I was lucky enough to have had the privilege of attending the 2011 Black Tuesday release party last night at The Bruery in Orange County, California. Patrick Rue and his team were all there at the 1930’s gangster/Great Depression themed event, dressed in their pinstripe suits and two toned shoes. This years Black Tuesday weighs in at 18.3 % ABV. Slightly lower than in past years, but everyone agrees that it improves each year as the brewers gain more and more experience brewing extremely high gravity beers. One of this years variations was S’more Tuesday, brewed with crushed graham crackers, marshmallows, and cocoa nibs. It definitely sounds unusual, but all the flavors come through and created one exciting beer. Unusual is what everyone has come to expect from The Bruery anyway. Looking forward to popping one of these bottles over the holidays and busting out the rest over the next few years. Cheers!
Monthly Archives: October 2011
“The peoples of the Mediterranean began to emerge from barbarism when they learned to cultivate the olive and the vine.” — Thucydides (460BC—395BC), Greek historian.
There is a line that runs through Europe above which grapes do not grow. The modern nations of France, Italy, Spain and Greece all lie below this line, while all of the great beer drinking nations such as Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Great Britain lie above it. In the time before the Common Era, the great empires of Greece and Rome dominated Europe, North Africa and parts of the Middle East. They saw the drink of their home land as civilized and associated the drink of their conquered territories as barbarian. It is not hard to imagine that, conversely, these “barbarians” hated the drink of their uninvited and often cruel ruling class almost as much as they hated the conquerors themselves.
This attitude has resonated throughout western history until today. Just recently, beer was banned at the royal wedding because it was deemed an inappropriate drink to be served in the Queen’s presence. Imagine that! A drink that has had an immeasurable impact on Britain’s history is shunned in preference to a drink that has ZERO domestic origins. What gives?
Prohibition, in this country, didn’t help beers reputation much either. The 18th amendment ensured that all legal consumption of beer and wine ceased (except for religious purposes). In the decades after the nation emerged from the “noble experiment,” the quality of domestic beer plummeted. An entire generation had grown up being told that alcohol was wrong. This, of course, didn’t stop them from consuming. It did, however, lower their standards substantially. American were used to drinking anything they could get their hands on. Few of the breweries that survived maintained their pre-prohibition quality. Most began marketing their beer to the lowest common denominator, and trying to make it as cheap as possible. Brewing, as an art, was mostly dead.
While wine suffered the same sort of hit in the US during Prohibition, it’s reputation was able to bounce back, thanks largely to the European wine making scene. Once the Europeans were able to recover from the devastating war, they began exporting wine to the US. Prices were high thanks to the cost of export, and so this ensured that only the wealthy had access to it.
Today, things are changing. Not only are domestic wineries producing world class wine that most Americans can afford, but craft breweries are popping up all over, producing beers with character, and reviving the lost art of brewing. While some might still snobbishly see a glass of Bordeaux as infinitely superior than anything from the beer section of their local specialty shop, most have abandoned this mentality. Everyone has a preference, of course. I imagine most people reading this site prefer beer. As beer drinkers it is important that we not take on the same attitude of superiority as wine drinkers of the past, and instead embrace both drinks for their merits.
Alright, so my last post was, I must admit, a piece of garbage. It came spewing out after a few too many sours. Right now it is Wednesday morning, I have a cup of black coffee in my hands, and hopefully my writing will make a bit more sense.
Thinking of ways to add a supplement to my meager beer bar income, I have decided to maintain a blog. For the past couple of months, I have been studying for the Certified Cicerone exam. For those out there unaware of what that is, it is a program designed to create an industry standard for beer expertise along the same lines as the Master Sommelier program that the wine world has had in place for quite a while.
The program consists of three levels:
1) Certified Beer Server: Designed for those working in the beer service and retail business. It tests your knowledge of responsible service of alcohol; proper retail procedures to ensure that beer sold is served to the customer at its best, with no off flavors that come as a result of mishandling; the most common beer styles in the US; and other areas of knowledge that any good beertender or salesman should know.
2)Certified Cicerone: Those who pass have demonstrated that they have a detailed knowledge of all modern beer styles, as well as some historical ones; the brewing process; proper service of beer in order to highlight its best qualities; food pairings; and much, much more. This is the level I am striving for, and once I pass (optimism) I will be able to call myself a Certified Cicerone.
3) Master Cicerone: This is the damned crazy level of the program. Essentially those that pass know every thing about everything related to beer. They can identify specific hop varietals by flavor and aroma, they can describe what goes on at the molecular level during mashing, and they can tell you about the many diseases that can infect a hop plant. Only a few have passed this ridiculous level of the test. I have no plans as of yet to be the fourth.
And so, for about two months now, I have had my nose in the books, hoping to gather enough knowledge to achieve this rank. I swear, I never studied this hard in college. One thing I have noticed is that there is not any one specific source that an inquisitive beer lover can go to in order to gather all of this information. It is my intention to build one. I am certain that my posts will be inconsistent, at least at first. My goal is to write one short article per week regarding some bit of knowledge needed for the test. So wish me luck on my research and on my test. Lets hope that come January this website will be full of useful beer information and that I will be able to announce that I am a Certified Cicerone.
There are a million beer blogs on the web these days, so why start my own? While there is a tremendous amount of beer information floating around out there, as with everything on the internet, it can’t always be trusted. Any schmuck with a can of Coors in his hand can call himself a beer expert and post a blog entry hailing himself as such. It takes much more than a few six packs of carefully crafted beer to be considered a connoisseur. The world needs passionate people who not only have amassed a tremendous amount of beer knowledge, but who are also willing to share it with those that seek it without pretension.
For too long beer has been considered a low-brow beverage. For too long cheap, watered down swill has been marketed to us as beer and for too long it has been guzzled up at college parties and beyond without any thought or reason to question.
I intend this site to be more of a personal account of my journey through the world of beer. If it remains buried in the heap of other beer blogs out there, so be it.