Fearful Symmetries

Witness a machine turn coffee into pointless ramblings...

31 December, 2013

My Final Beer Post of 2013

I've been sick lately and haven't been drinking much beer. I have also been neglecting new releases and so here are some new and newish beer labels. Some of these are already on store shelves.

I have a bottle of this sitting in my cellar. Are chili-infused beers a new trend? Locally, Capital's Eternal Flame this year is also an imperial stout with chili and The Great Dane had a trio of chili pilsners in the autumn. Perhaps it's just local breweries getting around to adding the capsaicin to brews.

Madison's MobCraft, billed as the world's first crowdsourced brewery, is finally bottling their beers. I've not seen them myself. Do liquor stores carry them yet? Or are they only available at the brewery?

Lakefront is apparently resurrecting their Beer Line label as they brewed a Beer Line barleywine for their 10th anniversary.

Capital continues its decent to the dark side with their third IPA.

Lakefront's My Turn series has really impressed me. The Baltic porter and rauch helles were fantastic. I've got a couple others in my possession waiting to be tasted. Considering that the dunkles is one of my favorite beer styles, I am very excited to try this brew.

A braggot, eh? Interesting. A braggot is a mead-beer hybrid. I've really enjoyed the ones I've had - Viking used to brew a couple of them - so I am looking forward to this one.

A German wheat porter? This is the next entry in Schneider Weisse's Tap X series which features limited edition brews in 750ml bottles. It would appear that the German brewing scene is a-changin'. More below.

The transmogrification of Berghoff continues. I, for one, certainly didn't expect this.

Hey Sam Adams, how about using the Polish name for a Polish beer style? It's Grodziskie, not Grätzer.

Yet the primary name for this beer style must be Grodziskie. The common belief that the Polish language is “difficult” and “exotic” is a troublesome remnant of Prussian colonization policies that sought to eradicate our language and culture. These policies manifested in name changing (applied to place names -- hence, Grodzisk became Graetz -- and people’s names) and banning the use of Polish in education and in public spaces. If you choose to prioritize the German name of Grodziskie and classify it as a German beer style, you will be subscribing to the legacy of colonization and unwittingly re-enacting its symbolic violence in the twenty-first century.

Being of Polish decent, I emailed Sam Adams about this and never heard back. Not even a form email. I guess this isn't surprising since Sam Adams is now a very large company. On the other hand, Scott Manning of Vintage will be changing the name of his brew to Grodziskie next year.

I believe the Generator was bottled earlier this week or last. I shall have to get some when I go to Chicago next month. I brought some of their Magnetron schwarzbier back last month and it is tasty stuff indeed.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of their pilsner, Schell is coming out with a limited edition variety pack consisting of four beers: the original recipe from 1984, the current iteration, a pils made with rye, and a pils made with a new variety of German hops called Mandarina Bavaria. The Mandarina hop is known for its tangerine flavor. These beers are due in February with a similar celebration of the 30th anniversary of Schell's hefeweizen coming out later in the year.

It would seem that German brewers are adopting new hop varieties like the Mandarina. I found an article called "German brewers hop on to new fruity flavours" which describes the trend:

German small-batch brewers like Schoppe have increasingly used so-called "flavour hops" to impart notes of orange, grapefruit or peach while still following the country's cherished 16th century purity law, which restricts other flavourings.

Until recently, Schoppe had to import special hops from the US, where craft brews have an established niche in the market.

This year, German growers, moving to capitalise on growing demand, harvested the country's first commercial-sized batch of newly developed flavour hop varieties.

I've not yet read anything to indicate that the German equivalents of AB-InBev and MillerCoors are jumping on this bandwagon which means it's still early days. But things are definitely afoot in the German brewing scene. I did find a German pale ale in Chicago but have never seen any of these newer German brews here in Madison.

Robin Shepard of Isthmus has a couple looks ahead to 2014 for the area's brewing scene: Part One and Part Two.

Among the highlights is The Great Dane's Bockfest which will feature 10+ bocks. "Early this past autumn, several of the Great Dane's brewers traveled to Germany for a week of research." Right. I can just imagine the "research" that was done in various biergartens.

Unsurprisingly, Kirby Nelson is committed to a maibock for the spring.

Valkyrie is now distributing in Madison. I noticed a bottle of Rubee in the singles section of Woodman's east a couple of weeks ago and then four-packs last weekend. Unfortunately there was no Hot Chocolate but they did carry War Hammer, a coffee, oatmeal, milk porter; Rubee, their flagship red lager; Big Swede, a Swedish-style imperial stout; and Abby Normal, an abbey tripel.

Last month Shepard reviewed Capital's Dark Voyage which is replacing Hop Cream. In that review it was revealed that Capital will be releasing a white IPA next year. It's unknown whether the new white IPA will come in bombers or be an annual. If the latter, presumably Munich Dark or Special Pilsner is next on the chopping block. That will make four IPAs (plus U.S. Pale Ale, an APA). According to Brian Destree, Capital's brewmaster, IPAs are where it's at. "It's where new sales are, it's the biggest craft beer by style by far, and the fastest area of growth." Presumably we can look forward to Capital brewing a session IPA, a Belgian IPA, an IPL, and whatever the latest iteration of the style is in the near future. I can see it now. Keel Hauled, an IPA brewed with buckwheat and a rare variety of Bulgarian hops that taste like quince and then aged on a bed of cubebs in slivovitz barrels.

I think you could feed a monkey grapefruit for a week and then use its shit in a beer that has "IPA" on the label and the BA crowd would go nuts. "I really love the fecal-citrus aroma!"

Chris Drosner, a.k.a. - The Beer Baron, of the Wisconsin State Journal thinks that the embrace of the IPA by Wisconsin brewers is one of, if not the, top brewing story of 2013. To me, 2013 is the year the IPA jumped the shark. To wit:

Hops added to cider so it has "crisp citrus" notes.

An IPA-style mead.

Whiskey "framed by citrus-laden hop character".

"...it occurred to Ted that he should set out to create the perfect smoker’s complement to his favorite IPA."

Locally, Madison Sourdough has a Hops and Malt "Beer Bread" that has no beer in it. But it does have whole leaf hops and goes well with "a tall glass of India Pale Ale." Ian's Pizza can't be far behind with a Mac & Cheese Hop pie.

Lake Champlain Chocolates made a chocolate bar with hops. Need hoppy condiments? Pompey Mountain has you covered with hop-flavored BBQ sauce, ketchup, and mustard.

When you're drowning in hop gluttony, you'll need to bathe. Luckily you're covered.

Before you head out into the cold, be sure to apply some double IPA lip balm.

All of these are things I'd expect to find in the Archie McPhee catalog next to the St. Gambrinus action figure. This is what the craft beer scene has mutated into? The fetishizing of a subset of a particular ingredient used to add flavor to beer? Craft beer used to be about a fermented grain beverage but now it sometimes feels like it is simply a generic liquid medium for the transmission of alpha acids and citrus notes. Hopefully this trend will not go beyond beer. I'd hate to walk into an Italian restaurant and have the chef proudly proclaim her minestrone the saltiest ever made or that the red sauce was dry-basiled and has one million units of linalool in it.

Hopefully 2014 will be the year that this IPA craze begins to blow over.

Some festivals of note:

The Great Dane's Bockfest is on 4 March.

Capital's Bockfest is on 22 February.

Capital is also throwing a Starkbierfest on 15 March. "Starkbier" is German for "strong beer" and, to my knowledge, refers to bocks of all sorts and their full, malty profile instead of alcohol content. Should be interesting to see what's on tap that day.

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05 December, 2013

Naughty Kids Beware!

Naughty kids beware for the Krampus will be stalking the night. The Krampus is...

In the early Christmas traditions of Europe, the Krampus was St. Nicholas' dark servant -- a hairy, horned, supernatural beast whose pointed ears and long slithering tongue gave misbehavers the creeps! Whereas St. Nicholas would reward children who'd been good all year, those that had behaved badly were visited by the Krampus.

I think a Krampuslauf down State Street would be a splendid idea. The Krampuslauf is a parade of folks dressed as Krampus and no doubt involves schnapps. See here:

After the Krampus drags the disobedient children to hell, the good kids wake up on the morning of the 6th with shoes full of candy. This is St. Nicholas' Day. As far as I know, St. Nicholas Day is still celebrated/observed by a fair number of people in Milwaukee - an example of the city's German heritage.

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