20070331

TAP New York is ... on tap

New York's longest-running beer and food event will mark its 10th anniversary later this month.

The annual TAP New York extravaganza, sponsored by the Hudson Valley Beer and Food Festival, is scheduled for the weekend of April 28-29 in the base lodge at Hunter Mountain in the Catskill Mountains.

Although the organizers stress this is a food and beer event, the craft brewers bringing in their beers to compete for the Matthew Vassar Cup and the F.X. Matt Memorial Cup are the main drawing card.

The list of confirmed brewery participants (LI denotes Long Island):

• Black Forest Brew Haus & Restaurant, Farmingdale, LI
• Blue Point Brewing Co., Patchogue, LI
• Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown
• Brooklyn Brewery, Brooklyn
• Brown's Brewing Co., Troy
• Butternuts Beer & Ale Co., Garrattsville
• Chatham Brewing Co., Chatham
• Cooperstown Brewing Co., Cooperstown
• The Defiant Brewery, Pearl River
• Gilded Otter, New Paltz
• Great Adirondack Brewing, Lake Placid
• John Harvard's Brew House, Lake Grove, LI
• Heartland Brewery, Manhattan
• High Point Wheat Beer Co., Butler, NJ
• Ithaca Beer Co., Ithaca
• Keegan Ales, Kingston
• Kelso of Brooklyn
• Roosterfish Brewing Co., Watkins Glen
• Saranac/Matt Brewing Co., Utica
• Six Point Brewery, Brooklyn
• Southampton Publick House, Southampton
• Southern Tier Brewing, Lakewood
• Unibroue, Chambly, Quebec

The event began in 1997 as the Hudson Valley Beer and Food Festival, originally hosted at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. As it outgrew that venue, it was moved in 1999 to Hunter Mountain.

The food theme this year will be the best of the past decade.

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Quaffing (and guffawing) with historic figures

Who cares what historical figure you'd like to have a meal with, or be stranded on a desert island with. The larger question is, who would you rather have a beer with?

The choices:

• Genghis Khan
• Benjamin Franklin
• Johnny Appleseed

The creative minds at Anheuser-Busch apparently were wondering the same thing, so they set up the cameras for each of the gents and recorded their points of view as part of A-B's "Here's to Beer" campaign.

They are, to put it mildly, hilarious. Go here to view the three videos, then let me know what you think of them.

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Beer history, from BC to TV

April 7 will be a day of celebration for beer lovers, be they on the brewing or consuming end of the chain. That is the 74th anniversary of the repeal of prohibition on beer.

The A&E cable TV channel has scheduled a showing of "The American Brew" for 10 o'clock that night. The documentary, commissioned by Anheuser-Busch, covers the evolution of beer through the centuries, with particular emphasis on U.S. colonial times right through today.

The documentary was produced and directed by filmmaker Roger Sherman, whose documentaries have received a variety of major honors, including a Peabody Award, an Emmy Award and two Academy Award nominations.

"Viewers will see everything from beer being brewed in a fireplace in colonial Williamsburg to 20-foot hop vines in northern Idaho and a behind-the-scenes look at judging beer at the World Beer Cup in Seattle," Sherman said.

Following its national debut on April 7, "The American Brew" DVD will be made available for sale at beer stores and taverns across the country. The special-edition DVD includes 42 minutes of extra footage and interviews.

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20070322

Milwaukee's oldest brewery moved

Perhaps no other American city is as closely linked to beer as Milwaukee. Thus, even though it no longer is used to produce the white beer for which it once was known, when the city's oldest surviving brewery building gets re-located, it's news.

The 1853 Gipfel Union Brewery building, which was part of the city's old Brewery Row but ceased turning out beer in the 1890s, was relocated this week to a site one block away. The brick structure will be renovated as a restaurant in a new condominium development.

In 1998, the city blocked the owner's plans to demolish the landmarked building. The move was financed by a grant from the Wisconsin Historical Society and two developers, the Bradley Center Sports & Entertainment Corp., which has owned the building since 1999, and Ruvin Development, which will incorporate the landmark into its new $160 million retail-office complex.

"(Moving the Gipfel) actually did a better job of approximating its historical context than it was sitting in the parking lot surrounded by the Bradley Center," says Matt Jarosz, former chairman of preservation commission and director of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee's historic preservation program. "Only a block and a half away — that seemed as sensitive a move as one can think of. This is an important icon in the brewing capital of the country, so it seemed like a reasonable request."

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20070321

Flying Dog adds to its litter

One of the great things about a craft brewery is that you can fool around with lots of experiments and not worry about disrupting a gigantic manufacturing operation.

Take the Flying Dog Brewery in Denver. The city's largest craft brewer -- and Colorado's second largest -- is set to release a new beer aged in whiskey barrels and packaged in 750ml champagne bottles.

It's called Gonzo Imperial Porter, the latest addition to the brewery's "Wild Dog Series."

After brewing, this porter was put into charred white American oak barrels from the neighboring Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey distillery, and aged for three months. It then was hand bottled, corked, labeled and conditioned for another six weeks before being shipped.

The taste? Says Matt Brophy, the head brewer, it will "remind you of sweet chocolate, dry oak and smooth whiskey. The barrel's distinctive characteristics will compliment the Imperial Porter's already robust, full-bodied flavor."

Only 5,000 bottles will be packaged. Of those, Flying Dog also is offering 500 Limited Edition Wild Dog gift box sets. Each will contain a 750ml bottle of the brew, a Wild Dog glass, collector's button and an authentic piece of the wood barrel used in the aging process.

"The wood will still hold the great aromas from the whiskey and beer that aged in it," said Neal Stewart, Flying Dog's marketing director.

Flying Dog's "litter of ales" includes nine everyday brands and four seasonals. The Wild Dog Series started in 2004 with the release of a Double Pale Ale then continued with a Weisenbock in 2005 and last year's Colorado Saison. The brewery is planning to release another Wild Dog this coming October. The line is available in 45 states.

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20070320

A basic Nicaraguan/gluten-free/Belgian/domestic beer tasting -- and pizza party

As I was retrieving an array of domestic and imported beers from the fridge and setting the bottles down next to a stack of pizzas, the words of comedy essayist Dave Barry came to mind:

"The greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza."

We had gathered to assess a wide variety of beers in a blind tasting I devised to give a new import and some new domestic products a true trial by fire -- up against established mega-brands as well as against cheese, mushroom and pepperoni pizzas.

In my view, how well a beer fares against others of its kind is strictly a matter of personal taste. But, if a beer can't hold its own against pizza, it has no business being sold in these United States.

The process was straightforward. A four-person panel was served a series of unlabeled 2-ounce tasting glasses of beers and ales -- large enough to allow them to assess the carbonation, color and consistency of the brews before tasting them, and not so large as to taint the palate for what came afterward.

What three of our quartet did not know was that I was only interested in their views of four of the seven brews. The others -- American beers Budweiser and Coors Light and the luscious Belgian lager Stella Artois -- were there to vary the field and provide contrast.

The reactions I wanted were to Toña, a Nicaraguan beer that began being distributed in five states in the U.S. last summer and now is found in more than a dozen states as its network grows, and a line of gluten-free beers and ales being developed in Arkansas by Dark Hills Brewery, which I wrote about in mid-December. They are scheduled to go on sale in the fall.

The two American and one Belgian beer were identified rather quickly by the most beer-savvy member of our quartet. The Toña was immediately and enthusiastically embraced by the panel as a whole, but they were puzzled by its origin.

Our tasting notes: "It's much smoother than the Budweiser, and with a bolder flavor. ... I'd drink this beer all night ... It's very rich and creamy. ... Plenty of taste but doesn't overdo the carbonation so it goes down easy. ... This is easy to evaluate: It's an excellent beer!"

Toña is a lager brewed by Compania Cervecera de Nicaragua (CCN), made with German yeast and malt, North American hops and Nicaraguan deep-well water. The chief brewer is Rudiger Adelmann, who formerly worked for Steinecker GmbH, a German company that designs and produces brewing and filter technologies for the beverage production industry.

Dark Hills' rice-based brews avoid barley or any other grains containing gluten. The idea is to cater to a market niche made up of people who are gluten intolerant, a digestive ailment known as celiac disease. Leigh Nogy, who is co-founder/brewmaster, notes that her entire brewery is gluten free which avoids contamination.

She and co-founder/president Connie Rieper-Estes were able to supply us with a trio of prospective brews -- an "Ayla's amber ale," a sweet stout and something with the working title "Loki's Lemon Ale." In tasting all three, our entire panel noticed a difference between traditional brews and the rice-based concoction, yet found at least two of them rather pleasing.

Our tasting notes: (Sweet Stout) "A caramel nose, something like burnt brown sugar. ... Really full-bodied. ... I don't know if I'd drink a lot of it, but I can see how it would be a substitute if you have a celiac problem." (Amber Ale) "Reminds me of some good ciders I've had. ... Lingering aftertaste instead of just disappearing, which I like. ... I could have a few of these. ... Goes really well with food." (Lemon Ale) "This one makes me think of summer -- like a lemonade-style drink, but a little more syrupy. .... Limoncello, that's what it's like. ... I could drink this over ice like a liqueur."

Nogy notes that Dark Hills, located near Fayetteville, AR, still is negotiating with the state government agency that regulates what you can call various brews since such words as "lager," "stout," "ale" and "porter" have long-established crtieria as far as ingredients are concerned. It's something she needs to get worked out since one brew, with the working title "Iron Age Lager," is her lone lager, the rest of the brews falling into the ale category.

"Gluten-free beer has been my greatest challenge to date," Nogy told me. "In fact, it's had my attention for at least six years now developing recipes.

"Our beers are enjoyable, but I have yet to 'stick the landing' on the categorical definition of any particular style using the gluten-free ingredients available to us, but that's what we are aiming for ... and we'll keep working on it."

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20070317

Heineken taking flight

Heineken International is creating a chain of branded bars in airports worldwide.

The Dutch brewer debuted its beer bar in the Hong Kong International Airport, complete with Heineken-branded equipment, T-shirts and consumables. Its own beer is the only one available on tap, but it will sell bottled versions of other brands.

According to several industry research reports, beer is the No. 2 most popular drink in airports, behind only coffee.

Erik van de Ven, manager Duty Free & Travel Retail Heineken International, commented: “In a highly cosmopolitan environment like a major airport, there are clear commercial benefits to using the only truly international premium beer brand, Heineken, as the unique attraction for travellers. Experience demonstrates that branded bars in local markets attract more consumers and are substantially more profitable than unbranded bars. In an airport environment we expect even better results.”

The first Heineken Bar has a seating capacity of 70. It sells a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and snacks. The bar also broadcasts Heineken-sponsored international sport, film and music events.

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20070311

Hoisting a cold one

By now, you've probably seen the TV beer commercial showing a young man serving beer to friends by bouncing cans off the new rubber floor in his apartment.

That's show biz. John Cornwell's robotic beer-launching fridge is real life.

Cornwell, 22, an engineering graduate of Duke University, has created a device that can catapault a cold one to you from across the room. A video and a series of photos on his Web site show the device in operation as well as its inner workings.

How did this all come about? Says Cornwell: "Have you ever gotten up off the couch to get a beer for the umpteenth time and thought, What if instead of ME going to get the BEER, the BEER came to ME?' Well, that was how I first conceived of the beer launching fridge.

"About three months and several hundred dollars later I have a fully automated, remote controlled, catapulting, man-pit approved, beer launching mini-fridge. It holds 10 beers in its magazine with 14 more in reserve to store a full case. It is controlled by a keyless entry system. Pressing unlock will start the catapult rotating and when it is aiming at your target, pressing unlock again will stop it. Then the lock button can be pressed to launch a beer in the selected direction."

Intrigued? Cornwell said this week, "I have decided that there might be a large enough interest to produce a limited number of beer-launching fridges. If I was to manufacture them I would have all of the parts professionally machined for a much cleaner look (although it would still have exposed motors, gears, etc). The price would be around $1,500, although the launcher would have a few improvements.

"The new launcher would use something similar to a miniature TV remote. It would have buttons to rotate it left, right, fire, and also have 0-9 be programmable angles. I would use a slightly larger mini-fridge so that the magazine would be closer to 20 beers. The distance will be adjustable manually to get the right couch distance, but will not be adjustable with the remote. Please e-mail me if you would be interested in purchasing one at that price."

There you go, John. No charge for the plug.

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20070310

Irish pride more tainted than tinted

Every few years I get so fed up with the idiocy of St. Patrick's Day that I can't contain myself. It's boiled over again in the face of the annual avalanche of plastic shamrocks, green beer and fools on TV and in print adding an "O" to their names and promising pots of gold to anyone who would listen to their sales pitch.

Just a few days ago I heard a talk-radio caller saying someone was "as drunk as an Irishman." Some cops still called the police van a Paddy wagon. It is difficult not to trip over all the plastic leprechauns and shillelaghs laying around taverns, stores and restaurants. A lot of politicians run around with name tags that stuck an O' in front of their names and make the usual gratuitous remarks about loving the folks from the Auld Sod.

In this ethnically, religiously and racially diverse nation we have been sensitized to the effects of stereotyping people. We understand when African-Americans and Italian-Americans, Polish-Americans and Jewish-Americans, Arab-Americans and Mexican-Americans -- perhaps even Martian-Americans -- become angry at hurtful, demeaning jokes and remarks about their heritage. But we seem, as a society, incapable of understanding why some Irish-Americans "get their Irish up" when they're regarded as fair game for insults.

Even in Ireland itself, what once was a quiet day of religious contemplation has disintegrated into a booze-fueled mess catering to tourists. Irish authorities last year reported more than 700 violence- and alcohol-connected arrests on St. Patrick's Day.

It is baffling enough that it's happening there. Perhaps it is because the Irish also are widely regarded as amiable folks, the kind of people who take little ethnic slurs as good-natured fun. But in the U.S. it seems seldom remembered the slurs are a nasty holdover from a time when they had their turn at the bottom of American society -- being denied education, being relegated to back-breaking jobs like digging the barge canals, driving the railroad spikes, clawing coal from the bowels of the earth miles down where the air was foul and the life expectancy short.

A time when signs saying "No Irish Need Apply" were commonplace on rooming houses, business places and restaurants. A time when the Irish were jammed into ghettoes later occupied by succeeding generations of immigrant groups; when the "Paddy wagon" hauled a lot of them off to jail on the slightest pretext. A time when the likes of immigrant Kate Mullaney had to risk life and limb to get Troy, NY's laundry workers a modicum of respect and pay and, in the process, formed the first female labor union.

Some say the ideal would be for Americans of all backgrounds to forget about roots and become generic, non-hyphenated Americans. That may be desirable in the sense it could foster a togetherness now missing in our national dialogue, but it never will happen.

People do, to some extent, like to be different. Maintaining ties with one's heritage makes them so, and keeps alive the rich inheritance from that culture that adds to the marvelous American stew.

But, isn't there a classy way to do it?

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20070307

Beer in a bottle; what a concept

Local 1 is not a union organization.

Well, maybe it is in some places, but at the Brooklyn Brewery it's the name of the Belgian-style ale released yesterday.

It's not the sort of brew you pop open to have by yourself. It's 9% alcohol and sold in a 750ml champagne bottle. Which in itself is something different since the brewery usually makes its more complex brews available only on draft.

Says brewmaster Garrett Oliver, "We decided that it was time to start making these beers a bit more portable."

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20070303

Is it beer, or is it ale?


What's the difference between beer and ale?

That's what some people might say. What's the difference. Others, however, honestly mean it as a question.

The answer isn't too complicated, but it's explained uncommonly well on the Wise Geek site. We recommend you take a look at it, along with some related articles it links to.

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