Friday, May 15, 2009

A Timeline of Craft Beer; Beer Class at 7 Saints

If you missed it last night (and you probably did) Andy B. instructed a special beer class last night in honor of American Craft Beer Week.

The theme last night was "a timeline of craft beer".

The first beer we had was Anchor Steam, while it's not one of my favorite beers (or breweries) without Anchor, there might not be a craft beer movement in the U.S. Anchor opened in 1896, but Fritz Maytag bought it in 1965.

The next beer we had was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Sierra Nevada opened in 1979.

Bells Oberon. Bells opened in 1983.

Sam Adams Boston Lager. Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams) opened in 1985.

Rogue Dead Guy. Rogue opened in 1988.

Left Hand Milk Stout. Left Hand opened in 1994.

Founders Dirty Bastard. Founders opened in 1997.

Three Floyds Dark Lord. Three Floyds opened in 1996. (Ok, so that's out of order, but it was the Coup de grĂ¢ce. There's really nothing you could do, to drink after the last beers were put out.

5 years of darklord on Twitpic

What would/could you drink after those five bottles?

(To the tune of "Jesus Loves the Little Children")

Virgil loves the vintage Dark Lord
All the Dark Lord every year

Red, Gold, Gray, Black, and White
They are precious in his sight
Virgil loves the vintage Dark Lord of the world!
Ok, supposedly it's orange and not red. It was awesome. I'm not sure the value of that lineup, but Andy provided the most recent 4, (gold through white) and Noah brought in the Red/Orange. I think the White, Black, and Gray ($125) were all ones that I brought back from the brewery.

There was a distinct difference between all the beers. The white (this year) seemed a bit thinner than the rest, and it's flavors were sharp. The black was very good; thick, creamy. The gray is one of the best vintages of Dark Lord. I've never had the gold before, and by the time we were on that one, my palate was going. The red/orange I had on Dark Lord Day, as Doctor Andy brought a bottle.

Just having those 5 beers would have been a most excellent beer class, but to have them as the kicker on the timeline, made a great evening. We drank them right up to around midnight.

Thanks to Andy for hosting us and providing those 4 bottles. Thanks to Noah for bringing in the fifth.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Nobody Likes a Mr. Pink

Andy (of Seven Saints) sent me an email with his views on tipping. It's a good read.

There's no way to get around it, craft beer drinkers...your bartender expects you to tip 15-20% on the low end, 18-25% on the high(er) all times. Industry folk generally tip even more than this, but we don't necessarily expect the "Earth people" to follow suit. Customers from all walks of life maintain this standard, and so should you.

Gratuity should always be based on sales, as servers and bartenders are taxed in part according to their tippable sales. Your bartender is taking an initial hit to serve you that $14.00 beer, and he expects you to make it up to him with a primo tip. I've also been told that bartenders generally prefer cash to credit card tips for (ahem) certain tax reasons.

The central point is this: the craft beer industry has risen to the occasion by offering the consumer a superior product to that of their competitors. Craft products are luxury items that cost the consumer more, but we support these efforts because we root for the little guy and love the brews that these efforts have produced. It's a pay-to-play pastime in which we shouldn't forget the guy behind the bar. After all, a rising tide lifts all ships. Frankly, tips should rise accordingly to encourage quality bartenders to enter into the craft beer field, as they are on the front lines of an increasingly competitive industry. Look at them as your craft beer ambassadors!

As far as the effort-to-tip ratio...don't try to stick it to the man by sticking it to your bartender. Bartenders get paid $4.65 per hour...they pay their rent based off of your tips. Quality beer bars should employ quality bartenders, and if you don't think the service being provided is worth an extra few bucks, then it's time to pick up your pen and write a letter to the owner. Bartenders should be able to tell you what's new on the beer list and a few details about each brew, but don't expect them to read you a novel about each new brew. It's tough to keep current on your info and keep up a well-run bar at the same time. I expect my bartender to always give a clean glass in roughly appropriate glassware. I expect him to know what is seasonal, as well as which stinky keg may have been sitting around for a while. I expect him to serve me as quickly as possible (keep in mind that he's probably multi-tasking, so be patient). I expect him to remember my drink of choice before he remembers my name, but either is a bonus to me.

The only reason I will ever tip a bartender poorly is if he is blatantly rude. I mean discourteous. Salty. Mean. He may be hurried, stressed, and short with me; these are all ok depending on how busy the bar is at the time. However, at the end of the day he's there to make my experience a pleasurable one and lack of basic manners will always be a barrier between my wallet and his. If you have an exchange that leaves you offended or angry, leave what you feel is a minimum and, once again, take it up with the owner.


So there you have it, 15-25% when you are out on the town.


12 of May, 1971
A day, like every day

Monday, May 11, 2009

Craft Beer Tipping

I'd like to get a discussion going on tipping. Mostly, I want to find out what is appropriate. (I'm going to ramble)

I'd think, most people tip a buck per beer, I find that to be reasonable. If you are paying cash on the spot for a beer, a tip of $1 for the beer is normally (to me) the correct amount. Most of the time, my beers are about $4 to $5 a beer, a $1 tip on that is between 20 and 25 percent, which is a pretty good tip.

What about the times when you order a beer that costs $15 or higher. Is tipping dollar still appropriate? (on $10 a 1 buck tip is 10%; on $20 a 1 buck tip is 5%)

Did my bartender do more to make my $15 beer better than he did to give me the $4 beer?

No, the bartender didn't (normally). The bar has charged me more for the beer, and I have to hope that the more that I pay, the better they are going to take care of the beer. But then, isn't that "they" the bartenders? The bar provides the space for the beer (hopefully a nice cool dark place) to store those more expensive beers before they make it into the cooler. On my $15 beer, some of that money has to be for correct storage of the beer, doesn't it?

What am I tipping the bartender for? Is it harder to open a more expensive bottle; and pour it into appropriate glassware? Does it take longer? (Oddly, a Guinness is less expensive than most beers that I drink, and it is more labor intensive to pour than what I'm getting, so shouldn't the Guinness be tipped on the most?)

The question comes down to this: Should a person tip 10-15% on a beer, or should a person tip a flat $1 per beer?

Will the same apply for hard liquor? Do most people tip $1 for a shot? What if a person is drinking $20 a shot whiskey? $1 is a bad tip on $20 (as we've already discussed). Did the bartender do more with the $20 shot than the $4 well shot?

What should the expectations of the server and the consumer be for higher priced goods (that are tipped upon)?

What are your thoughts on this?

I have done it both ways, looking at my tab, counting up the drinks and tipping a buck each; and tipping 10-15% on the total bill. What do you do?

If you are in the Industry, what do you prefer (or does it change based on the value of the drink)?

American Craft Beer Week.

It's American Craft Beer Week (consider yourself proclaimed).

In celebration, the Champaign Urbana Beer Club will be drinking alot, possibly more than normal (yeah, screw those bloomington bastards anyway!). There's an itinerary for the club. Please follow along.

Monday, May 11, Blind Pig.
Tuesday, May 12, Mike and Molly's
Wednesday, May 13, Crane Alley
Thursday, May 14, Seven Saints
Friday, May 15, Radio Maria
Sunday, May 17, Corkscrew (beer tasting)

There's also a Saturday thing going on, but that's a farewell to Dr. Andy :(.

It's American CRAFT beer week, not Crap beer week, so have something crafty, Bud American Ale, is not craft, it's faux-craft. Blue Moon... hmmm, that's a tricky one, I'll say, NOT craft; if there's nothing else, then it's as close to craft as you'll find.

Oh, and Monday is my 38th Birthday, so buy me a drink.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Great Taste Ticket Acquisition

I got my tickets. They are number 975 and 976. Whoo hoo.

The weekend started with Noah picking me up. We then drove up to Madison. We listened to an interview with Dan Carey of New Glarus, on the Brewing Network, on our way up. When we pulled into Madison, we went to the Grumpy Troll, in Mount Horeb. I had the bratwurst, Tom and Nancy (we met them there) split a sandwich, and I don't remember what Noah & 'em had. To drink I started with the Cask Brown Ale, which wasn't too bad, Tom didn't seem to like it alot pickign up some sourness. But the rest of us didn't mind. I followed that up with a Summer Moon, which was a dark wheat, that was pretty good.

We left Grumpy Troll and headed to the Mustard Museum. We started to watch the video inside, but grew impatient. They had a decent selection of mustards made with beer, including Sea Dog, Sierra Nevada, and others.

We left there, and checked into our hotel. Then as we left to go to downtown Madison, we rode the hotel shuttle with some guys in brewery shirts and hats, so I said "I know what you guys are here for..." We asked where they were from, and they said Bloomington. We clarified, Illinois? Yes. So we invited them to the next (and future) beer club events. We chatted some more, asked when they were going to go get in line, and some other small talk. Our first stop was going to be Maduro, but it didn't open until 6, and it was before 5 p.m. Instead we went a couple of doors down, to the Local Tavern (apparently no webpage). My first drink there was a draught, New Glarus Spotted Cow (when in Rome). Next was a Furthermore, 3 feet deep. This was a peaty, smokey stout/porter, that was pretty good. We watched the Kentucky Derby (presented by Yum!) and then headed down to Maduro.

Noah remembered last year, when Maduro had an (according to him) outstanding tap list, with some really rare and delicious beers. We walked in, looked at the board, then left, everything on tap was available in Champaign/Urbana (except for Stone IPA). So we went next door to, Argus. They had an ok selection. I went with the New Glarus Organic Revolution, which was slightly skunky, but not totally unpleasant. I had something else after, but don't remember.

We left there in search of the Bulls vs. Celtics game 7. We wound up at Great Dane. I started with their Texas Speedbump IPA (that seemed to be on cask), followed that up with the Tri-Pepper Pils (that was one of the best beers I had all weekend; somehow refreshing and spicy enough to make you want to drink water, all in one), after that was the Emerald Isle Stout, that was an Irish Stout that reminded me of Guinness. We left there when the Bulls lost and headed back to our hotel, it was only like 10:30, but we were tired, and were getting up early.

Woke up around 4, showered, got dressed, attempted to wake up... left around 5:15 to go get in line. We got there at 5:44, and to our surprise, the Bloomington contingent was already in line ahead of us. Tom and Nancy showed up a few minutes after us. We got there at 5:44, and were in about position 50-60 in the line. We went to Steve's Wine on University. Paddy showed up with Blau Augen some time later, and was back further in the line. With 400 tix at our location, and only 2 tix per person, he wasn't in danger of not getting his 2. Around when Paddy showed, Brian and his gal showed up as well. We all brought lawn chairs, and I borrowed Nancy's blanket. I proceeded to fall asleep, nicely bundled, for a couple of hours, which wasn't a problem, as the line didn't move until 11:30.

We met some nice people in line. (Paddy was going back and forth from his spot to ours), including Lucas, from Gimp Radio.

Around 9 (i think, not really sure, I was sleepy) a guy from MHTG came around to find out how many tix everyone would be getting, and to inform some unhappy people that they wouldn't get tickets. After he got to the end of the line, he came back around, and told us that the location had around 150 more ticktets than people there (room for 75 more people). I don't know if the other locations were sold out initially, but there were tickets left over and I saw a few people get back in at the end of the line. No one from our Champaign/Urbana group got back in line, as we had plenty of people throughout Madison. After we got through the line, we did some shopping in the store, I got a 4 pack of Ten Fidy, and also a 4 pack of Viking Hot Chocolate. Paddy got a 6 pack of Central Waters IPA, he also got a three floyds munsterfest, but I don't remember what it was. I rode back with Paddy. We stopped in Bloomington and got some Gondolas and a Ham and Cheese, at Avantis.

Got back into town around 4, then had a softball game.

Here's a news article on the tix day.

As for those who may have camped out over night and stood in long lines and not ended up with ticket? “That’s just part of managing this very popular event and there are only so many tickets available,” declares Rogers.
Um... how is that possible? We didn't camp out, or stand in too long a line, and we got there at 5:45. Once again, you see people who think they want to do something, but then don't really put out the effort to do it. With 150 tickets that remained at Steve's Wine on University, at around 10, there is no reason anyone should not have gotten tickets.

I'm not sure if the other locations were more full, but the 2 ticket per person, probably is what allowed more people (than before) to get tickets.

I'll see you at the festival, August 8. If anyone has a spare ticket, Kelly K (who commented on a previous post) is looking for tickets.

I didn't see any on Ebay yet. There might be some on Craigslist.