Tag Archives: Rants

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.

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Weekend Tastings and the Joy of Gov’t. Regulation

So I was trying to get this stuff posted last night, but I had some issues with our internet…

I’ll be doing a rare Friday Night Tasting May 9th from 5-8 PM. I’ll be pouring the Gouden Carolus Grand Cru Van De Kaiser from 2000, 2004 and 2007.

This is going to be something of a ‘make-up’ tasting since I was trying to do this one a couple of weeks ago, but that got nixed when the ’00 and ’04 didn’t show from my distributor. This led to me getting far more worked up than the situation deserved and got me in a little hot water with the distributor that I get the beer from. You see, in the Commonwealth of Virginia, we have what’s known in the business as a “three-tier system”. That means in order for you, the consumer, to purchase a sixer of beer there has to be an entity that imports the beer into the state, buying it directly from the producer. After that they distribute the beer, meaning they sell it to retailers and restaurants. After these middle-men and the government get their cut of money and taxes they deign to allow the average citizen to purchase the product they wish to buy.

As I understand it, this system came to be after the repeal of Prohibition. Essentially, it is an alcohol tax without actually having an alcohol tax. On its own I don’t necessarily have much of an issue with the system except for it seeming awful Puritanical and greedy. But then again, this is America and the Commonwealth of Virginia to boot, so…

My real issue is that distributors purchase “rights” to sell certain beers within certain areas of the state, or for the entire state itself. As a business practice, this is done to ensure that, say, two distributors who handle Sam Adams don’t undercut each other in the same marketplace. Although where the damn problem with that is is beyond me. You see, in practice these Rights create little monopolies, wherein the restaurant or retailer (such as yours truly) is forced to buy a product from a certain company regardless of their pricing or regard for their customers. If you guessed this is a snapshot of the situation I ran into a couple weeks ago, you are correct.

I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to spend the vast majority of my (not nearly as big as it could be) budget on product from one company, only to have the beer I need, that I’ve promised my customers that I would have, sent to some other shop hours away because (are you ready?) they took their delivery sooner. No one gave me the heads up that “Hey, other guys want this stuff, maybe you should take the delivery early”. No. Just sent it out and scolded me like I’m supposed to know.

But that’s what comes along with “Rights” in the three-tier system. You get the right to sell a certain breweries products and with that you get the right to do pretty much whatever you feel like with it. It’s great for them: they can go ahead and not worry about people skills or customer service when hiring, because it doesn’t matter! The customer has no choice but to give their money to the distributor! I could call in an order and they could go ahead and say “Go fuck yourself” and I’d still have to pay them if I wanted to have the stuff in stock that I need to compete with every goddamn chain and big-box store trying to put guys like me out of work!

I’m using this situation as an example: The distributor and I have both said what we wanted to say to each other, and I’m ordering as usual. Really, what choice do I have? It’s not like they have competition. My rep from them and I are cool; I’ve known the guy for a while and it wasn’t all his fault. Bygones and all that stuff you need to say so that people don’t think you’re an uppity retail guy who thinks he’s more important than he is. Trust me, dealing with distributors on a daily basis lets you know exactly how important you are. All I want to say is that there is a word that my mom uses way too often: asinine. It’s not that she uses it too often because it doesn’t apply; she uses it too often because there’s so much in this world that is against all common sense that it seems a shame to throw around such a great descriptor.

The three-tier system and the distributor “Rights” monopolies are asinine. I wish I had a widget that you could click and hear my mom say the word just so you get an idea of how it feels. Asinine.


Anyway, Saturday I’ll be pouring from 12-5 PM as usual. I’ve got Weyerbacher Muse (a cool Belgian-style Saison), Rogue Mom Hefeweizen, the new Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale and Dogfish Head Immort Ale.

Come by if you’re in the hood. Until next time.

Cheers,

Beermonger