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Date: Mon, Mar 1, 2010
1. Follow us on Twitter.
You guys are probably pretty technically sophisticated, right? So I don’t need to tell you that there are other ways to get your Hedonist Beer Jive
ranting-n-raving delivered to you besides clicking on a bookmarked link every day or two. Or Googling “Hedonist Beer” every time you remember that we exist, and that you haven’t come to visit in a while. Here are a few ways to “enhance” your HBJ experience:
Or more specifically, follow me. I try to post a "chirpy" (I think that’s what they’re called) every time I write something here. I’m @jayhinman
2. Add Hedonist Beer Jive into Google Reader. Google Reader
, if you don’t use it, is an amazing way to stay on top of the many stellar blogs out there. Just cut this link – http://hedonistbeerjive.blogspot.com
– and paste it into the “Add a Subscription” field in Reader. Then every new post will be there for you to marvel at, aggregated with all the other stuff you’re interested in. Easier that that – click on the “Subsscribe to HBJ” link you see on the right comlumn here, and just add it that way. You can even make it a box on My Yahoo, if that’s something you use. (Me, I set up a My Yahoo page in 1997 or something, and I’m too lazy to make the switch away from it).
3. Got an iPhone? Get Byline. BYLINE
simply takes your Google Reader feed and displays it beautifully on the iPhone. I think it’s the application I use more than any other in the iPhone. It’s a couple bucks, but come on – you’re worth it.
Just a few ideas, you don’t have to take ‘em or anything, but we’d like to crack 200 average daily readers in 2010 (we’re still holding strong at about 130 a day) and maybe these tech tweaks will help make it happen.
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Date: Mon, Mar 1, 2010
In the US, BRASSERIE DUPONT
means saisons. Amazing, delicious saison-style ales from Belgium – yeasty, complex and refreshing. There’s SAISON DUPONT
, DUPONT AVRIL
, and several others. They’re all fantastic, seriously; to a beer, these are wonderful ales that I could drink anytime and anywhere. It took my trip to Spain a couple weeks ago to taste something of theirs that was dark and different, and when I ordered it, I didn’t even know it was a DUPONT
thing. I found a big bottle of LA BIERE DE BELOEIL
in the beer fridge at LA CERVATECA
in Barcelona, and my pal AS and I split it with relish.
As I gingerly poked, uh, “tasting notes” into my iPhone, I saw that LA BIERE DE BELOEIL
has some foreign gobbledygook on the bottle that said “Dupont a Tourpes”. You mean those Saison Dupont fellas? Well now how about that? To me, this is a classic Belgian dubbel, ripe and strong with the taste of dates and figs, with a thin body, strong aroma,and a sharp bit of zinging spiciness that’s rock solid. Over at Beer Advocate
they’re calling it a “Belgian strong pale ale”. Hoooo
-kay. This is a “meal” sort of beer, a big, bad complex 8.5% ABV sort of ale that will stand up to freshly-slaughtered animal of some kind. And so
classically Belgian. Really top-tier stuff. Let me know if you see this one in the US after grabbing a bottle for yourself first. 8/10
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Date: Fri, Feb 26, 2010
There’s probably a contingent of folks who came to this beer blog at some point from one of my now-defunct music blogs – DETAILED TWANG
or AGONY SHORTHAND
. Others reading this probably have zero interest in obscure, sub-underground, dirty pop, garage rock and noise from around the world, and would much prefer this post to be about the SURLY DARKNESS
beer I had two nights ago or another dig at PLINY THE
whatever. As it turns out, me pontificating about beer has won out overall; I only have the quote-unquote “bandwidth” to write pithy posts about beers I’m drinking than my former free time to engage in long-ish posts about bands & records – though I do
have yet another music blog currently active called HIGH WATER EVERYWHERE
. But yeah, I sure miss posting mp3s, and trying to force my musical opinion on others.
To that end, let me present to you a slight diversion from our normal programming, and give you my gift to the craft beer and extended community: THE HEDONIST BEER JIVE 2010 GUIDE TO MUSIC
. It’s a set of 27 songs from this past year, some even released just the past couple of weeks, that I find to be outstanding work by the youth of today. They’ve been gobbled up from a variety of other sites, bought straight from iTunes, or came off of old-school CDs that I actually bought. I’m constantly prowling for new stuff – just like I do with beer; in the blood, I reckon. In order to successfully enjoy this collection of mp3s, you have to be okay with a little bit of dirt and grime; with sometimes loud-ish guitars, and with Australians. I know that’s a leap for some of you. These 27 tracks can be burned to a CD if you like, or popped into iTunes or your “Zune”. You’ll find them to span the gamut from buoyant, garagy pop music (Dum Dum Girls
, Happy Birthday
) to unrelenting psychedelic noise (Kurt Vile & the Violators
, Major Stars
) to disjointed, stuttering post-punk (Wet Dog
) to straight-up punk moderne
, Black Jaspers
The common thread is that this is the music I’m loving right now, and I sure hope you do too. Track listing and link to download is below – beer talk returns next week. Please go buy this stuff in iTunes or a store or wherever it is you do your shopping if any of this happens to catch your fancy.Track listing1.
Jail La La – DUM DUM GIRLS2.
Girls FM – HAPPY BIRTHDAY3.
My Wet Tongue – HAPPY HOLLOWS4.
Little Green Hat – THE RANTOULS5.
Lower Leg – WET DOG6.
Clarence – SIC ALPS7.
(A Girl Called) Saccharine – DAN MELCHIOR’S BROKE REVUE8.
City of Rotten Eyes – OVERNIGHT LOWS9.
Smear – AN EXPERIMENT ON A BIRD IN THE AIR PUMP10.
Walkin’ Out – THEE ALMIGHTY HANDCLAPS11.
What Started The Noise – SUPER WILD HORSES12.
Purgatory – DICK DIVER13.
Vorpal – WHITE MYSTERY14.
Wandering – THE YOLKS15.
I Wear Black – TY SEGALL & MIKAL CRONIN16.
Little Bit of This – THE RANTOULS17.
El Jita – PUFFY AREOLAS18.
Malfunction – USELESS EATERS19.
Smart Car – BLACK JASPERS20.
Freudian Slips – BIG TROUBLES21.
She’s So Crazy – MICKEY22.
Still 16 – THE RANTOULS23.
Vietnam – HAPPY HOLLOWS24.
Aaron – WHITE MYSTERY25.
Denial – KURT VILE & THE VIOLATORS26.
Sugar Boat – THEE OH SEES
The Space You Know – MAJOR STARSDownload “The Hedonist Beer Jive 2010 Guide To Music” (this is a .zip file)
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Date: Thu, Feb 25, 2010
Before there was THE VICE BLOG
, there was HOT KNIVES
. Hot Knives
was and remains a food blog with a heavy, hedonistic emphasis on great beer. They remain one of the best reads out there, and when these guys decide to cook some food and drink some craft ale, they get their hands dirty and go for it, then write about it with aplomb and panache. Now they’ve taken their beer writings – or at least the best of ‘em – and collected it into a mini-book called GREATEST SIPS
. I just got mine in the mail yesterday and haven’t dug in yet, but just skimming through it, I was already laffin’ a bunch. I can already recommend it in advance, mostly because I’ve already read the posts that are collected here. It’s kind of cool, too – the publisher they’re using does this just-in-time thing too, where they only print it when you order it. You can do so here
, and tell them the HBJ sent ya.
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Date: Wed, Feb 24, 2010
While in Barcelona last week I did what I always do on work-related road trips, which is seek out the local ales for consideration (and comfort). Time was when I’d poke around obscure record shops, or maybe go to a museum or something, but now it’s pubs and beer bars like LA CERVETECA
and CERVECERIA EL FLABIOL
, the two best places I discovered in Barcelona for deep contemplation of Spanish (and Belgian) craft beer. At the former, I discovered a brewer from Girona, Spain called BIRRART MOS’KA
. This guy (Josep Borrell
) is on a one-man crusade to bring exceptional artisanal craft beer to Spain, and currently bottles four beers, all with a similar 12-ounce bottle design. I “considered” two of them, and brought another one home in my suitcase. Let’s discover together what I thought of them.
The first was MOS’KA TORRADA
, and it’s a real humdinger. TORRADA
is an artisanal amber beer that’s smooth and creamy and pours a nice red-tinged brown. Really, really flavorful – with strong malts, honey, and some hops that linger. TORRADA
includes loads of sediment for you sediment fans out there. Picture a less-yeasty, more creamy version of a Belgian amber and you’re in the ballpark. I loved it, and after this and the RUNA ALE
we talked about two days ago,
it’s when I knew I’d stepped on beer paydirt in Barcelona. 8.5/10
The other MOS’KA
product I poured down my throat is called MOS’KA POMA
. Spanish speakers in the audience may recognize that word translating as “apple”. And you’d be exactly right! Think of this one as a bitter apple wheat beer. It’s got that certain special I-don’t-know-what
that I discovered in all the local brews; maybe it’s the water, but the local beers here just taste
different than the imports and our own US micros. Fruity and citrus-packed, with a little bit of lemon and a TON of carbonation. A strange sort of pale ale that was not a thirst-quencher per se, but really one to work on slowly. And yeah, it was really good as well, just a notch down from the TORRADA
. I brought a MOS'KA NEGRA
home in my bag, so we’ll talk about that one another time, OK?
Read Full Beer Blog Post
Date: Tue, Feb 23, 2010
I started this blog back in early 2006, and back then the only experience I’d had with tart, sweet Belgian lambics were the ones from LINDEMANS
. These are available even in corner liquor stores in the US, and I learned pretty quickly that these mass-produced lambics, decent enough as they are, use fruit adjuncts (gasp!!!)
instead of real fruit. I remember taking a beer appreciation class in 2005 – which actually inspired me to create this blog – and the guy just relentlessly bagged
and the fact that they didn’t stuff real bushels of raspberries or dozens of real peaches into their beers. Since then I’ve regrettably barely skimmed the world of the lambic. People who love this stuff really love it, and me, well I just don’t know yet. I had a CANTILLON FRAMBOISE
back in 2009 that was so puckeringly perplexing that I couldn’t even score it, giving it an “Uncertain” rating
At CITY BEER STORE
the other night, I noticed that LOST ABBEY
had a new beer on draft, LOST ABBEY FRAMBOISE DE AMOROSA
. I marveled over the fact that I hadn’t tried a new one from these guys in well over 18 months, back in their glory days of 2007-2008 when new bottles were showing up on the shelves every month. Why not try their Framboise? Well guess what folks, it’s excellent. This is everything what I’d want a tart, ultra-fresh raspberry beer to taste like – packed with fresh and zinging yeasts, and puckering on the mouth but not so that you stop what you’re doing to clear the palate with water (which is what I had to do with the CANTILLON
It’s Belgian-style, full-stop, made right down there San Diego way. It’s absolutely drinkable and a much better intro to the style than those “adjunct” beers – right? You know Tomme Arthur and the gang don’t mess around. 8/10
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Date: Mon, Feb 22, 2010
So you'll never guess where I was last week. Oh OK, it was Barcelona, Spain. Yeah, crazy, right? I may travel a lot for my job but getting an overseas pass - even if it's in cramped coach with an inconvenientflight change and a load of discomfort - is a new one. Last year I was in Madrid and Seville for pleasure and did, in fact, try to ingest local craft beer there with not a lot of luck (here's my dispatch
about Madrid's NATURBIER
). I casually mentioned to a couple of fellow drinkers at December's Pacific Coast Holiday Beer Fest
that I was heading to Barcelona in February, and they burst with enthusiasm about this place called LA CERVETECA
that was an absolutemust-visit. Was it ever. Given that I had five nights in Barcelona, would the fact that four of them included visits to La Cerveteca
surprise you? Yeah, this place is that great.
Jeez, where do I start? OK, I'll keep this and my next post limited to the Spanish (dare I say Catalonian
) craft beers that I tried, though I found multiple unheard-of Belgian ales and other wild cards on this trip that I'll write about later. If you've heard anything about a burgeoning artisanal beer culture in Southeastern Spain (I hadn't before this trip), let it be said that there's no friggin' doubt about it. There is now some outstanding
beer from this part of the world, and my cup raneth (??)
over with the bounty of the region thanks to my targeted visits to La Cerveteca
and CERVECERIA EL FLABIOL
, both of which I researched via Beer Advocate's invaluable "BeerFly" beer-related travel guide
. LA CERVETECA
is just amazing - a beautiful, open, German-style beer nook where you drink while standing over barrels and which has local beer on draft and a deep selection of micros from around the world. Funny enough, outside of their many local beers (this has got to be ground zero for Catalonian beer), they also have heavy stock from CANTILLON
, NOGNE Ø
, AECHT SCHLENKERLA
,FLYING DOG (!)
and ANCHOR BREWING (!!)
. The guys that run and work the place are exceptionally friendly and even speak a little inglés
, which helped me and my drinkmates in picking out the best in Spanish beer, stuff we may never see again.
Foremost on the list is the beer pictured above, one that I absolutely loved and had on draft twice - MASIA AGULLONS RUNA ALE
. This is served on hand pump at La Cerveteca, and it's a superlative bitterbrown ale. It has a giant frosty head of foam, and is remarkably fresh tasting. Tingling bitterness and lots of exciting dark fruit flavor - prunes, nuts, and some caramel. My friend PW, a guy weaned on UK ales, said this is one of the most exceptional British-style ales he'd had in a long while. I thought it was like a cask brown ale with wildly more hops & fruits than expected, all the while being light, refreshing and low-ABV. RUNA ALE
was the highlight of the trip, drink-wise. 9/10
Another interesting one I got to try is from a local outfit named DeDUES
called DeDUES CERVESA D'AUTOR
. I was actually gently warned against this by the proprieter of Cerveceria El Flabiol
- he called it "unusual and indescribable" - but I thought it was kinda cool in its 13-ounce bottle, if exactly as he described. It's sort of like if you decided to make an "imperial" English bitter, then ramped it up with more hops and a really strange collection of yeasts. Mahogany red, chalky, bitter, and totally unique. Intriguing, but probably not something I'd want to try again. 6/10
I'd tell ya more but I'm getting too thirsty just typing this stuff. Coming up - the beers of BIRRANT MOS'KA and more....!
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Date: Sat, Feb 20, 2010
Perhaps you saw those bottles of $42 beers from a hitherto-unknown California beermaker called MAYFIELD BREWING
hit the shelves of Whole Foods last year. “The Mayfield Iconoclast series?”
, you asked yourself, as I did – “…How do I not know a thing of this nectar that must be so richly magnificent & otherworldly that it is able to garner twice and thrice the price of other already too-expensive beers from celebrated brewers the world over?”.
I suppose that everyone who saw the three fancy bottles of MAYFIELD ICONOCLAST
in their three fancy flavors asked themselves that, unless you already knew the back story, which I didn’t and still don’t. It is inevitable in this explosive abundance of artisanal craft beer that the market would evolve to support ever-higher price points, and as a good capitalist, I’m very much in favor of the market working out whether this gamble on the highest of the high end is a good one for John Aldrete
, a one-man operation who started Mayfield Brewing in 2007. Yet forgive me my skepticism against the price multiple vs. other world-class beers would be equaled by a quality multiple as well. I decided to head to a rare Mayfield tasting at the very same Whole Foods where I first espied it to find out.
As part of SF Beer Week, Mr. Aldrete, accompanied by his helpful, glass-stacking 8-year-old son, was doling out 25-cent pours of his three beers in the wine section of San Francisco’s 4th Street Whole Foods one evening. I threw down a big $1 so I could try all three – and then some! The tasting was done very much the way a Napa Valley wine tasting is – a little bit goes into your glass from the luxuriously-appointed bottles, you swish it around, you chat with the owner, and you get maybe
three swigs to form an impression. Given that, it was actually somewhat hard for me to get a read on the first one, ICONOCLAST AURORA
. Aldrete called this an “altbier” infused with white wine, or perhaps it was aged in white wine barrels. Hmm. It sure tasted like wine to me, closer to chardonnay than altbier, and perhaps that’s where this high price-point stuff is coming from. Market this as a beer for people who love wine, and the market just might bat an eyelash your way.
Next was ICONOCLAST ECLAT
, which I swear he called a “IPA”, aged in oak wine barrels. I could care less what someone calls anything as long as it’s good, but this small pours were making it hard to get a bead on anything. What do you want for 25 cents, right, Hinman? Shut up and sip your wine-beer. As suspicion mounted, Aldrete delivered the counterpunch in the form of ICONOCLAST NOCTURNA
. Hold on here.
This is incredible. A creamyimperial stout aged in port wine barrels, Nocturna tastes like a fantasy port/stout dream beverage, so delicious I made it my “bonus round” selection just so I could contemplate its magnificence again. You want 42 bucks for a big bottle of this? Why not? It’s a big party, your fanciest fancy-pants friends are coming over, and you want to bust out something that everyone’s going to swoon over and make you a superstar to both your beer and your wine-lovin’ friends. In other words, most couples you know – or should I say that I
know, couples where the husband drinks beer with me, and the wife drinks wine with my wife. A ha. I’ve just divined the MAYFIELD ICONOCLAST
angle, and at least with NOCTURNA
, everyone will be happy and gay that you spent $42 to help get them that way.
I intend to ask Mr. Aldrete for an interview in the near future so we can all learn more about this stuff (seems like a totally humble, friendly and knowledgeable guy), but for now, let me say that it is indeed possible that this is no sleight-of-hand hocus pocus. I’d love to hear what you think if, in fact, your lips have graced the sides of a glass with Mayfield Iconoclast beer in it.
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Date: Fri, Feb 19, 2010
So after saying publicly on the Twitter that I wasn’t going to be attending any of the back-slappin’, shuckin & jivin’ SF BEER WEEK
events, I turned coat & went to the unveiling of ELYSIAN BREWING
and GREEN FLASH BREWING’s
collaboration saison THE RED QUEEN
last week. This took place at City Beer Store
in San Francisco on a Wednesday night, and truly, I chose this event more out of convenience than anything else, seeing as how I’ve bagged on Elysian’s beers in the past & was only a fan of the Green Flash half of the partnership. And though I don’t know who’s truly
pulling the strings with this beer, let it be said that Elysian is definitely getting a halo effect at a bare minimum from helping to produce this outstanding beer. Allow me to tell you about it.THE RED QUEEN
is a dark orange saison to die for. Fruity, incredibly juicy and just-out-of-the-vat fresh, this beer takes the saison sideways. It has a wonderfully earthy smell, which is something you’d expect, right? But it made its mark with me for its robust flavors of tangerine, honey and yeasts, all mingling together in one of the more fruit-forward farmhouse ales I’ve ever tasted. I’m willing to bet there are some similarities in pedigree with the GREEN FLASH SAISON
I wrote about before and which currently resides in the Hedonist Beer Jive 75
. That’s a picture of THE RED QUEEN
right there, and yes, that’s the dollar I tipped for the privilege of being able to drink one. I don’t know if it’s a one-shot-and-done sort of beer or if there’s a potential for bottling & draft accounts, but like the Green Flash Saison from two years ago, this one’s easily scoring a big 9/10
on the HBJ scale.
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Date: Mon, Feb 15, 2010
Another day, another knockout beer from Montreal, Quebec's DIEU DU CIEL
- or as they like to call themselves when they get excited, DIEU DU CIEL!
This time we're talking about SOLSTICE D'HIVER
, a winter seasonal that reached my eyes & ears via a number of channels, both online and off. The talk was that these guys make a ton of great beers, and yet besides the trophy-laden PECHE MORTAL
, this was their flat-out best. I'm inclined to agree - this barleywine is totally top-tier stuff.
It comes in a 12-ounce bottle and that's OK cuz it's a big'un - 9.8% alcohol. SOLSTICE D'HIVER
is a warming, sweet barleywine, without a lot of the intense hoppiness you'll find in some versions of this style. The taste is burnt sugar, maybe a little pineapple if you can believe it, and that delicious maltiness that gives off quite an aroma. You can smell that it's a high-ABV beer, but not necessarily taste it. Absolutely wanted another glass, and that doesn't happen to often with the big boys. I'm hooked on this outfit's beers, and I'll keep buying them as I see new ones. 8.5/10
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Date: Fri, Feb 12, 2010
I've long slogged through life with the cross to bear of being what seems to be the only human alive who believes RUSSIAN RIVER's PLINY THE ELDER
double IPA to be a "lesser" beer. Sure, it's good enough, but after careful contemplation of 5 glasses or bottles of it, I think I'm pretty certain that it's in the lower third of the Russian River (arguably our country's finest brewer
)panoply, and it's a little south of average for the ultra-hoppy, Double IPA style. I find this opinion raises the hackles of the many who feel PLINY THE ELDER
to be manna from heaven, and I've enjoyed some of the comments on this blog calling me heretic, "Judas" and whatnot.
Then there's the fabled PLINY THE YOUNGER
. This beer comes out only once a year, and it's the 11% ABV, souped-up version of the Elder, and when it appears in its exceptionally rare handful of locations (usually just in a few California bars), it's snapped up & glugged down like a cooler full of Gatorade found after three parched days in the Gobi Desert. Right now it's actually tied with TRAPPIST WESTVLETEREN 12
on Beer Advocate's "Top 100 Beers"
board as the single greatest beer in the entire world.
Now me, I'm a San Francisco resident, and both Plinys are brewed about 80 minutes north of me. The fact that until a couple days ago I'd never tried RUSSIAN RIVER PLINY THE YOUNGER
was a crime against drinking, and serious lowered my credentials as a, um, "beer journalist" and maker of tastes. So when I got the email from Oakland's excellent beer bar THE TRAPPIST
that they'd have a keg of this liquid gold on tap for a few hours, I drove- nay, I sped
- over there after leaving work early to ensure I'd get to finally ingest a glass of the greatest beer on god's green earth.
Now you readers of this blog, you know I try
to be a teller of truths,while holding alittle bit of my tongue in my cheek at times. But I can't fathom this PLINY THE YOUNGER
thing either, I just can't. Yes, it is ludicrously hoppy. It smells like a hop bath, and the only beer I've ever had this intense was DRAKE'S HOP SALAD
- which, let the record show, is the better beer. I can't say that this is really that amazing of an experience. It is strong, it is well-constructed, but the sort of consciousness-raising beer experience one expects from the world's great beers? No, it's nothing of the sort. It's an experimental, kick-your-ass, hoppy ale that you'll remember for its intense bitterness and that's about it. And around here
, my friends, that's what we at Hedonist Beer Jive like to call a 6.5/10
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Date: Thu, Feb 11, 2010
I have an until-now unarticulated but dormant beer resolution for 2010 to actually drink a few German beers and try and develop some level of expertise on the great ones. I’m not a lager guy, but I totally love the hefeweizen, the dunkel weizen and even the hardcore eisbock, and I truly need to drink more of the original masters and less of the American copycats in order to get the proverbial big picture – and have fun whilst doing so. To that end, I ordered a SCHNEIDER WEISSE “ORIGINAL”
the other evening at Café Biere
. They had this beer listed as “ORIGINAL AMBER
”, and that’s certainly fair since that’s its color, but this is rich, delicious dark hefeweizen all the way.
Tart and actually a little hoppy, this beer is probably closer to the “dunkel” side of the wheat beer tipping point, but who’s counting. It has an exceedingly fresh taste and smooth mouthfeel, giving it that whole I-could-drink-this-all-night feel that moves units & gets the German people good & drunk. Keep in mind that the brewer behind this, SCHNEIDER & SOHN WEISSBIERBRAUEREI
, are the same masters behind AVENTINUS
beers and the recent excellent collaboration
with BROOKYLN BREWING
. These guys don’t mess around. Definitely recommended. 7.5/10.
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Date: Wed, Feb 10, 2010
Mention “Italian beer” to any beer drinker with a moderately-evolved palate, and until two years ago those two words would have been met with hoots of derision & outright mockery until you were forced to hang your head in shame. Nothing’s worse that getting all psyched up for a nice Italian meal, only to find the only beer choices being those “premium” Italian beers PERONI
. Gross. Give me Coors Extra Gold or Blatz Light any day. Word on the street is that there’s this new wave of Italian brewers, bold risk-takers in the middle of one of the world’s great wine countries who are crafting incredible artisanal ales, some of which are starting to be sent over into North America for beer dork contemplation. Me, I’ve been looking for the right beer to get involved in the Italian scene. I believe based on last night’s evidence that I am still looking.
Johnny over at MONTEREY DELI
– the outstanding beer store/market a mere two blocks from my house
– got in this new Italian beer in a funny-looking bottle by an Italian brewer called ORO DI MILANO
called RISERVA SPECIALE
. He hadn’t tried it yet, so I decided that I would. It may be that I’m “breaking” this beer in the Northern Califorina market. It’s a dubious honor. ORO DI MILANO RISERVA SPECIALE
is definitely a major jump above the Italian macros, but considering that those are undrinkable, it’s a small step to scale. This one’s still trending toward the “macro ale” side of the ledger, with an intense, off-putting malty sweetness that really defines and overwhelms the beer. It’s 8.2% alcohol, but the sugary sweetness tastes like a by-product of the malts, and I dunno, it’s just not done in a way that hits me where I live. Light, nearly opaque amber (they call it a “brown amber ale”), this has a thin-to-medium body, with tastes of really light caramel and even liqueurs. Yeah, that’s it – it’s like those cheapo liqueur-filled candies you get in those phony chocolate bottles of Jameson Whiskey, except this has a grainy, malty beer taste instead. I’m none too impressed. Who out there knows of a really stupendous Italian beer I can drop some coin on instead? 5/10
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Date: Mon, Feb 8, 2010
I wasn’t yet a rabid, frothing fan of San Francisco’s HEALTHY SPIRITS
beer store until my most recent couple of visits there, when I realized that over the past two years the place has become the SF Bay Area’s finest retail location for off-beat, one-of-a-kind, artisanal beers. The place has gradually changed from being merely an awesome beer store to a mind-blowing
beer emporium - full of Belgian specialty ales, Scandinavian brews, Japanese craft beers and yes, the best in American microbrews as well. If you look hard enough you can also pick up some middle eastern treats and a pack of gum & some chips, too.
We decided to commission an interview with DAVE HAUSLEIN
, beer manager at Healthy Spirits, as he’s been presiding over this transition and growth the past couple of years. Take a look at what Mr. Hauslein has to say here and you’ll revel that we live in an age where such a store not only exists, but thrives. Oh – and definitely put it on your beergenda when you visit our town – HEALTHY SPIRITS
is located at 2299 15th Street @ Castro. Here goes:HEDONIST BEER JIVE: Tell me a little bit about how Healthy Spirits, which was just a normal corner convenience store for most of its existance, has morphed & changed the past few years.Dave Hauslein:
Healthy Spirits has never had a traditional approach to the neighborhood corner store. In its infancy, the store focused on the diverse tastes of the neighborhood, putting a lot of energy into supplying the large Irish population with their favorite UK specialty items (candy, chips, etc.). Another popular, long running aspect of the store has been the Rami’s Mommy’s line of home-made Middle-Eastern food, which is made from scratch by the owner’s mother, from old family recipes. A little over 3 years ago Rami saw the growing interest in craft beer in San Francisco and decided to become a part of that scene. The original beer guy, Matt Pushinsky, worked with Rami to set up the solid foundation we have in the craft beer community. In the 2+ years I have been at the store, I have tried to continue in that direction, expanding our selection and starting the Beer of the Month Club.HEDONIST BEER JIVE: What are you looking for when you choose beer for the store - Rarity? Quality? Ability to sell through?Dave Hauslein:
I have been into beer for a long time, and I know most of the major brands inside and out, so I tend to get excited whenever someone new comes along. I look for innovation, and obviously quality. Since we have so many beers at the store, we have the ability to bring in less known breweries and not always buy based on what sells fast. I am also careful about buying based on what’s rare, because sometimes it’s nothing more than a marketing strategy. Besides being as active in the San Francisco beer scene as we can there are some great resources out there such as beer advocate and rate beer, that really help us ascertain which beers are really worth seeking out. Of course the best method of determining quality is always going to be tasting them yourself.HEDONIST BEER JIVE: Who buys beer at Healthy Spirits? Give me some examples of your most dedicated customers.Dave Hauslein:
Our customers are as eclectic as the beer we sell. We get local neighborhood people, people who drive in from out of town, and even out of state people. I find that the most dedicated customers are the Beer of the Month Club members. They get 15% off coupons with every issue that’s released, so many of them come in and buy large amounts of beer at once. There is also a growing number of customers who cellar beer at home. These people tend to buy limited release beers by the case.HEDONIST BEER JIVE: Healthy Spirits is located in the Castro District, a heavily gay neighborhood with some families and scattered twentysomethings. Why do you feel this store fits the neighborhood well? Dave Hauslein:
The Castro is a neighborhood that has always been on the cutting edge, and with the rising interest in craft beer, we are in the right place. It’s an affluent area, where people feel comfortable spending a little bit of money to try something just to see if they’ll like it. We are also within walking distance of The Toronado, one of the best beer bars in the world. So we get a lot of cross traffic.HEDONIST BEER JIVE: The focus at Healthy Spirits seems to be on Belgians, but I'm noticing a huge selection now of some of the most offbeat & artisanal beers from Denmark, Sweden, Japan, Norway and elsewhere. Is there a demand for those, and what are the best ones & the most popular ones?Dave Hauslein:
We began by focusing primarily on Belgians, but it’s just one of the many countries that are now producing noteworthy beer. In the past few years we have seen mini-Renaissances in Scandinavia and Italy, as well as rising interest in American-style craft beers in countries like Japan. The demand is limited, but I am confident it will grow with time as people become more aware of what’s available to them. I am happy to see that breweries like Jolly Pumpkin and Stone are collaborating with Scandinavian breweries and creating interesting new beers with cross-cultural influences. And then there’s BFM from Switzerland, one of my all time favorite producers. Their Abbaye De Saint Bon Chien is a transcendent beer. A grand cru aged in oak that ends up somewhere between a Flemish sour ale and a Belgian grand cru. HEDONIST BEER JIVE: What's the pricing strategy at Healthy Spirits? I've noticed that it's a place where you can drop a lot of cash in a hurry, and is perhaps the most "high-end" beer shop I've ever been to.Dave Hauslein:
Since we are a specialty shop and carry such a large selection, the prices are going to be higher than places like Bev-Mo, where they get special deals and sell based on bulk. But we think it’s worth it, especially when you consider the level of service we provide. We are able to give detailed information on most every beer we carry, and will assist customers in putting together vertical tastings, pairing beer with food, and helping them to find beers that are suited to their taste. We can even recommend glassware, show the proper way to pour various beers, and explain the history/background of many producers. That being said, we currently offer a 10% discount on mixed 6 packs, which includes all bottles and cans.HEDONIST BEER JIVE: You told me that you're looking to also become a destination for high-end spirits the way you are for beer. What are some examples?Dave Hauslein:
Nate Breed is our wine and spirits buyer, and resident expert. He just launched a bourbon blog
, and we have developed a sizeable selection of high quality bourbons. Nate hand selects each wine and bourbon that comes into the store, which ensures that we carry only the best.HEDONIST BEER JIVE: How did you personally get involved with Healthy Spirits? Do you have a personal "beer resume" you can share with us?Dave Hauslein:
I first got into craft beer when I was about 19 years old. I tried a mixed case of Unibroue beers one New Year’s Eve, and that was it. I had never tried any Belgian-style beer before, and it turned into a minor obsession. This was when I still lived in Pennsylvania. I found a few specialty beer stores that didn’t ask me for ID and started experimenting with different styles. When I moved to Philadelphia to attend college I got a job at The Foodery, which is easily one of the best beer stores on the East Coast. There I learned a lot, and drank a lot. When I moved to San Francisco I worked at BevMo for a little while. When I found an opportunity to work at Healthy Spirits I jumped on it. I have been at the store for over 2 years and in that time Rami, Nate and myself have made major strides towards being San Francisco’s top bottle shop destination.HEDONIST BEER JIVE: What are some of your personal favorite beers, either that you sell or that you wish you sold?Dave Hauslein:
It’s a tough question, because I change my mind all the time. I’ll start with a top 5 of stuff that we are currently selling at the store.
1. De Dolle Stille Nacht
2. Deschutes Black Butte XXI
3. BFM Abbaye De Saint Bon Chien Vintage 2007
4. Jolly Pumpkin Maracaibo
5. Drie Fontinen Oude Gueuze
New and interesting beers are coming in all the time, so if you were to ask me next week, I’d probably give you a completely different list. As far as beers I wish we carried, most of them are things I miss from the East Coast. Yuengling Lager brings back pleasant memories. I would love to have access to stuff from the Troeg’s Brewing Company, Brooklyn Brewery, Bell’s, Tyranena, Duck Rabbit, General Lafayette
, and a few dozen others. Thank God we finally got some Victory brews out here!HEDONIST BEER JIVE: Are there any plans to sell some of the beers you carry online, or are there legal hoops to leap through to do so?Dave Hauslein
: We ship beer on a very small scale. Beer laws vary state to state, so we have to check before we send anything. HEDONIST BEER JIVE: Finally, how do you see the store evolving in 2010, and then beyond that?Dave Hauslein:
We are expanding our selection while keeping the emphasis on quality. We are also investigating the possibility of having a couple of beers brewed exclusively for Healthy Spirits. As the year progresses there will be lots of surprises for beer aficionados, and some fun stuff for Beer of the Month Club members. It’s going to be our biggest year ever.
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