Here comes a regular- Stammtisch

This article on in Spielgel Online’s describes one of my favorite beer-related traditions.

When you walk into a German Kneipe (pub), you’ll often see one table curiously unoccupied, even though the others may be full. Good table, too. Best view in the house.

Don’t sit there. See that sign on or above the table? it says Stammtisch. In a bizzare custom that wouldn’t ever go over in the USA, this table is reserved for a select group of regulars. It’s theirs even when they’re at home.

Now this sounds annoying, and if anyplace tried it here the cops would wind up getting involved, but being invited to sit at the Stammtisch is a privilege, and can lead to that rare kind of boozy fun that reminds us why we love beer in the first place.

As far as I know, the only Stammtisch in Rochester is at Swan Market. It’s odd, but I’m proud when Oskar Meyer and Guenther Schwann motion me over to join their table. Prosit!

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Happy Memorial Day

Ahh, Memorial Day, that sacred holiday where all across the great United States, folks honor those who fought for this Nation’s freedom by getting trashed.

Personally, I’ll be featuring from Lyons Colorado, as a companion to my (a Rochester tradition). And I’ll give a shout out to the men and women in the Sandbox. Wish I could buy you all a beer.

-Mark

Friday’s overrated beer: Sam Adams Lager

The American beer scene of a couple decades ago was pretty bleak. Imports were sparse and expensive, no micros to speak of, and the closest anyone got to actually appreciating it was “Bud Bowl.” Then Jim Koch changed everything.

Never mind the fruity-looking patriot on the bottle. When first appeared, it was like the gates of heaven had opened. Balanced, dark, delicious, it quickly became a favorite among the trendy set and the beer afficianados. For years, Sam Adams remained a viable choice on any tap set.

Then something went wrong. Horribly wrong. Perhaps it’s because they started letting Genesee (now ) contract brew the stuff. Perhaps it got lost in Marketing’s frenzied push to increase the Boston Beer Company’s product range. It just slid right of the hill. It’s nice that tey use Hallertau hops and all, but what was once a flavorful, complex lager nows seems cloying, a tad syrupy, with a weird finish.

Sam Adams is still held in very high esteem, and granted, I haven’t ordered one in about four years, so maybe it’s good again. But for now, it goes on the Beercraft list of Overrated Beers.

Special Thanks to the guys from Spaten and the for this hangover. We enjoyed the event at the Krown last night. That the Spaten was excellent goes without saying. The Brooklyn Blond Bock was a very pleasant surprise. Nice job, Mr. Oliver and crew!

Thursday’s beer from the other side of the world: Efes Turkish Pilsner

The country of Turkey is not renowned as an epicenter of great beer, so it was with some trepidation that we sampled Efes Pilsener. Our wory qulckly dissolved after the first sip.

First off, it is decidedly not a pilsner. With it’s sweetish flavor and prominent malt character, Efes more closely resembles a Munich lager. It’s also darker than a pils. All in all, it’s not a bad beer. I would order this if I saw it in a pub.

So hats off to Efes, the best “beer from the other side of the world” we’ve talked about so far.

Sisters of Murphy tonight at Monty’s Krown

Tonight’s the night. Our is playing at 10pm, with the whole thing being sponsored, inexplicably, by

Along with punky-edged pub music, there will be great Spaten beers on special. If you’re in Rochester, come down and drink a few from one of the finest breweries in the world.

-Mark

Band practice & Canadian Shite Lager

Had our final practice for Thursday’s show at Monty’s Krown. My band, the Sisters of Murphy, are rarin’ to go.

Problem is, I’m the only one who ever brings beer to pratice.

I’m sick of supplying the good stuff. Tonight it was straight Labatt Blue. My mouth tastes like Saskatchewan.

My ears are ringing. I’m going to bed.

Beercraft newspaper column #13: Hefeweizen

Hefeweizen: The best of summer beers

By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish

If you’re a beer person, you’ve probably noticed that some beers seem more seasonally appropriate than others. When you walk into the pub on a January night, fingers stiff and ears prickly from the icy wind, nothing is as comforting as a strong, dark imperial stout.

On a hot June day, however, it’s probably preferably to enjoy something lighter and more quenching. And we have Bavarian beer garden culture to thank for the most appropriate of all summer beer styles: Hefeweizen.

“Hefe” is German for “yeast,” and “Weizen” means wheat. That’s exactly what this is: a beer made with wheat instead of barley, and served unfiltered and cloudy with the standing yeast. The wheat base imparts a completely different, lighter character to the beer, and the methods used in brewing Hefeweizen result in a unique, delicious summer drink with a lot of visual appeal.

This style gets a special glass, and most bars who know their beer will have Hefeweizen glasses on hand. They’re really tall, curvy, and flared toward the top, amplifying the aroma of the beer. Very often, the filled glass is served with a lemon on the rim (Our advice: ditch the citrus. The Germans certainly would).

There should be a pleasant cloudiness from the yeast. As we said before, Hefeweizen is unfiltered, and that lack of clarity may put some people off at first. Rest assured it’s supposed to be like that.

A good Hefeweizen is slightly sweet, with good head retention and a characteristic banana and clove flavor combination. A bad one tastes like envelope glue. We decided to save ourselves the misery and review some good ones.

Paulaner Hefe-Weissebier is our favorite; the archetype of the style. On a summer afternoon, it’s absolutely sublime. It has a lush, apricot color and an intriguing, well-rounded flavor that really captures the spicy banana and clove essence. Sometimes you’ll see it on draft, but usually your best bet is to head down to Beers of the World for the bottled stuff.

Franziskaner Hefe-Weisse is the most available. If your bar has the style on draft, chances are it’s this one. That isn’t a bad thing; Franziskaner is very good. It sports the characteristic peach-to-orange color, with a nice thick head. The flavor is spicy-sweet, with a lot of citrus, and it’s very smooth.

Erdinger Hefe-Weizen is Paulaner’s regional rival for best Weizen. It’s a lot more dry, and will appeal to people who like the light wheat body and bite, but aren’t into sweeter beer. It’s also much paler than Paulaner or Franziskaner. Once again, you’ll be looking for the bottled version; we’ve never seen Erdinger distributed on draft in this region.

Hefeweizen is tricky to brew and few American examples are able to accurately hit the style guidelines, but we found a good one to compare with the old German standbys. Flying Dog In-Heat Wheat, from the Flying Dog Brewery of Denver, is a great domestic Hefe, with appealing cloudiness. It can’t stand with the Uber-hefes in terms of color or head retention. The flavor, though, is pretty much bang-on European. The guys who formulated In-Heat know their craft, and it pays off for the consumer. Enjoy this beer as fine American alternative to lager on a hot summer day.

If you’re buying Hefeweizen in bottles, remember to gently roll the bottle on the table before opening it. This circulates the yeast from the bottle’s bottom. If you skip this step, you’ll probably lose the signature cloudiness, as well as some of the flavor.

So pour yourself a nice big glass, sit outside in the sun and be thankful to the Bavarians for creating something as wonderful as Hefeweizen. Hell, they had to do something to atone for the invention of Lederhosen.

In other beers:
It is with great personal sadness that we lament the closing of MacGregor’s downtown location. For well over a decade, it has been a bastion of beer. With 85 taps, excellent, high-quality specials, and a friendly staff, MacGregor’s was as close to the perfect pub any we’ve visited.

The other MacGregor’s locations remain open and pouring; although none of the suburban spots can match the original Gregory Street bar for ambiance and conviviality. Still, they all have a huge variety of beer on draft, and they know their product.

Bruce is a certified beer judge and former commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at http://beercraft.blogspot.com. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to beercraft@rochester.rr.com

The first podcast is recorded.

Well, fellow beercraft participant Rob Walsh and myself put together the first episode. It’s a bit more amateurish than I was hoping for; we were using a laptop, and a cheap computer mic. Once Bruce comes on board with the podcast, we’ll use a full Pro Tools suite in a studio.

So we reviewed a couple of American beers, including which was a real delight.

Hear more in the Podcast, hopefully going up this week. I look forward to feedback on the project.

-Mark