Tag Archives: beer

Some Thoughts on Pocket Beers

Pocket beers are just one of the lower key aspects of skiing.  For all the people who spend near $10 for a draft at the top of the lifts there are a smaller number of hardy souls who take the route less traveled.   During the few minutes of isolation on a lift the pocket beer is produced.  It is consumed before unloading, sometimes shared, and the can is either stowed away or deposited discretely in a receptacle at the top.  Do not be the guy who tosses an empty somewhere on the mountain.

Over Spring Break I discovered that the pocket beer is looked down upon at Beaver Creek.  A fellow lift traveler looked at me as if I had told him that I was going to make America great again with my consumption of beer.  Perhaps it would have been more appropriate if I had broken out a single serve can of chardonnay.  Properly chilled of course.  Just kidding.  I would never drink chardonnay on a lift unless it was goon.  It’s an Australian thing.  Check it out.

Over the course of the week I thought about the nature of the pocket beer because I did not spend any time looking at the news, watching Netflix, or working.  It is amazing what you think about when left with your thoughts on a sunny Colorado afternoon in the spring.  Here are my conclusions:

  1. Pocket beers must be in cans. Like the beach, including the one at A Basin, and the pool glass should be a non-starter.  Bottles can break, the tops are another item to deal with, and it is harder to conceal a bottle in a gloved hand.  Oh sure, you could get by with an aluminum bottle but those are generally only purchased by people who are captive audiences at sporting events.  Don’t be that guy.
  2. Pocket beers should be shared. If you have more than one, offer a beer to a fellow lift rider.  If you only have one, offer a drink to a fellow lift rider if you know the person well.  Strangers might have a fear of your distinct brand of cooties.
  3. Pocket beers should not be craft beers. Yes, craft beer is ascendant and craft beer is a big deal in mountain communities.  However, with most high speed lifts only taking a few minutes to complete their runs there is no time to savor.  Reserve the craft beer for the après pint.
  4. Acceptable pocket beers:
    1. Rainier: Where do people find this stuff? I had not seen anyone drink Rainier since a childhood trip to the Pacific Northwest with my parents in the 1980s.  Sure enough it made an appearance this season on a lift at Keystone.
    2. Yuengling: I cannot stand this beer, but legions of East Coast ice skiers will scream if I do not include their favorite swill.
    3. Natural Light: The Natty is a legend among the hardy souls who ski the Midwest’s small hills. Purchased in containers with no fewer than 24 cans and usually 30 cans the Natty is the common currency of tailgates, impromptu backyard parties in your twenties, and pocket beers at Afton Alps.  Yes, it is swill but when the mercury is dropping below the 0 mark you do not have time to taste.
    4. Coors: Not that Coors Light garbage. When you are in Colorado and producing a pocket beer it should be the Banquet Beer.  The muted yellow can is iconic even if the beer inside is fairly mediocre.  It’s only brewed in Golden, which is off I-70 on the way into the mountains.  If you are chilling on the Peru Express lift, whip out a Banquet Beer, and enjoy your moment of perfection.

Embrace the pocket beer and the grungy soul of skiing before we are all left at mega-resorts staring at a menu of eye watering prices.  The pocket beer is the resistance.

Well Said Mr. Brookstein

Jesse Brookstein, one of the co-founders of Call to Arms Brewing Co. in Denver, sat down with Jeremy Meyer of the Denver Post to offer his assessment of “beer scene” in Colorado and predict the trends that will define craft beer in 2016.

I have not seen, read, or heard a more accurate assessment of what things will look like in 2016 than the following statement from Mr. Brookstein:

The continued fear-mongering of the craft beer hype-machine. As the industry grows, so grows the legions of beer writers — and what truly drives their creativity is doom, gloom, and not-so-original (and often wrong) opinions and predictions. There isn’t a craft beer bubble about to burst. Hops will remain readily available — not everyone will get Citra, but they will get hops. It’s not the can or bottle itself that leads to oxidation, it’s the environment in which it’s packaged. IPAs are not a fad; fads don’t last decades. Sours are not a fad; fads don’t last centuries. Oft-repeated opinions don’t necessarily reflect facts.

Craft beer will be fine because what these brewers are doing cannot be duplicated at a macro level.  There will be challenges, but the industry will adapt and-dare I say-thrive in the face of these challenges.

Again, well said Mr. Brookstein.

Great Divide Brewing Company Whitewater Hoppy Wheat Ale

By most counts there are over 3,000 breweries in the United States. The upper limit I have seen is over 3,200 with a lot in the planning or building stages. In this era of small brewery saturation it is inevitable that brewers are going to start stepping on each other’s trademarks and intellectual property when it comes to naming the countless beers. There are only so many ways to be creative when it comes to naming a seasonal IPA made with kumquats and coriander.

Great Divide Brewing Company and Boston Beer, the people behind Sam Adams, found out that they were both making a beer named Whitewater. Great Divide’s beer was going to be a hop forward wheat ale while Sam Adams was intending on bottling a white IPA. Different beers with the same name. Thankfully, these relative heavyweights of the beer industry found a way to get along and not fight this out in court.   That is more than I can say for the jack wagons at Lagunitas Brewing who went about threatening Sierra Nevada over the font used to spell out IPA on a beer label.

Anyway, Great Divide is brewing Whitewater Hoppy Wheat Ale again and making it available in all of its markets:


Here is the thing. With more than 3,000 breweries making countless beers there is going to come a time when the vast swath of middle ground is somewhat indistinguishable. I believe that Whitewater Hoppy Wheat Ale represents the dawning of that age.

It’s got a good amount of hop bitterness, but because it is a wheat beer there is a different malt profile versus an IPA. The juxtaposition is kind of interesting and when consumed side-by-side with a traditional IPA it is made even more apparent.

However, what would make me recommend or rate this beer over any of a hundred others beers that are available year round in your market? I do not know. Maybe you like wheat beers more than IPAs, but want something a little bolder as the summer months turn to fall and football is on the television. Okay, buy a six pack and enjoy.

This is the problem that has led to breweries getting increasingly gimmicky in their special releases and seasonal beers. It’s also why hard cider has taken off recently as people are looking for something different without having to sort through countless beers in an attempt to excite their palates.

The downside is that Whitewater Hoppy Wheat Ale, like a lot of other beers in the great middle ground of the craft brewing “scene”, is a damn good beer that would have been revelatory for the vast majority of consumers in the 1990s. Now we just shrug and look at the tap handles for something that is really different. Has our love of craft jumped the shark?

Regardless, if you are a wheat beer fan looking for something on the heavier side this winter give the beer a shot:

Two Mug Purchase

See what others are saying about Great Divide Brewing Company Whitewater Hoppy Wheat Ale at Beeradvocate.

A Visit to Three Weavers Brewing Company

photo-originalIf you find yourself spending an evening near the Los Angeles International Airport, e.g. with an early morning flight back east, you could do yourself a solid and visit Three Weavers Brewing Company. The taproom and brewery are located less than three miles from the actual terminals and more like two miles from the stretch of hotels that cater to travelers flying in and out of LAX.

The brewery, founded in 2013, is actually in Inglewood. Why do you know Inglewood? Well, it is famous for Randy’s Donuts. The Forum, where Los Angeles basketball teams played before moving to the Staples Center, is in Inglewood. I will always remember it for being in the lyrics to California Love: Yeah, Inglewood, Inglewood always up to no good.

Anyway, the taproom and brewery are part of one large light industrial space separated by little more than a low bar featuring the taps. It’s finished in that found or reclaimed semi-industrial chic that is required design language for craft brewery taprooms across the United States. It’s better than the rage of faux Irish pubs that permeated the country in the late-1980s but not by much given how overused the design elements are at this time. I am predicting that rustic barn décor is the next taproom fad.

The location and décor are irrelevant because the beer is good. You can get a flight of beers to sample a range of the offerings, but I would discourage that practice. Over the years I have become disillusioned with the whole concept of a beer flight. Try a sample and commit to a pint.

As an IPA drinker I stuck to Stateside Sessions IPA and Expatriate West Coast IPA. Both were well done examples of the pale ale style and I would be happy to drink them in most settings. I apologize for the lack of pictures, but I have stopped being “that guy” who looks like he is taking photos for Yelp reviews that no one really cares about. There was a Rye IPA that was supposed to be coming on tap soon. I missed it by a few days. If you are staying close and want to take a beer “to go” there are growlers and bombers available. Nothing is worse than getting back to your hotel and realizing that the best option they have to drink is Stella Artois.

It is interesting that Southern California seems to be at the beginning of the craft beer boom. Sure, there are major successes out of the region like Green Flash, Stone, and Lagunitas. Heck, L.A.’s own Golden Road just got bought out by AB InBev and was the talk of the brewers sitting down for a few pints one table over from me. However, it feels like the first wave of breweries is just beginning to spin off the next generation of brewers who will take the region’s craft identity into new spaces.

By the way, you can walk to your hotel from Three Weavers. It felt as if Los Angeles was trying to prove a point to me as I got huge blisters on each foot from the short walk. Maybe you are not supposed to walk in L.A.

Revolution Brewing Fist City Chicago Pale Ale

Revolution Brewing is my favorite Chicago brewery—that disaster with the hibiscus ale being excluded—now has new to me—it was available this spring in cans—called Fist City Chicago Pale Ale:


Described as “a supremely drinkable brew for those who love hops” and I would argue that it is the ideal craft beer replacement for schwag macro lagers that populate dive bars. Yes, I am looking at you Old Style. While I respect the adherence to the Old Style cult that has gripped Chicago since the mid-1980s, which is about the same time the rest of America gave up on the brand, it is time to stake your taste buds to something a little better and a little more local. Firing down pint after pint of super hoppy pale ales does not appeal to everyone, but Fist City could easily slot in as the “go to” replacement for forgettable canned lagers that come in thirty packs. Life is too short to drink beer based on its per can price.

The beer is really drinkable at 5.5% ABV and “just” 40 IBU. Yep, it’s about a percentage point higher in alcohol content than a basic macro lager but it is not a beer that is going to put you on your ass after drinking three of them.

Somehow the brewers managed to squeeze in every hop beginning with a C: Centennial, Citra, Chinook, Cascade and Crystal. Too bad there is not a Chicago hop variety. This leads to a somewhat muddied hop profile where none of the characteristics of any variety stands out. It’s not bad, per se, but it leaves the drinker looking for a particular flavor or aroma wanting something different. Call me a hop head or a beer snob. I like to taste and smell individual and unique hop notes. Yeah, I sound like one of those ass clowns in “Sideways” talking about notes of oak and udon.

Back to the matter at hand. If you need a six pack or thirty pack to take to your next event and want something that can please a lot of people without being boring—yes I am looking at the guy who always beings a twelve pack of Blue Moon to a party—give Fist City a shot:

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

See what others are saying about Revolution Brewing Fist City at Beeradvocate.

The Horror of the Open Bar

There is one last frontier remaining for the craft beers of the world…the wedding.   Imagine my horror this past weekend when I went to the open bar—featuring what some would call top-shelf liquor—for a beer only to discover that my options were limited to Budweiser, Bud Light, and Heineken.

Of note is that the couple getting married are craft beer drinkers and the groom even spent some time working in the tap room at Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, so these are people who are known to drink an IPA or two.

The willingness of wedding caterers to offer craft beer is something that will have to overcome their fear of failure. They are operating under the principle of not failing versus succeeding wildly. People go to weddings and remember seeing a couple get married, visiting with family, watching some middle age men dance quite awkwardly, and waking up the next morning with a trip staring them in the face. Having a truly memorable culinary experience is pretty far down the list, so the caterer just tries not to be a failure.

It is a shame because these events represent a great opportunity to increase craft beer’s reach into the marketplace. One, people spend a lot of money on weddings. Two, the cost of failure for a consumer at a wedding is low so they are apt to try something new. Three, who wants to be limited to choices like Budweiser, Bud Light, and Heineken? Especially after you have spent the afternoon before the wedding enjoying a Burning River IPA.

The only place where I have seen craft beer crack the wedding bar is in Wisconsin where the wedding organizers feel it is a patriotic duty to have a keg of New Glarus’ Spotted Cow on tap for all of the out of town guests to enjoy.

Friday Linkage 9/18/2015

Tom Brady supports Donald Trump. Peyton Manning is starring on the field as a weaker armed version of the Hall of Fame quarterback. Jay Cutler is doing Jay Cutler things again in Chicago. You could say that I spent some time this last week watching football and just plain zoning out. Go Hawks!

On to the links…

How Much Of Your Retirement Fund Is Tied Up In Fossil Fuels? Now, You Can Find Out.—A person’s 401k will be one of the two largest investments in a portfolio, with a home being the only competitor. How much of that money is going to support fossil fuel interests?

Half Of California’s Electricity Will Come From Renewable Energy In 15 Years—California passed a major climate change related bill recently. Although it was watered down by fossil fuel interests at the last minute there is still a lot of good things in the legislation.

A Third American City Is Now Running Entirely On Renewable Energy—It is still one the most pretentious ski towns in the world—go Steamboat Springs!—but it is now 100% fueled by renewables. There is a lot of marketing involved in the effort, but it is commendable nonetheless.

Meet the New National Geographic and Weep—The same people who bring you the sheer horror that is Fox & Friends will be the same people who publish one of the most amazing magazines in world history. Rupert Murdoch ruins everything that he touches and National Geographic will be no different.

AB InBev plans takeover bid for SABMiller—You want to talk about mega-merger. This is it. Nine of the world’s twenty largest breweries would be controlled by a single entity. Now, a lot of that volume would be made up of junk macro beer that has seen flat to declining sales for the past decade. So, maybe this is a doubling down on a losing bet hoping for a nag to come through.

National Grid CEO: Large Power Stations For Baseload Power Is Outdated—The distributed model—think the internet—has supplanted the traditional centralized model of most industries save for electrical power generation.

Siemens Looks Toward Next-Generation 10–20 MW Wind Turbines—Think about a 10 to 20 MW wind turbine for a moment. At the mid-range it could be the equivalent of 10 GE 1.5 MW turbines that dot the American landscape. Wow!

The Palm Oil Plantations Powering Communities and Tackling Climate Change—Why aren’t all large scale agricultural operations taking such a holistic approach to their energy use and lifecycle? The number that got me was reducing the diesel use from 2.8 million liters per year to under 500,000 liters per year.

10 Ways to Get Rid of That Awful Smell in Your Kitchen Sink—If you cook a lot in your home you are quite familiar with the strange odors that can come from the disposal drain in the kitchen sink. I use a combination of Dr. Bronner’s peppermint liquid soap and hot water. It takes care of any funk lickety split.

8 Things to Never Bring into Your Home—We are always looking for those quick hit things to make our homes a little bit greener. Here are eight easy things to avoid.

25 Things you Should Start Adding to your Compost Pile—How many of these things do you throw away that could be put into the compost?

This Southern State Made A Big Commitment To Start Teaching About Climate Change—Welcome to the modern age Alabama. Roll tide!

These Two Genius Tricks to Improve School Food Have Nothing to Do With What’s for Lunch—Simple and cost effective. These are the changes that we can make on the local level that will really impact our children’s lives.