Category Archives: Imports

Gnome Week Celebrated with Multiple Events in Jax

There has been a recent uptick of interest in all things gnome. From the animated movie Gnomeo & Juliet to the photos circulating the Internet of zombified gnomes attacking helpless garden flamingos, gnomes are on a roll. This week the hype comes to its pinnacle, June 6-9 is gnome week and the 6,666th anniversary of gnomes discovering the magic water that brews magical beers. And, there are a number of celebrations taking place throughout Jacksonville to commemorate the illustrious occasion.

Gnomes are widely considered mystical spirits of magic and alchemy that were first mentioned in the 16th century by Swiss alchemist Paracelsus. He described them as just two spans high (about two feet), reluctant to interact with humans, and able to move through solid rock as easily as we m,ove through air. They are often associated with mines or underground streams. According to legend, a village of gnomes discovered that the waters of Cedrogne Spring in what would become Belgium had magical properties. It was said that the water could heal numerous ailments so the gnomes soon began using the water to brew beer. Naturally, that beer held on to the magical properties of the water.

This week, come drink with Carolyn Graham of Brown Distributing, she will be hosting several events where there will be beer born of that ancient spring in Belgium from  Brassiere d’Achouffe. The fun begins Wednesday and continues through Saturday.

Wednesday, June 6
Engine 15 Brewing Company from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Tastings of several brews from Brassiere d’Achouffe.

Thursday, June 7
Cork & Keg from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
More great brew to taste.

Friday, June 8
Total Wine & More from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Brassiere d’Achouffe poured by Marc Wisdom, Jacksonville Craft Beer Examiner and I Know Jax’s the Beer Guy.

Pele’s Wood Fire
Gnome Gnights three-course dinner with beer pairings for just $30.

Saturday, June 9
Whole Foods from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
More samples and more fun!

Pele’s Wood Fire
Gnome Gnights three-course dinner with beer pairings for just $30.

So, get out your pointy hats, groom your curly white beards, and come taste several of the brews from Brassiere d’Achouffe. You are sure to leave whistling a happy tune – or was that dwarves who did that?

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Posted by on June 4, 2012 in Beer, Belgian, Events, Imports


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Cinco de Mayo, Was Not Always About Beer

One 4-pack and one can of the Mexican beer, Do...

One 4-pack and one can of the Mexican beer, Dos Equis (XX) ‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: En 4-pakning og en boks av det meksikanske ølmerket, Dos Equis (XX) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Somehow, in the mists of time, the true reason for Cinco de Mayo has morphed from a minor Mexican holiday – it celebrates a little-known Mexican victory over France in the state of Puebla — to a major American beer bash. That is not a complaint, merely an observation of the power of the American beer industry. But, what most beer lovers do not know is that many of the Mexican beers that feature red, white, and green color schemes, brightly smiling and beautiful Mexican women, and serene beach scenes, are really German styles brought to our Latin neighbor by Bavarian immigrants as far back as the middle 1500’s.

Fermented beverages are nothing new to Mexico; history provides plenty of examples of beverages being made from such familiar ingredients as maize (corn), agave, and even cocoa beans. But, the first evidence of beer comes from a short-lived brewery established by Alfonso de Herro in the 1940’s. This was well before the first breweries were established in either North America or Canada and establishes Mexico as the home of the first home to beer in the Americas.

From there the history of beer in Mexico jumps ahead to the 1800’s. The influx of Bavarian immigrants saw the beginnings of the beer industry and the birth of many of the familiar brands we now consider Mexican beer. Brews such as Corona, Negra Modelo, Dos Equis, and Sol all owe their existence to German brewers, living in Mexico.
Indeed, all are recognizable European beer styles that, for one reason or another, fell out of favor in Europe, but found great approval south of the U.S. border.

Negra Modelo

A Munich Dunkel Lager, the name simply means dark lager. This smooth and sessionable brown lager displays subtle caramel character, a sweet and malty backbone, and very faint hops character. This beer pairs very favorably with beef fajitas, enchiladas with a rich mole sauce, or other spicy Mexican fair.

Dos Equis

Long before the most interesting man in the world was born, Dos Equis began its life called as a Vienna Lager called Siglo XX. It was brewed to welcome the 20th century by German-born Wilhelm Hasse at his Moctezuma Brewery. The Ambar version of this brew is the more traditional and most closely resembles the Vienna Lager it is based on. It has a sweet, toasted malt nose with a similar, mid-palate sweet flavor. As with most brews of this style, hops are barely present and provide very little character to the beer. As a companion to Mexican dishes, serve this with spicy salsa and chips or carnitas.

Cervaza Pacifico Clara

More commonly known as Pacífico, this Pilsner-style beer was first brewed in 1900 when three Germans opened the Cerveceria del Pacífico brewery in Mazatlán. Like its cousin Corona, Pacifico is characterized by slightly skunky aroma and flavor that is enhanced by the addition of a lime. Though it may not score highly on many beer websites like Beer Advocate, this is one of the beers locals are most fond of. Drink this one while sitting at the beach on the Mexican Riviera with a plump lime wedge and forget about the world for a while.


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Monastic Brews: Doppelbock

Monks have been brewing beer since the Middle Ages. The best known of the monastic brews are the Dubbels, Tripels, and Quadrupels of the Trappist monks in Belgium. But, the brethren in Germany also had a hand in brewing ales with the Doppelbock. Most beers are brewed by the Cistercian, Benedictine, or Trappist orders.
For the most part, monks brewed weaker beers that they drank with meals since water was rarely drinkable in its pure form in Europe. But, they also brewed stronger ales that they brewed especially for holidays and then would sell to the public. But, one style of beer, brewed by Italian monks living in Munich, Germany of the Order of Saint Francis of Paula (Paulaners), brewed a strong beer for their own needs.

Doppelbock was born of need to sustain the Paulaners through the fasts of Lent. During the Lenten season, monks were forbidden to partake of solid food. So, to see to their nutritional needs a strong, grain-heavy beer was developed. This beer was so thick with grain that it was nicknamed “liquid bread.” But, because the beer was so sweet and satisfying, the monks began to wonder if they should be drinking and enjoying it so much during Lent. So, in an attempt to gain the blessing of the Holy Father for their Lenten practice, the Paulaners sent a cask of the strong brew to the Holy See in Rome. On the journey the beer was jostled and subjected to extremes in temperatures that caused it to go sour and taste vile. Upon tasting the brew, the Pope deemed it disgusting and worthy of Lenten penance. So, without hesitation, he approved the beer as a drink for Lent due to its vile nature. Little did His Holiness know that the brew was actually quite tasty when not subjected to the extremes of travel.

The Paulaners continued producing the brew they named Salvator after their Savior from the mid-1600s until 1799 when Napoleon Bonaparte, under his policy of secularization, dissolved the monastery and thus the brewery.

Six years passed before the Dopplebock style re-emerged when a private brewer by the name of Franz Xaver Zacherl, the owner of the Münchener Hellerbräu, rented the old Paulaner brewery and began producing the Doppelbock for Lent again. But, again, the style came under fire with the law when villagers complained that partakers of the brew were too lively. But, Franz persisted and in 1837 King Ludwig I himself made a proclamation that Salvator should be available and the brewer left alone.
Soon other Doppelbock beers were brewed by competing breweries, but out of deference to the original, most were named with the –ator ending to their names.

Every spring, near March 19, a beer festival takes place that is less known than Oktoberfest, but is said to be better, called Starkbierfest (strong beer fest) takes place in Munich. This springtime festival is based on Doppelbock brews rather than the Marzen style at Oktoberfest. During this Lenten celebration, the weather is cooler and the tourists are more scarce. But, the Bavarian culture is alive and well.

The beer is still brewed according to the old methods by the brewery known as Paulaner after the monks who founded it over 350 years ago.

Until Next Time

Long Live the Brewers!


Marc Wisdom

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Posted by on March 27, 2012 in Beer, Beer Education, Beer Festival, Imports


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Who was St. Patrick?

By the end of the week everyone will be wearing green and making merry for the yearly tradition of St. Patrick’s Day. This year, the holiday falls on a Saturday, which means that the party will start Friday night and continue until Sunday. Green eggs, corned beef hash, and boiled cabbage will be consumed with unfortunately green beer. Those who are a bit more discriminating will opt for a traditional Irish brew like Guinness or Murphy’s. We’ll talk more about the beer in a bit. But first, what do you really know about St. Patrick’s Day?

St. Patrick himself, oddly enough, was not even Irish. He was born to British aristocrats in 390 A. D. The family owned several homes and many slaves. As a boy, he had no interest in Christianity – to the chagrin of his devout family – and rarely attended services. But, when he was 16, his world took a terrible turn as he was kidnapped and forced into slavery in Ireland tending a heard of sheep. Partially to escape the horrors of slavery, Patrick turned to the religion of his parents and became a deeply-believing Christian. It was after his conversion that Patrick heard a voice in a dream instruct him to escape his bonds and return to Britain. He did and was subsequently ordained as a priest. The voice returned and commanded him to return to Ireland to bring the Christian faith to the island. On March 17, 461 A. D., Patrick died after an arduous life of beatings and ridicule and was largely forgotten by most of the Irish. But, due to his hard work, Christianity had caught on in Ireland.

In the first thousand years of Christianity, people thought to have been extremely holy were often canonized (sainted) by regional church officials. It is in this way the Patrick became St. Patrick. To this day he has never been canonized by a Pope.

In the centuries following his death, St. Patrick’s legend grew. Stories began to emerge of how he rid the Island nation of snakes and used three-leaf clovers to teach about the Holy Trinity. Lesser-known feats attributed to St. Patrick include that his ash wood walking stick that was thrust into the ground became a living tree and that he spoke to long-dead ancestors. Still, St. Patrick was considered a minor saint whose solemnity was observed primarily by European Irish only through the 16th century when it was recognized by the church and made a Holy Day of Obligation.

The holiday became known as a day of attending church and then a day of remembrance when the church lifted the Lenten restrictions forbidding the consumption of meat and alcohol. In 1903 March 17 was made a national holiday in Ireland and, thanks to banking rules, a day free from work. A few years later, James O’Mara, the same man who sponsored St. Patrick’s Day as a holiday, passed a bill that forced pubs to close on the holiday since drinking had gotten out of control. The law was not repealed until 1970.

In the meantime, St. Patrick’s Day had grown in popularity among Irish-Americans even though it is not a nationally-recognized holiday. Partiers are undeterred by this lack of status for the holiday and have celebrated it since the late eighteenth century, prior to the American Revolution. The holiday is a celebration of Irish and Irish American culture; celebrations include prominent displays of the color green, feasting, copious consumption of alcohol, religious observances, and numerous parades.

Among the alcohol consumed during the celebrations are distinctly Irish beers. Now that you have a feel for why the holiday takes place, over the next few days I will spotlight the various beers you can expect to drink this weekend. Check back daily for the stories of Guinness, Murphy’s, Harp and other Irish brews.


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Outlook For Craft Beer in the Coming Year Looks Bright

In its annual forecast for the beer industry, Beer Business Daily (BBD) foresees a slight improvement in beer sales volumes over 2011 with growth rising from -1.5% to remaining down but only at -1%. It also predicts that price increases will amount to only 2.5%

These numbers may sound disappointing, but keep in mind; they are mostly applicable to the mega producers like Anhueser-Bush and Miller/Coors. These giants will continue their missions to seek out craft breweries to snap up or invest heavily in over the next year in an attempt to shore up the losses being cause by the craft beer movement.

The report goes on to predict that craft beers will continue growing at double-digit rates. For some smaller breweries this may create a supply vs. demand issue. To a limited extent we have already seen this in Jacksonville with the demand of certain locally-brewed beers like Intuition Ale Works’ I-10 IPA out-pacing supply. Breweries are already planning for expansions to help ease supp0ly side shortages.

BBD also predicts a resurgence of ciders this year with brands like Crispin’s Artisanal Reserves ciders that are unfiltered and fermented with beer yeasts to create a bold flavor. Cider brands both domestic and imported are poised for a resurgence and re-entry into the mainstream as brewers eye new flavors and challenges for the coming year.

The coming year will see Sierra Nevada and New Belgium breaking ground on east coast breweries, but beer production will not come on line in these two breweries for a year or more. The result of these two big-boys in the craft world opening on the east coast will be fresher product and greater distribution. New Belgium beers will undoubtedly become more available in Florida which is good news for us.

Import beer will continue to gain momentum as beer drinkers reach out for authentic beers rather than beers brewed in the style of others. Belgian beers in particular will continue strong popularity as the country’s 400 breweries continue to open their distribution to the United States. A recent example of this is the Bon Secours beers available at Total Wine as of a few weeks ago.

On the negative side of craft brewing, smaller and regional brewers will begin to feel the pressure of crowding in the market place. As more and more of the 900 planned breweries come online this year, established breweries may find that they will have to work harder to retain their customer base rather than lose drinkers to the newest, hottest brewery.

All-in-all, the craft industry can look forward to another great year of growth, but should keep a watchful eye on growing competition and the predatory mega brewers. For beer drinkers the next year will be an exciting one with many new and interesting brews coming to market.

My advice, keep an eye on my blog for a heads up on what is new and noteworthy and troll the shelves of local beer purveyors like Grass Roots in 5-Points, Total Wine in St. John’s Town Center, and all the Broudy’s locations. Also, frequent the restaurants in Jacksonville that are making great efforts to provide unique and interesting craft beers. A restaurant like Kickback’s, Pele’s Wood Fire, Carmine’s Pie House, and the soon-to-be-open Dahlia’s Pour House in Riverside/Avondale. And, of course visit your local breweries and see what is new and exciting in their tap rooms. Visit Ben and the gang at Intuition Ale Works, Eric at Green Room, swing by Engine 15 and try the new brews they are making, Susan and Brian at Bold City, Vance at Mile Marker in St. Augustine, and Troy at Brewer’s Pizza.

2012 is shaping up to be another banner year for craft brewers and craft brew lovers. Keep the movement going and visit your favorite local brewery often. You will find me on the corner at Intuition Ale Works most weekdays from about 3:30 to 5:30.

Until next time.

Long Live the Brewers!


Marc Wisdom


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Westvleteren 12 to be Available in US for First Time

The Westvleteren beers. In the glass is the 12°

Image via Wikipedia

STOP THE PRESSES! Seriously, stop them right now. I just read an article from the, the Internet presence of The Republican, that something wonderful is about to happen. It’s akin to finding that Elvis is still alive and munching peanut butter and ‘nana sandwiches. It’s as if you found a lotto ticket on the ground only to discover it is the jackpot winner. It’s like waking up between Olivia Wilde and Scarlett Johansson. This is big, BIG news!

The Holy Grail of all beers will be available in very limited quantities in the United States for the first time ever. Yes, I am referring to Westvleteren 12. This beer is the nectar of the Gods, the beer of all beers, the end-all, be-all of the beer world affectionately known as “Westie.”

As loyal readers of this blog may recall, while I was visiting the fair country of Belgium I stopped into a quaint 400-year-old tavern called Au Bon Vieux Temps owned by a lovely – and lively – woman named Marie. As I perused the menu and ordered beers, I became friends with Marie and we began talking about this blog and my other beer writing activities. With a glimmer in her eye, Marie asked if I had ever tried a Westie. When she asked if I would like to, I wondered exactly who in the bar I would have to bump off before I got my hands on one of those extremely rare brews. I, of course, blurted that I would LOVE to try a Westie. A moment later she disappeared into the cellar behind and beneath the bar. She returned with not one, but three of the plain bottles. She handed them to the bartender who opened it, presented me with the bottle cap (which I still have) and poured the brew into a chalice. This is what I had to say about the beer back then, “I sniffed the thick head that formed at the top of the glass and smelled dark fruits – figs, plums, spices, caramel, and alcohol. The first sip was an explosion of sweet maltiness, spices, and a hint of oak.”

Westvleteren is brewed at the Trappist Abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren in Belgium. Monks from the Catsberg monastery in France founded the St. Sixtus monastery in 1831 and began brewing beer in 1838. At that time beer was brewed for the consumption of the monks, guests, and visitors only. But in 1931, the abbey began selling beer to the general public. The beer is sold only to support the monastery and other charitable causes.

While there are currently several secular workers at the brewery, the beer is primarily brewed by the monks only making it the only Trappist brewery where the monks do all of the brewing. Only enough beer is brewed to support the monastery and no more regardless of demand. Only one case of 24 bottles of the 12 is allowed to be purchased per person, per month. The receipt given to purchasers clearly states, “Not for Resale.” In the words of the Father Abbot, “We are no brewers. We are monks. We brew beer to be able to afford being monks.”

In October of 2011 it was announced that the beer would be more widely available for a very limited amount of time in order to temporarily increase funds for urgent and immediate renovations at the monastery. Only 93,000 cases of the beer will be available and they will be packaged into a six-pack with two glasses. In November US importers Shelton Bothers and Mannekin-Brusel announced that they would have limited quantities of the beer available in the gift packs beginning in April.

Many consider the Westie 12 to be the best beer in the world. Indeed in June 2005 during a bi-annual competition, Westvleteren 12 was voted “The Best Beer in the World,” by the members of Of all the beers I tasted in Belgium and throughout my life, I would have to agree that it is my favorite beer in the world. But, as is the case in most things, opinions tend to be subjective. Some reviewers attribute the moniker to the rarity of the beer and certainly that is part of the allure. But, for taste, balance and character, I still stand by my assertion of it being my all-time favorite and worthy of being called the best beer in the world.

This is a beer to watch for because you may never get an opportunity to obtain it again. Certainly you will not be able to get it in a gift pack here in the states and probably not unless you go to Belgium and stand outside the abbey in hopes of scoring a case. Some resellers are already taking pre-orders in hopes that they will obtain some of the gift packs when they are released. Take these with a grain of salt and beware of who you are sending your money to. Prices have not been set yet and are likely to be steep when they are. So, be careful to only purchase from a reputable source.

If you are lucky enough to snag a six-pack, be sure to share it with good friends who will truly enjoy this exceedingly wonderful and rare brew.

Until next time,

Long Live the Brewers!


Marc Wisdom


Posted by on January 10, 2012 in Beer, Beer News, Belgian, Imports


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New Belgian Brews Are Tasty and Thrifty

20120109-161720.jpgBelgian beers have long been my favorites and, as evidenced by my trip to Belgium last year, my passion. I love the variety the Belgian brewers introduce to their brews and the outstanding quality that is virtually guaranteed of a Belgian beer. The Belgian people take their beer seriously and therefor will not stand for shoddy practices or poor quality beers.

Last night my good friend Steve of invited me over to his palatial mansion to taste several new Belgian beers he had come across. The three brews we tried were all from the Brasserie Caulier a brewery situated less than a half mile from the French border in Péruwelz, Belgium. Named for a nearby town where the first brewery was established in 1980 the three beers tasted were Bon Secours Blonde, Bon Secours Brune, and Bon Secours Ambree.

Brasserie Caulier wanted to follow in the brewing traditions of the Brigittine Monks that first settled in the area and established a brewery in Peruwelz around 1628. Brasserie Caulier tells a story about the first brewmaster of the monastery named Father Baudelot who, after celebrating Mass every Sunday at the Chapelle Notre-Dame-between-wood in the village of Bonsecours, would walk home and pay visits to the local taverns along the way. After long evenings of drinking and socializing with the parishioners, Father Baudelot would require assistance getting back to the Abbey. The good Father’s dog, a statuesque St. Bernard, would guide him safely to his home. In honor of the Father and his faithful companion, all Bon Secours brews feature a St. Bernard on the label.

Brasserie Caulier is a traditional brewery that produces beers using the traditional methods. The brews are unfiltered, unpasteurized, and the secondary fermentation takes place in the unique swing-top bottle the company uses. This second fermentation in the bottle leads to an extremely lively bottle evidenced by the “Biere Vivante!!” tag line on the label, which translate to “living beer.” Indeed, it is a very good idea to have your glass nearby when opening the bottle as the carbonation tends to rush to the top of the bottle as soon as it is opened.

The first of the beers we sampled was the blonde. As mentioned above, when poured into a tulip glass the brew formed a thick, white head of fragrant bubbles releasing aromas of sweet malt, lemony citrus, and the earthy spiciness one expects from a Belgian Strong Ale. The appearance of the beer in the glass is hazy yellow which leans towards the golden side. First sip revealed the sweetness of the malts followed by the brightness of the lemon and finally a pleasant herbal character. This beer paired nicely with the homemade gyros my host served for dinner.

Next we broke open the amber from Brasserie Caulier. As with the blonde, this brew poured into the glass with a tall, rising head of attractive and aromatic foam that was dominated by the smell of dark sugars and caramel and the typical Belgian yeast funk. In the glass the beer is a deep orange color with amber highlights. Immediately upon first sip the sweet, caramel nature of the malts washes over your taste buds. In the finish there is a hint of sourness reminiscent of a Flanders Red.

The third and final beer of the evening was the brune. This brew poured a deep brown with a generous slightly tan head. The aroma is of dark-roasted malts, mocha, and some dark fruits. The first sip revealed the dark malts and mocha hints along with dark brown sugars – perhaps molasses — and raisins. Drank alongside some truly outstanding brownies made with chili spices and vanilla made by Steve’s lovely wife Amber, this beer really stood out.

As Belgian beers continue to gain popularity in the United States, it is always a treat to come across a brew that I have not tried before. As was the case several months ago with Antigoon, the Bon Secours beers are a very pleasant addition to my catalog of tasty Belgian brews. While all three of the Brasserie Caulier brews boast 8% ABV, they are very drinkable and pleasant on the palate. If you are looking for inexpensive as well as tasty Belgian brews these three are well worth your time.

Bon Secours Blonde, Bon Secours Ambree, and Bon Secours Brune are available at Total Wine in the St. John’s Town Center for $2.99 to $5.99.

Until next time,

Long Live the Brewers!


Marc Wisdom



Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Beer, Belgian, Imports


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