Beerman for Feb. 21, 2013

For Weekly SurgeFebruary 18, 2013 

A guy walked up to me in the bar area of Mellow Mushroom to say hi. We only chatted for a minute, but later I realized he had summed up Monday’s tapping party for Lily the Great Imperial Stout.

He previously bought a growler at the Piggly Wiggly in The Market Common, where Lily the Great has been available for about three weeks now as an exclusive early release.

He and his wife opened the growler at home and thought they would sip just a little bit because Lily the Great is a stout, a type of dark beer. They didn’t expect to want much of a stout for a single sitting.

As it turns out, they drank the entire growler. It was just that good.

Drinking a growler of Lily the Great is a feat, too, considering it is 11.3 percent alcohol by volume.

So during Monday’s tapping party for Lily the Great, I saw the dark elixir in squat glasses with short stems. Mellow Mushroom, 1571 21st Avenue North in Myrtle Beach, is serving Lily the Great in 10-ounce glasses, noticeably smaller than the more common pint glasses, for $4.75.

“You start pouring pints of this and you’d be in trouble,” said Dave Epstein, owner of New South Brewing Co., Myrtle Beach’s very own microbrewery.

Lily the Great is the first foray into high-gravity beer for New South. It’s named after the one-year-old daughter of head brewer Brock Kurtzman. Better yet, Lily the Great comes from a home-brew recipe first concocted by John “Jilly” Garner of MyrtleBeachCraftBeer.com and Michael Byrd, general manager of the Piggly Wiggly at The Market Common.

Lily the Great has an unmistakable hop presence and a clean finish. It is easy drinking, and some of us at the tapping party said we couldn’t detect its booziness.

Epstein said the clean finish was dryness due to busy yeasts during the fermenting process. The yeasts were a little busier than expected. Epstein described it in terms of degrees Plato, which is described by BeerAdvocate.com as a scale which measures the density of sugars in a beer. A comparison of degrees Plato before and after fermentation provides the percentage of alcohol content in the beer, and suggests how much of the sugars were consumed by yeast.

Lily the Great started at 23.8 degrees Plato and finished at 4.8 degrees Plato. Epstein and Kurtzman were expecting something closer to 6 degrees. Roddy Graham, operations manager at New South, said they thought the final alcohol level would be about 10.5 percent.

New South has released 16 full-size kegs (half-barrels or 15.5 gallons) and 24 one-sixth barrels (about 5 gallons). Some of those have already gone to The Crafty Rooster in Conway and Longbeards Bar and Grill in Carolina Forest, as well as Piggly Wiggly in The Market Common. As word gets around, Lily the Great will tap-out soon, but she will rise again.

“This is going to be an every-year thing,” Kurtzman said.

TGI Microbrews

One of the people enjoying Lily the Great at the tapping party was Chris Snyder, general manager of TGI Friday’s at 7515 North Kings Highway in Myrtle Beach.

Few mid-priced restaurant chains are known for their beer selection, but Snyder has changed his TGI Friday’s bar into a respectable craft-beer location.

With 10 taps, he has given only four to big-name domestics. The remaining six are devoted to craft-beer beacons including Lagunitas Sucks (despite the name, it’s a critically acclaimed India Pale Ale) and Founders Breakfast Stout.

“I’m always changing them out,” Snyder said. Brooklyn Dry Irish Stout most likely will be on tap by the time this edition of the Surge hits the streets.

A sleepy Third Shift

At the BiLo on 38th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach, I spent $6.79 on a six-pack of Third Shift Amber Lager.

I saw the same display – and the same six-packs of 12-ounce bottles – at the Rite Aid at Kings Highway and 29th Avenue North in Myrtle Beach. The sign there said $11.99 for a six-pack.

These two radically different pricings render the underlying confusion about Third Shift Amber Lager. It’s supposed to be a working-man’s microbrew, but behind Band of Brewers Co. of Fort Worth, Texas, and Trenton, Ohio, is just the Coors Brewing Co.

And Third Shift Amber Lager is just not that good. The advertised “sweet maltiness” and “lightly toasted character” and “subtle hops” are like three cats with their tails tied together chasing three different mice. This beer doesn’t know what it wants to be.

Presidential microbrew

If State of the Union addresses are supposed to shore up support from key constituent groups, President Obama shrewdly tapped into the craft-beer demographic during the first such speech of his second term.

One of the 23 guests in the First Lady’s box seats during the address was Deb Carey, owner of New Glarus Brewing Co. in New Glarus, Wis. The company started in 1993 and today has 50 full-time employees. New Glarus Brewing also posted a 123-percent increase in profits between 2007 and 2009, making it the microbrewery with the highest sales volume in Wisconsin.

How smart of the president to take notice of microbrewery entrepreneurship.

Contact Colin Burch at beerpour@yahoo.com.

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