Weekly Therapy: The Black & Tan

Beer cocktails – concoctions that mix two different beers or even beer with a variety of spirits – have recently been touted as a good marketing tool in U.S. bars that otherwise pay little attention to beer as a beverage with taste.

We generally leave it to others to discuss the “joy” of mixing vodka, gin, tequila, cranberry juice and beer (yes, there’s a bar that puts all those in the same glass). After all, brewers worked hard to produce a drink that can be appreciated on its own. But the fact is that blending two beers together to produce something different – and this may take place in the brewery itself or wherever you are enjoying beer – is hardly new.

StoutThe best known mix is a Black and Tan or Half-and-Half, and whether these are the same or different depends on where you order them. With since everybody is thinking about St. Patrick’s Day on Friday, it seems like a good time to review the basics:

– You may use any brand stout or lighter colored ale or lager to make a Black and Tan (many brewpubs do this with house beers), but most patrons of Irish theme pubs in the United States think in terms of Guinness Stout and either Bass ale or Harp lager.

– The layering of a Black and Tan – that is the dark stout floating above the lighter beer – is said to be common only in American bars. When you begin drinking the beers will mix anyway, so some places choose to let them mix as they are poured.

– It is easier to produce a layered Black and Tan if the stout is dispensed from the special spouts use by Guinness, Murphy’s and Beamish as well as those used in some American brewpubs for their own stouts. Also if the stout is pushed with nitrogen. You begin by filling half the glass with the ale or lager. Next, slow the control on the spout tap and pour the stout slowly over the back of a spoon (Guinness even makes a decorative spoon just for this purpose). The stout will remain on top.

The name itself does not come from the use of a black beer and something lighter. It is derived from a political reference to the black and khaki military uniforms worn by the special auxiliary force – “The Black and Tans” – who were brought in to Ireland fight the Irish nationalists in 1920.


Weekend link-o-rama

Some noteworthy blog posts and other beer discussions of the last week:

Beer: “Official Drink of Knuckleheads” – Can you guess the beer?

News Flash! – A particularly good one from the dependable Beer Haiku Daily.

Celebrating the arrival of Schlenkerla Helles Lagerbier.

Dating Old Rasputin – OK, the title just struck as as funny.

Are we winning? The community discusses sales trends.

Saying cheers, from afar – Drinking glasses that communicate with each other via wireless.

Brewing and journalism – A curious analogy in The Economist.

Wit before and after – Nice pictures from a Flossmoor Station brewing session.

Mars Attracts! This place in Manhattan once planned to be a brewpub – and still has a brewing kettle on display.


Deschutes showcases outdoors in free DVD

Deschutes Brewery is giving away a DVD for outdoor enthusiasts.

Rage Films showcases extreme athletes in extreme setting in “Fresh Flicks,” which Deschutes is handing out at on-premise accounts and also online. The breathtaking action includes kayaking the steep drop on Benham Falls on the Deschutes River and rock crawling the Moon Rocks in Nevada. More action features locales such as the White Salmon River, High Sierra, Rubicon Trail and Whistler, B.C.

“Rage incredibly captures many of the thrilling and adventurous pursuits available in the Northwest,” said Deschutes president Gary Fish. “Their films definitely appeal to our audience.”

The preview.


New choices from the U.S. and Belgium

More new-to-the-shelf beers (seasonals returning, new imports, brand new beers). Information is from press releases.

Saison Imperiale from DeProefbrouwerij of Lochrist, Belgium: Saison Imperiale is a nod to the growing interest in the Saison style, alongwith growing popularity of “imperial-ized” versions of classic beer styles. The beer is light amber in color with an eggshell colored head. It is fermented with two yeasts – saccharomyces and (semi-wild) brettanomyces – giving it a traditional funky farmhouse character. A dash of coriander is also added. It has an original gravity of 1072 (18 plato), yielding 8.5% alcohol by volume. The beer is hopped at 30 IBU’s, using Tomahawk and Goldings.

Otter Creek 15th Anniversary IPA: The artwork for the label was commissioned especially for the anniversary. It features a painting by the well known Vermont artist Woody Jackson. “We chose to feature Woody’s painting on our Anniversary label,” said owner Morgan Wolaver, “because he is a local painter who can capture what Vermont means to us. The scenery in Vermont is so beautiful, and Woody really captured that quality in the painting, as well as the feeling of community. These are the things we care about. Apart from brewing great beer, which goes without saying!”

Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine: The 2006 vintage is the biggest yet, checking in at 11.26% abv. “Nowadays with technology everything is getting smaller, it’s nice to know here at Stone things keep getting bigger,” said Stone CEO Greg Koch. The 2006 Stone Old Guardian Barley Wine will be released in 22oz bottles principally because that is the only size bottle that can hold such a massive-profile beer, but also because it is the only size bottle that can fit the annual rambling soliloquy from Koch. (It says that in the press release.)

Sheep’s Secret Scotch Ale: From the Hartland Brewery in New York. Heartland Brewmaster Kelly Taylor: “Fresh Midwestern pale malts and British roasted barley impart a mellow malt sweetness, light toasted caramel background, and a smooth, balanced finish to this classic ale. 6.5% abv.”


Weekly Therapy: Tomme Arthur Q&A

You might have heard that Port Brewing, which operates three brewery pubs in Southern California, acquired the former Stone Brewing facility in San Marcos. Now it’s time to find out what that means.

Tomme Arthur, who oversees brewing operations for Port Brewing, provided some answers just before heading off to Belgium with four other American craft brewers.

Arthur created some of the most sought after American craft beers of the young 21st century – an extraordinary range that includes Cuvee de Tomme, the ultra-hoppy Hop 15, saisons with a distinctive American twist and many others – but most have been served only at the Solano Beach facility where they were made or a few special beer events around the country.

Now they’ll be available to a much wider audience – although you won’t see them in your local grocery store soon – and a conversation with Arthur makes it obvious that he’ll have a lot more exciting news in the coming months.

Tell us about the company that bought the former Stone brewery.

TA: A new entity known as Port Brewing LLC. The goal of our new operation is to translate many of the fabulous beers that we as “Pizza Port” have been releasing and take them to a wider audience. We will also be building a new brand known as Lost Abbey as part of our operation.

What’s the system size and yearly capacity?

TA: The system is the former Stone Brewing 30-barrel brewhouse. It came with two 30-barrel fermenters, one 90-barrel fermenter and one 120-barrel fermenter. Total annual output through these tanks alone makes over 5000 barrels possible. This number is subject to change based on fermentation profiles of beers we are contemplating. We also have made a major investment in oak, which we believe will allow us to produce no less than 6 beers per year from these barrels.

How much oak?

TA: We now own 94 oak barrels, both bourbon and French Oak wine barrels.

We have already filled 6 bourbon barrels, and the first beer will spend 6 months breathing in the bourbon before being released later this year.

These wine barrels will be filled with all kinds of critters and fun bugs in the coming months. Some of the Cuvee de Tomme will find a home in these barrels (to offset some of the major bourbon flavor of the new oak blended at bottling time). We will also be releasing a new version of the Le Woody (the blonde version) as well as the Le Woody Brune, which will have a name change and slight recipe variation – different cherries.

We are making a major commitment to barrel aging and look to have six beers available in from wood after about 18 months of being up and running. Two (beers) will be strictly from bourbon barrels, one will be a blend (Cuvee) and three will be from the (bug-ladden) French Oak. All will be bottled. One will be brewed under Port Brewing brand and the other five will all be Lost Abbey beers.

What will be available beyond draft beer?

TA: As part of our expansion we have signed up with Stone Distributing, who will be handling our Southern California Distribution. The first cases of Sharkbite Red have already started hitting stores. This will be the only 6-pack from Port Brewing for now. We anticipate releasing a second beer in 12 ounce-bottles, but will let the market dictate what that release will be.

Our focus for bottling will be on larger format bottles. Most of the Pizza Port beers will be bottled and labeled under Port Brewing and sold in 22-ounce bottles. We hopes to have the first ready by early April. Beers like Shark Attack, Hop 15, Santa’s Little Helper and even new beers from Jeff Bagby (brewer for the Carlsbad pub) like Hop Suey may get a shot at hitting some glass in the not-so-distant future.

For the Lost Abbey, we will use a hood and wire unit. Like Russian River, Allagash and Unibroue we will be bottling in 750ml brown bottles imported into the states. All of the bottled Lost Abbey beers will be bottle conditioned with live yeast. The barrel-aged beers will most likely follow the Russian River beers into the market in 375ml glass. It is quite possible that limited runs of larger bottles may happen as well although, but we have not purchased a corker to do bottles larger than 1.5 liters.

What beers/brands that will be distributed?

TA: Port Brewing Co will be making Sharkbite Red Ale, Wipeout IPA and Amigo Lager for draft distribution. Only the red will be bottled. Seasonal beers will follow when possible.

On the Lost Abbey side, we envision four beers available in 750ml cork finished bottles. The first is Avant Garde.

I love the name of this one for many reasons. The dictionary definition:
A group active in the invention and application of new techniques in a given field, especially in the arts.
Of, relating to, or being part of an innovative group, especially one in the arts: avant-garde painters; an avant-garde theater piece.

This name just resonates what we will be about – finding ways to stay ahead of the curve and at the forefront of expression. The beer will be brewed in a quasi biere de garde fashion. In many ways, we expect it will be a table beer.

It will be brewed to about 6% abv with a lager yeast at ale fermentation temperatures. We will also be custom roasting some of the malt using the restaurant pizza ovens (yummy garlic). We brewed a pilot batch in Solana Beach and can’t wait to make it on a larger scale. The beer will sport a burnt blonde color with notes of freshly baked bread and a certain fruitiness from the yeast combined with Brewers Gold hops and Spalt from the French countryside.

As a brewer, what will you be able to do that you haven’t before?

TA: Not bump my head on the cellar in the brewery for starters. . . .

Then, we hope to stop having to apologize as we have in the past that many of these great beers aren’t available outside of San Diego. Honestly I am most excited about working on the barrel program and developing the Cuvee on a larger scale as well as other barrel-aged beers that weren’t possible in the past. The packaging of many of these “elusive” beers will enable us to be in more places than in the past. We are looking at opening up new states and distribution agreements in the next few years.

Since this deal went public online, we have been flooded with calls from people wanting our beers. While this feels great, we know that we have to take care of our backyard first before we head east.

Where will your beer be distributed?

TA: Initially only in Southern California to begin with. Arizona and Northern California would be next. We hope to have some beer on the East Coast in Philly and DC before the end of 2006.


Another gluten-free beer

Another gluten-free beer becomes available in April. Bard’s Tale initially will be sold in 11 states, and company co-founder Craig Belser hopes to be nationwide in 12 to 18 months. Although other gluten-free beers already are being marketed, Belser said these beers are honey- or corn syrup-based and don’t taste like traditional beer.

Belser, who lives in Kansas, and Kevin Seplowitz, from Connecticut, first launched the brand more than a year ago, but had production problems in the Buffalo brewery where it is made. It will now be contract brewed in California, though Belser said he hopes to eventually build a brewery in Leawood, Kan.

[Via the Kansas City Business Journal]


Pro-am competition at GABF

The Brewers Association and the American Homebrewers Association have announced a 2006 GABF Pro-Am Competition in honor of the 25th Anniversary of the Great American Beer Festival. From the BA website:

Here’s how it works. Craft breweries can select award winning homebrew recipes from existing homebrew competitions (competitions held after January 1, 2005 qualify) or through their own competition. The winning homebrewers must be American Homebrew Association members at the time of the judging. The professional brewers then scale up the winning homebrew recipes to be brewed in their brewery and entered in this special competition (GABF registration opens in mid-May).

The brewery will then submit that beer into the GABF competition to be judged against all the other GABF Pro-Am entries. Both the winning breweries and homebrewers will be awarded gold, silver and bronze GABF Pro-Am medals to be presented during the GABF awards ceremony held September 30, 2006 in Denver.

This looks like fun, since one of the rules is that beers that are entered must be served at the GABF.

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Bottle cap art

Once again it’s time for “The art of drinking Tröegs” contest. The rules are simple:

1. Collect Tröegs bottle caps
2. Use the caps to make art. (Don’t limit your thinking. It can be flat, it can be 3-dimensional, it can be anything (as long as you use the Tröegs caps).
3. Submit a photo of your work to Tröegs.

Information at the website.



New beers on the market

– Beer No. 3 in Anheuser-Busch’s new seasonal lineup is called Spring Heat Spiced Wheat. From the press release: ” . . . an unfiltered Belgian-style wheat ale, which is naturally cloudy. Brewed with orange, lemon and lime peels; the spice of coriander; two-row barley and wheat malts; as well as a blend of domestic Cascade and Willamette hops and imported Hallertau hops, this beer is memorably aromatic and has a smooth, complex taste.” Like the first two beers in this series, Spring Heat is available only on draft.

Magic Hat Brewing in Vermont has released its first new year-round beer in nearly three years. Circus Boy is the brewery’s take on an American hefeweizen. From the press release: “Unfiltered and unfettered, it’s a deliciously light-bodied beer brewed for wide consumer appeal and ultimate drinkability for all seasons. Each sip of Circus Boy contains a pronounced wheat malt character, yet is free of the overly spiced phenolic yeast flavors that mar the typical imported hefeweizen.” Magic Hat points out American hefeweizens experienced 15% growth in 2005 and are now the fifth.

Dogfish Head Brewery in Delaware’s seasonal ApriHop is out. Basically fruit beer meets India Pale Ale, the beer is brewed with real apricots and finished with whole-leaf Amarillo and Warrior hops. 7% ABV 55 IBU.

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Spitfire beer ad escapes censure

A advertisement for Shepherd Neame’s Spitfire beer has once again survived a challenge to a British advertising watchdog, despite complaints about its use of Hitler’s Nazi SS insignia.

Shepherd Neame conceded that the humor behind using the dreaded SS insignia in an ad was edgy, but argued that the insignia was the butt of a joke as part of its long-running campaign evoking the British World War II spirit at the expense of the Germans.

The brewery had a similar run-in with advertsing authorities in 2001.