Beer Birthday: Garrett Oliver

Today is Garrett Oliver’s 53rd birthday. Garrett is the head brewer at Brooklyn Brewery and has done more for the craft beer industry to promote pairing food and beer than just about any other person alive. If you haven’t picked up a copy of his book, The Brewmaster’s Table, you should definitely do so. He was also tapped to be the editor of the Oxford Companion to Beer, which came out four years ago (and which I also contributed to). He’s the best-dressed brewer in the world and a great person. Join me in wishing Garrett a very happy birthday.

Garrett and Bruce Joseph, from Anchor Brewery, at the Brewer’s Dinner before GABF a few years ago.

Tom Dalldorf, published of the Celebrator, Garrett and me share a beer at d.b.a.

Giving a cooking demonstration with beer chef Bruce Paton at GABF in 2005.

Garrett Oliver and Randy Mosher
A happy Garrett with Randy Mosher at the World Beer Cup dinner at last year’s CBC in Chicago.

Dancing with Jessica, formerly of the Brewers Association, late one night after GABF in 2004 at Falling Rock.

First Time Craft Beer Drinker’s Slow-Motion Reactions

sour-face bitter-face
This reminds me quite a lot of those BuzzFeed videos my wife and kids are always showing me of people trying different national or ethnic foods for the first time, although this one is showing the reactions of various people trying different styles of beer for the first time. Each person is shown naked (or at least as far down as we can see) and we’re also shown the style they’re trying and then their reaction is shown in slow-motion. It was created by Bierdeluxe, a German online beer store. From a main page of craft beer, there’s a picture of each person representing the broad styles from the video, which has as its title “If you’ve never tasted Craft Beer, then you’ve never tasted Beer!,” and clicking on each takes you to a page where the beers they have for sale in that style are displayed for purchase. It’s an oddly effective way to shop, if a little weird on several levels, but it’s also kind of funny, displaying that German knack for knowing what’s funny and/or odd but still not being able to work out which one it really is in the end.

The Beer Barrel Polka

76 years ago today one of the most well-known polkas, and songs about beer, The Beer Barrel Polka, reached #1 on the Billboard Pop Music Chart in 1939. It was actually written in 1927, by Czech composer Jaromír Vejvoda. It was originally an instrumental known as the Modřanská polka (“Polka of Modřany”), but in 1939, German accordionist Will Glahé renamed it “The Beer Barrel Polka” and it was his 1939 version that made it the memorable song that is still played today. After World War II, Glahé was known in America as the “Polka King.” The English lyrics were later written by Lew Brown and Wladimir Timm, both Tin Pan Alley lyricists. The song was subsequently recorded by many other bands and singers. Musicians such as the Andrews Sisters, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, Benny Goodman, Billie Holiday, Liberace, the Marx Brothers, Bobby Vinton and Frankie Yankovic did their own versions, too, making it a mainstay at dances and weddings to this day.


I was unaware of this local connection, but according to Wikipedia:

At San Jose Giants home games, a batter from the opposing team is designated the “beer batter.” If the San Jose pitcher strikes out that batter, beer is half price in the beer only lines for the 15 minutes immediately following the strike out. The beer batter promotion is in effect only for the first six innings of the game. The PA system plays Beer Barrel Polka whenever the beer batter comes to the plate and after every strike during the beer batter’s at-bat (through the first six innings). After the sixth inning, the beer batter becomes the apple juice batter and if he strikes out, fans get half-priced Martinelli’s apple juice.

So here is the original version that made it a hit, as performed by Will Glahé:

Will Glahe and his orchestra in 1935, before the Beer Barrel Polka made him famous.

Beer Birthday: Sam Calagione

Today is Sam Calagione’s 46th birthday. Sam is the owner and marketing genius behind Delaware’s successful Dogfish Head Brewing. Sam’s also a great guy, and a (former?) rap singer of sorts, with his duo (along with his former head brewer Bryan Selders) the Pain Relievaz. See the bottom of this post for a couple videos of him singing after hours at Pike Brewery during the Craft Brewers Conference when it was held in Seattle. Join me in wishing Sam a very happy birthday.

Sam gives the thumbs up behind his booth at the Great American Beer Festival a few years ago.

Hosts Ken Grossman & Sam Calagione
With Ken Grossman at a Life & Limb collaboration beer dinner.

Kite & Key co-owner Jim Kirk and me with Sam Calagione, Bill Covaleski & Greg Koch
Kite & Key co-owner Jim Kirk and me with Sam, Bill Covaleski & Greg Koch.

Sam Calagione @ Rare Beer Tasting
Sam at the Rare Beer Tasting at Wynkoop during GABF 2009.

Rapping at Pike Place in Seattle in 2006.

This first video is “I Got Busy with an A-B Salesgirl,” the Pain Relievaz’ first hit single.

The second video is “West Coast Poseurs,” a smackdown to the hoppy West Coast beer and brewers.

Star Wars Downunder: The Good, The Bad & The Thirsty

For some reason I really got caught up in the hoopla of Star Wars Day today. But what about beer and Star Wars, you might ask? Believe it or not, I found something. It’s an interesting fan film made in Australia, entitled Star Wars Downunder. It’s shot in 35mm and took 10 years to make, directed and co-written by Michael Cox. And because it’s Australian, it’s also about beer. The creators describe it by asking “what would happen if you crossed Star Wars with an Australian beer commercial?” And their answer was “Star Wars Downunder: an epic tale of the good the bad and the thirsty, described as “half an hour of action, special effects and lovable Aussie larakins.” On the film’s website, they recount the plot as follows:

The film tells the story of a lone Jedi: Merve Bushwacker (David Nicoll), returning home after a long absence. His mission? To partake in a refreshing beverage, known locally as amber fluid. On his arrival, he is dismayed to discover the planet has become as dry as a dead dingo′s donger, thanks to the tyrannical rule of Darth Drongo. Drongo has hoarded all the amber fluid in his impenetrable fortress “Dunny’s Deep” for reasons unknown. Can Merve, and a motley collection of unlikely allies band together to topple Drongo’s evil regime? Will liberty and amber fluid flow freely once more?

As many reporting on the film lament, there’s no scene in which the character says: “That’s not a loightsabah! THAT’S a loightsabah!” And while that would have been hilarious, there are, however, lightsaber boomerangs, because … well, why wouldn’t there be? Here’s the trailer:

Star Wars Downunder Trailer from Michael Cox on Vimeo.


Intrigued? You’re in luck, because you can watch the entire 30-minute film on YouTube, or below.

Crosby Hop Farms

With the Craft Brewers Conference in Portland just a couple of weeks away, I’ve been receiving numerous e-mails from vendors who will be at the trade show. It happens every year. Some are of no interest whatsoever, while others are fun to see. For example, this morning one came in from Crosby Hop Farms, an Oregon hop grower. They’re doing an open house Wednesday night at the farm, which could be fun. But the e-mail included a link to a video they created about their company. No matter how many times I visit a hop farm, it’s always a spectacular sight.

This is the next best thing to being there. I think I may have to go to this one. You can also see more about the farm at Craft Brewing Business with these two stories: Hip hops: Craft beer’s impact on a growing industry and A Hop Farmer’s Diary: 30 days in the life of Oregon’s Crosby Hop Farm.


The Equinox: Day, Night & A Beer

Today, of course, is the Vernal Equinox, the first day of Spring for those of us on the northern side of the equator, and the beginning of Autumn for our southerly brethren. It’s also a day when we have roughly equal amounts of day and night.

People around the world have celebrated the equinox for millennia in an amazing array of ways. Back in the early days of Lagunitas Brewing, their celebration manifested itself, as you’d expect, in a beer they called Equinox. Launched originally in 1995, it quietly went away in the early 2000s, when they were working both day and night and it probably seemed like stopping to mark the middle of that made no sense. But this year, on the Equinox, they decided to bring back Lagunitas Equinox, though in a slightly altered package and recipe. It’s still a “pale oat ale,” but it’s a bit stronger now, at 8.4% abv (it was 6.4% before). It’s also again in 22 oz. bottles and kegs.


Lagunitas describes the beer as “a creamy, pale oat ale hopped up with a huge charge of Equinox and Simcoe hops for a piney, eucalyptusy, cedary, sprucey, foresty blast.” And Tony’s label notes make for some challenging reading.

Qan you imagine a world without Beer? Everything ewe gnoe would be different. Phish might phly, aaugs might uze power touls. Pfriedae nights mite be spent building treez out of the day after tomorrow’s pstale sour greem and cheaze leavings. And then theirft bea the speling iszuues. Thingss wood bee just plane wierd, eye meene weird. Come two thing of Itt, Eye think aya cool stand begin a kid bit hapier write gnaw… (glug, glug, glug… gulp.) Mmm, aaht Once again all Is right with the world, the fish are in their ocean, the dog will not maim me, I’ll have a date for Friday night, and I know for sure that in fact God loves me. Beer. You only borrow it. Kawl us!

They also created a pretty trippy one-minute video showing a split-screen journey of the beer during both day and night simultaneously.

Time-Lapse Views Of The Double IPA Fest

This is pretty cool. A friend of Bistro owner Vic Kralj, by the name of Graham Richards, is doing a documentary on the Bistro, and shot some time-lapse videos of the Double IPA Fest yesterday. Vic was kind enough to send me three of the short time-lapse films. The first shows the festival being set up hours before opening the doors to people so they can sample nearly 100 double and triple IPAs. The second shows people queuing in line to purchase a glass and sample tickets to the festival during one of the periods of time when it was raining fairly hard. Luckily, it only drizzled or was clear most of the day. The third shows the festival down at the other end of the block, toward the back of area of the street where the festival was held. Enjoy.

No. 1: Setup of the Fest in the morning.

No. 2: The festival opens while it’s started raining hard, but people .

No. 3: A little later in the morning, after the rain had subsided, and showing the back of the festival area.

Happy Burns Night

Tonight, many fans of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, will celebrate Burns Night with a meal of Haggis, Scotch Whisky and a night of poetry reading. Though Burns was apparently a whisky drinker, I feel confident saying he probably also drank beer and there are plenty of ways you could incorporate beer and whisky into your evening. I nominate for your poetry recitation, Burns’ version of the popular folksong John Barleycorn, which is believed to have originated sometime in the 16th century. Burns wrote his in 1782, and because of his fame, is one the most oft quoted versions. Here’s how I summarized it in a post about John Barleycorn a few years ago:

Primarily an allegorical story of death, resurrection and drinking, the main character—the eponymous John Barleycorn—is the personification of barley who is attacked and made to suffer indignities and eventually death. These correspond roughly to the stages of barley growing and cultivation, like reaping and malting. Some scholars see the story as pagan, representing the ideology of the cycles of nature, spirits and the pagan harvest, and possibly even human sacrifice. After John Barleycorn’s death, he is resurrected as beer, bread and whisky. Some have also compared it to the Christian transubstantiation, since his body is eaten as bread and drank as beer.


John Barleycorn

There were three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
An’ they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.

They took a plough and ploughed him down,
Put clods upon his head;
An’ they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.

But the cheerfu’ spring came kindly on,
And show’rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surprised them all.

The sultry suns of summer came,
And he grew thick and strong;
His head weel armed wi’ pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.

The sober autumn entered mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bending joints and drooping head
Showed he began to fail.

His colour sickened more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.

They’ve ta’en a weapon long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
Then tied him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.

They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgelled him full sore;
They hung him up before the storm,
And turned him o’er and o’er.

They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim;
They heaved in John Barleycorn,
There let him sink or swim.

They laid him out upon the floor,
To work him farther woe,
And still, as signs of life appeared,
They tossed him to and fro.

They wasted, o’er a scorching flame,
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller used him worst of all,
For he crushed him ‘tween two stones.

And they hae ta’en his very heart’s blood,
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.

John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
‘Twill make your courage rise;

‘Twill make a man forget his woe;
‘Twill heighten all his joy:
‘Twill make the widow’s heart to sing,
Tho’ the tear were in her eye.

Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne’er fail in old Scotland!

Here’s an analysis of the poem, and below is a video of the Scottish St. Andrews Society of Greater St. Louis‘ Burns Night in 2011 and the recitation of John Barleycorn by an Allan Stewart.

And although it has little to do with Burns Night, I still love the version sung by the band Traffic, with frontman Steve Winwood, which appeared on their 1970 album John Barleycorn Must Die.