The Year In The Brew
December 21, 2004
I am sitting here in the TMR Entertainment office suites with John Lennon playing Happy Xmas (War Is Over) in the background.
“So this is Christmas and what have you done another year over and a new one’s begun…”
In my hand is a glass full of freshly poured Brooklyn Lager. A little hair of the dog as I survey the carnage left over from last night’s TMR’s office holiday party.
I am watching Rosilita, our 73-year old cleaning lady, take a pull off of a bomber of Stone Old Guardian barleywine as she is cursing at us in Mexican for trashing the place once again.
I ask Rosilita why she is using TheManRoom t-shirt we gave her as a Christmas bonus to clean the men’s room toilet. She screams “bastardo barato” at the top of her lungs and stomps on my foot real hard. A quick look on the web informed me that “bastardo barato” roughly translates to cheap bastard.
My feelings are hurt a lot more than my foot. Nothing is worse than seeing someone disappointed at Christmas because they didn’t get the gift they wanted.
The commotion awakens my coworker Greg from under his desk. Looks like he didn’t make it home from the party either. After informing Greg of the situation, he says he had it covered. He goes back into his office and emerges with a brand spanking new copy of Dream Theater’s last album “Train Of Thought”.
Rosilita smiles, hugs Greg and says “Feliz Navidad”. She turns to me one last time and screams in my face “bastardo barato” before popping the Dream Theater in her diskman and finishes cleaning the toilets with TheManRoom t-shirt I had given her.
Ahh, the warmth and joy of Christmas fills my soul.
Not only is Christmas a time of celebration but also a time of reflection. So lets reflect on the year of beer drinking we all have done together. To put this all in perspective I would like to share with you all the vision Steve, Dan and I had for ‘Suds With Securb’ and the beer section of TheManRoom.
We wanted an inviting area of the web not only for beer afficionados but also for beer novices who want to learn about beers, brewing and breweries. A place people could go without being intimidated by beer reviews with 5-dollar words. A layman’s guide to beer for those of us that were at various stages of crossing the bridge into the world of better beers.
A lot of people ask me how I got the job. To put it simply Steve and Dan asked and I said yes, but what was their reasoning? TMR Entertainment didn’t want a beer geek or a beer guru. The vision was to get a guy with a good working knowledge of beer and join him as he journeyed deeper into its intricate world.
With that thought ‘Suds With Securb’ was born. On this voyage I have learned a ton about my favorite beverage but alas, in reporting my findings back to you I have made some errors. Hell, I’m learning also and thankfully the industry has been kind enough to point out my various blunders. One brewery CEO with blond hair in Southern California who shall remain nameless even goes as far as to check the grammar on my columns and send me the corrections! How arrogant is that?
It’s not arrogant at all – these people have taken time out of their busy days to teach me about beer and passing that information onto you readers has been truly a joy. So now that I have turned on spell check and grammar check in MS Word I thought this would be a good time to look back on the year and do reflections, retractions and rebuttals.
The inaugural column ‘Beer Picks for Superbowl XXXVIII’ on January 29 had some confusing information in regards to Winter Beers. I said, “A true winter beer is higher in AVB%”! Well let us retract that right now. There are all kinds of winter seasonal brews. To my knowledge, traditionally the lion’s share have the ABV% kicked up a bit to keep the beers from freezing. Still there are a boatload of holiday brews out there that won’t blast your head off.
‘Valentines Day: A dozen long stems or a dozen longnecks?’ on February 5. I set out to make my Amstel Light-drinking wife a beer fan. A year later, I am proud to report Mrs. Securb has developed a love for Belgium Wheat beers; Celis White being her new favorite. In that column I said that Tequiza, the Tequila flavored brew was swill! That statement has survived the test of time. Tequiza is still crap.
‘The Art of Survival: A primer for cellaring beers’ on February 12. I thought I could come out unscathed after this column ran but I did receive an e-mail stating corked bottles do not need to be stored on their side to keep the corks from drying out. It is a preference thing – how you store your beers, a timeless argument for the ages.
In the next two columns: ‘The Barley Wine Primer – Securb, What the hell is a Barley Wine?’ on February 19 and ‘Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark: Stouts 101’ on February 26, I seem to have come away clean for the time being. I think at that point I got a little cocky and thought I could run with the big dogs! That cockiness led me to pursue ‘An Interview with an Arrogant Bastard’ on March 4.
Wow, did Greg school me on beer during and after that interview. The biggest correction I can make is Stone Brewing is a 100% “Cascade-free” brewery. Huge props go out to Greg and Stone Brewing for helping us so much this past year. Greg and his staff, especially Chris Cochran in Marketing & Promotions, have been true friends to TheManRoom. The only one we oddly have not heard from at Stone this year has been President & Brewmaster Steve Wagner. Maybe Greg and Steve have a Penn and Teller type of thing going on?
In my preseason baseball rant ‘Curse of the Beerbino’ on March 11, I stated the Red Sox would not win a World Series until they started serving decent beer in the ball park to appease Babe Ruth’s ghost. Two of the beers I suggested showed up at Fenway Park this season: Harpoon IPA and El Presidente. As they flowed, the Curse of the Bambino shattered. So the Sox’s win was due to great beer and not great pitching. My third pick, Long Trail Double Bag, curiously just showed up at Gillette Stadium – home of the New England Patriots.
On March 22, one of the biggest players in the world of beer stepped into TheManRoom with my ‘Steve Grossman in the Live from Chico California, it’s Sierra Nevada’ column. Steve was kind enough to open the doors of Sierra Nevada to us so a huge Merry Christmas and thanks go out to everyone over there. On a personal note I would like to say, “will you hurry the hell up and release the Bigfoot? I am going nuts waiting for it!”
We skated through a few more columns until ‘The Lush Life: Inside Harpoon Brewing’ on May 7. In my defense, we drank a lot of beer that day so screwing up someone’s title is not a huge mistake. Al Marzi is not head brewer at Harpoon, he is the VP of Brewing Operations. Al also pointed out The Kolsch is actually an Ale, not a Lager. It ferments with an Ale yeast at Ale temps, but conditions cold, like a Lager.
You could give Al any title even “The Overlord Of All That Is Hoppy And Malty” and the beers at Harpoon are still going to rock! No matter what you call Al and the staff at Harpoon the bottom line is they make some of the best beers in the world. Extra props go out to Todd for his contribution to the 100-barrel series.
In the dog days of summer and the peak IPA season we got to talk with Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione in the ‘Doing It Doggystyle’ column on July 2. Sam is the man! He gave us a great peek into the operations of Dogfish Head Brewing.
Looking back there is one quote I made in that column that could be easily misunderstood that I would like to correct. I said, “Dogfish Head’s culture of mixing the science of brewing with trial and error has produced some of the worlds most renowned and interesting beers.” There is no “trial and error” per se at DFH. They brew their beers with the most state of the art equipment ensuring the highest standard of quality control so that every product that leaves their brewery is held to the highest standards.
When I said “trial and error” I was trying to stress the fact that they are willing to take chances and release beers to the public that are cutting edge, not knowing if the masses are ready to embrace their vision of world class brews. No one called me on that; I just didn’t like the way it read. The one part of that quote that still stands is Dogfish Head has produced some of the worlds most renowned and interesting beers.
‘Hop Bomb’ on July 14 was probably one of the most research-laden columns. Scores about the history of hops was researched and most of the material contradicted each other in regards to timelines and hop types. No one called me on anything I wrote in the column so I guess I must have got it straight. The streak would not last for long.
In July, I contacted beer guru Garrett Oliver to be interviewed for ‘Brooklyn In Tha’ House’ on July 30. Seeing that Garrett is lobbed the softball questions on the national morning shows I wanted to hit him with the hard hitting questions, the type of investigative journalism ‘Suds With Securb’ is known for. So, I asked Garrett “what is the best cure for a hangover?” Garrett told us lots of water, a multi-vitamin and a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich will correct most errors. If that does not work, you deserve to suffer.
Suffer? I think not, Garrett. If the water, a multi-vitamin and a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich do not work, your best move is another beer. Point and match Mr. Oliver! Garrett, when it comes down to brewing you are one of the best, however I am the guru when it comes to hangovers.
What I think was my most interesting write of the year was to come next. As we were ‘Exploring the Big Black Myth’ on August 13, I got to walk a mile in the shoes of a Penthouse Forums writer and pushed the limits of decency just a little bit. However, it was all tongue in cheek and no one got hurt.
On September 08, we returned to normalcy and sat down with beer connoisseur Carol Stoudt. Carol told us about their future releases: a Double IPA and Fatdog Imperial Oatmeal Stout. I have had them both and once again Carol, Ed and the staff of Stoudt’s have come through big time. The big beer series from Stoudt’s are some of the best beers I have tried this year. I am going to try to get down to Stoudt’s this spring for a visit so you readers can expect a wrap up from that endeavor.
‘Hop for Teacher’ was our first attempt at in-house photos for the beer section. I would give us a C+ for our first try. In 2005 look for a cleaner, more professional effort.
This brings us to 2004 “I’ll Have Another” Beer Awards on September 27. You all have no idea of the magnitude of planning that went into this. For starters, naming the awards was one of the more disagreed with bouts of creativity the editors have encountered. It was the first thing we discussed and the last thing to get done in the 11th hour. As if naming the awards didn’t kill enough brain cells, picking the beers was a bigger task than we could have ever imagined. There were so many beers to consider and so many styles to wade through.
When all was said and done we had a lot of fun with the awards. Even a few brewers got in on the action and pitched in big time. The funniest quote that surfaced was from Ommegang’s Brewmaster Randy Thiel and Larry (in marketing), “We believe Judas Priest would like our beers too”, referring to the ‘What would Judas Priest drink?’ column on April 20.
Quoting from the column, “I am not sure what Rob Halford likes to drink but I am pretty sure he prefers it in the can”. Lets get some Ommegang in cans this year guys and I promise I will send some to the boys in JP to get their spin on this year’s winner of the Belgium style category.
Many questions come pouring in via e-mail so this is a great time to address some of the most frequent ones asked as well as dispel some myths.
Ginger the wonder dog does not like hoppy beers; she tends to like the spicier beers and the malty ones.
Mrs. Securb is not as mean as I make her out to be in my columns. My wife is actually very supportive of my writing Suds and is a wonderful sweet woman.
My buddy Wally actually is not clueless; he is a very smart guy that runs one of the most important divisions of a multimillion dollar Fortune 500 company.
The most frequent line in my e-mail these days is “Tell Barry we said hi” or when I go to an event I get asked “where is Barry”. Barry does not work for TMR Entertainment. Believe it or not he is gainfully employed as a Jazz pianist. He does not spend his days trolling the bars in his ‘Tities and Beer’ shirt drinking beers with me.
Yes, we will be doing another Lush Life Beer Tour with a Jazz musician this year and if you are in Boston or the area you are welcome to come.
Securb is pronounced “Sea-Curb” and is “Bruce’s” backwards.
After cursing the French for years for not having any good beer or rock music I stumbled upon 3 Monts Flanders Golden Ale. What a great beer. Now the French just need to come up with an equivalent to Jane’s Addiction or Pantera and I might visit their country.
Speaking of Pantara, much love to Dimebag. Thanks for all of the great music. You will be missed.
That pretty much wraps up the year. We accomplished a lot and have a lot more planned for next year. We will be visiting with Heavyweight Brewing and Avery Brewing. The Beer Advocate Extreme Beerfest is next month and Barleywine season is right around the corner. Who knows – if the stars align TMR may even make an appearance at the Great American Beer Festival.
I want to wish a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to my wife Christa, my wonderful kids Joe and Amanda, my parents, my in-laws, the rest of the Owens’ clan: Lenny, Barry, Todd and Kenny, the staff and writers of TMR Entertainment: Dan, Steve, Chris and Greg, the brewers of the world, and all the members of TheManRoom including of course, Rosilita.
…So happy Xmas. We hope you have fun, The near and the dear one, The old and the young.