawtucket):
- Dogfish, Mon
- Heavy Seas, Tues
- Peak Organic beer dinner, Weds
- Lindemans & Rocheforte, Thurs

And last but not least...

Beervana Beer Festival:
- Friday night, 6:30-10:00pm
- $40 in advance, $45 at door
- 2 oz samples of 200 beers
- Tickets available at Nikki's, Julian's, Brown's GCB, and Track 84

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Suitcase survivors

Another skill I have honed in the process of destroying my liver has been that of successfully packing a ridiculous number of beer bottles in a single suitcase. My last trip to Portland was especially productive. These three beers I enjoyed while on vacation at my cabin in Maine... and alone were worth the effort.

Cascade Kriek Ale '09, Score: 8
i feel like i am arriving a little late to the sour party (although i am quite certain this isn't the second coming of ipa's as some predict.) tartness comes on strong at first but mellows slightly. certainly an enjoyable beer.

Midnight Sun Sockeye Red IPA, Score: 6
midnight sun is a well respected alaskan brewer that i was eager to try. bitterness is quite brash, making this an over-the-top ipa in my opinion. i still enjoyed it though.

Best in show:
Alesmith Speedway Stout, Score: 10
the hype is justified. coffee shines through while booze is held at arms length. silky smooth only begins to describe. i savored this over the course of two nights with hardly any decrease in quality. put this one on your bucket list.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Homebrew #11 & #12

With a hoppy pale ale almost finished (a Mirror Pond Pale Ale clone), I realized that I never briefed you on my last two homebrews. Both were tribute beers, the most recent going down as my favorite homebrew to date...

Josh's Homebrew's Wit and Wisdom
Bottle -- Brockton
named for the recently departed howard zinn, a former brewer himself. to call this a gusher doesn't begin to describe. this is the first time i have had a bottle explode... and a growler too! what a mess. cloudiness you hope for in a wit. aroma is primarily citrus and some biscuity malts. again, a very fruity flavor. sweet and slightly tart. wheat lends a textured, dryish mouthfeel. overall, very easy to drink. an enjoyable summer beer.
Score: 7

Josh's Homebrew's Stash
Bottle -- Brockton
first off, you may be wondering about the name. it's a tribute to phish, who i was preparing to see at mansfield. (a phenomenal show, but i know that is not why you are here to read about...) this was my second ipa, and while the first one was pretty good, i wanted a hoppier, cleaner ipa this time around. in pursuit of this goal i used 5 ounces of cascade, fuggle, and columbus hops and was overly cautious in straining the beer. the results were fantastic. generally i am slow to render judgement on a homebrew but this time i declared it a winner after the first taste. very piney nose, and the flavor follows. very tasty. while the bitterness is fairly robust, it is easy to put away a few at a time (i am going to have to ration this liquid gold...) orange in color and good clarity. add it all up and you clearly get the greatest beer i have ever made.
Score: 9

Thursday, September 9, 2010

ProPho: Local Flavors

Treat yourself to a sampler tray
By JOSH SMITH August 25, 2010

Sampler trays were invented for the adventurous, the inquisitive, and the indecisive. Whether you fall easily into one of these categories or not, now is the perfect time to try a sampler.

Beer Advocate — the craft-beer loving magazine and website — is promoting the last full week of August as Local Beer Week. This is a great idea and great opportunity to explore the variety of offerings from your local brewer.

Drinking local beer has many good effects: it's green, it's fresh, and it supports small businesses in your community. So when you're out at the local package store, bar, or restaurant this week, order from a brewer in your state, or city if possible. And if they don't have any to choose from, ask why not!

This shouldn't be much of a sacrifice for residents of the Biggest Little. Providence features several excellent beer bars, an elite beer store, and two well-established, centrally located brewpubs — TRINITY BREWHOUSE and UNION STATION BREWERY. With a number of regularly rotating taps, the sampler tray (also called a taster tray) is recommended for all but the most frequent of customers.

Taster trays are an opportunity to learn what a brewer is all about, as well as try some new styles of beer. When tasters are not pre-selected for you, do be sure to order a mix of different styles. This is the perfect time to test the limits of your comfort zone and try your first Smoked Porter or Berliner Weisse! At a slightly more than the cost of a pint, the investment is minimal . . . and you may just discover your new favorite beer!

Generally coming in 4-ounce pours, samplers allow one to peruse the standard six plus taps in one sitting and still walk out under one's own volition. I have had samplers come in countless different sized paddles, place mats and, at YESTERDAY'S ALE HOUSE in Newport, a model schooner ship! Whatever the format, samplers are fun and social, a great chance to hang out with friends and compare thoughts on craft beer.

Most brewpubs will sort your selections into a logical drinking order. Unfortunately, their logic may be incorrect. There is a very pervasive myth that when sampling you should drink beer from lightest to darkest. While the color will give you some clues about the beer you are about to drink, it does not tell the whole story.

Instead, it's more important that you know your ABVs and IBUs. The percentage of Alcohol By Volume and number of International Bitterness Units are far more indicative judges of what you are in for. By starting with less alcoholic and only mildly bitter beers and then working your way up the spectrum, you preserve your palate for the beers at the end of the tray. Think about it: if you start off with a monster Barleywine, that Blonde Ale is only going to taste like water in comparison.

Take for example my taster from Union Station. I started with their SUMMER BLONDE and GOLDEN SPIKE ALE since these two had the lowest amount of alcohol. My more bitter beers — the TRIP HOP and HALF DAY IPA — came next. I closed with the beers over 5% ABV, the RIVER OTTER PORTER and BARLEYWINE. My taster at Trinity followed a similar pattern: BELGIAN WIT, SCHWARZBIER, THE KOLSCH, ESB, IMPERIAL IPA, and RUSSIAN IMPERIAL STOUT.

To be clear, I'm not telling you that there is only one correct way to drink a sampler. But to properly appreciate each and every beer you are sampling, some attention must be paid to not utterly destroying your finely tuned palate. Cleansing your palate with a sip of water between samples is another effective trick to this end. Rating each sample adds to the fun, though you shouldn't put too much faith in your rating of a few ounces. Beers do change between the start and end of a pint. Overall though, I think tasters provide an adequate sample to make some judgments about a beer. So go out this week, and support Local Beer Week by building a taster tray of your own!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Happenings in Brookline

So there have been some developments at The Publick House in Brookline since my last visit. Some of you may be aware that Publick House also operates a Provisions Store and sister restaurant on the other end of the block. However, The Roadhouse, a BBQ joint has been replaced by American Craft, more geared towards "artisinal" food. A quick peak indicated a more modern decor but similar taplist to what I would find at The Publick House. Not making it in to Brookline as much as I would like, it is going to be hard to pass on the original when the quality is so high. Could make a nice mini-pub crawl though...

Mayflower Autumn Wheat Ale, Score: 7
dark and bitter, so an unusual wheat to say the least. nice fall beer though.

Pretty Things Hedgerow Bitter, Score: 6
very coarse grassiness. not my favorite.

Victory Saison Du Buff, Score: 5
so as dan explains it to me, victory, dogfish head, and stone all took the same recipie and then brewed the beer seperately. so that is interesting. the whole "sage, rosemary, and thyme" was a little too gimmicky for me. between the spices and hoppiness, this didn't work in practice either.

Wachusetts Larry, Score: 8
very piney and sweet. not exactly sessionable, but not unapproachable either. solid doublle ipa.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

ProPho: Tips for Tastings

How to survive a beer festival
By JOSH SMITH August 11, 2010

There's a special place where you can sample dozens of different beers with fellow enthusiasts in a single session. Thanks to the growing popularity of craft brews, beer festivals are now a common occurrence from coast to coast.

With festivals in Providence, Portland, Maine, and Portland, Oregon under my belt, I consider myself an intermediate festival attendee. Each of these festivals has been a wonderful opportunity to discover both new brewers and new beers.

Beer festivals are not, however, intended as an occasion to get hammered. Of course, some will and, more importantly, this will happen to you too if you aren't careful. So as not to lose the chance to appreciate these special events, here are several simple tips to surviving a beer festival.

BEFOREHAND, PREPARE BY READING UP ON THE FESTIVAL AND COME IN WITH A GAME PLAN. Understand the rules of the show. Is there a limit to how many samples you can have? How big are the samples? Depending on the size of the festival, it probably won't be possible to try every beer in attendance. Figure out which beers you would be sad to miss out on and prioritize accordingly.

You will also need to figure out a logical order in which to drink these sought-after beers. In much the same way that you would approach a sampler tray, try to start with some of the lighter, low-alcohol beers early on and save the monster beers for later. A little forethought will go a long way toward preserving your palate for the end of the session.

It's worth noting that I always buy tickets in advance for whichever session I think will be less crowded, typically the afternoon. Second sessions tend to draw a more raucous crowd and the lines only grow longer as the event goes on. These events become significantly less fun once you have to fight through a mob to get to your next sample.

EAT AND HYDRATE, EARLY AND OFTEN. Drinking plenty of water and having a sizeable, carb-heavy meal a few hours beforehand is the single most important thing you can do to prepare for the day. I recommend pancakes or French toast. You should also snack on the food available during the festival, but making yourself a pretzel necklace ahead of time is one better. Requiring only some string and a bag of pretzels, these necklaces are a great reminder to keep eating and a whole lot of fun!

And when the show is done you really should switch over to water and eat a solid meal. No matter how full you may feel from drinking all of these different styles, you'll be glad you did.

BRING A NOTEPAD TO SCORE EACH BEER YOU TRY. This is not the time for full, official ratings since your senses will inevitably be somewhat dulled by the final hour. I will focus on the unique characteristic that defines each beer and award an overall score. The next day you'll be pleased to have a ready list of new beers to work into the rotation.

GET INTO THE SPIRIT OF THE FESTIVAL! Remember, you are coming to drink beer! Some festival-goers will show their spirit with elaborate costumes, beer paraphernalia, or group T-shirts. The aforementioned pretzel necklace is both festive and a great conversation starter. Do talk to other people in line — you're with fellow beer lovers, after all! And above all else, talk to any brewers present. Many will be friendly and quite enlightening, especially for home brewers.

It should go without saying that no matter what precautions you've taken, you'll need to have arranged for a ride home or be prepared to cab it. If you follow this and the other guidelines, your next beer festival is sure to be a blast. With several great local festivals coming up this fall — including the Great International Beer Festival in Providence (on November 13) and the Belgian Beer Fest in Boston (November 5 and 6) — there is no shortage of chances to check one out for yourself!