Beer Break Vol. 3, No. 12
Making our Battle of the Beers list
Jan. 2, 2003
Happy New Year. We've begun 2003 at Realbeer.com 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
Realbeer.com 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
"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?"
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.
LANCASTER MILK STOUT
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.