Hello Reader’s Digest!

July 25, 2010

I have learned that the August issue of Reader’s Digest borrows from our results to construct a list of “The Twelve Best American Beers”—the dozen beers listed all being 9-point scorers in The Beer Trials. That’s well and good, but I feel a need to disclaim a bit to any readers who may have found their way here to share a concern that we missed a beer or six.

The best-scoring beers in the book are, of course, merely the best-scoring of the beers we tasted. And make no mistake, there are a lot of beers we didn’t taste. According to the Brewer’s Association, as of April 2010, there were 1,599 breweries in the US alone. We only tasted 250 beers!

That said, we’ve covered most of the US beer market by volume (thanks to our near-comprehensive coverage of pale lagers) and in my opinion the list we used does a fine job of giving broad coverage to the beers out there. If you start at the top of our lists and work your way down, you’ll give yourself exposure to a huge chunk of the best parts of the beer market. And you’ll have an excellent base for comparative evaluations of the beers at your local brewpubs and microbreweries.

That said, I’m off to check out the excellent tap list at Produce Row. Cheers!

Home again, and just in time for Oregon Craft Beer Month.

July 6, 2010

I’ve returned, refreshed and enthusiastic, from my trip to California, where I drank a fair amount of wine and not much beer (though I did find my way to a couple pints of Sierra Nevada) while attending the annual meeting of the American Association of Wine Economists, where Robin and I presented the results of our Heineken-Stella-Czechvar taste test study.
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Office Hours

June 22, 2010

My partner and I have made a habit of enjoying a pint at Belmont Station on Monday evenings (she works nearby). There are always exciting beers on draft, and even if there aren’t usually nearly as many session-strength beers as I’d like, it’s hard to ever complain about the tap list, when any of the 800-1000 bottled beers in the shop can be opened and consumed on-premises.
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Well, wouldja look at that

June 13, 2010

The new version of thebeertrials.com has launched. Looks lovely, in my opinion. Take a peek!

There’s been less than normal amounts of beer in my life the last few weeks, but plenty of The Beer Trials. I was in Puerto Rico for a week, and failed to try a local mango-flavored beer that I heard some positive comments about. I did try one local pale lager that was too cold to taste. Mostly I enjoyed rum, which is not something I drink much.

I did have one noteworthy beer experience, though: Just before I left on that trip, I attended the last garage-wine tasting that Vincent over at Elevage will be hosting for the foreseeable future (he’s moved from garage wine to commercial facilities). Recalling that last year, other guests brought generous supplementary tasting materials, I looked in the basement for a bottle to bring. None of the wine down there seemed suitable, but there was a spare bottle of Rodenbach Grand Cru, which seemed like it might be relatively at home in the company of some fine wines.

Long story short, the bottle didn’t get much love for the first hour or so I was there. People were perplexed why there was a bottle of beer, but didn’t seem particularly curious to find out. It looked like I was going to be the only person enjoying the wonderful sour ale. I began to wish that I’d just told Vincent to save it for later.

However, as the other bottles emptied out, a few people finally gave it a shot. And at least some of them got it. I saw several doubletakes and heard more than a few exclamations of “Woah, you’ve got to try this…”

I don’t have any burning need to convince the world that everyone should be drinking Flanders reds—or any particular beer, for that matter—but it’s wonderful to be able to challenge people’s expectations and open their eyes to the near-radical diversity of the beer world. If you’ve never tried a sour ale, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot.

I’ll be heading to California in a couple weeks to join Robin for the American Association of Wine Economists’ annual conference. When I return in July, I expect we’ll have some more announcements about The Beer Trials and where it’s headed that will be even more exciting than the website launch.

It’s a good time to be a beer drinker. Especially in Portland, where spring appears to be almost here…

It’s a Beer Trials party

May 6, 2010

I wandered down to the Green Dragon (I go to other pubs… regularly… it’s just that the Green Dragon is where the action at. The Daily Wort has no financial interest in Rogue Brewing or any of its subsidaries. Promise) today to meet with Russ, the manager, to plan next week’s release party for The Beer Trials. It’s going to be good fun, I think. They’ll have at least 8 of our high-scoring choices from the book on draft. Co-author Robin and editor Alexis will be in town. We’ll have a bit of a reading, I think, but mostly we’ll be mixing it up, showing off the book, and enjoying some top-notch beers.

That’s my kind of party. Hopefully I’ll be fully recovered from FredFest, which is two days earlier. Also, I think, my kind of party.

The party is at 7PM next Wednesday—May 12th—so feel free to drop in. We’ll have copies of the book; if you’d already purchased one and you’d like to get it signed or have a gift copy inscribed, feel free to bring it with you.

While we chatted I enjoyed a Boulevard Maibock. Boulevard doesn’t distribute much outside of the Midwest, which is good for Midwesterners and a bit of a shame for the rest of us. You can find their Smokestack series of small-production beers in good specialty shops all over, though. But to see an everyday, have-a-pint-or-two Boulevard beer is a treat, because they do a fine job.

And there aren’t a lot of American craft brewers pushing the craft-and-lager-drinker crossover beers these days, but as weather gets warm, they’re a good call. I like the current trend towards Kölsch-style beers (like Goose Island Summertime Ale or the periodically-available Widmer Collaborator Kölsch), but that’s more of a summer style. Maibocks do a good job of straddling the conundrum described in this Baltimore Sun column: enough body for blustery April (or in Portland, May) showers, but light enough for the gorgeous summer-is-coming afternoons, too.

At any rate, one of my personal beliefs (having been there myself) is that many craft-beer drinkers give short shrift to the quality potential of well made pale lagers, and I dig the beers that can open minds to the possibilities there. And after a week of alternating sun and rain (or both simultaneously) it was lovely to get out on the bike, warm the legs up a bit, relax with an easygoing, flavorful lager, and ride home. I’m looking forward to doing that a lot more often this summer.

See you at the Dragon!

Market Moving

May 2, 2010

Last night, my household had a fire in the pit in the backyard—a regular occurrence when the weather permits—and my housemate S, working on a large pot of chili for dinner, asked me to do some beer shopping on her behalf. She wanted cheap beer to serve, which was fine by me. There is a time and a place for cheap beer, and standing around a fire in the dark, drinking spicy chili, is one of those times.

The local market has all manner of those beers. They carry Olympia and Rainier, which aren’t great beers but carry a certain nostalgia for me. I went to high school downwind of the Olympia Brewery, and growing up in the Pacific Northwest meant regular exposure to the quirky and creative television ads that Rainier ran through the ’80s. Both breweries were shuttered after Pabst sold them to Miller in the late ’90s (though Pabst still own both brands).

It struck me, though, that there was an option that might prove more satisfying than either of my erstwhile local beers. Tecate did surprisingly well in our blind tastings for The Beer Trials, garnering a very solid 7 (out of 10). It’s a beer with a dodgy reputation, which is certainly not helped by the packaging. Here’s what I wrote in the book about the design:

Everything about this can screams “Warning! Cheap beer inside!” which doesn’t really do the product justice. On the upside, the beer is cheap. If they had a nicer package, it might cost more.

However, when I eventually located the half-rack of Tecate, I found it priced at some 40% more than the rest of the comparable pale lagers. Tecate was more expensive than Full Sail Session Lager. I was flummoxed. Considering my housemate’s budget, I reversed gears and bought the Rainier. Which worked fine.

What happened, I wondered to my housemates? Did I misremember the price of the stuff? The pricing indicators in the book are largely based on prices we actually paid, and poking around on the internet it appears that my surprise was warranted. Were they jacking up the prices in anticipation of of Cinco de Mayo sales?

Or perhaps, suggested my housemates, they’ve read the book. Maybe it’s your fault the stuff is so expensive.

Some short updates

April 27, 2010

I’m guest blogging this week at Powell’s, which is exciting. They’ll be posting an update each day. I’ll repost them here at some point but for now you’ll have to wander over there to see them.

Also gave my first radio interview today. Portland beer writer Lisa Morrison hosts a program called Beer O’Clock. Not sure when it will air; probably this Saturday or the one after.

I’ve discovered that twitter allows me to eavesdrop on strangers talking about my book, and I like it. A lot.

I’ll be at the Green Dragon tonight, distributing books to the two dozen volunteers who helped make The Beer Trials possible. Also toasting Green Dragon beer buyer (and Beer Trials contributor) Sam Sugar, who is leaving that job to move to Newport. Drop in if you like.

The Beer Trials appears in the wild, and a review of Dogfish Head 90 Minute

April 20, 2010

The Beer Trials is out and about, turning up in stores—I know for certain that it’s in stock at Amazon and Powell’s, and I suspect that it’s generally hitting shelves just about everywhere. Very exciting! We are starting to get into the work of supporting the book—I’ll be Powell’s Guest Blogger next week.

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Another Man’s Moment of Clarity

March 16, 2010

So. The book is done, or at least my portion of it is done. It’s off to the printers. It appears that my life for the foreseeable future will consist of people taking me to task for all of the missing beers (and there are thousands; we only reviewed 250) and wrong ratings my name is attached to. There are worse gigs, though

Today I stumbled across a beer blog that I’m totally digging, from a place I wouldn’t have expected. Read the rest of this entry »

Brief updates

March 6, 2010

The Beer Trials is nearly finished; it will be off to the printers early this coming week. I expect to be posting much more regularly here in the coming weeks, and I may have an opportunity to do some guest blogging at a major bookseller’s website when the book is out. The last few weeks were a crazy flurry of work, and it’s nice to slow down a bit.

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