Saturday, June 7, 2014

What I Learned At TAP NY 2014

Note: I received free press passes for this. Just wanted to disclose that.

Sorry for the delay in this. Shortly after TAP NY I had a bit of a medical emergency (okay, several) and the medication I'm on for it has been knocking me for a loop. A huge, dizzy, shaky loop.

That being said, even with my fuzzy mind, I can't tell you how much I enjoyed TAP NY. It was my first time being there and, overall, I enjoyed the hell out of that festival. It was also my first beer festival so it proverbially unleashed the beer dragon that I will forever chase. But what did I learn from TAP NY? What did I discover? Well, if you'll permit me (once again) to wax poetic about the things I love, I'll tell you. So buckle up, pop a beer, and get ready for...


What Bacchus Learned At TAP NY 2014

1.) I REALLY Love Beer. And I Forgot That.

I have burnt out on spirits a bit, I admit. I have put my nose to the grindstone for too long and spent far too much time wetting the hone with liquor. My brain may be sharp...but it's waterlogged with spirits. Metaphorically. Most of my time spent on the internet, in magazines, in books, and on the phone is liquor, liquor, liquor. When I originally got to the show, I honestly found myself slightly anxious. Will there be something there as complex as the spirits I've been tasting? I mean, it's just hops, malt, and water, right? How many beers will it take for me to get bored? Would I be spending most of my time eating and waxing hipster about spirits?

And then I had my first pour.

I had focused on spirits for so long, admiring the profound complexity of it...that I became almost snobbish. Puritanical in my alcohol approach. But I forgot what the best part of beer is: it can be beautifully simple. So what if it's hops, malt, and water? Sometimes that's all you need. And even then, there were some beers that I had at TAP NY that blew my mind in ways that spirits couldn't. Mouthfeel, body, tartness. And hops. I missed hops! The floral aromas and citrus bite. It reinvigorated my palate. After the show, I promptly went out and bought beer. A lot of beer. Because that craving for simple pleasures couldn't be quenched. And it still hasn't. I genuinely forgot how much I loved beer, how bolstering and refreshing a proper pint can be. So thank you TAP NY for helping Stella get her groove back. Or, in this case, Bacchus get his Stella back. I guess.

2.) Where Did All These Breweries Come From?

TAP NY is a beer festival that exclusively has NY located breweries. When I arrived, I checked the layout sheet and almost passed out. Every nook and cranny of the resort was crammed full of beer vendors. Vendors I had heard of and had tried, vendors I had heard of and hadn't tried, vendors I'd never heard of, and even vendors I thought quite possibly were a test that when you went up and asked for a beer it was a sign you were too drunk and were kicked out. Where did all these breweries come from? Where did all of these BEERS come from? NY, broadcast your beer bounty broadly. Not enough is being said and the whispers on the wind are not reaching the right ears. Or I could just be crazy and beer-deaf. This is a possibility.

3.) Beer Nerds Are Awesome

With many alcohol centric festivals, there a distinctly divided crowd and you can tell who belongs to what of the three categories as the festival wears on. The first category is the connoisseur; the person there to sip and sample to broaden their palate. Then there's the Jolly Roger; the person(s) there to be outdoors, drink some beer, and have fun with friends. Then...there's the Bluto; the person that paid $60 and is damn well sure they're getting their money's worth. The first, by hour two, is stone cold sober and actively perusing the pour lists. The second, by hour two, is slightly tipsy and laughing congenially with friends over a pretzel or sandwich on a bench. The third, by hour two, is just walking up to every stand, demanding a pour (not specifying) and then pounding it and moving onto the next. The third is like a Henry Ford-esque assembler of inebriation. And the last one...well...it chaps my ass a bit. I understand the mentality. I really do. But if you get a pour and you lose half of the beer to the ground before you make it ten paces from the table...you should probably drink some water and have a sandwich. If you're standing there, smoking a nub of a cigar, all while your eyes are slitted and blinking independent of each other...maybe take a seat for a bit. You paid $60 but you didn't pay $60 for BEER. It went to other things. To the food that you should be eating. To listening to the band that's playing. To talking to vendors about...I dunno...what they're brewing next.

But at TAP NY...that pretty much wasn't the case. Sure, the two examples I used above I DID see there but for the most part it was mostly Connoisseurs and Jolly Rogers. And the Connoisseurs...man, it was refreshing. They weren't snobbish or elitist. They'd take their pours, congregate around a table, and chat about the beer in front of them. They'd uproariously laugh at beer jokes. They'd agree that a beer wasn't for them but instead of deriding the beer...they simply moved on. It was...nice to see such civil discourse going on. It brought a tear to my eyes to hear scraps of conversations about carbonation levels, alpha acid levels, and even "did you try that sour beer over there?" Which, actually, brings me to my next point.

4.) No Sour Grapes. Just Sour Grains.

I was surprised by the inclusion of several sour beers dotted among the tables. The East Coast, in my opinion, lags behind on the West Coast beer trends. We're slowly getting over the West Coast hop bombs and are JUST moving on to brewing sours. And frankly, this is fantastic. I love sour beers but they're hard to come by. You can either try to have a friend send a carrier pigeon with Russian River stuff to a boat waiting by a river which will carry it to a Pony Express station that hops a train (heh, hops) to Philly where it is then smuggled by wagon...or you shell out $20 for a bottle of Cantillion that you're not sure you're going to like. It's hard to find affordable beer that you can use to cut your teeth on the sour sector. But, thankfully, East Coast / NY is picking up the pace. A few places had sours that I really enjoyed. Tart, effervescent, almost kombucha-like (except kombucha is the spawn of the devil and should be cast into the sea), I really got to sample a lot of sour and fuel my craving for more. Now they just need to bottle said sours so I can cellar them to see how that goes. That and gueuze is expensive.

5). Passion Isn't Just A Fruit

I talked to a lot of brewers at TAP NY. The interface time available was really, really nice. And, combined with the sheer beer geekery, it lent to some awesome conversations. It's awesome to see the passion behind a lot of these breweries. The brewers, the sales people, the marketing staff. I think the best example of this was hanging out with Galaxy Brewing out of Binghamton. They contacted me pre-fest and asked if I wanted to stop by and chat. Naturally, I took them up on the idea. As the head brewer, Seth, and I got talking, it was awesome to see the passion come out. The thing that struck me the most was the inspiration behind their name. With a name like Galaxy, I figured he had a passion for stargazing (which I freely admit I do) or astronomy or something...but it was far simpler than that. He had sat, staring at a beer, and watched the foam on top lazily spin. It ended up spinning into a shape that he thought looked like a galaxy. And that's how the name came about. A name born from a passion for beer that went far beyond just foam spinning in a glass. And that's cool.

The best way I can sum up TAP NY is: yes. I will be back, as scheduling allows, and I will report on it every damn time. Not only was the beer refreshing, but the company, atmosphere, and conversation as well. My only stickler of a problem was getting food during the event as any food item worth nomming was quickly mobbed by people as the server left the food station. But that's nitpicky at best. I'll be there and I'll be happy to hoist a pint with anyone that recognizes me or wants to meet up. And you should be there too. Because it's fun.



-Bacchus


ADDENDUM: What I drank!

Captain Lawrence Seeking Alpha  - A sweet yet bitter syrup of a beer. Clocked in at some outrageous ABV so it's a one and done beer. Not that I could drink more than one anyway. A good nightcap beer.

Peekskill Brewery Vaporizor - A stout stout. It poured like liquid velvet and had the exact same mouthfeel. A bit better than average in terms of flavor but the mouthfeel was like a liquid velvet Elvis painting which pushed it over the edge from fine to great.

Peekskill Brewery Share The Sunshine - Delightfully tart and almost savory. It would do well with a pickle juice back. Lemon zest, malt, and some brett funk going on. Nom.

Galaxy Brewing Company St. Stusan - Cloves, white pepper, banana, heavy wheaty goodness. Not outlandish, nor sub-par. A good and solid drinker.

Finback Starchild - Delightfully puckery and thirst-slaking. Definitely a sour beer. Minimal malt, all sour, with a nice grapefruit highlight throughout that rallies on the finish. Like I said...NY's cranking out sours.

Bar Bacchus Brewery Orchard Sour - The best beer I had all day. The layers of sour fermentation on this one were kind of crazy. It had that sour that tingles the tip of your tongue the one that makes the back of your throat hum. They put some sort of syrup in it (raspberry, I think) which provided some sweetness to balance but, syrups be damned, it didn't need it.

SECOND ADDENDUM: Photos!


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Give It A Light TAP NY

Do you love beer? Do you love sweet, sweet regional food? Do you live in or around NY?

Do you know of TAP NY?

I have known of TAP NY for the longest time, from when I was but a whelp. My neighbor was/is heavily involved with TAP NY as a judge for a long time. He would serenade my father over beers (and myself over a soda) on his porch about the latest happenings of the yearly TAP NY. It first started when I didn't like beer. When my first taste of beer was a smuggled sip of Labatt Blue leftover on the tops of the cans that I was in charge of washing. As I grew, the stories of TAP NY continued and I became more interested as my involvement with the fermentation and distillation arts grew. I wondered to myself many questions during that time.

'There's festivals of beer?'
'You can be a judge at a festival of beer?'
'How do I become a judge at a festival of beer?'

Alas, the fates always conspired against me. From when I turned 21, I was either away at school or undergoing surgery when TAP NY took place. I've heard so much about TAP NY...but I've never been. 12 years of indoctrination into the holy hopfest that is TAP NY and I've never been in my life. But, come this Sunday, that's about to change. I will be dining on Cornell Chicken. I will be feasting on (hopefully) Utica Chicken Riggies. And I will be quaffing beer like my neighbor had foretold. It will be glorious.

And, if you are so inclined as to desire to meet up with me, you too can attend this Valhalla on earth. I urge you to join me in this most dwarven of past-times and drink and eat with me on Sunday or (if you don't like me that much) on Saturday. But how do you pass the Pearly Gates of Porter and Pork? Click the picture below and get'cher tickets! Get 'em and stuff your face like me. It'll be fun. How can it not?



 "Soon Master Elf, you will enjoy the fabled hospitality of the dwarves. Roaring fires, malt beer, ripe meat off the bone." - Gimli, son of Gloin, to Legolas

Sunday, April 6, 2014

So Science, Much Funding

Okay, I'll admit it. I browse Reddit. Well maybe BROWSE is a weak term for my interaction with Reddit. Let's just leave it at the fact that I have a vested interested in Reddit and I make sure to keep my investments to the site current and frequently substantiated.

FINE, I'M ON THERE A LOT.

But I'm not on there just whiling away the hours looking at cat pictures. I can assure you of this. I spent a lot of time on /r/scotch, /r/pipetobaccco, /r/cigars, /r/cocktails, /r/cigarettes (shush, that's another topic for later), and a bevy of other subreddits that cater to my whims. If you look hard enough (okay, not really hard), you can find me. I enjoy being on there and meeting people from all across the world that share my common interests.

As part and parcel of being on Reddit, I have run into Ben Eisenkop. He is a man larger than life, a demi-god of crows and eagles and pineapples and Minecraft. He is the man behind Unidan. Unidan is a behemoth of all things science and awkwardly funny. He actively engages Reddit, providing scientific explanations of biological and ornithological quandaries. And he does it with aplomb and good-natured cheer. Recently, I learned that Ben is actually a PhD student at my father's alma mater, Binghamton University. Even MORE recently, he did a TEDx talk at Binghamton University on a subject near and dear to my heart. Here it is, in full.



Yeah, it's pretty nerdy. Yes, it contains doge. And cryptocurrency. But it is about a problem that I have long tried to think through and surmount. Funding for research.

As you can guess (hopefully) by now, I am a man with a scientific mind. I enjoy the pursuit of knowledge and will generally stop at very few things in my course to solve mysteries. One of the things that stops me is money. Research costs money; from lab usage and testing to equipment to consultants. It's not free. And, as Ben talks about, it is difficult for scientists with narrow or limited scope topics to get funding for research. And let's be honest, if Ben can't get funding on any government or "official" level for something that could very well impact the way biology is thought about in some small manner...what chance does a man looking to research the effects wood has on an active poison have?

There are many topics that rattle around in my head that I'd love to research but would cost a fortune to do. Well, not a fortune, but a significant chunk of money (which, at the moment, is greater than $1000 to me). There are things that I'd love to run through GC-MS, to agar plate and grow, to consult with others about that would potentially affect the beverage industry. But is there funding for it? None that I can find. Perhaps there are avenues that I haven't considered or grants that I've never heard of but in my research I haven't really found anyone that would be willing to pay for the stuff I'd like to do.

So maybe, just maybe, if I can get my stuff together...I'll turn to the crowd. Because maybe if it's a question I've thought about, someone else has thought about it too.

And maybe they've got money.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Way I Tennes-See It

Okay, okay. I'm sure you all think I'm late to the game. Yes, I know of the Tennessee whiskey debate. To be truthful, I've been reticent to write about it. Let's be honest...if you're a whiskey nerd, or a whiskey connoisseur, or...well, hell...even know about whiskey, you've probably heard a lot about it by now. Last Friday, Brown-Forman fired a warning shot in the form of a press release loftily entitled "Jack Daniel Distillery: Tennessee Whiskey “Under Attack” in General Assembly". Frankly, I kinda considered this a bit of media grandstanding to begin with, mainly because of what they reference as far as bills. According to the Tennessee government HB2330 and SB2441 go exactly as follows:

AN ACT
to amend Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 57, relative to alcoholic beverages.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE:

SECTION 1. Tennessee Code Annotated, Section 57-1-201(b)(1)(A), is amended by
adding the following language at the end of the first sentence of the subdivision:
However, the commission shall not impose a fine on a license or permit holder
for the same type of violation more than three (3) times in a two-year period. The
commission shall be required to suspend or revoke the license or permit instead of imposing a fine after the third violation within the two-year period.

SECTION 2. This act shall take effect upon becoming a law, the public welfare requiring it.

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with this. This is a good law. This is a MUCH stronger incentive to keep shady people from doing shady things to liquids people put in their bodies. I'm happy with that. But when the Diageo statements started flying...I got curious. An executive vice president saying, and I quote, "We support efforts to protect the best interest of all large and small Tennessee whiskey distillers."

Sorry, but something strikes me wrong here.

And then, much to the chagrin of every whisk(e)y nerd's Facebook timelines, the ideas and theories went a-flailin'. Prichards in Tennessee seems pretty happy with Diageo's supposed decision to fight the good fight, saying "If I wanted my whiskey to taste like Jack Daniels, I'd make Jack Daniels." Fair point. And to be honest, I can kind of see where he's coming from. If you come from a state that is known for proudly proclaiming that it is a state-made product on the label, I'd want to do it too. Enforcing a costly and, in my opinion, inane process on small manufacturers (Lincoln County Process) just to label it AS a Tennessee whiskey? That's not exactly fair. But Diageo is ALREADY doing it with their George Dickel whiskey...so why would they care? According to Fred Minnick's digging, it's a two-pronged attack. According to interviews he conducted with Brown-Forman, it seems they think that they are undermining Jack Daniels, as well as the law, in order to change the wording of the law from "aged in NEW charred oak barrels in Tennessee" to just "aged in charred oak barrels". Why? Because the barrel crop (well...the oak crop) this year suffered from heavy rains and terrible logging conditions. Also, they could use their rickhouses at the Stitzel-Weller distillery in Kentucky.

And this got me thinking.

Diageo is smart. If they can streamline, they will streamline. They did it with scotch. When demand for their single malts started to overcome what their individual distilleries could do...they built another one. A giant one. That can produce ALL the spirit types it needs. They opened Roseisle Distillery in 2010 and, in theory, they should have started using spirit from it in their blends two years ago. And then there's the matter, as of late, of the Bulleit bourbon and rye providence. As of late, Diageo have been VERY tight-lipped about where Bulleit has been made. Chuck Cowdery's two investigations yielded that it used to be Four Roses. Or maybe MGP. And now they're not talking at all. In fact, there's a "Bulleit Distilling Company" now, which is a PO Box address and a hotline to a Bulleit Customer Care Line. And have you noticed how much money they're dumping into Stitzel-Weller? $2 million alone on a Stiztel-Weller Visitor's Center ? Why, it's almost like they're going to move in...

What if...and I am postulating grandly here...what if they are? What if Diageo is positioning to reclassify the "Tennessee Whiskey" law into a "Tennessee-style Whiskey" law? What if Stitzel-Weller is to become Diageo's American whiskey Roseisle? By slowly creeping back on revealing who makes Bulleit, they could outsource the manufacture of it to a spirit plant and age it at Stitzel-Weller, all the while preparing Stitzel-Weller to fire up again. By reclassifying Tennessee Whiskey to a Tennesee-style Whiskey, they could shutter George Dickel and just make it at Stitzel-Weller. That's all of their American whiskies bundled up in one neat little distillery.

THAT is what I think the big picture is. Diageo wants one distillery that it can depend on for everything it needs in terms of American whiskey. A standard and reliable place for Bulleit whiskey. A place to manufacture and age a Tennessee style whiskey. The ability to sell off a distillery. Personally, I think that's what they're doing right now. Call it a hunch but this gumshoe's got a gut feeling. And, hopefully, I'll be wrong. Dickel will continue to stay open either under Diageo or other stewardship, Tennessee whiskey law won't be tampered with, and everyone can walk away happy.

I hope.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Tuthilltown Spirits "Making The Cut"

I got an email about this contest last week, asking whether or not I could run a piece on it. I was debating what to do. On one hand...it kinda hurt. I used to work at Tuthilltown and I poured my heart and soul into that job. Seeing this opportunity come about, via email, from a PR company that never even realized I worked there....well...it stung. But then I realized that it's Tuthilltown and I still love them and have mostly fond memories of working there (the not-so-fond memories were the many times I'd pinch fingers moving barrels). So I'll run it, in it's entirety, even if this is something I usually refrain from doing. Here it is.





NEW YORK, MARCH 3RD, 2014 - Whiskey distillation is a science of circles. Circular barrels. Circular bottles. Circular stills. The circle of Gable Erenzo, co-master distiller and soon-to-be-former brand ambassador of Hudson Whiskey, is almost complete, as he will once again focus his efforts back at the distillery full-time. But as is the nature of circles, with the end of Gable’s journey begins a new one. Enter “Making the Cut”: the search to replace the irreplaceable Gable with a new face for the Hudson Whiskey brand, and one qualified individual’s shot at a full-time job as Hudson Whiskey’s brand ambassador.“Making the Cut” is not a hunt for the world’s greatest mixologist, or the foremost scientific mind in distillation. It is to find the human embodiment of Hudson Whiskey’s ideals and identity. Ten years ago, the Hudson folks set out to open a climber's ranch, but the neighbors balked. They had to either go home or try something new: whiskey. As New York’s first whiskey distillery since Prohibition grew, Gable rose to Everest-level heights as the brand’s global ambassador. However, he has now decided to forego his time on the road and return to his precious distillery, nurturing and improving upon our country’s craftiest of craft whiskies.
    With “Making the Cut”, the Hudson Whiskey team, brand founders Ralph Erenzo and Gable Erenzo, and the highly decorated distiller William Grant & Sons, which acquired the brand in 2010, is looking for someone who gets that make-it-happen, can-do spirit, and who gets the importance of shaking hands, meeting face-to-face and telling great stories. They want someone who understands how experiences circle back into the product, and how the product is comprised not just of distilled grain and rich barrel-aged flavor, but engrained with the personalities of each and every member of the distillery staff (there are only a handful!). Ralph and Gable chose whiskey over defeat, and they want someone who will make that same choice. The newest member of the Hudson Whiskey family will circle the country, speaking with bartenders, restaurant owners, whiskey enthusiasts and press, hosting tastings, connecting with fans via social media and representing our brand in the national press.
    Think you’re the one for the job? Ralph and Gable think so too. But they need proof, so send them a short video or a collection of photos, proving your readiness to begin your own circle of whiskey. Make a cocktail. Get crafty with some bottles. Recite your declaration of whiskey dependence. Then log on to HudsonWhiskey.com/MakingTheCut to submit your application. The chosen contenders will join us at the distillery to drink some good whiskey, meet some friendly people, and engage in a month-long course in craft distillation by Ralph, Gable and the rest of the distillery team. All will learn the wonders of craft whiskey from the leaders of craft distilling, but only one will make the cut to become the new Hudson Whiskey Ambassador.


Will I be entering? I dunno. I didn't see anything in the rules AGAINST me applying but I'm sure there's many more bartenders/distillers/cooler people out there that would do significantly better. That and I'm pretty sure, since it's judged by my old bosses, it might be unfair. Either way, if you're interested, link (again) is HERE. Good luck to those who enter. And if you do end up being one of the final 3, let me know. I don't live far. We can have a tipple or two.

EDIT: edited to make the damn video fit.