Monday, February 27, 2006

Talk about the passion

This past weekend, we were involved in two festivals that make me proud to be in the beer biz. The first was a three day cask ale festival held at The Brazen Head bar in Brooklyn, NY. Brooklynite Alex Hall is the main reason this is the best cask fest in the NY/NJ/PA area. He is so passionate about real ale and truely understands how to handle and present these delicate beers.

The other event we attended was the Slow Food beer/food tasting at Triumph Brewpub in New Hope, PA. Slow food is one of my favorite organizations with extremely passionate members. The tasting included 12-13 local breweries along with many bakery, cheese, meat and seafood purveyers showcasing their creations. For those that don't know of Slow Food, it was founded in Italy in 1986 and aims to protect the biodiversity of agricultural and gastronomical cultures around the globe. It's membership is over 80,000 strong from over 100 countries. Find out more from

These two events remind me once again that good beer is good food and an integral part of enjoying life and what it has to offer. And as for the folks devoted to its creation and enjoyment . . . "talk about the passion".

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Why I like the Jehovah's Witnesses

Not being a spiritual person, I have difficulty understanding organized religion. In the Islamic variety, one that seems to take its faith deathly serious, my lack of understanding borders on nescience. The current Sunni/Shia attacks are a fresh reminder how much pain and suffering religious causes, struggles and movements have unleashed on our history. I was raised Roman Catholic and I have seen some really arrogant and bigoted Catholics in my time. I know that I don't understand anything about Islam, but I have heard about Jihad, so I thought I'd find out what it means. Here's what I found:
Jihad translates as "struggle," and in Islam there are four types:
JIHAD OF THE HEART:to purify oneself and try to live as the prophets did.
JIHAD OF THE TONGUE:to speak out in support of social justice, to educate.
JIHAD OF THE HAND:to touch others with dignity and respect.
JIHAD OF THE SWORD:to fight, as a last resort, against economic and social injustice.

It appears to me that many Muslims have skipped the first three.

Which brings me to why I like the Jehovah's. A couple of months ago, I answered a knock at the door and confronted two gentlemen from Jehovah's Witness. They were soft-spoken, articulate and listened intently to me while I revealed why I am faithless and extremely happy. They still wanted to leave their pamphlets and left assuring me that God still loves me. Not once did they tell me that their God was better than any others'. Now this is the kind of religion that the world needs: passionate but tolerant.

By the way, I had an Orval the other day and it was fantastic. The Abbaye's website describes "the calling to follow Christ along the way of the monastic life" and that brewing 'liquid bread' was a humble way to fund the needs of the monastery and it's charitable endeavors.

Huh, maybe I was wrong about the evils of religion.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Greetings from the fringe

Those of you that know me, know that I like a lot of BEERADVOCATEs and RATEBEERians. They are the reason we are still brewing. They are some of the most passionate beer people that I know. My main criticism though, is that many lack a sense of humility. Rating beer is great fun, but if I want to try a new beer, these websites would be the last place I'd look for insight and confirmation. Let me shed some light. I particularly love the reviews that disclaim, right off the bat, that the reviewer doesn't like the beer style he/she is reviewing but, "here's what I think .......". Another good one is the reviewer that's not quite sure what style the beer falls in, "so, I'll just review this as a weizenbock". Yeah, that's a favorite of mine.
These websites ( and should be about beer and appreciation (which the founders had in mind, I'm sure), instead of rating the most beers.
Beer is a wonderful thing. But dumbing down the drinking pleasure to: aroma (smells like my wife's corn cobbler) or color (looks like a lemonade sitting on my grammie's front porch for 4 hours) does little to advance understanding. That brings me to another point. How many adjectives do we need to describe maltiness? Do all these reviewers sit in front of the PC with a thesaurus? I heard Michael Jackson once describe a beer's flavor as "the burnt currants on the edge of his mother's fruitcake." That was a wee bit of prose that I could relate to, but when someone writes "Copper, pepper, caramel and butterscotch lead the aroma, reinforced by apple spice, dates rolled in holiday spice pipe tobacco, and maple nut fudge.", well, come on, get a grip.
Wait, did I state how much I like the BEERADVOCATEs and RATEBEERians? I love these folks, so keep those cards and letters coming.