Beerded Bastard Interviews TAR
The man from Evansville speaks his mind...
April 10, 2003
Written by beerdedbastard
The phone rings in Evansville...
BeerdedBastard: Hi Jeff. Usually I ask people to explain their user name, but in your case (ha ha!), the name says it all. How and why did you choose it?
TAR: Well, when I stumbled upon the site I knew little about beer (but I was a big fan of Trappist Ales at the time) and didn’t really take the site seriously. I quickly entered the silly username and I was left with no choice but to keep it. But I’m beginning to wonder if Trappist ales still reign, with the dumbing down of the Chimay line and the Westy Abt. 12 recipe decreasing from 11% to 10.2%. But when you’ve got gems like Rochefort 10 and Westmalle Triple (corked of course... the 11.2 oz. doesn’t compare) an adequate stash of Quadrupel in the cellar, and drastic improvements on Achel Blonde, life’s still pretty dawggone good in the Trappist realm, I suppose.
BB: You are in Evansville, Indiana (USA). Take a moment to describe the area, climate and points of interest there, etc…
TAR: Evansville, IN is nestled along the Ohio River and five miles from the Henderson, KY border and about 30 miles from the Illinois border. We are in a valley dubbed the Ohio Valley, which traps humidity. Summers can get very sultry here, as most fellow midwesterners can concur. But, we have four seasons, which I love. I’m not a summer or winter fan, which makes the milder seasons of autumn and spring all the more enjoyable.
BB: Tell me about yourself. Born, raised, profession, interests, etc…?
TAR: Well, Larry, I was born Evansville on August 27, 1978. I am currently a college student studying Business Administration. I am an avid birder. I also love playing golf, which gives me the chance to appreciate this beautiful earth and all of the birds. It also helps keep my beer gut modest ;-) I carry binoculars and a bird book in my bag. I tend to distract my fellow golfers if I see or hear a new bird, or something extremely rare, like a Blue Grosbeak or Wood Thrush. I also love to drive. It’s extremely soothing and liberating.
BB: How and when did you become interested in beer? And do you remember what that first one was?
TAR: I instantly became interested in beer when I saw the first beer that wasn’t a macro. I had a buddy who always drank Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I thought it was insanely bitter initially, but very captivating. Although I was under-age, I always had a friend go to the best beer store in town and ‘ just pick something out’ for me. After a few years of trying different beers, I have finally found what I really like in a beer and how to choose a beer for the mood I’m in.
<PBB: What do you look for in a beer? What makes one good for you?
TAR: Of course it depends on the style, but I prefer quality malts and hops along with good balance. Which, in turn, usually achieves at least moderate complexity if not more. My favorite malts are Maris Otter (think North Coast Old Stock, Rogue I2PA, and Fuller’s Vintage) and Pipkin (Thomas Sykes Old Ale, Gale’s Conquest), but ask me again tomorrow. ;-) My favorite hops right now (I think) are Hallertauer, Columbus (Avery Hog Heaven, DFH 90 Minute), Styrian Goldings (Ommegang Hennepin), and Saaz (Saison Dupont, New Belgium Trippel, Victory Prima Pils). I particularly love the <a href=http://22.214.171.124/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=1169>Bürgerbräu Wolnzach line, which is notorious for their masterful Hallertauer usage in each of their styles. I also love the Hallertauer laced DeRanke XX Bitter, which is 10 times better from the bottle than draft.
BB: Tell me about some of you beer travels…I know you have done some serious legwork to try all the beers you have tried. They can’t all be available there! Include fests you have attended.
TAR: Yes, to acquire the majority of my beer has required lots of time, money (which has crippled my budget tremendously), and “legwork.” I often drive to nearby cities of St. Louis, Louisville, and Chicago. I also have a good buddy (hopsrus) in Cincinnati who gets beer for me upon request. We trade a few times a year at a gathering usually in Louisville, with Racegoer, raindog, and hopsrus. Some of my farthest legworks have been to Stoudt’s, in Adamstown, PA, which is 860 miles from here, and my recent drive to the Southampton Publick House, in New York (expect a story soon, once I get the pictures developed). I usually don’t stay long because buying beer usually uses up most of my dollars, which would have otherwise been spent on a place to sleep.
I have attended the last three Real Ale Festivals in Chicago. I fell in love with it the first time I went, in 2001. Now I would rather be run over with a Brinks truck than miss another one. It is a great way to meet fellow beer nuts, and spend time with my fellow RateBeerians.
Gravity Head at Rich O’s in New Albany, IN is a must, as they feature many rare beers of 8% abv and higher. The highlights of this year’s were the 1996 keg of Old Crustacean, wooden pins of Port and Sherry primed Lee’s Harvest Ale, and Bell’s Expedition, which may have been the tastiest beer that has ever touched my tongue.
BB: How did you find Ratebeer? And what do you gain from the site?
TAR: I found RateBeer by surfing the net about beer, as I often did before finding this remarkable site. Needless to say, I was hooked immediately. I have gained more knowledge than I could have ever imagined from RateBeer, by reading other’s opinions and absorbing as much info as possible. Without you guys I don’t know where I’d be.
BB: Looking at your multitude of ratings, the number of Belgian strong ales jumps out above the rest. What do you enjoy about them? And list some of your favorites.
TAR: <a hrefhttp://ratebeer.com/ShowBeer.asp?BeerID=9448&FanOfID=1274>Beatrix, <a hrefhttp://ratebeer.com/ShowBeer.asp?BeerID=12631&FanOfID=1274>Southampton Abbot 12 (Especially the first 12 oz. bottled edition, which unlike the 2002 contained more body, complexity, and carbonation. It was also much less vinous.) and <a hrefhttp://ratebeer.com/ShowBeer.asp?BeerID=832>Abbaye des Rocs come to mind, with their unmatched uniqueness and elegance. I also really loved <a hrefhttp://ratebeer.com/ShowBeer.asp?BeerID=13667>Ommegang Three Philosophers - figgy, fruity, and complex.
BB: I noticed recently, that you list Imperial Stouts as your favorite style. What do you look for in them? List some favorites.
TAR: In Imperial Stouts, drinkability and complexity are extremely important to me. I tend to get tired of the unbalanced, one-dimensional chocolaty versions. And it also seems, for some reason, that the majority of the brewers are timid to brew a beefy Imperial Stout. In an Imperial I prefer some light vinous qualities, charred dark malts, charcoal, coffee, plum, velvety carbonation (hopefully achieved by bottle conditioning), and some dryness. I also prefer them to be around 9%-12% abv. Actually, the more the merrier! But Samuel Smith’s disproves the notion that only a beer of higher abv is the only way to achieve complexity. If I were only permitted to have one Imperial Stout it would be fresh AleSmith Speedway Stout, as the fresh Ryan Brothers coffee notes are unbelievable, (although it’s aging nicely, the coffee is fading) and maybe aged Rogue. A close second would be Southampton, which is extremely mellow and bottle conditioned. I’m going to try Mcneill’s and Magic Hat, soon. Still, that’s such a tough call. I couldn’t live without Expedition, which ages remarkably well, but I also wouldn’t want it everyday. And I also love The Czar. Very drinkable for a 12% beer, and notably complex. I am most fond of its fig and toffeeish aspects and it doesn’t hurt that they use Hallertauer either. It’s a shame it’s not bottle conditioned. Aging Imperial Stouts is a lot of fun. I’ve had the most success with Expedition and Rogue. The 1996 Rogue was maybe the finest I’ve ever tasted. Actually I take that back... draft Expedition was a humbling, life changing experience. I look forward to seeing how Speedway, The Czar, and Southampton do with a few years behind them, hopefully more than a few years.
BB: Who are some of your favorite brewers? And why you like them?
TAR: When I tasted my first beer from <a hrefhttp://ratebeer.com/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=790> Southampton Publick House at the 2001 Real Ale Festival I immediately fell in love and knew that this was a brewery that I had to see. I have since tried many of their beers. They get my vote for the best brewery in the country. Phil, their head brewer, continues to fascinate me by tackling rare, milder styles, such as the Berliner Weisse, Flanders Sour, Abbey Single, Saison, and Bière de garde. But another thing that impresses me is that he has no problem tackling the higher gravity beers like Russian Imperial Stout, Grand Cru, Eisbock, Baltic Porter, Old Ale, Barleywine, Abbot 12, etc. I expect them to gain more popularity among RateBeerians, just as AleSmith did, as the good word continues to permeate and people get to try more of their beers.
I also love what <a hrefhttp://ratebeer.com/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=77>New Belgium Brewing Company is doing - promoting Belgian beer. Most notably their Trippel, Grand Cru, and La Folie - all of which are very good examples.
<a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=180>Unibroue is also amazing. Although they are often criticized for producing so many pale Belgians, I love the mild manner and elegant complexity in their beers. Plus, with beers like Quelque Chose, La Terrible, Trois Pistoles, and stellar anniversary editions, how can you go wrong with them?
I would love to visit <a hrefhttp://ratebeer.com/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=213> Brauerei Heller-Trum in Germany to watch them make their flawless rauchbier. Then I wouldn’t mind heading to Belgium to see the cozy, countryside St. Feuillien and Fantôme, among a slew of others. Can you ask me again tomorrow?
BB: What are some of your favorite local breweries, pubs and/or places with a good selection of beers on tap, that people should seek out when visiting there?
TAR: We have a local brewery and pizzeria -<a hrefhttp://www.ratebeer.com/ShowBrewer.asp?BrewerID=2954>Turoni’s Pizza and Main Street Brewery- which has finally established itself into a respectable operation. Eric, the headbrewer, uses seven malts (Munich being one of them) to counter the 89 IBU in his balanced, flavorful IPA, and is soon beefing it up to 93 IBU. He also just brewed a Belgian Dubbel, which is a respectable example.
Rich O’s, in New Albany, IN (directly across the river from Louisville) has established itself as one of the premier Public Houses in the country and has been both visited and highly acclaimed by the ungloved Michael Jackson, himself. They have tons of rare bottled beer, but they are most noted for their extensive draft selection - which ranges from rare specialties by Rogue, Three Floyds, Bell’s, etc. Their Belgian repertoire is also highly impressive. And bear in mind that they are now adjacent to the newly established New Albanian Brewing (same ownership), makers of eccentric beer styles like Imperial Milds, Honey Wits, Baltic Porters, Smoky IPA, to heavily hopped Scottish ales. Plus, their beer is served at Rich O’s.
BB: How is beer pricing there? List some examples of costs.
TAR: Pricing is average here. I pay $15 for six Expeditions, and around $8 for Three Floyd’s six packs. I’d say the average price for a six pack is $7.50 for the better stuff.
BB: What was the “strangest” beer you have tried and liked? Please describe it.
TAR: The strangest beer I ever tried was my first taste of (Sierra Nevada’s) Pale Ale. It was extremely bitter. I was intrigued, but I certainly didn’t like it. But I can’t say that it was terribly strange. I recall trying a Rasputin before I ever heard of Imperial Stouts and hated it. It seemed super thick. In fact, it scared the heck out of me. Now I think it’s on the thin side.
BB: What trends do you see happening in the beer market today?
TAR: I am pleased to see craft beer pervading my region, which I never thought was possible. The brewpubs seem to be getting more crowded each time I visit one. I believe we are witnessing a positive trend in the craft beer scene. There are over 1,400 micros in the country. There is a lot to be said about that. And I only foresee it increasing. The prices may become a bit higher, but I love supporting makers of quality beer and thus have no problem paying the higher price.
BB: If Prohibition were re-instated, with the “controlling powers” allowing only a single brewery to produce a single beer; what would you want that beer to be?
TAR: Off the top of my head that beer would be Allagash Triple or Dreadnaught. But ask me again tomorrow. ;-)
BB: Well Jeff, I appreciate your taking the time to answer my questions. It’s great to hear the responses of a true beer lover, and I always get a lot out of your posts to the RateBeer forum. Is there anything else you would like to add?
TAR: No, the pleasure is all mine, good buddy. You’re too kind, man. I’d like to thank joet, billb, and everyone behind the scenes for making this site so damn good. They don’t get enough credit. They do have a life beyond RateBeer ya know, and that’s hard to believe with all of the arduous work they have put into this site. I don’t know where I would be without the site and fellow beer nuts. You rock, Larry! You are first on my "person-with-whom-to-drink" wishlist. It’s the people like you who make this site so enjoyable. Keep up the good work with your brewing and your RateBeer evangelizing, my friend!
BB: Cheers Jeff! It’s always a pleasure to talk with you and I look forward to sitting down and sharing a few pints together someday soon.
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. I believe we are witnessing a positive trend in the craft beer scene. There are over 1,400 micros in the country. There is a lot to be said about that.
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