Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Companion Release At Brooklyn Brewery

On Monday, 19 September, the Brooklyn Brewery hosted a double Companion release party. It was a celebration of the release of The Oxford Companion to Beer, edited by brewmaster Garrett Oliver and, in celebration of the celebration, Garrett brewed up a new Brewmaster's Reserve limited-release beer, The Companion, which was premiered at the party.

The Man, The Myth, The Garrett

The Companion, the book, is a giant, 920-page tome covering a multitude of beery topics (over 1,110) from "Abbey Beers" to "Zymurgy" and stopping at subjects such as "barley yellow dwarf virus", "drinking customs", "kvass", "Russian River Brewing Company", and "Willamette hop" along the way. The 160 contributors come from a veritable who's who of the brewing world; I won't offer a sampling of names for fear of offending someone by leaving them off the list!

The book took 4 years to write and edit and must be the most comprehensive and thorough overview of beer and brewing. Regardless of your level of interest in obscure brewing topics (I did not know that trans-2-nonenal (a compound contributing to oxidation, or staleness) is now known as (E)-2-nonenal!) this book is a must-have reference for anyone who wishes to learn more about beer.

The Companion, the beer, is also a collaborative effort from Garrett, Horst Dornbusch (associate editor), and Thomas Kraus-Weyermann, of the Weyermann malting company. By the way, one of the best things about arriving in Bamberg, Germany by train is smelling the malt as you pull into the station. Thomas created special new floor malts (what is floor malting? Look it up in The Companion, page 365) for the 9.1% abv wheat wine, a wheat-based beer similar to a barleywine (page 92). The recipe includes floor malted Bohemian pilsner malt, floor malted Bohemian dark malt, floor malted wheat (55% of the grist), and pale wheat malt and is hopped with Willamette, German Perle, and Styrian Goldings hops.

Half full, or half empty?
The beer had a tropical fruit aroma and the flavor was sweet up front, like treacle, with some fruitiness (peach, light fruits) in the middle. There was a soft, lingering bitterness in the finish from the hops and while warming and high in alcohol, the body was fairly light.

The party was an interesting cross between beer folks and publishing people and it was often very easy to figure out which camp a person fell into. But everyone enjoyed the beer.

The new expansion of the brewery was open for the guests to visit and pick up a glass of Companion or Radius, a 4.8% saison only available on draft at the Brewery.

Maia, from Brooklyn Brewery, in front of the Box Wall
she constructed as a back-drop for
The Self-Portrait Project. Visit their website
for fun self-portraits from the event.

Mary, Jen, and Mike enjoying their beers

Brewery expansion

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Oktoberfest Zum Schneider

WFMU's Beer Hear! with Bob W. and B.R. from 9/27/2011

Not sure if you want dark or light? Have
both with your lederhosen!
Paulaner (lighter) & Ayinger (darker).
I'm not sure about B.R.'s Oktoberfest history, but I went to Oktoberfest in München in my youth. It was horrible. If I could remember why it was horrible, I'd tell you. But I can't. And, perhaps, that's part of why it was horrible.

BR: I've never been to Oktoberfest but I do have fond memories - and some hazy ones - of biergartens in München. And, as a 5 year old, I was probably in the small minority of kids who had their own beer mug. I was so envious of my father's bier stein that my parents bought me my own fancy ceramic one for my milk.

Regardless, we can talk about a much more "gemütlichkeit" experience in the East Village, courtesy of ZUM SCHNEIDER Biergarten. It's not an outdoor "garten", but after a litre mass you might not notice, with its large windows, rustic long tables, and decorative trees winding through the space. You couldn't be in a more joyous, friendly, spirited place for the love of beer and happiness! (Not until Spaten and Disneyworld merge.) And, appropriately enough, it's located in the original Little Germany of Manhattan, which was overflowing with beergardens in the late 1800s/early 1900s, until many of the immigrants moved uptown after the worst loss-of-life disaster in NYC until 9/11.

So... what's Oktoberfest, in München or NYC, all about?

O' zapft is!
We're not going to tell you things about Oktoberfest that Wikipedia or the official Oktoberfest website can tell you. Such as, it's the largest fair in the world, with attendance of roughly 6 million people annually, or that it was founded in 1810 as sort of a wedding party for Crown Prince Ludwig.

What we'll tell you is that ein mensch in NYC has devoted his life and energy to bringing honest, heartfelt, spirited BAVARIAN CULTURE to our fine city -- Bavarian-born Sylvester "Mösl Franzi" Schneider. We interviewed him this week for the podcast. Oktoberfest is the high-holiday of Bavarian culture, which his establishment is all about, and they do it up in grand style. It's all about beer, music and togetherness. The pictures from the opening day give a good indication of what we mean.
Whoo hooo!
First, the beer of Zum Schneider -- it's only German beer, and only two tap beers are NOT Bavarian (Reissdorf Kölsch and Jever Pils). There are 12 taps of Bavarian beer, including the not so common Aventinus and Schneider Weiss, in addition to a good bottle list, that includes a favorite, Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Urbock (from Franconia, in the far northern reaches of Bavarian, which some southerners say is not really Bavaria, but we like Franconia, too!).

And Zum Schneider is the only place in NYC where you can enjoy a most delicious, small regional beer from the TRAUNSTEIN brewery, located south-east of München.

During Oktoberfest, a number of taps are replaced by the likes of Paulaner Oktoberfest, Hofbräuhaus Oktoberfest, etc. -- but this year the one to try is the rich, full-bodied, uber-malty, somewhat sweet, dark amber colored AYINGER Oktoberfest! You won't find it at the München Fest because the brewery is not within the city limits (a requirement for a beer to be served at Oktoberfest). This beer is so malty, rich and flavorful, it's like drinking a loaf of homemade bread!

And it's not a party without music, so Zum Schneider's Hausband, The Ja Ja Jas, provide both traditional and original oompah band music, to get the crowd clapping, singing, shouting, swaying, laughing and fully immersed in the experience! The schedule of appearances of live Oktoberfest music at Z.S. can be found HERE.
What do you want? You want the Ja Ja Jas!!!

The Ja Ja Jas!
To complement all the fantastic German beers and raucous live music, there's a full menu of deutsches essen -- all manner of Wursts, Schweinebraten, Schnitzel, Jägerbraten. Yes, those Krauts love them some meat! But for those of us who don't partake in Rusticallefleischplatte, there is amazing Käsespätzle (order w/o bacon), Schwammerlragout, Reiberdatschi (potato pancakes), Bretzelen and plenty of tasty german salad dishes.

I've eaten a lot of German cuisine over my lifetime, in America (in my mom's kitchen, in German-themed restaurants, etc.) and in Deutschland (in Bavaria, Franconia, Pfalz, Berlin, Ruhrpott, usw.) and Zum Schneider is in my top 5 all-time best German eating experiences. The German food that I've had at Sylvester's is better than most of the German food that I've had in Germany. (Though still not quite as good as mom's! ;)

Zum Schneider is a must-visit if you want true, authentic German beer, echt German cuisine, and a healthy dose of big-hearted Bavarian biergarten kultur! In fact, I'd say, given the size and commercialism of the 200+ year old München event, Zum Schneider's Oktoberfest ist der wahre Jakob!
If this is the size of a "glass", imagine the size of a pitcher!

We're wearing leather pants. Seriously.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Dogfish Head Brewpub In Rehoboth Beach

WFMU's Beer Hear! with Bob W. and B.R. from 9/20/2011

We've been the DFH brewpub many, many times over the years. We've been to the brewery in Milton, DE. We've even been to one of the satellite DFH pub -- the one in Gaithersburg, VA (across the road from the NIST). We've taken the tours. We've bought the t-shirts. And we've put away a pint or two, as well. But on this trip, we took the time to talk to one of the brewpub brewers, Matt.

B.R., Matt and Bob in the tiny brewpub brewhouse.
The brewpub operates separately from the main brewery. The beers brewed at the pub aren't bottled or kegged for off-site consumption. And there is a separate brewhouse staff for both facilities.

Matt told us that the Rehoboth brewpub is kind of a research and development lab, of sorts, for the main brewery, which brews the DFH beer that flows around the globe. Most of the pub's beers are brewed at the main brewery in Milton, but there are always some special pub-only brews on offer on Rehoboth Ave.
Sherwood hockey stick/measurement device.
Rather than filling up this post with lots of information and history that you probably already know, and if you didn't know but wanted to know, but you could better be informed by Wikipedia or the DFH website, we'll let the podcast do the talking. And as for why we return to DFH every year, there's an entirely other post. So...

Half of the menu at DFH brewpub.
Why are you still reading this? Check out the podcast, which will give you some interesting insight, and will inform you as to what a nice guy Matt was for taking the time to indulge a pair of hopeless "nerds de bière" on semi-vacation asking dumb questions. We learned some stuff -- you might, too!

We drank a LOT of different DFH beers on the trip, as expected, including some that we've never had before. I don't think that I've had the PANEAGA before, but found it to be refreshing and unique in its subtleties -- "subtle" not always being a term used to describe the beers of DFH!

So, we posted two BONUS podcasts, describing some of the brewpub-exclusives. Interested in hearing about their SORGUM BEER called TWEASON, or REPOTERROIR, or LIMB & LIFE?
  Beer Review

How about the 75 MINUTE IPA ON CASK with MAPLE SYRUP, or the 10.5% abv minted stout "with a serious fruit problem" BLACK & RED?
Beer Review 2

O.K. -- with the description above of Repoterroir clearly somebody is taking a shot at some other brewery's "beechwood aging". And I think that that's fine. I was once told by an employee of A-B that their "beechwood aging" consisted of passing the beer through a tube of beechwood chips on its way to the fermentation tanks. Whooo.....hoooo. Aging.
The other half.

Rehoboth Beach, DE -- More Than Just Dogfish Head

Since 2006 we've made an annual pilgrimage to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware -- at first, solely to pay our respects to one of the most interesting breweries in the world, DOGFISH HEAD. DFH started in this beach resort town in 1995, in the back of a restaurant, with a 5-gallon system, and has since grown into a craft beer giant, cranking out over 150,000 barrels annually (according to our tour guide). The main brewery is located about 17 miles from the brewpub, in Milton, DE. We highly recommend a trip and tour there!

Though we've taken the big-brewery tour several times and gone there to see our pal Sam, we've discovered that there's more to Rehoboth than Dogfish Head. Of course, there's the beach, and we love us some sand, waves and warm end-of-summer salty water. And if the beach downtown is too crowded for your taste, the state beach south on Rt. 1 is a short bike ride down the coast, and offers a lot more room to stretch out -- same gorgeous water and pure sand.

On the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk there's Thresher's Fries. They rank in my top 5 fries of all time, and that includes fries in Brussels. There's Grotto Pizza -- not worthy of comparison to NYC pies, but damn good for a non-NYC slice. There are loads of beachy shops, ready and willing for some haggling. (I got a $30 beach umbrella for $20 with some simple post-season negotiating!) And all the typical beach resort stuff -- frozen custard, salt water taffy, arcades, skee ball, and so forth.
We also discovered everyday happy-hour $1 local oysters at FIN'S!!! Fin's has one of the best beer menus (and oyster menus) on the eastern seaboard. Their tap list is often great, but it's always been at the very least very good. And what they offer in the bottle -- very impressive, shockingly good -- really superb for a small town on the beach that probably sees Coors Light outselling Weston's Cider 10,000-to-1... (but if I was in the mood for something that wasn't beer, I'd pick Weston's over Coors all day long). And, yes, they do carry Weston's Cider, to their credit -- in fact we had it on draft for the first time ever last year at Fin's.

And their staff seems genuinely concerned about taking care of you (maybe too concerned!). The bottom line:  very good beer, addictive (and free) oyster crackers, delicious and well-priced bi-valves, and friendly service. Oh, and their regular dining menu boasts boatloads of fresh local fish.

We also rented beach cruiser bicycles, $20 each for 24-hours. There aren't many miles of off-road trails, but we made the most of what was available, and it was grand. We biked a few miles off-road on former railroad beds to Lewes. There, we didn't find much better than Paulaner and Yuengling Octoberfest at Irish Eyes, on the canal. But... we did travel through a gated community where the speed limit was 21.

21? 21 feet per second? 21 what?!? and 21?!? Not 20 or 25? Perhaps the sign was supposed to be for the drinking age? Anyway, we moved along before B.R. was towed away. (As you can see, she was in a tow-away zone -- and in a town with a speed limit of 21, you know that they tow bicycles.)

Not that one would be bored of the DFH brewpub in 3 or 4 days, but it's always nice to have another option. This is another option.
At Fin's, one of the surprising offerings was HIGH AND MIGHTY Purity of Essence from Central Mass. In the photo above B.R. is in a more of a Brig. Gen. Jack Ripper moment.
And then more like Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake. Unfortunately, the beer we love fresh in Central Mass was a bit oxidized in DE. But we soldiered on. Or piloted on, whatever the case. No atomic bombs were dropped, which is the important thing.
The moon does also rise in Rehoboth.
Going after Labor Day assures you of greater availability of rooms, a cheaper room rate and far less other visitors to get in your way. Five years ago when we went to Rehoboth Beach for the first time, it was a ghost town after Labor Day. This year, while still far from crowded, there were a lot more people, and not just the retiree set and young couples with infants. We always stay at the Cross Winds motel, which is clean, comfortable, friendly, inexpensive and, most importantly, 20 feet from the Dogfish Head brewpub! They'll give you a discount if you tell them that you're there from the brewpub, too.

And rise red, at that.

OK, couples photo with the rising moon.
Lifeguards... so bossy.
The sun sets in the west, as the moon rises in the east.
FACT: Rehoboth is reputed to be one of the most gay-friendly small towns in America.

There's also a sun rise, where the moon rise was just hours earlier.
We're going for breakfast now, right?
People in France are just an hour away from their 3-hour government mandated lunch "hour".
Add your own new age comment here.