Update on the Rohrbach move

Well, looks like the Holiday season will be a busy one for the Rohrbach Brewing Company.

The floor is poured and drainage is all set in their new Railroad Street facility, and they’ll be moving the brewing equipment over Christmas week. The move was supposed to take place sooner than that, but had been pushed back in order to head off any snags that would cause unforseen brewery downtime.

This is important, because Bruce needs every spare moment to keep the Tap and Mallet supplied with McBane’s Best Bitter. The new bar went through nine kegs of the stuff in it’s first two weeks of operation alone. Meanwhile, Rohrbach regulars are taking advantage of Bruce’s return and demanding the Stock Ale. If he doesn’t produce it quick they’re likely to come after his ass with pitchforks.

-Mark

By the way, let’s all welcome fellow Crapchesterian Creamaledrinker as he begins his adventures in beer blogging. his handle refers to Genesee Cream Ale, a source of gastric distress for many a college student over the decades. Check out his shit so he gets a good start and doesn’t get discouraged.

Repost: A shout-out to the Brewers

I posted this a couple of years ago in the old blog. It still holds true today. Let’s all take a moment to appreciate the guys and gals that labor to make our beer

A shout out to the brewers

Not the Milwaukee baseball team.

Is there a more thankless job than Brewer at a microbrewery? You have to lug tons of heavy shit around all day, spend half your time up to the elbows in caustic as you sanitize, work around huge boiling vats even in the middle of summer, and deal with high waitstaff turnover that could give fuck-all about what you labor to create.

At the same time, the place where you work is always on the edge of closure, the owner only cares about maximizing profit so you’re working all hours of the night. The owner thinks he’s a brewmaster, so he’s fucking with your recipes and criticizing your procedures. You’re lucky to have the tiniest bit of health insurance, if any, and your place of employment could close down with no notice at any time.

Groupies? Yeah, you get them. 50 year old men with scraggly Jerry Garcia beards and graphing calculators peeking out of a shirt pocket, who always want a tour of the cramped dungeon you call a brewery, and go on for hours about every other beer they’ve ever swilled before pedalling away on their recumbent bicycles.

Yet you keep making beer.

Hey, brewers, thanks for loving beer and loving your craft. The job might be a pain sometimes, but some of us out there appreciate the way you guys do it.

-Mark

Beer School this Thursday

Oh, how the time flies. Once again, Bruce and I will host Beer School this Thursday at Monty’s Korner, at the corner of East and Alexander in scenic Rochester, New York. This week’s topic: winter ales.

Winter ale is a complex animal; a canvas many brewers use as a showcase of creativity. Often it’s a strong, tawny spiced ale with a great deal of malt sweetness. The spices vary from clove to cinnamon. Every now and then, there’s a hint of cherry, raspberry, or some other weird-ass fruit combination.

If it’s within your power, come join us at 7 pm. The tasting is free, and involves pizza. Hey, it beats the hell out of Christmas shopping.

-Mark

The acqusition of Alt

Bruce has received some interest from restaurants and bars that would like him to brew a German Altbier. In order to maximize authenticity, I’m trying to locate some. Unfortunately, that’s proving kinda difficult.

Altbier (German for “old beer,” referring to the style, no the age of what’s in the glass) is one of those regional specialties. It’s brewed exclusively around the city of Dusseldorf, and isn’t widely consumed outside of that area. It’s made with ale yeast, but it uses the paler malts originally created for lager brewing. The small Alt-breweries of Dusseldorf (Uerige being the most famous) pour beer into .2 liter glasses and keep track of how many you’ve blasted down by ticking marks on your beer mat. Alternately, you can order a miniature barrel of the stuff which is placed on your table. Beer Advocate has a comprehensive article on the stuff, so I won’t rehash it here.

Problem is, the regional nature of Altbier makes it a rarity here in the USA. For a while, distributors offered Frankenheim Alt, but that stopped in our area due to low demand. Plus, it wasn’t very fresh by the time it cascaded onto our hopeful tongues. So Warsteiner, who was importing Frankenheim, did a ctrl-Alt-delete and now we have no access to a pretty tasty regional style.

My German friends say actually mailing it over is customs fraud, so they won’t help. My only chance is to find a mail order beer store that carries Alt. Or go to Dusseldorf.

Hmmm…. I smell road trip…

-Mark

An early new years resolution for Mark

I don’t usually make New Year’s Resolutions. If you need to wait for some milestone date before you can stop doing whatever annoying thing you do, or start doing something you know could have tremendous benefit to your health, you’re not really committed. If you meant it, you’d start now, lazyass!

Ahem. Sorry. Anyway, call it a ‘now’ resolution that just happens to be affirmed within a month and a half of New Year’s Day.

I, Mark Tichenor, resolve to drink more cask-conditioned ale.

Bruce and I are rarities among beer lovers because we skew toward lager rather than ale, which true purists generally consider more rich and complex in character and flavor (excuse me…’flavour’). True Ale lovers, on both sides of the pond, tend to dismiss lager as ‘that fizzy yellow stuff from the Continent’ or the pisswater product of major American breweries. This narrow, Anglocentric view is anathema to me. How many puffy-bearded, real-ale swishing civil engineers have totally overlooked the hearty malt kick of a Helles, or the mellow, raisin warmth of a good Doppelbock, just because its yeast ferments on the bottom of the tun?

Conversely, I don’t want to be a pontificating lager nazi, so wrapped up in my pilsners and maerzens that i do a disservice to excellent ales. And lord knows we drink enough American draft IPA, stout, and porter, but it’s undeniable that I’ve been giing the cask-conditioned stuff short shrift.

For those unfamiliar, cask-conditioning is the ‘old’ way to serve ale. The beer is unfiltered, unpasteurized and dispensed from the fermentation tanks into casks or barrels with live yeast still bubbling away inside. The beer continues to ferment all the way from the brewery to your pint glass, to which it finds its way via a mechanical hand pump that uses air pressure instead of co2 to pull the beer up from the cellar. Until you drink it, cask ale (or ‘real ale’) is a living product.

When Americans laugh about the British liking warm beer, this is the stuff they’re talking about. But cask ale (or ‘real ale’) isn’t served warm; At 50-55 degrees Farenheit it just isn’t as cold as the stuff coming out of the draft cooler.The higher serving temperaure gives cask ale a complex aroma that’s integral to the enjoyment of one’s pint. It also has a less fizzy mouthfeel; to an American light beer lover, real ale would taste almost flat. However, the low carbonation provides voluminous flavor that afficionados swear cannot be matched by anything on keg draft, even if it’s the exact same beer from the same batch.

Once the only style of beer, cask ale suffered a precipitous decline during the 20th century, until its resurgence in the ’80s and ’90s. Nowadays, it’s not unusual to find a hand pump and a cask selection at the bar (at least, here in Rochester, NY), and it’s a treat to try many of the great American beers served in this manner as well as out of the draft line.

I, for one, promise to do my part.

-Mark

Beercraft newspaper column #52: The creative use of holiday ales

Indulge in a pint of holiday cheer

By Mark Tichenor and Bruce Lish

The Holiday season has returned with a vengeance. It’s that time where we celebrate all those great yuletide traditions, like joining a thousand-person line in front of the Wal-Mart at 4 am, hearing the same few Christmas carols performed over and over, in every possible musical style, or performing the ritualistic lower back exercise of dragging 2,347 mail-order catalogs out to the recycling bin.

Even though the holidays can cause their share of stress, the season can also bring joy. And the best part of the Holidays is undoubtedly the release of winter ale. Right now, hundreds of breweries nationwide are making their own interpretations of this warming, spicy seasonal beer style.

Big regional breweries like the Boston Beer Company, the Anchor Brewery and Sierra Nevada distribute their holiday ales nationwide, and some of these have become quite famous, and their ubiquity has formed the archetypes of what this beer is “supposed” to taste like: sweet without a lot of hop finish and plenty of nutmeg and clove flavor. But holiday ale has no set style guidelines and many brewmasters use it as a chance to get creative, so we lucky drinkers get to try all kinds of wild variations.

You only need to look as far as Syracuse’s Middle Ages Brewing Company to see what we’re talking about. Middle Ages bucks the all-barley strong-ale convention with Winter Wheat. The result is a bit surprising if you’re expecting the light bite of other wheat beer styles (like Hefeweizen or Belgian witbeer).

The aroma and flavor notes imparted by the wheat make really set this brew apart.

It’s lighter, and perhaps a bit fruitier, than most of its peers, but Winter Wheat packs real body, and offers a combination of traditional holiday ale sweetness with the banana and clove characteristics of a wheat beer.

The Otter Creek Brewing Company of Vermont is offering the imaginatiely named Winter Ale:  a rich, mellow brown ale rounded out with raspberries to create a blend of flavors that compliment each other. The danger with fruit and beer is the fruit flavors can be overwhelming, but Winter Ale avoids that pitfall. The raspberry is more of an essence than a flavor, although it’s quite noticeable.

Otter Creek Winter ale isn’t as strong as most winter seasonals, nor does it posess the typical extreme malt sweetness that goes along with many stronger beers. Its lighter brown ale flavor and fruit-imparted crispness make it very accessible, and a sure hit at Holiday parties, probably even among people who don’t usually enjoy beer.

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention the holiday ales brewed here in Rochester. The 2007 Custom Brewcrafters Christmas Ale uses spices, but relies on the underlying characteristics of the beer instead of overwhelming the drinker with cloves and nutmeg. It’s sweet and warming, with an aftertaste reminiscent of gingerbread.

Across town, the Rohrbach Brewing Company offers Kacey’s Christmas Ale. It’s dark, rich and substantial, with a hint of cherry. And the High Falls Brewery is brewing Festive Ale, which combines rich caramel and toffee notes with a somewhat lighter body than most winter ales.

In other beers:

Monty’s Krown is going Belgian. Our favorite beer and music hangout is now stocking Duvel in bottles. As far as we know, the only other place where you can sip incredibly awesome Belgian beer while watching punk bands is…well it’s Belgium. Krown Manager Jen Clark says this is going to be an ongoing thing, so pop down and indulge your inner Waloon.

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