Saturday, August 1, 2009

Reader reports from Sam Adams tasting

We couldn't make it to the Sam Adams Beer Lover's Choice tasting Friday night, but one of our readers did. Sounds like turnout was low. Here's his report:
They had Sam Adams generic labels (black, one said Pilsner, one said Ale) that they poured from. I wish I'd kept one of the bottles. I left at 6:30 p.m. and it was starting to get well filled. . . a table for everyone. I got there at 5:15 p.m. I voted Ale as I thought it was a good I.P.A. The winner of the tasting, which is nationwide, will be brewed next year."
Thanks for the report, Mr. M. If you have a tip, question or compliments (oh, we like those), click here to send them to us!

Any Chimay fans? It's here!

Until Chimay produces a beer with the letters IPA in the name, we're won't be huge fans. But we know lots of beer drinkers who are excited to hear Chimay is finally available in Alabama.

In the Free the Hops forums, there's talk of several beer outlets around town expecting Chimay, but only one that claims to actually have it stocked and ready to sell. That would be Pleasure is All Wine in Pelham (click here for map).

With a name like that, it's easy to see why it totally slipped by us as a beer destination. But take a look at their selection. Click on the names for links to their ratings on either Beer Advocate or Ratebeer when available:
All the beers at PiAW are also sold in singles if you just want a variety. Want even more variety? For $7, you can get in on their beer tasting on Aug. 20 from 6-8 p.m. There are only 50 spots, and they could all be filled by now, but call them at 985-4760 to find out.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Good People happy to take it slow

Down in Five-Points South, high up on a white stone wall behind 5 Points Grill, is a bronze sign for Good People Brewery Company. In the windows below are several t-shirts emblazoned with their yellow, oval logo. Below them, prominently displayed for passers-by is a 2-foot-tall trophy like you might find in a high school hallway. Only two years old, and already Good People is winning awards. I make a mental note to ask brewery owner Jason Malone which of his brews had garnered the honor.

Then I promptly forget about it while searching for the entrance. The brewery's front door is below the sign, as you might expect. Just way below the sign. Below your feet, actually. The Grill's bartender shows me a shortcut through the restaurant's kitchen, through the back door, down two flights of steps into the well-lit, but not-exactly-pretty basement. There, behind a worn, yellow, metal door, is where the Good People magic happens.

Jason pops open the door a few seconds after we ring the doorbell. At first glance, he's who you might expect to find several dozen feet underground. The long, red beard and hair topped with a Good People meshback would make for a convincing Middle-Earth dwarf. But it also seems to work well for brewing beer.

"Where's the staff?" I ask once inside the main office. Jason points to himself, indicating it's just him. That's not entirely true, he admits. Two other owners are mostly hands-off; two unpaid interns come and go as they please. Jason says his Guest Brewer program has generated a lot of interest, but not many guests. "A lot of people want to help after work," he says. "But I don't want to start brewing at five and get home at three."

For the most part it's Jason moving grain from the cooler to the hopper then working through a 7-8 hour process that eventually makes beer. He's also likely the guy answering the phone on the concrete-topped desk they made. The thick, black cement top sits on sturdy legs made from old wooden pallets found in the basement.

"The place was a mess," Jason recalls. "They hadn't brewed here for about seven years, but there was still beer in the tanks." After cleaning the place up, an old metal door became a coffee table, a wooden bar from curbside became shelving, thrift-store, Pizza-Inn style lamps were hung and they were in business.

"One Man's Trash..." is a recurring theme at Good People. Their tap handles are made to resemble barn wood and antique car tags. The water that cools the mash is heated further to soak the next 550 to 900 pounds of grain. Yeast is collected from the bottoms of the fermenting tanks and put to work again and again. Even the grain is re-used after the brewing process.

Jason met the owners of J3 Organics at a McWane Science Center event where the two decided to try mixing the brewery's by-products with compost. Turns out beer-making leftovers make plants happy, too. Plants like the hops vines growing in downtown Birmingham at Jones Valley Farm (that's a photo of them at right). Farm manager Katie Davis says the vines are doing very well in J3 Compost. And in a few weeks, the blooms will be picked and some will go right back in Good People's beer.

At Nashville's Music City Brewfest workers at the booths of Ayinger and Stone were recommending their patrons to Good People's booth. From some of the reports we've seen, our local brewer made a big splash up there. So does Jason have plans to expand to Nashville?

Not yet. He says Good People made a vow to be a good local brewer. As soon as they can satisfy the thirst of Birmingham, he hopes to expand to more locations in the state. It's obvious he's playing it safe. Too much growth could mean a loss of quality and Jason says that's not an option.

We talked for quite a while about beer, brewing, ukulele playing and business. At some point Jason says, "We've never entered a competition." That's when I remember the gold trophy upstairs in the window. Jason laughs. Turns out Good People has, in fact, entered two competitions and taken second place in each.

But neither are for beer. The trophy was for second runner up in the Exceptional Foundation's annual Chili Cook-Off. The other award, also second place, was won by the brewery's barbecue team.

"Maybe you're in the wrong business, Jason," I joke. He laughs again and so do I.

"Going to a bar and seeing somebody drinking my beer, that still freaks me out," Jason says. "That's my blue ribbon."

[All photos Copyright 2009,]

[Editor's note: The original version of this story said Good People's sign was on a red brick wall, but the photo above clearly shows a white stone wall. We regret the error as well as our inability to distinguish between red and white. Next time, more copy editing, less beer drinking. For us. Not you. Drink up!]

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Weekend: Got the time? Here's the beer.

We know beer lovers don't really need plans. If there's beer, there's time. But in case you want to try something new, here are a couple of things going on this weekend you might be interested in.

Sam Adams Beer Lover's Choice
Friday night from 5-7 p.m., Samuel Adams will be pouring tastes of two new brews at the Redmont Hotel downtown. It's part of Sam Adams' Beer Lover's Choice program where they tour the nation to get opinions from fans. The beer liked best is the beer they brew. Last year their Blackberry Whitbier won the most votes and you can find it in stores now.

This year, the choices are between a Czech-style pilsner and a dry-hopped ale. Prior commitments keep us from attending, but we'd love to hear your reports.

J. Clyde Fat Friday
J. Clyde will be tapping a cask of Good People Fatso Friday night. Why should you get your Fatso from them instead of Dee's? The Clyde's blog says the high-gravity brew is cask conditioned "which allows yeast to naturally carbonate the beer." We'd sure like to have some of that.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Brew TV: What would you do for a year of beer?

What would you do to win a year's supply of beer? Well, to be exact, what would you do for 627 bottles of beer? Apparently that's enough beer for someone.

Would you risk your life to defuse three explosive charges to save all those bottles? That's a lot of beer, but it's also a lot of potentially-mangled extremities. We like beer as much as the next pot-bellied guy, but we're kind of fond of fingers, too.

But before you answer, you should probably ask, "What kind of beer?" Some of us would happily give up a pinky for, say, 627 bottles of Stone Imperial Stout, but what about 7,524 ounces of St. Pauli Girl?

That's this week's episode of Discovery Channel's "Catch it Keep it," where contestants can take home the prize if they can save it from destruction. The Beer Bunker episode airs this Friday night at 9 Central. Don't know about you, but it'd be a pretty short (but explosive) episode if we were the contestants.

Beer Summit 2009: What'll ya have?

At the risk of getting political, we're gonna delve into the, uh, oh well, politics of beer. By now you're probably at least somewhat aware of the situation President Obama has gotten himself into with the arrest of a Boston professor. Forget all of that except for the fact that Obama invited the concerned parties over to his place for a few brews and some conversation.

Stay focused. All we're interested in here is the beer. If you're the president and ya got the guys coming over, what would you serve? At a press conference at the White House on Monday, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs addressed the subject (we did not make this up, btw):

Question: OK. And another subject, Officer Crowley is drinking Blue Moon, we hear Professor Gates is drinking Red Stripe or Becks -- what’s the president drinking?

Gibbs: The president had a Budweiser at the All-Star Game, so -- why are you looking at me like that? That’s what he drank.

Q: We’re talking Blue Moon, Red Stripe, Becks --

Gibbs: What’s wrong with Budweiser? Why do you hate Budweiser? (Laughter.)

Q: Well, he could get —

Gibbs: Why do you hate Budweiser, Wendell? (Laughter.) Wendell, how about this — How about you and I, we’ll go pick out the beer, we’ll do the beer run. ... (Laughter.)

Q: I’m happy to do that.

Gibbs: ... We’ll go on the beer run together and pick it up in anticipation of the meeting.

Q: Pretzel or chips?

Gibbs: Say again?

Q: Pretzel or chips?

Gibbs: We’re just going to go straight beer. No sense in diluting it.

So, our question to Beermingham readers is this: What would you serve at Beer Summit 2009?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Coming soon: Tilted Kilt Pub

I got all excited over a friend's recent Facebook posting about a new pub coming to town. The name, Tilted Kilt Pub, sounded interesting, but their catchphrase was the kicker: "A cold beer never looked so good."

Naturally I had to go check out the company's Web site. And right there on their home page, is a caricature of a scantily clad, redheaded bar maid serving up what looked to be a tasty porter. Further investigation, though, proved their logo to be only halfway true.

Despite their slogan, the best looking part of the place may very well be the barmaids, not the beer menu. It seems Tilted Kilt is more Hooters than J. Clyde. But one beer on the menu, the TK Signature Draft, caught my attention. Who might their contract brewer be? A quick Google search indicates Pyramid Brewing, though I'm not 100% sure. If so, you might want to check out Tilted Kilt more for the scenery than the suds.

Birmingham's first Tilted Kilt will be located at (appropriately) 14 Perimeter Park South down 280. Apparently they had a "casting call" over the weekend but may have another if you're interested. Their Web site doesn't indicate when they'll be opening.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

What we're drinking tonight: Good People Fatso

We're thinking about renaming this blog "Dee's: They're Good People". Because it seems most of our posts concern that particular beer/liquor/cigar store and that particular Birmingham brewery. But, seriously, isn't the coming together of these two entities about the most exciting thing to happen to Beermingham in a very long time?

Anyway, to continue our lovefest of Dee's and GP, we're almost done with a half-gallon of Fatso tonight. If you were at the recent Magic City Brewfest, Good People had a small cask of Fatso available for an extra charge. I was one of the folks lined up with cash-in-hand to try the first high-gravity beer brewed in Alabama. I thought was good, but, admittedly, I'd already had a couple shots of Snake Handler, so my taste buds weren't in top form.

That's why we were looking forward to a keg showing up at Dee's. And why we were there the second day they had it available. And probably why you should be there today if you want some. The folks at Dee's say they have half a keg of it and expect it to go fast. And as quickly as our allotment went, we expect their keg to go quickly, too.

Report: World Market goes high gravity August 25

When you hear "World Market" do you think tablecloths, candles and barstools? Or do you think beer? Yeah. Us, too. Especially after visiting one of their stores in Memphis recently. They didn't have the best beer selection in Memphis, but they had the best selection in any place near a mall. Yeah, not saying much. But we still left with about $50 worth of beer, some of which we'd never tried before.

And that's why we've been watching the Birmingham stores for fresh influx of new beer. Nothing so far, but Free the Hops forum has a post from user "bmorgan" who says he's learned the 280 establishment has applied for an updated license that goes into effect on August 25. What will they have to offer? Who knows? But at least they're close to the Summit.