Joe's Rants and Raves

  • May 06 - 04:16 PM: Bright Beer : Joe McBane

    While at an event over the weekend an argument was raised over whether it matters if a beer is bright. Assuming the beer doesn't have chunky bits floating around then taste won't really be affected. The first side of the argument was presented based on the afore mentioned point. If it tastes good then don't worry about it. The second side was argued by a gentleman called Colin Valentine who is vice president of CAMRA UK (campaign for real ale) and hails from Edinborough Scotland. The UK has a much more cultured and historied beer culture than exists in the States and a cloudy pint would never be excepted (apart from the obvious wheat examples). Colin's point was that bright beer is more visually appealing and should always be a target for brewers.
    A number of brewers then joined the argument and became very bogged down in the technicalities of bright vs. not. It seemed that no one was really thinking about the people who drink the product. That's when I grabbed the mic. to throw in my two pence worth. My take was that this country has been force feed bright golden lagers for so long that something with a bit of a haze is almost a selling feature. It screams of craft brewing. Right or wrong the bulk of Americans are not as beer savvy as they will be in a few more decades given plenty of good beer. They tend to judge a beer on taste not looks. There is no preconceived notion of what it should look like in their minds. I have only had a pint brought back due to looks in this country once or twice in 7 plus years. This is just a reality of the beer culture that we all enjoy. On the other hand bright beer is best when you know what you are looking for.

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  • May 06 - 01:33 AM: New England Real Ale Exhibition : Joe McBane

    So I am back from the weekend. I started with a few pints at the Moan and Dove in Amherst Mass. It was rated as the best beer bar in the country a couple of years a go on Beer Advocate so I was excited to check it out. It is a rather small place that is dimly lit and comfortable. Perfect beer drinking conditions to my mind. They had a cask of Dark Star on the bar that was in perfect condition. I had a couple of pints of that for sure. Overall the selection was excellent without being huge. All very carefully chosen beers. A lot of serious lambics on offer. Sometimes I wonder if a lot of the people that drink them really like them or if they force themselves to drink them because they feel that they should be enjoyed. Definitely worth the stop.

    The next day was in Somerville Mass. We got to the Nerax event at 1pm for the industry session. I had lined up a guest list with Will Shelton but it was clear that the organizers were lacking any list and that they didn't care anyway. The event was mainly attended by brewers from the North East. The room was in an old VFW joint and certainly had that old yellow light feel. There were a lot of casks on show from both sides of the pond. I particularly enjoyed the Deuchars IPA as far as beer goes. They also had a couple of real ciders in cask. The Haymaker was a particular stand out for me. I really miss good ciders sometimes so it was a real treat. After the session I grabbed a bite and a quick nap before heading back for the evening session that was open to the public. Once again I dropped a name and was ushered in which was especially nice given the huge line that had formed. All in all it was a good event given the quality of beer on offer. I have to wonder though if it was better organized what it could be. I doubt I will be back next year but would recommend it to others who want to experience the best of British brewing.

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  • Apr 28 - 09:26 AM: R & D Road Trip : Joe McBane

    One of the more difficult aspects of of my line of work is the need to occasionally hit the road and drink good beer else where. This is precisely what I will be doing this weekend when I set off towards Somerville MA. The annual NERAX festival is due to be held there. For those of you who aren't familiar with NERAX it is an organisation that promotes real ale in New England. At the fest there will be about 80 cask ales, with around half of them from the UK. Along the way I will be stopping at The Moan and Dove in Amherst MA to check out what made it the most highly rated beer bar in the US by Beer Advocates. The trip back will include a visit to McNeills in Brattleboro VT.

    As you can see this is clearly going to be a tough assignment! I will let you know how it goes upon my return next week.

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