Thursday, November 22, 2007

Yesterday's column

Sorry folks, the holiday schedule kept me from getting this posted on Wednesday. Hope it's not too late for you to take the advice of three experts on what to serve with your feast today. Cheers, and happy Thanksgiving! -Ben

Pitcher This: A cornucopia of beer suggestions
Ben Cunningham
Metro Editor
The Anniston Star

For many it’s almost second nature. If they’re including an adult beverage in their holiday table setting, it’ll be a bottle of wine, perhaps served in the good crystal that only comes out once or twice a year.

Beer? That’s served at the recliner, straight from the can during the football games you’ll watch over the extra-long weekend, right?

Maybe, but with the range of beer styles available today there’s more than a few brews that could be welcome at the grown-ups’ table at even the fanciest holiday feast.

As beer continues to move “up-market” and consumers become more familiar with finely crafted American and exotic beers, they may be discovering sophisticated flavors that fit right in with Grandma’s carefully honed recipes.

Now the only problem is convincing Grandma to let you have beer at the Thanksgiving table.
OK, one more problem … with so many choices, what to serve?

With all the types of food that wind up on holiday tables, there are just as many beers to pair with the grub. For the record, yes, pairing beer with food is just as much an art as matching wine. Just one more problem: there are just as many approaches to beer-food pairing as there are beer styles.

Ask three beer connoisseurs what to serve with your feast, and you’ll likely get (at least) three different approaches. Jerry Hartley owns the J. Clyde restaurant in Birmingham’s Southside, known for its wide beer selection. Stuart Carter is a beer lover who leads monthly beer dinners at the J. Clyde. And Danner Kline is president of Free the Hops, a group of beer enthusiasts trying to reform Alabama’s restrictive alcohol laws. When asked for Thanksgiving beer suggestions, all three came forward like Squanto showing the Pilgrims how to grow corn.

Hartley starts things off proper, with a green salad. He suggested wheat-based beers, like a Belgian-style wit or a German hefeweizen, with their citrus hints would work well. He suggested the Witte from New York’s Brewery Ommegang. Lacking that, look for Hoegaarden or perhaps the ubiquitous Blue Moon from Coors since we’re short on Ommegang in eastern Alabama. If you’re using a creamier dressing like bleu cheese or ranch, Hartley suggests blonde or golden ales, such as Terrapin Golden Ale or Atlanta Brewing Company’s Red Brick Blonde.

For turkey and all those brown-sugar-encrusted sweet-potato dishes, Kline and Carter both went for brown ales. Both recommended Samuel Smith’s Nut Brown Ale. Carter pointed to the richer Tilburg’s Dutch Brown Ale if you prefer the dark meat.

Finally, there’s desert. For the obligatory pumpkin pie, Hartley suggests stouts and porters such as Guinness, Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout, or Anchor Porter. Kline calls Samuel Adams’ cinnamon-flavored Old Fezziwig paired with pumpkin pie “a real match made in heaven.”

Whatever you’re drinking Thursday, don’t forget to raise a toast to Grandma for making a place at the table for your beer … and for all that wonderful food.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Breaking beer news: Lazy Magnolia in Calhoun County

Got word from a friend a couple weeks ago this was coming, and it finally arrived yesterday. Lazy Magnolia's Southern Pecan is now available on tap at Cooter Brown's Rib Shack in Jacksonville. I had two pints last night, and it was worth the wait.

A quick check of Lazy Magnolia's Web site reveals that it's also available at the 19th Hole, the club restaurant at McClellan's Cane Creek golf course in Anniston. That makes me wonder if it also may be down at the Mellow Mushroom in Oxford. Any alert Pitcher This readers been to the 'Shroom lately? Add a comment by clicking below to let us all know.

Lazy Magnolia was one of three Southern microbrewers mentioned in my most recent column in The Star. I first came across them at the Magic City Brewfest in Birmingham back in June, and fell in love at first sip.

As good as the above info is, even better is the news that Lazy Magnolia will soon be distributing bottles for the first time. Folks at the brewery in Kiln, Miss., say to look for it on shelves in December. I'll keep my eyes peeled and post here if I spot any in Calhoun County.

Friday, November 9, 2007

WaPo: Superlative brewing

Boston Beer Co., maker of Samuel Adams, has become known for exploring the limits of beer, including its flavor, alcohol content and last but most certainly not least, price.

The latest product of Sam Adams' extreme-brewing arm is the 2007 version of its Utopia. It's got the highest alcohol content ever recorded in a beer, at 27 percent by volume, according to this story from The Washington Post earlier in the week. It's also pretty darn pricey, starting at $120 for a 24-ounce bottle. That's assuming you can find one. The brew can't be sold in 14 states (including Alabama, of course) because of the high alcohol content (despite the fact that it equates to about 54 proof, much less than many liquors very legal in those states).

Boston Beer recommends serving Utopia in two-ounce pours, according to the story. That would equate to about $10 a serving.


Thursday, November 8, 2007


For all you Corona fans out there: There was an interesting story in Tuesday's New York Times about a bar in the Big Apple getting cited by health inspectors for bare-hand contact with ready-to-eat food. The culprit: a bartender who twisted the lime into a bottle of Corona. Yikes.

The reporter had a little fun with the story, going pub-to-pub and asking barkeeps to get the citrus in without using their bare hands. Everybody seemed to get the hang of tongs after a try or two.

I wonder ... how many of you out there are actually bothered by the thought of a bartender's hands touching the lime in you beer? One would think the alcohol might kill off any germs. I tend to get annoyed when I'm served a beer with fruit I didn't ask for (I tend to order Dos Equis in Mexican restaurants, and I think the lime screws it up ... but on the rare occasion I have a Corona, I think the beer needs the lime to make it drinkable).

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

(Sorta) Local beer from (very) local ingredients

Bob Townsend's Beer Town column in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week has a bit of local interest for readers of The Star. Townsend was at Five Seasons Brewing Co. in Alpharetta, Ga. (on Halloween?) for the unveiling of the brewpub's Great Pumpkin Ale. According to the column, it was made with 100 pounds of organic Sweet Sugar pumpkins from Moore Farms in Woodland. Good free publicity for Will & Laurie Moore!

Laurie Moore tells Star reporter Andy Johns (he picked up the phone as soon as I mentioned the AJC column to him) the brewpub uses their pumpkins for deserts as well as the beer. The farm follows all-organic practices, though they're not USDA-certified organic. Most of the Moores' produce goes to Atlanta-area restaurants such as Five Seasons.

Fifteen gallons of the Great Pumpkin Ale, by the way, was poured into a hollowed-out 300-pound pumpkin from another farm. After unveiling the pumpkin (they really did cover it with a sheet and pull it away ... ta-da!), they pounded a cask-ale-style tap into the gourd and served the brew straight from the squash. There's an excellent picture at the AJC's site.

Today's column

Pitcher This: The South will rise … for first time


Renewal after a fall is an essential theme in Southern identity.

The image of rebirth from figurative flames is powerful in a region that still remembers actual flames, and that image is applied to everything from city seals to literature.

Of course, to get to that image of rebirth, a thing has to be born for the first time.

That may be what’s happening across the South now in craft brewing as the drive for quality, locally produced beer that’s swept much of the nation finally gathers steam here. Three Deep South breweries hope they can enjoy the rise, and maybe just skip the bit about a fall and subsequent rise from the ashes.

All three of these breweries — Mississippi’s Lazy Magnolia Brewing, Georgia’s Terrapin Beer Co. and Huntsville’s Olde Towne Brewing — have been founded in the last five years and are on the leading edge of what could become a surge in Southern brewing.

Sadly, Olde Towne will have to make a real rise from the ashes. The brewery, founded in 2004, burned in July, halting production. Don Alan Hankins, founder and brewmaster, says the company has decided to build anew and hopes to be brewing again by June.

New equipment, Hankins says, will give him more control over the quality of his bottled beer — perhaps making it taste more like the draft product — and allow the company to fill 90 bottles per minute over the previous 20. That should help Olde Towne fill more orders, putting more Alabama-made beer on store shelves throughout the region.

Lazy Magnolia also hopes to get more from its Kiln, Miss., plant on the Gulf Coast. Brewery boss Leslie Henderson says a new bottling line could have the first Mississippi-made six-packs on shelves by Christmas. Since its 2004 founding, the company has produced only kegs and 2.25-gallon jugs of its beers, including its signature Southern Pecan, which is flavored with the staple nut.

Henderson says she believes Southern brewers are feeding off each others’ success.

“The South is about to turn into the great haven of microbrews,” she says. “Once you see one brewery achieve success in an area, it gives you courage and a model to go after.”

Athens, Ga.-based Terrapin, founded in 2002, also is counting on new equipment to build on the early success of its Rye Pale Ale. President John Cochran said the company is now moving into a brand-new brewery, Terrapin’s first. The South has lagged behind the rest of the country in beer culture, Cochran says. But that’s starting to change.

“I’d like to think beer’s finally going to be accepted in the Southeast,” he says. “This year, craft beer seems to have really turned the corner.”

Hankins, like his peers in Georgia and Mississippi, doesn’t see the other brewers as competition. The more choices there are on the shelf, the more likely consumers will be to try something new, he says.

“And eventually somebody’s going to pick up our beer,” he says. “The more beer the better.”