Monday, November 24, 2008

Comparative Study #3: Mango vs. Strawberry

So, a while back I saw banana bread beer at a liquor store in Plymouth. I've never seen it anywhere else, and, curiosity may get the better of me but hey, beer = good, banana bread = good, so what's the problem? I went there in hopes of getting a bottle last weekend but the shelf was empty. There is a chubby, nerdy guy who works there who is very smiley and nice...I feel like we could bond in our chubby-nerdy-beer-love, but unfortunately I need to prepare if I'm going to get over my anxiety enough to talk to an actual stranger. Instead I grabbed this Fruli Strawberry as the bottle is little (8.4 oz.) and cute and it was cheap. It's from a Belgium brewery and is supposed to be 70% white beer (witbeer) and 30% fruit juice. The aforementioned store clerk assured me it was delicious while I blushed and fished for cash. Dammit. Next time I'll ask about the banana bread beer. Anyways, the Fruli looks like a murky grapefruit juice with very thin head and tiny little bits...I can only assume are pieces of strawberry pulp. It smells and tastes of strawberry jam. It's light and fizzy and easy to drink down. It's refreshing; I could see drinking this in the summer. Possibly out of the bottle with a straw because it feels like sodapop. Super sweet. Almost too sweet but I've got a heck of a sweet tooth.

In the past when I've seen fruit beers (mainly blueberry or cherry) I have always gotten excited and then have been disappointed. They are usually somewhat grody, kind of like when people mix chocolate and fruit. It's a good theory, but some things are better left separate.

Thus leads me to the mango. When I saw this Tropical Mango Ale I was very excited. I've never seen a mango beer (even though I'm learning that there are many) and I love mango. It is out of the Virgin Islands, brewed and bottled by Shipyard in Maine. Upon pouring it I was very excited at first. It smelled strongly of mango, was a pretty amber color, with a nice head and lacing (does this ever not get funny?). The first few sips were nice. The mango was not overwhelming but it was the dominant taste. But it started to get old fast. It started to taste watered-down and too bitter for the mango. It's strange, at first it seemed like this luscious tropical paradise type of drink...But I guess after a few sips the novelty wore off, like a ratty old bikini disintegrating after one too many wears.

Fruli Strawberry: B
Tropical Mango pale ale: C

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Duvel Love

Well, anyone can tell you my twin Rebecca is a sophisticated lady. She has spent lots of time in Europe, speaks fluent french, and is almost a PhD. She is also the best twin sister anyone could have.

So when she says she loves Duvel, a luscious Belgian ale, I believe her. And I love it too. I wish I had a flute glass to bring out its finer qualities but a wine glass will do. It took 3 pours, each with head rising scarily over the edge of the glass but then settling down.

Mountains of head like whipped cream; and a balance of bitterness and fruit. A Homer Simpson-esque drool here. aaaaaggggggghhhhh...It especially went well with my Pringles. Yeah, sophistication.

I'm gonna start grading my beers like my peer beer snobs/geeks do. A!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Comparitive Study #2: Brooklyn Ale vs. Brooklyn Lager

"Hello, Brooklyn!" (Beastie Boys, and probably others)

A very simple comparative study. 2 regular old beers, from the same brewery which is given high marks and high regards according to my research.

The Brooklyn Penant Ale '55 is named in honor of the Dodgers' glory in 1955. I do not know crap about baseball but the bottle caught my eye and thought it might impress my lady who does enjoy baseball.

I poured both of these in identical glasses at the same time. Both looked exactly the same. The color of dark honey. 3 fingers of foam. Not much to the smell at first but I've learned to give it a minute. The lager's head dissipated a little more quickly than the ale. It released a slightly citrusy smell compared to a more mild smell of the ale. But honestly? Could not tell much of a difference.

On to the tasting: Not much of a difference at first. I realized the lager was slightly more "crisp" which is a fancy word for carbonation or "fizz". And the ale was a little "creamier".

Lager vs. Ale seems like one of the most basic comparisons on the road to beer sophistication. I fret. The difference is the way the yeast is used in the fermentation process which is so boring to read about. It's like high school chemistry class. As much as it's painful, I know it's important. I try, I try. In short: ale = creates yeast by-products called esters which are fruity. Also the yeast in ale ferments at the top. Lager is more of a "bottom" (why is beer so full of sexual innuendos??) with fewer yeast by-products and more hops. God. I hope that's enough education for today.

The more I drink it, the more of a difference I can tell, even though they still look like twins. Both are fine, not stellar in my opinion, but I am enjoying the Brooklyn lager more. The ale is boring and not worth the bitter aftertaste. The lager's citrusy smell and taste is refreshing. LA LA LAGER it 'tis!

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Cure For What Ails/Ales Ye: Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout

Hey gals,

You know the feeling. The moodiness. That once-a-month feeling. Sometimes more, sometimes less. TMI, I know! But hear me out.

Truth be told, it was not PMS for me this weekend. But it was crabbiness and moodiness, in part due to the darkness and rain and being stuck inside and having a sore back. But there was light at the end of the tunnel.

First, my librarian gf clued me into Beer Book and I was amazed when I went to the library and a pristine copy was actually in the new nonfiction area. I snagged it so fast, amazed at my luck. This is like porn for beer lovers; it's a review 800 breweries around the world and looks at some of their sample beers. It's a fun book with tons of colorful photos and a bottle to represent each brewery.

Then I went for the Brooklyn's Black Chocolate Stout along with some delicious dark chocolate. You can see the picture, with the price tag tackily left on. When I had all this on the table I thought it would make a great photo but the head went down a bit while I searched for the camera. But still dark and purty! It smelled of very bitter chocolate. It drank of the same. It went with the dark chocolate very well. The 10% ABV helped too, as I lay on the couch playing video games. This is a cure to remember.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Comparative Study #1: Newport Storm

I think I need to slow down a little. Back up. Take some distance. Do a little reflection. It's not you, beer, it's me. Let's get down to the basics. Before I'm able to venture out to Asian and English brews, let's start at home.

For me, that is currently Rhode Island. The popular local brewery is Newport Storm. I purchased 2 bottles from them: Rhode Island Blueberry and Dark Ale in the Cyclone Series.

I've poured the 2 beers and am referring to my new bible, "Beer for Dummies" to see what I should be looking, tasting, and smelling for.

The Blueberry: remember when I asked before if all fruit beer were lambics? Turns out, the answer is no! Ales and lagers can have fruit added to the brewing process (usually cherry, blueberry, or raspberry). Lambics are a Belgian fruited ale which many consider a separate category to learn about on another day. This one is an ale.

Appearance: golden and bubbly with 1.5 fingers of head that sticks around. Smells: very strongly of blueberries, but real blueberries. Nothing artificial here. Mouthfeel:It is crisp with carbonation and Tastes: mostly...Of blueberries! It's sweet, and slightly tart. Nothing I could drink a ton of, but it's tasty.

The Dark Ale: a liquor store clerk informed me that this is part of a Cyclone Series which comes out with limited quantities and have different varieties named after employees of the company, in this case Henry. I thought that was a nice thing for a business to do! It's also considered "extreme" perhaps due to the 7.6% alcohol. EXTREME!

Appearance: 3 fingers of head and very dark brown in color. Smells: I think a little coffee, a little fruity...And perhaps what I may be starting to identify as malt?! Mouthfeel: smooth and creamy. Tastes: um, malty(?) and a tiny bit fruity.

I've enjoyed tasting both of these. And am happy to get some "local flavor." But I'm not smitten. I would not go out of my way to try either one of these again. If I were to choose though, the winner would be...The Dark Ale! WHOOOOOOH!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Kiuchi Hitachino Nest Commemorative Ale

Kiuchi's Hitachino Nest Commemorative Ale: Okay, it's a little short and stout bottle with an owl on it. That's the big obvious reason for trying this.

It also sounds delicious, "Festive ale brewed with vanilla beans and spices (coriander, orange peel, nutmeg, cinnamon)."

The main challenge with this beverage was the head. I was going to use my shorter jar glass and poured a small amount in slowly, and the head shot up to nearly the top of the glass. And it took a while to dissipate. So I got my taller weizen glass and referred to my "Beer for Dummies" book to see if I should be pouring it differently. Yes I am reading "Beer for Dummies". I never wanted to read a "For Dummies" book as I find their titles inherently insulting. However, I'm actually finding this helpful and surprisingly self-esteem boosting. Lots of people can't tell the difference between lagers and ales! No worries! Let's learn together! Awesome.

Anyways, the book tells me most beers should be poured "aggressively" straight down the middle of the glass. No tilting unless its an American pale lager. No tilting for me!

The majority of it is still head no matter which way I pour. A quick search through Google informs me I'm not alone when it comes to this brew. Phew!

It smells pretty orangey, looks pretty orangey, and tastes pretty orangey. Kind of sweet, kind of spicey, but not really any particular flavor. Besides kinda orange. In other words, it's alright.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Punk-in love

Oh man, do I love pumpkin. But this past month or so, I've been a little obsessive about it. Like, I see pumpkin ANYTHING and I'm all over it. Muffins, lattes, ice cream...droooooool...And of course, that would lead us to tonight's beer session.

The only pumpkin beer I've had previous to this October is Shipyard's Pumpkinhead Ale. The name, label, and taste all = awesome. It's liquid pumpkin pie, pure and simple. Reading others' beer reviews, I see that this is not considered a sophisticated pumpkin beer. So I move on.

Tonight I first engage in the imbibement of a Dogfish Head Punkin Ale. It's at 7% alcohol and only comes in 4-packs so you know it's a little fancier. Alright, truth be told, I did have one on Halloween. But I had to drink it in my SKULL MUG (see picture) and did not really focus on its finer qualities. I drank it while eating candy and watching "Monsters, Inc" and "The Craft." Both good movies, and both appropriate for Halloween. (Sidenote: why did I ever think there were hot people in The Craft? Totally wrong.)

Anyways, tonight I focus with the Punkin. I drink from a chilled mug. A jar mug, not the dollar store glass, because I'm saving that one. Not much head, but some "lacing." Check out this amusing segment from Carlton Draught - ,"Think of beer and you tend to think of bars, blokes and barbeques, right? You certainly don’t think of lace. But, surprising, lace does hold a place in the world of beer." Just a reminder that this is male-dominated territory, little lady.

But back to the beer...The 7% is hitting me after half the beer. I guess because this time I don't have approximately 40 mini candy bars inside my gut. I don't smell a lot from Punkin. The taste is more subtle than Shipyard. It's slightly sweet, and there is some spice, but it doesn't taste like liquid pie. I do enjoy this but in a different way than the Shipyard. It is a pretty orange color and is very easy to drink quickly.

Reading up on beer and food pairings...Sweet actually goes with sweet! What a relief...Therefore I cleanse my pumpkiny palate with a piece of pumpkin pie between going on to the next beer tasting. MMMMMM...

Okay, next is Southampton Pumpkin Ale. This was a fancy pint bottle purchased at a fancy wine/micro-brew shop that had a tasting this weekend. It was full of fancy people getting tipsy off samples who liked to dominate the sample tables and workers and asking way too many questions about which wine they should serve with their fancy upcoming holiday meals. BUT I did get a couple of wine samples on my way to the beer section. Lo and behold, I saw this big bottle. It was almost $6 but hey, I'm dedicated to the cause.

So far, so good. Again, a rather thin head, but a gorgeous orange/amber color. The fanciness definitely deserved my chilled dollar store Weizen glass. It actually smells more pumpkiny than it tastes. The bottle boasts that it is brewed with real pumpkin and spices. It's definitely more "spicey" than the Dogfish Head. It's tastey, but again more beer-ish than pie-ish. I took my time with this one and enjoyed it.

Conclusion? With pumpkin, you cannot go wrong. But, in the future, I might go back to my old stand-by Shipyard. Or maybe just throw some pie in a blender and call it a day.

PS) Any ideas for election day themed beer? hopefully something celebratory...