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The Beer Spot Blog - December 2009 Archives

Official TBS Blog

Toast in the New Year With a Beer
Posted Thursday, December 31st, 2009 by Tip Top

DeuSTraditionally, people use champagne toasts for special occasions.  This is especially prevalent for weddings and for what we have coming up tonight, the New Year.  As a beer enthusiast, I choose to switch out the champagne for a beer.  A lot of people ask, what's an appropriately "special" beer for this special occasion?  Here's my take.

There are two main styles that I think lend themselves to the switch from champagne to beer.  The more logical candidate of the two is Biere de Champagne, also known as Biere Brut.  This crossover style is most common right now in Belgium.  Carbonation and mouthfeel is very similar to that of champagne, while some go as far as to age them as champagne or put the beer through other processes like champagne.  Some of the most commonly found Biere Brut's here in the United States would be DeuS by Brouwerij Bosteels, Scaldis Prestige (known as Bush Prestige outside of the US) by Brasserie Dubuisson Frères sprl, both Malheur Brut and Malheur Brut Noir by Brouwerij De Landtsheer NV, Cantillon Lou Pepe Gueuzeand Lust from Cervejaria Sudbrack Ltda.  One of the more unusual beers that I have had is loosely in this style is IPA VS Brut from Golden Valley Brewery in Oregon.  It combines the flavors of an IPA with a Biere de Champagne.

Another style that I think fits well for toasting with this evening is Gueuze.  The simple complexities (yes, I said that) do wonderfully when compared to champagne.  Probably the most common and easy to find beer of this style is Lindemans Gueuze Cuvee Rene.  Other great examples are Girardin Gueuze 1882 Black Label, Hanssens Oude Gueuze, or any of a number of excellent examples from Cantillon (if you can get the Lou Pepe Gueuze, you won't be sorry).  There are lots of other examples that are excellent, with Boon coming to mind first.

So this year, do something a little different.  Grab that champagne flute, but fill it with beer for toasting.


Moonshine Shines
Posted Thursday, December 31st, 2009 by James Kitchens

"Fairies, black, grey, green, and white, You moonshine revellers, and shades of night."
- William Shakespeare

I have to admit that I am not necessarily the most up-to-date person regarding Chicago beer spots. Particularly when it comes to the wave of new brewpubs, breweries and micro brewers. Sure there's Goose Island, Piece, and the new brewers like Metropolitan and Half Acre. Maybe my lack of knowledge is because I don't venture too far south of Touhy Avenue any more (that's a Chicago joke meaning I don't get down into the city as often as I should, for those of you from Green Bay and named Matt).

However, as of tonight, I think I have found my favorite new spot for in-house brewed beers in Chicago. It's a little spot called Moonshine at 1824 Division in the city. Their website is I don't know how long they've been there, but they have a nice spot with parking, and there wasn't a wait on a Thursday before New Year's Eve. The brewer there is also apparently an ex-Goose Island guy (per their website).

We started out with a sampler of the five current house brews. They had an American Pale Ale, an Irish Dry Stout, an American Blonde Ale, an American IPA and an American Double IPA. While that is a somewhat standard lineup, I will say that the beers themselves were great. I went with the Blonde Ale, for the record. It was a very pleasant and light beer, with a slight grassy sweetness and a quick and smooth finish. Not quite the standard fare for a very cold Chicago winter night. But we were there for the pizza, as well as the beers.

And the pizza was very good too. We got bacon on the pizza, so maybe it was simply the rule that "Everything is better with bacon". But I really liked the pizza. I would have personally liked to see a little less cheese on it, but I'm certainly not "normal" when it comes to my pizza preferences.

Finally, the staff was great too. Our server was very nice, knew plenty about the beers and was great. The scene was subdued, as it wasn't jammed with people. There was the Nebraska bowl game on the TV. And I got stuck with the bill because I lost a bet in week 9 of our fantasy football season. But that's another story.

I've always been a big fan of Piece. I've also been a fan of supporting the places like Piece, and now Moonshine, that try to create something of value in the microbeer world. While the beer menu at Moonshine is not as long as Piece most of the time, the quality was in my opinion right up there with any other place.

If you're in Chicago and looking for a spot, I highly suggest this one.


Goose Island Swimming Upstream?
Posted Monday, December 14th, 2009 by James Kitchens

This isn't a groundbreaking post about Goose Island making sweeping changes to their winning ways. We all know that changes have made since AB back-doored their way to partial ownership (through Widmer Bros). The changes ranged from minor to somewhat minor, including label changes, minor changes to the lineup, and some other changes. AB also has the full distribution rights for Goose Island. In this case, I just happened to see a full-page magazine ad over the weekend from Goose Island. This ad was for their Juliet beer and showed it bottled in a 22oz bottle. Further, it showed a rather upscale dinner scene. This all made me think, "Is Goose Island trying to position themselves as a more upscale dinner choice?"

Something to understand is that I have a Marketing degree, so this stood out to me. Not that I use it in my everyday, non-superhero, life. But this ad stood out to me, simply because it was the first time I have seen an overt attempt by Goose Island to market themselves as an upscale dinner choice. This ad may have been out for a while, so I don't know what their timeline has been on this ad work. But I found it rather interesting that they try to challenge such dinner stalwarts as wine, champagne and other choices. I like it.

Having had their Juliet beer, I find it a really good example of a sour ale. And being a fan of sours, like a growing number of people, I am somewhat predisposed to liking it. Further, this is yet another example of the sour phenomenon that has taken hold in the micro beer world. Granted, there are any number of better examples of the style. Take your pick from Russian River (several choices), New Belgium (La Folie), Lost Abbey (Cable Car), and many others. However, I can not think of another nationally released sour ale. Maybe memory fails me, like it does for Bakes.

I think the change in bottling toward 22oz bombers, the move to swim upstream in terms of the upscale message, and the larger distribution of their macro beer overlords (partially, anyway) is a good signal. To me, this signals an attempt to shift certain beer styles toward wider acceptance to accompany dinner itself. Not simply "before" and not confined to "after".

I think this is a good movement, as we all know there is plenty of variety in beer styles to go along with most any meal. Westside Threat would still argue that a great steak deserves a great red wine, and I won't argue against that thought. Given the wide range of even one segment of the beer market (like the wide variety of Belgian beers), this possible movement can only help the hobby that we all hold dear. Sure it marks further intrusion of a "macro beer overlord" into our domain, if only on a marketing and distribution basis. But from what I have seen and heard, Goose Island has maintained autonomy in their operations since the 2006 sale of the partial ownership stake (to Widmer Bros. which is partly owned by AB). Some others would be better suited to comment on that than I am though.

One thing that this movement may spur is wider distribution of previously regional offerings. And that wider distribution can only be a good thing for those of us who want to try the many great offerings from Oregon, or California, or the East Coast, or any point in between. Who knows, maybe even top notch microbrewers like Surly, Founders, Bell's, Russian River, Stone and others will finally gain better penetration in areas not currently served.

I, for one, welcome the possibility of wider distribution for any microbrewer who has those ambitions.



On The First Day Of Christmas...
Posted Friday, December 4th, 2009 by James Kitchens

Bob: "Okay. On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: a beer."

Doug: "On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me: two turtlenecks,"

Bob: "And a beer."

--- Bob & Doug McKenzie


With the holidays already upon us, starting with Halloween and Turkey Day, it's time to consider holiday gift-giving. Some questions to consider: What do I give my mail carrier person? What do I give my boss? What do I give my neighbor? What do I give my local Starbuck's employees? Those are all good questions. But here at The Beer Spot, we have only one question. What do I give the beer geeks/snobs in my life?

A good question that needs significant exploration. There are plenty of lists out there, as I found out in my limited research for this blogpost. First, let's get past the single most important concept in gift-giving when it comes to beer geeks/snobs. That concept is that the best single gift you can ever get them is a truly unusual or hard to find beer. What we REALLY want is that one or two or twelve special bottles of holiday hops cheer. That gift can range from a single bottle of 2001 Lou Pepe Gueuze to a flight of 2000-2009 Westvleteren 12. Or if you've really got the high-level personal connections, you should try to score a couple bottles of Stone Vertical Epic 02-02-02.

As for what the rest of us might be able to score as a gift for a beer geek/snob, here is a quick list:

(1) Glassware

Examples of more "unusual" glassware would range from goblets to brandy snifters to tulip glasses. Or you can go the Kegergator route and put everything in a pint glass. No shame in that, I suppose. Pint glasses with non-local brewer logos are always welcome.

(2) Growlers from non-local brewpubs delivered in person

This is especially true for seasonal beers from brewpubs that the beer geek/snob might not be able to find easily. Be aware that growlers can hang on for a while if they are kept cold, but they are usually best if cracked within a week or so of picking them up. Plus, if you deliver them in person, you get the opportunity to politely "suggest" that the growler needs to be opened right away.

(3) Cheap toss-in gifts or stocking stuffers

Lots of ideas here, from coasters to T-shirts to caps. Or really anything from a local craft brewer. Bottle openers with interesting designs or limited release beer label logos on them. Small stuff like that.

(4) Beer gift baskets (if you wanted to make your own)

If one were inclined to create a gift basket on their own, I would suggest a mixed sixer of non-local individual bottles. Or at least a sixer of some interesting craft beer. Add in some stocking stuffer "stuff", maybe a unique bottle opener, and possibly some beernuts or pretzels. Nothing says lovin' like beer and snack food. Check out Beer On The Wall gift baskets for some ideas.

(5) Beer of the month club

There are plenty of these floating around. I've never experienced one of these myself, but the concept is at least worthwhile. One place to start might be at Beer On The Wall. They have a beer of the month package that I noticed during my minimal research effort I had earlier today.

(6) Beer books, DVDs, posters, games, trivia, etc.

This can be a very wide area to find gift ideas. It can range from homebrewing books, to general beer info books, to books by or about brewers, to recipe books. If you are looking for homebrewing books for somewhat experienced homebrewers, then look at "Clone Brews" (it has 150 clone recipes of commercial beers) or maybe "Radical Brewing" (by Randy Mosher). For something a little further up the ladder for a really experienced homebrewer, you might try "The Homebrewer's Garden" (by Joe Fisher). The owner of Dogfish Head brewing, Sam Calagione, has written a few good books about beer ("Brewing Up A Business", "Extreme Brewing", and "He Said Beer, She Said Wine"). While I have heard good things about them, I have not actually read them myself.

You might also consider other published ideas like posters, games or trivia books. I noticed a few board games while I looked around online. You can get something somewhat cheesy, like "Brew-Opoly" or you can try something a bit more cerebral like a Beer Mug checkers set.

If you are a bit more adventurous, and don't mind sharp objects flying while beer is being drunk, then look into a nice dart board set. I hear that's popular in England. My dad of all people is actually in a darts league. Go figure. One site with some solid ideas I saw was Beer Town USA.

(7) gift cards

From the website --- "With each beer you buy someone at, you recipient will get a gift card or gift certificate so they can enjoy some BEER on you at one of the listed bars/restaurants."

I spotted this one while reading the 2008 gift ideas at the website for the Colorado Springs Craft Beer Examiner. There is a service fee involved, on top of the $5 price tag. I also don't know what the list of bars looks like for any given area.

(8) Food items or food ideas to pair with beers

This could include cookbooks or actual food items. If you have a beer geek/snob that's also a "foodie", you can try to find a cookbook that compliments the beers they enjoy. There are some recipes ideas at the Food & Wine website. You can get a sense of various food styles that pair well with various beer styles. You could also get them a copy of "Beer Cookbook: 101 Recipes With Beer".

If you are looking for food items for the beer geek/snob, then consider any number of sharp or strong flavored cheeses, nuts, or various other snack foods. I would suggest trying to find something interesting, like wasabi almonds or interesting flavored pretzels.

(9) Beer magazine subscription

There several solid choices in this category. For example: Beer magazine, Draft magazine, All About Beer magazine. I'll just leave this subject alone with that list...

(10) Breweriana (beer collectibles)

You can find beer collectibles on any number of sites, such as eBay, Beer Collections, Beer Town USA, or several others. Some good starter ideas would be neon signs, tap handles, banners, or inflatables (minds out of the gutter, people).

(11) Beer equipment

If your beer geek/snob is a hombrewer, you might be able to figure out some equipment needs they have. Get them a bigger brew kettle or a bigger carboy. A couple places to start looking are Midwest Supplies or Northern Brewer.

For the non-brewing beer geeks/snobs, you might look at a storage unit for cellaring beers. This can range from a smaller 6-10 bottle unit, or all the way up to a huge 1,000 bottle unit, or even bigger. Wine storage units work equally well for beer storage. Some other ideas: kegerators, small office fridges, bottle chillers.

(12) The ultimate beer geek gift

If you REALLY love your resident beer geek/snob, you can take the extraordinary step of sending them to the Brewmaster Program offered by the American Brewer's Guild in Vermont. It's not cheap at all ($8,500 I think). You can find more info at the American Brewers Guild website.

There is a decent range of ideas here. There are also several other spots to look to find even more ideas. Some are listed here, or you can simply do a Google search for "beer gift ideas". If you are considering the Brewmaster Program for your beloved beer geek/snob, please consider putting me on your gift list for that gift as well. I promise to be a good boy all year in 2010 if you do. Really, I will...


Beer Review Download Application Released
Posted Wednesday, November 25th, 2009 by James Kitchens

TheBeerSpot is happy to announce that our efforts to create personalized applications to download beer reviews has finally taken its first step. This application currently will support downloads from the Beer Advocate website, but plans are in the works for other applications for uploads from other sites to TheBeerSpot as well as review downloads from TheBeerSpot.

From the "packaging" of the application:

Do you want a way to backup your BA reviews?

If you are a member of BA and would like to download a copy of your personal reviews, search no further, here is the best solution for you.

This software will run as a windows executable and ask you to login to your account at BA, once logged in, it will find all of your reviews and allow you to download them in batches of 50 via CSV spreadsheet.


From the "Plain English" version of the legal disclaimer:

"Plain English" Version

We are creating this application to download and back up your beer reviews from other websites. Furthermore, we are creating this application to download and back up only YOUR original content on those websites, as defined in the Terms and Conditions of Use on those linked websites. You are only permitted to download and back up YOUR OWN reviews from those websites. This does not include friends, family, or random user reviews. ONLY YOUR OWN REVIEWS. Your use of this application means that you have read the Terms of Use and agree with us that you are only going to use the application for YOUR OWN CONTENT on any linked websites.

After downloading and backing up your reviews, it is your discretion as to what you do with that content. You can keep it private. You can upload it to The Beer Spot. You can upload it elsewhere if the content is compatible. The information and content is YOUR CONTENT. This application is ONLY a means to download and back up that content, however that content (beer reviews) may be defined in the Terms and Conditions of Use of any linked websites. If you do not agree with our intended use of this application, then do not use it. Regarding your privacy, the application does not record any private login information for any linked website. Basically, there is no private information that is maintained from the use of the application.

Finally, your use of the application is at your own risk. You have no claim against The Beer Spot for any unintended consequences that may arise from the use of this application. That includes, but is not limited to: banning from any linked sites; loss of data with your reviews; compatibility issues with the application; virus issues with the application.

This application allows you to download YOUR OWN beer reviews from the Beer Advocate website. It doesn't allow you to download other people's reviews. Which is an important consideration here.

As many of you know, this has been worked on for a while, and now we are rolling it out for individual use. The cost will be a one-time lifetime licensing fee of $9.99, which is payable by PayPal. The purchase is available at There will also be free updates to the application if and when those are made available.

As mentioned above, we are also working on a streamlined and convenient application to download user beer reviews from TheBeerSpot. Further, we are also working on an upload application to convert any external reviews to the format used here at TheBeerSpot. Ultimately, this content is rightfully co-owned by the creator (the user) and created for them to use however they see fit. Since we believe that the content created by the individual users is ultimately their own, we are offering this application.


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