Today is the 41st birthday of Matt Bonney, formerly of Brouwer’s and Bottleworks, both in Seattle, Washington, and now proprietor of Toronado Seattle. Bonney’s one of my favorite people in the industry. You’d be hard-pressed to find a person more passionate about good beer. He also knows how to throw a party and is always a gracious host. He does still need some work on his Washoe playing, but I’ll let that slide. Join me in wishing Bonney a very happy birthday.
Today is the 70th birthday of Charles Finkel, one of the pioneers of the better beer movement. He founded Merchant du Vin in 1978, the company responsible for importing a number of word-class beers to the U.S., including a a few favorites of mind: Traquair, Ayinger, Westmalle, Rochefort and Orval. He also started the Seattle brewpub, Pike Brewing , in 1989, where Fal Allen was head brewer there from 1990-96. I first met Charlie around 1996 during a visit to Seattle. The following year, the Finkels sold both Pike Brewing and Merchant du Vin. In 2006, they bought back Pike Brewing. In Chicago for CBC a couple of years ago, I was fortunate enough to spend an evening out and about town with the Finkels, and recently I wrote a profile of them for Beer Connoisseur. Charlie and his wife Rose Ann are some of my favorite people in the industry. Join me in wishing Charlie a very happy birthday.
Charlie at CBC in Chicago a few years ago, with Mark Blasingame, owner of the Map Room.
Today is Dave Buhler’s 55th birthday. Ironically, like Dick Cantwell, whose birthday was yesterday, Dave is also a co-owner of Elysian Brewing in Seattle, Washington. Join me in wishing Dave a very happy birthday.
Dave and Celebrator publisher Tom Dalldorf (at right). Neither Tom or I could identify the fellow in the middle, sorry about that. Can anybody help me out and tell me who that is?
Today is Dick Cantwell’s 56th birthday. He’s the head brewer and co-owner of Elysian Brewing in Seattle, Washington, and the co-author of Barley Wine. In addition to brewing, Dick’s a great writer, too, and his work frequently appears in numerous beer magazines. He’s also on the BA’s board of directors and heads both the Communications and Pipeline committees. More recently, he’s moved to San Francisco, and spends part of his time in our fair city. Join me in wishing Dick a very happy birthday.
Award-winning Portland beer writer Lisa Morrison and Dick at an Elysian event during OBF.
Wednesday’s ad is Rainier Beer, from the Seattle Brewing & Malting Co. Like the other Rainier ad I’ve featured, For Pure Drink, it’s from the early years of the 20th century, probably in the first decade. It’s a simple ad showing a beautiful woman holding up a dainty glass of beer while leaning on a giant bottle of Rainier. And I love the message, which would be illegal in a beer ad today; “There’s New Vigor and Strength in Every Drop.”
- 1st Place: Angel’s Share Bourbon ’11; Lost Abbey
- 2nd Place: Abacus ’11; Firestone Walker Brewing
- 3rd Place: Old Birdbrain ’10; Black Raven Brewing
Congratulations to all the winners. (And special thanks to Sean Paxton, the Homebrew Chef, for sending me the results since I couldn’t be there this year.)
- 1st Place: Old Sebastes; Anacortes Brewery
- 2nd Place: Anderson Valley Horn of the Bear ’09; Anderson Valley Brewing
- 3rd Place: Old Woody; Glacier Brewhouse
Congratulations to all the winners.
An alert reader just forwarded me this (thanks Shaun). Today, a Starbucks coffee shop in Seattle, Washington, is test-marketing a new menu item: beer. According to an AP story the Starbucks on East Olive Way “reopened Monday [and] is the first under the Starbucks brand to offer alcohol.” The AP story continues with the following. “Craft beer and local wines go on sale after 4 p.m. The idea is to offer drinks and a wider variety of savory food that will attract customers after the morning espresso rush.”
USA Today has a fuller story about how and why the chain is testing beer, wine, cheese and other foods. Their pronouncement is that the “Starbucks of the future arrived today.” They speculate that if successful, this new model could become “the prototype for the next generation of stores for one of the world’s most influential brands.” Here’s how they describe the new look of the renovated Starbucks.
A very different kind of Starbucks is on tap. It will serve regional wine and beer. It offers an expansive plate of locally made cheeses — served on china. The barista bar is rebuilt to seat customers up close to the coffee.
Most conspicuously, the place looks less like a Starbucks and more like a cafe that’s been part of the neighborhood for years — yet that’s “green” in design and decor. This is the calling card of independent java joints that have been eating and sipping away at Starbucks’ evening business for decades. U.S. Starbucks stores get 70% of business before 2 p.m.
The corporate eyes of Starbucks — and the nation’s ultracompetitive, $15 billion chain coffee business — are laser-focused on this Starbucks store on Olive Way in Seattle’s bustling Capitol Hill area. The 10-year-old location was closed for three months to be revamped into a Starbucks that may not look or sound like any Starbucks you know. But if this location is a hit, some version of it may eventually come to a Starbucks near you.
Inside, the floor is stripped to highly polished concrete. Some of the chairs were salvaged from the University of Washington campus. Empty burlap sacks — once used to transport Starbucks coffee beans — hang from the walls. And an oversized table — designed for customers to share — is made from flooring salvaged from a local high school.
There’s also a video of the new Starbucks’ project to sell both beer and wine.
On Saturday, the 8th annual Hard Liver Barleywine Fest began at Brouwer’s Cafe in Seattle, Washington. People started queuing in line at 9:00 a.m. for the eleven o’clock opening and the line ran up Phinney almost to 36th Street. There were 50 different barley wines and 12 more different vintages for a total of 62 available beers to sample.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, this has become one of my favorite niche festivals. Brouwer’s is doing a great job with this barley wine festival and it continues to grow each year with more beers and greater attendance. What many people don’t realize is that it’s not just Saturday, but will continue through the entire next week, until all the barley wines run out. So don’t think you missed it, there’s still time to check out most of the barley wines, which are listed below.
Below is a slideshow of the 2010 Hard Liver Barleywine Fest. This Flickr gallery is best viewed in full screen. To view it that way, after clicking on the arrow in the center to start the slideshow, click on the button on the bottom right with the four arrows pointing outward on it, to see the photos in glorious full screen. Once in full screen slideshow mode, click on “Show Info” to identify each photo.
Barley Wines Available
2009 vintage unless otherwise noted
Bold = Winners / Italics = Reached Final Round
- Alaskan Big Nugget 2008, 09
- Anacortes Old Sebastes [3rd Place Winner]
- Anchor Old Foghorn
- Anderson Valley Horn of the Beer
- Avery Hog Heaven 2006, 09
- Beer Valley Highway to Ale
- Big Sky Old Blue Hair 2008, 10 [2nd Place Winner, 2008]
- Black Raven Old Birdbrain
- Boulder Beer Killer Penguin
- Boundary Old Boundary
- Deschutes Mirror Mirror
- Dicks 2005
- Dogfish Head Olde School 2008
- Elliot Bay Pro-Am
- Elysian Cyclops 2008, 09, 10
- Firestone Walker Abacus [Honorable Mention]
- Flying Dog Horn Dog 2008, 09
- Full Sail Old Boardhead 2008
- Glacier Brewhouse Old Woody [1st Place Winner]
- Great Divide Old Ruffian Barley 2008, 09
- Green Flash
- Hair of the Dog Doggie Claws
- Hales Rudyards Rare 2007
- Hood Canal Breidablik
- HUB Noggin Floggin
- Lagunitas Olde Gnarleywine 2008
- Left Hand Widdershins 2008
- Lost Abbey Angel’s Share Bourbon
- Lost Abbey Angel’s Share Brandy 2008
- Lost Coast Fogcutter
- Mad River John Barleycorn
- Moylans Old Blarney
- Ninkasi Critical Hit
- North Coast Old Stock Ale 2007, 09
- Pike Old Bawdy 2006, 07, 08, 09
- Port Townsend Barleywine 2007
- Port Townsend Barleywine Wood Firkin
- Ram Mallwalker
- Redhook Treblehook
- Rogue Old Crustacean XS 2008, 09
- Scuttlebutt Old #1 Barleywine
- Sierra Nevada Bigfoot 1996, 2009
- Speakeasy Old Godfather
- Stone Old Guardian 2010
- Three Skulls Barleywine
- Victory Old Horizontal
I woke up again in Seattle, my second day here. Yesterday I helped to choose the winners of the Hard Liver Barleywine Fest at Brouwer’s Cafe. It’s the eighth year of the festival and it’s really grown into an impressive event in the several years I’ve been coming up for it.
But the weekend has got me thinking, not about barley wines, but tasting in general. At these types of festivals, people often try to taste every offering — in small quantities of course — of some very big beers. You see it at the Toronado Barleywine Festival and you see if at Brouwer’s Hard Liver, where this year 50 barley wines will be judged and something like 62 or 66 will be served, owing to multiple vintages of the same beers.
And as impressive as that is, it’s today that has me worried. Each Sunday, the day after the Hard Liver Fest, Matt Bonney hosts, with his business partner Matt Vandenberghe (a.k.a. Vern) and a cast of characters, the private, invitation-only Keene Tasting, named for Dave Keene, who owns the Toronado in San Francisco. With Dr. Bill now working at Stone and no longer doing as many of his legendary tastings, the Keene Tasting is one of the few that follow the format Dr. Bill (at least as far as I know) pioneered.
It’s a simple, if punishing format, where a new beer is opened roughly every five minutes over a period of several hours. So while you never get a large portion of any single beer, you do ultimately taste a lot of different beers. Still, it adds up. There are snack breaks and a lunch break, and those that stick with it can expect to be there eleven or twelve hours. Like many other types of marathons, very few actually reach the finish line, tasting every single beer.
The year before, I only made it half-way, and dropped out at beer 75, owing to getting very, very sick — not from the beer, just a feverish flu — which I detailed then in Pride Goeth Before A Fall. And that brings me to my point. We all have our limits, and it’s not only good to know them, but also pay them heed.
There are, of course, myriad ways to taste from settling in to drink only one beer, exploring it thoroughly from start to finish, lingering over it as it changes when it warms, really letting it sink in to the very opposite, tasting as many beers as possible, very quickly, and everything in between. Generally, when judging beers in competition, you want no more than nine or ten in a flight and 30 or less for a single session. But that’s just one legitimate way in which beer can be sampled. That may be too many at a time for some people and too few for others.
I know there are people critical of the rapid fire Dr. Bill-style tasting, but I’m not. Is it my favorite way to sample beer? Not necessarily, but it is still quite enjoyable and while you can’t linger over every single beer, you can get a sense of it all the same. There’s a Danish proverb, “better thin beer than an empty jug.” And that’s the rub. I still prefer the opportunity to sample some truly rare beers, even if not under the most ideal circumstances, than not at all. So yes, I’m a relativist when it comes to the marathon tasting but I’m just fine with that. The important thing is to have a good time and know when to walk away. I already know there will be some spectacular beers poured later today and I’m looking forward to giving it another go. Will I make it to the end? Probably not. But that’s okay, there’s no shame in that as far as I’m concerned.
In the words of the immortal Kenny Rogers, equally applicable to drinking as gambling. “You got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, know when to walk away and know when to run.” With any luck, I’ll know when to fold and can walk away. Stay tuned for details.
Below is a slideshow of the 2009 Keene Tasting. This Flickr gallery is best viewed in full screen. To view it that way, after clicking on the arrow in the center to start the slideshow, click on the button on the bottom right with the four arrows pointing outward on it, to see the photos in glorious full screen. Once in full screen slideshow mode, click on “Show Info” to identify each photo.