This week, I use my Hop Press column to ruminate on Starbucks’ recent announcement that they’re considering serving beer and wine at select locations.
Tuesday morning, USA Today broke the news that Starbucks – your non-local local coffee joint – is experimenting with serving wine and beer at stores.
Click on through for USA Today’s full article, but the gist of the beer side of things is this; Starbucks gets almost three quarters of it’s business before 2 PM, and beer and wine (along with some sort of live entertainment) is one way to drive more people through the door. Also worth noting is that these alcohol-friendly Starbucks/Barbucks are going to focus on getting “regional” beer and wine. The rest of the article has some interesting info on the coffee giant’s attempt at evolution and changes to decor and the menu, but you’re here for thoughts on the beer.
Read the full post – and offer your comments on the news – at the RateBeer.com Hop Press.
This week, my column on Ratebeer.com focuses on three of Maine’s ski country brewpubs.
So far, my look at Maine beer has been devoted largely to the state’s coastline. Despite dalliances with Sheepscot and Hallowell, the interior of Maine has been a bit ignored. That stops today. Though a good majority of Maine’s travel destinations (and beer tour hot spots) are a short hop from the ocean, there are riches in the forests and mountains. With temperatures starting to plummet, no is as good a time as any to head for ski country. Sunday River Brewing, Bray’s Brewpub and The Bag and Kettle all offer handcrafted après ski brews when you’re far from Maine’s brew-happy coast.
Check out my full brewery profiles on Ratebeer’s Hop Press.
New Wednesday, new column on Ratebeer.com’s Hop Press. This week I take a look at pumpkin ale, a style that’s starting to make it’s yearly appearance as we head into fall.
If you’re looking for an all-American style of beer, the best example on the shelves might be the pumpkin ales that show up in Autumn. When the first European settlers came to America centuries ago, they brewed what were likely the first pumpkin ales. The pumpkin wasn’t there to distinguish an ale as a fall seasonal like it is these days. Instead, it was a cheap and local fermentable, used for beer in a country where malt was scarce. These original pumpkin ales weren’t spiced or gussied-up like the beers of today – no sir, the pumpkin (or sometimes parsnips, molasses, or cornstalks) was simply there as fermento-fuel for hungry yeast. Reportedly, none other than George Washington – that’s right, the dude on the quarter – brewed a mean pumpkin porter.
Check out the full column – and some of my suggestions for atypical pumpkin beers – over at RateBeer.com.
This week, my column over at RateBeer.com is devoted to a vertical tasting of three different versions of Rogue’s Shakespeare Stout. It was a blast to compare three variations of the same beer, and I really tried to dig into the similarities and differences.
Though I got to sample quite a few beers from Oregon’s distinguished brewery, I found myself circling back to Rogue’s Shakespeare Stout. I’ve written before about my love for the beer – a pretty-much perfect oatmeal stout, and one of the brews that got me drinking craft beer. Novare had the Bard on both nitro-tap and cask, which was more than a little bit exciting. I couldn’t exactly smuggle in a 22oz bomber of the stuff to try the draught, cask and bottled versions side-by-side, I was able to try the first two and then dash out (Science… Sort Of style) and have a bottle with my other notes in hand. It wasn’t exactly a vertical tasting, but it was close.
Check out the full column on my Hop Press blog.
For my weekly column at RateBeer, I decided to forgo focusing on a single topic. Instead, I opted for a roundup of some of the interesting beer news of the week.
This week was one of those weeks where there didn’t seem to be a singular big story in the craft beer world. No Scots we bottling beer in animal carcasses. None of the United States’ biggest brewers were being purchased by foreign companies. Here in the Northeast, there wasn’t a massive beer fest to attend for some schmoozing. Despite this, there are still plenty of other stories worth rounding up. Among them; big news for craft brewers Dogfish Head, Oskar Blues and Magic Hat, a couple surprising polls and studies, and one more shot fired in the super-strong beer competition.
Check out all the news that’s fit to drink in the full Hop Press article.
Over on RateBeer’s Hop Press, I go on a bit of a ramble this week about what gives beer it’s beeriness.
Despite the range of flavors you can find in the multitudinous (over 80, according to RateBeer) styles that exist, I still expect a certain beeriness from my beers. What do I mean by that totally improvised word, you ask? Well, I expect what pretty much everyone expects – some malt sweetness, some hop bitterness, and maybe some esters from the yeast.
I’m not picky. These simple factors cover a rainbow of flavors. The malt can taste like coffee, chocolate, bread, biscuit, oatmeal, roast grain… you guys know how much the grain bill can cover. Similarly, hops range from the grassy varieties of the UK to the spicy Czech families, from citrusy Cascade hops of the American Northwest to the strawberry taste of Pacific Gem hops. Yeast, the oft-unpredictable loose cousin of the other ingredients, produces everything from buttery notes (Ringwood) to George Clinton-level funk (Brettanomyces).
Check out my full thoughts over on my weekly column.
Another month, another entry in my ongoing tour of the bars, breweries and beer of the great state of Maine. This time around, the focus is on Portland Old Port stalwarts Gritty McDuff’s and Sebago – two of my favorites.
Mainers love their local beer. If there’s anything you can take from this series so far, it’s that the people of Maine – and Portland in particular – are fierce defenders and passionate imbibers of locally brewed beer. For decades (two decades for Gritty’s, one for Sebago), the two breweries I’m looking at today have been staples in local pint glasses and refrigerators. Neither has quite the distribution around the US as an Allagash or a Shipyard, but it’s almost impossible to go to a bar in Maine and not see at least one tap devoted to Sebago and another to Gritty’s. Both also operate stellar brewpubs – bars with some of the best pub fare available in Maine.
Check out the full post (and the four previous entries in my Maine beer tour) over at the RateBeer Hop Press.