Showing posts with label beer culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beer culture. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Cleveland in dem Haus

Last week I was in Cleveland, Ohio, for a conference. Having admitted in several posts that I am a terrible beer tourist, I have determined that whenever I am away on a business trip I am going to try and change that narrative. Naturally I had done some research on Cleveland and had a list of breweries whose wares I at least wanted to try, time can often be at a premium on these conference trips and so I usually find a well regarded pub with a decent local selection so I can at least try a few new things.

Then I saw the magic words "Hofbr?uhaus Cleveland" and knew without a shadow of any doubt that if time allowed then I would be going. Inspired by the thought of Bavarian style booze and food, I checked Google Maps and discovered it was 0.4 miles from my hotel...yeah, you know I was going there. Thus it was having landed in a much colder than Virginia Cleveland, and spent the afternoon getting set up for the conference exhibition, I took a stroll and allowed my mind to wander back to central Europe...


It being a Wednesday night, the Hofbr?uhaus was not exactly busy and so I strode past the classic bench tables of a bierhalle, headed straight for my favourite place to drink, the bar itself.


Behind the bar stands the heartbeat of any brewpub, the coppers, and in this case actually copper, or at least copper clad, shining brightly. I was actually thrilled when I saw them, I knew their beers would be brewed in the US rather than shipped from Germany, but for some reason I hadn't expected them to be brewed in house. The thought of fresh, brewed in situ, Hofbr?uhaus lagers filled my heart with joy. Yeah, I am a sucker for pretty much all beer and food related Teutonic things, I would say "German" but let's not leave out the Austrians shall we?


When in Rome and all that jazz, I started out with a half litre (yes!!) of the Hofbr?uhaus Original...


Original is a Helles that is clean, crisp, with a nice noble hop bite and enough malt body to make it wonderfully easy drinking without dissipating into wateriness. It was a lovely beer with which to stare in bafflement at the food menu - how exactly does an avowed teutonophile decide between schnitzel and wurst? With a half litre of dunkel perhaps?


As I said it was cold in Cleveland, about 30°F when I arrived and there it had stayed in anticipation of warmer times, and so the dunkel just seemed more like cold weather drinking. This was lovely, rich, spicy, gently warming, touches of cocoa, tobacco, and that light cinnamon thing that you get with German hops. With a decision made on the food front, j?gerschnitzel, another half litre was duly ordered as I had found my beery muse for the night.

I am fairly sure that Hofbr?uhaus Cleveland will not win many friends among the punks and illuminati of the craft beer world, but for those of us who love a well made, classic, German style lager, it is a great place and one that if ever life takes me to Cleveland again will be due another visit.

Thinking about it in light of the news that Stone had sold their Berlin brewery to BrewDog, maybe the problem was craft beer's attitude to Germany rather than Germany's attitude to craft beer, after all Bavaria basically invented "traditional ingredients". Perhaps in the beer drinking heartlands of the world, there is less demand for beers "with a twist", and perhaps craft beer largely fails to understand that for the normal German drinker something like a helles, pilsner, or dunkel is as good as they want it to get?

And who is to say they are wrong? Not this guy, that's for sure.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Fuggled Review of the Year - Blogs

I am making a slight change for my review of this year's best blogs. Rather than being best in Virginia, the US and the World, it will be the best from North America, UK/Ireland and the World, mainly because the blogs I read are pretty evenly split between the three categories. The regional top blogs in my world this year are:
  • North America - A Good Beer Blog
  • UK/Ireland - Boak and Bailey's Beer Blog
  • Rest of the World - Beer Culture


Whether it's researching Albany Ale or hosting an annual photography competition, Alan's blog is always an interesting read and often rather enlightening.


Boak and Bailey have always been interesting, and they are wonderful pub crawl company into the bargain, but this year they really seem to have 'upped their game'. Lots of fascinating posts about the milieu that eventually led to the creation of CAMRA as well as an ode to the working man's club have raised many a smile for me and brought back a fair few memories...


There are very, very few people in the beer world that I look up to, whose friendship I value and whose opinions I regard in the very highest of terms, one such person is Evan Rail. Evan doesn't perhaps blog as often as some of us, but each and every post this year has been worth reading, absorbing and sharing with friends, colleagues and others who love beer. The only downer is that I haven't shared a pint with him in Pivovarsky klub for far too damned long now.

Difficult though it is to single out one blog from some very excellent writers, but it must be done. Earlier this year the winner wrote a series of posts about the origins of Pilsner Urquell which I consider to be essential reading for anyone with an interest in beer history, as such the winner is:
  • Evan Rail - Beer Culture
If you have never read Beer Culture, head on over and then go buy his extended essays on Amazon, Why Beer Matters and In Praise of Hangovers.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Understanding Beer

Language fascinates me. When I was at college I learnt a bit about linguistics, semiotics, semantics and a clutch of other language related subjects as part of our hermeneutics course - don't worry I won't be wondering how to use the hermeneutical circle as proposed by Liberation Theologian Juan Luis Segundo.

One of the areas we looked at that I found particularly interesting was the development of words and how we interpret them, or more specifically how do we interpret the meaning of words within their historical context and how much of that context is it necessary to know and understand. There are two basic approaches here, synchronic analysis and diachronic analysis. The former looks at language only at a single point in time, usually in the present, while the latter is more concerned with the development of language over a period of time.


"What the hell does all this have to do with beer?" I hear you mumbling. Well, there has been a fair bit of chatter in the old blogosphere about how we understand beer styles and whether or not the styles as described by either the Brewers Association or the BJCP are valid or correct, especially what constitutes a "proper" version of a beer? In my reading of various blogs there are two main schools thought, which for want of a better phrase I will call stylistic synchronism and stylistic diachronism; the former saying that what is important is beer styles as we understand them in 2012 and the latter interested in how beer styles have evolved through time to reach this point. As I am sure you can imagine, I consider myself more of a diachronist, given my interest in the historical development of beer, and the fact I have no problem with the International Homebrew Project recipe being called a "mild" even though it smashes present convention squarely in the balls.

From this wondering about how we understand a given style arises a further question, having understood the numbers, how do we reach the soul of the beer we brew? The obvious answer is to drink examples of the style we are trying to brew. But is it enough for me to buy and drink all the available Czech lagers at Beer Run in order to understand the Bohemian Pilsner "style"? Personally I would say "absolutely not", simply because Pilsner Urquell in bottles here, while a decent beer, is nowhere near as good as tankove, or kegged for that matter, Pilsner Urquell in Plzeň. Given that the creation myths that surround many modern beer styles are located within particular geographical areas, spending a decent amount of time in those places is, I think, important. Beers such as "Pilsner", London Porter and Saison are so intertwined with the context from which they arose that simply brewing by the numbers is akin to reproducing the Mona Lisa from a photograph.


We quite often talk about the "context" of drinking a particular beer, but what about the "context" which gave birth to the beer we are drinking? Again for want of a better phrase, we should talk about the "humanity of beer" as it reflects the people and milieu of its creation as much as the agricultural ingredients that make up its tangible elements.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Truth of Session Culture Is Out There

There is a bar not more than 7 minutes from my flat, well, a grill that has a draft beer selection, but still, it is well within walking distance. I have to confess though that I have never gone to said bar and grill, even though I have driven by it many a time on the way to Beer Run or Court Square Tavern, or just going to the same strip mall to get Chinese take away. All I know about this bar is the name, The Lazy Parrot, it's reputation and the fact that it is opening a barbecue area in the near future. I guess they must be doing something right then.

I was mulling this over the other day when in the middle of a twitterlogue about session beer - you know the kind of thing, what is the appropriate abv level for session beer in the USA (for the record, I agree with Lew Bryson that 4.5% is acceptable, but then I am a cultural traitor extraordinaire). Suddenly it hit me, taking Lew's definition of session beer, that the USA has a vibrant, thriving session beer culture, it's just that the self-appointed arbiters of taste chose to ignore it because it doesn't fit with their narrative.

More than 50% of beer sold in the US is "light lager", along the lines of Bud Light, Miller Lite and Coors Light, all three of which have an abv of 4.2%, just 0.2% shy of Pilsner Urquell's 4.4% but streets away in terms of bitterness. Clearly then, there is a market for session beer, there are drinkers out there who want a low alcohol brew which they can enjoy several of in the pub before heading home.

This is not to suggest that I am about to start drinking mass produced light lager on a regular basis, but it does point to a fact which seems to get lost in all the macho posturing of much of the craft beer world - people like to drink beer, in pubs, with friends over a period of time. I would suggest however that if craft beer is to truly worry the big boys, then perhaps with the ever growing awareness and acceptance of craft beer, it is time to take the fight to their doorstep. Sam Adams Light is an interesting step in that direction and at 4.1% abv is ideally set to challenge the more established light lager brands (and in my opinion a darned sight tastier and I will be doing my utmost to convert my father-in-law to it). By the way, I am not convinced that the big boys are worried, after all everyone has their price and the big boys have the money to buy independent breweries.

This also got me thinking about how easily we generalise, assuming that our experiences and preferences are the norm and can thus be extrapolated out to all of the society within which we live. Coming back to the comment about there being no market for low strength beer in America, the figures clearly show otherwise. I have more time for a brewery that says something along the lines of "that's not the market we are targetting", but to claim the absence of a market at all is to misunderstand the reality of the market as a whole.

Call it what you will, I am happy with the term session beer for sub 4.5% beers, the fact remains that demand is out there for lower than average strength beers, which people want to sit in the pub and drink with their friends over a longer period of time. Clearly the likes of Samuel Adams and Devils Backbone are listening, and responding with tasty beers that are low in alcohol and insanely drinkable (if you are in the area get down to Devils Backbone and try the Ale of Fergus while it lasts), here's hoping for more to catch on.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

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