Friday, January 30, 2009

Dakota Inn: I revisit the Rathskeller after some forty years!

Sometime in the Sixties, I remember visiting this wonderful German restaurant in my old Detroit neighborhood, The Dakota Inn. What stood out most in my mind from that childhood visit, was the image of a roomful of people singing along to the words to old songs-German songs, as I remember-while they watched the words displayed by a slide projector on the wall. This was quite a long time before I ever heard the word, "karaoke"!

Well, I have long since moved out of the neighborhood and, in fact, most of the neighborhood has pretty much disappeared, having been destroyed by blight and crime and pretty much bulldozed into something resembling a farm field with sidewalks. But The Dakota Inn remains and I revisited the place last night with my wife and another couple. We had a wonderful time and look forward to going again (Karneval is every weekend in February!).

Check out the site for pics and history, as the visit is well worth it! We had dinner and a few good beers. We started with kartoffelpuffer, a kurtz stack and went on to have the following four entrees: Cheese Spaetzle (Kasespaetzle), Sauerbraten, Huhnerfleisch (chicken breast)and Rouladen. All was passable, authentic German fare. We all remarked that the food was generally more bland than we'd have liked but really quite good. The chicken breast was the only disappointment, being tough and somewhat dry.

The beer, however, was not the least bit disappointing. In fact it was sehr gut! We started with a 23 ounce draft Fraziskaner, Hefe-Weisse Dunkel which was dark, mysterious, delicious and a big beginning entry to the German bier fare we were about to experience. Next we tried the obvious, a Spaten Optimator, a slightly larger, more extreme German large lager(bottle). Finally, we ended the night with a big half liter of Aventinus Wheat Doppelbock (bottle), oh my! What a fine finish to a great evening!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Craft Beer Explosion and Beer News Dot Org

OK. I have to say that the Craft Beer Scene is so large, so varied, so prolific and so terrific that I am officially overwhelmed by it. It's not just the numbers of excellent craft brewers that make the task of following them so nearly impossible but the quality and the variety which makes the task so much more essential, yet so much less probable. And that just takes into account the brewers in this country. Lately brewers across the pond have really been stirring up the competition by producing increasingly interesting and inventive beers. Nogne, Norrebro Bryghus, Mikkeller and De Proef, are just a few recently brought to my attention. Enough! I can't keep up!

I have usually focused on the Michigan brewers, here, along with the usual scratchings about my personal homebrewing, but I try to occasionally keep any readers up on what has recently caught my attention in craft brewing. I will continue to do that but in no way can I promise a good gauge of what is available to the craft beer consumer anymore. It is simply too overwhelming. I will offer a great resource, though, to those who love craft beer and want to try to keep up. It is called Beer News and you can add it to your google reader or other RSS service so you can get frequent updates on what's new. For instance today Beer News tells us about the new releases of Bells Hopslam, Founders Double Trouble and Troegs Nugget Nectar. How's that for some good news!

For a more in-depth treat, visit their RSS Info page for even more options for those interesting in getting the inside dope on new craft beer info, blogs, or just new beers. Go to the Craft Beer Index for a listing (and link to) every beer that has been discussed on the Beer News site over the past several months (It's huge!).

So leave the depressing news services alone and keep up with some optimistic news for a change: Beer News! It's delicious!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Session Roundup!

The 23rd edition of The Session is finished. I would like to thank Stan Heironymus, Jay Brooks, and all the others who created and developed the concept of a Beer Blogging Friday, for allowing me to participate. It was fun and, during the course of the last month's activities, I've become aware of a tiny portion of the great number of really good beer blogs out there!

If you have a beer blog and you haven't hosted a Session, yet, you really should do so. It has been a great learning experience for me! If you want to find out about the breadth and depth of the beer blogging universe, this is a very good start!

Here is the roundup (in no particular order):

Ron, at HopTalk tells us what five things he won't miss about 2008. I have to agree with him on most of them, too!

Stan at Appellation Beer, gives us a list of things he will miss about 2008 (hint: sleeping in a parking lot is one of them!) and a smaller list of the things he hopes to see in the coming year.

Rob, at Sophisticated Brews, lists some of the things he eagerly awaits in 2009 (having posted a year-in-review a few days ago...). One of these is more cask ales...hooray for session beers!

David, at Musings Over a Pint, puts a local spin on the topic, listing what he will miss in the Virginia beer scene and what might adequately replace it...

The Beer Nut gives us some of his plans for the coming year and a very simple, but eminently sensible, answer to what he'll miss about 2008.

Mario, at Brewed for Thought, makes his case for the Zappa series from Lagunitas and has big hopes for Pliny the Younger.

Steph at Beer and Food Love gives an exciting and lengthy list of personal "firsts" in 2008 and hopes for even more of the same in 2009. Go homebrewers!

Mark, at Beercraft, offers a couple of beers he will miss and some ambitious plans for the coming year.

Shaun, at 21st Amendment, gives us a review of the past year's financial difficulties in the brewing biz and a celebration of a new trend he hopes to see continue in the coming year: Collaboration Brews (Way to go, Melissa Myers!).

Jimmy, at Hopwild, says he doesn't miss much about 2008, but is looking forward to a better 2009. I'll second that!

Lew Bryson, at Seen Through a Glass, will miss a few very specific things from 2008 and has guarded hope for the new year.

Brewmaster Matt, from A World of Brews, thinks 2008 was pretty darn good and plans for more beery good times in the coming year!

Tom, from Yours for Good Fermentables, has a few regrets about 2008 and some great expectations for 2009!

Keith, at Brainard Brewing, tells us what he missed in 2008 and that he plans on rectifying that in 2009!

Joe, at The Thirsty Pilgrim, cries us a river over his missed Belgian beer opportunities and has a very special arrival to look forward to in 09!

Jon, at The Brew Site, says he misses one specific beer (a really good one!) and looks forward to "more Beer" in 2009.

couchand, at I'll Have a Beer, has some thoughts on the hop crisis and some sour predictions for 2009.

Thomas, at Geistbear Brewing Blog, misses some old haunts but looks forward to new ones, too.

Rob, at Pfiff!, examines the brewing extremes and, perhaps, the not so extreme in the coming year?

Jay, from Brookston Beer Bulletin, describes the past year as a "miserly little year that took more than it gave" (well-said!) and waxes philosophical in his offering.

Peter, from Better Beer Blog, compares last year to a trip to the Magic Kingdom and "hopes" for more and better next year.

Beckel, at Legal Beer, will miss growlers at Surly's and is looking forward to a special collaboration beer with a twist!

Brad, at La Petite Brasserie, identifies his travels and the great real ales he discovered as the thing he'll miss most from '08, and brewing more of those great English Milds in the coming year is what he's excited about. I'm down with that!

Next month's Session will be hosted at Musing Over a Pint, by Dave Turley. Look for a topic to be announced soon, there.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Old and New

This post is my effort toward the global beer blogging community's collective Friday Session, hosted by yours truly this month. I picked this unwieldy subject and will endeavor to make something of sense out of it (no small task).

What will I miss from 2008 and what will I excitedly await in 2009?

I will miss many things, not the least of which is the time that's passed (as I get older, I treasure that so very much more!). I miss the time that passed during which I failed to brew as much as I wanted and so failed to improve on my brewing skills with the effort. As trite as it sounds, it is missed opportunities that I most regret. I missed the chance to brew the stepped set of increasingly alcoholic, increasingly dark lagers that I had planned on building this Winter. I had wanted to brew three or four lagers, starting with a light colored, light lager and finishing with a Doppelbock, with a couple of others in between. Didn't get it done (yet). I miss the fact that there were opportunities to improve my homebrewing club, The Lapeer Area Brewers, that were not acted upon.

In this year that has shown the world the tenuous nature of the economic situation that we all held as so sound, not so many months ago, I feel particularly sorry that the United States has lost its last remaining big brewer. There is no longer an American beer in the big three (B-M-C). Inbev has purchased the Anheuser-Busch (now ABInBev)powerhouse and changed the landscape of corporate beer in the world forever. A-B has been the top brewer in the States since the year I was born (1957). That's a long time! Sure they make corporate swill but it was our corporate swill! Let's not forget the good things that A-B did for beer and brewing here in the US and in the world, either. Many hop varieties owe their existence to A-B, since the demand for newer and better hops came directly from the bigger brewers and was answered by the world's hop growers. Never mind the fact that you could never taste the Cascade, Willamette, Liberty, Mt. Hood and Sterling hops in their beer, all of these hop varieties came about due to Anheuser-Busch-sponsored research (to be fair, all of the big brewers sponsor such research). Since all of these hops were developed here, in the US, the entire brewing world that uses them (yes, most of our hops are exported), should also be thankful for A-B!

I guess I should say here that A-B is not gone, but merely changed into a more "global" entity. That in itself is sad, as we-so near Detroit-see much of our manufacturing base outsourced and our automobile industry slide into possible receivership. It is a false sadness, though. This is more of the creative destruction that the market and the global economy indulges in to make things better for all of us. I will celebrate it as a change and not as something bad. This is the year of change, no?

As for something I will be excited about in 2009, I can say that it is that change that I most embrace. Change in the sense that all of the good in the world that happens is an improvement upon what has gone before. I see the world of Craft Beer as improving on a daily basis. New brewers and breweries are popping up every day, even in a world that is experiencing a great deal of financial hardship. More importantly the brewers and breweries are making better and better beer!

I visit as many breweries, brewpubs and beer festivals as I can and I am always surprised at the ingenuity, inventiveness and excellence-in-craft that I find. I am excited about the local brewers that interest me, such as Doug Beedy at Fort Street Brewery and Joe Short at Short's Brewery, to name a couple. I see them creatively stretching the boundaries of the Michigan beer world, in their efforts. I anxiously await the next delicious offerings from all of our great craft brewers as well as the craft brewers around the world. I can't wait to be surprised at the ingredient combinations and unusual results these artisans produce and I can't wait to take their inspirations and work my own magic with them in my basement brewery.

In the coming year, I want to experience more of the world's beers. I have been reading about beers from Czechoslovakia that make me drool (thanks to Velky Al and others) and angry that I can't find most of them, here in Michigan. I have gained a greater appreciation for British beers and can't wait to further educate my palate in that country's offerings. German beer also awaits a further exploration in the coming year, as I have sadly neglected this font of beer knowledge. So many countries, so many beers, so little time! There's that time theme, again!

I want to see my homebrewing club expand and gain new members. This past year we saw an influx of new members that has truly enriched our club and our members! New members bring with them new beers, new methods, new equipment and ideas and new friendships! I hope to see more and more of that.

I wish for all my readers and friends that the coming year is a better one for them, that the changes that occur make their lives richer with new experiences and better circumstances and that their lives are further enriched by the beers they drink and the company they keep. Beer is a wonderful drink and a great social lubricant, but it is the people we meet, talk with, drink with and befriend that make us richer. I wish for all of you that your circle of friends grows along with your beer drinking experience!