Monday, April 6, 2009

Retailer Closeouts, Brewers that Care

I've had several experiences now with the end closeout bins at Binny's Skokie location, not the baskets, but the end cap areas or right in their normal spot on the self. They have a lot of American micros, and I suspect some aren't rotated or replaced when they are old. It seems these are usually bombers from brewers with a wide selection, discounted below $5, saving you at least a couple of bucks. Since many beers do not have package-dating on them it's hard to tell how old they are. I've had a few problems with these purchases, mostly from the beer going flat or becoming oxidized. I suppose it's buyer beware, but I took up this issue with a recent purchase right to the brewer and got a wonderful response.

Rogue to their credit, has wonderful people. From their website I sent an email about getting a flat beer that I had wanted to try. It was their Christmas beer. They replied within 24 hours notifying me they would replace my purchase, no questions asked. In fact a box came to me straight from the brewery, with 2 bombers to replace mine.!! A day later I got a package with a Dead Guy t-shirt! Very friendly followup and great service in my book, the new beers were fresh (no surprise as they were straight from the brewery), and the t-shirt is very nice!!

I don't know if you would get this type of service from all brewers, but it's worth contacting them directly if you have a problem bottle. A good brewer will want to know about customer and distributor problems, not bury them. Give props to Rogue for caring about their customers.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Smoke 'em if You Got 'em

For this months Session, the subject is smoked beers. Thanks go to prolific, well respected Philly-based writer Lew Bryson for hosting.

In the past I've had some great smoked beers, of course the great German Rauchbiers from Schlenkerla . or the fabulous Ham on Rye from Three Floyds which tasted just like a liqufied sandwich and didn't need food to go with it.

For this Session I'm tasting Goose Island's newly released Smoked Bock, only available at the Clybourn brewpub. This bock is brewed with 75% smoked malt from the American malter Breiss, backed by bock malt to give it a solid backbone. It's a nice chestnut brown with a cloudy look and small tan head. The nose is amazing with deep peat smokiness and hints of leather. The taste follows the smell with the bock hitting up front with a lingering smoke aftertaste. This beer ways in slightly over 7% abv but is not heavy or overpowering. Goes really well with the Pulled Pork sandwich on offer.

This is a man's beer, with a nod to the original intent and style of brewing beer. The intent and primary use of beer in the Middle Ages was for sustenance, and a bacteria free source of libation. "Don't forget to pick up a growler of supper tonight honey" - but it would likely be a 3%er or less. Beer was often brewed with open wood fires and flames lapping up the side of the brew kettle. An outdoor activity for sure. It's a style of beer to remind us of simpler times, maybe happier times?

Later at the monthly BA gathering I tried Stone's Stone Smoked Porter, a roasty porter not as chocolaty or deep tasting as most but a good support for the smoky flavor. It was more muted than the Goose beer, maybe just not as fresh. And from San Diego no less! A good beer, but we should probably stick with our locals when we can.