No Brewing Tonight

I know, and as sad as that news is to all of our loyal followers, I will leave you with some happy news: BACON FEST

Whats better than bacon? Not much. Whats better than Beer and Bacon…NOTHING. So if you’re looking for something to do this weekend head on out to Bacon Fest at Dads Garage in Virgina Highland.

A mere $35 gets you unlimited bacon and beer, from jalapeno-infused pig crisps from P’cheen to bacon & maple donuts, plus attractions like “Hunt an Improviser” (throwing water balloons at the performers), a “Redneck Wine Tasting”, funny impressions, and “Children of the Corn-Holing”. For tuneage, DJ Baron Saturday will spin between sets from The Fingering Brothers, the Stumbling Troubadours, and Bases Loaded, because RBI Baseball was borrowed and never returned by Jimmy Weeks, who moved to a different district.

Saturday at Dad’s Garage: 280 Elizabeth St, Ste C-101; Virginia Highland; 404.523.3141

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On the tea in China

– Chris

Now this is good beer! Just…don’t order it at Taco Mac without looking at the menu first. Actually, don’t order anything “exotic” without looking at the menu, then asking the server, then asking the manager for price confirmation, because otherwise you may be surprised at what you see on your bill. Thus was my experience last night, but you’d find the specifics pretty boring.

Taco Mac, like many other establishments, is undergoing big price hikes to compensate for increased shipping and transportation costs from their suppliers. Some of those hikes are already on the menu, and some are definitely not. Either way, the extra cost is becoming especially apparent (as they are passed on to you, the patron/passport member) when ordering imported beer.

I don’t mean a Heineken or Scottish & Newcastle product–those possess the economies of scale and bargaining power that allow for minimal increases to the consumer–I’m talking about the more esoteric offerings from abroad, ones that find US distribution with “boutique” firms here, such as Merchant Du Vin, the importer of Samuel Smith and Lindeman’s beers. A Sam Smith beer now costs $7.50 for a 12oz bottle at Taco Mac, and a Lindeman’s Lambic is over $12. The Chimay I’ve got in my hand above? That’ll be $13.50, exclusive of tax and tip. That’s over a dollar an ounce!

Now, I very much enjoy all of these products, and yes it does cost more to ship things now, and I understand that Taco Mac and others are in business to make a profit. As such, a hefty markup over the pricing you see on store shelves is expected, but we’re looking at an almost 300% upcharge on beers like Sam Smith. Maybe we’ll see an increase in package stores to match what we’re seeing in restaurants, bringing that upcharge back down to a relatively “reasonable” 100-150%, but, um, I really don’t want to see that! This makes me think I’ll never complete the Passport club, out of budget constraints if not principal itself.

So, how do you, the aspiring beer cicerone, fight the power? That could be a tough call, but I’ve got an idea: support your local or regional microbrews first and foremost. They’re much cheaper than exotic imports, at least in restaurants, and offer an astoundingly diverse range of styles and flavors. And…we’re gonna be one of them, so we want you to give us a shot when we’re on Taco Mac’s menu. Until then, to really stick it to the Man, have I ever mentioned that we have free beer available, all the time?

These days

– Chris

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All’s been quiet on the western front since Saturday. This means one thing: it’s time to brew! And no, we’re not gonna skip out this week. Today we will be bottling all ten gallons of our Witbier/Wit Bier/Witbeer alongside doing some other things we were supposed to do last week, like, cleaning out the kegerator. Tomorrow we will go to the beer store. Actually, we’ll probably procrastinate by cleaning tomorrow and going to the beer store Saturday. Whatever, the important part is that Sunday we will brew us up ten gallons (is anyone still believing the last post?) of American Pale v1.5.

We’re starting to build a nice little stockpile of homebrew in the basement, possibly attributable to the absence of Eileen. After today’s bottling session, we’ll have close to fifty gallons ready to go! We can’t drink all of it, so YOU should come and help us. Oh, and speaking of Eileen, her computer crashed yesterday and is gonna be out of service for the short while, so it’s iffy whether or not we’ll see any reports from the Island any time soon…but, in case you feel ill-informed, there’s always this.

Expansion

– Chris

Saturday’s party was a nice change of pace…we had a bit of a different crowd over than usual, which meant new folks to try our beer! And did they like it? Yes, they did. So much so that we got a wedding request:

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That’s Brad and Candace, and they’re getting married in October. They need enough beer on tap for 300 people…about 100 gallons!…and they asked us to brew it. Our plan probably is gonna be to brew up two recipes, a wheat beer and something else–maybe something more festive for the season.

As for the status of our other brews, the oatmeal stout is delicious this time around. Silky smooth with a coffee finish. Absolutely. The ESB? Well, apparently I hadn’t done a very good job of carbonating it in the keg; it was still kind of flat. But we’ll fix that today, or more likely, tomorrow, along with some other transferring and kegging and whatnot.

Why the delay, you ask? Because tonight is opening night in the ATL for the Braves! Squaring off against the Pirates, and Glavine’s back in town, starting for us! This equals a) attempting to beat traffic by leaving for the game at four o’clock but probably sitting in it anyway, b) tailgating in a parking lot that is really far from the stadium probably, and c) the stadium being ridiculously crowded. It also means a night of Anheuser-Busch lager beer in the park, but hey, I can dig it. Not gonna lie…a Bud Heavy pairs really well with this much America.

Sedition and Espionage

– Chris

Steve and I went to Taco Mac yesterday for lunch to a) drink oatmeal stouts while eating nachos (hmmm, turns out not the best pairing) and b) mull over the state of our brews, just a little bit. I’m not exactly sure how it came up, but we quickly got onto the subject of what appears to be the reigning champion of microbrews:

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The name is everywhere. Dogfish’s founder Sam Calagione is, as James Spencer of Basic Brewing Radio put it, a bit of a rockstar of sorts, and not just in the brewing world. I probably have one of their beers in my fridge at any given time, as do many, many other craft beer fans. But that’s just it, right there: I probably have one. I rarely buy more than a four-pack of anything Dogfish, and I don’t think I’d even consider a torpedo or 1/2 barrel keg. Why? Because Dogfish Head doesn’t really produce anything that I can get very friendly with. I appreciate the innovations that Sam and his crew make season after season, and I like trying all the crazy stuff they come up with, but I’ve yet to find a product that I’m going to come back to again and again, just to “have a beer”. I may sound like a simpleton to some of you more zealous beer folks out there, but Dogfish definitely doesn’t offer anything like a Sweetwater 420 of their own, at least not around here.

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I feel like 420 gets a bad rap at times, and it’s not just because I’m a local. It’s a popular beer that’s offensive to no one, and though not exactly in line with my personal tastes, the name really is brilliant. It’s the definition of that loyal, friendly beer that guys like Charlie Papazian find themselves drinking more often than not. You always know what to expect. In a sense, it is indeed “ordinary”. But, I hear it referred to as “weak” and “watery” by some fellow beer enthusiasts, as if anything with less than 6% ABV isn’t worth their time or money. Well, to me, such a beer is worth both, and a lot of “ordinary” beer drinkers tend to agree.

Now for instance, Dogfish 60-Minute is a wonderful IPA, but I’m just not inclined to drink more than one of them in a sitting. It’s too much everything to consume in any quantity, especially at ten dollars for a six-pack. Too bad, because it’s maybe the only Dogfish-branded brew consistently available at my favorite package store. The rest of them seem to change with the season, and some are very good (Palo Santo Marron…wow!) while others are very bad (Festina Peche…what?), but almost none are available year-round, and I feel like that sort of inconsistency isn’t a sustainable model for business growth in the long term. Their slogan is “Off-centered ales for off-centered people” and it does ring true; maybe they really don’t care about capturing anyone in that more “centered” market segment.

But we do.

Ten years from now, I hope to be a lot of things, and a brewery owner is one of them. 35 years old is not. In ten years, will radically different breweries like Dogfish Head still be cranking out a half-dozen new brews each year? Will they run out of momentum and level off? Or will they find their 420 and induce the masses (that word, of course, is relative, in the face of big beer competition) to become loyal to their brand? Maybe the better question is, will we have found ours? I can tell you right now that we’re looking…hard.