From the Bottle Collection: 5 Days Before Christmas Beer

One Bottle Collection beer for every day before Christmas. Rating system: not actually meant as a “tense” comment. All these beers either don’t exist anymore, or I tasted in the past. Hopefully, if not so hot before, they’re better now. If they do still exist. Or hopefully, if not better they’re as dead as the… Dickens.

Note: the ghosts have varied a bit over the various versions, but even Mr. Magoo’s version the Future was bleak. In the pictures chosen for this series the most visually pleasing ghost was Present.

Ghost of Christmas Present… remember him? Jolly, fun: the kind of guy you’d invite to a party for the season, and the kind of beer you could bring to a festive affair and not be totally laughed out of the room by festive beer geeks. That’s the best a beer gets in this series. Now Ghost of Christmas Past isn’t a great award. You can see from the picture he can be a bit of a grump. Probably from mediocre’ beer. And best not bring a Ghost of Christmas Past Beer to a beer geek festive affair. You’ll be the limp wet noodle of the party. A Ghost of Christmas Future beer? You remember that guy, right? If you want to be laughed at, have to bring most of your offering home and feel like you’ve just attended your own funeral instead of a party, bring a Ghost of Christmas Future beer. Some Ghost of Future Beer might best serve as embalming fluid.

Written by Ken Carman

Anderson Valley Seasonal Solstice

I hate to slightly disappoint those who might expect me to be more positive regarding a craft beer early in the rise of craft to counter the even bigger dominance of AB and Miller back then, especially one trying to do a Winter seasonals few did, but I don’t remember this one in the slightest. If I hated it; I’d remember. If I loved it; I’d remember. Solution: a rather bland, unremarkable, past attempt by one of the early craft brewers.

Yes, you have to give them just an ounce of credit for doing so, but that early in craft beer I would have gone nuts over this. I didn’t. I haven’t seen this bugger for a while. Of course I haven’t looked for it. Maybe they still make it. I have read that the brewery has installed all kinds of solar array stuff and they recycle labels. The owners have changed too. One hopes the beer has gotten more impressive than this was.

So one rather bland Ghost of Christmas Past award it tis..

Without intent, I have collected well over 1,000 beer bottles since the early 70s. When something finally had to be done about the cheap paneling in this old modular, I had a choice. Tear down the walls while, oh, so carefully, replacing the often rotted 1X3s. Or: cover them with… The Bottle Collection.

‘Beer in TX’ is No More

Written by Eric Braun for

Perhaps the most nonsensical of all the Texas beer rules and regulations — although there are plenty to go around — is the rule that dictates what a beer is called based on whether or not it’s above or below 5% in ABV (alcohol by volume). That rule was struck down by Judge Sam Sparks in a ruling yesterday. He also struck down the rule against producers being able to tell customer where to find their beers.

If you’ve ever noticed a label that read ‘Beer in TX,’ it was likely an ale that couldn’t be called an ale because it was under 5%. Meanwhile, lagers over 5% had to be called an ale or malt liquor. As beer lovers know, ales and lagers are the two main different types of beer and the difference isn’t ABV.

This was based on a lawsuit filed by Austin’s Jester King Brewing and others a few months ago which I wrote about here. Essentially, Judge Sparks found that the labeling rules and the rules against beer manufacturers being able to tell consumer where to find their beer to purchase were both unconstitutional according to the guarantees of the first amendment. So those rules will go away assuming there are no successful appeals or other funny business.

Unfortunately, the judge ruled against using the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment to cancel out the regulations wherein brew pubs can’t sell outside of their buildings and breweries can’t sell inside their buildings. That might have been wishful thinking, but it was worth a shot.
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Top Ten: Craft Beer Themes of 2011


List of Ten by Bryan Kolesar@

PHILADELPHIA, December 16, 2011 – 2011 may not have seen much in the way of brand new industry-wide development or innovation. However, that did not stop the following list of themes from continuing to grow deeper roots and being taken to a continually widening audience.

10. Eat, Drink, Food, Beer

The concept of centering a dinner around a beer theme has grown over the past several years and seemed to explode across the beer landscape in 2011. Pizza shops paired Italian craft beers with a variety of pizzas. Fine dining restaurants and award-winning chefs created multi-course gastronomical affairs with some of the country’s leading brew masters. Cheesemongers set up tastings to highlight the more-often-than-not superiority of beer pairings than that of wine. From region to region and across the spectrum of dining options, the way in which beer is enjoyed is changing and the idea of beer and food compatibility has become more accepted and appreciated than ever.

9. Better with age?

Beer enthusiasts have stashed away some of their beers in hopes of discovering a drinkable product better than when it was first delivered fresh from the brewery. A blended Lambic beer like Boon Mariage Parfait from 2004 has a bottle stamp proclaiming it “best by” the year 2028. In recent years, the better beer bars of the mid-Atlantic – ChurchKey (Washington), Monk’s Café (Philadelphia), and Max’s (Baltimore) to name just three – have carved out a special nook on their beer menus to showcase their own cellaring programs and the wondrous potential of aged beer. Certain beers age differently and sometimes better than others; beer enthusiasts are having a blast trying to figure out which beers.

8. Keep it fresh, keep it local

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Herald Beer Experts Talk Home Brewing

Mark Galletly of Marks Home Brew. Picture by Anita Jones

NOTE: The Professor, never having been to Australia, will not question the following statement that’s NOT necessarily true in America: “Whether you use basic kits or mash with malted grain, the results are likely to be better, and cheaper, than average commercial beers.” But the article does provide an interesting perspective on homebrewing in Australia.

Written by Stephen Jones for

HOME brewing has come a long way in recent decades. Whether you use basic kits or mash with malted grain, the results are likely to be better, and cheaper, than average commercial beers. Home brewing doesn’t take up a lot of time, and the gear you buy should soon pay for itself. But be warned: having a lot of good beer at home can lead some people to imbibe a bit more than they should.

Jeff Corbett

WHEN I started brewing in 1980 it was in a big bucket using Saunder’s malt extract and sugar from the supermarket, hop essence from a health food shop and yeast that had been smuggled out of a brewery.
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Beer Chocolate, the Latest Candy Innovation, Now on Tap

And don’t forget the bacon chocolate, fellas

No writer attributed. From The Wall Street Journal

A growing number of confectioners have crossed what may be the final frontier in candy flavoring: candy made with beer.

They’ve worked out technical kinks — beer burns at the high temperatures used to make many kinds of candy — and developed a market for sweets they describe as “hoppy,” “malty” and “yeasty.”

It’s all part of a push by specialty chocolatiers to make candy more manly, and to get men to reach for a stout caramel or India Pale Ale bonbon as eagerly as they might grab a nice cold one.
Last month, Vosges Haut Chocolat, a chocolate company with an estimated $23 million in sales, rolled out a “Smoke and Stout Caramel Bar,” made with a beer brewed from dark-roasted malt. Gourmet retailer Dean & DeLuca sells a six pack of Roni-Sue’s black-stout and India Pale Ale caramels for $16.95. Anette’s Chocolate Factory has won industry awards for both its Beer Brittle and Firey Beer Brittle, accented by cayenne pepper.
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N.Y. Lawmaker Kicks Off Efforts to Get Craft Beer in C-stores

Beer is in convenience stores all over the country, but states generally don’t legislatively encourage their C-stores to carry craft beer made in that state. Mr. Schumer is to be commended.-The Professor

Written for No author credited.


ALBANY, N.Y. — As craft beer grows in popularity one New York legislator has launched a campaign to push the state’s offerings.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer kicked off his “I Love NY Brew” campaign yesterday in a bid to get locally brewed beer in area convenience stores, restaurants and bars. The move is an effort to grow the industry and allow breweries across the state to expand their businesses.

In a letter to the National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) and the New York State Restaurant Association, Schumer urged both groups to stock their shelves with beer brewed at the 77 microbreweries, regional craft breweries and brewpubs in New York. He added that pushing locally brewed beer onto convenience store shelves and into restaurants in major cities like New York City would be a major step forward for an industry that adds millions of dollars to the state’s economy annually.
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The Beer Nut: Uncommon Brewers Uncommonly Good

Written by Norman Miller for GateHouse News Service

Uncommon Brewers is certainly uncommon among California brewers. Unlike most West Coast breweries that feature hops in most of their beers, this Santa Cruz brewery does not.

Instead, they brew a pair of Belgian ales with uncommon ingredients, as well as a big, malty, Baltic porter.

Uncommon Brewers was founded in 2008 by Alex Stefansky and Reed Vander Schaaf. Both had been homebrewers.

The brewery was in the planning stages for six years, and the goal was to combine Belgian brewing techniques, while melding it with the creativeness of West Coast breweries.

The beer is also organic, which is good for those who care about organic products.

Uncommon Brewers has recently began distributing its three beers to Massachusetts. The beers are all available in 16-ounce cans.

Each of the three available beers are based on traditional recipes, but with unusual (or uncommon to fit with the name) ingredients. If you are someone who likes traditional beers, Uncommon Brewers’ beers are not for you.

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Brew Biz: Werts and All

Written by Ken Carman for

Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Escambia Bay and Music City Homebrewers, who has been interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast for over 10 years.

The Topic: What Does It Take to be a Good Beer Judge?

My apologies in advance to those familiar with beer judging because I’m going to give everyone else a very short, admittedly inadequate, synopsis of what it takes, and what it means, to be a beer judge…. because I want to get on to the topic. Then another apology to fellow judges and beer folk if one of my suggestions offends you. At least one will be considered heresy, I admit, but I firmly believe that sometimes what was once considered heresy often becomes what understood to be common sense. Always obeying orthodoxy is as senseless as always rejecting it.

We still don’t think of the world as flat, right? Not all beer has to have just hops, water and malt: nothing else, right? For example, it wouldn’t even be beer without yeast, right?

But I’m mostly relativist, so what so I know for sure?

Philosophy aside… for those less familiar with judging beer here’s the very, very short overview of beer judgery…

Understand from the start that sanctioned beer competitions aren’t anything like Beerfest the movie. Even beer fests are usually not like Beerfest the movie. Being a beer judge is a serious business to be approached with professionalism. I tell people I’m a beer judge and they think it an easy job, even a joke. They think any test for it would be a joke too.

No way in hell is any of that true.

The BJCP test helps us learn how to be professional judges and show we know enough about beer to judge it well. How much is “enough,” and what direction should the test take? Well, that’s part of my “heresy,” I suppose.

BJCP: Beer Judge Certification Program.

It’s a very tough test where you need to know your styles backwards and forwards: and there are almost 30 styles, not including the many, many sub-styles. These: styles and sub-styles, are all very detailed as to aroma, mouthfeel, taste, appearance, gravity (Kind of “how heavy” in too simple, yet layman, terms.) …and many other specifics. Each time you take this very detailed test it will change: these sands with time will shift beneath your feet. Sometimes just different questions asked from a very large pool of questions that can change over the years both as to what the questions are and the answers. New questions have obviously been added over the years, and will be in the future, I’m sure. Sometimes the categories themselves change, and/or their definitions change: sometimes a lot… sometimes a little. What are considered commercial classic examples of the style change, I’ve seen that too.

All of this, and far more, you need to know practically like you know how to breathe.

Take it from me; a two time test taker who has sat in on other tests as well: having a photographic memory would be a big, big plus. I have been told by engineers of various kinds the test is harder than anything they took in college, and I know it’s harder than any of the tests I took studying to be a studio engineer, and English/Education major or Communications Mass Media. Or the various college programs in Science and Math I had to take since I started in Liberal Arts.

You really need to be dedicated to knowing all about beer, defects, style specifics and how to judge it. You also must know very specific information on how to brew it, which I will get to in a few sentences, for that is the main thrust of my comments in this edition of Brew Biz.

Want to know more? Start by going to the BJCP web site: that’s probably the first step in what I hope becomes a passion for you too.

Here is my problem with at least one of the concepts enshrined in both the test, how we study for it, and how that sometimes differs from what it takes to be a good judge…
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Beer Profile

Profiled for by Ye Olde Scribe

Urine colored. Hey, give your body a rest: allow it to do less processing. No need in changing the color this time! Looks the same coming out as it does going in.

The head is pure rock and ruddy near ¾ of the glass. If foam be a dance, a waltz beer Scribe supposes. Nice and clear. Hops and malt strike the mouth. Ouch! That hurt! Nah, mildly pleasant. That’s the problem: mildly. A fresh hop beer should be more striking than this. A sharp, Centennial sense with bitter but, where’s the fresh green taste? Might as well just call it an IPA and be done with it. Not bad at all for that. Smells like it tastes: some hop and some malt. Could use complexity in the malt profile. A bit of hop fruity sense in the background. Orange?

Overall not bad at all. Very enjoyable, in fact. But those who have bathed in a real fresh hop pool will be mildly disappointed.