The Setting Sun: Five of Vienna’s Best Spots for a Late Summer Beer

A colleague of mine at the Wien Museum (Vienna’s city history museum) asked me over lunch today about some of my favourite places to have a beer in Vienna. It was a fitting question. He had recently participated in a learn-to-brew day at Brauwerk and has kindled an interest in beers beyond his favourite styles. It was also a timely question. Today was my last day at the Wien Museum. Two years in this fine city, and five days left.

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The Miir Growler: Miir-ly Exceptional

In 2006, a young trendy and self-described class clown named Brian Papé was taking some ski photos at Washington’s Steven’s Pass when, while jockeying for a better sight line, he fell and cracked his thigh, HARD, on an old-growth pine. It shattered his femur and shattered femurs often throw splinters that can sever the femoral artery…which kills you fast.

Brian lay there and had a thought. It resonated with me, reading his website, because I have been there at Death’s Door, too, and I had the same thoughts. Let’s all pray that you go through your entire life not knowing what this is all about. Believe me, it’s a club you do not want to join. Here are Brian’s own words about it, and they moved me in the same way my own thoughts do…
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The Hazy Beer Thang: Cloudy, with a Chance of Sour

FACT:  Hazy beers have been made for over two decades. They were not even uncommon.

FACT:  Hazy beers are undissolved solids in suspension. It’s science, not magic or elevated craft beer alchemy.

FACT:  Undissolved solids in liqud suspension ALWAYS precipitate out. ALWAYS. Why? See second fact.

FACT:  The NEIPA is a fad. It will undoubtedly have some legs because some – not anywhere near all – beers made in that style are absolutely delightful. But it IS a fad and will pass, probably soon. That’s not even a criticism of it. Extreme IPAs were a fad. Ditto for pumpkin ales. And the Riedel beer glass. And the Gose craze is one now. “Fad” is not a pejorative term. It just says that this popularity, which is certainly warranted, has a shelf life. Which it does. 

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Deschutes Black Butte XXIX: Black Beauty, The Sequel


Deschutes Brewery’s first beer was Black Butte Porter.

Most breweries come out the chute with something a bit less menacing, more crowd-pleasin’. But Deschutes, from Day One, held their company’s slogan, “Bravely Done”, in a octopus-like grip and have operated off that ideal ever since. They arguably have the country’s greatest American-style Imperial Stout – the immortal “The Abyss” – and they tinker with it constantly, gleefully, like a bunch of tweener kids who just found an erector set in the attic. They experiment annually on two of their primary IPAs, “Hop Trip” and “Fresh Squeezed”. They found a barrel of their absolute iconic Winter ale, “Jubelale”, half buried in a snowdrift, after some would-be thieves broke into the brewery and drastically under-estimated the weight of a full 15.1 gallon steel cask, and turned that little disaster into a series of Jubel ice-ale releases, with a crazily high octane version of Jubelale that tastes like Jubelale, only waaaaaay Moreso.

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Fort George, Reuben’s, and Great Notion: The Nation’s Best IPA?

There are breweries out there, in that ever-expanding ocean that is American Indie Brewing, that are quite content to make a core of maybe eight or ten – sometimes even fewer! – beers and call it good. And if those six, eight, fourteen beers are good enough and their clientele is rut-inclined and undemanding, those producers can survive and even prosper.

But some, Thank God(!), are never satisfied and it’s in that stratum that we find the great breweries and the truly great beers.

Fort George Brewing of Astoria, Oregon, is very much in that school of Never Satisfied and it’s what made me a fan in the first place and what allows me to stay interested in and a devoted purchaser of their beers to this day…

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Parducci: A Mendocino Reinvention

When makers of beer and wine manage to stick around for decades and remain curious and self-critical and keep trying…they get better – sometimes a LOT better.

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More and more, lately, I seem to be faced with reminding people of producers whose names have become submerged a bit in that vast sea of the New and Buzz-worthy – those breweries and wineries that you probably liked at one time but trampled a bit in your understandable rush to try and explore new things. That’s not a criticism. I do it, too. Everybody does it. What’s new is always more interesting than what’s been done, seen, tasted, experienced before. That’s human nature but human nature also dictates, as time passes, that we read a name online or in a magazine or on TV that prompts a little spark to crackle inside our synapses, causing us to mutter, “Oh, yeah…”

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Full Sail @ Full Throttle: Spring Forward

Seven years ago, I would have taken a Full Sail beer if one was handed to me but the name was not at all in the front of my mind. I had tasted everything and it was all enjoyable but none of it – except for that majestic barrel-aged Imperial Stout – moved my meter much at all.

Funny how times change.

Let’s just get this out there: Full Sail Brewing, of Hood River, Oregon IS…KILLIN’…IT.

And they’re not just doing it once in a while. They send me a box of beers to review and I have to bust out my aluminum yardstick to measure just exactly how far my jaw drops with each beer. Lots of people here in the PNW felt like I did and many of them still do. They THINK they’ve seen and tasted it all from Full Sail and, in fact, I get emails from saying things like, “Full Sail? REALLY? You havin’ a slow month or what?” That used to irritate me…

Now, I just feel sorry for them.

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RateBeer Joins the Borg Collective: AB Harpoons Another One

AB has sunk its tentacles into yet another property designed to do absolutely NOTHING but gain them cred that they cannot earn for themselves and which they will now use to weaked and erode the solidarity and spirit of the American Indie Brewing community.


I posted this comment on Joe Tucker’s own post – the founder and owner of the seminal beer rating website, RateBeer.com – so I’m not going behind his back. This is what I wrote on the partnering of RateBeer with a division of Anheuser Busch…and this was me showing every bit of the restraint that I have in me…

“Joe, let me blunt, here: There is NO POSSIBLE WAY that you’re going to be able to rationalize this out and make it palatable for MOST of your users. You have just struck a deal with the Devil and NO amount of slick explanation is going to invalidate or blunt the simple FACT that you are now beholden to the very company that is making the most concerted effort – in fact, pretty much the ONLY concerted effort – to hamstring or destroy altogether this culture that has spawned your own personal success, that of the 5000 small, independent breweries that make up the Indie/Craft community, and the happiness and enjoyment we all have lived out for the past 25 years, in watching our beer horizons open wide and carry us up and out of the century+ morass of sameness and forced homogeneity of beer.”

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Pub Grub: How Alehouses, Taproom Pubs, and Beer Halls are Becoming McDonalds

I like beer too much and respect too much the amount of effort, creativity, and skill that goes into making American craft beers to continue to settle for the same tired old crap as an accompaniment.

(This post originally appeared in the seattlepi.com version of The Pour Fool, back in 2014. It was requested by about a dozen readers who had read my bio and saw that I used to be a chef for about three decades…which was far longer than that little tangent should have gone on. It was also prompted by two separate requests from young entrepreneurs in Denver, about eight weeks before this appeared, who were thinking of opening one sports bar and one alehouse. I was asked, in both cases, to give them a menu that would avoid – or at least tweak severely – the usual pub grub clichés.

Today, I’m delighted to say, this universal sameness HAS changed – a bit. But, still, in maybe 85% of all American pubs, the menus read just as I have described here. The restaurants which ARE working with Indie Beer offerings and THINKING about their food are doing tremendous things, these days…which results in me, turning over $$$ more and more often. Special Mention must go to 7 Seas Brewing, right here in my own ‘hood, Tacoma, Washington, in which JamieKey Jones and her food staff have installed 3UILT, a truly exceptional pub food eatery that does almost everything right and avoids clichés as though they had fangs and a rattle. Any pub menu on which you can find a jackfruit(!) sandwich that’s actually good AND popular…well, that’s slam-damn truly Outside The Box.)

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AB/InBev Rams 10 Barrel Down San Diego’s Throat: The Natural Acts of a Bully

YES, by God, I’m talkin’ Peer Pressure. Make 10 Barrel San Diego – I’m sorry, make that “Anheuser Busch San Diego” – the sole province of the Clueless and the Sleazy.
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TPFAs a continuation of what I wrote in the aftermath of Anheuser Busch/InBev’s purchase of North Carolina brewery, Wicker Weed, about AB’s strategy of buying themselves a presence in America’s largest Indie Beer markets, it seemed like a good idea to also point out Phase Two of AB’s shoddy little master plan to either destroy Indie Beer or control it…and, make no mistake about it, that is exactly what’s going on.

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