Date: December 10, 2018
Date: December 10, 2018
Date: December 9, 2018
The Story— Avery was one of the early sensations in the craft beer business, starting in 1993 and luckily acquiring national prominence. Adam Avery was a star at several of the Brickskeller tasting events and along with several other pioneers of craft such as Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head, formed a sort of rat pack of craft brewers that spread the gospel of flavorful beers not only around the US but to Europe as well.
Avery has always innovated. In the early days, innovation wasn’t very hard. You could use more than a thimble of hops in a beer and produce a pretty distinctive brew. Today, there’s a thin line between innovation and just plain nuts. Avery still manages to stay on the “innovation” side of the line. Most of the time.
We’ve stopped buying weird sounding beers unless we know the source. Allagash and Ommegang, for example rarely produce beers you’re sorry you bought. Avery is definitely in that “worth the risk” group, except the prices of many of Avery’s specialty beers are astronomical ranging close to thirty bucks a bottle. If you’re rich, they’re worth the money– we know people who drop $150 on a bottle of wine with dinner without blinking. We blink when the whole check is that high.
Sometimes, though, the splurge is manageable — less than $20 bucks, even though the bottle is a standard 12 oz. You’re buying the taste, after all, not a full afternoon of drinking.
The Beer— A doozie of rich darkish sweetness, but it sips nice and easy as it drinks. Rich and sweet. Caramel and butterscotch with candied apples from a rum barrel. Finishes with wood, rum and a hint of smoke (maybe it was just darkish malt?) Ellie called it well: a sticky sipper– but good.
Value — Good, with reservations. Figure out the price as a percentage of your hourly wage. If the fifteen buck price is less than 10% it’s a bargain– it only took you 6 minutes of work to earn it. If you’re minimum wage, it still might be worth the hour+ of your life, depending on what you’re giving up for it.
Date: December 8,2018
The Story— Before we return to the United States tomorrow, we’ll post one more beer from the extraordinary Il Santo Bevitore in Venice. Scroll back through previous beer reviews and you’ll see a gondola of well above average beers from all over Italy. There are many bars with more beers, but few that choose as well as the Drinking Saint.
When we were researching our first book, we had a chance to share a couple of beers with one of Italy’s top beer judges. (We can’t say who, when, or where, but this guy was one of the country’s top beer dudes.) He candidly admitted off the record than no more than 10% of Italy’s hundreds of new breweries were even palatable, much less exceptional. We’d love a chance to sit down with him today. New Italian breweries we’ve found in the last three years have far surpassed many of the pioneers. Some of the breweries stumbling into the 21st century have cleaned up their acts and are producing very drinkable beers.
This is one of those proliferating breweries that rely on Facebook posts to give information they should be shaping on a webpage. So we’re annoyed at the lack of available information, we respect the beer.
Good session IPAs are hard to brew. When we described the hop bill for our Hop Pocket Ale, the brewers unanimously and immediately told us we’d have to go to at least 6% to create any balance. They were essentially right, but session IPAs try to avoid that limitation. So they wind up over hoppy and underbodied, or underhopped for anything called an “IPA.” These guys strike a pretty good compromise, though you need to like fruit flavors to enjoy it.
The Beer—It has the light body a 3.8% necessitates, but has lots of flavor that’s relatively pleasant. Pineapple greets with some orange and tangerine accompanied by a light mild chalk after. Good for style.
Value — Fair. It’s the same nine buck chuck that every beer at a good Venice beer charges. If you’re on an expense account, no problem. For me, I’d rather pay the same price for a beer of twice the strength and drink more slowly.
Date: December 7, 2018
The Story— Sometimes you can just about throw a dart at a map of Germany and find a cute town with good beer. We found Schönbuch Pils from Schönbuch Brauhaus & Biergarten in Böblingen, at Historisches Braühaus, Staigers Wald Horn, Plochingen. The old brewery no longer brews, but the garden is still good for a fine summer evening.
When we first visited Germany the historical brewery in Plochingen was still brewing and we had the chance to taste their good if not dramatically exceptional beers at local fests. They’d be happy to have you think they still brew, but when you get there, it’s clearly a Schönbuch outlet. Which is sort-of OK. Schönbuch is a good middle-of-the-road not quite regional (though they would like to be) Stuttgart area brewery. We weren’t going to get to Böblingen on this trip so we were happy to find a place with an historical setting and a good range of the Schönbuch beers.
A side note –Plockingen’s a cute town with some other interesting beer outlets. If you go there, don’t miss the Hundertwasser apartments. If you’re familiar with what Gaudi has done in Spain, you’ll be dazzled by what Hundertwasser has done in Germany and Austria.
The Beer—This pilsner engages a balanced dance between clean pale malt and soft but effective fruity-herbal noble hops. Tettnanger hops show a really nice bit of spice as it drinks. Ellie’s comment was “fresh is good.” She’s right and although they don’t brew on site any more, Böblingen isn’t far away.
Value — Very good. Of course you expect good value in a small German town. At about $10 a liter, you could get very fond of this beer.
Date: December 6, 2018
The Story— We stay in Canada from another day. We don’t know the Canadian scene as well as we’d like to. We had better connections in the early 90s when Maurice Coja of the Brickskeller was bringing in breweries and brewers for our tasting series there. As we pointed out yesterday, Canada was a part of the forefront of the craft movement in the early 90s, and while we don’t see the energy of, say Italy, it’s still the home of some very good breweries.
Collective Arts intends itself to be as much of an arts promoter as craft brewer and, from our far-from-Canada perspective is doing quite well in both. They have some of the most creative can label art since the Swedes put images of the great master painters on their cans in the 1980s. A big difference is that the Swedish beer was yellow and, while almost OK, really ordinary mass market lager. Collective Arts matches the art on their labels and the music in their taprooms with remarkable creativity in their beers.
The Beer— This 8.6 Imperial Porter could have a twin brother of a black or brown IPA. Creamy with some patent malt while chocolate walks along the whole way. Rich, but the hops are there under it all all the time.
Value — Good. This came in a tall can, which saves the big bottle expense.