Saturday, September 3, 2011

Beer Travels

The Danner Manner came out of the gates fairly strong, but I haven't posted in a long long time. It's been far longer than I wanted to go between posts. I'll use the excuse that I've been busy. Maybe that works, maybe not. I've been to beer festivals, beer dinners, and tastings all over the place so I'll share some photos and stories from those.

I spent the first weekend in August on the east side of the state for St. Louis Craft Beer Week. The folks of STL Hops do an amazing job of organizing and executing a week long celebration of craft beer that includes more than 60 events ranging from tastings, beer dinners, meet the brewer gatherings, and a firkin festival. The level of participation for so many events was pretty incredible. I spent Thursday-Sunday in St. Louis and stayed busy from early in the morning until late at night. It's fairly absurd that some of these things are considered work. Crazy!

Drinking something that was crazy dry hopped in a firkin with Jacob from
Summit Distibuting (left) and Tait from Charleville (right).
At the end of August, I traveled with Randyl and a couple of Boulevard brewers and their ladies to the Great Nebraska Beer Fest hosted by Nebraska Brewing Co. in Papillion, Nebraska. These guys make killer beer and throw a great festival. I'm very excited to be able to drink their beer in Kansas City soon. I was also asked to give a talk as part of their seminar program during the festival. I decided to talk about positive craft beer advocacy and food/beer pairing. 
This is what I look like when I hold a microphone. I don't like mics.
I'm a recovered beer snob and wanted to share my experience of becoming passionate about craft beer with the attendees. When I first started drinking craft beers I had an attitude of superiority over folks that were drinking beer I deemed inferior. I've since realized that no one likes  a "Beer Asshole" so I've become a "Beer Dork". I follow the major beer reviewing and discussion websites and have noticed an alarming trend of beer snobbery overtaking a lot of conversations. I'm incredibly lucky to be involved in an industry where the consumers are passionate enough to create websites devoted to the discussion of the product I help make, but there has to be some room for friendly and positive talk. Sadly, breweries have gotten into this game as well. The fact is we're not going to get more craft beer drinkers on board by mocking them and telling them how stupid they are for drinking whatever beer it is they like. Instead, I suggest we introduce people to "gateway beers" and provide friendly craft beer education. In general, just be cool to people, buy them a good craft beer, and start a friendly conversation. I'm getting dizzy from the height of my soapbox so I'll step down and share some more pictures now.

Randyl wears the official beer event stocking cap.
Peace Tree Brewing had a ridiculous setup and their Bretted Cornucopia was amazing.
Holy crap! This beer was tasty.
The Crew. We poured Pilsner, Tank 7, Hoppy Wheat Beer,
Double Dry Hopped Double Wide IPA, and Love Child #2.

I'll be flying to Boston this week for the Beer Advocate Belgian Beer Fest and some events introducing Boulevard beers into Massachusetts. The next week I'll be in Minnesota for the Autumn Brew Review . I'm hoping to have lunch and beers at Town Hall and I'm working on a tour at Surly while I'm there. I'm sure there will be some good stories and pictures when I get back. If you have any can't miss suggestions for either place let me know in the comments section.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Staycation - Part Two

I know you've been waiting for the thrilling conclusion to our two days of leisure. Well, wait no more!

Day two was decidedly more lighthearted as far as museum material is concerned. Randyl and I drove over to Lawrence, Kansas. I love Lawrence. I only wish I spent more time there. It's really only 45 minutes away, but my favorite destination there, Free State Brewing, makes it seem like a lot more on the drive back.

We started by visiting the Spencer Museum of Art on the campus of KU. I thought maybe we'd be cool enough to blend in and look like students. I think there was a freshman orientation or perspective student visit going on though, and we had no shot of looking like a frosh. Being aged aside, we saw some really cool pieces in the museum.
This glass piece suggest an underwater scene to me.
This dude was ready for karate chop action.
I'm not a car guy, but this polyurethane painting/sculpture was cool.

They also feature some paintings by Thomas Hart Benton, Georgia O'Keefe, and other famous painters you should know about, but I was really taken by these pieces the most. Admission is 100% free and they feature travelling exhibitions as well. I highly recommend a trip out.

We walked across the street to the student union where we met up with Randyl's sister. She works at the Pulse and sold us a generously 10% employee discounted cup of tea and we discussed our plans for the day. She's a college chick and infinitely too cool to hang out with us. I think she was doing something awesome like cleaning her boyfriend's apartment while he was at Comic-Con. Foolish us, we're so lame. (Note: Randyl's sister is actually pretty cool...)

Our next stop on the KU campus was the Natural History Museum. Unlike the art museum, they have a suggest donation of five dollars for each adult visitor. We only had 8 bucks. Ah well. We spent a little over an hour combing through displays of dinosaur fossils and stuffed dead animals. By far the coolest part of the museum was an insect exhibit where you could check out grasshoppers, roaches, and other creepy crawlers.
That's a huge grasshopper. If this were Andrew Zimmern's blog, it would be deep friend.
Oh snap! I almost forgot the lights that put off crazy colors under a black light.
They were almost as cool as the bugs.
Our brains full of knowledge, we decided it was time to do some brain damage at one of my favorite brewpubs on the planet, Free State Brewing. I'll spare you the history lesson or links to their beer reviews and just tell you I think they make fantastic beer. I judge a brewery by a couple of factors: the quality of the beer and the quality of the people making the beer. Free State scores highly in bot
h categories. It's always nice to drink good beer made by good people. Before we made it over to the pub, we took a visit to their production facility over at 19th and Moodie to see their bottling line. As luck would have it, we arrived just after they'd finished running. Fortunately for me, I've seen a bottling line and can use some imagination to figure it out. They've added a lot of new equipment and staff since the last time I've been there. It's exciting to see them doing so well. The only picture I took was of some of their super sacks, huge bags that can hold a custom blend of grain for a specific recipe, because I'm jealous we don't have these at Boulevard.
Awesome. Want.
Lunch at the pub was great. We took a leisurely approach and started with a couple  of Beer Royales, a sessionable Belgian style beer brewed with hibiscus flowers, and a fruit and cheese plate. We sampled through most of the specialty beers and settled on a burger and a French Dip for lunch. They had on a Schwarzbier, an IPA, and a Belgian Wit. As usual the food and beer were fantastic, but the hospitality was above and beyond. I owe those guys some beer the next time I see them!

We had originally planned on heading to Clinton Lake for a swim, but ended up heading back home before swimming at a pool around here. I'm glad we did that because I was able to learn something. In all my years of jumping off diving boards, I've never known how long I should wait or where the person previous to me should be in relation to the ladder on the side of the pool. Thanks to a super friendly lifeguard who gained my attention by blowing his military grade typhoon whistle, I now know. You must wait until the person before you is completely on the ladder. That ladder may be 30-40 feet away from the board, but they must be on...the...ladder. Got it! Thanks, dude! At least he called me by dad's name, "Sir".

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Staycation - Part One

Let it be known that I find the term "staycation" to be mildly annoying. However, it perfectly describes what Randyl and I have been doing for the past couple of days. She's about to enter a nine day in a row stretch at work so we decided to maximize some off time. I took vacation days from the brewery and we decided to do some local travel.

I started the day with a mild hangover (as evidenced by an awesome session on UnTappd) so we filled our bellies with breakfast from Eggtc. and drove up to St Joseph, Missouri. Our destination was the Glore Psychiatric Museum. We've heard from friends and family that it's worth the trip and decided to check it out. I'm more into the odd stuff than Randyl is, but the place is fascinating. The atmosphere wasn't quite what we expected, but they have several rooms over two floors featuring antiquated/historical treatment for mental illness. As we learned more about the way those with mental illnesses were treated before much was understood about the human brain, we got a little bummed out. Mental illness went misunderstood for a long time and most methods of treatment were actually torturous. They do showcase a lot of artwork done by patients over the years. We saw some cool works that further humanized the plight of the mentally ill. I know, I know, the whole thing sounds like a bummer trip, but it was quite enlightening and fascinating. We took a few pictures, but I find these two to be most interesting:

Over 1400 objects that were swallowed by a female patient.
They were extracted during a surgery.
This is a journal of sorts that was embroidered by a schizophrenic patient.
Attached to the Glore Museum you can also view a Civil War medicine exhibit as well as the St. Joseph Black Archives. Despite the somewhat sensitive subject matter of some of the displays everything is handled with total compassion and dignity. It was well worth the drive and the five dollars admission. 

We came back to Kansas City in the late afternoon for lunch at one of my favorite spots in town, Genghis Khan. They've really stepped up their game with their craft beer selection offering most of the Smokestack Series and a few other great beers. It's a Mongolian BBQ so if you don't like the food, it's your own fault. In typical Jeremy fashion I made a couple of ridiculously spicy plates and felt like I had consumed the sun. It was delicious and totally worth it.

After some relaxation time with the dog, we set out to see the final installment of the Harry Potter movies. I've never read the books and have zero desire to, but Randyl has and is somehow able to keep the story lines of all the movies separate. I can't remember who's dead/alive or good/evil. I did get the pleasure of asking a girl to quit texting with her super bright smart phone. I'm such a rule enforcing cool guy.
Pit bulls are crazy vicious. 
The end of day one was more relaxation with the dog and more beer drinking. Surprise. I know this account has been completely riveting and you can't wait to read more about day two, but you're going to have to. We've got more doing nothing to do.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Trip Back In Time

Today I had a very unusual experience! Several weeks ago I signed up to take an organic farm tour to help choose produce for the August beer dinner at Beer Kitchen. Our theme in August is an all vegetarian dinner to highlight the great food that can be prepared using fresh local produce.

All participants were told they were touring a nice farm just south of Lee's Summit, MO. We were instructed to wear closed shoes, long pants, and no tank tops due to the nature of the farm's thicket, and to meet a caravan of people in a parking lot at 7:00 a.m.

To be honest I was not looking forward to this dress code in 90+ degree weather, and I had also closed down the restaurant last night and then had to be in the parking lot in Grandview, MO and not Lee's Summit, MO at 7:00 a.m. sharp, only allowing for me to have about 4 hours of sleep.

Our trip south from Grandview, MO landed us in Rich Hill, MO. I know of this town well, as it is where my grandfather grew up and who still owns a large farm. It has probably been about 15 years since I've last visited.

Once we arrived at a small gas station to regroup, I learned that we were touring a large Old World Mennonite farm just outside town. These farms have no electricity, no running water, they give true definition to horse power, for all of the produce is harvested into horse drawn wagons and sorted on a conveyor belt powered by real horses, the farm workers are every member of each family from ages 5-65. Arriving at the first farm, I quickly realized that we were taken out of 2011 and dropped right into the mid 1800's.

We toured 4 farms in all, a melon farm, a squash, corn, onion, cucumber and berry farm, heirloom tomato farm, and a canning facility. The farms are not organic, but they use minimal pesticides and no weed control. When we toured the larges farm we were driven around on a horse drawn wagon, and allowed to pick any ripe produce we saw to take with us. I scored sweet corn, squash, green bell peppers, pablano peppers, candy onions, and garlic.

This is the heirloom tomato farm. The Mennonites string together tons of bird houses for insect control.

The Mennonite produce store. I purchased a variegated hot pepper and purple basil plant.

Just harvested cantaloupe melon.

True method of transportation.

The Mennonites were extremely gracious to us though we invaded their farms. I spoke with Benjamin our wagon guide for the large farm, and they only allow tours 2-3 times a year. They were wonderful, kind people who seemed to be just as curious of us as we were of them. Once the tour was finished we all went back into town and we had lunch prepared by the Mennonite cafe at a small local park. It was simple yet delicious with smoked free range chicken, home made bread rolls, cucumber salad, corn on the cob, and fresh watermelon and cantaloupe. My whole day was much more intriguing than I thought possible and I thank those farmers for allowing me to take a peek into their lives.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

My Favorite Beers

I hosted a six course beer dinner at Seven Springs Winery in Osage Beach last night. It was a good night full of great food and beer. Whenever I do events, there are a few questions that I'm always asked. How did you get into brewing? Do you drink beer all day? Where did you go to school? What's your favorite beer? The last one is a question I love answering because I drink a lot of beer from a ton of different breweries. I think it's very important to constantly try new beers and revisit old favorites. This list is far from complete and changes quite often, but if you were to ask me what my favorite beers were right now, this is what I'd tell you.

My favorite Boulevard beer is without a doubt Saison-Brett. I say this with zero hesitation every single time I'm asked what my favorite beer we brew is. Sadly, I can't drink it all the time so I also drink a lot of Pale Ale, Tank 7, and Pilsner. I still freak out when it's Bob's 47 season as well.

In no particular order, I really dig these beers from other breweries.

This is the original "extreme beer", the one that started it all. Pale Ale is the beer heard 'round the world of the American craft revolution. Every single one of us lucky enough to be a craft brewer owes immense thanks to Ken Grossman and Sierra Nevada for leading the way. 'nuff said.

La Folie - New Belgium Brewing Company
This beer freaked me out the first time I had it. I tried it at my first beer festival, the St. Louis Microfest, back in 2006 and it totally blew my mind. I had no idea that beer could taste like that. I look back and contribute the combination of my first festival and tasting a tiny tiny amount of this beer from the bottom of a bottle at the end of the day to making me want to be a brewer. Lofty stuff. When I met Lauren Salazar, sensory specialist and blender of New Belgium's sour goodies, I told myself I wasn't going to geek out and gush over La Folie. I did.

Prima Pils - Victory Brewing Company
We can't get this beer in Missouri yet, but I've heard tons of rumors about Victory coming here. I long for the day I can go buy a sixer of Prima whenever I want it. Instead, I stock up every time I see it. I came back with a case last time I was in Chicago and a friend at Boulevard always hooks me up with cases when she visits Illinois. I've been very lucky to have had a steady supply of fresh Prima for about a year now. This is my favorite beer to drink in the shower.

Bachelor ESB - Deschutes Brewery
We really believe in balance in our beers at Boulevard and Deschutes nails it with Bachelor. I find this beer amazingly drinkable and refreshing. My best friend lives in Eugene, Oregon and I pound this beer whenever I go out to visit. I have fond memories of standing waist deep in a lake drinking this beer. Larry Sidor, Brewmaster of Deschutes, was kind enough to hook me up with a case of it when I visited his brewery.

St. Lupulin - Odell Brewing Co.
I get very excited when it's time for this beer to come out. I fell in love with it the first time I drank it and continue to enjoy it. It's such a beautiful expression of hop flavor and aroma without a ton of hop bitterness. I love bitter beers, but really dig a beer that can showcase hops like this one does. It's probably my favorite summer beer.

Dominique - Goose Island Beer Company
This is another beer that totally blew my mind. After I had my first glass, I immediately emailed my buddy Paul Devries who works in sales for Goose Island to tell him how much I loved it. I wish I had saved the message so I could post it here. It would need a lot of editing and word replacement to be appropriate, but Dominique was so good he needed to know exactly how I felt about it. I've heard several times that it will never happen again and that makes me sad. I linked to Matilda, the base beer, since there's no information regarding Dominique on the Goose Island website.

I also dig the work of these breweries: New Glarus, Bell's, Nebraska Brewing, Cantillon, Russian River, Pretty Things, Free State, Surly, Orval, Firestone Walker, Upstream, and many others far too numerous to mention. Please don't hate me if I didn't mention your favorite brewery or if I mentioned a beer you wouldn't let your dog drink.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Coming Soon!

Randyl just told me she's decided what she'll write about for her first post. Exciting!

Memories of Jean-Marie Rock and Collaboration No 1

We're very close to releasing Collaboration No 2 White IPA, a beer we brewed with Deschutes Brewery from Oregon. We've been talking about the process and the beer a lot around the brewery over the past week and all this has gotten me to thinking about Collaboration No 1 Imperial Pilsner that we brewed with Jean-Marie Rock, famed Brewmaster from Orval.

It was October, around Halloween time, and I'd been working for Boulevard for about a year and half when Jean-Marie came to brew with us. The day before he arrived, our Brewmaster, Steven Pauwels, asked me if I was scared. I can't remember exactly how I answered that question, but it was somewhere between "a little bit" and "Holy Crap! I'm freaking out, dude!" It was decided that we would brew a small 35 barrel batch of beer in the morning on Friday and then everyone would gather for the big 150 barrel brew from brewhouse two on Saturday. It started to sink in that I would be brewing with Steven and Jean-Marie Rock. It was as though I'd been invited to hang out with Alice Cooper.

The entire experience was pretty insane. Jean-Marie has been brewing for Orval almost as long as I've been alive. He brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and absolutely obsessive attention to detail to the table. I learned about things I'd never even thought of. Orval has cameras in their fermenters so he can watch the yeast do it's thing in the beer. Crazy! One of the cooler moments of the day came when Jean-Marie, Steven, and John decided they wanted a beer at ten in the morning. They asked me if I wanted one. I've done a lot of stupid things in my time, but passing up on sharing a beer with the likes of those dudes that early in the day is not one of them.  

The next day was equally crazy on the beer dork meter as well. For some strange reason Jean-Marie had taken a liking to me the day before and I had somehow become his go-to-guy. The entire brew team came in to share in the brewing duties. It was a long day, but we shared some fantastic beers, and had a nice family lunch of tamales on the patio. Here's a tip for you Belgians that may be reading this. Remove the husk before you try to eat the tamale.  We traded that lesson to Jean-Marie in exchange for a brewing experience we'll never forget. 

We shared some dinner and beers later that night and somewhere there's an amazing picture of JMR getting cozy with a giant pumpkin. When the night was over, Randyl and I drove Jean-Marie back to his hotel. There was a brief moment where I considered kidnapping him and forcing him to brew Orval in my basement.

Now we'll flash forward to January 2010 and the night of the release party at the Oread Hotel in Lawrence. Jean-Marie's luggage had been lost during his travels and I'd been given the honor of retrieving his gear from the airport before heading out to the party. Getting the airport staff to release his luggage to me was no small feat. I think what sold them was the fact that in some strange way, I considered it a privilege to be there picking up his suitcase. Maybe they just thought I was weird and wanted me out, but I finally succeeded and this picture is the result of that effort.

I was going to slip a bottle of Bud Light in his suitcase, but it was locked. Damn!