Monday, September 18, 2017

WEEK 114---ENJOY Beer Festivals--DON'T GET SLAMMED

A little mixed feelings writing this post--while the post is a basic "don't drink yourself to the ground" kinda piece about all sorts of beerfest in and around Asia--the news just came in that the Only mini craft beer fest in KL has been shoot down by the authority due to "sensitivity concern".
To a large extent--in Asia it's not surprising that mere mentioning of the word "alcoholic beverages" would trigger images of drunken loud/rowdy crowd--and that would extend to imaginary images of a beerfest generally to people who can't differentiate what is binge drinking and what is tasting/savoring/enjoying.
说起啤酒节三个字,你会想到什么?大杯大口尽情喝?有免费酒喝的好日子?只怕喝不够, 不醉无归?
craft beer的世界,啤酒节的确是推动craft文化所需方式之一,理由很简单,与其等消费者自发自动到专卖吧或瓶子店发现什么是另一个崭新的啤酒世界,通过更多人可以接触到的啤酒节把craft文化散播出去未尝不是好方法。
Generally speaking most people in Asia would have heard of Oktoberfest--along with images of large beer mug filled with seemingly endless volume of beers---that's quite typically the perception of the general public when the word beerfest is mentioned---of course they won't think or know that there can be really huge different levels of beerfest--depending on the intention/objectives of the organizer.

In Asia--most of the beerfest is either organized/run by event organizer who aim to sell space/booth or importers/local breweries keen to promote their brands( be it MACRO or craft) to a larger audience--while everyone need to sell more for business sake--there can be a different pertaining to how a beerfest is organized/run--there are fest which aim to only sell and sell--there's also fest which aim to spread out the craft cultures....

While generally going to a beerfest is seen as a good day to get slammed--drink to the ground--it really does not have to go that direction, beerfest can be quite an enjoyable affair if one take it nice and slow regardless if you are going for the very first time or been there and always end up face down on the ground....
here's a few simple tips that would help one to enjoy a beerfest better:-
1) DON'T ever go in EMPTY STOMACH
Quite some people thought it's really natural/ok to go into a beerfest and starts enjoying some food & beer at the same time--meaning no food consumed PRIOR going into a beerfest--though it seems innocuous --the reality is that the body system will definitely go under attack by alcohol influences while the food is waiting to get digested.
Unless you plan to make a mockery of the meaning of enjoying one self at a beerfest--you would not want to do this--ever.
1) 绝对不要空腹喝酒
2) less is MORE
Forget about the photos/video/images you have seen about that event in Munich--beerfest does not have to be only about drinking in huge beer mug or drink yourself to death---while it is true that generally all beerfest in ASIA is selling beer in a rather big serving-it does not mean you have to finish the beer all by yourself--you can always share with friends--just drink say 25-150ml of a particular beer and move onto other beers since a beerfest would have atleast tens of hundreds of different beers to choose from--if you really like a particular beer you can go slow and finish it--if a particular beer taste awful/not your liking--you could try ask if your friends/ or new found stranger friends wanted to try and share it--otherwise just leave it/pour it....
The key is--beerfest can be like a larger scale tasting session--with different choices to pick--why not just drink/sip in small volume, that way you could try a lot more different styles/brands of beers and enjoy/savour each taste profile better.
2) 少即是多 (Less is More)
3) Get "time out"--go for intervals
Going to a beerfest can be like playing a ball game--you do need to take a break in between drinking--drink some water/eat some food/ go for coffee if that's your thing--it is true everyone has got different level of alcohol tolerance--but it's always good to take a short interval--let the palate/body system freshen up a little before continuing.
3) 喝酒也有休息时间
The craft culture/ craft beer movement in Asia is still in early developing stage--while various beerfest is happening more often in and around different cities in Asia--the majority drinkers are still very much influenced by the binge-drinking culture--that beerfest is about price factor/value for money/drink til you drop kinda perception--which of course can be avoided if more people starts to realize that just like there are awesome beer and really bad beer, a beerfest can also go that direction of making a different.
YES--it's completely unfair/incomparable to mention about the level of #MBCC #CBC has set for a beerfest to what Asia can envisage to achieve---it can be a sky high benchmark Asia beerfest can look up to and see what mini version can be done here in ASIA--in simple word--a day when you announce a beerfest which would only serve between 25-100ml per pour and people who paid for the beerfest ticket wold have to line up for 1 small keg of each beer and  won't question "why so little/why so expensive/why so stupid to have only 1 keg why can't be 10 keg of the same"?

That would be the ultimate challenges for beerfest in and around Asia --though i honestly don't think there would be many out there who would share that thought or agree with.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

WEEK 113---Beer really can be DELICIOUS

Let's talk about beer in the simplest form/terms possible.
What is beer? the simplest answer is alcoholic beverages brewed using 1.Water 2.Malt 3.Yeast 4.Hops
If you have heard of a law in Germany(purity law or Reinheitsgebot)  which insist that beer can only be brewed using those 4 ingredients and thought all along beer must ONLY be brewed that way--then you know perhaps only half the story of what beer can be.
Craft Beer的出现彻底打破了水,麦芽,啤酒花和酵母只能酿出单调味道啤酒的错误看法,最简单说法是,除开大家都知道的不同水质问题外,麦芽,啤酒花和酵母其实有很多不同味道类别,个别不同组合会带来很多不同风味层次变化,再加上不同处理手法,比如Adjunct, 比如Blending, 比如Barrel Aging等等,让啤酒的玩味变得更浓更有趣。

Someone actually questioned "with only 4 ingredients--how beer can become complex or delicious even?"---can't blame this perception since majority "BEER" drinkers only know of 1 or 2 'taste' profile(for lack of proper vocab) ingrained by years of MACRO drinking/campaign effects.

Truth is--even with only 4 main ingredients--because of the hundreds of varieties of malt-yeast-hops, as well different quality of water--when the craft brewers turn on their creative minds--beer can become a totally whole new thing never imaginable by MACRO drinkers--and that's the single biggest reason why geeks go gaga over craft beer.

In the world of craft beer--brewers obviously don't give a shit about limiting oneself to brewing only with water-malt-yeast-hops since it's almost anything goes for some crazy ass brewers, here's a very basic/simplest look into what other things craft brewers do to increase the deliciousness/complexity of a given beer(and mead):-
if one were to check the definition of this word with any beer glossary--it's actually a Negative word describing low act of replacing malt-hops-yeast with cheaper alternatives/artificial flavoring agents with the intention of cutting cost--end up bringing down quality/flavours of beer.
BUT just like a coin with 2 sides--in craft beer ADJUNCT can be a good thing--a Positive thing when brewers starts adding at times ridiculous amount/types of REAL food/fruits/spices etc with 1 aim--to make that beer delicious--or crazy delicious.
In this commercial/profit first world--it's not uncommon for some food producers to find much cheaper/at times even harmful chemicals/artificial flavours to cut cost just to maximize profits--in the world of beer--the truth is ADJUNCT can become a good thing which enhances flavours and deliciousness of a beer--not downgrading or destroying it.

在德国,为保持啤酒的固定味道,有"纯酿法"的存在,列明啤酒只能以4种原料,即水,麦芽,啤酒花和酵母酿造,不能有任何其他食材或添加物,从另外一个角度看,这也可以是固步自封,Craft Beer 酿造手法中的Adjunt(添加食材如咖啡豆茶叶巧克力胡椒辣椒蔬果等等)就证明了正面的使用添加物是可以大大提高啤酒风味层次,而不是减低或破坏。

It is common knowledge that certain food items needed time to give it another dimension(or more)--think cheese/vineger/kimchi /soy sauce/smoked beef/sausages and so on...

In the world of craft beer--there are lots of BA or barrel-aged version--in simple word--putting beer into barrels to let it rest/ferment/evolve--barrels can be from the hard liqour kind of whisky-bourbon-brandy-tequila to wine/port wine barrels--the latest is that mead barrels are in for some delicious beer soaking/resting too.

Of course not all BA beer would turned out way better/complex than the base beer--but at the very least--barrel aging is a way craft brewers like to try add complexity/layers of nuances to some already delicious base beer--the thoughts the efforts the intention that goes into a barrel is all there for drinkers to feel.
Barrel Aging(桶陈)
在啤酒的世界,桶陈的目标没变,也是为了让酿好的啤酒变得更有层次,更有不同风味,基本做法是把啤酒倒进使用过的不同烈酒木桶比如威士忌,波本,白兰地,伏特加酒桶等又或者是葡萄酒桶熟成,很多不同风格啤酒如Stouts, Porter, Saison, Lambic, 甚至是Ipa都会玩桶陈,最新情况是,有啤酒酿坊开始使用蜜酒(Mead)桶来熟成提味。


Not everyone is a brewer--including some very sought after craft brew/names(think Bokkereyder-Casey-Tilquin and such)--there are some who do not brew their own beer yet they are not gypsy brewers--these guys are the Blenders--they buy wort from others and do their own things through "blending-adjunct-barrel aging"--whatever means that would make the brew the way they envisage/imagine or hope it to be.
Blending can be a fun thing even for us drinkers in a small way--by trying to find a nicely blended one through mixing different styles/variants of beers during a tasting/sharing session --the key is different styles/variants of beer though no one stops you from blending ipa A with ipa B or stouts A with stouts B if you so wishes.
Craft Beer的世界,有Brewer(酿酒师),也有不酿酒只混酒的Blender(混酒师),当中包括一些炙手可热的比利时天然发酵果酸啤酒品牌比如Tilquin,比如Bokkereyder

Monday, August 21, 2017

WEEK 112---BEER Drinking Sheep

The title of this week's column came from a Canton-pop song lyric quite sometime back, ending part of that song has got 1 line saying "people are so much like sheep".
It's quite true when put it in the context of beer drinking-where MACRO BEER been and still dominating consumers market-even their mind when BEER is always only BEER and nothing else(craft beer? what's that?).
It's actually kinda laughable but also scary to think that most people immediately relate beer to CARLXXXX /HEIXXXXX/CORXXX and so on as beer- just like we automatically refer COLxxxx as toothpaste instead of saying toothpaste.
There's no denying how successful/pitiful beer consumption market has been/still are after all these years of domination by the MACRO giants via systematic "brain washing" with various seemingly trendy/life is good/close to the heart of working class/friendships/party hard theme(and so on)ad campaigns that the immediate reaction of most people when ask about beer would be :-
1) BEER is easy - no choices needed
2) BEER is just BEER- nothing to fuss
3) BEER is cheap- no flavours no complexity at all
4) BEER is to be down quick- to get high/pissed/shit faced with
对热爱Craft Beer啤迷来说,啤酒当然不是那样单调,一直以来情况是,整个啤酒消费市场只有绝对少数啤迷知道什么是啤酒美味层次,不同啤酒之间水准可以有天与地差别,如何有效让一般人知道啤酒实际上有很大质素区别才能起到最起码的观念改变,这件事不是三言两语能说清楚,更需要一定时间尝味了解才能见效。

We all know beer business can be a hugely profitable one-and we also know the MACRO BEER giants company will keep going with their multi millions advertising campaign-marketing strategy to conquer all corners and every beer drinkers mind possible.
For people who have tasted and understand what craft beer/mead is all about, we do know that there's so much more choices- delicious choices/varieties out there-question is--how do you break that chain firmly locked in most consumers mind about BEER? How can the craft community effectively spread out that 1 single most important message of " beer is NOT only BEER but has got varieties of styles and choices"?
或许,在一般人眼中,或许会觉得Craft啤迷是奇怪- 装腔作势-鸡蛋挑骨头的一群,不就是啤酒,有什么那么好挑剔讲究的? 其实,说穿了,啤迷只是认识到更合适自己口味,致力寻找美味层次的一群,或许啤迷也还只是一群羊,不过,可以肯定的是,这是一群懂得自己想喝什么的羊。
7季最新一集<王位游戏-Game of Thrones>中有一句对白是这样说的 "就算羊群鼓噪 狮子绝不动摇",放在喝啤酒这件事来看,还蛮有趣的,当消费市场上绝对大多数"爱喝啤酒人"都是羊群,当财雄势大的大厂啤酒公司不断鼓吹啤酒只是轻松随意或时尚嗨爆酒精饮料时,市场少数群体的Craft Beer啤迷们虽然不是剧中比喻的狮子,不过可以肯定的是不会被动摇的一群,原因很简单,一旦了解并爱上Craft的变化多端口味选择,就再也回不去羊群中继续盲目追随单调无趣的大厂啤酒。
This blog is half jokingly saying(because to say seriously can be bit boring or too preachy?) majority of the BEER DRINKING people are sheep who do not realize they were/ been/ still are following the advertising messages/strategy of MACRO Giants--not knowing what other choices available in the world of beer--or worse- by simply dismissing craft drinking crowd/ geeks as a bunch of pretentious/fussy assholes.
In Episode 5 of season 6 of Game of Thrones--Jaime and Cersei repeated that sentence "a Lion doesn't concern himself with the opinions of the sheep"--perhaps the craft drinking crowd would likely still be sheep instead of Lions--but 1 thing is for sure- this would be a group of sheep who know there's choices out there in the beer world and know how to choose their beers.
IF all these while you been led to believe that there's only BEER instead of beer out there in the beer world--it's time to stop being a blinded sheep--come out to the world of craft beer/mead--and be a some what picky sheep if you will.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

WEEK 111---ASIA need MORE of these

Let's face it--most of us geeks who lives in ASIA and love craft--be it craft beer or mead are basically quite envy of those who have access to awesome brews in US/Europe. It's not to say ASIA don't get awesome brews(either by "geeky" importer/s or self-reliance) from time to time--but generally speaking--the craft market is still very much in developing stage--the numbers of awesome brews/ brands/variants appearing through proper distribution channels is still small. 
Here's a few variants which ASIA has not seen much until very recently or only appearing like once in a blue moon(and we bloody need a lot more of these):-

For people who yet to try any mead, or somehow skeptical about it, here's the basic idea:-
to put it in the most simple terms--it's fermented honey.
to put it real terms--it's fermented honey which can be mixed with all kinds of fruits/food items/spices--or go through barrel aging--resulting in some very complex layers/nuances in taste profile.
Another basic idea about mead---just like craft beer--there are lighter/easier to drink session mead--and then there are heavier/thicker mead.
蜜酒 - 简单说就是以蜜糖发酵的酒,复杂点说是可加入各种食材香料玩出很多味道变化的美酒。

至于说该怎么喝或选择好喝的,答案也很简单,如果你喝到的是只有蜜糖泡水那种单调甜味,那基本你还没喝到真正有水准有层次的蜜酒,因为就算只用蜜糖加水加酵母酿的最普通版本传统蜜酒(traditional mead),高手版本会有不同层次,绝对不会只是感觉像蜜糖水。(如果喝起来只像是蜜糖水,那不如在家自己泡一杯冻蜜糖水就好,干嘛买蜜酒?)
IN ASIA--craft level mead first appeared in Bangkok when Mikkeller Bar brought in some Scandinavian mead and subsequently the first ever mead tap takeover/mead fine dining pairing with Superstition happened the last couple of years. After which Singapore, recently Hong Kong, Taipei started to see a little bit of mead appearing-- in terms of variants as in different meaderies/brands--mead in ASIA is still like a baby learning how to crawl--there's some way to go still before the first walk.

It's not surprising that many people would think mead as " isn't it just honey and only sweet?"--so why bother drinking one?
the answer is simple--because it can be fxxking tasty, a well made mead is really delicious with many variants in taste profile and quite easy to drink--so why not?

IF you need the most simple guideline as to how to differentiate a really well made mead(be it a session one or heavier one) from a mediocre one--the answer is also very simple:-
*IF a mead ONLY taste like a glass of ice honey water--no layers/no nuances/no complexity/no dimensions---then it's certainly not a good one---This is NOT how a craft mead should taste like--when you tasted a really nice one--with varieties of taste profile to choose from --you will know, like right away how delicious mead can be.
#Sour beers is not for everyone--and certainly not anyone#
That statement might seems a little rash though it's true that ASIA do not see that much sour beers, much less drinkers who seek out for sours.(and we are not even talking about Lambic since it's a reality ASIA only gets so little direct supply from the Belgium Masters.)
The better selling craft styles in ASIA would be pilsner/pale ale/ipa & stouts/porter---sour beer do get sampled here and there in and around different cities of ASIA but it's still among a very small group of drinkers comparatively.

Generally speaking--the ASIA market don't see much varieties of sour beer supply(ok-perhaps we can take Japan out of the equation since they bloody get Zwanze Day supply plus quite some other Belgium/US/Europe sours)--with less supply/less visibility--no surprise why it's considered one of the lesser appreciated craft variants here in ASIA.
In a way, to many drinkers who started and quite "stuck" with IPAs and/or Stouts/Porter, sours--especially Lambic is being seen as some kind of a test of nerves, even becoming some form of psychology barrier :)
If you love sours and you lives in ASIA--let's hope you are living in JAPAN, though there's a little supply here and there around ASIA such as Taipei- Seoul- HK-SG-BKK, but if you are stuck in KL most of the time--then the only way is self-reliance because there's hardly any nice sour beers here.
Personally-- i would half jokingly describe table beer as some sort of " taste like water--nothing beer".
This is kinda in reference to people who are used to heavier taste profile of hop bomb ipas or heavy stouts.
Table beer is generally below 4-5% in ABV--very light body--so easy drinking that some would say it "taste like water".
Table Beer,字面上意思很清楚,可以上餐桌,适合一家大小的啤酒。这算是历史说法,因为酒精度很低,可以解渴佐餐,就算午餐时间也不怕。
另一个关于Table Beer说法是有酿酒师酿完一轮后,觉得刚用过的麦芽酵母啤酒花可以再循环一次酿造酒体酒精度都很浅的解渴易喝啤酒,的确,这是基本很淡,很浅味啤酒,有点像是酿酒师为了"废物利用"酿来自己喝的解渴易喝酒水。
虽那样说,虽然基本只有不超过4-5%酒精度,虽然听起来不太吸引,实际上,高水准Table Beer 绝对是有层次的"淡如水"好喝类别。
某些程度来说,重口味啤酒,或是某种味道突出啤酒很容易辨别,也比较容易决定喜好,对只喜欢重口味Ipastout饮客来说Table Beer会感觉太平凡,没什么特点。实际上,这是讲究内敛,考验酿酒师功力的"简单"酒款,有点像煮菜那样,越是简单菜色,越不容易做得出色,与此同时,也考验饮客味蕾鉴赏力。

BUT is it really so "tasteless"?
I for one definitely don't think so.
Though it's low abv-light body-easy to drink- table beer certainly can be tasty with nuances--a table beer can be like very simple food which can be hard to master--in a way--a table beer is not only testing the skill of brewers but also testing the appreciation level/palate of drinkers.
IN ASIA--sadly table beer is very much quite invisible--you don't see much supply at all--and hardly hear of people talking or wanting to seek out for a table beer.
IF anyone think table beer is simply a "watered down" version of pale ale or pilsner--go get yourself a really nice one, see if you still think it's better to just drink water than a table beer.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

WEEK 110----IPA Bla Bla Bla

Mention the word IPA to those still very new to craft beer--most often that not many would perhaps give you that "BITTER" look.
IPA--short for India Pale Ale--is probably one of the best known as well as  best selling craft variants around the world of craft including here in different cities of Asia.
For newbies--IPA is something of a "must try" variants when entering the door of craft--obviously it's very different from the usual MACRO BEER--so much so that some would try a few sip and "ran away"--preferring something much lighter or simply run back to the comfort of boring old MACRO.

Here in ASIA--IPA is no doubt the most commonly available craft variants whenever you walk into a craft beer bar or bottle shop wherever you might be around craft cities in ASIA--the only issue drinking IPA in ASIA is Freshness--how fresh an IPA do we get?
You see--unless one lives in a city where there's local breweries or brew pub which can brew some decent/good IPAs--most of the time craft drinkers living in ASIA need to rely on importers to bring in IPAs from US/Europe/Australia/New Zealand---and that's where the freshness issue starts...

We all know that craft is after all still a business--and when it's a business--business sense/calculation must come into play--capital efficiency is needed--and that would mean majority if not all of the imported IPAs we can source from the market would all be coming into ASIA via shipping--not air plane.
In ASIA--basically no one fly in fresh IPAs (geeks own beer mail not counted) just to distribute--it only happens when there's special occasions and only very very few importers who's passionate enough( or wanted to drink fresh him or herself) want to do that.

Yes, we would like to think that craft business is at times a little different from conventional bar/beer business when words such as  "taste" "passion" 'appreciation" might come in play BUT the reality is--Flying in Fresh Ipas DO NOT make much economic/capital efficiency sense when majority of drinkers don't really know what is craft beer--or say there's quite a large group of drinkers feeling quite happy to drink a 3 to 6 months old IPA or even up to 1 year old IPA(or American pale ale or any hop based variants) when some who lives nearby a US brewery or tap house don't drink any IPAs or hop forward beers that's more than 2-3 week's old.
4)如果有人跟你说,喝IPA是越苦越爽,那只是个人喜好,不代表正确观点,虽然IPA有依照“苦味指数”(IBU)分为IPADOUBLE IPATRIPLE IPA三大类,另外,喜欢烤香麦芽的还有黑色版本BLACK IPA可选择,不过,无论哪一类,真正酿得好的印度淡啤并不只是强调啤酒花苦味攻击,而是讲究酿品的均衡度/适饮度。
5)假如你是之前喝过一次IPA之后就“逃之夭夭”的新朋友,或许应该再试试其他变奏版本,比如适合新人喝的低度SESSION IPA,又或者是近期开始大热的类果汁混浊NEIPANEW ENGLAND IPA),这会是让人对IPA改观的不同类型/分支。
So, if you are very new to craft beer, and if you have tasted 1 or a few IPAs--and you have this question :-
"IPA is only about BITTER?or the more BITTER the better?"
"what is a nice IPA / how to choose a nice one?"
that's quite fair questions to ask though it depends on few scenarios such as :-
1) how fresh is that pint or bottle or can of IPA you drank?
if it's a bottle or can--you can always check for best before date- bottling or canning date--if it's from a tap room then it's a bit more complicated as you won't know for sure the date or how the keg was handled or even how clean the pipes are....

2) if your IPA is from a bottle shop--look carefully if some of the bottles/can being displayed are under direct sunlight or very strong white lights. IF SO--DON'T bother even if it's FREE.

3) regardless if you are drinking from a bar or bottle shop--there's some very clear signals that your beer would have already died/gone bad if you smell anything unpleasant elements such as onions/corns/buttery and so on(also look for the meaning of the term Diacetyl)--or worse if your IPA tasting sour :)
4) If anyone--especially someone you think is a more senior drinker than you telling you that IPA IS ALL ABOUT BITTERNESS--the BITTER it is THE BEST it is---that is simply his or her own preference and surely NOT the truth about IPA. There's something to measure bitterness in a beer named IBU--and there's also the variants of IPA--Double IPA- Triple IPA---as well if you like a roasted malt and dark looking IPA--you have the choice of a Black IPA--so it's really not only about bitterness--it's much more than that.

5) If you are someone who had a bad encounter with an IPA the last time you had 1 and ran away from craft---you should give it another try--there's this thing called SESSION IPA which is lower in intensity be it hops or abv--or you could try out some of those fruit juice like NEIPAs which is quite the rave now--those are IPA variants which will make one change perception about IPA being only BITTER.
6) You have had some IPAs--or even been drinking IPAs for few years now and though "ipa is only ipa--nothing special"--well you could be right( if you have tried most of the awesome ones) or you could be very wrong especially if you have only been drinking what's available in ASIA--try to bring in some beer mail with IPAs you will never get from your regular bar or bottle shop--try some new names/variants--and let's see if you still think the same?