Saturday, February 28, 2009

I'm Guessing this Isn't an Old Dominion Oak Barrel Stout

It's light and yellow and probably cost $12, but here's something for all beer drinkers to feel good about: President Barack Obama sipping some suds at last night's Wizards-Bulls game. (Note the total disregard for the fragile impressionability of the youngster seated next to him.)

(Photo from Deadspin)

Does Verizon Center sell local beers anyway? I don't know; last time I was there I had taken care of my drinking beforehand. And if my opening comment seemed snarky, I hope no one will think me a hypocrite – last night I enjoyed quite a helping of Natty Light, always cheap and plentiful at Uncle Louie's, one of my favorite little joints in town.

But even if Fordham or Wild Goose were on offer, maybe Obama would have passed them up in favor of something a little more basic – he's pulled something like that before (5th graf) and apparently he's wary of craft beers (7th graf). On the other hand, he tried (and failed) to get beer from a Chicago brewpub for the inauguration and visited Bethlehem Brew Works before the Pennsylvania primary. (But did he actually enjoy the beer? This face says maybe not.)

One last thought: Considering the beatdown Obama's Bulls took, he could have used a beer or two anyway. Would've been a shame to suffer through that without any liquid consolation.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

R.I.P. Bill Brand, Bay Area Beer Writer

Happened Friday. Here's the Oakland Tribune's story.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Session #24 – A Tripel For Two

Reminding us that 1) beer is best when shared and 2) big beers are best for sharing, David at Musings Over a Pint posed the following question to us as this month's Session topic: What Tripel would you pick to share with that good friend, family member or lover? Beer bloggers the world over will be weighing in on this matter today; expect the roundup to be posted soon at MOAP.

I'll skirt the question a bit by offering up my initial reaction to David's query: It doesn't matter.

I'm not being flippant. What I mean by that is, I'm not so interested in what Tripel I'm sharing, but where I'm sharing it. And the "where" in this instance has simply got to be Belgium.

I was lucky enough to have visited Belgium a couple years ago. Any beer geek who hasn't been wants to go. Those who have been want to go back. And the reason is simple: Belgium's significance in the global development of brewing heritage and tradition cannot be denied, and its output ranks among the most original and revered of any of the world's major brewing regions.

So what's the best Tripel-sharing experience I can imagine? Put one in my hand, and my companion's, in Brussel's Delirium Café, or in Antwerp's Kulminator. Or on any sidewalk where you can sit at a table and watch the world go by.

Sorry if I'm being a little heavily romantic here. But when it comes to Belgian beer, there's nothing quite like enjoying it at the source, where it's fresh, delicious and plentiful. There's also an excitement that comes from knowing you're not special just because you drink Belgian beer. Once that realization hits, you know you've come to the right place.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Diebels Alt Glass

You think Germany, you tend to think lagers. It's understandable – we're talking about the land of Helles, Pilsener, Dunkel and Bock. But in a place as rich in beer heritage and accomplishment as Germany, the native top-fermented beers likewise merit our acknowledgment and appreciation.

No doubt, the most obvious such examples are Hefeweizen, the renowned wheat beer of Bavaria, and its derivatives (Dunkelweizen and Weizenbock, for example). There is also Kölsch, the pale, almost lager-like ale that dominates its home town of Cologne (Köln in German). The last major ale style in Germany is Altbier (Alt for short), a copper-colored, ridiculously tasty treat native to the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and in particular its capital Düsseldorf.

I'll avoid delving into too much history and description of this style (for that, visit the always fantastic German Beer Institute), but suffice it to say the name "Alt" itself hints at the longevity of this beer style while its flavor attests to the collective versatility of Germany's brewmasters, past and present.

Perhaps the most famous Alt comes from Zum Uerige, one of a handful of Alt-producing brewpubs in Düsseldorf's charming "Old Town" section. It is here where locals and reverent beer travelers gather on outdoor picnic tables to enjoy nectar like ZU's Alt, sometimes gravity-drawn from casks, and sipped from straight, cylindrical glasses called "bechers." (Similar to the "stange" used to drink Kölsch.)

The particular glass seen here, from Brauerei Diebels in Issum, may not represent the "typical" becher-like shape that other Altbier producers opt for, but as the official glassware of a major Alt brewer, it is worth taking note of.

Notice the tall, slender body that widens on its way up. This makes for a fine presentation (see it full) if not the best means of gathering up head and aromas.

Nevertheless. There is plenty to admire about authentic German Altbier and those who brew it. So hoist your becher or Diebels glass and toast a national brewing tradition rivaled by few in terms of history, breadth and consequence, and a beer style that embodies that tradition.
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