Monthly Archives: November 2012

A trove of medals for American brewers at European Beer Star competition

Judges at work at the European Star Beer competition in Nuremberg, Germany.
(Photo courtesey Private Brauereien Bayern)

American craft brewers came away big winners at the recent European Beer Star competition, Europe’s biggest beer competition.

Twenty-one American craft breweries won 37 medals, including 14 gold (up from 12 in 2011) in 22 different categories at the competition, one of the world’s most-recognized beer competitions.

The best showing at the competition, now in its ninth year, was by Pelican Pub & Brewery, of Pacific City, Ore., with two gold and two silver medals. The 16-year-old beachfront brewery, along with Brewery Ommegang of Cooperstown, N.Y., was among the few entrants to win multiple medals. Ommegang won one gold, one silver and two bronze medals in various Belgian style categories.

“We are delighted to have won four medals  at this year’s European Beer Star. It is a competition we have done well in over the past few years but this is the first time we have come away with this many medals,” said Ommegang brewmaster Phil Leinhart. “It’s a testament to everyone who works here at Brewery Ommegang.”

The winners were announced on Nov. 14 at the Brau Bevialebeverage industry trade show in Nuremberg, Germany

American gold medal winners included:

•Belgian-style sour ale: Samuel Adams Stony Brook Red, Boston Beer Co.

• Belgian-Style Tripel: Ommegang Gnomegang, Brewery Ommegang
• Dry Stout: Tsunami Stout, Pelican Pub & Brewery
• English-Style Bitter: Calico Amber Ale, Ballast Point Brewing Co.
• English-Style Golden Ale (Summer Ale): Twilight Summer Ale, Deschutes Brewery
• English-Style Pale Ale: Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Deschutes Brewery
• German-Style Schwarzbier: Samuel Adams Black Lager, Boston Beer Co.
• Imperial India Pale Ale: Double Jack, Firestone Walker Brewery
• India Pale Ale (IPA): Union Jack, Firestone Walker Brewery
• Sweet Stout: Left Hand Milk Stout, Left Hand Brewing Co.
• Ultra Strong Beer: Stormwatcher’s Winterfest, Pelican Pub & Brewery
• Wood and Barrel-Aged Strong Beer: Imperial Eclipse Stout-Grand Cru 2011, Fifty Fifty Brewing Co.

To be sure, there was plenty of competition. Judges tasted 1,366 European-style beers from 45 countries on all continents in October. The competition, limited to 50 beer categories of European origin, was launched in 2004 by Private Brauereien Bayern – the Bavarian private breweries association and – and the German and European federations.

The judges, a collection of 102 brewmasters, beer sommeliers, and specialized journalists from 25 countries, spent two days blind tasting entries. Beers were evaluated on the basis of purely sensory criteria familiar to all beer consumers: color, aroma, foam, and, of course, flavor.

Brau Beviale 2012 attendees sample medal-winnng brews at Winners Night.
(Photo courtesy Privaten Brauereien Bayern)

In addition to style medals, Firestone Walker Brewery, of Paso Robles, Calif., received gold for its Double Jack in the Consumers’ Favorites category, a publicly judged blind tasting of 50 gold medal beer by visitors at the Brau Beviale. The consumer’s silver went to Kronenbrauerei Alfred Schimpf in Neustetten, Baden-Württemberg, Germany, for its South German-style hefeweizen hell, Schimpf Hefe Hell, and the bronze to Weiherer Rauch produced by Brauerei-Gasthof Kundmüller in Viereth-Trunstadt, Bavaria, Germany,

“It is a great honor to be recognized by the judges of the European Beer Star for beers with big American hop character. This competition brings in some of the very best brewers in the world and is judged by a heavily weighted European panel of experts,” said Matthew Brynildson, Firestone Walker’s brewmaster.

“Our collective results send out a strong message that our beers are world class and changing the way the rest of the brewing community is thinking about better beer,” Brynildson added. “The interest in American brewing and American hops is at an all time high and professional judges are awarding these beers top honors.”

German breweries won gold medals in almost all typically German beer categories, a first for the competition, according to the organizers.

“The European Beer Star has become broadly established,” Roland Demleitner of Private Brauereien, said in a press release. “Our award has long become an accepted quality seal, which explains why the competition is getting tougher from year to year!”

Belgian breweries won just eight medals, only three of them gold. Interestingly, an Italian brewery, Birrificio del Forte in Pietrasanta, won gold for its Belgian-style strong ale; a Japanese brewery, Konishi Brewing, of Itami City, won gold with its Belgian-style witbier; and a Spanish brewer, Bolets Petras, of Barcelona, won gold in the Belgian-style dubbel category.

Also, a Chinese brewery, Hainan Asia Pacific Brewery, took gold for its mild lager, while Israel’s Golan Brewery in Katsrin won a silver in the doppelbock category. Africa’s Namibia Breweries in Windhoek won silver for its mild Lager and German Leichtbier, or low-alcohol beer.

A complete list of winners is available for download.

Hav you had any of the winners? Let us know.

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Tellers beverage director Paul Villela picks unusual reds for fall sipping

Second of two parts

Paulo Villela, Tellers Chophouse beverage director, prepares for tasting of fall reds.

In a dimly lit alcove aside the bar at Teller’s Chophouse in Islip, on a Friday evening not too long ago, five bottles of wine and a filled decanter stood on a table along with a tray of bulbous wine stems awaiting Paulo Villela. Platters of hors d’oevres sit atop a nearby table.

Villela, beverage director at Tellers and other restaurants in the Bohlsen Restaurant Group portfolio, was preparing for an educational tasting for a few select patrons, who’ve paid $50 each for the privilege of tasting with the master, and for members of Tellers’ staff.

Tellers’ bespectacled wine guru, who’s been pouring wine professionally in New York City and Long Island for nearly a quarter of a century, believes in keeping the serving staff of the Bohlsen restaurants up on the newest wines and regularly conducts sessions in each of the restaurants.

Tellers’ Paulo Villela, left, makes a point about a wine as Corey Burke, a Tellers manager looks on.

On this particular evening, Villela has chosen a handful of wines he says are perfect for autumnal dinners. Many are Rhone varietals. “Rhone varietals are best in the fall. They’re big, but they work with a lot of different foods,” he explained, noting that they suit the seasonal items on Tellers’ menu.

Moreover, these wines were from small artisanal producers unfamiliar to many imbibers and made from grapes varieties that Tellers’ regulars, generally fans of big California cabernets, might not recognize. Offering small production wines, Villela says, let’s Tellers standout from its competitors. “They’re not overexposed. They’re only available in a few boutiquey retail stores,” he added, noting that it  doesn’t look good if Tellers is selling a wine at triple what a patron might pay in a discount wine shop.

The first offering of Villela’s wine practicum was Flux 2009 a Grenache dominated Napa Valley red blend from Mark Herald Wines. Winemaker Mark Herald, who has PhD in ecology with a focus on fish biology, made the blend with 68 percent grenache, 15 percent syrah, 12 percent carignan, and 5 percent petite sirah. A big, alcoholic wine with notes of black and red berries and the silkiest of tannins, Tellers sells it for $60 a bottle.

Up next was a wine few of Teller’s regulars likely would ever order on their own: Robert Foley Vineyards Charbono 2008. Charbono, known as bonarda in Argentina, is a red grape that originated in Savoie region of France and one that Villela explains has been used for years for blending in California. Foley is one of California’s most-respected winemakers and a partner in Brooklyn’s Red Hook Winery. A big luscious wine, the charbono offers notes of berries, earth and graphite and, yes, high alcohol. It’s $80 on Tellers’ list.

Villela’s third selection was Gramercy Cellars Lagniappe 2009, a Washington state syrah produced by Greg Harrington, a master sommelier who formerly worked at New York City-based BR Guest restaurants.  It’s a chewy wine with soft tannins, good acidity and an lengthy finish and, surprisingly, just 13 percent alcohol. “This is definitely a wine made for food,” Villela tells his guests. The wine is $90 on Tellers’ list.

Wine No. 4 was a Rhone-style blend, McPrice Myers Beautiful Earth 2009, from California’s Central Coast Paso Robles appellation. It’s 72 percent syrah blended with grenache and mourvedre. An inky, powerful, jammy fruit bomb with 15.8 percent alcohol, notes of black berries with tarry notes. So thick, it coats the tongue and it has a finish that seems to go on forever. $90 for a bottle at Tellers.

We followed with C.S. Cellars Old Vines Petite Syrah 2006, a Napa Valley wine that Villela described as a small production (3,000 cases a year) artisanal producer owned by veteran winemaker Chris Sweetanos, formerly of Twenty Rows. The nose is herbal, the body big and palate coating ,with notes of roasted prunes and figs. $60 at Tellers.

Our final selection, also a petite syrah, was the Scholium Project “Babylon” Tenbrink Vineyard 2005, a North Coast California wine from the iconoclastic, oft controversial winemaker Abe Schoener, also a co-owner at Brooklyn’s Red Hook Winery. This wine had been decanted two hours earlier. Big (17.1 percent alcohol) and chewy, it offers a nose of earth and graphite and big cherry fruits on the palate. Villela calls this “a very serious wine.” It goes for $160 a bottle at the restaurant.

On the first Friday of every month Villela shares with patrons six wines that best illustrate a theme. His December tasting, for example, will feature prestige Champagnes. Space is limited and reservations are on a first come, first serve basis. The cost is $50 per person. To reserve call (631) 277-7070.



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The Good Life pub raises $22,000-plus for Hurricane Sandy relief


The Good Life owner Pete Mangouranes during Hurricane Sandy relief benefit.

The Good Life has a good heart.

The Massapequa Park, Long Island, gastro pub, was packed to overflowing Tuesday evening due to the promotional efforts of owner Pete Mangouranes, who promised to donate every penny spent at the pub that evening to Hurricane Sandy Relief. Indeed, by the time The Good Life closed its doors Mangouranes had collected $22,090.

The monies, including purchases by The Good Life’s patrons, servers tips and more will be split among local churches and the Tunnel to Towers Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund, said Mangouranes, who put every penny of his night’s sales into the pot.

The Good Life owner Pete Mangouranes, left, looks at the scene at his bar.

The scene was a testament to Mangouranes’ social media outreach campaign.

The crowd was five deep at the bar, where the servers included Massapequa Park Mayor James Altadonna Jr., the wait for a table in the dining room ranged up to three hour. Meanwhile, dozens more imbibed drafts from a trailer on loan from Manhattan Beer Distributors on the sidewalk in a heated tent donated by Top Notch Tent Rental.

Captain Lawrence, Saranac, Great South Bay Brewery, and Ithaca Beer Co.  donated kegs of beer and Roberto Bobby Rodriquez, an award-winning homebrewer, contributed a keg of his Zombification, a hard cider made with molasses and Belgian ale yeast. A local bakery, Sugar Rush, sold cupcakes and cookies and donated rolls for sausage and pepper sandwiches sold on the sidewalk. The publishers of “Question of the Day” books pitched in too, selling their books for the charity event.  Mangouranes also raffled off a surfboard and took in donations of gift cards, clothing and other items.

Other beer-related charity events are on the calendar. On Nov. 14 The Loyal Dog Ale House in Lindenhurst, is holding an open bar from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. for those who contribute $20 to the Red Cross. And Tap & Barrel in Smithtown on Nov. 25 holds a $50 per person benefit to aid Oceanside-based Barrier Brewing, which was effectively wiped out by the storm.

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Winter beers and snow arrive early: tasting Celebration and Our Special Ale

It’s totally dark, except for the fluorescent glow of a camping lantern.  The fireplace is ablaze and a heavy snow falls from the night sky as the winds of a nor’easter howl rattle the house my. Power is out in my Long Island neighborhood as I write on a chilly Nov. 7.

This was the perfect setting to sample some of the first of the winter seasonal beers, which arrived this week at the shelves of retailers on Long Island.  But this was early November and both the snow and the beers seemed to have arrived inordinately early for the season.

Just days earlier, I had found Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale 2012 at Shoreline Beverage, a retailer in Huntington, and Anchor Brewing’s 2012 Our Special Ale at a local Trader Joe’s.

Celebration Ale, the venerable fresh hop IPA that was among the first holiday season craft beers to be produced in the America—the first was produced as a winter seasonal in 1981. It features Chinook, Cascade and Centennial hopes and two-row pale and English caramel malts and weighs in at 6.8 percent ABV and 65 IBUs.

The other, Anchor Brewing Co.’s Our Special Ale, a dark beer that has brewed by the San Francisco craft brewer since 1975 with a secret recipe that has changed annually. Each year, the label also changes, but always featuring a tree.  This year’s label was adorned by a Norfolk Island pine, a scrawny fir tree native to the South Pacific and planted in California since 1850.

Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

First up was the Celebration Ale, a fresh hop IPA that when craft brewing burst on the New York scene was impossible to obtain in the East. I’d forgotten what a beautiful beer it is.  It has a brilliant copper color with a dense, long-lasting tan head.   The citrusy nose of Cascade hops teases your tongue of what is to follow: a beautifully balanced, interwoven mélange of tangy citrus, caramel and juicy malt. It finishes bittersweet and dry. It calls out for another sip and then another.

Now, on to the Anchor, which is a deep brown brew with a mocha-colored, rocky head.   The aromas of spices waft up from the glass, even while it sits on the table. Closer to the nasal passages, the aromas announce themselves: ginger, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. There’s an initial sweetness as it touches the palate

The 2012 version of Anchor Our Special Ale

and the spices dance on the tongue along with a Mars Bar-like caramel nougat character. I’ve never been a huge fan of spiced beers, but I was beginning to enjoy the interplay of the juicy malt and spices in this one. Alas, the head faded rather quickly, the body seemed a tad thin and the finish was rather short.  It causes one to wonder if Anchor’s new owners have tamed the brew.

In the days and weeks to come beer retailer shelves and beer bars will be filled with holiday/Christmas/winter beers.  What was once considered an old brewer’s tradition has to some become a brewing industry marketing ploy. One thing is certain, it’s a tell tale sign that it’s time to finish up those pumpkin beers, which have been around since August.



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NYC to host Brewers Association’s SAVOR craft beer, food pairing event

View of Savor 2012 in Washington, DC.

The American Brewers Association, the Boulder, Colo.-based craft beer industry’s trade association, is moving its annual craft beer and food pairing event to New York City in 2013, but for one year only.

The event, called Savor: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience, will be held June 14 and 15 at the Metropolitan Pavilion and the adjoining Altman Building, event spaces on West 18th Street in Manhattan. The event typically includes a general tasting and a variety of smaller tasting salons for additional cost.

“Moving Savor to New York City, the culinary capital of the world, in 2013 is an incredible opportunity to showcase craft beer from a diverse sampling of small U.S. producers who have helped shift the perception of beer from something predictable and homogenized into the dynamic, flavorful, food-friendly beverage it is recognized as today,” said Brewers Association chairman and Dogfish Head Brewery owner Sam Calagione.

Savor had been held in Washington, DC, for the past five years and will return there in 2014, the group said.

The event, described by the group as an “intimate and engaging reception, with a menu carefully designed by Brewers Association culinary consultant Adam Dulye, chef/owner of The Monk’s Kettle and The Abbot’s Cellar in San Francisco,” will feature craft brews from around the nation selected by lottery.  Guests will be served by the notable personalities behind the craft beer brands and have an opportunity to interact with them during private tastings throughout the two nights.

Brewers Association chair Sam Calagione

“Part of our mission as a national, industry association is to promote small and independent craft brewers and their craft brewed beers to audiences around the country,” Calagione added. “Craft brewers, beer lovers and foodies who attend Savor contribute to a historic localization of beer and a shift in the culinary arts world.”

Tickets for Savor go on sale to the public April 17, 2013. A ticket pre-sale exclusively for members of the American Homebrewers Association and the Brewers Association will take place April 16. Ticket prices have not been announced. Last year, general admission tickets, $120 each, sold out quickly via Ticketmaster. Each salon ticket was priced at $30.


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Bohlsen’s wine guru Paulo Villela pours trophy wines and ‘cougar milk’

Bohlsen Restaurant Group Beverage Director Paulo Villela in the wine vault at Teller’s Chophouse.

First of two parts

 Paulo Villela is a man of influence.

As beverage director of Long Island’s Bohlsen Restaurant Group, his influence extends to the thousands of patrons who dine at the group’s five high-end eateries: Tellers Chophouse and Verace in Islip, Monsoon in Babylon, H2O in Smithtown, Prime in Huntington and the moderately priced Beachtree Cafe in East Islip. That makes Villela one of the most powerful wine buyers on Long Island. Bohlsen’s restaurants ring up $3 million a year in wine sales.

At the group’s flagship eatery, Tellers, the Brazilian-born Villela oversees a wine cellar with 8,000 bottles –1,000 labels – that includes scores of reserve California Cabernets, rare Barolos and hard-to-find white Burgundies that sell for hundreds of dollars each. You’ll also find cult wines like Screaming Eagle, Harlan Estate and Schrader Cellars stored in the walk-in vault of the 1927 art deco former bank building. Wealthy doctors favor these bottled trophies, some priced to $3,500, he confides.  “They cost a lot of money. We charge a lot of money for them, too.”

While admitting its fun to offer cult wines and helps to create a buzz, Villela notes that patrons have become more price conscious. Needless to say, there are plenty of lower priced options at Tellers and the group’s other destinations. “Somebody looking for [a] $40 [bottle] can find it very easily on our short list.”

And, of course, there’s wine by the glass, which starts at $9. Indeed, Villela says, wines by the glass are fastest growing trend across the group, enabling diners to try less-familiar wines, such as Viognier, Falanghina and Gruner Veltliner, and educate themselves without asking a sommelier for assistance.

But the group’s top seller is Pinot Grigio with 24,000 glasses of the ubiquitous Italian white wine slurped up annually at all the restaurants. Villela and his staff refer to Pinot Grigio as “cougar milk.” (Hopefully no additional explanation is required.)

Bohlsen Restaurant Group Beverage Director Paulo Villela shows off wine tap at Verace.

A lot of wine poured at the group’s restaurants is served from kegs, rather than bottles. The group was among the pioneers of the wine-on-tap movement with the launch of Verace, which offers a custom merlot-based red blend made at Long Island’s Raphael Vineyard  and chardonnay and pinot grigio from Piedmont’s Iuli Winery, which is delivered in tanks to Raphael and then kegged. Wine-on-tap, Villela explains, delivers an exceptional price-to-quality ratio. To be sure, there is no keg wine at Teller’s,

At Tellers with its beefy menu, reds, especially Cali Cabs, dominate sales, but these Cabs also sell well at H2O, a seafood eatery. “People still want to have what they’re into regardless of the food,” Villela says. “You’ve got to give people what they want.

To be sure, the Bohlsen restaurants support Long Island’s producers with a list that includes Castello di Borghese, Channing Daughters, Lenz, Macari, Paumanok, Peconic Bay, Wölffer, Shinn Estate and Sherwood House. “The level of quality has risen in the last 10 years,” Villela notes.

Villela’s interest in wine began as a youth in southeastern Brazil, where he grew up on a farm neighbored by Italian immigrants who provided him with homemade wine as long as Villella brought his own bottle. After finishing up a degree in agricultural engineering at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, a family medical issue necessitated a move to New York City in 1983, where Villela found work as a bus boy. He later managed a restaurant, Dolcetto on the Upper East Side, and in 1996, he joined the staff at the Windows on the World, because, he said, he wanted to learn more about wine at the city’s top wine program.  “I went from GM at a restaurant to busser,” he said, explaining that he took the only open post available at Windows. He became a captain in less than a month, learning wine from gurus Kevin Zraly and Andrea Immer Robinson

Now, Bohlsen’s wine guru, the 1998 Sommelier Society of America class valedictorian, joined the group in 2008 after working at Blue Fin Restaurant at the W Hotel in Times Square.

He’s been a welcome addition. “Paulo brings a breath of fresh air to our wine program. His love and appreciation for wine has fueled a culture at the Bohlsen Restaurant Group where wine knowledge is cool,” says Bohlsen co-owner Michael Bohlsen. “The members of our staff have intricate experience with wines ranging from local Sauvignon Blanc to Argentinian Malbec.  This wine knowledge translates to a more well-rounded, seamless dining experience for our guests at the bar and in the dining room.”

Adds, Villela, “We have a very motivated staff.”

Fluent in five languages, Villela conduct staff wine education programs at each of the restaurants and tastes 40-50 wines per week and regularly visits Napa Valley, Italy, Greece, Chile, Argentina, Germany and Spain. Away from work he drinks Cali Cabs, German Riesling and whites from Northern Italy. “I love wines with food,” he says. 

Next: Tasting fall reds with Villela

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