Posts Tagged ‘beer’

Best Beer Places In Salem

Saturday, October 24th, 2009

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I was thinking of compiling a list of the places in Salem with the best taps and bottle selections. The amount of good beer in Salem has been on the increase and I’m discovering that many bars I had once written off are now carrying craft beers (other then Widmer or Deschutes), and good craft beers at that. So, I’m asking you guys to help me out and let me know what your favorite bars and bottle shops are and why.

Here are the things I want to know

Good Beer

A Deschutes, Widmer, or Pyramid tap doesn’t count unless it’s either rotating, or unusual beers from those breweries Does the bar have dedicated taps to a specific brewery? What about for a specific style? Do all taps rotate or just a few? How many taps are there?

Atmosphere

To me atmosphere is a consideration that comes last. For most people however atmosphere is important.

Food

Does the bar serve Bar Grub (fries and the like)? Pub Grub perhaps (burgers, fish and chips, etc.)?

Prices

Any bar that serves shaker pints for much more then $4 is hard for me to go out of my way to visit, but it may not be for some

Bottle Selection

For a store to have a good beer selection it should meet 2 or more requirements from the list

Selection – a decent cross section  of different beers and brewers
Style Diversity– a bottle shop stocking 90% IPA’s and light lagers doesn’t have much diversity does it?
Imports– A great selection of Oregon and American beers is commendable, but there are other beers outside the US that are good
Uncommon Beers – A store that carries hard to find bottles of beer is already ahead of the game
Prices – Does a $10 bottle at one store cost $13 at another (looking at you World Market)?

Starbucks Beer?

Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

from theweeklybrew

starbucks-logo2Starbucks has launched a new experimental store called 15th Ave. Coffee and Tea. Before I explain the Starbucks beer thing it’ll help  to understand what 15th Ave. Coffee and Tea is. First, think of this new Starbucks as a kind of Skunk Works. This new location is a way for Starbucks to experiment with ways of capturing more of the market. Because, and let’s all be honest, Starbucks has really over expanded themselves. They’ve become one of the ultimate examples of a faceless corporation just out to make money. That combined with the trend towards smaller local coffee shops means Starbucks must redesign itself.

15th Ave. Coffee and Tea sounds like it’ll be a throwback to the days when coffee shops were the haunts of poets and artists. It’ll have a new look, a new name, performances, different menu, and most importantly for our purposes, wine and beer. Despite looking around for a mock up list of potential wines and beers I can’t find one. It will be interesting to see how this pans out though. Will it increase Starbucks sales? Will they open one in every city on every block? The questions buzzing round the internets are just to much fun to read.

So what’s your take?

Cellaring Beer, The Rules

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

This is part two of my post on cellaring beers. For the first part click here. Also Ryan, on of the guys at the company that maintains and runs this blog (I’m just the guy who writes it) is giving away his Porsche Cabriolet. Check out PorschePerfect for a chance to enter.

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Back in part one of this post I mentioned that a google search on cellaring beer usually turns up an article written by Angie Rayfield. Usually if your lucky enough to find one not credited to her or written by her though at least half the article will be plagiarized from hers. So since Angie is the Internet authority on cellaring let’s take a look at her rules (paraphrased so that I’m not necessarily plagiarizing)

• Cellar the beer at serving temperature. Heat can cause a beers lifespan to shorten, and too cold can cause chill haze. Then she gives you temperature suggestions (but I don’t wanna do that).

• Store bottles upright.

• Always purchase at least two of whatever beer you want to cellar. Drink one immediately, then cellar the other for at least a year. This way you can do a comparison.

• Although it’s included as a sub rule unworthy of boldness Angie also suggests not storing beer in a refrigerator since the lack of humidity will dry out the corks causing them to fail

While Angie’s rules are all well and good they are mostly written for corked beers and personally I have issues with some of them. So here are Jared’s rules for aging.

• Make sure the bottle will maintain a proper seal. If it’s a corked bottle follow the rules for aging corked beers. If it’s a capped beer that you want to store long term then melt some paraffin wax in a double boiler and put a wax seal on that puppy. After all, seals in caps go bad, and if that $15 bottle of barley wine you’ve spent a year aging came out of the cellar worse then it went in it would suck. Keep in mind that if your only aging a beer for several months and not a year or two then special precautions may not be necessary.

• Purchasing of multiple beers allows you to taste the beer as it ages to determine when it’s at it’s best. That being said it’s not a hard fast rule that you should buy more then one. The six pack of old foghorn aging in my pantry is next to a single bottle of an imperial stout I purchased. Granted I’d tried the stout before so I have an idea what the original is like, but I don’t have six bottles of that stout up there for incremental age testing. Also if you want to compare a beer year to year the only reliable way is to add multiple bottles of the same beer to your collection every year. That way you can try the 2 year, 1 year, and this year beer in one session for comparison. The idea that you’ll distinctly remember the original in a year is silly.

• Lastly, and something Angie mentions in the comments on the original post. Beer aging wont make a beer better persay. It helps to think of aging as making a beer different. Over time the flavors and aroma of a beer will change. For some people this is good, some people however prefer their beers young and full of hop characteristics. Aging is a matter of personal preference, and it should be enjoyable. If you are cellaring beer to sell later at a profit then of course you should take the matter more seriously, but if not then remember beer is meant to be enjoyed. If you pile on the art, snobbery, and the various crap wine makers have done to their beverage then you will effect it’s enjoyment for yourself.

Cellaring Beer

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

I wrote this as one post, but it was far to long. Instead I will be delivering it in two posts. Today is kinda a basic rundown, tomorrow will be more how to.

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Goggle “Cellaring Beer” and you’ll easily get 10 articles on various blogs and websites, all of them the one written by Angie Rayfield, and for the most part useless. Go ahead, google it yourself. If you happen to choose the beeradvocate one where they quote Angie Rayfield word for word oftentimes you will also happen to find a list of reasons why storing beer sideways is silly. The point of this is it does me no good to quote Angie. This is especially true since she’s copyrighted the article and I don’t want to touch that. Instead I’ve decided I have to be unique and maybe even knock her article around a bit. After all there is no be all end all source on beer storage since it is more art then science. At least for now it is.

The reason beer storage hasn’t reached the realm of science you see with wines is that for the most part there’s no need. Most beers are best if consumed under the 1 year mark. Hoppy beers like pale ales shouldn’t even age at all. Secondly beer cellaring was until modern times just something that was done. Before refrigeration beer was often stored in the basement or cellar until someone wanted to tap the cask or open a bottle. Beers generally weren’t laid down to cellar for long times like wines. Also cellaring was treated as part of the fermentation process often times. If you had a sour ale you were laying down it was treated as you allowing the bacteria to do it’s job, not giving the flavors time to reach harmony.

Even with all the things going against beer cellaring proper long term storage has become a big thing, and big money. Prices for some properly aged barlywines in the 10 year old range are in the hundreds per a bottle at auctions. This is what’s turning the aging of craft beer from just something that happens, to something worth doing. And while your homebrewed 12% abv barleywine won’t command amazing prices if it’s aged, ageing is still a useful tool in the homebrewers arsenal.

from theweeklybrew

Memorial Day and Beer

Monday, May 25th, 2009

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Memorial Day is the second biggest holiday in terms of beer sales in the United States. For many people it means a three day weekend full of camping and BBQ’s, many breweries also have sales/tastings around memorial day. While I’m all for good beer and good times, I can’t help but wonder if craft beer should be taking advantage of this holiday. Sure brewers weren’t the ones that took a patriotic holiday and morphed it into a party, and sure macro brewers have been taking advantage of it for years. But isn’t the philosophy of craft beer about being different? Being better?

Memorial Day was founded as a day of remembrance in the north to honor those slain in the Civil War, with the  south choosing to honor their dead on separate days. When memorial day became about honoring all Americas slain though the government set a date for the whole nation to honor those who died for our country. Over the years though memorial day has morphed for many into a day of play lived out in a beery haze. By craft brewers encouraging people to spend their memorial day having fun in a buzzed state how are we honoring our dead?

I say the craft beer industry should stand up. It should show what it;s made of, and that it can be different. That craft beer is the unique industry that it claims to be, and not just gourmet beer for people with money. Let’s reclaim our holiday! I understand not everyone can, or has the desire too, go to a grave site and place flowers. So instead let’s honor the dead as drinkers honor everything. At 3pm Pacific time join me in taking a break from the fun, and take a second to remember our fallen heroes and toast to their honor. Because today isn’t a holiday for beer, BBQ’s, and boating. Today is a holiday for America.

Why 3 Tier Doesn’t Work Properly

Monday, April 20th, 2009

unbalancedI planned on getting this up this morning, but the sun is out today so I decided to go play on my bike instead, and just upload later.

On Saturday I wrote about how the 3 tier system is built and supposed to function. But as Robert Burns said, “The best laid plans of mice and men, oft go awry.”

The beauty of the 3 tier system is it’s transparency. It’s supposed to eliminate the shady area between the brewer and the retailer by breaking it into basic steps. The problem arises when one of the 3 tiers gains power over the other two. When this happens we’re back to the same corruption we wanted to eliminate.

Back in the days of the big brewers this situation wasn’t as common. If you distributed on a national level you only carried the big beers. Local beers were generally carried by local distributors. The problem is the market has changed, alot. Now there are constantly new beers trying to get shelf space nationally. One thing you often encounter though is that distributors want to carry beers that are easy sales, not necessarily great beers. To compete with this alot of smaller brewers went through smaller distributors. This increased competition between brewers. Another issue is that the distribution networks for the big brewers want to keep their clients happy.

The later issue of keeping BMC happy is one of the interesting ones. Back in the early days of the craft brew industry the big brewers came up with a solution for shutting the little guys out. Since exclusivity contracts where a brewer dictated what you carried were not aloud they decided to offer incentives to distributors that shut the little guys out. This was shady, but perfectly legal, and could have worked. The problem was that as people became interested in craft beer, and public opinion turned against the BMC’s, distributors began to opt out in order to cash in on craft beer. To cope with this the big guys came up with another solution. If you allowed them a decent stake in your company then you got access to their distribution networks. Distributors liked this because they got the perks from the big guys, and they still got to sell craft beer. The problem is now the incentive for distributors to carry the new guys is lessened.

Another issue is what if you have a brew pub? Well according to the 3 tier you have to pay a distributor to legally move your beer from your brew house to the bar. Seem wrong to you too? To overcome this some states have laws that allow brewers to self distribute. The problem comes about when you have a brewery that operates their own pubs. Let’s enter the land of theory real quick. Here in Oregon we have a chain called McMenamin’s. McMenamin’s brewery is located in Portland, but they have breweries and local bars all over Oregon. Now with a self distribute law they could theoretically move beer to all their bars without once paying a distributor. This allows them to sell their beer cheaper at a higher profit. Now what happens to the little guy that wants to get into local bars? He has to go through a distributor while the pub chain doesn’t have to. This raises the price of his beer. Now the local bars that his beer goes to have to compete with a pub that can offer cheaper beer. It is very difficult to preserve the simplicity of the 3 tier system while trying to keep it fair. The more fair it is, the less transparent it becomes.

Remember at the beginning where I alluded that the distributors have power over breweries and retailers? Well here’s where that comes in. While there are laws that prevent distributors from offering incentives to bars this doesn’t always happen. Some distributors have started offering bars things like extra tap lines if the bars will use them as their distributor. While this is illegal it’s sometimes overlooked. This can hurt competition among distributors. Also it doesn’t take imagination to see where distributors who favor breweries can help hamper the competition. This makes distributors some of the most powerful entities in the beer industry. Remember, breweries are required to use distributers.

The biggest issue is one inherent in all things in our country. While the free market isn’t bad when it’s combined with the 3 tier system it makes a difficult situation for brewers. Distributors will inherently carry, and buy more of a beer that sells easy. This is where the selection issueI talked about comes in. With only so much space available for retail distributors won’t be as willing to push your new breweries product while they are carrying known sellers.

This system creates a market that isn’t always friendly to the little guy. So how can the system be improved? Let’s hear some ideas. Should we break it down into more tiers? Less tiers? Get rid of the tiers? Give me some feedback, because I still haven’t thought up a system that’s fair to everyone, and I’m beginning to think it’s impossible.

Three Tier Distribution Is Bad?

Saturday, April 18th, 2009
Image borrowed without permission from Fermentarium

Image borrowed without permission from Fermentarium

With the recent release of “Beer Wars” there seems to be a lot of junk floating around out there about the three tiered distribution system. First off I haven’t seen “Beer Wars”, and I have no desire to see it. Secondly I am not a brewer, distributor, or retailer. So realize that when I talk about the system I’m neither commenting on Beer Wars, nor talking from experience as one of the three tiers. I’m just a lowly consumer who’s spent the day combing through complaints (mostly on wine forums) and doing research on it.

So what is a three tier system and how does it work? The current system comes out of the haydays of alcohol prior to prohibition. Now allot of micro brew enthusiasts will rail on about how great it must have been back in the day when every community had their own brewery. The problem with this is it isn’t true. Well not in the sense that the facts are wrong, but in the sense that it misrepresents the way things were then. The truth was while lack of refrigeration limited the reach of breweries, it didn’t make this utopia situation where the little guy thrived. I won’t get into that except where it has to do with distribution. I will stay focused! Anyway, back then breweries distributed their own beer. Makes sense right? I make my beer, then sell it to the bar, and the bar sells it to you. What could go wrong?

Well alot went wrong. Most people think that people who made alcoholic beverages didn’t really start getting into strong arm tactics until prohibition, but they did, long before. One way breweries did this is similar to the way coal mines operated long ago. In a coal mine you used to rent your home from the company. You also bought all your tools and food, regardless of price, from the company. This was because company money was only good at the company store. Well if you wanted to open a bar or pub back then you went to the brewery. The brewery would help you finance the bar (furniture and the works), and give you beer to sell. In exchange you only sold that breweries beer, and the brewery had control over your bar. You didn’t want to sell the breweries beer then that was fine, they owned the loan on the bar, and you would be replaced. Also in order to retain control of your bar you had to keep the brewery happy. This meant that your sales were supposed to go up, up, and up some more. In order to remain in compitition and increase growth bars had to get your butt in the bar, and they had to get you to drink more, and more beer. Considering this fact, and the overindulgence in alcohol that resulted, it’s not hard to see why many Americans supported temperance. In fact before prohibition many states had decided to dry up on their own because of issues with alcoholism in their communities.

After the 21st amendment was passed to repeal the 18th the ATF went from a police force, to revenue collecting for the government. In order to make it easier to collect taxes, and in order to prevent the abuses that occurred before, they came up with the three tier system. This now meant that the brewery had to sell their beer to a middle man who then sold it to bars, restaurants, and markets. The distributor would also pay the taxes on said beer after purchasing it from the brewery. Another rule was that distributors wouldn’t pimp merchandise from one particular company like the old days. The brewers would pay for all products that were used to get a beer in the hands of a retailer (like samples) and the distributor would only be in charge of shipment. This prevented the person who sold you beer from being able to decide how you run your establishment, or provide incentives for you to carry certain beers.

So under our current system the retailer buys beers from several breweries, then the distributor pays taxes on the beer. Next the distributor goes out and finds establishments that will carry the beer using promotional material payed for by the brewery. The distributor then sells the beer with a mark up to the retailer. The retailer then uses the promotional material that either they bought from the brewery, or were given by the brewery in order to get you to buy the beer at yet another mark up. Did that make sense? Good, because that’s the way it should look in a perfect world. In reality it doesn’t work quite that way, which makes things even messier.  I’ll get around to explaining why this doesn’t work around Monday hopefully since that’s also another lengthy post.

Future Of Beer?

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009

Man I didn’t get a single comment on my April Fools Day post yesterday. The compitition is still on, so get your friends to vote.

futureI’ve been pondering a lot on where the craft beer industry may be headed, and it seems I’m not the only one. With the crazy growth that micro brewers have been experiencing since the 80’s slowing, and the big brewers getting in the game people are starting to think ahead. The glory days of easy money for brewers have been approaching an end in the Northwest for awhile now. We’ve had longer then the rest of the country to develop a taste for what good beer is. The problem is some brewers are no longer as concerned about profit, they want growth, and I think the market will respond.

 If Brewers Alliance, and other beer stock is any clue of the future then may be changing. Several years ago all it seemed to take to make a profit in the microbrew industry were some good homebrew recipes, some old dairy equipment converted into brewery equipment, and an endorsement from beer snobs. So what’s changed?

 One of the first things is it’s getting crowded. Not everyone is content with being a brewpub anymore. They want to see their beer in bottles around the state. Already with the number of imports, commercials, plus the in and out of state microbrews the beer isle is crowded. This amazing amount of choice may make it hard for the smaller microbrewers to break outside of their local communities.

 Another impact is that the big brewers caught on have been releasing their own version of craft beers, and often it seems they are keeping pace with microbrews at restaurants and bars. With beers out there like blue moon the big guys have shown that they’re taking the threat craft beer posses to them seriously, and that they want to continue in the industry.

 Lastly some microbrews are growing too large. Just visiting the Deschuttes brewery was enough to bring this home to me. These larger microbrewers like Sierra Nevada, Deschuttes, Widmer, Sam Adams, and others have carved out a nich in the market through hard work. The problem is they have gained brand loyalty from their customers, and that may be bad news for start ups in their communities.

Is this a bleak outlook for beer? Not really. It just means the industry may start settling down for the time being. People are content with a beer being a beer, and this idea of finding a holy grail of beers looks to be loosing interest. Could I be wrong in my prediction? There’s a good possibility I am. Im neither an economics expert, nor am I a brewery owner. These are just things I’ve observed lately in Oregons beer market.

Upcoming Events

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

liftarn_large_barrelI am ashamed to admit that I have never been to one of Oregons beer festivals, and I’ve lived here all my life. It’s sad really. To be honost prior to this year I didn’t even know there were any festivals outside of Octoberfest and the one at Riverfront Park. However, thanks to the education provided by writing this blog, my friends, and my Uncle Tom I will attend multiple festivals this year. Here’s a list of festivals coming up in April.

Oregon Spring Beer and Wine Festival

This is the big one in April for me, and one of the festivals I will attend. That reminds me, I need to get the day off for it…. This is the festivals 15th year, and supposedly there will be 90+ beers to sample, plus wine, mead, spirits, cheese, artisan chocolate, and probably whatever else they can get in the building . The event is noon – 11:00 on the 10th and 11th at the Oregon Convention Center. Check out their website for more info

Oregon Gardens Brewfest

The Oregon Gardens Brewfest is in the J. Frank Schmidt, Jr. Pavilion on April 25th and 26th. There will be beer sampling, food, live music, and a Homebrew Compitition. The cost is $15 and $5 parking. I’m still not certain about wether I should go to this one. In order to go I’d have to take another day off, and two beer festivals in one month might be a bit to much. So if you happen to be heading out to Silverton that weekend, or you have a free day then head down. For more info on this event check out their website.

Hair Of The Dog Earth Day Sale

I have never tried any beers from Hair of the Dog, but a big beer sale bonanza is good news in my book. The sale is on April 25 starting at 10 am and ending at 4 pm at their brewery. For all you greenies out there this would be a good bet for you since Hair of the Dog has gone organic.

Happy Belated Birthday Oregon

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Ok quick show of hands, who knew that Oregon had its 150th birthday on the 14th? I see one of you…. Oh you were 1233094805_1_ft0_roguesesquicentennialalescratching your head. Well at least I wasn’t the only one who missed it. In fact I wouldn’t even know still if it hadn’t been for the good people over at Rogue, and their Sesquicentennial Ale. Rogue has long and involved history with Oregon, and decided to honor that. So to commemorate this special month they released a beer made with only ingredients from Oregon. The barley was grown in the Klamath Basin, the hops at their own hop farms, Pacman yeast from Hood River, and free range coastal waters. What a fitting way to honor a state known for it’s micro brew industry. The beer is apparently on tap for a limited time, but outside of Portland your best bet for finding it would be at Rogues brew houses and pubs. This beer is also available in 22oz bombers, which is how I tried it. Definitely a beer to check out due to it’s uniqueness. For more info on Rogue and it’s drinks check out their website www.rogue.com. Also, if you get a chance you might want too try some of their other amazing beers.

Also I baked up some of those spent grain dog treats for my sister mutt. Apparently she enjoyed them, but refuses to write a review unless she gets a cut of any and all future advertising revenue that I may get on this site. I tried telling her that even if I were to get ads they are a long way off, and offered her another biscuit instead, but she referred me to her agent for further negotiations.