September 17, 2009


This weekend is the beginning of the traditional Octoberfest celebration which runs until Sunday, October 4th. It is a celebration that began in Munich, Bavaria in the year 1810. It is a celebration of Bavarian culture, Bavarian food and beer. The style often associated with the celebration is generally called an Octoberfest here in the U.S. but is more precisely known as a Maerzen (Märzen).

The Maerzen style is a lagered beer that originated in Germany. The beers name derived from the fact that it was often brewed in the Spring to last through the Summer into the Fall. The remaining stock would often be used up about the time brewing could begin again and the style coincided nicely with the Octoberfest celebration.

You may have little to no familiarity with the style but are caught up in the exuberance of Octoberfest and wish to celebrate with a tad more authenticity. Never fear I am here to share my opinions of the half-dozen brands I have tested so far.

1) Sam Adams' Octoberfest - Hard to miss with its orange and blue label. Sam Adams is usually an very acceptable Octoberfest seasonal. You can often find it at our local pubs and restaurants on draft or in bottles. Never a disappointment unless tasted in direct comparison to other favored choices.

2) Schlafly's Oktoberfest - I had the good fortune to have this seasonal on draft at the Bottleworks in St. Louis a few weeks ago. It was as close to Octoberfest heaven as a poor Springfield boy can get without travelling more than 1.5 hours. Pubs and restaurants that regularly carry a Schlafly seasonal will likely have this now or very soon. At least one informed us they were waiting for their Schlafly Summer seasonal to tap out.

3) Capital Brewery's Oktoberfest - A very acceptable version of the style and, with Capital's prevalence around town in our local stores, it is a bit easier to obtain. It has not been my favorite but I definitely grab it again.

4) Bell's Octoberfest - This is good as is much of the Bell's lineup. I cannot decide whether I prefer this one over my last year's top choice: Flying Dog's Dogtoberfest.

5) Flying Dog's Dogtoberfest - This was my favorite Octoberfest from last year. It hasn't remained so this year although it is very good. It is on my second tier along with Bell's. I imagine its exposure in Springfield will be limited but I picked up my sixer at Friar Tucks and had a bottle at The Brewhaus.

6) Left Hand's Oktoberfest - Other than the draft Schlafly, this has been my favorite Octoberfest beer so far this season. It seems to have that right amount of malty flavor on the nose and the tongue with enough bitterness to wipe out any extra sweetness.

Maerzens are a great style that sadly is relegated to 'seasonal' status by most breweries. Ultimately that means, if you love it, like it or just lookin to try it, grab it now while you can. Order one up at your local restaurant or pub. Grab a six at our local shops and grocery stores. If you are a fan of the range of beer styles or are looking for something a little different and a little warmer for this coming autumn, you cannot go wrong with grabbing a Maerzen (Octoberfest).

Our local shops with weekly tastings that include a beer or two will likely be featuring an Octoberfest seasonal or one of the other harvest/autumn styles.

You could also swing on by Party House Liquors on October 2nd when they are having their Fall and Octoberfest Beer Tasting ($5). Bier und Brats! Sehr gut!

Update: I have tasted a few more of the US Microbrewed Oktoberfests.

7) Rogue's Maierfest - Sold in 22oz. bottles. I thought this was rather excellent and will likely consider it one of the tops in my tastings this fall. It was so good I had to grab a bottle to save for my wife who can enjoy it this Spring. Let's hope it keeps.

8) Boulevard's Bob's 47 - I missed seeing this seasonal in my last few trips to Tucks and only stumbled across it in the back of the cooler. Floyd's has/had it on tap and it was good but I actually found the bottled version to be a bit better. This is definitely a very solid Octoberfest and well worth picking up. Supporting Boulevard is an added touch since they have some pretty considerable penetration into Springfield's markets.

9) Three Floyd's Munster Fest - I had this at the Brewhaus and it was served in a 22oz bottle. This definitely stood apart in the Octoberfest lineup but not to my tastes. I find it hard to describe the diversion from the norm other than to say it seemed 'spiced'. Bad descirption, I know, and the beer was technically well done but I just was not fond of the taste.

10) Schmaltz Brewing's Coney Island Freaktoberfest - This came in a 22oz. bottle and was downright interesting. It pours 'blood' red and has a pink head. It looks odd but tastes good. It seemed a little more hopped than the traditional Octoberfests. I think the great taste will be overshadowed by the look of the beer but this would be one excellent brew for All Hallowed Eve.

11) Schell Brewing's Octoberfest - Another solid if uninspiring Octoberfest. This was near the bottom of my list but only because I stay away from the mass marketed (Leinenkugel) and import (Spaten) Octoberfests. August Schell produces a solid go-to brew that I'd definitely pick up more often if I didn't have a good crop to choose from.

I think I am petering out on Octoberfests as well as running short of season. Eleven different brews were tasted this year and I will likely call the Rogue Maierfest as my favorite but I'll likely grab more on Left Hand's offering if I can find it. Twelve ounce bottle for the Win!

August 15, 2009

Spontaneous Brew Days are the Best

We're having a spontaneous brew day that came together at out the Prairie Schooners club meeting.

That's good as I really needed to get something together to take advantage of my Cascade hops. I don't have so many that I can manage more than one brew out of them so I plan on making an IPA on the lighter end of bitterness.

6 lbs light dry malt extract
.5 lbs of Crystal 60L (steeped)
.5 lbs of Crystal 120L (steeped)

1 oz of Cluster pellet hops (7.9% AA)@ boil (60 mins)
1 oz of Glacier pellet hops (6.0% AA) @ 15 mins

I'll ferment out for a week or so and then rack to a carboy and add in my Cascade harvest as a wet hop addition. I should have some aroma from the Glacier but hope to feature my fresh Cascade hops.

Normally I ferment out at 74F which is a little hot even if the yeast can handle it. I am moving this batch to my parent's basement which I hope is cooler. We'll see.

July 30, 2009

Reminder: Mead Day 2009!

Just a friendly reminder that the homebrew club will be celebrating Mead Day 2009 at It's All About Wine on Wabash Avenue this Saturday, August 1st, from 12-5pm. We'll be making a few batches and answering any questions about mead-making that we can.

Our event coincidently times with It's All About Wine's normal Saturday wine tastings so drop on by and taste some wine and watch some mead-making.

Dern it all I *AM* a farmer

Gardening is something I flirt with occasionally and really feel like I should just fling myself into headlong. Problem is that I am lazy at heart and I find it hard to maintain any level of reasonable human intervention. I am growing seven tomato plants for my wife and have already harvested a few this year. Tomatos are easy though and the fact that they are 10 feet from the back door helps remind me to water them.

I planted some Cascade hops from rhizomes a member of our club graciously donated to the group. I had the best intentions but time got away from me and I didn't quite plant them when I should've. They went in the ground at the end of May around the same time I planted some peas (again a new experience for me) along the back fence. I watered them all in the first weeks but when I discovered the peas were regularly being trimmed down by the rabbits I gave up on everything but the tomatoes (again so close and ever-present I could not help but feel guilty abandoning them).

I did check out my hop plants which dutifully albeit slowly rose from the ground and wound themselves up the fence. I'd aid them in winding if I saw them head astray and inconvenient to me but pretty much wrote them off for the year since they were so untended by myself. However I started to notice some flowers (cones) on one of the vines.

Pardon my poor phone camera pictures.

Now I'll tell you I am surprised at my own damn luck in the face of near absolute abandonment of my hop vines. Partial shade, only rain for water and some sort of aphid infestation may have laid my vines low, low, low but they are out there producing for me. Aiming to please with some Cascade goodness.

Now I will wait and duly create a Pale Ale to time with my cones and when the time comes I will wet hop it with everything I have. Damn you hop vines for making my day.

July 22, 2009

Mead Day 2009

August 1st is Mead Day 2009 which is an event sponsored by the American Homebrew Association designed to celebrate and encourage the making of mead.

The Prairie Schooners have decided to organize an event at It's All About Wine to encourage both local homebrewers making mead and local producers of honey.

The event will coincide with It's All About Wine's normal Saturday wine tasting so drop on by to see meadmaking, talk mead and honey and sample some fine wine at the same time.

July 15, 2009

Good Taste Trumps Good Sense!

A nice story on NPR's Marketplace about how the recession has not quite impacted craft brewers as they might have expected.

The audio and a text version can be had here:

It's a brief story but offers two alternative (but not necessarily competing) reasons:

1) If you were already able to afford premium craft beers then you are less likely to be impacted by the economy.

2) People are cutting back on larger expenses but countering with a desire or need to splurge in little ways.

Hard call. I tend to lean towards the first argument,

July 6, 2009


Oh how my beer world has been impacted. I don't even think I've been to Friar Tuck for over a month and only at Brewhaus more recently due to guests from out-of-town. I have yet to bottle my beer from Brew Day in May. Part of the problem there is that I racked into a glass carboy for the first time and beer can last quite some time in there with little adverse impact. I did manage to create a label for it whenever I get 'round to bottling. Let's hope the beer is worthy.

I have mostly subsisted on Schlafly Pale Ale and Wolaver's Pale Ale which I personally find among the best of the Pales. They aren't too hoppy so I must supplement while out with DFH 60 or Boulevard Pale or SNPA where I can.

I did pick up one interesting beer in Capital Brewing's latest Summer seasonal. It is there Wild Rice lager. Capital's website states that the addition adds a fruity/nutty flavor to which I fully agree perhaps tending more towards nutty than fruity. It is an interesting variation even if you aren't wholly thrilled with lagers in general and definitely worth a try.

The Prairie Schooners Homebrew Club is still very active if slightly distracted by the vagaries of Summer. Elections are this Thursday and I believe I am a shoe-in for Vice-President. One year to make a difference and plan for the eventual untimely accident to befall Brian.

June 10, 2009

More beer history

This reads like an 8th grade history assay, but includes a few things I didn't know.

June 9, 2009

Dogfish Head does it again...;

Not content with the Midas Touch, brewing madman Sam Calagione has three historic brews to enrich our lives!

May 9, 2009

News on the Beer Front

While my personal consumption of beer has tapered a bit recently due to a calculating effort to lose some weight, there is still plenty of beer action to be had in Springfield. Predominantly my focus has been on my homebrewing efforts and the Prairie Schooners Homebrew Club.

Recently we held a group brew as a part the the National Big Brew which featured homebrew clubs around the nation brewing one of three styles as a celebration of American homebrewing. I brewed a Dark Mild Ale which happil bubbled away and is due to be racked to a secondary to settle for another week with, hopefully, bottling to follow next weeked.

My recipe was:

1/2 lb Chocolate malt steeped at 170 for 15 minutes
Brought to a boil for 60 minutes
1 oz of Kent Golding hops added for bittering at 60 minutes
4 lbs of Light Dry Malt Extract added at 15 minutes
Danstar Windsor yeast
This was fermented at 68 to 70 deg Farenheit

The dark mild will clock in at around 120 calories and after the debacle that my 3lb malt recipe became should hopefully be good. I have had a string of bad batches that I hope to chalk up to too high of fermentation temps. The Tornado Ale had a bubblegum nose and flavor whoch is not on my ideal list of Pale Ale flavors. The 3 lb Malt Ale is downright unpleasant and may have a host of issues in addition to fermeting in the 74 to 80 degree range. That little of malt also woudn't have been able to hide many off flavors so I was asking for trouble from the get-go. 'll keep trying it just to see if anything changes but I am not hopeful. Moving on is probably the best solution for me.

Next up on the beer agenda is: Prairie Schooners Homebrew Club meeting this Thursday at The Brewhaus.

April 18, 2009

New Beer at Friar Tucks

It is the invasion of Summer which essentially means it is the invasion of wheat brews.

The new brew at the Tuck this week is:

Southern Tier's Uber Sun, an Imperial Wheat. Summer is the time for the invasion of wheat. Brews aplenty that feature this grain from almost every brewer in many different configurations. Southern Tier themselves offer Hop Sun as their standard wheat but out now they have an Imperial Wheat which comes in at a hefty 8% alcohol. Sold in 22 ounce bombers, it packs quite a punch but share one with a friend as a sipper and it should be mighty fine while enjoying a nice sunset.

As an aside, it has been brought to our attention that a new shipment of the Rochefort 10 has arrived. Fresh beer is paramount to full enjoyment so if this one is on your favs list, pick it up.

April 16, 2009

Beer Wars Live!

The Beer Wars Live event is tonight at Showplace West @ 7pm. It is a 2.25 hour documentary about the struggles of starting and running a craft brewery in todays market. There will be a live telecast discussion immediately following the event featuring some of the craft brewers featured.

Beer Wars Live!

April 14, 2009

The beers that were new this week at Friar Tuck

This should have gone out sooner but I'll blame Easter and the emphasis on wine in Christianity for that.

Schlafly has decided to switch their Kolsch, which was their Summer seasonal, to a year-round beer. If you loved this former Summer seasonal, it is out now and will be out all year.

Schlafly's Raspberry Hefeweizen is now out. This is one of their Spring seasonals and should be very, very fresh. It is also very, very tasty if you happen to like wheat beers. This is one for lovers of Blue Moon and/or raspberries.

Toohey's New, a tropical light lager, has made its way to Springfield. It is according to Toohey's website an all-natural Lager made from Water, Cane Sugar, Malted Barley, Yeast and Hops. It's a light lager so it might be worth a try if you have a taste for those.

And as a last note of interest, a new supply of Westmalle Trippel has arrived at the Tuck. If you are already a fan or interested in trying it out, now would be the time to pick some up.

April 8, 2009

Odd Beer Flavors

I am sorely tempted to make the brew for dogs!

Craft beer and losing weight

I weigh too much. It's not news to me but I weigh about ten pounds heavier than I expected and significantly more than I really should. My usual reaction is to consume less of what am already consuming. The simple hacker's guide to dieting. It works for me.

This will be the first time I have ever thought to factor in beer though. I enjoy learning about, trying out and making my own beer. It has, sort of, become my thing. However that extra consumption of calories have taken its toll and it is time to arrest the rate increase and reverse some of my gains. I don't want to give up good beer though so I decided to do some research to help myself out.

I enjoy beer when I am out to dinner and on the rare occasions I am at a pub or bar. This site will help me to get a general sense of what I am consuming:

Real Beer's Calorie, Carbs and Alcohol

It is neither comprehensive nor perfect but it will allow me to get a generalized sense of what I am drinking. Further investigations may get me specifics but the general knowledge I came away with was:
General full-flavored beer ales and lagers alike tended to come in at around 200 calories.
Most were less but if I budget 200 calories per beer then I can keep an easy mental note. It also builds in a general leeway in my daily calorie count to accomodate for overruns. Bigger beers cause bigger hits, so if you enjoy Double, triple or Imperial anything, expect to budget accordingly.

Homebrewed beer though is not calculated on any lists and most homebrewers probably are not in a position to have their product tested. There are a multitude of calculators out there that can help a concerned brewer out.

The first calculator is a standard recipe calculator. A brewer simply inputs their materials list and the calculator will output standard info about their beer such as: original gravity (OG), final gravity (FG), bitterness in IBUs, coloring in SRM and alcohol content.

Tastybrew's Recipe Calculator

The second calculator will help a brewer calculate calories and carbs simply by inputting the original gravity (OG) and final gravity (FG). A brewer really should be determining their original and final gravities but it is sometimes easy to forget. The recipe calculator can help you estimate the original and final assuming you know the attenuation of your yeast.

Mr. Goodbear's Calorie Calculator

I'll give you an example for comparison:

I often make a 'Pale/Amber' out of 6 lbs of Light Dry Malt Extract and steep with 1 lb of Crystal 60L. That is my base extract recipe and I manipulate hops to obtain different tastes. The recipe calculator indicates an OG of 1.056 and an estimated FG of 1.014. My measured was about 1.015 so it was fairly close.

Mr. Goodbeer calculated 185.5 calories and 19.9 carbs. That places it squarely in the realm of commercial full-favored beers.

For my own purposes, I will start cutting down on my dry malt extract. I have made one pale ale before that used only 3 lbs of Light Dry Malt extract and steeped with 1 lb of Crystal 60L. It turned out very well and did not lack for flavor.

Mr. Goodbeer estimates this to be 95.3 calories assuming an OG of 1.029 and a FG of 1.007. We'll see how those numbers actually pan out.

The point of all of this is that monitoring your weight does not mean you have to sacrifice full flavored beers or homebrews. Budget for taste and you will succeed.

Prairie Schooners Homebrew Club meeting on Thursday

The next meeting of the Prairie Schooners Homebrew Club is Thursday, April 9th @ 7pm. The meeting will be held at The Brewhaus. Please join us for homebrew sampling and discussion.

April 3, 2009

New beers this week:

I'd like to make a regular feature that is of interest to me and, hopefully, of interest to you.

New beer releases for Springfield

At Friar Tuck:

Bell's Oberon - An American wheat ale brewed with Saaz hops. This is their Summer seasonal. I think this will be one of their most awaited seasonal releases since returning to Illinois.

Dark Horse Brewery's Double Crooked Tree IPA - Their IPA recipe except doubled. It's a big beer clocking in at 13.6% abv. I imagine the hop taste will kick in the nethers and take your lunch money too. it is however the perfect type to share in snifters on a cool night.

Founder's Cerise - A cherry fermented ale. According to the Beer Spot news, this recipe has been tweaked over some time while being on tap but is now being released as a possible replacement for Rubaeus, their raspberry ale. Of course, if you can find both cerise and rubaeus, perform a taste test and let us know which you prefer.

April 1, 2009

Tornado Ale

The crew got together on March 8th to brew a couple of batches. It wasn't only for our group to get back on the wagon and semi-regular brewing but it was also to invite Dan Naumovich along to observe. As you may remember that was the day a weather system hit. I had part of my roof fold up but brewing was more important so fixing it had to wait. My brew was a pale/amber ale that I threw together using mostly Cascade hops (a general homebrew fav). On the spot, I decided to call it Tornado Ale (Later I decided on Notus Ale. Notus is the Greek god of the Southern wind). It went to press as Tornado Ale so Tornado Ale it will be. Justin and I plus my neighbor got together to bottle it this past Sunday. We consider it ready to drink two weeks after bottling.

However I cracked on open tonight both out of curiosity and out of notoriety. I highly doubt it had time to consume all its new sugars but it was carbonated and had about a fingers worth of head which is normal for the type of glassware I use. Here is my thoughts on the Tornado Ale.

It pours easily with a nice amber color. The head is a few shades off white and resulted in about a fingers worth of foam after the pour. It dissipated in nice fashion leaving a thin lace across the surface.

The nose held hints of bubblegum which is usually due to high fermentation temperatures leading to a higher amount of esters in the beer. There might be a hint of banana too but I could be imagining that. I don't smell enough of the citrusy Cascades in there but they may have blended well with the other sweet scents.

Taste is near the solid middle of malt v. hops perhaps leaning towards maltiness with a slight to moderate bubblegum and sweet flavor. Now I hope that the priming sugars have not all been consumed and that time will reduce the sugar somewhat. I fermented at my house which lacks a cellar and my fermentation closet is normally around 74 degrees. I imagine the taste might have been different a cellar temperatures, between 55 to 65 degrees.

Overall I consider it to taste slightly Belgian-y. I really hope that mellows out and it might considering I popped one open after 3 days of bottle conditioning and at room temp. If not, it isn't a real loss since the wife says she loves it and Justin is fond of that Belgian crap.

I'll open another this Sunday and then bring around six to the next homebrew meeting on April 9th. Show up if you want to try it then. I'll definitely save another six for the Big Brew on May 2nd but that may be the end of it.

Off Topic

I know this has nothing to do with beer, but I was just searching the web and no one seems to be noting that today is the 5th anniversary of the spectacularly ill-timed announcement that Gateway Computers was closing all of its Gateway Country Stores.

I worked there for 4 years and ended up running several service centers. We made our mistakes and made a lot of people mad. On the balance, however, I think we made a lot more people happy (or at least a little bit less afraid of technology.) Also, I was lucky enough to make some great friends, meet some great people, and have some great times.

So I give you a comments section to post your memories/grudges and lift a beer (I would suggest a Milk Stout) for the spotted lady. L'chaim

March 30, 2009

Improvement on the Corner

Took a trip to Corner Pub last night and was pleasantly surprised the beer offering had greatly improved. On the table was a small card listing 'March Beers of the Month' which featured seven unlikely craft beers to choose from.

The new beers:

Bell's Amber
Bell's Best Brown
Bell's Two-Hearted IPA

Rogue Dead Guy
Rogue Mocha Porter

Lefthand Polestar Pilsener

Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA

I don't know who we have to thank for this blessing but the responsible party has our gratitude. These are excellent beers, all of them, and cover quite a range for beer lovers. (Those whose tastes currently hover with Bud, Miller or Coors might start with the Lefthande Polestar Pilsener.

I just wonder if there will be new beers each month given the 'beers of the month' title. Either way I am a happy camper.

March 27, 2009

Beer Wars Live! April 16th.

Beer Wars is a new movie that looks to highlight the struggles of American microbreweries. Here is a synopsis from their web page.

In America, size matters. The bigger you are, the more power you have, especially in the business world.

Director Anat Baron takes you on a no holds barred exploration of the U.S. beer industry that ultimately reveals the truth behind the label of your favorite beer. Told from an insider’s perspective, the film goes behind the scenes of the daily battles and all out wars that dominate one of America’s favorite industries.

Beer Wars begins as the corporate behemoths are being challenged by small, independent brewers who are shunning the status quo and creating innovative new beers. The story is told through 2 of these entrepreneurs - Sam and Rhonda - battling the might and tactics of Corporate America. We witness their struggle to achieve their American Dream in an industry dominated by powerful corporations unwilling to cede an inch.

This contemporary David and Goliath story is ultimately about keeping your integrity (and your family’s home) in the face of temptation. Beer Wars is a revealing and entertaining journey that provides unexpected and surprising turns and promises to change the world’s opinion on those infamous 99 bottles of beer on the wall.

The Beer Wars Live event will feature a screening of the movie plus a live discussion event, broadcast immediately following, of Ben Stein and leading American brewers. In Springfield, this will be hosted at Showplace 12 on Wabash.

More information on the live event and tickets can be found here: Fathom Events

Movie information can be found here: Beer Wars

It should be an interesting iinsight into the industry for beer enthusiasts.

March 26, 2009

Prairie Schooners Homebrew Club website

Welcome readers!

If you have an interest in finding out more about the Prairie Schooners Homebrew Club, please direct your browsers to our club site.

Our main page is open to public viewing but, if you wish to participate,feel free to sign up and apply for membership.

Meetings are open to newcomers and you need not feel like you must request permission to show up. Just bring some enthusiasm and a friendly attitude.

March 17, 2009

March 6, 2009

2nd Homebrew Club meeting

I reviewed our first meeting and I gave us an 'excellent' and 'not creepy' rating. That, in and of itself, should entice you to come to our next meeting. Did I mention it is at The Brewhaus? Swing by, have some good commercial beers, have some good homebrews. Learn how easy it is to homebrew and how easy it is to produce some quality beer. Did I mention how easy it is? It is.

But it is a hobby that can and will grow with your own knowledge of making beer. You may wish to invest your time in learning such exciting topics as pH control, yeast propagation, neutron star emissions (oops, wrong hobby). You don't have to have a degree in chemistry or microbiology but at the upper echelons of homebrewing it helps. Did I mention how easy it is though?

Some people think it might even save you money. The Simple Dollar had a nice rundown on startup costs compared to purchasing commercial microbrews. Once you get into a regular brew schedule, you will save money brewing your own beer.

Soon you too will dream and scheme on how you might open your own brew pub in an old abandoned ice house near 9th street.

Next meeting! March 12th @ 7:00 pm. The Brewhaus.

February 28, 2009

Ow! It's the Brickhouse. Mighty-mighty?

So this past Thursday, Diatribe, the wife and I went to try out the Brickhouse because Anonymous Communist beat me there and enticed me with mention of Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale on tap. We were excited to see what beery wonders this new pub, strategically placed near the Corner Pub, had in store for us.

The Brickhouse: Excellent

On tap:

Sierra Nevada's Pale Ale (mighty mighty fine)
Boulevard Wheat (a good choice if you like wheats)
Woodchuck Cider (important to mi esposa who likes ciders more than me)

and, in case, you like such things, all on tap:

Bud Light
Coors Light
Stella Artois
Blue Moon

For 'crafty beers' in the bottle:

Goose Island 312 (nice to have but no honkers?)
Boulevard Pale Ale (If they didn't have SNPA on tap, I'd be drinking this)
New Belgium Fat Tire
New Belgium Mothership Wit
Spoetzels Shiner Bock (what ale drinkers drink when they're not drinking ales)
Sam Adams Boston Lager (used to be the go to beer in Spfld for craft fans)
Sam Adams Light (better than most lights)

They have a full complement of other domestics and imports in the bottle many of which you normally find in your local eateries since they are owned by the big boy conglomerates.

The Brickhouse rates an excellent but I wasn't all that thrilled through no real fault on their part. Their beer selection which rates well by my own arbitrary standards as excellent is starting to become standard fare in Springfield's newer restaurants. In theory, this should be fantastic for the beer drinkers of Springfield. It is and I should leave it at that.

Springfield is in for exciting beer times, I think. The Brewhaus, a constant favorite, and Floyd's Thirst Parlor, whom I have often underestimated, are now joined by Bar None, hereafter called Bar Noonie which is repeated orally several times with slight variations on the pronunciation of 'noo' and 'nee'.

Brewhaus always has fantastic choices, especially in obscure bottle offerings, Floyd's is carrying Three Floyd's Pride and Joy on tap and Bar Noonie has both Bell's Amber and Dogfish Head's 90 minute on tap. With exciting new pushes in our bars like these, I am hoping for some spillover to high-end cuisine and pub restaurants. Apparently I am becoming spoiled.

There ya go! One new restaurant review with some bar mentions. Drink up

The Brickhouse: Excellent

February 25, 2009

Next Homebrew Club meeting

The next meeting of the Prairie Schooners, Springfield's homebrew club, is 7:00 pm, Thursday, March 12th @ The Brewhaus.

The first meeting had 15+ interested parties. That is more than a baker's dozen, yo.

It was nice to sit about and talk shop and taste brews (both home and commercial) for a few hours. There were some old hands and some shiny new and new future brewers. Beer is sampled by all so, if you've had an interest in trying a homebrew to see how good one can taste, swing on by on March 12th and find out a little more about the wonderful world of homebrewing.

February 24, 2009

A brief history of Homebrewing
Not bad if taken as a history of homebrewing. Bein that this is from Reason Magazine, the author tries to make this history into some sort of treatise on the evils of government regulation in any form. I think the banning of homebrew was more a function of inertia, knee-jerk moralizing, and the fact that only the 'working classes' liked beer (as opposed to upper-class wine) than anything else. The argument about 'bootleggers' is patently false. Any fermentable sugar can be distilled, not just malt (e.g. rum and tequila).

February 23, 2009

Sammy's Latest Newsletter

Here is a link to Sam Adams latest newsletter. They are running their annual Longshot American Homebrew contest. Somehow our Red Cobbler 'oh crap, it boiled over, throw in more hops!' brewing method wouldn't cut the mustard, but we can always dream!

February 13, 2009

Brutally Honest Beer Labels

I can't say I knew that about Newcastle...but ya gotsa love the rest

In honor of Darwin's birthday ...

I bring you a short story with much promise. The yeast genome has been cracked. Paving the way for the superbeers of tomorrow!

February 12, 2009

One Week til Homebrew Club!

First Rule of Homebrew Club is 'You Talk About Homebrew Club'.

Obligatory Fight Club reference out of the way, I can now get back to the topic at hand. Once again I am here to gently remind you and generate interest in, the resurrected, reformulated and recombobulated Prairie Schooners, Springfield's own homebrew club.

When: Thursday, February 19th, 7:00 pm
Where: The Brewhaus
Who: All homebrewers past, present and future

To quote a line from Poltergeist, 'All are welcome. All welcome, Go into the light'*.

*= The slight difference in that we are not creepy old dudes (most of us) and 'the light' equals the Brewhaus.

February 9, 2009

Boulevard Irish Ale in the Wild

I went to The Barrelhead over the weekend and was pleased to find Boulevard's Irish Ale on tap. I loved this seasonal last year and appear to love it just as much this year.

For the unitiated, Irish Red Ales tend to be a seasonal released in early Spring.

The style is decribed as follows: "Irish red ale, red ale, or Irish ale gains its slightly reddish colour from the use of a small amount of roasted barley. The term red ale or red beer is used by brewers in countries other than Ireland; however, the name Irish Red is typically used when roasted material is used."(Wikipedia)

My secret suspicion is that they are timed to coincide with St. Pat's day where the gen. pop. is more likely to engage in Irish pursuits. I believe it is a conspiracy since Irish Reds are good year-round.

So, if you have been waiting for the style to show up, head on down to The Barrelhead or any other venue carrying the style and drink it up.

Caveat: Some brewers put out an 'Irish Red' which is not an Irish Red Ale but is instead a lager which is a poor substitute in my opinion. If you like the common Irish Red then give a true Irish Red Ale a try and see how it compares for you.

Homebrew Club Meeting!

The Prairie Schooners(reformed) are having their first meeting Thursday, February 19. The meeting will be at The Brewhaus @ 7pm. Past, present and future homebrewers are encouraged to come and share homebrew, swap stories and knowledge, and enjoy the general camraderie that exists between all zymurgists and brewers.

January 24, 2009

Belated praises to KB and Charles & Limeys

This is the post where I belatedly, but with no less enthusiasm, get around to praising the beer and dish pairings held nearly a fortnight ago at Charles and Limeys. Kudos to KB for his fine selection of beer. My favorite of the evening was the Fort Collins Chocolate Stout. My most surprising taste was the Kasteel Rouge. I was fondly shocked to note I enjoyed the beer when I was surely dead set against any brew made with cherries as a part.

For those of you unfortuante enough to miss out on this, hopefully, first of many experiences, allow me to recap in some small way:

Open to Charles and Limeys lounge wherein a spread of appetizers featuring cheeses, meats, hummus and pita crakers was accompanied by small talk and Three Floyd's Pride and Joy. The beer: light and hoppy, the conversation: pleasant.

Segue to the dining room where the opening course, for myself, consisted of a cheese soup made with beer. The accompaniment: Erdinger's Hefeweizen. The soup was excellent with a slight bitter taste on the back end. The beer was a pleasant wheat with solid German backing without all the crazy Belgian yeastiness. (Nyah nyah, Belgianites!)

The main course was a choice of roast beef with yorkshire pudding and mixed vegetables or battered cod and chips. The paired brew was Two Brothers Heavy Handed IPA. The food was tasty albeit not spectacular. (Admittedly we have been spoiled by their steaks and ostrich offerings). The Two Brothers is a good, if slightly less hoppy than a standard, IPA. Our table personally would have swapped this pairing with, perhaps, the Erdinger opting for something less overwhelming in beverage so as to more fully enjoy the entree. An alternative of a nice American Amber or English bitter was also suggested during this course.

Dessert, of which I am usually a pass, was freaking awesome. A trio of chocolatey delights was presented to each participant: a chocolate sin cake, a chocolate stout pudding and the chocolate pyramid. They were all very, very good but the pyramid, based off the classical Egyptian style as opposed to any Meso-American variety, was out of sight. These tasties however were paired with beers to rival their flavors: Fort Collins Double Chocolate Stout and Kasteel's Rouge. The stout had a plesantly strong chocolate flavored the combined well with the chocolate desserts and the Kasteel had a light style with very present cherry taste providing a well needed complement to all the chocolate.

As the meal wound down and time crept closer towards parting, we topped the evening off with a sampling of a bourbon barrel stout. This is a style that is creeping well into its own wherein a strong stout is aged in former bourbon barrels imparting that smokey whiskey goodness I have never been able to get my head around. Needless to say, a beer that can withstand aging in a bourbon barrel needs itself be quite strong and that throaty alcoholic burn completes the style marking it as Bourbon's close relative in spirit at least.

Once again, kudos to Kevin for the beer choices and Peter for the chef pairings and Charles and Limeys for the venue and everyone who came for supporting the beer culture of Springfield. KB deserves our support for this and future endeavors.

January 14, 2009

Blast at Abita Brewery

Luckily it looks like it was just one vat that overpressurized during cleaning, and no one was hurt. Abita make a very high quality amber along with its signature Turbodog (among others). Based out of Louisiana, its beers flow freely and abundantly on Bourbon Street. That's where I first encountered the Amber. I believe I drunkenly texted Gish as to its quality ("this is bleeping good stuff!!")
I hope they get back and running quickly. I know their brew is available on tap at Buffalo Wild Wings and I want to say Barrelhead, or pick up a 6'er, you won't be disappointed.

January 8, 2009

The High Life

Springfield will be having, by all rights, what appears to be a very tasty event this Sunday, January 11th. (Hat tip to KB)

Mrs. Glatz, writing for the Illinois Times, has a very nice article on the upcoming event. Diatribe and I are both familiar with her good works and fine sensibility of wonderful tastes. She knows of what she writes.

KB spilled the beans on the brews in the comments so I am going to reproduce it here:

Three Floyds Pride & Joy - A mild ale out of Munster, IN.
Erdinger Hefe - A wheat from Erding, Germany.
Two Brothers Heavy Handed - An india pale ale out of Warrenville, IL.
Fort Collins Chocolate Stout - Reverse engineer that name. It is from Colorado.
Kasteel Rouge - A cherry quadrupel from Castle Brewery in Van Honsebrouck, Belgium.
Walter Payton's Roundhouse Bourbon Barrel Stout - Another obvious name. Walter Payton's Roundhouse can be found in Aurora,IL.

That list makes me feel like Flying Pig* wanting to say 'Wow. What a line up.'

Sounds like a good time and having been to Charles & Limeys, I imagine the food will be quite nice as well. So call to make reservations for this excellent event because we will only have quality beer events if we support them.

* = Kids in the Hall sketch

January 3, 2009

Ross Isaac

The nice thing about going to Ross Isaac without a reservation on a Saturday night is that the bar is an awfully pleasant place to wait. For the uninitiated, Ross Isaac is the restaurant that replaced the old New England Lobster House on MacArthur Blvd next to Baskin Robbins. It is an upscale chef-driven restaurant which tends to have quite a lot of foods you have had in formats you might not have. I am guessing they call it 'contemporary cuisine' but I don't really understand the term well enough. It might be generalized to be similar to Pao, Jimmy Ohs and Indigo and I do mean generalized. I do not cut any of these restaurants any slack when it comes to having a quality beer selection. They invariably have a quality wine cellar but some half-ass it when it comes to beer. It stems from this lack of a Springfield beer culture.

I am happy to say Ross Isaac passes muster and I rate them well:

Ross Isaac: Excellent

Ross Isaac covers the breadth well with your typical mass market beers as well as imports like Becks, Becks Dark and Negra Modelo. However they have a perfectly suitable complement of American craft brewers (plus a more uncommon choice) starting off with one of my favorites.

Rogue Dead Guy (12 oz as opposed to the bombers [22 oz.] some others carry)
Boulevard Pale Ale (Boulevard, the Kansas City brewer. Their pale is akin to an SNPA)
Boulevard Stout (A quality stout for your fuller flavored beef and/or spicy dishes)
Boulevard Wheat (I have trouble telling the diff between wheats. Someone else should)
Arcadia Nut Brown Ale (Arcadia from Battle Creek, MI. Like, no one else carries it.)
Arcadia India Pale Ale (In lieu of the Whitsun, I believe, the barkeep said.)

These craft brew choices really fill in the basic set of the Ales every restaurant should carry. One choice each of: Pale Ale, Stout, Wheat Ale, India Pale Ale and a Brown Ale. This paired with their mass market and import lagers really provides choice for all. So, once again, Good selection, Ross Isaac and owner.

Ross Isaac: Excellent

Drinking Regionally

Drinking Regionally is a mantra I have tried to live by. It is the mantra that really got me started down the path of loving craft beer. Though it didn't actually start with beer for me. It started with wine when I decided (liking sweeter wines) that I'd much rather support my Illinois wineries (Alto Vineyards and its kin) by buying their quality locally produced wines over imported Muscats, Rieslings and their analogs. The Illinois State Fair provided a useful venue in its tasting tent where I could try before buying and determine my needs fairly easily.

I realized that liking beer as much as I did that I could do the same with it. Why stick with mass-marketed beers like Michelob Amber Bock or imports like Smithwicks, Bass and Harp? Certainly some suitable Illinois brewery was produucing beers in-state that I could enjoy just as well. Some simple searching had me purchase one of my first regional beers:

Goose Island Honkers Ale

Goose Island describes Honkers Ale as 'a smooth, drinkable English Bitter for those looking for more from their beer'. I really found this to be true when compared to the Bass & Harp I had been drinking. What I had been missing was 'more', just more of everything: malt, hops, taste and body.

Honkers Ale and Goose Island provided me a taste of the better life and I will always appreciate them for that. Goose Island does a more than acceptable job with its beers and its close proximity to Springfield and partial ownership under Anheuser-Busch has helped to ensure Honkers Ale, 312 Wheat and its IPA are often availale at your local eateries and drinkeries.

I have mostly moved on to more favored Pales, IPAs and, if i am in the mood, Wheats. I do however to pick up Goose Islands seasonals and am very happy with the knowledge that Honkers is a taste I like and can find often.

If you haven't tried a Honkers out in the wild but can enjoy a Pale Ale then I suggest you pick one up. If you like a Blue Moon or Shock Top Wheat then give 312 a try. It is quite good even with the abominable fruit garnish. If you have a bit more breadth of taste or sense of adventure then their Winter seasonal Mild Winter Ale is quite good and their Kilgubbin Irish Ale which is due soon is quite tasty.

Just remember Goose Island is an Illinois brewery and is worth a try to see what your fellow citizen produces. Goose Island isn't your only option either. Two Brothers and Walter Paytons Roundhouse also have beer available in Springfield for purchase.

Updates to Organic Beers

Since I was just at Tuck on New Year's Day, I thought I'd update their organic choices since I discovered they had far more than I remembered.

I am not going to be able to list all the one-offs by the various breweries but I believe from here on out we'll find them more numerous as a number of smaller breweries will begin to put out one or more certified organic brews. On those coat-tails, you will also begin to see the big boys put out a few organics from their lineup to cater to the growing demographic. Expect the Michelob Organic Stone Mill Pale Ale to be around sooner rather than later. SABMiller and MolsonCoors won't be too far behind.

Eel River Brewing Company

Eel River Brewing Company's website describes themselves as the first certified organic brewery in America. They brew out of Humboldt, California which makes me say 'No wonder'. I mean we all rightly or wrongly associate California with all sorts of weird non-Midwestern values like organic foods, not destroying the planet and retreats with New Age demagogues. However California has brought us some wonderful beer inventions like Microbreweries, Imperial IPAs and over-hopping beers until our eyes bleed. It just makes so much sense that they'd have America's first certified organic brewery.

Butte Creek Brewing Company

Butte Creek Brewing is another brewery out of California producing organic beers. They are located in Chico which you might know as the home of Sierra Nevada which is a mighty brewer in its own right. Butte Creek was founded in 1996 but appears to have been purchased in 2005 or so by a group called Golden West Brewing. They are apparently looking a producing a pilsner under the moniker of Blue Marble Brewing designed to appeal to a broader market which is odd since they already produce a pilsner under the Butte Creek brand.

Anyway both of these breweries have offerings at Friar Tucks and possibly other shops locally.

January 2, 2009

The year in beer

Very short article, but one thing in this article chaps my hide... Boise, Idaho has 4 brew pubs and a homebrew competition. We got squat. I thought I couldn't be more ashames to be from Illinois! (/jk...kind of)