LINK to story.
States are always reviewing and updating their alcohol laws and regulations. Michigan, where I reside, has recently allowed bars, restaurants and taverns to fill growlers, a practice that had been restricted to brewers previously. North Carolina is also considering similar legislation (LINK) with the caveat of reviewing sanitation practices beforehand. This secondary issue has seen much discussion in this state as well.
Let’s face it: many watering holes do NOT practice standard sanitation techniques, including regular cleaning of draft lines. Most advocates recommend cleaning lines every two weeks as a standard and there are many companies which offer to perform the service. For this reason, some are suggesting that bars and restaurants not be allowed to sell growlers, in case they end up pouring substandard beer for a customer.
Many brewery and brewpub owners and employees against this legislation had very strong feeling and expressed them in detail. The biggest issue for those against was product quality: quality in draft beer systems, quality in draft beer system maintenance and quality of cleaning the growler prior to refill. Many felt that the beer would not be represented properly with the draft dispense and the sanitation issues that exist at some bars/restaurants.
– Michigan Beer Guide, Legislative Report, Nov/Dec 2012
Of course, this also means that patrons will have to come to breweries ONLY to get their growlers filled, so this argument is somewhat prejudiced from the start. In addition, it ignores several other market realities:
– If a bar has poor or dirty draft lines, they’re already serving substandard beer by the glass.
– I can find six packs regularly in convenience stores, that are well over a year old, sitting warm on shelves in direct light, so they’re selling substandard beer to customers.
So, is it really about quality control?
Perhaps…but we might argue that the pros far outweigh the cons in this case. Let’s face it, most growler fills are likely to be craft beer, rather than Macro Lite, so they’ll largely come from tap houses that regularly serve quality beer. Many (most?) of the bars serving quality beers DO utilize proper sanitation practices, so it seems unfair to punish them for the sins of a few who may not. Also, allowing bars and pubs to fill growlers extends a breweries products to patrons beyond their local area. Most patrons also realize that fresher beer is better. I’d much rather have a relatively fresh keg serving of craft beer than an aforementioned mistreated six pack as my “introduction” to a new consumer.
Rather than additional legislation calling for a new bureaucracy to “regulate” the cleaning of draft lines – which may or may not be regularly enforced – wouldn’t it make sense for the brewers to come together, under the Michigan Beer Guild or other organization, to self-fund a “certification program” and supply a dated sticker or certificate to bars and taverns for display?
They could charge a small fee and ask for proof of cleaning practices – which could be a simple as cleaning receipts going back 3-6 months showing regular cleanings. Each year, the certification could be renewed with new proof provided. In fact, the cleaning companies may be willing to support this program as well in an effort to reach more customers! Further, use websites, brewery staff and social media to educate consumers to seek out the “Growler Certification” in bars and restaurant they patronize for the best quality product.
The craft brewing world has been built largely without the “assistance” of government officials and by educating consumers one-by-one. Why should the solution to this issue be any different?
The Barn Tavern
Grand Ledge, MI
The Barn on Google Plus
So I’m on a little road trip and happen to stop by “Victorian Days” in a little town of Grand Ledge, located about 15-20 miles west of Lansing, the Michigan state capital city. While wandering aimlessly about town – which didn’t take long – I built a bit of a thirst and popped into a locally recommended watering hole and quickly realized it was a mistake. They had Oberon and Fat Tire, otherwise was a wasteland of macro beer.
As a second chance, I happened across the street to another establishment, only to discover it was actually a brewery. Score!! I had no idea there was a licensed brewpub in town, so I was a bit giddy at my good fortune.
It appears the “brewery” part was a bit of an afterthought, as The Barn is a quite simple, hole-in-the-wall type establishment – which is my preferred genre in American establishments anyway. Sure enough, they had what appeared to be a one or two barrel system in a corner and four house-made brews on tap. I dug into a sampler platter that consisted of White Boy, an American style wheat, West Coast, a California Common Beer, Irish Red and a CherryWood, a smoke aged ale.
The bar maid informed me that the locals had responded well to the beers, which rotate often in sixth barrel kegs. The most popular beer (which wasn’t mentioned) was currently sold out, but would be back soon.
The White Boy and Irish Red were both pretty standard efforts, although the Red was a little pale for the style, but made up for it in maltiness. The West Coast was unfortunately infected, so not a good example. However, the CherryWood was probably the most interesting, with a hearty smoked wood aroma and nose that hearkened back to Bamberg in the middle of summer. A deep copper color, it was a very balanced brew with a hint of malty body, with a soft lingering smoky nose that covered the roof of your mouth.
It was great to stumble into a place, and have no friggin’ idea they were actually in on the Gospel of Craft Beer. This is another lesson in the “Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover” rule. As mentioned in my visit to Greenville, another small town Americana, if the Word is getting around here, then the tide is truly turning in favor of real beer. I’ll be sure to stop again the next time I’m in town.
Ok, time for a pet peeve: beer clean glassware.
We’ve chatted a bit over the past year or two about proper glassware and how it can enhance a beer style, but far too much attention is paid by many places nowadays to beer CLEAN glassware. Too often, one gets a pour with a non-existent head or perhaps big, loose bubbles…or large bubble on the side of the glass that quickly rise to the top. That’s often a sign of a dirty vessel, where dust or sediment attracts the CO2 released from the bottle or draft line.
Here’s a nice little PRIMER on the topic.
Once of the positive trends we’re seeing in tap houses is the glass rinser, such as the one pictured here. This is common in Europe, or at least in Germany, and I’m starting to see places utilize them more often on these shores. It’s a quick, easy way to remove any “gunk” or soap residue as a glass is placed upside down over the spray nozzle, which squirts a little stream of water up into the inside of the glass when pressure is applied. The water then turns off as the glass is raised and drains right back down the grates. The glass is now beer clean for the draft beverage or a bottle pour. Easy and kind of cool.
The next time you’re in your favorite watering hole, make note of the bubbles and ask yourself – particularly on the lighter beers – if you’re tasting anything that isn’t supposed to be there. It could be dirty glassware…
I bumped into THIS little article the other day.
Finally, a Unversity of Higher Learning puts a few of those research dollars to good use and comes up with something that actually helps mankind! Can you imagine the blessings of a little pill to clear up that nasty hangover, stop drunken rants in mid-stream, or even before the ride home? This little miracle pill would save countless man hours in non-productive employees, save lives by eliminating drunk drivers, and put an end to “drunk texting” forever…amazing!
Of course, we’ll never know if this will amount to anything, but it is fun to think of the possibilities.
What are your favorite buzzkill concoctions or hangover rememedies?
Pearl Street Brewery
La Crosse, WI
Style: Imperial/Double IPA
Continuing my tour of Wisconsin, I’m visiting LaCrosse – former home of G. Heileman and one of the U.S.’s largest Oktoberfest celebrations…and current home of City Brewing, a large contract company. It also is reported to have one of the largest bar & tavern populations per capita in the U.S., so I’m a big fan of the town.
Pearl Street Brewing is actually a craft brewer that moved into an expanded facility and started bottling beer several years ago after surviving nearly a decade pouring draft only.
I was kind of intrigued by their “Imperial” India Pale Ale, particularly as it poured a deep caramel pearl red color, hinting at the complex malt grain bill.
There was almost no head, save a few large bubbles that hung around a bit throughout the glass. The nose was herbal pine, as expected, but the profile is primarily malt based. There’s a big hop bite too, with a long dry finish, but not nearly what I’d expect from an IIPA. Personally, I appreciate the balance, even if unexpected.
Checking in at nearly 10% ABV, the maltiness and balance combine to make this a relatively drinkable beer and one would not suspect it to be as strong as it is, as the profile is that of a crunchy IPA.
It’s a solid effort, with only the flat appearance and slight medicinal notes holding it back in my view.
Style: Belgian Tripel
Unibroue was founded as La Brasserie Massawippi by André Dion and Serge Racine in 1990 and is one of the Canada’s most well regarded craft breweries. Merged in the mid-90’s, they become acquired by Sleeman Breweries in 2004, and then by Sapporo in 2006.
Known is “Unibrew” in the States, it’s not to be confused with the InterBrew, predecessor of ABInBev.
They make a variety of beer, but is most known for their Belgian varieties, including today’s “End of the World,” a bottle conditioned Belgian style tripel Golden Ale, named in homage to sailors reaching the New World in the Age of Exploration.
It’s typically found in the 22 ounce bomber bottle, sealed with a nice foil wrapper. Pouring a lightly cloudy yellow, with a soft, creamy head, I immediately noted the excellent head retention. The nose has notes of apple, pear and a light fruitiness that masks the hefty 9% ABV. Spicy, with a crisp bite to it, there is nary a hop note relative to some true Belgian triples, but instead a long mild finish of alcohol with a lingering maltiness.
While this is an excellent beer with a gorgeous appearance and is highly rated by many, I found it slightly acidic with a little more burn than I’d like for a conditioned triple. That said, I’d never turn down a chance to imbibe whenever I found it available.
Central Waters Brewing Company
Style: Amber Ale
With a few International tastings in the rear view mirror recently, I’m taking off on a tour of
Wisconsin for the next little bit of time. My first stop is Amhurst, which is
home to Central Waters. Started in the late 90’s by a pair of homebrewing
friends in Junction City, this generically named brewery was built by hand and
has grown to fill its new present location in 2007.
They currently distribute throughout central Wisconsin and feature around 18
regular brews, a couple of which have won awards including a bronze at the
World Beer Cup in 2000 for their “Catastrophe Ale” tribute to Y2K.
One of their flagships has always been their red ale, named for a Native
American version of the state moniker. It pours beautifully red, with a big
bubbly head that drifts off quickly to a thin lace. Deep copper in color, it’s
very clear and clean. The nose is malt forward with a balance finishing hop to
clean it up, trailing off into a lingering, malty aftertaste.
This is very balanced and a nice session ale that would appeal to mainstream
beer drinkers, who are sticking a toe into the craft brew world, because it
still “tastes like beer.” The profile is malt based, without huge roasted
flavors or more than a hint of malty bitterness.
Craft beer lovers would also be satisfied when looking for a sessionable brew,
much the way a Bell’s Amber or Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold can hit the spot
perfectly some days.
While this is certainly nothing spectacular, it is absolutely solid by every
measure and would be welcome in my ‘fridge any time.
Sometimes, a beer tasting creates a dilemma…especially for beer imported from
distant ports of call. Today is one of those days.
Flensburger Brauerei is a brewery located in Flensburg in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, in Hanseatic Germany. It’s one of the last breweries in Germany that enjoys nationwide distribution and operation without being part of a larger brewery
group. Founded in 1888 by five citizens of Flensburg, it is owned today mainly by the founder families Petersen and Dethleffsen.
Before modern refrigeration, the brewery used to chop blocks of ice from frozen lakes in the winter and bring the blocks back to the brewery to keep their underground storage facilities cool in summer. They still operate using their own water well, which is supplied by an underground vein of very old Ice Age melting water coming from Scandinavia.
I was introduced to “Flens” at least two decades ago by a friend on one of my early visits to West Germany (before reunification), where their pils, lager and other styles were readily available in northern areas of the BRD, and their “Plopp Flashen” (ceramic swing top, like Grolsch) bottles were pretty cool…and remain part of their identity, despite the added demands and expense of the complicated automation process required to fill, seal, clean & recycle these bottles. Their beer has always been excellent and it remains part of the
blunt regional identity among many Northern Germans (note the ad below).
Today, I was pretty fired up to try their Gold, which they call a pilsner –
even if it’s not nearly as dry as their actual Pilsner brand – but is closer to
a more typical helles lager.
Unfortunately, the import time and conditioning had probably not been kind to
After “plopping” open and pouring my beer, I immediately noted the obvious
lightstruck aroma. The carbonation was low and the white head dissipated almost
immediately. The nose is malty and mildly sweet with a flat dryness and
slightly medicinal notes and lingered on into a soft dry tinny finish. This was
not the beer I had remembered.
And this created the dilemma.
I would typically not want to review a beer that was obviously flawed and is no
longer in the intended condition, but the fact is, the beer was sold at retail
and remains on the shelf in stores. So if this is what’s out there for
purchase, than it’s fair to review it as it is.
While I know the beer is much better than this, it’s below average in these
samples and, while not undrinkable, was nonetheless disappointing.
Celebrator is probably the granddaddy of all the German dopplebocks, at least
in terms of U.S. awareness, and it’s one of the most awarded – winning early
and often at the World Beer Championships, including Platinums in 2005 &
Celebrator is also certainly the most famous dopplebock on these shores and its
bottle, with the little plastic billy goat hanging around the neck, is easily
recognizable to any beer geek.
Ayinger Brauerei is also relatively well known, winning “Top Ten Breweries
in the World” awards at the WBC in 1994-97. Although it falls about 25 km
outside the city of Munich, so is not considered part of the “Big Six,” it is
as well regarded as any of the others (even if it doesn’t qualify to be served at Oktoberfest).
Celebrator pours a deep brown color with a nice, fluffy tan head. The foam disappears
quickly, but the nose is caramel and sweet, with loads of candied molasses on
the aroma. Sweet and silky on the palate, with a touch of alcohol, the brown
sugar maltiness is lightly balanced with a soft hoppy finish and a lingering
Having tasted this beer often over the years, it was always HUGE back in the
day. It still holds up well compared to the big craft beers out there now, but
it’s definitely not as overwhelming as it used to seem.
This is still a quality beer. My bottle was probably at least a year old, but
stored under good conditions and held up well.
From a personal perspective, March is one of my favorite times in Bavaria,
because all the Starkbier is on the market and many of them are excellent.
Celebrator is no exception.