Monday, December 31, 2012

My Rating Scale

As long as I am drinking a variety of beers, I might as well rate them.  The question is, "how?"

A radio show I know rates new music on a "Toss It - Burn It - Buy It" scale.  I like the simplicity of that scale, but I will not pretend to know what my readers might like.  My tastes are my own.  So I am thinking about...

1 - I don't get it
2 - I can understand the appeal (for others)
3 - I'd have another
4 - I'd seek this out
5 - I must make a pilgrimage to the brewery.

I fully expect about half of the beers I try to earn a 3.  There are many beers, but how many really stand out - for good or bad?  The reason why beer companies advertise so much is so that they can distinguish their products on marketing when their products are almost indistinguishable.

Two stories that illustrate the power of beer marketing.  1) The Pabst Brewery had their beers free on-tap in the lunch room.  They were surprised to discover that their workers preferred to drink Red, White & Blue Light - a discount beer - over their more "premium" brands.  They continue(d?) to sell the beer as RW&B Light, but they also began to sell it as "Jacob Best's Premium Light."  Of course they sold more of it under the premium label.  2) My brother and his friends once did blind tastings, and the winner was not an expensive micro brew, but rather discount-beer Mickey's Big Mouth.

While there is a great variety across beers - from stouts, ales, lagers, porters.  Within a classification I expect that I will have a hard time distinguishing one from another.  Perhaps 20-25% will be in a "4" and another 20-25% will be "2."  Very few will be a 1 or a 5. 

So why bother?  Well, an average beer is still a beer, and beer is good.  But also growing in appreciation for the varieties and discover a 5 or two will make My Year of Beer a personal success.

-Jim from Milwaukee

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Why? Dear God, why?

Does the world need another beer blog?  No. 

Will it help people?  Um, probably not.

So WHY?  Well, I already mentioned the beer dinner coming up (in June), and the acquisition of the two books by Michael Jackson.  (Since I will refer to them often, I will call him MJ and his books Ultimate and Companion.)  But there is more to it than that.  We have had two couples - each a few years older than us - who independently from each other have tried to expand our beverage horizons.  Both have tried to get us to appreciate scotch.  One also has us try lambic.  [Lambic is a fruity wheat beer from Belgium.  In Companion, MJ says "lambic scarcely seems like a beer... think of it as the beer world's counterpart to a fino sherry or dry vermouth."  I'll have a lambic later during My Year of Beer and talk about it in more detail then, but it is definitely out of the ordinary.] 

These friends were trying to get us to appreciate more than just a beverage or two, they were trying to have us grow in our appreciation of the finer things in life.  A high quality beverage is a small luxury, a bit of sophistication.  With two teenagers in the house, we live our lives pretty fast.  There is always some place to go, and something to do.  In a manner of speaking, a fine beverage in a glass is a way of forcing myself to slow down, smell the aroma, and focus. 

You may have heard that Benjamin Franklin said that beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.  You may have heard of or seen the documentary titled - How Beer Saved the World.  I am not sure of either of these claims, but this blog will be a way for me to try new things and appreciate more of the world around me.

-Jim from Milwaukee

A Game Plan?

According to Ultimate Beer, "like the grape, the grain does have its favored moods and moments."  I will pay attention to these.  For example, I will drink winter beers like porters and stouts in January and February.  But I won't limit myself to winter beers in the winter.  There really is no game plan. 

I will seek out some beers and varieties at times, and at other times I will drink what is available.  Of course most of the beers will be microbrews, but some will be macro brews, and others will be home brews. 

For each, I will list the name, variety, brewery, and brewery location.  I will discuss color, aroma and taste as well as I am able.  That said, I have had moments with beers that I have not been able to recreate with those very same beers.  This past summer for example, I was blown away by the lingering taste of banana from a Franziskaner Hefeweizen that I had on tap at the Wisconsin State Fair, but a bottle of the same beer in November was not as intense of an experience.  Was it the bottle, the batch, the season, the atmosphere, my thirst or something else?  I haven't a clue.  All I can do is relay my experience.

An Introduction

I am from Milwaukee.  My father - and his father before him - worked in big Milwaukee breweries.  I have been of legal drinking age now for most of my life.  But what do I know about beer?  Not much, I am afraid.  Don't get me wrong, I have imbibed a variety of beers over the last few decades and I know what I like - my favorite beers are German-style Hefeweizens - but the world of beer is vast. 

A few months back I agreed to be a host of a "beer themed dinner."  I needed to learn about beer - in all of its varieties, so I found the work of "the king of hop(s)" Michael Jackson; "Ultimate Beer" and "Beer Companion."  MJ took beer seriously, like oenophiles take wine seriously.  With his books to help guide me, and a different beer each day, 2013 will be "My Year of Beer."

-Jim from Milwaukee