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The Rum is Certainly Not All Gone

Posted by France44 on August 23, 2012 in Home

Hello to all the spirit hunters out there! If you’re looking for ghosts keep trying. If you’re looking to learn something about spirits then by all means read on. Since I have inherited the spirits blog from Matt, it’s time to revamp and rethink in my opinion. We will explore the various spirits through various lenses and you may actually learn something too!

Recently I’ve been obsessed with the Lonely Island song “Jack Sparrow.” I bet you can guess where we are going from here… that’s right friends, to the rum aisle! Where I can assure you the rum is most certainly not all gone. Captain Jack likely had no choices when he was sailing the high seas as to what kind of rum he drank, rum was rum. Today you can choose rum from Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Brazil and a smattering of other Caribbean and Latin American nations.  But are they really that different? Are they each individual and unique or are they just the same pirate in many coats?

Before the island hopping begins, a brief intro to rum itself and how it’s made. Because there are no global standards for rum it can be hard to categorize. Each country has its own rules that may or may not apply to rums of their neighbors. Differences in aging and proofing account for the majority of the differences in rums. Rum is made from the molasses made from sugar cane. The cane is pressed to extract the juice which is then boiled to make molasses. The molasses is then mixed with fast acting yeasts and water to begin fermentation. That “juice” is distilled into rum. The rum coming out of the stills is clear and if it is destined to be a dark rum it is aged in oak barrels, if it is to be a white rum it is aged in stainless steel tanks. Like scotch the longer rum stays in the oak, the darker in color it gets and the more the personality of the barrel shows through.

Now we are ready for our relaxing trip through the islands. We are going to start with countries that typically produce dark rums, and they happen to be predominantly English speaking. Jamaica and Barbados are the heavy hitters in this category. Dark rums are usually created to be consumed straight or neat and are not the best if you’re making cocktails. These are the countries that were the birth place of rum. Barbados and Brazil both have records of rum dating from the early 17th century.

Jamaica came into the picture once it was claimed by England in 1655. It was then that the British Navy changed their liquor ration from French Brandy or beer to rum produced in one of the British held islands. The change was a result of the fact that beer would often turn over the long periods of sea voyage. Each sailor would receive a half pint of rum twice a day. The rum ration was in place until 1970 when it was abolished due to safety concerns. In its stead sailors are now given two cans of beer per day.

In terms of rums that we carry in the store from Jamaica and Barbados we have a nice selection. The classic is always Appleton Estates rums for Jamaican rum.  Barbados is a bit harder to find because the small distillers aren’t able to export, but we carry the Plantation Rum from Barbados and one from Trinidad as well. Both are fabulous. Mount Gay rums are the most commonly found rum from Barbados and would be my choice if I was to take home a bottle of dark rum to sip on during these last few days of summer.

Next week we will head to the Spanish speaking islands to learn more about white rum and of course some more fun facts! Until next week my friends, drink happy.

–Ty

 
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The madness continues…..

Posted by France44 on August 17, 2012 in Home

The last two weeks we’ve received over 50 new beers into the store.  Most are new, some are returning seasonal.  A few are ones we’ve had before and want to give them another try.  It’s amazing how the beer world continues to change.  I can’t assume anything anymore.  Beers that were hard to sell one or two years ago might fly of the shelf now (think sours).  What sold a year ago might not sell now (think IPA’s…..just kidding).   Some new beers are no brainers.  Others we guess at.  Some surprise us.  If you would have told me a year ago that in the summer of 2012, Fulton Brewery would outsell Bells in the store, I would have thought you were crazy.  We currently are selling twice as much Fulton as Bells, and we sell a lot of Bells!  It’s not that the popularity of Fulton surprised us, they’re practically our neighbor.   I just didn’t think we’d be selling 40 cases a week of their stuff.   It’s great.  I love it when the local breweries do well.  There’s an endless amount of new beers coming into the market.  I’m really looking forward to when Indeed Brewing (local) gets up and running.   Clown Shoes Brewing from Massachusetts is entering the market soon also.   It’s a crazy beer world.  Enjoy the ride.  Who knows what we’re in store for.  

Here’s a sample of some exciting beers we’ve received in over the last two weeks.  Some of these are very limited.  I hope you’ll take the time to try something new.

Altenmunster Festbier in 2 Liter bottles
Anchor Humming Ale
Anchorage Galaxy IPA Bombers
Bluebird Special Bitter
Boulder Hoopla Pale Ale 6pk Cans
Boulevard Collaboration #3 Stingo
Boulevard Hoppy Wheat
Brooklyn Pennant
Capital Amber 12 pack Can
Capital Island Wheat 12 pack Can
Capital Pale Ale 12 pack Cans
Dark Horse Boffo Brown
De Molen Hel & Verdoemenis Stout
Haandbryggeriet Norwegian Wood Smoked
Jolly Pumpkin Sombrehumano
Mad River Extra Pale Ale
Mad River Steelhead Double IPA
Mad River Steelhead Extra Stout
Magnum bottles of Chimay Grand Reserve
Mikkeller 1000 IBU’s
Mikkeller Beer Geek Breakfast
Mikkeller Dream Pilsner
Mikkeller Hop Burn High
Mikkeller Hop Burn Low
Mikkeller I Hardcore you
Mikkeller It’s Alive White Wine Barrel
Mikkeller Monk’s Brew Bourbon Barrel
Mikkeller Monk’s Brew Raspberry
Mikkeller Spontankoppi
Ommegang Biere D’Hougoumont
Ovila Belgian-Style Golden
Sam Adams Fat Jack

Sam Adams 13th Hour Stout

Sam Adams New World Barrel Room
Sam Adams Stoney Brook Red
Stone 16th Anniversary IPA
Two Brothers Outlaw IPA 6pk Cans
Warsteiner Oktoberfest 12pack
Weyerbacher Verboten
 

Enjoy great beer. 

-Bill

 
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When Pigs Fly, We’ll All Pay More For Bacon.

Posted by France44 on July 30, 2012 in Home

I must admit that I am suffering from quite a bit of sticker shock these days. While I’ve been noticing the prices of nearly everything inching their way up for the past several months, the severity of the price increases of late has been nothing short of absurd. On certain items, like whiskey, tequila and California Cabernets, the prices have literally gone through the roof. Some items have gone up $10 or even $20 per bottle!

It isn’t certain what is behind the sharp increase. I’ve heard explanations ranging from the cost of grains (or grapes), to the cost of fuel, to the difficult harvests of the past couple of years, and even some off-hand comments regarding the Chinese and their voracious appetite for all things luxurious. The reality of the situation is probably that the combination of all these factors plays a role. That, and the good ol’ profit motive. After all, if one or two of the main players raise their prices and no one tries to under-cut them, then everyone will soon follow suit. This is exactly what we’ve seen with airline prices, after all.

Eventually, the marketplace will bite back. People will decide that an item they were thrilled to pay $39 for was OK at $59, but may not be worth it at $79. Many things were probably under-priced so a little bit of readjustment was inevitable. Now the pendulum is swinging the other way, and probably too far.

In the meantime, we’ll keep doing our part to look for deals, such as they are. Just be aware of the fact that the great deals we all enjoyed the last few years are becoming as hard to find as unicorns.

 
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Kegs

Posted by France44 on July 20, 2012 in Home

Yesterday I watched the movie Animal House.  About 3 minutes into the movie, an empty keg is thrown through a window at the Delta House.  I’ve secretly always wanted to do that.  It’s one of my favorite little scenes in the movie.  Granted, I have 100 favorite scenes in the movie.   Kegs always remind me of College.  Drinking really cheap beer out of a keg is something every College student (legal aged of course) should do at least once.  In College, kegs were strictly a way to drink lots of beer with friends for cheap.  Now that we’re older, wiser and slightly richer, we can still do the same thing.

 Take a ½ barrel of Summit for example.  You save almost $70 dollars by buying a keg than the equal amount of beer in six packs.  Think of all the extra beer you can buy with that $70!  Or better yet, save your money and after buying 5 kegs, you’d have enough to buy a Kegerator–That’s like getting a free Kegerator!!  And once you have your free kegerator, you’ll continue to save money every time you drink beer.  This is the greatest logic ever.  Saving money is good and makes your significant other happy.   Ergo, drinking beer makes your significant other happy.  Should I repeat that?   And what’s a better hydration dispenser in a social gathering?  Nothing.  Kegs are simply the best for crowds.  What happens in social gatherings?  You meet new friends.   New Friends, saving money, happy significant other, free kegerator.   Kegs also save space.  Add free space to our list.  Plus, kegs of beer help save the planet.  Mother Earth herself wants you to drink beer out of a keg.  Did I mention that pumping a keg is good exercise?  It’s also a well known fact that monkeys have a harder time stealing your beer if it’s in a keg.  Did you know empty kegs float?  That might come in handy if you and your keg are ever stranded out at sea.  Should we review?  Save money.  Happy significant other.  Happy Earth.  New friends.  Free Kegerator.  More Space.  Helps reduce monkey crime.  Good exercise.  Aquatic life saving abilities.  Kegs are awesome!!

Here’s a list of the kegs we have in stock today;

½ Fulton Lonely blonde

½Fulton Sweet Child of Vine

1/6 Harriet Woden Weizen

1/6 Boulevard Wheat

¼ + ½ Summit EPA

1/6 Brooklyn Lager

1/6 McNeills Sun Shine IPA

¼ Odell St. Lupulin and Myrcenary

1/6 Tallgrass Halcyon

1/6 Great Divide Yeti Stout

1/6 Sam Adams Lager

1/6 Deschutes Chainbreaker White IPA

1/6 New Belgium Ranger IPA

1/6 Millstream Triple Raspberry

½ Stella

Plus plenty of Miller, Coors and Bud Kegs.

 “7 years of College down the drain”

-Bill

 
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Small is sometimes beautiful

Posted by France44 on July 6, 2012 in Home

I need to send some love down to Lucan, Minnesota.  Lucan is the home of Brau Brothers Brewery.  I need to go visit them, it sounds like they’ve built the perfect little utopia.  They grow their own hops, malt their own barley, employee friends and family.  They try to keep things local.  7 days a week, this little brewery pumps out beer, 200 cases at a time.  They believe no town or region should be without a local brewery, regardless of size.   The townsfolk of Lucan got lucky.  For small town USA, they got one hell of a brewery.

We still have some of their Cherry Bean Coffee Stout left.  This amazing stout brewed with coffee from Cherry Beans Coffee Company (Parker, South Dakota)– 96 Points Rate Beer.  One of my favorite Coffee Stouts.  Thick and creamy, with lots of espresso, chocolate and vanilla.   Crank up the air conditioning and drink this.

Moos Juice Oatmeal Milk Stout94 Points Rate Beer.  Maybe the staff’s favorite everyday drinking stout.  Silky smooth and has a perfect balance of bitter, dry and sweet.

One of our new favorites, Brau Brother Hopsession.  Easy drinking (4.2% ALC) but not lacking in citrus, piney hop favors.  Super refreshing, and super delicious.   Lawn mower beer with flavor.  Wow.

We also have Brau Brother’s  Bancreagie peated Scotch ale, Strawberry wheat, Ringneck Bruin Ale and Sheep Head Ale.   Drinking local is fun.  Have fun and drink these beers.   

On a side note; lots and lots of new beer keeps showing up.  How can I resist?  I have to have them.   In July we brought in over 70 new and returning seasonal beers.  Check out our website www.France44.com for New Arrivals…

 
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Choppy sailing ahead

Posted by France44 on July 5, 2012 in Home

It’s really amazing just how tied together the US and Europe are becoming these days. It seems that great big ocean that separates us is now only as wide as lake. Economic woes, fashion trends and pop culture fads flow effortlessly to and fro… and so too, do the tribulations of the wine world. Five years ago, California and Europe were mired in a glut of wine, an oversupply of vineyards and a world in on the precipice of economic meltdown. The silver lining to all this was that there were deals galore on the very best of the best the wine world had to offer… with the exception of named-growth Bordeaux.

Today, it’s like we find ourselves in that landmark episode from classic Star Trek where Spock grows a very evil-looking goatee and Kirk finds himself the target of assassination attempts from all his “loyal” crew.

Instead of a glut, today there is a significant shortage of wine from all the key growing regions of the US and most of Europe, thanks to a string of difficult vintages in both continents. Continued consolidation of wineries and vineyards everywhere is gradually homogenizing what wine there is to procure, and now there is growing demand for wine in China and other parts of the developing world. Put together, this equals increasing scarcity and ever-rising prices.

Sadly, 2012 is off to a bad start in California, Oregon, Washington, France and Italy. So, I guess it’s more good news if you like bad news. About the only thing working in favor of the wine drinker is that the world seems poised to suffer another financial calamity. I know… gallows humor.

If there is any hope to be had, it rests in the following few points. First, Chile and Argentina continue to make tremendous strides in producing high-quality wine at very reasonable prices. Plus, they’ve had pretty decent vintages, so at least there should be good supply to go with the improved product. Also, Australia has a chance to recover from their disastrous decade. Calamity doesn’t begin to explain the collapse of Australia’s wine industry since 2002. A better analogy would be what happened to Portugal in the 18th century or Mongolia after the death of Genghis Kahn. You know, ignominious collapse, abject humiliation and ceaseless mutterings about the ‘glory days’. Unlike Portugal or Mongolia, they have a chance for a reboot. If they learned the lessons of the last ten years, they may have a shot… as long as they can just get it to rain.

Finally, there are growing signs that Bordeaux prices are coming back down to Earth. Auction prices during the last two years have been compellingly depressed: 25% contraction each year. Of course, they’ll have to come down about another 50% just to get back in line with their peers in the wine world. Still, there are good signs that this may well happen. First Growth producer Mouton-Rothschild is quitting the tranche system and there are whispers that one of the five First Growth wines will be priced 50% lower for the 2011 vintage than the 2010. Why does this matter? Because like it or not, Bordeaux pretty much sets the tone for all wine pricing in the world. Not directly, but by inference; by example. If Haut-Brion or Latour can sell for $1250 or $1500 per bottle, than why not charge $100 for Cakebread or $90 for Caymus? And if these wines can command a price like that, why not charge $30 for Mondavi Napa or even $20 for Avalon Napa Cabernet? And as go the Cabs, so to follow the other varietals.

So, bottom line: There is hope for the future, but it’s a long and treacherous voyage before we get there.

 
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Summertime….I submit to you

Posted by France44 on June 8, 2012 in Home

Summertime beer is boring.  I’m not talking about Summer itself, I’m talking about Summer beers.  Are they delicious?  Yes.  Are they refreshing?  Yes.  Are they crisp and clean?  Yes.  So what’s my problem?  I’ll tell you.  I spent all winter drinking heavy, thick, super complex beers.  The type of beer you prepare yourself mentally and physically for before you drink them.  The type of beer that’s really hard to drink when it’s 90 degrees outside.

 Yesterday, I washed and stained my wood deck.  It was hot.  I wanted a beer when I was done.  I opened my beer fridge and looked into it.  Imperial IPA, Imperial Stout, Oak aged Stout, Bourbon oak aged Stout, etc, etc.  It seemed that nothing was under 9% ALC and every one needed my full attention.  These are “no messing around” kind of beers.  I stood there for minutes struggling with what to pick.   I grabbed an old favorite, Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Barleywine and poured it into a glass.  I had a sip (dear Lord is that good) but knew right away this wasn’t going to end well.  I started sweating more while drinking this.  A luke-warm Oak aged Barleywine is not what you want when you’re hot and sweating. 

What I would have given for a good Summer beer at that moment.  Bells Oberon, Tallgrass Halcyon, Surly Hell, and so on.  Great beer you don’t have to think about.  Great beer that you don’t have to let warm up before you drink it.  Great beer that, if no one is watching, you can drink straight out of the bottle or can.  Beer that is crisp, clean, refreshing and cold.  After the first sip of the Central Waters BBBW, I knew right away it was summer and that I needed to get on board.  This heavy stuff has to wait until Fall. 

It’s so easy to fall into the beer geek trap.  Always looking for and buying the rare monsters (whales).  Only buying beer that can age well.  Beer that you brag about having.  Beer you buy solely to trade online.  Last night, as I stood there, I looked into a refrigerator full of my favorite beer and I didn’t want to drink a single one of them.  It felt sad.  I need to do some more beer shopping.  I have to think Summer.  I have to resist everything over 6% ALC.  I think I need a 2nd Beer Fridge.

 
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Elven Wine… it’s magic!

Posted by France44 on June 7, 2012 in Home

Arnaldo Etchart must have really enjoyed a challenge. This great pioneer of Salta wine production saw some barren hillsides where only mountain scrub grew and decided that this is where he’d plant his vines. Never mind the fact that the only thing that seemed to survive in this barren moonscape were the llamas native to this area and the wiry weeds upon which they grazed. There wasn’t even water! No problem for Don Arnaldo. You see, he knew something known only to the locals of the mountain divide… A magical elf named Coquena lived there. Now, I bet I know what you’re thinking, “Oh sure, magic elf! That’s a nice story but it can’t be real.”

Want to bet?

Latin American authors are famous for their literary style known as magical realism. Where do you think this came from? Things happen in Latin America that can’t be so easily explained away by our empirical sensibilities. Case in point: Coquena Malbec.

This wine is fantastic stuff: Lush and ripe, but with awesome structure. The tannins are silky but firm. It is the much-clichéd iron hand in the velvet glove. The aromatics of the wine are amazing. I haven’t really encountered anything like it before in a Malbec. This comes from some of the highest land in agricultural production in the world. Really, nothing bearing fruit should grow here… and yet, it does.

Could it be that old elf, Coquena, pulling  a second shift? By night he protects his llamas and during the day he tends the grape vines. You should try out a bottle of this wine and see if you become convinced. Maybe there really is some magic left in the world after all?

 
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Beer Blog: I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down, down into my belly…

Posted by France44 on May 25, 2012 in Home

 I know this is the time of the year to be discussing summer beers, but summer beers are sometimes a little boring to talk about (no offense summer beers, it’s true).  On this beautiful summer day, I want to talk about something a little heavier.  I want to talk about something Ron Burgundy would drink.  Scotch.  But not just Scotch, but beer aged in Scotch barrels.  It’s the perfect twofer.  The smoke and peatiness of Scotch, mixed with the malt, sweet fruits, and richness of an Old Ale, all in one glass.  It’s like chocolate and peanut butter, but with booze…and totally different flavors…and in liquid form, but you get my point.  We have other oak aged beers (bourbon barrels, wine barrels, etc), but only a few aged in Scotch barrels. 

These beers aren’t for everyone.  They are strong, usually 8% ABV or higher.  They are rich, dominated by raisin/prune, chocolate, burnt caramel flavors.  The beers all show strong oak notes, with lots of vanilla, smoke, charred wood and peat.  But if you like Scotch and just happen to also like beer, well my friend, welcome to paradise.

We have in stock some crazy delicious Scotch barrel aged beers from Europe right now.   

If you like Highland Park Scotch, you must try the line up we have from Harviestoun Brewery in Scotland.

Ola Dubh 12 Year old99 Points Rate Beer

Ola Dubh 16 Year old99 Points Rate Beer

Ola Dubh 18 Year old99 Points Rate beer

All of these are made from Harviestoun Old Engine Oil (We have the Engineer’s Reserve brewed up to 9% ABV) – Awesome stuff. 

Using Dalmore barrels, we have Orkney Dark Island Reserve99 Points Rate Beer

From Bruichladdich, using the most heavily peated malt in the world, is De Molen Hemel & Aarde99 points Rate Beer.  You can age this beer for 25 years.  Unbelievable.

And using various Scotch barrels, we have La Trappe Quadrupel Oak Aged Batch #8 from the Netherlands – 96 Points Rate Beer.   You can trust this beer, it’s brewed by monks. 

You don’t have to have many leather-bound books and your apartment doesn’t have to smell of rich mahogany to enjoy these beers.   You just have to love unique, powerful, rich beer with a formidable scent…that stings the nostrils.  In a good way.

 
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The Century Club

Posted by France44 on May 8, 2012 in Home

Have you heard of this before? This is something I learned about a few years ago. Basically, it is a non-official group of people who have sampled at least 100 different varietals. Now, I’m not sure if they count varietals that are part of blends or not. Perhaps if the component is more than 51%? Who knows!? THEY probably don’t even know! As long as they feel justified in “ticking the box”, they’re happy. Can’t you just hear them now, pontificating at some party? “Oh, this Nero d’Avola is ok, I suppose, but it just doesn’t compare to Sagrantino. I mean, Nero d’Avola? That’s so 2004! Well, at least they aren’t serving me a Sciava… Blech!”

This is the sort of thing that could only originate in America. It’s like people who memorize the batting averages of every player in a league. What’s the use, except to showcase their superiority over other, lesser spectators? The Europeans (at least the ones I’ve met) don’t share our fixation on what type of grape goes into a wine. They are far more concerned about a wine’s origin than its varietal composition… at least they were until the US market became so important to their industry.

This is like the new “wine educator license” enacted by the State of Minnesota. What’s that all about? Do we really need the state to license someone who wants to talk about wine? What about people who talk about books? Where’s the license for that? Or cars? Or Bernese Mountain dogs? What about restaurant chefs? Wouldn’t it be more important to certify someone who is preparing our food than to ensure that we are given the correct information about the differences between Bordeaux and Bordeaux Superior? It’s this sort of nonsense that furthers the separation of people from the enjoyment of wine.

There is a lot about wine that is worthy of celebration and study. I have nothing but the deepest respect for those who dive head-first into learning everything they can about a particular region or varietal… or even undertake the daunting Master of Wine course. However, what I truly dislike is this strange desire of some people who get bitten by the “wine bug” to flaunt it in the faces of others. They try to dazzle anyone around them, unbidden of course, by pulling out a few esoterica and flaunting them like cudgels to cow those around them into submission. This accomplishes two things: It makes “mere mortals” shy away from their own exploration of wine; and, it makes the perpetrator look like a pompous nit. It’s enough to make anyone want to take that fancy silver tasting spoon and bop them over the head with it.

Wine is about enjoyment. It is art that can literally be drunk in. What’s more, there is a wine for everyone, no matter what their tastes may be. That is the marvel of it. So take their blathering as a cry for help, not a sign of strength. True keepers of the faith are all about the experience, not the words. And experiences are best when left unlabeled.

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