Tag Archives: Beer

Brewery Tour: Bell’s Brewery, Inc. – Kalamazoo, Michigan

Family vacation. Time spent on the beach, enjoying the company of your children and siblings, reliving childhood memories, visiting famous epic craft breweries. What? You don’t do that last one? Well, I did. Today I trekked about an hour or so east on Interstate 94 to visit Bell’s Brewery in Kalamazoo, MI. What a trip it was.

An unassuming entrance to the wonders it holds

An unassuming entrance to the wonders it holds

On a damp, drizzly day in southwest Michigan. while the lake offered only treacherous waves and undertows, and whilst my wife and children were off picking pounds and pounds of blueberries , I rounded up my father, brother, and sundry others for a trip to one of my favorite breweries.

The many coming events

The many coming events

Adjacent to the original brewery is the Eccentric Cafe, where we ordered our flights of beer and lunch before the 1:30pm Sunday tour.

Beer flights are my friend. Bell’s gives you a piece of paper and you can write down any six beers you like. None of this rigid beer flight menu nonsense – this is a true a la carte beer selection. Nice.

Six little brewskies

Six little brewskies

My choices were many. I selected, from left-to-right: Third Coast, Round House IRA, Quinannan Falls, Smoked Stout, Larry’s Latest Pale Trial #1, Midwest Pale Ale.

Hard to go wrong

Hard to go wrong

You’ll find these six beers to be amazingly awesome. How good were they?

Third Coast Beer

You can find this locally, at least that’s the case in St. Louis area grocery stores. It’s light and crisp with a nice hoppy note. There’s a barely cloudy and yellow body, with a fresh and enjoyable flavor and texture. If you’re out on a hot day, this is a great beer. Unfortunately it’s about 60, cloudy, and drizzly in late July. What kind of weirdo part of the country is this?

Roundhouse IRA

Two drunks at the bar said that this was the best Bell’s beer ever, and the bartender agreed. IRA stands for Indian Red Ale. Basically this is a thoroughly hopped red ale, and I have to agree that this is quite the beer to behold. Malty, caramely, with a nice hop and spice finish. Smooth, excellent body with a mellow aftertaste. I could (and did) drink this all day. There’s a rich dark red color and a wondrous (rye?) aroma. I have to agree that this was a splendid beer, unlike anything I’ve had before.

Quinannan Falls

Officially called the Quinannan Falls Special Lager Beer, this beer presented mild hops and a light color. The aroma was neither fruity or flowery. Really this is a light hoppy one note beer, although crisp and fresh. Nothing noteworthy and probably not something I’d get again, though a solid effort.

Smoked Stout

I like smoked beers and I like stouts, so I thought this would be a good choice for my flight. It was dark and definitely smokey without being meaty or baconish (like the O’Fallon Smoked Porter, for example). Super smooth with mild richness and nonexistent effervescence. I was pleasantly surprised to find a lack of overpowering aftertaste. This is a nice novelty beer, but the one beer flight sample was sufficient. I did sip on my brother’s cream stout, which I actually prefer over the smoked stout.

Larry’s Latest Pale: Trial #1

I guess Larry Bell regularly experiments and this beer is one of his latest trials. Well done, Larry. This pale ale was amber and translucent, with nice pale ale flavors, lighter and smoother than other similar style pale ales (like Schlafly’s). Lighter doesn’t necessarily mean better, because this is a great beer. Despite being a little flat, I got great grain flavors that were stronger than the hops profile, without much of an aroma. Imagine a mild yet traditional English-y style ale. That’s this beer – I really enjoyed it.

Midwest Pale Ale

Another beer you can probably buy locally, this was lighter in color than the Larry trial beer. With a subtle hop flavor, I got a nice light beer taste without being a light beer. This is a great hot day beer… which, again, is a shame since it’s so chill today.

Six great beers. Let’s soak in the ambiance and sip.

I love the breweries that reclaim old buildings

I love the breweries that reclaim old buildings

I violated a cardinal rule of restaurants. Usually, if there’s a Cuban sandwich on the menu, I order the Cuban sandwich. I also passed on the brisket platter. I was in the mood for something lighter, so I stuck with the turkey avocado sandwich on wheat with a side of salt and pepper chips. Save room for beers.

Turkey sandwich

Turkey sandwich

Lunch won’t overpower any beer, and it was pretty good, even if the turkey was a little dry. They used a creamy potato salad style mayo on the bread, which was a nice touch. The pickle was some kind of super tart dill – a damn good pickle.

I came across some light reading on the way to the restroom. This is important journalism, people:

News you can use

News you can use

Apparently I missed some kind of amazing party last night:

7/27... what?!

7/27… what?!

Those beers in my belly, it’s time for the beer tour. We can bring beer in a plastic cup… no glass. How about another IRA?

Beer in hand. Ready to learn.

Beer in hand. Ready to learn.

The beer tour was hipster-heavy that day, my friends. Me and the other Simpsons, and a bunch of hipster people. Awful hats and beards and tight jeans and girls who look like a depressed Lisa Loeb.

Of course the first question on the tour, hosted by the knowledgeable and diligent Kenny, came from my father. Bell’s uses Kalamazoo municipal city water, though they filter out the chlorine and iron. Dad’s had a beer flight and more, so why not ask Kenny what the pH of the water is after filtration? Kenny doesn’t know. Raise your hand during the brewery tour? That’s a paddlin’.

Paddlin' the Bell's canoe? You better believe that's a paddlin'.

Paddlin’ the Bell’s canoe? You better believe that’s a paddlin’.

Most of the people on the beer tour had a beer in hand, not including my preggers sister. Always bring a DD on your beer tour, even if it means a hyper-pregnant sister.

I took some needlessly detailed photos of hops and hop pellets.

Hops!

Hops!

Hops again!

Hops again!

Rabbit food! No wait... hops pellets!

Rabbit food! No wait… hops pellets!

My brother, Officer Stinkypants, wanted his photo in front of a big metal barrel. Done.

Represent the 'Lou in MI

Represent the ‘Lou in MI

Kenny the tour guy explained the whole beer process… I wasn’t really listening. The mash tun (pictured above) is where the malt mash, which is hot water and grain, turns into sugar. That is then mixed with hops and yeast, which ferments somewhere else to provide acid, flavor, and alcohol. Beer is made. Boom.

While I was taking this picture and Kenny was talking, Dad dropped his empty plastic cup onto the echoing concrete floor. Cut that man off.

Barrels full of sundry beer

Barrels full of sundry beer

I even posed for a quick photo.

Beer in hand; Beer behind

Beer in hand; Beer behind

I admired the many knobs and tubes and doodads that the brewers used.

Thingamajiggers

Thingamajiggers

We noticed the old tymey sign outside that belied the modern operation indoors.

A bare marquee

A bare marquee

Just look at all the special craft beers they make here!

So hard not to turn a nozzle with my mouth underneath

So hard not to turn a nozzle with my mouth underneath

Kenny told us that many beers were made at the Kalamazoo location that were only available at the attached cafe. Most of the nationally-available beers are actually brewed 10 miles away in Comstock, Michigan. The specialty craft beers are made here in this room. Yum.

All their beers are non-pasteurized and unfiltered.

Speaking of specialty beer…

Now that's a big assed barrel

Now that’s a big assed barrel

Kenny told us that these monstrous barrels were Cabernet Sauvignon barrels from California that will ferment beer through 2014, and they aren’t sure what they are going to get out of these! The small barrels only age for six months, but I’m sure the contents will be amazing. It took quite a bit for me to restrain myself from causing a distraction so my brother could heist a barrel.

Of course, while we are ready to go… Dad is chatting up poor old Kenny.

Yak yak yak yak

Yak yak yak yak

On the way out the door, we snapped some pictures of the sample grain and hops that were passed around on the tour. Gratuitous over-sharing, people. I can’t help it.

Important ingredients

Important ingredients

So many beers from which to choose. It’s difficult to restrain myself.

The plethora of beers available to us

The plethora of beers available to us

On the way out, we hit the gift shop. I bought a skull cap, t-shirt, and trucker hat. And four six packs of beer.

What an amazingly successful vacation trip. I thank my wonderful wife for taking my children for a few hours so we could venture out to the beer capital of southwest Michigan. Well worth the hour drive each way, ideally the first of many brewery tours. Such is my burden – try and sample so many beers.

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Postcard From Michigan: Drink These Beers

Greetings from the extended Simpson family vacation in southwest Michigan. More specifically, the bucolic town of Union Pier, which is barely in Michigan from Indiana, just off of Interstate 94. We visited the local (relative) boomtown of New Buffalo to get some amazing ice cream and, of course, beer provisions. The local beer scene here is robust.

Local beers, a plus of family vacation

Local beers, a plus of family vacation

Yes, only three of these four beers is from Michigan. The third is from Wisconsin, which is basically Michigan if you’re from Missouri. Whatever… I’ve never seen any of them.

Saugatuck Brewing Company – Saugatuck Oval Beach Blonde Ale

About an hour north of here, Saugatuck Brewing Co. is in or near Douglas, Michigan. Apparently I bought their best-seller, the Oval Beach Blonde Ale.

What beer doesn't go well with frying bacon?

What beer doesn’t go well with frying bacon?

What a great beer! Crisp wheat ale flavors. (I originally typed wheat ale flames, so I was clearly several local beers in when taking notes… the perils of my duties.) There’s a subtle sweet finish. The beer is cloudly and fully of body. Great for a hot day, or an unseasonably cool late July day apparently. You pick up a modest fruit aroma that doesn’t really make it into the flavor of the beer.

Berghoff Brewery – Dortwunder

I guess Michigan and Wisconsin aren’t the same thing? Northernish states that get too damn cold in the winter, one on either side of Chicago.

Although it’s been around for 120+ years, I’ve never heard of Berghoff Brewery out of Stevens Point, WI. Their contact page says it’s a Chicago-based beer, and the brewery history lists a long lineage of ownership and locale changes. So, although it’s not a Michigan beer.

The confusing brewery history aside, I had never seen the Dortmunder before when I bought it.

Who doesn't love German-style lagers?

Who doesn’t love German-style lagers?

Smooth mellow beer with a wonderful balance of malts. The malts seem lightly toasted and provide the right German beer richness. Worth seeking out again, perhaps in STL.

Shorts Brewing Company – Huma-Lupa-Licious

Bellaire, Michigan, though not the TV home of one Fresh Prince, instead houses Short’s Brewing Company and their hoppy Huma-Lupa-Licious beer.

A proper IPA, served in a clear plastic solo cup

A proper IPA, served in a clear plastic solo cup

Nothing says vacation house like beer in a plastic cup. Nothing says IPA like having a gigantic hop on your label.

As expected, this was quite hoppy and bitter, but not overpowering. There’s a light fruit flavor and mild body, and it smells more flowery than fruity. Great orange / amber cloudiness, with essentially nonexistent effervescence. I’m no hop-head, but this is another good Michigan brew.

Round Barn Brewery – Kolsch

I’ve had some beers from wineries, and they can be amazing. Round Barn Winery in Baroda, Michigan is another winery that makes some good beers. (There’s a tasting house in Union Pier, apparently… perhaps I’ll be visiting.) How is their Kolsch?

I'm picking up on some kind of German theme here

I’m picking up on some kind of German theme here

For a Kolsch beer, this is quite malty, giving me a somewhat surprising flavor profile. Tasty, but a little surprising. Lots of Kolsch-style beers are lighter and crisper, but I enjoyed Red Barn’s. Dark for a Kolsch, with a minimal effervescence. It had many of the typical German ale aromas and flavors. Instead of something unique and poignant, it is just a good German-style ale. Not quite what I was looking for, but a tasty treat nonetheless.

Future Local Beer Plans:

So, having barely scratched the surface of Michigan beers, I have more work to do. I see a Bell’s Brewery tour and tasting in my future. I’m going to check in on this Round Barn tasting room in Union Pier. Shore Line Brewery is on the way back home, as is the Journeyman Distillery. Basically I have a lot of sights to see while I’m up here.

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Drink This Beer, WTF Edition: Banana Bread Beer

Yet another strange brew from the Friar Tuck’s new beer section: Wells Banana Bread Beer

I love banana bread. Seeing three to four severely brown, overripe bananas on the kitchen counter doesn’t just mean fruit flies – it means it’s time to make banana bread (I prefer the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook recipe from scratch). I also love beer, so how could I not buy a banana bread beer?

What. The. Hell.

What. The. Hell.

You probably didn’t need me to tell you this to know it, but this is one of the oddest beers I’ve ever tasted. Wells & Young’s Brewing Co. understatedly calls it a “unique brew”. Really? Tell me more.

The aroma is a 100% banana smell, but not banana bread or even a ripe banana. I was baffled by this beer but my wife nailed it – it tastes like banana flavored Runts. Banana candy. Whatever they put in banana Runts or Laffy Taffy, that’s the smell and taste of this beer. So strange.

The one on the left, Officer. That’s the one. (GNU Licensed; Source: Wikipedia user TheHYPO)

Beer reviews are mixed. I see this as more of a novelty than something I’d ever buy again. Just a modest 5.2% ABV.

Pouring the beer, more banana candy aroma. The taste is minimally malty, but enough that you get some of the “bread” flavors you might expect. But still the candy banana flavor dominates.

Color... typical. Aroma... atypical.

Color… typical. Aroma… atypical.

If you made beer bread with banana bread beer and added bananas… what would happen? Banana bread beer banana bread…

I don’t dislike this beer, and it’s certainly interesting. Would I ever buy it again? Meh… debatable. I mean, I love banana candy. I always went for the candy no one else liked because it meant more candy for me. Grape Jolly Ranchers, uber-cheapo peanut butter chews, candy-coated black licorice, banana taffy… I’m cool with all that stuff. My palate is very accepting, but I’m not sure this is the ideal early summer beer. Maybe if it’s cold and I’m by a firepit in my yard and something fruity/malty is in order, then perhaps this is a repeat buy.

If you want to try something new and you like bananas (the sweet candy-ish bananas), then you should probably: Drink This Beer

(Otherwise… probably not something that’s worth the money.)

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Non-Traditional Legal Fees

Do you speed when driving your car? I fix tickets for friends, family and clients. For that, I get non-traditional (as in non monetary) legal fees.

(NB#1 – Background: I’m not sure where you’re reading this blog. It has a global reach for some reason. But in Missouri, in central USA, when someone gets a moving violation that ticket frequently results in “points” against a driver’s license. Those points accrue and eventually cause insurance rates to rise. This is a pure hypothetical situation: You are speeding, doing 70 in a 60 MPH zone and get a ticket. Officer Friendly gives you a citation with a court address and hearing date. You come to me. I send your ticket and some lawyer-y paperwork to the court requesting that your moving violation be amended to a non-points non-moving violation. In my experience, these requests are usually granted [this is extremely subjective and based only on my actual experience in mid-central-eastern Missouri]. Your speeding is now littering or illegal parking or [my favorite] excessive vehicle noise. That $100 speeding ticket is now a $150 non-moving violation and has $50 court costs. You get zero points and pay the municipality coffers a little extra, money that you would otherwise spend in duplicate to your insurance carrier. I’m talking simple speeding or rolling stop signs here… no DUI, resisting arrest, open container, reckless driving, etc. I don’t handle that nonsense.)

(NB#2 – Disclaimer: I strongly doubt this is necessary, but I’ll be safe: The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements. Nothing here is legal advice. Reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship. Submitting a comment or emailing me similarly does not create an attorney-client relationship. If you seek legal advice from a BBQ & Beer blog, you fail at life.)

The Missouri Supreme Court Rule of Professional Conduct 4-1.5 states that my fees must be reasonable for the work performed and that I may accept property in exchange for legal services. My clients and I have come to the understanding that my reasonable non-monetary fee for handling a traffic ticket is beer:

Law school pays off!

Law school pays off!

I’ve been paid all kinds of beer for tickets, but this client did it right. Just this year, I had a modest bar tab paid after some pickup basketball, I was given some Fat Tire by a friend’s adult daughter, and now this bounty of Urban Chestnut. I’ve even accepted a borrowed Keystone Light from an indigent friend client on a night I wasn’t drinking. What can I say… I’m flexible and generous.

Earlier this year I wrote the Terms of Use for a friend’s website. He told me to go Full Snark, so I did. I took a really nice Belgian beer sixer as payment. I had as much fun writing that silliness as I did drinking the beer and telling the story of writing the Terms of Use in exchange for beer! (NB#3 – I have received prior verbal permission from this client to tell this story and link to the TOU on this blog.)

If you’re speeding in STL, you could go to the cesspool of legal services on Craigslist and pay anywhere from $35-$50+ for getting a ticket fixed, or you could call your attorney buddy (not necessarily me) and offer some suds for a shot at a non-points violation.

The bottom line is I hope this particular guy speeds more often because I really enjoy good beer.

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Texas Beer Review: Lakewood Brewing Company

Have you got any friends? I’m sure you hang with the neighbor to watch some NFL game, or you play a little poker with the dude in the parish, or perhaps you get a beer after work at happy hour with that jokester from marketing.

You do? Great. I don’t care. I’m talking about Real Friends.

Real Friends read your BBQ & Beer Blog and say, “Hey, I live in Texas and I think that Texas beers are under-represented on your blog (which I enjoy quite a bit). I’m mailing you a large custom sampler of Texas beers in a giant box at my own expense. All I ask in return is that you consume and review those beers.”

Do you have one of those friends? No? Well I do.

Are you loved? I am.

Are you loved? I am.

May sweet Jebus smile down upon you, Andy Axsom. I have known Andy for over 15 years, since we were both students at Rockhurst University in Kansas City, MO. We pledged the same fraternity and co-ran the chapter as president and vice president (he was good cop; I was incompetent cop).

I loved Andy, but was always a little bit concerned about him. He was a big dude who liked to eat fast food and drink beer (my kind of guy), but his metabolism was a little too flummoxed by his caloric intake. One day recently he woke up and realized that if he wanted to improve his way of life and live to be an old man, he was going to lose a shitload of weight through diet and exercise. He’s now a handsome man on is way to full fledged Adonis, and I’m goddamed proud of him.

He blogs about his weight loss and has been on television a few times. I blog about BBQ and beer, and if I’m ever on tv it will be a perp walk or me mooning the local weatherman on location at the pumpkin patch.

Andy moving from large to in charge
(Reposted without permission)

Out of deep respect for both Andy and the Republic of Texas, I’m duty-bound to thoughtfully consume these beers and discuss them in turn. Such is the burden of my hobby.

First in line are two beers from the Lakewood Brewing Company. Lakewood is based in Garland, Texas, which is apparently a part of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolis. Never been there, but the reasons to visit Dallas just went up +1.

Two samples from Lakewood

Two samples from Lakewood

Andy blessed me with both the Hop Trapp and Temptress. The former is a Belgian-Style IPA (sounds interesting) and the latter is an Imperial Milk Stout (oh yes oh yes).

Pertinent beer information

Pertinent beer information

I’ll review them in turn.

Hop Trapp: Belgian Style IPA

Pouring this beer, I can’t find any fruitiness in the beer’s bouquet. No fruit aroma, just the distinct hop scent of an IPA. I love the color and cloudiness in the glass (the wrong glass… I know).

Lakewood IPA

Lakewood IPA

Only upon sipping this beer did I pick up some exceptionally faint fruit notes in the hops. I could not have told you that this beer was Belgian-inspired if I was blind. Based on taste and texture alone, this is a pure and straightforward IPA.

What I liked was the restrained aftertaste and nearly nonexistent effervescence – this is a very refreshing beer. The bitterness is well-controlled (or that’s what I wrote last night while drinking this and other beers), and I really enjoyed it. This is a great summer beer. Hot deck, bugs buzzing around you, pull this out of a cooler. Nice IPA.

The Temptress: Imperial Milk Stout

I’m a milk stout fan… that’s no secret. I like the smoke, the roast, the chocolate flavors. Let’s see if Lakewood’s stands up to my standards.

Lakewood Milk Stout

Lakewood Milk Stout

The color is great, the head is nice. I love the toasty smell as the glass comes up to my nose. The stout flavor is strong with a nice smoky toasty flavor. It’s smooth over the tongue and brought a surprising hoppiness to the palate. The ABV above 9% means this is another sippin’ beer. I really enjoyed it.

What I liked about these beers is that Lakewood took two straightforward concepts (IPA and Stout) and did them really well. Do I think the IPA was Belgian-inpired? Meh. Was the stout an imperial milk stout? Maybe. They were, though, above average beers for IPAs and stouts. Both were supremely drinkable and very enjoyable.

My recommendation for Lakewood Brewing Company’s Hop Trapp and Temptress: Drink These Beers

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Dingbats Aren’t Just Bud Light Drinkers

Yet another post that has nothing to do with BBQ and is only tangentially related to the substance of beer, though two breweries are involved. Keep scrolling, Mr. Chug-A-Lug or Ms. Brisket Lover. This isn’t the blog entry for you.

When I’m not loading my body with the poisons of alcohol and cholesterol, I pay bills as an Intellectual Property attorney. That means that before continuing, it’s time for the Disclaimer: In case you didn’t already know, nothing here is legal advice. Don’t rely on anything here as legal advice. Remember that seeking legal advice from a BBQ & beer blog = You fail at life.

A friend shared an article on Facebook about a lawsuit filed by fairly well known brewer Magic Hat against relative newcomer West Sixth Brewing Co., out of Lexington, KY. Intrigued by craft breweries in litigation, I clicked. Turns out Magic Hat, owner of the #9 trademark and current applicant for the #9 design registration for their #9 beer, took exception to the West Sixth logo.

Look for yourself.

This is the federal mark that Magic Hat filed with the US Patent & Trademark Office (image from the USPTO TESS database):

#9 is divine

#9 is divine

It doesn’t come in black & white on the shelf. Here is a pic from an early Drink This Beer from this very blog:

Drink this beer

Drink this beer

And, here is the West Sixth logo that caused all the hubbub (image from the currently-overwhelmed by traffic westsixth.com, via Google images):

It's a 6, you dingbat!

It’s a 6, you dingbat!

Factoid of the day: That little eight pointed star is called a dingbat. Frankly, I think it’s an important part of this case for reasons I’ll explain.

Taking the very, very 10,000 foot view on this issue, the case comes down to customer confusion between these two marks. There’s a series of factors involved, but that’s it. Are you confused? Would you ever buy West Sixth thinking you were buying Magic Hat #9?

As for me, the answer is no. Every case is subjective, but I (1) read labels, and (2) like to think that I know at least a little more than the average beer drinker.

More specifically, there are well-known factors that courts use to determine when a trademark is infringed. For guidance, let’s look to Harvard Law, who wouldn’t touch my undergraduate transcript with a ten foot cattle prod:

“The standard is “likelihood of confusion.” To be more specific, the use of a trademark in connection with the sale of a good constitutes infringement if it is likely to cause consumer confusion as to the source of those goods or as to the sponsorship or approval of such goods. In deciding whether consumers are likely to be confused, the courts will typically look to a number of factors, including: (1) the strength of the mark; (2) the proximity of the goods; (3) the similarity of the marks; (4) evidence of actual confusion; (5) the similarity of marketing channels used; (6) the degree of caution exercised by the typical purchaser; (7) the defendant’s intent. Polaroid Corp. v. Polarad Elect. Corp., 287 F.2d 492 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 368 U.S. 820 (1961).”

In plain English, the Court will evaluate these and other factors to determine if West Sixth is on the hook for infringement liability. Here’s my take on each:

Strength of the Mark – Magic Hat has two trademarks here. The first is the #9, which has been around so long that it’s literally considered incontestable, and for which Magic Hat has a federal registration. The second is the #9 design shown above, minus the color scheme (which is part of the trade dress, not necessarily the trademark… just stick with me here). The second one is merely a registration but has been on file for a few years and I consider it to be a logo that I know on sight. I’d award this point to Magic Hat. It’s not the Budweiser or High Life logo, but it’s a fairly well known mark in its own right.

Proximity of the Goods – Both are beers, both available in Kentucky (the locale of the Federal District Court where this case was filed). Easily a point for Magic Hat.

Similarity of the Marks – A 6 is not necessarily a 9; My kindergarten-aged daughter can tell you that. But, 180 degrees is all that separates the two, and they appear to be in similar if not the same font. The Magic Hat mark has much more in the way of design elements, and the sizing / location of the numbers with respect to the overall logo isn’t the same. There’s also no # in the West Sixth mark. With only these facts I’d be inclined to lean towards West Sixth.

Here is my hangup: The Dingbat. I can’t imagine that many beers have this unique eight point star shape on their beer label. Indeed, none come to mind. It’s right there in the loop of the 9 and next to the upper half of the 6. Yes, the eight points on #9 seem similar, as opposed to the elongated N, S, E & W points on the 6, but it seems like a pretty wild coincidence that you’d have this shape in both labels. I think there’s a chance that a reasonable judge or perhaps jury might award this point to Magic Hat as well. This is very hard to predict.

Evidence of Actual Confusion – I can’t imagine there’s any. West Sixth is a purely local beer, and any Kentucky buyer isn’t going to pick up West Sixth on accident while looking for Magic Hat. We might have a case of reverse confusion, however, where a KY buyer purchases #9 on accident. This one is probably awarded to West Sixth, and is a draw at worst for them.

Similarity of Marketing Channels Used – I can’t comment on this except that the lawsuit alleges that the same distributors may be shuffling this beer around stores. That means they could be on the same shelves in the same parts of the beer aisles at the local grocer. Point to Magic Hat.

Degree of Caution Exercised by Typical Purchaser – This could turn into a powerful point for West Sixth. What is a typical purchaser? If you believe that the typical beer buyer is a moron, you’d be right. Bud Light and other mass-produced scuzbrew dominates both the bestselling beer list as well as the worst beers in the world list. The degree of caution is limited by (1) what’s on sale, (2) what’s on the aisle end cap and saves me some extra walkin’, and (3) what gets me good n’ drunk?

But what about the typical craft beer buyer? That guy who is in the minority of beer buyers who is looking specifically for hand-crafted beer, someone who eschews the watery dreck of Super Bowl ads… what is his level of caution? I’d say it’s pretty high. That guy, the guy in Kentucky who is looking for local craft beer will not pick up Magic Hat #9 on accident. He or she knows brands, knows beer styles, understands hops, can tell you what IPA stands for. That customer is not going to be confused, and that’s ultimately what would I emphasize if I were West Sixth’s counsel in this case. The degree of caution for a typical craft beer purchaser is very high. Point to West Sixth because I’m proud of that distinction.

Defendant’s Intent – I am inclined to believe that West Sixth, a local brewer in Kentucky wasn’t looking to trade off the goodwill of a far more established New England brewer. Did the graphic design guy who did their logo draw inspiration from #9? Maybe, but who can say. I give this one to West Sixth.

CONCLUSION – I’m not a judge and I’ve never been on a TM jury. That Polaroid case may not even be good law anymore. Hell, I’m drinking beer right now (FYI, O’Fallon Kite Tail)! I can tell you this case passes the smile test and Magic Hat may have tried to resolve this without litigation. To file this case, they had to come down to Kentucky. They are going to get some bad press from craft beer lovers, as well as people who look at the logos and think they look nothing alike. This isn’t quite at the scale of Budějovický Budvar vs. Anheuser-Busch (now AB/InBev), but it’s still a relevant dispute in my areas of expertise (IP & Beer).

I’m going to barely side with West Sixth because I don’t see (and can’t imagine) any actual confusion has taken place. I also believe that the craft beer drinker is a man or woman of discriminating tastes who knows what he or she is buying. Litigation is a total crapshoot, so this could turn out totally differently.

(Note to nitpicking lawyers reading this: Yes, I know there is a trade dress claim, state claims, etc. My readership is barely literate and probably came here trying to learn about 55 gallon drum smokers, parboiling ribs, or some other nonsense. This is over-simple, and probably not 100% accurate. Thanks in advance for being kind if you choose to comment.)

My final thought on this is that, even though being sued sucks and is expensive, I have a feeling that this is going to be one of the best things to ever happen to West Sixth. I had never heard of them until today, and I imagine the same can be said for thousands of others who read this or a similar article. This isn’t bad press, it’s a mountain of sympathy press that can be spun as the big out of town brewery coming into Kentucky to push around a little guy… a little guy who sells beer you may want to try.

Updated May 22, 2013: Although I had seen the social media campaign yesterday from West Sixth, only today I came across Magic Hat’s response (other than the lawsuit, which is a pretty powerful response in and of itself), via Magic Hat’s Twitter account. I’m posting both in the interest of fairness. I’ll even link to the Reddit thread.

Updated (Again!) May 22, 2013: The plot thickens! West Sixth isn’t backing down and fired back at Magic Hat. This has gone from interesting to compelling. I’m curious what’s next.

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I Eat Salads

If the title of this post isn’t a giveaway, I like greens mixed with stuff and dressing. While at Dave & Busters for a business lunch, I saw the ridiculously-named salad: The Lawnmower.

Note the fork for scale

Note the fork for scale

The waiter told us that he’d only seen two people eat the entire monstrosity. After me, it was three.

Why post this salad nonsense on my BBQ & Beer blog? I mentioned that I had eaten the largest single-serving salad I’d ever seen and was ridiculed by friends. They dared me to post and here we are. It was friggin’ delicious.

After I got home, I cracked open an impulse beer from a favorite brewery: Le Freak by Green Flash. It was amazing, and might have earned a spot in my beer Top 20 list.

C'est chic! (Sorry, Christopher)

C’est chic! (Sorry, Christopher)

Coming in over 9% ABV, this Big Beer packed a whallop, but it was very tasty and drinkable. Worth another buy for sure.

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Drink This Beer: 4 Hands Chocolate Milk Stout

What surprise awaited me at my in-laws’ in their garage fridge but an intriguing Big Beer that some careless brother-in-law had left behind. Behold the 4 Hands Chocolate Milk Stout.

MOO!

MOO!

As a lover of chocolate milk and beer I didn’t pay for, what was there to lose? Time to crack this bossie and pour.

Not my glassware

Not my glassware

The smell of the beer in the bottle is pure stout without much of a hint of chocolate. When poured into the rising body of the beer, I was met with a thick lustrous head. As the beer breathed, the head settled into a thicker-than-Guiness landscape of froth.

Looking at the beer, it’s 100% non-translucent. The rich dark color shows it’s brownness only at the edges of the curvature of the bottom of the beer glass. The aroma once poured has traveled from stout to chocolatey stout.

Drinking this beer, it’s kind of luxurious. There’s a definite chocolate finish, but it’s purely dark chocolate with zero sweetness. Rather than competing with it, the chocolate flavors complement the strong toasted malt stout flavors.

Texturally, I’m really wowed. There’s almost a true milky sensation of the beer rolling around in the back of my mouth, though it’s definitely a beer. At a mere 5.5%, I could easily handle the Big Beer.

Perfect pairing

Perfect pairing

Unfortunately the beer doesn’t suggest pairing with ice cream, except perhaps chocolate ice cream? Could this be the perfect ice cream float beer? (Unfortunately my in-laws had no ice cream but for some rainbow sherbert… that would have been disgusting.) I was between meals, so no beef either.

How about pairing it with a Cardinals shellacking of the Brewers?

Pow. Down goes Bernie!

Pow. Down goes Bernie!

Super smooth. Easy to drink. Great flavors that are well-balanced. Nice job.

My applause to the people at 4 Hands. They know what they’re doing in dessert beers for sure. I’m always looking for more local beers, and 4 Hands is on my radar going forward. My recommendation for this decadent dessert of a brew: Drink This Beer

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Drink This Super Cheap Beer: Simpler Times

Sometimes cheap beer is nothing more than pale effluvia water, minimally-effervescent and even less flavorful. In fact, most of the uber-cheap swill at the short end of the beer aisle that’s typically loved by hobos and fraternity boys is generally unsuitable for human consumption. Clever marketing has convinced America that some bottled dreck (looking at you, Bud Light) is worthy of some serious coin. Let’s talk instead about an exception to those rules: Simpler Times.

Disclaimer: Can not actually cross-stitched

Disclaimer: Can not actually cross-stitched

Yes, I remember simpler times. I was a broke-as-shit college student who squandered his work study checks down at the liquor store on horrific gutter beer. Why? Because, dammit, that was cheap. Six really amazing beers for $8, or thirty deplorable beers for $14. Simple math for simpler times.

Thanks to the miracle that’s Trader Joe’s, I can relive those simpler times with… (wait for it) Simpler Times. Yes, at a mere $3.49 per sixer, you too can reminisce about your impoverished days (or continue to live in your current destitution) and enjoy a pretty decent beer.

Like many other similarly-budget-conscious beers, this one is pale yellow and exceptionally fizzy when poured. Once poured, all but minimal effervescence remains. It’s as if the carbonation can’t wait to get the hell out of this budget beer.

Using the countertop to add color is deceiving. It's far paler.

Using the countertop to add color is deceiving. It’s far paler.

Instead of a biting acidity or just plain blandness, however, I found this beer to have a mild, smooth, mellow flavor. It wasn’t bad… kind of, uh, good. It was strange and unexpected.

Having sampled a few (at 6.2% ABV, by the way) it tastes better out of an unfrozen beer glass than it does the can. I actually chose the Lager because of it’s higher ABV. The Pilsner is sub-5%, so why even bother with empty calories if you can’t even get to an altered state.

Yes, it smells like the floor of the fraternity house basement the morning after the initiation stag party, but it doesn’t have a nasty aftertaste. I taste cheap-o beer, but probably one of the best cheap-o beers money can buy. I’m shocked and impressed. Honestly, I thought this would be some kind of self-flagellation in the name of beer reviews, but I kind of enjoyed it and I wasn’t even cutting the grass or drafting a fantasy baseball team. I was sitting on my butt watching Seinfeld (the Doodle episode, to be specific).

Cover of GQ

Cover of GQ

So, if you’re short on money and live near a Trader Joe’s, then perhaps you should take yourself back to Simpler Times. I encourage your impoverished ass to: Drink This Beer.

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BBQ Joint Review: PM BBQ

A kid’s birthday party in Chesterfield left me with a couple hours to kill. On the way, I noticed  BBQ restaurant: PM BBQ. Instead of watching my child and others bounce around and eat pizza, I decided to give this place a shot. It’s not he’ll be unsupervised, so I can have some fun, too.

At the corner of Edison & Long in the Gumbo Flats flood plain, the crisp new facade of PM BBQ greets you.

So new and clean... is this place legit?

So new and clean… is this place legit?

Even though the place shows no sign of smoke or grime, they have some hardware to boost credibility.

When your ribbons number such that they cover all the colors of the rainbow, you might be doing it right

When your ribbons number such that they cover all the colors of the rainbow, you might be doing it right

Let’s talk briefly about prejudice. One of my preconceptions of high-end BBQ restaurants includes old buildings, usually either (1) extremely old & original location, or (2) very old building that’s been reclaimed. Examples of the former are Fiorella’s Jack Stack in Martin City, MO, Rendezvous in Memphis, or Arthur Bryant’s in Kansas City. Examples of the latter include (previously-reviewedHendrick’s in St. Charles, MO or Pappy’s in St. Louis, MO. Each building has character and charm, and none is in a shiny new building.

Well, as history has shown, not all prejudices hold true. PM BBQ is in a nice new building, and it turns out their BBQ is pretty damn good.

Having never been there before, I sought counsel from the kid at the counter. He advised that brisket sandwich is one of the best things on the menu for first time customers. Additionally, I went with beans as a side, since that’s a decent measure of BBQ prowess, and fries because I was in the mood for some french fries.

Brisket lunch platter

Brisket lunch platter

That’s an impressive portion of meat, which is a good thing because I’m hungry and I love brisket.

Before I came to PM BBQ, I phoned a friend who works in Chesterfield for some input. He didn’t answer, but called me back after lunch. The report was that PM BBQ is the best restaurant in the Valley by far, and brisket is the way to go. I have to agree with his assessment.

Behold the care taken in preparing this cow

Behold the care taken in preparing this cow

The brisket is thin sliced, certainly thinner than I can cut mine without a rotary meat slicer. As you can see from the photo, there’s a nice dark pink smoke line and plenty of peppery spices on it. Extremely tender, very very moist. I’m a little bit blown away by this brisket, and I don’t say that lightly. This is an impressive portion of meat, from the quantity to the quality.

It’s clear to me that significant skill went into this brisket, and as an amateur constantly seeking to better my own brisket, I can really appreciate that effort and skill.

I do have one negative comment, though, and it relates to the bun. I got a dry (not stale) yellow bun that overpowers the meat and makes my bites dry, so that you need to add sauce. Adding sauce then masks the flavor and texture of the brisket, so why go to a really good BBQ place in the first place? No bread needed, so you should just discard it if you get the brisket sandwich, or take it home and feed the birds.

Speaking of sauces, there are four on the table.

4x sauce

4x sauce

Carolina, Golden Mustard, Spicy and Sweet. I’ll review each in turn from right to left.

Carolina – Nice and vinegary, as you would expect from a Carolina sauce. Unlike many sauces that call them selves Carolina, this one is legit. Commercial “Carolina” sauces are more regionally-inspired than the genuine article. It’s very thin and nicely spicy, without a hint of tomato. I’m a huge fan, and the yellow bun absorbed it well.

Golden Mustard – Ah, the step brother of Carolina sauce! There are truly two kinds of Carolina sauce, one being the vinegary eastern North Carolina discussed above, and the South Carolina mustard. This is the latter, and it’s powerful. I don’t have much experience with this type of BBQ accompaniment, but PM’s has a distinct flavor that shows inspiration from or relation to the Asian mustard you get in little packets with your General Tso’s chicken. I liked the consistent texture and solid heat profile, but this was not my favorite. That’s more of a testament to the strength of the others and my virginity to this kind of sauce than an indictment on the PM BBQ Golden Mustard sauce. Perhaps a resident of the Palmetto State would be beside himself with pleasure at this sauce.

Spicy – Good, but not spicy. I was waiting for spicy… Perhaps this town has a bastardized BBQ sauce palate because of all the watered down flavorless goop that passes for pork steak sauce. If you drink nothing but Bud Light all the time, then a Schlafly tastes like a malty porter. If you only put skim milk on your raisin bran, then whole tastes like heavy whipping cream. And if you only dunk your meat in a slurry of Maull’s and beer, then normal sauce with a modicum of zest is “spicy”. I know spicy, and this isn’t it. (And, yes, I did swirl the bottle a few times to arouse any sediment and get a consistent sauce pour.)

Sweet – We have a winnah! Excellent sauce, great spice flavors without a very sugary pop. Perfect sauce to put on the brisket, and I used it to clean up my french fries. Wonderful sauce.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t tout the beans, which were wonderful. I counted three kinds of beans, and a few nice big chunks of pork with some short ribbons of onion. The beans came out very hot and had a nice twinge of spice, coupled nicely with a very subtle sweetness. The tenderness was spot on, and I enjoyed the thickness of the sauce. I took a bite to sample, then destroyed half of my serving before getting to the brisket.

The french fries were french fries. Thicker than shoestring, they came out piping hot. What can I say… I was just in the mood for some fries. I’m told after the fact that I should have gotten the Sweet Corn Spoonbread. Live and learn. I did find that my fries were oversalted, but it’s hard to complain when the rest of the meal rocked as it did.

With my meal, I knocked back some iced tea. They do have bottled beer in the soda cooler, but it was barely noon…

PM BBQ turned out to be an amazing restaurant with intense credibility based on the strength of the brisket. I’m definitely returning, and not just when I find myself way the hell out in west Chesterfield.

Epilogue

It only took 40 minutes to eat. That gave me tons of time to kill after lunch. I got in my car and looked at the storefront before me. Whaddaya know! The Chesterfield International Tap House is next door to PM BBQ. I think I know how to kill some time.

How many beers do they have on tap? A few…

Decisions, decisions...

Decisions, decisions…

I was thirsty and not in the mood to think, so I ordered a known favorite: Charleville Half Wit Wheat.

Charleville Half-Wit

Charleville Half-Wit

That beer was so good, I went with the bartender’s suggestion of Charleville Nitro ESB.

Charleville Nitro ESB

Charleville Nitro ESB

All this beer eventually sent me to the restroom, where I saw this on the stall partition:

Everything comes full circle

Everything comes full circle

A fitting end to my Chesterfield adventure, among the hundreds of beer and restaurant stickers that plastered the walls. I’ll be back to iTap soon, if not this location then another.

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