Off-Topic: It’s that time of year where I get dyspeptic

As you are certainly aware, a dark evil masquerading as spirituality has formed in the east around a nucleus of pure evil. The proponents of this “religion,” while claiming they live among us as brothers, are responsible for countless heinous acts, attacks on good Americans, and general erosion of tenets most fundamental to the United States.

And those are just the Red Sox fans living in Boston. Every year, thousands more are churned out by the “institutions of higher learning.” located there to disseminate their twisted, perverted views throughout our great nation.

Believe it or not, some people have suggested that my views on the Boston Red Sox and their fans are, well, irrational. But I can’t help the bile rising in my throat every time I see David Ortiz’ grinning, porcine mug on TV or hear about Many Ramirez being excused from some act of near criminal stupidity simply because he is Manny Ramirez (the pundits repeating their criminally clichéd mantra ‘That’s Manny being Manny’).

And it’s not just because of the franchise’s great success in recent years. As a lifelong Yankee fan, I always want to see my team win, but without competition the drama, the excitement is missing from the game. Omniscience is boring in sports; we fans want to worship men, not gods.

No I hate the Red Sox because of the way they win, and because of the smug self-righteous hive-mind superiority that induces in their fair-weather fans.  Seemingly every Red Sox game ends in a come-from-behind victory with an Ortiz walk-off home run topping the game like a cherry on a hot fudge sundae. Or a pitcher gets cancer, beating the disease in the off-season and returning to the mound amid the popping off of both flashbulbs and the fawning mouths of sports talk hosts. Or some schlub comes up from the minors and pitches a no-hitter in his first game.

Or the Yankees lose 4 games in a row to choke away the American League pennant.

It’s uncanny, movie script after movie script, all written to be pitched to the Hallmark Channel. And, naturally, the media loves it. An endless stream of television segments about the Sox’ saccharine heroics has transformed their players into, not demigods, but flawed, earthy heroes. Likewise, that dilapidated hovel Fenway Park has eclipsed the great Yankee Stadium as the true temple of baseball in the minds of the people. And Red Sox fans are eating it up.

Incidentally, I’ve yet to actually meet a Red Sox fan. All I’ve encountered are smug post-collegiate types who speak and act as if they have the world by the balls. Because college is the best time of your life, and everyone goes to college in freakin’ Boston. In fact, it’s depressing top note how seditious these fans are, turning on their original teams the moment they’re in an big city, living on their own for the first time, and faced with the very real possibility that they might get laid. It’s worth noting that, when the chips are down, Red Sox Fan is equally treasonous to his or her adopted team. When the Sox tank in the pennant race, a feat they perform with astounding regularity, there’s nary a ‘B’ to be found on the person of Sox fans.

But the worst characteristic of the Red Sox Fan is the constant loud-mouthed hypocrisy.  They yap their eloquent mantra, ‘Yankees Suck,’ though they cannot come up with any evidence that backs this well-reasoned argument. They crow about ‘reversing the curse’ with their 2004 World Series win, although all they did was prove that, for the previous 86 years, their team simply sucked.

And then there’s the hypocrisy. The Red Sox fan is quick to accuse the Yankees of ‘trying to buy the championship,’ by paying for high-priced talent. As if Boston fielded a team of volunteer local boys from Southie.

Dreams can’t always come true, and my dream involving the demolition of Fenway Park and replacement with a Starbucks on the corner of Landsdowne Street and Yawkey Way, which would house a display case featuring Ted Williams’ frozen head won’t be realized either.

But, as a true Yankees fan through thick and thin, the Red Sox can never take away my dreams. Or, for that matter, my sanity.




Beercraft Newspaper Column #48- The Rohrbach Brewing Company

Rochester’s own Rohrbach Brewing Company

For beer lovers, Rochester’s microbrew scene has had its ups and downs. Over the past decade, a host of brewpubs have come and gone, leaving beer geeks like us unsure where to find our next growler. However, Rochester’s original microbrewery, the Rohrbach Brewing Company, has managed to flourish where others could not.

Owner John Urlaub attributes this success to unwavering vision, careful capitalization, and a do-it-yourself ethic. He founded the business after moving back from Rohrbach, Germany, where he fell in love with the beer. Taking an early retirement from Eastman Kodak, he poured his first hose-made pint in 1992.  After solidifying business at the original Gregory Street location, Urlaub opened the current restaurant and brewery out on Buffalo Road.


Not only is Rohrbach still around fifteen years after founding, but the business is in an unprecedented growth phase, providing beer for up to 100 external accounts (including Frontier Field) and, more excitingly, building a 20-barrel production facility near the Public Market.

The expansion room afforded by the new building will allow brewer Jim McDermott who handles Rohrbach standards like Scotch Ale, Highland Amber and BlueBeary Ale, to breathe a bit easier when meeting ever-increasing demand.

“We will have the capacity to be 30% bigger,” Urlaub says of his new brewery. “We look at the space that exists as being able to double.”

The two-story former warehouse looms over Railroad Street, and certainly dwarfs most other microbreweries in sheer physical space. Over time, Urlaub plans to make full use of the interior acreage at his disposal, including the addition of a tasting room, sales area for beer and merchandise, and brewery tours.

The new brewery’s location, almost adjacent to the Rochester Public Market, should prove conducive to walk-in traffic. “Whenever the Public Market’s gates are open, our doors will be open,” Urlaub says. “We want people to come in and tour, see the production, sample some of our products and do retail.”

This shift of mainline production will not leave the Buffalo Road brewpub high and dry. Rohrbach is reassembling the brewing system from the former Gregory Street location. The Ogden brewery will handle specialty ales under the skilled hand of Bruce Lish, a Great American Beer Fest medalist and co-author of this column.

The current restaurant will expand as well, providing a desperately-needed increase in seating. In addition, the bar will be going from 8 taps to 12.  “This is what I’m almost most excited about. The restaurant is what I envisioned it to be,” says Urlaub.

Hopefully, the increased seating capacity will provide more attendance space for Rohrbach’s beer and food events, which tend to sell out rather handily. Both of their planned Oktoberfest sessions are booked solid, although space is still available for November’s Harvest Celebration.

Not only is Rohrbach’s expansion good for Urlaub and his business, but it’s good for beer lovers regionwide. Rohrbach’s expanding production capacity and ability to brew a greater variety of beer styles benefits beer lovers in obvious ways, and is a key component in what can only be described as a Rochester beer renaissance.

In other beers:

Garrett Oliver, Author and Brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery (and essentially the Mick Jagger of the American craft beer scene) was at The Old Toad last Wednesday to conduct a tasting of Hopfen-weizen, actually two experimental hoppy wheat beers brewed in collaboration with Munich’s Schneider Weisse brewery.

The beers explored the possibly offered by using European and American hops for fragrance and flavor in a beer style that shies away from those hop essences.

Oh yeah, beer-steamed mussels and cheese were served. Thanks to Cellar Manager Jules Suplicki, who obviously knew we were coming.

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


Mark and Bruce review an extreme beer.

Recently, we’ve taken some flak for turning up our noses at ‘extreme’ beers. Just to set the record straight, ‘extreme’ beers are every bit as valid as good beers that are skillfully brewed to style. To level the playing field, we shall now review an ‘extreme’ beer: Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale.

The beer pours a deep amber, almost ruby color, with a semi-persistent head that leaves some lacing on the inside of the glass. The bouquet is a veritable spice rack of fall dessert essences: cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, cardamom, you name it.

I must admit to being stunned by the flavor; this might be the best pumpkin ale I’ve ever had. Far from overpowering, the pumpkin comes through in the nose and melds nicely with the spices. Unlike many pumpkin ales, hops are still noticeable in the finish, contrasting beautifully with the beer’s slight sweetness.

At 9% it isn’t the most extreme beer in the world, but it’s going down a lot better than the Avery Mephistopheles and “The Kaiser” Imperial Oktoberfest we choked down earlier. I’m surprised at the quality of this pumpkin ale. Weyerbacher took a novelty style and actually turned it into a quality big beer.

If that’s extreme, we don’t want to be mild.

Golden Shower? Nah- he probably won’t go for that beer name either

Well, it looks like the opening 0f the as-yet unnamed greatest beer bar in the non-Muslim world will be delayed a couple of weeks while Joe and Casey work out some building issues. The Gregory Street, Rochester, location is currently getting a spiffy coat of paint, and looks inviting as hell from the street.

The upside of this delay is that the as yet-unnamed beer, brewed by Rohrbach brewer (and my collaborator) Bruce Lish, will get some extra maturation time. I had an opportunity to try a sample yesterday at Rohrbach’s brewery. It’s a pale ale, almost a harvest ale, alluringly gold in color and nicely balanced with the hop flavors just starting to come through. I*t’s a shame to keep it in those tanks any longer than necessary.

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Bruce and Jim McDermott of Rohrbach doing, uh, research

Bruce is planning to dry-hop the beer using, among other things, Rohrbach’s indigenous cascade hops which owner John Urlaub has been planting all over the brewery property. So Joe’s beer can have the distinction of being one of the few to use actual New York State hops.

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Bruce, the photo hog, posing with a hop plant and some filthy kegs

Now, if only Joe would name his beer and his bar, we could get on with the serious business of drinking there. Until then, I guess we’ll have to plan a midnight brewery break-in.


A Tale of Two Hopfen-Weizens

Amarillo hops.

I don’t usually claim the ability to identify individual hop species by the taste or smell of my beer, but the citrus-pineapple essence of Amarillo hit my nose like a truck as I raised the glass of cloudy, soft orange beer to my lips. Absent prior knowledge, the unmistakeable banana-clove flavor of Hefeweizen would have come as a shock in a beer this hop-heavy. I knew what was coming; it was the reason we were there.

The fashion in American craft brewing for ever more ‘extreme’ beers traps brewers in a rut even as it spurs innovation. As they race for the pole position in alcoholic strength and bitterness, they reach a point of diminishing returns and even diminishing individual identity. After a while, it gets tough to discern the 11% imperial IPA of brewery “A” from the 11% imperial IPA of brewery “B.” The customer stops caring about the brand, and craft beer gets a little more commoditized.

Fortunately, Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery and Hans-Peter Drexler of Munich’s Schneider-Weisse came up with a new twist on hop-heavy beer innovation. Oliver went to the 400-year-old, staunchly traditionalist Schneider Brewery, the first guest brewer in the firm’s history, to combine German hops and Hefeweizen in a whole new way. Likewise, Drexler packed his luggage for Brooklyn to brew his take on Hefeweizen combined with American hops.

Oliver presented the results in Rochester last night at The Old Toad, narrating a comparison tasting of both the Brooklyn and Munich Hopfen Weizens.

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Old Toad owner John Roman, Garrett Oliver, Brooklyn VP Mike Vitale, Toad Cellar Manager Jules Suplicki, and beer columnist Matt Osburn swap war stories

The German Hallertauer-Saphir hops used in the Munich iteration blend harmoniously with the Hefeweizen that is Schneider-Weisse’s stock in trade. But Oliver makes the hops “pop” more, bringing their flavor to the front, which is typically a cardinal sin among the Helles and Hefe quaffers of Munich. The result is quite distinct, a surprisingly deep orange in color, with a less substantial head than is typical for the style.

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Yours truly with my share of samples

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Kira of Calico’s Alehouse lost in a world of hops

The beer produced by Drexler in Brooklyn is even more of a departure from the norm. He used the Amricn craft brewing technique of dry-hopping to impart an extremely fragrant aroma of Americn hops, Amarillo seemingly the main culprit. Unlike the German version which employs hops already used in traditional Hefeweizen, the Brooklyn Hopfen-Weizen offers an entirely new combination of flavor- a synthesis of two seemingly incongruous elements to create a new, well hell, a new beer style that, even without the titanic strength and bitterness, manages more ‘extremeness’ than all the imperial IPAs combined.

And it’s something your wife would enjoy drinking. Go figure.

General goings-on (Garrett, session beers, and beer school)

So I’m going to Garrett Oliver’s tasting tonight. I’d hoped to score an interview with the man, but I guess having a print readership of 6 puts me pretty low down the media cred ladder. Maybe I can yank him aside for a minute and ask him things discriminating drinkers want to know.

Things like: “what’s a good session beer?” In the race to market beers of ever increasing strength, bitterness, and general extremity, craft breweries have exhibited a tendency to overlook lower-strength beer styles. While I enjoy a glass of Avery Maharajah IPA (in fact, on Saturday I enjoyed three of them), the 9.7% alcohol content tends to drive me further into the depths of blithering idiocy than can be reasonably expected from a functional human being. When I drink beer, I want a night out, not a pass-out.

Noobs, here’s a suggestion for a beer you can order all evening: Pilsner Urquell. The Czech staple clocks in at a measly 4.4% ABV, two-tenths of a percent more than Bud Light. Oh, and it’s one of the best lager beers in the world. American mass-market brewers have imitated Urquell’s color, but they come nowhere close to the Czech stuff in flavor or aesthetics. This beer has more body, visual appeal (big, soapy head), and malt/hop flavor than any lager the majors, and most American craft brewers, can put in front of you.

We’ll have to do Pilsners again in an upcoming Beer School. For this week’s tasting, however, we’re covering the beers of autumn: harvest ales and pumpkin ales. All you have to do to participate is show up at Monty’s Korner (Rochester), tomorrow at 7:30. Bring a thirst and an appreciation for sheet pizza.

Oh, and if you want to join my newly created Beercraft group, get a Facebook profile and head on over to <a href=”″>here.</a&gt; I have no idea what this group will become.


Taste beer with Garrett Oliver at The Old Toad

Garrett Oliver, Head Brewer of the Brooklyn Brewery, author of The Brewmaster’s Table, and undoubtedly one of the most recognized faces in the American craft beer scene is coming to Rochester’s Old Toad on Wednesday, September 19.

Oliver will conduct a tasting of Munich’s Schneider Weisse side by side with his own Brooklyner Weisse, as well as answering questions, talking beer and brewing.

This is a fantastic chance to learn from a real pro. You know what? On second thought, never mind. The Toad is probably too small for this event. I’d appreciate it if you just stayed home.