Author: Tom Ward

Readers name their favorite tipples

It’s Nappie time and the votes are in for the best drinks in Mobile! Not surprisingly, local favorite Fairhope Brewing Co. won as Lagniappe readers’ Favorite Craft Beer for the second year in a row with its Take the Causeway IPA, beating out a number of other excellent beers — including its own Judge Roy Bean Stout. Take the Causeway is not only great general local navigation advice, but also a very nice, strong (8.2 percent ABV) IPA with good flavor and not too much bitterness. COMPLETE LIST — 2017 NAPPIE AWARDS In the Favorite Import Beer category, the...

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Cream ales becoming a summer treat

Until recently, the only cream ale I had ever heard of was Genesee Cream Ale, brewed at Rochester, New York’s Genesee Brewing Co. since 1960. The Genesee Brewery itself dates to the late 19th century, and its beers — especially its cream ale — have been staples throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic for generations. A producer of blue-collar beers, Genesee would certainly not be considered part of the craft brewing movement but for a recent renewed interest in its staple ale. According to beer historian Jeff Alworth, cream ale is a uniquely American brew that dates to the turn...

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Summertime brews

Now that summer is here, along with the heat and the humidity, you might be tempted to reach for something light — a white wine spritzer, perhaps? — as you sit poolside or at the beach. Don’t do it! There are plenty of good craft beer summer styles now available that go great in the Alabama heat. As you probably have noticed, a number of breweries, both large and small, have begun putting out different seasonal beers, and with summer upon us a host of beers is now available with a summertime theme. Many of these beers are on the lighter side, and a number have some type of fruit flavoring. A seasonal beer that has been put out for a number of years is Summer Shandy by Wisconsin’s Leinenkugel’s brewery. No Johnny-come-lately, Leinenkugel’s was founded in 1867, but only in the past few years has it been distributed outside the Midwest. Its seasonal Summer Shandy is one of its most popular styles, and readily found in our area. A shandy is traditionally a drink made half with beer and half with some type of juice or soda. Leinenkugel’s recreates the taste of a wheat beer mixed with lemonade, and the lemon flavor is pronounced. It is refreshing, but you’ll have to like lemonade (as I do) to enjoy it. In addition to Summer Shandy, Leinenkugel’s recently came out...

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Small batch beer industry brewing in Mobile

Over the past few years, Mobile has become a very good beer town, with a number of bars with dozens of craft beers available, and not just the usual suspects, but wide varieties from across the region and around the nation. We also now have a number of excellent places for off-site sales of craft beer, including some grocery stores that even offer beer on tap for growlers. However, Mobile still lacks what any good beer town needs — its own craft brewery. How can the city born to celebrate — the home of Mardi Gras, for goodness’ sake...

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Texas newcomer in town

Texas is known for two iconic beers — Lone Star, which first began brewing in San Antonio in 1884, and Shiner, which has been brewed at the Spoetzl Brewery in the tiny town of Shiner (about halfway between San Antonio and Houston) since 1909. Lone Star was actually started by Adolphus Busch, of Budweiser fame, while Shiner was also founded by a German immigrant, Kosmos Spoetzl. For those who have never tried it, Lone Star is a very traditional American lager, perfect if you are enjoying ribs at the Country Tavern, but otherwise fairly nondescript. Shiner’s flagship Bock, on...

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Hard cider harks back to colonial days

The craft brewing phenomenon has produced similar local, small-batch production of other spirits in the past few years, including whiskey and vodka. Like beer, one craft beverage that has begun to go mainstream — and also has become mass produced — is hard cider. Hard cider has a long history in America, going back to the colonial era. During that time, alcoholic beverages were consumed regularly by all members of society — even children — because the boiling process had the added (then unknown) benefit of killing off dangerous bacteria. In a time before pasteurization, alcoholic beverages were consumed by many instead of cow’s milk, or even water, because people realized they were simply safer to drink (as were other brewed drinks, like coffee and tea). English colonists brought their taste for both hard cider and beer to America, but found the hops and barley they were used to back home were not easily grown in New England. Apples, however, were. Thus, cider became a staple of the early American diet. The influx of German immigrants and westward migration in the 19th century to the Great Plains — where grains were easily grown — saw beer eclipse cider in popularity. Following Prohibition, hard cider did not return to American glasses — as beer, wine and liquor did — until recently. Vermont’s Woodchuck Cidery touts itself as producing the nation’s...

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White-out! Give Belgian witbier a try

Belgium is home to a long brewing tradition, some of the world’s best beers and several unique styles — from sour lambics and dry saisons, to malty Flanders brown ales and heavy Trappists. A number of American brewers have taken to crafting their own versions of many traditional Belgian styles, one of the most popular being witbier, or white beer. Witbier is a style dating from the Middle Ages, but it had virtually died out in Belgium before being revived in the 1960s. Brewed with unmalted wheat and usually flavored with fruit (traditionally orange peel) and spices, such as coriander, it is unfiltered, giving the beer a very cloudy — or white — appearance from the yeast floating in it. Witbier is often highly carbonated. Despite the cloudy look, witbiers are not heavy, and have a moderate ABV, usually around 5 percent. The best known, and best selling, white ale in the United States is Blue Moon’s Belgian White. Found almost everywhere. Even if you’ve never tried a Blue Moon, you’ve probably seen someone drinking it at your favorite watering hole, served as hazy beer with an orange slice garnishing the top of the glass, which has become a sort of trademark with Blue Moon, a practice that borrows from the accessorizing of witbier in Belgium with a lemon. A subsidiary of Coors Brewing Co., Blue Moon’s flagship ale...

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Brews and books

I have always thought books and beer — two of my favorite things — go together very well. After all, what is better than sitting on the beach with a good book and a cold beer on a sunny afternoon? It seems a number of independent bookstores — probably in order to attract more traffic in the age of Amazon — have begun selling beer, wine and even mixed drinks in their stores. The practice has become so popular publications as diverse as USA Today and Men’s Journal have recently run articles on some of the best bookstore bars. Even book behemoth Barnes & Noble has announced it plans to sell beer and wine, although at only four brand-new stores it is building, and none near us on the Gulf Coast. Perhaps if it gets more people to buy books, we will get a Barnes & Noble with a bar. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait for Barnes & Noble to open a new store here, as there is already a great bookstore in our area with a bar (and an ampersand) in it. Page & Palette is a Fairhope tradition and regionally well-respected independent bookstore. It already had a coffee shop (which, it seems, every bookstore now has), but last year it also opened a bar, The Book Cellar, as well. The Book Cellar has a nice selection...

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