Friday, May 15, 2009

April Events

Sorry to have been out of the loop for so long. I sit when it is quiet and realize that I do have plenty of things to write about. Here are two events that I attended last month:

On April 16, I went to see the world premier of Beer Wars: Brewed in America. I don't know what the deal was with this movie; were they trying to raise funding for wider distribution? Trying to pay for the manufacture of the DVD? Perhaps because there was some live satellite feed going on before and after the movie, they needed to pay for that, but it cost $15 per ticket. This might have accounted for there only being like 20 people in the theater where I saw it in Michigan City. Or it just could be that there aren't a lot of craft beer geeks like me in LaPorte county.

As a documentary about craft beers goes, it's good. There was some great information about the big 3 brewers (Bud, Miller and Coors) in there, like the fact that Budweiser and its ventures account for 49% of the beer sales in the U.S. I've seen reviews that talk about how this is the small brewer verses the big brewer. While the two main breweries (Dogfish Head and Stone, and probably Yuengling is mentioned more than Stone) are not the smallest craft breweries vying for space on liquor and grocery store shelves, I felt they were good choices.

I think the most hilarious part of the movie is where they take three people in two different settings whose favorite beers are Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light, then do a blind taste test on them. No one can tell the difference in these tests. In one of the scenes, a guy actually smells the beer. As a habit, I will smell all the beers I drink, however, when you smell any brand of light lager, I find it difficult to smell anything – it’s mostly corn and cardboard. But then, my nose has lived through about 8 years of paper mills, and I'm allergic to a lot of pollen, so it doesn't work very well at times.

I’m a little late in delivering my review. Some bloggers have taken the director to task over her selections of people shown in the movie, as well as the fact that she is allergic to alcohol and can’t drink beer. Also, she was the president of Mike’s Hard Lemonade, and she considers that part of the beer industry. Some bloggers disagree with this, and I would tend to agree, but that is not important. Because of that background, she has a great insight into what the larger corporations are doing, and that gives her credibility, in my opinion.

Another criticism is that she chooses to show the story of Rhonda, who is pushing Moonshot, but also started out her own business with Edison Light. Rhonda used to be Sam Koch’s right-hand woman at Sam Adams but left to start her own business. I liked Rhonda’s story in that it showed her working her tail off to sell her beers, bar-by-bar, liquor store-by-liquor store, when she could have continued to cruise with Sam Adams. The thing that is off-putting is that the beer she is trying to sell is pretty much everything the craft beer industry is NOT, in my eyes: Making good beer, and furthering the art of tasty beer. Both Moonshot and Edison Light are basically Pilsners. I wouldn’t be surprised if Moonshot is the Edison recipe with caffeine. In a brown, as opposed to a clear bottle. Reviews on compare Moonshot with the flavor of Budweiser. Does the world need another trendy beer? I guess it’s good for those who want to be a wide-awake drunk…

I’d recommend the movie for how it shows the big guys, but especially Anheuser-Busch, use creepy tactics, that are even sometimes illegal, to push out the little guy. I’m all for capitalism, but let’s all play by the rules.
On the last Saturday of April, I took my Golden Ticket for Dark Lord Day over at Three Floyds in Munster, Indiana. I’m sure that the GABF and other beer festivals are awesome, but I’ve only been to Dark Lord Day. I think it’s like going to Beer Mecca! This was my second time. 2007 was okay, but this year, it seemed like it was organized better. There were more places to get a beer outside in the lot, and people carrying around Three Floyd’s four beers that they sell in six packs (Robert the Bruce, Gumball Head, Pride ‘n Joy, and Alpha King) around for $5/pint. A little steep, considering you can get a sixer for $8 at Jewel.

With the Golden Ticket, I was able to get about a third of a glass of the 2008 Barrel-aged Dark Lord. I got my sample and moved into the line waiting to get in to buy bottles. I believe I cut. Sue me.

I smelled then drank the sample, and I have to say I was pretty disappointed. Dark Lord is pretty complex coming straight from the bottle. Lots of dark fruit, cherries, coffee, vanilla and other flavors in there. The barrel-aged version completely took the edge off the beer. It was smooth, oakey, and bourbon-flavored. I guess that’s a nice quality if you’re looking for that in a beer, but I would hope it would ADD to the original flavors, and not detract from them. A shame.

So as I stood there with my empty glass, I noticed this guy with a 750 ml bottle of Dogfish Head 120-minute IPA. From 2003. Yes, a six-year old bottle of this awesome, 21% ABV ale! He said to me, “Hey, you don’t have a beer,” and poured me about 2-3 ounces. It was so smooth, and sweetish. Sort of like drinking smooth honey.

You can go up and start talking to anyone at these things. Everyone is there to enjoy beer, and there are bottles of beer everywhere, from everywhere. I walked around after I got my beer (plus a bottle of Popskull and Dreadnaught) and talked to a few people. I even ran into a few of the young Notre Dame guys who are mug club members at Shoreline.

Even if you are unable to get a Golden Ticket when they sell them next year, I would totally recommend checking this out, especially if you live in the Chicago area.

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