Monthly Archives: July 2011

“I Can’t Afford It”: The Price Factor With Craft Beers

This is in response to a number of comments I’ve gotten while talking with people about my love of beer.  The thought being that beers other than what is considered mainstream (Molson, Bud, Pabst) is too damned expensive, leaving the person feeling that the better value is to by a Two Four of something that, even they admit, tastes like watered down urine.

As someone who roughly makes about $200 a month (not including any little freelance photography work I get and not deducting any monthly bills that need to be paid) I’m going to share some of my experience in response to this frame of mind, which to me is understandable to a point.

It should be considered that this is a personal opinion and when I talk of price I’ll largely be referring to Ontario and US prices, as that’s where I primarily get my beers.

So for price, really you have to consider what you’re after and what setting this will all be in.  The two main situations I’ve heard this complaint are for parties and pub outings.  Let’s take a look at them:

At the Pub

It’s true that there are a LOT of pubs that specialize in craft beers that charge a lot for them.  In my experience though, it’s because most if not all of the brews served are imported bottles that cost an arm and a leg (I’ve seen some brews that go up to $15 for a bottle that barely fills a glass!).  I used to go to these pubs with friends after saving up a HELL of a lot, but while it’s fun to have those beers (especially with friends) financially it’s impractical and, for me at the time, made it feel that craft beer was a thing that could only be indulged in on special occasions when money allowed it and for all other times we go back to the mainstream stuff.   Well, I was a bit of an idiot then (but who isn’t when they look back on themselves?) and have since learned otherwise.

More and more, I’ve noticed pubs popping up that sell craft beers on tap and are charging, shockingly enough, regular tap prices.  One such pub here in Toronto, The Town Crier, has a whopping 50 mostly European beers on tap and charge about $5-$7 a pint for them across the board.  How wonderful is that?

And who says that you have to have international craft beers?  Try one of the best ways to get to know what’s out there in your home region and drink local!   Depending on where you are, there are plenty of pubs out there that serve, sometimes even exclusively, some amazing beers brewed within your region.  I’ve known that, while price will always vary place to place, local brews tend to be pretty reasonably priced.

Parties (Also know as a Pah-ty, Shindig, Hootenanny or Box Social)

I don’t know how the booze situation goes at parties with you normal party animals, but in my circles it’s generally a BYOB situation with the gracious host having a huge supply of something for all to consume if they so wish.  And with the beers that the guests bring in, they can choose to share or not.  So no matter what, there will always be beer.  Always.

For parties I find you’re given a choice.  Either be one of the horde and buy a six or twelve pack of, I don’t know, Heineken, or you could be “that guy” and buy a six or twelve pack of some really nice beer that tastes amazing and, hey it’s a party, has a bit of a kick to it.  Is the latter option more expensive?  If you drink just what you bought, it admittedly is.  But if there’s a beer supply from the host and other people are sharing there’s a good chance that you’ll have more than your money’s worth available to you anyways.  Plus there’s a really good upshot to bringing craft beers to a party: if you share, chances are you’ll turn someone on to that brand, they’ll do a little exploring and at the next party they’ll bring a good craft beer as well.  It sounds unlikely, but believe me it can happen.  Hell, I’ve managed to change a host’s selection by simply bringing some nice beers with me to previous parties held by them.

And that’s them.  There are more settings, of course.  Weekends alone, Fishing trips, observing the Klingon Age of Ascension…there’s loads of situations with many different factors involved and even then it’s an individual experience.  I just went through two of the main reasons for not choosing craft beer here, it’s up to you to figure out the rest.

But in a time where craft beers, especially here in Canada and to an extreme extent in America, are hitting the mainstream stores with more and more force, I’m finding that the price is dropping little by little.  It’s slow, but it is happening.    Is it more expensive in stores than some of the “glorified water” beers out there?  In a lot of cases, yeah it is.  But at the end of the day I’m more likely to buy a six pack of a beer that I enjoy rather than a six pack of a beer that I don’t enjoy and at the moment I don’t notice a large enough price gap to justify drinking the latter.

 


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Google+ Beer Workshops

YES, this has to do with the topic of this blog and NO, I’m not going to add to the pile of “How Google+ should be used” posts that already have been sprouting like weeds.  This is just an idea that I was pondering that could have some legs.

So yes, Google+ is here and for the moment, it’s growing prety steadily.  I have an account and the list of people in my “circles” is growing and growing.  I won’t lie, I’m finding it interesting.  Combining elements of both twitter and facebook to create some kind of hybrid where you can communicate with multiple people of your choice.  I’m in love with the concept of “hangouts”, where you can talk to multiple people within your circles on a web cam.

So naturally, considering the international readership I have on this blog and within that account, the mind went somewhere.  BEER WORKSHOPS.

Here’s what I wrote in a public post on Google+

Here’s what we do. We choose an agreed upon style for this particular meet. We try our best to get one bottle of the same brand and one completely different (since we’d all be in different areas). We start a Hangout, sit down, I’ll talk a bit about the style, we’ll try the agreed upon brand first and discuss the finer and lesser point of it. Then we crack open our different bottles and go around the circle (as it were) and each talk about the beer we picked and its finer and lesser points.

Does that sounds good? Would anyone be interested in that?

And that’s it.  This way, we learn about the style, talk about a common beer and learn something about a beer that’s not available in our areas.  Considering that so far people that are interested are from places like Iceland, the UK, Finland and of course the US…this could be really fun.

So that’s me just putting an idea out there.  By no means am I telling you to follow me and do it.  It’s just a fun use for this new Social Media Thing.

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The Surprisingly Complex World of Beer Glasses

Yes, more than one glass for beer exists (And I’m not talking about different logos) and more and more I’m noticing pubs actually carry them.  And while they do look nice and pretty, they are varied for a reason.  This post will go over that reason and list off some glasses along with which beer styles go with them.

So to put it as basically as possible, the glasses help bring out the best in your beer.  If you want, think of a glass as a suit or dress that just suits you SO WELL and calls attention to all the right parts, showing no flaws.  That is the job of the glass.

To get in to specifics, similar to wine glasses, different types of beer glasses help compliment different styles.  With the right combination of beer and glass, the aroma, taste and steady carbonation of the beer will be greatly complimented.  So tell that to your wine snob friends next time they laugh about how unsophisticated beer is.

Perfect example.  It was a warm summer day and my mother and I were in a pub.  She wanted something light and crisp, so she ordered a Pilsner Urquell, which was served in a Pilsner Flute Glass (see picture above).  She adored the beer’s crisp flavour, biscuity aroma and to top it off, she was refreshed by the end of it. Fast forward a month later, she’s at home and feels like another Pilsner Urquell, so she gets a can from the liquor store.  We don’t have any flute glasses at home, so she picked a random one, an Abbey Goblet (also above) and in her own words “it smelled and tasted like piss“. So once again, the right glass for your beer will REALLY help bring out it’s best qualities and have you strongly consider a second date, er, tasting.

So where can you get these fancy glasses?  Well, there are plenty of ways.  Ebay is a good bet.  So is contacting the breweries individually or kitchen stores and the like.  And yes, there’s the dishonest way (and as it happens, my late grandfathers preferred way)  of just swiping them from a pub.  But that is dishonest and you should at the very least offer to buy the glass from them.

And now, because knowing is half the battle, I’m going to teach you about some of the more common glasses you’ll find in pubs and what should go with them.  For pictures, see the picture/chart above.  Keep in mind that there are many different styles of the different styles of glasses.  A flute glass can be stemmed or not, for instance, and a particular beer needs a specific one of those and so on.

STEMMED ABBEY GOBLET: These babies are usually for holding dark ‘n heavy Belgian Abbey ales.  Suggested beers: Leffe Brune, Westmalle Tripel, La Trappe Tripel, Chimay Red

SNIFTERS: Not just for rich guys with a passion for Brandy and cigars! Beglian ales, Barley wines and Imperial IPAs are great for this glass and really brings out the aroma. Suggested beers: admittedly, Delirium Tremens is the only beer I’ve had with this glass.  But damn, it’s lovely.

FLUTE GLASSES: For Pilsners, Lambics and fruit beers.  And dear lord, they make the brew look refreshing and beautiful.  Suggested beers: Pilsner Urquell, Budvar (Or Czechvar in other places), Fruli

PINT GLASSES: The classics.  We love ’em.  Nothing screams “traditional pub drink” than a nice pint glass.  This usually takes in the mainstream stuff as well as stouts, porters and bitters!  Suggested beers: Fullers London Porter, Hobgoblin Ale, Guinness, Arrogant Bastard

TANKARDS: For when you want to quench your thirst after a bloody battle.  Suggested beers: WHATEVER YOU WANT, YOU’RE A VIKING RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. Seriously though, see above in the pint glass bit.  I find those go really well with a nice Pewter Tankard that’s been left in the freezer for a bit.

And that’s all on glasses from me at the moment.  Hope it was enlightening! And now you know what glass to expect for which type of beer!

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BEER STORY – CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE

 So a couple of weeks back my writer friend K. Patrick Glover, who no doubt read a call-out for beer-inspired art I put out on twitter,  sent me an e-mail with a story inspired by the wondrous drink which he thought would be right up this site’s alley.  Well, he was right of course, so here it is.  Thanks, Kevin!

THE CEREMONY OF INNOCENCE

By K. PATRICK GLOVER

For the late Robert B. Parker, the best there ever was.

I had come toBostonlooking for a runaway and I had found her. Unfortunately, she had no interest in returning toMichiganand after listening to her story, I had no interest in telling her parents her whereabouts.

Which meant that this little trip would not only be missing a payday, but that all expenses would be coming out of my own pocket. A reality which led me to one, inescapable conclusion; it was time for a beer.

I settled on a nice Irish looking pub that was only a block from my hotel. It was decorated in dark wood and lacked the endless television screens that littered most of the bars back inBenzieCounty.

Being mid-afternoon, the place was mostly barren. There were a few businessmen littered about, a couple of college kids skipping classes and a big guy who looked mostly like a thug sitting at the bar.

I grabbed a stool next to him, feeling more at home with thugs than business men or college kids. The bartender came over and asked to take my order. He was an older man, in formal wear, like a proper bartender. I felt like I was in an old movie, but I wasn’t sure of my lines.

“What have you got on draft?” I asked.

“Wicked, Intensity, Shock Ale, Darkest Night, Phantom and Shatter.”

I stared at him in shock and the big man next to me laughed. “It’s a sad state of affairs when you can’t tell the difference between the name of a beer and the title of the latest Dean Koontz book.” He said. “Darren, give the man a bottle of Sam Adams.”

I looked over at the man and said, “Thank you.”

“No problem. Tastes better from the bottle, anyway.”

I offered him my hand. “Nick Kellerman. I’m a private eye fromMichigan.”

“No shit.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card. “What are the odds?”

It seemed my companion was also a private detective. “Nice card.”

“Thanks.”

“The silhouette of the guy with the gun is a nice touch. Very James Bond.”

“I thought about adding master sleuth under my name, but it seemed a bit much.”

“Probably would have depended on the font. You can get away with a lot if you’ve got a good font.”

“This is true.” He took a sip of his beer and ordered another one. “What brings you toBoston?”

“Dead end case. I’m heading back tomorrow.”

I realized my beer was gone and signaled the bartender for another.

“You like Sam Adams?” my new friend asked.

“Yeah. It’s a solid beer, lots of flavor.”

He grinned and ordered another. “I’ve been drinking Sam off and on for over 40 years. I’ll get on various kicks, you know? Spend a month drinking Rolling Rock or Amstel. But I always come back to Samuel Adams. Tastes like home.”

“I know what you mean. I drink a lot of Labatt’s back inMichigan. Crisp, clean. It’s a good, everyday beer. It’s no Sam Adams, though.”

We sat there and drank for some time, exchanging stories about cases, discovering that we had some friends in common inNew YorkandPhiladelphia. He told me about his long time girlfriend, Susan. I told him about Sasha.

In the end, we exchanged information and declarations. If you ever need help with a case in, etc, etc. I’m not sure that I’ll ever need a hand inBoston. After all, I rarely leaveMichiganthese days. But if I do, I know who to call.

And I doubt if he’ll ever really need a hand inNorthern Michigan, but if he does, I’ll be glad to help out. Because we shared a night locked in an ancient ceremony, trading stories and beer and becoming, if not comrades-in-arms, then comrades in fineBostonlager.

 

 

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Wish List: The Very Very Many Varieties of Beer

The people at Pop Chart Lab came up with this little beauty..

The world’s most comprehensive beer taxonomy is now bigger and better. This new design features 89 varieties of beer with over 200 representative quaffs, including glassware recommendations for each variety, and covers six square feet with beer-soaked goodness.

Thanks to my friend Roo for finding it for me!

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ADVENTURE! (in homebrewing)

So here’s my plan for tonight…

That’s right, for the first time ever I’ll be brewing a beer from scratch.  I’m a bit nervous as I’ve only used kits before and this will be my first time running around and steeping the grains and hopping schedules and such.

The recipe is simple enough, but with a few twists due to a few circumstances.  In essence, it’s an all-grain (that’s a beer not made with any Liquid Malt Extract) clone beer of Stone Brewery’s Arrogant Bastard.  Only I’m using a different malted grain and the hopping schedule (which uses a type of hops called Chinook all the way) will get a bit of disruption at the end with some citrusy Cascade hops to compliment the aroma.

As time goes on, I’ll let you know how it turned out!  And how I made it!

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