I Have Never Done 100 Miles Before: Twin Lights Bike Ride!

Bike New York LogoThis Sunday at 5:30AM I will be waking up to do something that I have thought about doing plenty of times but never had the opportunity to do. I will be participating in my first 100 mile (aka Century) bike ride.

Now, now – I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself – what does this have to do with craft beer?

Well, outside of the fact that cycling is another one of my hobbies, not much really! But this is my social and creative outlet so I figured I’d share with you what my plans are for Sunday.

Along with the Dive Cycle crew (more on them in a minute), I will be partaking in the Bike New York (@bikenewyork) Twin Lights Bike Ride in Highlands, NJ. Like most cycling events, this day long extravaganza includes several routes including 35, 55, 75 and 100 mile journeys. Check out the route maps here.

Twin Lights Ride

Twin Lights Ride Logo

As you can imagine, the shorter distances are fairly simple and are geared towards the biking beginning. Once you start moving up into the 75 and 100 mile range, you will need a good road bike, strong road tires, and spare tubes galore.

Throughout the day on Sunday, I will be tweeting my progress as I traverse through this crazy escapade that the Dive Cycle crew and I have embarked on.

This is the second race that the three of us will be riding together as we completed the 42-mile 5 Borough NYC Bike Ride earlier this year.

Although I’m not yet a member, I have requested to be initiated into the one woman, one man crew who prides itself on riding and diving hard. The term “dive” comes from “dive bar” as the duo, Kelly and Scott, frequently visit dive bars along bike routes in Western NJ and Eastern PA in search of good craft beer.

You will have to drink a pint of beer with a goldfish in it while cycling in a circle in order to be initiated.

Unofficial Dive Cycle Logo

Unofficial Dive Cycle Logo - New Version Coming Soon!

Whether this is the truth or not, I will have my pint glass ready. And goldfish or not, we will definitely be celebrating with a craft beer after the race!

Wish us luck!

What’s the longest bike ride you’ve ever gone on and did it involve craft beer?

Update: Century Fail! Unfortunately, Dive Cycle did not finish the 100 mile bike ride we originally anticipated on completing.

As a very childish prank, someone (still unknown) spilled a box of tacks on the road at around the 50 mile marker. All three of our front tires were affected, and although they remained filled with air for another 6 miles, the air ultimately began seeping out causing flats.

By the time we reached the next rest stop (which was now closed), it was too late to continue. We waited two hours for a ride back to the starting point. All things considered, we were very happy to have finished 56 miles. We’ll get that century soon enough!

NJ’s own @RiverHorseBrew Lager: Guest Review for @DailyBeerReview

River Horse LagerI recently met Rob via twitter (@dailybeerreview). He is an avid craft beer blogger and runs a daily review site (www.dailybeerreview.com).

Rob asked if anyone wanted to do a guest review for his blog, and being the “cool” guy that I am – I did just that!

Click here to read my review of the River Horse Lager (brewed in Lambertville, NJ) on the Daily Beer Review!

Make sure you visit Rob’s site, www.dailybeerreview.com, for pure dedication to craft beer reviews.

What was the last great beer you had that was brewed in New Jersey?

Bomb(er) Shelter: McNeill’s Firehouse Ale

Bomb(er) Shelter: McNeill's HighlightI’ve come to realize that I like writing about bomber sampling more than I originally anticipated I would. Every time I place a bomber in my hands I get an overwhelming surge of what normal writers would brush off as simple thoughts.

I consider this surge creativity.

About The Brewery

In this installment, I have the pleasure of highlighting a craft beer from Vermont which I happened to pick up during my latest venture outside of NJ.

The Firehouse Amber Ale comes to us from McNeill’s Brewery in Brattleboro, Vermont.

The mainly local brewery was started by Ray McNeill in 1992. Over the years, Ray’s crafts won the hearts of many including the editors of All About Beer Magazine which described McNeill’s as “The jewel in the crown of Vermont’s many fine beers.”

In addition to the brewery and packaging facility (opened in 2008) which allows Ray to package ten different products plus seasonals, McNeill’s also features an on-site brewpub.

The brewpub is located on Elliot Street in Brattleboro and serves all ten crafts as well as special concoctions not available on store shelves.

About the Craft

The Firehouse Amber Ale is almost exactly what you would expect. It pours a hazy, almost dirty, amber red color with a thick head. Despite the cloudy appearance, it looks appetizing in the glass.

What I found unexpected with this brew were the changes that occurred in the 60 minutes from opening to finishing the bomber. The most obvious change occurred between what my nose interpreted and my tongue expected.

I was surprised that the ale smelled sweet and fruity, but what shocked me even more is how different it tasted. A lot of that standard beer malt flavor and tastes of tartness, like lemons. There was a rather odd alcohol / plastic / odd scent in the after taste.

For no reason other than that I was busy cooking, I let the brew sit for about 15 minutes before coming back to it. When I did pick up my glass again, to my surprise, the ale changed. The malt taste took a back seat as the tartness transformed into a stronger, pleasant sweet and fruity taste I originally smelled.

Bomb(er) Shelter: McNeill's Highlight 2In my opinion, this craft beer won’t make it on many people’s top lists, but it was a fun experience as I tasted the changes with the passage of time.

Bomber Highlight

Style: American Amber Ale ABV: 5.6%
Z-Liner: “Malty and tart ale that transforms into an almost sweet and fruity experience over time.”
Best Consumed: “While watching a baseball game with your best buddy – at the stadium or in your living room.”

McNeill’s Brewery, Brattleboro, Vermont
Website: www.mcneillsbrewery.com


About bomb(er) shelter
Frequently taken for granted within our industry, this is an ode to my favorite craft beer collecting and dispensing method: the 22oz bomber (for the sake of disambiguation, I am using the term bomber to represent both 22 oz. and 750ml bottles). This mini-feature will highlight various bombers that I have had the pleasure of experiencing. Cheers!

Too Big To Fail.. in the beer market?

An article titled “8 beers Americans no longer drink” published on September 9th by 24/7 Wall St. (and republished by msnbc.com) opens as such:

Some of America’s most famous beers have lost a tremendous amount of their national sales over the last five years.

Rest assured friends, these are not beers that the craft beer community is worried about not being around.

However, as consumers of the American culture, these are beers that we all have been exposed to. The article highlights the enormous sales decreases of America’s most popular beer brands over the past five years.

http://americanpatrol.com/REFERENCE/Bustamante-Cruz.html

Say NO to Bud!

As you can probably imagine, the likes of Budweiser, MGD and Michelob can be quickly found sprinkled throughout the list. The article attributes the large sales decreases (in most cases over a 50% decrease, with Michelob reaching an astounding 72% drop in five years) to the popularity of light beer, imports, and .. wait for it .. craft beer!

Although the brewing companies responsible for these eight products are threefold (Anheuser-Busch, Miller Brewing Company, and Pabst Brewing Company), combined these companies hold a staggering 60-70% of the American beer market share.

Combined with the article, these types of figures make my mind start wondering in all kinds of directions – but it instantly started harping on the words: “Too Big to Fail“.

Does “Too Big To Fail” exist in the beer world? Would a company like Anheuser-Busch, who owns 50% of the US market share, ever be allowed to fail (naturally or through regulation)?

Certainly not. Afterall, the beer market is not “the market”. However, one can always wonder what it would be like to walk into your local bar, order your favorite craft draft, and listen as the guy that just ordered a “Bud” is politely made aware that the bar no longer serves Budweiser “because the company invested poorly and went out of business”.

We still have a long way to go to contemplate the possibilities of that scenario.

But here’s the good news: In 2009 and 2010, growth of the craft brewing industry was 10.3% and 12% respectively.

It is exciting to hear that macro brewery sales are being impacted by a movement supported by amazingly creative and genuine people. People who put product above all else by bending traditional rules, trying new ideas, and reviving old ones that were long lost with the sands of time.

NYC on the Craft Beer Map – Z’s Suggestions for @nycbeerweek!

NY Craft Beer Week LogoSince I had my last birthday party at the Brooklyn Brewery, my friends frequently ask about different beer events and happenings around the NJ and NYC area.

To those friends and many more: the NY Craft Beer Week kicks off tomorrow!

I’m a bit surprised it took me this long to blog about it, but quite honestly, there has been a lot going on this week. My sincerest apologies – the good news is that the 10-day extravaganza will not end until next Sunday, September 25th giving you plenty of time to imbibe new craft beers from across the country.

The organizers of the events (@nycbeerweek) have put together a “beer passport” which provides you with a $3 pint glass of the craft beer (typically $6 – $7) at select bars participating in the Beer Week. Check out NY Craft Beer Week Passport information here.

“But there are so many options! What should I do? Which event should I attend?!” you might be asking yourself.

Don’t fret – an overwhelming amount of events is typically the norm during festivals, beer weeks, and special events. Rest assured that there are no wrong choices.

You will find everything from tap takeovers, dinner pairings, seminar type events, and even super secret stashes of very rare brews to sample (you’ll have to get a little lucky, right place at the right time kind of thing, to experience these).

I traversed the week long event calendar and picked out a few of my favorites. I will do my best to attend these events, but as with most things beer related, game time decisions are standard! Also traveling Monday through Thursday might make it a bit more difficult.

Z Marks the Spot(s) – Suggestions for NY Craft Beer Week

Friday, September 16th
Mudville – 126 Chambers St, @Mudville9NYC
Left Hand Brewery
From the Rockies to your pint glass – try the Fade to Black Stout from this Colorado based brewery.

Saturday, September 17th (concert)
The Gibson – 11th St and Bedford, Brooklyn, thegibsonnyc.com
Uinta Brewery
Look for the Cockeyed Cooper Barleywine from this Salt Lake City brewery – amazing!

Sunday, September 18th (brunch)
Taproom 307 – 307 3rd Ave, @Taproom307
Empire Brewery
A northeast brewery out of Syracuse, NY – pride of New York! Ever had a Fruit Beer? No, go for the Deep Purple. Stop by and say Hi to Hayley – this girl knows her beer!

Monday, September 19th
The Stag’s Head – 252 E 51st, at 2nd Ave, @TheStagsHead
Allagash Brewery
You’ve probably had their “White” flagship witbier – but the brewery has so much more to offer! Just ask @kellywtoutsound! Be on the look out for Victor, Victoria and Interlude.

Tuesday, September 20th
Amity Hall – 80 W 3rd St, at Thompson St, @TheHalfPintNYC
Brewery Ommegang
Two great things about Cooperstown New York – Baseball Hall of Fame and this brewery! Hennepin is found frequently around the city, so look for Rare Vos and Three Philosophers.

Wednesday, September 21st (dinner)
Colicchio & Sons – 85 10th Ave, between W 15th and 16th St, @Colicchio_Sons
Six Point Brewery
Another great brewery from Brooklyn – be on the look out for Sweet Action and their recently brewed Autumation, in “nanokegs” now!

Thursday, September 22nd
Banter – 132 Havemeyer St at South 1st Street, Brooklyn, banterbrooklyn.com
Founders Brewery
Immediately upon arrival proceed directly to the bar and ask for KBS… enough said, trust me.

Thursday, September 22nd (cause’ two choices means twice the fun!)
Rattle N’ Hum Craft Bar – 33rd St, between 5th and Madison, @RattleNHumBar
Stone Brewing Company
The standard in craft beer – oh, and CEO / crazy dude Greg Koch will be there – honestly, it’s worth coming out just to see him, I’ve heard great things about Greg.

Friday, September 23rd
Rye House – 11 W 17th St, between 5th and 6th, @ryehousenyc
Rye Beer Night
This one is a shout-out to my buddy Os (@NJBeerNerd) who keeps rye ale always stocked!

Saturday, September 24th
Guilty Goose – 131 W 23rd St, between 6th and 7th, @guiltygoose
Goose Island
You might have seen the Chicago originated “Goose Island IPA” around – now try the rest of their delicious crafts. Be on the look out for Matilda!

Sunday, September 25th
Rattle N’ Rum Craft Bar – 33rd St, between 5th and Madison, @RattleNHumBar
Rare Ass Beer Brunch N Bruzzer
I think this one speaks for itself!

NY Craft Beer Week Logo 2Check out the NY Craft Beer Week website for a full list of the events!

In keeping with the spirit of the craft beer community, a number of breweries have brewed special concoctions for this eventful week.

I recently received a tweet from Southern Tier (@stbcbeer) brewery which noted that their 5 Boroughs Belgian Pale Ale has been specifically brewed for the NY Craft Beer Week (location and availability TBD!).

Makers of Pumking (see my previous post); this New York brewery makes fantastically enjoyable craft beer.  Seek out this gem of an ale out and let me know what you think!

What are your plans for NY Craft Beer Week and what events are you excited to attend?

Pumpkin is king! Time for Fall and Winter seasonal beers!

Pumking! Pumking Imperial Pumpkin Ale! Isn’t that just the coolest name for a beer? One word comes to mind – badass!

Brewed by Southern Tier (@stbcbeer) in Lakewood, NY, the company touts the product as:

Brewed in the spirit of All Hallows Eve, a time of year when spirits can make contact with the physical world and when magic is most potent. Pour Pumking into a goblet and allow it’s alluring spirit to overflow. As spicy aromas present themselves, let its deep copper color entrance you as your journey into this mystical brew has just begun.

AWESOME.

Pumking!I picked up a bomber (22oz bottle) of this dessert like spicy brew mostly as a result of the hype that I’ve been hearing amongst some of my favorite craft beer bloggers. The beer does not disappoint! Check out the review at beeradvocate.com.

In addition to my mouth watering from the thought of flavor, picking up this bottle brought back memories of posts that I read over the past month.

There has been a number of discussions about seasonal beers being available too early. More often than not, Oktoberfest editions are available in August (I checked into a Saranac Pumpkin during the first week of August on Untappd) and funky Christmas beers in late October to early November.

drinkcraftbeer.com ran a poll of its readers and asked “Are seasonal craft beers being released too early now?” 68% of the responders noted that, in their opinion, seasonal beers are available too early.

On the other hand, Food Republic posted an article titled “It’s Never Too Soon for Pumpkin Beer” where Joshua Bernstein noted:

For purists who pray at the altar of seasonality, this may seem like heresy. I call it a return to form.

In addition, the article included five great pumpkin beers to try (including the aforementioned Pumking).

Although I enjoyed my first pumpkin beer in August, it seemed odd (maybe even a bit wrong) to be drinking it. Call me a heretic, whatever! Now that the weather has started to cool down and the scent of Fall is in the air, I say “Bring on the spice, cloves, and of course, pumpkin seeds!”

What are some of your favorite seasonal beers?

“Chick Beer” – Two Sides of the Coin

Chick Beer Six-Pack“Chick beer” – I’m not the only guy that finds this term extremely patronizing, right? Over the past two weeks, there has been a ton of twitter and blog activity about the introduction of a beer specifically marketed to women.

Chick: Premium Light Beer (website, twitter) has been touted by its creators as “the only American beer created just for women.” The light lager clocks in at 97 calories and carries 3.5 carbs (on par with other light beers like Miller Lite).

What separates Chick from other light beers is that its goal is to capitalize on the female beer drinking market share which the company claims is at 25% across the US. Currently only available in Maryland, the product that was two years in the making has quickly made headlines and sparked debate.

Putting my opinions aside for a minute, I ventured out to gather feedback from two very close women in my life whose opinions I value greatly.

I connected with Kelly, who is as devout a craft head as I am and knows more about great beer than 90% of the guys I know, and Magda, who enjoys her beer but stays within the realm of macro breweries and prefers Stella Artois over Southern Tier.

I sent them this email and patiently waited for a response:

Hello ladies — random question … Would u drink this stuff?  http://chickbeer.com

The devout craft beer drinker Kelly noted:

Maybe if it’s tinted pink. And glitter popped out of the carbonated bubbles. That would make me giggle with girl delight. But for real, I find this highly sexist and would be offended if someone offered me one. I actually just wrote them and email stating how i found ‘chick’ to not only be offensive as a woman who enjoyed beer, but how overly disgusting and immature their product packaging and marketing direction is for this! What the f were they thinking??

While Magda, the Stella woman, noted:

I would try it for the low calories. I read yesterday that by drinking two light beers instead of two regular beers you can save between 100-200 calories at happy hour. Also yes this is marketed for girly girls which may not get offended by it because its just SO GIRLY AND CUTE (!)…but there is a huuuuge market for girls like that. Esp in early 20s. Lots of money from daddy to spend on a pink beer.

There you have it – very interesting responses.

Despite it’s rather patronizing methods and self-proclaimed sexist title (see the answer to the question, “Is Chick Beer Sexist?”, on the Chick Beer FAQ website), I find the marketing campaign (after all, they’re selling Miller Lite in a new bottle and box) interesting. It certainly has sparked a lot of conversations and opinions – and you can’t deny that any publicity, even bad, is good.

Chick Beer Fishing Team

Chick Beer Fishing Team

Moreover, with a promise to donate 5% of net profits to charities that empower women, the idea can’t be all that bad.

Overall, I believe this beer has a very small limit to the amount of barrels that it can produce yearly and still make a profit – therefore, I don’t foresee it becoming extremely popular.

Despite this fact, you have to give it up to the company that is a) sparking up discussions within the craft beer world and b) is exposing women to alternatives to Bud, Miller, Coors and Michelob.

If you’re curious what others are saying about it, take a look at these articles:

Time News Feed: New ‘Chick’ Beer Is a Lady-Catered Brew in a Girly, Pink Package
Pedestiran.tv: ‘Chick’: How Not to Market Beer to Women
Social Images: Guy Wine and Chick Beer… When Will It End?

Perhaps we should view it as a potential friend – snagging away devout female “light” drinkers, and showing them that there are other options. Only time will tell.

How do you think chick beer will impact the female beer market share in the US?