Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Thoughts, they spill anew

These things have been sloshing around my brain:

- Ska Brewing Co. releases its Mexican Logger today (Tues., April 6), reports Beer N Bikes.

Mexican Logger is Ska's summer seasonal, a crisp lager that essentially attempts to be a better, more flavorful Corona (and succeeds). It's just the kind of beer for sucking down around the grill.

- Dogfish Head has finally won me over. The Delaware brewery is an object of love for many beer geeks, but I resisted for a long time, turned off by the weirdness of beers like 120 Minute IPA and high prices.

Dogfish Head is the poster child for brewing experimentation. Some of these experiments work, some don't. I've often wondered if DFH is excessively concerned with innovation at the expense of making beers that simply taste good - really, the fundamental condition of successful craft brewing.

I've also regarded the brewery's massive publicity with a pinch of suspicion. DFH founder Sam Calagione was the subject of a lengthy, glowing New Yorker profile in 2008, the kind of publicity a brewer would kill for. Then, as if that wasn't enough, Calagione had a starring role in the documentary Beer Wars.

DFH is a good brewery and by all accounts, Calagione is a skilled brewer and a nice guy. But he isn't doing anything much different from Avery Brewing, The Bruery or Russian River, to name a few. And I don't see Adam Avery's 9,700-word New Yorker profile.

But, the key to justifying the hype is brewing good beer. While I was in Phoenix recently, I picked up a couple of DFH beers I'd never seen before: Chicory Stout and Red and White.

Chicory Stout, as the webernet tells me, is DFH's winter seasonal. It's astonishingly flavorful for a session beer (5.2 percent ABV, 21 IBUs).

Many session stouts lack complexity. Everybody and their dog makes an oatmeal stout, and they're just not that exciting. DFH's Chicory Stout, in contrast, is brewed with roasted chicory, organic Mexican coffee, St. John's Wort and licorice root. It has almost as many flavors going on as The Abyss, and that's saying something. Give it an A.

Red and White is purportedly a Belgian-style wit, but I don't think I've ever seen a wit that benches 10 percent ABV. It's far darker, maltier and heavier than most wits. Robust, in a word, almost like a pinot noir. Give it an A-.

Several Durango liquor stores sell DFH beers, so it would please me greatly to see six-packs of Chicory Stout and bombers of Red and White land here. And until further notice, I'm done talking smack about DFH.

- Speaking of Adam Avery, it isn't quite the New Yorker, but Mr. Avery's hometown paper has a nice profile of the Avery Brewing founder. Check out this quote:

"You have to be super passionate about the beer side. The brewers that fail are the ones who make boring beers and try to appeal to everybody. If you do that, you're not offering people a choice between your beer and bland, mass-produced offerings. You have to stand out and make what YOU think is best."

I like the guy.


  1. You're spot on with the Dogfish Head commentary. The risk/reward ratio just isn't there for me to plunk down 12 bucks on a 4-pack of something I might end up dumping. I love the Chicory Stout and if you have a chance to try their Pumpkin Ale, go for it. I tread lightly around anything they make with peaches or raisins though. Guess I'm just not "hip" enough.

  2. Good post Soggy; I think Sam from DFH has obviously run his company well and tries all sorts of stuff w his/their beers. I am always a big fan of the small guys doing well. To hit on your Beer Wars reverence though, I thought that he, and most of the rest of the craft beer people came off as a bit whiny. I would have loved to see them focus on nothing but craft brewers...from large (SN and Boston Brewing) to small (Silverton!). If only ~12% of beer sold is of the craft variety I think they could have focused the documentary on educating the 88% of BMC drinkers. Thats the best way to increase shelf space and sales, an educated consumer that demands better products.