Showing posts with label court square tavern. Show all posts
Showing posts with label court square tavern. Show all posts

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.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Charlottesville Pubs

This weekend, Mrs Velkyal and I had guests, namely Mrs V's best friend and her husband, who drove up from Greenville in South Carolina to spend a few precious hours boozing with us. Just how much boozing it is possible to cram in to slightly less than 40 hours is quite impressive really.

Naturally we took them to our usual hangouts, Friday afternoon a few pints in Beer Run - where they had the wonderful O'Hara's Irish Stout on tap, and the red incidentally - much nicer on tap than in the bottle. Just a minor aside, a pint (yes, a proper pint) of Guinness is $6, a pint of O'Hara's was $6.50. 50 cents difference between a quality, Irish made product and Guinness? Just a hint chaps, ditch the Guinness and have O'Hara's as your standard stout! Sure some people might moan a bit for a wee while, but I defy anyone to taste them side by side and not be won over immediately.

As our guests had driven 6 hours to get here, we decided against a heavy night on the booze, and headed home to attack the cellar and enjoy Mrs V's home-cooked dinner - another aside, if you are of a crafty persuasion, as in knitting, crocheting and such like, Mrs V is now blogging about her stuff and you can see her blog here.

Saturday though was planned to be drinking day. Can you guess where we took them? Of course you can if you are a regular reader of Fuggled, but before we got there we ventured off our regular beaten track and found Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery, where we enjoyed sampling their fruit wines and mead. I am coming to the conclusion that Nelson County is full of boozers and foodies and so if we ever buy a house here, then Nelson County is high on the list of places to look. Having sampled and purchased some stuff, and with me admittedly getting a touch agitated because I wanted a pint, we finally made it to.........yes, you guessed it, Devils Backbone, still the only place in the area we have taken every single, and married, visitor we have had. I won't bore you with details, but the Backbone has gathered another couple of fans.

Coming back into town, Mrs V had a work function to attend, and so her friend went with her and myself and Mr Friend were off to the pubs of the town centre. First on the list? Court Square Tavern. I am sure that I don't say this often enough, because I waffle about Beer Run and Devils Backbone so much, but this little pub is one of my favourite places in the city, and vastly under-rated. Here's why I like to head in on a Friday or Saturday night: top bar staff, cozy atmosphere and Czech lager, admittedly bottled, but still, I am partial to a glass of B.B. Burgerbrau as the pale lager from the oldest brewery in Budweis is called over here, and ?atec is always a decent pint as well. In the 18 months since I have been here, the Tavern has improved steadily and hopefully this will continue in the future.

Next up was South Street Brewery, a place I go to far less often than I probably should - especially as it is right opposite my office and opens at just about the right time for post work drinkies. The problem I find is that many of their beers are uninspiring and so I will often wander a little further from the office to go to Beer Run. However, it is one of the most beautiful pubs from an architectural point of view that I have ever seen. We popped in and I had a pint of their Aisling Stout, which I describing thusly: "looks like a stout, smells like a stout, tastes like a stout" - it hit the spot. And so on we went, with my taking a mental note that I should give the entire South Street range another try.

Our next watering hole was a place I have wanted to visit for a very long time, Horse and Hound, a British style gastropub (I hate that term with a passion - it tells you everything you need to know about the priorities of the business). Now, I am perfectly willing to accept that having not lived in Britain for more than a decade a couple of things may have happened. The British pub may have changed beyond all recognition or my nostalgia for the British pub has severely rose-tinted my vision. I was not impressed, not impressed in the slightest. The beer range itself is decent enough, but my experience of the staff was that they were surly and disinterested. Having had my pint (no not a proper pint) we wandered off to find somewhere else - with me muttering viciously.

And so we came to Escafe, another little place just round the corner from where I work, and conveniently opposite the venue of Mrs V's work function, which was slowly coming to its end. I like Escafe, it feels like a bar, and that's a good thing in my pub-centric world. Not pretentious, just simple. In there we ran into the other widowers of our better halves' function and then the phone rang and it was time to pull the plug and head home.

A good night out all told, my usual haunts lived up to their billing, one place will need revisiting and the other, well perhaps I shouldn't be so opinionated and hasty.

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...