Tuesday, March 31, 2009

drink local

as a Vero Beach, FL native, i am quite proud to say that we have our very own craft beer. contract brewed by the Florida Beer Company (spotty reputation aside for the time being), the Pale Ale is brewed to the Hmielewski familly recipe. created by their youngest son Eric who currently resides up in Jacksonville, it is a crisp, hoppy Pale Ale of great sessionability and taste:

LuKaya Beer's Two Tail Pale Ale

being a Vero Beach native, i can speak for the validity of their being a local familly. i went to school with their older daughter for thirteen years, and both Chuck and Sharon are still very happily planted here. after all, there really is no better place then Vero to call home.

as Sam Calagione is fond of saying, "Think globally. Drink locally."

demand good local craft beer.
demand LuKaya Beer's Two Tail Pale Ale.
your tastebuds will thank you, and the dogs will love you for it.

(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)

taking time to stop and taste the beer

We all know the saying “to stop and smell the roses”, but just what does that mean? Should I literally stop when I find a rose and smell it? What will I find, other than an itchy nose and aggravated allergies? The phrase itself is an idea, or ideal depending on how you want to look at it. It is prophetic as well as cautionary. Personally, I feel it also relates to the theology “life is short”, and we all know my motto: Life is short. Drink good beer. We exist encapsulated in a very small bubble of time in comparison to the whole picture. I want to try as hard as I can each day to stop and smell the roses, or in my case, to stop and taste the beer.

It is far too easy to get trapped in the high-paced life of commercialism, consumerism, materialism, technology, science, and greed (to name a few). Wanting beyond the means of your true desire sends one spiraling into the trap of wanting for the misguided reason of wanting. As we enter into an era of harder economic times, I feel that what may appear to be our worst obstacle shall instead prove to be our greatest triumph. As the pendulum of necessity starts to take a swing for the other-side of extreme modernism, hopefully adversity will turn into a better balance between luxury and necessity. There is nothing wrong with wanting things; goodness knows I have plenty, too much actually. As I come into the next stage of my life, I find endless invigoration in the growing Zen for balance between who I have been for the last 31 years of my life, where I am now, and who I am growing into.

So what does that have to do with taking time to stop and taste the beer?

It is about stopping to really enjoy, to really savor, to really be in the moment and in life each and every beer at a time. To use all my senses for what they are worth. To spark that long dormant desire for learning, exploring, and tasting of the frothy cup of life.

How can I not when beer lives on as the oldest known beverage of mankind. Having slaked our thirsts for hundreds of reasons dating back as far as around 9000BC, each glass I sup is not just a living work of art; it is a living piece of history. The boring, mass-produced, and practically flavorless fizzy yellow swill that almost threatened to destroy the rich heritage of beer is also a piece of history, but a rather one-sided glimpse at that with the personality of a cold dictator. My whole body was born to heighten my senses which in turn allow me to enjoy as much of what I see, touch, smell, hear, feel, speak, and think. These very words I write are living proof.

Of course, enjoying all that life has to offer isn’t just about beer, but in my not so humble opinion, nothing better encapsulates all that life has to offer than beer. Beer is a living product of evolution, society, government, culture, war, peace, rebellion, creativity, desire, technology, craftsmanship, and daring; to name a few. Each bottle I open is a brand new journey unto itself. Who made it? What beer style is it? What story and history lies behind its creation and survival? Is it a rare limited release? A once in a lifetime experience? Were fresh, natural ingredients used, or did the brewery take the lesser road and use cheap adjuncts and chemicals, earning my disdain and my scorn? Will my first sip be a moment of wonder and revelation, a personal beervana? Who can I share this wonder with as I discover further the mysteries, joys, and pleasures of life?

The world is infinitely larger and vaster than the tiny little suburbia that we see outside our equally tiny window as we wallow in our close-minded one-sightedness that chooses to ignore all things outside our comfort zone. Ignorance isn't bliss; ignorance is simply ignorance. But that can't be because we are right, and they are wrong, right?


We are the world and the world is us. We are but a microscopic fraction of the factors that play into how the world we live in works. To our benefit, we can only do so much within what we are capable of at anytime. There will always be an encompassing picture in which we have little to no say, sometimes despite our best efforts otherwise. It is when we have the ability to widen our horizons, open our minds, take the slightly harder path, but choose not to that we truly lose. Just as people are diverse, so is beer. Unfortunately, beer is currently defined by one commonly known style based not on the beer itself but instead on the ruthless skill and bullish tactics of mass commercialism, propaganda, campaigning, and so forth.

I could accept the easy path of not thinking about what I am drinking, and just do what the scantily clad lady holding her overly cold frosty mug on some tropical beach somewhere tells me to do. Or I can decide for myself what I like to taste in beer, and that is diversity of flavor. That is what our tastebuds and a free thinking mind rich with curiosity is for, after all.

That mass-produced fizzy yellow product of marketing would be the 'standard lager'. The pale lager has only been only around for a couple hundred years, whereas the wild worldly status of beer, in various forms has been around as far back as around 9000BC. The pale lager has nothing on beer in terms of sheer diversity, history, culture, intrigue, and enjoyment. Even if you cannot make that coveted trip to Belgium this year, in America alone we can and do enjoy the largest localized selection of quality beer in the world. To leave America, I would and will visit dozens of countries to experience their people and their culture through their living history; beer. All those hundreds of varieties of beers available globally I can enjoy here, in America. Of course, there is magic to be found in drinking a Saison DuPont in its home country of Belgium, but for now, we are inarguably in a rather enviable state of beeriness where quality and diversity reign.

No, I am not waxing poetic or blowing a whole bunch of hooey. For myself, and hundreds of thousands of others, beer is where it is at. They too understand and embrace the philosophy of taking time to stop and taste the beer. It is that moment of clarity where we demand better for ourselves. When all is said and done, the stuff we have is only as good as the worth we attach to it and what we do about it. Demanding change. Demanding responsibility. Demanding diversity and the freedom that comes with choice. Choosing an open mind, an open heart, and understanding over ignorance and dogged dogma. Everywhere in the world we are all united in our battle to taking time to taste the beer and hopefully to preserve that for future generations.

Maybe it is old age, maybe it is life experiences, maybe it is really just about the beer, but I am going to do my best to make time to stop and taste the beer, each and every one. Where I have been, where I am now, and where I will be going in the future; it will always be the same. I don’t want to ever take the back seat to my life anymore. I may stumble, and I may fall, but I will get back up again, and waiting for me will be the simple joy of enjoying a beer I have never tried before, or being reunited with a tried and true friend who has been through thick and thin with me. In no way am I advocating irresponsibility or excess; I have seen first-hand what addiction does to people. Instead, what I am advocating and living is the philosophy, the idea or ideal, behind taking time to stop and taste the beer. No frills, no fuss, no BS, just simple pleasures for a hopefully simpler life.

Life is short. Drink good beer.

(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Chunk & Patriot's Face Rape-a-palooza video


the video is 14 minutes long so it will take a few minutes to load...
But. It. Is. Totally. Worth. It.
supreme editing skills and much Rate-Beerian awesomeness that only the Orlando, FL crew can bring to you.

trivia quiz for the video watchers: can you identify moi

(this 'morning after' pic represents about 80% of the beers opened and tasted at this phenomenal Orlando, RB event. that would fit on the table, that is)

(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

my perfect beer joint

just what is the "perfect beer joint"?

i think for everyone it is a somewhat different answer for different reasons, wholly personal of course. but, ask enough people and/or do enough studies of one's own, and some commonalities start to come into focus.

most important of all is the quality and variety of beer available. i will forgive many a thing in beer joints if the beer is worth going there for, minus dirty tap-lines and stale beer of course. secondly, i would have to say that knowledgeable and friendly staff is key to keeping the Good Beer Love alive and well. there can be nothing worse as someone new (or experienced) who is curious about an unknown beer and the staff on hand know as little as you do which is equal to nothing. third is the crowd. i'm all for jolly times, laughter, and a boisterous crowd, but please mind those manners and common courtesies. as much as i am there to have fun with friends new and old, i am there especially to enjoy the Beer.

so to summarize:
  • 1) selection
  • 2) knowledgeable, passionate staff
  • 3) comfortable atmosphere and customer base

so next question then would be does your favorite beer joint have to be local? personally, i would have to say "Yes". one can have a favorite beer joint to visit when traveling, but the perfect joint should be local. as one infamous Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head is fond of saying, "Think globally. Drink locally." which i think also applies to one's beer joint. no matter what day of the week, rain or shine, busy or slow, lazy or running a-mile-a-minute, you know that the minute you step inside all of that is left behind and it is just you at the bar counter, beer glass in hand brimming and foaming with joyous abandon, and the company of friendly fellow beer compatriots and comrades-in-life.

this of course is leading to my own personal favorite perfect beer joint. (though, i am probably pushing my own stated standards in terms of the locality.) i live in Vero Beach, part of Indian River County, while Vine & Barley is in St. Lucie West, part of St. Lucie County. all it takes though is a 25 minute trip in my car, not long at all imnsho, and i am there and all my worries are washed away. whether i am there for 30 minutes or 3 hours, it is all the same: perfect beery relaxing bliss with a generous helping of fun sprinkled throughout.

as i type this i am here right now supping on a Saxo Blonde Ale served to me in her proper Saxo snifter glass, as she should be. another oft underlooked quality of a good beer joint is proper glassware, the more variety the better. an old, tried and true concept in Europe, it is slowly growing in understanding and appreciation here in the states, advocated most passionately by beer geeks and professionals. it is a tuesday night so it is more relaxed and quiet; come on a friday or saturday night and you are in for lots of people, lots of good beer (and wine), and lots of fun.

want to watch the big game and catch some grub? you better look elsewhere. Vine & Barley is a wine and beer lounge; not bar, restaurant, or pub. the focus is on quality beverages and quality bar food in the name of gourmet cheeses and meats for some of the best dishes to nibble along with your brew, ever. this is a lounge of old-school class and gentry.
  • smoked gouda.
  • crumbly and creamy blue cheese.havarti and brie that melt in your mouth.
  • divine intervention is here and now.

had dinner already and looking for an after-dinner apertif with some dessert? no problem. they offer at least a half-dozen wonderfully delicious desserts that pair wonderfully with their wide selection of quality craft and import beers. of course, i have never had a problem with dessert before dinner, but that's just me.

seeing as i am here now enjoying yet another day at my perfect beer joint, i have included some choice pics on this lazy Florida spring day of sunny skies, puffy clouds, and perfect beer bliss.

(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)

Sunday, March 22, 2009

excuse me, but there seems to be a bug in my beer

Brettanomyces: of the non-spore genus of the yeast family, Saccharomycetacea. an acidogenic yeast when grown on or in glucose rich media, such as wort.

wort (pronounced 'wert'), as some of you may know, is beer before it becomes beer. as humans, we create everything up to the wort, but it is the magical, mystical bug known as yeast that we add to wort that makes beer. yeast feeds off sugars which the ooey-gooey wort is full of. the yeasts in eating the sugars create a byproduct known as alcohol.

voila: beer is born.

so, just what is Brettanomyces, then? for the majority of brewers, it is a bug to be feared and scorned from all processes of brewing. they like to impart an acidic quality and character to the wort it turns into beer. sour is not a widely accepted character of most beers, but there are some where sour is the goal and Brettanomyces is a precious, prized friend.

instead of hospital clean sanitary conditions, some breweries prefer the dust, the cobwebs, the dirt and the random objects that have been left where they lay for years on end. to disturb the natural environment that has formed would be to potentially disturb the centuries old formula that has allowed them to brew the magical beers that they have for centuries.

outside those brewieres, especially in Belgium and with their Lambic breweries, there are brewers who prefer to age their beers in barrels. before stainless steel, electricity, and everything we know of modern brewing was not the norm, beer was brewed, fermented, and aged in wood barrels. they had to be kept uber sanitary and clean, and any invasion by yeast bugs that were not part of the highly regulated and formulated brewing recipe were wholly unwelcome guests.

for a few daring brewers though, they want those bugs, those Brettanomyces yeast that settle into the nooks and crannies and porous material of the wood barrels. as the beer sits and settles and ferments and matures in the barrels, the Brettanomyces bug nibbles away at residual sugars and adds a bracing tart acidity of varying strength to the beer. some beers may even benefit from an additional injection of fresh sugars and Brettanomyces yeast, even as the barrel has their own living colonies.

all of this adds up to an amazing dry, tart, acidic, rich, complex beer. from a bone-dry Lambic with layers of delicate complexity to a Bretty ale or brew that has highlights of Bretty character while retaining more of the original beer style's character.

i find it amazing that it comes down to a microscopic parasite of sorts that is responsible for creating some of the most enigmatic beers i have tatsed. ever. there is a reason why Belgian Lambic Brewers still brew as they did hundreds of years ago, and why craft brewers in America and abroad are more openly embracing the magic of a beer married with some Brettanomyces yeast.

beer is about flavor. without flavor, tradition, culture, originality, and tradition, beer would be all flavorless, pale, fizzy light lagers. centuries of history would be lost, and palates would be crying for a loss they hadn't realized they had lost until it was too late.

Brettanomyces is our friend, and i look forward to seeing in what wasy during the years to come, he can dazzle and amaze and deligth all my senses in this journey known as Beer.

Beer Styles where Brettanomyces can be found:
Oud Bruin
Flanders Red Ale
Flemish Sour Brown Ales
Lambic & Gueze

there are also a growing number of American craft brewers who are utilizing barrels and Brettanomyces to their full potential. Some of which include:

Russian River Brewing
New Belgium
Jolly Pumpkin
Goose Island
Lost Abbey
Ommegang name a few.

while sometimes a Bretty bug can intrude upon a beer for which it was not intended, sometimes the best success is the worst mistake. that isn't to say that all beers who come across some accidental Brettanomyces character are good, but sometimes the brewer finds that it adds just that little extra zip that the beer was unknowingly looking for.

today, let us give tribute to the bugs in our beer that make them taste as wonderful as they do, especially the Brettanomyces strain. there may be no more beautiful miracle of nature.

(an original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)

Friday, March 20, 2009

RB O-town Throwndown: Chunk & Patriot's Face Rape-a-palooza

on saturday, march 14th, myself and other fellow beer geeks and foodies descended upon one lone Orlando, FL home to share in close to 150 different beers. there were rare releases, fresh growlers, meads, artisan cheese, chocolate covered bacon, smoked sausage grilled to perfection, and so much more.

beer was plentiful and flowed almost nonstop into eagerly awaiting cups. i tasted 35 good to great to mind-blowing beers. the worst experience of the night was the Purple Possom Habanero Mead. avoid it AT ALL COSTS!!!

of course, this just increases my beer review backlog even more than it already is, but c'est la vie.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

pop the cork...the beer ambassador is here

it'll take a few weeks to get most of this new blog tweaked to the way i want it to start, but keep a weekly eye out for new things.

here i will talk about anything and everything related to the wide world of Beer. think you know beer? hah!!!! even i don't know beer as well as i would like to, but then, hopefully there will never be an end to this journey.

so open a bottle, pour, sip and savor, and join me to learn more about Beer than you ever thought you would ^_^