Thursday, September 30, 2010

Miller Lite



Miller Lite
Serving Type: 12 oz. “vortex” bottle, poured into a mug
Miller Lite, is probably second only to Coors Light in working extremely hard to get a leg up on the competition through the use of gimmicks and slogans. I’ll detail some of those below. For now, know that it pours an unsurprising medium straw. What’s surprising is this beer, unlike some others, has some distinguisable malts on the nose. You might be able to even get a hint of hops. It is, after all, “triple hops brewed.” I’ve always wondered, what’s that actually mean? Three rounds of hops? Three types of hops? Or, as I suspect, three single hop flowers in the million-gallon brew kettle?
There’s a medium level of visible carbonation, but you really notice it during a sip. The “Great Pilsner taste” comes through a bit on the foretaste, fades quick, and leaves with a little aftertaste. It’s a bit dry on the finish, but it’ll leave you ready for another sip.
Myriad of slogans aside, Miller Lite’s latest “innovation” is perhaps the most face-palm-iest yet. The “Vortex Bottle.” Precision engineered to…do what now? Look cool? Make for a good advertisement? Maybe, at very least, help you chug this beer out of the bottle faster.

Final Verdict: C-*
*This rating is based on my thoughts and opinions of this beer as compared to those similar to it.

Coors Light



Coors Light
Serving Type: 12 oz. tall can, poured into a mug
Coors Light, like it’s non-light sibling, pours with a very large head with very high active carbonation. The head dissipates quickly and leaves the pale straw body to occupy the glass.
Crisp thin malts are about the only character to the beer. No hops to be detected. Overall it’s light on flavor, high on carbonation. The watered-down light beer, coupled with high carbonation, and the inclination to drink it when the mountains are “activated” make for a beer-flavored seltzer. Not flavorful, not offensive, not much.
While I didn’t have much to say about Coors original, I feel there’s less to say about Light. To me, Coors Light is all about marketing and gimmick. “Official beer sponsor of the NFL.” “Cold Activated Can.” “Vented Wide Mouth.” The can is even a different shape. All to differentiate, but to what end?
Final Verdict: D*, maybe D+ on a good day. It is, after all, refreshing and you can drink about a million of them.
*This rating is based on my thoughts and opinions of this beer as compared to those similar to it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bud Light



Bud Light
Purchased From: Copaco
Serving Type: 12 oz. can, poured into a mug
Bud Light pours a medium straw, darker than I was expecting for a light beer. There was also a very slight orange hint to the body of the beer. A small white head resulted from the pour but disappeared nearly without a trace after a minute or two.
The thin malts are somewhat masked by the extra water, but the high carbonation keeps the beer from seeming too watered down. The distinctive Budweiser flavor is present here, which, again, combats the watered down characteristic of a light beer. The flavor carries through till the end producing a dry finish.
Known for its “Superior Drinkability” Bud Light is one of the better Light lagers around. It carries on with some actual flavor, however minimal it might be. Light beer overall is not something I’m too interested in. Sure it may be “less filling” but if you’re looking to drink in quantity, I don’t see the point of drinking a less alcoholic beer. Unless, of course, you’re aiming for a larger pile of cans at the end of the night.
Final Verdict: C-*
*This rating is based on my thoughts and opinions of this beer as compared to those similar to it.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Miller Genuine Draft



Miller Genuine Draft
Purchased From: Copaco
Serving Type: 12 oz. clear glass bottle missing its label, poured into a mug
Miller Genuine Draft, colloquially MGD, pours a deep straw, crystal clear, with a light white foam head that dissipates pretty quickly. Toward the end there’s slight retention, but nothing to write home about. Medium-high active carbonation and a tiny bit of lacing persist.
The malts, like all MGD’s bretheren, take center stage, but remain light overall. There’s also a mild amount of distinguishable hopping here. Not great, but certainly not terrible. It lacks the depth you might hope for in a beer, but what can you expect? As with Budweiser and Coors, MGD is a bit too pricey for me to ever consider keeping it around.
Not really sure what happened to the label, here, but maybe that’s for the better. Do I really need to read about the beer, describing, in breathless terms, how they’ve managed to capture that real ‘straight-from-the-tap taste’ in a clear glass bottle? Just don’t let these things get too much sun or else you’ll be dealing with the issues associated with “lightstruck” beer.
Final Verdict: C+*
*This rating is based on my thoughts and opinions of this beer as compared to those similar to it.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Note on Adjunct Lager Reviews



After some serious consideration, prompted by Grant’s comment, I’m going to change my rating on Budweiser. I took pains to make it clear that my rating was based on the microcosm of beer that Budweiser falls into, but I don’t think my rating reflects what I was intending. So, I will go with a “B-”.  Although, my criticism of its price still stands.
I do like Budweiser. I would, and do, drink it, even when given other choices. I rarely, however, go out of my way to get it. It fills a niche. It’s decent and very drinkable. There are plenty of times when I’m not looking to drink a serious and, often times, filling beer. Such occasions are a time when a Budweiser seems appealing.
Let me be clear (channeling Barack Obama with that opening clause), I believe that Budweiser, along with many of the beers I’m going to be reviewing in the next (nearly) two weeks, represents the lowest common denominator, when it comes to beer. It strives for mass-market appeal, while sacrificing overall quality by adding cheaper grains to the mix.
Budweiser and other beers of its ilk shifted long ago from a focus on quality and tradition in brewing to marketing. What makes Budweiser better than Miller, or Miller better than Budweiser? Not very much, if anything. This, of course, is why Miller seeks to differentiate with its ‘Vortex Bottle’ and Coors has ‘Cold Activated Cans.’
It all comes down to personal preferences. This, I suppose, is part of the reason I’ve resisted assigning letter or number grades to the beers I try. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Coors



Coors
Serving Type: 12 oz. tall can, poured into a mug
Ah, Coors, the “Banquet Beer.” Pours a large foam head with good initial retention, but it soon disappears. Almost no trace of the head remains. The nose has vague soapy notes and a light must. Not off-putting at all.
Thin malts and a light sweetness are all that describe the beer’s flavor, backed up by tons of carbonation. The finish is crisp but a lingering sweetness pervades. No hops can be detected.
On to the gimmicks. Coors, I think, has the most. I’m not surprised, given the lack of heart to the beer. The first, the “vented wide mouth” (pictured below). Not only have all beers and soft drinks in America adopted the wide mouth opening, Coors has taken it a step further by “venting” it. How? They’ve added a slight bump next to the opening, apparently to let air flow more freely. Who knows if it actually works. Even if it does, what’s the point? Maybe it’s to help you choke this beer down faster. That way you don’t actually taste anything, you just get drunk.
On to the second gimmick. The cold activated can. “When the Mountains Turn Blue It’s as Cold as the Rockies” (capitalization intact). Amazing and quite entertaining innovation. All it does is let you know that the beer is so cold you’ll have trouble tasting it. Upon my first taste the can was not “activated” a travesty, I’m sure. The thing was, I could actually taste the beer. What little there is to taste. 
In summary, vent the mouth to let you drink it faster and serve it so cold you can’t taste it. These are the keys to marketing a beer light on flavor and character.
I don’t mind it, and Coors original is somewhat rare to find. The novelty helps it retain some points, but really, I think Coors has the least character out of any of the macros. 
Final Verdict: C*
*This rating is based on my thoughts and opinions of this beer as compared to those similar to it.

Budweiser



Budweiser
Serving Type: 12 oz. can, poured into a mug
Budweiser is the self-proclaimed “King of Beers,” so what could possibly be better to kick off the American Lager series? Get ready for more than a week of slogans, gimmicks, and marketing angles, it’s only going to get more intense.
Budweiser pours a light to medium straw with a large white head and tons of active carbonation. The head fades pretty quick, and doesn’t leave much evidence of its presence. 
The nose is almost all malts. On the tasting, the mouthfeel is slick and somewhat oily with a tinge from the carbonation and minor hops. Rice and corn abound. The almost all-malt body leaves you with a sweet finish, stemming primarily from the cereal grains.
I’m not sure there’s a current gimmick to get you to buy Budweiser, I think they save the marketing money for Bud Select and Bud Select 55. So, at least I can appreciate the classic stance taken by Anheuser-Busch i.e. InBev regarding this one. I’ve also always thought the can design was great. Lots of attention to detail and nuance. If only the beer itself had any of these characteristics.
Like I said previously, I’m planning on implementing a rating system. For now, I’m sticking with a regular grading system, but I may change it up in the future. Also, for now, I’m going to rate the beers in this series based on where I believe they stand among the competition in their style. 
So, when I say that I give Budweiser a “C” “B-“, for having some drinkability, a somewhat pungent malt character (not as watery as some of its competition), and light on gimmicks, that’s in the context of only similar beers. It could maybe get aC+ B, but I’ve always regarded the top-name macros as being overpriced for what you get. Budweiser is no exception.
Final Verdict: C* - Keep in mind what I said above. B- ** Read this

Friday, September 24, 2010

Update: Thomas Hooker Brewery - Octoberfest Lager



Update
Last weekend I made a trip to the Hooker Brewery in Bloomfield, CT with a few friends. While I was there I got a growler of their Octoberfest beer and sampled some directly from the brite tank. What’s this say to me? They brew Octoberfest on site. I read, previously, that the beer was contract brewed by another brewer. I mentioned this in my post about Hooker’s Octoberfest. What I read was a bit old, so I assume that it was previously contract-brewed, but now they’re doing it themselves. Could’ve happened any time in the last 4 years, actually. My mistake, glad I followed up.
I highly recommend that you check out the brewery if you live in the area (or if you visit). Every Saturday they offer tours and tasting for only $5. You get to see the facility, learn about the brewing process, and sample 4 (potentially more) of their beers. It’s a great deal and a lot of fun. You can also purchase beer by the growler to bring home with you.
News
Starting tomorrow I’m doing a beer series on the site. What’s the theme? Mass-market American Adjunct Lagers. These are the beers (if you grew up in America) that you’ve always known as ‘beer.’ These American Lagers gained the addition of the term ‘adjunct’ because the brewers (macro brewers for the most part) have substituted some other grains such as rice and corn for some of the barley malts used in the brewing process. The drafters of the Reinheitsgebot would be spinning in their graves.
Nonetheless, I’ve got a huge list of beers to review, most of them coming from Copaco Liquors in Bloomfield, Connecticut. It’s not my favorite package store (by a long shot), but they usually have a ton of broken up six packs. In fact, I only had to break up one in order to get a beer to taste. That was Coors Light. We all know, that if you’re in the market to buy a single beer, Coors Light is not going to be it. You want something with a little bit of alcohol in it, not just fizzy water.
So, stay tuned! A ton of beers coming your way. I’m also going to begin using a rating system to give a final verdict on the beers I taste. I got some feedback saying that I should give a rating a week-or-so ago, but I’ve been waiting to start this series to roll it out. That, and I haven’t decided on the system quite yet.

Hofbräu - Maibock



Hofbräu - Maibock
Purchased From: Beers of the World
Serving Type: 11.2 oz. green glass bottle, poured into a mug
This Maibock pours a clear, but deep, amber with an impressively creamy foam head. Not unexpectedly, the head carries a slight tan hue and produces tons of lacing in the mug. The nose of the beer is incredibly fresh with hits of green grapes and plenty of toasted malts.
The beer is full-bodied with a strong malt character. There’s a clear hop character, but it is definitely second to the toasted malts. Characteristic to the style, this Maibock has a pretty high alcohol content, 7.2%. There’s a slight heat on the finish, but not strong enough to be off-putting.
The style is typically associated with the spring, hence the name Maibock (May bock) and is a member of the bock family of beers. There’s some contention whether or not the Maibock style is the same as Hellerbock, a similar beer also brewed in the region. I am yet to try a self-proclaimed Hellerbock, but from what I’ve read they’re generally considered to be the same style.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hofbräu - Hefe Weizen



Hofbräu - Hefe Weizen
Purchased From: Beers of the World
Serving Type: 11.2 oz. green glass bottle, poured into a flute glass
Hofbräu’s wheat beer pours with a pale fresh straw color, a mild light haze, and some very faint grassy green hints. The pour produces a large fluffy white head that dissipates to a mild bubbly top lining. It leaves some considerable contoured lacing on the glass.
Typical banana and clove flavors are present on the taste and the nose. A citrusy lemon is also present, more so here than is usually found. A musty yeast appears on the finish combined with a slight dryness. The beer is very drinkable and easily enjoyable. Despite have almost no visible active carbonation the mouthfeel is full of body and depth.
Note on Reinheitsgebot: As with yesterday’s Hofbräu Original (and many other Bavarian beers) the bottle of this weisse bier proudly mentions the German Purity Law. The back of this bottle takes it a step further, exclaiming that it is “Brewed exclusively from water, wheat malt, barley malt, hops and yeast according to the famous Reinheitsgebot (Purity Law) of 1516.” As I pointed out in yesterday’sposting, the law has since been repealed and is simply a marketing tactic today.
The Reinheitsgebot reads exclusively to say that they only ingredients allowed for brewing in accordance with law are water, malted barley, and hops. You can read a translated text of it here. Yeast, an important ingredient in beer, is left out because when the law was written, yeast’s impact on the process was not yet discovered. Louis Pasteur wouldn’t figure that out for a couple hundred years. At the time, brewers relied on ‘spontaneous fermentation.’ Essentially, free floating yeast would land in brewing pots and work their magic to produce beer. So, the inclusion of yeast as an ingredient is acceptable even under the law.
What’s not acceptable, however, is the use of other grains in the brewing process. It’s quite clear, really. However, as I’ve pointed out, today’s Bavarian brewers love to tout the Purity Law on their packaging. And in this case, even on a wheat beer (which contains malted wheat), the defunct law is used as a selling point, even though the process of brewing this delicious beer does not follow the list of ingredients prescribed by the law itself.
My point here is not to say that this beer is not good, or that it’s not deserving of praise. It certainly is. However, just keep an eye out for these convenient marketing pitches. Accept them with a grain of salt.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hofbräu - Original



Hofbräu - Original
Purchased From: Beers of the World
Serving Type: 11.2 oz. green glass bottle, poured into a flute glass
This classic Munich Helles lager pours a crystal-clear golden straw hue with a thin foam head and mild amounts of active carbonation. The head leaves good lacing all the way down the glass.
The beer’s flavor contains bold and bright malts balanced by noble hops. The hoppy nose is reminiscent of a Pilsner, so I’m suspecting Saaz hops hold a prominent place in the brewing process. It finishes crisp and dry. This is a clean and refreshing beer that invites another sip.
On the bottle of this beer, like many Bavarian brewers, you’ll see that it was “Brewed according to the German Purity Law.” On the reverse, you’ll also read that the famous ‘Reinheitsgebot’ (the purity law) of 1516 restricts the brewing of beer in Bavaria to the simple list of ingredients: water, malted barley, and hops.
Doesn’t it just make you feel great? A classic list of ingredients and what seems like a guarantee of quality. It should, but note, these days, this is just a marketing angle. While it’s probably true that Hofbräu Classic uses only this strict listing of ingredients, the law has since been repealed and replaced. So, making claims about following this law doesn’t necessarily carry any consequences if they’re fictitious. 
No knock against this beer. It’s excellent, but just keep in mind the marketing speak. You’ll see my point in action with tomorrow’s posting. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Paulaner - Hefe-Weizen



Paulaner - Hefe-Weizen
Purchased From: Beers of the World
Serving Type: 11.2 oz. bottle, poured into a flute glass
This wheat beer from Paulaner pours a large foamy head with deep orange tones, large carbonation bubbles, and a hazy body. In the body of the beer, cloudy yeast can be seen floating freely. 
I’ve had this beer before, and as I recall, I enjoyed it. This time around, I’m not sure what’s happened. Notes of banana and clove spice are prevalent among and orange rind-like citrus. Unfortunately, the mouthfeel feels thin and slick. It seems like there’s no depth or texture to this beer. All of the carbonation seemed to have disappeared with the head, leaving a strange watery finish devoid of fizz. Even the aftertaste is lacking, almost nothing is left over aside from a slight lingering dryness.
Maybe something went wrong with this one, but this is not the Hefe-Weizen I remember. I believe this wheat ale was the first of Paulaner’s brews that I’ve had, and it put the brewery on my mental map. I’m very disappointed, but I’d like to give this beer another try in the future.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Paulaner - Oktoberfest Märzen



Paulaner - Oktoberfest Märzen
Purchased From: Beers of the World
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass
The beer inspired by the historic Paulaner monks strikes again, and it’s still quite good. Paulaner is more than capable of producing a solid beer and their Märzen, released in celebration of the Bavarian Oktoberfest tradition, is a perfect example.
It pours with a large creamy head, most of which dissipates quickly. The foam leaves very sparse lacing on the glass. The body of the beer is a deep amber color and produces some sparkling copper tones in the light. The nose is mostly characterized by a musty, yet pleasant, yeast component.
This Fall lager is very drinkable and incredibly enjoyable. It’s got plenty of sweet toasted malts and a delicate hop balance. The carbonation is spot on and produces a crisp finish with a slight metallic bite.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ayinger - Bräu-Weisse



Ayinger - Bräu-Weisse
Serving Type: 11.2 oz. bottle, poured into a flute glass, a Weizen glass would’ve been optimal, but I haven’t come across one that’s not meant for a .5L beer.
The Ayinger Bräu-Weisse is a traditional German hefeweizen (wheat beer) brewed in Bavaria, the heart of German brewing tradition. It pours a medium straw body with a light haze and cloudy appearance. The nose features prominent banana notes with hints of clove. 
The generally thin mouthfeel is balance by a light carbonation and complimented by the beer’s crisp malt character. The wheat lends a clean sweetness, which works perfectly with the clove and spice character of the beer. There is a very light hopping, which adds a depth of flavor, but clearly takes a back seat to the wheat profile.

Harviestoun - Old Engine Oil



Harviestoun - Old Engine Oil
Purchased From: Beers of the World
Serving Type: 11.2 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass
Purchased for the novelty of the name, Old Engine Oil takes its title from the thick, black color of the beer, similar to the appearance of, you guessed it, old engine oil. Looking beyond the novel name, this self-proclaimed “Black Ale” is one serious English Porter-style ale, brewed in Scotland. 
The porter pours a nearly-black body with extremely consistent color. It also produces a relatively thick, creamy, tan head with large carbonation bubbles throughout. The head dissipates very slowly, leaving great lacing on the glass.
Old Engine Oil’s nose and taste are both dominated by the powerful smokiness of the toasted malts that give the ale its color. While having a very thick appearance, it has an even mouthfeel, which strikes a balance between its light carbonation and the creaminess typical of this style. The malts are characterized by chocolate and coffee notes, as well as the sweetness of caramel. The end result is a beer that isn’t too heavy to enjoy and winds up being incredibly drinkable.
I would be very interested in trying this beer again, especially if it were available either on nitro-tap, or if they sold it in 500mL nitro-cans.

Ayinger - Jahrhundert-Bier



Ayinger - Jahrhundert-Bier
Serving Type: 11.2 oz. bottle, poured into a flute glass
Ayinger is a privately-owned brewery in Aying, Germany, a well-known and prolific Bavarian brewer. Ayinger, as a brewery, traces its routes back to 1878, and the Jahrhundert-Bier was originally brewed in 1978 to celebrate the brewery’s centennial. You may remember that I recently reviewed Ayinger’s Celebrator doppelbock. I concluded that it was a world-class example of the style. It was no mistake to think that Ayinger is capable of producing excellent beer.
Jahrhundert-Bier is an example of a German Dortmunder beer (recall my recent review of the Russian-brewed Baltika #7 Export Lager), a so-called Export Lager in the traditional German Helles style. 
It pours a slightly-hazy medium straw with a light, yet tall, foamy head. The foam dissipates slowly and produces fair lacing. The nose, coming primarily from the head of the beer, has a bitter hop character and notes that remind me of green grapes. The hop profile of the beer is similar (as can be expected) to a Pilsner, so you can expect Saaz and potentially Perle hop bittering.
The body holds a light floating carbonation and prevalent sweet malts. The green grapes on the nose are present in the taste, complimented by honey and something like a sparkling apple cider. The hops are a bit muted on the taste, but keep the beer’s strong malt character from overtaking the palate. A clear and crisp finish makes this beer incredibly drinkable. This is definitely another reason to seek out products from Ayinger.
Note of comparison: If you have the opportunity to try this and compare it to what Baltika ships out and declares to be the same style, you’ll invariably notice the disparity in taste, quality, and enjoyment.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Victory - Storm King Imperial Stout



Victory - Storm King Imperial Stout
Purchased From: Beers of the World
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottled, poured into a goblet, alternatively, a brandy snifter might be the desired glassware for this style
This dark beer is brewed in Pennsylvania, taking its character from the Russian Imperial Stout style. It pours a deep black, though which no light appears. A rough pour produces a dark tan head that thins out somewhat quickly. Notes of caramel and the bold hop character of this beer are present on the nose.
It is a very creamy and heavy beer, weighing in at a formidable 9.1% alcohol. The date stamped on the label recommends drinking it before 2015, which seems to say this beer as a few years of aging potential. The hops in the beer are clear, adding some bittering and notes of pepper on the front. The beer is bold and full-bodied with strong toasted grains and a charred finish. An extra year or two in the bottle might mellow out the finish and blend the distinctive elements of this stout’s flavors.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Empire Brewing Company - White Aphro



Empire Brewing Company - White Aphro
Serving Type: On tap at the brewpub, poured into a pint glass
Empire Brewing Company is a restaurant and pub in Armory Square in Syracuse, NY. They’ve got an extremely varied menu of foods made up of largely locally-sourced ingredients. They’ve also got a brewing operation at the location, which produces many interesting, and differently-styled ales and lagers. First, I had their India Pale Ale, a straightforward IPA, with tons of hops, a cloudy body, and a solid crisp finish. After the meal I ordered their White Aphro Belgian-styled ale.
White Aphro is a Belgian-style take on their Aphrodisiac Ale. This beer is brewed using a Belgian yeast strain and includes wheat malts to produce the distinctive Belgian White flavor. Like the non-Belgian variety, this White version includes prevalent ginger and lavender notes. During the brewing process the ingredients are added to provide a very powerful, but not overblown, complexity of flavor.
While strong, the White Aphro is not overbearing, crisp, and highly drinkable. There’s a slight astringency to the aftertaste, similar to what you might notice in other wheat ales. Worth checking out if you’re in the area, they’ve got a rotating menu of beers brewed on-site.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Beers of the World - Rochester, NY



Beers of the World - Rochester, NY
I recently made a trip up to Rochester and Syracuse. While in Rochester I knew that I had to stop in at Beers of the World, which I had heard about from a few beer lovers that I know in the area. If you’re ever in Rochester, or nearby, you should make it a point to stop by. There’s only one problem. A single trip to the store is at once an amazing beer-shopping experience, and a soul-crushing disappointment. If you won’t have the ability to come back over and over again, you’ll have seen the incredible variety available, but you’ll know that you will never be able to try it all.
Beers of the World has an incredible selection of brews from all around the world, Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, South America, and North America (maybe more), including an extensive selection of American craft brews and mass-marketed fare. You’ll feel like a kid in a candy store wandering the helpfully labeled isles of this gem hidden in a strip-mall.
During my time in Rochester I purchased a number of single beers from Beers of the World, which you’ll be seeing in the coming week or two. At the time of writing this, I’ve already tasted and reviewed a few. This weekend you’ll see two more from my new local favorite beer store (Harvest Fine Wines and Spirits), then next week will see another handful from Beers of the World. 
One last note: A hallmark of my college career was Keystone Light, a highly watery, seconds-quality version of Coors Light, sold in 30-packs for cheap. While at Beers of the World, I saw, for the first time ever, cases of Keystone (regular). From time to time I’d seen Keystone Ice cans littering the ground, but never regular Keystone. So, in the interest of the experience, I brought a case of it back to Hartford with me. I expect you might see one of those around here eventually too.

Baltika - #7 Export Lager



Baltika - #7 Export Lager
Serving Type: 500mL bottle with a pull-tab cap, poured into a 1987 Bud Light pilsner glass.
Chosen because the #7 Export Lager was the only beer brewed by Pivzavod Baltika that came with the pull-tab cap, this lager was one of many available in the Russian section of Beers of the World in Rochester, NY. A veritable Mecca of beer shopping. 

The beer pours a crystal clear pale straw with light foam, no retention, and no lacing. On the nose the bitter character of Saaz noble hops are clearly present. The beer type, dortmunder, a German lager style, similar to a German pilsner (which is, in turn, a take on the Czech pilsner). The hop varietal, commonly found in these three styles, always reminds me of the bitterness of dandelions.
The initial taste is crisp and malty. The aroma of the hops is not as present in the actual beer, but their underlying bitterness works with the high carbonation in this beer to erase any significant flavor. The beer moves quickly from a malty foretaste, to a void of flavor, and finally, ends with a meek aftertaste. 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Dogfish Head - Indian Brown Ale



Dogfish Head - Indian Brown Ale
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a pint glass
This brown ale, from Dogfish Head, crosses an American Brown Ale (a style adapted from English Brown Ale) with an India Pale Ale. The result is something set apart from other, more traditional, brown ales that you may be familiar with.
It pours a very dark brown, that almost looks syrupy in its last few drops. A thick foam head, in a somewhat dark beige, accompanies the beer. As it dissipates, it leaves intricate lacing along the top of the glass. No significant lacing as the glass is emptied.
Hops are prevalent on the nose. They compliment caramelized sugars or molasses, which are more common to this variety. The toasted malt flavor is bold, producing a full-bodied beer. The malts, along with the molasses component, are mellowed by a robust smokiness. It stands a hefty beer, at 7.2% alcohol, the heat tempered by the spiciness of hops, typical of many Dogfish Head brews. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Paulaner - Original Munich Premium Lager



Paulaner - Original Munich Premium Lager
Serving Type: 11.2 oz. bottled, poured into a flute glass
Paulaner has no qualms about reminding you that they’re a German brewer, that they’re from Munich, that what you’re about to crack open is ‘authentic,’ and that they’ve got serious roots in brewing tradition. It’s all true. But, make no mistake, the date that they include on the label, 1634, is not about the brewery or the recipe of the beer you’re about to drink. The date is linked to the history of brewing by an order of monks, from which today’s brewer takes its name.
My hesitance about the marketing angle in play aside, this is a solidly done Munich Helles lager. If you’re familiar with Czech-brewed pilsners, like Pilsner Urquell or Budvar (relegated to the title of Czechvar in the states, due to a spat with Budweiser, which actually takes its name from the Czech beer that it falls, exceedingly short, in imitating), you’ll see a significant connection with this beer, or any of the style that you try. The Munich Helles lager is a German interpretation, with some modifications, of the traditional Czech pilsner style.
The beer pours a crystal clear medium straw body, with fine carbonation. The head pours large initially, but shirks with time. It leaves minor lacing on the glass. The nose of the beer is delicate with a deliberate sense of the malt embodied within.
The malts are clear, but they strike a balance with the hop spice character of the beer. When compared to a pilsner, you’ll notice a striking similarity in the hop selection. However, the hop notes are less powerful in the pilsner’s Munich cousin. The beer provides a crisp and clean finish. It’s a true lager. Compare this to any mass-market American counterpart, and you’ll understand exactly what’s lacking domestically.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Southampton Publick House - Pumpkin Ale



Southampton Publick House - Pumpkin Ale
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottled, poured into a pint glass
This Fall beer pours a dark amber with a hazy orange glow. It produces a thin head, even with a fast pour, which leaves no lacing on the glass. True to the style, the nose of the beer comes packed with a strong pumpkin scent. Southampton has also added hints of vanilla, using vanilla extract in the brewing process.
The pumpkin flavors are present in the taste, but are somewhat subdued by cinnamon and other spice notes. It’s definitely heading into the realm of pumpkin pie. The vanilla comes on strong near the end, slightly restrained by the, almost biting, high carbonation, which produces an exceedingly crisp finish.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ipswich Nut Brown Ale



Mercury Brewing Company - Ipswich Nut Brown Ale
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Becker glass
This American (brewed in Ipswich, MA by Mercury Brewing Company) take on an English brown ale pours a dark brown, with a red hue against light, with a small, but thick, foamy head. The head produces a fair amount of lacing on the glass. This one also poured with a ton of yeast floating in the beer, blurring any potential clarity. 
It starts with a strong chocolate aroma, which is not immediately present in the taste. It’s got a fair amount of malty sweetness, tempered by light hopping and bitterness from the toasted malts. The nuttiness in this nut brown comes near the finish, producing a commendable balance.
The mild carbonation tempers the inherent creaminess of the beer, so it doesn’t seem heavy at all. Finally, the light hopping and toasted malt give the beer a crisp finish, which invites another sip.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Weyerbacher - Verboten Belgian-Style Pale Ale



Weyerbacher - Verboten Belgian-Style Pale Ale
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a tulip glass
A fair bit of alcohol in this one, 5.9%. True to the style that this Pennsylvania brew emulates, it’s bottle conditioned to create its carbonation. You’ll find a bit of yeast sediment in the botton of the bottle. A minor note, if you’ve had Weyerbacher before, this beer was recently renamed to Verboten, from its previous name, Zotten.
It pours with a glowing orange hue, medium haze, and a thin head. Somewhat surprising, considering the size of the head on the pour, the foam leaves light lacing down the glass. Seems to me to lack some of the depth of the a true Belgian ale. It has some light citrus and spice notes, with a strong dry and bitter finish. Some hints of astringency during the sip are a bit of a turn off.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Ommegang - Abbey Ale



Ommegang - Abbey Ale
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a goblet
This ‘Abbey Ale’ is a Belgian-styled dubbel ale, brewed in New York. No abbeys involved, but don’t let that deter you. Ommegang pulls out all the stops to deliver American-brewed, Belgian-inspired beers, worth checking out. In case you’re not convinced, they’re now owned by Belgian brewer Duvel.
The ale pours a deep brown color with a slight ruby glow. It packs significant carbonation, but the thin head dissipates quickly out of 12 oz. bottle. There’s some honey and caramelized sugar as well as spice on the nose. Hints of clove abound. A floral bouquet is also clearly present.
This dubbel packs a punch at 8.5% ABC, but the alcohol remains subdued with only a slight heat after the finish. The strong spiciness of the beer helps to contain any effects of the relatively high alcohol content, typical of this style.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Orval Trappist Ale



Orval Trappist Ale
Serving Type: 11.2 oz. bottle, poured into a tulip glass
Orval is one of seven Trappist breweries in the world. Six reside in Belgium, the seventh in the Netherlands. Trappist breweries are run by monks with the aim of supporting the monestary through the proceeds of the sale of beer. All Trappist brewers are considered world-class, and Orval is far from the exception. 
Orval pours with a large, but light fluffy head that sits above the rim of the glass like a cloud. It’s got incredible staying power, and leaves fine lacing down the entire glass. The character of this Trappist ale is unique, with bright fruit and floral flavors, including citrus hints. There are also complex spice undertones and a unique yeast must component. 
The ale has an interesting sweetness to it, almost like a white wine or champagne. The flavor, is, at times, reminiscent of a Lambic gueuze. The flavor is balanced out by a strong bittering in the foam. The predominant hop character of Orval is the result of a process of dry hopping, rare among Trappist ales. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Thomas Hooker Brewery - Octoberfest Lager



Thomas Hooker Brewery - Octoberfest Lager
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle, poured into a Hooker pint glass
Hooker is a local (to me) brewing operation just a few miles from where I live. The brewery is a great visit, I’ve been several times, and plan to more in the future. So, I’ll do my best not to allow local pride to color my thoughts on the beer. Although, I’ve heard that the Octoberfest may actually be contract brewed elsewhere. I’ll look into this in coming weeks.
What little there was on the silky white head on the beer faded fast, after a pretty rough pour. The body has a glowing copper to burnt orange hue and the beer has a great full mouth-feel, without much visible carbonation. Hooker pulls of the Märzen style quite well. The beer has a strong toasted malt character, with light bittering and hops aroma. The combination makes for a well-balanced medium finish. The beer is solid, and it’s local. 
While the taste and carbonation held up well to what I expected and what I remember from last season, the bottle was stamped on its face with what seems to be a date “09.08.10”. Not overly concerning, but perhaps this bottle, though just purchased at the start of the Oktoberfest season, may actually have been from last year. The body of the beer had a slight haze, compared to an expected degree of clarity and there was a bit of crust on the bottle head, just under the cap. I cannot say definitively that the date is a ‘drink before’ marker, but it does not seem that it could be a brewed, or bottled on, date, because, as of the sampling of the beer, it’s only September 5, 2010. Unless, of course, they’re following the European date convention. 
As I mentioned, I am not concerned about the date, as I enjoyed the German-styled lager. I do, however, plan to follow up on the issue by trying another, from a different case, in the coming weeks. Perhaps I will visit the brewery and clear the air on the contract brew rumor I heard.

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