Friday, March 24, 2006

Stomach, Friend or Foe?

To paraphrase author Samuel Blythe, "The human stomach will easily accommodate numerous quantities of beer, but the human stomach cannot handle a similar quantity of any liquid that does not cheer or inebriate." Written in an article titled, THE OLD GAME in 1914, there has never been a more true sentence. Sammy went on to say that he tried to prove this fact by trying to drink as much water as he would drink pilsner and he could never do it. I understand.

The college rugby days had many an all night quarter bounce game, followed by a shot-gun can of beer, a small funnel chug, and then leisurely drinking until the night was over. Try that with a few gallons of water. I don't think it is possible to finish the same quantity of liquid with water as with beer. The Blythe cheer factor comes into play. Water is boring. As I have matured, the drinking games were replaced by multiple pint glasses and intellectually stimulating conversation. Well, maybe just the multiple pint glasses. The stomach still seems to hold a lot of beer. "Come on, one more." I know those words come from our friends sitting on the barstool next to us and those same words also come from the inner workings of our intoxicated brains, but do they come from our stomach? I have a funny feeling our stomach just doesn't know when to quit. That and the efficient way beer is transferred from inside our body to the outside. Our stomach is probably much smarter than we give it credit for. He gets full, sends it off to the kidneys and the next thing we know, the seal is broken. And that my friends is the secret to intoxication. Our stomach doesn't ever actually become full. He passes the buck and allows us to drink more and more.

I have a good friend, a philosopher of sorts. His mission in life was to always play rugby and live in quest of the ultimate tan. He is in his 50's now, and damn him, he plays rugby every chance he can get and his skin is as dark as ever. He once said to me, "Don't eat your drinking money." It took me years before I ever realized the deeper meaning to his words. Initially, I thought he meant, If a person only has so much money to spend on a night out, don't use a portion of it on food, save it for drink. It was when I read the words of Samuel Blythe that the true meaning dawned on me. "If you eat, you idiot, your stomach will get full and you won't be able to drink."

Atlantic City Beer Festival:

This event was a blast. Over 100 different beers to sample, live Irish music (St. Patrick's Day weekend), thousands of beer lovers, it was beer drinker's paradise. Stone Brewing, recently brought into New Jersey was there. Their Arrogant Bastard Ale was fabulous. DogFish Head from Delaware was in full force, as was Heavyweight Brewing, Lancaster Brewing, Brooklyn Brewing and one of my Local favorites, Riverhorse Brewing. Imports like Chimay, Paulaner and Guinness, had their full line-ups spread out for everyones enjoyment. Even Budweiser, had some new brews to sample. The Highlight of the festival was sampling Sam Adams, Utopia. A 25% alcohol, $140 bottle of beer. One of the best tastes to ever cross my lips. The Tun Tavern also saved a cask of their award winning Freedom Ale, Barleywine, awesome. The beer stands were set up in a large oval. I cannot remember how many laps we did, but my brain was not to happy the next morning. It seems in the excitement of things, I forgot my beer festival rule of drinking a bottle of water every half hour or so. In addition to feeling no pain that afternoon, the hangover the next day was priceless. This will be an annual event. Start thinking about next year. I am.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Pied Piper of Beer

The Pied Piper, so the story goes, played his pipe in the town of Hamelin, collecting all of the mice as he marched through the streets. As he played his merry tune, the rodents followed the Piper out of town. The sad part of the story is that when the Piper was not paid for his services, he stole 130 children. You don't really hear much about that part of the story. Actually, the piper was blamed for the missing children, but was never proven guilty. It seems during the 1200's, parents gave their children up to the crusade movement, their guilt forced them to blame the Piper.

Okay, I went off track a bit there. The Pied Piper had the ability to start a movement. With his merry tune, one mouse started to follow him down the street, which led to two, then three, four, five, and so on, until hundreds and hundreds of mice followed the Piper out of town. Every single mouse in the town was completely on board with the Piper. The same thing is happening with good beer, the only difference is that we have many Pied Pipers. Is Samuel Adams a Pied Piper of beer? Sure is. Boston Beer Company's Beer had taste and also had the advertising campaign that started the Pied Piper ball rolling. Once people tried the beer and liked it, word of mouth took over and more and more people made the switch to good beer.

This happens with all of the microbrews. Flying Dog, Smuttynose, Allagash, Heavyweight, Dogfish head, Riverhorse, Victory and Flying Fish too name a few, are all Pied Pipers of Brewing. In the small world of microbrewing, these breweries do not have the budget of Samuel Adams to spend money on national print and television ads. So maybe they rely on catchy phrases or the stylish artwork on their cardboard six pack cartons to grab our attention. Once our attention is grabbed, hopefully we will buy the beer and enjoy it. We then tell a friend and maybe even our local tavern. Word spreads and more and more people are drinking good beer.

The only way to keep good, quality beer in the forefront of consumers is for us to drink good quality beer. I know this is a tough mission. Not many are up for the task. But you and I are the chosen few. It is our responsibility to try different beers, to speak up to our beer store managers. Let them know which beers we like and which beers we are willing to purchase. If Microbreweries are the Pied Pipers, we are the legion of beer followers that will ensure quality beer of many different styles, finds its way into our lives.

The Beer

Sierra Nevada, Celebration Ale. The innovators of hoppy beer in America, Sierra Nevada pioneered the hoppy style of beer in the beginning of the microbrew movement. Celebration Ale doesn't disappoint. The brewers from Chico, California have made a seasonal ale that is as hoppy as an IPA. A terrific brew.

Pinkus Organic Original Munster Ale. This German Alt beer poured a hazy golden color with a thin head. At 5.1% alcohol, the beer had a refreshing wheat beer taste. Slight cloves with a surprisingly dry after bite finish. Coupled with the sweet smell, this beer was very enjoyable.

JU JU Ginger. Ale brewed with ginger from the Left Hand Brewing Co., Colorado. This was a very light beer in taste and in alcohol as it came in at less than 4%. Hazy, orange color with a citrus taste. Just a hint of ginger. I would have liked more. This beer was very refreshing and would make an excellent beach beer.