05 February 2006

Huntsville Beer Tasting

There was a FTH tasting here in Huntsville last night, and boy can I feel it this morning.

I laboriously laid out the details of getting to and experiencing one of these tastings (in Birmingham) here, so I won't bother going through all of that again. Instead, I'll just hit the highlights of my evening, in no particular order. (I'll be dropping some names out here, but since I'm terrible with names, I'll probably get some wrong. If I make a mistake, please don't get upset -- just correct my info.)

I got to meet some of Beth's co-workers for the second time (previously at the company Christmas party) and shared a bit of beer knowledge with them. I didn't get drunk enough to start putting on lampshades, so she should still be gainfully employed come Monday.

I met the grandfather of one of my co-workers, who found out that he absolutely loved Russian Imperial Stouts. A man after my own heart. Brady (my co-worker) had been to a previous tasting in Birmingham, but this was the first one for Harold (his grandfather). Harold at one point stood behind me and said over my shoulder, "Daniel, this is you concience. You need to stop drinking...." I replied, "My conscience doesn't say that. It's more like, 'Chug, chug, chug!'". I hope he was as amused by my godlessness as I was there. It was interesting to see Brady and his grandfather together at a beer tasting, because I know if I tried to bring my parents, they'd pretty much hate every drop -- they drink Michelob, and only Michelob, and not even that much of that.

Thimbledrome (I've completely blanked on his real name -- this is his name over on the FTH Forums) got me a bottle of Big Hoppy Monster. I got a nice full tasting glass of this stuff, and I must say I'm looking forward to getting these laws changed so we can get this really nice Imperial Red Ale here in Alabama. A really great brew from Terrapin there.

Danner had specifically brought a bottle of Stone Imperial Russian Stout for me to try, and he was afraid that I hadn't gotten any, as it was literally the first bottle opened after we got there. But it turns out that the bottle was brought over to me almost first-thing, and I got to share in the experience with Beth (my fiancee) and several of her co-workers. I think everyone liked the Stone RIS.

Speaking of which, it was a fantastic little bit of stuff for Beth to try so many beers last night. She's usually a wine fanatic and mixed drink aficionado, so for her to try (and enjoy!) so many different stouts and ales was really fantastic for me. I'm corrupting her, bit by bit. Heh. Now if I can only keep my North Coast Old Ale 2004s from her long enough so I can drink and review them.

At one point, I saw a tallish individual with dark hair pointing in my direction, and my eyebrows perked up. "Yeah?" I asked hesitantly. "You're Dan Harper, right? From the board?" I nodded assent, and he introduced himself as Brian (I hope!), known over at the forums as VoIPA, which is just about the coolest user handle I've seen in awhile. He told me where Philby's is (Bridgeport IPA on tap in Huntsville! Score!) and hopefully I'll be able to get down there and have a pint or three with him at some point in the not-too-distant future.

Beth actually spent some time taking bottles of beer around, giving people tastes. This had the positive effect of making her popular when people spoke to me (getting married to an apparent Imperial Stout Fairy is a huge positive whenever you're in a crowd of beer geeks), but had the negative effect of making people get a bit "grabby", as she described it. She didn't seem overly hurt by the attention, but I'd still rather it not have happened -- just because someone's bringing you beer doesn't give you the right to feel her up. It upsets me, but I'm not sure what I can do to prevent such things in the future, absent telling her to simply stay closer to me at the next one.

UncleFlip (I have no idea what his real name is, that's what he's known both at the FTH Forum and on Beer Advocate) and I got to spend a bit of time chatting with the head brewer at Olde Towne brewery, Don Hankins. Don revealed to us that the brewery's Hefeweizen was going to be bottled within the next month or so, and that the Extra Pale Ale was being discontinued. That's a trade I'll take willingly, and it makes my Extra Pale Ale bottles even more valuable. Heh heh.

I also asked Hankins about the new brewpub that's planned to be opened in downtown Huntsville, and he confirmed the rumors to me. Hopefully by late summer we'll have a brewpub here (with all new beers -- different brews than what Olde Towne produces), and if Madison Station ever gets off the ground, we may end up with two brewpubs and a brewery in a city of about 160,000 people. That'd give Huntsville similar saturation as a function of population as Nashville, although obviously we'd still be a bit behind the curve overall. Judging by the response that I got (as a sort of beer geek to those who know me even passively) after the article in the Huntsville Times about Free the Hops, Huntsville is a city that may be able to support it.

Hankins also let us sample his new beer, a bock, right out of the tank. A really nice, sweet brew, not as dark as I'd normally expect a bock to be, but very fruity and medium-bodied. Tastes a bit like a very aromatic IPA with a lot of the hops taken out, and I'll definitely be buying a few bottles when it's released in a month or so. UncleFlip took detailed notes about the beer, partly based on my comments, and may go ahead and add it to the BA system. I'm patient enough to wait for it in bottles, but Flip may not have the chance to taste it again for awhile, so I can understand the impulse.

I guess that's the highlights. I forgot my camera, so I obviously didn't get any pictures, but a good time was had by all, and a lot of people were exposed to some really good beers that you just can't get in Alabama. I'd like to personally thank Danner for starting up FTH (and for brining the Stone RIS) and to Don Hankins at Olde Towne for being so generous with his time and space as to let a bunch of drunks hang around his brewing equipment.

EDIT: I got VoIPA's name wrong the first time through. Corrected.

04 February 2006

New Title, New Format, New Focus

The half-dozen or so of you who have actually read this previously are in for a few changes. I've changed the template for the blog (that much is obvious) but I'm also planning on changing the scope a bit. Whereas before I intended for this blog to be simply a collection of things I was interested in (and I'll still probably spend a lot of time doing that), I've decided that keeping a bit stricter focus will probably help to keep my interest here.

As of January, I have started back to my University education, seeking a degree in Biology from the University of Alabama in Huntsville. Since the evolution/creation "debate" is live and well around these parts, I figure it'll be an interesting perspective to see what it's actually like to major in the life sciences from a state university deep in the south, on a day-to-day basis. My plan is to include minor postings after virtually every class, just dealing with whatever we're studying at that particular moment.

My other focus here will be my ever-growing interest in craft beer. While beer reviews will still go to Beer Advocate, I hope to discuss my beer experiences here in at least a semi-rigorous way, posting what I'm drinking, why I drank it, and what pains I had to take to get it. Alabama has a long way to go to get to a real beer culture, and hopefully this blog will help to educate people about the struggles to get good beer into the state. Free the Hops is also an excellent, and much more important, resource in this regard.

That's all for now. There's a beer tasting in-town tonight, so hopefully I'll be able to post some info and some good pics sometime tomorrow.