Monday, December 29, 2008

Dominion Baltic Porter Winter Brew: The right kind of porter

I bought Dominion Baltic Porter Winter Brew at a Safeway in Reston, Va., this past Saturday evening.

Essentially a local beer, it was brewed at the nearby Old Dominion Brewing Co. in Ashburn, Va.

Porters and I haven't always gotten along. Sometimes they're too smoky for me; sometimes they're too bitter and dark, and I'm saying that as a fan of dark-roast coffees and dark chocolate.

Sipping the Baltic Porter this evening, I am relieved to taste one of the most agreeable roasted pine-nut flavors I've ever had in a beer.

The fine line between roasted nuts and burnt nuts is often crossed in brewing (and crossed in nightclubs, but that's another story).

This porter belongs in the rich, hearty, comfort-food category, as long as you like roasted flavors in your beers. Speaking of comfort foods, the Baltic Porter is a high-gravity beer, advertised at 7 percent alcohol by volume.

My six-pack of Baltic Porter was priced at $8.99.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Missing the CCU students

This past fall semester was my first time teaching as a college instructor. Did you really think the Beerman column paid all the bills? Ha!

I was teaching composition and literature classes at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, SC.

I taught five sections of three courses -- and drove to campus six days a week (that sixth day would be a three-hour long Saturday morning class).

I was never entirely successful at getting all my students to be quiet when I was lecturing --

Or to quit sending text messages from their phones during class periods.

And yet -- strangely enough -- I miss them.

Yeah, yeah -- I know -- they do NOT miss me.

They just wanted to get that English or humanities requirement out of the way.

And yet -- strangely enough -- I miss them.

And I wish them well this coming New Year and spring semester.

(P.S. I'm on Facebook!)

Uncle Bill & I say: Bushmills for holidays!

A good man of Irish descent, and his grand-nephew (me), with Bushmills Irish whisky on Saturday afternoon in the home of a former CIA employee.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Croissants Bistro & Bakery: New Year's Eve Chef's Tasting Menu

Note the available wine flights, listed at the end -- and, at the very end, the phone number for reservations. -- Colin


Featuring Chef Bryan Bodle


Amuse Bousche
Chef's choice to get you started

your choice

Malpaque Oysters on the half shell, Bloody Mary Sorbet, Shaved Cucumber

Crepe Florentine, Light Tomato Cream

Preserved Duck Leg and Forest Mushroom Spring Roll, Sweet and Sour Au Jus

your choice

Classic Caesar, shaved Parmesan, Thyme Garlic Bruschetta


Organic Baby Spinach Salad, warm Shallot, Bacon Vinaigrette,
Baby Tomato, Honey Pecans, Crumbled Clemson Bleu Cheese

your choice

Pan Seared Yellow Fin Tuna "Au Poivre"
Nicoise accompaniments

Petite Filet and oven roasted half tail of Maine Lobster,
Saffron Potato Puree, Ratatouille Vinaigrette

Grill Roasted New Zealand Rack of Lamb
Soft herb creamy Polenta, fine roasted Bell Pepper- Olive Relish

Featuring Culinary Institute Student, Sara Johnson

Chocolate Hazelnut Crepes


Egg Nog Creme Brulee

Wine Flights available for additional charge:
Wine selections by Stephen Stroman
Champagne Flight
White Wine Flight
Red Wine Flight

call for reservations

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

2005 Dancing Bull Zinfandel on Christmas Eve

Dancing Bull Zinfandel (2005) has got to be the spiciest, pepperiest zinfandel I've ever had. Even so, it has plenty of fruitiness to offer.

This might be the first time I've been tempted to call a wine "exciting." Boredom is impossible with this one.

It has all the versatility listed on the bottle -- you could pair it with spicy BBQ or pizza (or a dozen other dishes).

My wife's cousin works for a wine distributer based in Columbia, SC, and he's spending the night with us. He says it's a mid-list Gallo product. Dancing Bull zin is available -- when stores are actually open -- within the $8-$9 range.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

May your White Russians be tanned

I guess the colder air makes the richness of a White Russian more appealing.

Here's the recipe I've been using:

10-ounce glass filled about two-thirds with ice

1 ounce of Kahlua

2 ounces of Ketel One

Top off with half-and-half

However, you can go for more punch (and less fat) if you increase the liquors and decrease the half-and-half.

In other words, you can give those White Russians a tan.

Or a deep tan.

This Christmas, I think we can all agree: Russians are far too pasty-white.

But I'm thinking we'll want to skip the outright Black Russians -- we really want a little of that comfort-food factor, courtesy the half-and-half.

Let's go for the Deeply Tanned Russian.

The Deeply Tanned Russian offers the potency we need with a touch of comfort.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Season's Greetings.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Michelob Craft Collection on shelves now

Michelob's Craft Collection has three 12-ounce bottles each of Pale Ale, Irish Red, Porter, and Marzen.

I saw it at the Bi-Lo on 38th Avenue North (in Myrtle Beach) for about $11.99.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Drinking the 'Yellow Snow' at Longbeards

Sage advice like "don't eat the yellow snow" is not very meaningful on the Grand Strand, even if it lives on in the memory of some of our retired Yankee transplants.

Rogue Brewery, a left-coast beer maker with a sense of humor, offers us the opportunity to drink Yellow Snow, or Yellow Snow IPA, to be exact. I found it on tap at Longbeard's Bar and Grill, 5040 Carolina Forest Boulevard, which has one of the most incredible wood interiors I have ever seen in a restaurant.

IPAs, or India Pale Ales, can be a bit prickly for the novice beer drinker, and Yellow Snow certainly has its full-flavored impact. Fortunately, it's not as pungent as its namesake and accompanying pale, golden color would suggest - far from it. Like most brews from Rogue, I'll order it again.

Of course, we all know what "yellow snow" really refers to - it is snow that has turned yellow because either a dog took a leak or someone poured out a can of Busch Light.

Breckenridge Brewery's Agave WheatDuring my session at Longbeard's, I also tried Breckenridge Brewery's Agave Wheat. I haven't decided if I like it yet. It's an American-style unfiltered wheat beer made with the nectar of the Salmiana Agave, which makes for a distinctive taste.

I was treated to a taste of another Breckenridge brew on tap at Longbeard's, this one the Avalanche Ale, an American amber that goes easy on the hops and leans on the maltiness.

I enjoyed Longbeard's, its atmosphere, its beer, and its turkey melt. I'll be back.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wines and beers for Thanksgiving

I have the responsibility of selecting the wine for my family's Thanksgiving feast in Raleigh, N.C. My choices are listed in boldface below.

Although I've been writing a regular column about beer for two and a half years now, I've made some notes along the way about wine pairings for Thanksgiving, which might be the most difficult pairing challenge of them all.

Last year, I was moderately successful by offering both a chardonnay and a riesling before and during dinner.

To make those choices, I had flipped through Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast, and I had searched the Internet for pairing suggestions. As an addition help, the local grocery store had cards on the shelves with Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast ratings -- I just had to make sure that the year on the card was the same as the year on the available bottles.

This year, I decided to add a zinfandel to the mix, only because I know some in my family will always prefer red. Truth be told, no one will care about the type of wines with this meal as much as I will!

Except for the riesling, for which I have a personal affection, I tried to stick to the affordable end of the available wines.

So here are the selections:

Hogue Columbia Valley Riesling 2007 (received an 87 from Wine Spectator); retails around $11 per bottle

King Fish California Chardonnay 2006; retails around $6 per bottle

Barefoot Zinfandel from Lodi, California (no date); retails around $7 per bottle

Earlier this year, I wrote a cover story for a local weekly about beer-and-food pairings, but I still decided not to spend the money on better beers for pairing purposes. Most of my family will drink wine with the meal.

Recently, I have gained a new appreciation and respect for big domestic brewers, and it just so happens that a new beer by Bud and an long-standing beer by Michelob have become personal favorites. Here's what the Thanksgiving beer cooler looks like:

Budweiser American Ale: This new beer from Bud is an all-malt ale with Pacific Cascade hops.

Michelob Lager: A traditional, all-malt lager with European hops.

Woodchuck Amber Cider: This crisp, refreshing alternative to wine and beer works well with holiday feasts; plus you can still count on a little lift. It's 5 percent.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

New South Brewing Co. to start canning

New South Brewing Co. in Myrtle Beach, S.C., will begin canning beer in March.

Dave Epstein, owner of New South, said the canning equipment will arrive in January.

New South provides kegs to bars and restaurants in the Carolinas, especially in the greater Myrtle Beach area.

Epstein displayed possible can designs during New South's recent 10th anniversary celebration.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Sing along with Watershed

Once in a while I see Joe Oestreich around Coastal Carolina University's English Department office. He's an assistant professor at CCU and member of the Ohio-based band Watershed. I downloaded Watershed's album Fifth of July from iTunes three days ago, and I'm listening to the song "5th of July" over and over again. Here's a clip with a link to purchase:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Beer truck driver arrested on suspicion of drunken driving; trailer full of beer flipped

Take note of where this happened -- what a coincidence.

The Associated Press

WHEAT RIDGE, Colo. — A contract beer truck driver has been arrested on suspicion of drunken driving after his rig flipped over in suburban Wheat Ridge.

Police say 56-year-old Bobby Dodge of McGregor, Texas was eastbound on Colorado 58 about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday when he took an exit ramp for eastbound Interstate 70 too fast. The truck and its 45,000-pound trailer full of beer overturned.

Wheat Ridge police spokeswoman Lisa Stigall says the beer, which had recently been picked up in Golden, remained enclosed inside the trailer. Authorities had to remove the entire load in order for the trailer to be set upright.

The wreckage blocked the ramp until about 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.

No injuries were reported. Stigall says Dodge was booked and taken to a detoxification facility.

Monday, November 10, 2008

In Carolina Forest, a big glass of Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat

A cold and rainy Saturday afternoon does not tend to inspire the drinking of summery wheat beers, but after a morning's work I went to Buffalo Wild Wings in Carolina Forest (between Myrtle Beach and Conway, S.C.) and realized that the only thing on tap that I hadn't tried, or at least wasn't sure I had tried, was Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat. The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co., based in Wisconsin, has made some small distribution forays into the Grand Strand.

I have this problem lately - I'll think about ordering a regular pint and then hear words like "the 23-ounce, please" coming out of my mouth. The barkeep brought an extra tall glass of glowing gold.

The weird thing about Leinie's Sunset Wheat - or, more likely, the weird thing about me - was the undeniable taste of blueberries that continued through the last ounce. Can taste buds hallucinate? Later, I read through the Leinekugel Web site's description of the beer a few times, and never saw the word "blueberry" in it.

So I'm crazy. But by the time I got to the bottom of the glass, I had associated the taste in my mouth with the blue tap handle and made the assumption that blueberry juice was added to the outstanding wheat beer.

The bill was $4.34. I can deal with that price for 23 ounces of a Leinie.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Bud's American Ale

Bud's American Ale seemed like a cynical ploy to appeal to the pickier beer drinker, except that the quality of the beer takes the cynical part out of the ploy.

I never liked the idea that Bud's lager - the brand's best known beer, the one everybody calls Bud - was made with rice as well as barley. The company must have decided that a good remedy would be to make an all-malt ale, an ale made with nothing but barley, and to enhance it with Cascade hops from the Pacific Northwest.

So as I drink Bud's American Ale, I'm tasting a solid amber brew and a finish that leans toward the dry side. I didn't quite get the advertised "noticeably citrus aroma," although I tasted a bit in the finish. If I hold the coffee mug under a light, I can see that the color scale runs to the deep and dark side of amber.

The most informative thing I can say, however, is this: My respect for Bud and its big parent company Anheuser-Busch is bubbling upward.

I've seen six-packs of American Ale bottles selling in the $6.14-$6.59 range. Go to and click "Find It" for local bars and stores that carry this ale.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Big anniversary party at Liberty Steakhouse & Brewery this Tuesday, on Election Day

Liberty Steakhouse and Brewery (at Broadway at the Beach here in Myrtle Beach) will celebrate its 13th anniversary this coming Tuesday, on Election Day.

Brewer Eric Lamb is planning to tap the Porter, and Liberty will have 2-for-1 meal deals available -- the restaurant's own "economic bailout."

Friday, October 24, 2008

Get your beer news published in the Weekly Surge

You can make a comment on this blog post.

You can email me at .

Either way, I'll give extremely serious consideration to your beer specials, your new beverage arrivals, or your upcoming adult-beverage related events in the greater Myrtle Beach area.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Beer tasting today (Saturday, Oct. 11)

Jim Varcadipane recently purchased Atlantic Discount Spirits at 2901 U.S. 17 South in Garden City Beach, and today is the final day of his BeerFest, which has featured some local and regional distributors.

Varcadipane said each distributor should have approximately 12 different beers. Here's a look at today's schedule.

3:30-6:30 p.m., Saturday (Oct. 11): Advintage Wines of North Charleston and Aleph Wines of Columbia have the wares, along with regional distributor Republic National.

Call 357-6232 or visit for more information.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Two special events at Atlantic Discount Spirits in Garden City Beach this weekend

Later today (Friday, Oct. 3), Atlantic Discount Spirits will have a tasting with Crown Royal, Cask 16, Zwack, and Kettle One Citroen. The tasting runs 3:30-6:30 p.m.

And on Saturday (Oct. 4), also 3:30-6:30 p.m., the store will have a tasting with Forty Creek Barrel Select Whiskey and Charter 101.

Atlantic Discount Spirits is located at 2901-A U.S. 17 South in Garden City Beach.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mellow Mushroom's brew list continues to grow

Last week, a friend told me that Mellow Mushroom here in Myrtle Beach has been slowly but surely adding more and more brews -- beers on tap, to be more precise.

Anyone out there tried some of the local Mellow Mushroom's recently added beer offerings? Care to comment?

By the way, the friend who told me was Michael Wood, who has done an outstanding cover story on the Myrtle Beach underground music scene for the Weekly Surge. Read the article here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Quote of the Week

In the "hot pour" interview column in the current (Sept. 4) edition of The Weekly Surge, Christian S. Gore interviews Jessie Leeson, 28, a bartender at the local Gordon Biersch restaurant and brewery.

Christian S. Gore: Have you ever thought about what it'd be like to work a shift on LSD?

Jessie Leeson: Every shift I work I feel like I am on LSD... Myrtle Beach is a trippy place."

Beerman has gone to every-other-week

To the readers of my Beerman column in The Weekly Surge --

If you haven't noticed yet, the editor and I decided to make Beerman an every-other-week kind of column.

I will continue to update this blog between columns.

Send me news when you have some!


Friday, September 5, 2008

For wine drinkers: Cavit's 2007 Pinot Noir from Italy

Wednesday night, my wife and I had a quick, casual dinner at the Olive Garden across U.S. 17 from Barefoot Landing (North Myrtle Beach, SC). We bought a bottle of 2007 Pinot Noir from Provincia di Pavia, by the Cavit Collection. It was, as advertised, light and fruity -- and we loved it. Plus, it was affordable. We spent about $20 on that bottle, which is pretty darn reasonable for a bottle at a restaurant.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Beer-food pairings article now archived online

Everyone talks about wine pairings, but not as many talk about beer pairings.

If you've ever wanted to know what beer to have with a certain food -- or what food to have with a certain beer -- I've got you covered.

Here's the link:


Friday, July 25, 2008

Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale with Chicken Salad

I had just written an article about beer-and-food pairings. I had not included chicken salad in the beer-and-food pairings mix, but the next day, a friend visited for lunch and we had chicken salad sandwiches with Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale.

Excellent pairing. My friend agreed. I knew it would be close. Rogue includes little pairing icons on its larger, single-sale bottles (one pint + six ounces), and the Morimoto Soba Ale included a fish icon and a bird icon. Morimoto Soba Ale was light enough and zippy enough to compliment white meat, even when that white meat is mixed with mayonnaise and grapes.

You can read the beer-and-food pairing article here.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Sign of the Times

I don't know where this came from, because I received it from a forwarded email, but it sums up our times, no?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Definitive review of Myrtle Beach's beer now online

Hey folks -- my Weekly Surge cover story about Myrtle Beach's locally brewed beer was published on May 29, but the newspaper's Web site didn't seem to have a permalink for story until recently. Now, at last, you can find it here. Note that at the bottom of the main article, there are links for two related stories that ran with the same package.

The main players are:

1. The microbrewery New South Brewing Co. in Myrtle Beach;

2. The brewpub Liberty Steakhouse and Brewery at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach;

3. The brewpub Quigley's Plate and Pint in Pawleys Island;

4. The new Gordon Biersch brewpub at The Market Common on the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Give Michelob a chance

I'm continuing to reevaluate my beer-snobbery.

I had basically written off the big domestics in favor of microbrews and imports, until twice recently I dined at Chuck's Steakhouse, 9695 Kings Highway on Restaurant Row in Myrtle Beach.

My wife and I always love the food at Chuck's, but the steakhouse has only one beer on tap, Michelob Lager, plus a tap for the beer substitute Michelob Ultra. (They also have a selection of bottled beers.)

But Chuck's knows how to make the most of that Michelob, offering a big, frosty, 28-ounce goblet for $5.50.

On both of my recent visits, the goblet was perfectly frosted.

I thought the Michelob had interesting hop characteristics, followed by a pleasant dryness.

It was not the blandness I had come to expect from big domestics. Michelob had something going on. It paired well with steak. I finished the goblet smiling.

Later, I went to the Michelob Web site, which claimed that their lager is made with European hops and "a 100-percent-malt blend." Meaning: no rice, no corn, just barley malt. What a difference.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A visit to Capital Ale House in Richmond, Va.; a date with Legend Brown Ale

I stopped at Capital Ale House in downtown Richmond, Va., during a break from my rocket ride down Interstate 95 yesterday. The barkeep said the only locally brewed beer on tap was Legend Brown Ale, but of course several other local and regional brews -- along with dozens more -- were available behind six doors of coolers that were packed with bottles.

Legend Brewing Co.'s Brown Ale felt and tasted just about perfect. It was sweet with just enough hops to keep it honest. The medium-light body served both sip-ability and drink-ability.

Capital Ale House had a frost strip, or frost in a stainless steel indention, set into the long, wood bar. Nice touch.

My 12-ounce Legend Brown Ale was $3.50.

My house burger was $7.49.

Capital Ale House also offers take-home bottles for 25-percent off the list price, as long as each purchase meets a $10 minimum, which is due to concerns of local residents, according to the menu.

So I picked up two bottles to go.

My take-home Legend Golden Ale, in a one-pint, six-fluid ounce bottle, was $6.50.

And my take-home 12-ounce bottle of Full Nelson, from Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton, Virginia, was $4.

Stay tuned and I'll tell you what these good-looking beers taste like.

-Colin Foote Burch

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Old Dominion Brew Pub, Ashburn, VA; sampling five beers at Old Dominion Brew Pub

Live, from Chantilly, Va., I'm filing a review of Old Dominion Brew Pub in Ashburn, Va., for blog watchers as well as readers of my Beerman column in the Weekly Surge of Myrtle Beach, S.C.

Tucked away in an office park, Old Dominion Brew Pub at 44633 Guilford Drive, Ashburn, Va., gave me a sampler flight of these beers ($6.25):

Beach House Pils: The yellow-golden sunshine of this brew is intense in the best way a pilsner can be. It hits with a ton of taste, especially citrus-like flavors, and a crisp finish.

Dominion Lager: I tasted a touch of roasted malt, subtle yet still more than I usually get in a lager.

Dominion Ale: A solid ale, amber in color, advertised as the product of two-row pale, caramel, and black malts, and Kent Golding hops.

Dominion Pale Ale: This is a regular pale ale, but I've tasted India Pale Ales this good and hoppy. Outstanding, more punch than a typical pale ale, with hints of grapefruit and a dry finish.

I also tried a full pint Dominion Oak Barrel Stout: Wow. This might be my favorite stout, ever. I wondered what was taking so long for the barkeep to bring my pint of the stout when I realized that the beer was slowly pouring into the pint glass while I waited. How slow? I watched another pull of a stout, as the pint glass stood on another, inverted pint glass and the stream slowly went down the side of the glass. I started counting when the glass was about a fifth full. I estimated about a full minute for the pour. Nice.

The head was a dark beige, almost with a faint tint of orange to the color.

As advertised, the flavors were of vanilla and bourbon. I didn't find a bit of bitterness in it. In fact, Dominion Oak Barrel Stout was sweet and yummy. The body was medium, not as heavy as it could have been.

One important note:

Today, I spent approximately three hours trying to find the Old Dominion Brew Pub in Ashburn. It's tucked away -- quite literally -- in an office park.

In fact, overcoming my maleness, I asked for directions not once, not twice, but three times, and I still couldn't find the damn thing. Then, duh, I called the brew pub's phone number, and found a recorded message with helpful, clear, straightforward directions.

-Colin Foote Burch

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Choosing the right cooler for beach & boating

I saw a Styrofoam cooler at a local grocery store for $5.99. I figured you could pack 18 cans and ice into it - and then pick the beer off the ground when the bottom busts out.

If you're going to buy a cooler, make a little investment. Skip the Styrofoam.

A better idea would be to look for the Thermos collapsible can cooler, which expands from a cloth ring into an insulated cylinder full of brews. It holds 54 cans plus ice, keeps the beer cold for three days, and retails locally for around $20.

Better yet, try the 64-quart Coleman Extreme, a traditional rectangular structure, outfitted with wheels, and enough space inside to pack 85 cans. It can keep the brews cold for five days, and retails locally for around $60.

Just remember - if you're going to invest in a nice cooler, put some decent beer in it.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Chuck's Steakhouse and its 28-ounce Michelob

I was wrong about big domestic beers.

There, I said it.

They're not all bad.

In fact, Michelob Lager has more to offer than I expected.

Having been a bit of a brew snob lately, I have not tasted much in the way of big domestics, not for a while. I think the last time I drank a big can of Budweiser was more than a year ago, at the House of Blues, when the band Drive-By Truckers was on the stage, and I was afraid I would get my ass kicked if I bought Heineken.

So I had written off the big domestics in favor of microbrews and imports.

Until I dined at Chuck's Steakhouse on Restaurant Row here in Myrtle Beach -- twice, recently.

My wife and I like to eat there when we can; it's got an excellent, old-school steakhouse touch to it. I even like the fact that their salad bar isn't a mile long; it's something more typical of the era before salad bars mutated and took over the restaurant industry.

Anyway, Chuck's has only one draft beer, Michelob, plus a tap for the beer substitute Michelob Ultra.

The folks at Chuck's will sell you a big frosty goblet containing approximately 28 ounces of Michelob for $5.50.

I noted that the Michelob had interesting, hoppy characteristics, followed by a pleasant dryness.

This was not the blandness I had come to expect from big domestics. Michelob had something going on. It showed up. It had something to offer.

Perhaps all the time I have spent focusing on the imports and microbrews, and learning about their characteristics, helped me understand what there was to appreciate in that Michelob.

Because after I made my favorable assessment of Michelob, I looked up the company Web site, on which -- it is claimed -- that their lager is made with "European noble aroma hop varieties" and "a 100-percent-malt blend of the finest two-row and caramel malts."

Damn, it really makes a difference, especially when compared with Bud.

Hmm, I'm sounding a bit sappy here. But then again, I'm now determined to give Coors and Miller another go. Maybe there's something I've been missing -- whoa, did I say that?

Stay tuned.

-Colin Foote Burch

Monday, June 2, 2008

Best locally brewed beers in the Myrtle Beach area

Hey folks -- my cover story in the Weekly Surge will be available at this link for about three more days. Check out my picks from Myrtle Beach / Pawleys Island microbreweries and brewpubs. If you are a beer drinker who lives in the greater Myrtle Beach area, or if you are planning a visit, this article is a must-read if you want to make the most of your beer-drinking dollar.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sampling 10 beers & creating a playlist

This evening, I sampled 10 locally brewed beers, and then went home to clean the kitchen while listening to my iPod.

Beers by Gordon Biersch in Myrtle Beach:

1. Golden Export

2. Hefeweizen

3. Czech Lager

4. Marzen

5. Schwarzbier

And beers by New South Brewing Co. in Myrtle Beach:

1. White Ale

2. India Pale Ale

3. Cooper River Red

4. Nut Brown

5. Lowcountry Lager

The playlist I created following the samplings to help me clean the kitchen:

1. No Rain by Blind Melon

2. Love Removal Machine by The Cult

3. The Problem by J.J. Cale

4. I Choose by The Offspring

5. Subterranean Homesick Alien by Radiohead

6. Tom Sawyer by Rush

And then I continued with:

7. Ch-check it Out by The Beastie Boys

8. Ocarina by Birds & Batteries

9. Turn! Turn! Turn! by The Byrds

10. Eight Miles High by The Byrds

11. Just What I Needed by The Cars

Friday, May 16, 2008

Mini kegs, good and bad

Shop Amazon - Thanksgiving Dinner and Desserts - Prepare the Perfect Feast I've been thinking about getting one of those 5-liter Heineken DraughtKegs for the house, but I don't drink a lot of beer at home, preferring instead to visit our local bars or brewpubs. At home, with three young children, I don't need beer. I need a sense of humor and straight liquor. But I've seen those Heineken mini kegs in local package stores and grocers for $18.49-$20.34, so I've been wondering if they would be worthwhile.

After a little research, it looks like the value of the Heineken DraughtKeg seems to be its longevity, and its price-per-pint.

An internal compressor, using carbon dioxide, keeps the beer from coming in contact with air, which allows the beer to stay fresh for at least 30 days, according to the gadget squad at Popular Mechanics.

In other words, it probably wouldn't go to waste.

But how much would I get out of a 5-liter Heiney?

By way of comparison, a regular keg has 15.5 gallons. A pony keg has 7.75 gallons. The Heiney DraughtKeg has about 1.3 gallons, which amounts to 166.4 ounces, or about 10.4 pints.

Let's say you purchase the Heiney DraughtKeg, considering taxes and price variations, for $21. That works out to about $2.02 per pint.

Worth it? That's up to you. But I think if it's sitting in my fridge for 30 days and still tasting good, I might give it a try.

However - important note - Heineken is unique in its use of carbon dioxide for its 5-liter size.

If you buy a Warsteiner, Beck's, Paulaner, or any of the other mini kegs available on the Grand Strand, you'll probably want to drink it within a few hours. These mini kegs rely on gravity, with a little twist-and-turn spigot on the bottom. When the pouring slows down, it's time to release a little pressure from a valve on the top.

All that is to say, the 5-liter mini kegs that don't use carbon dioxide for pressure will allow air to come in contact with the beer. So make sure it's party time when you open most 5-liter mini kegs. The price spread is about $16.50-$21 for most brands.

Myrtle Beach Bike Week 2008 continues

An impromptu bike crossing on Restaurant Row yesterday.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

What beer do you think Barak Obama drinks?

Results from the officially unscientific Malty Hops poll question, What beer do you think Barak Obama would drink?

25 percent said Amstel Light

25 percent said Budweiser

25 percent said Samuel Adams

25 percent said Miller Light

The other options available in the poll were: "Heineken: and "No beer; probably wine."

Thanks for playing!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Myrtle Beach Bike Week 2008: Offical Bud Can

For this year's bike week, Bud is flooding the Myrtle Beach, S.C., area with 6,000 cases of themed 24-ounces cans (left) and 15,000 cases of 12-ounce cans.

Myrtle Beach Bike Week 2008; The Dog House on Restaurant Row

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Thomas Creek Brewing Co. is growing, upgrading

Ten-year-old Thomas Creek Brewing Co. in Greenville, S.C., is running through an amazing expansion as we speak.

Within the last year, co-owner Tom Davis said, he added four new fermentation tanks with the capacity of 6,000 barrels of beer. He upgraded the brewery's bottling equipment within the past four months, moving its capacity from 18 bottles per minute to 49 bottles per minute.

Part of the expansion is due to contract work. Thomas Creek is brewing for Orange Blossom Pilsner out of Florida.

But the microbrewery has plenty going on with its own label - a logo change, for one thing, and a new graphic design for packaging. The first beer with the new logo and design went out Thomas Creek's door about four weeks ago. New t-shirts arrived at the brewery three weeks ago, and logo glasses arrived earlier this week.

Davis has also made small changes in the flavor profiles of his beers, but "nothing major," he said. He also decided to drop his multi-grain beer, but he has added an India pale ale and a porter.

Davis said his Up the Creek Extreme IPA - a 12-percent beer, separate from his standard IPA - will be released either in a four-pack or in a special corked bottle, tentatively in the fall.

Also for autumn, Thomas Creek is planning a "Trail Mix" variety 12-pack of the brewery's beers.

"Ten years," Davis said. "Slowly, slowly growing for ten years. Now we've reached what my father calls the tipping point." His father, Bill Davis, is co-owner.

For more information on Thomas Creek, visit

Bud Light Lime poll results

Results from the Malty Hops poll question: Will you try Bud Light Lime?

50 percent said they would try it

50 percent said they would not

Personally, I think it's good for a light beer; the lime flavor is quite close to the real thing.

Check out our new poll at the top left of the blog: What beer does Barak Obama drink?

Saturday, May 3, 2008

New TBonz summer seasonal gets a name

New South Brewing Co.'s new summer seasonal for TBonz Gill & Grill restaurants is...


This brew will be amber colored and slightly malty with a mild hop character, according to the TBonz Mug Club Newsletter.

Look for it on-tap Friday, May 9.



Friday, April 25, 2008

Wise words from Magic Hat's hI.P.A.

I opened a bottle of Magic Hat's hI.P.A. -- delightfully, if heavily, hopped -- and found this under the bottle cap:

Don't pour
on your

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Billy Bock is back at Quigley's Plate & Pint in Pawleys Island, SC

Billy Bock has returned to Quigley's Plate and Pint.

The brewpub in Pawleys Island, SC, has put the seasonal beer on tap earlier than it did last year. Owner Josh Quigley said he might not have a special summer seasonal in 2008.

He said he'll be busy enough keeping up with demand for his six core beers, especially if the traffic of the last four weeks are an indication of what's to come when the summer tourists arrive.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A visit to Foothills Brewing in Winston-Salem, North Carolina

After a hike around Pilot Mountain, why not drink some Pilot Mountain Pale Ale?

I went to Foothills Brewing at 638 West Fourth Street in Winston-Salem, N.C., after spending most of Sunday at Pilot Mountain State Park with two of my daughters.

Of course I ordered the Foothills Brewing sampler, which included six of the microbrewery's standards in 10-ounce glasses for $7.99. The server offered me the option of adding the seasonal brew to the sampler for $1, so I did.

Here are my notes:

Salem Gold: This ale was the lightest offering. It had a pronounced wheat flavor and a crisp, clean finish.

Pilot Mountain Pale Ale: A swallow of this gave me one of the cleanest finished I've had from a pale ale. Definite hints of grapefruit and lemonade.

Torch Pilsner: Not strong. Complete and pleasant. I thought it had a slightly lighter body than other pilsners, but that's probably just me.

Hoppyum IPA: As advertised, Hoppyum IPA has "citrusy hops." It is strongly hopped but not extremely hopped like some IPAs these days. Definite presense of grapefruit. Maybe some orange peel in the aftertaste.

Rainbow Trout ESB: Accessible and very drinkable, with a touch of tartness. Yet I thought it didn't have quite as much traditional ESB character in its flavor. I couldn't put my finger on it. It definitely had a hint of roasted-nut in the finish; the sampler placemat had said "nutty chocolate finish." I enjoyed it.

Hurricane Hefeweizen: This seasonal was clean and dry -- perhaps even a bit drier than other hefeweizens I have tried. I thought I tasted a touch of bubblegum in the yeast. No hints of banana, which some hefeweizens have.

Total Eclipse Stout: This was an amazing stout. It's the closest thing to cold coffee I've ever tasted in a beer. If you've had high-quality coffees before, you'll know that some have a rich, almost liqueur-like touch to them. That's what this is like. The richness had me drinking more; the robust, coffee-like bitterness had me looking for the sugar!

Most accessible: Salem Gold, Torch Pilsner, Rainbow Trout ESB

Biggest surprise: Total Eclipse Stout

Visit Foothills Brewing online at The site includes a list of other eateries in the Carolinas that serve Foothills Brewing beers.

-Colin Foote Burch

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Steel Reserve 211: The blue collar, working man's high-gravity union-made lager

Shop Amazon - Thanksgiving Dinner and Desserts - Prepare the Perfect Feast Miller Brewing Co. so badly wants every-day, unpretentious people to drink Steel Reserve 211 high-gravity lager, it comes in masculine silver cans with tough typography. The "UNION MADE" notification even seems a bit larger than it appears on other beers. See, this high-gravity beer ain't for sissies with British accents -- get it? It's a real man's beer, none of this handcrafted, black-turtleneck stuff.

But wait -- they're not taking the beer snob for granted. The can (I'm holding an empty 24-ounce size) also says "EXTRA MALTED BARLEY & SELECT HOPS FOR EXTRA GRAVITY" and "SLOW BREWED...." What's more, the parent company, Miller Brewing, appears nowhere on the can, as if the marketing and packaging geniuses wanted to leave room for me to believe that it might just be brewed by a ballsy microbrewery or an gutsy small company. Well, it worked. I had hoped.

And now, the meaning of the 211. It's the medieval symbol for steel.

How elemental.

The taste of this beer is well-balanced and targeted at mainstream drinkers, the kinds of folks who like Bud and Coors and MGD but might be persuaded by the 6-percent rating to try something stronger than normal. (I didn't know we called anything above 5 percent "high-gravity;" I mean, with most high-gravity beers in the 7-10 percent range, Steel Reserve 211 only counts as a high-gravity beer in the very technical sense of the definition.) The marketing and packaging folks are eager to boast about the beer with all the strong, manly writing all over the can, but the taste is determined not to offend. Ergo, it is a bit bland, if well-balanced and accessible.

That being said, members of gave it low scores.

I think it's a cool thing, however, to see a high-gravity beer in cans. I drank a 24-ouncer ($1.33), and I've also seen 12-packs ($7.20). Maybe Steel Reserve 211, backed by Miller Brewing Co., will start a new trend of high-gravity canned brews.

Colin Foote Burch

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Horn Dog!

Flying Dog's Horn Dog Barley Wine Style Ale is as gorgeous at Penelope Cruz, strong as Jean Claud Van Damme, and quick as Jet Li.

I'll be writing about it in the Weekly Surge soon. Stay tuned.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Interview with co-founder of Gordon Biersch; news from new Gordon Biersch location, now opened in Myrtle Beach

My recent conversation with Dan Gordon, co-founder of Gordon Biersch, uncovered news about the company's expansion plans. The following is from my column in the Weekly Surge in Myrtle Beach, SC:

The Market Common location in Myrtle Beach, S.C., is the 26th Gordon Biersch. Four weeks ago, a location opened in Kansas City, Mo. In November, Gordon plans to open in nearby Overland Park, Kan. Meanwhile, a Plano, Texas, location is due in May; Taipei, Taiwan, in June; and Annapolis, Md., in October.

Within a year, bottles of Marzen, Czech Lager, Hefeweizen, and Blond Boch - available at retailers in other parts of the country - will be distributed throughout the Southeast.

The expansion of Gordon's company, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, was enabled by sound, long-term planning. "Nationally, the restaurant industry is down, and we're not," he said.

Gordon liked The Market Common concept because the development includes homes. "This kind of place, with the residential built in, is amazingly beneficial to us," he said

Read the full Beerman column in the Weekly Surge.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Gordon Biersch opening soon in Myrtle Beach; an interview with the Head Brewer at the new Gordon Biersch in Myrtle Beach

Pete Velez is working on some brews that will probably make you smile.

Velez is head brewer at the local Gordon Biersch restaurant-brewery, which is scheduled to open on April 3 in The Market Common development on the former Myrtle Beach Air Force Base.

The Myrtle Beach location will be the first in South Carolina for Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant Group, Inc., which has 27 locations in 17 states.

And this will be the first Gordon Biersch gig for Velez, who left Capitol City Brewing Co. in the Washington, D.C., area for the job here.

The Gordon Biersch concept focuses on "upper-end casual dining," according to the company, with appetizers such as Garlic French Fries, and entrees including Sweet and Spicy Cashew Chicken Stir Fry.

And, of course, on-premise brewing. The company adheres to a German "Purity Law" for beer-making that dates back to 1516.

When Velez recently took a few minutes to tell me more about how Gordon Biersch makes and serves beer, I started looking forward to the grand opening.

First, all of the beers are made exclusively with German and Czechoslovakian ingredients, and they are all lagers, which take a little longer to brew than ales.

Gordon Biersch beers are served in half-liter glasses, although there is a smaller glass available at 0.4 liter, a difference that makes more sense when the glasses are set side-by-side, Velez said.

The prices on those glasses will be competitive with the going rates in the local market, but they haven't been finalized, he said. The Happy Hour prices at most Gordon Biersch locations are a dollar less than the regular price, he said, but those specials aren't official for Myrtle Beach yet.

Velez will offer growlers, too - a regular, half-gallon jug like Liberty Steakhouse and Brewery and Quigley's Pint and Plate offers, and possibly a more expensive, German-style jug with a flip top.

Gordon Biersch will also, probably, have a spin on the mug club, Velez said. It will be a bit more fancy and German - a stein club.

So what will be on tap when the restaurant-brewery opens? Click here to find out.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Land Shark Lager in the outfield

BB&T Coastal Field, home of the Myrtle Beach (S.C.) Pelicans baseball club, has the only outfield seating section in the Carolina League, and it's about to be up-fitted, Jimmy Buffett-style.

The section will become "Land Shark Landing," themed after the Margaritaville Brewing Co.'s Land Shark Lager. The parent company is Anheuser-Busch.

"Land Shark Landing" is scheduled to be ready for the Myrtle Beach Pelican's home opener on April 11, said Jon Laaser, the ball club's director of broadcasting and communications.

"Land Shark Landing" - definitely has a ring to it - will be a partnership between the Pelicans and Better Brands, Inc., a beer wholesaler in Myrtle Beach that will also be co-sponsor of Thirsty Thursdays - the nights for beer specials - for the 2008 season.

Although I'm more inclined to think about Chevy Chase as the original land shark from the classic Saturday Night Live skits, the real inspiration behind "Land Shark Lager" was Buffett's song "Fins." Remember that one? "You got fins to the left / Fins to the right / You're the only bait in town."

Like I've said before, Land Shark Lager, which tastes similar to Corona Extra, and would go fairly well with a cheeseburger that has lettuce and tomato, Heinz 57 and French-fried potatoes.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

A pint of Harp at P.J. Moran's Restaurant in NYC

My wife and I recently stopped in at P.J. Moran's Restaurant at 3 East 48th Street in New York City.

I had a pint of Harp with the traditional Irish breakfast which I got for lunch; the pint cost me $7.50.

That's a little more expensive than a pint of Harp here in South Carolina.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

There's a scallop in my beer

In Great Britain, a brewer has produced a beer using scallops. I thought I had heard it all.

The Shepherd Neame brewery's Scallop Stout is like Guinness, and made with traditional methods, except a handful of scallops are thrown in for an hour, according to the Web site

"There's a hint of smokiness and a slight taste of the sea but no fishiness. I can find no scientific reason for why it works, but it does," brewer Stewart Main told the Web site.

Shepherd Neame, based in Kent, is planning to release a crab beer and a winkle beer, too.

(For news and commentary on religion and culture, click here.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Labels add to wine's message on Valentine's Day

From my column in the Weekly Surge:

If you buy wine for your Valentine's Day beloved, you're probably dropping a hint about your intentions, and these days, the wine labels often say a bit more. Here are some labels that will add something to the message of the wine.

Be Direct: 7 Deadly Zins, a 2006 Zinfadel, makes it clear that the evening is all about gluttony and lust. And maybe envy, if the dates at the other tables look hotter. Retails around $16-$17.

Get Serious: Nothing says commitment like diamonds, so break out the Red Diamond 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon or the Red Diamond 2003 Merlot. Around $11.

Behave Yourself: Want this evening to remain chaste? Put a bottle of Blue Nun between you and your date. This 2005 Qualitatswein from Germany retails around $9.

Express Disappointment: Ladies, if you're not happy with how your boyfriend has handled the evening, hand him a bottle of Dog House Charlie's Chard 2005 chardonnay. With a twist-off top, he won't need a cork screw to drink with the pooch. Around $11.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Magic Hat releases Pandora's Box

It looks like opening Pandora's Box is a pretty cool thing.

Pandora's Box, coming soon to a grocer or beer store near you, is a special package from Magic Hat Brewing Company in Burlington, Vermont.

Distributors should soon have the Pandora's Box Spring Variety 12-Pak in markets that already carry Magic Hat.

The theme of the box is totally Sixties: Day-Glo colors, dove's foot peace symbols, and the proclamation "Make Beer Not War." Everything about it screams youth and rock-and-roll.

Inside are three bottles each of the following brews, each of which I was allowed an advanced tasting:

#9, the "not quite pale ale." With the funky flower-child package of Pandora's Box, it's hard not to hear "Love Potion No. Nine" in the background. This remains a favorite. The not-quite-pale-ale factor reminds me of a Bass, but Magic Hat's brew wizards have added some subtle, unspecified flavorings, too. Try it, you won't regret it.

h I.P.A., a "highly hopped" India pale ale. This one definitely lives up to its name - the hops linger in your mouth with a peppery staying power, but it's not crazy hopped like some of the Dogfish Head offerings.

Circus Boy, "The Hefeweizen." I thought this was smoother and slightly heavier in body than most hefeweizens, but still crisp and good for warmer weather. Dang it, I had no lemon for my tasting of this one.

Odd Notion, an Irish-style red ale. This is a red ale that tastes red, almost with a cherry undercurrent. This is one of the sweeter, lighter, and more unique experiences I've had with a red ale. Much better than Killian's!

-From my column in Weekly Surge; see

(For news about a.d.d, a.d.h.d., and neurofeedback, click here.)

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Premature fermentation? Spring ales hit too soon

I walked into Food Lion on the Martin Luther King Junior holiday weekend and my general disgust at the free-market's exploitation of the seasons hit a new high.

There, in the beer cooler, was Blue Moon's Rising Moon Spring Ale - six bottles for $7.29.

I was standing there with my Kangol toboggan on, with my two-year-old snuggled up against me for warmth. We haven't even taken the Christmas tree down yet. Back at the house, ice covered the fish pond out our back door.

And I was looking at a spring seasonal.

This just didn't seem right, but then again, it's never seemed right to find Halloween goodies in the drug stores beginning on something like July 5.

I thought a good way to contrast this early spring - premature fermentation? - would be to contact our local brewers.

It turns out they don't have any spring brews on tap yet - imagine that - and in a sense, they will eventually have two spring seasons - first Saint Patrick's Day, then the later spring.

"That's early!" said head brewer Eric Lamb of Liberty Steakhouse and Brewery at Broadway at the Beach, when I told him about Rising Moon. He added that he doesn't even start worrying about spring until after Saint Patrick's Day.

Lamb said he will put out the Oatmeal Stout sometime between late January and mid February. In March, he'll have the Irish Red on tap, around the Saint Patty's holiday. Although he's considering a change-up in his beer menu - which we'll talk about in the weeks to come - the Golden Ale is usually a good choice for late spring.

Over at Myrtle Beach's New South Brewing Co., which supplies beer to numerous Grand Strand bars and restaurants, owner Dave Epstein was talking about his plan for area T-Bonz restaurants, for which he brews signature beers. He'll run the current Winterfest until just about mid-March, then he'll put out an Irish Stout a week before Saint Patty's Day. Then the Blonde Bombshell will appear probably in late spring at T-Bonz locations.

As for New South's own label, the White Ale started out as a spring and summer brew, and but now it's year-round, so Epstein won't have a spring seasonal per se.

Josh Quigley, owner of Quigley's Pint & Plate in Pawleys Island, said he'll tap a stout around St. Patty's Day, and the spring boch from last year, Billy Boch, will return around mid-March.

Back at New South, Epstein was saying that we might start seeing Samuel Adams get its spring seasonal on the shelves. Ol' Sam usually starts pretty early, he said.

For the record, I have not tried Rising Moon, and Blue Moon's regular white ale and its winter brew are both fine beers. So maybe we're all getting an early shot at something good.

But come on. We haven't even survived the onslaught of Valentine's Day marketing.

-from my column in the Weekly Surge. Visit to see more.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

The beauty of Liquor Quik

Liquor Quik is a line of 20-milliliter bottles with concentrated flavors. Pour a bottle of Liquor Quik into a 750-milliliter bottle of grain alcohol or vodka, and you have amaretto, or hazelnut liqueur, or maybe Irish cream, or several others. Who thinks up this stuff?

I found Liquor Quik for $4.39 per bottle at Beach HomeBrew in The Galleria at 9612 North Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach.

"I made the Grand Marnier and I couldn't tell the difference," said Ed Waldorf, owner of Beach HomeBrew, referring to the orange-brandy flavored Liquor Quik flavor. Waldorf said he buys a mid-priced vodka from Sam's Club for his mixes, making the concoction less expensive ounce-for-ounce than buying the real Grand Marnier.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Key beer ingredient is good for you, German researchers say

Preliminary studies indicate xanthohumol, a compound found in hops, inhibits a family of enzymes which trigger cancer, as well as help the body detoxify carcinogens.

"It's very healthy," said Dr. Werner Back, a brewing technology expert at the Technical University of Munich. "I think the ingredients in the beer are very good."

Xanthohumol contains more powerful antioxidants than vitamin E and some studies indicate it helps reduce oxidation of bad cholesterol.

"Xanthohumol has been shown to be a very active substance against cancer," said Dr. Markus Herrmann, also of Munich. "It comes in small sticky beads, which you find within the hops."

But, don't start chugging down those beers just yet.

Researchers warn that it would take 60 regular beers to equal the amount of xanthohumol they were able to brew in one beer.

That's why scientists are now working on ways to give all beers higher levels of xanthohumol, and even find ways to add it to other foods, like chocolate.