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Guest post | Blake Marcum: a guide to spreading holiday cheer beer in the 901

December 18, 2014 By: mike Category: Craft beer, Distribution, Memphis

The following is a guest post from Memphis craft beer drinker Blake Marcum, who previously wrote about pumpkin beers in the 901.

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It may be hard to notice over all of the jingling bells and sparkling lights down Poplar Avenue, but the approach of winter has brought us the greatest gift of the season, Christmas beer. Beers this time of year get darker, sweeter and give a much better meaning to the holidays than whatever movie marathon is on television.

Blake Marcum

Blake Marcum

In the 901, we are blessed to have a massive selection of winter beer options at our local bars and beer stores. Nothing gets me more into the spirit of the holidays than filling my shopping cart full of tasty treats with so much flavor they put all Christmas cookies to shame. Today we’ll be your personal beer shopping elves, here to help you decide the right beer to get in the 901.

During our tastings, we were really surprised by the large number of beer that had no discernible spice characteristics to truly make it a winter/Christmas beer. This made us realize we had two categories of beer we were dealing with from the breweries: Fruitcake and Ornaments.

Fruitcake is the most unapologetic holiday dessert ever created. It looks festive, it smells festive and it’s full of whatever ingredients Mrs. Claus could find in the cupboard. Fruitcake beers follow this same trend. They look, smell and taste like the holidays. When you try them, you’ll have gingerbread men and sugar plums dancing all in your head, no matter what style of beer it is. Fruitcake, in this article, is pure heaven.

Ornaments are plastic, cheap, and no one sheds a tear when one breaks, because you’ve got dozens more just like it stored up in the attic. Ornament beers have festive bottles, clever names and sometimes even an aroma of intrigue, but the flavor characteristics are that of any other beer readily available on the store shelves all year round.

Fruitcake Beer (the good kind)

shiner cheer1. Shiner Holiday Cheer: If Santa and Jesus brewed beer together, all they would brew is Shiner Cheer. It’s a dark wheat beer with peaches and pecans. When I taste it, I am instantly thrust into Christmas memories of my brother and me wearing our Memphis State University sweatshirts when I was growing up in Nutbush. This is truly the shining star of the Spoetzl Brewery’s lineup. I celebrate this beer by buying eight cases of it each year. I continuously enjoy this beer all throughout the year, and it holds up incredibly well, even in the summertime. Tony Lucchesi, owner of Lucchesi’s Beer Garden and one of the most recognizable last names in the 901, sends me a picture of this beer when it arrives as he knows I’ll be at his bar immediately. Shiner Cheer on tap is a wonderful experience, and it can also be purchased in bottles or cans.

2. Samuel Adams White Christmas: This beer impresses me more and more each time I try it. Cinnamon, nutmeg and orange peel help give this white ale its warm and cozy taste. I’ve started buying more and more of this beer because of its incredible flavor. In the spring, Sam Adams releases Cold Snap, the junior version of White Christmas, which is also delicious. Do yourself a favor and try this beer. If you disagree with my review, that is absolutely OK. Three ghosts will be visiting you in the future to help you change your mind.

3. High Cotton Brewing’s Christmas Stout: As a big supporter of our local breweries, it thrills me that one of them produces a Christmas beer. This is a fantastic stout that has so much Christmas thrown into it, I laughed when I first tasted it. It is unapologetically Christmas and deliciously so. If darker beers are not your usual, don’t let the fact that it is a stout keep you away. The spices in the beer will help distract you from the color and keep you thirsty for more.

4. Leinenkugel’s Snowdrift Vanillla Porter: This beer is simply delicious. It has nice chocolate notes in the porter, with subtle hints of vanilla. It is incredibly smooth and easy to enjoy. Being a porter, it will be too much for the light beer crowd, but it is definitely worth a try.

5. Blue Moon Gingerbread Spiced Ale: This beer is definitely one to keep on your wish list this year. Wonderful spices and flavor, with a smoothness you could drink all year round. The only way you can get this beer in the 901 is in a winter variety 12-pack, along with their Mountain Abbey Ale and their Cinnamon Horchata Ale, but that is like killing three tasty birds with one stone.

6. Blue Moon Mountain Abbey Ale: Since I already mentioned it, I might as well tell you about this other Blue Moon ale. This is a solid amber beer that has some Belgian sugar and a touch of wheat to it. Blue Moon swears it has a smooth toffee finish, but I guess by “smooth” they mean non-existent. I could easily drink a 12-pack of these while sitting around the fire watching Grizzlies games. Besides the variety 12-pack previously mentioned, this beer can also be found in six-packs by itself

7. Blue Moon Cinnamon Horchata Ale: Any beer with that much cinnamon in it deserves to be on our list. While the aroma and taste of cinnamon hits you very strong on the front end, the beer quickly mellows in your mouth and leaves you with no lingering mouth feel or aftertaste, staying close to the mild flavor characteristics that horchata rice is known for. This beer will only be found in the winter variety 12-pack.

8. Woodchuck Winter Chill: This cider, aged over premium French and traditional American Oak chips, is delicious. The flavors of the oak and apple make this a great cider for the winter time. I had this slightly chilled and let it warm up, and the flavors really came alive. If you want something crisp, sweet and light, but with nice flavors that linger, this is something you should try.

9. New Belgium Accumulation White IPA: When it comes to my love affair with New Belgium, unfortunately it is always 1 step forward, 1 step back. They made an amazing pumpkin beer this year, and then… I had the 2014 Accumulation. The 2013 Accumulation was delicious and was welcomed as a new champion of the Christmas beer selection in Memphis as a wonderful White IPA. In 2014, they took the flavor down, jacked up the hop level and made this beer just another on the one-and-done list for me. It’s still a nice beer and if you like hops, give it a try for sure. Your palate may love what mine does not. I just hope in 2015 they go back to the joyous recipe that made me believe.

Ornament Beer (liquid coal)

1. Yazoo Winter Scotch Ale: I think the important thing for beer fans to remember is, this is a Scotch Ale that is simply being released in the Winter. It’s not a Winter beer the way that I think of Shiner Cheer or Blue Moon’s Mountain Abbey Ale. Though I love most of their beer dearly, the flavor of the Scotch Ale fell short of my expectations. I should be fair and state that I am a hardcore Scottish drinker. I like a rich flavor that many beer drinkers would find too flavorful and overwhelming for their taste buds. This beer is more of an introduction of Scottish beers to the masses. And in that goal, they succeeded. But don’t be fooled by the packaging and think you’re going to taste a hint of reindeer in this one.

Anchor-Christmas-Ale-20142. Anchor Brewing’s Christmas Ale: While I truthfully don’t care for many of Anchor’s other offerings, the Christmas beer is one I always look forward to. Anchor’s employees change the recipe every year, so you never know what you’re going to get when you have that first taste. In 2012 it was a phenomenal experience. In 2013 it tasted like a pine tree and I did my best to keep anyone from buying it. In 2014 they have given us a beer with very low spice notes to it, that has a bitter taste on the back end and just drank like an average amber or brown ale.

3. Abita Christmas Ale: I want to like Abita so much, especially since their Spiced Turbodog changed my life for the better, but I can’t when they offer up beers like their 2014 Christmas. It is a hoppy wreck of a beer, not even enjoyed by my close friends who embrace high IBUs. This seems like another example of breweries putting “Christmas” on a label with no reason to do so, except for marketing purposes. No one wants this beer in their stocking.

4. Magic Hat Snow Roller: Continuing their adventurous push for strong flavor variety in 2014, Magic Hat delivers a hoppy brown ale with absolutely no Christmas taste to it at all. You can drink it at Christmas, but it offers no excitement. It’s the poinsettia of Christmas beers.

5. Samuel Adams White Lantern: I purchased this beer by mistake one year, thinking it was White Christmas. I will never make that mistake again. Sam Adams describes this beer as a crisp wheat, with tangerine, orange peel and coriander. All I tasted was regret.

6. Jolly Traveler Winter Shandy: Have you ever wanted to make out with a candy cane? How about purging your taste buds with the overbearing power of peppermint? If those things do not sound like a good time, avoid this beer at all cost. I can’t believe this even got released. This beer is a big letdown considering how much I loved their Jack-O Traveler pumpkin. There are going to be people that love this beer … and Nickelback.

7. Samuel Adams Winter Lager: This beer is completely lacking Christmas in any way. It’s a bock winter beer that is described as having “dark wheat spice with fresh ground cinnamon, ginger, and orange peel.” I tasted none of that and was really disappointed. It’s just a drinkable bock beer. Bah humbug!

Now it is important to remember, that these are opinions that are based on personal taste preferences and palates. The great experience of beer is the adventure of trying new things, and we encourage you to enjoy that journey, even if you experience a few wrong turns along the way. No matter what kind of beer you get in your stocking this year, you can be sure that you’ll be merry and full of cheer. And remember that it is the season of giving, and there is no better gift to give than that of delicious beer.

So open up a wonderful holiday beer, enjoy the fellowship of being around family and friends, and begin the difficult part of the holidays, deciding whether “Gremlins” or “Die Hard” is the better Christmas movie.

Cheers!

Memphis’ Wiseacre Brewing expands distribution to Nashville, will add 4th year-round beer

December 15, 2014 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Distribution, Memphis

Memphis’ Wiseacre Brewing Co. is expanding its Tennessee footprint as it launches distribution in Nashville today.

Wiseacre LogoWiseacre, which is also adding a fourth beer to its year-round lineup, is partnering with BountyBev to send beer in cans and on draft to the Music City.

Kellan Bartosch, who founded Wiseacre with brother Davin in 2003, said they “feel great about our decision to work with Bounty.”

“They are small and only carry American craft beer, with a knowledgeable and passionate team working there led by (president) Kurt Strickmaker. As we get farther away from Memphis, it is important that we have people who know how to communicate about our beers and our story. Bounty is growing a lot in Nashville right now and are an important part of the way the beer scene is developing there,” Bartosch said via email.

“I should add that our distributor in town (Eagle Distributing) has done a great job and has been crucial to helping us have such a good start. Having good partners on the distribution tier can be a huge plus in helping breweries like Wiseacre, and we take the selection process very seriously.”

Wiseacre is planning special events this week in Nashville for its rollout. Check out the brewery’s Facebook page and Twitter feed for details.

Meanwhile, Wiseacre is adding a fourth beer to its year-round lineup: Gotta Get Up to Get Down, a coffee milk stout that’s previously been released as a special beer.

Gotta Get Up to Get DownWiseacre hopes to have the beer in cans “by the end of the year or early 2015,” Bartosch said.

Gotta Get Up to Get Down joins a year-round lineup that includes Ananda IPA, Tarasque Saison and Tiny Bomb American Pilsener, which recently won a bronze medal at the 2014 Great American Beer Festival.

“We wanted to offer a more malt forward beer,” Bartosch said of Gotta Get Up to Get Down, which features roasted barley, oats and plenty of coffee flavor.

“We heard more feedback about this beer than perhaps any other one-off we made in Year One. Davin made this beer … while he was a brewer in Chicago and won Best in Show at a festival, with 2nd place being Dreadnaught DIPA from 3 Floyds and Bourbon County from Goose Island getting 3rd. Both of those are in the Top 50 on RateBeer.com, so being awarded Best in Show by the Chicago Beer Society over those two is high praise as well. We feel really good about this beer.”

The label art for Gotta Get Up to Get Down — the words look like milk surrounded by steam from coffee — was designed by Rachel Briggs, the artist behind Wiseacre’s other unique labels.

“Milk Stouts use lactose sugar, which is unfermentable and provides a residual dairy sweetness. Unlike the connotations many people associate with the word ‘stout,’ these beers are medium-bodied ranging from 4-6% ABV with GGU2GD being medium-bodied and sitting right in the middle at 5%. So it’s a coffee milk stout, not a coffee stout,” Bartosch said.

“The oats in GGU2GD provide a silky texture and help provides a tan/brown head. The coffee comes from a specifically selected Ethiopian Natural Process Bean from the Konga region of Yirgacheffe, which is the roasted at Metropolis Coffee in Chicago. We could’ve used Folgers or some other random brand, but we’re getting amazing coffee and working with who we believe is the best coffee roaster in the U.S.

“Making great beer is about recipe formulation, great ingredients, great equipment, great execution and great packaging — they are all very, very important. There is a beautiful clean coffee flavor in this beer that’s not overly roasty acidic or acrid. Be prepared for a slight caffeine bump too, thus the name of the uppers of caffeine and downer of booze.”

Guest post | Blake Marcum: Giving thanks for pumpkin beer in the 901

November 24, 2014 By: mike Category: Craft beer, Distribution, Memphis

The following is a guest post from Memphis craft beer drinker and pumpkin beer connoisseur Blake Marcum.

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As Memphians huddle beside the propane heaters, enjoying the last few moments of patio time in fall before the dark cold winter casts it gloom and frost into our hearts and we find ourselves amid the dizzying display of winter beer, we can all take comfort in knowing that pumpkin beer can still be found on the store shelves in the 901.

Blake Marcum

Blake Marcum

The popularity of pumpkin beers has grown at an astronomical rate in America. What is more surprising is the enjoyment of this wonderful liquid is shared among the craft beer and macro beer crowd alike.

The greatest of all achievements of pumpkin beer may be how equally received it is by both men and women.

New pumpkin styles have also arrived, with pumpkin porters, imperial stouts, saisons and even IPAs as brewers continue their journey to tempt us with their creations. While not all of those can be found in the Mid-South, there are several that you can still bring to the Thanksgiving table to make that family time a lot more enjoyable (tolerable). We wanted to share our top list of pumpkin beers in the 901 that you should still be looking for.

Most beer rating systems are based on appearance, aroma, mouth feel, flavor and just an overall impression of the beer. With pumpkin beer we have to add a different dynamic as the beers have an unusual flavor pattern, which for this list we’ll call the Pumpkind Scale, a rating of what kind of pumpkin flavor the beer has. Some are like drinking pumpkin pie with the high spice load and some have a more gourd-like taste truer to the actual pumpkin. Which is better is up to you to decide.

Blackstone’s Pumpkin Ale:

Blackstone’s Pumpkin Ale

1.Blackstone Brewing Co.’s Pumpkin Ale: Our Nashville neighbor’s co-founder Kent Taylor told me that he did not even want to make this beer. He got talked into it and the popularity has skyrocketed in the state. I buy eight cases of this beer to enjoy and to share. It’s like drinking pumpkin pie that is not overwhelming after you’ve had a few.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin pie, heavy spice

2. Schlafly Beer’s Pumpkin Ale: At 8% ABV, this pumpkin not only possesses incredible flavor, but also carries an alcohol level that will have you feeling extremely cozy by the fire.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin pie, heavy spice

3. New Belgium Brewing’s Pumpkick: Our good friends at New Belgium proved that just because they are the 3rd largest independent brewery in the country, didn’t mean that they couldn’t learn a few new tricks. The 2013 Pumpkick had only a faint hint of gourd in it and almost no recognizable spice. While some liked it, I hated its innocence and lack of complexity that New Belgium brings to so many other styles. I decided to try the 2014 and was blown away by the spice load and complexity of flavors in it. They added cranberries and a touch of lemongrass to the recipe, because they’re New Belgium and well… why not? A very enjoyable beer.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin pie, medium spice

4. The Traveler Beer Company’s Jack-O Traveler: Traveler really impressed me with this one, considering it is so far outside of its normal shandy lineup. Drinking this beer is like enjoying your grandma’s pumpkin pie, but your crazy uncle got a hold of it first and added some alcohol.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin pie, heavy spice

Pumpkin beer haul

Pumpkin beer haul

5. Shipyard Brewing Co.’s Pumpkinhead: This is a great pumpkin for those who want some pumpkin, but not with the overwhelming nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon load that accompanies so many others. Pumpkin fans from both sides of the spice scale can enjoy this one, but those who want pumpkin pie will only get a faint taste of what they truly want.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin gourd, low spice

6. (TIE) Blue Moon Brewing Co.’s Harvest Pumpkin Ale and Shock Top’s Pumpkin Wheat: Both of these are enjoyable pumpkin offerings that you could drink daily, but don’t possess the strong distinction that the others on the list do.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin pie, medium spice

7. Magic Hat Brewing Company’s Wilhelm Scream: I couldn’t believe Magic Hat attempted a pumpkin beer when I first saw this. I also couldn’t believe I actually enjoyed a Magic Hat beer after I tasted it. This one tasted like the Magic Hat team just threw whatever ingredients in that were supposed to make a pumpkin beer, but somehow it worked out. I look forward to how it turns out next year.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin pie, heavy spice

8. Redhook Ale Brewery’s Out of Your Gourd Pumpkin Porter: The one dark pumpkin you can find in the 901 is a nice porter with low deep hanging pumpkin flavors that are quite enjoyable for the dark beer drinkers out there.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin gourd, low spice, porter

9. O’Fallon Brewery’s Pumpkin Beer: This beer blew me away in 2013, but changed the recipe to lower the spice load in 2014. It is still a very enjoyable pumpkin, but I hope the 2015 version will need a fork to enjoy.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin pie, medium spice

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

Dogfish Head Punkin Ale

10. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s Punkin Ale: Most craft beer fans in the 901 will not be pleased to see Dogfish Head down at the bottom of the list, because we’re all so happy to see them back in the Bluff City. The reason the Punkin Ale goes to the bottom is because it’s not a true pumpkin beer. Dogfish describes the beer as “a full-bodied brown ale with smooth hints of pumpkin and brown sugar.” As far as a brown ale with hints of pumpkin goes, it’s enjoyable. As far as a pumpkin beer goes, it has a long way to go and I don’t think Dogfish Head is truly embracing the concept, although their bottle art suggests differently.
Pumpkind Scale: Pumpkin gourd, low spice, brown ale

Either way you prefer to land on the scale, there are still plenty of enjoyable pumpkin beers available for your table. And while no local brewery makes a pumpkin beer currently, I believe it only to be a matter of time before we’re discussing which brewery in Memphis does pumpkin best. So go forth and make those pilgrims jealous with a great pumpkin beer.

Cheers!

Memphis’ Wiseacre Brewing expands Mid-South distribution, adds brewery tours

November 14, 2014 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Distribution, Memphis

Wiseacre - outside
Press release:

WISEACRE EXPANDS MID-SOUTH DISTRIBUTION, ADDS BREWERY TOURS
Hometown brewery brings Memphis beer to North Mississippi and West Tennessee

Memphis, TN (November 2, 2014) — Memphis-based WISEACRE Brewing Company is sharing the love throughout the Mid-South by introducing its three year-round beers, along with a limited supply of specialty brews, into neighboring markets. Cans and kegs of WISEACRE’s Ananda India Pale Ale, Tarasque Saison, and Tiny Bomb American Pilsner, which was awarded a Bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival in October, will be distributed in North Mississippi (Desoto County, Oxford, Tupelo, Starkville, Clarksdale) via Clark Beverage and in West Tennessee through Jackson, Tennessee-based Central Distributing. Both distributors will also supply these markets with WISEACRE’s seasonal and limited-edition beers as they are produced periodically throughout the year.

“Since Day One, we’ve had a better start to business than we could have ever imagined,” said WISEACRE’s brewmaster Davin Bartosch. “Whether it’s selling kegs to bars, cans at the retail level, or just across the bar in our Broad Avenue Tap Room, everything has exceeded expectations. The support of the Memphis community and the enthusiasm of WISEACRE fans made the expansion of equipment and staff possible earlier this year, and now they are enabling us to send beer into surrounding markets that have a great connection to Memphis already.”

Kellan Bartosch, Davin’s brother and business partner adds, “Memphis has a natural connection to our region from the history of the Delta Blues to the North Mississippi college student. That culture helps WISEACRE connect to the region as well. As we surveyed the beer and food scenes in Memphis’ surrounding communities, there were already a lot of folks who’d come all the way to our Tap Room to buy our beer and who were excited about getting our beer in their communities. It was just a matter of making sure that we could produce enough to supply those markets without jeopardizing our relationship with our loyal fans here at home. Those supporters, along with the unique tie WISEACRE has to the culture in Memphis, will always be the most important thing to us.”

In addition to expanding markets, WISEACRE will finally open up its doors for tours on to the public for weekly tours. Every Saturday at noon, starting on November 15th; the WISEACRE staff will give up to 40 guests a behind-the-scenes look at how WISEACRE brews its award-winning beer. Reservations can be made at wiseacrebrew.com. Additionally, starting November 13th, WISEACRE’s taproom has expanded hours, staying open until 9PM Thursday through Saturday.

WISEACRE opened in August of 2013 after the brothers gained experience working in the brewing industry around the country. Their brewery and taproom are located at 2783 Broad Ave where they made 27 beers in year one ranging from German lagers, to hoppy American styles, complex and boozy Belgian beers, and barrel aging to boot. For more information visit www.wiseacrebrew.com.