Regular readers of the Bulletin know my feelings about low-calorie light diet beer, so this poster by Lucky Bucket Brewing in Nebraska gave me quite a chuckle. “We didn’t repeal Prohibition so we could drink light beer.” Amen, brother. Truer words were never spoken. Happy Repeal Day, everybody.
Reuters TV has a lengthy interview with Boston Beer Co. founder Jim Koch, conducted by Robert Wolf, who is “an outsider advisor to President Obama,” on the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The interview, part of the “Impact Players” series, is business-focused, but they also discuss the present state of the beer industry and Koch’s history and background. It runs just under half an hour. Enjoy.
Here’s an interesting historical piece, from 1819-20. It was a four-volume set of books known as “Remarkable Persons,” though its full title was “Portraits, Memoirs, and Characters of Remarkable Persons From the Revolution in 1688 to the End of the Reign of King George II” and was subtitled “Collected from the most authentic accounts extant.” The full collection is available digitally at the Villanova University’s Farley Memorial Library, who describes the work as follows:
This collection contains the four volumes of: Portaits, memoirs, and characters, of remarkable persons: from the revolution in 1688 to the end of the reign of George II collected from the most authentic accounts extant by James Caulfield. “Caulfield’s ‘remarkable characters’ are persons famous for their eccentricity, immorality, dishonesty, and so forth.” — Dict. nat. biog. This work contains 155 engraved plates including work by engravers: George Cruikshank, W. Maddocks, Henry B. Cook, Robert Graves, and Gerard van der Gucht.
Another sources claims that it was a “collection of portraits and stories about the eccentrics of Britain in the 18th century by James Caulfield was issued by subscription in 1819 and 1820 to great success. It promised to satisfy the public fascination with ‘true stories’ about exceptional feats, physical peculiarities and notorious acts. The extent to which it actually contained ‘true stories’ is a matter for conjecture.” The one that caught my eye was a 19th century publican.
Plate 19 in Volume 3 depicts “Cornelius Caton, (Of the White Lion Richmond),” followed by his story on pages 173 through 175. Here’s his colorful story:
This little whimsical publican, having passed through the several gradations of pot-boy, , helper in the stables, and other menial offices attached to a public inn, at length rose to the important place of principal waiter: being of a complaisant temper, and possessing a species of low wit and pleasantry, he rendered himself so acceptable to the humour of the different guests which frequented the house, as to derive considerable perquisites from his ready desire to serve and accomodate the various description of persons whom business or pleasure drew to the place.
Caton carefully treasured up the money he obtained from time to time; until he had saved a sufficient sum to enable him to take the White-Lion public-house, at Richmond, in Surrey. The drollery of the landlord brought him considerable custom, which his attention to business so far improved as to make his house the most frequented of any in Richmond; and he became a general favourite with most of the inhabitants.
In person, he was one of the most grotesque appearance; and might have gained a livelihood bu exhibiting himself as a dwarf; this, joined with a certain oddity of manner, rendered him so conspicuous a character, as to bring him into great notice; and Cornelius Caton, and his house, found visitors from most parts of the adjacent villages in the neighbourhood.
He was well known to many persons in London; and, among others, George Bickham, the engraver, who deemed him of sufficient importance to speculate on engraving and publishing his portrait. This did not tend to diminish the number of Caton’s friends: and many have made a journey from town to Richmond, merely from curiosity of seeing the landlord of the White Lion.
A few years since, an equally singular personage, named Davis, a true son of Sir John Barleycorn, kept the Load-of-Hay public-house, on Haverstock-hill, near Hampstead; the eccentricity of whose personal appearance brought a considerable number of persons, particularly on a Sunday afternoon, and made the house a place of great trade.
Cornelius Caton was living at the time of his present majesty’s ascension to the throne, but the print of him was engraved in the reign of King George the Second.
You can see the original pages at Villanova digitalLibrary. Click on Volume 3 and scroll down to just before page 173, which is Plate 19.
Two weeks ago I flew to San Diego to take part in a fun tasting of all the Vertical Epics from Stone Brewing. The event was Livecast, but if pacing that was described as just below the excitement level of watching paint dry is not your idea of a fun way to spend a couple of hours, you’ll be happy to learn that it’s also been distilled down to a 4 and a half minute video.
For those of us who were there, of course, it was anything but dull, and trying all eleven of the beers was a rare treat. None were completely off or undrinkable, remarkable in and of itself, though as you’d expect a few had started showing their age. Both 02.02.02 (a Witbier) and 03.03.03 (a Belgian Strong Dark Ale) had started to show some papery, sherry-like notes from oxidation. Given that a witbier is not a beer you think of for aging, it was perhaps most surprising, not that it was oxidized, but that it was still drinkable at all. The 03.03.03 — a more personal one for me, since March 3 is my birthday — had the more desirable aged characteristics you might expect in a strong (8.5%) Belgian-style beer. The 04.04.04 (a Belgian Strong Pale Ale) aged a little better but was unremarkable to me, just a decent strong beer starting to show some complexity, though I must say it was surprising that the kaffir lime was still evident in the flavors, among other yeasty notes.
05.05.05 (another Belgian Strong Dark Ale) on the other hand, was the star of the show. An everlasting gobstopper of a beer, it had complexity to spare and kept changing considerably as it warmed. It was just a beautiful beer that showed the unmistakeable benefits of aging. The first four were all done by Lee Chase, who was Stone’s head brewing during that time period.
06.06.06 (also a Belgian Strong Dark Ale) was the first one done by Mitch Steele, who’s been the head brewer at Stone since that year. It was a close second to the previous year, and was made with the same yeast. It was almost as complex and was certainly very tasty so it’s hard to put into words exactly why I found the 05.05.05 preferable. They were both great beers, aged beautifully, but the older one just seemed to have more layers and was ultimately more of a joy to drink.
The 07.07.07 (a sort of mix between a Saison and a Tripel) was one I was also hoping to really enjoy, since it’s also my daughter Alice’s birthday every July 7th and so I have several bottles squirreled away until she turns 21, which won’t be until 2025. I don’t think the beer will make it that far, though it’s still tasting pretty good right now. The spices — ginger, cardamom and a “blend of grapefruit, lemon and orange peel — are still there, especially the ginger, were soft and round, making it a fun one to drink, even though I’m not sure I could finish a pint of it. But give me a snifter of it, and I could comfortably sip on this one with my daughter.
Next, Stone tried a Belgian IPA with 08.08.08, which was essentially a “Strong Golden Belgian style ale highly hopped with American hops (Ahtanum, Amarillo and Simcoe).” As you’d expect, the hops had begun to hide in the folds, but what was more surprising was how bright they still were, actually. My memory of this beer when it was fresh (always a dangerous assumption to make) was that they were over the top, so that my impression is that their mellowing with age has had a positive effect on the beer today, though I shouldn’t think it should be aged much longer, if you happen to still have an unopened bottle of this beer.
For the 09.09.09, they finally went dark, with an Imperial Belgian Porter brewed with vanilla beans and aged on French oak chips. Though to be fair, the color wasn’t particularly Porterish, more of a dark copper or mahogany. But it was the vanilla that really spoke loudly in this beer, though I must confess I’m particularly sensitive to vanilla so a very little goes a long way for me. The 10.10.10 (a Strong Belgian Golden Ale with chamomile and mostly Muscat grapes) was an unusual beer. The grape character was definitely evident, but seemed more to mirror a beer aged in wine barrels rather than one that had grapes added during fermentation. Perhaps that what the aging had done to their character. But it was still a nice beer, with interesting notes, although it wasn’t one of my favorites of the group. I’d like to try it again in a few more years.
Last year’s Vertical Epic was spiced with Hatch green chiles. Though I’m not at all a fan of chili beers, the 11.11.11 was one of the best two chili beers I’ve had (the other was at a New Mexico brewpub). That being said, it still is not my cup of tea, so it’s hard to judge this beer objectively since it grabs hold of my taste buds, wrestles them to the ground and all but ruins me for the next few hours. I’m also a spice wuss, it must be said. So no matter how you slice it, this beer is not for me, no matter how good is seems to be.
The new release, 12.12.12, is obviously not an aged beer so we’re tasting the only fresh beer of the bunch. The aromas remind one more of a Christmas beer or winter warmer, with spices like cinnamon, allspice and nutmeg along with banana and clove notes from the yeast. It’s a melange of wonderful smells and tastes, and seems best fresh right now, as I suspect that these spices will drop out over time. If you’re not a fan of big, spicy Christmas beers that may be a positive for you, so how long you want to age this beer is probably directly proportional to how much you enjoy holiday spices in your beer. If you love them, drink it now. Don’t wait, the world may be over in a couple of weeks. You never know.
A big thanks to Greg Koch, Mitch Steele and Brandon Hernandez for allowing me to be a part of this epic tasting. For Mitch’s tasting notes on these beers, see the Final Chapter and all of the homebrew recipes (except for 12.12.12) along with tasting notes from previous tastings can also be found at the Stone Vertical Epic Ale page.