Smooth Musings with Keith Stone

This video from Keystone is pretty funny. Basically – think twice before using Man Bags!


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Guinness Brews Up New Believers in NYC

Guinness gave a simulated tour of its famed St. James’ Gate Brewery at the Altman Building in New York City last night. Though the actual brewery is, of course, in Dublin, the Guinness folks provided a virtual tour via video screens, and talked the audience through a brief history of the company. Founded in 1759 by Arthur Guinness, who signed a 9,000 year lease at St. James’ Gate, Guinness is now watched over by master brewer Fergal Murray, who is in charge of making sure the dark, creamy beer maintains its consistent texture and flavor. One of the most interesting things I learned was that the famed harp logo associated with Guinness also happens to be the logo of the Irish government. If the harp is facing right, it’s Guinness; if left, it’s the government.

According to the official slogan, it takes exactly 119.5 seconds to pour a perfect pint of Guinness; that half a second is allegedly the difference between a good pint and a perfect one. After being given a perfect (and, more importantly, free) pint upon entering the event, an announcement was made that “our show will begin in 119.5 seconds,” at which point a countdown began. Charismatic comedian Dan Soder then appeared onstage to give us some background on the classic Guinness draught we had just imbibed, which is nitrogenated, a process that sets it apart from other beers and gives it that unique, smooth texture. He also gave us some helpful hints on how to mix Guinness with other beers made by the same company, such as Harp Lager and Smithwick’s Ale: Guinness mixed with Smithwick’s is a “blacksmith,” while Guinness mixed with Harp is a “half and half.”

We then proceeded to try mini-pints of a few special brews developed by Guinness. First up was the Foreign Extra Stout, a tasty brew with slightly more bite to it than the classic Guinness and also a bit more sweetness, giving it a flavor similar to very dark chocolate. The Foreign Extra Stout contains more hops and more alcohol (7.5% ABV) than any other Guinness brew, because it was originally developed to be shipped long distances overseas, and alcohol and hops both act as preservatives. The last beer we sampled was Guinness Black Lager, which was my personal favorite of the three. It is cold brewed with roasted barley, giving it a crisp, clean taste that is lighter and more refreshing than the standard thick, creamy finish of the brew for which Guinness is best known. Though not as strong as the Foreign Extra Stout, it is definitely a better summer beer, and one that I will likely sample again in the coming months.


8 Redheads for St. Patrick’s Day

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, so hopefully your day will be filled with beer, delicious Irish food and some lovely ladies with beautiful red hair. To get you in the mood, we’ve put together a quick slideshow of Bullz-Eye redheads.

The first photo has our favorite Irish redhead Amanda Neal getting in the St. Patrick’s Day spirit. We shot her in 2010 to celebrate the holiday, so check out the gallery and see her all decked out in green. Next we have the stunning Lisa in a tank top, and the beautiful Dasha who we discovered in the Ukraine. She might not be Irish, but she would definitely look great in green.

Next we have Wrenna Monet and then Taylor Byrd who we discovered at the Ultimate Fantasy Sports Weekend last year in Palm Springs. #6 Kasie perfected her red locks at the salon, while #7 Kira shows off her natural red hair in a SoCal shoot. We then round out the set with the beautiful Nichole, who is sporting bright blue instead of the traditional green for the season.

Enjoy the slideshow, and be safe as you celebrate this amazing holiday!


Beer 101: Pouring and Appreciation


Part 4 – Pouring and Appreciation

I struggled for a long time to find an appropriate title for this post, and while I think I ultimately failed, this is about the most accurate I could muster. One of the problems with writing about, thinking about, and enjoying craft beer is that you’ll inevitably cross the threshold of quirky geek knowledge into douchey snob intellectualism in the eyes of your peers. To say that people need lessons on pouring and appreciating their beer plants me firmly in the latter camp, but I hope I can explain away a bit of the sour taste you no doubt have after reading my title.

Pouring and appreciating beer is nothing more than the kinetic evolution of a beer drinker’s potential energy. As you learn more about beer and the brewing process, you will, at some point, understand how varied and interesting beer can be. It seems simple, then, that not all beers can be tasted and assessed the same way. You wouldn’t take a Prius to the racetrack to test its quarter-mile, just like you wouldn’t complain that the Bugatti Veyron doesn’t get great gas mileage. Those are hyperbolic examples, but they make my point. That said, I apologize if any of this sounds patronizing, because parts of it likely will. If you’re wondering why I even write things like “hold the bottle at the shoulder,” then you’ve never seen a truly novice drinker attempt to open a bottle-fermented beer. It’s not pretty, and you can bet at least 50 percent of the room will become a beer-soaked casualty of shaky hands.

The Pour
The pour starts by opening the bottle (shocking!). Grip it firmly at the shoulder – the rounded part near the neck – and pop the top. This isn’t a big deal for most beers, but when you start to explore some high gravity, bottle-fermented ales, you’ll see just how temperamental a beer can be. Tilt the nose of the bottle into the center of the glass, forming a small head before angling the glass toward your bottle and pouring into the beer, close to the side of the glass. When possible, it’s best to avoid pouring the beer down the side of the glass. You want a bit of head, and most beers allow you to pour fairly vigorously before they overflow. Again, every beer is different, so some will require a more careful pour than others. The more your pour into the center of your glass, the more head you’ll encourage. If the head starts to get out of control, pour slowly toward the side of your glass until it balances out.

The purpose of a good pour is to activate the carbonation in your beer and produce a solid head. This will give you a nice bouquet, which is the aroma generated by your beer. As the bubbles in the head pop, they’ll release the unique scent that the combination of malt, hops, and yeast produce in your brew.

Some beers are best served in a glass that augments the natural qualities of the beer. Perhaps the most common example is Duvel, but you’ve probably seen special glassware for beers like Stella Artois, Leffe, and Sam Adams Boston Lager, too. The glassware certainly isn’t necessary to enjoy the beer, it can enhance the tasting experience. In the case of Duvel, the large bowl and fluted neck allow the beer to have large surface area and sustain a 3-inch head, even as you tilt the glass to your lips. The Stella glass aims the beer at the appropriate area of your tongue to enhance the crisp hop flavor. For those specialty beers, check with the brewery for pouring instructions. A-B InBev has instructions for pouring its specialty brews in the iLoveBeer iPhone app (iTunes Link).

This is the simple part of enjoying a beer – you drink it! As far as tasting goes, there are very few rules. Whether you’re pairing it with food or just sampling some new stuff in front of a fire, tasting beer is always easy. Taste is subjective, so you can never really be wrong about what sticks out in your beer. Not everyone will agree with you, but if you taste hot garbage, well, so be it. I’ve always described Cantillon’s Iris lambic as having a distinct gym sock finish, but Fuller’s London Porter tastes like burnt caramel. Your descriptions will run the gamut, and if you keep a little tasting notebook, you’ll start to see trends in your own taste and be able to choose new beers accordingly.

There are a couple things to think on when tasting. First, you’ll stick your nose in the glass to get a whiff of the bouquet. Again, keep your descriptions simple. It doesn’t have to smell like fresh holly on the fourth day of winter. Pine trees, frost, vomit, biscuits – these are all perfectly acceptable nouns to describe the aroma your beer produces. Next, your tongue essentially tastes sweet, sour, salty, and bitter, so there’s no need to get crazy. The sweetness of a beer comes from residual sugar in the malt, while bitterness comes from the hop. The other flavors will be present in different beers for different reasons. Sometimes it’s the yeast strain, sometimes the length of fermentation. Focus on the taste to start and worry about the reason later. Lastly, think about the mouthfeel and body of the beer. Is it too foamy as you drink it? Do you feel like you’ll fall through the floor after half a glass? These things affect the quality of a beer as much as taste, and you’ll start to develop a preference for different qualities.

The most important part of tasting, though, is that you drink beer and enjoy it. Invite some friends over for a tasting party. Hit your local brewpub for a tour. Head down to your local beer store and grab something you’ve never seen before, and check back here next week to read about pairing beer with food. If you’ve missed one of our Beer 101 series, you can find them on this blog by checking out the Beer 101 tag. Also, don’t forget to visit the beer section of the Bullz-Eye mainsite. Cheers!


Beer 101: Beer Styles


Part 3 – Beer Styles

When I set out to write this section of our Beer 101 series, I knew I was in for some work. There are nearly infinite styles of beer, and as the popularity of craft brewing has grown, we’ve seen a resurgence of near dead styles, the creation of new styles, and the advent of ‘imperial’ beer. That said, I want to give an overview of some of the most common styles and highlight a few of the more exotic beers so you can understand the scope of variety among beer styles.

Lager – This is the style we learned in high school, courtesy of the big American breweries and the most popular style of beer in the world. While some would call beer like Budweiser a pilsner, a pilsner is typically defined by a slight hoppy bitterness that cuts a portion of the malt character typical to lager-style beer. The distinction is very slight – after all, pilsner is a type of lager. The cold fermentation process used to create lager beer yields a nice, crisp flavor with a slight aftertaste.

Ale – This is going to be a more substantial subheading than lager because there are so many varieties of ‘ales’ in the world. Ale is widely defined as a malted barley beer, brewed with top-fermenting, fast-acting yeast that yields a sweet and fruity character, a bright, floral aroma and full-bodied mouthfeel. There are virtually endless varieties of ale, so we’ll only discuss a few.

Pale Ale – This is the beer known as a ‘bitter’ or ‘English bitter.’ It’s brewed with pale barley malt, typically a low- to mid-gravity brew with a highly complex finish. The flavor in pale ale is often heavily defined by the malt, and the best pale ales use the very best English or European malts. American malts are fine for lighter lager beers that are less about flavor and more about mouthfeel, but if you want some real character, you need better malt. Pale ales also have a bright aroma, thanks to the low-alpha hops added at the end of the brewing process. Low-alpha hops can be added in large quantities to impart some flavor on the beer without adding too much bitterness to your brew. I realize almost everything I’ve said here has been contradictory, so I’ll just say this: pale ales are all about balance.

Abbey/Trappist Ale – I group abbey ale and Trappist ale together because the brewing process and end product is nearly identical, the difference being that Trappist beers are brewed in Trappist monasteries by Trappist monks. This style of beer is top-fermented and often sweet and high in alcohol content. Some of the sweetness comes from the spices or candy sugar you can typically find in this style, and the rest comes from the alcohol. Perhaps the most prominent abbey ale is AB In-Bev’s Leffe, an amber-colored ale with a supersweet finish. Among the Trappist ales are Orval, Koningshoeven, Westvleteren, and of course, Chimay.

India Pale Ale (IPA) – The IPA has seen serious growth in popularity in America over the past decade. Brewers seem to be constantly releasing some epic IPA or another every month or two. The IPA style was invented so that beer could sustain long, oceanic voyages. The high hop content essentially safeguarded the beer against contaminants and also imparted delightful complexity with prolonged cellaring. IPAs are bitter to the max, though many also have a smooth, citrusy finish that pairs well with a wide variety of food.

Lambic – Lambics are a beer all their own. This brew is made using wild yeasts instead of cultivated ones, which can yield some interesting differences from batch to batch. Many lambics are also brewed with a portion of unmalted barley, which gives off a sour aftertaste not unlike a dry white wine. Lambics have been popularized in recent years by adding fruit sugar to cut the sour, funky taste of the beer. If you know anyone who drinks ‘Framboise,’ they’re really a Lambic drinker, though the Lindeman’s version is pretty far from the traditional style.

Wheat Beer – Wheat beer technically belongs to the ale category, but it has its own subset of special rules, and there are enough differences for it to stand alone. Wheat beers are, as you might have guessed, brewed with wheat malt, though they still contain malted barley. These beers are typically top-fermented and often appear hazy as the yeast settles during bottling and kegging. The most common styles of wheat beer are Belgian witbier (Belgian white ale) and German-style wheat. A witbier often employs unmalted wheat and spices – coriander, organe peel, and lemon zest are all popular – while a German-style white follows stricter guidelines: no spices, top fermentation only, and tightly controlled malt combinations.

That does it for our Beer 101: Beer Styles section. I could go on and on about styles I didn’t have space to mention. If you’re interested, dig around the web. There is a ton of information out there. If you’re just joining, be sure to head back through the past couple weeks for posts on the history of brewing and an overview of the brewing process. Next week we’re on to pouring and appreciation and in two weeks we’ll cover some guidelines for pairing beer with food.