Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Coffee District

Hello to all and welcome to another installment of The Daily Pint!
Some people scour the globe in search of great beer bars. To many, the allure of the wonderful bars in Belgium call their names. For others, it is the local, home grown spots that evoke the most passion. While someday I intend to make the holy sojourn to the awesome bars in Belgium or the vast bier gardens of Germany, for now I am content in perusing the local scene here in South Florida.

Recently I found myself at a very nice little place in downtown Delray Beach. Tucked away in the Pineapple Grove area off of Atlantic Ave. is an excellent beer bar called The Coffee District. As you walk through the doors you will catch the scent of fine coffee drinks and baked goods wafting through the air, but for us that is not what brings us into this fine establishment. Don't be fooled by the name of the joint. Coffee District has a selection of brews on par with the best beer bars in the region. The proprietor of the venue is a mysterious little guy known only as Cheung. He is a devout follower of great beer and makes sure that anything new and exciting to come his way is available at the District.

When I arrived late in the evening on a Thursday, the place was buzzing. An open mic night was in full swing and there were many an artist reveling in beer and music. I sallied up to the small bar to the left of the room and perused the tap selection. Only four beers were on that night, but the coolers were stocked to the brim with lots of tasty stuff. I ordered a pint of Stone Ruination. That's right, a pint! At around 9% abv this is perhaps a beer best doled out in smaller proportions, but hey, whatever amount you want to give me I will gladly enjoy. Sipping my brew I was engaged in conversation by some of the local musicians. We had a nice chat about the merits of the banjo and the glory of a well made IPA. As the evening progressed, and a local poet began to perform, I found myself in the mood for another beverage. After ordering a St. Bernardus 12, I was handed a small tasting glass with a wink from Cheung himself. That was my cue. The Coffee District has a group of regulars who are wise in the ways of good beer and many nights bring their own bottles in to share. I followed the crew outside and was presented with several bottles of Japanese craft beer that I had never seen before. We sat out in the humid night air and sipped and discussed beer for quite sometime. To me, this is what a good beer bar represents. The coming together of like minded people discussing passionately the merits of this beer or that. Even some of the artists who were new to the beer scene came out of this experience with a new respect and interest in good beer. Eventually the late evening became early morning and I was forced to head for home.

I enjoyed a lovely night at The Coffee District and will make it a point to return whenever I can. If you find yourself looking for a new spot to try some tasty brews, make the trip up to Delray and check this place out. Good beer and good friendship are always around. Happy trails and happy drinking!

Joey Beers

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Beer is a Fickle Mistress

Sometimes beer loves you. Sometimes it doesn't. What is the constant in this crazy world? Well, for one, beer, I will always love you. Secondly, there is always a beer out there that you haven't tried.

I find myself scouring the shelves at Total Wine for a tasty brew. While there are many, I still seem to be constantly searching for something else. With all the different styles and breweries out there it seems I am sometimes bored with my choices. Every time I hit the store for a brew, I hope that some new seasonal or new release will find its way to the South Florida shores.

When I first arrived in the great state of Florida, I was told that this was a beer wasteland. Previously, I lived in the Mid-West, an area that doesn't quite receive the attention it deserves in the beer world. While not always the sexy choice for beer geeks, there are numerous places to find great beer. With Michigan, Ohio, and thanks to Three Floyds, Indiana, that part of the country has a ton of great beer readily available. I will say that in the meager two years I have been here Florida has really started to catch up with the rest of the nation in beer availability. Several years ago a law was passed allowing the state to distribute bottles over 22oz in size. That in itself was a great first step in opening the door for quality breweries to get their product in. With that came not only the many American breweries that make singles of excellent beer, but of course the well known Belgians that so many of us crave. Since then there have been plenty of new beers that have made their way here. Stone Brewing and Dogfish Head are the two that really jump out, as well as all the great Trappist brews out there.

That being said, I still yearn for more. I want to see all the best breweries in the country putting their beers into our market. I want to see brewpubs opening up across the street from me. Thanks to some forward thinking individuals, some new breweries have been slowly popping up. St. Somewhere and Cigar City have made huge strides in exposing this state to the possibilities of good local beer. Yet, I want more! I dream of the day when I can walk into a beer store in South Florida and see a beer I've never tried, or better yet, never heard of. There is a stat that says the average American lives within 10 miles of a brewery. When will that be true for the people of Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade county? Hopefully we are on the path to that. So, not only should you seek out good beer, but you should also be mindful of the local craft brewers in the area. Maybe one day, with the support of all of us, we will see this dream realized.

So, ask for better beer. Try to drink local. Even brew your own and perhaps one day we can all revel in the glory that is good beer for all, regardless of geography.


Joey Beers

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Poetry in a Glass

So, I've spent the evening trying to come up with a new and interesting post. I would like to give some insight into some more specific beers and places, but I realized that such a topic would require research. At some point in the near future I will undertake such a project. I hope to be able to not only give some new perspectives on beer and venues for drinking in my area, but also expand my realm of knowledge in the process. As of yet I have not delved deeply enough to post anything like that. So, for today's topic I have decided to write a poem about the beer I just finished imbibing, St. Bernardus Tripel. Here goes...

Perpetual carbonation exudes from the chalice,
Such a sweet sweet brew.
Creamy and delicious,
You speak to me.

Whispering tales of old Europe.
Religion in a glass.

Malt wrought from the earth,
With a catalyst from ancient times.
Wearing robes of simple twine,
They made the bread of life.

You smile at me from the bottle,
So sure of the joy you bring.

Telling of artisanal wells,
And tradition sought by all.
It is comforting to know,
That what is will always be.

As the glass grows nearer to the end,
You show me many layers.

The warmth I hoped for,
Has finally made an appearance.
In beer as well as life,
Head is always a good thing.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Beer Wars Baby!!

As many of you here in the U.S. are aware, the one time showing of the movie "Beer Wars" took place last night. The movie is a project that was put together by Anat Baron, the person behind Mike's Hard Lemonade's rise to "popularity". She set out to make a film about the business side of the beer industry. After three years of shooting and interviews with people from both the craft beer segment and the "big 3" the movie was finally released to select theaters around the country.

As I walked into the theater in Delray Beach, FL, I was greeted with the friendly faces of essentially the beer industry of South Florida. That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but certainly all of the 10-15 people in the room were players in the beer world of Palm Beach County. I was a bit surprised that more people did not come to see the film, but I guess I shouldn't have been considering the lack of promotion for it. Not once did I see a commercial on T.V for the movie. Even the theater I was at did not display that the movie was playing! So, the only people who attended the showing were bound to be beer geeks who heard of the movie through their (our) many beer-centric web sites. The only thing that was truly surprising was that no one brought any beer to the show!

Anyway back to the movie itself. "Beer Wars" sets out to show the battle that is being fought for the minds and wallets of the beer drinkers in this country. The film shows the power that companies such as Anhueser-Busch, Molson-Coors, and Miller wield in a market that has really only begun to open up to companies outside of those big 3. It also follows the stories of craft brewer Sam Calagione and "upstart" businesswomen Rhonda Kallman. Sam is the head of Dogfish Head brewery in Milton, Delaware. Currently the largest craft brewery in the United States. Rhonda is the former CFO of the Boston Beer Company who has since 2001 gone off in search of making a name for herself by marketing several products including the one focused on in the film, Moonshot. Moonshot is a light beer with added caffeine. As Todd Alstrom of BeerAdvocate said "Moonshot is not craft beer it is crap beer." I spoke to several people last night after the viewing who felt that the storyline of Rhonda going from bar to bar trying to sell her product was the worst part of the movie. For me, it was an essential part of the point that the film was trying to make. While the battle between the large conglomerate breweries and the smaller craft breweries is a focal point, the real battle is much deeper. As illustrated by Sam Calagione as well as Greg Koch of Stone Brewing Co., the craft brewer at heart is doing what he loves by making good beer that he enjoys drinking. Of course you can't over look the business side of it, but people like those two have decided to make a career out of doing what they love to do. On the flip side is someone like Rhonda. While I don't know her and have no ill will toward her, she is not in it for the beer. She is marketing a brand for the purpose of making money. Not there's anything wrong with that, to quote Jerry Seinfeld, but that shows what the real battle is. It isn't necessarily between big breweries and small, because as was pointed out in the movie, even Budweiser began as one man and a single batch of beer. The real battle is for our hearts and minds. Do we do things for the enjoyment and experience or do we do them for results and profit?

Well that ends my pseudo-philosophical diatribe. In the end the movie was very enjoyable in my opinion. It was fun and interesting to see regardless of your level of beer knowledge. Hopefully it will make its way to DVD in the near future. So, as I finish off my Palo Santo Marron, courtesy of Sam Calagione, I say to everyone reading this, drink what you like as long as you like it for the right reasons.


Joey Beers

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We the People...

Hmm... There are certain truths in life that we hold to be self-evident. All men are created equal and beer is good. Those two seem to be the most obvious to me. So, the question is certainly not "is beer good?", but rather "why is beer good?". To explore this and come up with a legitimate answer one must first understand that beer is a beverage of the people by the people and for the people.

As far back as ancient Mesopotamia, people have brewed beer not as a luxury item, but as a necessity for everyday life. It has been called liquid bread by many, and with good reason. Both bread and beer rely on the power of yeast for survival. In many cultures beer accompanied bread to the table for every meal. Even children would consume a lower alcohol version with their meals. It is from these humble beginnings that the tasty beverage reaches our palates today.

For some in the beer community it has become a goal to elevate the status of beer to something along the lines of what wine currently enjoys in this country. I myself often wish that my love of craft beer could be viewed with the same regard as a wine enthusiast's love of wine. To have every good restaurant capable of displaying their beer list right alongside their wine list and both to be of equal quality would be a wonderful thing. Someday that might just happen, but until then we can't forget that beer is a drink of real people. One needs no higher education or inflated sense of self worth to enjoy all that beer has to offer. Although prices have been going up lately, it is totally possible to find a 750ml bottle of some of the finest beer in the world for around $15. That is something that can't be said of wine.

If you are still not convinced that beer is the peoples' brew, all you need to do is head down to your local pub and pull up a bar stool. Order a beer you've never tried or even something that comforts you to your core and strike up a conversation with a stranger. In a room full of jovial imbibers gleefully reveling in the events of the day it is easy to see what makes beer so great. It isn't the yeast or even the hops, but the people who make this our beverage of choice.


Joey Beers

Sunday, April 12, 2009

I Remember My First Beer

I've been sitting here at my computer trying to figure out what to write about next. After reviewing my last post, I thought perhaps telling you how I got into good beer would make sense. I wasn't always a beer lover. I started out as most do, by drinking any beer you can get your hands on before you turn 21. Even after I reached the legal age to purchase alcohol I was still indulging in that grey area I call my college years. Nattie Ice and Bud Light were my best (and cheapest) friends. Then one day, for no apparent reason, I decided that it was more sophisticated to drink things like Guinness and Redhook ESB. I had no idea how deep the rabbit hole actually went.

Shortly after my first beer revelation I landed a part time job working at a liquor store near campus. While not the most bountiful of beer stores it still housed more of a selection than I had ever known. In the midst of my Guinness glutony I decided it was time to give something new a shot. I always considered myself an open minded individual and thought why not expand my horizons. So, I asked my manager one day if he could recommend a new beer for me to try. It was beginning to turn a bit chilly as we slowly crept into fall. So without hesitating he suggested that I give Anchor Porter a shot. Later that evening I crack open my first porter with some muted anticipation and was amazed when it first reached my tastebuds. I had no idea a beer could taste like that! Silky smooth, with a chocolatey middle and just the right amount of roastiness in the finish. I was astonished. This was my first great moment in beer.

The following day I decided to research Anchor Porter to see what the alcohol content was. As I was surprised that beer could actually taste good, I assumed that the alcohol would be nearly non-existent. By typing in the name of the beer into Google, I stumbled upon a resource that would truly open my mind and change the way I looked at beer forever. A website called Soon my screen was bombarded with thousands upon thousands of beers I had never heard of. A style guidelines page allowed me to have a foundation upon which to build. I soon gobbled up as much knowledge as I could and set out to try some new beers.

The final nail in the coffin as it were came from a beer now near and dear to my heart. After reading the BeerAdvocate Top 100 list, I found that my little store carried exactly one of those brews. I asked my manager what he thought of this particular beer and he said something that still affects me today. "I don't like that beer myself, but if you like it then you are a true beer lover." I did not hesitate to buy one and upon opening it and taking the first sip I was hooked on good beer forever. The beer was Arrogant Bastard by Stone Brewing Co. and it changed my life forever.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Its a great beer world out there.

Welcome to the first installment of The Daily Pint with Joey Beers. I just want to start off by letting people know that the world of beer today reaches far beyond what you see on the shelves of your local gas station. Most of the beer geeks (or beer pimps) that I know don't even bother to purchase their brews from the gas station. While that is a no-brainer for those in the know, the majority of the public has no clue what is really available to them. Think of beer the way you think of food. There are a huge number of mass produced products that are readily available, but that does not mean they are the most well made or the best by any stretch of the imagination. When one thinks of beer, at least here in the United States, the "Big Three" usually come to mind. Bud, Miller and Coors that is. The first step to exploring the world of good beer comes with the knowledge that those three companies produce primarily light lagers. In the world of beer, light lagers can be likened to the white zinfandel of the wine world. I have never met a wine enthusiast who would consider purchasing a bottle of white zin. That is not to say that they can never be enjoyed, only that there is so much more out there that is far better. Light Lager is a specific style of beer. One of over one hundred recognized styles produced in the market today. What if the only cheese you had ever eaten was Velveeta? The world would be an extremely boring place. So, the point of this first post is to get everyone out there to begin to open their minds and experience all that beer has to offer. As this blog continues, I would like to continue to discuss and educate people on beer as a whole. I hope to give not only a history of beer from its earliest origins in the ancient world, but also to try new beers and give my opinions on those specific brews. I would love feedback from both those who consider themselves beer enthusiasts and those who are only just beginning to delve into one of the great pleasures in life. So hit the web and see what you can find, and most importantly hit your local pub or beer store and crack open something new today!


Joey Beers