December 27, 2008

Organics and their beer

I have never intentionally dallied into organic foods. Call it apathy or laziness and you'd probably be correct. I haven't ever concerned myself with pesticides and preservatives even though I know I should. It might be important to me since I do have a watershed feeding my water supply that drains quite a bit of farmland.

The only aspect of organic (if it is indeed to be included)that I do actively participate would be free-range meats and eggs. I love to eat meat. I am not ashamed of that fact but I do feel empathetic for animals. I do pony up some extra money to buy animal products that are produced from animals that lived a fairly normal life up until we killed them. Sadly that is currently limited to free-range eggs and chicken and free-range hamburger. I should frequent a place like the James Family Farm in Sherman. I don't yet. It's that apathy and laziness again.

But you didn't come here to listen to me whine about why I can't get into organic foods. You came here to listen to me talk about beer. So here is what I am talkin bout:

Organic Beer!

Your choices if you are truly into organic products can be limited but not when it comes to beer. There are truly some quite worthwhile organic beers to be had that really don't taste any different than other craft beers of the same style. That is unless you include the smug satisfactory taste of making the Earth a better place one beer at a time.

You can find some these beers at your local beverage emporiums. I'll reference Friar Tuck's since I am well acquainted with it but try Famous Liquors and/or Party House and if they do not carry organic beers then request them (The caveat being that if you do request them then make sure you become a regular buyer or they will drop them if there is no interest).

Our first beer is: New Belgium's Mothership Wit

This New Belgium's first organic beer and is good if you like wheat beers. It was nigh omnipresent with the Fat Tire and 1554 for a period of time at some of the better-rounded restaurants but I think it has been dropped at some. I do not believe this will be the only organic from New Belgium for long. The brewery itself is doing some interesting things with sustainability at their own facilities. It might be worth drinking their products to support those efforts even if it is one of their non-organic offerings.

The second option (of which I believe some is available at the Tuck) is Otter Creek Brewery's sub-brand Wolaver's. Otter Creek is a brewery in Vermont and, after it was bought by the Wolaver family, it began producing beer that was certified as organic. Their three year-round beers are a Pale Ale, an India Pale Ale and a Brown Ale.

Ther ya go. If you are interested in oragnic foods and were lamenting the fact that you had no beer choices, you can now find several interesting options at your local stores. It is up to you now. Organics don't survive without being proven viable. Buy these beers, request them at stores and restaurants. Share them with friends. Do or Do Not, There is No Try.

December 24, 2008

Yeast-ridden beer and Da Bomb!

Beer is created through the action of yeast upon the sugars contained within the malt. This yeast while alive and in an environment where it can survive will process its food. If you have ever had a beer where the yeast has not been filtered out may have experienced the results: gas.

Hazed and Infused, an unfiltered dry-hopped IPA by Boulder Beer Co., which is tasty most, is one such beer. Thank you BFS. You enabled me to sicken my wife on our morning commute after merely having one beer the night before.

December 19, 2008

Beer = the new wine

According to some dude who contradicts himself in the next bullet point, but I'l take it.{55D4CCA1-0109-4476-B2D4-48D2E20BDCA3}

Also, be sure to catch Discovery's 'How Stuff Works' beer special over the weekend! It aired last night so I'm sure they'll repeat it a few dozen times this weekend. They spent some time at the Dogfish Head Brewery (or as I call it, Heaven)

December 4, 2008

Oh yeah, the link . . .

Rookie mistake!


Hello all!

I'd like to thank Gish for the glowing introduction! I'd like to second his mourning at the passing of the Grape and Grain. I was college roommates with the original owner's son and got to know Jon Walz very well over the years. Sadly he passed away last year. He was a very good man and is sorely missed. However, we can keep some of his spirit live by maintaining the spirit of quality brewmaking here in Springfield!

On a lighter note, I have come acrossed a list some enterprising blogger put together showing the most popular, domestically produced beers around the world. As many in the comments section of the page noted, this not a list of the BEST beer in that country, meerly the most popular. You will notice a distinct pilzer/horse urine trend to the list.

I have tried a few on the list besides those widely available in the states. Kronenburg 1664 is a decent light lager, Baltica kind of sucks. Particluar shout out to the people of Sri Lanka for liking Lion Stout! I have a sneaking suspicion that it is the most popular beer made there because it is the only beer made there. Nevertheless, it is one of the finest beers made in the world. Also, poor Eritrea. I'm thinking a decade's long civil war and grinding poverty leads to the top beer in you country being made in someone's basement.

I'd like to invite the commenters, how many of these have you tried? What do you think SHOULD be at the top a nations list?

Budweiser, we can do better America!


December 1, 2008

A Diatribe for the Common man

Soon, my poppets, you will be introduced to Red of Red Cobblers Brewery. The Yin to my Yang. The Up to my Down. The Black to my White. (Technically for those of you who see color. We are both white.)

He will post whatever he sees fit and beery because together we might just be prolific enough to keep your attention.

Welcome the Biumvirate!

November 28, 2008

Anon's rage-a-torium: post here


You are actually dumb enough to post a threat of bodily harm on a blog directed at me and my wife. Are you really that stupid? Do you realize the legal ramifications that type of post has, especially if you followed through on your threat?

I'll admit I am intrigued to find out if you are a total moron or just too angry or too dry a humorist. So here goes.

You are an ass. Ass. Ass. Ass.

Post a comment with your email and I'll get in touch if you think you can really follow through on your threat.


November 21, 2008

In 2009 came the Reformation

Recently one commenter made mention of an idea to ressurect the 'Prairie Schooners' which was Springfield's very own homebrew club. I cannot tell everyone how excited I am about this prospect. Homebrewing solo or with a group is a pretty rewarding experience but at some point your monkey sphere limits the extent you can disseminate your brews and share the experiences of homebrewing.

Bonus link: What is a Monkey Sphere?

My particular speculation on the death of the Prairie Schooner's is linked to the demise of the Grape nad Grain which was Springfield's only true homebrew/winemaking supply store. These shops offer something besides specialized and hard-to-find materiel. They provide camraderie and someone to discuss your passion with. We have other venues: Tuck and online vendors but it just isn't the same.

Since this economic climate may not facilitate the opening of a venture so narrowly defined as a homebrew shop then a suitable and enjoyable substitute is the homebrew club. If this gets off the ground and running then I hope some of you brewers out there and some of you wannabes will give it a whirl.

I'll definitely post information as it becomes available to me and, to the ressurectionists, I am willing to help. Just let me know how.

November 12, 2008

Little Red Cobblers and the Lincoln Land Lagers

My personal homebrewery is named Red Cobblers which I fictitiously created and branded with my buddy when we started homebrewing in August of 2007. The derivation of name is from losse translations of our last names and just seemed to be catchy. My blog title is an extension of my branding and the naked shoemaker elves. I even made shirts for us, the owners, to wear around town so if you see a couple of WOOBs (white old obese males) in this logo then you have correctly identified the blog owner or his close associate.

I will say homebrewing is a very satisfying hobby if you love beer. If you don't love beer then I am not sure why you'd really want to engage in the practice. It can be time consuming and cleaning, sanitizing, brewing, the wait and bottling are really hard to get through without a beer in your hand. To share in the burden and create more variety at once, my homebrewery has formed a cooperative with other homebreweries: Skillet Brewing and others.

We title ourselves The Lincolnland Lagers. I thought it was a great title because I attended LLCC and it was way too obtuse for non-locals to get. In retrospect, it was dumb because we, as a group, don't lager anything. I just don't want to give anyone the wrong impression. If you brew with our crew then you are makin ale, son. I did, too late, decide we could call ourselves the Lincoln Alesplitters but we are based in Springfield and I already made our group and logo so boo to me.

Anyway, last Saturday was teach a friend to homebrew and I completed that task last year and I now brew with all my real beer-drinking friends so this is my simple effort to encourage homebrewing.

Please start homebrewing. It is fun. It is worthwhile. You will make mistakes but your beer will be some of the best beer you've ever had. It is just like how much you love your rotten kids just cause you made them.

Red Cobblers Artful Pale

I have been homebrewing for about a year now and I love making and consuming my own beer. I still buy plentiful amounts of craft brews but I crave variety in my brewing so I drink commercial products alongside my own. To be honest though, there is one thing I like about the homebrewing hobby more then actually brewing my own beer.

Designing labels for my beers.

I admit it. I am a wannabe artist and, until I met photoshop, I was a mostly frustrated one at that. Photoshop has let me tinker with images and produce things I find more appealing. I added a digital Rebel XTi last year for my birthday and have been predominately sourcing my own creations ever since.

This is my latest label creation for my latest beer, a pale ale (slightly on the hoppy side). It completes my set of beer labels featuring myself, my wife and our two dogs. It is extremely fulfilling to me to present a friend or family member with a homebrew to take home with and attractive label that I hope they'll enjoy as much as the beer.

I am still a frustrated artist though because some of the work out there by other homebrewers far surpasses mine but, if you are ever lucky or unlucky enough to receive one of my bottles, please cherish it if only for the amount of time to pour because if that beer got a label then it mieans it was a beer made with love.

October 24, 2008

Cash on the Barrelhead

The Barrelhead.

Man, that holds a lot of memories for me. I have been going ot the barrelhead for almost 25 years now. It all started with hearing about the restaurant from my father who would attend dinner meetings planning out the yearly fishing trip to Canada with his buddies. Then our family started eating there. It was love at first bite.

In high school, I remember eating there probably twice a week. Once would be with the family for our typical dinner one night a week there and the second would be convincing my friends to chow on the weekend. I managed to rotate between the bacon cheeseburger, patty melt, turkey club and pizza. Like some of the rest of you, I even remember getting scolded for moving a chair on my twenty-first birthday, in which I was guided on a trip of mixed drinks since I hated beer with a passion.

The Barrelhead.

The wife and I still talk about going there the first week after the transfer of ownership from Kitty and Ed to the mayors brother and watching the new owner fondle (in a naughty way) some married female friend in full view of his customers. I felt that crushing weight of knowing I had let my wife talk me out of eating there right before the tornado hit and thinking I might never get the chance again. Seemed ridiculous anyway since we boycotted the restaurant during the Springfield-only smoking ban.

The Barrelhead: Excellent

The Barrelhead's beer selection is fairly unrivalled in Springfield in any restaurant and most bars. They advertise around fifty (iirc) beers on tap and have quite a bottle selection to boot. They provide the consumer with a beer list which is mostly up to date at any given time so it might be wise to saunter up to the bar for a look or ask the wait staff for any updates.

While The Barrelhead still caters largely to the BMC crowd, they have made some pretty hefty strides in balancing that with a broad selection of both imports and craft brewers. The imports are pretty much al InBev and the crafts are mostly regional which i consider a plus.

I am paring down their massive list to what I consider some of the beers that will appeal to a more discriminating taste. They have all the big boys and the 'craft subsidiaries' like Leinenkugels and Blue Moon. The imports may mostly be InBev products but they are worth a shot since they can be quite tasty.

The list:

Stella Artois
Amstel Light
Strongbow (Yeah, a cider!)
Spaten (Light Lager)
Spaten Optimator (Doppelbock <=Dark Lager mit kick)
Spaten Oktoberfest (I had this and felt it was quite good.)
Koestritzer Schwarzbier (ein anderes dark lager aus Deutschland)
Warsteiner (pilsener)
Hoegaarden (Belgian wheat)
Koenig Ludwig Weiss (German wheat)

Craft Brewers:
Sam Adams Boston Lager
Sam Adams Octoberfest
Schlafly Pale Ale (Nice to see considering the dominance of InBev/A-B products)
Goose Island Honkers Ale
Goose Island India Pale Ale
Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale
Boulevard Pale Ale
Boulevard Wheat
Boulevard Bob's 47 (Maerzen/Oktoberfest style)
New Belgium's Fat Tire
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Rogue Dead Guy Ale
Spoetzel's Shiner Bock
Woodchuck (Yeah, another cider!)

Possible: It is easy to see at the bar they distinctive bottles of Boulevard's Smokestack series and, while not having ordered it while at The Barrelhead, I do hope they maintain stocking choices like those.

I would hope that the range presented here is enough to cover most drinker's tastes and, while there really isn't anything all that uncommon, I do feel they have done a pretty good job at catering to the beer drinking crowd. Pair that with their quality pub food and I think most consumers can go away happy.

One thought I do have is that someone there must either love wheat beers or believe that they will pull in non-beer drinking consumers. There are a total of at least 9 wheat choices including the BMC products. That is quite the choice for wheat drinkers. I wonder if they have invested in orange orchards.

The Barrelhead: Excellent

October 12, 2008

Bedrock 66 @ Hoogland and Jimmy Oh's (kind of)

I know the Bedrock 66 shows at the Hoogland aren't a restaurant, bar or a store that sells beer but I did not go to lot of places that qualified. I did go to Jimmy Oh's but nobody apparently knows what beers they have without physically pulling out all the bottles. Big clue here: If you don't know what you have, write it down. I mean, you had a wine list. Therefore I cannot really grade them with any accuracy.

Jimmy Oh's: Incomplete

Anyway Friday night was the Bedrock 66 series show. We had dinner at Cafe Brio since it is conveniently close and I know what I am ordering. Their review still stands but they have added a new seasonal: Unibroue's Ephemere which is a Belgian wit with heavy apple flavor. I found it horrible but I shy from the Belgian styles. The party out-voted me 2 to 1 on its tasty goodness. If you like cider, you like wheat beers or you love Unibroue (Quebec) or Belgium itself, then go grab a bottle with dinner.

Some posts ago I lamented the loss of the Underground City Tavern and its choice musical acts. I was gently reminded that the brains behind their selections is know a part of hosting the Bedrock 66 series of concerts to bring some musical variety to Springfield. Now I knew some of this since I had attended the very first show of the series but slacked off in my determination to support this worthy endeavor. The wife and I had nothing to do on Friday and knowing of this impending date we decided to make a go of it.

The show itself was a double-bill of one, Otis Gibbs, and the ensemble, Boulder Acoustic Society. The show was a blast. Otis Gibbs was an excellent musician who had great tunes on the guitar and whose voice is a fine instrument itself. Boulder Acoustic Society is a melange of violin, bass, accordion and drums. I can't quantify their music but I think I heard elements of classical, rock, bluegrass and gypsy. I heartily recommend everyone to google said groups.

The shows are sponsored by the Boston Brewing Company therefore the only beers sold will fall under the Sam Adams brand. This isn't a bad thing although it does limit choice but Sam Adams does have some range to them while only lacking the depth multiple brewery choices provide.

Bedrock 66 concert series: Acceptable Plus

They don't rate a good since Sam Adams is your only choice but they did manage a short range of beer:

Sam Adams Boston Lager
Sam Adams Boston Lager Light (should you need to concern yourself with calories)
Sam Adams Boston Ale (hoppier than the lager)
Sam Adams Black Lager (a schwarzbier)

They have provided a pretty short list of hoppy to malty and even tosses in a light beer for your light friends. We aren't talking the finest brews of each style but Sam Adams is the most plentiful beers many of us are happy to have. They also work as a nice gateway brewery to lure beer drinking buddies to the Elysian Fields of beer. My only real complaint with the beer selection is that Sammy produces so much more and it wouldn't be that difficult to add one or two more options.

Bedrock 66 concert series: Acceptable Plus

October 1, 2008


PAO or Pao, I don't really know. Pao is ,iirc, Pacific Coast cuisine which features American fare with elements of Asian fused together (that might be totally off). The wife and I enjoy eating there albeit a bit infrequently. Their meat dishes are quite tasty and it certainly makes you feel slightly more cultured for having dined there. They offer sushi which may be of interest to some. I don't like cooked fish let alone uncooked fish.

Pao: Excellent

Pao definitely added some brews to cater to the uncommon palate including a few that you are unlikely to see in many other restaurants. Their stock seems a little Rogue heavy which typically suits me fine as I am a fan of Rogue's brews. They also benefited from the major inroads New Belgium has made in Springfield so if Fat Tire is your new favorite then you are in luck at Pao.

Their beer list is as follows, minus the BMC products which are plentiful:

Rogue Dead Guy (Maibock)
Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar (a nut brown ale)
Rogue Shakespeare Stout (a nice dark ale. quite tasty.)
Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale (apparently soba is buckwheat. I don't like the flavor.)
New Belgium Fat Tire (amber ale)
New Belgium 1554 (black ale)
New Belgium Mothership Wit (wheat beer)
Boulevard Wheat (a good wheat but why no other Boulevards)
Sam Adams Light (if you are watching your figure. at least it has more taste.)
Sam Adams seasonal (Oktoberfest right now)
Xingu (the Brazilian black beer)
Sapporo (it's a light lager but one that extends to the end of the Edo period)
Amstel Light

Pao has a pretty wide range. You don't often find Rogue's Soba ale outside of the rare bar or so and there should be something for every palate except possibly the hops lover. I don't understand why someone might carry Boulevard's wheat beer but not their excellent pale ale. Perhaps the head chef did not feel the overpowering aroma of hops would mesh well with his culinary offerings.

I heartily recommend Pao for the experience to pair some quality food with some quality beer. I would suggest, having not actually tried, pairing the Rogue Morimoto Soba with some fresh sushi. Let me know how that turns out.

Pao: Excellent


Alright, I'll admit I went to AZTCA for lunch about a week ago. I already find myself in a rut and you readers may notice I have yet to hit a single bar which makes me either very responsible or very lame.So here goes: time to get back in the swing of things.

AZ-T-CA has to be my solid number two Mexican joint. My first love is, as it should be yours too, Emilios. However Emilios serves breakfast and lunch and has a dearth of brews in their establishment so time for number two. AZ-T-CA has some great food and I highly recommend anything featuring their green sauce. It is most tasty. Their beer is predominately Mexican which fits their style so I am not complaining. It is accompanied by 7 other domestic lagers and several imports. Their lineup, like most of the common Mexican beers found in the states are lager heavy. This is a conundrum for me since lagers need nice cool temperatures which Mexico is not seemingly known for. I have no recourse but to blame the German and Austrian immigrants that brought their lager love to Mexico.

AZ-T-CA: Poor

AZ-T-CA is just too lager heavy to receive anything more than a poor rating. I'll freely admit that if you love Mexican lagers than you could do little better than to stop by and have a nice Bohemia or Negra Modelo and the Texas Chimichanga (mmm Chorizo!). That said, if you wanted an ale or anything remotely uncommon then AZ-T-CA is not for your palate.

AZ-T-CA only carries bottled beer as well as some spirits. The beers are as follows:

Corona Extra
Corona Light
Dos Equis Special Lager
Dos Equis Amber
Modelo Especial
Negra Modelo (your darkest choice)
Several Bud products including Bud Light Lime
Mil Lite
Coors Light

Not a lot of variety outside of light lagers. Probably your best choice might be the Negra Modelo. At least it has some color and malt flavor. Of course if it is really, really hot out like it might be on a normal Mexican Summer day then all choices are equally good. Mexican beers have their place even if that place is only on a beach actually located in Mexico. If you aren't there, hopefully near the brewery manufacturing your beer of choice then you may be disappointed in your choices. AZ-T-CA is doubtfully known for their beer selection but does have pretty good food. Go grab something tasty and then grab a favored bottle when you get home.

AZ-T-CA: Poor

September 28, 2008

Why don't we have a Destihl?

I've been several places to eat over this past week but haven't made a post until now. At least I have some material coming up for any impending dry spells. Yesterday I had the fortune, good or otherwise, to eat at Destihl in Normal, Illinois. Destihl is a chef-driven restaurant which also brews its own beer or it is a brewpub that features high end designer dishes. I don't think they actually know either.

They have a pretty standard line up:
Normal Lager (a Muenchen-style Helles)
Redbird Ale (an American-style red ale)
Baldock India Pale Ale
Weissenheimer Hefeweizen
Jivaro Oatmeal Espresso Stout

They also have a fairly deep seasonal and rotational lineup of other styles. Destihl features flights (samplers) which come five brews to a flight. Since these are 6 ounce glasses I chose to only try one flight since I did have plans for later that day. I went with the seasonal sampler and it consisted of the following brews:

Dampfbier (I have never heard of this style and reference it only as Belgian-y)
Miner's Ruin California Common (like an Anchor Steam.)
Biere Brune (Belgian style brown ale)
Golden Child (Belgian-style golden or pale ale)
Maerzen Oktoberfest

I will admit the flight tended towards Belgian styles or tastes which I mostly abhor but it was well worth it for simply a taste experience which you aren't as likely to find locally. We chose not to eat at Destihl even though their food looked very appealing simply in the name of time.

While I still wonder whether the beer or the food comes first at Destihl, they have an extremely well rounded lineup with a seasonal and rotating lineup that makes it worth a tasting trip. If Destihl were located in Springfield, they might be my holy grail combination of beer and food but they aren't and if I am going to drive that far I'd rather go to Schlafly's Tap Room in St. Louis.

Destihl: Excellent if they were in Springfield. Worth a trip even though they aren't.

Coming down the line: Pao, Aztca and McCormick's Barbecue and Deli.

I've noticed this post rambles a bit and seems pretty ramshackle. I ask your forgiveness. My brew crew, the Lincolnland Lagers, had a brew day today and that often involves sampling.

September 21, 2008


Palermos is an Italian restaurant on Durkin Drive. For those familiar with the old Imo's Pizza, Palermos occupied that location after Imo's closure. Palermos has a triple threat menu offering pastas, pizzas and paninis. All three are pretty tasty and I'd definitely recommend the restaurant based on food alone.

Their beer selection is a different matter altogether. They have your standard Bud, Miller and Coors selection of the type you find at pretty much every restaurant which has the capability to carry beer. All beer appears to be bottles only so, if you have a preference for draft, you will be out of luck. Their lineup does offer a slight nod to the Italian food with the addition of Peroni to its list. Peroni is an Italian pale lager currently owned by SABMiller.It doesn't do much to offer any breadth of beer style and is about as uncommon at Italian restaurants as finding Pacifico or Dos Equis is at a Mexican joint.

Palermos barely qualifies as a poor. They do manage the one import even if it doesn't really add much to their range.

I'm sure we can all agree the Italy is better known for its wine than its beers but there has to be some different choices than just a Peroni or a Moretti. I would encourage Palermos to explore their options to develop a beer menu with some more depth. Some additoins which still have some mass market appeal might be a Sam Adams or Michelob's Amber Bock. Guiness is popular with Springfieldians and anything that moves your menu one tick off the solid pale lager playground it is currently has to be a win-win for all. I like your food and I want your restaurant to be around for a long time. I just don't like your beer menu which is why I always order the Sangria.

Go for the food.

Palermos: Poor

September 19, 2008

A moment of silence

I want to take a minute to mourn the loss of the Underground City Tavern. While it was not the best beer bar in town, it definitely had some acceptable brews, if I remember correctly. No, friends, I mourn the UCT more for its music. I didn't really get involved in seeing the bands there until months before their closing but I was fortunate to see a few good acts. Trampled By Turtles was chief among them. Their music is bluegrass, newgrass or some melange of bluegrass and rock as it might feel to you. They played a great show and I managed to catch them for only one reason. I read a blog which features some lesser known music. Some of it fits my tastes and quite a bit doesn't but I check it often. That all stems back to the day I discovered Trampled By Turtles on the blog and managed to correlate it to their appearance at UCT that very night. I will always hold the memory of UCT dear for that very reason. I will also retain a special place in my heart for the Songs:Illinois blog and its author. Generally I am a bit too lazy or focused on other concerns to seek out the lesser known acts and that blog does quite a fine job for me. Since I wanted to share the music I added the blog to my blogroll as the least I could do to make up for all the great music I have taken away from his.

As much as I focus on beer in choosing a bar to patronize, music is a definite draw for me and if any local establishment can draw in some of the regional acts that the Underground City Tavern had then you will definitely have my support and, if you can pair that with exotic brews then you will have my unadulterated love. Make it so!

Welcome Illinois Times reader/s!: Buffalo Wild Wings

Due to recent unwarranted coverage in the Illinois Times, my wife was pleased to suggest we go out to dinner to further my bloggish aspirations. Tonight's choice was a little outside my usual mantra of 'Eat Local!' Honestly, why go to an Olive Garden when you have a Mariahs or Palermos or any other gaggle of good local Italian restaurants but this ain't a food blog so on to what is important: Beer.

My beer rating for Buffalo Wild Wings: Excellent

I really hate that a chain restaurant is as freaking awesome for beer as BWW is. Buffalo Wild wings does something most other Springfield restaurants do not. They manage to have excellent range across their draft and bottled beers. Dark to light with wheats tossed in they have it all or at least as close as we can get in a Springfield dining establishment.

Drafts tend towards some of the more commonly seen around Springfield but they are carrying them consistently which is a huge plus:

Schlafly seasonal (curently Oktoberfest)
New Belgium Fat Tire (<= yeah it is really on draft. you don't have to settle for a 22oz bottle)
Boulevard Wheat (I love the inroads Boulevard has in town)
Flying Dog Old Scratch Amber (Flying Dog has always been a reliable choice for me)
Erdinger Oktoberfest Weizen (Nice beerdrinking choice, beerdrinkers!)

Out of the drafts, the choice to have either a Flying Dog or the Erdinger seasonal really impresses me. Someone at BWW has to love Flying Dog since they have had one of their beers on tap since I have been going there. The Erdinger seasonal wheat really offers a rare sample to try an import which has only recently become available in the United States market. If you enjoy a Blue Moon or Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat, give the Erdinger or Boulevard wheat choices a try. They come from smaller and more independent breweries which lack as much muscle as Coors or Miller.

BWW's bottle choices are where they really round out their offerings. The drafts are a little light on dark beers or highly hopped ales but they more than make up for it in their bottle selections:

Spoetzel's Shiner Bock (a dark lager)
Avery New World Porter (a dark ale)
New Holland Mad Hatter (their India Pale Ale which I do enjoy)
New Holland Full Circle (a Koelsch which is ideal to transition your BMC friends. It is lighter in body.)
New Holland Ichabod (their seasonal autumn ale with pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg)
Lagunitas 'Censored' Rich Copper Ale (big hops taste. good if you like that sort of thing.)
Rogue St. Rogue Red (this is a dry hopped red ale. quite tasty.)
Original Sin Hard Cider (from the east coast. it is drier than a woodchuck amber but quite nice.)
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (I was remiss in forgetting the mighty SNPA)

There you go. Dark brews are covered at one end and hopped ales at the other. They manage to cover a seasonal pumpkin taste as well as keeping any cider drinkers happy with the Original Sin. Now if they could only get that on tap. Buffalo Wild Wings only failings beyond not having every specific beer I like is that their wait staff and some extent their bar staff are not well versed in the beers that they carry. They can't offer any consistent recommendations based on other beers one might like and often are not aware they carry something you have just requested. The onus is on the drinker to know what they will like and ensure its availability. They also need to know that a glass will be required with a bottle order since most will not bring you one automatically.

Buffalo Wild Wings really sets a high bar for restaurants in Springfield. Perhaps their corporate backing has something to do with that. As long as they manage to consistently present some excellent choices in draft and bottled beer, I will keep coming back even if it breaks my non-chain eating habit. Curse their siren song. It makes me a hypocrite.

Buffalo Wild Wings: Excellent

September 17, 2008

Cafe Brio

Tonight I hit the restaurant I meant to be the first place covered on this here blog. I'll admit Cafe Brio holds a special place in my heart since it was the 'first date' restaurant for my wife and I. We probably, on average, eat there once or twice a month. I try to vary my beer choice but never my food. My friends, Cafe Brio has the best damn pocket chicken chimichangas I have ever been blessed as consume. Alter the refried pintos with black beans and you have a tasty slice of heaven.

My beer rating for Cafe Brio: Excellente!

However I must caveat the excellent. Their beer menu has dropped off a few more exclusive brews and they are down to five or so non-mass marketed beers. If you were a fan of Abita Breweries out of New Orleans, those are now gone.

They have your basic American lagers and tip the hat to imports by stocking Newcastle, Pacifico, Dos Equis (both types) and Negra Modelo. All basic beers that allow for some variety and perhaps parity with the cuisine.

However their excellent rating came from the following five brews:

Rogue Dead Guy (Maibock)
Rogue American Amber
Flying Dog Tire Bite (Koelsch)
Lost Coast Brewery Indica (India Pale Ale)
Xingu (a Black Beer from Cervejaria Independente, Rio De Janeiro, Brasil)

These five beers give any beer lover a range from dark to light and hops to malt.While Rogue and Flying Dog products are becoming more plentiful, Xingu is pretty rare in restaurants or bars and I haven't ever seen Lost Coast Brewery's Indica in any bar, restaurant or store including Friar Tuck. Apparently the Tire Bite and Indica are new enough additions that they aren't yet on the beer list. So if you are keen to try either one, ask for them by name. Just remember to request a glass since beer is best when poured into a glass with a fine head.

Swirl, Sniff, Drink. Cafe Brio is excellent for your taste buds.

Cafe Brio: Excellent

September 15, 2008


User participation is welcome on this one:

Oktoberfest is a style of lager that was popularized in Germany. The beer which is technically known as Maerzen (<= pretend the e is really an umlaut over the a)is a type of lager which was traditionally brewed in the spring, lagered all summer long and brought out for a festival at the end of September. If you just go ahead and rent Beerfest you'll learn all about it. Anyway the beer is now typically a malty brew with medium or better body and not a significant amount of hop flavor or aroma. Malt flavor is the name of the game and it is most tasty. I've been snagging Oktoberfests as the've come out and I'd like to share my favorite so far. The group has consisted of brews from Schlafly (St. Louis Brewery), Capital Brewery (out of Middleton, WI), Spaten Brewery (from Munich) and Flying Dog Brewery (out of Maryland). Let me tell you, for me, so far my favorite has been:

Flying Dog's Dogtoberfest

It has a wonderful malt character with enough of a hops balance that just nails it for me. As if that wasn't enough, their bottles are homebrewer friendly which means I can re-use them to bottle my own brews. I am also unfairly biased towards dogs in general.

There are quite a few more out there to try (Boulevard's Bob 47 and Paulaner Brewery's entry) so I doubt I'll have tasted them all before the season is up.

I encourage everyone to get out there and pick up a six of an Oktoberfest and let us know what you think.

Update: I have picked up some Boulevard's Bobs 47 Oktoberfest and while good it doesn't yet knock Dogtoberfest off its perch. I had high hopes for Boulevard because I felt they had hands down the best seasonal Irish Ale this Spring that I was fortunate enough to try.

September 14, 2008

1st restaurant review: Corner Pub

I went to Corner Pub Saturday. I am overly fond of their Cuban sandwich and, even if they had horrible beer choices, I'd frequent it often.

My beer rating for Corner Pub is: Good!

Corner Pub has an pretty good selection for anyone interested in beer. They carry not only the Sam Adams Seasonal, currently Oktoberfest, on draft but also now stock Spoetzel Breweries Shiner Bock which is an acceptable choice for a dark lager. In bottles, they carry Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale as well as Boulevard's Wheat beer. For those of you who are New Belgium fans, they have Fat Tire, 1554 and Mothership Wit.

Don't go there expecting too much off the beaten path because, at last check, they no longer carry Rogue's Dead Guy and don't have anything in the highly hopped arena but most snobs should find something definitely within their palate.

For those of you who love ciders, they only have Woodchuck Amber. Too bad.

Beer: Good!

Corner Pub: Good!

I am your self-appointed Beer god!

So I thought to join the blogging world to sit high on my cloud and drop some beer knowledge on everyone. I did not, however, figure out how I would convey my disjointed set of thoughts: fact and opinion into anything worthwhile.

Hence, I needs me a ratings system. Restaurants, bars and stores alike there is only one way to judge and that is on variety. I am a big believer in drinking regionally followed closely by quality brewers. I also shun most imports simply because I think the long shipping time hurts quality and I find that most types (Belgian possibly excluded) have been recreated here with as good or better results.

Bad: Your establishment only carries what is known as BMC products: Bud, Miller or Coors. It is the typical mass-market stuff which, while appealing to some, leaves much to be desired for the beer snobs.

Poor: Your establishment carries a well rounded BMC complement plus some 'imports' owned by the biggies: InBev, DiaGeo, etc. It is pretty much all lagers with a few 'ales' thrown in like Bass or Guiness. Hopefully you at least covered one stout and one wheat amongst your selection.

Acceptable: Your establishment in addition to having way too many BMC products and big name imports at least carries a big name craft-level brewer. It is probably Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams) but at least should be something a beer snob can down.

Good: Your establishment has moved a little beyond Sammy and imports as qualifying for a well rounded beer complement. You have picked up some of the more common craft beers out there. You carry one or more of the following: Boulevard, St Louis (Schlafly), Goose Island, Spoetzel (Shiner) as well as possibly dipping into putting one or more of their seasonals (including Sam Adams) in botles or on draft (bonus points).

Excellent: Your establishment carries beer most of the population has never heard of. The beer ranges a might gamut from stouts and porters to india pale ales. Your wheats come in multiple styles from hefewizens to wit beers and aren't made by BMC. You are the mecca for all that is beery in Springfield.

So there you have it. It is totally subjective with a few measurable metrics in there. I will try and highlight the best choices at places I try but I may miss stuff, I may be drunk and I may not hit the restaurant, bar or store you frequent. Word is bond.

September 12, 2008

Homebrewing in the Land of Lincoln

It is limited but that is not to say: it can't be done and it can't be great.

Your only real option without driving an hour North, East or South is to order online or visit Friar Tuck. If you start, by all means, become familiar with Friar Tuck's selection because you will invariably forget to order something and will need to pick it up last minute there. Hopefully they will have your need in stock.

Tuck's homebrew supplies are in the same aisle as there warm beer selection. If you are wanting to start homebrewing then you will likely be familiar with this area. They have starter kits and beer kits to brew both, I think, by Brewer's Best. These make great ways to start since all the consumables are packaged in each beer kit and you won't need much beyond bottles for each brew you make.

Once you move past the extract kits and decide to throw together your own recipes, they still have quite the selection of loose stock which should keep you happy until you decide to move to all-grain but, by that time, you'll have likely moved to ordering from an internet homebrew shop to obtain the specialty grains needed.

I encourage anyone with an interest to go and pick up a starter kit and a beer kit of a style you'll enjoy. Tuck is our only homebrew supply shop since the demise of the Grape and Grain and it would help everyone involved in the hobby to show there is demand in Springfield.

Time for a Beer blog dedicated to Springfield

I am not an author. I need to remind myself of that at least three times before I post anything. I am, however, a beer drinker and beer maker. Both hobbies have given me a deeper appreciation for all the different varieties of beer that can be had.

Unfortunately Springfield is mostly a barren wasteland for beer connoisseurs. Sure there are some highlights like Cafe Brio, for restaurants, or Brewhaus, for bars, but ultimately if your idea of a specialty brew isn't Sam Adams then you are out of luck. I hope to use this blog to share information with others on some of the better restaurants and bars in the greater Springfield area for having specialty brews.

Package liquor stores are improving but, compared to wine, it is still pretty lacking. Friar Tuck far and away seems to have the greatest variety of beer but many a grocery store is improving. Kudos to Schnucks and, especially, County Market for attempting to improve in those arenas.

Craft or specialty beer isn't for everyone and far too many people don't really care to try it. However, if you fall into the category of a craft beer lover, then maybe you can add or take something away from this blog.