What kind of wine should a producer spend time and money making? Should he make an international-style wine, a wine that Robert Parker would embrace and would then sell? This then begs the question what is an international-style wine? Some purists would suggest that modernization techniques used worldwide that are now in use in the South have already done the damage and therefore all resulting wine can only be of the international style. Simply put, international-style wines are those that are fruit-forward on the nose and palate, with supple tannins, aged in oak barriques, and that do not take 10 or 20 years to age before being able to drink. This is a New-World style wine that many suggest Robert Parker enjoys. Read More about Oenotria Part 2
It has turned into the holiday season quite suddenly, as usual. As if there is a time of year or season during which I do not think about beer the holidays have got me thinking about beer and how enjoyable sharing a glass of something new, or a special aged bottle from the cellar with friends and family can be. It is a great time of year to drink something special. Amazing Christmas offerings from world class breweries make up a long list of options as well as any overlooked category from your regular drinking line up. Tasting beers or lining up a few drinks with a friend or relative you haven’t seen in a while is a highly enjoyable and affordable source of entertainment that can be hosted at home. I particularly enjoy getting into styles that I do not frequent throughout the year (and some that I do); Christmas beers, Imperial Stouts and Barleywines. The latter two on this list may have some of you wondering how a self-proclaimed beer lover could ignore such remarkable styles throughout the year. Well they are certainly not ignored, I am more pointing towards styles that are well suited to aging and this is the time of year when I dip into the cellar to crack what has been developing over the last 6 months to several years. Comparing vintages of repeating classics such as Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout, Anchor Christmas, and Sierra Bigfoot always makes for a fine evening or afternoon. There are also numerous collector-level brews to consider adding to your cellar like Alesmith Speedway Stout or Stone Vertical Epic and if you are feeling adventurous there is a selection of numerous vintages of English strong ale from JW Lees and Gales available. Getting into the cellar is often a momentous event well suited for the celebratory season we are in. I also quite enjoy the exploration of overlooked styles and new seasonal offerings. For me the most overlooked style is weizenbock. Generally speaking I am not a fan of Weiss or Hefeweizen, however there is no denying the unparalleled quality of a beer like Schneider Aventinus. A revisit keeps me in touch with the breadth of brewing and aware of my ever changing palate. As for seasonal brews, the Belgian brewers have this season locked up. As much as I love American brewing, the Belgian Christmas beers are simply the best winter brews around. I look forward to the annual release of warming, yeasty beers that show off complexity, refinement and extreme deliciousness. St. Bernardus Christmas Ale and De Ranke Pere Noel are two of my favorites, but I also enjoy the glass packs that combine your beer of choice with the brewery’s glass specifically designed for drinking their beer. There is so much out there, but as long as you have what you like best in your favorite glass and have someone to share it with, you are all set for a great holiday season.
The vine has a long history in Southern Italy. Oenotria, the land of vines, is what the Greeks affectionately called the modern-day ‘Mezzogiorno,’ the southern part of the Italian boot, in addition to Sicily. (It is important to know that) Southern Italy was effectively a Greek colony in the centuries before Christ, so much so, that the south was known as ‘Magna Graecia,’ literally ‘Greater Greece.’ When they colonized Southern Italy they brought with them one of the markers of civilization, the vine. Technically, the Phoenicians were the first to bring the vine, but it was the Greeks who brought both viticulture and viniculture, essentially a wine-making culture. From that point on wine became established there, and its wines were admired by Roman leaders throughout the Roman Empire, even Julius Caesar, himself, sung praises of these wines. Southern Italian wine was a well-respected product before Barolo or Chianti had been created. However, throughout the centuries, wine in the south became less well-regarded, and more infamous as it became the primary source of Italian jug wine. Wines from Apulia, Calabria, Campania, Sicily, and Sardinia were used to strengthen weak vintages from Northern and Central Italy. They were even used in some Southern French wines for the very same reasons as their Northern Italian counterparts. What a fall from grace! Read More about Oenotria Part 1
The cold has approached quite abruptly and with this seasonal change the right beer is needed to provide both warmth and refreshment. I would love to go on to claim that a well crafted Oktoberfest Lager would fit the season perfectly, but since the wonderful world of beer seems to wish it was like fashionable clothing O-fest brews are already in short supply and winter beers are not long from the shelves. Something like Hacker-Pschorr Oktoberfest is delightful when coming in from the coolness of fall to warm up also goes hand in hand with the need for refreshment. Although there is still some available I will completely shift styles and focus on what might be attainable for more than the rest of this week – Harvest Ales. Unlike many trends in beer which I find ridiculous, the growing popularity of the harvest style I am thrilled with. I hope that more breweries will become excited about these brews and that consumers will reward their efforts with repeated consumption. To be clear I am addressing the beer that is derived from the fresh harvest of the necessary ingredients. The most prominent of these ingredients is hops and usually that is the driving flavor of a harvest ale. Many breweries take this opportunity to make a ‘wet hop’ IPA, where the newly harvested hops are added in immediately with no drying in between. Being one who remains obsessed with the delicious flavor of hops I find harvest time quickly becoming my favorite beer season. Sadly my passion digresses from O-fest brews as breweries consistently push them back into the summer when the beer and the season just do not match up as well. I find IPAs to be more of a summer style than a winter style, but harvest ales are generally coming out as IPAs with a heartier malt balance and many pour a more rich amber than their lighter IPA counterparts. Sierra Nevada likely has the most recognizable harvest ale and it is indeed deserving of recognition. Founder’s makes one of the best harvest ales I have had, but MA is far enough from their operation that supplies are still pretty sparse. Back to the balance of warming and refreshment though… The boldness of many of these harvest ales brings a certain warmth to you on a crisp fall day but I am often also thirsty on a day like that. After mingling with the unholy rain of leaves that will only hide itself after hours of encouragement from me I find that some refreshment is called for. Hop driven beers are mouth watering and, as such, refreshing. The full bodied, full flavored, quenching freshness makes harvest ales a perfect compliment to the fall.
Home draught systems are generally sought after by most beer drinkers. In-home pouring (or in garage / basement pouring for most of us homesteaders) is more and more popular and many advantages are apparent; one empty instead of 164 empties, adjustable serving size, less $ per beer, being cooler than your friends and having lots of beer where you used to never have enough. I have to ask which is better though, bottles or barrels? Obviously the answer is both, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. An answer like that doesn’t give me much to say here does it? Read More about Keg or Bottle?
How do you really get to know someone? Think of your significant other, in the beginning you spent time alone together and then probably with her friends, and you thought you knew her well until…she brought you home to meet her parents, her siblings, and the rest of her family. I’m willing to bet that you really began to understand the type of person she is after becoming familiar with the people and places she grew with and around. I’m sure you become even more intimately connected and your love for her grew in ways you never thought it could. Read More about Getting to know you