Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Grand Rapids day four

Another day, another breakfast meeting with the Langlies. And another plate of fried stuff. For me.

I wander around the hall a bit taking a last look at the shiny things. And drinking more beer, of course. They're getting more generous with the measures, which is good. I get stuck into the Lagunitas beers. Then unwisely get a homebrewed peanut butter Porter. I only realise what it is after tasting it. Not a big fan of peanuts in stuff.

I've a very important appointment at 12:30. Mark Linsner, whom I met in Chicago has a very special treat for me. It's a beer I've read about, but never expected to get to drink: Ballantine Burton Ale. I'm eternally grateful to him for giving me the cahnce to try this legendary beer. Me and Paul and Jamie.

"Brewed May 12th 1946, bottles November 1966" it says on the label. that's quite an impressive bit of age. It's difficult to get the crown cork off. Which might explain why it's surprisingly well carbonated for its age. This what I scribble down as I sip:

"Sherry, butterscotch, wood and toffee aroma. Sweet/bitter flavour. Raisin, toffee, caramel and perfume aroma. Bitterish finish. In amazing shape for a beer that's older than me. No trace of Brettanomyces."

As a follow-uop there's a 10-year-old bottle of Bass P2.

"Tar, toffee and liquorice aroma. Sweetish/bitter taste. Liquorice, treacle, raisin wood and alcohol aromas. Bitterish finish. Smoke, liquorice, treacle and tar aromas. Pretty nice, if a little thin. Definitely drinkable."
That's me done with tasting notes for another year.

The conference is starting to wind down with the final seminars taking place in the morning and early afternoon. There's only one I'm really interested in, Randy Mosher's about designing beer.

It's one of the better talks. Except it's clear that he has more than 45 minutes worth of material. Even rushing through the slides he still overruns. I get a chance to chat a little with him at the end end. He seems like a really nice bloke.

He says one thing that really sticks. He mentions one of his family telling him: "Remember you're only beer famous." I'll have to remind myself of that. I'm several ranks down from beer famous.

When I get out, the exhibition hall is closed. Things are really running down. Paul and Jamie are in another seminar for a while. What to do in the meantime? Find a bar.

I don't have to go far. Reserve is just a couple of blocks away. It's a wine bar selling 100-odd wines by the glass. But they have a few decent beers. And more importantly a decent bourbon selection. I chat with the barman as I sip. He shows me a video on his phone from last winter. It's him outside the bar with a pan of boiling water. It's so cold that when he throws it in the air in turns into a cloud of ice particles. Very impressive.

Soon it's time to go. Not just from the bar, but Grand Rapids, too, I meet the Langlies to say good bye then jump in a cab to the airport.

After checking in I drop by the bar. They're showing the England Italy game. I get a beer, but can't eat because the kitchen is closed. By the time I've finished my beer the bar itself is closing. It's only 7 pm.

The barman suggests I go airside where a bar will be open. It isn't. Well there are still people sitting there drinking, but they've stopped selling drinks. The England game is on. They're losing 2-1. Great. And my flight is delayed. Bloody United.

I don't have far to go when I get to Chicago. Just over the road from the terminal. I'm staying at the Hilton in the airport. I eat a hamburger in the bar and go to bed. I've a very early start. My flight is at 6:45 am. Let's hope I wake up.

Look, we both know what's coming next. I gently remind you that I have this wonderful book sitting on the shelves just longing for you to take it home with you.

The Home Brewer's Guide to Vintage Beer.

201 Monroe Ave. NW
Grand Rapids, MI 49503


Gary Gillman said...

Ron, that's a rare opportunity to see what one of America's greatest beers was like pre-craft era. I've read that when it was bottled, some Ballantine IPA was always blended in, so in effect you've tried that now too. Toffee was definitely a characteristic of Ballantine IPA, to be honest, I always assumed this was from pasteurization since it had a characteristic burnt caramel taste - at least the last bottlings into the mid-1990's. The bitterness was fairly neutral (even though some Cascade was used used in Ballantine IPA at the end). The North American Ringwood "best bitter" taste, as e.g. available at the Granite Brewpub in Toronto, always reminded me of Ballantine IPA as did e.g. Greene King's Export (strong) IPA.


Doug Warren said...

"Bloody United." A sentiment shared by air travellers and football fans.