Monday, October 24, 2005

Bodacious BBQ and Voluptuous Stout

Isaac and I are back from a quick and dirty sales-trip to the State of Indiana. We were due at the Big Red Beer Fest in Bloomington on Thursday. Wednesday, we stopped in Carmel, a suburb of Indianapolis and were guests of honor at a beer tasting set up by Hamilton Beverage of Carmel, IN at Dick's Bodacious BBQ . While we had room for more, an attentive and vocal crowd enjoyed the tasting. Marc from was in attendance, and indicated he'd be writing a piece on it which always helps spread the word.

After discussing the gameplan with Brian, the proprietor of Dick's BBQ, I paired the beers, and got things set up. We enjoyed an excellent tasting.

We started drinking Sundog as I explained a bit about our brewery and beer in general. When the food arrived, we dug deeper into the portfolio. Stuffed, smoked salmon was subtle and delicate and it tasted great with Full Circle. The pepper-jerk pork tenderloin was awesome. It was moist, tender and had a nice peppery finish that played nice with both Mad Hatter and Paleooza. The hoppy beers kept the dance lively between the food and beer.

We tasted Ichabod and Pilgrims Dole ala carte before finishing with Poet and chocolate brownies. So simple, yet so delicious.

Poet isn't out for another two weeks, but we enjoyed the sneak preview. If you haven't had it next to some chocolate yet, TRY IT. It doesn't have to be complicated - just a favorite chocolate dessert. Cookies, brownies, or even just a good quality chocolate bar will suffice. If you've got fancy desserts, they're great too.

Stouts are the chameleons of beer styles. There are flavors hanging out in their body that you have yet to notice. Chocolate is one of the foods that will bring out some of their secrets. Poet has nice roast flavors as well as some soft, chocolate sweetness lurking underneath. The chocolate will play nice with both of these making each sip a slightly different experience.

Make fun of me later, but you should try this while drinking stout, preferrably The Poet, and eating chocolate. As you alternate between the two, close your eyes and focus on the flavor you're looking for. Is it chocolate? roast? coffee? The more you look for it, the more it will appear. The beer will pull flavors from the chocolate and vice versa.

The other way to play that is to close your eyes and try and clear out your preconceived expectations and just interpret which flavors you notice. Chocolate and stout will make this an interesting challenge as you may find new ones everytime.

There's no right or wrong with this type of tasting, it just shows the breadth of that style. I find it also shows how versatile, light and soft stout can taste.

Back to the tasting - thanks to Rod at Hamilton Beverage and Brian at Dick's BBQ for putting it on. We're looking at making this a tradition so we'll do it bigger and better next year on the way to Big Red!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

GR from Denver via the Twin Cities

Ok, we made it back from Denver. It's not as easy as it sounds. We had a great time, and enjoyed a very nice response to all of our beers. We did not, however, take home any hardware. So it goes. Beer competitions are a funny thing; while you love getting medals and they're wonderful recognition, you have to be o.k. not getting them. It sounds like a huge "We're all winners" rationalization, but it's the way it is. They can mean a lot if you win 'em, but they shouldn't mean anything if you don't. The actual tasting notes can be very helpful though, so we'll look forward to those.

We had a chance to stop in the Twin Cities on the way home and limp through some interesting places. We looked at some equipment in the morning, before getting into the defunct Minnesota Brewing Company, formerly Heilleman, formerly Schmidt. A huge pre-prohibition brewery that still had kettles and fermenters in place. An 8-story sprawling campus, mostly shuttered, cob-webbed and in need of a buyer. At its peak in the Heileman days, the plant put out over 2 million barrels. I was stunned by the idea. At one point, Brett said out loud what I had been thinking, "There are lessons here."

What those lessons are can be tough to narrow down, but I was amazed that you could be putting out 2 million barrels and then be gone. It's the old addage, "Everyone is replaceable." You never want to believe it, but all that capacity is being made somewhere else as something else; time has marched on. I take it as a challenge to be remarkable, and a challenge to look forward with an eye for continuity and perseverance. It's somewhat sad to take a tour of a defunct brewery with its former assistant brewmaster. There are lessons there.

I intend to find some good books about that era; the decline of the middle-tier brands and breweries to learn more.

The flip side was the impressiveness of it all. It had to be glorious in it's day.

Later we toured the Rahr Malting plant courtesy of Brewer's Supply Group. Another impressive display. They are the largest single-location malting plant in North America. They bring in barley from all over the US, age it properly, before malting it. We use Rahr as our base two-row barley and use Brewer's Supply Group for a number of our malts. Thanks to Bob, Chris, Todd and JP for the continued support.

We continued the limp home and finally got in to GR around 10 pm Monday night.

Back to the grindstone - Pilgrim's Dole is on the way.