Friday, August 30, 2013

Setting the Standard

We at drinkdrank strive for powerful and evocative beer journalism. We pride ourselves on our efforts to bring our readers the highest level of reporting on the issues of the utmost importance. While other blogs may pander to the lowest common denominator, drinkdrank covers only those stories truly relevant to the brewing industry, its history, culture and consumers. This is an ongoing commitment to our readers, and we aim to be the bench mark by which beer writing and reporting is judged by.

With that, drinkdrank is very pleased to present:

The Top 5 Beers Preferred By Cheating Men 

5. Budweiser 
4. San Miguel
3. Peroni
2. Corona
1. Guinness

As reported on the Huffington Post, the U.K-based, pro-cheating website Illicit Encounters has surveyed its adulterous members, and reveled that Guinness, a beer oft-referred to as "good for you" is on the top of the list, for those most likely to be unfaithful. The group has also found that generally, the seditious-minded have a tendency to drink less than their more loyal counterparts.

What more needs to be said?  

Hard. Hitting. Journalism.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Albany Ale: The Box at the End of the Bar (a.k.a A Tale of Two Cities)

If you follow Alan's blog (and I know you do), you may have noticed that he and his family are on a cross-New England trek. Since Albany is the gateway to New England (I just made that epithet up) we got to spend a little time with my Canadian partner-in-crime, and his brood, last weekend.

The time spent was breakfast-time, at Wolf's Biergarten, in North Albany. I've been to Wolf's quite a number of times, but never for breakfast, and boy was that a mistake. It was fantastic! It was pancakes—raspberry, German Chocolate, apple— for the kids and wives, while Alan and I both went for the Liberkase leberkäse—a sort of meatloaf meets a sausage patty, served on a kaiser roll, topped with a fried egg and potato pancakes on the side. Coffee and juice, all around as well. The b-gartens' TVs showed British Premier League soccer to all the patrons delight.—although I suppose the level of delight depended on if your team was winning, or not. The morning was highlighted by a half-liter of Weihenstephaner Fresh Hops Finest—perhaps the best beer I've had all summer—and something special, at the end of the bar.

Mid-feast, I sauntered to the bar for my 72nd cup of coffee and spied that something special. That something, specifically, was a wooden box that had most likely been ignored by the, literally, thousands of previous visitors to Wolf's. But to this beer/history geek, it was more than interesting. The greyish, wooden box, full of various and sundry of restaurant related items, sat snuggled nestled to the coffee pots. The box advertised, albeit a tad weathered, FEIGENSPAN, P.O.N, NEWARK, N.J. Of course, a Feigenspan box in Albany, that makes perfect sense!

What does Newark have to do with Albany, you may ask? You also may wonder, as usual, what any of this has to do with (and no hints from the peanut gallery, Jess Kidden) Albany Ale?

Feigenspan was a fairly successful brewery in Newark, New Jersey. In fact, P.O.N stood for "Pride Of Newark". The brewery was opened by Christian Feigenspan in 1875, and it operated at various locations in Newark. In 1907, Feigenspan's eldest son, Christian Jr., would become president of the brewery, and eventually the head of The U.S. Brewer's Association, during the lead up to, and throughout much of Prohibition. That still doesn't answer the question. So, what's the big deal about a Newark brewery box in Albany? Actually it's pretty significant, and it has everything to do with one of the three Albany breweries to survive after the repeal of prohibition in 1933—Dobler Brewery.

Dobler, a predominently lager brewery, had been opened by John S. Dobler, and operated in Albany on Myrtle Avenue between Swan and Dove Streets, since the mid 1860s. In the early 1890s Theodore Amsdell—brother to George Amsdell, of Amsdell Brothers Brewery—purchased the brewery with his partner George Hawley. Amsdell died in 1902, and the brewery never quite recovered. Just before national prohibition went into effect, Dobler was purchased by...

…Wait for it…

…That's right, the Feigenspan family.

Hey, haven't I seen you somewhere before?
Dobler continued to operate during the prohibition years as the soda and near beer making operation for the Feigenspan family. The original, and much larger operation in Newark was converted for use in ice and coal production—but would keep its sign lit throughout the entire thirteen years of prohibition, in silent, yet glowing protest. After repeal, Dobler re-commenced standard brewing, essentially making the same beer as Feigenspan in New Jersey. As a matter of fact, Dobler even produced a Dobler Pride of Newark (P.O.N.) beer. Feigenspan Jr, died in 1939 and within four years his brewery—at that point one of the largest in the country—would be purchased by its neighbor, Ballantine Brewery. Dobler, however would not be part of that purchase and would continue on in Albany, under the leadership of Edwin Feigenspan, Christian Jr.'s brother. The brewery, however would only continue to operate for a short period thereafter, closing in the late 1950s.

I think it's safe to say that had Feigenspan not purchased the Dobler brewery when it did, there most like would have only been two breweries, rather than three, that re-opened in Albany after the ratification of the 21st Amendment in 1933.

So, what should we take way from all of this?

Don't take for granted the 'junk' hanging around so many bars and pubs. At closer inspection, you might learn a little bit about your home town, or at the very least, you might learn a little about Newark, New Jersey. 

Muchas gracias, by the way, to Jess Kidden for all his research on America's second most favorite brewing city—Newark, NJ. I'm sure he'll be able to poke holes in all of what I just wrote!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Case of the Mysteriously Missing Beer

I don't write a lot about the Albany beer scene.

Yeah, yeah. I know the Albany Ale Project. That's not what I'm talking about. That doesn't count.

I'm talking about the current Albany beer scene. I'm a dad and husband, so that keeps me from hopping over to the Ruck for a home brew tasting or heading to the City Beer Hall for their wild game and beer pairings. Those are events for the single-lifers or parents of teenagers. I write about the beery things I can see from my backyard. That, and a number of you out there, don't live in Albany, so, me writing about this fair city is the bloggy equivalent of looking at my vacation photos.

This week, though, a series of beery events has gotten me thinking about the current state of beer in Albany.

First, I had the pleasure and honor to speak at the University Club of Albany. It was a truly fantastic event. Colleen Ryan, the Club's event coordinator, and vice-president, had heard about the Albany Ale Project and asked if I'd come and do my spiel for the evening—including a taste through the seven beers I think define New York's brewing legacy. The University Club started, well, clubbing in 1901 and has been an Albany landmark ever since. It has quite a beer-related connection to the city as well. The Club bought the Amsdell mansion, home of George Amsdell, the co-owner of Amsdell Brothers brewery, and made it their home in the early 20th-century. That house burned in 1923, and was replaced by the building that stands there now. On a slightly self-involved side note, William Howard Taft and Andrew Carnegie have also spoken at the University Club… and me. It was a really fun beery night!

In any case, back to the point. Speaking in front of a crowd of 35 or so beer loving Albanians—riveted on my every word I might add—in a building so closely connected to history and people of the city of Albany, got my wheels turning. And the rest of the week provided fuel for the fire.

Bill Dowd, of Dowd on Drinks and Notes on Napkins (and apparently also the king of alliteration) has recently proposed a Capital Region Brew Trail. Greg Black, one of the Beer Nuts on the TU's blog of the same name, is also waving that flag. These two are suggesting, in the words of the CRBT's Facebook page, a tourism trail of craft breweries, brew pubs, restaurants, lodging and beer-centric events in New York's greater Capital Region. 

Hmm. Beer-centrism in the Capital Region.

It was also announced this week that Bell's Brewery will begin distributing into New York, as of October first. I think one might argue that Bell's Two Hearted Ale may be one of the most pospular craft brews in the country right now. It's always great to see new beer in the area.

New (Michigan) beer.

Lastly, on his jaunt across New England, Alan noted the nearly ubiquitous nature of Harpoon IPA in Massachusetts' capital city (that's Boston for those who need to know). He says,
Harpoon IPA is the normal craft beer in town. Fenway. The Four's. Union Oyster House. A Cheesecake Factory. My relatives' fridge. Citizen Public House. It is everywhere. Every town should have a normal good beer but not all do. Allagash White is pretty pervasive in Portland, Maine where we head next. Not sure Albany has one yet. Ithaca sure likes its Cascazilla.
See, that second to last sentence? "Not sure Albany has one yet." That's what I'm on about.

Why doesn't Albany—or at the very least the Capital Region—have its own beer. We have the history—400 years of it actually. We have the demand. All those folks willing to come out on a Tuesday night to listen to me prattle on about the glory days of beer in Albany—let alone The CRBT's Facebook page topping 100 likes within a matter of hours of being posted. Hell, drinkdrank's Facebook page only has 61 likes and that's been up for a year. And to quote Oscar Madison, "We have the technology."

Yet, I'm still left asking, where is "our" beer?

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Pair of Kings

I'm going to be totally honest with you. I'd never been to a beer and food pairing, before last night.

To me, a beer pairing is two bottles of beer in a row. If I were asked to match up food and beer at an event, it'd be pizza and chicken wings all around. Pairing always seemed to fussy for me—a bit of a pain in the ass. I just want to pick a pint and order a burger and be done with the whole thing. But when some one does all the picking for you—it's a whole new ballgame. More to the point, when the person picking the beer is the Foaming Head's Kevin Burns and the person making the food is chef Micah Kuhar, of the Palmer House Café.

Stand the fuck back.

Courtesy of
Let me set the stage for the soiree I went to last night—a Stammtisch (a small plate meal, served family style)—was put on by the Palmer House Café to benefit the Rensselearville, New York's Library, during said Library's Festival of Writers. Let's start off with Rensselearville, itself. Visiting R-Ville is like stepping back in time to the 1790s. The village center is built right on the main street, and you feel like a Paul Revere-esque dude, complete with tri-corned hat and stockings, is going to zoom past you on a horse at full gallop. The event itself took place in the backyard of the Palmer House, amid a garden of wildflowers and home grown tomatoes—under a white tent, sparkling with tiny, white lights. I'm just a beer geek with an internet connect, so all of this was pretty swank to me. But, as the festival goers began streaming in, I quickly realized that this was going to be a pretty laid back crowd. A t-shirt and shorts kind of crowd. 

I spoke first, which was good, because we got the nerdy history stuff out of the way early. Having pity on you as well, I won't bore you with the details —yeah, yeah, yeah, Albany Ale was huge, blah, blah, blah. Then it was Kevin and Micah's turn…and bang it was on! Each course was introduced, first by the chef and then Kevin gave a brief background to the beer and why he chose that particular style to either compliment or contrast with the dish.

How's this sound? Batter-fried heirloom tomatoes with goat cheese and corn butter paired with Hennepin from Ommegang. What about Ropa Vieja, made with beef brisket—from Kuhar's family farm, no less—capers, tomatoes, olives and garlic, all slow cooked in C.H. Evan's Kick-Ass Brown Ale, and served in Parmesan polenta cups? Is dessert more your thing? How about Chocolate Stout Cupcakes, made and paired with Long Ireland's Breakfast Stout, served with an espresso cream? There was more, but I'm holding back, no sense being mean, right?

A goal of the Palmer House is to use fresh, local ingredients, and it didn't get more local that last night. Kevin picked all New York made beer, and Micah used as many, not only grown or raised in New York ingredients, but specifically those found within a 25 mile radius of the village! The food was amazing, the beer was fantastic—and it was all for a good cause.

Have I seen the light? Will I be getting into the pairing biz? Probably not—especially if Kevin is on the job. I'll still most often think of chicken wings when it comes to food and beer, but maybe the next time I'll serve them in tiny little polenta cups.

Oh, one last thing. I need to send a special thank you to Becca Platel for doing everything she's done. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Reminders, and a Little Something New...

A really quick one today!

Don't forget,  I'll be speaking about Albany Ale at the Rensselaerville Library's Festival of Writers Stammtisch and beer pairing, this Sunday, August 18th at 4pm. Don't worry, I won't be doing the pairing. We'll leave that up to Kevin Burns of the Foaming Head and Palmer House Chef Micah Kuhar. Tickets are $50.00 and benefit the Library.


I'll also be speaking about Albany Ale at The University Club's Hops and History: Albany's Brewing Tradition event, this upcoming Tuesday, August 20th at 5:30. The U. Club is also doing a tasting based on the seven beers I think define New York brewing over the last 100 years, or so. Tickets are $20, and reservations are required. This event is open to the public as a program of the University Club Foundation. You can read more about it—and also RSVP—here.


A sneak peek
If everything goes according to plan, the good doctor McLeod and I will be unveiling, by the end of the month (or maybe early September). We'll still be writing regular articles on Albany Ale here at drinkdrank, and at A Good Beer Blog, but the new site will be your one stop shop for all things Albany Ale. They'll be a little bit about us and the Project, a full history of Albany Ale, a section dedicated to the recreations, and all the news, event listings, links to friends, and pics you'd ever want to raise a pint to.

The site is being built by the amazingly talented Kelley Feranac, and if you want a snazzy website, too, you can contact her at kferanac@gmail. com.

Check out her work here.

So keep your eyes out for the new site, and hopefully I'll see you over the next few days! 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

It Must be Tough Being a Beer Geek in Pittsburgh...

…or in Philadelphia, Harrisburg or anywhere else in Pennsylvania for that matter.

I just got back from a trip to the Steel City (visiting my grandparents—103 and 99 respectively), and
I've returned empty handed. Plenty of memories, but no beer (technically, we did stop at a Wegmans in Rochester, so I got some beer, but no western PA beer.) Coming from a state where beer is available in grocery stores, gas stations, convenient stores and farm markets, I'm bewildered by Pennsylvania's beer selling laws.

Traveling to a state with some really terrific craft breweries—Yards, Stoudts, and Weyerbacher, to name a few—I was hoping to bring back a few six packs, some one-off bottled oddities and maybe a bomber or two. But, alas, I should have done 5 minutes of internet research and I would have found out that 1) beer is not sold in Pennsylvanian grocery stores.

Okay, I can get around that. I'd go to a beer distributor, they usually have a bit better selection of beer anyhow. In fact, Save on Beer, a distributor on McKnight Road in Ross Township, had a fantastic selection—Imports, American craft, Pennsylvania brews and Pittsburgh local favs—except that 2) beer sold at distributors in Pennsylvania, is sold only by the case or keg.

Okay, that's going to get expensive quickly. 

Fear not, Pennsylvania has a solution. 3) Smaller quantities of beer may be purchased at bars, restaurants and licensed retailers, but limited to 192 ounces per purchase. Here's the thing about that, though 4) most of the beer available at said bars, restaurants and licensed retailers is Yeungling, Coors Light and Iron City, but if you do find that random bottle of Sly Fox, you're probably going to pay a premium for it.

What about a bar specializing in craft beer? True, Pittsburgh has its share of beer bars, but getting to them is another thing, because 5) driving in Pittsburgh is horrible. There are very few highways or interstates. Almost all of the roads are four lanes and riddled with traffic lights. Traveling just under 5 miles, from where we were staying to Save on Beer, took no less than twenty-five minutes. I will admit, Pennsylvania isn't a total loss, 6) there are a few places where six packs and individual bottles are sold, like the House of 1000 Beers in Kensington, PA (1000? Really? That's only 41 cases) but, since it was 30 miles from where we were staying, and I wanted to be back in time for breakfast the next morning, I took a pass. I have also heard that some super markets are being allowed to sell some beer. 

Penn-state legislators realize the ridiculousness of their own laws, too. Back in July the Philadelphia Inquirer ran an in-depth look at what was need to reform the states antiquated liquor laws. A four-hour closed-door meeting at the Capitol in Harrisburg resulted in a failure to agree on a $2 billion transportation bill to which the alcohol reform was paired with. Guess what? The Dems and the GOP in PA can't get along either.

So, lesson—or rather six lessons—learned. It's BYOB in PA.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Are We Genetically Predisposed to Like IPA?

Okay, maybe not just IPA.

Alexandra Sifferlin at (Hey, didn't I just write about them?) is reporting on the findings of a group of scientist who are looking at the links between our senses and our DNA. It turns out how we see, taste, touch, hear and smell—or at least how we individually perceive those sense—is tied pretty closely to our genetic make-up. Geneticist Dennis Drayana of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, say this:
“Think about it. You and I know what green is, or what a rose smells like, but does green look to you the same as it looks to me? Maybe, but maybe not. What you and I call green may be slightly different things. There’s no doubt this is going on, and it is going to become better understood.”
Drayana has been studying the perception of taste and has linked a gene to the bitter taste receptors in the cells of our taste buds. He and his team have also found that the gene's DNA codes vary, resulting in some people being able to taste some bitter flavors that others cannot. The group is also working on how genetic variants affect the perception of sweetness, as well.

In related study, recently published in Current Biology, scientist from New Zealand's Plant and Food Research have been looking at smell sensitivity and how it relates to our genes. Ten odors—relating to apples, violets, blue cheese and malt—were offered to hundreds of subjects. In the case of the malt, the participants could either smell the malt's slightly sour odor, or nothing at all. The study's author Jeremy McRae notes:
“These smells are found in foods and drinks that people encounter every day, such as tomatoes and apples. This might mean that when people sit down to eat a meal, they each experience it in their own personalized way,”
If we perceive bitterness and a malty smell as pleasant—or unpleasant—it might not be so far-fetched to think that somewhere, deep-down were programed to either like or not like beer, and perhaps even IPA, specifically. There's always been somewhat of a divide between those who like very bitter brews like IPA and those who don't. Perhaps those who lean toward IPA, don't perceive its bitterness quite as aggressively, and therefore can tolerate its hoppy bite a little bit better. Maybe, for some, IPA is just too bitter and others it's not.

There's also another, perhaps darker, issue with these studies. There's a growing concern and a substantial body of evidence suggesting alcoholism may be linked to genetics, although the specific gene has not been identified. A Swedish study in 1990 showed that there is a genetic component to alcoholism. Incidences of alcoholism were followed in twins—adopted but raised apart—throughout their lives. While the incidences were slightly higher in those twins exposed to alcoholism through their adoptive families, rates of alcoholism in those twins whose biological parents were alcoholics, was far greater. I'm not a geneticist, but having a genetic predisposition to alcoholism and a genetic code that makes you like the taste and smell of beer, seems like a troubling mix.

In any case, figuring out the perfect beer for your buddy or girlfriend just got a lot easier. Now all you need is a blood, urine or tissue sample, a DNA sequencer, a horizontal or vertical electrophoresis system, a thermocycler, a spectrophotometer and/or the willingness to wait a few weeks to several months for the results.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Time Is On My Side

I've noticed that people seem to enjoy when I take journalists to task for not getting their beery shit straight. Last week's post about William Bostwick's article on Pilsner in GQ's online edition, proves that point. But, it's a two way street. By that, I don't mean I should be held responsible for getting any of my facts straight—that's just crazy talk. What I'm getting at is that sometimes the "mainstream media" gets it right.

The article starts of as you might expect, with a splashy headline, taunting the reader to guess where the U.S best craft beer is made. The meat of the article comes as Tuttle reveals that has released its list of the 25 best breweries in America, and lo and behold, Delaware's Dog Fish Head is at the top of the chart.

Things start to change a bit at this point. Tuttle reports:
While releasing its list, TheDailyMeal admitted “there’s plenty of subjectiveness in picking a craft beer.” But the editors did the best they could, gathering 72 best brewery nominees and putting it to a vote that has hopefully produced a list that lands at the “intersection of best and beloved” craft brewers around the country.
Tuttle continues that while Boston Beer Company, Sierrea Nevada and New Belgium make the list many other's don't, and that out of the three top craft beer producing states—Vermont, Oregon and Montana—only Oregon's Rouge Ales makes the list. The author also goes on to mention that none of the top three winning brews at the U.S Open Beer Championships—held in Atlanta earlier this July—madeTheDailyMeal's list either, and that the first DFH beer on Beer Advocate'sTop 250 Beers, doesn't show up until the #148 spot.

Wait, a minute.
Is someone not just blindly reporting that a a beer/brewery/brewer appearing on randomly conceived listical is the "best" in a randomly conceived category? He sums up, what I think is the most important aspect of the article by saying:
Does this mean Dogfish Head doesn’t make terrific beer? Absolutely not! It’s just that these lists are always problematic, and easy fodder for debate—which is part of the point, of course.
Mr. Tuttle gets it. 

He didn't get a press release in his in-box, and charge ahead making broad statements about how innovative and passionate the crew at Dog Fish Head are. He didn't say that Namaste, or Burton Baton or, 90 minute are the defining beers of our time because an on-line magazine needed to fill space and came up with a list. No. He reported the result, but noted that the very concept of a subjective listical is flawed—and intended to be flawed to create a discussion.

See, truth in journalism. It works. The next time you're considering writing a beer article for Maxim or Men's Health, before saying mothers should replace breast milk with Heady Topper, think WWTD (What Would Tuttle Do) and follow his lead.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Albany Ale: Submitted for Your Approval

For a while now I've been saying that Albany Ale was a "thing"—a definable product—and not simply beer made in Albany. It may have started that way, but by the mid-19th century, folks had an expectation of what Albany Ale was.

Brian—the third best Albany Ale researcher this side of the Pecos—sent me a few scans I think bolster my theory. Mr Welch came across a series of menus from the Parker House Hotel, in Boston Massachusetts, listing Albany Ale. I've written about the lack of Albany's hometown beer on the menu of Stanwix Hall—one of Albany's fancy-dancy 19th-century hotels—but it appears that Albany Ale hadn't yet lost its charm, ten years earlier, at one of Beantown's wold-class establishments. Brian sent four menus, but two—one from 1865, the other 1875—will serve my purpose for this exercise.

Right: 1865    Left: 1875

While the neat-o factor of seeing Albany Ale listed on a menu in Boston is pretty high, there's actually some pretty significant circumstantial evidence supporting my idea. Looking at the earlier 1865 menu, Albany Ale is listed among London Brown Stout, Bass' Pale India Ale, Muir's Scotch Ale, and Gualt's Porter. Those are all 'things'—with definable characteristics—styles, or at least kinds, of beer. A guest at the Parker House would expect their Pale India Ale to be pale and bitter; their London Brown Stout to be dark and roasty; and their Scotch Ale to be pale and strong. So, doesn't it stand to reason that one would also have a certain set of expectations of Albany Ale?

If you ordered spaghetti and meatballs off the menu of a restaurant, you'd probably expect spaghetti and a red, tomato-based sauce with a side of meatballs, to arrive at your table. What if the next time you ordered that same menu item, it came with a while cream sauce—and next time, with pesto. It may all be wonderfully tasty, but it wouldn't be what you were expecting. It would have been the same for the Albany Ale listed on the Parker House's menu. Something listed as "Albany Ale" isn't going to be a broad range of beer—pale, amber or brown—simply sold on the merits that it's good beer from Albany. That beer—that Albany Ale—was a 'thing'. The good people of Boston knew what they were getting when they sauntered up to the bar at the Parker House and ordered a mug of Albany Ale.

The next menu brings up another scenario. The 1875 menu's Albany Ale is listed as Taylor's Albany Ale–obviously from the über-brewery of John Taylor. There a couple of scenarios as to why this menu lists the brewery name and the earlier 1865 menu doesn't. First, while Albany Ale as a defined 'thing' may have been known, the breweries that made Albany Ale may have not been. The names Guinness and Allsopp may have meant something to a Bostonian in 1865—Amsdell and McKnight may not have. 

What I think, however, is the more likely reason for the addition of Taylor's name on the later menu, is that it's possible that Taylor had become synonymous with Albany Ale. Taylor had dominated the Albany brewing scene throughout the 1850s and 60s, and though the brewery's production numbers had dropped significantly by the mid-1870s, it looks as if the brewery's reputation had followed it to Boston. It's not that other breweries weren't making Albany Ale, it's just that Taylor's name was the one they associated it with.

So, submitted for your approval: Albany Ale was a "thing".

What that thing was, remains to be seen.

Personally, I'm leaning towards an XX ale.