Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Not really a beer: Strongbow English Cider

I was in the Detroit airport yesterday for 3 hours during a layover. I kind of enjoy layovers. I usually read a whole bunch, eat some overpriced fast food, people-watch. Not bad.

This time I sat in an "Irish Pub" and ordered a Strongbow English Cider on draft. Normally I would not go for a hard cider but there were advertisements for it ALL OVER the bar and I got excited to try THE BEST CIDER! I've never been too into cider, I know I had some Woodchuck back in college but this was better.

It was good. It looked just like apple juice with no visible carbonation to speak of. It smelled slightly sweet and mostly like apples. It tasted nice and crisp, not too sweet, with some tart aftertaste. It's very drinkable, I could have had a couple of these except it was in an airport and therefore expensive! I did enjoy drinking this while reading my crappy vampire fiction novel and observing the crowd. Specifically a super butch older lesbian who smiled at me, a very loud family who was disgruntled at having to choose coke products over pepsi products, and a couple of older gentlemen who worked in higher education and loudly debated on whether some colleague's beliefs helped or hindered students. I did not enjoy the fact that the glass was filled up to the brim and when I picked it up, some dribbled onto my pants. But, I figured it was good to smell slightly of cider rather than slightly of beer.


Monday, December 22, 2008

The 12 Beers of Xmas: #9-12 AND WINNERS!

Next - a couple of local brews!

#9: Newport Storm Winter Ale
This is the darkest of the winter brews I've had so far. It's brown with a reddish hint throughout. No foam to speak of. It smells malty and nutty. It's toasty, a little coffee flavor, bitter, plumby. I learn it's a "porter". The light carbonation feels flat. It's enjoyable enough and definitely feels like a cold night beer. But I won't go out of my way to try this again.


#10: Wachusett's Nut Brown Ale
I wish I lived in Wachusett so I could say I'm from "Wachusett, Massachusetts." Hilarious! I'm sure there's a tongue twister in there somewhere. So, a nut brown ale is not technically a winter or Christmas ale. But, nuts = nutcracker = Christmas! So whatever, you're fine. I'm fine. Let's drink. After all, there's a cute squirrel on the bottle.
This is a nice copper color - more orange/red than I would have expected from something called "nut brown". Small amount of foam with decent retention. I like it! Its crisp, there's some citrus, and a "bite." Not as "nutty" as I expected at first, but then notice some nuts in the after-taste. Go nuts!


Then - traveling further from home...

#11: Woodstock Inn Brewer's Wassail

Did you know that wassail is defined as:
1. A salutation or toast given in drinking someone's health or as an expression of good will at a festivity.
2. The drink used in such toasting, commonly ale or wine spiced with roasted apples and sugar.
2. A festivity characterized by much drinking.

So "Here We Come A-Wassailing" is about roaming around drinking with merriment? Nice.
This beer is amber, with no head to speak of and low carbonation. Smells a little malty, hoppy, plumy, and after a while sweet and caramel. However the taste is more bitter than sweet. The bottle says nothing about ABV but online I see that it's at 8% which I feel pretty quickly. My cheeks flush and I suppose this is the "warm" in warmer.


#12: Kerstmutske Christmas Nightcap
The label is so cute! A moon with a night-cap! This is from Belgium! Most drinks take me a while to pick up on the scent, but upon opening the bottle cap the smell of raisins pours out along with the smell of cherry juice. It looks like raisins too - dark brown with red highlights. It's crisp, lovely foam and lacing, and a strong taste of plums. It's more bitter/spicy than sweet or fruity. I'm enjoying this more than some of the other plumy winter ales I've had (Rejewvinator, Newport Winter Ale, Woodstock Wassail).


AND THE GRAND PRIZES GO TO (enjoy the photo with the lovely Norman Rockwell background and fancy ribbons)

1st place = Sam Adam's Old Fezziwig's Ale

2nd place = Abita's Christmas Ale

3rd place = Kerstmutske Christmas Nightcap

With runners up :

Harpoon's Winter Warmer and Sam Adams Winter Lager

Friday, December 19, 2008

The 12 Beers of Xmas: #5-8

I mean, what else is one to do while snowed in?

#5: Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome Ale

I enjoyed this ale with its lovely detailed bottle.
It is honey-colored with a nice fluffy head and good retention.
There's mild carbonation, and a little citrus-y on the nose and in taste.
It's smooth, good, and slightly bitter. I like it, but nothing super memorable about it. I do learn that British Winter ales such as this tend to lack the spice that many U.S. winter ales have, and I think I miss the spice. Still good though.


#6: Rogue Santa's Ale

Rogue certainly has a great reputation but I don't think I've ever tried any of their brews before. Another kitsch-y looking bottle as seems to be popular this season. It's beautiful looking - red, mountains of foam. Citrus-y, bitter, and hoppy. It's another good beer but lacking in the holiday spice that I am craving.


#7: Sam Adam's Winter Lager

Sam Adam also has a great reputation for winter beers, most notably this one and Fezziwig (soon to come!) so I was excited to try both of these.

A lovely amber colored with a huge fluffy head. There is definitely some noticeable cinnamon spice but it's more subtle than the pie flavor of the Harpoon Winter Warmer. I like the spice, I like the flavor. It's smooth and tasty. The bottle recommends having it with apple pie or a gingerbread cookie, which sadly, I do not have.


#8: Sam Adam's Old Fezziwig Ale

Oh boy. Immediately there is a smell of cocoa powder upon pouring it. Also some cinnamon and citrus. It's a nice dark brownish-amber, and a nice light brown fluffy head. It's toasty, pleasant, nice, with a slightly bitter aftertaste. I feel like it's a little thick or slick, leaving a malty coating in my mouth (which is not a bad thing). It's complex and delicious. It's all about the hint of cocoa for me. Perfect for winter, but too heavy for more than 1.



If any of you get to see Beer: How Stuff Works on the Discovery channel, I highly recommend it.

I learned a lot and took a bunch of notes.

Most notable facts:
There are 2 schools in the US that currently offer Master's Degrees in Brewing.

Bud light is the #1 sold beer in the world.

Hops are related to cannibis (I recently learned this but it was reiterated during the show).

When yeast is added, fermentation happens which is a natural process. Most places use encased steel containers, others use open air containers, and fancy places use old school oak barrels to ferment. Also the fermentation process looks disgusting.

A lot of focus was on Dogfish Head brewing. They recently made an ale based on scrapings from pottery from 1200 BC by the Aztecs! The oldest beer discovered. It was released this past September and won't be released again until next July. I totally want to try it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The 12 Beers of Xmas: #1-4

I have a project called the 12 Beers of Xmas. So far I've done 4, as depicted along with my Special Bottle Opener. It's taken about 10 minutes of hard work but it's paid off nicely thus far. Naw, just kidding, several days have been utilized, slaving over the process of drinking cold ones, in hopes of finding the ultimate Winter/Xmas brew.

#1: He'Brew Rejewvinator
On the first day of Xmas my true love gave to me...Uh...Well a week before Xmas I went to the booze store and bought myself...

He'Brew Rejewvinator
from the Schmaltz Brewing company. Because I'm inclusive like that. And have to get back to my Jew roots.

22 oz. bottle with some biblical quotes and other facts about figs, like how the fig leaf covers David's private parts.

It proclaims it is Year of the Fig. And it's "Harvest to Harvest Ale". I can't figure out if that is winter or summer. I'm going to guess winter because that goes with the theme of this current blog, plus figs = figgy pudding = winter, right? right.

It pours a deep purple/brown. Little head and no lacing.
It smells fruity, figgy, malty.
It's thick and plumby at first. Then starts feeling heavy and boozey at 7.8%ABV. It reminds me of too much fruit cake or rum balls. I regret it as it does NOT go well with my cheap-ass sushi dinner and was a little more pricey than I'd usually pay.

"The Chosen Beer?" Not so much, unfortunately.

Beer #2: Atwater's Winter Bock
On the 2nd day of Xmas beer tasting, it was snowing! Only the 2nd time it's snowed out here in New England all winter (so far). A perfect mood for a winter ale.

Upon picking up this bottle of Atwater's Winter Bock I like it.
a) it's from Michigan, like me
b) the picture on the label looks like a hand turkey, but with snow on the finger tips

It also describes it well...As a "malty, sweet dark-amber colored German style bock beer...Makes it the perfect companion on a cold night." Brrr...I'm in!
It looks luscious. A very dark amber, with a thick light brown head that recedes quickly with nice lacing.
Smells not strong...A little malty. After a while it reminds me of peanut butter.
Tastes clean, mild, but not super sweet or flavorful. It's a smooth and easy drink but the aftertaste is watery and it feels thin.


Well, shucks, so far this is not going well, until...

#3: Abita's Christmas Ale
Oooooh I like this. Pours brown but has some red, reminds me of dark strawberry jam. Very crisp and mild. Smells of berries, nuts, malt. The bottle is a short-and-wide which is fun and cute to hold. A little sweet, a little bitter to equal a balanced YUM. I learn this is lighter than their usual Christmas Ale, and I'm liking it.


Which leads us to tonight's:

#4: Harpoon Winter Warmer

This was recommended to me by some friends who know their beer. And oh boy, I am not disappointed. Immediately upon opening this Winter Warmer I'm hit by smells of cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice. And those are the strong flavors of the beer. It actually does remind me of a pumpkin ale. It's a little spicy, sweet, crisp. I am enjoying it!


This is just getting better and better! To BE(er) continued...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Beer A-Peel: Charles Wells Banana Bread Beer

I totally scored, after my last failed attempt. There's this sweet deal at a couple of great liquor stores around here that carry single bottles of "craft beers" - you mix and match a 6 pack and get 10% off! So I'm mixing and matching and lo and behold - I spot a Wells Banana Bread beer on the bottom shelf. Whoot!

I was eager to try this, although a little wary after my last banana-y beer that was a little disappointing.

It is an interesting drink! The bottle is interesting. It's pint sized, and I enjoy the picture of the banana peel around a glass of beer. The bottle is also very informative, as it explains that beer was historically called "liquid bread," so you add bananas and BOOM!= liquid banana bread. I also learn that this is a product of England, with fine malts, and fair trade bananas.

Appearance: Lovely amber, heavy on the reddish. A large thick off-white head that already looks like banana bread to me. The head dissipates quickly, with little lacing.

Smell: Bananas, not as overpowering as I thought it would be. A little nutty and malty.

Taste: Bananas! Also some hops. The aftertaste is bitter but burps (SORRY! TMI!) are WAY banana-y.

Mouthfeel: Smooth, light, light carbonation

Drinkability: It's definitely a novelty. But I'm glad I got to try it! If you're oddly craving beer and bananas at the same time, I would recommend this!


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Nerds of Beer: Middle Ages ImPaled Ale and Beast Bitter

I went to a Renaissance Faire last year. It was my first and only one. And yes, it made me want to drink. Parts of it were fun, parts of it were offensive, parts of it were a bit titillating. But I did not really associate beer with it. I believe I had a glass of overpriced "honey mead" which was nothing to blog about.

But, when I saw these beverages from the Middle Ages Brewing Company in NY, I got excited. And not just because of the erotic label on the Wailing Wench (which was a little too pricey for me). Humorous labels, nerdyness; all good things here.

The Beast Bitter was great. I thought it would be super bitter. As far as I know, I have not had any bitter beers before, and "best (beast) bitters" refer to an especially strong ale, very hoppy. The head was huge, fluffy, and thick with lots of lacing left on the glass. This was true of the Im-Paled Ale as well. Thinking about nerds and head, I can't help but be reminded of the classic Simpsons quote from Comic Book Guy while eating Peeps, "If only the real chicks went down this easily." But I digress. Back to the Beast Bitter: 'twas golden and smelled slightly fruity or floral. While it was bitter, it was not nearly as bitter as I thought it would be. As you may have picked up on, I tend to be more drawn to sweetness but I really enjoyed this.

The Im-Paled Ale was also enjoyable. Somewhat citrus-y and floral in smell and taste. A little grapefruity and bitter. Pretty crisp. Possibly more bitter in aftertaste than the Bitter itself. A's all around on this fair evening.

All in all, tis a most fanciful thing to enjoy an ale or two.

Fare thee well good wenches and, uh, dudes.