McCain’s Craft Beer Battered Fries – Really?

A little different post today.

If I was asked to name my favorite cuisine, I think I’d have to say – pub. Oh, don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with Italian, Greek, Asian or other culinary classics, but give me a place that makes a great burger or a killer plate of wings and I’m there.

Even outside of pubs I still look for those tavern comforts. I’m not above going out to nice places for lunch whether for work, or play, and still scanning the menu for what the place may offer as far as pub-like fare.

And along those lines if you see me intently contemplating the menu I’m usually not looking for the newest special, or gourmet cucumber, chicken wrap. No, my mind is usually locked in the complex, calculus laden calculation designed to compute what I can order that will get me the most french fries.

As most people will concur, at their basic core- fries rock. Not just because they’re versatile starch bombs that not only work well on their own paired with your condiment of choice or piled high with all kinds of calorie increasing craziness, but let’s face it, it’s because it’s so hard to make a good one at home. Ok, it’s not hard, a few potatoes, a sharp knife, some hot oil, and you have…well anything from oily, limp potato sticks to charred, charcoal like chaff depending on your attention span.

No wonder the frozen section of your local food market chain is chock full of all kinds of choices to help you conveniently get to fry Nirvana. But to be honest, I seldom go this route because let’s face it, most of those options are lacking and resemble nothing like the fries you can get out – even at those fast food joints.

https://thedogsofbeer.wordpress.com/But someone at work recently asked if I’d seen McCain’s Food’s craft beer batter offerings, and I was intrigued. Not because I’m always looking for the next great frozen side dish, but because…oh, come on, you know why.

Certain segments of the beer world are still (rightly or wrongly) holding tight to the term “craft” and what it should exactly connote to anyone inside or outside of that world. The Brewer’s Association still conveys a very clear (if abet, fluid) definition of what a craft brewery is, even going so far as to recently condemn Walmart for attempting to blur the lines with their recently offered company brewed beer.

So for some company to plaster the words “craft beer battered” across their bag of cryogenically suspended spuds I thought was pretty daring, so I picked up a bag of fries and onion rings (because if it’s not fries … it’s onion rings) and did some sleuthing.

The bags state “Made with finest quality American Pale Ale” which is nice bit of initial encouragement, but from there it wane’s fast, much like a third act in a horror movie where the heroes are sure they’ve destroyed the monster, only to watch it rise from the smoke and ashes.

There’s no mention of whose beer McCain specifically uses, which seems like a lost marketing opportunity for both McCain’s and whoever makes their beer. I mean, if you had company that makes frozen breaded confections, you’d want customers to know that you were using Stone’s or Bell’s, wouldn’t you?

I was impressed to see that beer is actually listed as an ingredient whose components are broken down as: Water, Malted Barley, Corn Syrup, Hops, Salt. Close. I mean you could make beer out of those ingredients but the corn syrup isn’t something you’d expect to see on the grain bill from your local brewer who you would associate making a “craft” product. Also, water treatment not withstanding, salt?

No, this just doesn’t seem right.

A little digging finds that McCain indeed has a page on their website dedicated to Brew City, but it seems to be more about a marketing brand set up for their products in the food service industry than having anything truly to do with craft beer.

The product itself is pretty good entry in the home fry market. Battered fries aren’t something I come across much and as for these, well let’s just say I think they were using the term “battered” pretty liberally. The onion rings were pretty good and to be honest I’d spring for a bag again the next time I’m in the mood for a quick fix and don’t feel like battering up a batch of my own.

Bear in mind however, that I say that about both products having used the deep fry option for both. You’re mileage my vary in an oven, which is why I tend to forego it.

I didn’t start this article to rip on McCain or put their products down. To be honest, I was hoping to find a craft beer connection that I could hold up as another example of how craft beer is working its way into different aspects of our lives. But sadly, I have to conclude after some sleuthing and contemplation that I’m pretty confident that the closest thing to craft beer in these commodities is the one you open when you sit down to dinner.

McCain-1889
The Final Sip: Two requests to McCain for clarification on the craft beer used in their products went unanswered.

How Would YOU Like To Be My Favorite Liquor Store?

No, see this isn’t some beer geek pipe dream….

eds-favorite-liquor-store

Over the last couple months as I have traveled my normal routes in life it has become apparent to me that while I frequent quite a few different liquor stores, no one store fits all my needs. It’s not that these stores are bad in anyway, it’s just that each one seems to be missing that one or two items that another store has that makes me stand in front of the cooler or counter and go, “awwww, you don’t have….”.

So, with that in mind I’ve been musing about what items or attributes a liquor store would have to have to be my all-time one-stop favorite liquor store.

Now I know what you’re thinking, “But Ed, you work 5-minutes from State Line! Surely no liquor store could ever top that!”

Well, yes and no. I mean, it is the store that I grab a shopping cart even if I’m just there to ‘pick up a few things’, spend the most time in (it’s easy to lose track of time in that place), and spend the most money. But even with its vast mind numbing selection, State Line is still missing a few things (unimportant to the rest of the beer buying world but hey, this is my list) that keeps it from being my absolute perfect liquor store.

No, see this isn’t some beer geek pipe dream along the lines of, “my favorite liquor store would sell growlers and Pliney the Younger, Hill Farmstead, Heady Topper, Wicked Weed and Westie 12 would always be on tap, and the coolers would be filled with Trillium –Trillium as far as the eye can see!”

No these are things that liquor stores in my area do actually carry but no one store has all of them but I wish one liquor store in my feeding pattern did.  So, do you want to be my favorite liquor store? Here’s what you need:

LOCAL BEERS – A killer selection of local beer is a must, Mispillion, 2SP, Blue Earl on the shelves, Bellefonte, Dew Point, Big Oyster on the growler station, and 3rd Wave on either. No room because of those two rows of Dogfish Head? Well, I guess that’s just the way it is. No room because of that row and a half of 16 Mile? Yeah, we’ll talk.

ARROGANT BASTARD – And I’m not talking about your counter guy who when I asked, “Hey, do you have Mispillion’s Holy Crap?”, responded with, “WHY? Who said that we did?” I’m talking about the beer. You know, my favorite beer? The one which comes in 6-packs of 16oz cans at a price point of about $2 a can? Please? OK, I’ll take the bombers if that’s all you can get. I’m easy. But seriously, you need this beer.

STEEL RESERVE 211 (Black can, seriously, not the silver one) – Sometimes all a dog wants is a beer to sip on while he’s making dinner, and not something that overpowers the already complex process of slapping together Hamburger Helper. This beer fits the bill – crisp, tolerable in flavor, and just the right ABV kick to dust off any acquired crappiness from the work day. Besides, I think occasionally going into a liquor store and buying one or two beers with nothing more than the change I could scrape out of my truck’s cup holder is great practice in case my company decides next year to pack everything up and move west without me. Any breweries out there in need of Media/Communications Manager whose only education/experience is writing a crappy blog and posting fuzzy pictures on Instagram? No? OK, just curious.

ANDRE BRUT CHAMPAGNE – Sunday mornings were made for champagne. I can’t state it any more truthfully than that, and Andre Brut is my go to. But listen, I know you’ll be tempted to, but don’t try to win any points here by up grading to a more expensive bottle. Andre is cheap and serviceable, which unless you’re having company or celebrating something, is all a peaceful Sunday morning requires. Just make sure it’s Brut, because daddy likes his champagne dry. Oh, and feel free to get rid of those 2 cases of Cold Duck if you need to make room because we both know that no one under 65 drinks that stuff.

PEANUTS – Sometimes I like to nibble on something on the drive home, and those little packs of Planter’s peanuts are the best thing going. Smooth, salty and tasty.  Should there be a joke here? If feel like there should be a joke here.

This is also a major convenience for those rare occasions when a bottle of Captain Morgan’s rum mysteriously falls into one of my bags. I’m not sure how this happens to me. Let me know if it’s ever happened to you.

1 LITER DIET COKES – Sometimes I like to nibble on something on the drive home, and those little packs of Planter’s peanuts are the best thing going. Smooth, salty and tasty.  But with or without a joke, the salt will eventually hit and I’ll need something to drink. Since Delaware frowns on me popping open one of my Steel Reserve 211’s on the ride home, a shot of Coke always does the trick. Diet, please. Caffeine free if you can. This is also a major convenience for those rare occasions when a bottle of Captain Morgan’s rum mysteriously falls into one of my bags. I’m not sure how this happens to me. Let me know if it’s ever happened to you.

DOG TREATS – A lot of people say that dogs are dumb, but I refuse to believe that. Instead, I simply believe that they’re just picky about the things that are important to them (they’re kind of like nerds in that regard). It’s not that his lack of intelligence or thumbs makes it impossible for him to grasp the fundamental function of a torque wrench and therefore renders him useless in helping you change the head gasket in your truck – it’s just not important to him. But figuring out that when you walk into the house with one of those little black bags from the liquor store there is sometimes a dog treat in it, that’s important to him, and he’ll pick that shit up quicker than a dropped slice of bacon. Some liquor stores sell dog biscuits at the counter, and you should too. I recommend you carry biscuits from Baxter’s American Dog Bone Company. Buddy loves them, they’re 100% organic, and family made right up the road in West Chester PA.

AMERICAN SPIRIT YELLOW PACK – This one isn’t for me, heck it’s not even REALLY a requirement. This is Tracey’s smoke of choice and on rare occasions when she asks me as I’m walking out the door to pick her up a pack, it would be nice if I could buy them at the place I’m most likely going to rather than having to make a second stop. Granted, sometimes that second stop is only the grueling 35 foot walk to the Walgreens next to the liquor store, but it feels a lot farther when you’re muling two bags of booze. Plus, sometimes the wild dogs that run in packs around our town try to steal Buddy’s treat. And let’s not mention the hordes of Girl Scouts that sometimes block the doors while demanding in a Negan-like manner that you buy their cookies.  Yeah, it’s pretty apocalyptic over here.

negan-and-rick
“Well, well, well. Now YOU didn’t REALLY think that you were going to buy only TWO boxes of Tagalongs(R) and then just walk away, did you?

Is that it? Well, I think anything else would pretty much be covered under the banner “liquor store”, you know, ice, wine, port, the basic stock items. I would like to ban lottery machines and sports betting from my favorite liquor store, because those people hold up the line and are evil, but that probably would make me a dick, and as you all know, Tracey says I can’t be a dick anymore.

So yeah, that’s it. Short, easy list. And if you can pull it off, then YOU can be my favorite liquor store.

Five years, 300(1) Posts, and 1000 Beers – Part Two

Let’s continue my two part post by looking at my 1000th unique check-in on Untappd:

Many all-times ago, before the second coming of the age of craft, three strangers arrived into the Delaware valley. The strangers came from a land they called Indiana bringing gifts that bore strange names like Alpha King and Gumballhead. The strangers thrived in this land and after awhile the locals even managed to get over the odd fact that the three strangers had the same name, and simply reveled in the gifts they had brought.

Then one day without warning the strangers left, leaving nothing but barren shelves where their gifts once flourished. Many stories followed. Some said that the strangers grew tired of this land. Others said that the strangers went back to their homeland to fight a mysteriously dangerous threat referred to only as The Dark Lord. But where ever the truth truly lays the fact is that the strangers left, and soon became nothing more than the whispers that legends are built from.

To use a quote my grandfather was fond of, “that’s a true story, boy!” Embellished absolutely, but true none the less. At one time, Three Floyds WAS available in our local area. To what extent I don’t exactly remember, but I can tell you that it was readily available from State Line Liquors enough for one of 3F’s beers to quickly became one of my favorites.

But the story has a cautionary massage. I’m not sure if it’s “don’t get too attached to something because you’ll never know when it will disappear”, “a brewery can break your heart as easily as any woman”, or “don’t trust people from Indiana with beards”. But the warning is in there none the less.

Somewhere along the way, Three Floyds decided to pull back their distribution relegating them in the minds of the coming generation of Delaware area beer lovers as a distant memory that would continue to grow in mythology as a great fabled brewery whose beers were only accessible to those opportunistic privateers and scoundrels willing to brave the great uncharted distances – in other words, bottle traders and beer travelers.

three floyds de muerta
SAVVY?

The sting of losing a beloved beer from the shelves was bad enough but compounding the loss was the fact that tDoB co-founder Chuck and I had recently attended The Real Ale Festival at Goose Island Brewery in Chicago where we got to meet not only representatives from fledgling Delaware brewery Iron Hill, but Sam Calagione (new to the game himself) along with one of the owners of Three Floyds.

This was pretty much my first BIG event, having attend many regional festivals, and meeting someone responsible for the production of one of my favorite beers was quite the thrill, but alas, the swirling joy of Floydy goodness was not to last. Three Floyds’ departure was swift and furtive – think Robert Irsay’s smuggling of the Colts out of Baltimore. OK, maybe not THAT bad, but they were gone. The story was over.

Fast forward many years and enter Dana Dillon, beer lover, beer traveler and to steal a line from Bryan Roth just once, “friend of the program”. Getting ready for a recent trip back to her home stomping ground of Cleveland she asked me if she could bring me something back, and after telling me that she’d be able to get Three Floyds, the answer was easy – I wanted Robert the Bruce.

ALL HAIL THE BRUCE!
ALL HAIL THE BRUCE!

I love scotch ales, and The Bruce still resonates with me from back in the day when I could easily pick up six-packs from State Line liquors. So once she handed me the 12oz  bottle of my craft beer history, I knew exactly which beer would be my 1000th check-in on Untappd. The problem was that getting there proved more of a trek than it should have been.

I don’t check-in on Untappd as often as I should for many reasons that I won’t get into here. But my 1000th beer was on the horizon and I was determined to achieve and yes, even bask in this accomplishment. But one day back in April I found myself checking-in my 998th beer and well, got stuck.

Most people put a lot of thought into their 1000th beer, but since I already knew which beer mine was going to be, all I had to do was check-in number 999, cue the trumpets and let loose the pigeons.

I remember when my friend Kenny hit 1000. He was probably 6 beers away when he fancy walked into the liquor store to buy what he refers to as “uniques” and soared to it. Not me. Every time I went to check-in a beer I thought, “yeah….but if you check this one in, you’re going to have to drink that Robert the Bruce. Are you really ready for that? Because you’ll be locked up on Untapped until you do!”

God, first world dumbass problems. Just drink the damn beer, Ed!

But after a fun run-in with 3rd Wave Brewing’s Brambleberry that they brew for Jessop’s (really good!) for number 999 here we are after 5  years and 300 (well this one is 301, but you know what I’m saying) posts. Let’s drink my 1000th beer.

THEM: “A full-bodied Scottish-style Ale with a well-rounded malty profile and roasted biscuit-like notes. Style: Scottish-Style Ale IBU 24 ABV 6.5%.” (3 Floyds website)

THE BUZZ: Beer Advocate 87%, Rate Beer 96%,  Untappd 3.89

DELAWARE AVAILABILITY: You’ll need to enlist the services of a pirate.

ME: I was worried that this bottle might be a little old as Dana had given it to me quite a few months ago, but if it was indeed a little off than it only reaffirms my love for this beer – because it’s still damn tasty. From the first nuances of welcoming chocolate that are gently pushed aside by malt, biscuit, caramel and hints of brown sugar, to the well balanced hop finish. The  6.5% allows this beer to go down quite easily. Still close to perfect for me.

Thanks Dana! And thanks Three Floyds!

So now with beer 1000 firmly in the rear-view mirror it’s on to beer #2500 and the “Elite” badge. To be honest I’m not sure I’ll ever get to it, but if I do, I’ll let you know..

 

1000-beers
THE FINAL SIP: My second take using the screen from my badge list. I actually recorded me checking-in the beer and getting the badge, but that take had too much glare coming off the phone screen to be visible. EVEN THOUGH! I did three practice takes to make sure that very thing did not happen. Because…..idiot!

,

 

Have Some Breweries Effectively Defeated Can Rage?

It’s time, isn’t it? I mean I could understand it initially. Change brings out the deepest of insecurities and skepticism in people, especially when the thing that is changing is going in a direction of something that has for decades stood for inferiority and questionable quality.

When the initial wave of craft beer in cans began, there was a good amount of backlash from a sector of the craft beer community. But that didn’t deter those breweries from installing canning lines instead of bottling lines, and the trend (if you can call it that) shows no sign of slowing down.

According to CraftCans.com, 81 craft breweries were canning their beer in 2010. Today that number sits at well over 500 breweries which all together put over 2000 canned beers on US market shelves (and I suspect the numbers are even higher. CraftCan wasn’t up to date regards to breweries who can in Delaware and so maybe other states are under represented as well).

I’ve witnessed this growth myself watching the canned craft beer section at State Line Liquors, a small shelf pushed into a corner, grow into a much larger shelf that OK, is still pushed into a corner but you can no longer walk past it unaware of its presence.

Once breweries began to get their patrons over the stigma that beer in cans was inferior, in some way tasted like “canned beer”, or that a hop vine died every time a can was opened; it was inevitable that the convenience and portability of cans would be quickly embraced.

Let’s face it when it comes to the most accommodating friend who is always up for fun, cans are it. They can go places that bottles can’t go, are easier and safer to deal with than a pile of empty glass, and as I pointed out on a recent Facebook chat, they’re far superior based on their shear stackability alone.

These potential benefits weren’t lost on Lori Clough whose 3rd Wave Brewery although having a history of bottling their shelf products on a bottling line inherited when her and her partner Suellen Vickers acquired the old Evolution Brewing site, recently released their seasonal BeachBreaker Apricot Wheat in cans. “We are located close to the Delaware and Maryland resort beaches, lots of hotels and state parks. All of which do not allow (or discourage) glass bottles,” Lori said.

But Lori also commented that canning had other advantages, “As we researched the canning process, we decided to can one year round product and a few seasonals….Cans work so much better in carry in/carry out situations. The cans and the canning process has greatly improved over the last few years. More people tend to recycle cans. Cans protect the product much better than bottles. And last, lots of other breweries are canning, we don’t want to miss out!”

And Lori doesn’t have to look far to witness some of these other breweries that are canning. In fact, she doesn’t even have to look outside of the state.

Delaware’s Twin Lake Brewery has offered their only shelf product Greenville Pale Ale in a can from the very beginning, and Milford’s Mispillion River has canned all their beers except for occasional “brewery sales only” bottle releases. So what can we expect to see from 3rd Waving joining these beers in the future?

Lori told me that their pale ale ShoreBreak will be available in cans all year round and that along with BeachBreak Apricot you can expect two other seasonals, SunSet Peach Wheat and SunDancer White IPA in mid July and late August, respectively.

But if it was just these new, cool kids taking to cans, maybe this whole “craze” might go away but no, some of the more established breweries are also taking advantage of the aluminum resurgence. Sierra Nevada, Ballast Point, Avery, Victory, Cigar City, Brewer’s Art and Bells all now have offerings in cans and early this year it was announced that industry darling New Glarus had installed a canning line. Except they hadn’t. But then they had.

No, I feel that despite some stubborn naysayers who will continue to hold on to their glass as tightly as Rose did to Jack at the end of Titanic (until she finally…well, you know…), thanks to some breweries who were willing to go against initial skepticism, cans are here to stay and will only continue to grow in numbers on the shelves of your favorite beer stop.

As always I would like to thank Lori for taking some of her valuable time to talk to me.

THE FINAL SIP: “I dream of the day when I can walk out of the liquor store with a 30-pack of Arrogant Bastard in cans.” – Ed Morgan. Well maybe not a 30-pack but available at State Line Liquors for $38.99 a case of 16oz cans. (PHOTO: The Dogs of Beer)

Funny Negative Beer Reviews of Popular Beers

The other day I was clicking through the etherwebs when I came across an article that I thought was pretty funny. The author choose some well known and popular travel destinations (Pyramids, Leaning Tower of Piza, etc) and then went to TripAdvisor to see some of the funny things people had to say about these locations in negative reviews.

Although it’s not impossible to imagine that some people may be disappointed when they finally find themselves standing someplace they’ve longed to visit, in most cases it was why they were disappointed and/or how they voiced their displeasure that made the article funny.

My brain quickly switched over to beer (something it probably does far too often) and I wondered if I could find something similar on popular beer review sites like Beer Advocate or Rate Beer. After all, there’s no such thing as the beer that’s “all things to all drinkers” even in the case of the widely agreed upon “white whales”.

The beers I chose are what I consider a good selection of beers that are generally regarded as the best by the craft beer crowd. Ones that you’ll often see at the top of any list generated.

For fun, I also included Arrogant Bastard as it’s one of my favorite beers and I was curious as to what I would find, and in the interest of proximity I included Delaware’s own 90 Minute from Dogfish Head.

Keep  in mind, the goal of this article is NOT to belittle someone’s opinion of a “well loved” beer and to that end I’ve avoided reviews where the reviewer indicated or seemed to indicate that they don’t like the style. I saw no sense in highlighting negative comments about, say an IPA, from someone who states up front that they don’t like IPAs.

No, the purpose of this post is to highlight the creative ways people express their disappointment with a beer that’s well liked among the masses.

So with that, let’s see what some people had to say about your most beloved beers.

HEADY TOPPER (THE ALCHEMIST), IMPERIAL IPA

Maybe it can help you quit smoking:

“Hops are barely existent, there is an inherent smoothness to the beer but it tastes of wet cigarettes. I wish I could say better things, but it almost tastes like a homebew that was not properly sanitized.” (BA)

“Smells of a used dirty ashtray. Not pleasant.” (BA)

Flawless logic:

“For centuries bloodletting was thought to be a good way to cure illness, folks in the 70’s thought it was a good idea to wear a lot of polyester, in 1990 millions of people thought Milli Vanilli produced good music. What’s my point? Humans are prone to mass delusion” (RB)

Maybe we can hang a can from our rear view mirror:

“This beer is better suited to be an air freshener than a drink.” (BA)

Santa’s a jerk:

“With all of the thousands of beers in the world this is the # 1? Not a chance. In the end I felt like a kid who got a beautifully wrapped gift only to discover a bag of sox or underwear inside. What a bummer.” (BA)

Putting the world on notice:

“I’ve been a beer fanatic for a decade and a half, and the beer drinking world has a lot to answer for on this one…I’ve never been so embarrassed for the beer community for rating this so highly. My fear is that the beer scene is being overrun by a bunch of hipsters who think that exclusivity is more important than the art of brewing.” (BA)

ARROGANT BASTARD (STONE BREWING), AMERICAN STRONG ALE

Probably not a brewery rep:

“SICKENING and I think they must be a joke from the brewmaster. This is a wast of money and DISGUSTING. Horrid, I would drink a Bud light any day over this.” (BA)

Never knock truth in advertising:

“So they said on the label that I probably would not like that beer, and man were they right…Product sucked.” (BA)

No holding back:

“This wretched beer is an amatuer-hour, bad home brew, ill-conceived bottle of mess. Outside its bigger, dumber brother “double bastard”, it’s perhaps top the crap-heap of overrated beers” (RB)

Perceived value:

“If there is a FIAT beer, like the US dollar, something that has value only because it or someone says it does, this is it.” (BA)

Mega points for the 80’s Hair Metal reference:

“It’s like Yngwie Malmsteen’s guitar playing. Yeah, he’s the fastest, but it’s not a race. Play something good, we know you have the skills.” (BA)

There’s a lot of redundancy out there:

“It reminds me very much of a Shiner Bock in taste and consistency.” (RB)

Every beer has a purpose:

“If you are looking for flavor, intricateness, beauty, statements of faith for micro brews, this is not your beer. If you are hoping you’ll look like an asshole buying this in the grocery line this might be for you.” (BA)

FOUNDERS CBS IMPERIAL STOUT (FOUNDERS BREWING CO), IMPERIAL STOUT

I don’t see how those three things could possible be made to taste gross. But, OK:

“This resembles a mixture breakfast sausage and vanilla, doused in maple syrup.
And I mean that in the worst way possible…I’m sorry but the taste is just gross.” (BA)

Some people’s drains drink better beer than you do:

“After Darklord, Darkness and KtG, another huge overly sweet letdown from the USA. Drain pour. Hype hype hype” (BA)

TWO HEARTED ALE (BELL’S BREWERY), AMERICAN IPA

To the point:

“I don’t know, maybe the one i picked up was old and had gone bad, but it was absolute shit. Nothing pleasant about it.”

Well trout are close to bass I guess:

“Easily the worst “IPA” I’ve ever tasted…if you can actually call it an IPA. Has about as much hops and character as a Bass ale. I am flummoxed as to how this beer is so sought after and over hyped.” (BA)

That’s hysterical:

“Way too flowery. The extreme hop level made me feel like I was drinking a ’wet-nap’” (RB)

How do you poorly make a boiler maker?

“Tasted like a poorly-made boiler-maker. I see the reviews here and I scratch my head and wonder why.” (BA)

Fishy?:

“It tastes like what the label looks like.” (BA)

Who says beer isn’t for breakfast?:

“Come on guys!! You really need to get out and try more IPA’s This beer is a fraud. It tastes like Fruit Loops! Seriously?” (RB)

TRAPPIST WESTVLETEREN 12 (XII)

Prankster Monk’s are a serious issue:

“Maybe I’m on hidden camera…in fact, I hope so. Maybe I’d chuckle and wag my finger at the scalawag who expertly placed their bullshit attempt at a quad in this bottle and expertly recapped it…Prankster Monk possibility aside, this is one “world class” beer that’s hitting my fucking drain.” (BA)

I love annual traditions:

“I personally don’t have the want to drink this more than once a year at most.” (BA)

This is a thing? Man some people suck:

“If this is the holy grail its one and done for me. I hope that I have been duped and I bought one of those counterfeit beers.”

Well it still sounds like some kind of effort:

“If I’ll be at the Belgium coast on vacation next year, I’ll again buy a crate, but for me this beer is not worth any effort! Very disappointing and absolutely overrated!!”

PLINY THE ELDER (RUSSIAN RIVER BREWING), IMPERIAL IPA

Or maybe just less cigarettes:

“bad. And the the hype surrounding this beer made it taste even worse. Tasted like cigarettes, burnt toast, and alcohol. Needs A LOT more malt.” (BA)

I think I’ll pick pine cone:

“Tasted like a pine cone or kitty litter, take your pick, Very short after taste that finished like balsa wood.” (BA)

You have cheese on your nose:

An odd, French cheese stink on the nose. Very pungent. Harsh bite and flavor. No idea why it’s so popular. A particularly bland hop hit of an IPA. (RB)

Hand me a thesaurus:

“Would I feel badly saying directly to the brewer that I didn’t like it? Yup. Would I still say that it’s one dimensional – low on the body and malt flavors, wicked bitter and one dimensional? Well, maybe not in those words, but I hope that I would.” (BA)

Not your Beer and Savior:

“Yo beer world, you need to get your shit checked cause this beer is just alright. There is nothing wrong with it, but it sure as hell isn’t the second coming of beer Jesus, thats for damn sure.” (BA)

The perfect segue:

“I’m not that sophisticated yet, so I’ll take a Dogfish Head 90 Minute over “The Elder” any day.” (RB)

90 MINUTE (DOGFISH HEAD BREWING) IMPERIAL  IPA

Is this a Yahoo comment section? Obama?

“What’s ther to say about this beer that hasn’t already been said about Obama. It’s empty promises and positive reviews don’t give justice for the pure evil and harshness that is this beer.”

But the movie Disney makes from it will make HUGE coin:

“If this is a typical example of Dogfish Head’s product I honestly cannot understand all the praise they get. It’s like a comic book–big loud bright colors and lots of superficial flash, but no subtlety or balance.”

That must have been some kind of lady:

“I bought 2 cases of this crap only to be thoroughly disappointed. I’m a hop head so i was expecting a hop bomb. What I got was a beer that tasted worse than my first girlfriend.”

Maybe clear bottles would help:

“I can only hope it’s a bad batch that was somehow infected. Frankly, skunking would have improved the flavor.”

If at first you don’t succeed:

“I’ve had this beer about 10 times now, and every time I hate it.”

Talk about cutting your losses:

“This beer makes me want to never drink anything brewed east of the Mississippi. (And west of…let’s say, Wales.)”

With two you get eggroll:

“Soy sauce aroma with hints of Panda Express Orange Chicken.” (RB)

 

In Which I Express My Sadness Over the Fallout at Twin Lakes Brewing

Over the years I’ve been unapologetic concerning my fondness for Twin Lakes Brewing’s Greenville Pale Ale. Not only is the cascade laden ale so fiercely drinkable that I included in my post for The Six Pack Project, but I also tell people that it’s my go to BBQ/Grilling beer. Sometimes I think they believe I’m over stating this, but all you have to do is scroll down this blog’s Facebook page and you’ll see that unmistakable, green can in a lot of photos sitting next to grills and grilled meat.

So when I caught wind last week that the brewery was closing down to move to a new location I was obviously curious and quite surprised, as I know the location has been a source of pride for co-owner Sam Hobbs since the brewery opened in the spring of 2006.

The Twin Lakes brewery currently resides on a piece of land that has been owned by the Hobbs family for seven generations, and the brew house itself was set up in a barn that dates back to the 1820s. The name refers to two ponds, or “lakes”, that sat on the property on which the Hobbs family allowed locals to skate since the early 1900s. And while the property, with its single vehicle driveway, small tasting room and not-so spacious brew house might not have been the most convenient for a working brewery, it was the most scenic and beautiful brewery in Delaware. After all, what other brewery can you take a few minutes after picking up a growler to pet a horse.

But before I get too deeply into this post, let me be up front and say that this is not a “news article”. I don’t have any knowledge or information on the situation at the Twin Lakes Brewery that hasn’t already been printed or that can be gleaned easily from social media.

The purpose of this post is to allow me to express some of the sadness I feel when the business end of the beer world interfers and/or disrupts an otherwise fine producer of great beer. Why do I say that? Because quite rapidly the story changed into more than just the brewery changing locations.

For the benefit of my readers who are outside the Delaware area, I’ll sum up the situation to the best of my ability.

Back on June 17th the brewery posted on its Facebook page that the tasting room was closed until further notice. The post gave no explanation, and advised the page’s followers to await information on when the tasting room would reopen.

On July 6th, Jack Curtin posted on his Liquid Diet Blog that according to his sources there had been a “crisis at” the brewery wherein investors were trying to force Hobbs out of the business.

My initial thought was that this was ridiculous but on July 7th, Delaware Online posted this article that stated the brewery was moving to a new location because its lease had expired back in 2013, while the brewery’s Webpage listed growth as a reason for the move. The article wouldn’t have struck me funny if not for Curtin’s post from the previous day and the fact that it contained quotes from brewery CEO Adam Doherty and brewery co-founder Jack Wick and nothing from Sam Hobbs who had been (it seemed to me anyway) the face of the brewery. But maybe I’m reading too much into that. For those of you who go on to read the article please note that on its initial posting it made no mention of Rob Pheiffer or the “other brewer”. This portion was edited in later.

That night I was clicking around some beer related social media and came across several posts which really throw me for a loop – long time head brewer Rob Pheiffer apparently would not be following the brewery to its new location as he had apparently parted ways with the company several weeks earlier along with assistant brewer Julia Christie-Robin whose social media now lists her as a brewer at Forgotten Boardwalk in Cherry Hill.

When I pull all the above together, I’m forced to conclude that there has indeed been some kind of shake up at Twin Lakes and the explanation that this is simply a move revolving around “growth” reeks of not being the full story as I don’t know of too many brewers that would walk away from their jobs just because the brewery wanted to move and expand. But having said that, these facts coupled with a few other pieces of information, I could probably paint a couple of scenarios where expansion may have been the catalyst for all the fallout at Twin Lakes. But since I either don’t have, or am not 100% sure on those other pieces of information I’ll refrain from laying out what I believe happened because as I said initially, that’s not the purpose of this post.

No the purpose of post is to give me a forum to convey my disappointment that it appears that this fine brewery has been ripped apart by business disagreements and infighting. Oh sure, the voices who now seem to be calling the shots assure us that the brewery will reopen once a new location is secured, but will it truly be “Twin Lakes” outside of the property that gave the brewery its name (not to mention its water) and without some of the people who gave the place its personality (when the Delaware Online article was updated it included a quote from Wick that Sam Hobbs was still an owner of the brewery).

Rob Pheiffer, besides being an awesome brewer, was very active in the Delaware brewing community. His enthusiasm and sly grin lead me to start referring to him as “the happiest man in the business” and while I have no doubt that I’ll still bump into him a events from time-to-time, to walk up to a Twin Lakes tent at a festival and not see him smiling behind that large wooden tap pedestal just isn’t going to feel right.

The property itself will be missed amongst the community as it was the location of such awesome events such as the Wilmington Burger Battle (which has found new digs for its upcoming August 29th event) and The “Red Shoe and Brew” which benefited The Ronald McDonald House of Delaware.

As for the new location, I’m sure the now powers-that-be will be looking for a place that will allow them to increase capacity as well as placing the brewery more in line with the current small brewery model that is currently popping up in Delaware. And I’m sure the new brewer, whoever he or she may be, will work hard to continue to produce the recipes that Rob worked so hard to develop. But to me, the place will never have the soul of the old Twin Lakes. It’s impossible.

If they took your favorite bar, tore it down, rebuilt it in another location, changed the decor and got rid of your favorite bartenders, you probably could still enjoy the beer and the food, but would it still be your favorite bar? I guess that’s what we’ll see in the future.

The beer? I guess we’ll have to see about that as well. But you can bet that I’ll be very keen to taste the initial batches of Greenville Pale Ale that come from the new location.

I’d like to wish Rob and Julia good luck in their future endeavors and as well as those at the brewery with their move going forward. While at the end of the day I can rationalize that its just an unfortunate repercussion of the nature of the business it doesn’t change my overall reaction to the situation. It’s sad.

TL-Collage-2

Hop Theory Says They Can Put the Power of Brewing in Your Hands. But They Can’t.

A couple of weeks ago someone at work came up to me and asked if I’d caught wind of the latest “beer thing”. I have a couple of people at work who do this, pointing out beer jam websites, articles for powdered alcohol and handing me coupons for craft beer battered frozen French fries.

My belief is that these people do this because they love to see the cringe on my face when they bring me something that grates against my straight-forward beer nature. I mean, if you think that your French fries are going to come out of the oven vastly superior in flavor because they’ve been flash frozen “craft beer battered”, then I really have nothing to say except enjoy your French fries. But in this case it wasn’t fries, it was an offering from a company named Hop Theory.

The product Hop Theory is hoping to get into your beer loving hands is teabag like sachets that you can drop into your beer to, as they say, customize or improve it. The company believes in this product so much that it initiated a Kickstarter a while back and apparently, enough people believe in it as well as they have already met their initial goal of $25,000.

On the surface, this probably doesn’t seem all that strange to people in the beer scene who have gone to Randal events at bars, or have had beer from a Frankencask. But there is an underlying fundamental difference; these two things while altering the flavor of a beer are done in a spirit of playful experimentation that is not meant to really “improve” the beer (although sometimes I think the Frankencask people believe that, which is why I am not in favor of them).

I mean, do you really think that your local beer temple believes that passing DFH 60 Minute IPA over gummy worms, habaneros and chocolate covered cherries really improves it? Of course not, it’s just a fun thing to do that brings people into the bar on an otherwise slow Wednesday night.

But Hop Theory is trying to sell you that they are improving your beer, because you’re beer is…well, inferior. And I guess it could be – depending on what beer you’re drinking. But if you do happen to be holding a 60 Minute while you’re reading this you’re probably thinking, “Heeeeeeeeeeyyyyyyyyyyyy”.

Oliver Gray wrote an excellent post on the Hop Theory satchets based on how you should not mess with the brewed beers of professionals. In it he pleads with people that if they do have to perform this act of adulteration that you first experience the beer as it was intended, the way the brewmaster meant you to enjoy it. Enjoy the product which could have easily come from years (and sometimes decades) of hard work, multiple failures, and a pure love of the craft and art that has put that seemingly simple 12oz of liquid in the glass that you have in your hand.

I’m going to come at it from another direction, because while I understand the inbreed desire to experiment and tinker when given the tools to do so (hey, I work in an R and D division), to those who are looking to elevate their beer experience (especially the ones who will be dunking Hop Theory’s products into all varieties of American mass produced lagers) I’m here to tell you that in this case the ends probably won’t be as rewarding as they could be.

Also, I’m not going to lie (and in this case I’m not) I feel that some of the statements made by Hop Theory in regards to their product overstate what it is delivering and some of the comments being left behind by donators don’t click with me either. Let’s address some of them as we discuss:

For the first time ever the consumer becomes the brewmaster.

Don’t delude yourself. Adding flavors to your beer doesn’t make you a brewmaster any more than putting nuts, sprinkles and chocolate syrup on your ice cream makes you a glacier [what the French call a person who makes ice cream]. Brewmasters dedicate years of their lives to understanding the process and chemistry of brewing to control every nuance of the beer that they’re producing. You’re dipping a bag full of orange peel and hops into an American mass produced lager or lower tier craft beer because you think it might taste “neat”. Yes, making a cup of tea with a tea bag can be considered brewing, but that’s where the similarities end.

With Hop Theory, an average beer becomes craft.

Obviously Hop Theory hasn’t talked to the Brewer’s Association about their definition of the word “craft”. Adding hops and spices to Bud Light will not take away its adjunct base, reduce the size of the brewery it was produced at, or change its ownership.

Now if you want to argue that it takes an average beer and makes it taste like craft…well, maybe to a point. But in every beer there is more than hops and some spices. There are ranges of malt, alcohol content, mouth feel and many other aspects that help bring every beer style together. To add ingredients to a beer while ignoring these other factors will not give you the same experience as enjoying a beer that has been brewed specifically to that particular style.

Love this idea. I can only drink craft beers. – Hop Theory donator.

This brings up a point – the first blend that Hop Theory is going to sell, Relativity, is a mixture of cascade, orange peel and coriander, which means that it is basically designed to swing any beer into the Blue Moon category. If you want your beer to taste like Blue Moon – why not just buy Blue Moon? It’s probably only a couple of bucks more and the flavor will be much more authentic.

“But Ed,” you ask, “what if I want my beer to taste like a Belgian Wit or Allagash White?” To which I ask – do you believe dropping this packet of potpourri into your Coors is going to get you anything close to a true Belgian Wit? How about the touch of malt sweetness that balances the whole beer, a touch of wheat, a slight tartness at the end, and the spiciness that comes from the yeast? Where are they going to come from? Your only way to pull this off is to buy an appropriate Belgian beer and then add Relativity to it and hope you come close, and again my suggestion would be – just buy a Belgian Wit if that’s what you want.

In fact, let’s take a look at Hop Theory’s proposed path forward. The next satchets they are hoping to produce in the coming year: raspberry, pumpkin, and peach. Sounds a little fruit forward doesn’t it? There are plenty of well made fruit beers out there. The thought of taking an inferior beer and adding this kind of flavoring to it makes me feel the same way I do when brewpubs advertise a raspberry wheat beer only to watch them pour raspberry syrup into a pint glass and fill it with their house wheat beer. And that feeling is sad.

Are you working on a blend for IPA lovers like myself? – Hop Theory donator.

Then there’s their planned offering for a Double IPA satchet. While turning a light beer into a fruit beer is one thing, turning one into Heady Topper is a whole ‘nother level of “ain’t gonna happen”. The higher IBUs in a double IPA. The higher malt to balance it out. The depth of flavors that come from hops actually spending time in the boil. None of those can come from a teabag.

Our sachets can be taken anywhere where “boring beer” is being served.

Maybe it’s just me, but this grates upon my firm convictions on beer etiquette. If I’ve been invited someplace where I suspect “boring beer” is being served I do one of two things. One, just drink what they offer and shut up. No one wants beer snobbery at a party and I’m not about to bring it along as my wingman. Like tDoB co-found Chuck always says, “The best beer is free beer”. The second, if I have the proper relationship with the host and guests, is to just bring my own and of course, enough to share with others.

As a bit of a beer snob, this will be perfect for those backyard bbq invites, camping trips and even football games where all anyone ever brings is ‘cheap’ beer!! – Hop Theory donator.

But would I whip one of these satchets out at a party and drop it into my host’s “boring beer” in front of him? Not anymore than I would be likely to pull out a bottle of Heize 57 that I’ve brought from home and dump it all over the awesomely grilled porterhouse he’s just served me. Rude. Sorry.

And I know what some of you are thinking, “Ed, duck out of the party for a few seconds and do it on the low-low”. Great, so now you’re crouched in the dark corner of your host’s bathroom behind a locked door teabagging your beer. Is this REALLY where you wanted your day to go? I didn’t think so.

Hop Theory lets you be the brewer; anytime and anywhere.

Again, you’re not even close to being the brewer no matter the time or the where, and to be honest I find Hop Theory’s use of the phrase insulting, just as I have quite a few of Hop Theory’s statements. It’s broad, misleading marketing terms like this that belittle the occupation and craft of a large segment of the very market whose attention they are trying to grab.

“Great beers here we come.” – Hop Theory donator.

But hey, it’s your beer, you earned the money used to buy it (Hopefully. Some of my readers are pretty sketchy) so you’re entitled to do anything you want with it. Play. Have fun. Just remember you’re a person adding some flavors to a beer, not a brewmaster. And that beer you’ve created? It’s no truer to style then putting gull-wing doors on a VW bug makes it a time machine in a Back to the Future movie.

When you’re ready to enjoy a style of beer the way it was truly meant to be then seek one out. I’m sure you’ll find it a much more rewarding experience. There’s a great big world of beer out there waiting for you. But just remember, with Hop Theory satchets; you’re just playing in it, not exploring it.