Vol. 3 No. 10
Great weather, great beer! Last month's meeting took place once again in the outdoor beer garden at Mugs. We're very fortunate to have three meetings in a row outside!
Our meeting was terrific! We had not one, but two fantastic guest speakers: Paul Sayler, the brewer at the new Commonwealth Brewery in Manhattan, and Bob Brewer of Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, who captivated our meeting with their vast beer knowledge.
Paul Saylor spoke first. He told us that Commonwealth, which is located in Rockefeller Center on 48th Street in Manhattan, offers a Vienna, Porter, Pilsner, Wheat, Pale Ale and ESB, and will be adding a few seasonals soon. Paul has a complete Zymurological background from brewing both at the original Commonwealth Brewery in Boston, and at the Catamount Brewery in Vermont, where he served as an assistant brewer. While at Catamount, Paul had a opportunity to produce beers with several yeast strains, instead of the all-too-common practice of using one strain for all the beers being produced.
The Commonwealth Brewery in Manhattan is a modern, 15 barrel brewpub, with a menu that accompanies Paul's beers quite nicely. Thanks Paul, for sharing your brewing skills with us!
Bob Brewer was next to address our members. The Anchor Brewing Company is a pioneer in the microbrew industry. Though they have expanded production over the last several years, they produce the same lineup of excellent beers: Anchor Steam, Anchor Porter, Anchor Wheat, Liberty Ale, and last but not least, Old Foghorn. For many members, the Anchor lineup was the first to prove that American Microbrewed beer can be world-class. Bob discussed Anchor's decision to offer a bottled version of their Barley Wine, Old Foghorn, as well as telling us about Anchor's new venture in the Rye Whiskey industry. I want to thank Bob for his generosity in contributing to our raffle: he gave us a lucite tap handle, and Anchor Steam signs.
We enjoyed several tasty homebrews from many members; among them was the stout brought in a keg by George DePiro. Good job, George, and post to all the exceptional beers that were sampled! Lastly, I want to bid a club farewell to John Dittman, who is leaving us, but has promised to keep in touch.
(John has sent us a couple of articles, which will appear in future issues-Ed.)
This Month's Meeting is once again at Mug's Ale House, 125 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn, on Wednesday, October 9, 7:30 PM. Our guest speaker is Robert Schemidsch, importer from the Spaten Brewery, the original brewer of the Oktoberfest beer! Ein Schwein Zuppa!
We now all marvel at the amount of trees and sheer spaciousness of the campus, although "Trim Hall" (a rather rude name, as the guys point out) is not easily found. All of our traveling stress is relieved upon finding a slick and modern dorm with central air-conditioning, a TV in the lounge, and a fridge stocked with the three Longshot brews waiting for us! In our rooms are also left gift bags with T-shirts, dice, and other novelties. Wow, I feel like a VIP already!
We meet up with Bill Coleman, Claus Holten, and others who are obviously more into indulging than sleeping. Beer is starting to flow. Just the beginning. Hey, is someone making flavored coffee at this hour? Oh, no, it's just the Longshot Hazelnut Brown ale! A little overwhelming for my taste.
Some of the guys have brought their own homebrew as well. I can tell already that this weekend will require some pain-killers, coffee, and herbal stimulants.
At 7:00 AM the thought of tasting homebrew is not appealing to me. I am thinking "coffee, breakfast, coffee, coffee." After eating French toast sticks, scrambled eggs, and caffeine, I am almost ready for beer.
The guys, I find, are almost always ready for beer. We proceed from the cafeteria upstairs to the judging room. Although I am stewarding, I try to taste just about every beer that George does. We are not thrilled with our assigned category, Cream Ale. Indeed, the best beers to pass our lips that day were "too flavorful for the style." Oh well, at least the afternoon's category - specialty beers - promises to be more interesting, even if the "anything goes" style does scare me a bit.
After judging and more beer hanging around in the lounge, we are bussed to the Boston Brewery for chowdah, clams, lobster, and, of course, more beer. At this point I am surrendering to the heady desire to indulge in more, at times taking up the chant, "Beer! Beer! Beer!" I have come on this excursion equipped with all natural Chinese herbal stimulant pills from the health food store, and I proceed to distribute them among the guys (Bill is particularly fond of them, asking for more early the next morning with an itchy look in his eye).
At the brewery George and others are particularly fond of the triple bock, which I, although appreciative of its high alcohol content, find a little too sweet and sherry-like. I drink it, nevertheless, and soon I am floating on a sea of beer.
Later, a pack of us venture out to the big city, a hellish subway ride I'd rather forget (*see appendix at end for a more detailed description of the subway ride). By now everyone is so immersed in beer, the idea of beer, and beer judging that the guys are looking at everything and tipsily assigning it a number grade.
"Lack of clarity," George slurs at the hazy Boston skyline. Jim laughs, "Poor head retention-twenty."
"Needs more European hops!" someone quips for the hundredth time today, a direct ribbing to Claus for his comment about Bill's brew a few months earlier. He, in return, just smiles somewhat stoically.
Of course, we go to brewpubs, which were fairly mediocre but at this point it doesn't matter. We all try the samplers, and the judging continues. Occasionally Bill or one of the guys will glance over at my glazed eyes and say, "See any good music lately?" I want to answer and start a different topic of conversation, but all that comes out is, "Too malty for the style," or, "Tastes like cooked vegetables," or "a little green apple-ish, don't you think?" Some part of me is aware that I am suffering from the same dementia as the rest of the group (contagious, perhaps?), but I continue to flood any coherent non-beer thoughts with more beer.
Eventually we have to face the problem of getting home to the campus, since the trains have stopped running. We figure a cab ride wouldn't be too expensive between the six of us, so Warren (the one who seems to have most of his wits about him) deals with the situation. Soon we are being quite raucous in the back of a mini-van cab, to the annoyance of the driver, who eventually tries to simultaneously torture and drown us out by blasting techno-pop music. In retaliation we begin clapping and stomping, to create a bigger scene.
At this point the driver surrenders to our madness and begins to create a strobe light effect by turning the lights on and off. We clap and stomp louder. I know we have achieved sheer delirium.
What a great time! The day's judging behind us, now we're feasting on lobster and chowdah at the Boston Brewery. Triple bock aged in wooden casks; other beers flowing like a cool river through the summer heat. Kind of makes you forget how> bad most of the contestant's beers were! Well, now it's time to leave the feast and head out into the warm Boston night on a quest for more beer.
We're in a subway tunnel, trying to get to the Boston Beer Works. What fun I'm having.
Drinking all day, feasting on lobster. We're all having such fun! Claus is advising Bill about the use of European hops...what? One of them just said I'm too loud! They hate me! I see it all clearly now; beer has given me vision. How was I so blind?
Yeah, they're all so smart. They don't want to hear me, fine. I won't talk. I'll just sit here on this sweltering train. Silent. Sweating. Seething. My anger is growing as quickly as the temperature is rising!
We're riding straight to HELL! I'll kill them! I'LL KILL THEM ALL, the lousy bastards! HATE! HATE! HATE!!!
(Actually, this was just a minor incident in an otherwise lovely weekend. I can't wait till next year!)
Our trip out of Brussels was uneventful. The new car we picked up was bigger, and Iggy commented that it wasn't making any weird noises. I had mapped out the trip to Amsterdam to include a side trip to the Abbey at Westmalle.
We had no problem finding Westmalle, but finding the Abbey took a little Flemish translation. If had planned this brewery visit, it would probably not have happened so smoothly. We drove up a semi-paved road, along this long, tall brick wall. We parked near this gate, where a man in a white lab coat was standing. I asked him in Flemish if he spoke English. Luckily, he did. He happened to be the head brewer, Jan Andriaensens. He was waiting for someone who would be by in 20 minutes, but would be happy to give us a 15 minute tour. As we walked through the gate, there were cases upon cases and kegs upon kegs of Dubbel and Trippel! (If only I had a forklift and a tractor trailer!)
They were unloading a grain shipment, so we got to see the extremely light Pilsner malt going into a chute. He took us into the control room and showed us the computer-automated brewhouse. He said he an control how much grain, sugar and hops are added to the kettle, and adjust the temperature of the two steam-jacketed boiling kettles, check grain and sugar levels in the respective silos, and the status of the clean, in place (CIP) system. An extremely modern brewery with some old equipment.
They were brewing at the time, so we got to see the wort being cooled in a plate heat exchanger. From there it was pumped over to the fermenting room. The tanks are hidden behind tile walls. The tile enables them to hose down the entire room after the tank blows off for a day. Yeast is harvested manually. A guy opens the top hatch and shims the yeast into a trough. It is then collected in an open tank, to be pitched into the next batch.
After the tour, I gave Jan a club T-shirt, and he gave me some Westmalle goblets with gold lettering and cut glass. I must have thanked him a hundred times. We went across the street to the Westmalle Cafe, which is owned by the Abbey. We had Trappist cheese sandwiches, and Westmalle Dubbel and Trippel on draft to wash it down.
After we ate, we got into the car and drove to Amsterdam. I wish I could say nice things about Amsterdam, but we were sorely disappointed. Besides all the sex shops, the whorehouses, the "coffee" shops (hash bars), and drug dealers on the street, it was filthy, dirty and smelly. The canals are picturesque, but water in them is green and smelly, with garbage floating in it. In the "red light" district, there are metal stations that look like telephone booths, but when you walk by and someone is in it, you realize he's taking a local call from mother nature. It's a wonder there aren't more widespread outbreaks of disease. On a lighter note, there were a few good beer bars, and one brewpub. The brewpub had a Roggen, a Dubbel, and a Trippel, along with some standard pale and amber ales. I tried the Roggen, and it was similar to the German version, using a wheat beer yeast strain.
After three days in Amsterdam, we were happy to be leaving.
Next Stop: Dusseldorf and Brussels. Continued next month.
Look out for more specials for Malted Barley Appreciation Society members!