Jan 27, 2012

Beer Heaven Right Here On Earth

~Beer Czar Note~ A few weeks ago, I posted a link from Draft Magazines list of top 100 Beer bars in America. If you recall, I mentioned I was sending my intrepid Beer Czar contributing writer, Uncle Gary out to write up one of the bars mentioned, Hopcat, in Grand Rapids Mich. Well, here it is folks!!!

Beer Heaven Right Here On Earth
By Gary Morrison

Beautiful view of the bar at Hopcat!

A person who has trouble making up his mind will have a tough time deciding on which beer to drink on his or her first visit to HopCat.

Taps at Hopcat
Voted the third best beer bar in the world by Beer Advocate, HopCat in Grand Rapids, Michigan has 48 handpull taps behind the bar and another 200 to 300 beers in bottles. Those beers comprise an array of Michigan and regional craft brews, global beers, and a large selection of Belgians. Also included is a range of HopCat’s own beer brewed on premises. Looking at the beer menu then becomes a matter of choosing what you will drink at the moment while in the back of you mind planning what you will drink on your next visit. And that is part of the grand plan of HopCat manager and chief beer geek Steve Smith.

Just a few of the many...
“I’m on the lookout for beer,” Smith says. “My job is researching beer and planning events featuring beer. When it comes to beer, we want to stay ahead of the curve.”

HopCat has a heavy rotation of beer, Smith says. You can walk into the bar with friends at the beginning of the week and have a particular selection and then come back later in the week with a different group and have a different selection.

They rotate at least twelve taps a week, Smith says. That means he has to update his beer menu twice a week.

“With a heavy rotation, I can keep the beer fresh,” he says. “But I also do some aging. I have some stronger styles in barrels such as barley wines, sour ales, and imperials that I’ll pull out for festivals.”

For those times your not in the mood for a beer, HopCat has a full bar offering cocktails and wines. All of that, plus the beer, pairs well with HopCat’s dynamite food menu. For times you’re not interested in a craft or global beer, Smith also offer American and Euro lagers beers as well.

“That style will never go away,” he says referring to the Euros. “A lot of people will come in for those as well as use a lighter beer to cleanse out their pallet before venturing to another bolder tasting beer.”

With all of the possible beers to stock, Smith relies on social media such as Facebook and Twitter and beer websites like Beer Advocate to see what is trending. Once he decides what to carry, he relies on a network of eight different distributors for delivery.

Becky Hall
That suits customers like Becky Hall just fine. She drops into HopCat once or twice a week because she likes the selection of porters and stouts.

“I love the variety of porters and stouts,” she said. “At other places, the beer is all the same. I can come here and have a large selection to choose from.”

Dick Terpstra
Long time customer Dick Terpstra likes the ambiance and friendly service just as much as beer. He doesn’t have any favorite beer because he likes them all.

“It’s hard to have a favorite,” said Terpstra, a regular customer since HopCat opened four years ago. “I love the selection; there are a lot of choices.”

Shelby Williams
Bartender Shelby Williams has worked at HopCat since it opened. She cannot count how many beers she has served in that time, but can tell of the trends she has seen from behind the bar.

“Besides our beers from around the country, people want to drink local beers,” she says. “There are so many beers. I serve a lot of IPAs, but in the winter, people like their stouts.”
My thanks to Uncle Gary! Gary is the older brother of my father, Don. He resides in Grand Rapids Michigan with his wife Linda. Gary is a writer (working on finishing a book) and Power lifter. If you are interested in WWII History, and/or Theater, please check out my Uncle's Website Morrison-TG and check out his info on his one man show "Hi, I'm Ernie Pyle", or even check out a show that may be near you!!!

Jan 24, 2012

Again, how big is too big? The Paradox of Popularity…

Jim Koch (pronounced 'Cook'), the man responsible for Boston Beer Company, the makers of Sam Adams and I are on the same page! Mr Koch is one of the guys I think, and many other agree that is responsible for taking craft beer from back shelf oddity to main stream acceptance. He did a blog post on the craft beer community's seemingly growing animosity towards any brewer that has national distribution and gets "too big". He states if very clear, and simply, and even makes you realize how stupid the argument can be against the wrong person. Take a quick read, its well worth it....

Mr Koch

Jan 18, 2012

Top 100 Beer Bars for 2012....

It’s that time of year, that time when we see the Top of this, and that for the year. Most of the time, these lists are the best of that previous year. Well, Draft Magazine does it slightly different, they list the top 100 Beer Bars you should check out in 2012. These are bars that have proven themselves in the previous year(s) and they have no reason to believe they won’t have even more to offer in the upcoming 12 months. I wanted to share this list with you, as well share with you some of my first hand experience I have with a few of them I have been too, as well as a few that I am familiar with, and have friends that have given me reports on them in which I trust. First, let’s talk about the ones I have had the pleasure of actually stepping foot into myself.

First up;


The bar at Falling Rock
 I had the pleasure of checking this place out a few years ago when I was in town for a friend’s wedding. My dad was with me (to officiate the wedding). We had most of the day to kill the day of the wedding, so after touring the Coors Brewery in Golden, we made our way back to the city for a beer, and literally stumbled upon this place. As soon as we stepped in, I knew I was in a top notch, world class beer bar. As is typical with most laid back beer bars, the service was very friendly, and painfully slow, which is fine with me. I was in no hurry. Selection is amazing, and the décor is what you would expect from a place with 75+ taps of mostly American Craft Beer. AWESOME place, check it out!


PAPAGO BREWING COMPANY, Scottsdale, Arizona.

Arguably the best beer bar in Arizona! Only about 30 taps, but this place is not about quantity, it’s all about quality. Those 30 taps are guaranteed to be all awesome beers. If you are a hophead, this place normally is well stocked with a number of great IPA’s. If you go there, look for my sister and brother in law, they live in that area, and are there quite often! Tell them the Beer Czar says hello!


THE GREAT LOST BEAR, Portland, Maine

Taps at the Great Lost Bear
Now, I will admit, it has been a good number of years since I have been here (about 15 to be truthful). I was just starting down my road to craft beer when I was lucky enough to have a friend take me here. In fact, you could make a case this hang is partly responsible for opening my eyes to the fact that there are more than fizzy yellow light lager beers available to us. I know a few folks that go here often, and are constantly raving about the selection of great beers. They specialize in regional brews and you can always find a fantastic selection of what I consider Maine's best brewery, Allagash. Also, according to draftmag, “.…tap list… with four cask-conditioned pours, a revolving list of Belgian and extreme beers, old favorites like Shipyard Export Ale, and a slew of taps in “Allagash Alley,” a set of faucets dedicated to the brewery’s rarer offerings.”


Love the look of this place!
THE MOAN AND DOVE, Amherst, Mass.

It wasn’t long after I was at the Lost Bear, that I heard about this place, and checked it out. Again, I was just getting into craft beer, when my trip to the Lost Bear opened my eyes to great beer, and I heard the brewer at the local pub I was hanging out at at the time (Elm City Brewing in Keene NH) told me about this place. This is basically a college hangout with a great beer selection. I would recommend going there when school is out of session, as it gets a little crazy, but its well worth putting up with obnoxious frat boys and sorority girls if you can’t go at that time. When in Western Mass, check this place out, it’s got a cool vibe to go along with a stellar tap and bottle list.


Now, here are a few places I have heard great things about, and have a little second hand knowledge of them, from friends and family I trust.

HOPCAT, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Hopcat, Grand Rapids MI, what a cool looking place!
As many of you know, I married a lovely lady from the great state of Michigan. Not only do I love Michigan women, but the beer in that state is world class. You could make a case that Michigan is among the best states for craft beer in America, a very good one in fact. And Hopcat, from what is here, is among the best places to get that beer in Michigan. 200+ taps, you are bound to find some great stuff! Never having been there myself, but hearing a lot about it from friends as well as internet forums, I would recommend checking the place out, and in the mean time, I plan on sending our roving Beer Czar correspondent Uncle Gary out to Hopcat to write up a review to share with us. Check back soon for that!


Soft lighting, sexy beer, yup, its Beer Porn!

I have heard a lot of this place from friends and family members. I don’t know much about it, so I’ll just share with you what draftmag.com has to say about it….”Ever find yourself choosing between a night at an English-style pub, German beer hall or Belgian café? At Novare Res, you get three in one trip. Here, you’ll find no fewer than 13 Cantillon labels, rauch and altbiers, and a lengthy list of English-style barleywines—plus delicious culture clashes like the Novare Belgian Waffles with Young’s Chocolate Stout ice cream.”


EBENEZER’S PUB, Lovell, Maine

The Bar at Ebenezer's
Now this one is very near and dear to my heart. Many of you reading this will look at the town this is in and say “where the hell is Lovell Maine”, in fact, even people reading this in Maine may be asking that. Lovell is a small beautiful little town (under 1,000 residents) in western Maine, where, in fact, I happened to grow up. Sadly, I moved away before Ebenezer’s opened its doors. Now, I have yet to see a list of great beer bars in America without seeing Eb’s on it. If you are into Belgians beers, this is the place to go. While there is only around 30 or so taps (last time I checked) there are some 700+ quality QUALITY bottles to choose from, many vintage and hard to find outside of Lovell. So next time you find yourself in Lovell (and let’s face it, the only time you find yourself in Lovell, is when you are planning on going to Lovell) check out this world class beer bar, it’s one of the, if not THE best in the country!


Jan 11, 2012

'Bud Light Platinum', a review....

Been away for a while, but I am back. I saw this on Kegworks and thought it was interesting. Its hard to be unbiased, impossible really. So when you can get a truly blind review from someone that knows what they are talking about, it holds some weight. This is about what I expected from 'Bud Light Platnium'. Probably not something I'll seek out, and pay for, but I would be interested in trying it. Due to hit shelves by the end of the month, so when/if you try it, let me know what you think!

Happy 2012 everyone! Bottoms up...