Thursday, October 05, 2017

Headlines from September 2017 on THE BEER BEAT.

Previously, I've explained why this blog has gone on hiatus, adding that my thoughts about beer will be posted alongside my utterances about everything else, over yonder at NA Confidential.

You'll find them there via the helpful all-purpose tag, The Beer Beat.

However, whenever the urge strikes -- I seem to have settled on monthly -- I'll collect a few of these links right here. Following are September's ruminations, with the oldest listed first.

Some are more topical than others. In September, there were several travel-related postings using "The Beer Beat" as a label, but not as a title. I hope this isn't overly confusing.

Thanks for reading, if belatedly.


THE BEER BEAT: Remembering Michael Jackson and revising the beer tasting syllabus.

The Mesa gig was on August 23. I knew the 10th anniversary of Jackson's passing was coming soon, but wasn't sure exactly when; while eating lunch at Brugge Brasserie on Wednesday, I glanced at my e-mail and saw the notification of Tom Acitelli's letter perfect tribute in All About Beer, linked here.


ON THE AVENUES with THE BEER BEAT: We are dispirited in the post-factual beer world.

Come to think of it, contemporary cocktail-driven bar programs seldom advertise on the basis of “cheap” whiskey, do they?

Verily, it’s forever top shelf and upscale with wine and spirits, but when it comes to beer, the dumbing-down always lies waiting, just around the corner.


ON THE AVENUES with THE BEER BEAT: Beef Steak and Porter always made good belly mortar, but did America’s “top” steakhouses get the memo?

Perhaps the simplest answer is best. There is no documentary evidence to suggest that the customer base of such a steakhouse desires beer choice. Moreover, the profit margin on wine and liquor surely dwarfs the return on beer, so only a few popular lagers are kept around for the die-hards, and that’s that.

I’ve long since learned to mournfully adapt. Precisely because my operating assumption is that steakhouses customarily downplay beer, I harbor absolutely no expectations once I’ve resolved to dine at one of them.


TRAVEL PRELUDES: Mechelen, with a side of Gouden Carolus.

Het Anker’s flagship Gouden Carolus Classic remains a great favorite of mine, and in 2008 I was at the peak of my powers, since largely ceded, to cajole favors from importers and wholesalers. In this case it was a guided brewery tour for the group.


TRAVEL PRELUDES: Poperinge and a date with Westvleteren.

Trust me - it's really Westvleteren 12, the beer that “disappeared” from circulation when it was selected as the best beer in the world by readers of

Not that it was easy to find, even in Belgium ... even where it is brewed.


TRAVEL PRELUDES: For a town so small, Watou packs a big gustatory punch.

I've been extremely fortunate to have enjoyed more than one meal at the 't Hommelhof restaurant in Watou, founded twenty or so years ago by Stefaan Couttenye and his wife, the late Sabine Dejonckheere. On one early springtime visit, hop shoots were on the menu.

When Chef Couttenye opened 't Hommelhof, the notion of beer cuisine in general, and local food sourcing in particular, remained a minority taste even in a place like Belgium.


TRAVEL PRELUDES: Haarlem's awesome Cafe Briljant is winding down (for now), but not before I have another drink there.

On September 30, Rob will preside over the Cafe Briljant's final evening in business at the current location. Happily, I'll be able to drink a few beers there before this closing event occurs.


TRAVEL PRELUDES: An eagle's nest, a tasting room; a study in brown.

The Dutch word "proeflokaal" (test classroom) appears to be one of those only vaguely translatable concepts, although at root it implies something on the order of testing/tasting room, and may have originated from the habit of jenever (Dutch gin) distilleries operating sampling venues nearby.

When Peter van der Arend opened his specialty Dutch beer bar, there were only a few dozen breweries in the Netherlands. The number now is in the hundreds. He definitely was on the front end of a savory trend.


ON THE AVENUES with THE BEER BEAT: Getting in tune with the straight and narrow.

It seems to me we’re all guilty at times of espousing a false dichotomy, in which there is mass-market corporate swill on one side and exuberant, innovative craft beer on the other, but the problem with hegemonic Cold Beer War dualism like this is that it utterly excludes a beer like Schlenkerla Märzen. Maybe it fits rather comfortably in the same metaphor with non-aligned nations of the 1970s.


TRAVEL PRELUDES: Finally, a chance to visit the Jopenkerk -- a Haarlem brewery in a church, and with gruit beer.

By 1996, the present Jopen company had been formed to brew beer in Haarlem on a regular basis, although at first it functioned strictly as a contract brewer. In 2005, after years of negotiation, Jopen purchased the Jacobskerk, and in 2010, the renovated church opened for business as the Jopenkerk brewpub.


THE BEER BEAT: Hull & High Water is only days away, and it has me all playful about beer lists.

I caught myself wondering what sorts of wine are to be sold at an inland seafood shack, then began trying to remember when (or even if) I've ever ordered wine at a seafood restaurant of any sort.

Everything about Weaver's piece screams "beer," and precisely because not a soul has asked me, here are a few ideas for a solid, nautically-and-aquatic-themed beer list.


THE BEER BEAT: "How Jared Williamson Found Love — and a Head Brewing Job — at Schlafly."

In an effort to keep this simple: I'm delighted at Jared's career path in brewing, honored to have played a small part in encouraging it, and thrilled that he was able to go to Germany for a taste of what has inspired me for so long.


On the BEER BEAT, and back in Poperinge for hop festival Saturday, 2017.

Poperinge's hop festival runs from Friday through Sunday every three years. I first attended in 1999, and have missed only 2011 in all the years since. Next up is 2020, and I intend to be there.

In my opinion, the festival steadily has improved from one to the next. It remains almost entirely organized and operated for the benefit of the city and immediate proximity; outsiders are welcome, and yet it's very local in nature.