Tag Archives: St. Patrick’s Day

Beer and Politics

There was an interesting convergence of beer and politics this past St. Patrick’s Day.

In case you missed it, Boston Beer Company, maker of Samuel Adams, drew attention for their decision to withdraw funding for the Boston St. Patricks Day parade because the organizers would not allow members of the LBGT community to march in said parade.

Specifically, the issue concerned Irish-American veterans who identify as LBGT marching as a group in the parade and carrying signage identifying themselves as such.

After the announcement there were mixed reactions towards the company with some voicing their support whilst others vowed to boycott beer produced by Boston Beer.

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In light of potential to alienate and/or engender consumers I have to ask should we mix beer and politics?

Do we want our pints and shut up please because we don’t care about the ideologies of brewery owners and operators or do we want to know the people behind the beer, what they stand for and what lines they will not cross?

More cynically should we view these public ‘stances’ merely as a means to thrust a company into the headlines because, as the adage goes, all press is good press?

Personally, I was impressed with Boston Beer Co. for taking a stand and making their voice heard and, if anything, the fact that I know what they stand for and stand behind makes me more likely to be a customer.

They took the opportunity, when presented, to do what they felt what was right and perhaps this means that there are more important issues than number of beers sold or the number of events sponsored.

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Perhaps it is naiveté on my part but all too often we seem to hear that companies made choices and taken stands without much publicity. Unfortunately these stands include abhorrent working conditions, unfair labour practices, horrendous environmental impacts etc. When we learn about such practices our moral outrage surfaces and we vow to change our consumer habits.

On the other hand, what if we knew what organizations stood for because they simply told us and backed their words up with actions? This gives consumers the power to endorse or boycott as they choose because we know how the company aligns itself.

Breweries, of all sizes, support causes, fund raise, make purchasing choices etc. Craft breweries in particular seem to be leading the way by brewing beers for causes, hosting beer events for local and international non-profits, and generally keeping things local. As such, they participate in shaping the development of the craft beer community and culture and we all have a stake in what that will look like and how it reflects upon us.

So maybe we all need a little more politics with our beer.

*Images courtesy of www.canadianbeernews.com and www.centralcitybrewing.com

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

shamrock

St. Patrick’s Day celebrates the patron saint of Ireland, Saint Patrick, and his arrival, along with Christianity, to Ireland and St. Patrick’s Day was made an official Christian feast day in the seventeenth century. Celebrations frequently include parades, festivals, the wearing of the green, tributes to Irish culture and Church services for the religious.

 

Where does Beer fit in?

For those that commemorate the religious aspect of the holiday, on St. Patrick’s Day Lenten restrictions are lifted so people are free to indulge (or overindulge) in feasting and drinking alcohol.

 

And why are we colouring our Beer green again?

The ‘wearing of the green’ originally referred to the act of pinning a shamrock to your clothing for the holiday. It is believed that Saint Patrick explained the Holy Trinity to people using the shamrock as an example. From this humble tradition emerged an explosion of green-hued everything to mark the day.

 

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Don’t drink green drink red instead.

For those less than keen to add an infusion of green food colouring to their favourite brew I encourage you to think red instead as there are many great Irish Red Ales out there to help you feel a little more Irish today.

 

Beer Advocate describes Irish Red Ales as follows:

A bit sweet, with a lightly hopped tea-like flavor, and an even dextrinous body, Irish Red Ales are easy to please. Look for well-rounded and balanced flavors, and a pleasant toasted malt character in many examples. A drying finish is common.

 

Some beer choices to ponder:

3 Floyds Brian Boru Irish Brand Red Ale

Great Lakes Brewing Conway’s Irish Ale

Granville Island Brewing Irish Red

Boulevard Brewing Irish Ale

Boundary Bay Irish Red

Russell Brewing Company Luck of the Irish Red Ale

Silver City Ridgetop Red

 

Slainte!


Drowning in a Sea of Green in Seattle

Elysian Brewing Co. Research

 

This St. Patrick’s Day long weekend (well I took a long weekend anyway) found me sipping my way around some of Seattle’s breweries and maxing out my cross-border beer allowance. There is always a great energy in Seattle, and this trip was no exception as Pike Place Market was awash with live music, tourists and emerald clad runners looking to put back on any calories they may have burned off during the morning’s run.

 

First stop for us was The Pike Brewing Co. a veritable Seattle institution. It was beyond packed thanks in part to the fact they were serving three dollar pints of Naughty Nellie and Kilt Lifter at a cash-bar located in the brewery basement. Deciding to opt-out of the hour-long wait for an actual table we saddled up to the bar to do a little reconnaissance. After flagging down the harried barkeep we worked our way through The Pike Sampler, which proffers the standard six offerings from Pike:

Naughty Nellie is a Golden Organic Artisan Ale named for the madam at LaSalle where Pike was founded (beer and brothels together at last). A crisp, light ale with a 4.7% ABV and IBU of 24. Safe choice for the hard-drinking St. Paddy’s crowd since it was very quaffable or as Pike puts it ‘light and curvy with plenty of sex appeal’.

Pike Pale Ale an heirloom amber, 5.0% ABV and IBU 32, with that classic nutty character and reddish-brown colour. Apparently this is the first beer Pike brewed in 1989.

Pike IPA India Pale Ale for those residing is some sort of beer exile for the last two hundred years- a golden amber pour with lots of in-your-face hop character; a little bit flower and a little bit soap. An ABV of 6.3% and IBU of 62. Rumour has it this beer is one of the ‘300 Beers to Try Before You Die’. Mark it off my bucket list then.

Pike Kilt Lifter a lovely Scotch Ale that is ruby-amber and full of sweet malt elements. ABV of 6.5% and IBU of 27, Kilt Lifter is well-balanced with some bitter hops and a bit of a smoky character.

Pike XXXXX Extra Stout boasts a 7.0% ABV and IBU 65. ‘Sensuous and X rated’ this deep amber black beer has a ton of roast coffee flavour, a little bit of sweet chocolate and a nice burnt aftertaste.

Pike Monk’s Uncle is a Tripel (read Belgian) Ale with the heftiest ABV at 9.0% and IBU 34. Yeasty and sweet, whoa boy is this one sweet, brewed with organic candy sugar. A bit of fruit and a dry finish but I think the sugars ate all the yeast (and it is not even supposed to work that way).

 

Pike Thoughts: Kilt Lifter and the Pale Ale were my favourite beers, great brewpub with a great location in the market, cool beer swag and fun atmosphere – I would like to offer a shout out to the very drunk Southern gentleman drinking solo at the bar and trying to read the script on my tattoo upside down; you just can’t stage those kind of Kodak moments.

 

Next stop was Elysian Brewing Company’s brewpub in the Capitol Hill district; another great location in a trendy little region of the city boasting lots of coffee, foodie joints and general hipster-ness. We managed to work our way through two taster flights this time round and the rule is the resident beer geek does the selecting for you …fun!

From the regular line-up we tried The Immortal IPA, Mens’ Room Red, Dragonstooth Stout, Wise ESB, Avatar Jasmine IPA and Idiot Sauvin IPA. From the specialty beer line-up we sampled:

Bifrost Winter Ale a 7.6% hop-heavy beer balanced with a couple of different malts. ‘Bold, hoppy and smooth’ is the description from the brewers. For those who have not watched Thor, Bifrost is the mythical bridge connecting the mortal world to the heavens in Norse mythology.

Ryezome a 6.2% ABV beer aptly described as a ‘hoppy red rye’. Tons of bitterness tempered with that distinctive soured sweetness, which is the hallmark of rye.

Loki Lager ‘a smooth Dortmund-style lager’ with 4.8% ABV. Golden in colour with that elusive balance of malt and hop that makes a highly drinkable ball-park beer. Named for the Norse god and jester Loki.

Mongrel ‘Cascadian dark saison’ weighing in at a respectable 8.2% ABV. A little earthiness to this one, lots of malt and an extremely dry finish but somehow not quite reaching that saison benchmark.

Cocoa Mole from New Belgium Brewing Co. A 9% ABV monster chock full of chocolate and heat but surprisingly easy to drink with sweet malts and decent body to temper the chili peppers.

 

Elysian Thoughts: I really loved the beers we tried especially the Avatar and Loki BUT (notice this is a big but) the whole experience was tainted by the awful food, we left it virtually untouched but were charged nonetheless, and by the very mediocre service, I don’t think we ever saw the same server twice. I was surprised to see how much my view of the beer selection was impacted by the rest of my visit.

 

In addition to our brewery visits, we went to Full Throttle Bottles for the first time to do a little beer shopping and it was a pretty amazing little store. Situated in an up-and-coming part of Seattle this store was overflowing with ambience, wicked beer selections, and knowledgeable staff more than willing to talk shop with fellow beer geeks. I highly recommend taking the time to visit this beer shop next time you are in the Seattle area.

Some other recommendations from my beer shopping include Adam and Fred from Hair of the Dog (two separate beers) and Noble Rot from Dogfish Head. All three were outstanding beers.

 

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Granville Island; The Best Irish Beer? Priming for St. Paddy’s Day at Firefly

 

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Last night I went to Firefly’s La Table Commune for a crash course in all things Irish and beer; kind of like a “dry” run for beer geek’s Christmas also known as St. Patrick’s Day. And no, before you comment, ask aloud or even form the thought in your brain we did not have any green beer, and no, green food colouring does not enhance the drinking process until at least six pints into the evening. In the place of emerald brews we sampled beers from Ireland and not just Guinness – apparently there are other beers in Ireland, who knew???

 

The evenings line-up included Ireland’s most popular beer Harp Lager (blanched Guinness …kidding), Kilkenny Cream Ale (best Irish name), Granville Island Irish Red (re-christened Granville Isle for the evening – at least in my mind), Smithwicks Ale (the ‘w’ is silent -thanks Lundy I don’t want to sound like a rookie), Magners Irish Cider (not beer at all), Half & Half (a cocktail of Harp and Guinness), Innis & Gunn Scotch Stout (comes in a green box!) and last but not least and not unexpected Guinness Dry Stout (aka Guinness for light weights). Our Irish beers were accompanied by a nice selection of cheese including Guinness cheese AND an amazing beer truffle from Cocoa Nymph.

 

We got some interesting background information on the evening’s theme:

  • For instance, even though Ireland=Guinness=Stout in the minds of many 63% of the beer sold in the country is lager – perhaps this is why Harp is brewed by Guinness.
  • At the beginning of the 19th century there were over two hundred breweries, today there are fewer than twelve.
  • Historically Ireland produces ales without hops because the hop is not native to Ireland.
  • Popular Irish beer styles include Lagers, Cream Ales, Red Ales and of course stout.
  • Guinness pioneered the use of the ‘widget’ (that thing rattling around in the bottom of your beer can) in the late 1980’s to maintain that creamy draught character.
  • Guinness is actually the lightest of the beer selection served in terms of calories and alcohol content. Guinness for health indeed!

 

HARP LAGER: Clear and golden with lots of stiff white head; grape and apple on the nose with a hint of nuttiness; light bodied and crisp with the ever so slightest bitter finish; drinkable but not remarkable.

KILKENNY CREAM ALE: Light amber, clear with a decent amount of head; a little sweet malt on the nose; clean and creamy in the mouthfeel but very flat.

SMITHWICKS RED ALE: Reddish amber with cream coloured head and good clarity; touch of sour and sweet on the nose; nice malt/hop balance and a bit of depth body wise; subtle bitter finish.

GRANVILLE ISLAND IRISH RED ALE: Deeper red colour with lots of white head; definite hop on the nose; smooth to drink with caramel notes and a soapy hop quality; bitter finish.

MAGNERS IRISH CIDER: Very, very pale gold, effervescent and clear; sweet apple nose; crisp and easy to drink; sweet finish but not cloyingly so more refreshing and not cooler like, which is a definite bonus.

INNIS & GUNN STOUT: Dark reddish brown with a quickly dissipating caramel coloured head; sweet, oaky nose; smooth in body, smoky overtones, lots of whisky flavour; liquor-like finish.

GUINNESS DRY STOUT: Deep black and tan with lots of creamy head; roastiness on the nose; very light in body and dry but with lots of flavour notes like coffee, chocolate and roast cereal; bitter finish.

HARP AND GUINNESS (Half and Half): Points go to this one for awesome aesthetics for this cocktail; a layered drink with the dark Guinness floating atop the light Harp.

HARP AND MAGNERS (Snakebite): I’m a big fan of this ‘radler’ style of mixing lager with something sweet like cider, soda or lemonade; reminds me of picnics and sunshine.

 


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