Apr 23, 2018

Beer Break

Beer Break Vol. 3, No. 12
Making our Battle of the Beers list

Jan. 2, 2003

Happy New Year. We've begun 2003 at by making a list - but not of the "best" beers (new, old, individual tastes, whatever) of 2002 or of New Year's resolutions. We're working on the brackets for Battle of the Beers 2003, and welcome your nominations. This year's American tournament will feature 64 beers instead of 32. That makes narrowing the field only a little easier than last year.


For those of you who don't remember our version of "Märzen Madness" from last year, each weekday we ask readers to pick between two beers. The winner advances. In 2002, the results were more than a bit surprising, as Alaskan Smoked Porter defeated Great Lakes Eliot Ness Lager for the championship.

We hope that doubling the size of the competition will be an improvement, and will make other changes with the idea of boosting the fun quotient. We welcome your suggestions before the voting begins, but warn you that there will still be plenty of beers included that are available only in limited parts of the country. There'll also come a time when voters must choose between a pilsner and a porter or a bock and a brown ale - a stylistic decision that bothered many of you last year.

One solution to the former problem is to lobby your favorite bar/tavern or beer store to stock beers that are in the tournament (we'll announce them well in advance). Another would be to visit the Swap Meet section at the Community discussion boards.

That noted, the purpose of Battle of the Beers is not to promote national distribution. To be honest, we think it is fine that not every beer is readily available in every part of the country. Agreed, we wish the government would ease laws about distributing beer via mail. It seems only fair that if you really want to try Dogfish Head World Wide Stout, Saint Arnold Summer Pils or Santa Fe Chicken Killer Barley Wine and are willing to pay steep prices for shipping then you should be allowed to spend your money however you want.

But the "Think globally, drink locally" slogan that so many microbreweries and brewpubs grabbed hold of 15 years ago, when there were only 100 or so small breweries in the whole country, remains valid. Fresh beer from your local brewery/brewpub has a huge homecourt advantage.

As good as the beer from New Glarus Brewing in Wisconsin is, for instance, the brewery has thrived because it emphasizes it is local. In fact, owners Deborah and Dan Carey (she's the president, he's the brewer) are evangelists for all regionally made products, not just beer.

We thought of this because of the recent decision by New Glarus to withdraw from the Illinois beer market, since it can't make enough beer to satisfy its Wisconsin customers. That means you pretty much need to visit Green County to drink New Glarus beers. Last summer, Stephen Beaumont did that, later writing :

"The last time I visited this Wisconsin brewery, it was only a couple of years old and about one-third the size it is today. And if there is a brewery in the United States more deserving of its growth, I have yet to run into it. Dan and Deb Carey have created a terrific operation in this town (New Glarus) about 20 minutes outside Madison, and score big points for managing to craft ales, lagers, wheats and fruit beers all very well. They brew the way I drink, never content to have the same beer twice in a row. Most serious beer geeks knows by now of their outstanding Wisconsin Belgian Red cherry beer, but I was equally impressed by their wonderfully floral, faintly honey-accented Czech-style pilsner, Hometown Blonde, and hop-filled but balanced Hop Hearty IPA. There aren't many U.S. breweries where I could drink for an afternoon and not find myself either disappointed or bored, but New Glarus is certainly one of them."

The brewery already has undergone several expansions and grown into a $2.5 million a year business, and the Careys don't have visions of becoming "another Sierra Nevada" (more than a half million barrels produced per year).

"It's not our goal to be a 30,000 barrel brewery, and the day I hit 30,000 barrels, I quit," Deb Carey said. "Our goal is to make world-class beer and pay the bills. And that's it." And Dan Carey will remain directly in charge of all the beer produced. The brewery sold about 6% of its beer in Illinois, a market twice the size of Wisconsin and one with considerable room for more growth. Deb Carey said New Glarus wouldn't even consider contracting out production of beer that could then be sold in Illinois.

"It's like sending your kids to boarding school," she said. "Why have them if you don't want to raise them?"

Tasting notes

Brewed by Hale's Ales Brewery in Washington
Michael Jackson writes:
Attractive pale bronze. Restrained head, as though it were a British pint. Cucumber in a cocktail? Again, British, like Pimm's. Citrus. (Seems that brewery owner Mike Hale is still an Anglophile). Smooth, firm, cookie-like malt background. Some sweet flavors in the middle. Strawberry shortcake? Sherry trifle? Late, bitter-orange dryness.

Brewed by Lancaster Brewing Co. in Pennsylvania
Roger Protz writes:
This brings back memories of Mackeson Milk Stout before my taste buds were ready for Guinness. True to style, this interpretation used lactose non-fermentable sugar for a touch of sweetness and silky note on the aroma and palate. The nose offers a complex blend of roasted malt and strong hint of licorice. Sweetness in the mouth is balanced by hops and roast, while the finish is dry with a good bitterness from both hops and malt.

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