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Category: Beer Musings

It’s been a long time coming, but here we are again to review a beer label. This should go about as well as Brett Favre playing for the Jets. Today we’re reviewing Santa Fe Imperial Java Stout.

Santa Fe Imperial Java Stout

Let me start off by saying, if you’re in the group of people that believe stouts are not summer beers, then kindly fuck off and stop reading. I’ll never understand this line of thinking. Do you stop eating soup in the summer? Do you stop drinking coffee? Do penguins just kill themselves before summer hits? No. Quit perpetuating this bullshit.

We see a very minimalist approach with this label of a solid brown color and few words. The implication here is, before noon, we drink our coffee and then after noon, we drink beer. Well, that might work for some people, but in the real world, we can’t just drink whenever we want. Most of us have jobs and families and responsibilities. This is already pissing me off and wishing I was back in college.

Java stout, huh? Are you one of those people that use the word java in place of coffee? Fuck you. I bet you also call it a “cup of joe” don’t you? Are you enjoying Joe’s jizz in your coffee? Did you know that Java is an actual place? It’s another one of those exotic islands that’s beautiful to spend a week in but is hot garbage otherwise. The only mode of transportation is a damn water buffalo and their shitty currency goes in increments of like 10,000 with pictures of dudes with machetes on them. I don’t think you want your beer associated with this hell hole.

And finally, let’s talk about the predominant color on this can: brown. Maybe it’s just me (and it usually is), but when I think of coffee I think of poop. Coffee is a proven laxative and it’s impossible to think about coffee and not wonder about the resulting butt nuggets. If you work in an office, you are well aware of the state of the bathroom and the symphony of shits that occur in the late morning. Imagine having to deal with that on Java where everybody just defecates in the neighborhood turd pond.

So here we have a label that wants us to drink 10 hours out of the day while reminding us of the consequential ass sneeze. This might be popular among alcoholic Indonesians, but I’m just a boring Midwestern dad, so I’ll move on to something else.

gtotmFor those of you not in the know, today is the day that you need to get your check and self-addressed stamped envelope into the mail (must be post-marked on May 5th!) to enter the lottery for the Great Taste of the Midwest.  Anyone that has talked to me about this festival has probably heard ad nauseum how I think this is probably the greatest beer event in the country.

What makes it so special?  One, the location.  It’s set along beautiful Lake Monona overlooking downtown Madison. Two, while it gets busy, it never feels overly crowded.  The Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild sells a limited number of tickets to this festival and therefore keeps it a bit more intimate (at least as intimate as a beer festival can be.)  The third reason to head up to Madison for this weekend is the pre-parties that take place on Friday night, just stacks upon stacks of parties leading up to the festival the day before.

And lastly, it’s so special because all of the breweries that are invited to the festival bring their A-game.  Everyone is looking to one-up each other and bring some awesome beers. You will be shocked at how much great beer is at this festival, it’s almost overwhelming.

This will be my 7th year attending this festival and if it’s up to me, I’ll never miss another one.  So, that being said I’m putting together some pro tips for those of you who may have never attended the festival.  Why am I putting these tips together 3 months before the festival?  You’ll soon see why.

1) Enter the lottery today!
This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s difficult to go to the festival if you don’t enter the lottery.  There is no guarantee you’ll get tickets, but you can’t win if you don’t play.

2) Arrive in Madison on Thursday.
“This festival takes place on Saturday, why am I going up on a Thursday?” Take it from me, that six hour trip from St. Louis to Madison can really take it out of you.  Even if you leave at 6AM, you’re not arriving in Madison until 12PM. The first parties usually begin around Noon and don’t end until the wee hours of the morning.

You don’t want to be rushing around on Friday trying to hit all of these parties after driving for six hours and being up since 6AM. Come up on Thursday, wake up at a reasonable hour on Friday morning. Have some awesome breakfast at Marigold Kitchen and then plan a trip out to New Glarus Brewing.  NG usually releases something special this weekend and even if not, their brewery is friggin’ beautiful.  You’ll be well rested and ready for fun.

3) Book a hotel now.
“Wait, I’m booking a hotel for a festival I may not even get tickets to?”  Yes.  Rooms around the square fill up quickly and all of the fun events take place around the square. You’ll probably still find a room leading up the festival, but stay downtown, it’ll make for a more enjoyable weekend.  There is a hotel right by the festival, but in my opinion it’s a waste of time and you’ll end up wishing you were closer to the downtown square.

4) Don’t fret if you don’t win the lottery.
You’ve booked your room, you’ve taken some days off of work and you just found out you didn’t win the lottery. In the words of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: DON’T PANIC.  Once we get closer to the festival more and more spare tickets start popping up. Everyone over-orders tickets (including me) and there are usually more than enough to go around (at face value, no less.)  While there are never any guarantees in life, I’m pretty confident you’ll find tickets.

5) Remember, this weekend is a marathon, not a sprint.
I can’t tell you the number of people that go into this weekend with the best intentions and then fail to make it to the festival.  Those parties on Friday nights are A LOT of fun, but they’re just a lead up to the best festival you may ever attend. Just be certain to pace yourself this weekend.  Eat lots of food, drink lots of water.

6) Have a game plan for the festival, but keep it loose.
The number of beers and breweries at Great Taste is overwhelming.  They are estimating over 1000 different beers at the festival. So it’s good to go in with at least a small game plan of breweries/beers you want to hit.  But don’t feel so caught up in following that plan that you miss out on hidden gems along the way. (Oh, but don’t miss out on the Real Ale tent, it’s usually insane.)

7) Have a game plan for the weekend, but keep it loose.
Being the nerd I am, I made a list of places where I wanted to eat, drink, and visit last year before the trip.  But I wasn’t so beholden to the list that we didn’t visit cool places that weren’t on the list.  It’s good to have a plan, but feel free to throw it out the window if you’re just having a lot of fun.

Places to Eat
Marigold Kitchen
The Old Fashioned
Brasserie V
Greenbush Tavern
Cooper’s Tavern
Graze
DLUX
Harvest
Brickhouse BBQ
The Tipsy Cow
Osteria Papavero

Places to Drink
Capital Brewery
Ale Asylum
One Barrel Brewing Co
Next Door Brewing Company
Karben4
The Malt House
Jordan’s Big Ten Pub
The Great Dane

I’m sure I’m going to add some more stuff as time goes on, but this gives you a good start for what is my favorite weekend of the year.

Cigar-City-BrewingWe don’t currently get Cigar City Brewing here in St. Louis.  What that means is that we have a lot of loyal fans of CCB that make the trek to Tampa, Florida to get some of their elusive beer.  One beer that people wait all year for is Hunahpu’s Imperial Stout. Similar to Perennial’s Abraxas, Hunapu is a Imperial Stout made with ancho chilis, cocoa nibs, and cinnamon.

Like a lot of breweries now, Cigar City throws a party to celebrate the release of the beer. Like a lot of breweries, they’re experiencing some growing pains when it comes to these parties. Needless to say, this year did not go great.

A few of our regulars visited the party and gave their opinions of the festival on the STL Hops forums.  I thought they provided a nice little local perspective on the event.  Here are a few excerpts:

Tripple Hops:

I got there about 10:45 and the line was fairly long already, and got inside about 11:45. I can say at that time you could walk right up and buy Hunahpu with little to no wait. I didn’t, I went and start sampling beers for the next 45 minutes. TG, Wakefield, Funky Buddha, had very long lines, but others, including CCB Hunahpu had a 2-5 person wait. All the “rare” beers were getting tapped at 1pm and locations were marked on the tents with signs. As the time got closer to 12:30, I saw the DB Hunah line had started and was 30-40 people deep, so I started to wait for the tapping of Ghost of Hunahpu, and was 2nd in line.

Around 1:30 I got in what was sort of a line for Hunahpu (there seemed to be 2-3 lines that converged as you got closer to the tables where it was being sold) and after about an hour got my 3 bottles. It was crowded and slow moving but everyone seemed to be moving forward and getting their bottles and moving on. I took my bottles back to the hotel and came back and sampled more beer and scoped the area and saw it was a sea of people and figured I wasn’t going to bother standing in that crowd to buy more, so went around and did more sampling.

It was definitely crowded overall, and some of the breweries had huge lines to get their beers, and a lot of the stuff I wanted to try had run out before I could try it, but still had a good time with stl hops folks and other people I’ve met via trades who were there in person.

el diablo:

we got there at 11:15 and were greeted by a line of unimaginable length and i mean that literally. after taking a survey of the queue and seeing the number of people already inside it was easy to see there was a major problem.

it took us 1 h 45 m to get inside and my mind was already made up to scrap any sampling, purchase my hunahpu allotment, and get the hell out of dodge. this decision was a bit easier for me to make having lived in tampa from 1998 – 2010 and being a regular in the ‘cigar city scene’ if you will.

anywho, the weather was spectacular, it was great to meeting fellow stlhop regulars warren & tripple hops at the airport on the way down to tampa, and bumping into paul mcgrew while in line at cigar city

lastly, standing in line for that amount of time really made me appreciate how well we do ‘beer thingies’ here in saint louis. from the organizers, to the brewers/breweries, and all the attendees we have a pretty damn good thing going here

umr_urgefan:

I heard people who got there at 10:30 were inside within 5 minutes. We showed up a little bit after Stephen (above poster) and the line wrapped around the block (going a different direction so it didn’t go into the Home Depot lot). We got in *just* before 1pm when a lot of special beers went on tap. The lines for beers were nuts and really in no sort of order as they just had long tables with taps so it was a huge mass of people. I managed to get JW’s Miami Madness, most likely out of sheer luck.

I’m sure I probably cut in front of people, but like I said, it was not easy to tell what was a line. A good chunk of the beers I drank during the day really only came because I’m lucky enough to have friends who let me back behind the taps. Even with that I counted around 12 beer samples, not a great bang for $50.

I watched one fight break out and two more almost happen, one because a guy rightfully called out a dude who hopped in line when we finally got to the front and this guy was ready to go at him. It only takes a few douchebags to ruin an event and there were definitely a few around. It was past 4pm (when the case limit started) when I finally got to the front so I just grabbed a case and cleared.

Be certain to check out the entire thread on the STL Hops forums. There is a lot of great discussion about the day.

It’s very cool to see Cigar City come out right away and admit their faults and try and make everyone whole. That’s what the craft beer community is about. What it’s not about is acting like children when you don’t get what you want, something a lot of us (including myself on occasion) have done.

It’s just beer, the world will continue to turn even if we don’t get that super special rare release. Just remember that next time you miss out on something.

beer_santahatJust a heads up, I’m going to be on vacation for the next week and so there may not be any posts from STL Hops over that time period.  I’ll still be checking in on the forums and checking my email for breaking news, but my guess is that it will be quiet during the Christmas holiday.

I want to thank you all for making this site so enjoyable and so popular and wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and also a Happy New Year. I look forward to 2014 and what it brings for beer in St. Louis.

-Mike

I’ve never really thought of STL Hops as a “blog.” I mean the word “blog” already has a pretty nasty connotation, but this website has never really been about opinions or “what beer am I drinking?” I’ve tried to keep it mostly about news and information about beer in St. Louis.

But, there are plenty of stories to be told inside the beer business. I was hoping to create a new little series of posts talking about how that beer gets into your glass and onto the shelves from different people in the industry (and hopefully this will still happen). This post is from me, talking a bit about one aspect of the three-tier system.

With the release of some allocated beer there has been a lot of discussion on the STL Hops forums about how the stores get chosen. With my job now being firmly apart of the beer industry I thought it would be productive to have a look inside one aspect of the beer business: allocations.

Let me begin by saying that I won’t speak for the other local wholesalers because I honestly don’t know how they make their decisions into where allocated beers go for their markets. I can only let you in on how I make the decisions for these beers.

Each market is completely different, in my case the craft market in the city of St. Louis tends to be very heavily on-premise (bars and restaurants). We don’t have a large contingent of liquor stores or grocery stores (off-premise) that sell a lot of craft beer. So, when I get a allocated product most of my allocation will probably end up in bars and restaurants.

My next step is that I will usually sit down and look at the amount of beer sold at accounts around town. While store Z may sell a lot of craft beer, they may not sell a lot of the brand that has the allocated product. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but we’re going to reward the accounts that are supporting the brands.

But it’s not as simple as pure numbers sometimes. I will also base it on the best fit for some of these beers. While restaurant X may be selling slightly less beer than sports bar Y, clearly X is a better fit for a $25-40 bottle of beer. And typically Y has no interest in this beer anyway.

I’m personally a big fan of spreading the love as much as possible because it helps to expose people to these more unusual styles. I’m also perfectly fine with places like Schnucks getting these allocated beers because it sometimes means you can still randomly find this stuff on the shelves. While I obviously love our small and independent liquor stores, if all of the beer goes into just a couple of accounts, it usually only makes it into the hands of a limited amount of people.

Basically, there is no way to make everyone happy. Dolling out these allocated beers is never an easy task and you’re usually going to upset someone. The decision on who gets what is never easy and is never made lightly.

There were some big changes to the 2013 St. Louis Brewers Heritage Festival. The festival was previously put on via a joint collaboration between Anheuser-Busch and Schlafly, but this year’s festival was taken over by the newly created St. Louis Brewer’s Guild.

Without a doubt, the previous versions of this event were one of the biggest and grandest beer festivals in St. Louis. How did the newest version hold up? Pretty damn well in my opinion. You could tell it was scaled back a bit, but it still held some of that same pomp and grandiosity that makes this one of the best events to showcase local beers.

There was certainly a little (understandable) hubbub over the event being canceled early on Saturday night due to inclement weather. But it looks like the Guild is working to rectify this problem and make good on the shortened session. If you weren’t able to attend, here are a few photos for you to enjoy.

growlers.gifI wouldn’t consider myself an emotional man but as I’ve gotten older I’ve definitely noticed I’m a bit more nostalgic. Don’t get me wrong, most nostalgia is pretty much malarkey, the “good old days” weren’t especially great.

Let’s take the “good old days” of the St. Louis craft beer scene. Sure, there was a time when we could find Dogfish Head and Three Floyds on shelves in Illinois. But, let’s be honest, these beers were often the old dregs that came downstate from Chicago that we still drank because we didn’t have another option.

For me, the “good old days” meant arriving at Growlers Pub every Friday night to fill out a beer card and enjoy some NTN. So, the announcement on Saturday that Growlers Pub in Sunset Hills had closed left me with a pang of sadness.

Looking back, it wasn’t that the food was particularly great or that the beer selection was fantastic. But it was certainly a bar that I called “home” for a few years. Celebrated some great times there and had a couple of pints after having to go through the pain of putting down our dog. Like any regular, you got to know the people that worked there and any issues that normal people would complain about were just things you thought of as part of the charm.

Growlers was also the place where I discovered that I loved beer. I’ve told this story before, but the Growlers in Creve Coeur was when I had my beer “aha” moment.

I could spend the rest of this post discussing what went wrong and how Growlers could still be open today, but why bother? There are people that worked there out of a job today and a place I once called “home” is now closed. Nostalgia may cloud our judgement, but at least it leaves us with good memories.