Archive for July, 2007
Slate, a few weeks back, posted an article titled “Beer in the Headlights“. The article brings up some interesting points about the beer and wine industry. Some points I agree with. Some I do not.
A point I agree with deals with the American middle class having become connoisseurs of “everything – coffee, ’80s Japanese garage-rock bands, environmentalist toilet paper”. The author thinks this is one reason why the wine industry has flourished so well recently. People want “the exclusivity of connoisseurship” and wine offers that. Not to say “connoisseurship” has not helped the craft brew industry, it has and it shows through the segment’s past few years of double percentage growth.
The article also makes some interesting points about the changing definition of the term “good life”, from an upper-class English model to a Mediterranean model, and the changing of “wine talk”, from grading wines in class terms to describing wines in pastoral/”really weird grocery list” terms (which the author points out is a tact craft brew drinkers are also using to describe beer). These points, the author reasons, have led more people to embrace wine culture, thus leading to the rise of the wine business and the stagnation of the beer business (at least on the macro side).
Some points I don’t agree with are only wine “can trade on pastoral associations; beers seem somewhat industrial, no matter how handcrafted the brew.” Fields of barley, rows of hops, and running streams of crystal clear water come to mind when I think of the beer brewing process. Those seem quite “pastoral” to me. Granted the macro-brewers tend not to emphasize this in their marketing (frogs, babes, and run-away silver trains tend to show more prominently), but that does not mean beer is not “pastoral”.
The author also harps about the hallmark of beer being consistency and wine being more variable, thus beer being more about manufacture. I was personally unaware people were purchasing Sutter Home for its varying vintages. Also, I don’t view consistency as a bad thing. I enjoy being able to pick up a six pack of Stone IPA, and not having to wonder if the 2007 vintage is going to taste different then the 2006. However, this sentiment might just be mine.
For what the article is, the author is writing a book about wine in America (though it does say “he likes to drink beer”… how nice), it brings up some interesting trends. I believe the trends bode well for the craft beer industry, though not so much for the macro-brewers. Of course this does not mean craft brewers have it easy from here on out. Craft brewers will still need to promote, especially at the “grassroots” (i.e. readers of this and corresponding blogs) level, the fact “good beer exists”. This promotion will help more people realize they can be connoisseurs of beer, which should help craft beers continue their rise. Nor does it mean macro-brewers are down and out. They have vast resources and numerous options available, such as AB’s small batch series (so far they haven’t worked but they might get it right) or Coors’ Blue Moon Brewery, purchasing distribution contracts, or even purchasing craft breweries (which begs the question: if your favorite craft brewer was purchased by a macro brewer, would that influence your beer purchase?). None-the-less we are experiencing some interesting times right now in the industry.
Hopefully, having returned from some recent trips, I will be able to write a little more consistently in the coming weeks. Drink well, comments welcome.
Hey guys. I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I’ve been pretty busy lately in preparations for a trip I’ll be taking in the very near future. For that reason, you can expect to probably not see any posts from me until late August. Until then, I’ll be wondering around the wilds of Montana and Colorado, hoping not to be eaten by bear or some other bit of feral wildlife.
In my stead, I hope that Matt and Dave will have interesting things to say and delicious beers to review. I hope everyone is having a lovely summer, and I’ll see you in about a month!
Now, if you weren’t aware, Victory has a pretty sweet sampler pack out. This sampler pack includes 4 each of the Prima Pils, Hop Devil, and Golden Monkey. If you haven’t had any of the above, it’s worth checking each of them individually. However, Victory has made it even tastier for you and I by tossing all three of these in the same box. So, I recommend you all run out and buy at least one of these boxes – maybe 2. The only bad thing about the deal is that the sampler runs about $18 – expensive by 12-pack standards, but pretty cheap when you consider the quality of the brews. Everything in the sampler has been reviewed already, with the exception of this Prima Pils – somehow it slid under the radar. So, here you go…
The beer pours a ultra-clear golden with a very thin but resilient white head. The aroma of the Prima isn’t especially pungent, even by other pilsner standards. What is there, however, is quite pleasant – full of the trademark sharp hoppy aroma that you can only get with a pilsner. In the mouth, the beer is simple and tasty. It is very effervescent over the tongue with a sprightly mouthfeel. Initially, there is a light sweetness that quickly moves into a sharp sourness with bitter hops around the back half of the tongue. On down the throat, the beer leaves you with a refreshing tartness in the back of the mouth that is sharp and rinses nice and clean. Overall, it’s a straightforward pilsner that delivers where it counts. Nothing too crazy, just simple and tasty…
Lately, it seems that I’ve gotten tied up in beacoups craft brews and extreme brews from the US of A. However, it’s occasionally nice to step back across the pond and sip on some of these centuries old recipes that come from the likes of England, Belgium, Germany, etc. You have to figure that beers that have been around since before the US of A was even conceived must have something going for them. Now, in all honesty, I don’t know if the Troubadour is THAT old. But, it is an old Belgian brew, and so I was happy to pull it out of the fridge tonight with an eye to getting back to the old school.
This blonde pours a hazy amber-ish blonde. Honestly, it’s quite a bit darker than I expected, but a lovely hue. The aroma of this is musky and actually a bit sour. It’s a burly blonde in aroma and packs more punch than one would expect. In the mouth, this beer is again a bit of a surprise. There is just the slightest burn on the tip of the tongue. This burn subsides and gives way to a wild sourness on the tongue that, while not so crazy as a flemish ale, is quite a surprise. On through the mouth, there is a slight citrusy sourness reminiscent of orange peel, but without too much of a fruity essence. Finally, this ends with an aftertaste that is still musty and lingers with a bit more citrus. Overall, it isn’t what I expected from a blonde. However, the wildness of the flavor is interesting and light enough to be a lead in to even ‘wilder’ beers. Also, the musky flavors in the beer lend it an ‘old’ essence, as though this beer has been patiently waiting for a drinker for quite some years, and it feels like a bit of an event to be the one to drink it. The unique yeasts and flavors of these Belgian ales are inevitably a treat.
Honestly, I haven’t really explored the Meantime bunch of brews too well – not too sure why. However, Meantime took the liberty of placing this adventurous little brew in an equally adventurous little bottle, of which I will hopefully find a picture to post – it’s sorta like a little miniature Eiffel tower of a bottle. Anyway, being a fan of an occasional coffee flavored brew and enjoyable bottles, I decided to give this one a go.
This beer pours a rather dark brown, but there is some translucence to it, unlike the traditionally super-dark coffee flavored stouts that one more often finds. In addition, there is a rich caramel head that, while rather decadent, tends to disappear rather quickly. The aroma of this brew is absolutely great – it smells of fresh wet coffee grounds and is very pungent. There may be just a hint of chocolate also on the nose, but the coffee is the predominant presence here. Now for the flavor. For a porter, this is quite rich and the coffee flavor is very present. It’s difficult to review this, as the only real comparisons I have in coffee flavored brews are stouts, and those are inevitably darker and creamier. However, this, being a porter, has a certain lightness to the mouthfeel that is a bit refreshing. The flavor through the mouth goes from a biting sensation on the tip of the tongue to a rich and flavorful coffee taste on the middle of the tongue that eventually translates into coffee/chocolate hybrid in the aftertaste. All the while, there is a pleasant mouthfeel, but one that is lighter and more fleeting than a stout, leading to a relatively clean finish and an aftertaste that, while having some longevity, isn’t overbearing. Overall, I like this beer. It’s better in the current hot weather than a fuller beer, but it still gives you a great fresh coffee flavor that you won’t find in many other beers this time of year. So, if you dig coffee beers, give this a go – it’s probably worth your time.
I gotta be honest with you – I’m surprised that Beer of the Month Club has now, for two months running, been able to deliver 4 beers per month, none of which I’ve ever reviewed before. I mean, honestly, I taste a lot of beers, and these days I review most of ‘em. So, hats off to BOMC for being creative enough to manage some fairly obscure and tasty beers for their selections. This is the final selection this month, an amber lager from a Milwaukee brewery, but not one of those Milwaukee brewers…
The Sprecher pours a filtered amber, and has a thin white head that diminishes quickly. The aroma of this is fairly simple – it’s full of dark malt with light caramel. In the mouth, this is also a fairly simple amber ale. There is a very rich mouthfeel and a fairly decadent flavor for an amber. The flavor is full of rich dark malts and a caramel sweetness, and the aftertaste is sweet with a lingering light hop bitterness. So, yeah, this is a pretty simple beer by most cases, but it is quite a good beer and, honestly, it’s a little richer than the ambers I’m accustomed to. So, my best characterization of this beer would be that it is a standard amber in slightly richer garb – all the attributes are the same, but this one turns them up to 11. All in all a good beer, despite the fact that there isn’t too much new to say about it… And, oh yeah, this one is a lager, whereas many such ambers are ales. I dunno if that’s what makes the difference, but it’s worth noting!
The Ipswich Ale is another brew sent to us from the folks at Beer of the Month Club. This is a beer that I’ve seen during jaunts to the Northeast, but one that I’ve never tried. I suppose, when I travel, I tend to look for more adventurous varieties of beer, and the idea of an American dark ale just never inspired me enough to pick up a six-pack. However, the folks at BOMC have thus far served up a bevy of tasty and adventurous brews, so I’m anxious to see if this is another such selection.
This brew pours a very dark brown with hints of lightness that peak through around the edges of the glass. There is also a caramel-colored head that, while dissipating quickly, sticks in foamy residue to the side of the glass. The aroma of this is far richer than I expected. There is a lot of toffee in the scent, mingled with hints of dark malt and just the slightest bit of licorice. In the mouth, this beer again exceeds my taste expectation. I was expecting merely a brown ale, but this actually comes with a much richer flavor. Initially, there is a light carbonation burn on the tip of the tongue, which is followed quickly by a light toffee sweetness. This light flavor gives way to a taste explosion around the middle of the tongue – this explosion consists of less of a toffee sweetness and more of a rootsy malty flavor. I know that’s not much of an explanation, so I’ll try to elaborate – the flavor is mostly a dark malt that, rather than being overly sweet, has a woodsy sort of bitter-root flavor to it. In addition, there is also some licorice and maybe a hint of caramel. It’s a rather complex flavor, and I don’t feel like I’m doing all the layers justice with my brief explanation. The aftertaste maintains most of this complexity and diminishes very slowly, thus imparting a lot of flavor for at least 30-45 seconds after the swallow. Overall, it’s a big ballsy beer for such a small bottle. Usually a beer with this complexity and flavor profile would be expected at higher prices and in a larger (read: fancy) bottle. In short, I’m sorry I haven’t tried this beer sooner (and I’m even sorrier that I gave the other 2 of these to Matt!). I’m quite jealous of you folks who can buy this by the 6-pack for reasonable prices up North…
This, the 2nd of this month’s shipment from Beer of the Month Club, is the one that I’m most intrigued by. This is a Scottish ale brewed with gooseberry and wheat. Now, I lived in Scotland for a bit, so I have an appreciation for some of the great ales they put out (I’m still holding out for some imported 80 shilling in the States – it’s a poor man’s dark beer in Scotland, but man did I have some good times with that stuff). Furthermore, I’m a big fan of wheat ales. However, I’ve never had a Scottish wheat ale, and I’ve definitely never had any ale made with gooseberries (I don’t even know what a gooseberry is!). So, all things considered, this beer is going to mean a lot of firsts for me.
The beer pours a light golden color with just the slightest, almost imperceptible, reddish tint to it. The aroma of this is quite unique – it’s a thick fruity sweet aroma with some tanginess to it. It reminds me of some sort of sour gummy fruit candy from my childhood whose name I cannot immediately recall. In the mouth, this has the soft mouthfeel of a good German hefeweizen, and the wheaty sweetness that goes along with it. However, the flavor is layered with a unique fruity flavor that is both sweet and a little bit sour. Since I’m not familiar with a gooseberry, I can’t really tell you what one tastes like. However, in this beer, the flavor is sharp and not at all cloying. It’s just a candy-like fruitiness that sits on top of a rather standard wheat ale. The aftertaste gets quite strong for a short moment before and pushes into the nasal cavity. Then, it quickly diminishes into a light remainder at the back of the throat. Honestly, this wasn’t at all like I expected. Instead of a traditional fruit beer, this one hit me with a much sharper and candy-like tanginess that, while tasty, took a bit of getting used to. In fact, my first impressions were quite disappointing. However, after finishing this one up, I’ve decided that it is actually very good and maybe a bit more thirst-quenching than other beers of vaguely similar variety. On top of this, the beer has some excellent label art that was apparently courtesy of students at the Glasgow School of the Arts – well done!
First in line this month from the nice folks at Beer of the Month Club is the south German Pilsner, Dinkel Acker. In my opinion, Pilsners are an oft overlooked variety of beer. Pilsner has a rather unique flavor and a rich history, including a big stake in the development of the European beer industry. I won’t go into details, because I’m here to review beers. However, the Pilsner style was developed in the Czech town of Plzen many decades ago, marking a brand new style of clean, filtered, light beer that would grow in popularity across Eastern Europe, eventually invading Western Europe and changing many of the stereotypes that crisp, light-colored beers were for wusses. So, while some might blame Pilsners for creating an onslaught of ‘light’ beers, I’d like to point out that most of that blame goes to American domestic brewers – REAL ‘light’ beer can actually be mighty fine. And so we come to the beer – a German variety of Pilsner that is, in my opinion, probably the best take on the style, with the exception of the original Czech variety, Pilsner Urquell.
The Dinkel Acker pours the stereotypical ultra-clear light golden color of a Pilsner. Its aroma is heavy with light malts, imparting a sweet bready scent. In the mouth, you get what is practically the stereotype of a Pilsner. The initial sensation on the tongue is of the bready sweetness that we first visited in the aroma, coupled with a light flavor that is a little reminiscent of clover honey. However, this sweetness is quickly met with a crisp bitterness. This bitterness is difficult to describe – it comes from the unique hop character of a Pilsner, and, while bitter, isn’t akin to an IPA. Rather, the flavor is much sharper, crisp, and cutting than the often thick meaty bitterness of an IPA. It is a flavor that I’ve only found in the Pilsner. This bitterness never quite subsides, but is met again by the sweetness in the back of the mouth in what amounts to a bready, sweet, and slightly syrupy sensation that sticks to the back of the throat. This maltiness, coupled with a lingering bitterness, sticks on the aftertaste for quite some time. Overall, this is a great beer that is, while light, also extremely flavorful and, while sticking to the mouth, quite refreshing in its flavor. If you aren’t entirely familiar with what a good Pilsner should taste like, I’d recommend giving this a try.
This is the second barley wine style I have tried, with the first being the Sierra Nevada Bigfoot(s) 2006 and 2007. For some reason, I had never tried the Avery specialty with the flying swine, but this was my chance.
The beer pours a deep red – almost mahogany. The head dissipates quickly, but it still left a nice amount on the beer and a good amount to taste. The smell is very sweet and aromatic with almost a flowery component to it. The mouthfeel is smooth and sweet – there is no nasty bite from the hops. You can certainly tell you are drinking a big beer, but it is not overpowering by any measure. The flavor is sweet with a great deal of hops. There is an almost fruity flavor to the beer that is just very subtle and behind the overall taste. The hops are really the strongest feature of the beer – they are there at the first smell and there with the tiniest amount of aftertaste. There is almost a very subtle smoky flavor present, but it is not distinct at all.
Overall, I would highly recommend the Hog Heaven. Avery almost always makes good beers and they certainly have not disappointed here. I will certainly have to add this in the next time I have a Bigfoot and give a more comparative review.
Hey yall – it’s that time of the month again, and I dare say one of my favorite times of the month – the time when I get a big 12-pack of microbrews in the mail. This month, Beer of the Month Club again surprised Matt and I with 4 new beers that have never been reviewed on SevenPack. It’s a pleasant surprise to get 4 new beers and, if I might say so myself, a bit of an accomplishment to get 4 that we haven’t yet reviewed. In fact, the only of these 4 beers that I’ve ever tasted is the Dinkel Acker, but it’s tasty enough that I’m happy to drink ‘em up anyway. Here’s what came in the mail this month:
Dinkel Acker Pilsner
Heather Ales “Grozet” Gooseberry & Wheat Ale
Mercury Brewing Co. Ipswich Dark Ale
Sprecher Amber Lager
Again, a good and varied selection from 3 different countries. I’m looking forward to getting started with these, so look for the reviews here on SevenPack over the next 4 days. Enjoy! (I know I will!)
This particular beer bears some special interest for me. Besides the fact that Avery makes some pretty excellent beers, they also tend to bring adventurous varieties to town when it comes to their anniversary brews, and this is no exception. This brew is a dry-hopped dark ale. Now, I don’t consider myself a true veteran of brews, but I have drunk a few cold ones in my day, and I can’t think of many dry-hopped dark beers that go into the list. However, this bad boy apparently started as a big, chocolaty dark beer, and was then shot through some dry hopping – sounds interesting. Furthermore, Avery tells us it was brewed with a “very distinct yeast strain”. So, I’m pretty psyched to see what they came up with.
The pour of this is akin to porter – it’s quite dark with just a hint of chocolaty brown highlights on the edge of the glass. Furthermore, it has a rich caramel colored head that sticks around thick and foamy and clings to the side of the glass. The aroma of the beer is more chocolate and toffee than anything, although you can pick up just a hint of floral hop that gives it a contrasting freshness, and there is also a slight bit of sweetness that smells as though it may come from that “distinct” yeast. In the mouth, there are a fair amount of flavors at play. Initially, there is a refined sweetness that isn’t terribly rich, but just light and fleeting. However, that sweetness quickly moves into a more decadent flavor of toffee and lighter chocolate. As the liquid continues through the mouth, it turns into a lighter fruity sweetness reminiscent of grape and dark cherry. Finally, at the back of the mouth, a light bitterness rears its head to remind us this was dry-hopped. This bitterness blends with a fresh floral tint and sticks around, leaving plenty of time for you to consider your next sip.
Overall, I quite enjoy this. Honestly, it may be a bit too busy for most palates – it’s a bit of a confused brew. However, every flavor is evenly represented and well executed. So, if you decide to pick this up for yourself, just be prepared for a busy beer and a slightly overwhelmed palate. However, if you’re up for an interesting brew, then this might just hit the spot.
This is a big bottle offering from the good folks at Southampton that calls itself not just a saison, but a saison ‘deluxe’. What exactly makes a saison a ‘deluxe’? I dunno, really, but I’ve got high hopes. I’ve been drinking more and more of these saison brews lately, and I’ve been enjoying them immensely, so I’m excited to try this fancy version.
This beer pours a dark golden with suprisingly little debris. Also, it has a decent white head that starts out big and fluffy and eventually diminishes into a thin white layer on the top of the beer. The aroma of this is quite rich – it is sour and lemony, but in a rich decadent sort of way, and it fills the nose. In the mouth, this truly is a deluxe saison. It’s hard to say just what makes this special, except to say that it is somehow bigger and richer than most saisons that I have found. The feel of the beer is effervescent and fluffy and is heavy on carbonation burn. As it traverses the mouth, the predominant flavors are of sour lemon and rich malt, but there is also an interesting sweetness that I don’t usually find in a saison. It’s actually reminiscent of a lemon tart dessert, only without the accompanying cloying sweetness. Once the beer is gone, you’re left with an aftertaste that is heavier on the rich sourness, and the sweetness slowly dissipates. All in all, this is a very good beer. I’d be interested to taste this alongside my favorite saison by the folks at Bison brewing, ’cause it’s bound to be a close race. For now, I’m going to say that Bison might just edge it out, but I’m really not sure. Regardless, this is an awesome beer, and highly recommended.
Attention all beach goers – I’ve found your new favorite beach beer! First off, we all understand that wheat beers are the quintessential summer beer (okay, well at least I find this to be true). Secondly, you are probably aware that many beaches outlaw glass – this, therefore, outlaws the majority of good beers that come in glass bottles. Finally, we’ve all had that experience where a pesky beer gets too warm to be enjoyable in the sweltering sun (usually just happens with a domestic lager – those things are terrible warm). So, let’s summarize – the perfect beach beer needs to be wheat-based, canned, and in small enough portions to be drunk before warm.
Congratulations! I just found it!
This tasty treat is a delicious Belgian wheat ale that comes kindly packaged in 11.2 ounce cans of cool, tasty goodness. Now, it does also come in bottles – but, if you know where to look, you’ll find these cans, as well. For the sake of this review, I’ve poured this into a glass. However, I can tell you from experience that it also drinks well directly out of the can.
This pours a lovely light golden color that is very cloudy and has a slight but lasting head. The aroma of this is, honestly, nothing to write home about. It’s a little musty, slightly cardboard like, with just a hint of citrus. However, all this aroma nonsense is suprisingly made up for in the taste. This stuff tastes crisp and refreshing and delicious. The initial taste is quite biting on the tongue with a complementary citrus flavor. As this works its way through the mouth, it develops a light sweetness with hints of lemon juice and touch of orange. There also exists a soft malty flavor that evens everything out. Throughout the mouth, the beer maintains a light burn and a mild sourness that makes this very thirst quenching. So, it’s an interesting combination of sweet and sour and fruity and malt, but it all comes across very light and clean and leaves just a slighty residual flavor of citrus. All things said, I’m a huge fan of this beer. It isn’t the best wheat beer I’ve had, but it is very good. Also, as I’ve mentioned, it comes in cans, which I’m very happy about. And, by the way, did I mention that I only paid $5.99 for this 6-pack? I mean, it ain’t as cheap as PBR, but that’s a mighty fine deal for a quality brew.
With the Fourth quickly approaching, I’ve been thinking about which beers I will have on hand for the festivities. I’m leaning towards two personal favorites, Dale’s Pale Ale and Stone IPA. Good beers in general, but especially around the grill. What are you fellow Sevenpack readers planning on drinking/serving during the festivities? Drop a quick note in the comments, because we would like to know. Enjoy the Fourth!