Craft Beer on a Budget

No one is going to argue with you that craft beer is an expensive hobby to get into, it is and there are not many ways around it. Craft beers are artisanal products using prime ingredients hand crafted in state of the art machinery. All that stuff costs plenty of money. So how can you enjoy craft beer on a budget? I’m working on doing this myself and am sharing my ways, please share yours in the comments!

Craft Beer on a budget

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Horse and Barrel Bourbon Bar

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I have to admit that I was a little skeptical when I heard that there was another bourbon bar opening in Cincinnati. Most bars in the area already have a pretty good selection and I have been really hoping for someone to go in a crazy new direction and open a tiki bar. But when the Horse and Barrel opened on Walnut Street downtown, I immediately heard good things about it from my whiskey friends. Then, when I met one of the owners and much of the staff at the January meeting of the Greater Cincinnati Bourbon Society and learned more about the history behind the bar, I knew it was worth checking out.

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The owners of the Horse and Barrel, who also own Nicholson’s Scottish Pub, have deep ties to Kentucky and used to own a bourbon bar called Horse and Barrel attached to their Lexington deSha’s restaurant before it closed. So this isn’t so much a brand new bourbon bar hopping on the whiskey bandwagon but more of an established bar opening for the first time in Cincinnati. I had such a great time talking to the group at the meeting that Charlie and I went down to check them out last Sunday at the opening party.

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The presentation and selection of the bourbon was all very well done. Unfortunately after being open for only a few weeks most of the rare bottles they had started with were already sold out, but they still had a great mix of old favorites and lesser known whiskeys. The cocktails were mixed perfectly and they had a nice selection of classic and creative cocktails on the menu. I thought the beer selection was also great compared to most whiskey bars I have been to. The food was outstanding, and something that many bars downtown are missing. I am craving some more of the blue cheese dip with fried bread even as I write this. And I do think that having the Horse and Barrel, a bar known for its bourbon, attached to Nicholson’s, a bar known for its scotch, is a great combination for one-stop whiskey drinking in Cincinnati.

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It is still hard to compete with bourbon bars in Kentucky based on selection but until Ohio changes its liquor laws it is nice to have a good bourbon bar downtown, especially for people who are visiting the area and want to try some local flavor without venturing over the river. Now if someone can just get on opening that tiki bar for me I will be really happy.




Book Review: Farmhouse Ales by Phil Markowski

I always ask for a deluge of books for Christmas. I love giving and receiving books for birthdays or the holidays. They’re little bundles of knowledge that enrich the life of the giftee. Which is to say get ready for a couple book reviews over the next few weeks. Farmhouse Ales and Wild Brews have both been on my must read homebrewing list for a few years so I was stoked to receive them both as gifts. Farmhouse Ales ended up on the top of the pile of books so we’re tackling that first, look forward to Wild Brews soon!

Farmhouse Ales

To start us off here’s the publisher’s description:

Farmhouse Ales defines the results of years of evolution, refinement, of simple rustic ales in modern and historical terms, while guiding today’s brewers toward credible—and enjoyable—reproductions of these old world classics.

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Beer Review: Deschutes Hop Henge

Deschutes Hop Henge is an interesting idea for beer. They shake things up each year with different hops and any new hop-related processes or techniques developed recently. Sounds similar to the wet hop seasonal IPAs but with less focus on ultra-fresh hops and more on doing something slightly different.

This year they went with Millennium hops which aren’t new and as the name implies are from the year 2000. I’d never heard of Millennium hops until reading about this beer. According to Hop Union they’re used for bittering and “resinous with herbal and floral tones.” Anyway, here’s Deschutes blurb, then facts on the beer and my thoughts after the jump.

Stonehenge is a mystery. Hop Henge is a discovery. Millennium, Cascade, Centennial and Chinook hops come together to erect a hop sanctuary. Revere the almighty hop!

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What’s the Problem with Wanting Something New?

Earlier this week an article was published in Boston Magazine saying how “How the craft-beer movement abandoned Jim Koch”. It’s written by Andy Crouch, who often writes pieces aiming for controversy and boy did he get plenty of it with this one. This caused a ruckus on BeerAdvocate forums, in Twitter, and responses from a variety of blogs. I almost shot off an article immediately after Crouch’s piece was published but decided against it. After ruminating about, reading Growler Fill’s post The State of Craft Beer: You Sold Us On Choice —and more importantly rewatching HBO’s The Wire— I’ve decided to share my thoughts.

I have a few issues with the Boston Magazine article. The biggest of which is how it vastly overplays Sam Adams importance in the birth of craft beer. Such as: “There’s no disputing that America is experiencing a craft-beer revolution—and that Koch’s Boston Beer Company birthed it.” Right, Anchor, New Albion, Sierra Nevada — they’re not important and at all. And all came well after Boston Beers started, my ass. But hey, this is a Boston magazine so maybe we can cut them some slack for promoting their hometown hero. At least they didn’t hide the fact that the majority of Boston Beer is brewed far from Boston, right here in Cincinnati. But I digress from the point I want to make here.

The main point of the article was that craft beer enthusiasts have forgotten Sam Adams and only want the newest beers. Even a beer made two or three years ago is supposedly viewed with disdain because it’s become too mainstream or some such nonsense. Remember, PsycHOPathy came out just under 2 years ago.

First off, I’m fully guilty of chasing new beers. I adore Victory Golden Monkey, but haven’t had it in over a year because there are so many new beers to try. What I’m saying is I’m exactly the type of person that pissed Jim Koch, and others, off.

Here’s the thing though, what is the problem with people wanting new products?

The discussion being had online so far is focused only on beer. Understandable, as it started with a brewery owner and has been talked about by beer writers and lovers. But it’s been framed in this beer-centric context that I think skews the argument. So let’s take a step back and realize there is nothing wrong with people wanting new stuff. Jim Koch was upset that Sam Adams Boston Lager wasn’t available at a bar. Boston Lager was first made in 1984 so let’s look at what we liked in 1984.

I was one year old so I have no memory of the year. But if we lived in a culture that didn’t care about new products we’d still be watching Miami Vice and Murder, She Wrote on TV. We’d hop in our cars and pop in cassette tapes of Thriller or Purple Rain. Ok, let’s stop here for a second.

Cassette tapes people! That’s how we bought music when Boston Lager first came out. That’s where we’d be if we never demanded new products. We’d be renting Beverly Hills Cop on VHS and listening to Born in the U.S.A. on cassette tape. There are now people old enough to buy Boston Lager who may not remember VHS or cassette tapes.

One more thing — that Motorola brick mobile phone first went on sale March 13th, 1984 for a hair under $4,000. Clearly the world would suck if we didn’t have an insatiable lust for new things. So why should we be admonished for wanting new beers?

The Problem with “Old”

A lack of new products results in a bland world but we cannot forget what came before. I don’t drink Victory Golden Monkey very often but I recommend it frequently. I go back to Great Lakes Oktoberfest every September, and then in November pick up a 4-pack of Nosferatu.

I don’t listen to Purple Rain but do go back to Thriller on occasion. I’ve never seen an episode of Miami Vice but love M*A*S*H. That doesn’t mean I’m not eagerly awaiting the new season of House of Cards. What I’m saying here is to have balance folks. Many craft beer enthusiasts I know have lost that balance. All they want is new rare beers out of Vermont, and I’m not talking about Heady Topper. What I’m saying is while you’re hunting this year’s HypeSlam don’t forget to grab a 6-pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

P.S.: This entire post was written while listening to Talking Heads Remain in Light from 1980 but edited while listening to Shakey Graves And The War Came from this October.

Book Review: Malt: A Practical Guide from Field to Brewhouse

A few weeks ago I came home to a package by the door, joyful that another relative had shipped me another present to put under the tree. I was even more joyful to realize the package was from Brewers Publications and was a copy of the brand new book Malt a practical guide from field to brewhouse.Malt a practical guide from field to brewhouse

Having just finished The Brewmaster’s Table (review coming soon) I was about to start looking for a new book to read and review for the blog, so here we go.

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