Archive for the ‘Things Beer Geeks Like’ Category

Things Beer Geeks Like

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

from theweeklybrew

The Little Guy

Anyone starting to see a theme? The things I write about during the week seem to be what my Friday post is about.

The craft beer movement was started by little guys. Little guys who no one thought would ever succeed against the giants of the brewing industry. Then again the battle was never against the BMC brewers, but don’t try to tell a beer geek that. To beer geeks the ultimate brewer is the little guy. No matter how crappy the beer, no matter how long they stay in business, these little guys are the darlings of the beer world.

Every time a new brewery opens the beer bloggers in the area launch a series of posts about the new brewery. Once the word is out beer geeks make pilgrimages to try the new guys beers. If the beer is good then they will run about like it’s the second coming praising the brewer. If the beer is crappy then the beer geeks enter into a silent pact where the beer is not ridiculed for what it is, yet not praised. The beer geeks would rather ignore bad beer and pretend the little guy will succeed because he is little. After all little is good.

From time to time though a little guy gets in trouble with a big brewer, or the government. Of course when they do get into trouble it’s never the little guys fault. Therefor when the little guy gets in trouble the beer geeks rally their forces in support. Once a little guy becomes a darling of the beer world though he has an easy pass. As long as they continue to shell out decent beer they can market themselves as the brewer that stood up to big business. Sam Adams is a good case. In the 80’s they were the brewer who dared to take on big brewing. The publicity caused them to grow and grow. Now they’re in the top 5 for largest producer in the US. Still though because they stood up to the big guys they will always be little.

Things Beer Geeks Like

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Hops

C’mon, you didn’t see this one coming?

To hear a beer geek tell it you wouldn’t think there were any other ingredients that contributed to a beers flavor other then hops. Nevermind that alot of European beers get their flavor from the yeast used. Nevermind that for a long time traditional beers used other herbs instead of hops. If it’s made for beer geeks, especially in this region, it will be over hopped. Whether they call themselves hop heads or conesuers they all seem to have a Passion for a flower that resembles a green pine cone.

Hops are a flower from a female vine from the Cannabaceae family, the same family as Marijuana. Hops are the primary bittering agent in beer, and can contribute to the flavor and aroma as well. For a long time American beer drinkers were hop deprived. The primary beers drunk on this continent contained little in the way of bitterness, or hop flavors. The craft beer scene has changed that and now beer geeks have become hop gluttons. This is part of what beer geeks feel separates them from the beer drinking masses, the love of the hop.

Beer geeks aren’t content to quietly enjoy the flower they idolise. They have created festivals to celebrate not only beers that are just souped up hop delivery devices, but also to celebrate the hop in all it’s incarnations. In Oregon alone we have hop festivals for all the cities that are major hop growers. We have festivals to celebrate fresh or wet hops. We also have an IPA festival as well. All of these dedicated to consuming mass amounts overhopped beverages.

Another thing beer geeks enjoy about hops is the smell. If you give a beer geek a hop chances are he will pulverise it by rubbing it between his hands and then sit there sniffing the thing like it’s a drug. They even have people take pictures of them doing this to show off later. But as with any addiction soon the high from sniffing hop cones isn’t enough anymore. Beer geeks at this stage start going on tours of hop fields. Soon after many start growing the vine in their backyards. If the beer geek is edgy enough they will even get a tattoo of a hop cone or a vine in order to show their passion.

Sadly for hop heads the tides seem to be changing for over hopped beers. Still though beer geeks will continue to celebrate this flower.

Things Beer Geeks Like

Saturday, October 10th, 2009

Unnecessary Adjectives

James Thurbers cartoon sums things up nicely

James Thurbers cartoon sums things up nicely

It’s pretty much a guarantee when you walk into a tap room or swing by beeradvocate that there will be beer geeks fighting over the proper adjectives necessary to describe a beer. To the average person an argument over whether the hops are “catty” or whether the beer being “dark dank and smelling like boot black” is good seem silly. Yet to beer geeks proper use of unnecessary adjectives is a second language that one is required to learn as part of initiation.

The trend of wordy beer descriptions has it’s origins in the wine world. It used to be a sign of class for wine snobs to find creative ways of describing a wine. The more abstract the description, the classier the person. Sadly beer geeks picked up on this trend.

In the early days of craft beer wine was the beverage of choice for refined palates. Beer geeks rightfully felt though that just because they drank a blue collar drink didn’t mean their palates were less refined. In an attempt to market their beverage beer geeks turned to a “like wine” strategy. They showed the world that their beverage went just as well (if not better) with food, offered complex flavors, and lent itself to lengthier prose then it’s grape counterpart.

Beer geeks though had to take their prose to the next level. Both beer and wine have had a set language due to a specific set of characters. Beer geeks though drew from all corners of Websters to reinvent the wheel. Rather then just stating how thick the mouth feel of a beverage was they described it in verse. They began using terms like “catty” and taste descriptions like “boot leather” (good?) and “hop kiss”. To the average Joe reading a beer review it may almost seem like these geeks are just trying to out review each other rather then describe a beer. To us geeks though we are simply speaking the language.

Bill has a great beer review generator here if you want to learn some prose.

Things Beer Geeks Like

Friday, October 2nd, 2009

from theweeklybrew

Stunt Beers

dogfish

The long history of stunt beers in the US goes back to the days of the BMC wars, but don’t tell a beer geek that, they love their stunt beers after all.

So what is a stunt beer? A stunt beer, also known as extreme beer, is a beer that pushes the boundaries of what we call beer. Initially “extreme” was used by Jim Koch to discribe his high alcohol triple bock, and the name has stuck mostly to extremely high abv beers since. Stunt brewing goes further back then that though. Ever since brewing began people have experimented. A stunt beer though is one that’s brewed with the marketing in mind. The first thing that comes to mind when I think of this are the ice beers of BMC, and the disastrous clear beer (which Coors may try to revive). Heck, a Japanese beer even brewed with ingredients grown in space. Now though we are above such petty stunt beers right? We are refined and cultured and no longer brew for shock value or just to generate buzz?

Craft beer has a great history with stunt beers, many of which have become standards in the US. Take bourbon barrel beers…. Or any other barrel beer for that matter. When these beers first came out they were big news. The press, and beer geeks, droned on about the apparent throw back to brewings roots. They busted out their brandy snifters and bellied up to the bar paying sometimes the price of a sixer for just one 4oz taste. Never mind that when brewers aged their beers in the old days they didn’t want huge amounts of wood and spirit flavors in their beers. Now though Barrel aged beers are standards, even if they still are slightly on the extreme side. In fact they’ve gone the way of light beers in the sense that they are just trying to out gimmick other barrel aged beers now.

Another area stunt beers have gone is into the history books. Stunt Brewers will bring in an anthropologist often times, but will also tout the knowledge of a amature historian if it makes their beer seem more authentic. After much research, a brewer will claim to have a recipe for beer that was brewed to taste the same as what such and such culture drank back in such and such time. Amazingly these historical beers often taste similar to modern beers. This is another thing beer geeks don’t admit. After all, in their minds their sipping on the same stuff a Persian king might have. Interestingly we have very little in the way of knowledge for brewing historical beers. Our barley’s and hops have changed character, our yeasts have mutated, and we don’t even know the original abv since alcohol is often the first thing to evaporate from ancient samples.

Still though, even with all our knowledge of beer, stunt beers are huge. Take the recent release of Atlantic IPA from BrewDog for example. They took a beer from a “historical recipe”, put it in barrels, tied them on a mackerel trawler, and shipped across to the US where the casks were blended, and then bottled. This beer is being touted as the first ocean aged beer in 200 years, and get this, it sells for $26 a bottle retail. Some people have picked apart the idea of this being a true historical beer, but the beer geek community is going ape poo over this.

In a culture dominated by the desire to be different, to be unique, beer geeks and their beer are no different.

Things Beer Geeks Like

Friday, September 25th, 2009

from theweeklybrew

GABF

gabf

For the 306 million Americans who don’t know what those letters mean I’ll explain. GABF stands for Great American Beer Festival.

For beer geeks the GABF is like Comi-Con. It is our Mecah, our Star Trek Convention. It is the holliest event in beer geekdom. 46,000 beer snobs come out of the wood work to get their pictures taken with rockstar brewers, sample unique one off beers, and generally act…. Well, geeky.

The GABF was founded in the 80’s by Charlie Papazian. It was a small festival back then with only 22 breweries participating. Back then it was like many of our smaller festivals today. Now though it is a behemoth that causes beer geeks to cream their jeans. With over 490 brewers at this years clan gathering, and the numbers going pretty much up every year.

As a beer geek I find it hard to be snarky and critical of this event. While it’s easy to laugh at the way we act during brewery tours, it’s another thing to mock the GABF. It’s like a Catholic mocking the Virgin Mary.

Still though there is a dark side to the GABF for beer geeks. The reality is they really do let just about anyone into this festival. There are booths for Blue Moon, In-Bev, PBR…. Also many of the smaller brewers aren’t necessarily making great beers. Still though Beer Geeks speak of this event in hushed tones, and anyone who dares to bring up the fact that there are mediocre beers at this festival is bound to be excommunicated.

I guess I should just be happy we don’t dress up in costumes at our festival….

GABF1

Pic from The Beer Here

Things Beer Geeks Like

Friday, September 18th, 2009

from theweeklybrew

Rockstar Brewers

No, I’m not refering to Badass Beer, Kid Rocks attempt at using his name to market a beer using his fame. What I’m refering to is a comment made by Greg Koch that has now spawned the phrase rockstar brewer. At least Gregs keynote speech is the first time I remember hearing it. Ironically Greg himself is one of these self proclaimed rockstars. Kinda funny since Greg is Stone Brewings CEO, and not it’s head brewer. This doesn’t stop him or other rockstars from parading around with all the pomp that the phrase emplies they would have.

To be fair these guys really are rockstars. Instead of shredding a guitar they work in a brewery. Like a rockstar they don’t always write their own music. They just recycle the same old beer styles and recipes from everywhere and put a little of their own spin on it. Occasionally they will colaborate with other rockstars of the brewing world to bestow a mythic brew upon us lowely peasants. One primary difference is instead of being followed by swooning girls who hang on their every world they’re followed by guys with beer guts who act like said girls. They write books, slap their brand on tshirts, and hand out advice as if theirs is the only way. Heck, they even spend most of their free time supporting causes and rallying their fans to stick it to the man, just like real rockstars.

So who are these rockstars? Well there is no be all end all list. Just like a Rolling Stone top 100 list their is always dispute over some of the smaller “indie” artists, and big name headliners who deserve recognition. There is however a basic list of 4 that no one disputes.

  • Greg Koch – Stone Brewing Co

  • Peter Bouckaert – New Belgium Brewing Company

  • Sam Calagione – Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

  • Vinnie Cilurzo – Russian River Brewing Company

These 4 are the subject of every beer geeks wet dreams. They covet and hord special releases of their beers. Whenever a new beer is released it skyrockets to the top of the Beeradvocate rating lists without fail. Nevermind that many of these beers released haven’t even seen the minimum aging before the geeks buy them up and suck them down. Nevermind that they never match up to the hype. They are the Gods of beer and we are not worthy.

Things Beer Geeks Like

Saturday, September 5th, 2009

from theweeklybrew

I completely missed my opportunity to mock the geek culture on Friday. I do apologize. This week has been crazy (crazy fun) and I didn’t even realize it was Saturday till I looked at the calendar on my computer not 5 min ago.

Trashing Adjuncts

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Any true geek knows that adjuncts are the Satan’s sack sweat of the beer world. If you believe a good beer can contain corn or rice then you should re-evaluate your geek status…. Or so geeks say. Beer geeks love to trash American Light Lager especially because it contains other grains besides barley. Very few of them understand the history of light lagers or adjunct brewing, and even fewer know the history of the Reinheitsgebot. This doesn’t stop them though from asserting the superiority of any beer brewed to it’s outdated standards.

The irony of this situation is that non barley beers are becoming more popular with beer geeks. We’re not talking the standard exception wheat has always received either. Many geeks are discovering the blatant spicyness of rye, the gluten free beers of sorghum (rice and corn are gluten free, but unacceptable), also oats are finding their way into more then just stouts now. Still though these adjuncts are acceptable because they aren’t common in American Lager, and if it’s not something that would make it into a can of Bud then it must be good.

Beer geeks even have their own name for beers brewed with adjuncts. You’ll often find them refering to them as BMC, Fizzy Yellow Beer, or just plain crap while quaffing an americanized British ale. Many of these adjunct haters seem to not be as big of fans of lagers overall, but no one considers their opinions suspect. And despite their protests beer geeks can’t deny that adjunct based beers are still extremely popular. This leaves them bitter and jaded. Beer geeks often feel the need to degrade anyone who would drink a beer containing corn or rice. Many beer geeks also feel they have a sophisticated palate because of their disdain for adjunct beers and will ostracize geeks who claim to enjoy a corn/rice based beer.

So next time you see a guy drinking a adjunct based beer embrace your hatred and harness the full power of the dark side of the force.

Things Beer Geeks Like

Friday, August 28th, 2009

from theweeklybrew

Barrel Aged Beers

the-bruery-beer-barrels

From the time beer was first brewed, till the modern era, beer has been fermented, aged, and served from vessels made of wood, or clay. Thanks to modern methods and lighter weight metals beer in the US for a long time never even knew what wood looked like. Lately thought that’s been changing. It seems any brewer worth their salt is barrel aging. Some brewers have even gone so far as to offer barrel aged versions of their main lines to the more discerning geek. And the discerning geeks do line up in droves.

The ironic part is many of these geeks don’t understand the nature of wood, nor it’s relationship to the beer. They just know barrel aging is supposed to make it better. They will gladly pay for a barrel aged version of their favorite brew, and generally assert it is infinitely better then the original version. It could taste like a Louisville Slugger and they still would praise it. After all, if you age it in wood it should taste like wood right? So if it doesn’t taste like tree something must be wrong.

Barrel aging is no longer the pitch lined containers of yore that were more of a necessity then a luxury. Today’s top brewers must compete for the attention of the ADD masses that consume their brews. To do this they like to use used barrels for their aging… And not just any used barrels either. They want wine barrels, whiskey barrels. rum barrels…. the list goes on. If you’ve used it, they’ll age beer in it.

Brewers also seem to have realized that beer geeks are the ultimate examples of adult ADD. When people question whether or not barrel aging brings anything unique to the table they just announce a special barrel aged version of a popular beer and the geeks follow like cattle from event to event, all hoping they are worthy enough that a brewer will tap a special barrel aged batch for them. For beer geeks a beer soaked with wood is the ultimate wet dream. Hey, it sounds kinky talking about wet dreams and wood in the same sentence.

I once heard someone say when everyone tries to be unique we all end up the same. I think that about sums up barrel aged beers. 🙂

Things Beer Geeks Like

Friday, August 21st, 2009

from theweeklybrew

There’s just so much in beer culture to make fun of, so, inspired by another blog, I decided to set aside one day a week to mock our craft.

Brewery Tours

msb2007_074

Inexplicably beer geeks are gaga for brewery tours. Many of them don’t seem to realize that large or small most breweries function the same and to a degree look the same. Yet beer geeks still line up like cattle for the slaughter to hear about how the brewer only uses quality ingredients, how a mash tun works, and how yeast turn sugars into alcohol. They stand there nodding while sipping beers, and occasionally ask silly questions that the brewer probably hears every tour. They speak to each other in hushed tones when the brewer describes his/her equipment. 

Also, beer geeks seem to enjoy rubbing whole hops between their hands and smelling them while on tours. They know (because the brewer told them) that this is how you release the lupulin in order to get a wiff. Many of them though have no clue what their smelling for. As long as it smells like hops they get giddy. I once watched a beer geek do this with hops that had to have been sitting out awhile. He rubbed them between his hands, and praised the quality. Without even rubbing the hops I could smell that these weren’t stored properly and were therefore useless for the kind of beers this brewery made. 

After the tour many beer geeks obediently step up to the bar and order tasting trays, intent on sampling every beer that brewery makes. often times beer geeks will buy tshirts to show their loyalty to the brewery and a growler of their favorite beer to drink when they get home. Once they get home they usually put the growler with their growing collection and put their tshirt with the ones from the other 20 breweries they have visited, and are therefore loyal too.