Saturday, November 21, 2015

Holiday Gifts For The Craft Beer Lover

The holiday season is among us, and if you're like me, you hate shopping for gifts. I honestly hate leaving the house during these upcoming weeks. Gift shopping is hard, what may be a hot item now, might not be by the time your loved one opens their gift at Christmas. That being said, I rely a lot on holiday gift idea lists. So much so, that I thought that I would put a list together for you guys. Some of the items on this list will be things that I already own and some will be things that I really want. I hope that the wife reads this because it's kind of like my holiday wish list. While I'll have a numerical number beside each of the items, I'm definitely not ranking them.

These first few items are from HopCloth, followed by a couple things I've found online. After those you will see some items that I'm really diggin' from Bullets2Bandages, Brewer Shirts, Beer Cap Maps and Craft Loyal.

1. Beer From Here Shirt - $20.00

I was really excited when I saw that they had finally made an Alabama version of this shirt. I watched, jealously, every time they would add a new state. Then, everything was right with the world when mine arrived in the mail. If you see me out and about, I'll probably be wearing this one. I was looking at their page and I noticed that they now offer this shirt in crimson. So while the original is offered in dark blue (Auburn color), you Bama fans can now rep your team as well. I will say this though, unless you are a person who takes pride in your physique, I'd go up a size when you order.

2. Hop Culture "The Share" Craft Beer Snifter - $7.00

 If you follow my social media pages, you've seen this one... many, many, many times. I absolutely love this glass. The 13oz capacity is a prefect fit for your 12oz singles, but wait, there's more! On the side of the glass you'll find that the container is graded in 2oz increments. When sharing a beer with a buddy or two, this is actually pretty handy.

3. Homebrewed Onesie - $18.00

This was actually the first item I ever purchased for our new baby. As soon as my wife told me that she was pregnant, I got online and ordered this bad boy! I don't know how much this would be a good gift for a child, but if you have some craft beer friends who might be expecting, this thing is great. Another cool thing about it is the HopCloth logo on the butt. Again, if you follow my Instagram page, you've seen my kid wearing this one.

4. Craft Beer Is Dead Shirt - $20.00

I don't own this one...yet. The simplicity of this shirt is amazing. The four little words on the chest are sure to strike up conversation in any Craft Beer bar or brewery. For Jeff, the message can be taken in a couple different ways. You can take it as a sarcastic gesture, implying that Craft Beer is far from dead. Breweries are popping up in almost every city in the U.S. that has a traffic light. The other way you could take it, is that Craft Beer is dead. Too often we see that a brewery has sold out to "Big Beer". In some people's eyes, the whole concept of being "Craft" is becoming tarnished by all of the corporate acquisitions.

5. How To Brew by John Palmer - $19.95

How To Brew
Most Craft Beer fans have toyed with the idea of making their own beer. Beer, especially the good
stuff can be expensive, so the thought of just making your own is pretty tantalizing. Hell, after all, beer is just the combination of four main ingredients right? Not so much. This book is thought of as being, well, the homebrew bible. It's packed will tons of step-by-step instructions on each process involved in brewing beer. While it does have a lot of information in it, the book is structured very well, and actually, is pretty fun to read. Check out Amazon if you're interested in this one, they normally have it for cheaper than the list price.

6. Spiegelau Craft Beer Tasting Kit - $39.20

Spiegelau Craft Beer Tasting Kit
Believe it or not, glassware does make a difference in the overall enjoyment of Craft Beer. To a true beer snob, the vessel that their beverage is served in, is just as important as what's inside the glass. These glassed are designed specifically for the recommended style of beer. This kit includes one IPA, one stout, and one American Wheat-Witbier glass. I haven't noticed any difference in the flavor of my beer when I use these, but the aromas are definitely more pronounced. The only complaint I have about these, is that they are very thin. I'm almost afraid to use them and my beer warms up pretty quick if I'm holding it in my hand for a long period of time. All-in-all though, they are great additions to anyone's beer glass cabinet.

Brooklyn Brew Shop
When it comes to home brewing, this 1 gallon kit is what got me started. A couple years ago, I found
this underneath the Christmas tree. We started with the Oatmeal Stout kit, making what we called "Grandpa Joes Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Stout". Now, this kit comes with almost everything you need to brew your first batch of beer, but you will need a couple pots that are not included. You could probably piece together your own kit, from your home brew shop, but you really wouldn't save much money. Now, 1 gallon batches in my opinion are an inefficient way to brew, but you've got to start somewhere. This kit is an inexpensive way to "test the waters".

8. Bullet Bottle Opener - $17.99 & UP
50 cal Bottle Opener
Bullets2Bandages have come up with a simple way for Craft Beer lovers to share their support for our veterans. B2B was founded by two veterans as a way to say "Thank You" to all of the soldiers who have fought tor our freedom. A bottle opener made from the shell of a .50 caliber bullet. They have created these products, that were once used for war, but now symbolize pride, gratitude, and healing. Not only that, these elegant pieces can be customized in a number of ways. Another awesome thing about these guys, they donate at least 15% of profit to charity. Their 50 cal bottle opener is obviously their flagship product, but check out their website, there's a whole lot more!

9. Beer Cap Maps - $39.00 to $75.00

Beer Cap Maps
 These might be the things that are on the top of my wish list. I stumbled across Beer Cap Maps a few months ago and instantly fell in love. I've been collecting beer caps for a long time, but never really knew what to do with them. Well, that has all changed. The maps are cut out of high quality plywood and have holes cut that snugly hold each of the beer caps. There is also a logo on each map representing the State/Country capital. While the pictures are of the US and Alabama only, they do carry many different countries and all 50 US States.

10. More Craft Beer Apparel - $18.00 & UP

Craft Loyal
Brewer Shirts
Shirts, jackets, hoodies, tank tops... you can't go wrong. People love expressing their love of Craft Beer by wearing Craft Beer themed apparel. Craft Loyal and Brewer Shirts were a couple of the first Instagram pages that I followed when I started Bham Beer Buzz, and their designs are getting more kick ass everyday! Both of these guys do more than just shirts too. Definitely check out their pages to find more awesome gift ideas including glassware, bottle openers and other Craft Beer themed swag!

These are just a few things that I'm really liking this year. Holiday shopping is tough, and beer snobs make it even harder. If none of these item seem like something you're interested in, remember, gift cards are always a good idea. Visit your local Home Brew Shop or Craft Beer store and pick one up. Happy Holidays to all of you guys, CHEERS!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Clown Shoes, My Love For You Is Like A Truck

Craft Beer, I love it! I love IPAs, I love Stouts. I love Barleywines and I love Farmhouse Ales. I love Craft Beer! As smitten as I am by my beverage of choice, I have to remember that Craft Beer is a business, and business isn't always fun.

I may be a little behind that times with this, but I found out today that Clown Shoes has pulled out of Alabama. The makers of some of my favorite beers, confirmed the rumor when I asked them about it on Twitter. Their reason... they were unhappy with their distributor. From what I gather, that distributor was Birmingham Bud. They didn't tell me exact reasons, but from what I have personally noticed, there wasn't a lot of buzz in our area about their beers. And that's a shame. Clown Shoes, a brewery (contract brewed by Mercury Brewing Co.) out of Ipswich, Massachusetts makes some awesome brews. Their long list of fantastic Imperial Stouts is what stole my beer loving heart.

The first Clown Shoes beer I had was Blaecorn Unidragon, a gnarly Russian Imperial Stout that totally fit what I was looking for in a beer. If you've had the pleasure of drinking this one, then you know how good it is. Porcine Unidragon, a bourbon barrel aged version of the beer, was even better. The hits didn't stop there though. Chocolate Sombrero, a spiced stout with chili peppers, cinnamon, vanilla and chocolate was the next beer I tried. That's was it, I was hooked. Bombay Berserker, Crasher in the Rye, Vampire Slayer, Angry Beast and Luchador en Fuego are just a few more of their delicious stouts. All of these beers are world class, all of them were very reasonably priced. All of their beers, not just their stouts, can easily compete with anything else on the shelf. Maybe that's why Clown Shoes was unhappy with their distributor. They weren't getting the respect from their distributor that they thought they deserved. Again, that is all speculation, I haven't heard any real details from either side. Whatever the case may be, it sucks.

Craft Beer, just a few years ago, wasn't that big. There was plenty of shelf space for everybody. That shelf space is getting more and more crowded everyday. Times have changed, and the business of Craft Beer is getting hard. I'm not an expert in business, or even Craft Beer for that matter. I don't know exactly how distribution works in the beer industry, but our distributors have to push their brand, especially when they have beer this good. I'm not super savvy on all of the beer laws and regulations that are out there, I am however very passionate about not only the beverage, but the entire culture and community that is Craft Beer. So passionate, that news like this genuinely saddens me. A few days ago I read that Clown Shoes was releasing a new beer called Flight of the Angry Beast, and I exclaimed "YES!" out loud while sitting at my desk at work. This shit is a big deal to me, and from what I've seen on social media, it's a big deal to a lot of you guys too.

There's no real reason for this blog, besides to tell you that we can't get Clown Shoes here in Alabama anymore. So when you see one of the last remaining bottles sitting on the shelf, pick it up if you've never had it before. Let me know what you think, maybe we can convince Clown Shoes to come back. I'm not a fan at all of long distance relationships, and this one is going to be hard.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Sloss Fest 2015 - Yeah, We Went For The Beer

So, I don't know if you guys noticed it last weekend, but it was hot. Really hot. High temperatures were near 100 and heat indexes climbed way above that. It was miserable. The simple act of walking out of the house, to the car, caused me to sweat. It was hot... But it was time for Sloss Fest! Nothing, not even the sweltering heat, would keep me or the thousands of other people away from Birmingham's historic landmark, Sloss Furnaces.

Saturday morning, after a quick stop by Seasick Records, we were off to Sloss. Our bags were packed with sunscreen, water bottles, granola bars, sweat rags and of course our cameras. We were ready! Unfortunately, one of things we were not ready for, was the parking situation. Once we found the correct lot to park in, we were hit with the $15.00 parking fee. I'm not sure what I expected, but the fee seemed a little high. That being said, it was a small price to pay for the experience that was to come. After checking in and getting our media wristbands, it was time for a beer.

Of course, we here at Bham Beer Buzz, go to awesome music festivals for the beer. Yeah, we were excited about most of the bands performing, but the TrimTab/Starr Hill collaboration was our main reason for attending. You all know about the brewery in Lakeview... Harris, Will and company have done an excellent job in making TrimTab an essential part of our city. One thing you might not have known is that Will spent some time, not to long ago, in Virginia with the guys at Starr Hill. They were creating a brew just for Sloss Fest. The result, a Summer Pale Ale called Siren of Sloss. This beer, a freaking Pale Ale, was the main reason I was at the festival.

Starr Hill is a brewery new to Birmingham, but they are definitely not a new brewery. They're in the midst of establishing a larger market, and thought that Alabama was a good fit for their beers. Well, they were right. Our relationship with Starr Hill started at the Magic City Brewfest, another awesome event at Sloss. We got lucky and met their Alabama/Tennessee rep, Willie. After talking to Willie for a little while, it was easy to see that Starr Hill was a brewery we wanted to get to know. He in turn, hooked us up with Starr Hill's marketing manager, and we were added to their "Beer Influencers" list. After sampling a few of the year around offerings, and talking to their awesome social media person Allie, we knew this collaboration was going to be special.

Siren of Sloss, as I mentioned before is a Summer Pale Ale. It's a single hop beer, brewed with honey and Belgian yeast. The Calypso hops work perfectly with the honey and yeast combo. This was a ridiculously refreshing Pale Ale with just enough body and bitterness to be a great, year around drinker. Unfortunately, due to Alabama laws, TrimTab could not serve this one in their taproom. Even though they helped make this beer, it wasn't produce at their facility. Boo on Alabama beer laws... but that's all besides the point. In addition to the Pale Ale, we had the pleasure of drinking a couple other Starr Hill limited series.

Debut #3, Cherry Witbier and Debut #4, a Czech Keller Pils, were both on point! The Cherry Wit was a perfect match for the hot weather. It had just enough cherry tartness to keep things interesting, but it was refreshing enough to keep you wanting more. And I did, I wanted a lot more. Now, I'm not a Pils fan. This Keller Pils was pretty enjoyable though. It was much more flavorful and the mouthfeel was a lot bigger than I thought it would be. Starr Hill's beer is good, really good. I love the fact that they got together with our buddies at TrimTab, but I'm a little bummed that an Alabama brewery didn't have their logo plastered all over the festival. 

I'm not an expert in organizing an event like this, hell, I wouldn't even know where to start. So I know money, of course, is probably a big reason why one of "our" breweries wasn't the poster child of the event. But still I'm sad. The inaugural Sloss Fest, held in one of Alabama's most famous landmarks, should be a festival celebrating our city if not our state. The whole thing was great, don't get me wrong. I'll definitely be stoked for next year, but a little more Alabama would be a great touch. 

We went to Sloss Fest for the beer, but that didn't stop us from enjoying the great bands that were playing. Jeremy, the Bham Beer Buzz photographer, had his work cut out for him. For two days, he was like a chicken with it's head cut off, running from one stage to the next. Even with the crazy temperatures, he managed to take some really good band photos. Scroll down this blog, you'll see where I've posted some of my favorites. 

Sloss Fest was a success. There are a few things that need to be changed, but that's expected. This was, after all, the first one. If you didn't make it, you missed out. If you did make it, you already know how great it was. Until next year!