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The Oakes Weekly - Oct. 24th, 2002

The 51/11 Club; the Dearly Departed; My Time in the KKK, and A Surprise...
Oakes Weekly October 24, 2002      
Written by Oakes

Vancouver, CANADA -

<P>As I start work on the next Oakes weekly - and yes, there is actual ground to cover this time - I am sipping on Third Stone Brown from Empyrean Ales of Lincoln, Nebraska. This will break the tie with Gusler and put me #1 on the Most States/Provinces list. I have another new state in the cupboard and yet another in the mail at time of writing. I will cover off Foggy Bottom next time I'm near DC, having left it alone last time because it is actually brewed at Old Dominion in Virginia (but I don't want to take it away from PsychProf so I'll let it slide for now). I have also had Prince Edward Island beer, but that brewery has changed hands since then so I can't add the old Lone Star beers - I'll just have to get back to Charlottetown sometime for the Gahan House stuff. Also, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut have no breweries, so they don't count (I don't even think Nunavut is on Ratebeer). So I am very close to having all fifty states, DC, ten provinces and one territory. I might be able to visit West Virginia next year if I go to Pittsburgh, which I've toyed with, for a weekend of beerhunting. Otherwise, I'm looking to fill in the remaining gaps. I can help out anyone also looking to fill in the gaps by providing Saskatchewan beer (not good Saskatchewan beer, as that is only sold in brewpubs, but Saskatchewan beer nonetheless) this holiday season when I get back to Vancouver. Technically speaking, I also have access to Nova Scotia, although I'd hate to send Keith's to anybody for any reason. By my count I'll need South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas. Bonus points for anyone who knows which of these states I've actually been to (of legal age) but got shut the hell out. More bonus points for anyone who can tell me what country or US state I've had the most beers from, of all the places I've never actually been to.

<P>Some sad news was reported last Thursday on the forums by motelpogo, that being the closure of the Domazlice Brewery in the Czech Republic. This plant was owned by South African Breweries as part of the Pilsner Urquell family. Their best-known beer was Purkmistr, an absolutely brilliant schwarzbier that I had the good fortune to find at my local grocery store in Jyväksylä, Finland. I found quite a few nice beers at the KKK store. I'm serious, that was its name. This company names their store by size, so the corner stores are K, and the gigantic warehouse ones are KKKK. The regular grocery stores were KKK. I had Brain's SA there. I had Purkmistr. The Great 1998 Jouluolut Tasting. I had untold Czech pilsners and tmaves. Palvasalmi Porter. I miss buying beer with my groceries, I really do.

<P>But the point wasn't to reminisce about my time in the KKK (just watch the FBI take that sentence out of context!). As much fun as it was to weigh my own vegetables and argue with the dairy stockboy about how if they didn't stop calling the cheese slices "cheddar" I was going to snap, I wanted to reminisce about great beers long gone.

<P>The most evident to me is actually not a beer, but a cider - Snohomish Scrumpy. I was never a huge cider drinker, so I'd passed up on this Archer Ale House regular a few times before I gave it a shot (literally, a shot glass sample). Man, I was hooked. Leathery, sulphury and decadently fruity, this was a miracle of English-style cider. Until I actually visited the West Country this past summer, I'd never found anything even close. Anyone who thinks Strongbow is "pretty good" has a lot to learn about cider, let me tell you!

<P>Another masterpiece was Tall Ship No.1 Barley Wine. The first year, this came out in Rogue XL size bottles, at five bucks a pop. It was 14%, but so fat, rich, and silky that my mind was blown. Starving student at home for Christmas that I was, I didn't stockpile any. The next year, it was down to 12% and came in normal sized bottles. It was still pretty good, and an imitator had emerged in Thor's Hammer from Sailor Hägar's in North Vancouver (Gary Lohin's beers are the Republic of Cascadia's answer to Garrett Oliver's). Again, no stockpiling. I came back that summer and it turned out that Tall Ship had been under hiatus since I'd left, due to illness. They re-emerged later that year and but by the time I got back from Finland, they were gone. I grabbed a stockpile this time, let me tell you, and still have a few bottles of No.1 Barley Wine and Imperial Stout in my cellar. If I let you have a sip of these, consider it the highest honour.

<P>Another beer from that era which is gone now is the aforementioned Palvasalmi Porter. This was a fat, rich, hoppy and roasty treat, not dissimilar in personality to St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout. It was one of my main grocery store beers (even sold in the corner store across the street from my building). I visited the brewery four years ago, and thought it was awfully large for its mandate - real ale. The owner figured there were no more than two dozen outlets in Finland for his cask beer, and had launched the bottles shortly before my arrival to boost sales. The cask bitter was found locally at Amarillo, which as the only Mexican restaurant in Jyväskylä would have won my business if they served nothing but Koff. So to get real ale was an added bonus. At any rate, when I last blew through Helsinki, I was very pleased to see that Palvasalmi had finally arrived in the capital from its Keski-Suomi home. It was in the form of filtered lager, but at least it was tasty, and I was happy (of course, I was in St. Urho's Pub, and it's hard for a beer lover not to be happy in that place!). Now I here they are no longer in business. The Finnish micro scene has always been volatile, and looking back they did have a brewery too big for their needs, but it wasn't like they were paying high real estate prices in Saarijarvi. Anyway, my next trip to Finland will be a little less fulfilling.

<P>One long-lost beer that I really wish I'd had a crack at was Grodzisk, from Poland. Newbies to good beer won't know this one, as it went out of production in the mid-90's, but for those of us who've been doing this a while, Grodzisk was a beer of mystery. First, classic beers from non-classic countries are always rare. A writer like Jackson will stretch a bit to fit something like Cooper's Sparkling into the "world classic" designation just to add a little variety, but this sounded to me like the real deal. It had been reportedly been brewed since 1301. It was an oak-smoked wheat beer, top-fermented and bottle-conditioned, with wild yeast influence. What more could you ask for? Well, rumours out of Poland, as conferred to me by Radek (who frequents a Ratebeer-like Polish site) are that this beer may re-enter production in the not-to-distant future. At least, there are people in Grodzisk who are hoping to make this happen. You can bet if it does I'll pull whatever strings I need to in order to get some.
<P>And lastly, just because I want to be the first to break the news - expect to see the wonderful products from Denison's Brewery in bottles in the not-too-distant future. Plans are tentative at this point, and brewer Michael Hancock hasn't decided upon a brewer for his bottle stuff, but it looks likely that the world's #1 German Wheat (according to you - and me), Denison's Weizen, along with their stellar Dunkel and Bavarian Hell, will be available for trading throughout the Ratebeer community at some point next spring.



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