Thursday, April 30, 2009

Reaching True Brew Sophistication

When I first started this blog, I was reading beer reviews, and could not take them seriously. I mean, come on...All this fuss over beer? Who really cares about hop varieties and mouthfeel? Who can talk about yeast seriously? Then I started to learn...And I began to realize...I can. Hey guys, me too, wait up! I had a significant moment recently where my original light-hearted hobby got serious. I even had my first beer dream.
Then I also started to realize how much I love buying beer. It's fun to read about beer, to learn about different styles, and to see people's preferences. But it's super fun to seek out some of the harder-to-find beers and to start finding stuff I've heard about but never tried. Especially at places that let you "mix-a-six" for a discount! The photo is my "cellar" (kitchen storage closet) after some recent purchases. This is by far as full as my cellar will ever get and will last me a long time. But I must admit, it gives me great pleasure to gaze upon my purchases and think about what I may try next. I'm excited for the Lagunita's Maximus, the Dogfish Head's Festina Peche, and Rogue's Dead Guy Ale. At the same time there are some I am not excited about, so if you'd ever like to come over and drink Beck's Light, just let me know! I even separate the beers sometimes...In this particular pictures it's basically stubbys at the bottom, lots of summer ales in the middle, and random stuff at the top. Sometimes I group them together by "blog-worthy" and "un-blog-worthy." Yup, I'm serious. I think I can compare it best by thinking about getting into music as a teenager and buying as many CDs as I could, and taking pleasure in alphabetizing them or grouping them together by genre.
I think perhaps I have converted.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Victorious I-P-A


See, it kind of sounds like "The Notorious B-I-G"...KindaSorta. Anyways, Victory Brewing is from Pennsylvania. Their logo reminds me of superheroes. I tried the Victory Lager and it was boring. So let's just get right to the HopDevil. Drool. 'Kay, first it is SO PRETTY! Reddish-Amber, clear with decent off-white head. The smell is mild - piney/citrusy hops, some sweet fruit, the usual. Okay, but the taste? Total yummy. Absolutely well balanced. There was a caramelly sweetness to balance it out, but it ended on a slightly bitter hops note. Delicious. Medium and thickness and carbonation, and high drinkability for sure. 6.7% ABV is still slightly high but this was not apparent in the taste, so go ahead, have another.
Victory HopDevil: A
Victory Lager: C

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Delerium Tremens



My twinny recommended this one to me. I've only had 1 other true Belgian ale (Duvel) although a couple of others in the styles of Belgian ales. But before I get to the beer, check out that cheese platter. D and I needed a snack, so I decided to class it up with not 1, not 2, but 3 types of cheese! Some "light" wedges of swiss, some rounds of cheddar still in their wax (love it), and some fancy chilean papper cheese from Chile. Delish!

But anyways, onto the beer. After all this is Grin and Beer It, not Delicious Food!

First of all, the bottle is adorable. 11.2 ounces, and decorated with pink elephants, a strutting crocodile wearing sunglasses, and what looks like a dragon dancing on a sun. If I was a child, this is the first beer that would appeal to me.

This is a Belgian Strong Pale Ale. It looks like sparkling apple juice, with visible carbonation, yeasty sediments, and a bit of lacing but no head to speak of. The smell is not strong to me, but there is some slight apple, floral, perfume, and "fermenty" - maybe that's what yeast smells like? Tastes is good, like all of the above, but compared to Duvel, more thin and watery, slightly more bitter. There is some alcohol warmth as well. The mouthfeel is thin and fairly crisp. It has good drinkability and is refreshing. But for the price and alcohol, 1 is enough.
B+

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Feeling Hoppy: Several IPAs as of late

1) Sierra Nevada Torpedo. Is it possible to fall in love with a beer? That's not creepy, right? Because I may have found a life partner here. This is awesome. Super hoppy, super fresh tasting, awesome sticky foam, citrus, spicy, overall YUM and AWESOME. Lately I am starting to think that Sierra Nevada can do no wrong. I'll have another. A+

2) Green Flash Brewing: West Coast IPA Now, this one has won lots of awards and is supposed to be amazing. I learned something! IBUs = bitterness. This one has 95 IBUS and most India Pale Ales have 40-60. So this is a bitter one. It smells strongly of florals, citrus, and pines. This is some in-your-face-hopness. It's considered a "double IPA". Overall I enjoyed it but it was a little too bitter for me, plus there was an occassional very slight taste of something almost...Soap like. Perhaps just the bitterness. B


3) Smuttynose IPA This one poured a lovely orange hue, with 1 finger of fluffy off-white foam, bits of floaty yeast (I know this is okay, but I don't really like seeing little chunks in my brew), and sticky lacing. It was smooth and refreshing, with good amounts of hoppy bitterness and grapefruit taste. Nothing super duper memorable, but good plus it gets extra points for being from Portsmouth, NH (my home for 3 years). B+

4) Harpoon IPA
Dude, whatever. I like Harpoon. I enjoyed a couple of these at an Irish Pub. It's nothin' special, not super flavorful, but a pleasant beer nonetheless. However, I will now always associate it with a ridiculously fun night that basically turned into a bachelor party for me hosted by strangers. Here, here. A!!!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

BEER WARS

So last Thursday was Beer Wars:

A one-night only event in theaters around the US for beer geeks and lovers. There was 1 theater showing it in RI, and about 25-30 people in attendance. Inside our theater was a lovely vendor selling Stone Pale Ales and Brooklyn Lagers. I had a Stone Pale Ale, and it was fine, a little watery, but the joy of drinking a craft beer in a movie theater overpowered any perceived flaw.

The film was good...It was Michael Moore-esque at times, with the director taking many tactics to go after "the man" (primarily the CEO of Budweiser in this case)but it did highlight some unfair business practices by the big 3 (again, namely Bud) especially blatantly stealing other small craft beer's ideas and styles and trying to get Dogfish Head in legal trouble for owning the rights to broad beer style names (ie "Punkin Head" and "Chicory Stout"). As the owner of Dogfish Head pointed out, they are no broader than Bud's creative names such as "Natural Light" but no one is suing them. It was not a perfect film - it spent a ton of time talking to the owner of Dogfish Head (who was totally funny and charming), and a woman who was working hard to promote her beer (a caffinated beer)who was not having much success. It would have been nice if the film had included more brewers and consumers. There was a live panel discussion afterwards, hosted by Ben Stein who seemed very cranky and slightly antagonistic. It was also a super short discussion, so we got to hear from a few people once, and a couple of people twice.

However, a good START to a discussion on the importance of supporting small businesses. And this certainly includes small brewers!

Cheers.
Beer Wars: B+

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

BEASTS! Avery's and Beauty's.


VS.
It's a "tale as old as time."
Beauty's Beast and Avery's Beast, a Belgian Dark Ale. They have many similarities.

1) they are huge (in size and/or character)
2) they are intimidating
3) they have huge-ass teeth
4) they hope to get the ladies (or to help you get the ladies?)
5) they will seduce you
6) Beauty's Beast hangs out with singing teapots. After a couple of Avery's Beasts, you will think you are hanging out with singing teapots.

This beer will pick you up, drop kick you, and then punch you in the face. It will then win you over. Slowly. With time. Like Beauty's Beast. It's just misunderstood. Really. Don't be afraid of the glowing red eyes and sharp teeth. Don't be afraid of the 16.42%ABV. Don't be afraid of the strongly boozey fig/date/raisin smell and taste. The first couple of sips were odd. I honestly could not tell if I liked it or not, which was basically how the entire drink went. After a bit, the beer got warmer (and I got warmer) and it became a little more enjoyable. But this is majorly boozey ale, and the last couple of sips were like pure alcohol.

I would definitely recommend trying this once. The $8 is steep, but this is a perfect beer for sharing with others. While I won't try it again, I'm glad to see what THE BEAST was all about. Perhaps it really is a seducer.

C+

Monday, April 13, 2009

Joss Geek, Chess Geek, Beer Geek: Mayflower IPA


This past weekend was quite the geeky one. On Friday I got to see Joss Whedon get an award at Harvard for cultural humanism. It was really great; he spoke about his faith being one of secularism and how that is portrayed in some of his work. I'm a bit of a poser; I am not very familiar with his work, although I do enjoy me some Buffy. But it was fun, we got autographs, and there were some hardcore fans asking him to clarify detailed plot twists and quotes from various television episodes. He was also funny.

The following day I got to attend a chess workshop at a library taught by D. who did a great job. I'm not a good chess player; it is very difficult for me to plan ahead, in many aspects of my life. But it was fun and I learned about castling
and even got to play 2 games (won once!) and in both I "castled!" Total score!


After all of that my brain needed a break. Some fellow chess-ers and I went to the British Beer Company, where I had never been. As suspected, they had a fantastic selection of draught beers, and I chose a Mayflower IPA. A nice local beverage that I never had! When the pilgrims landed in Plymouth they discovered a sweet brook, the water of which Mayflower Brewing uses in its ales! It was a pretty orange with a small white head that stuck around for a bit. It smelled hoppy but with a strong citrus. I have not had tons of IPAs yet but this was one of the more citrusy ones I've had which made the taste super fresh and a definite high drinkability even with the overall bitter hops bite. YUM. Oh yeah and the veggie pasty and sweet potato fries rocked too.

A-

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Best Meal: w/ Bigfoot Barleywine



Okay. This meal is amazing. Allow me to describe it in detail.

The food is as follows: a Buffalo Veggie Dog from Spike's. Check it out: a buttery toasted bun caressing a veggie dog cooked to perfection. This is topped with buffalo sauce, blue cheese, and a pile of scallions. It is awesome. It comes with "poodle fries" which are nice and curly.

To drink I got to try a Sierra Nevada Bigfoot Ale. I had a barleywine once, at the Portsmouth Brewery. That one had a strong plumb taste and I was not too into it. Barleywines are sweet-ish ales with high alcohol content. American barleywines are more hoppy than English ones. And the Sierra Nevada is no exception.

It's a pretty ruby red with a tiny off-white head that quickly disappears into a small ring. It smells strongs of hops, a little citrus. The taste is very hoppy and bitter at first, but then warms up. It quickly turns sweeter with fruits and caramel and is overall well balanced between bitter and sweet. The mouthfeel is interesting. It's soft! At first I feel like I'm eating a pillow, and then I realize that might be what "chewy" is. I often read beer reviews that describe mouthfeels as chewy which I've never understood. I even ask on Beer Advocate and actually get a variety of responses, some saying that if it's thick, it's chewy, others saying that it's more about it feeling sticky. Whatever it is, the Bigfoot is awesome. Towards the end when it's warm I feel like I'm eating caramel candy. I REALLY enjoy this beverage. It took over an hour to drink and has 9.6%abv but I feel like I could have, and enjoy, another one, if I had one.

I do believe I have found the ultimate meal.

A

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Another Doppelbock: Optimator Spaten Munich

German beers look boring. This is why I have held off on trying many of them. But really, when you compare this (from California) or this (from Belgium) to this (Germany) you may see what I mean. It's not xenophobia, I am German. It's that often I read books, and beers, by their covers. Before ye judge, hear me out.

First, you have a green bottle. Just does not seem quite as classy as brown. Plus it is associated with skunkiness, although that is apparently a myth. Then the label is brown. With words. Not much else. And you've got this picture that kinda looks like "pantaloons" or perhaps "bloomers" from far away, but up close it's paddles. Maybe the kind you play ping pong with, maybe the kind fraternity brothers use for hazing.

Then the words..."Imported" - clear enough. Followed by "Optimator", "Spaten," and "Munich." Okay Munich is a city. Optimator? Sounds like an optimistic friend of the Terminator.
Spaten? No idea. I don't understand what this is called. Is the company Spaten? Or Optimator? If I don't know are they going to paddle me?

Okay, let's get it together and have a beer. It's a doppelbock, a bigger/harder/faster/stronger version of a regular bock. Pours dark brown but with lots of ruby highlights shining through. Not much head to speak of, nor lacing. It smells like grape soda, dark fruits, sweet, and syrupy. I guess that is "malts." It tastes sweet and syrupy, but with a bitter side and a definite taste of the alcohol. It is not overly fruity like I thought it would be after smelling it. It's a little thick and creamy. 7.2%ABV. I like it more than I thought I would. And I suppose that is the lesson learned. Labels are restrictive...You gotta get inside to the good stuff to understand what is really going on. I'll keep giving German beers a chance.

A-