Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Craft Beer Lovers Unite!

It’s time once again to pull together and support something that we may not really like.

If you’ve never heard of Four Loko, you don’t follow me on twitter.

I’ve been laughing about it since they played some of the songs available on YouTube during a Session on the Brewing Network. It’s been fun. The songs are catchy and reminiscent of the rap groups of the ‘90’s laying down lyrics about a blunt and a 40!

Touted as a “Blackout in a can” or “Change of plans in a can”, the beverage is basically an energy drink with a lot of booze! It’s available at the corner store in some locations, and cheap as hell. Basically, it’s Boons Farm wine meets Boys in the Hood.

But the point here is one of concern to craft beer lovers everywhere. While Four Loko is no more craft beer than Boons Farm is fine wine, the “Man” wants to outlaw it.

I for one, will, just because of the negative news coverage, be purchasing a Four Loko at the first opportunity. But most of you have never, and will never have a can of Four Loko, it affects our passion.

This isn’t crack. It isn’t Meth. It is caffeine and booze.

That’s nothing new!

I don’t know which came first, but Rum and Coke was my first experience with Caffeine and Booze, and I still like that particular concoction. In fact, change rum to Crown and add a sidecar of Malibu rum and you’ve got my favorite drink in a bar with no craft beer.

But my point is, they are outlawing a beverage just because it’s being perceived as being extreme. I make a very clear distinction between an extreme beer like Atomic Penguin and a can of prison hooch like Four Loko. One is consumed buy people looking for the ultimate in taste, quality and uniqueness. The other is guzzled by folks looking to erase the next 12 hours of their lives.

Either way, It’s a high intensity beverage containing 100% legal ingredients. So what’s stopping them from trying to outlaw an Imperial Espresso Stout? Or a bottle of fortified port wine? You may see the difference, and I may see the difference, but people prone to calling for legislation against alcohol…DON’T SEE THE DIFFERENCE!

The problem is that young people (Under age!) are buying and getting hammered on Four Loko, not a $25 bottle of RIS! That’s good because it’s not drawing attention to craft beer, but it is endangering the freedom to produce and market drinks that customers will want.

It’s almost like the opponents have never had a trash can full of Kool Aid and Everclear.

My point is; Kids will always figure out how to get wasted. You did it, I did it and our kids will figure it out too. It sucks, and as a parent it’s scary as hell! But outlawing a legal product will NOT help.

I am calling for everyone interested in adult beverages to come together and fight the urge to pass this issue off as a “Doesn’t effect me” issue and make your voice heard.

This issue is just hitting the USDA and it will only grow from here. It may go away, but if it doesn’t, I promise you that the ramifications to the craft beer industry will be far reaching.

And for you viewing pleasure...

and my personal favorite,

Friday, October 8, 2010

Beer Guy takes to the sky

January 30, 2010 I was afforded the opportunity to fly in a Cessna C-172. One of our local pilots was nice enough to take me up and show me around the country in his plane. That day proved to be the beginning of a great adventure!
I was marginally apprehensive, as I'd never been up in a small plane before. No problems flying on airliners and the like, but the expansive view from the cockpit of a general aviation aircraft provides a completely different experience. The difference is much like comparing a ride on a city bus with driving a Corvette on fresh asphalt. It's still transportation, but nothing else is the same.
After takeoff, roughly 100 feet above the runway, I decided that I had to learn to fly.
It took a few months to get started with lessons, but on May 3rd, I took my first training flight.
Flying weekly is a long way to the end, but that is what my schedule allows. Thursday mornings after dropping the kids at school (or the baby sitter during summer months) I would head to the airport and take my lesson.
Right away it became clear that this was a hobby that would require me to leave everything on the ground. It takes all of the concentration and self control you can muster to fly an airplane. It's simply not natural!
After several hours of flight instruction, the fear of dying in an airplane dissipated and it became clear that about the only thing that would kill me....was me! The plane will fly, as long as I don't crash it.
Even things like an engine failure simply don't provide the disastrous outcomes that most people have set in their mind. You train for the emergencies, and they become significantly less scary.
Progress is progress and I was making it. Right up until October 7th.
We were flying patterns around the local airport and my instructor started asking questions about my camera and if I had it in the pickup. I could tell that he was thinking solo flight.
I landed the plane, and he told me to go ahead and make this one a full stop. I was instructed to park the plane in front of the hanger. Then I knew!
He quickly signed the appropriate endorsements on my log book and my med certificate, and said to go make 3 landings.
Well, Yes, I can... I just didn't think I could.
I couldn't help but think that I was being a puss! After all, the instructor is willing to turn me loose in his aircraft (NOT A CHEAP INVESTMENT) and risk my life on his watch. I guess I must be ready.
I was a shaking mess through taxi and run-up, but as soon as I was on the runway, and applying power, that all ended.
Like I said, you leave everything on the ground when you fly. All of your fears, all of your anxiety, all of your emotions. There is no room for that crap inside the tiny cockpit.
Takeoff was textbook. A perfectly smooth liftoff and I was surprised at how much slower speed I came off the ground sans instructor.
My pattern could have been a bit more square, but it worked.
I missed the first landing, and opted for a go-around. My instructor came on the radio and informed me that the wind on the ground had picked up and was working against me.
I switched the radio over to the AWOS (Automatic Weather Observation Service) and learned that I had an 8 Knot tail wind on my landing attempt. No wonder I missed the landing.
Maneuvering for a change of plans was one of the first lessons I had, and I used it that day. I broke pattern, radioed to the blind and announced my intention to cross midfield at pattern altitude. I simply had to turn around and use the other runway.
After turning to the base leg of the landing pattern, I engaged an additional 10 degrees of flaps (For a total of 20) and realized that I was a bit low for as far out as I was. Flummoxed by the wind again!
Smooth addition of power and keeping an eye on my airspeed got me right back to where I needed to be.
Just as I entered the flair (the part where you level off and bring the nose up just before touchdown) the plane started to drift to the left. Correction at this stage of flight has never been my specialty. The controls are mushy at best and the plane simply isn't as responsive as normal.
I adjusted aileron control to the right and continued to hold the plane just off the runway.
At the exact moment that the plane was directly over the center line, the stall warning horn started to buzz and the wheels touched down. I couldn't ask for better than that.
The transition from flight to ground is a bit of a challenge, as you go from driving with your hands to your feet. I have occasionally had a wobbly exchange as I re-orient myself and zig-zag down the runway as I find my feet. But this time the transition was pretty smooth.
As soon as I was comfortably on the ground and the plane was slowing down, all of that crap I left on the ground came rushing to greet me.
My knees got weak, my heart was racing, my hands were shaking and I decided to call it quits!
I could have manned up and taken the next 2 patterns, but the simple fact is that Macho bullshit never got a pilot anything but killed. Good decision making ensures lots of safe landing and thousands of flight hours to come.
I pulled the plane up to the fuel pump and went through the pre-shutdown check list, then shut the plane off.
My instructor came over and asked if 1 was enough? I said "Yup, I'll have hundreds more solo landings to come, but today, one is enough."
He congratulated me and declared that now, I am officially a pilot.
As I filled the plane with fuel, he told me the story of his first solo...where he only made one of the 3 intended landings. I feel so good right now, I can't stand it!
The second person I talked to was my wife.
I called Jessica as I walked to the credit card reader to pay for the fuel, and asked her to bring a camera. She had no idea I was going to solo, but didn't seem too shocked to learn that I had.
She showed up at the airport just as I finished fueling the plane, and I ran over to her. She wasn't nearly as excited as I was, but I could tell that she was happy for me. A few photos later and the whole experience is in the past!
Now I have a lot of studying to do, and a lot of flying to get ready for my check ride, but I have done something that 99.5% of the people in this country will never be able to do.
I have flown an airplane by my self!
About 1% of Americans are hoembrewers, and about 1% of Americans provide food for the rest of the country, but only 1/2% of Americans are pilots!
I wonder what percent of American are homebrewing, farming and ranching pilots? There aren't very many, but today, there is one more!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Gabf Road Trip

With summer barely behind us and the hectic holiday season ahead, the Great American Beer Festival in Denver offed a welcome weekend of relaxation and the best beer you’ll find.

The Denver Convention Center hosted the 29th annual Great American Beer Festival, September 16 - 18. The Brewers Association puts this event together every year to showcase the nations shining stars in the brewing industry.

In addition to the 2,200 beers on tap at GABF, it’s also the world’s largest commercial beer competition. It took 151 judges two full days to make their way through the 3,523 entries.

Three years ago, the GABF was the first “Beer Based” weekend vacation that I had ever taken with my wife. Someone should have given me a sign that said WARNING!!! SHE MAY LIKE IT!

We look forward to this event all year long. There isn’t any discussion about whether or not we will be going the next year, it’s simply understood.

Leaving in time to check into our hotel, we ended up hitting some pretty heavy traffic on I-70. I should have known better than to be west bound on I-70 in Denver at 3:00 in the afternoon. That city heads out early every Friday and I’ve been stuck there before. No matter, we are GABF BOUND!

By the time we checked in, got the car parked, had the valet bring the car back so we could get a cell phone out of it, and walked the 5 or 6 blocks over to the convention center, the line was as huge as ever. People were lined down Stout Street nearly back out the N. Speer Boulevard side of the convention center. People at the GABF are surprisingly patient though.

We all know that beer people are good people, but this is a rare example. There is no pushing and no shoving. People hold the door for the ladies, and are well mannered. It is all a great showing of self-control, because there are 2,200 examples of the nation’s best beer on the other side of that door!

Once you are inside, you are given a commemorative tasting glass that is marked at 1 oz. You will not get more than one ounce of any beer at a time. The rules are very strict about that. All that is left is to pick a line and drink some beer!
There are maps of the tasting hall everywhere, and I did bring my brewery list that I had marked up with all of the things I wanted to see. Ya Right! Even with this being my third year at GABF, I immediately went into shock and spent a good portion of my time wandering from isle to isle. Every time we set a destination, we saw something along the way that called our names—distraction is the name of the game.

Distracting as all of the great beer is, there is one thing that you MUST do to survive. Hydrate! Drink as much water as you do beer. That is simple enough thanks to the fine folks at Deep Rock who had water stations set up at the end of every row.

Beyond the overwhelming selection at GABF, there is a month’s worth of things to see and do around town.
Some friends of ours from Phoenix recommended Euclid Hall on 14th near Larimer St. The place has an incredible menu, a great beer selection and atmosphere to spare. Our party of 9 was very well taken care of, and our drinks never went dry.

When faced with a menu item that I can see as a challenge, I go for it. Fried pig ears seemed like enough of a challenge for me while we were at Euclid. They are served on a wooden rack with plenty of hot sauce and ranch. The ears are cut thin and fried to a perfect golden brown. They paired wonderfully with Avery’s Reverend.

Freshcraft at 1530 Blake St. offers a nice selection of 20 beers on tap, and a solid selection of around 100 bottles. The food at Freshcraft looked great, however we were only there for beer. Odell’s brewing had a firkin of Imperial Barrel Aged Porter sitting on the bar. I’m a sucker for firkins and Odells is one of my favorite breweries. Despite the Odells, I couldn’t fight the temptation--I opted for Russian River’s Temptation Ale, aged in French Oak wine barrels. Thanks to one of our friends who saw the firkin, I did get to taste the Odells Imperial Porter, and it was magnificent.

A GABF standard stop for me (and seemingly every other beer traveler at GABF) is the Falling Rock Tap House. We were lucky enough to be there when a keg of beer from Naked City Beer and Taphouse in Seattle, WA was tapped. It’s quite a treat to drink a beer brewed by someone you know at an event such as the one that the Falling Rock puts on during GABF.
My final beers of the weekend were from New Belgium Brewing out of Ft. Collins. They hold up some special concoctions for the final night of GABF at the Falling Rock. We were treated to Blackberry Love, a 2007 keg of LaFolie, a Grand Cru, and Erics Ale. The god’s shined upon me as I approached the bar, with 100’s of people in line behind me, the owner of the Falling Rock made the announcement and these four phenomenal offerings began to flow.
Mornings at the GABF can be tough, but the fine service and great food at the Delectable Egg just off of the 16th Street Mall on Court helped us get the day started. Plenty of water and coffee helped to fuel me up for the drive home.
Knowing that some of the folks I’d met over the course of the last few days had to drive home as far away as Washington, I could hardly complain about the hundred and some miles to my house.

Next year, there is no question we will be in attendance; we already have the space blocked on the calendar. We will arrive early and stay late! We will be at GABF, and I suggest that you do the same!

You can also read this post at http://www.craftbeer.com/pages/stories/road-trips/show?title=charles-hoffmans-beer-based-migration-to-denver
and at

The adventure never stops

The adventure never stops
with the Buck Reilly series