Category Archives: Opinion

One More Reason to Dig Dogfish Head

Dogfish Head for Life beer coaster

I’ve been drinking beer from Dogfish Head Craft Brewery for nearly a decade. I remember the first bottle of Dogfish 90 Minute IPA I drank at an Irish pub called the Squealing Pig in Boston’s Mission Hill neighborhood. It blew me away and sparked a love affair with hops and IPA.

I support Dogfish first and foremost because it brews great beer. But I also support the brewery because it’s a cool, socially responsible company with a sense of humor that genuinely cares about and values its customers. (Read, “5 Funky Facts I Learned About Dogfish from Founder Sam Calagione’s Book,” for more on Dogfish.)

Case in point: I purchased Dogfish’s new Spiegelau IPA glass the day it was released via Dogfish’s online store. Less than a month later, my glass cracked while I was hand washing it under very hot water. I didn’t drop the glass. I didn’t bump it. It didn’t shatter. It just cracked straight down its side, from the rim of the glass to close to the bottom of its “bowl.”

I tweeted about the incident, and Dogfish quickly responded, asking me to send details to its customer support account. I did so, received an email response within 24 hours and a new Dogfish IPA glass in just a few days.

Dogfish didn’t have to send a new glass; I honestly didn’t expect to get another one for free. Glasses break, right? Especially when people are drinking alcohol out of them.

That said, I also probably would not have purchased another Spiegelau IPA glass. I collect beer glasses. I own other Spiegelau glasses. I have other Dogfish glasses, and I have never had one break while simply washing it, without bumping it or anything. This makes me question the viability of the design of the IPA glass. Its features work just as Dogfish, its partner in design Sierra Nevada and Spiegelau intended them to. It provides an quality IPA drinking experience. But the glass is so thin along its rim that I bet I won’t be the only person to see their IPA glass break for no good reason.

Time will tell, but I’m still dubious. Either way, I appreciate the new glass. And even more, I appreciate the gesture of good faith. Thanks Dogfish. (Shout out to Janelle at Dogfish who responded to my email and quickly sent along a new glass.)

UBN

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Hoppiness is…

image

Happiness may be a warm gun, but hoppiness is a warm brew kettle anxiously awaiting a healthy dose of dank hops. I spent yesterday afternoon at a local craft brew shop called Barleycorn’s brewing up my own special batch of Belgian-style double IPA. My favorite part of the process was smelling and liberally applying a variety of hops through the boil. Love me some hops.

UBN

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AB InBev Responds to Watered-Down Budweiser Lawsuit with Snide Ad, Lies

AB InBev's watered down Budweiser ad

I’ve blasted AB InBev and Budweiser many times on this blog. And every time I sling harsh criticism at Budweiser, creepers come out of the woodwork to blast me for blasting Budweiser because it is apparently a beer-snob thing to do. It’s also apparently cool to defend Budweiser these days, because Budweiser’s brewmasters are actually talented brewers who create a remarkably consistent product on an insanely huge scale, which, I am told, takes real skill.

I’ll give AB InBev and Budweiser that much. They do a great job of creating cheap, shitty-tasting beer. Lots of people love Budweiser, and that’s all fine and good—lots of people love McDonald’s food, but I wouldn’t say McDonald’s serves good grub. I have family members who turn down the expensive craft brews I bring to functions for Bud Light. But the people who faithfully drink Bud products are usually more interesting in price and the ability to buy large quantities in a single, discounted pack. These people typically want non-challenging brew that tastes just like it did when they first drank it in high school. Good for them.

But I digress.

AB InBev is currently being accused of false advertisement and sued for watering down its Budweiser beer and therein offering a lower alcohol content than its bottles/cans suggest, according to Boston.com. In response to the claims, AB InBen ran a big ol’ ad in 10 newspapers last Sunday. (See above image.)

I won’t get into the merits or lack thereof in the case against Budweiser. I don’t really give a shit. Not a single one. The ad points out that the company has donated millions of cans of water to the American Red Cross and other disaster relief causes. And that’s admirable. But its donated water has absolutely nothing to do with the charges filed against the company.

The text at the bottom of the ad sums up why I harbor such harsh feelings toward AB InBev and its Bud Mud: The company is sketchy.

“[T]he beer in your hand is the best beer we know how to brew. We take no shortcuts and make no exceptions ever.”

That is complete bullshit. The adjuncts AB InBev uses, such as corn and rice, to reduce the costs of its brewing process are the definition of shortcuts and exceptions, are they not? Using a cheaper, inferior product to cut costs is a clear shortcut.

I also honestly have trouble believing that Budweiser’s talented brewmaster believe that they couldn’t make better beer than the low-quality lager they sell under the Budweiser name. Those brewers may love Budweiser and drink it regularly. But the best beer they could make? I doubt it.

UBN

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Urban Beer Nerd Self Portrait

Urban Beer Nerd self portrait

Conventional blog wisdom suggests that people want to feel like they know the writers they read. I have no idea why. Writers are idiots. And bloggers suck. Trust me. I know. You can’t really know someone without seeing what they look like. Well, I guess you can, but you’ll always be curious about appearance. So I decided to share a self portrait. And what better way to get one than with a shitty cell phone camera and a dirty bathroom mirror, just like all the fools on Instagram do. Ladies, gentlemen and everyone in between, I give you my Urban Beer Nerd self portrait.

UBN

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Barfly’s View: Bukowski Tavern in Cambridge, MA

Bukowksi Tavern in Cambridge Mass.

Last fall, I Barfly’s View’d the fuck out of Boston’s Bukowski Tavern, one of my regular haunts. Today, I’m spotlighting Buk Boston’s sister bar in Cambridge, Massachusetts’s Inman Square, which I don’t visit as often but still stop by a few times a year.

The hipster vibe is palpable at Bukowski Tavern Cambridge, probably even more so than at Buk Boston, and you’re guaranteed to spot lots of tattoos. But the bartenders are friendly enough to non-regulars, and they’re usually knowledgeable about the beer they serve. One complaint: Yesterday the beer list was a mess. I ordered two beers that were on the draft list but weren’t tapped yet. And when I asked about the rotating gueuze as the beer book told me to, I was told they no longer sell gueuze. (Get your shit together, Buk.)

My favorite thing about Bukowski Tavern Cambridge is the atmosphere. The bar is inside an old mechanics’ garage, and its facade is still composed of two garage doors with rows of square-glass windows. A long bar runs along the right side as you enter, there are booths in the middle of the long thin space and tables just inside the entrance. Bukowski and Hank-Chinaski-related imagery adorns the walls. Behind the bar, hundreds of thick glass beer steins hang above the bartenders, a testament to the popularity of Buk Cambridge’s “mug club,” which requires that you drink every bottled beer they offer within a six-month period.

From BukowskiTavern.net:

“Bukowski Tavern is not responsible for any excessive weigh gain, marriage annulments, black eyes, one night stands, or spur of the moment tribal tattoo arm bands that one may incur throughout the process of completing your mug. Although completing a mug is an awesome accomplishment, it does not shoot said customer into the ranks of infinite coolness that are currently occupied by the bar staff at Bukowski Tavern.”

Well put.

Bukowski Tavern offers more than 100 bottles at any given time, in addition to a handful of “extra special bottles,” and 30 or more drafts. Buk also has a beer engine that serves up unique cask-conditioned offerings. And you can spin the Wheel of Beer if you can’t decide what you want to drink. But if you want the truth, only fucking amateurs spin the Beer Wheel.

Bukowksi Tavern in Cambridge Mass.

Food is fairly standard pub grub, and though I’ve never actually eaten at the bar—I hit up East Coast Grill for grub when in Inman Square, which is next door to Buk—my brother is a semi regular, and he tells me the quality has gone downhill in recent days.

I also get a kick out of Bukowski’s “Hobo Special,” which gets you a hot dog and a 40-ounce of your choice for $6.99. You won’t catch me drinking a fucking 40, unless it’s made by Dogfish Head. But I’m sure lots of grimy college kids and other lowlifes take advantage of the Hobo Special.

I still prefer Bukowski Boston, but that’s largely because it has sentimental value to me. Both bars make my list of Boston’s best beer bars, and you should definitely make a stop at each if you’re ever in Boston’s Back Bay or Inman Square in Cambridge.

UBN

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On Beer and Tea

Bar sign drink beer tea sucks

“After water and tea, beer is the third most popular drink in the world.” – Garrett Oliver, in the preface to the 2011 Oxford Companion to Beer. (Oliver is the brewmaster at The Brooklyn Brewery.)

Interesting factoid. But the above image, taken last year outside of Bukowski Tavern in Cambridge, Mass., sums up my feelings on the subject.

UBN

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Massachusetts Beer Pride

Massachusetts Beer Sign

The state of Massachusetts is a beer nerd Mecca today. Sometimes it hits me just how lucky I am to live here. I know there are cities that are far ahead of Boston when it comes to craft beer and states that have been pushing quality beer for much longer than the Commonwealth.

But Massachusetts, and Boston in particular, really stepped up its game during the past few years. And the five New England states in general are now producing genuine world-class beer. I don’t think I’d be writing this blog if that weren’t the case.

Boston Beer Co. Harpoon. Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project. Slumbrew. Backlash. Mystic. Jack’s Abby. Cambridge Brewing Co. Wormtown. Notch. Rapscallion. I could go on and. And on.

So many great local breweries. So many awesome beer bars. And so many people embracing the movement.

Each and every one of these breweries, bars and people makes me proud. I’m filled to the brim with Massachusetts beer pride. Us beer-lovin’ Massholes truly have it good right now.

UBN

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AT&T Park to Get Even More Beer-Friendly Thanks to New Anchor Brewery, Restaurant and Museum

Anchor Steam Beer at AT&T Park

If you read this blog, you know I’m a beer lover. What you might not know is that I’m also obsessed with baseball. I attend dozens of MLB games each year, and I always try to visit new ballparks during my travels. My favorite park is Fenway Park in Boston. But not too far behind Fenway is San Francisco’s AT&T Park, home of the Giants.

AT&T Park is far and away the most beer-nerd-friendly ball park I’ve ever been too. It’s easy to find a good selection of Anchor brews inside the park, which already gives it an advantage over many other parks that still focus mostly on Budweiser and Coors. And there’s even a top-notch beer bar inside AT&T Park called Public House that offers a very impressive lineup of craft beer drafts.

AT&T Park will increase its beer appeal even more in the coming years. Anchor Brewing Co. today announced along with Giants that it will begin construction in 2014 on a new brewing facility not far from AT&T Park, inside the Giants’ Mission Rock Development space. The new facility is expected to quadruple Anchor’s annual beer-production capacity from 180,000 barrels to 680,000 barrels, according to a press release from the Giants. And it will also include a new restaurant and museum, as well as a restored walkway that will let pedestrians see into the Anchor brewhouse.

From that release:

“Anchor will continue to operate its facility in Potrero Hill, but will greatly expand its operations with the development of the Pier 48 facility…Pier 48, the southern-most structure of the Port’s Embarcadero Historic District, will be fully rehabilitated and re-established as an industrial hub of the central waterfront…Anchor will offer tours of the facilities and educational seminars with a focus on the history of craft beer, the art of craft distilling and Anchor’s history in San Francisco. “

Though the new brewing facility isn’t actually inside AT&T Park, it’s within walking distance, and the brewery/museum will be a great place to swing by for a few brews before the baseball game. The actually facility won’t likely be operational until 2016 at the earliest, according to RealBeer.com, so it’ll be a while before Anchor opens the doors, but I look forward to checking it out as soon as possible.

UBN

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Spiegelau Beer Connoisseur Glasses for the Discerning Beer Nerd

Spiegelau Beer Connoisseur Glasses

Specialty-glass-maker Spiegelau has been getting a lot of attention this month thanks to the introduction of its new IPA glass, which was designed along with Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (That glass looks remarkably like a wine glass from Riedel, a Spiegelau sister company, but that’s another story altogether.)

Spiegelau has been making fancy glasses for beer aficionados for quite some, though. In fact, Spiegelau’s Beer Connoisseur set, which is composed of one wheat beer glass, one lager/blond glass, one tulip and a tall pilsner glass, is probably my favorite set of unbranded glassware. I got my set as a gift from my girlfriend, and I use it constantly. I prefer to use branded glassware whenever I can—I’m just as much of a beer-glass nerd as I am a regular ol’ beer nerd. But, honestly, the quality of these four Spiegelau glasses is higher than 90 percent of the branded glasses in my collection anyway, and I drink so many different kinds of beer that using corresponding branded glassware isn’t always an option.

Spiegelau glass is very thin and delicate. And it’s also quite expensive. This set of four glasses sells for $49.90 plus shipping in the official Spiegelau’s online store, but Amazon.com will sell you the same set for $39.99 plus shipping. (Free shipping is available for Amazon Prime members.) All of the glasses have the Spiegelau logo on their bases.

From Spiegelau:

“Each of these glasses is especially blown thin, and has a thin rim that lifts the perception of mouth feel and taste. The beer specific glass shape supports the beer in releasing its full spectrum of flavors and delivers them to nose and mouth.”

My favorite glass is the tulip, because I drink a lot of Belgian and Belgian-style ales that are best suited to this type of glass. It’s very well designed, and it just feels elegant. I also use the lager glass quite a bit for lagers and hoppy ales—though I’ve mostly been using the Dogfish Spiegelau glass for IPAs.

Spiegelau Beer Connoisseur Glasses Logo

Amazon.com says they are dishwasher safe, but I always hand wash my glasses just in case; they don’t feel dishwasher safe.

Again, these glasses aren’t cheap but if you take care of them they should last a long time. And they genuinely do enhance the beer-drinking experience.

UBN

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Five Fantastic Flemish Sour Ales

Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge Flemish sour red ale

A few months ago, I wrote a post spotlighting my favorite sour beers. That post has since become one of the most popular entries on this blog—based on page views—because a whole lot of people apparently search Google for “sour beer” and “the best sour beers.”

Many different styles of sour beer exist today, but my single favorite style is the Flemish or Flanders sour red/brown ale.

If you’re unfamiliar with the style it consists of Belgian red or brown ales aged in oak for long periods of time, sometimes multiple years, and then typically blended with “younger” beer of the same style to balance the acidic, sour flavor.

From the Oxford Companion to Beer:

“Oak aging allows lactic fermentation to occur and some additional conditioning by slowly working yeasts, turning the beer slightly sour like neatly aged wine, though many varieties [of Flemish/Flanders aged ales] are later softened by the addition of younger beer.”

Flemish sour ales are often favored by red-wine drinkers because of the crossover in taste. They’re also extremely refreshing. These beers are often expensive, at least compared to other brews, but a lot of work goes into them and they’re usually well worth the price, in my opinion. Here’s a quick list of the best Flemish/Flanders red/brown sour ales I’ve tasted:

1) Brouwerij Bockor Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge

My single favorite Flemish sour ale is Bockor Brewery’s Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge. It’s very sour and acidic yet impressively balanced.  Cuvée des Jacobins Rouge is made from spontaneously fermented beer that’s been aged in oak for at least 18 months.

2) Anything Rodenbach

The most common, easiest to find and least challenging Rodenbach beer is the brewery’s flagship Rodenbach Red. It’s the least sour of its brews, and it’s a great starting point for drinkers looking to experiment with the Flemish sour style and sour beer in general. Folks with an established taste for sour beer will also appreciate Rodenbach’s Grand Cru, which is more sour than Rodenbach Red because it’s composed of more older-aged beer and less young beer, and Rodenbach’s Reserve series.

3) Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck Bacchus

Castle Brewery Van Honsebrouck’s Bacchus Flemish brown ale is another must-try Flemish sour beer. It’s similar to the other beer noted here, but it has a very fruity aroma.

4) Brouwerij Verhaeghe Duchesse de Bourgogne

Duchesse de Bourgogne, or just “Duchesse” as it’s often called in beer bars, is a reddish-brown Flemish sour ale that’s notable due to its strong vinegar taste, which blends nicely with its sour body. The beer is top fermented and is a blend of eight-month and 18-month-old oak-aged beers.

5) Brouwerij Verhaeghe Vichtenaar

Vichtenaar is another top-notch Flemish sour ale from Brouwerij Verhaeghe, and it’s aged in oak casks for at least eight months, but unlike most of the other beers featured in this post, it’s not blended with any other younger or older beer.

Those are my five favorite Flemish sour ales. Drop a comment below if you know of any other worthy Flemish sour brews that should be on my list.

UBN

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