the annexation of Omaha!

Factotum Oatmaha

Denver has often been called the “best sports town in the United States.” It has also been called the “worst sports town in the United States.” It has also been called “Puerto Rico’s lumpier cousin.”* Regardless of opinion, one thing is for sure: Denver loves our Broncos – even when they are donkeys – and anyone who is willing to help us achieve our dreams of championship glory. Even if they were once a much-maligned enemy of our team.

In that vein, this last week, I was invited to swing by Factotum Brewhouse, and hang out with owner and brewmaster Chris Bruns, owner and educational mistress extraordinaire Laura Bruns, and assistant brewer Ray Packingham as they brewed the Colorado-side version of collaboration beer Oatmaha Pale Ale with head brewer Tony Fleming and assistant brewer Will Moorman from Tow Yard Brewing in Indianapolis. Oatmaha is a tribute to former Colts and current Broncos quarterback, Peyton Manning, thus the long-distance collab between an Indianapolis and a Denver brewery.

(Side note here: in order not to get into legal issues, they cannot officially say this beer is about Peyton Manning. But I have so such restrictions, so I’m calling an audible.)

I am a huge fan of collaborations. I think that, more than almost anything else, it gives a glimpse behind the scenes into what working in this industry is truly like (most of the time). Craft beer industry people are, for the most part, friends, and love to share tips, tricks, and stories with each other. What better way to foster that culture than over a hot mash tun?

Over Factotum’s really nice Pub Ale (3.3% alcohol makes it the perfect interview beer), I asked Laura how this collaboration came about.

“We wanted to make a beer that had an ingredient from each of the four places this athlete has played: New Orleans, Knoxville, Indianapolis, and Denver. So, when we got the email from the Colorado Brewers Guild in August about Collaboration Fest, we decided to reach out to breweries in each of those places to see if they wanted to make a beer with us to honor this quarterback.”

While they didn’t get responses back from breweries in New Orleans and Knoxville, Laura says her keyboard was barely cold before they heard back from Tow Yard with an emphatic YES!

It was game time.

Tony and Will flew out to Denver to make the Colorado-version of Oatmaha after Laura and Chris’ visit to Indianapolis late last year. Taking in all of Denver that they could, they visited Strange Craft, Grandma’s house, Baere Brewing all within the first day and were looking forward to a post-brew-day dinner at Euclid Hall. Surprisingly not hung over, I cornered them during a lull in the brew to harass some answers out of them.

As the first collaboration for 3-year-old Tow Yard, the guys agreed that the process – especially the naming part – was easy and fun. Will calls himself and Tony “connoisseurs of bad puns. We are always spitting puns at each other and trying to figure out how to make a beer name from them.” It was this skill that lead them to come up with the name Oatmaha. “We had been going back and forth on names and nothing seemed to fit. Then, we were playing around with different ideas for ingredients, and Oatmaha just came naturally since [Manning] was a Colt and is now a Bronco, and horses eat oats… right?”

While many Colorado craft beer folks were dismayed to see Number 18 drinking a certain mass-market beer, instead of a home-grown Colorado brew, Laura points out that those same people thought he should be drinking an IPA or other strong beer. “We wanted to brew a beer that he might actually enjoy. We know he likes milder-tasting beers without a lot of hops, so we chose ingredients that not only represented our two states, but also that would produce a beer tailored for this particular athlete.”

For the ingredients, Tow Yard chose oats from Indiana (duh – Oatmaha) and Factotum contributed Colorado sage. “Finding a Colorado ingredient was actually a bit of a challenge, since we didn’t want to use chili peppers or pine, because those flavors would be too strong.” I asked Laura if they considered Colorado snow; she laughed, “actually, yes! But we thought sage might ship a little easier.”

The resulting beer, which I was lucky enough to snag an Indiana-brewed can of to enjoy at home, while categorized as an oat pale ale, can best be described as a cream ale with personality. It has a nice malt backbone, without being too sweet. Not overly effervescent, it has a medium-low mouthfeel that makes it refreshing and a slight hop bitterness keeps you going back for another sip. There is no overwhelming herbaciousness about it from the sage, for which I was grateful. The color might be on the darker side for our QB, but, as all of my three readers know, dark color =/= heavy flavor.

Yeehaw.

Yeehaw.

For me, I think of an athlete’s beer as something refreshing, something you can drink to replenish what you lost while doing physical activity, but something that doesn’t taste like water. Oatmaha hits it on all points. It is, simply, a good beer that stays true to its mission.

Ever since the concept of Oatmaha was announced on Facebook, there has been backlash from individuals claiming that the participant breweries are simply “jumping on the [Manning] bandwagon” and “taking advantage” of his prowess and our team’s (hopefully continuing) success. Fuck yeah, they are! It seems that every time a brewery is cognoscente of the world around it and decides to capitalize on current events and trends, they are “accused” of the horrible crime of “bandwagoning.” My assertion is that all good marketing is (at least tangentially) bandwagon marketing: finding out what people are interested in, talking about, doing, and directing your brand in that direction. So why is it that craft breweries get so much guff for following this strong advertising model? Likely it has something to do with craft breweries’ appeal as being “outside of the system.” There seems to be some bizarre belief that having poorly-tended social marketing and showing up at only the “hippest” beer fests is enough to keep a brewery afloat. Tough love: it isn’t. Craft breweries, like all businesses, need to sell their wares in order to continue to exist, so marketing, whether it be traditional or a more innovative form, must occur. One of the best ways to get buzz around your product (well… besides just drinking it, of course) is to take something people are already interested in and create something around it.

While pondering what instrument, exactly, Mr. Manning would play on his bandwagon (saxaphone? Bass? Tambourine?), I asked Laura about the comments they had received.

“Our interest goes beyond just living and owning a business in Colorado: my brother and I are from Indiana, so even before we opened Factotum, we talked about wanting to make a beer to honor this certain famous quarterback and how cool it would be to brew with ingredients from all of the places he’s played.”

I also asked Tony and Will about the bandwagon comments and whether they felt weird brewing a beer to honor their former quarterback. Will: “I don’t really follow sports, but I’m just happy he’s still playing and alive.” Tony: “Alive?” Will: “Well, yeah. I mean, he gets tackled by grown men for a living…”

But about the people criticizing the project, their response was simple: “it’s just beer.”

In order to really find out the heart and soul of these breweries, I had one final question: what is their favorite football play?

Factotum: “The successful fake onside kick.”

Tow Yard: “The annexation of Puerto Rico.”

Cheers.

Mr. Manning, forget destiny: your beer is waiting.

Mr. Manning, forget destiny: your beer is waiting.

 

*Footnote: Denver has never been called Puerto Rico’s lumpier cousin. But it should be, dammit.

gabf 2015: holy crap it’s been another year.

Maybe it’s a symptom of getting older, but the years just seem to get shorter and shorter (and my work days longer and longer – what gives!?), but we are apparently at the time of year when Denver hosts the Great American Beer Festival. Last year I wrote two posts on the subject:

GABF: so I guess we are here again.

GABF: because one more advice blog is (un)necessary.

Even though the clock continues to tick us ever-closer to death (apparently I’m in goth mode today, or maybe it’s because I’m listening to the 10th Anniversary Les Miserables concert. Either/or), my list from the first post remains shockingly solid. With the exception of the Bark Bar, which sadly closed because of bureaucratic nonsense earlier this year, all of last year’s suggestions are still open and excellent. Because I’m super lazy, instead of reconstructing the entire list, I am including the following suggestions as an addendum to, instead of a replacement of, what I wrote last year. If you want the full list, please click on the top link… come on, it’s just one click, even I’m not that lazy.

Great Taphouses

  • Revival Brews, Evergreen. Of course I’m going to include this place in my town, because why the hell wouldn’t I? Revivial Brews is a new player on the scene tucked away on the eastern end of downtown Evergreen. With a great patio and small town Colorado vibe, as well an excellent taplist and food, they are a no-brainer to visit. I recommend making a day of it and checking out Buffalo Bill’s Grave, the elk rut in Evergreen, and finishing off at Revival with their seriously delicious blondie a’la mode. It’s stupidly good.
  • Colorado Plus, Wheat Ridge. Colorado Plus (or C+ as we call it) is a brewery and taphouse, so, in amongst their 56 rotating Colorado-only taplist, they have several of their own beers brewed in a teensy-tiny space at the back of the building. Considering that one of their brewers is a Siebel graduate and the other is a Certified Cicerone (who also happens to be their beer buyer), it’s hard to go wrong. Their taps rotate frequently and I have yet to visit when there wasn’t at least one beer that made me inappropriately excited.
  • Dungeons & Drafts, Fort Collins. Calling this place a “geek bar” is doing it a disservice, because it’s not just for geeks, but also for nerds and cosplayers and dungeon masters and gamers and every other form of fan-boy and fan-girl out there. With custom game tables, drinks tied to various fandoms, and an atmosphere like at any moment a man in a hood is going to walk up and offer to sell you health vials (for cheap!), it is geek paradise. A good tap line-up does not hurt one bit and with weekly events from Harry Potter night to Pirate vs Ninja day, you are never wanting for something quirky and wonderful to attend. Also, it’s a female-owned business, so how’s that for seriously bucking some stereotypes?

Mentions from last year: Hops & Pie and Barrels & Bottles.

Great Breweries

  • Locavore, Littleton (Columbine Valley). It’s impossible to start this list with any other brewery. Located less than a mile from the South Platte River bikepath (and Saint Patrick’s Brewing), this brewery is brewing some of the best beer in Colorado, let alone the south Denver suburbs. Their Lillyhammer is the Beerd Wrangler’s current favorite IPA and I can’t get enough of their Das Litre Bier Marzen (yell it with a think German accent when you order it, they LOVE that). We joke that Locavore is our local, despite it being 35 minutes from home. Having brewed with owners Jason and Andy last Wednesday, I can tell you that it is no accident that their beers are consistently solid: these guys know their stuff. From the science to the art, they are two of the most talented craft brewers out there and you would be remiss to pass them up. Breckenridge Brewery’s Farmhouse may be getting all of the love in the area, but now you know better.
  • Boggy Draw, Sheridan. While you’re down in the area checking out Locavore and Saint Patrick’s, why not jump off the bike path and pedal your way to Boggy Draw? The only brewery in Sheridan (for the time being), Boggy Draw is an adorable, industrial-park brewery with a distinctly Colorado personality. Owner Beef grew up hunting the Boggy Draw in western Colorado and decided to bring the look and feel of the area to his brewery. Luckily, his beers (and those of his brewer Todd) redefine what a good campfire beer is, with an array of styles and a willingness to dump a batch if it’s not exactly what they want (a frighteningly rare skill), you are likely to find more than one thing you’ll love. Their Cream Reaper, a heavily hopped cream ale, is my current favorite, but the Sargent Sinkhole Hefeweizen (named after and brewed with a Sheridan police officer who drove into a sinkhole earlier this year) is the truest-to-style hefeweizen I have had in the US in almost a decade. Yes… I am actually recommending a wheat beer. Yes, I feel just fine, why do you ask?
  • Chain Reaction, Denver (Athmar Park). Three words: Pink Peppercorn Saison. That’s all you need to know, but being that I am fairly verbose, I will fill you in a bit more. Chain Reaction is so close to downtown and yet a world away. They opened in an under-served location (I’m looking at you all of the breweries opening in RiNo) that was desperate for a brewery and they have done it in fine style. Their atmosphere is much like their beer: they fit in, yet they stand out. From ownership down you will find some of the most dedicated, passionate individuals to grace the industry working there. Constantly hosting events from their monthly comedy night to bike crawls to raise money for MDA, Chain Reaction is The Place to Be more often than not. Their beers are almost always innovative, frequently outside of style guidelines (to all of our benefit), and beg you to take another sip. Having recently upgraded to a larger system and started bottling, I recommend checking them out while they are still the little neighborhood brewery, because they won’t be for long.
  • Spangalang, Denver (Five Points). My regular readers, especially on Facebook, know how much I love brewery clustering and hate brewery saturation. Spangalang, a venture headed by three former Great Divide employees, skirts (literally and figuratively) the RiNo issue by opening just south and east in Five Points. The D Line drops off 20 feet from their front door, so you don’t have any excuse to skip this extraordinary brewery. Not specializing in any one style, Spangalang produces beers from across the spectrum with precision and a clear love of the craft. I also adore their decor (ugh, sorry). Their logo is the iconic Five Points intersection made to look like a vinyl record in an ever-changing array of colors. Inside the brewery, it’s comfortable and hip, with the fantastic Zivix Five Points just upstairs serving up great snacks to accompany your brews. If you’re looking for something a little more substantial (and with a hearty dose of neighborhood institutionalism) check out the Welton Street Cafe and their delightful fried chicken. You can find me at Spangalang after work on Tuesday trying their collaboration with the Real Dill: a cucumber gose. Yes, please!
  • Coal Creek Tap, Laramie, Wyoming. Wait… what the hell is a brewery in Wyoming doing on this distinctly Colorado-centric list!? Well, for folks traveling in from the western states, they may well be rambling by Laramie and/or for folks making the trip up to Fort Collins, Laramie is not that far of a jaunt. We discovered Coal Creek on our yearly trip to Saratoga, Wyoming for the Steinley Cup Beer Festival. Not only is this little brewery one of the best in Wyoming, but it’s one of the best we’ve had, full stop. A very cozy taproom with a distinctly historic feel (I dream of the subway tiles on their tap wall), they not only pour a wide variety of beer styles, but in their proper glassware! I’m talking a thistle glass for a Scotch ale, people, that’s damn serious beer geekery. I’m pretty sure that beertender Josh is at least half puppy dog, because no human being is that nice. Also, he’s a damn fine artist. Kind AND talented… what an irritating combination. It is worth the drive, and crossing state lines, to get their brews.
  • Other breweries to check out that I love but don’t have an extensive write-up on: Platt Park (wonderful IPA and house sour), Skeye (few beers on during our first visit, but were very good), Saint Patrick’s (all non-traditional lagers, best beer garden in town), Rally King (great beers out of the gate, a rare thing when a brewer transitions from homebrewing to pro), Factotum (incubator, allowing homebrewers to brew on their pro system, great education programs).

Mentions from last year: 4 Noses, Big Choice, Brewery Rickoli, Broken Compass, Casey Brewing & Blending, Manitou Brewing, Paradox (not yet open in their new location in Divide), Golden City (their new dry stout is fantastic), Shine, Mountain Sun family, Comrade, Baere (which continues to impress and delight), Lowdown, Equinox (one of the inspirations for the name of our Siberian husky, Nox!), Happy Leaf Kombucha (which now has a small kitchen).

Great Noms

Unluckily for me, there are far more eateries than breweries in the Denver area, so this list is much, much more difficult to compile. We are lucky to live in a city with such a diverse restaurant scene and so many great restaurants opening seemingly every day. Financial constraints keep me from some of the better-known and newer restaurants in town, so this year’s list is much abbreviated, but I am no less enthusiastic about it.

  • Zivix Five Points, Denver (Five Points). Yeah, Zivix is getting another shout-out. Sometimes the best food isn’t that which you sit down to in spats and gowns, but little snacks you have with great beers you are sharing with your friends. Zivix is redefining pub grub with gorgeous pickled eggs, the Zivix Picnic full of salty and sweet snacks, and dirt bombs, which are exactly like your mom’s cinnamon sugar toast, if your mom had access to pure fairy dust. That they have opened upstairs from Spangalang just makes it all-the-better.
  • Food Trucks, All Over. Food trucks may be trendy and veer towards being a little too hipster, but they are also a welcome addition to the brewery scene filling the void in our bellies while supping our favorite brews. A few worth mentioning:
    • Cluck Truck: owned by a former Flying Dog Brewery employee, nonetheless, is like Chick-fil-a if it was made with 100% better ingredients and 100% less hate. In addition to wonderful fried chicken, they offer the po-dog: a hot dog, surrounded by mashed potato and cheddar cheese, all wrapped in an egg roll wrapper and deep fried. They have a limited number every day, so make sure to order early and often.
    • Tony Guacamole: Colorado is known for it’s hybrid Mexican food: a little Baja, a little New Mexico, a little Oaxacan. Tony Guacamole offers burritos and tacos that are none of these things, and that’s just fine. I particularly like their Tatonka burrito with shredded bison. Worth tracking down for a little change of pace from orange chile (sorry, fellow Colorado natives: it’s orange, not green, get over it) and deep-fried chili rellenos (not that there is a single thing wrong with those, by the way).
    • Others: Dude WTF (deep-fried hamburgers and Apple Dudes), Barefoot BBQ (kale coleslaw and smoked chicken), Pavlo’s Taste of Ukraine (pierogies), Waffle Up (glorious Belgian waffles), Denver Biscuit Company (the Franklin is actually a GABF requirement – and it’s also a storefront, so you’re in luck if you can’t chase down their truck).

Mentions from last year: Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs, Bob’s Atomic Burgers, Park Burger, Mexico City Restaurant, Big Mama’s Burritos, The Buckhorn Exchange, The Cherry Cricket, Wild Ginger, New Saigon, Big City Burrito, Pete’s Kitchen, SOBO 151.

Other Stuff

I don’t have much to add to last year’s list as generally cool places to visit turn over much slower than breweries or restaurants. However, I am going to take this opportunity to do a shameless plug for a fun event in the Green CO2 Hall at the Convention Center. You do not need a GABF ticket to attend and there are seminars on everything from fruit beers to CO2 regulations to brewing lagers. Our friend Kim over at Inky Beer will be giving a presentation on being a female head brewer and opening a new brewery and yours truly will be giving a presentation on prepping for the Cicerone and BJCP exams. Between drinking and more drinking, please swing by to learn/ask questions/heckle. Wait… just the first two.

Finding All of the Above

Here’s a map of all of the places I’ve recommended, to help you navigate our little slice of the Wild West.

We are so lucky to be able to play host to GABF and the thousands of brewers, brewery staffers, and beer geeks who come out for the fest. And, if I may say so, the folks who travel to Colorado for the fest are lucky that it’s located in such a fun and beautiful place. Please take the time to escape from the hall and check out all of the wonderful things to do and to eat and to drink the great Rocky Mountain west has to offer.

Just over two days and counting. See you soon.

Cheers.

 

Note: I’ve used primarily Facebook links to allow you to get the most updated information from all of the establishments listed.

this is why we’re here.

The list of reasons that I love the craft beer industry could explode even Buzzfeed’s listicle servers, but the primary one, the one that beats out all others, the one that isn’t determined by location or how thirsty I am or what time of year it is, is this:

the craft beer industry is a community of incredible, creative, loving people who truly want to make the world a better place, one pint at a time.

Nothing more clearly demonstrates that commitment to community (both within the industry and the community at large) than the event last Sunday: A Night to Remember beer festival.

Alex Teves was a regular – and beer club member #28 (that’s a number sign, for all those of you born after 1990) – at Copper Kettle Brewing Company in Denver on the border with Aurora. From all accounts he was a true beer geek (his photo, which remains in the mug case at the brewery, is of him stoically hoisting his mug in salute) and all-around warm, funny guy. From all of the stories we heard of him this weekend, he sounded like exactly the kind of guy we like to strike up a lively conversation with when we visit breweries. Who knows, on one of our many visits to Copper Kettle, we might have.

He lost his life at the age of 24 while watching the Dark Knight Rises with his girlfriend and a friend on July 20, 2012.

In honor of their patron and friend, Copper Kettle put together a gathering to memorialize Alex at their brewery, inviting others to join in on the remembrance and giving the proceeds away to charity. Since that initial event, the fest has grown significantly, moved out of the Copper Kettle parking lot, and to the beautiful Four Mile Historic Park. This year was the 4th annual A Night to Remember, celebrating the life of Alex and the other victims of July 20, 2012, and bringing people together for beer and laughter and charity and community. The charity is the ACT Foundation, founded in Alex’s name to provide funding and scholarships for Humanex Academy. While I had wanted to go to this event since first hearing about it in 2012 (more on that in a minute), finding out that it was a fundraiser for Humanex, where the Beerded Brewer himself attended high school, meant that, this year, we would scrape together our meager funds and make it happen.

What happened on July 2oth hit me deeply (as it did many others). While I can never fully understand what the people who were there that night went through, I may understand more than some. I was a student at Columbine High School in 1999 when we experienced our own shooting. And while what happened in Littleton and what happened in Aurora are very, very different, the way both happened in “safe” spaces, the way both became media spectacles, the way both killed people who had not yet had a chance to really live, the way the area became so much more than a town or a neighborhood… but a true community, were very much the same.

The differences are many… maybe it was because what happened at Columbine was so huge compared to what came before. Maybe it was because it lasted for so long. Maybe it was because it unfolded on TV in front of the world in a way no other incident of its kind ever had. Maybe it was because the perpetrators took their lives before we could ask why. Why? But, afterwards, there was so much anger. So much hatred and vitriol and grief without an outlet, that cracks formed in that community. Cracks that some of us slipped right out of and have only been able to tenuously hold our grip onto.

That is the opposite of what I saw on Sunday. Three years on, I saw a celebration of life and living and togetherness that I never felt after Columbine. It was not the kind of grief-laden, obligatory gathering that follows a tragedy where people want to say so much and can’t figure out what to say because there simply aren’t words. It isn’t the false comfort of strangers who come from afar with good intentions and bad assumptions. It also wasn’t a beer fest full of rowdy revelers drinking to distraction and drunkenness. We all knew why we were there. We felt it.

It was, simply, beautiful.

Breweries wrapping around Four Mile Historic Park.

Breweries wrapping around Four Mile Historic Park.

And there were some great beers there. I can’t go without mentioning them because this is, allegedly, a beer blog.

The most pleasant surprise of the night were the beers from WeldWerks out of Greeley. All four of their beers were clean and very tasty. I particularly enjoyed their coffee brown which retained it’s beer profile which still being very coffee-forward. Even their hefe – most definitely not a style I go for – was well-rounded with just the right amount of isoamyl acetate (banana esters).

Ratio Beerworks brought their strawberry Berliner weiss which was a great refresher for the oppressively muggy night. You could tell that they used real strawberries (side note: please stop using extracts, breweries, they are icky) and it provided just the right amount of tart and sweet. It was one of the few beers I went back for seconds (and thirds… and fourths…) for.

Locavore Beer Works showed up with their exemplary double IPA: Lightnin’ Hopkiss. I was sorely disappointed to hear that they had not entered this beer into GABF, because it is one of the most finely balanced double IPAs I have ever had. A high tropical note is balanced by a little malt sweetness (but not at all sticky or cloying) and just a little dankness to finish it off.

Grimm Brothers’ maibock was also a pleasant surprise. For a couple of years, maibocks were the “hot thing” in craft brewing. Seeing as it is one of my favorite styles, this way great. But, like so many fads (I’m looking at you, gose), they tend to fade back into obsurity, leaving us all a little thirstier. It was on the malt-heavy side for a maibock, but was in no way sweet. A very nice example of the style and a good reminder of why German lagers are so popular.

Sporting his ACT Foundation pin in the absolutely most logical place.

Sporting his ACT Foundation pin in the absolutely most logical place.

A Night to Remember was a lot of fun. So many excellent breweries and food trucks attended and I enjoyed talking to old friends and making some new ones. But it was also emotional. The Beerded Brewer and I were honored to meet Alex’s parents, Tom and Caren, who are warm, passionate individuals of incredible strength. Tom was cracking us up and making us cry all at once – turning my strawberry Berliner weiss into a strawberry gose.* He told us: “Caren looks forward to this day all year.” And, looking around at all of the people there because of Alex, supporting a cause he believed in, delighting in one of his favorite activities… it felt like a party where Alex was the guest of honor. And he was.

Alex was there in the obvious ways: his silhouette on our cups and on shirts, but he was also there in his parents and family and friends who knew him and came to honor him. And he was there in those of us who never had the privilege to meet him, but came anyway. Some may have come only for the beer, but we all left with more.

I find myself overwhelmed at times by how incredibly good people can be, and events like this one serve to remind me that, by being a part of the craft beer industry, I have chosen to surround myself with some of the best people in the world. I am so very, very lucky.

A beautiful video was made of the 2nd annual event. It made me cry. Because I can’t help it.

– Cheers

Special thanks to Doug at Dry Dock for sharing one of their passes with us. Without it, we would not have been able to attend.

*I was going to apologize for that joke. But now by the time I finished, I decided that I refuse. Haha! Terrible beer jokes forever!!!

stop pissing on my beer (forum).

I am a member of a good number of beer-related Facebook groups (which may or may not be one of the reasons I don’t post regularly… ooo! Shiny!) and I’ve noticed several trends across them that are… frankly… irritating. In the bizarro world that is the interwebs, I understand that people tend towards dickishness and trollism and vaguary, but that doesn’t excuse the behavior – and, dammit, I’m calling these folks out on their bullshit. Here are some of the posts that particularly stick in my craw, as well as recommendations to fix a few of them:

“How long can I keep [random IPA] in a growler and it still taste good?”

Jane, you ignorant slut. IPAs – yes, ALL IPAs – are better drank fresh. Open that bitch up and enjoy. Why are you trying to save it? Come on…

Here, fixed that for ya:

“I’m going to a party on Saturday and bought a growler of [random IPA] today. Do you think it will last or should I drink it now and buy more later?”

“How long can I keep [any other style of beer but IPA] in a growler and it still taste good?”

What kind of growler? How was it filled? Have you kept it cold? Is it closed properly and tightly? Was the growler clean – not “meh, looks okay” clean – but beer clean? What type of beer? What’s the ABV? What’s the hop content?

Stop asking complex questions and pretending they are simple. Just… stop.

Here, fixed that for ya:

“I have a Drink Tank of 11% barleywine I picked up today and was wondering if I could age it. The growler was clean and there aren’t any leaks. What do you think?”

“ISO: [super rare, super expensive beer]

FT: [beers with regional distribution that you already have on hand]”

Nope. Nope nope nope. Unless your “FT” is something equally rare or desirable, why even bother? In general, if it’s a regionally-distributed beer, I’m probably going to want it fresh anyway, so it is mildly concerning that you already have it when you don’t have a trader yet.

“ISO: [beer only available on tap… let’s say… Pliny the Younger]”

Here’s the thing… the most respected taphouses in the country have to fight to get beers like Pliny the Younger, why do you think someone would have a keg sitting around just waiting to trade? It’s not going to happen. But that’s not the worst part of these posts… the absolute most mindboggling thing is (A) the sheer volume of them and (B) when someone points out that the beer is only available on tap and helpfully links to more info and the OP goes all bargly because being told no sucks. I KNOW that you really want to try Pliny the Younger… but that doesn’t change the fact that it isn’t available in bottles or cans. YELLING AT PEOPLE WHO POINT THIS OUT DOES NOT CHANGE THE FACTS.

Actually, yelling at ANYONE exposing you to reality DOESN’T CHANGE THE FUCKING FACTS.

“Here’s a photo of this beer: is it any good?”

I don’t fucking know. Why don’t you open it and try? My palate is different than your palate so I don’t know whether or not you’ll like it. And you know as well as I do that this isn’t a real question; you just want to show off whatever “amazing” beer you found and get people to oo and ah all over you.

Here, fixed that for ya:

“I haven’t tried this beer [photo of beer] before and was wondering what it’s like before I crack it. I’d hate to waste a beer that might be better enjoyed by someone besides myself.”

“[Photo of really amazing, usually rare beer] Look at these shelf turds!”

LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL. Holy FUCK you are hilarious! I cannot handle it! Did you come up with that on your own? I mean… to take something valueable and imply that it has no value… wow… you are a comedic genius. Listen: I’m as big of a fan of sarcasm as the next person, but this isn’t good sarcasm. It’s lazy… and I mean lazier than posting a Grumpy Cat meme lazy. I want to say that this was funny once… but it wasn’t. Also, “shelf turds”?

Any video of a drain-pour.

Yep. You’re pouring that beer down the drain. Sometimes it happens. Maybe it was bad. Maybe you just didn’t like it. No biggie. But why would you open yourself to ridicule and derision from fellow beer lovers because of your need to dump your beer? Do you think it makes you look like a badass or somehow “counter-culture” when you pour a beer other people love? I’m here to let you know: it doesn’t. It just makes you look like the attention whore you are.

Any chugging video.

Do I really..? Apparently I do. Congratulations frat boys of the world: you are all growed up and done found that there is more to life than Keystone Light. But you still have a desire… a lust… to hear that sweet, sweet chant: CHUG! CHUG! CHUG! CHUG! It eats at your bones and you must… you must obey. Nothing says “I am a MAN” quite like chugging 12- or 16- or 20- or 80-ounces of sweet, sweet fermented malt… especially on video… and especially if that malt happens to comprise an expensive/rare/special beer. How about you just do us all a favor and go ahead and crush that growler right on your forehead?

“I’m going to [very large area – city, state, country] and need some good brews. Where should I go?”

Okay, I’ll admit that I’ve been partially guilty of this. Yes, on the surface this seems like a good question. In fact, I would argue that it’s pretty damn perfect for an online forum discussion. However, there are two major issues with it. First: no one no one NO ONE ever checks to see (by this amazing little feature called the “search” box) if anyone else has asked the same or similar question and received answers. I swear I saw four people in one day ask about beer in NYC. What has happened to doing the sparest amount of research, folks?! The other is this: it is way too vague. If you tell me that you are coming out to Colorado and looking for “good brews”, there are just WAY too many for me to recommend. And, more than likely, the majority won’t be applicable because you will be regulating your visit to a very specific area. I hate spending 10 minutes constructing a thoughtful response about breweries in Denver, Boulder, Ft Collins, Colorado Springs, Grand Junction, Durango as well as ones available statewise to get a reply to my comment of “oh… well I’m going to be in Craig, so I was really looking for places out there.” THEN TELL ME THAT FROM THE GET GO YOU LAZY BASTARD! The other side to that is the “good brews.” What in the name of Chuthulu does that even mean? Do you mean breweries? Taphouses? Sports bars? Beers you can pick up from the liquor store?

Here, fixed that for ya:

“I’m going to San Diego for the weekend and will be staying in Point Loma. I really like visiting breweries and would like to bring back some beers – I like pretty much everything – any recommendations?”

OR

“I’m going to be driving from Denver to Asheville this November through KC, Saint Louis, Lexington, and Louisville. Any small breweries I absolutely must hit on my route?”

“Half of the posts on here are just trolls looking for comments.”

WHAAAAA!? You mean that people are posting to a public forum in order to get FEEDBACK!? OMG WTF!? How daaarrrrreeeeeeeee they.

“[Insert general bigotry] Cheers!”

Yeah… go fuck yourself. This is a beer group. We want to talk about beer. Bring your filth elsewhere.

[Photos of scantily-clad women with not-very-good beer. Usually only shows boobs, butt, or (lack of) bush]

Yeah, yeah, I like boobs, too. They are great. However, maybe objectifying women is the reason that you are posting these photos at 8pm on a Saturday night… mmmm?

Any post followed by demeaning, disrespectful, nonconstructive commentary.

We’re online where everything is “anonymous”. I know. It’s easy to let off some steam by being horrible to some stranger online. I get that there are bad traders: and making those people know is necessary, but doxxing is not okay, especially not over $40 in beer. So what if the OP enjoys Samuel Adams and you don’t, you don’t have to call them terrible names and threaten to rape them. This person readily admits that they aren’t “beer savvy”, so why are you being a dick instead of answering their question in the spirit in which it was intended? I get that you live a block from the Alchemist, but the rest of the world doesn’t, so calling everyone who doesn’t have unmitigated access to Heady Topper “faggy bitches” is uncalled for. This is a beer discussion and we are trying to have fun… ask yourself: why are you trying to ruin it?

Calling into question any woman’s knowledge of beer… which usually reverts to commenting on her appearance.

I know that women are primarily intended to be eye candy and beer delivery mechanisms. I’m not disputing that. I mean… look at us… but we also serve other functions. There are women who drink beer… even women who drink craft beer… even women who visit breweries… even women who work at breweries… even women who are homebrewers… even women who are Cicerones and professional brewers and founders of breweries. It’s amazing what we have learned to do over our (roughly) 4 billion years of evolution that would shock even the most learned of our male masters.

But seriously. I know this is one of my beer box issues, but this sexist shit has to stop. Unfortunately, it doesn’t just exist in online forums (although, I would argue, it’s there that it reaches is ugliest and most honest form).

It exists in commercials (this is insulting to men, too, by the way):

It exists in print advertising (holy fuck there’s a Buzzfeed list):

http://www.buzzfeed.com/copyranter/13-of-the-most-sexist-beer-ads-of-all-time#.pgoXW8aLyv

It exists in beer labels (for the record, I find juvenile sexual innuendo HILARIOUS, but there are some labels that cross way, way over the line). It exists in the fact that a large number of breweries carry men’s sizes in small through triple-extra-large and only carry women’s in small, medium, and large (I have a whole upcoming post about this… promise). It exists when someone walks into a brewery and assumes that the brewer must be a man (even the Beerded Brewer, who is a proud feminist, makes this mistake).

I get that sexism is a systemic problem, but in an industry as progressive as the brewing industry, we are failing dramatically on this one. Why do we continue to feed the sexist trolls out there by allowing them to believe that craft beer is just the grown-up version of a frat party? Yeah, we drink a lot. Yeah, we tell really inappropriate jokes. Yeah, we like to have a good time. But this isn’t an industry of hate and descrimination. Don’t let anyone fool you into believing that when they say that a women isn’t “capable” of doing something like brewing that they are going home and treating their wife or daughter or mother or sister with respect. It just ain’t happenin’.

Okay. Enough of the negativity. ENOUGH. I’m done. I’m over it. I’m moving on.

Luckily, not everything is toxic. A lot of it is lovely and informative and just smile-inducing. Here’s some of what makes me dribble beer because I’m smiling whilst drinking (more dangerous than chewing and walking, I tell you).

Shit I love that people post:

“My wife just had a kid! Here’s the beer I’ll be toasting my new baby with… and I can’t wait to share on with the wife. Nine months is a long time. Good job, sweetie!”

“I’m new to craft beer and was wondering what the difference between a stout and a porter is.”

“I just bought a Hydroflask. Does it keep beer better than a glass growler?”

“Holy shit! I just scored a bottle of [rare, awesome beer]! I can’t wait to pop this puppy open!”

“I just scored a case of [really kickass beer] and would like to trade most of it. ISO [list of styles or equally as kickass beers]. Will trade $ for $.”

“My buddies and I just visited our 30th brewery this year. Pretty badass, if I do say so myself.”

“[Untappd badge] 1000 Check-ins! I know I’m behind a lot of you… but since I just started keeping track a year ago, that’s not too shabby.”

“My Grandpa just passed this morning. Please give him a toast today. He was a pretty great guy.”

[Photos of dogs or cats with beer]

[Photos of beer crafts]

[Photos of people at breweries/beer festivals/on beer trips]

[Photos of beer]

See where I’m going here? I joined these online communities because I wanted to talk about beer. I wanted to have beer-drinking buddies across the world with whom I could have discussions, see great photos, trade, and maybe even meet IRL for a drink (or three). I didn’t join because I wanted a bunch of middle-aged, sexist frat boys who think that respect is what they get when their dog pees itself when they come home.

Most of all, I joined these groups to have fun and gain some knowledge. I’ve definitely discovered the latter: great beers, great breweries and bars and pubs across the country and the world, and even made a couple of friends. The former… eh… I find myself getting more frustrated and angry than anything. When I first joined RateBeer and Beer Advocate, I delighted in finding a community of beer drinkers with whom I could connect. I thought I’d found an easier (in that it’s a platform I almost obsessively use) forum in Facebook beer groups. Instead, I found people taking an industry, a community, and a product I love and perverting it into something mean, angry, and hateful. While this kind of negativity is getting progressively worse across all of Facebook, chatting about beer shouldn’t create the amount of vitriol that, say, traffic in a small town does.

Before you post, think about what you’re saying. Are you contributing to the conversation? Are you posting something that others will enjoy? Or is your post simply masturbatory? Because no one wants to read that (says the chick with a blog)…

Now, please excuse me while I take a photo of myself drain-pouring Heady Topper while doing a keg stand on Pliny the Younger.

Cheers.

ob-session.

I was browsing my newsfeed today when I came across this little gem: Session Beer Is Dumb by Aaron Goldfarb. Since session beer is the new “it” brew, and because the subject is not as straightforward as it might seem, I thought I’d do a quick blog post about it. Also, I started writing this as a simple “share” on Facebook and realized I had more to say that the little box would take. So, here it is…

Equating less alcoholic beers with less flavor is fallacious. Yes, some session beers are major weaksauce, but that does not mean they all are. Let’s take Berlinerweiss as an example. This very tart, very dry beer packs a huge punch of flavor – but should only be 3-4% abv. Kolsch, while a delicate flavor, should have bunches of it. Throw a bunch of hops into a pilsner and you have some serious flavor in a light package.

This author seems to believe that only strong, overwhelming beers have merit. I disagree. While I think “session IPAs” are a misnomer and the ob”session” is silly, I see the point in trying to brew smaller beers to see how much flavor you can get with a smaller grain bill and/or shorter fermentation. It’s a fun experiment and, as many people who brew will tell you, more hops + more alcohol = more forgiveness. You lower the amount of hops and the alcohol content and there is very little left to hide behind. You are letting your brewing skills really all hang out.

However, I do like his point that session beers shouldn’t be something you drink because you want to drink 1000 of them in a single evening. They are something you should drink because you like the flavor. But this is true of all beers. If your sole goal is to get shithammered, can I interest you in this bottle of everclear?

I was out in Boulder at a bachelorette party a couple of months ago. After dinner, the mob of women decided to head to the Kitchen Upstairs bar. I was steeling myself for the usual three-tap setup of Coors, Guinness, and Fat Tire, which was definitely a feature. But they also had a fantastic bottle list. On it was a bottle of 2008 Thomas Hardy. I, admittedly, lost my head a bit. Of course, I purchased the bottle (which was poured into a snifter – bad me for assuming that this shiny place didn’t know how to treat beer), and settled in for the evening with it. Now, I could have purchased four pints of Fat Tire for my one Thomas Hardy or two overpriced, but I’m sure tasty, cocktails. But I would have been sacrificing the luxurious flavor, the delicious aromas, the feel of that snifter sitting in my hand. Some of the ladies I was with laughed at me for my euphoria, but I guarantee that their 4-ounces of martini did not come near the wonder of that beer. I’m sure they have already forgotten what they drank that night. I will remember what I had forever. Or, as I said that night: “my beer verse your cocktail? Guess what: I win.”

So there’s that: beer is an experience, not just a drink. Sure, when I’m painting the house I’m not looking for something to challenge my palate or to send me into a climactic state. But I’m also not looking for something that is going to make it dangerous for me to stand on a 2-rung ladder. Sometimes, you just have to go with the lower ABV – but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor.

This author’s point is well taken: a session beer for a session beer’s sake is absurd. But if it exists for a reason besides being “hip”, than it’s a good thing.

But please, stop calling hoppy low-alcohol beers “session IPAs” or I will punch you. Punch you right in the mouth.

Cheers.

musings on friendship.

We grow old, we grow up, we move away, we get married, we have children, we move back, we travel, we stay, we die.

And thru it all we cry, we smile, we bear it, we work, we play, and above all – we laugh. And it is in those moment of laughter and joy that we connect. It is as simple as a “hi” on a hard day, maybe a note passed in class, a beer spilled on a shirt. But we find someway, despite all the obstacles trying to keep us from it, we find a true and honest connection with someone else.

We call those people “friends.”

They may be friends for a day or a lifetime – but something in them touched us and made us remember them as important. They made an impact. Their world stopped to make a dent in ours and change our history a little, or a lot.

When we emerge into this huge, crazy, wonderful world there is a straight and boring path laid out before us. But with each kind smile, every loving touch, all the beautiful, caressing words – our path changes, twists and morphs. Those dips, curves, and kinks are frightening as we approach and satisfying as we pass. But when we look back – they write the story of our triumphs, our failures, our growth, and our loves. And at those moments of greatest importance – whether we remember them or forget – there are intersections with other paths – and those paths with still others – until we are all woven together in an inseparable pattern that is the very fabric of life.

Thank you to all who have crossed into my life and become a part of my pattern. There is a long, hard path behind… and an even longer path ahead – and I am truly honored to have you as companions on the road.

Cheers.

my name is dev, and you sound like an ass.

This is a quick response to an article that David Chang wrote for GQ Magazine titled “My Name is David Chang and I Hate Fancy Beer.” The amazing Garrett Oliver penned a response a few days later: “My Name is Garrett Oliver and I Hate Crappy Beer.” Please read both, as both are interesting and give some insight into the rising tide of disdain for beer geeks and the craft brewing industry. My comments were originally posted to a comment on Eater.com, but I have made some changes for this blog.

I love craft beer. I love it because I love seeking out new flavors and experiences and the people who work in the industry. It is my passion. I love educating others about beer and its history and complexities and how to pair it with food. Beer challenges me and delights me and makes me happy.

What I don’t like are people who judge others for their drink choices. Those who think that someone else’s decisions somehow negatively affect them. If you want to drink industrial beer and like it, great! Go for it! But if you ask me for a suggestion on what to drink, I’ll steer you towards a good craft or import that you might enjoy, just to expand your palate.

David Chang’s article was obnoxious and pretentious. His choice to constantly crow about his supposed “love” for industrial beer is just a way for him to put down those around him seeking different choices. He comes off as a prat, and one I wouldn’t want to eat or drink with. The fact that he has repeatedly approached Garrett Oliver, one of the gods of the craft beer industry, and “bragged” about how much he loves mass market brews just shows how crummy his character is. Also, the title of his article is about how he “hates fancy beer.” Except that he doesn’t. He flat-out says that he enjoys the flavors of many craft beer styles and that he has “seen the sunrise from the bar at Mikkeller” (good for you). This just proves that his headline is nothing but click bait. He is making the point that even though he has access to some of the best beers in the world – and clearly has favor with some brewers that many of us would kill to hang out with – he would rather shove it in their faces that he would prefer mass market beer.

And if he eschews beers even he calls “delicious” for mass market, flavorless beer… what does that say about his food? And if he is willing to be a creep to some of the greatest minds (and palates) in the beer industry, how does he treat others in his own? As someone not nearly famous or rich enough to be able to get a reservation at Momofuku, I can only speculate.

Oliver’s response is great. I love that he calls Chang out on the carpet and doesn’t let him get away with what is so clearly a cry for attention.

Yes, beer geeks (and foodies and wine snobs) can come off as pretentious. I know we can. I’m sorry for that – it’s really not (the majority of us, at least) our intention. We are just seeking out something new and different and exciting. We don’t want to waste our time and money and experiences (and calories, let’s be real, here) on something boring. I don’t think anyone has had an epiphany while drinking a Bud or felt true, deep delight while supping an MGD. But I cried when I first tried Westvleteren XII and I giggled in excitement when I tasted the Rare Barrel‘s Egregious.

Beer, for me, is so much more than something to quench my thirst.

And that’s okay. Just as it’s okay for beer to JUST be something to quench your thirst. But Chang’s crowing about how he so proudly struts his industrial beer love in the face of people just trying to do their jobs and share their enthusiasm makes him come off as a pretentious jerk. A pretentious jerk with bad taste, at that.