Thursday, July 31

Short Pours - 7/31/14

Festival Season Round Two

KC Beer Fest Scheduled for Sept. 27
Now that we've all had a little bit of a breather since the Spring festival season, it's time to start prepping your livers and kidneys for the next round. The Great American Beer Fest, possibly the best beer festival on the planet (except Oktoberfest, of course), is right around the corner. Tickets went on sale yesterday...and were sold out in 10 minutes. (Want some Boulevardia deja vu? Just go to the GABF Facebook page and check out the comments about ticketing!)

But, wait! There's another chance! Oskar Blues is holding a sweepstakes to win two-day tickets to GABF, round trip airfare, lodging, and a bunch of other stuff for you and a guest. You should all probably refrain from entering to boost my odds, though.

Of course we've got some great festivals coming up a little closer to home too. The UNICO Microbrew Festival at Zona Rosa is on August 16th and KC Beer Fest at Power & Light for September 27th. Both have tickets on sale now, $25 for UNICO and $35 for KC Beer Fest (or $60 for VIP). Both fests still need volunteers as well. Click here for instructions on volunteering for UNICO, and here to email KC Beer Fest your info.

UNICO has announced about a third of the breweries attending so far, but KC Beer Fest is yet to announce who will be attending. I've got a list of the breweries that UNICO has announced so far at the bottom of this post.

Martin City Brewing Co Around Town

Martin City Brewing Co announced on twitter that they're sending out their first batches of beer to area bars. I, for one, am super excited about this because I never find myself in Martin City, well, ever. I imagine there's a few others out there like me that would like to be able to drink their beers more regularly without having to drive 30 minutes. On a related note, KC Bier Co is pretty much everywhere in town now if you hadn't noticed. Hopefully we can convince Big Rip and Cinder Block to start distributing too...

Seriously. Go buy some Defiance now. 

Defiance Makes it to KC

Defiance Brewing Co has officially landed in KC (Kansas side only). If you haven't heard of them, they're the new brewery out in Hays, KS. The brewery was founded by a couple former Liquid Bread brewers, which should give you an indication of how awesome Defiance beers are going to be. I was super impressed when I had their beer at the Big Rip festival and have been eagerly awaiting their arrival ever since.

They've got two beers out now--Gutch and Thrasher. Gutch is an English mild, and Thrasher a session IPA (aka pale ale). Both are solid session beers, but I think the Gutch is one of the best milds I've ever had. It's probably going to become my new go-to beer this fall. They should be pretty widely available, so if you haven't had a chance to try them you should pick some up when you can't find any of the Deschutes releases below.

Deschutes Special Releases

Deschutes Black Butte XXVI and Conflux No.3 are out now in KC. The Black Butte XXVI is their regular Black Butte Porter (already awesome) spiced with cocoa nibs, pomegranate molasses (what??), and cranberries, then aged for 6 months in bourbon barrels (dial the awesome up to 11).

Conflux #3 is a Collaboration with Distelhauser Brewery from Germany. They're calling it a doppel weissbock and it's made with spelt. I'm assuming it will taste a lot like the Schneider Aventinus, which would be awesome. Apparently it also pairs well with "Moroccan Spiced Scallops with Lentils" according to the Deschutes pairing advice. Sure!

Black Butte XXVI should be relatively easy to find around town, but you'll have to get lucky to find some of the Conflux #3.

UNICO Microbrew Festival Lineup as of 7/31:

Ameristar Brew Pub
Bip Rip
Boulevard Brewing Co.
Broadway Brewery
Cinder Block Brewery
Dark Horse Distillery
Empyrean Brewing Co. 
Exit Six Brewery
Flying Monkey
Free State
Goose Island
Granite City
High Noon Saloon
KC Bier Co. 
Kona Brewing
Missouri Mashers (Homebrew club)
Mother's Brewing Company
Summit Brewing
Tallgrass Brewing Company
Weston Brewing Company

Friday, July 25

KC Homebrewing Happenings

There are a ton of homebrewing events coming up the next two months. Everyone should be brewing to participate in at least one of them. Its an exciting time to be a homebrewer in Kansas City.

MoM Hot Summer Brew Off Competition is coming up . The Missouri Mashers are putting on their first homebrew competition that will feature all American Categories. Entries are due August 8 with the results being announced at the UNICO Microbrew Festival at Zona Rosa. Best of Show winner will be receiving an awesome stainless steel conical from Competition is part of the Kansas City Homebrewer of the Year Award. The Festival is August 16 and will feature several homebrew clubs serving beer including KC Nanobrews, Missouri Mashers, and Kansas City Bier Meisters.
The Great Nebraska Beer Festival August 23 will feature several homebrew clubs from around the Midwest including Kansas City Bier Meisters and Lawrence Brewers Guild. I'm sure the homebrew clubs will be pulling out all the stops for this awesome beer festival. Some pretty awesome commercial breweries will be there too if that is your thing.

Grain to Glass Annual Homebrew competition - Picnique Belgique is happening again, entries are due August 16. This competition will feature all Belgian Categories. Jennifer has a special Awards Dinner scheduled for September 5th with Special guest speakers Stan Heironymous, (Author of Brew Like a Monk) and Florian Kuplent (Brewer of Urban Chestnut). Competition is part of the Kansas City Homebrewer of the Year Award.
Barley and Hops Hoopla / 2nd Annual Mid-MO Home Brew Festival is happening September 6 in Columbia, Missouri at Logboat Brewing Co. I just recently discovered this event. This event will feature a BJCP competition with Best of Show beer getting brewed up by Logboat Brewing for GABF. Then on September 6 will be a beer festival featuring homebrewers. I'm looking forward to checking this festival out and meeting some new homebrewers.

Brew Lab and the Johnson County Brewing Society is hosting the 2014 Highs Plains Brewhoff. The Brewhoff will be a local beer festival featuring mostly homebrewers in downtown Overland Park. To get the thumbs up from the Kansas ABC this event is FREE for the first 500 people. You must receive an invite to attend. Event is September 20. To get an invite go to the website and request one.

Kansas City's first Homebrew shop and one of the oldest in the country is turning 30 years old. To celebrate they are hosting a 30 Year Throw-Back Homebrew Competition. The rules are simple brew a beer from only ingredients that were available 30 years ago. Competition is free to enter. Entries are due September 20. You can read up on what ingredients were available 30 years ago in their monthly newsletter.

Apex Brew Wares is not doing a full blown competition again this year with LS Oktoberfest. Instead they are inviting 30 homebrewers to pour beer at the LS Oktoberfest and let the public decide who has the best beer. LS Oktoberfest homebrew tent will be available on Sepetember 27

The 2nd Annual Burgfest homebrew competition is happening September 27. The competition will feature all BJCP categories except for meads and ciders. The homebrew competition is part of the larger Burgfest that happens in downtown Warrensburg, MO Sepetember 26-28

Which one are you looking forward too? Get Brewing!!!

Follow @SchumacherDavid on Twitter

Wednesday, July 23

Synek - Future of Take-Home Beer?

There's a Kickstarter out there ending tomorrow that that could turn out to be a pretty awesome new product. The Synek draft system is a self-contained counter-top draft beer system created by a new start-up in St. Louis. It's basically a miniature keg system that you fill like a growler and has a design that would fit in any kitchen. The Synek creators bill it as the Keurig for beer, and see it as a revolution in beer packaging. But at $350 a pop, and with one big design flaw, it will have to be pretty amazing to catch on.

Here's a rundown on how it works. Once you've got your Synek dispenser, you buy a 128 oz. vacuum sealed and sterilized single-use pouch made specifically for the system. You fill the pouch out of a regular keg tap with the help of a cheap adapter. Pop the filled pouch into the dispenser, and, Bam!, beer on tap in your kitchen. CO2 is pumped directly into the beer pouch just like a keg. The pouches are opaque, insulated, have a special oxygen scrubbing lining, and can be pressurized up to 30 psi.

I really do think that the Synek system would be the best way to get fresh, quality brewpub/taproom beer at home. We all love to hate growlers, and they're all we've got. That being said, it's still a pretty big stretch to justify $350 to get the high quality growler beer at home. At that price, it's essentially a really awesome craft beer toy.

My one big qualm with this product are the single-serving pouches. Synek claims that they can be recycled, but I'm taking them to task on that. They say that the beer pouch is made of "2+ ply – LLDPE / Metalized Polyester." They also mention that an O2 extracting nylon material will be utilized. All three of these materials are accepted only by specialty recyclers (none in this area). Further, since the pouches are made with an assortment of materials that can't be separated, they will probably be impossible to recycle by anyone. Unless I'm completely wrong about this (which I hope I am), then not only is it a problem with the product, but it also means the inventors are being deceptive in their marketing.

The creators have some pretty lofty ideas about how this product is going to revolutionize beer packaging. It's going to be an uphill battle for them though. No craft brewery will want to associate themselves with boxed wine (at least in the near term--obviously canned craft beer caught on after some struggle). But more importantly, no brewery would expect their consumer to buy a $350 appliance to be able to drink their beer. At best it will grow into a niche market. However, if it were widely accepted, it would be a great way for nano-breweries to jump to the retail market without a $100k investment in a bottling line.

There's definitely some promise in the product, and nearly 2000 people have already pre-ordered a unit via Kickstarter. They killed their initial goal of $150k and right now sitting at nearly $700k raised. The Kickstarter ends tomorrow at 10am, and the first units should ship next Spring. I would probably sign up myself if I had $300 burning a hole in my pocket.

What do you think? Revolutionary beer packaging, or overpriced craft beer toy? 

Tuesday, July 15

Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Coming to Town

If you haven't yet heard of the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across America release, you're about to have your mind blow. Sierra Nevada did a collaboration with 12 other US breweries and made a mixed 12-pack out of the results. The list of breweries they teamed up with is nothing short of amazing and the brews sound fantastic. (Of course, how could you expect anything less from those that invented American Pale Ale?) Here are the beers included in the case:

3 Floyds - Chico King - Pale Ale
Allagash - Myron's Walk - Belgian Style Pale Ale
Asheville Brewers Alliance - Tater Ridge - Scottish Ale w/ Sweet Potatoes
Ballast Point - Electric Ray - India Pale Lager
Cigar City - Yonder Bock - Tropical Maibock
Bell's - Maillard's Odyssey - Imperial Dark Ale
Firestone Walker - Torpedo Pilsner - Hoppy Pilsner
New Glarus - There and Back - English-Style Bitter
Ninkasi - Double Latte Coffee Milk Stout
Oskar Blues - CANfusion - Rye Bock
Russian River - Yvan the Great - Belgian Blonde
Victory Brewing - Alt Route - Altbier

The 12-packs hit the shelves in KS yesterday but are super limited. I'm unclear about what's happening on the Missouri side so far. I believe the cases were supposed to be delivered yesterday as well, but I haven't heard anything about them actually being out yet. (See the update below.)

However, you can guarantee yourself a taste tomorrow at Barley's on Midland! They're rolling out all the beers in 3 flights through the night. Flying Saucer will also be hosting an event next Monday, July 21st with all 12 of the beers on tap.

If we hear anything else about the 12-packs in retail on the MO side, we'll let you know! Happy beer hunting!

UPDATE: North KC Beverage has confirmed that the 12-packs will be hitting liquor store shelves starting Wednesday on the Missouri side. It sounds like all the cases shipped out in KS are already gone. Good luck!

Monday, July 14

On A Stick!

Recommended Daily is putting together an awesome event in August where all food samples come, obviously, on a stick. While the food line up is serious on it's own, with some of my favorites like Preservation Market and Little Freshie, they're also making a huge showing in the beverage front. Both Cinder Block and Crane Brewing will be on hand to pour some nice summer beers. If you haven't tried any Crane beers yet, you should correct that, and you should probably have a corn dog at the same time.

Tickets are $25 and can be purchased - here. You can find more details over on the Recommended Daily blog or on the facebook event page - here.

Friday, July 11

Family Friendly Drinking

(Image: Brookside Mothers' Assoc.)
I just stumbled across a nice blog post by Sara Murray on the Brookside Mothers' Association blog about going out to beer joints with the family. Seeing how everyone I know seems to be popping out kids these days, it's a very relevant topic. Sara went out with her husband and two kiddos to Bier Station, KC Bier Co, and 75th Street Brewery. 

Their conclusion after a day of tippling? All the spots were very welcoming and accommodating to the little ones. I know this is pretty shocking to all of the neo-prohibitionists out there. As it turns out, bars (and in particular craft beer bars) are not pits of sin that we must shelter our children from. I'm really happy that they had a good time and found welcoming neighborhood bars in the scene, especially as people not already enamored by the craft beer world. It's a trend that I've definitely been noticing more and more these days and hope continues.

I've always ascribed to German drinking culture and really love the concept of the biergarten. In Germany biergartens are basically privately owned parks where families and friends can gather for a quiet Sunday afternoon while enjoying some beer. Nearly every time I've visited a biergarten in Germany there have been kids running around with their parents and grandparents looking on over a Maß of beer. It's even customary to allow the patrons to bring their own picnic to eat as long as they buy a beer from the biergarten. You can make it a real family outing, even with toddlers in tow. I'm thrilled that KC Bier Co followed the German model and set up a real German biergarten for KC.

We could take a lesson from the Germans. Their culture of open and moderate drinking leads to healthier and more responsible drinking habits for everyone. The kids don't grow up thinking that binge drinking in secret is the only way to consume alcohol. Not surprisingly, Germans drink 36% more alcohol than Americans per capita, but have an 18% lower rate of alcoholism.

The Biergarten at KC Bier Co

Wednesday, July 9

Pretty Good for a Lager

It seems that many breweries bring out their lagers for their summer seasonal, which makes sense, seeing that they are usually clean and refreshing as well as typically being lower in the ABV than their average ale counterpart. This increase in number of available lagers usually leaks it's way into craft beer drinking households, and often into the fridges of people that don't particularly appreciate them. Leading then into a flood of social media drinking that has well thought out criticisms such as "pretty good for a lager" and "this is okay."

I will say this, if you would have asked me about lagers a couple years ago - I would have told you that they're boring and I don't care for them. The word "pilsner" just made me think of the macro guys, and how much I didn't care for their beer. I was certainly a contributor to the stigma, and for that, I am sorry. I was uninformed and unfamiliar.  But, I've come around recently. And if you're a lager-hater, I hope we can get you to come around too.

Lagers are much more difficult to brew when you compare them to an ale, so you can really tell the chops of a brewery via the quality of their lagers. And not only that, but their dang tasty. I'm at the point now, in the middle of summer I would much prefer sitting outside drinking a lager than crushing a mouth bruising IPA. Both have their place, but for those lake days and tailgates - I want a lager.

With that in mind, I've put together a list of some of my favorite lagers you can pick up on KC shelves right now. Maybe you'll considering picking a few up to enjoy the next day you're drinking in 90+ degree heat. This list is by no means exhaustive, this is just what I find myself drinking in the summer. Let us know in the comments what lagers you find yourself drinking lately.

Boulevard - KC Pils

We'll go ahead and get this one on the list, since we all know it. I've commonly heard the complaint of "it's not hoppy enough" - but I disagree - I think it's a well balance beer that lets the bitterness of the floral hops shine along the sweet grain tones in the glass.

Sierra Nevada - Summerfest

This beer right here. It's a favorite of mine. If I need to go to a party and bring beer with me for everyone, this Czech Pilsner is an easy pick. Everyone always likes the smooth profile with the spicy hop flavoring coming from the Saaz hops it finishes with. I will make one note here though - I've had bad Summerfest's - and it's always been because of sitting too long on the shelf and light damage. While any beer is prone to this, Summerfest seems more sensitive. I'd recommend if you grab this beer, try to find cans of it in your store's cooler.

Firestone Walker - Pivo Hoppy Pils

If you're one of those people who finds themselves in the KC Pils isn't hoppy enough crowd, here's your beer. I love this beer as well. It's has a biscuity malt character that is super clean, and the nose from the Saphir hops blends floral and citrus flavors together that's backed by a nice hop bitterness.

KC Bier Co - Helles

I'm cheating a bit here by putting this on the list, because you can't get KC Bier Co on shelves yet. But you can stop by the brewery and grab a growler of this Helles. It has a fantastic medium body that remains easy to drink by being well balanced with noble hops. I'm a big fan of having fresh lagers available in our town.

Pilsner Urquell

This is a classic right here, something I think every "craft beer drinker" needs to have tried it even though it is a SABMiller product. Pilsner Urquell very well might have been the beer that brought me around to lagers. I had it in Prague last year, where it was freshly off a cask that had been delivered from the brewery the same day to the restaurant where we were eating. It was being served unfiltered and unpasteurized, unlike it's imported version. It was dreamy. Again, this a beer that needs a disclaimer - I hate that they ship it in green glass, as it is highly prone to skunking, so be careful about where you buy this beer.

Schlafly - Summer Lager

Another great Helles - cereal malt tones with lemon and grassy hop notes. This is a part of Schlafly can series, and as you've discovered, I'm a big fan of that. This one is another that is super easy to pick up and take to a party - everyone seems to enjoy this easy drinker.

Ayinger - Jahrhundert

I'm an Ayinger man. Everything they touch is gold. Their weizenbock was one of the first beers that knocked me off my feet, and their Marzen is one of my favorites - so it's easy to assume that I'll be drinking something from them in the summer time. And so, another style makes it to the list - the Dortmunder. I've always like them as they stand out with a character  that is a little more "extreme" than the rest. It's dry and balanced with nice medium body that carries a honey quality.

Urban Chestnut - Zwickel

There aren't enough Zwickel/Kellerbiers in this world - so I was thrilled when I found that Urban Chestnut makes one. I know for a while you could get UC beers at Bier Station, but soon I suspect they will make their way around the rest of the KC market. If you haven't had their Zwickel, keep an eye out for it. It's an unpasteurized and unfiltered full bodied masterpiece.