Category Archives: Rants

The Beer Geek’s Manifesto

I need to preface this a bit…

…I’m a dork.

No, it’s ok. You can say it too, if you’ve met me—it’s not as if my dorkiness is something that’s buried deep. I hold Union cards in the orders of the Beer Geeks, the Comic Book Geeks, the TV Geeks, Movie Geeks, Video Game Geeks, Guitar Player Geeks and definitely the Car Geeks.

So I’ve spent a fair amount of time the past couple of weekends playing Gran Turismo 5 Prologue. Yes, I am one of those guys: The faithful long-suffering GT game fans who will give the crew at Polyphony a few more months after waiting five goddamn years for a new game if it means the new SLS AMG will sound a little more life-like or that kickass ’05 Subie WRX rally car hits its apexes just a little more like the real deal. As if I’d know the difference.

I think my love for Gran Turismo has its roots in my childhood when I didn’t seem to want anything for my adult life but to operate something that went obscenely fast. I had cardboard tubes filled with posters and glossy defense contractor pinups of all the latest and greatest military aircraft. NASA stuff? Man, I got a copy of Alan Shepard’s book handed to me autographed! How hot is that? Then there was the car porn: The framed pic of a C4 Corvette that hung on my wall for years; the model kits of Bill Elliott’s Coors-sponsored Ford and the 80’s Ferrari Testarossa; the little red diecast 250 GTO that sat atop my bookshelf into my 20’s; the bigass ’67 Camaro poster that looked so much like the one my folks used to drive.  As a child of the 80’s I’d watch the Space Shuttle launch and dream of being an astronaut. Growing up near DC and Andrews Air Force Base I’d go to the air show with my dad and spend the next weeks daydreaming of piloting A-10’s, A-4’s, F-15’s, 16’s—and the SR71 Blackbird. Don’t ever get me started on the Blackbird: That thing is the sex even now. Back then, to the 5-6-7-year-old Beermonger that plane was a crack rock rolled in pure sugar dipped in chocolate wrapped in bacon and then deep fried.

But it always came back to cars for me. That ’67 Camaro I mentioned before was the first ‘family car’ I can remember. As a 4 year old boy, not a lot could beat hauling ass out in the country with no soundtrack but the roar of the old Chevy’s dual exhausts, or running errands with my folks around town in the baddest machine I’d ever touched in my young life. I’m an only child and I invested a lot of emotion in that car without ever realizing it: I didn’t feel right after my dad plastered a deer with it and the Camaro had to go into the shop for a while. I remember my dad calling the house my folks used to drop me at (there was a neighbor of my Grandmother’s who watched kids for everyone in the ‘hood) and telling me he had a surprise for me. My thoughts went to toys, sweets—maybe even a trip to that ice cream place with the tabletop Frogger machine! Instead, he pulled up in the fresh-out-of-the-shop Camaro. I couldn’t have hugged that car more if it was my brother; it legitimately made me happier to see that car than any of those other things would have.

That car was the Good Days. Soon enough my folks would split up and I’d end up living with my Mom who was driving the by-now breaking and in need of an engine Camaro. Rather than replace the engine, she traded it in for a silver Subaru wagon with gray interior. Things changed; it’s hard to say for the better or worse but everything worked out in the end. Letting go of that car, though, ended that carefree part of my childhood. The lesson was “Things fall apart. There’s no fixing what you love”.

You get older and you live and learn but damn if some things just never let you go. I still want that car. Not the Camaro, mind you; I mean that car that lets you let loose every once in a while and feel something. That car that makes you feel the ‘simple’ act of driving for the wonder and marvel that it really is. I’ve come to realize that I’ve measured my whole existence by how close I could be to driving a car I truly loved. As of now I can barely afford to keep my beat up Ford Ranger breathing, so when I have a spare hour or so I fire up the PS3 and play GT5 Prologue, because it’s as close to driving any of those cars as I’ll ever get in this life. It’s the only place I’ll punish a Z4 the way I’d want to in real life.

In Prologue you extremely accurate virtual recreations of real cars through various racing challenges earning credits that you get to spend on cars for your ‘garage’. The game is smartly designed so that you start small, hone your driving skills so that by the time you can afford to drive some of the big boys you might have half a thimble’s worth of an idea of what you’re doing. I’m at the point now where my garage is starting to look like a Sheik’s.

It all started with the Nissan GT-R. I’m a bit obsessed with the GT-R, and jumped to buy one the first chance I got. Tackling races with it, I enjoyed it thoroughly except I couldn’t seem to get the lap times I’d expected from it. Frustrated, I decided I needed to up the firepower and bought a Ferrari F430. The Italian Supercar would bring me to the promised land of the speed gods, right? Well, it took some getting used to and is an amazing car no doubt, but now I was out of control. I saved up damn near half a million credits for a Ferrari F40. The F40 was Ferrari’s early 90’s attempt at building a ‘street legal Formula 1 car’.

The F40 didn’t win me any races. The way the car handled, shifted and turned was unlike anything I’d driven so far. I gave the F40 lap after lap and gradually something started happening: I still wasn’t winning, but the way I drove the car became more natural, my racing instincts sharpened and I realized that this car was simply making me better. I hopped back in the F430 for the hell of it and drove the race of my life. Something was still lacking, though; so next time I fire up the game I hopped back in…the GT-R. I’d come full circle and found the right vehicle to take my imaginary joyrides in.

In a room full of Car Geeks I’d have one guy agreeing with me completely, one guy telling me what a fool I was not to stick with the F40, one guy scoffing at all of us with tales of just how much of our asses a Lamborghini Reventon would kick and one guy would prefer an SLR, but see where I was coming from.

Sound familiar? In my years of working retail, writing and generally being a Beer Geek I’ve had hundreds of conversations just like the one in that last paragraph. I’ve had customers I needed to keep away from other customers because of how inflexible their opinions were. I’ve had people coming to me for advice and suggestions scoff at my list of favorite beers, usually because most of them are readily available. I’ve had people make faces at labels, or styles, or places a beer was from. I’m not trying to write a “Beer Geeks are zealots who keep craft beer from expanding” sermon. I’m saying I understand and if you don’t, you need to.

I guess what I’m trying to come around to saying here is that there are styles of beer we don’t prefer, and some beers we just don’t like—which is fine; we all have different tastes and they’re all going to react differently. What I think we all need to do is keep more of an open mind to re-trying beers we previous may not have enjoyed. I couldn’t get into Belgian beers for a long time; every now and then I’d get a draft of Delirium Tremens at Dr. Dremo’s and know that it was good, but think it just wasn’t for me. One night, though, it just clicked. I got it. Same with Flemish Sours and Rauchbier.

I think the moral of the story is: Just like it was with my video game GTR, you gotta crawl before you walk, and walk before you run. If super-hoppy IPA’s turn you off, well, maybe you’re just not there yet. Don’t discount Stouts because someone handed you a Stone IRS once when all you knew of beer was Yeungling or Sam Adams. You never know when somethings going to be your thing.

So onto the real reason I’m writing this:

At the core of Geekdom is an intense interest and joy we find in that which we are a geek for. Notice I say the “core” and not the heart. The heart of a Geek of any type is a damaged thing that we constantly try to patch back together with one more beer we’ve tried, one more track driven, one more bird watched, one higher level in WOW (or in my wife and I’s case, Final Fantasy). Because it’s so personal to us, we lose perspective (that many of us never had to begin with) and alienate those just finding out about our interests. Deep down, we don’t want more members of the club. So we go online or meet up and talk shit about noobs, or kids with flames and rear spoilers on otherwise stock Honda Civics, or Bud drinkers. Too many of us do this, and far too many think it’s ok. But I understand.

It comes down to the mix of ‘sin’ and genuine love that makes us all human. As not to hurt or offend I’ll use myself as the example:

I want a GT-R. Not in the game—I want to step outside tomorrow morning and see a Godzilla in Gun Metallic in the parking lot. I want it with a craven greedy lust that shames me to think about. I want to look at people driving Ford Rangers and feel sorry for them because they’re not having the experience that I am in my GT-R. I also know that most of the reason I feel that way is that I equate a marvel of an automobile like this to regaining something I lost when I was 5 years old. Something I know isn’t coming back because things fall apart and there’s no fixing the things you love. But I’m grown up just enough now not to be bitter that I’ll never own a GT-R, or to lord my opinion over someone who happens to prefer an M6, or even an R8 (which I love almost as much as the GTR).

For all of you out there who love beer the way I do and those just discovering the vast wonderful world of breweries and styles, follow some rules. Dare I say it? Yeah, what the hell:

The Beer Geek’s  Manifesto

1. It’s Not Boy Scouts

Rare beers arent merit badges and just because you’ve had them doesnt make you a better or even a more knowledgeable beer drinker. Don’t get in someone’s face about Westy 12 being the greatest thing on the planet unless you can rationally explain to them why. I’m glad you’ve had a chance to try it. I haven’t. I’m sure I will at some point and look forward to it. But when you run your trap about it being so amazing simply because it’s rare and you want to lord it over everyone that you’ve tried it, we know that’s why you’re doing it. And we all think you’re a dick who doesn’t know jack shit about beer because of it.

2. The More, the Merrier.

Don’t roll your eyes at people who don’t know what IPA stands for yet. All you’re doing is taking money out of the pockets of your favorite breweries, the farmers/suppliers/distributors they work with and the stores and bars you get your super-rare limited-production brews from. No one likes a snob, especially beer drinkers—so cut that shit out.

3. There Is No Such Thing As A Bad Style of Beer.

People have been giving me shit for years because I have the temerity to be a huge fan of Abita’s Strawberry Lager. Most of these people giving me aforementioned shit have never tried this beer, and likely never will because “fruit beers suck” or they “stick to real beer”. Let me tell you asshats something: It’s not a 5,000 IBU Bourbon Barrel aged brett monster with wild yeasts floating around the bottle like sea monkeys, but it’s not a goddamn smoothie either. It’s a well made, exceptionally drinkable and refreshing beer that doesn’t make me feel like I have a brick in my gut when I’ve had 6 or 7 while BBQing. It’s a pleasant thing to have around for the month or so it’s available every year.

What I’m trying to say is that if you don’t like, let’s say, Saisons; there are two and only two reasons why. You either A) Haven’t had the right Saison yet, or B) You’ve decided you’re not going to ever like Saison beers and they can all kick rocks. If the answer is B, you need to find another hobby because being into beer is all about trying new things and keeping an open mind. Oh, and you’re an asshole who just wants to be right all the time. BTW, before anyone says “MacroLager”, we all have one we roll with. Don’t act like you don’t. Mine is Tecate.

4. A Rising Tide Lift All Ships

Don’t get in someone’s business because they don’t like your favorite brewery. Don’t refuse to try something because it doesn’t have a specific label on it. The more we support craft beer the more we’ll see of it. When I go bowling, I get pitchers of Sam Adams. Why? Well, there’s two (or five) more pitchers of Bud or Miller that their not selling. If enough of us did that everywhere, we’d have more options. The Northern VA area is a prime example. We’re seeing four or five new craft beer featuring restaurants and bars opening up this year, if not more. Don’t get pissy ’cause your friends brought you to a bar with Miller Lite, Bud, Bud Light, Heineken and Guinness on tap. Drink the damn Guinness and ask a barback if they’ve ever thought to try something new. Maybe suggest a beer or two. We’re all in the boat together.

5. Never Forget…

Abita Strawberry Lager rules and anyone who says otherwise doesn’t know a thing about limited production beer and needs to go back to their Party Ball of Coors Light with Cletus and the boys.

Just kidding: I actually wanted to see if I could encapsulate all of the things we do wrong into one sentence. I think that one works.

Actually, #5 is this: Every pint, bottle or can is not only a chance to spread the word about craft beer and all the good things that come along with it, but a chance to make a friend. What all of us geeks really need in our lives is friendship. It’s the only thing that really helps us salve whatever it was that made us how we are. We all need more friends, and more opportunities to be friendly. Take advantage.

I think we can all figure it out from here. Don’t be a snob, don’t assume others are snobs, keep opinions and tastes in perspective and have a good time. Don’t assume to know where someone’s coming from anymore than you’d have them assume about you. Let’s all have a glass or 10 and rejoice in the growing community of the Beer Geeks.

‘Til All Are One

Cheers,

Beermonger

PS: This is also being published on the 2nd Anniversary of this here Blog. I just want to say thanks to everyone out there who’s taken a moment to swing by and check it out, comment or follow me on Twitter. I am humbled everyday that anyone on the planet might give a damn what I think. So thank you.

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The Wedding Stinger

If you need a soundtrack, I’ve got a recommendation I think is fitting:

My cousin got married this past weekend (congrats again!) and the wedding had me thinking about a lot of things. The most pressing of these things being that I am old and I know this because my cousin who is six years younger than me just got married. Freaky.

The ceremony itself was very quiet and loving (until the newly minted bride & groom walked back up the aisle to AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long” that is) and was very much my cousin. Not only was she henna’d up but she and her fella read from Tolkien during the ceremony. Fitting.

It wasn’t until after the ceremony that my mind started to wander a bit. We were out in Middleburg, VA which for those of you not familiar is about an hour outside of D.C. in what’s best known as Virginia’s horse country. This part of the state is all rolling hills with the Blue Ridge Mountains on every horizon. Imagine a landlocked version of the British or Irish countrysides.

Middleburg is the first place I remember. Not too long after my first birthday, my family went out west to live with my Grandfather at his home there. My first memories are of fields and ponds and learning to fish and whiteout level snows during the winter. Days spent in the tiny town itself, with it’s modest country bakery and toy store. Festivals celebrating local history, wines and farmers. When I got to be school aged, we moved back up to Northern Virginia so I’d be enrolled in the system I’d remain in through high school graduation. But every chance I could, I’d convince my Mom to drive us out to visit Grandpa, or after I got to be of age I’d drive myself to his new place in Upperville (about 15 min. from Middleburg).

I tell you all of this because I’m trying to find the words to establish in your mind the sense of ‘home’ I feel whenever I find myself out Middleburg way. We all have a place that has its own heartstring of ours to tug. A place that makes you feel safe, calm, whole, right, wonderful and sad all at the same time. For me, Middleburg is that place.

While all of this is going on the issues of my family hang in the air like a fog. I find a table with my Grandparents, my Mother and her sisters. This would be HQ for the evening. Through a confluence of things that I don’t even want to get into, my cousin and I find ourselves related to each other on both our mother’s and father’s sides of our families. Sitting here with our mother’s side, I notice a table at the other side of the room: One middle-aged woman, three girls about my cousin’s age. I know for a fact that they are all relatives of mine on my father’s side, but I only know one name for sure. Hell, between my cousin and I we couldn’t get them all. This, mind you is after the chat I had with the father of the bride, who asked not only if I knew if my father had been invited (my cousin is smart enough not to do that) but why he hadn’t gotten an invite to my own wedding last year (honestly I never would have guessed he’d wanted to go).

I explain that I haven’t spoken to my father in a few years and how that’s made my life simpler and better; he tells me how he understands. That’s my dad’s side in a nutshell.

Not that hanging out at HQ with my Mom’s family was carefree. My wife and I can’t help but notice those at the table who were absent from our wedding. In fairness two of them were my Grandparents, neither of whom were doing well this time last year. We completely understood and had an amazing wedding, but it still stings a little as we sit and chat and imagine how much more fun we could’ve had with everyone there.

And suddenly I just want to leave. I don’t feel like having a good time or dancing. I want to hop in the car and find my Grandpa’s old home (he’s since moved further south), let myself in, sit by the bluestone fireplace in the den and go back to a time before family complications. Back when the only people I knew were my parents and my Grandfather, before I even realized I had a family. Back when the whole world was hills and valleys in a spectrum of green framed by blue mountains that were The End of the World. Before other homes, other kids, other lives.

Instead I hop outside to bum a smoke off my wife. I look out over the valley below us. The valley looks damn near the same as it did some 25 years ago at least. Standing there on that hilltop I can feel the same wind, smell the same earth I did as a boy.  My mind wanders: I know the BBQ place has shut down for the day but The Coach Stop might still be open. Then again, it is a Sunday so who knows. I still haven’t tried that new ice cream place that went in a few years back…

This could be any day I spent walking around town with my Mother. Those flowers could be sprouting up around the stone walk that lined my Grandfather’s house. That dog wandering the property could be one of an endless number of boisterous, friendly hounds and labs that neighbors seemed to have no qualms letting walk about.

It would be so easy to stay.

It would be so easy to stay. I keep thinking it to myself. All I have to do is wait everyone out; all those folks inside with their drinks and stories and convoluted messy relations who never existed until I left this place the first time. Then it could be mine again. I could disappear back into these hills I never wanted to leave in the first place and live a good, quiet life.

My wife notices some gear or another turning behind my face: “What is it?”

“I want to die out here someday” I tell her, not sure if I mean today or 50 years from now. At that moment I would have happily accepted either.

I was home.

Hate Global, Buy Local

I didn’t think I’d ever do this. I’m an eternal beer optimist. To me every flavor, every oddity has its place, has a context. I don’t sit at my computer and trash beers or brewers or breweries because at the end of the day we’re all just people trying to live our lives on this planet and there’s no point in berating someone else’s work. But I just opened a bottle of beer that pissed me off—even after I was told that it would piss me off—even after I tried to give it every chance I could.


That beer is the 2010 “Old Dominion Brewing Co” Millennium Ale.


Full disclosure: I never was a huge fan of Dominion. I always thought that their best beers were their contract beers, Tupper’s Hop Pocket in particular. When I was buying beer for Rick’s Wine & Gourmet, I’d stock plenty of Hop Pocket and when it was released Millennium as well. Millennium was never my favorite Barleywine, but I always found it enjoyable and a fine example of the style. It was nice as a Beer Geek in the DMV to be able to say that we had a local brewery that had come to be somewhat well known for craft beer styles.


When Anheuser-Busch (I’m sorry—I mean Coastal Brewing, a ‘joint venture’ between A/B and Fordham Brewing) purchased Old Dominion in 2007, myself and every customer who came by the shop could only shake our heads. Promises flew left and right about how the quality of the beer would remain unchanged; how A/B was dedicated to keeping Dominion a craft brewery and only wanted to expand the distribution possibilities. Our little local brewery was grown up and ready to hit the big time. Sure.


In August 2007 Hop Pocket was discontinued. The local legend hoppy Ale wouldn’t reappear for two and a half years. I stopped ordering OD beers (I was only really selling Hop Pocket anyway) making an exception for Millennium when it came out every year. The Old Dominion Brewfest died a quick, ignominious death (can’t promote craft beer if it’s not your craft beer I guess) and in August 2008, the brewpub itself was shut down. Brewing was moved to Fordham’s “Coastal Brewing Company” (quotes because I don’t even know what to call the place—Google “Coastal brewing company” and you’ll get Fordham’s website) in DOVER, DELAWARE.


Yes Virginia, there’s an Old Dominion Brewing Company—and it’s in freakin’ Delaware.


#1: Delaware is Dogfish country. Don’t front.


#2: This is where the insidiousness of marketing rears its ugly head. So many people try a Magic Hat or a Sierra Nevada seasonal, think they’re experts on beer, see a name like “Old Dominion” and jump on board thinking they’re supporting a local business and brewery. Old Dominion is a name being positioned by a multinational conglomerate to represent the Home of Presidents without giving one Virginian a job. If you go to a Nats game (and if you do I don’t even know what to tell you) and get a Dominion Ale on draft you’re being bamboozled. You may as well buy a goddamn Stella Artois to try to buy local—they own A/B now anyway.


So why get all worked up about it now, Nick? I’ll tell you why…this is tougher than I thought…


…Their beer sucks. There. I said it. The beer sucks. The Ale, the Lager, the friggin’ Root Beer were always middling at best, even before the outsourcing courtesy of A/B. To be fair I always enjoyed Oak Barrel Stout even though it had no right to be as good as I thought it was. Like I said, Tupper’s was always great and the New River Pale Ale was pretty good too (not my favorite, but always popular). The saving grace of Old Dominion Brewery for me was Millennium and it’s Oak Barrel Aged version.


But do me a couple favors: Go take a look at the huge towering stack of this years Millennium (gotta catch that consumer eye, gotta take as much space as possible) at your local supermarket/Total Wine/etc. Now, don’t buy the beer. That’s the first favor. What I want you to do next is take a look at the packaging. Read carefully, now: “Dominion Millennium Ale. Ale Brewed With Honey. Brewed & Bottled by Old Dominion Brewing Co, Dover DE”. The words “barley wine” are tucked away on the back label, which seems to be the only thing unchanged about this abortion.


There are hints of the beer Millennium used to be in this bottle. But what it really is now is about as Barleywine as Shock Top is a Belgian White. It’s an “Ale Brewed with Honey” all right; the front palate and finish are overwhelmingly honeyed. The feel is that of a foamy soda, with only the faintest hint of hop reminding you that yes, this is supposed to be a beer you’re drinking. Not that you’d get that from the flavor of banana chips that seems to be the thrust of the Millennium experience now. I gotta tell you, this is the part that pissed me off the most. I love banana chips, and this beer made me be angry at the flavor of them.


By the end of the bottle this fizzy mess just didn’t taste like much of anything anymore. It’s just as well, because Old Dominion Brewing doesn’t mean much of anything anymore. If you really want to support your local breweries, do it right. From Blue Mountain Brewery to Devil’s Backbone to Blue & Gray to Legend’s to Williamsburg Alewerks to Cap City and so many many more just getting started there are endless ways to support local real honest great craft beer. Ask your beer guy at the shop you frequent. Ask the bartender at the good beer bar you go to. Email writers you enjoy who live around the area. They’ll tell you what’s up.


We all want to do well by our neighbors. We all want our local businesses to succeed, because success breeds success and we can all take pride in something great that comes from our community.  If you strive to buy organic, dine sustainable or if you buy food from the local farmers’ markets in the area, the least you can do is take the time to try what your true local breweries are putting out. The A/B’s of the world can find some other podunk state to hoodwink with fake “local” beer, but not here. Not in Virginia.

Don’t buy it.


There is no Old Dominion Brewing Company.


No more Old Dominion Brewing Company.


Beermonger

Dropping the Ball

Before I get into anything, Jon Stewart rules it. Hard.

So, imagine this: You’re going into the weekend before St. Patrick’s Day. The Holy Day. You’re thinking about what you need to have in stock. What do you think of? Guinness? Of course. Everyone needs Guinness on St. Patty’s. Hell, I almost need it just to keep my sanity. Think of other Irish beers you’d see as necessities…

…Does Harp come to mind? Yes? Not a tough one to think of, is it? Then how exactly in the hell did our distributor not think to have enough Harp around to get through the goddamn holiday! That’s insane. It’s stupid. It’s dropping the goddamn ball, plain and simple.

That’s the theme of the day, folks. Dropping the ball. I’ve been doing it a lot lately. I’ve let myself become bogged down and have ignored the fun I have writing my little rants on the interwebs. Well, things are gonna change around here.

First: I will no longer be writing exclusively about beer. I am a wine lover as well, and with my job currently focusing on wine I feel like expounding upon it once in a while in ways that would get me stared at or even fired at work. So keep an eye out for posts under the the banner of Corkscrewed, as these will be wine related.

Second: I have way too many hobbies. I watch too much TV, know too much about movies and sports and annoy easily. I used to have a blog that dealt with all of these, but I feel like I should expand the Beermonger experience. Get ready to know me a little better. Protection is recommended.

Third: I really don’t mean to go away for so long. It’s just really easy to let shit get in the way. Bear with me while I sort out some stuff on the site, and then we’ll get to the fun.

–Beermonger

Youtube Clip of the Week: Why I Do What I Do

Paul F. Tompkins, we speak your name.

Here he provides the Youtube Clip of the Week, explaining the joy of being a grown-up with regards to beer.

Oops…

Ok, so apparently I waited a little too long to submit this week’s column and I missed the deadline. Oh well, it is what it is (that’s for my fiance, who has recently taken to constant vocal disdain of that phrase). But Local Kicks‘ loss is your gain, as you all get a (very) revised and uncensored version of this week’s column.
Without further ado…


The Beermonger: Mahalo, M&*%#*f*$&@^!!!

So it’s August and yet again I think about the beach. I think about vacations and relaxing and all those things that other people do. August is my most cynical month of the year: It’s been seven years since my last legitimate vacation. Seven years of hauling ass to try to pass for ‘getting by’ in Dick Cheney’s America. August is when I feel it the most. August is the last chance for escape. But with a full schedule of events and beers, there’s no hope for me yet again this year. From September on I won’t really have time to think too much about being tired or wanting a break as it’s practically a dead sprint through the holidays for those of us in retail. It’ll be one arrival or festival or tasting after another until one day I’ll wake up and it’s January 1st and I have inventory to count while massively hungover. Amid all of this daydreaming and envy comes the recent arrival of beers from Hawaii’s Kona Brewing Company.

Hawaii. Land of Spam and honey. A wild Technicolor-shirted endless summer surf dream where it’s sunny and beautiful everyday. Poi. Polynesian/Asian/American foods smashing into each other creating fascinating new flavors and dishes not to be found anywhere else in nature. Slack Key lap steel laid back wonder. Hawaiian chicks…

Aloha means Im single...

"Aloha" means "I'm single"...

So yeah, I’m stuck in the middle of the swamp that is the Mid-Atlantic wishing against wishes that I could get away and what shows up? Hawaiian beer. Someone up there is pissing on me. I figured I should try the beers, at least. Glad I did.

Kona was founded on the big island in 1994 by the father and son team of Cameron Healy and Spoon Khalsa. Their beers reflect where they’re from. They’re easy yet complex, expressing that aura of beach life that is the rush of everything important and massive in the universe being condensed into the simple chant of tides and the breeze.

Longboard Lager is smooth and refreshing—great for us as we enter the dog days of summer. It has a nice hoppiness that gives it a crispy edge. Longboard is a great beer for hanging outside or for a lawn work break. I could see it on a newspaper-covered table as my family works its way through a bushel of crabs or three. If every lager were as fine and round and clean as this one, what a world this would be. Think of all the clean feel of an Oberon or Hop Sun with the flavor of the freshest Lager you ever pulled from your dad’s cooler when he wasn’t looking.

Fire Rock Pale Ale is a “Hawaiian-style” Pale Ale that has a slightly copper color as a result of its malt addition. On top of that it has a forward but balanced hop character that satisfies the hophead without being too much for the average drinker. I’d rate the hoppiness somewhere between Sierra Nevada Pale and the new recipe Lagunitas Dogtown. In the same way that Clipper City’s Loose Cannon is a perfectly balanced IPA (even though it’s not called an IPA), Fire Rock is a perfectly balanced Pale Ale.

The beer I’ve found most interesting so far is Wailua Wheat Ale. Named for a waterfall on Maui, Wailua is a bright wheat beer that is brewed with passion fruit, giving it a slightly bitter but sweet flavor that is absolutely perfect for the summer. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Wailua Wheat; I’m pretty familiar with passion fruit and know that it’s an intense flavor that can easily be overwhelming. But the wheat seems to round out the passion fruit without the brewers having to add a cloying amount of sugar to make it work. This is the more obvious comparison to beers like Oberon, but the fruit takes it someplace else. It’s very clever and very well done.

Redhook Brewery representative Stacey Huffman will be joining me at Rick’s Wine & Gourmet this Saturday, August 9th from 12-5PM to help me introduce the Kona beers and show off Redhook’s Sunrye summer seasonal (which I haven’t tried yet but I’m a sucker for rye beers, so…). Then again, maybe you’re out of town, enjoying the summer, pool or beachside sucking down some kind of iced cocktail without a care in the world. In which case, go fuck yourself. I kid, I kid—enjoy. really.

If you’re in town, however, swing by and try some of these great Hawaiian brews with me. We’ll bitch and gripe and moan about how we all deserve a month-long vacation every year and rail against the upper class for the sport of it. Then again, I work about 10 minutes from Old Town, so maybe I’ll put a cork in the workers’ revolution. Either way, come by and check these beers out—it won’t be white sands and blue waters, but it’ll be fun anyway. Until next time.

Beermonger

p.s. This is very much the ‘Director’s Cut’ version of the column I’d originally written. This would never get published on Local Kicks. I have to admit, I had a lot more fun with this.

I know, I know…

It’s been a while. I’ve been a little busy and since it’s Monday (my day off) I’m not gonna do much about that. Sorry. Coming soon:

-Thought on the Savor experience

-New beer reviews

-Getting arrested for flicking a cigarette butt

-Memorial Day madness

In the meantime, much love and get well soon to Dick Dale. Dick is one of my all-time favorite guitar players and from every report I’ve heard an all-around amazing guy. The one-and-only King of the Surf Guitar, Dick Dale is also a licensed exotic animal handler and pyrotechnic whiz. Beat that. Recently he announced that he was battling a remission of rectal cancer, the cancer that doctors told him 40 years ago he wouldn’t be able to beat. Dale inspired Hendrix to write Third Stone From the Sun. He’s done more than 100 men’s job as far as keeping rock n’ roll alive. He sounds like no one else. Here’s to the man.

Also, we lost one of the giants, Bo Diddley. Bo passed on this morning at the age of 79. One of the first, the pioneers. A true icon, not like some who get that word thrown at them today. Bo earned his legend with is signature rhythm. I mean, do you know how badass you are when a friggin beat is named for you? The thing about Bo that always got to me was his tone. This clip says it all really: what appears to be 4 Bassman half-stacks cranked with Bo using two and “The Duchess” Norma-Jean Wofford on the other. Raw, clean but hairy. Bo’s sound had it all. Not to mention being the king of the third-person. The two songs in the vid here are “Hey, Bo Diddley” and “Bo Diddley”. He was Doug Williams before Doug Williams was Doug Williams.

Ok, that’s enough for today. Promise I’ll keep a better schedule this week.

Beermonger