Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Where are you, anyway?

It's not about being in the right place at the right time. We've learned that it's best to be everywhere, all the time.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

on music

You know what I want to see? I want to see Jack Black and Jack White do a music project together.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Wing Sauce Burritos & Negra Modelo

Negra Modelo Dark Beer
Cerveceria Modelo, S.A. DE C.V., Mexico, D.F.
This beer has corn adjuncts as per the Dugg and a rater on Beeradvocate. I couldn't verify this because the actual page for Negra Modelo seems to be under construction. No worries though, we're pretty sure they put corn in the beer.

~~ paired with ~~

Inspired by a burrito I had at Handlebar, I hit on one of those meals. You know, like Indian food. The type of meal where you just don't stop eating to talk or even breathe if you can manage it. In my mind, anything with wing sauce applies. Anyway, gather the following ingredients in amounts that would serve 1-2 burritos to each person in attendance. I used brand names to be helpful, feel free to follow your own whims. For example, the burrito I had at Handlebar featured seitan instead of the Chik'n Strips.

flour tortillas
rice (we like Jasmine)
olive oil for
sautéing, no more than a few Tbsps
Morningstar Farms® Meal Starters™ Chik'n Strips
- one package per person (you'll probably have some left over)
Frank's RedHot Buffalo Wing Sauce
- one 12oz bottle per 2 packages of Chik'n Strips
- if you can make your own, cool - the stuff in the bottle is like crack
halved and sliced sweet onion
shredded Jack cheese
shredded iceberg lettuce (I know, I know... just trust me on this one)
chopped or sliced tomatoes, whatever type looks best in the produce section
Annie's Naturals Cowgirl Ranch Dressing

Prepare the rice as per the package instructions. Sauté the Chik'n Strips (or whatever) and the onions in olive oil. I like my onions pretty crisp, so I add them to the pan after the Chik'n Strips have been sautéing for a few minutes. Drizzle the Buffalo Wing Sauce over the Chik'n Strips and onions fairly liberally; use about 3/4 of the bottle per 2 packages.

If you have a toaster oven, toasting the flour tortillas for a few seconds softens and warms them up. Yum. Lay down a bed of rice in the tortilla, top with the Chik'n Strips and onions. Dress with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and ranch dressing. Roll'er up.

Negra Modelo is a Vienna style lager. Metro's Dynamo Copper Lager is also a Vienna style lager, only we don't use corn and we do use hops. The NM is very, very dark brown with golden highlights. The nose is estery, chocolate/vanilla. There is no hop aroma. The use of corn reduces the amount of head-producing proteins. And, to increase shelf life, much of the protein occurring in the beer anyway is broken down during the mash. So what this means is there is virtually no retained head in the glass.

You're about to annihilate your palette with wing sauce, so spend a little time on the beer first. The flavor is mostly sweet, smooth dark malt. Again, virtually no hop flavor to be found. The finish is dry, but a second later you'll notice a lingering sweetness on the palette due to the corn adjunct.

The sweet flavors in this beer pair beautifully with the spicy wing sauce. This makes sense given that this beer is often served with spicy Mexican cuisine. After the heat of the spices, the beer is cooling and resets your palette for another bite of the burrito. See how dangerous this can be? Remember to breathe, but do it through your nose to free your mouth for chewing.

Our recommendation: if you do this right, your lips will be on fire.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Larry Bell, distribution, and the Chicagoland market

The Chicagoland craft beer community is buzzing... so to speak. We are once again able to purchase pints of Larry Bell's beer in several locations in the city and the 'burbs. To catch you up, Kalamazoo Brewing pulled out of our market due to a dispute with their IL distributor, National Wine and Spirits. Debate and rumors have been flying to and fro since.

Why do beer manufacturers need to use distributors?
This is due to the mandated three-tier system in IL. From Nicholas Day's article linked above, "The system, which stipulates that all alcohol has to pass through a middleman, was established to ensure that producers couldn’t run bars and limit consumer choice by exclusively serving their own drinks, a situation known as a “tied house.” Keep in mind that this is a good thing. This has kept us from being limited to haunting "Miller bars" and "Budweiser bars."

Why did Kalamazoo Brewing pull out of the IL market?
The problem Larry Bell ran into is described in Day's article: "... according to state law, NWS was entitled to sell Bell’s distribution rights to another wholesaler without his approval, and a few months ago it decided to do just that, in a deal with Chicago Beverage Systems— the Miller distributor in Chicago." It just so happens that CBS has been sited by folks in the local craft beer industry as a distributor that doesn't exactly have what it takes to sell craft beer.
Larry Bell started his brewery with $200, boatloads of luck, and endless hours of hard work. For what? To be sold to a distributor without his input? What if he didn't want to work with CBS? Well, he had (as far as we know) 2 options: work with CBS or pull out of the market.

Okay, so screw CBS. Why didn't Larry Bell just make a deal with a different distributor?
Agreements between distributors and beer manufacturers are very difficult to terminate. This is due to franchise laws and the Beer Industry Fair Dealing Act, which was written to protect distributors from being financially ruined by large breweries. Say a distributor busts their hump to get beer out there and promote for a brewery; the brewery succeeds famously as a result; and then the brewery dumps the distributor for a different one. That type of protection seems logical enough, but the incident with Kalamazoo Brewing has highlighted a bias in the franchise laws: they apply to the relationships between small distributors and large breweries. Smaller craft breweries don't have the financial clout to bring down a distributor, but the laws apply to us anyway.

Distribution sucks... right?
No. Getting into the craft beer industry takes a lot of work and planning. Add to that the stresses of putting together and managing a fleet of trucks - tickets, towing, accidents, CDLs, maintenance, etc.?!? No thanks. We got into the industry to make beer. That's enough to think about. Even if we were in a state that didn't mandate the three-tier system (coughWisconsincough), we would still make deals with distributors based on our business model. That, or we'd get a friend to start a distribution company. Anyone interested?

Larry Bell was quoted in the articles above: "Normally when you go see a distributor, they say, ‘We’ve gone out and tried the beers and we’re very excited about selling Oberon.’ Unfortunately, I got into a relationship with a wholesaler that didn't have our best interest at heart." And that's the key, folks. Distribution agreements can be profitable for everyone involved, provided the deal you make is fair. The best bet is to get into agreements with distributors who know how to handle craft beer and who are willing to work collaboratively with manufacturers.

Okay, blah blah. Distribution agreements are complicated. The most important thing is that we can now enjoy Larry Bell's beer at some locations in Chicagoland again. How?
A new company exists: Bells Brewery Incorporated. This company is entering the market with a new brand called Kalamazoo. The first beer available from this company is Royal Amber Ale. We haven't tried it yet, but some well-beerducated folks we know went out this week to taste it. Apparently, they loved the beer so much that they had to skip their reasonable dinner plans for late-night burritos. This, as you know, is a very good sign.

We at Metro Brewing are thrilled to have Larry Bell back in our market. No, really. We mean this. The more craft beer available, the more people are going to drink it. Craft beer drinkers like choice and variety, so why not have lots of both available to us? Sure, we might have to fight for taps that Kalamazoo Royal Amber Ale now occupies, but you know, that fight would exist either way. And really, we love Larry Bell's beer. Having a few local taps will save us lots of gas money and time since we won't have to make as many border beer-runs. Now, if we could just get New Glarus down here again...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Garlic Soup & Morimoto Black Obi Soba Ale

Morimoto Black Obi Soba Ale
Rogue - Newport, OR
30 IBUs

~~ paired with ~~

Garlic Soup, recipe adapted from Vegetarian Planet by Didi Emmons

olive oil
2 cups chopped onions
16-20 garlic cloves, minced
2 quarts veggie broth
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp fennel seeds
5-7 red potatoes, peeled and chopped
3-4 large carrots, peeled and chopped
black pepper
wheat baguette
Parmesan cheese

In a soup or stockpot, heat about 1-1.5 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.
Sauté the onions for 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another 5 minutes.

Use a mortar and pestle to grind the herbs. Add the broth and herbs, let simmer for 15 minutes. Add the potatoes and carrots and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Add a few generous dashes of sherry, simmer for another 5 minutes. Take a swig of the sherry.

Season the soup with black pepper, salt, and a little more sherry. To serve, place slices of baguette on the bottom of a bowl. Ladle the soup over the top. Garnish with black pepper and Parmesan cheese.

Nothing is better than soup. Well, maybe beer. But other than that, nothing. This soup makes magic of the simplest veggies which are in ample supply in the winter.

And speaking of things that are comforting, Rogue in Newport, OR serves up 22oz bottles of their tasty specialty ales, one of which is Morimoto Black Obi Soba Ale. The Rogue website informs us that this brew is part of their Signature Series with Chef Masaharu Morimoto.

Beautiful brown-red tones gleam from the glass. The nose is hoppy and spicy and blends well with the flowery herbal aromas of the soup. Roasted soba (buckwheat) adds a nutty flavor to the beer which is a little surprising, but pleasant. The huge amounts of garlic in the soup are also surprising, but pleasant. Coincidence? Maybe. Anyway, the nutty flavors blend perfectly with the garlic, inspiring me to begin imagining a sauce or something that combines garlic and nuts.

The hops reassert themselves in the flavor as well. The Dugg pointed out that every hop addition to this beer has been amped up; aroma, bitterness, and flavor.

The MBOSA finishes dry. Spicy dry. Bone dry. After a few mouthfuls of this beer, the sweet flavors of the carrots and potatoes in the soup taste new. As if you'd never tasted a carrot or potato before in your life. The beer reboots the palette.

Our recommendation: put on some pj's, ladle out a bowl of garlic soup, split (or not) a bottle of the
Morimoto Black Obi Soba Ale, and spin up a DVD of a TV series you've been meaning to catch up on. For us, it was Battlestar Galactica.