Beer fest and Beer school

Since I’m going to Belgium on Thursday, Pat Hughes will be assuming all Beer School duties. The topic: Award-winning beers. The Time: 7pm. The Place: Monty’s Korner, Rochester.

While you’re sampling some of the finest beers anywhere, you can rest assured that I’m conducting exhaustive research on Belgian brew in order to properly advise you, the consumer. Pics will be posted.

Oh, and look for the Victory Brew Fest at Monty’s Krown on Saturday, June 30. Victory Brewing Company rep Steve German will be on hand with an array of cask, draft, and bottled things for you to try. Unfortunately, I will miss it, because I will be drinking trappist ales at the source.

-Mark

A work in progress

The best beer bar in Rochester won’t serve its first beer until August. Currently, it’s an eviscerated shambles.

The old MacGregor’s on Gregory Street is well along in its renovation, but there’s still plenty of work to do. When this place opens, it is not going to be a warmed-over MacGregor’s; the building is getting a complete refurb from the basement to the roof.

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The as-yet-unnamed bar still looks forlorn

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Come have a fine beer in their inviting atmosphere

“Hey Mark,” you say. “How can this be the best beer bar in Rochester before the place is even built?” I just ask you to trust me. Joe McBane, former cellar manager at The Old Toad, is a wizard at finding excellent, unexpected beers from all over the world. He has poured me too many rare and pleasant surprises to count, and the man knows how to keep his beer fresh and at the proper temperatures.

Oh, and he’s English, so that has to give him SOME beer cred, right?

Beercraft newspaper column #42: Fruit beers

Beer + Fruit = pretty good stuff

The best thing about getting into craft beer is the sheer variety of tastes that opens up to you. But let’s face it, sometimes beer alone just isn’t enough. Sometimes you need some fruit in that beer.

Fruit has been used as a flavor agent in beer for hundreds of years, and, thanks to our Belgian friends and the ingenuity of American brewers, fruit beers are enjoying something of a mini-renaissance.

It sounds strange, but beer didn’t always taste as delicious as it does today. A lack of chemical knowledge made it harder for brewers to control the brewing process; yeast wasn’t even understood until the 1800s. In Belgium, the spontaneously fermented beers came out champagne like in texture and quite sour. To make it more palatable, the Belgians came up with a practical solution: add fruit.

Thus the cherries and raspberries of Flanders’ fields became the hallmark ingredients in Lambic, the classic Belgian fruit beer. These have since been joined by currants, peaches, apples and whatever else the marketers in Antwerp could think up to diversify the product range. The Kriek (cherry) and Framboise (raspberry) are the acknowledged classics, however. Depending on the brewery, they can range from astringent and dry to very sweet and fruity.

You can find plenty of different lambic in various flavors at Beers of the World, but if you’re looking for lambic on draft, it’ll be tough to get anything but Lindemann’s Framboise- a light, tart champagney beer that clubs you over the head with raspberry. It’s very pretty in the glass, a deep red hue with pink foam (you probably shouldn’t sip these before climbing on your Harley). Raspberry essence swirls into your nose ever time you raise the beer to your lips, creating, uh, “the ultimate raspberry experience.”

If you want an edge in impressing your date, order her up a Framboise and watch the delight spread across her face. Unless she’s allergic to raspberries. No one is delighted in the emergency room.

Lambics are by no means the only beer style flavored with fruit. Most others, however, have been lost to the ages. But American craft brewers, have spurred something of a resurgence in fruit beers, and most of the big players on the craft beer scene have one in their product lineup.

For example, there’s Magic Hat #9, from the Magic Hat Brewing Company of Burlington, Vermont. Like all beer from Vermont, the Magic Hat is swathed in hippie ethos and trippy packaging, but the contents of the bottle are enjoyable even without hallucinogens.

#9’s soft golden color offers the first hint of the apricot that suffuses the beer’s aroma and flavor, and the crisp bite of fresh apricots is prevalent in each swallow.

Fortunately, what you’ll get in #9 is mostly the essence of the fruit, and not an overwhelming apricot flavor. Underneath is a light-bodied, decently balanced brew. You’ll taste the sweet malt, and each sip will finish crisp and hoppy, with just a bit of bitterness.

If you’re at the Wings game, or out at their brewery in Ogden, you can have a glass of Rohrbach BlueBeary ale fresh from the tap. A longtime staple of Rohrbach’s line of beers, the BlueBeary is another example of the value of restraint. The essence of blueberry is captured without the beer turning into something you’d pour on your pancakes.

Because we like our interviews easy, we spoke with Bruce Lish, brewer at Rohrbach and co-author of this column. “BlueBeary is a great crossover beer,” Lish says. “A lot of people who don’t really like beer enjoy it.”

Lish also points out the popularity of the “Black and Blue,” a half-and-half of BlueBeary and stout. The two flavors complement each other very well and the parfait-like layering of the dark stout on top of the golden BlueBeary has enormous visual appeal.

There are plenty of other fruit beers out there; you’re certain to find others you enjoy. Fortunately, most look just like regular beer, so the guys can enjoy a pint with their machismo intact.

That’s important, even in Vermont.

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 http://beercraft.blogspot.com. Send your questions, suggestions, or comments to beercraft@rochester.rr.com.

Boston again

I just got back from another trip to Boston, where I hung with some friends and enjoyed the sunshine. Not much to report beer-wise; the best thing I had was Harpoon IPA.

At least I had a lot of it.

I’m going to Belgium next Thursday, and there’s a definite beery slant to the trip. Stay tuned, good readers, as Mark frolics among the Trappists.

Someone pass me an ice cold, imported J.W. Dundee’s.

I really don’t think I expect too much from stadium concessionaires, but being asked to pay a buck more for a J.W. Dundee’s at a Rochester Rhinos game on the basis that it’s an import is fucking retarded.

You see, J.W. Dundee’s is brewed at the High Falls Brewing Company, about six blocks from the stadium where the USL Division 1 soccer team plays its home games.

Granted, the concession company the Rhinos use, Delaware North, is the shittiest, most backward in the industry. Their employees show up untrained (it’ll take you 25 minutes to get a chicken sandwich out of them), their supervisors clueless. But surely a large enough number of annoyed fans have brought their attention to the fact that DUNDEE’S IS A FRIGGIN’ ROCHESTER BEER for them to do something other than arrogantly say ‘Well we classify it as an import.’

By the way, these geographically challenged idiots classify Labatt Blue as a ‘domestic.’

My advice, drink before and after the game. Leave the concession company to rot in its own inventory. At least then it won’t taste like the cheap plastic cup in which it’s poured.

-Mark

Beer school and barley wine

Hi folks.

We’re doing Beer School tomorrow night at 7pm, at Monty’s Korner. The subject: Beers of the Great Lakes. Some of the finest craft beers on the continent come from their shores, and, dammit, we’re gonna taste ’em. Patrick is out of town, but hopefully Bruce will be there.

We tried the Blue Point No Apologies Imperial IPA on cask last night at The Old Toad. Absolutely fantastic. The cask conditioning lent a rich smoothness and really accentuated the hop aroma. What surprised me whas the subtlety of the beer’s finish, which completely lacked the sharp hop bite usually found in barley wines. Still, the alcoholic flavor was nicely balanced in the beer. You may not find it on cask, but give it a try if you’re looking for something strong.

-Mark