Showing posts with label whole foods. Show all posts
Showing posts with label whole foods. Show all posts

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Cheaper Option

There are times when I simply fail to understand the pricing of beer. Take this weekend for example, Mrs Velkyal and I had guests from South Carolina, Mrs V's best friend and husband, so we went into Charlottesville to do some shopping at Whole Foods.

We had decided to splash out on some good steaks and we took our traditional detour to the beer and wine aisle. I was thrilled that they were now stocking the "express shipped cold" Pilsner Urquell in bottles though not in cans, so naturally in the interests of blogging science I bought a six pack.

Next to the Pilsner Urquell was another major Czech beer brand, Staropramen - the MolsonCoors owned brewing behemoth in Prague. Staropramen in the Czech Republic is cheaper than Pilsner Urquell, usually about two-thirds of the price, but in Whole Foods in Charlottesville the Pilsner Urquell was $7.99 for a six pack and Staropramen was $9.49.

I just couldn't get my head around the idea of Staropramen being more expensive that Pilsner Urquell, unless of course the fact that Plzeň is about 60km closer to the US than Prague is important - strangely though I rather doubt that.

So what would make Pilsner Urquell the cheaper, and infinitely superior, option?

btw - express shipped cold Pilsner Urquell is lovely, only one step down from tankove - so go and buy some  and enjoy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Local - Guest Blog

We come back to Virginia for this week's guest blog. Richmond based Eric Delia is the man behind the Relentless Thirst blog and an all round superb human being to boot. Since Mrs V and I moved to the States in 2009, Eric and his now wife have become good friends and we count it an honour to be able to name them as such. So let me hand over to Eric.....

I'll be up front with you. I don't have a local.

To make a fairly confident assumption, I'd argue that most Americans don't have one either. At least not in the traditional British sense of the word. The way I see it, you can be a frequent customer of a drinking establishment, but that still doesn't necessarily make it your local.

Local as an adjective is defined by Merriam-Webster as "primarily serving the needs of a particular limited district." In noun form, the same source also includes the British definition of "a nearby or neighborhood pub." Due to zoning laws, reliance on the automobile, and the vicious circle of demonization and quiet overindulgence of alcohol, "locals" in the United States are mainly confined to densely-populated urban centers, if they exist here at all. Oft-cited examples are bars, but to me, a public house means more than just that. Though that tangent is probably best left for another post.

Therefore, if I have to pick a place in order to appease Velky Al, I'll go out on a limb and pick Whole Foods.

That's right, I'm not going with any of the grassroots spots in Richmond, Virginia that have happened to catch the beer bug in the past few years. I'm picking a chain of upscale grocery stores that has caught the beer bug in the past few years. In particular, my local Whole Foods.

The Whole Foods in my area has quite the selection of beer, not to mention food, wine, homeopathic healing salves, and accessories for the home. It's a regular earth-loving granola-fest, and I dig it. The products on the shelf often emphasize local, organic, or both simultaneously, all of which I'm happy to support with my wallet. That, and they fill growlers. So it's a win-win.

At any given time, there are eight beers on tap, and they rotate constantly. In addition to standard releases from breweries, their beer buyer often stocks up on limited release kegs of various sizes to store for appropriate seasons or occasions, and rarely do I come across their current draft list without wanting to walk away with 64oz of something.

It's my local, in a sense, because it's where I buy my groceries, where I can have an open discussion about the latest trends in the beer world, and at times, it's also where I do my drinking. As always, there's more to do there than just drink. After work, when I need to pick up some made-in-house organic sausage or fresh local produce, I can grab a pint before I do my shopping. How cool is that?

It's also a place to get away from other places. Not to be insulting, but I'd rather discuss beer, or any topic really, with people I care about or whose opinions I respect. It would be nice to have the sense of community that truly local, neighborhood pubs often cultivate, but I just don't see it here in the US.

So while it may sound selfish to want to drink a pint alone in quiet reflection, or in the company of a small group of friends, it's the way I prefer to spend my valuable leisure time when having a pint out. It just so happens that I enjoy doing that at Whole Foods. Lately, it's the closest thing to a local that I can find.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Farewell to Oktoberfest

Today sees the end of Oktoberfest, that most famous of cultural festivals and quite possibly the most famous thing about Munich, though I am sure Bayern Munich would be right up there as well. Meanwhile, over here in the US we are in the middle of the annual slew of autumnal beers, mostly variants on the Oktoberfest lager or pumpkin beer theme.

This has been the first autumn that I have really bothered with Oktoberfest lagers, mainly because when the temperatures finally cool off I have this urge for porters and stouts, and I generally don't bother with pumpkin beers because they all taste like soggy cardboard to me. My delving into American made Oktoberfest lager started at the monthly meeting of the homebrew club I belong to, the Charlottesville Area Masters of Real Ale. We have our meetings at the excellent Timberwood Grill, and usually they have a decent pale lager on tap, but last month that had been replaced with Bell's Octoberfest and so I polished off a pint or two of that. Thoroughly enjoying the Bell's stab at the style sufficiently piqued my interest to try other Oktoberfest lagers, and I think I have found my favourite.

Charlottesville has a nice, new shiny Whole Foods. More than that, we have a nice, new shiny Whole Foods with a bar. Yes, a bar. They have 8 beers on tap, do growler fills and most importantly have happy hour from 4 until 6. Now, tell me, can you think of a better way to finish off the work week than sitting in a bar, drinking quality craft beer at happy hour prices and having the bar strategically placed next to the cheese counter? No? Me neither. It has become one of my favourite places to go for a pint. I think it helps that Whole Foods reminds me so much of the French supermarkets round my parents' neck of the woods. You know the kind of place, where they actually like food rather than simply sell lowest common denominator shite. Any way, back to the beer.

The Highland Brewing Company from Asheville, North Carolina, make some of the best beers in the US, their Black Mocha Stout is divine, Gaelic Ale gorgeous and the Oatmeal Porter puts other oatmeal beers to shame. Clearly I like Highland Brewing's ales, but how would their lagers fare? Well, Clawhammer Oktoberfest is magnificent. Burnished orange, topped with a tight white head, the nose is bready, grainy and with a nice light spiciness from the Mittlefruh hops. The taste is that sweet malt character that is so much a key element of German style lagers, toasty, grainy but without tasting like caramel. A nice crisp, lingering finish which only gives way when the second put is placed in front of you and you get to start the process again.

I am not sure how long they will have it in our local Whole Foods, but you can bet I'll be in there on Friday for a couple of post work pints. Now a confession, I have never been to Oktoberfest, and really have very little interest in going, Starkbierzeit though is a different proposition.

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...