This post marks the end of's celebration of the 2010 American Craft Beer Week. However, I prefer to look at this day from a positive perspective. It's the last day of non-stop blogging. I will now return to filing my thoughts every other week or so. It's also a good time to start looking forward to other craft beer events.

The Brewers Association maintains an extensive event calendar on their website, I encourage anyone who has not ventured out to one of these to give a local event a chance, especially events that bring together at least regional brewers (something outside of what you are used to locally). The craft beer scene right now in the US is neither uncomfortably unrefined nor annoyingly sophistic. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Below are upcoming national events promoted to further the culture and community of craft beer and craft brewers.

SAVOR: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience
I went to SAVOR last year and had an unbelievable time. Check out my recap.

From the Brewers Association:
SAVOR is the main beer and food pairing event in the US! With 65 of the nation's top independent craft brewers participating, this is where beer enthusiasts and foodies can interact directly with some of the greatest brewers and brewery owners in the world.

Date: June 5, 2010 - SOLD OUT
Where: Washington D.C. National Building Museum

National Homebrewers Conference and National Homebrew Competition
This event is still a bucket list event for me.

From the Brewers Association:
Join hundreds of homebrewers at the national conference for amateur brewers. Education and fun combine for a great experience!

Date: June 17-19, 2010
Where: Minneapolis, Minnessota
Website: and competition section

Great American Beer Festival (GABF)
The Brewer's Association could run a contest to name this event and no entry would be more succinct and perfect than the combination of the words "Great", "American", "Beer", and "Festival". I've been to GABF a few times, but would go every year if I didn't think that I would be risking developing a police record, having any more children, or jeopardizing future liver function. If this festival can be done "small", then I haven't figured it out yet.

From the Brewers Association:
Three days, over 450 breweries and more than 2,000 beers to enjoy. 2010 will be the 29th year of the festival with nearly 50,000 people expected to attend. Purchase your tickets early, as the festival has sold out the past three years!

Ticket Information
Tickets go on sale to Brewers Association and American Homebrewers Association members on Tuesday, June 22 at 12pm MDT.

Tickets go on sale to the general public on Monday, June 28 at 12pm MDT.

Date: September 16-18, 2010
Where: Colorado Convention Center, Denver, CO

In my mind, American Craft Beer Week may be one of the best of these celebrations. The emphasis of the celebration is craft brewers and craft beer culture. In contrast to each of the events above, we can all celebrate this event locally. Breweries, brewpubs, homebrew clubs, and bars around the country join together to participate. I imagine as this event matures, it will truly turn into something that is fitting of the title "The Mother of all Beer Weeks".

Day 7
May 23, 2010

Grand Teton XX Bitch Creek (Victor, Idaho)
20th Anniversary Cellar Reserve
Vintage 2008

Website/Bottle Information:
"To commemorate that twenty-year history, Grand Tetons brewers have chosen four of their year-round beers, three current, one historical, to strengthen and enhance. XX Bitch Creek Double ESB is the final release in their 2008 XX series.

Bitch Creek ESB was first brewed in 2003, and perfectly balances big malt sweetness and robust hop flavor for a full-bodied mahogany ale. It has quickly become our best-selling beer, as well as our most-critically acclaimed, having won medals-including two golds— at four out of the past five Great American Beer Festivals.

XX Bitch Creek Double ESB is all that and more. We took the Bitch Creek recipe and doubled everything: double the malt, double the hops, twice the flavor. This is a huge beer at 7.5% alcohol by volume, which should be paired with only the most flavorful of foods. Try it with the best steaks, game meats and hearty stews, or with a nice cave-aged Gouda."

Serving: 1 Pint, 9.4 fl.oz. (750 mL) Bottle
Style: Double Extra Special Bitter (ESB)
ABV: 7.5%

He Said:
During the intense research phase preceding my writing of this post, I tried to learn as much as I could about Bitch Creek. It turns out, there is no Wikipedia page for Bitch Creek. I think we can all agree, if something doesn't have a Wikipedia page, it ain't all that. provided some pretty sound information though. Apparently Bitch Creek is a good place to hike. The summer high temperatures reach about 80˚F, however the winter highs are typically in the 20s. Whitewater rafting and kayaking is known to be more difficult than other areas. Some might say the water can be kind of a b!*#%. I don't know this stuff first hand, it was just part of my research.

One thing I do know is Grand Teton XX Bitch Creek is a very enjoyable beer. Juxtaposing the enjoyment was the effort to get this beer open. In the time it took me to get the wax dipped flip top free, I could have solved a Rubik's cube or a NYT crossword puzzle. Once open, the beer poured opaque and black. I got nervous that "She Said" would give me a hard time about picking this dark of a beer for Day 7 of ACBW. The beer has a small and light head and left some nice light brown lacing on the glass. On the nose of this beer are hoppy notes and dark, rich, toasted malts. The taste is wonderful. It goes from hops to chocolate to hops at the finish. It is nice that my palette isn't left with the stickiness of burnt malts or ruined from hop astringency every sip.

This beer is a lady. A bold lady. A bold lady... creek.

She Said:
Smell: Dark and devious. Yummy! The nose is sweet and malty as a matter of fact. I love that it is roasty without smelling burnt.

Appearance: Did I say dark and devious yet? The appearance matches the nose. Let's see if this beer can go for the trifecta.

Taste: Oh yeah, we have a winner. The dark and devious trifecta, the hat trick, the triple crown, a grand slam… I'm just saying. Bitch Creek is really freaking good. It promises dark and devious and it delivers. The beer has a very nice, rich, chocolaty flavor. This is a great after dinner drink, even though I had dinner four hours ago and it consisted of Chuck-E-Cheese pizza. What a great beer to end the 2010 American Craft Beer Week. I'm glad I saved my five hop rating.I love this double ESB. 5 hops out of 5.

American Craft Beer Week can be a great reason to drink the good stuff. Two beers that been neglected due to my potiomania are Allagash's Victor and Victoria. I wanted to open them up at the same time, but I always had an excuse to avoid the tasting.

First a little background. I've never seen the movie or stage version of Victor/Victoria, but I did visit Wikipedia a few minutes ago.

[Set in 1930s Paris.] "A penniless soprano, named Victoria, colludes with a struggling gay impresario to disguise herself as a man named Victor, who entertains as a female impersonator known as "Victoria" - and as a result becomes the toast of Paris. Complications arise when a Chicago mobster sees the act and finds himself attracted to the star."

So if I am reading it right, Victoria pretends to be a man pretending to be a woman and gets a job as a female impersonator in a nightclub. All the while, she takes a gay lover to enhance the con.

It turns out (at least according to the brewery's descriptions) these beers have nothing to do with the movie or play.

Day 6
May 22, 2010

Beer #1: Allagash Victoria
Vintage 2009

Website/Bottle Information:
"To create our unique, Belgian-style Victoria Ale, the brewers drew on references to Bacchus, the Thracian god of wine, in the history and artwork of the Victoria Mansion as inspiration for this new beer. One hundred and fifty pounds of Chardonnay grapes were brought in, crushed on site and added directly to the mash.

Victoria Ale's aroma is of fruity spice with a hint of the Chardonnay, and the taste presents subtle notes of green banana, black pepper, and fresh-crushed mint. With a focus on the subtle, wine-like character of the grapes, the 9.0% ABV brew boasts a pale copper color, Belgian yeast influence, and a medium body with a long candied fruit finish with hints of honeydew melon, and, of course, Chardonnay.

Allagash Victoria Ale is a tribute to the historic Victoria Mansion here in Portland, Maine. Also known as the Morse-Libby House, it is one of the greatest 19th century houses in the United States. Designed by architect Henry Austin, the mansion was built between 1858 and 1860 and survives as a unique example of the princely palaces created for America's wealthiest citizens in the pre-Civil War era. With superb architecture and well-preserved original interiors, the Victoria Mansion is an unparalleled document of America's highest aspirations in architecture, interior design, and the decorative arts.

The Victoria Mansion has operated as a museum since it was saved from demolition in 1940, and today the non-profit organization that owns it remains committed to its preservation and interpretation to a wide audience. Allagash Brewing Company has partnered with the Victoria Mansion to help in the restoration of this National Historic Landmark. For every bottle of Victoria Ale purchased, Allagash will donate $1 towards helping restore the mansion, located on Danforth Street in downtown Portland."

Serving: 1 Pint, 9.4 fl.oz. (750 mL) Bottle
Style: Belgian Strong Pale Ale
ABV: 9.0%

He Said:
First of all, I had no idea when I purchased these two bottles their likeness to wines. Victoria pours light gold and clear. The beer smells faintly of white wine, from the Chardonnay grapes, but the aroma is tame compared to the explosive flavor. The carbonation is lively.

Unlike most beers containing grapes (added some time during the brewing process or fermentation), Victoria almost tastes like half sparkling wine and half Belgian pale. What does a beer-wine taste like? Victoria is sweet when it hits the tongue and finishes slightly spicy and dry. I bet you can find wine and beer tasting notes with similar descriptions. However, Victoria is a unique beer experience.

Despite the high price (~$18 if memory serves me right), I will be picking up another one of these to be opened on a special occasion.

She Said:
Victoria doesn't have much of a nose. In fact, it is hard to smell anything other than clean glass. The head was rather small, due to a slow pour. The color is a light gold with bubbles racing for the top in a constant stream.

The taste is sort of sweet in a Belgian pale kind of way. Victoria is smooth from start to finish. Very nice. 4 hops out of 5.

Beer #2: Allagash Victor
Vintage 2009

Website/Bottle Information:
"The Victor Ale was inspired by its feminine-named predecessor, the Victoria Ale. With chardonnay grapes to make the Victoria Ale unique, our brewers decided to use red chancellor grapes for the Victor. Over one hundred pounds of chancellor grapes were crushed on site and added directly to the mash. In addition to a generous portion of Pilsner malt, Victor is hopped with Fuggles and Hallertau and fermented with a wine yeast strain. With a focus on the subtle wine-like character of the grapes, the 9.0% ABV brew maintains a copper color, wine yeast influence and a medium body with a tart and spicy finish.

Allagash Victor Ale is a tribute to the St. Lawrence Arts and Community Center, perched at the crest of Munjoy Hill in the Portland's East End. A National Historic Landmark, this granite and slate church was built in 1897 by Arthur Bates Jennings. The Romanesque, Queen Anne architecture is accented with turrets and over 90 stained glass windows; it is a distinctive and unique building whose history and mission serves Portland well.

The church has been renovated by the non-profit group, Friends of the St. Lawrence Church. The Center's mission is to create a community focused auditorium where everyone can enjoy the arts. Allagash will contribute $1 from every bottle of Allagash Victor sold to help realize the mission of the St. Lawrence Arts and Community Center."

Serving: 1 Pint, 9.4 fl.oz. (750 mL) Bottle
Style: Belgian Strong Dark Ale
ABV: 9.0%

He Said:
Victor pours slightly darker (caramel-amber) than Victoria. Victor's flavor is a little tighter as well – very wine-like. The grapes chosen and use of wine yeast really make a noticeable difference. Victor is also much more aromatic than Victoria. I get mostly Belgian and wine yeast funk on the nose. The beer has a sweet wine flavor and maybe some apples going on. The taste matches the nose. I didn't notice any hop characteristics in this beer until it warmed and was flat.

Overall, I liked Victor a little better, but I'll be picking up both iterations next time I'm at the store.

She Said:
Victor looks darker than his wife Victoria. The slow pour once again left very little head in the glass, but I got some nice yum-yums at the bottom of my glass. The aroma is sweet it's not smash-you-in-the-face sweet. The beer tastes like a more hardy beer than Victoria – it is more serious whereas Victoria was playful and light. This one has more of a bite, but stays very smooth throughout. Very enjoyable. 4½ hops out of 5.

I'm pretty adventurous when it comes to food and drink, but I also spend a fair amount of time in my comfort zone. When browsing the aisles for beers, it is hard not to be influenced by labels and even more subtle things like location on the shelf. One such underestimation I made was with Boulevard Brewing Company from Kansas City, MO. I simply disliked their logo and labels, so I never gave them a shot.

I'm just saying... the logo looks cheap. Seriously, is it just me?

Several years back Boulevard began producing limited edition beers packaged in 750 mL bottles called the Smokestack Series. The new labels (and logo) were pleasing and classic looking. But was a great label on a beer called "Double Wide" just lipstick on a pig?

A few months ago, one of the beer experts at Spec's Warehouse Store in downtown Houston recommended two Boulevard beers (among several other items I put in the cart... getting out of Spec's with a double digit tab is nearly impossible).

Honoring the spirit of American Craft Beer Week, we opened those two beers tonight.

Day 5
May 21, 2010

Beer #1: Boulevard Saison-Brett
Batch#: 2009-2
Bottle#: 07925 of 13400

Website/Bottle Information:
"Our gold-medal winning Saison (Mondial de la Biere, Montreal, 2008) was the inspiration for this limited edition ale. We brewed a slightly stronger version that was then dry hopped, followed by bottle conditioning with various yeasts, including Brettanomyces, a wild strain that imparts an earthy quality. Though this farmhouse ale is given three months of bottle age prior to release, further cellaring will continue to enhance the "Brett" character if that's what you're after."

Serving: 1 Pint, 9.4 fl.oz. (750 mL) Bottle
Style: Saison/Farmhouse Ale
ABV: 8.5%

He Said:
Based on Beer Advocate and Rate Beer reviews, I expect this to be Part 1 of my apology to Boulevard for blowing them off all these years. The beer pours with a ridiculously frothy head. I expected more of a sour nose because of the Bretts, but I don't detect much. It is hard to wait for the head to die down before taking the first sip. My first impressions are that this beer is missing the typical saison funk and does not seem to have strong notes of banana or clover esters. Curious, but not bad. As mentioned on the label, the Brett characteristics could be minimal because I did not age this beer for long. The beer was dry hopped, but the hoppiness is not too assertive. This beer is super-drinkable, almost to the point of not being challenging.

I jotted down the notes above and returned to the beer only to notice I made all those comments when it was obviously way too cold to enjoy. The warmer version is funkier (farmhouse ale sourness), slightly hoppier, and fruitier than it was cold. Boulevard Saison-Brett is a great example of this style.

I suppose this is my second lesson on first impressions realized through Boulevard Brewing Company.

She Said:
This beer smells like either weird old lady soap or vomit, but I'm not sure which way I lean after several sniffs. The beer was served to me with a nice foamy head. This puppy has a lot of carbonation, but that was to be expected with the style. The taste starts out clean and then finishes with that soapy/vomity taste. This beer reminds me of some of those other Missouri brewed beers, if you know what I mean. Overall, I'm not that impressed with the Boulevard Saison-Brett, but I am still looking forward to trying its sister later tonight. 1 hop out of 5.

(Later) I stand corrected. After this beer warmed up there is absolutely no resemblance to its colder self. I guess it goes to show you can't judge this type of beer in the first couple of minutes. This score improves to a 3½ hops out of 5 upon better acquaintance.

Beer #2: Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad
Batch#: 2-2009 (best by 10/2012)
Bottle#: 7285 of 11248

Website/Bottle Information:
"Based loosely on the Smokestack Series Sixth Glass, this abbey-style quadrupel, after fermentation on cherries, was separated into a number of oak bourbon barrels, where is aged for varying lengths of time, in some cases as long as a year. Selected barrels were then blended for optimum flavor. The resulting beer retains only very subtle cherry characteristics, with toffee and vanilla notes coming to the fore."

Serving: 1 Pint, 9.4 fl.oz. (750 mL) Bottle
Style: Quadrupel
ABV: 11.8%

He Said:
Few beer names are more fascinating than "Bourbon Barrel Quad (ale aged in bourbon barrels with cherries)." The beer pours a dark opaque amber color, like it had brought with it a significant amount of oak. The aroma is just as intoxicating as the name. The notes of cherry and oak were as prominent on the nose as they are in the flavor. As it warmed, more bourbon flavors come forward as well as some cola flavors. While the 11.8% ABV is hidden nicely in the complex flavor of the beer, I actually wish I had split this beer four ways instead of two. My palate is a little taxed by the end of my portion.

I hope I can still find another one of these on the shelves. Boulevard Bourbon Barrel Quad is worthy of a "unique" and an "awesome" tag.

She Said:
Aroma: Cherries and oak dominate the nose, which makes sense because it is was aged with cherries in oak barrels. The beer has a nice foamy head and
is much darker in color than your typical Quad.

Taste: Oh wow, there is a lot happening here. Cherries and oak are definitely there, but added to it is that strong Belgian ale flavor that is delightful. The carbonation is perfect, just enough to tickle the palate but still allow the smoky, cherry, oak flavor to dance on your tongue. Very nice and well balanced. Well done! 4½ hops out of 5.

It appears that collaborative beers are all the rage in the craft beer scene right now. However, brewers have been sharing knowledge since for many decades. As a homebrewer, the amount of knowledge shared on the Internet, by homebrewing clubs, and amongst friends is truly impressive. Have a question during a brew day? Just hop on to a MoreBeer forum and someone may answer your question within minutes. On a professional level, I understand that brewers share everything from techniques to lessons learned.

Jay Brooks wrote in a 2009 issue of All About Beer:

When all the small breweries combined brewed such a tiny fraction of the total beer sold, nobody worried about market share, competition or trade secrets. Brewers in the craft industry were simply very open with one another, freely offering each other help, and freely asking for it, too, in a way that earlier generations and larger businesses wouldn’t dream of doing.

Last month’s Beer Blogging Friday event, The Session #39, focused on the recent phenomenon of collaboration. If you missed it, we checked in with a collaborative post. If you are interested in more than lame rhymes, I encourage you to check out some of our peers’ takes on the topic.

Day 4
May 20, 2010
Brooklyner-Schneider Hopfen-Weisse, Brooklyn version (Brooklyn, NY)

Website/Bottle Information:
“This brew is the result of the long friendship of Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver and Schneider brewmaster Hans-Peter Drexler. Garrett had always admired the delicate balance of flavors in Schneider Weisse, while Hans-Peter had long enjoyed the effusive hop character of Brooklyn East India Pale Ale and BLAST! Garrett's concept for the collaboration was that each brewmaster would brew essentially the same pale, hoppy weissbock in the other's brewery, but with different hopping to reflect the local hop flavor.

Dry-hopped with American Amarillo and Palisade.”

Serving: 1 Pint, 9.4 fl.oz. (750 mL) Bottle
Style: Weizenbock
ABV: 8.5%

He Said:
I approached this beer without prejudice. I had not read much about it or researched the history. In fact, before I opened it was the first I had heard the story told on the label. This is a very good looking bottle, by the way. It was heavy and even had a small punt. It is highly carbonated and pours like champagne with a huge fluffy head. The aroma was fruity with citrus notes from the hops. This was a little unexpected for a wheat beer. The flavor was a little sweet with fruity and slightly floral esters present. I love the hop aroma of the beer. The dry hopping gave the beer a wonderful aroma without making the finish too bitter. This Hopfen-Weisse is one of Brooklyn’s best offerings. Nice collaboration!

She Said:
My first whiff and sip resulted in the same experience: Citrus. The beer was reminiscent of that citrusy-orange Mr. Clean smell after cleaning the kitchen, but you know, in a good way. Hopfen-Weisse is like orange rind meets hops in a bottle of golden deliciousness. I would order another round of this one, but SirRon tells me there is only one more in storage. I preferred this beer cold when the carbonation was present. The warmer the beer gets, the more of a bite you get at the back of your tongue from the hoppiness.
I'm giving this 3½ hops out of 5.

American Craft Beer Week Day 3, He said/She said:

He said: "Can I go to Petrol Station with Mr. Smokeypants? Rob of Independence Brewing is in town and I want to show my support."
She said: "OK"

Aaaaannnnd, scene.

I don't often drink beer at bars, but when I do, I prefer bars those that appreciate craft beer. The metrics for determining great beer bars are mostly subjective, but that is not to say there are not specific criteria for consideration.

  • Environment. If the place is too loud, too stuffy, too corporate, or too chochy then I'll pass. I'm not picky about seating types, but let's agree that there has to be something available. I don't care if it is a rock, a beat up resale store wooden chair, or an L-shaped bench; I'm going to need something. Memo to lounge chair and couch bars, if I have to hold my sweating pint glass the entire night because there is no place within arm's reach to set my drink, I'm a little less comfortable. Call me lazy, but I don't want to be doing crunches all night during my session.

  • B-M-C-U-L8R. If the draft or bottle list is chock full of Bud/Miller/Coors produced or distributed products, then I'm not impressed with your beverage "management." I'm going to assume that you are also slacking off on proper storage and serving too. It is probably worth mentioning that even though a ginormous draft wall is impressive, a bar with three unique and/or local drafts with a beer engine is many times more attractive to me. I'll argue that even your average curious beer drinker will find my second scenario more appealing.

  • Provisions. Food has to be available, or now I need to plan on going to two places instead of one. Your ability to nail the first two items on this list will determine how good your food needs to be in order to still be a great beer bar (in this person's mind). Bars that are comfortable and have great beer can get away with a cheese tray and pretzels on the menu. Bars with uncomfortable seating layouts need to have Asian-fusion eggrolls or something. Anyone in between should have burgers or sandwiches. Menus full of frozen foods that are re-warmed in the microwave or tossed in the fryer are noticeable to the customer and generally not appreciated.

Petrol Station is in the top tier of beer bars using any credible set of measures. Owner Ben Fullelove has created what may be the best neighborhood bar in the Houston area. I even think Petrol Station would be a great place even if they didn't serve beer (but that is not a suggestion). Sure Ben may be a brownie eating, godless, hippy that acts like he owns every place he walks into, but Petrol Station is great nonetheless. Tonight wasn't my first time to Petrol, but it just reminded me again of how much better this place is than (for example) a BW3.

(For those of you offended or confused by the comments above, I kid Ben. We were talking and I found out he reads reviews and comments about his place. My words above were stolen from random bits taken from our discussion. For anyone offended by my opinions on beer bars, my comment section isn't moderated... so go for it.)

Day 3
May 19, 2010
Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary – Fritz & Ken's Ale (Chico, CA)

Website/Bottle Information:
"Fritz Maytag, owner of San Francisco's Anchor Brewing Company, is regarded as the godfather of the craft brewing movement. Fritz agreed to guest brew this very special ale with us in honor of our 30th anniversary. As a nod to the robust black ales that seduced both Fritz and Ken in the early years, we bring you this Pioneers Stout, a rich and roasted ale, perfect for aging, and worthy of your finest snifter. Enjoy!"

Serving: 1 Pint, 9.4 fl.oz. (750 mL) Bottle
Style: American Imperial Stout
ABV: 9.20%

He Said:
Serving the beer, it is impossible not to notice it is thick, very black, and has a huge brown head. I instantly knew this beer would be wasted on my "She Said" partner. Getting dangerously close to a foamy clown nose, I could smell only burnt chocolate and roastiness, which masked any hop aroma for me. I was surprised on my first few sips at the significant amount of hop flavor that I managed to detect in this roast bomb. The beer goes down relatively easy, but leaves the palette with a roasty/burnt flavor that doesn't go away until it's washed out. I expected the beer to have malty sweet taste and aroma due to its high gravity, but very little sweetness was detectable. As the beer warmed, more chocolaty tones were noticeable. The roastiness never mellowed. I have a 2nd bottle of this that I will save for quite a while with the expectation that this will improve as the flavors mellow and profile becomes more complex. Sierra Nevada: Cheers to 30 years!

She Said:
This beer reminds of when my Mom used to cook bread when I was a child. Burnt. My homebrewing "He Said" partner may have an appreciation for this type of stout, but I've never ate something that was all burnt and thought, "hey, this would make a good beer!" I'll probably pass on any future offers of this iteration of Sierra Nevada's 30th Anniversary Ales in the future. My enjoyment of stouts is limited to tastings with chocolate and Independence Convict Hill Imperial Oatmeal Stout (yum!). As an Independence investor, if 25 years from now they served me this beer, I'd be pretty disappointed. Just saying.

My thoughts on the flavor profile: Burnt roasted malts, hint of hops, and smooth foamy head. If you limit your drinking on a "school night," skip this bottle. I give it a 1½ hops out of 5.

American Craft Beer Week can be a good excuse to:

  1. Share a beer with a friend
  2. Open up something that has spent way too much time in the back of the refrigerator
  3. Visit your local brewery
  4. Support pubs serving craft beers
  5. Put those beer mug boxers back in the rotation
  6. Start blogging every day
  7. Drink at lunch

... Or remember what “Craft Beer” actually means. The Brewer’s Association defines a craft brewer as small, independent, and traditional:

Small: Annual production of beer less than 2 million barrels. Independent: Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer.

More importantly, a craft brewer is a small business owner. Craft brewers have been reshaping American beer culture. The Brewer's Association goes on to define several concepts that represent American craft brewers.

  • The hallmark of craft beer and craft brewers is innovation. Craft brewers interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent.
  • Craft beer is generally made with traditional ingredients like malted barley; interesting and sometimes non-traditional ingredients are often added for distinctiveness.
  • Craft Brewers tend to be very involved in their communities through philanthropy, product donations, volunteerism, and sponsorship of events.
  • Craft Brewers have distinctive, individualistic approaches to connecting with their customers.
  • Craft Brewers maintain integrity by what they brew and their general independence, free from a substantial interest by a non-craft brewer.
  • The majority of Americans live within ten miles of a craft brewer.

We opened another special craft beer today... I'm also sporting my beer mug boxers.

Day 2
May 18, 2010
Independence Brewing Company Jasperilla Old Ale (Austin, TX)
2009 Vintage

Website/Bottle Information:
"Brilliantly golden, Jasperilla is a unique take on an old ale. Biscuity malt flavors meld with subtle plum and berry notes, produced by a special blend of English Old Ale and Chico yeasts. Brewed once a year, and aged for six months prior to release, the Jasperilla is smooth despite its 9% ABV.

We named this beer after our dog Jasper because he has brought so much joy to our lives. We got Jasper from a local dog rescue group called Mixed Breed Rescue. He has been a constant source of smiles and kept our spirits high through many late nights and long hours at the brewery.

Jasperilla is so good and smooth that you'll beg like a dog for more, roll over for a belly rub, howl at the moon... you get the picture."

Serving: 22 oz bottle
Style: Old Ale
ABV: 9.30%

He Said:
If you haven't tried Independence's beers in a while, I kindly suggest you go get some*. Accomplished brewer Rob Cartwright and crew have taken their already solid lineup of beer and made each even better. 2009 Jasperilla exemplifies Indy's success. This particular vintage is probably the best Old Ale that I have ever tasted. It is fantastic. Traditionally English Old Ales were dark, malty beers in the 5%-6% ABV range. The beers were usually aged at the brewery and then released. American versions are of higher strength, which is represented by Indy's version topping 9% ABV.

Beers of this strength are almost always better as they warm. I impulsively grabbed wine glasses while opening this beer, which functioned well to highlight Jasperilla. The nose is sweet and malty with dark fruit flavors leading the way. While cold, the flavor was mild and very drinkable. The beer was sweet with a mellow aftertaste. As it warmed, the beer really woke up, with much more fruit and alcohol taste. A hoppier finish could be detected in the warmed version.

I'm glad I bought a few extra bottles when I picked this 2009 Jasperilla up. The hard part will be trying to keep them hidden.

She Said:
Jasperilla has the aroma of sweet hard liquor. The taste is deep, dark, and almost foreboding. The first few sips of Jasperilla are dangerous in an "I'm going to stalk you" kind of way. After a few more sips, you think: "stalking isn't so bad, right?" For a 9% ABV beer, the flavor is soft, yet deep.

One of my favorite things about this beer is that it is named for Indy's first brew dog. I love Jasper... he's sweet... like this beer. Also like Jasper, you'll need to drink plenty of water with your Jasperilla.

Amazing. Excuse me while I finish the rest. I give it a 4½ hops out of 5.

* TwoPints and I should mention that (FACT:) in 2005 we handed a moderate amount of money to Independence Brewing Company in return for a fancy certificate, but (PRESUMPTION:) I'm pretty sure we would love these guys just as much even if we hadn't.

Four years ago the U.S. Congress established American Craft Beer Week (ACBW) with the passage of House Resolution 753. "The Mother of All Beer Weeks" takes place this year from May 17-23 and is a celebration of all the 1400+ small and independent craft brewers in the nation.

Three years ago I visited one of my favorite craft breweries, Russian River Brewing Company during a family wine vacation. Having brewed clone versions of a few of their beers in the past, this was a bucket list type of visit. Owner and brewmaster Vinnie Cilurzo exemplifies craft brewing. Despite now brewing world class beers as a professional, Vinnie embraces the homebrewing community that he once was a part of and readily shares scaled down versions of his recipes. He also responded back to me personally by email before our visit and ensured my family and I received a private tour of their Santa Rosa facility.

Two years ago The Ferm only existed in the minds of our humble motley crew of beverage enthusiasts. Now we are like the greatest source for adult beverage talk on the entire Interwebs… in our minds.

One year ago Two Pints and I celebrated American Craft Beer Week on this blog by opening up a bottle of beer we had been saving for some undetermined occasion. We shared our thoughts in a celebratory rather than pedantic fashion with a little He said/She said.

Please join us in celebrating by supporting American Craft Beer Week by enjoying a craft beer or attending some of the special events being held in your city. You can also show your support by "liking" ACBW on Facebook and signing the Declaration of Beer Independence. Cheers!

Day 1
May 17, 2010
Russian River Blind Pig (Santa Rosa, CA)
Bottled 07/23/09

Website/Bottle Information:
Ask for a "blind pig" in a saloon during prohibition and you might just get a beer… During prohibition, using the term "blind pig" discretely meant many different things. Sometimes it was the secret code given to a bartender to receive a beer. In other places, it meant that you paid a small fee to see a "blind pig," and along with the viewing you'd get a beer, or something else... And what type of glassware would your "blind pig" be served in? An unmarked mason jar of course. In those days, a mason jar was known as a pig, and an unmarked mason jar was known as a Blind Pig.

Use the term discretely today and you'll get Russian River's Blind Pig IPA, a bold IPA packed full of hop aroma, flavor, and bitterness. Please keep Blind Pig IPA refrigerated and consume fresh to experience the immense hop character. Unlike many of our other beers, Blind Pig IPA is not meant to be aged.

Serving: 1 Pint, 0.9 fl.oz. (500 mL) Bottle
Style: American IPA
ABV: 6.10%
72 BUs

He Said:
Blind Pig is a perfect way to kick off ACBW '10. When we visited Russian River three years back, this beer was not available by bottle. Since, the brewery has acquired an additional brewing facility that they utilized to increase their production and to begin bottling Pliny the Elder and Blind Pig. We acquired this bottle as a gift from my parents during one of their California wine excursions last year. For those of you that haven't experienced Blind Pig IPA, the aroma and flavor is pure hop heaven. The nose almost exactly matches the taste, with citrus and pine flavors dominating, but not destroying your palate. Like any good story, this beer has a beginning, middle, and an end... but they are hops, hops, and hops. Not so surprisingly for those familiar with Vinnie's work, Blind Pig is incredibly drinkable and a beer even my wine drinking mother loves.

She Said:
Oh the aroma! It is like I've died and been buried in the freshest and most pleasant hop bed any craft beer drinker could imagine. The carbonation is light to medium. The taste is crisp, and not sweet. Blind Pig is down and dirty hoppy! Delicious – I give it a 4½ hops out of 5.

Session taps the ferm dot org.

Main Entry: col·lab·o·rate
Pronunciation: \kə-'la-bə-,rāt\
Function: intransitive verb
Inflected Form(s): col·lab·o·rat·ed; col·lab·o·rat·ing

Etymology: Late Latin collaboratus, past participle of collaborare to labor together, from Latin com- + laborare to labor — more at labor

Date: 1871

1: to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor
2: to cooperate with or willingly assist an enemy of one's country and especially an occupying force
3: to cooperate with an agency or instrumentality with which one is not immediately connected

via Merriam-Webster

Please put that in a sentence.

Top 10 collaborations of drinking and movies.

10) Dazed and Confused ("All right, all right, all right.")
9) Swingers ("you're so money and you don't even know it")
8) Desperado ("this beer tastes like piss")
7) Three Amigos ("What's Tequila, uh, it's like beer")
6) Beerfest ("I'm better when I'm drunk!")
5) Fandango (on a mission to find "Dom")
4) Casablanca ("Of all the gin joints in all the world...")
3) The Hangover ("Why don't we remember a G. D. thing from last night?")
2) Animal House (Bluto downs a fifth of JD)
1) Strange Brew ("hoser")

Why haven't beer cocktails really taken off? Beaver's Ice House in Houston, TX has dabbled. Hey "mixologists," how about mixing an Independence Bootlegger Brown and Mount Gay Extra Old Rum with *insert your magic here* for an interesting beverage. We'll be there to help critique.

A Flaming Dr. Pepper.

Flaming Dr. Peppers don't count. They are not a tasty drink, only a tolerable shot.

Tenacious D, now
that's collaboration, Holmes.
JB & KG!


All right stop, collaborate
and listen, We'll elaborate
like long division. No wait.
Don't hate. We assassinate.
Just relax and meditate.
Check it, our style lacks much weight.
Collab'ing can fascinate,
This we can appreciate,
Think about, deliberate,
and without any debate,
or any need to mediate,
The way to go on any date,
Is to collaborate, yes
Collaborate. Peace.

Irish Car Bomb, Saki Bomb.

So why don't more distilleries and breweries get together and make something magical? Why doesn't Dogfish, Rogue, and the like collaborate internally between their production facilities and their pubs with their own brewed and distilled beverages? Surely there is some collaboration that will bring the two together like a Yin and Yang, but also like peas in a pod... or like peanut butter and jelly… or like coffee and creamer… or like white and Labor day… or like the French and rolling over.

Do you know what we are saying?

Sounds like fun, then you do it.

This post was a collaborative effort by J.R. Ewing, K Dub, Mr. Smokeypants, and SirRon inspired by this month's The Session topic: Collaborations. More information about The Session and links to other participating blogs can be found on Brookston Beer Bulletin or on the host site for this month's topic, The Hop Press. Links to other participating blogs can be found in The Session #39 roundup post.