Good pubs, Good Beer, Good People

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Quick Hit--The Perqs of Celebrity

First, you must disabuse yourself of the notion that "perqs" is misspelled and should be "perks." "Perqs" is correct because it is the truncated form of "perquisites," a term which means, among other things, "A thing regarded as a special right or privilege enjoyed as a result of one's position."

Lauren and Megan flank The PubScout
Being a nationally known beer writer carries some of those perqs. Lauren and Megan, sitting at the bar of the Stage House Tavern in Somerset (and apparently star-struck), were kind enough to pose with yours truly, though I had just met them.

The narcissist in me wants to credit the "personal charm factor." But the truth is that neither their dignity nor well-being was in danger of being threatened by a friendly, harmless Geezer. So they probably felt sorry for me.

"Personal Charm Factor" sounds better.

The PubScout

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"The IPA-ification of Everything..."

It seems The PubScout and The Weekly Pint share a similar attitude about IPA's. Note the quote that is part of the headline:

" And while we lament the "IPA-ification" of everything--face it, some styles were just never meant for a makeover..."

The PubScout has been criticized by some diehard hopheads for exactly the same stance, but, as Oscar Wilde once correctly noted, "The only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about."

And the rest of The Weekly Pint's quote (lest I be accused of quoting selectively) is a sentiment with which I also whole-heartedly concur:

"...we salute the ways brewers around the world have taken that once exotic style and produced myriad beers with once unthinkable dimensions."

In any event, read the Weekly Pint article here, ad see if you have ever heard of
--much less tasted--some of these IPA's.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

There's Class in the Glass

My buddy Ralph is one of the most cerebral beer drinkers I know (and in my circle of beer nuts, that's not many). He recently sent me a link that got me to thinking.

It's long been known that the shape of a glass impacts your beer-drinking experience. While drinking a good beer out of the bottle should be considered a last resort, various beers demand more than the trusty old pint glass.

But the $25 you'll spend for two of these bad boys could also buy a good supply of beer. Your move.

The PubScout

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Quaffing's Easier Than Parking

Why is it that some of the best beer places are in towns with the greatest parking challenges?

Like Pilsener Haus in Hoboken, The Office in Morristown, World of Beer and Harvest Moon in New Brunswick and Triumph in Princeton. 

I mean, Hoboken, Morristown and New Brunswick are like, you know, real cities. But Princeton is a college town, and it should be deserted in summer, no?


I attended the morning session of Coach Chris Ayres' excellent Princeton Wrestling Camp, then hopped astride my iron horse to meet the coach for libation and victual at Triumph Brewpub, right on Nassau St. Chris and I go back a decade, and when he was assisting at Lehigh camps, we'd frequent the Tally-Ho Tavern at night, affectionately known by the locals as "The Ho."

Coach Chris Ayres
There were never any parking problems there, and the beer list was pretty good. But Triumph in Princeton makes its own beer--it was just the second brewpub in NJ--and its beers are pretty darned good, too. That includes their locations in New Hope and Old City, Philadelphia. Moreover, it will soon include Red Bank.

Even on two wheels, finding a parking place was a major challenge, and after three trips around the block, hoping that I'd catch some Princetonian getting into their car in front of the pub, I finally gave up. Some parking meters on the back streets only allow 30-minute parking, so what good is that when there are beers to sample?

Scrappy Sara
Instead, I went around the back of the pub and found Kopp's Bicycle Shop, which has its own parking lot. The proprietors were nice enough to allow my two wheels to join their collection of bikes while I ate lunch, and I raised my first pint to their hospitality. That pint was a delightful saison of 5.9% ABV that was chock full of flavor and big on refreshment. Coach Chris, normally a hophead, agreed and Sara poured us two.

I got a chance to chat with new brewer Brendan Anderson who took over in May for good old boy Tom Stephenson, the horticulturist-turned-brewer, whose recipes put Triumph on the map. I'll have a more in-depth chat with Brendan in an upcoming blog. Anderson oversees the brewing operation in all three locations. But as he was busy making Coach Chris's favorite Bengal Gold IPA, he didn't have much time to spare today.

Brewer Brendan Anderson
That left the afternoon open to catch up with Chris (who wisely used his bicycle as transport), to talk wrestling, talk beer, talk family, etc. Chris may even try his hand at the Brewer's Apprentice in Freehold. I told him to mention my name if he went...then be prepared to run like hell.

So I scored a free parking space, had some great beer, some excellent food, great company and good conversation. In all, a pretty good afternoon.

Except for the parking.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Ecstasy and The Agony

Or the Good News and the Bad News. Or the Yin and the Yang. Or Comedy and Tragedy. Any of those diametrically opposed references will work.

 Two recent stories in a professional magazine I subscribe to called Craft Brewing Business should bring at once a smile and a frown to Beer Nuts, and especially to small brewers, who, according to one article, are most likely to be impacted.

First, the good news. Some colleges are looking to put brewpubs on campus as part of an educational initiative based on beer and the science/art of brewing. That news will probably freak out the modern day temperance movement, but from this perspective, it's perfectly rational as well as educational. An old friend once told me, "You can enjoy beer--even love it, but you can't get intimate with it until you brew it."

And that's what the above programs are attempting to do for their students. A more intimate relationship with beer will very likely lead to less--not more-- binge drinking, which is an absolutely asinine way to "enjoy" beer. In fact, the better beer one drinks, the more he learns to savor and appreciate what it is that makes beer something far more than a liquid to load into a funnel on your head. So good for those schools who are promoting the art of brewing and the appreciation of good beer.

Now the bad news. As I wrote a last week, the rise in hops prices could seriously impact those brewers who focus on hop-forward beers, like IPA's and DIPA's.

Seems my piece was a bellwether, if what this article says is true, and I believe it is. I don't know that terms like "Doomsday Scenario" apply right now, but prices are definitely going up for one simple reason: supply and demand laws are pretty much immutable. Be warned that the link in the story that goes to the Wall Street journal article will only benefit those who have a subscription to the WSJ, but the point is made. Here is a blurb from that WSJ piece, which calls hops a "grain":

"The popularity of hopped-up beers has led to a serious hops shortage in the U.S. That shortage drove the average price for all hops to $3.59 a pound in 2013, up from $1.88 in 2004, according to the nonprofit Hop Growers of America. the Washington-based merchant 47 Hops warned this spring that choicer hops, including Cascade 'will likely be over $10 a pound' by the end of 2014.
This spells trouble for smaller craft brewers, who produce fewer than 15,000 barrels annually. The increasing cost of hops could put them out of business, ironically, amid steady growth for the industry."

The main article itself is sufficiently stocked with information that drives the point home.

Thus, college students who learn to brew might not be able to ply their trade if they are hell-bent on making hoppy beers.

But there may be a bright side--and an opportunity.

Might all those college students who can't find jobs want to consider starting up hop farms? Sure, it's work. But it's work.

And, as you'll see in the next issue of NJ Brew Magazine, there's always mead.

Cheers! The PubScout

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Project Graduation: Effective deterrent to Youthful Alcohol Abuse?

            June means it's graduation time for high schools throughout the country. As predictable as senioritis is an event that many school districts build into their school calendars called Project Graduation. Usually organized by a group of caring and concerned parents, Project Graduation is designed to allow graduates to celebrate their achievements on their graduation night in a controlled, alcohol and drug-free setting.
            The real purpose, of course,  is to keep the children alive so their parents don't lose them to a tragedy on graduation night, a noble, sensible and practical goal. No parent wants to see his child's life snuffed out just as his real life is beginning. And to its credit, Project Graduation does what it was designed to do.
            For one night anyway.
            What happens the next night, and the nights thereafter (like those in college),
when the party urge is still there, but there is no controlled environment?
            The answer? Tragedies, usually.

            Some are immediate and some don't happen until months or even years later. The reasons for the tragedies are many, but principal among them is the way our society teaches its youth about alcohol--and especially about beer. When parents and nearly everyone else in authority tells them not to do it, you have a recipe for guaranteed abuse.
            Our society is, in large measure, to blame for crafting that deadly recipe. We have made this ancient, nutritious beverage a taboo rather than an adjunct to our lives. Beer is probably the world's favorite fermented beverage today, and for the same reasons it was to the ancients. It was--and is--a healthful, nutritious beverage, when enjoyed in moderation, and especially in conjunction with food. Fasting monks--who make some of the world's best beer--used it to get through fasting periods, all the while deriving
the nutritional benefits of "liquid bread."

            No sane person, however, denies that abuse of it can bring negative consequences. How, then, to educate against its abuse while accepting the many benefits beer can provide?  It is true that adults abuse beer, but it is very likely that they do so because they were not educated in its appropriate use when they were young. So the cycle continues.
            Regulation of the use of beer is absolutely essential. While many ancient cultures valued beer, only civilizations that history anoints as “great” regulated it. Regulation, however, does not mean denial as taboo, and that's what we’ve been saying for generations to our young people. The effects of that misguided policy are evident in the headlines--and the obituaries--of our newspapers.
             Hence, by their ignorance and ours, our young people compel us to initiate things like Project Graduation. Perhaps if we took a different tack--from very early on in youth-- a Project Education, if you will, we could obviate the need for one-night, stopgap measures like Project Graduation, which, for all its good intentions, is simply a temporary feel-good solution.

In Belgium, where beer occupies a status much as wine does in France, young schoolchildren are given beer during their recesses instead of milk. To be sure, it’s not a strong alcohol beer. In fact, it's usually around three or four percent, but it is beer notwithstanding and is thus far more nutritious than milk.
            More importantly, its distribution by the authorities indicates that it has a legitimate place in society. That's an important lesson for youth to learn, and it's not one that American youth are usually taught. American youth see beer as something to be done illicitly, because we have told them to "Just Say No!”
            Perhaps that is why most Europeans, especially those who have grown up with wine and beer readily available at meals, have come to see alcoholic beverages as a food complement rather than as an illicit drug designed to encourage--and excuse-- asinine and and often dangerous behavior.
            American culture waits until the magical age of twenty-one to say that beer is OK, which guarantees nothing beyond taking the excitement out of procuring and drinking beer on the day after the 21st birthday. By that time, perhaps the only lesson that has been learned (beyond how to lie about acquiring and using it) is that we drink beer for one reason: to get plastered.

            Sorry MADD moms. Simply put, America needs to rethink its approach, because the one we’re using has failed miserably.
            Does that mean that we should substitute beer for milk at every American elementary school? No--at least--not yet. For one thing, most people would say beer doesn't go as well as milk with cookies.
            But that’s only because they don't know that there are beers that go very well indeed with cookies. Like our many of our funnel-headed adolescents, these folks need Project Education, too.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Will Rising Hops Prices Spark a Return to Malt-forward beers?

Everyone knows how IPA's, Double IPA's and Imperial IPA's seem to be dominating the taps--and the beer news-- these days. As I asked in the very first issue of NJ Brew magazine four months back, have we overdone the emphasis on hops?

Turns out, that very emphasis may actually be hurting craft brewers, especially the little guys. Check out this story.

And here's another.

So, Mr. or Ms. Brewer, are hops prices having a negative impact on your operation/product or not?

Cheers! The PubScout