Great American Beer Fest

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Great American Beer Fest, held in Denver, Colorado, broke all the records again this year. Besides for thousands of people enjoying thousands of great beers, there is a nation-wide brewing competition. This is the country's premier brewing competition, and the gold medal winners have plenty of bragging rights.

First, some general stats:
**457 breweries in the festival hall
**2,100 beers served at the festival
**49,000 attendees (includes brewers, volunteers and ticket holders)
**3,000 volunteers
**495 breweries in the competition
**3,308 beers judged in the competition
**78 categories judged + Pro-Am category
**132 judges from ten countries (I wasn't one of them this year :( ...)
**Average number of competition beers entered in each category: 42
**Category with highest number of entries: 134, American Style India Pale Ale

The largest competition I have ever judged had 950 entries; a far cry from 3,308! It took from 9 until 6 to judge 950 beers with 50 judges and even then we were being pushed a bit. Good thing it takes more than 1 day to judge!

Michigan constituted 4% of all beers entered in the competition (138 entries), and 4% of all the winners (9 winners) putting our fine state in 6th place overall. Not too bad, given beer giants Colorado (45 winners), California (39), Oregon (22), Washington (13) and Pennsylvania (12) were ahead of us.

Large Brewing Company and Large Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Coors Brewing Company, Golden, CO; Dr. David Ryder

Mid-Size Brewing Company and Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Flying Dog Brewery, Frederick, MD; Robert Malone

Small Brewing Company and Small Brewing Company Brewer of the Year
Dry Dock Brewing Company, Aurora, CO; Dry Dock Brewing Team

Large Brewpub and Large Brewpub Brewer of the Year
Pizza Port Carlsbad, Carlsbad, CA; Pizza Port Brew Guys

Small Brewpub and Small Brewpub Brewer of the Year
Chuckanut Brewery, Bellingham, WA; Will Kemper

Instead of listing all winners, wich would be an unnecessarily long post, just go here.

But I do want to post the Michigan winners, so for your enjoyment, here's the pride of Michigan:

"Session Beer" Bronze Medal: Bam Biere from Jolly Pumpkin in Dexter.

"Experimental Beer" Silver Medal: Bloody Beer from Shorts Brewing Co. in Bellaire.

"Wood and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer" Gold Medal: Cereal Killer from Arcadia Brewing Company in Battle Creek.

"Bohemian Style Pilsner" Bronze Medal: Bells' Lager Beer from Bells in Kalamazoo.

"Saison" Bronze Medal: Saison Du Bastone from Bastone Brewery in Royal Oak.

"Belgian-Style Lambic" Silver Medal: Red Rock from Big Rock Chop House in Birmingham.

"Robust Porter" Bronze Medal: Pirate's Porter from Black Forest Brew Haus and Grill in Frankenmuth.

"Sweet Stout" Silver Medal: Cream Stout from Redwood Brewing Company in Flint.

"Old/Strong Ale" Bronze Medal: Dementia Old Ale from Kuhnhenn's in Warren.

Congrats to our Michigan winners! Be sure to patronize these breweries and give a nod to the fine brewers there.


Corruption, Congressional-Style

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The left-leaning (according to the article) watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), recently put out a list of the most corrupt members of Congress. While I think that lists like this one make for interesting conversation, I usually take them with a grain of salt. They are often pretty partisan and subjective. This one seems pretty good, though. There may be more corrupt members of Congress, but there is no denying that the people listed here haven't done some rotten stuff or at east have behaved in a way that isn't ethical.

"With the economy in a free-fall, unemployment rates at record highs and health care solutions still nowhere in sight, members should be spending their time looking for answers to the nation’s problems, not finding new ways to enrich themselves," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW.

I can't agree more. Go ahead and peruse the list and tell me what you think. It seems to be well referenced.


Monday Haggis Blogging

Monday, September 21, 2009

After months of threats, I finally bit the bullet and made haggis this weekend with Greg, the same Greg who gave me Friday's beer for review. That Greg. The thing about Greg and I is that it is impossible to gross us out. There is nothing you can do or say to turn our stomachs. For instance, Greg introduced chocolate pudding fruit to the Nerdery one evening. This is a fruit that must actually begin to rot before it is edible. We found that it had the consistency of pudding, and had a vague chocolate taste to it (made better by the addition of actual cocoa powder). If it promises to be sick, disgusting, and unappetizing, Greg and I will eat it and laugh.

Thanks to Food Network's Alton Brown for the recipe and the fine and good-natured butchers over at Merindorf Meats (an amazingly well-stocked butcher shop in town) for the offal, we set out to make the haggis.

Haggis requires:

  • 1 sheep liver
  • 1 sheep heart
  • 1 sheep tongue
  • 1/2 pound of toasted oats
  • 3 onions
  • salt, pepper, dried herbs of your choosing
  • 1/2 lb. of suet
  • 1 stomach
Merindorf Meats ordered most of the stuff for me. Unfortuately, haggis also calls for lung. But sheep lung is apparently illegal in the U.S. for reasons you can guess. But everthing else was there.
First off, I thought I'd thrill you with pictures of the tongues, livers and hearts:
Yummy. At any rate, you boil the organ meats for two hours. My house smelled far, far less than fantastic at the end of that two-hour stretch. So much so we had to open all the windows and Mrs. Smitty, who at this point has been more than understanding, lit some candles.

At the end of the boil, you mince the organ meats, and mix them with minced suet, minced onions and the toasted oats. Really, when it's all mixed together, you have an offal meatloaf of sorts.

(your truly, mixing)
After mixing, Greg and I decided to add some beer to one of the two batches we made up (yes, two batches of haggis) for flavor and to make it a little more moist. Then, we stuffed the unholy mass into the stomachs.
And here are the stomachs, all full of guts:
Looks great eh? At any rate, when they're all stuffed and ready, you put them in a pot of boiling water for three hours. We had to add water occasionally for a boil that length. At the end of the three hours, pull them out:

...slice them open:

...and serve it with mashed potatoes, a pint of beer, and some bagpipe music!
Honestly, it was...good. Not just good, but pretty tatsy. Somthing I'd cook again, and maybe spice-up with other flavors like cumin, corriander, maybe some cayenne pepper for a little kick. It is also astoundingly filling. After one plate of it, I was pretty full. Lots of oats, lots of meat, and all that suet (unrefined beef fat) really fill you up good. Greg and I were a little bummed that it wasn't more disgusting, and that this dinner would be some crazy badge of honor thing. But no. We got an interesting, time-consuming and tasty meatloaf.

So what's next for Greg and Smitty's Inedible Palate Dinner? Kokoretsi? Or perhaps Lutefisk? We shall see...


The Best Of Both Worlds

Thursday, September 17, 2009

One of my very best friends recently took a well-deserved vacation with his lovely wife, and returned with beers for me to sample!

See, folks, this is the way to assure my undying loyalty. Greg figured it out.

At any rate, among the beers he handed me for review are a couple of samples from Terrapin Beer in Athens, Georgia. I have often heard very good things about this brewery, so I was secretly thrilled to pieces that some of my upcoming beer samples will be from this brewery. I had to play it cool, though, and not act all giddy-kid-at-Christmas about it.

Enough about me. On to the beer!
Terrapin India Brown Ale bottle describes this beer as a "head-on collision between a hoppy west coast IPA and a malty, complex brown ale." Thats what I cal a specialty beer. Hoppy west coast IPA? Some of my favorite beers. Malty brown ale? My favorite kind of "session beer." But an IPA and a brown ale at the same time isn't just an Odd Couple mismatch. This is Mozart meets Nirvana.

It poured a nutty, deep brown into the glass with just a hint of a ruby hue as the light on my bar shone through it. The dense, rocky latte consistency head stayed the whole glass, clinging tightly to the sides drink after drink. Translucent due to the color, it was still a crystal-clear beer.

I don't even know where to begin with the aromas in this beer, given the confluence of two completely different beer styles, which the bottle boasts as 5 different hop varieties and 7 malts. It is a no-holds-barred duel of all of my favorite beery scents: pepper leads-off with a mano-a-mano fight with caramel malts. Chocolate grapples with grassy, earthy hops in a battle neither will win. Bright, orangey citrus gets in a shoving match with a sweet maltiness. But all of this aromatic melee is more like a well-choreographed judo match than a nasty brawl. It's all beautiful, lovely art.

The taste is like nothing I have ever had before. It would be crass to say it was like one mouthful of two beers like a cheap frat-house beer bong mixer. No, this beer is a dance between unlikely but graceful partners. The closest I can come to describing this beer is to say that hop-wise, it's a strong IPA. But instead of the bready, doughy, thick-sweet malt to back up all the hops, I get a beautiful Brit nut brown ale malt flavor of the highest caliber. If you've ever had one of those high-end chocolates mixed with some sort of exotic pepper, you have tasted one of the essences of this beer. Complex hop flavors found in my favorite west coast IPAs like citrus, pine and pepper waltz with a sweet nuttiness, chocolate, and dried prunes and apricots and leave me dizzy but oh so elated. One sip leaves me with chocolate covered oranges. Another with pepper-coated apricots. I just want more.

This medium-bodied, well-carbonated beer is a true pleasure to drink. There are so many flavors to enjoy, and Terrapin beautifully merged two beers that I love to pieces. Far from a disaster, this beer is a trend-setter. There's a little something for every beer lover here; for some, it will be unique and different. For others, it will be a true pleasure. I think it's pretty clear where this reviewer falls.


What's their motivation?

Liberals, and likely many normal conservatives, don’t understand the freak show that showed up at the Hundred Hypocrite Huddle in D.C. last week. The so-called “TEA” movement never made an appearance when the Bush administration, passed TARP, created the Medicare pharma benefit and otherwise spent money like a rock star, yet all of a sudden our country is in peril when Obama shows up? Heck, we aren’t even spending under an Obama budget yet and the main thing he has spent money on was a simulus bill, 42% of which was tax cuts. The teabagger hypocrisy cannot be explained by most normal folk, so I ask:

What motivates them?

In the everyday American’s mind it leaves a few options:

  • They are driven my pure partisanship. (Possible)
  • They are a coalition of single issue voters who together call themselves a movement. (Possible)
  • They are driven by religious opposition to Obama’s religion or his social polices. (Possible)
  • They are freaked out that Obama is a black guy now that he is in charge. (Possible)
  • All of the above. (Possible)

While I am not yet convinced that Jimmy Carter did anyone a favor by calling these people racist, I am not convinced that race isn’t part of what drives part of this group.

What do you think?


I never thought about it this way...

Monday, September 14, 2009

Guest blogger Alabama Moderate, over at The Gun Toting Liberal (one of my top 10 favorite blogs) has this to say about the Joe Wilson outburst. From the article:

His outburst has created a discussion on the true status of illegal immigrants in regard to H.R. 3200. And what appears to be getting through is the truth, for once. I wonder if that discussion would have taken place had Wilson kept his mouth shut.

I will admit that I did more research after I heard the comment and didn't really know prior to the controversy. I agree with AM, for the most part. Obama's position, while not 100%, is more correct than Wilson's and I think that the President certainly had a good faith basis to say what he did and that it was not a lie.


Weekend Political Comic

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Click here to enlarge.


Are You Ready...

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

It's football season. The long winter of "the Boys of Summer" is finally, albeit slowly, drawing to a close. Soon, Sportcenter's Top 10 Plays will feature more than 10 guys making diving catches in the outfield.

And for those of us hailing from Michigan who have to suffer the Lions week after week, here's a little football warmup:
NFL Players Mentor Troubled Detroit Lions


Have A Cow, Man

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Another nod to Sopor for sending me some of Mt. Pleasant Brewing Company's Cowcatcher Red Ale (in keeping with the train theme of their beers). An American Amber/Red Ale is an extremely drinkable "session beer" that given its balance between hops and malt, with that scale tipped slightly towards malt, can please a palate beer after beer. Cowcatcher Red Ale does not disappoint, bringing drinkability in spades. I want more of this beer.
Cowcatcher poured a foamy, half-inch clear-white head The beer below it is a beautiful peach-red. It had a slight "fridge haze" from being kept cooler than I should keep it. As it warmed, it became crystal clear and infinitely inviting.

The armoa is exactly as it should be: big biscuity malt aroma up front and dominant along with a yeasty breadiness. Truly a loaf of bread in a glass! To balance, there is a tart and somewhat grassy hop presence throughout the aroma. It ends on a subtle but tasteful grainy note.

And then to the fun part: the drinking! The malt is here all day; this is a beer that despite a definite hop presence absolutely tends toward the malt. Cowcatcher, in that sense, is textbook. There are hops throughout, but in equilibrium with the malts. So many "American-style" beers can get overdone with the hops, but this beer keeps it right where it's supposed to be. Bready malt gives way to a rich caramel flavor. The hops at end end give the beer a citrusy sweetness that doesn't dry out the tongue. In fact, it entices you for more quafs.

Cowcatcher is medium-bodied with a level of carbonation that cleanses between drinks. No astringency, no buttery flavors. Just pure biscuity malt and squeaky-clean hops. Cowcatcher is a real pleasure to after another ad infinitum.

Thanks again Sopor. Great job on a beer that has been a real crowd-pleaser in the Smitty household.



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