PHYSICIAN HEAL THYSELF

09beer1902.jpg“The blues ain’t nothing but a low down shaking chill, if you never had them I hope you never will.”
Robert Johnson

The Holidays are gone but now winter really sets in. A very big blast of cold air has sent me to my long underwear and funny looking Gore-Tex. thinsulated hunting cap with flaps. If ever there was a time for a winter warmer… but wait, the dickens you say, all of the strong beer has been sold? Well not exactly:

I found myself standing in a giant store concerned with all things alcohol. The Party Source in Kentucky has a selection of booze, wine, and most importantly, beer, that must be seen to be believed. I am in their giant beer cave where I discover a half barrel of Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale, and while I am observing, a half barrel of their ESB. Besides these two, there are quarter barrels from Anchor, and most impressively, an eighth of a barrel of N’Ice Chouffe from Belgium. Now if I had unlimited scratch, which I do not (see To Beer Or Not Beer) I would have loaded some of that into a friend’s van and then proclaim that the rest of the month has been canceled.
None of these shopper observations changes the fact that frozen times like these require hearty brew meant to keep body and soul operating in harmony. It was cold and rainy the other day, perfectly miserable weather conditions, and I thought Lord I should could use a six pack of Sam Adams Double Bock! But unfortunately that seasonal has not been released yet, so I had to settle for Spaten Optimator (oh the tragedy), one of the world’s great great dopplebocks. For lack of a better description, I call it malt salvation. There is something about the authentic quality of a world class beer that makes the tribulations of life more bearable. The idea of slurping some macro brewed swill, during this bone chilling weather, makes me start running… for a cup of hot chocolate.
I also had Shiner Dunkelweizen. A good beer, but as a deep winter offering, there is just not enough heft. But one ale I came across met all the severe weather requirements and that was Brother Thelonious Ale, from the North Coast Brewery in California. Made as a tribute to the great jazz pianist composer, Brother Thelonious at 9%abv has all the strength and complexity needed to savor on a long winter night. A crepuscule with Nellie, at it were.

When it comes to the right brew prescription, I have no one to consult but myself. Thank You.free_beer_bottle.jpg

TO BEER OR NOT TO BEER

It is not something readily admitted, but this could be the winter of economic discontent. A place in time where there is nothing left to squeeze…
Beer has gone up in price again. An inevitable announcement that is in truth another new tax. Blame it on the farmers growing corn instead of barley. The worldwide hops shortage. The trillions of dollars for government debt. Blame it on the…

Tried to come to grips with the faces of fellow citizens. The only true thing you have in common is the unrelenting pressure, attempting to comply with the prerequisites of a market driven, advertising obsessed culture. The same culture that claims Microsoft and McDonald’s are really good for you. An eye phone ring tone of enormous proportions.

What of the Bell’s Brewery and those folks who think nothing of spending nine dollars plus on a six pack of their beer. Will they mind that it is now ten dollars plus a six pack? Purchasing support for Larry Bell’s lifestyle, who, it is said, is a huge fan of the Chicago Cubs. These very same people who consider Oberon Kalamazoo Brewing’s gift to summer, and with one swipe of plastic can get back to their busy lives. Will they stay with this brew ship as the price sails keep rising?

Possible consultant work: Beer Doctor, they built this gigantic beer cave but all they have in it is some pretty lousy beer. They need someone to put quality in there to attract new customers, to develop a loyal following…

The beer business has its full share of incompetent people. People who do not care. People who don’t really love beer. People who would be just as happy moving kitchen appliances. It takes vision to create a great beer store, not just the desire to be economically successful. To provide a better selection for all your customers, not just the ones with disposable income.
It gets plenty rough when the money dries up. People who lose well paid jobs that are not coming back, sometimes turn to Vodka to knock back the nagging reality. At that point beer becomes a kind of joke, even the so-called extreme versions.

What the hekt is going on?

Brew master Garrett Oliver pointed out that beer “unlike wine, it’s an affordable luxury”. In King Hummurabi’s time, over charging for beer was punishable by drowning. Which brings up the main point here: How can you enjoy a beer if all you think about is the money involved? Most people just bite the proverbial bullet and pay the increased price, even though their own personal income has not increased, sometimes for years. Others, like yours truly, are forever vigilant, looking for a high quality brew at a reasonable price; which in these inflation driven times has become rare and difficult. The alternative of switching to macro brands (which have gone up in price too) is not really an option for a seeker of beer with flavor. The so-called retro classics are fine up to a point (the legendary lawn mowing beer) but that gets boring rather quickly. If beer is to be a life of drinking almost tasteless carbonated suds, I think (in fact I know) I’ll switch to water. That is the not to beer.
As for the to beer, all I can say is appreciate the quality even more, knowing that there may come a time when it may no longer be available. Remember that in 1974, beer was nearly destroyed in the United States. A human invention of at least ten thousand years was reduced to foamy nothingness in a can. May that never happen again. Thank You.beer_mat1.jpg

A REGULAR KIND OF BEER BOOK

I recently had a chance to examine in depth, two classic books on beer, namely THE BEER TASTER’S LOG by James D. Robertson, and THE POCKET GUIDE TO BEER by Michael Jackson. Both of these works are exhaustive examinations on the worthy subject, and as the beer doctor, I am in awe of the comprehensive love for the product shown by both men, traveling across the world in a continuous search. I mean what could be better: The Beer Hound and The Beer Hunter!
Of course the beer world is always changing, so much of the information provided is now obsolete. Robertson’s complete coverage of all beers in America includes reviews from breweries that no longer exist. Brands and labels that I have not seen in years are given coverage. The Beer Hound’s log is very thorough. His favorite beer in the entire world is listed as Andechs Doppelbock.
Michael Jackson’s Pocket Guide (7th edition) is a wonderful running commentary on all things beer. For example, did you know that yeast from Spaten brewery was used to make the first Carlsberg lager in Copenhagen? The tiny publication is full of fascinating gems of brewing history. Also, Mr. Jackson as beer enthusiast leaps right off the page. When he says: “Within the extraordinarily colourful tapestry of Belgian brewing,” you can be sure he is excited about revealing his discoveries.
Both Robertson and Jackson mention beers still available to this day. Mendocino Brewing’s Eye Of The Hawk is referred to as a “big lusty brew” by the Hound, and “a malty ale” by the Hunter. But much of course has already passed into brew history: failed microbreweries, failed craft brands by regional breweries, and macro brewed experiments that simply flopped.
For a more recent and thoroughly entertaining book there is Garrett Oliver’s THE BREWMASTER’S TABLE. Written by the Brooklyn Brewery’s brewmaster, this is a very knowledgeable account of pairing real beer with real food. Of special interest is his friendship with Schneider and Sohn brewery of Germany, brewers of the world famous dunkle weizenbock known as Aventinus. There is a full color photograph of Georg Schneider IV, holding a glass of Schnider Weiss.
Mr. Oliver offers his opinions on brews he is quite fond of. For example, he prefers Hennepin over Ommegang’s flagship brand. But like the previously mentioned gentlemen, Garrett Oliver’s enthusiasm is contagious. His pairings with food is incredibly impressive, but also his all around ability to put this stuff into cultural context. This book is for beer, what the LES HALLES COOKBOOK by Anthony Bourdain was for the kitchen: a classic.
One thing is apparent from all three of these books: great beer can be found all over the world.
“Like people, beers do not choose the countries in which they are born.”
Michael Jackson

Thank You. The Beer Doctorbeer.jpg