It is nearly 5 years since we bought our very own alcohol retail outlet. It is just about exactly 3 years to the day since we first mashed in at our little brewery. It is also 2 years, and nearly 7 months since the owner of the little "Anglo-American" brewpub I am currently sitting in came to my hostelry and made up his mind to set up brewing "Craft Ale".
I have always found the flavour and enjoyment of stronger ales to be more satisfying. Sure, you can't "neck" them quite so quickly, but watery ale is just not my thing. In the UK, for many years 3.5 - 4.0% seems to be the acceptable strength for "session ale". Any strength above this falls out of the classification of session ale.
During past 5 years the number of times I have had a 4.1% beer on the bar and a customer has said they can't possibly drink anything over 4% staggers me. How can 0.1% ABV make that much difference? There are many 5% beers around that are fantastic examples of ales, but customers very often turn their noses up at them. If the reader is any good at maths, (or just the singular math, as they say here) there will be a realisation that 4 pints of 5% ale is exactly the same as 5 pints of 4% ale.
I'm sitting here in this little pub in the sleepy and snowy town of Oakridge in Oregon drinking, early afternoon, a 6.2% ale called Tanninbomb. A malty, not overhopped ale that has been aged with oak chippings in the cask. It's warming in this unusually cold weather and drunk carefully with responsibility it is causing me no adverse effects.
Equally interesting to me is the fact that I am drinking the pint in the manner that the Brewers Union Local 180 intends, dispensed through a sparkler. The sparkler, of course adding to the enjoyent. Indeed, the widespread disbelief that any citizen of the USA understands the traditions of northern English beer customs can hereby be completely dispelled. Ted really is serving true cask conditioned ale, no artificially introduced gas whatsoever, through handpulls and with a very interesting back bar visible cellar.
There is a tradition of brewing ale in the west coast USA with strengths 6% and up. 8% is not unusual and over 12% being frequently found. When I was in Belgium recently the best ales were in the order of 6-8% and above. Why then are we quite so bothered about ABV in the UK? I believe this is part of a blinkered mindset that is inhibiting the movement of the UK beer industry into much more interesting territory.
A very interesting time is being had here. The beer is great, if just a tad too hoppy even for me on occasions. I can't say that most of the food here is even OK in the bulk. The strong bias of fast food is apparent even in the places that state they are restaurants. Cooked vegetables don't seem to be an option and salad is widespread even in the depths of winter. But, visiting the Trail Head Coffee shop did find me consuming a El Bacondilla de Teodoro, Dedicated to Ted it would have to been rude to not try it, as it's his birthday. Very simply it's flour tortillas with cheese and bacon between, heated on a griddle, served with sour cream and salsa: it was scrummy. The Mexican biased food has always been the best in my 3 trips over here. Needless to say, The Brewers Union has good food with a significant proportion being fully prepared on the property, including the bread. The Etouffee that Nick made was good. Oh, and as Ted points out, Nicks Lasagna was great too.