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Sunday, May 6, 2012


Beer On The Run

Just returned from a quick trip to Fort Myers Beach in Florida. I love that stretch along the Gulf Coast because in a very short space you can go from a relatively secluded, serene setting teeming with wildlife to Jimmy Buffet Parrot-head beach party chic. It's a great place to spend some time, especially this time of year when temperatures in Central New York stubbornly cling to the 30's and 40's and the sun is a rare visitor. In fact, this little part of the world is practically paradise - if only you could get some good beer! At the risk of sounding like the proverbial broken record, I once again have to say that it seems that the warmer the climes, the lighter the beer. One of our favorite little places to stop for a quick appetizer and drink has a large outside deck overlooking the gulf. It's a pleasant place for a drink - the only problem is that the beer choices are: Bud, Bud Light, Coors Light, Miller Lite, Yuengling, Sunset Ale and something called Blowfish Ale. I asked our waitress about the Blowfish Ale. She said, "Well, it's basically Pabst Blue Ribbon." I had a Sunset Ale, which is very similar to Yuengling.

But on our way to lunch at Matanza's, we walked by a place called "Zushi, Zushi." It's a fairly new sushi bar. Suddenly my wife nudged me and said, "Look!" And what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a sign proclaiming, "Over 200 Craft Beers!" Attached to Zushi Zushi is a bar called House of Brewz. It's been open only a month or so and they have an impressive array of craft beers, with 50 plus on tap and an enormous selection of bottles (and cans). I had found paradise in paradise!
Check out their web site and directions here:   If you happen to be in the Fort Myers Beach area, it is definitely worth the stop.

While there I had Napa Smith Organic IPA, Ballast Big Eye IPA and Great Divide Hercules DIPA. All fine beers.

Later on our trip, we were in Orlando and had the opportunity to dine at Shipyard Brewing Company's brewpub. Shipyard is out of Portland, Maine. Had a very tasty Porter. Their ESB was a pleasant session beer. They also had on tap an Ommegang brew and Cigar City's Jai Alai IPA.

We finished the evening off at Orlando's World of Beers. In the space of a few days we had hit three terrific venues for craft beer. Good beer in hot weather! It's a beautiful thing. And speaks volumes about the growing popularity of craft beer.



One of the things that defines craft brewing is the incredible variety of brews and interesting takes on styles that innovative brewers produce. Unshackled by the mega-brew mandate of cheap ingredients and a minimum of hops, craft brewers have given us an amazing array of interesting beers. In New York State this has been aided by a tax exemption given to in-state brewers from a $150 brand label registration fee. In March, the New York State Supreme Court ruled in favor of a Massachusetts importer who claimed that an exemption to this tax and a 14 cent per gallon tax on beer produced gave an unfair advantage to in-state breweries. The exemption had helped fuel the growth of breweries in New York. The ruling could result in two unfortunate outcomes: 1. The cost of New York craft beers would go up, thus widening the gap between the cost of good beer and mass produces mega-brews, and 2. Fewer choices of interesting brews.
This will be an unfortunate development. Due to the fact that craft brewers use superior ingredients to make a superior beer to the mega-brews, craft brews are already more expensive than Bud-whatever. Craft brew aficionados have been willing to pay this in order to drink better beer. Now it appears we will have to pay even more. Not to mention the possibility that this will slow down the growth of craft brewing in New York - one of the few industries that have steadily grown in the state, adding much needed jobs and stimulating local economies.


A Little Bock History

Many years ago, here in the US, if you were looking
Getting Down to Business.
for something different when it came to American beers, you had to wait until spring. Spring was when a number of the smaller breweries that had avoided being gobbled up or driven out by the big guys produced their Bock beers. I remember looking forward to Bock beers because they meant something different and tastier than the average American brew. Each year that familiar green can with the goat would appear as Genesee rolled out their annual bock. Of course, legends grew up around Bocks. Because they were produced in the spring and they were much darker than they normal yellow lager out there, the myth developed that Bocks were a by-product of the left over sludge at the bottom of the barrels. That which remained after the "real" beer had been bottled. This is total nonsense. The Bock style is a distinctive style that goes back several centuries. It originated in the town of Einbeck in the 14th century. The beer was characterized by a darker color, a malty flavor with a slight hops presence. In the 17th century, brewers in Munich adapted the style to a lager. The style was known as Einbeck, after the town of origin, but when pronounced with a Bavarian accent, the name sounded like "Ein bock" which translates as "male goat" (or billy goat, as we call it). The symbol for the beer ever since has been a billy goat as a sort of enduring visual pun.
The BOTB guys decided to take on Doppelbocks or Double Bocks this month. These are essentially Bock beers on steroids. They are bigger, bolder and stronger than typical Bocks.


THE BEER FACTS:  6.7% ABV, Ranked among the best beers in the world by the Chicago Testing Institute and has won several Platinum Awards
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "A beer that has a dominant malty taste. This beer's origins in a monk's recipe are reflected in its heartiness.
POUR: Decent head, like chocolate milk
COLOR: Dark amber, almost brown.
AROMA: Yeasty/sweet
BODY: Full, thick - with a full mouth feel, you could almost chew it
TASTE: Sweet and malty, with notes of biscuit, bread or bread dough, with a sour back taste
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: "I could drink this!"
COMMENTS: "I COULD drink this; It grows on you; Close to a porter. I'm not a huge fan of porters, but I like this; Almost a dessert beer; There seems to be more taste to it than a regular Bock; I taste coffee; Smooth; Warm aftertaste - surprising considering it's not a real high alcohol beer."


THE BEER FACTS: 9.5% ABV - sold in 12 ounce 4-packs. Available year-round. 2-row malt, Noble Hops. No black malt is used, eliminating the burnt malt taste.
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "One cannot help but appreciate Samuel Adams Double Bock's huge malt character. We use and enormous amount of malt, half a pound per bottle, to brew this intensely rich lager."
POUR: Decent to slightly less than average head
COLOR: Rich mahogony
AROMA: Yeasty/malty
BODY: Medium to Full, thick
TASTE: Sweet with a definite alcohol presence, with notes of bread and toffee
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Midway between "I could drink this!" and "Can't get enough!"
COMMENTS: "You can notice the alcohol; It fills the mouth; These guys have their (act) together; It is complex - hits a lot of notes when swished around the mouth; A very interesting taste."


THE BEER FACTS: 9.4% ABV - Not technically a double, but at 9.4% it qualifies. It's a Rauch Bock, which means "smoked Bock" 
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "Smoky and rich, this brew begins with a rush of smoky, almost savory, aromas and flavors. The distinctive campfire smokiness of a rauchbier lingers and begins to reveal the rich and velvety malt smoothness of a double bock with notes of toffee and caramel. This roguish brew transforms from iths bold start to a hearty and satisfying finish." 
POUR: Decent head
COLOR: Mahogany
AROMA: Yeasty/malty/smoky
BODY: Full, thick
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: "I could drink this!"
COMMENTS: "Fills the mouth almost as much as Sam Adams Double Bock; It's like dipping bacon in beer; I liked it a lot; I bet it would be good with eggs and toast; I think it would appeal more to a niche market as would a smoky porter."


THE BEER FACTS: 8.5% ABV - brewed with imported Munich malts and Tettnanger Nobel Hops. Silver medal 2005 GABF.
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "A true Bavarian style Doppel (Double) Bock specially brewed with only improted Munich Malts that provide this Bier with intense, yet exceptionally smooth dark caramel and molasses flavors. The huge up front malt character has a wonderfully smooth strong alcohol presence that is balanced by imported Tettnanger Noble hops, making this bier incredibly rich and complex."
POUR: Decent head, with lingerie lacing. Separates nicely
COLOR: Mahogany
AROMA: Toward the malty side
BODY: Medium
TASTE: Toward the sweet side, with notes of butterscotch or toffee
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: I could drink this!
COMMENTS: "Pretty sweet; Very interesting aftertaste; Good beer; Very malty with a little hops aftertaste; It's a decent beer; You could have a few of these; Not terribly complex, but a good, solid bock."


THE BEER FACTS: 7.8% ABV - MALTS: Harrington 2-row, Munich, Cara 45, Chocolate. HOPS: Hallertau (U.S. version of German Nobel Hops).
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "'Rock and Roll' may have been coined in Cleveland, but the influence of this genre reaches far beyond the shores of Lake Erie. Our Doppelrock bears witness to everything double: double bock flavor, dueling rockers and the double neck guitar made famous by many rock legends."
POUR: A bit short of having a decent head
AROMA: Sweet/malty
COLOR: Mahogany
BODY:  A little thicker than medium
TASTE: Malty/bready/sweet with notes of toffee
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: I could drink this!
COMMENTS: "A little smoky; Dark roast malt; A little cleaner than most of the others; Pretty nice finish; Not as cloying; Easy to drink; Except for Holy Moses, and their Christmas seasonal, I haven't run across a Great Lakes I haven't liked; Love that Great Lakes."


THE BEER FACTS: 8.2% ABV - 25 IBU's - MALTS: Pilsner, Munich, Chocolate - HOPS: Hallertau, Saaz - YEAST: Lager
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "A double bock of epic proportions, beware, the Toegenator is deceiving smooth and delicious." 
POUR: A bit short of a decent head
COLOR: Rusty, brown/amber
AROMA: Malty, a little banana
BODY: Medium
TASTE: Sweet, with notes of dark sugar, banana, and butterscotch
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Between "I could drink this!" and "Leave it on the shelf."
COMMENTS: "A little over-sweet; Too sweet; Over the top sweet; Dessert/after dinner drink; If snow was still on the ground, it would be a dessert beer; Sweet, but I like it; Nice label; It's my least favorite so far."


STRAY FACT: Clipper City Brewing Company has a sort of hierarchy classification - not unlike the scientific taxonomy of living creatures (kingdom, phylum, class...) With this beer we begin with Clipper City Brewing Company at the top, followed by these sub-categories: Heavy Seas Brewing Company - Mutiny Fleet - Hang Ten.
THE BEER FACTS: 10% ABV - Listed as "retired" but we were able to obtain a couple of bottles. German style Weizen Doppelbock.
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "A classic German-style weizen(doppel) bock, slightly cloudy and bursting with flavor. It will benefit with aging up to two years. VINTAGE DATED." (The bottles we tested were dated 2010 - so they had indeed had the opportunity to age appropriately.)
POUR: Less of a head than most, some lacing.
COLOR: Unfiltered amber.
AROMA: Yeasty/malty, fruity and sweet.
BODY: Full/thick
TASTE: Sweet, with notes of butterscotch
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: I could drink this!
COMMENTS: "Almost a dessert beer, it's so sweet; Great label; One of the better wheat beers I've ever had - certainly one of the best two or three; I had never thought about a wheat beer being a bock; There is certainly a unique taste - like butterscotch or toffee - very warming; Nice tucked-up-by-the-fire-with-a-gale-raging-outside sort of beer; A nice hoppy beer would be a good follow-up."


VooDoo Vator head AFTER
settling a bit!
THE BEER FACTS: 9.5% ABV - 26 IBU - MALTS: 2 Caramel malts, Munich.
WHAT THE BREWER SAYS: "This one is black and sweet. Its malty character derives from two caramel malts plus Munich malt, to create the smoothest high gravity beer."
POUR: HOLY COW!!! Super carbonated, beyond Guinness class. Meringue-like monster head that has real staying power.
COLOR: Deep brown almost black (despite what the brewery says)
AROMA: Sweet with a hop presence, with notes of malt, toffee, and coffee. It also had somewhat of a tart finish.
BODY: Full, Thick
TASTE: Sweet with a hop presence, with notes of malt, toffee, and coffee. It also has a somewhat tart finish.
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS: Midway between "I could drink this!" and "Can't get enough!"
COMMENTS: "Preferable to some because of a hop presence; Better than a milk moustache; A different taste for a doppelbock because of the hops; Probably a true bock lover wouldn't care a great deal for this; The heady pour is the most memorable part of this beer."


Kind of a tough call as to which was the favorite. They all fell roughly around the "Can't get enough!" range. This makes sense with any big beer like this in that, as tasty as it might be, you are not going to drink multiple pints of beers at the 8% ABV and up range. With some of these beers it would be close to the equivalent of downing a pint of wine. More than one might be just a bit much. Be that as it may, the top two seemed to be Samuel Adams Double Bock and VooDoo Vator Doppelbock. Toward the bottom was Troegenator, which came off as overly sweet and a bit cloying. 
The others were tasty brews which would make excellent sipping beers.  

Thought we'd finish off this month's post with a classic piece of literature. Back in 1914, a man by the name of Bill Carney was sent to the little town of Osceola, NY to "dry out." Osceola is in Lewis County in the rural northern reaches of New York State. He spent a summer there, and ultimately penned the following poem which has become immortal in this part of the world. I thought I might just share it with a wider audience. The poem was written in a letter to a friend back in Utica (whose name is also Bill, by the way).

Osceola My Ass

Friend Bill,

I am here in the country at work with my spade,
And I think it's the last place that God ever made.
There is nothing in sight but the hills and the trees,
And the swamps where you sink in the mud to your knees.
I'm as lonesome as Hell, and my only pastime
Is to sit down and write some damn foolish rhyme.
I can look out the door and see nothing but grass,
Up in dear Osceola, Osceola my ass!

I have grown rather thin since I came to this place,
And I don't look as good as I did in the face.
That bright glow of health is fast leaving my cheek,
And the rich crimson color has gone from my beak.
Though there's nothing to drink but tea, coffee and milk,
And buttermilk, too, we all drink by the glass,
Up in dear Osceola, Osceola my ass!

I don't know how long I can stand it like this,
There is not the least smell of beer in my piss;
And I think every night as I sit in my chair,
Of the old Hotel Phelan - how I wish I was there!
It is the longest that I have ever been on the rock,
And for God's sake, Bill, send me half a barrel of stock,
And I will drink to your health as I fill up my glass,
Up in dear Osceola, Osceola my ass!
I don't know what possessed me to come way out here,
For the folks never heard of Fort Schuyler Beer!
The people up here are a queer lot of mugs,
And I wish I was back with the rest of the bugs!
And believe me, this isn't my first big mistake,
For I'm all the time making some damn foolish break,
I go fishing for trout and catch nothing but bass-
Up in dear Osceola, Osceola my ass!

There is a place called Florence, nearly four miles from here,
Where they sell rotten whiskey and damn sight worse beer,
And up here it's hotter than Hell in July,
So it is then I will know what it is to be dry.
Just imagine me out in the fields pitching hay,
And the nearest saloon nearly four miles away!
On Sunday we have to drive four miles to Mass,
Up in dear Osceola, Osceola my ass!

But I can not leave now, for it's easy to see,
That they'd have hard work getting along without me.
I feed the horses and milk the cows,
And gaze on me pushing that god-damned old plow!
And plowing is something I don't like to do,
How I wish I was back there with you and your crew.
Yes, I'd like to be with you tonight, but Alas!
I'm in dear Osceola, Osceola my ass!

Some fool once wrote a song and described all the charms
Of the bright, happy days he spent on the farm,
How in childhood he'd wandered o'er valley and dell,
Chasing chipmunks and raising particular Hell!
How the songs of the bull-frog he'd love to admire.
And he'd never wrote that if his childhood he'd passed
Up in dear Osceola, Osceola my ass!

Well I have learned what seeds I should sow,
And what kind of shit makes the cabbages grow. 
With all of the farmers I've got quite a pull,
While I'm spreading manure I'm not throwing the bull!
I'm beginning to act like a big country boob,
When I go to the city, I'll blow out the gas,
I'm from dear Osceola, Osceola my ass!

Well, regards to the bunch and especially your dad,
For it's many a good laugh and smile we have had.
I would give fifty dollars, if I had the dough,
Just to hear Brother David recite "Osler Joe."
Now, Bill, I hope you will write to me soon,
And perhaps I'll be down there the last week in June,
For I know very well I am out of my class -
Up in dear Osceola, OSCEOLA MY ASS!


The BOTB Guys