The Firkin for January 2015

by Sean on January 31, 2015


I am anti- putting people, places or things into a box.  The world is too 3D for anything to fit squarely in one box.  And usually the criteria, even when well thought out, tends to group together disparate items.

For example, both my wife and I are Pisces according to the dodgy definition.  But we couldn’t be more different in the little ways that are commonly used in Astrology.  And despite the tweaks and modifications, I feel that the Brewers Association (BA) is creating a box when they could be creating a growth path.

As of now, a brewery is within bounds if they produce less than 6 million barrels of beer, less than ¼ owned by a non-craft brewery and traditional in use of ingredients and products made.

My issue is with the first two since the BA has shown flexibility with the third recently.  Rule # 1 (aka, the Boston Beer Rising Threshold) seems innocuous but is pegged to include a founding, charter member of the movement we know as craft beer.  The second rule, another math problem, can be circumvented.  Founder’s Brewing could possibly have sold only 24.99% instead of 30% to the Spanish Brewer San Miguel.  Thus qualifying for the term Craft.  Same with 10 Barrel or Goose Island.

My problem is that the first rule has been compromised already and works as a brake on growth.  Don’t get too Big it warns.  Because Big equals bad. And though, that may well turn out to be the case.  In the future, Sierra Nevada or New Belgium might become less great.  But I prefer to focus on their track records  Which are excellent so far.

If both brew more than Boston Beer, will they be booted?  I doubt it.  But I think that size shouldn’t be automatically a detriment.  A red flag in the system, I could live with.  Quality should be the determining factor, not size. The ethos of the brewery should be the determining factor, not size.

In regards to the second rule, I just can’t get angry about craft beer becoming a desirable target that ABInBev and MillerCoors see as attractive.  It shows, to a certain extent, that craft beer is a successful business to be in.

But more importantly the 25% is another arbitrary-ish number.  How is 26% owned by Bud worse than 24% owned by a Silicon Valley investor? Is the Bud money that dirty?  The rule makes the assumption that a 100% owned by a horrible brewer with horrible business ethics is A-OK!  But Founder’s with 70% control of a great product is now seen as something lesser?

My proposal is to create a pathway.  Where no one stop is better or worse than the one behind or after.  It could start as garage, then move to Nano, then on and on ending with large independent regional and large corporate regional.  This way you could better compare and contrast breweries in their evolution without excluding.

Maybe toss in their combined scores from Untappd, Beer Advocate and RateBeer along with a grade for ethics to give each brewery something to shoot for.  Maybe Widmer gains points for being involved with the Oregon Brew Crew.  Maybe Goose Island gains points for Bourbon County Stout.  Send out mystery BA shoppers to conduct random tests and add that to the algorithm  Deduct points for Bud involvement if you wish but give a brewery the chance to gain those points back.  Maybe that will change Bud, Miller or Coors?

A score or grade will give the consumer a better understanding as well.  They can make decisions based on what is important.  In my example that is beer quality and company morals.  But other concepts could be added as well.

It is easier to just say that someone doesn’t belong.  Set a hard and fast rule and follow it.  But that means treating me and my wife the same way because we our born under the same sign.  Instead of looking at us as individuals.


Ladyface 5th Anniversary

by Sean on January 31, 2015

My plan was to ride up the 101 to Agoura Hills to check out the Lady in the Wood (the Anglicized version of the Ladyface Alehouse 5th Anniversary beer). Due to traffic, I was forced to take a different route but even with the detour I got much more than one beer.  Two taster flights to be exact…


The 5th Anniversary was half wine-ish and half woody barrel tasting but even with that bifurcation, it was distinctly one really good beer and it was quite a treat to try it side by side with the 1st Anniversary beer that kicked pretty early in the evening.  But the standout of tray 1 was the Onager.  It was bright and funky and was one of those beers that separates itself from the pack.  The Cherry Picture City Porter had a lovely restrained cherry note and a pie aroma to it that would make it a great dessert beer.

Tray 2 was the sour (in general) group and with the exception of Stack VI which had a strange combo of anise and wood in the old ale that didn’t work for me, were all solid but in the company of the first four were the losing team in the Super Bowl.  Still great but not at the same level this night.


For such a small space, Ladyface is consistently strong with their barrel program and if you haven’t had the anniversary beer of 2015, then do yourself a favor and find any route to get to Agoura Hills and try it.



New Mexico Brewery # 3 – Nexus Brewpub

by Sean on January 30, 2015

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Straight up, the Nexus website and logo could seriously be for any brewpub. But who can resist when the owner flies the flag for Star Trek love?  Come On, gotta respect putting yourself out like that.

Here is what I would put in my taster tray on my first visit:

Honey Chamomile Wheat
“Local B’s honey, and chamomile flowers make this wheat beer slightly sweet and aromatically refreshing. ABV 6.0% IBU 16%”

Scottish Ale
“Our Flagship Beer! A strong very malty deep brown ale. Malt flavor predominate with nutty flavors mingling within.    7.0% ABV 28 IBU”

Nexus Maximus
Seven varieties of citrusy, piney, grapefruity, floral, tropical, wonderful hops.  Plenty of malty sweetness to back them up.  This Nexus Maximus is one serious DIPA.  7.6% ABV   100 IBU”

Warp 10 Golden Ale
East Kent Golding and Fuggle hops, Maris Otter malt, and Whitbread yeast make this well rounded strong ale exceptionally smooth and quintessentially British.  8.0% ABV  IBU 28″

Imperial Cream Ale
Our World Beer Cup Silver medal winner is back! Crisp, smooth, light and packing one hell of a punch.  9.3% ABV 22 IBU (12oz only)”


Home Brew Review – (Maeby) Kolsch

by Sean on January 30, 2015

This is a home brew review month bonus. But not from the same home brewer.

So my beer buddy Richard has made a 2nd effort at home brewing. His first an IPA that tasted like a pretty decent ESB set the bar high. And now after streaming seasons of Arrested Development his Maeby Kolsch is ready…
Well. This one needs some work. It pours a muddy orange color when I would expect a bright yellow. There is zero head after some weak soapy bubbles fade. The taste merely hints at Kolsch. It is weak and watery. It is almost like watered down lemonade/ice tea. Little to no aroma here. It isn’t offensive, per se, but it doesn’t scream beer to me. Tastes more like bad citrus tea.

Now what style will he try to brew next?


Home Brew Review – Chivas Regal Dubbel

by Sean on January 29, 2015

My whiskey appreciation has grown by leaps and bounds. In fact, I need to get a few mini-bottles and do a taste test so this beer is a perfect gateway.

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Similar to the Egg Nog concoction, this beer is strong with the Chivas Regal. Very smooth with the rough edges of alcohol shaved off. And it is quite tasty. It almost has a cocktail quality to it. The whiskey taste is really well done, almost like an essence or concentrate.

My two quibbles are the fact that the aroma is a little too meek. Granted this is not a barrel-aged beer but I was hoping to get more of the delicious smells of the Chivas. Secondly, the body of this could be a little heartier. It didn’t seem Dubbel-y enough. More malt would make this more beer and less cocktail.


Guinness Chips

by Sean on January 29, 2015

File this under the category of “Do We Need this?”


Do the chips taste of Guinness?  Or are they just meant to be eaten with the really good beer?  Or should you just get all BEEFY!



1 Ingredient too many – Beer Geek Speedway

by Sean on January 28, 2015

Two purveyors of big stouts have teamed up which should fill some beer geek cellars.

AleSmith and Mikkeller are combining Beer Geek with Speedway and using the famed if slightly disgusting Kopi Luwak coffee. Yup, the poop one in this new and probably already sold out beer.

I wonder how it will compare to the rest of the large Speedway series?


1 Ingredient too many – Don Durio

by Sean on January 28, 2015

First off a cashew pilsner does not sound very appetizing. Then you add in the notorious Durian “fruit” which even the brewer, MobCraft describes as smelling of “onions or rotting meat” and this has stunt brew written all over it. Thanks be that Wisconsin is far enough away from L.A. that I won’t have to smell this.
Or maybe I can carefully open the essence of Durian liquid that I received from my Oregon kin and place some drops in a Budweiser to see what happens.


Home Brew Review – Egg Nog Stout

by Sean on January 27, 2015


We come to the final beer. Always a sad occasion but in this case happy because this is my favorite of the quintet.

It is the boldest of the group. The spice is there on the nose and follows through with a bang in the flavor. Some might find the nutmeg and clove too much or cloying but I think it works. It is a bit on the soda side because the base beer isn’t muscular (which is the tweak I would recommend).

Why I like it is because it delivers on the promise of the name. The other four had failings of not enough. Which is not a problem here. Plus I like the spice profile already so I was inclined to like this one the most.

What I love about tasting home brew is to see the idea of a beer at the beginning. I certainly saw more germs of a finished beer that I liked than didn’t which I was not surprised about considering the source. All of the beers just needed tweaks. No tear downs here.

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Peel the Label – 1st Amendment

by Sean on January 27, 2015

I usually steer well clear of talk of hot button issues. This is a beer blog after all and I prefer to talk about the much happier world of what’s inside my pint glass rather than the world outside the bar. Which can get too depressing and crazy at times.

You don’t see me poking fun at religion/politics/name your bruise because primarily it is not my nature to be combative and secondarily, others puncture the hypocrisy much better than I can (see Stewart, Colbert and Oliver).

Another one of the reasons is that the interwebs is not the best forum for making my point because the online community thinks that dialogue and debate are dirty words and trolling and unfriending are the norm. Now I feel that I need to add my voice.

The world seems caught in an endless loop of “I’m right but more importantly, you’re wrong” mentality. Hate and snark are broadcast far and wide. And by far the worst aspect of this ease of viral expression is that people begin to not only love their opinion and their way of life so much that they start to think they ARE the way and the life. For everyone.

This is not a response to someone trying to create a comment tempest in a blog post. I wish it were solely about me. No, this is due to events, most recently in Paris, where writing and drawing have ended in gunfire. Some are so thin skinned as to think that a cartoon will topple an entire belief system. And it is not only religions that seem to be in the vanguard of easily offended. It seems to be an everyday occurrence that someone has to be angered by an off the cuff remark or prepared statement.

What I want is to take a (paraphrased) saying from writer Lew Bryson that personal preference is not a universal truth and apply it here.

Everyone who wants to hold an opinion, can do so. But that is what it remains. An opinion. Whether it be held by one staunch advocate or the multitudes. And here is the corollary: My views are not wrong if they are in opposition to you and your said staunch opinion.

It seems simple on the face of it. You don’t impinge on my beliefs and I will return the favor. But it seems that with increasing frequency that opinions are being labeled as facts/truth, and that those who dare to question, satirize or dismiss are in the wrong. And not only are they wrong, they deserve to be punished as well.

For beer example, I can “not like” a beer or brewery for whatever reasons that I use to make that decision. I can write, photograph, draw or video my opinion and all can comment. Everyone else can love that brewery and I am fine with that. But that love cannot be considered a fact. It is personal preference and nothing more.

You can be hurt that I do not share your view. I may very well offend either on purpose or by accident even in the relatively safe realm of craft beer, but, the first response should be opening a dialogue to talk. It may end in disagreement but at least there would be an opportunity for a friendly resolution. With at least grudging respect of frenemies as a goal.

I have strong opinions. Some that I won’t back down off my high horse from. But I will listen to you and the horse you rode in on. I hope that I will at least learn something and I do frequently change my mind. Flip flopping is not a negative to me. Entrenchment seems to be en vogue in these times though and it saddens me.

And it is maddening when people use the 1st Amendment as a shield for hate/fear/anger but that is what libel and slander are around for, as a legal check against the worst offenses. But the most potent weapon is to listen and then rebut. If your example falls on deaf ears and inaction, then walk away content that at least you tried to elevate the conversation instead of denigrating it.

But everywhere I turn, it seems the more we can communicate to others the less we communicate with each other. I will reiterate that everyone has the right to their opinion and the right to express it without fear of being pounced upon by those who have not learned how to disagree like a human with a soul.

I know this is Pie in the Sky talk. Might even be more chum for trolls. And thank, ahem, God that extremists don’t drink alcohol or are regular beer blog readers. Craft beer may not be the 99% asshole free community that it once was, but the still high percentage that is can show religions, governments and the like how to behave civilly.

Peel the Label is an occasional series where I opine about the big picture of craft beer and blogging without photos, videos or links.