I brew, therefore I drink!


 It’s seemingly an unwritten rule that if you brew beer for a living, you must live it, breathe it and bathe in it 24/7.  For those of you who have crossed my path, you certainly know that my life is infused by beer at every turn.  If my body could do without water, I would just drink beer. It’s like my own personal sun and moon.  No matter what time of the day, beer is always there to illuminate my way.It’s pretty much been this way since I discovered Craft Beer some 12 years ago in college.  Each morning, I get up and my day starts with beer (thoughts of making it) and ends with beers (which tap I am going to stare down today)!  As a brewer, most days start out with a singular thought…” What beer am I most looking forward to enjoying after work today?”

But, sometimes we are reminded that not everyone looks at life through the same three IPA colored rosy glasses that we keep by our sides.  Tonight, I am baby sitting all three of my nieces.  Thankfully, I brought a bottle of wine to drink.  Seems my sister does not have a well stocked fridge or liquor cabinet for writing purposes.  She seemingly doesn’t even have a nice wine glass to put it in.  I’m pretty sure that the winery that produced this wine did so without considering me drinking out of a 10 oz water goblet.  Who needs Reidel Crystal?  Not me, I have a San Diego Strong Ale V goblet.

But tonight underscores the point of session 5 that I really wanted to hammer on.  It’s the notion that drinking shouldn’t be done alone- with apologies to George Thourogood, I don’t normally drink alone.  You see, it’s one of my favorite things to do (drink) but I rarely find satisfaction in drinking alone.  Yet, I do often find that I drink alone when I am writing my blogs.  It’s a silent little world.
 

For the topic tonight, I felt it would be most advantageous to discuss drinking from my perspective.  As a brewer of unique and flavor forward beers, I often find myself holding court about our beers.  Typically, this takes place behind our 25 foot altar or when I am on the road.  Every so often, I hold court when I am blogging and need someone to confirm our greatness (my ego is easy to summarily invoke and then dismiss).  He makes a fantastic drinking partner excepting of course, he never picks up the tab!

But let’s get back to the topic at hand.  The question is how do you most enjoy drinking beers?  I find for me, that without fail my favorite way to drink beer is to allow beer to come to me.  It’s an easy thing to do.  The only thing it requires is an open mind and someone who is willing to share the possibilities of an open mind with you.   A few months ago, I had a two Pabst Blue Ribbon and pizza experience that was amazing.  The beer was cold, the pizza was hot and the conversation better.  That is beer for me.  It wasn’t a bottle of 1969 Thomas Hardy’s.  Nope, it was industrial lager and pepperoni pizza.

Over the years, I have learned that beer is an integral part of my life.  For the last 11 years, I have worked with Vince and Gina by my side invoking a mantra of “Good Beer Brings Good Cheer!’   Like them, in many ways, I’ve come to view beer as my ultimate social lubricant.  It is widely enjoyed by nearly every culture and is approachable from poor to the rich.  In this way, beer opens doors.  It opens doors for me every day that I had no clue were possible.  Yet, it takes at the very least a partner to open these doors.  Someone has to be willing to engage you and the bubbles in your glass long enough to hear the story. 

For, if you are drinking alone, you are not drinking to enrich society, you are merely drinking for relaxation and restorative purposes.  One of my least favorite drinking partners is the one who dismisses beer outside of context.  I used to play softball on Sundays and most of my teammates fell into the Coors Light and Miller Lite side of Sunday.  So, I would engage their sensibilities.  Sometimes, you need to turn off the Preacher switch. 

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are numerous times when I can appreciate the solidarity of drinking alone.  However, I make it a point to explain to visitors and consumers at Port Brewing that I would much rather share a bottle than drink alone.

In fact, even though I continue to have access to some of the most sought after beers in the world, I have never once consumed, by myself, a whole bottle of Cuvee de Tomme, The Angel’s Share or Older Viscosity even though I have access to numerous bottles of each and very easily could snuggle up to any of them.

For me, the essence of what it is that I do as a brewer is found in the story of each beer.  It is found in the opening of a bottle on a Saturday afternoon with three friends at the house. It’s often found in the end of a Friday night at The Lost Abbey when we “think” a bottle of something nice would end the evening well.  Only to find a half consumed bottle holding court by itself the next morning.

At 155 Mata Way, we make very few beers that are designed to be consumed in one setting by one person.  And for that, I am quite thankful.  I believe that beer is one of the most interesting conversationalists out there.  If you doubt me, check out www.tommearthur.com and learn what happens to my mouth when my brain is slow to react.

Yet, beer has serviced many of us incredibly well over the years.  It has been responsible for the great nation that we live in and work under and at the same time, it has seen its’ share of regulation and more importantly de regulation.  It is the beverage of revolution and evolution.  I for one am so very happy to be considered an integral part of the brewing evolution that we are currently witnessing.  

Lately, I have been sharing more and more beer with patrons and friends of The Lost Abbey and Port Brewing.  It’s an amazing experience to not drink alone.  In the past two weeks, we have had a Pantry cleaning out party that ranged from Avery 10th Anniversary IPA to ten year old Old English to a bottle of 1990 Thomas Hardy.  You know what? Each one of them afforded us a glimpse into a story that needed to be told.  Sometimes, it was a story behind the year of the beer… other times, it was the story of how the beer was acquired.  And, in the case of the ten year old malt liquor, it was the story of a white bar towel turned “do rag” on the head of a white brewer.  Yet, there were friends.  There most certainly was beer.  And most importantly, there were stories being rehashed and cataloged for the future.  It was beer as always, working as a social lubricant.

So next time you’re drinking alone.  Wonder out loud why it is that you aren’t sharing that beverage, that space and opportunity with someone else.  Each of us is entitled to drink beer however we see fit.  Me, I am thankful each and everyday that some of the best and most interesting people I know choose Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey as a place where they want to drink and more importantly converse.  Makes me want to buy the next round.

We didn’t sign a Declaration of Anything either night.  Yet, you get the idea that if a brilliant idea had fomented on either evening, it someday may see the light of day.  It’s possible, something brilliant will come of it.  We just might not know it for 200 years.  Yet, someone may be able to look back on our friendship based imbibing and reason that without each other, nothing would have amounted from that something.  You see, I love to drink.  Yet, almost nothing great comes from drinking alone.  I promise you that!So, in the spirit of session number 5, I am throwing down the gauntlet.  My friends all over this great universe have stocked my spirit with some of the best libations known to mankind.  These are the things that some people would trade testicles for.  Me, I enjoy knowing that both of my children can stay in tact AND I can sample their wares.  SO, when you find yourself in my neck of the woods next.  I will open something to get the night started off right or ended right.  It’s my duty.-one that I relish.  If you have been to our brewery, you know that we are good for it.  It might even be from another brewery!  If you haven’t made the pilgrimage, we anticipate your arrival.  We have posted hours and drinking hours.  God knows, they never match.  There’s always good conversation and better people to meet.  We’ll see you soon.  And there will be more than one beer opened and shared in the honor of friend getting acquainted or re acquainted with beer in hand.    

  

 

 

 

 

Nation

Currently, we are the midst of a brewing revolution in this great nation of ours.  Craft Brewed beers(for the purposes of my arguement here- beers brewed by artisans, artists and passionate brewers- think non industrialists) are experiencing phenomenal growth.  These are the beers that people like Allagash, Avery, Three Floyds and many other brewers make.  These are also the beers of my good friend Vinnie who master brews at Russian River Brewing Company.

Vinnie has the amazing series of beers that may or may not be “Belgian Influenced” which all end in the suffix “tion.”  We love Vinnie.  We love the beers and it’s so much fun sometimes to consider the possibilities in the “tion” sequence.  We also recently released a beer called “Devotion” and that sparked a consumer to ask me if I was looking to have a whole line of “tion” beers as well.  I mentioned this was not the case but that I have fun with the naming process and have even lobbed a few Vinnie’s way.

So, today I thought I would finally blog about all the “tion” beers you may never see.  These are the beers of my imagination and as such only based loosely on moderate innebriation.  This is a list of beers that won’t be produced by Vinnie and his merry band of elves then.

10.) Caramelization- An all caramel malt beer.  Vinnie abhors the use of caramel malt above a judicious amount.  His notion of Judicioius is about 1/10th that of most brewers.  He equates it with the Belgian ideals of spicing.  If you can discern which Caramel malt he has used, he simply has used too much.

9.) Relaxation- Seriously!  There is too much to be done.  Vinnie is a tireless worker.  I have heard through the grapevine that he works 20 hours a day and has developed a bat like ability to sleep upside hanging from the rafters after he is done dry hopping at night.  I am hoping in the not so distant future to acquire this ability.  Sort of a Jedi like “I am seeking Yoda” moment.

8.) Guestimation-  This is another one of those beers you’re just not sure which style of beer it fits into.  Therefore, you are left like most with a best case scenario approximation of where it fits.  Me, I chose the word Guestimation as sometimes, we as brewers love to keep people guessing about the beers we’re making.  Alternate name- See also Procrastination(keep them waiting too)!

7.) Profligation- An homage beer designed for the thoughtful and those wishing to bow at the altar of greatness that is Vinnie.  Barrel aged and becoming increasingly easier to acquire these days.  Most certainly, this will see more widespread distribution next year.  This is great news for those making the pillgrimage to Santa Rosa to visit their Deity.

6.) Convention- A stronger version of Profligation, this beer brewed once a year will be released at the Winnie Convention.  While this Winnie Convention has yet to be santioned by a formal organization, there will no doubt come a day when the faithful “Winnie’s” of the world organize and descend on Santa Rosa each year.  You can only earn the Title of being a “Winnie”(wannabe Vinnie) by attempting to clone Pliny the Elder at home.  Attempting to brew Pliny the Elder at home gets you bonus points into the club as well.

5.) Consternation- Hell hath no fury like the wrath of a Vinnie scorned.  I know.  I have seen it.  Most are unlikely to have witnessed this.  A beer the color of boiling red with vituperative laced bite.  A bitter beer that makes an appearance only when the time is right.

4.) Pontification- Another one of those beers that just makes you go “hmm?  How did he do it?”  And like a magician, he will talk to you with his right hand all the while spiking your glass with Brettanomyces leaving you in awe of his magical powers.  I know… I too have been amazed.

3.) Recollection-  This is a very heavy beer.  It bears the weight of a singular thought- the very thought of recalling a beer based world lacking the infusion of Vinnie.  I shudder at the thought each time I recount my world before Vinnie.  It’s a very ominous beer to say the least.  Thankfully, our world is constantly enriched with Vinnie and as such, we are not force into moments of introspection and recollection of a pre Vinnie Brewing Society.

2.) Speculation-  With all these amazing small batch beers being released, it is only a matter of time before he releases the greatest one bottle beer of all time known simply as “Speculation.”  As only one bottle will ever be released, the owner is simply left wondering…” I wonder what it tastes like?  I wonder if I will ever open it?  Screw that, I wonder what it’s worth? ”  And this goes hand in hand with all the people who are buying the other barrel aged beers in the hopes that they will be able to pay for their childs college tuition in a Post Vinnie society of brewers(OOOH the Horror!!!)

Drumroll please…..  Here comes the Number 1 Beer from Russian River that you’ll never see released.

1.) Vindication-  Many years ago, Vinnie gave me well deserved CRAP for naming a beer after myself.  He told me he would never do that for one of his beers(name one after himself- not me!)  So, if we are ever going to see Vindication, I am guessing that project will fall on my shoulders.  The beer will have to be stark yellow lacking any caramel flavor.  It will be easily dry hopped in a relaxing manner.  We are only left with the best case Guestimation of when this will be.  We’re quite certain the label will include a picture of Vinnie seated on the altar.  It will most likely be released in conjunction with the First ever Winnie Convention(though not an officially liscensed product) which will force us into some measure of adjudication.  He’ll be mad as hell that we used his likeness.  The beer will force consumers everywhere to pontificate on whether to buy such a beer.  Vinnie will still be one of only a handful of people able to recall a pre Vinnie beer society.  There will be mass speculation for this beer.  It will initially be offered for $1K per 187ml bottle and the project will crash and burn in Vindication because it’s not like I don’t have enough things going on around here either.  I suppose we should get to work on Procrastination Vindication?  An homage to our great friend to the north?

Wine Celebrates, Beer Apologizes

It’s a simple statement really.  For too many, Wine is celebrated and beer is left to apologize for lacking sophistication.  Or so it seems. I promised back in my wine infused interview from my last post that I would work on my wine based blog and so here goes nothing.

 In the last few months, several authors have found it fashionable to slam beer for apparently “trying to be more like wine and less like beer.”  I didn’t realize they had cornered the market on using fancy words to describe the aromatics of fermented liquids.  I guess it Christs’ fault?  I mean if you want to blame someone, I would start with the Son of God.  If he had served beer instead of wine at the last supper or had turned water into beer we might not be having this conversation.  So yeah, I blame the Messiah.  But I recently finished reading a new book to me called “Fermenting Revolution.”  The book actually supports many suppositions that Jesus may actually have been working with Beer(or a barley based beverage) rather than wine in the bible.  But, I didn’t mean to digress so far.  I want to get back to these oenephiles and sophistication. 

Actually, I blame ignorant writers looking to pick a fight amongst consumers who feel that beer is an easy topic.  Problem is, beer really isn’t an easy thing to pick on these days.  Craft brewed beers continue to see accelerated double digit growth and as such, more and more people are being turned onto the benefits of the explosion of beers that are now available on every corner.

But let’s get back to the article that really caught my attention.  It was originally published online by Slate Magazine and titled:

“Beer in the Headlights.  Sales are Flat.  Wine is ascendant.  How did this happen?”  It was published on May 30th and has been written about by other bloggers who are much more timely in their writing than I am.  In the article the author makes the following assertions in support of wine.  I just roll my eyes everytime I read them.

     Wine marketers have it comparatively easy. They merely summon a picture of a bucolic vineyard or people raising their glasses around a table full of food—they don’t have to sell their selling points.

Unfortunately this much is true.  See my post about “Something from Nothing” and you can see that I feel wineries have it too easy when it comes to marketing.  They tug at our pastoral strings evoking the beauty of winemaking.  Brewing beer does have a disconnect from the land in many ways.  It can be problematic to sell Terrior when you’re making beer in the middle of an industrial park one mile from the Highway.  Yet, they forget to tell you that numerous wines are made in these same industrial parks.  It’s a dirty little secret.

This is why brewers have been frantically pushing beer-and-food pairings lately. Beer—which can be great with food, by the way—is in danger of being left out of the American mealtime, banished to the den (only when pro sports are on) or to the back porch (only for the early rounds of grilling).

Gee, I thought we were pushing beer and food pairings because beer can be a superior beverage when it comes to matching with food.  Silly brewers, apparently we’re not ready to graduate to the big people’s table where wine reigns supreme.  In reality, we’re already there.  Beer and food pairings are working.  I see evidence of this everywhere.  I guess all the beer dinners that I have attended and presented at this year were really nothing more than a chef trying to placate my ego?  But let’s get back to the article.  I have more quotes:

Wine is basically an agricultural product (fermented grapes), while beer is the result of a complicated process of manufacture (boiling barley to extract sugars, adding hops and yeast, fermenting the wort that results).

Last time I checked, My barley came from a farmer who tills the soil for a living all the while praying to the Lord his maker for a bountiful crop at harvest.  The Hops I use come from another set of Farmers who must tend to their crops during the brutal summer months and pray for no rain at harvest.  So I guess that means, they aren’t really farmers then?  Mass produced beer down to artisinal beers are ALL produced from living organisms that come from farms.  To call beer an engineered product of “complicated manufacture” misses the point. Moving along to the next statement-

 This holds true whether the brewer is a medieval English villager or Anheuser-Busch. The hallmark of beer is consistency: A brewer strives to make batch after batch of Pilsener so it tastes the same—and often succeeds without much difficulty. Wine is more variable: The sugar levels and tannins and acidity of the grapes fluctuate from year to year, and so does the character of the resulting wines. This explains why the whole concept of vintages is so central to wine but largely absent from beer.

I would argue that in many ways, beer can be more predictable but even so, ALL beverages will change over time no matter if they be beer or the holier than though Red Wine.  The difference is that Domestic Mass producing type brewers strive for consistency.  Me, I strive for expression in my beers.  I worry not if they vary.  What I concern myself with is that they taste great.  AND no, I don’t care if you think that beers should always be the same.  If that works for you then fine.  It doesn’t work for me.

To all the winos out there trying to maintain your romantic notion of life and hillsides with hanging fruit, I have only this to offer.  I like Wine too.  I drink it often.  Yet at the end of the day, your elitist attitudes towards a divine right as the chosen beverage of sophistication may go by the way side.  Sure, we have a long road ahead of us.  Still in only 11 years as a brewer I have seen numerous mile markers at the side of the road.  Each time I pass one, I’m left wondering how many more there are on this road and how quickly we’ll be at the end.  I must say, I like what I see.

Two Things

So this past week was a very busy one with the Real Ale Festival in Carlsbad going on among other things. On Sunday, I decided like the last 10 years not to run the Rock and Roll Marathon. But for those of you who care, there is a Marathon in Dublin in October that interests me.  Can you imagine how good that Guiness would taste?

I titled this two things tonight as there have been two online things that have piqued my interest in the last week.  But before I digress, I thought I would share that after a weekend full of Real Ale(lord knows I don’t drink Fake Ales) and Vince’s food, I opted for a Spring Mix(read May Showers bring Weed Salad) with Blue Cheese and Sauvignon Blanc for dinner tonight. 

This is important as I will shortly come to the defense of my beloved barley while consuming wine(just to prove I am an equal opportunity spirited writer)!  So, this evening I am coming at you live on the heels of glass number two of Joseph Phelps Napa Valley 2005 Sauvignon Blanc.  Because I know that my readership is terribly concerned with appellation issues.

So, tonight is about two things.  Well, maybe three things.  First, I haven’t yet used this blog to discuss the politics of anything so we’re going down that road tonight.  Below, you will find some questions.  These were recently published in an article in which the CEO of SAB Miller was interviewed. In an effort to dismiss rumors of our impending merger with a larger conglomerate, I thought I would take the effort to answer the same questions on our terms.  Please follow along at home(with apologies for the lack of brevity.  His not mine)!  This is a two part posting that will get into the wine side of things later.

For the sake of this blog, let’s pretend that I was being interviewed about our year using their questions.  It’s fun.  I swear it is.  From his interview then.

 How would you characterize the company’s fiscal year just ended?

The SAB Miller Answer- The year gone by has been very successful. Latin America was amongst the strongest regions of growth, but Europe was as impressive. And we also had very strong volume growth in Asia, so our performance all around is strong.

Tomme Responds-  Well, we’re still in business after our first year.  I think that’s pretty kick ass.  We made a bunch of new beers and we didn’t kill anybody.  As for Latin America, it was our weakest region but Europe was awesome.  They opened their arms to me and I can’t wait to go back and brew another batch of beer there.  I’m thinking of hooking up with the guys at Struise.  They make great beer.  In terms of Strong Regions, we experienced great growth everywhere we went. Personal Growth is most important to me.  I had a lot of it this year. We especially made in roads in the North East.  The weather may suck but the beers are great and the people the best.

We haven’t been able to tap into that hot Asian market yet.  Too many young drinkers.   We feel there is most certainly a happy ending or two waiting for us in the future should we allow our brands to go there.  But we’re holding out waiting for maturation of our stuff.

 Is the integration of Bavaria, which you bought in 2005 for $7.8 billion, now complete?

It’s pretty much over with. We are now in the middle of changing the trajectory of the business. Bavaria is about a third of our profits, and this year will be one of great investment in the business.

Tomme Responds: Everyone knows by now how I view Germanic Brewing traditions…It would be a silly investment for me.  However, I’ll take a fleet of their Mercedes delivery trucks.  Our beer deserves the best.  They make soft suspensions.  At least that is what I have been told. 

He says,”For example, we are building a new brewery on the outskirts of Cali in western Columbia. We’re essentially taking a disorganized portfolio of regional brands and making that portfolio more national, with a bit of character to it.”

Tomme says- I’m 100% independent but we will always have a disorganized portfolio. Just ask my accountant.  Adding character is something that writers do when there’s a need.  Unless of course the plot line doesn’t require attention.  Methinks,  I  should start investigating that need in Western Columbia during revisions too?  Nah, we’re solid in act II.  Perhaps when we get to act IV?

Do you often take beers across borders?

We do, if they show signs of suitability for that. We have designated three of our brands for marketing around the world - Peroni Nastro Azzurro, Pilsner Urquell and Miller Genuine Draft.

Tomme responds:  I take beer across every border possible.  Beer is the ultimate conversation starter no matter what language you speak.  It’s a quintesential beverage.  It is perhaps the one thing that qualifies as a universal language.

Which of those three has had the most success overseas?

MGD. We make MGD in Russia, Italy, Poland, Hungary and South Africa, as well as in the U.S. It is almost a billion liter brand in Russia and is very popular on the club scene.

Tomme Says:   We don’t have a billion liter brand of anything so I will put my money on anything that Sam Makes.  Dogfishead is a universally, globalized, serialized thing.  I even know which state that beer is made in…  Thank God my fifth grade state report was on the great state of Delaware or I wouldn’t be able to find it on the map! 

After that, I would say Brooklyn and New Belgium.  I love Peter but he speaks funny English.  This is better than ok as I speak funnier than you know what Flemish. As for Garrett, we’re still trying to figure out what language he speaks.

Your growth last year came partly from renovation of mainstream brands. Can you give an example?

We have those three international brands, but we also discovered that other brands have [cross-border] appeal. For example, we have a brand called Kozel, which in the Czech Republic is a lower mainstream brand. The brand’s symbol is a goat. In Slavic countries, the goat symbol plays very well and so Kozel has become a roaring success there. I don’t really understand why.

Tomme Replies:  Well, we knew Sharkbite Red Ale would be our go to guy for the first year.  Like a cagey veteran, we signed on for a two year deal.  We’re in the process of reloading our talent and think we’ve got the key players inked to long term deals.  They may be short on experience but their entusiasm more than makes up for it.  As for symbols, we think the Celtic Cross plays well in countries where drinking is legal.  You know, the Christian ones.

What about China and India?

Those markets are polar opposites of each other. The Chinese market is very open commercially - there are very little licensing requirements. It is a very high volume, low price market. We sell roughly as much beer in China as is sold in the entire UK market.

India is the opposite: it is tiny, and has by far the lowest beer consumption per capita, at less than one liter of beer per annum. Their relationship with alcohol is quite troubled. Recall that Gandhi was a teetotaler. The problem is just trying to peel back the state. It is very difficult to get permits to do anything. Ironically, India’s economic development is held in check by its democracy.

Tomme Thinks: I should visit there one day?  Either one of them.  I too have a Buddha Belly.  I am troubled by teetotalers.  Aren’t we all?

How are you growing the Chinese market?

What we have been doing in China is taking brands national, getting better distribution, and improving quality dramatically. Our brand Snow is the most national brand but no Chinese beer brands are truly national.

Tomme Says: We are growing like Snow White’s date on prom night in China.  It’s a very liberating experience.  We hope to continue the unveiling there.  We will let China come to us, that’s my motto.

Save for imports and craft beers, the U.S. beer market continues to stagnate, and your profits there declined for the second straight year. What’s the problem?

Two years ago we did not declare victory when things were going swimmingly for us in the U.S. so we are not declaring defeat now. The issue right now is cost pressures, in aluminum specifically. We spent about $100 million dollars more on aluminum this past fiscal year than the year prior.

Tomme Says:  I blame Crackhead Dave… He’s a big fan of alumininum.  Me, I have no worries.  Our beer sells itself- with or without boobies.  I like that part about our beer.  “It taste’s great without all the filling…”  Aluminum is something I don’t have to be concerned with.  Crackhead Dave on the otherhand….At least he doesn’t run $100 million in damages.

What do you make of the craft beer resurgence in America?

I think it’s going to fade. It’s inevitable.

Tomme Says: I for once agree with him.  It’s inevitable that our beers taste better and it(macro brewed beers) will fade.  But that’s just my .02 worth. My money is on Avant Garde in the 5th race.  I know it’s an underdog(small stable with low resources but there’s just something about the little guy that makes me feel good).

Tell us about Miller Chill, which you just launched.

We launched Chill in a few test markets and it was so well received that we are taking it nationwide by the Fourth of July. It’s an American take on a Mexican classic - a light beer with lime and salt. That doesn’t sound very prepossessing but it drinks extremely well. It is flying off the shelves now.

Tomme Says:  I enjoy a michlada when I am in Mexico or close by.  I have yet to enjoy a Miller Chill and I will always go for the original.  I have a feeling it’s flying off the shelves due to Seismic Activity?  I blame Global Warming for plate shifting and the ensuing earthquakes knocking the product from it’s place.

How is Anheuser-Busch looking?

I would say it’s too soon to tell. [New CEO] August Busch IV brings a fresh approach.

Tomme Says:  Like a redheaded step child on Christmas or an analyst on Wall Street.  Either way, there is a lot of spinning going on. Reminds me of Dizzy Sticks at the AB Company Sloshball Game.  Tough to find first base.  I hear Louie the Lizard is coaching First these days.  They put him out to pasture.  He loves the well manicured lawns of the baseball diamond.

“Fresh” how?

I don’t want to comment there. They are grappling with their problem, which is essentially the difficulty of providing growth when you have such a huge position in the mainstream U.S. market.

Tomme Says:  I’m pleading the 5th.  My boy Sam was deposed enough for 16 of us.

Is it worth it to get into a price war with A-B in the United States?

We try to build brands rather than cutting prices. It sounds pious but it’s true. A-B’s advantages are in the mainstream, where they have huge operating scale and can provide superior levels of service. So I think we’ll take them on in things they are not as good at, which is premium brand development. A head-to-head slugfest with A-B in their heartland is not very smart.

Tomme Says:  Well, We hate to agree here but a head to head anything at this point would be foolish.  We make beers that amaze people.  They make beers that beg questions…  So, let’s just both agree like Presidential candates, that we’re good at Premium Brand Development whatever that means…

Will we see more acquisitions from you this year?

We are always doing strings of deals. Activity is driven by what comes up.

Tomme Says:  I bought an IPOD last year.  That was a major acquisition some would say a life altering experience.  I don’t think we’ll work on acquiring too much this year although there is talk of more capacity vis a vis more fermenters.  Shiny tanks are nice!

Haven’t most of the likely targets been bought already?

The short answer is yes. In China, we are still acquisitive, but even there things have tightened up. There are still some businesses that might become available in Russia and in [the former Soviet republics], but prices have tightened up. There will be consolidation yet to come but the pace is much slower.

Tomme Says:  Life is about things that are bought and sold.  I think we have more to go in this department.  Thank GOD!  WE have a great CPA on our team.

What is your favorite beer?

Pilsner Urquell. Top of page

Tomme Says:  Whatever Vinnie is most proud of this week.  Goodnight.  Vinnie says hi by the way- Sammy too.

Barrel Room Update

We’ve been open for business for over a year.  Hooray Beer!!!  When we started this Lost Abbey project, we envisioned a barrel room like no other barrel room we had ever seen in a brewery.  With this in mind, we created a sanctuary off to the side of our tasting altar. In this catacomb like room, we stacked row after row of oak barrels inside.  It took us almost 6 months to get all 90 barrels full of beer.  The good news is that now that all 90 barrels are full, we have acquired some 40 more barrels bringing our total to 130 Oaken Opportunities.

About a year ago, when we opened for business, the questions flowed.  “How long does the beer sit in the barrels?  How many different beers will you be releasing?  Does this mean there will be more Cuvee available?”  We still get these questions on a regular basis so I thought I would address them here.

First, we are producing the following beers from the barrel room at least once a year.

Cuvee de Tomme- Currently 9 oak barrels filled- anticipated release date is November of 2007.

Older Viscosity- Currently 10 oak barrels filled- anticipated release date is September of 2007.

The Angel’s Share(the Brandy Version)- Currently 9 oak barrels filled- anticipated release date is September of 2007

Red Poppy Ale- Currently 4 oak barrels filled- anticipated release date is October of 2007.

There are also many unique creations that will see the light of day as they mature.  So far, we have released some En Garde, Amazing Grace and shortly there will be a special release for the members of our Patron Saints Club. 

There are a bunch of randomly filled barrels that we will experiment with as we work on blending of casks for future projects.  But let’s tackle some of the questions.

First, most of the beers in the barrel room will remain in oak for no less than one year.  The Angel’s Share and Older Viscosity barrels are typically ready in 6-12 months.  The other beers(sour versions) require something more akin to the patience of Job and as such I tell people 12-18 months.  For those playing along at home, this is important as we have recently celebrated our 12 month anniversary.  The next six months will be about selecting the best barrels and creating awesome blends.  I for one am very excited about this.

Recently(at our anniversary party) we tapped a cask of The Angel’s Share that was aged in a Bourbon barrel.  It was very well received.  So well received that I have relented and brewed a batch of The Angel’s Share that will be finished in Bourbon Barrels and sold next year.  This way, we can offer two versions of the same beer but with differing wood finishes. 

This notion of multiple wood finishes is quite common in the whiskey world and is something that I had hoped to adopt at The Lost Abbey.  It seems that our Angel’s Share was a natural fit.  In the future, we may even look at 1-2 more finishes for this beer if we feel it is justified.

This past weekend, our patrons had to duck between the rows of the new oak barrels in order to get to our altar.  The questions starting flowing as soon as they were seated.  “What are you going to put in the new barrels?  Can we expect more Cuvee?  What is the first beer you will put in them?” 

The answers are Yes, more Cuvee.  We will be working on a few new projects(that we aren’t willing to discuss right now) and the answer to the other question is Duck Duck Gooze will be the first beer in the pipeline.  Just remember that it will be 18 months before this one gets released so we’re looking at January of 2009.

It’s funny to be talking about beer 18 months out.  Not many people and brewers are writing schedules for this far in advance.  Most beer takes 9 days to make not 500 plus days.  Maybe I will start speaking in terms of seasons like a farmer.  (Holding a bottle)- “Now, this one here took seven seasons to get from tank to glass…”  Oops.  I forgot, we live in San Diego where there aren’t any seasons. 

That’s it for the update.  Thanks for listening.  Apparently, it’s barrel filling season here at The Lost Abbey.  We have tons of work to do(nothing new there).  And at the end of the day, we won’t even know what these beers will taste like until 2009.  Strange But True.  Welcome to my World

Today

Was my daughter’s first birthday.  She’s now a whopping 365 days old.  That makes her sound so much older.  Almost old enough to drink Old Viscosity- which I maintain is certainly not her favorite adult libation… or her father’s for that matter!!!

Tonight, we’re celebrating.  We’re celebrating that after 365 days on this great planet, she’s accomplished some cool things. Like for example, she knows how to pull on the tap handle that daddy points to.  She’s yet to learn how to close “said” handle however, like most grown ups, she smiles with glee when the river runneth through said tap.  As the maker of said river, I would interject here that it would make me happier only if she learned how to stop said water of life from flowing…details I tell you.

For those of you who live in San Diego and visit our brewery, this comes as no surprise.  Sydney is a frequent attendee at the alter of greatness we call Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey.  She knows her stuff well.  We expect her first words to be “world class” or perhaps “Gold Medal…” But then again she may have moved on to the business of life and be willing to blast off a “hey, you owe us $3.00 a pint…”  We’re just not sure which way she leans yet.  It will be sassy no matter which direction her tongue takes her.

I have this bet with her mother that her first word will be LAMBIC.  This is only due to the fact that Brettanomyces is too polysylabic.  I’m holding that one back for our First Parent Teacher Conference Night.

Um, “Mr. Arthur, did you know that Sydney broke off a Brettanomyces reference today…?”  She did.  That’s my girl!!!  Did she make Vinnie proud and reference Pliny too?”  I can’t wait.  She’s not only a step ahead, she’s one and a half fake ID’s ahead as well.  My daughter turned one today and she knows great beer and she knows it better than a one year old can(with apologies to Ava Rae Murray of Pizza Port Fame- who has yet to turn one year yet)!

I for one, am looking forward to more conversational opportunities with her when we can discuss the merits of Avant Garde and Cheerios.  Both sport a decidely “toasted” quality and at the same time have subtle nuances that need to be discussed on their own.  She’s told me as much. 
Still, I felt it was important to stop for a moment and share this moment with all of you and especially her.  So Sydney Happy Birthday.  Your Daddy is very tired.  He double brewed today.  It won’t pay your tuition yet but that’s life.  In honor of your birthday, he threw back a chocolate with chocolate frosting cupcake and a bottle of Deus.  Certainly this was not a pairing made in heaven.  But at the end of the day, a beer made in the Champagne Method needed to be drank.  Cupcakes be damned!!!

Happy first birthday my little one.  Daddy has to go back to work now.  Something tells me that college in 2025 won’t be cheap… I think I hear the Angel’s calling.  What’s that, there’s a shortage of barrels?  Someone tell the Dean, I have his check… I just need to sell a few more cases of the good stuff.

Dawn Patrol Dark

It started out innocently enough some 4 years ago.  I was bartending on Thursday nights at the Pizza Port in Solana Beach in order to stash some money for a new condo.  After many weeks of getting the inevitable question from our patrons “do you have anything that tastes like Newcastle?”  I had to do something about it.

Almost every brewpub makes some variation of a Brown Ale.  Pizza Port Solana Beach was no exception.  The only problem is that before we released the Dawn Patrol Dark, we were brewing our 101 Nut Brown Ale- an American Brown Ale weighing in at 6.0%.  This was not exactly a session style brown ale.  It most certainly did not share the same attributes as Newcastle other than being brown (don’t even get me started about the color of that beer).  We also had another beer called Boardwalk Brown Ale but neither of these beers would qualify as a flavorful lower alcohol ale.

So I set out to create a session style full flavored brown ale styled beer.  I wanted to emphasize the sweet malt flavors, a deep chocolate middle and a finish that screamed “don’t put down that glass.”   I watched that summer as Dawn Patrol Dark sales took off with each simple question and response “Do you have Newcastle?”  To which I would reply.  “No we do not have that beer on tap but we make this beer in house which you should try.”  Every single time, they would be sold on the beer and forget that Newcastle was the beer they had come looking for.

I have now poured myself a Dawn Patrol Dark.  It is in a shaker pint as that is how we serve them at the pub and I figure should have the same drinking experience.   This batch is a bit hazy (chill haze that goes away as it warms).  The beer is a burnt orange color with some brown highlights.  It’s somewhat lighter in color than I remember it being.  I should probably pay the boys in Solana Beach a visit to check the recipe notes.

Sitting on the top of the beer is a whispy white head.  It’s never a dense head.  The beer is force carbonated and usually on the low end of CO2 Volumes.  The initial aromas are malt- focused mostly on dark malts with a nutty like overtone.  I don’t use much Munich malt but this could be the result of a kiss here.  The second fly-by reveals peanuts.  Fresh Roasted no less.

The first sip is a bit prickly.  Curiously the beer slides down my throat in a dryish manner yet at the same time, it surrounds my taste buds and won’t let go.  I immediately sip again.  The beer does the same.  There is a faint malt sweetness.  This is not as intense as you would find in an English style brown ale.  It’s followed by a malt and hop dryness that clearly ends in a smooth expression of a balanced palate.  It resonates.  I want more.  And so I drink three more sips and it is gone.  A five sip beer.  Well done.  Bravo! I’ll have another please.

We are now making Dawn Patrol Dark at the Pizza Port in Solana Beach on a year round basis.  We don’t call it a Dark Mild even though that is exactly what it is. I doubt very much that we would sell enough of it to keep making it if we called it a dark mild.  But this is the type of beer that I had in mind when I thought of storming the mighty Newcastle.

The beer is brewed from a blend of 6 malts including Crisp Crystal and Chocolate Malts.  It is lightly hopped with Challenger and East Kent Golding hops.  We use a proprietary strain of ale yeast and ferment at a cooler temperature than our other beers.  It is filtered and typically goes from tank to glass in less than 12 days.  It weighs in at a whopping 4.2% ABV and is one of the best cask Dark Milds I have ever tasted. With no apologies for my ego.

I chose to write about Dawn Patrol Dark because for the last three years, it has been on a killer winning streak.  In 2005 it won a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival.  We entered it as a Dark Mild.   In 2006 it was sent off to the World Beer Cup in Seattle.  When the awards were announced, it earned a silver medal for English Styled Mild Ales.  Last fall, Dawn Patrol Dark won the Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival as a Dark Mild.

In less than three short years, we have gone from not having Newcastle to having one of the most decorated Dark Milds on the market.  I am very proud of this.  At Pizza Port, we have a reputation for Big Beers and Big Flavors.  Yet, we also have a couple of amazing low alcohol beers that our brewers love to make and drink.  Seaside Stout won three GABF medals in a row for Dry Irish Stouts and it clocks in at a massive 4.0% ABV.  It’s brother Dawn Patrol Dark is on the same sort of streak.  Maybe we should give up brewing the big boys and focus on session beers?  Nah, that would take all the fun out of brewing.

 

Happy Cinco de Mayo 2007

It strikes me that if I was a crappy author who didn’t know better, I would start this blog with a half-ass line like…”Gee has it really been a year since we opened our doors?  Where has the time gone?”  That’s a fantastically original way of opening a piece.  Perhaps I should opine or rip off a well worn opening…”It was the best of times, it was the worst of times (with apologies to Dickens).

Screw all that.  I wanted to open my one year blog with a strong first sentence so here goes.

I’m tired.  Actually, I am exhausted.

But things are seemingly getting better (that’s what I tell myself).  In the last year, I have slept less than ever before.  Worked harder than I even thought plausible and I have done it in the name of beer (our really great beer).   And I wouldn’t give any of it back.  This thing I do 24-7 consumes me in a way nothing else can.  Some would call this work.  But brewing beer really can’t be considered work.  How many jobs do you know of when, if by 8:30 AM you’re not having a good day, you can auto-fix the problem by pulling a fresh pint?  And if the first one doesn’t do the trick perhaps number two will.

I’ve come to the realization that this is a lifestyle.  One that is infused with copious amounts of passion and enthusiasm.  It’s the perfect way to go through life without ever being bored.  There’s just so much to see and so many people to meet that one can’t help being invigorated.  And much of this energy comes from you the faithful members of The Lost Abbey clergy.

By now, I realize that many of you have been paying attention and following along at home.  I know this because when I see you each weekend, we reminisce about the week in the brewery and my travels here and abroad.  Both come with great stories.  Yet, I know that you have been listening each and every time I have enlightened you about our most recent accomplishments.

Last May 6th, we opened the doors to a new brewery project.  Some of you thought this would be a “sleepy” sort of operation.  Since that first day, we have brewed almost 2,000 bbls of beer.  We have filled some 100 oak barrels with the most interesting libations possible. 

During our first year we have filled these barrels with some great beers- many which haven’t even been released yet.  And, we also managed to knock two barrel aged homeruns out of the park in our first year.  Those of you lucky enough to sample the Older Viscosity and The Angel’s Share know where I am coming from.  We made a major commitment to our barrel aged beers when we built that room.  Thank God, it has churned out more great beers than Louisiana Hot Sauce.

I often forget in the day-to-day bustle to stop and account for what it is we have accomplished or for that matter are attempting to accomplish.  This weekend, we are releasing 3 new bottlings alone!  This would be a whole year of specialty releases for other breweries.  Nope not us.  We just call it the month of May.  I guess I really am crazy.

I sat down tonight and popped a bottle of Lost and Found for my blog.  It seemed so appropriate.  There are many things that I have Lost this last year and so many things that I have Found.  Besides, it’s a kick-ass abbey beer that I spent 10 years trying to get ”right.”  And when I drink it, I know that I got it right.

This weekend we are adding three new labels to the Lost Abbey line of beers.  This brings us to a total of 15 new bottled Port Brewing beer offerings in our first year alone!  That is seemingly some sort of death wish or the result of having a clueless loon at the helm of your ship.  Breweries do not open their doors, release a whole new second brand of beers and at the same time find a way to package 15 different beers in bottles.  Yet, that is exactly the thing that happened around here in our first year.  I guess you could say we are resting on our laurels? 

Was this by design?  Hardly.  Was it a good idea?  Um, did you read my strong opening?  But at the end of the day, it was us.  It was the Pizza Port of old and me the brewer of new with a bigger brewery on our hands.  It’s been fun. It was challenging and at the same time, it’s incredibly ridiculous. 

It’s my notion that most breweries our size open their doors with a core set of 4 beers and then mix in a seasonal beer or two.  But that just isn’t in our blood.  Nope, Port Brewing decided that we needed a whole bunch of beers to keep me happy.  I call it artistic indifference.  You probably call it ADD.  Last month, I opened my Celebrator magazine to see my name in print.  Typically, this is a good thing. 

A British author who goes by the name Ben McFarland had this to say about me:  “Tomme Arthur pushes more envelopes than a mailman on Crystal Meth.”  At least he had the Meth part right.   San Diego was the Crystal Meth Capitol of the United States for many years in the late 1980’s.  But I don’t need artificial drugs and stimulants.  I have you.

It’s no secret to me that I am inspired on a regular basis by the people that I meet.  Some of you more than others inspire me to reach levels of spontaneity that I didn’t know existed.  In this way, you are MY oxygen.  You breathe life into my world and sustain all of my creative needs.  In every way possible, you act as my elements- the things I need to breathe each day.  The sum of these elements in my life is my beer and the things we are able to accomplish at Port Brewing and The Lost Abbey. 

Life ceases to function when we lose the ability to breathe.  I for one am grateful for those of you who have joined our crusade.  There are too many bad beers out there.  It is our belief that we are all in this crusade together, and that working together, we can eradicate some of these bad beers.

So a big fat thank you first and foremost to my partners.  Gina, Jim and Vince- it has been a stupid first year.  Here’s to many more where that one came from.  To David our “web guy.” Thanks for holding and pulling together the strings that no one sees.   You are the man who manipulates the Marionettes. Our Patron Saints and Sinners owe you big time.  As do I. 

To the people who have volunteered, bottled, and everything else.  My heartfelt gratitude to each of you.  This place is big.  So big, that I forget three people can’t always do the work of 6.  To Terri and Sage.  Is it my turn to pass out yet?  Thanks for teaching me the true meaning of “Masterbrewing.”  You’re my biggest fans and as we move forward, no one can replace what you have offered.

To Josh Miner who has left us for Drakes Brewing Co.  You’ll be missed.  It’s a big building that needs help big time.  Good luck with the new project and title.  You know the phone number.  I would be remiss if I didn’t offer a heartfelt thanks to the whole Pizza Port Brewcrew.  These guys are the best brewers I know.  I miss drinking with them on a regular basis. 

I wanted to thank the Friday nighters and the Saturday afternooners.  McDuggle we’re going to miss you big guy.  The pleasure is all mine to each of you who has enriched this project.  We may need a bigger bar next year when it’s all said and done.

Lastly, to my daughter Sydney.  Those are taps.  From them flows beer.  This is the very liquid that infuses my body and one day will pay for your college.  So smile at the nice people.  Laugh and let them know how much you love Old Viscosity.  Come to think of it, your daddy likes it too…

Happy One year to all and to all a goodnight.

 

 

 

Today is Friday April 6th and it’s a blogging day for all of us who blog. Today the group excercise is on Abbey Dubbel Style beers.  Last month it was Stout.  I don’t know where the last 30 days have gone but they certainly have been very monumental to say the least.

At this time, we are putting the finishing touches on a photo shoot at the brewery and it has been a surreal day around here.  I didn’t get into brewing to be famous, rich or important.  Nope, I got into brewing because it appeals to my notions of creativity and my artistic sensibilities.  When I started considering the multitude of stories that I wanted to blog for this “Abbey” day, my mind wandered all over the place trying to find the natural tie in. 

Then, I sat down after smiling for the camera all day.  It hit me in an instant.  We are Port Brewing and we are the makers of The Lost Abbey brand of beers.  It is something that I am incredibly proud of and very much focused on right now.  The fact that we spent a whole day shooting photos for future Lost Abbey endeavors speaks to this.

As I was drifting in and out of the photos today, I started thinking about the relationship of who I have become as a brewer and where I started.  It’s an 11 year journey that starts oddly enough with a desire to brew Belgian Style beers at home.

It’s 1996.  I have recently been hired as the Assistant Brewer at Cervecerias La Cruda in downtown San Diego.  I am hired by Troy Hojel to work in this new startup brewpub.  We begin to discuss my home brewing equipment and the beers that I have made.

I tell Troy that I really enjoy a great Abbey Style beer and we begin to write a recipe for this beer I will brew at home.  Chris White stops by the brewery one day and mentions that he has a new “Trappist Ale” strain that they are looking for some feedback on.

I get the yeast about a week later from Chris.  By this time, Troy and I have been drinking numerous Abbey Styled beers trying to get a “feel” for what we want to accomplish.  After settling on the recipe, including the yeast specifics, we start to talk about brewing with sugars.

I remember the next conversation like it was yesterday.  I’m drinking a pint of our Blowfish ESB when Troy leans in and says in a hushed tone…” I think we should use some raisins in this beer.”  I swear, I amost fell off the bar stool when he said this.

It really hadn’t occurred to me that using raisins was something that I should concern myself with.  After all, I don’t really eat raisins so why would I think they were something worth brewing with? But the thing is, the beer we brewed with the raisins was stunning and it set the wheels in motion for my adventures in Belgian Styled brewing.  And I owe it all to the  4oz of juicy Sunmaid Raisins that day.

When I was hired to be the brewer at the Pizza Port in Solana Beach, my first seasonal beer was Dubbel Overhead Abbey Ale.  It was the first beer in San Diego to be made with Raisins.   This was way back in October of 1997.

Over the years, I spent hours working with “interesting” ingredients and we always had raisins available at our disposal.  One night, Jeff Bagby and I started talking about Saisons and developing color in them without using malt.  It was then that we decided we should “alter” the raisins and their structure. 

We wrote a recipe for SPF 8 Farmhouse Ale and it was decided that to gain color in the beer, we would “blacken” the raisins.  So we did and the beer became one of my favorite beers of all time.  

Fast forward to The Lost Abbey.  I have now been brewing beer professionally for almost 11 years and have reached a level of recognition in the brewing business for my creations.   This is where The Lost Abbey comes into play.  Over the years, I earned  for my numerous accolades for these Belgian Styled Beers.  Many of them have been “Abbey” styled beers as well.

Here at the Lost Abbey, we are now making two Abbey style beers as part of our standard year round beers- they are Lost and Found Abbey Ale and Judgment Day our Dark Strong Ale- both of them are brewed with Raisins.  It’s just something that over time, I have grown accustomed to. It’s sort of my comfort ingredient around here.

Our Lost and Found Abbey Ale is now made with a custom “raisin puree” that involves Chef Vince and rather large boat motor… It’s so damn cool.  It’s also one of my favorite beers that we are making.  I tell people that the recipe for Lost and Found is something that I have been working on for over 10 years now. 

It’s not easy making a great Abbey Style beer.  It takes an amazing yeast.  It takes a skillful blend of hops and malt.  And at the end of it all, there has to be an integration of all these things to create a memorable drinking experience.  I for one, think we have figured out our Abbey style beer and for that I am thankful.

It’s hard to imagine looking back what might have been.  As we were sitting here smiling for the camera all day, all I could think about were those raisins. So next time you reach for an Oatmeal Raisin cookie, remember the raisins.  Remember that they have inspired me over the years and stretched my brewing limits.

As we move forward with The Lost Abbey part of Port Brewing, we will most certainly think about the raisins each and every time we make a batch of Lost and Found or Judgment Day or 10 Commandments or… Were it not for the raisins in that batch of homebrew, I might be making lager beer in some far away state.  I think I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing, so far it has served me well.

You ever have one of those days?

A few weeks back, we were knee deep in a bottling marathon.  It just seemed like every single time that we had a batch of beer ready to go, it needed to be bottled.  These days, we are bottling about 80% of our beers with the rest going towards draft.  The planets sometimes align and we get a whole week without having to operate the bottler(s)- we have two separate units.  One for Six Packs and one for our bottle conditioned beers.

Sometime around Valentines Day, we had tanks of IPA, Old Viscosity and Judgment Day all ready to be packaged around the same time.  This meant that in a 10 day span, we bottled 5 out of the 10 days.    Bottling is an incredibly monotonous thing and as our bottling line(for the 22oz and 750mls bottles) is labor intensive.  It means that we are often left spending hours on end doing the same task. 

That particular week, I scheduled a bottling run for Monday-Thursday to get large batches of IPA and Old Viscosity packaged.  It was on Wednesday around lunch that things got more interesting.  Josh and I were running the filler with Vince capping all the bottles.  I saw a flicker out of the corner of my eye over by the garden hose on the east side of the brewery.

I didn’t pay too much attention to it but then it moved again.  So, I stopped my side of the filler and went to investigate.  I found a very small mouse looking concerned about having ventured out of the wall from whence it came not knowing where to go next.  This incredibly timid little creature managed to get trapped in the garden hose pile.  Being “concerned” for his safety, I managed to corner him and “convince him” to jump into one of the cases from our bottling run.  In the box, he knew that the walls were closing in on him and his days on this earth were numbered.  He must have known because he started going bezerk and jumping up and down. 

I laughed.  “Escape is futile my friend. Your in my world now.”  I showed Vince and Josh my prize new possession and we resumed bottling the beer with Josh seemingly very interested in our new little brewery mascot.  As the bottles were going up and down, Josh must have dozed off like a high schooler in science class.  Coming to, I soon found Josh filling a bottle cap with some Old Viscosity.  “Hey, you think he’ll drink this?”  He said?  

“I don’t see why not,” was all I could come up with.  And so it was that we began that afternoon a science experiment of our own.  I have been called lots of things as a brewer and more often than not, people say we make some pretty incredibly experimental beers.  I take it as a compliment.  But this was an experiment of a different nature.

Josh set the bottle cap with Old Viscosity in the box and we watched as our new little friend investigated the merits of the dark oil slick like beer inside.  Like a beer snob, the little bastard first smelled it.  I’m surprised the alcoholic aroma didn’t burn his nose hairs.  But like a good student of life (let’s not forget this was seemingly his first venture out into the real world), he plowed on.  And plow on he did.  He kept taking small nips out of the cap consuming Old Viscosity at an alarming rate. 

The volume of liquid to body mass of beer he consumed was quite shocking.  If he’d been human, I think he would have blown .44 for the officer that afternoon.  We kept bottling and watching our new fury little friend become happier and happier with each sip.  After a while, it was apparent that we had taken our new friend on a epic journey.

He started this epic journey with each step falling into the next.  He would put one foot out straight before taking three steps sideways and falling over.  Clearly this mouse was housed, pickled, polluted- 18 sheets to the wind.  It was amusing to watch as he began walking in to the walls of the box and then chasing his tale.

At about 3 hours into the process, the mouse passed out.  We weren’t even sure he was breathing (we were fresh out of miniature stethoscopes).  Eventually the mouse (like most of us) passed out on his left side with his two right feet very much left hanging in the air.  It must have been an amazing sleep.  I can only think about it in these terms as drinking nearly ½ your bodies weight in Old Viscosity would have me reeling.

We finished bottling not knowing how our new home boy was doing.  Josh took mercy on his condition and offered a piece of bread and some water (wait he wasn’t in jail for being intoxicated in public was he)?   We left Mighty Mouse to “sleep it off” and retired for the night not knowing if our friend would ever recover from the happiest day of his life…I see trees of green… red roses too.  And I think to myself…what a wonderful world!

Well HOLY MOSES!  The next day when I arrived for work our little trooper was probably enduring the most wicked headache of all time.  He was alive, awake but cowering in the corner twitching to the oldies.  I was shocked that he was moving.  Although to be perfectly fair, I don’t think he was moving all that well.  We sort of watched from a distance that Thursday as he didn’t do all that much. Aren’t some friends just better when they’re not sober?

I don’t think that Mighty Mouse was feeling too terribly mighty that Thursday.  We left him  to his devices(he should have drank more water) before heading home that night.  Friday was Black Friday.  Josh had killed our little friend.  Well, at least that’s how I view it.  When we arrived on Friday, he wasn’t moving.  Not a peep.  “Come on little buddy.  Give me one sign…”  None came.

I gave him a proper dumpster burial and saluted his long and fortuitous life.  I consider him to be the luckiest mouse to have ever lived.  He got to enter the world being born at a brewery and it’s the only world he ever knew.  He also got Stinking Drunk on Old Viscosity clearly leaving this world for a higher calling on his terms.

And so kiddies the moral of this story goes like this.  You can drink all the Old Viscosity your body can handle.  But if at the end of the day you try to drink your weight in beer, you may end up meeting a fate like our friend and fallen comrade.  A toast then as we spill some beer for “the little guy.”  Like the engine who could, he did.  Sad to see him go.  We’re going to miss you Amigo.  “Say, I think I just saw your brother run by…I think I will introduce him to beer as well.

Happy April 1, 2007

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