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Archive for December, 2008

People have been intrigued and entertained by legends of pirates and buried treasure for centuries. After all, what is more seductive than tales of pillaging, plundering and debauchery on the high seas?

Pirate Ship Attacking Merchant Ship

Pirate Ship Attacking Merchant Ship

Pirates have been around as long as people have used the oceans as trade routes. Instances of piracy have been documented all the way back to the 13th century BC. According to popular belief, the “Sea People” were the first confederacy of seafaring raiders – threatening the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas in the second millennium BC. (The Sea People haunted many Egyptian, Greek and Roman kings during this time and have even been attributed to the collapse of multiple empires & kingdoms located along the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas)

The most infamous pirates in history, however, date back to The Golden Era of Piracy. Long before the immensely popular Pirates of The Caribbean movie series hit the big screen and created a pirate obsession and craze across the world, stories and tales of pirates of the Caribbean waters have been romanticizing popular culture.

Captain Jack Sparrow

Captain Jack Sparrow

Roughly spanning from the 1650s to the 1720s, the Golden Age of Piracy is so called because of the significant increase in the number of pirates operating throughout the Caribbean and along the American coast. This era spawned the modern day depiction of pirates. The most infamous pirates from this era are the prototypes for today’s “pirate industry” – inspiring movie & book characters, memorabilia, comics, artwork, souvenirs, costumes etc.

Captain Hook & His Gang

Captain Hook & His Gang

One such pirate is Blackbeard – arguably the most infamous, most feared and most vicious pirate in all of history. In fact, his appearance alone was so terrorizing that many of his victims surrendered without a fight. Even members of his crew feared him (and for good reason, since he had a record of marooning his own crew on multiple occasions). Heck, many merchant crew ships often surrendered at the mere site of Blackbeard’s flag!

Official Pirate Flag of Blackbeard

Official Pirate Flag of Blackbeard

Blackbeard’s exact name and origin is unknown. The most common theory is that Blackbeard’s real name was Edward Teach (or Thatch) and that he originated from Bristol, England.

Although the source of his nickname is debatable (some say self-proclaimed, some say given by others), its relevance is undeniable. Blackbeard did in fact have a black beard. According to legend, he used to tie strings of hemp under his beard which he would light with matches during battle – giving the illusion that he had fire coming from his beard.

Blackbeard The Pirate

Blackbeard The Pirate

Blackbeard is documented as being a tall man, usually adorned in a long jacket and a big feathered tricorn, carrying multiple swords, knives, and pistols.

Blackbeard The Pirate

Blackbeard The Pirate

Although his reign of terror was incredibly short lived (less than 2 years), Blackbeard most certainly left his mark on history.

His first act of piracy was the capture of the French slaveship La Concorde in 1717. The ship, which he renamed Queen Anne’s Revenge, served as Blackbeard’s flag ship for almost the entire duration of his career.

Painting of Queen Anne's Revenge

Painting of Queen Anne's Revenge

In perhaps the most brazen act of his piratical career, Blackbeard blockaded the port of Charleston for nearly a week. He obtained hostages from the town and threatened to kill them all if the townspeople in Charleston didn’t come up with quite possibly the most interesting ransom in all of pirating: a medical chest filled with remedies.

Painting of Blacbeard Fighting Maynard

Painting of Blacbeard Fighting Maynard

The events surrounding Blackbeard’s death are questionable … and rather shady (if you ask me). Story has it that Blackbeard retired from piracy after he accepted a pardon from Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia. Said shady Governor is also the man who ordered Lieutenant Robert Maynard to hunt down and destroy Blackbeard. Maynard did in fact succeed in his mission, but Blackbeard did not go down easily. Legend has it that Blackbeard sustained five gun shot wounds and more than twenty stabs with a sword before he died and was decapitated.

Blackbeard's Head Hanging From Maynard's Bow

Blackbeard's Head Hanging From Maynard's Bow

By now you must be wondering why on earth I took the time to research and write about Blackbeard The Pirate for my BEER blog. Sure pirates are f*cking awesome, but what the hell does any of this have to do with beer? Ahhh, have no fear friends … we are getting there.

U.S. Virgin Islands

U.S. Virgin Islands

If you stalk me on Twitter, then you probably know I recently spent a week vacationing in St. Thomas. My biggest pet peave about the entire trip was the overall LACK of good beer on the entire island. AND on top of it, beer was ridiculously expensive … well actually EVERYTHING was expensive (excluding rum … which is cheaper than water). Almost all food and beverages in the U.S. Virgin Islands are imported – which equals lots of taxation and added fuel costs. Very few products are native to the area – save for rum, seafood … and some produce.

Cruzan Rum

Cruzan Rum

As for the beer … the selection was extremely limited and consisted mostly of lagers. And if you know anything about me, know this: The Wench is not a big fan of lagers. Of course, I respect the style and acknowledge its purpose in the world of beer. However, lagers are not my favorite thing to drink. But enough about that …

One beer did help St. Thomas save face: Virgin Islands Brewing Company Blackbeard Ale. (Ah ha! And the blog post is finally coming full circle!)

bbalelogo23Virgin Islands Brewing Company is small traditional brewery that was founded on St. Croix in 1996. It is the ONLY brewery producing beer in the Virgin Islands. The two local beers they brew are Blackbeard Ale and Foxy’s Lager. Both are available throughout the United States and British Virgin Islands.

Obviously, Blackbeard Ale was named after one of the most dreaded and notorious pirates of all time. Naturally, I had to give this beer a taste … after all, I am a whore for ales … and pirates. And a beer that combines the two just has to be good … right?

Here are my tasting notes, courtesy of my iphone Beer Pad application:

BlackBeard Ale

BlackBeard Ale

BLACKBEARD ALE

Style: Amber Ale

Brewery: Virgin Islands brewing Company

Region: Virgin Islands

Pairings: Cheese, Seafood, Pork … Spicy Foods!

Color: Cloudy, dark amber

Carbonation: Low carbonation, … but it was poured from a bottle into a plastic cup. Pours a thick head, which dissipates quickly. Lacing lasts till the very end.

Aroma: Tons of toasty malt, caramel & brown sugar. Sweet grassy hops. The malt definitely dominates the aroma.

Mouthfeel: Very light bodied, mildly alcoholic

Flavor: SUPER malty. Toasted nuts. Lost of brown sugar. Compliments spicy food very well (sweetness helps to cut the fire)

Finish: Malt lingers on and on …

Comments: “It’s actually pretty tasty. I’m so sick and tired of drinking lagers on this f*cking island! This ale is my hero. Yarrrggghhhh!!!”

The Pirate Wench

My Alter Ego: The Pirate Wench

Considering this brewery is located in an area of the world that brews mostly lagers and is known for its rum more than anything else … Virgin Islands Brewing Company should definitely get props for its Blackbeard Ale. It is a well balanced, easy to drink ale that goes very well with the foods and fare of the islands. Not to mention, Blackbeard was one kick ass pirate … and his story alone makes the ale that much cooler.

If you can get your hands on some, take my advice and give it a taste! Bottoms up!

“Drink Up Me Maties, Yo Ho!”

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As fate would have it, I was introduced to Birrificio del Ducato Krampus on the evening December 5th. The reason that tasting this particular ale on that specific evening was so significant is because, according to German (and some Slavic) tradition, the Krampus (roving bands of demon-like characters) take to the streets to terrorize children, accost women, and wreak general havoc on the village on the evening on December 5th. The following day, December 6th, is the feast of St. Nicholas.

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Unfortunately I did not know the story before drinking the beer … and was unable to translate the one on the bottle in entirety at the bar. In retrospect, it would have been fun to dress up as a Krampus and terrorize the town. Perhaps this will become a future party theme or ritual …

The story on the Birrificio del Ducato Krampus bottle is as follows: La notte del 5 dicembre, i Krampus si aggirano fra le vie ed i vicoli dei paesini dell’arco alpino. Coperti da pelli di montoni, con corna e zampe di capra, agitando le loro nere catene, terrorizzano gli abitanti dei villaggi. È il preludio dell’arrivo del Vescovo San Nicola (antico precursore de Babbo Natale) che riporterà la pace, dolci e doni nella comunità. Una birra dedicata al Natale, calda ed avvolgente, dalle tenue speziatura. Ideale per aspettare lálba accanto al focolare, al riparo dalle incursioni del demoni.

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The Wench’s version (using a combination of several online translations): On the night of December 5th, the Krampus are estimated to stand between the streets and alleys of little villages of the Alps covered in hides and skins of sheep, with horns and feet of goat, shaking their black chains, and terrorizing the inhabitants of the villages. This is the prelude to the arrival of the Bishop San Nicola (ancient precursor de Santa Claus) bringing peace, sweets and gifts to the community. A beer dedicated to Christmas, warm and enveloping, from tenuous speziatura (the definition of speziatura evades me …) Ideal for waiting by the fireplace, protected from the incursions of the demons.

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Next year, The Wench is totally hosting a Krampus party … accompanied with crazy costumes, complete havoc and debauchery. And, of course, it would not be complete without lots of women & child terrorizing! Hopefully, Birrificio del Ducato Krampus will be accessible for this occasion.

Enough about folklore and tradition. Time to get down to business.

Located in Parma, Birrificio del Ducato is one of Italy’s up-and-coming microbreweries.

map_ducato

Its brewmaster, Giovanni Campari, is a second generation Italian craft brewer. As with most craft brewers, Giovanni got his roots from homebrewing. However, boasting a degree in Food Science and Technology, Gio is more learned in the science aspect of brewing than most homebrewers. (Source: StarChefs.Com)

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Before becoming professional brewmaster, Gio went to finishing school at Birrificio Italiano – one of Parma’s oldest craft breweries (dating back to 1996). Birrificio Italiano brewmaster, Agostino Arioli, helped Gio develop recipes for what would eventually become his first commercial brews.

This year, accompanied by his Pilsner, Saison & Imperial Stout, Gio became the first Italian brewer to compete in the World Beer Cup.

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Once again, I am truly lucky to have amazing friends! I met up with my friend Dominick, a true-blood Italian and booze connoisseur, at our favorite local beer bar – Red Light Red Light. Actually, it is more than just my favorite local beer bar. It is quite possibly the best beer bar that I have ever come across. (The Map Room in Chicago is a very close second).

I was smart enough to whip out my iPhone for proper documentation of the our Krampus experience. Here are the notes from all the Krampus tasters that evening (as broken down by Beer Pad):

krampus-label

Beer Name: Krampus

Description: Italian Christmas Ale spiced with star anise.

Style: Winter Beer

Brewery: Birrificio del Ducato

Region: Parma, Ilaty

Pairings: Cheese, Pork, Red Meat, Seafood

Color: Golden Amber

Carbonation: Mild carbonation, decent lacing that dissipates quickly …

Aroma: Star anise (duh!), hints of cinnamon, “has the essence of a cedar bowl that once held potpourri”… “smells like walking into a country time store or antique shop”… “Krampus is Christmas in a bottle!”

Mouthfeel: Light to moderate body, fairly mild finish, alcohol is virtually undetectable

Flavor: Mild black licorice from the star anise, slight vinegar taste, moderate acidity, sour yeast, low malt presence in the taste

Comments: “I thought this was an amazing Christmas Ale. Italians make fucking crazy beers!” -Dominick

“This beer [almost] makes me like Christmas … or at least it will make it more tolerable! Bahhhh humbug!” -The Wench

logo-birrificio-del-ducato

(PS: I actually really liked it … I just wanted to be a Scrooge.)

Cheers!

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Although read across the world, my blog isn’t exactly famous -YET. Until then, I thrive on press and props from other bloggers. (I have dreams of becoming the next Michael Jackson …  akaThe Beer Hunter … and “The Most Influential Beer Writer Ever”)

michael_jackson_the_beer_hunter

Yeah, I could definitely be the female version of The Beer Hunter.

I was recently interviewed by Tim Cigelske.  Tim Cigelske is cofounder, owner and chief blogger of Teecycle.org – an internet based T-shirt company. The concept is quite simple, yet very very clever. Teecycle.org sells “cool pre-loved vintage T-shirts for cheap.”

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Tim also writes a fitness blog entitled Training With Tim as well as contributes regular columns to Milwaukee Magazine.

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But that’s not all folks. Tim is also a beer geek.  He combines all of his awesome writing, beer drinking & fitness skills as a contributor for DraftMag, where Tim is known as “The Beer Runner.”

Definition of Beer Runner, according to Tim – Beer Run•ner (noun): 1. Someone equally devoted to fine beer appreciation and an active, healthy lifestyle 2. A blog by Tim Cigelske on Draftmag.com. Ex. “John downed four microbrews at the triathlon finish line. He’s a total beer runner.”

Tim recently interviewed me for a Draft Mag post. Here is a snippet of the final result:

Ashley Routson: Big Ten Athlete, Tomboy, Beer Wench

December 8th, 2008 by Tim Cigelske

“I never really played with the girls,” says Ashley Routson. “It was much more fun to play against the boys.”

Growing up, the self-described tomboy enjoyed beating the boys at their own games. That practice took her all the way to Ohio State, where she was a Big Ten varsity swimmer before a shoulder injury ended her career.

Then she got into craft beer — traditionally another male-dominated field — and started her blog The Beer Wench.

Here the Beer Wench talks to the Beer Runner about Olympic athletes, bike polo, and her favorite ancient adventure beer.

Read the entire article HERE.

HUGE THANKS TO TIM FOR WRITING SUCH A WONDERFUL ARTICLE ON ME. It is a very exciting moment in my life amd I consider it a major benchmark in my beer writing and blogging “career.”

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More Cool Facts About Tim: Tim Cigelske is a writer living in the city of beer, cheese and bratwurst. He has run three marathons ranging from sub-3:30 to 5 hours. His mile PR is 4:37 and fastest 5k is 17:11, but that was on a flat course that was probably short. He completed his first sprint triathlon on July 20, 2008, and met his goal of “not drowning.” He can bench like 190 pounds. Give or take.

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There is nothing worse than going to an amazing beer bar, drinking ridiculously extraordinary beers … and NOT being able to blog about it because intoxication and memory loss usually ensues consumption.

In the past, I brought a notepad with tasting & rating sheets to bars. More often then not, the sheets got ruined and/or lost. Eventually, I stopped.

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I usually regret not being able capture my beer drinking adventures in writing, especially when I get the opportunity to taste super obscure and limited release beers.

But have no fear, my friends. There is a solution to my problem.

It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s SUPER I-Phone.

super_iphone_3g_black

Ok. I understand that not everyone has the same sentiment that I do for Apple. But regardless of your stance on the iPhone, I guarantee that the iPhone Beer Pad application will impress you.

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PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

Beer Pad is the iPhone app for the fine beer aficionado. Once you install Beer Pad, you will always have your beer notes with you; right on your iPhone. Beer Pad goes beyond a paper notebook full of tasting notes.

beerpadWith Beer Pad you can:
– Record the beer name, price, rating, color, carbonation, aroma, finish and your personal comments
– Use pre-populated lists of category descriptions such as style, brewery, region and pairing for easy cataloging
– Rate the beers you try
– Take a picture of the beer bottle or use a picture from your photo library for future reference

Beer Pad will also:
– Remember the beers that you really liked
– Let you browse your favorite beers by style, brewery, region and pairing
– Help you search through your long lists of tasting notes with an advanced search feature
– Help you further your personal beer experience

Beer Pad costs $4.99 and, in my opinion, it is totally worth it.

At this moment, I only have tasting notes on 4 beers saved. Typically, I get too consumed by the excitement of tasting and drinking cool beers and completely forget about using the Beer Pad application.

The other night, I finally remembered to use it. My first experience using Beer Pad was at Red Light Red Light, dubbed the 4th best beer bar in the world by Rate Beer. My fellow beer geeks and I were sitting around tasting several interesting and hard to find beers. I remembered Beer Pad and whipped it out to show my friends. Like me, they were pretty impressed and they helped collaborate on some beer notes.

The creators of Beer Pad have developed similar applications for other beverages, such as wine and whiskey.

padsMy only gripe about Beer Pad is actually not a fault of the application itself, but of the iPhone. Beer Pad allows you to download images, which is really great. BUT, the iPhone does not have a flash and images taken by it in bars (which are typically very dark) usually do not come out.

I look forward to using my notes from Beer Pad for future blog posts.

If you have an iPhone and love beer, this application (or one of its siblings) may be of interest to you.

Cheers!!!

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One small step for man … one giant leap for beer?

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Where Japan lacks in brewing experience, it definitely makes up for in technology (and food eating contests).

One of Japan’s major brewers, Sapporo Breweries, recently created a new beer using the crop of barley grown in a Russian laboratory on board the International Space Station (ISS).

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No kids, you are not dreaming (or tripping on acid). Sapparo has actually created an extraterrestrial beer … from outer space.cheers

Sapparo named the first batch Space Barley.

Although I cannot find any sources to confirm it, I am making the assumption that Space Barley is a lager.

The space brew was the result of a collaboration between the Russian Academy of Science, Okayama University in Japan and Sapporo Breweries.

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Sapporo only produced 100 liters of Space Barley so it will not be sold commercially. Instead, Sapporo will give 30 couples selected from among the public by lottery VIP tickets to and exclusive tasting event in Tokyo next month.

This is a pretty exciting feat all around for man, technology and beer. I am looking forward to more future experiments with ingredients for beer from space!

Cheers!

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