Beer- as good as the person who serves it?

The Democrat and Chronicle’s Beer Buddies ran an interesting piece on the bartenders that serve us our favorite beers. It’s a treat when you get a knowledgeable, friendly server with the enthusiasm to introduce you to new beers. I think about the peoplefrom whom I learned about craft beer: Carl German from Rohrbach, Joe McBane from the Old Toad, Colette McGuigan from Monty’s, the list goes on and on.

Tonight I’ll raise a toast to the men and women of the service industry for making my life a bit more pleasant, and my horizons a little broader. Cheers, folks. I salute you.


The Pacific Northwest beckons

Beer school takes place again in two days. This time, we’re focusing on beers of the Pacific Northwest. The region composed of Oregon, Washington and northern California is considered the hop basket of American craft brewing, and it’s the area where modern microbrewing really took off in the ’70s.

Come out to Monty’s Korner in Rochester, Thursday night at 7pm to taste the best of the Northwest. For free.


Beercraft newspaper column #40- Lawnmower beers

40 columns… I really should be syndicating these things.

“Lawnmower Beers” make yard work bearable.

By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish
Nothing beats a cold beer on a hot, muggy day, although some beers are more refreshing than others. You wouldn’t necessarily want to chase away the summer perspiration with a big, syrupy doppelbock or black Irish stout.

No, you want a lawnmower beer: a brew that both quenches your thirst and perks up your taste buds, without a thick, cloying body; a beverage to reach for after the arduous task of mowing the lawn on a scorching afternoon.

Of course, if you’re like Bruce, you have a riding mower, and if you’re like Mark, you don’t have a lawn at all, but the principle’s the same. Please allow the two of us, for whom yard work is easy, to suggest some restorative summer beverages.

Brooklyn Lager, from the Brooklyn Brewing Company, is a great place to start. Its rich copper color immediately sets it apart from the typical American lager. You can’t help but notice the flowery hop notes and aromatic, almost citrus, spiciness as the scent wafts from the glass; a promise of the flavor to come.

The first cold mouthful is a procession of sweet-tinged malt flavor, perhaps a little toasty, immediately complemented by a full, deliciously bitter flood of hop character. As you swallow, the hop tinge lingers, coaxing you into another sip. All the while, the medium body of Brooklyn Lager lends the beer a substantial quality not often present in the most mainstream American Lagers.

A quick style swap and we find ourselves holding a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. This is one of those “gateway beers” that starts people’s appreciation of craft brewing, but its high quality and classic flavor make it a beer you never grow out of.

It’s also damn refreshing. Unlike the Brooklyn lager, Sierra Nevada’s Pale leads with its hop flavors, which then mellow into satisfying, slightly biscuit-like, full-bodied malt sweetness. The flavor is never too malt-heavy, so it avoids unnecessary sweetness or heaviness of body. Likewise, it isn’t hopped to the point where it becomes an IPA, by American standards, anyway; like most West Coast ales, you’ll still find Sierra Nevada Pale Ale hoppier than many English IPAs.

Our third choice is Prima Pils, from the Victory Brewing Company of Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Now Pilsner (the real stuff, not the buzzword you see on television beer ads) is a style not many American breweries get right, but Victory pretty much nails it.

In terms of body, Victory Prima Pils is lighter than the other two lawnmower beers we’ve discussed, but a Pilsner is supposed to be. A bottle of this stuff is rewarding to open; you’re immediately hit by a tantalizing grassy-fresh aroma, backed by the unmistakable smell of Saaz hops- the signature of the Pilsner style.

Do yourself a favor- please pour this beer into a glass, preferable a slender, conical Pilsner glass. Otherwise you’ll be missing out on the visual delights; a freshly poured glass of Pilsner is like porn for beer lovers. The light golden hue, topped with a fluffy, soapy head rising above the top rim of the glass makes the mouth water and the pulse quicken. Soon, that thick foam will be coating your upper lip, and, quite possibly, the tip of your nose.

The flavor is all malt at first; a bready, ever-so-slightly sweet river of mine malt flavor, immediately offset and countered by the powerful Saaz hops. One of the best things about Pilsner is the paradox; a beer with this much malt character and such a light body. It’s the Czech hops that act as the catalyst for this to happen. The unique combination of body, flavor, aroma and beauty make Pilsner the most refreshing beer style on the planet, and Victory Prima Pils is one of the best examples produced in the USA. Are there better Pilsners? Yes, but they all come from Central Europe.

As you can see, Lawnmower beers don’t have to be feather-light, nor do the need to be watery. The toil you put into your yard work should come with a commensurate reward, so reach for a cold, sweaty bottle of one of these three beers and relax after a job well done.

Now, pardon us while we go heave Bruce’s lawn tractor out of that drainage ditch.

Bruce is a certified beer judge and commercial brewer. Mark owns a laptop and likes beer. For more on beer, check out the beercraft blog, updated regularly, at Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to

Change on the horizon

I’m planning to switch this blog over to WordPress within the next few days, as I hate the new Google blogger. Trouble is, there are so many archived posts in the Beercraft Blog, and I’m unsure how to port them all over once I set a new blog up.

I’ll probably have to keep both blogs running concurrently for a while, unless someone can suggest a better solution?

Oh, yeah, Beer School was great on Thursday. We had the entire Custom brewcrafters brewing crew, as well as Kevin from Constellation Brands. It’s starting to turn into quite an event, and Pat, Bruce and I will be looking at ways to ramp things up accordingly on our end. Thanks again to everyone for coming out.


Beer School in session once again

Tonight. Monty’s Korner. 7pm. Beer School. We’ll be giving an overview and tasting of the beers of Munich (with a focus on Helles).

Pat Hughes, my usual Beer School co-host, will be there, along with my beercraft partner Bruce Lish, making his first appearance at the biweekly event. So come down, and wear Lederhosen if you got ’em.


Guest review time

Calico and I were talking beer a few weeks ago amid the elegant finery of Monty’s Krown. She was talking about some Belgian beers I’d never tried, and later she thoughtfully sent me her review, which I’ve reprinted here (because it makes for a longer blog entry than simply linking to her post).

From Brouwerij Van den Bossche in Belgium, this stout
is unlike any other stout I’ve had. Although the
brewery describes the taste as having caramel and
chocolate notes and a light roastiness (if my reading
of the Dutch is correct), it doesn’t appear to mention
sourness, which is the main note I detected.

I had this on tap in a tulip glass at the Old Toad. My
tasting notes:

Appearance – barely any head, clear mahogany in color.
Some lace.

Aroma – slight lactic sourness mixed with caramel and
raisin notes.

Taste – I’m not getting the nutty roasted flavors I’d
expect in a stout. There is some maltiness, but what
stands out is a mild lactic sourness, surrounded by
dark fruit flavors. Not as sour as a Flanders sour
red, but sour enough to pucker the mouth a little.

Mouthfeel – thin body (again, not what I’d expect in a
stout), finishes pleasantly crisp.

This beer is a bit more like a Baltic porter than like
any kind of stout I’ve had. It feels more like the
6.5% abv stated on the brewery’s website than the 9%
mentioned in some reviews I’ve read on Beer Advocate.
I imagine if I had more than 11 ounces of this I’d be
able to determine how strong it is, but it does not
feel strong. I could drink another one of these. An
odd, but pleasant, brew.