Archive for June, 2008
A summary of the past week or so happenings of Anheuser-Busch. First, Anheuser-Busch rejected InBev’s $46.35 Billion take over offer, saying it was too low (has there ever been an offer rejected because it was too high?) and decides restructuring costs, to the tune of $1 Billion, is a better move.
Some analysts think shareholders would be better served with the takeover, and AB’s “cost cutting defense” plan is not much of a plan at all.
After the rejection, InBev took the not-so-unexpected step towards a hostile takeover of Anheuser-Busch, with some legal maneauvering.
Before all of this, and possibly a pre-cursor to the rejection, AB purchased the remaining 50% of Crown Beers India from its partner Crown International, and Carlos Fernandez, Grupo Modelo’s chairman and CEO resigned from AB’s board of directors.
To top all of this off AB will stop selling their caffeinated beers “Tilt” and “Bud Extra” to settle an inquiry started by eleven state attorney generals. (I can remember standing in a New Hampshire grocery aisle looking at some locally produced beers, when a fellow store patron came up to me and stated, “If you want to get real drunk you should drink the caffeinated beers… they keep you going so you can drink more.” I’m unsure if he was speaking of the above mentioned caffeinated beers but I chose not to use that little pearl of wisdom.)
Okay, I’m posting this in the “Summer Ale” category, but it’s really a lager – so sue me. It’s my blog.
I do love the summer beers. I guess I love beers from all seasons. But, seeing as it’s summer, these are my fave for the moment and, frankly, I’ve been craving summer beers for about the last 1.5 years. So, I got excited to see a number of these on the shelves lately. Normally, I’m drawn to the wheat beers around this time of year, but I try not to be too prejudiced, so I picked up a sixer of the SN Summerfest to see what it’s all about, and to see if it would float my summertime boat.
This one pours a clear deep golden color with a super-thin white head full of dense little bubbles. There isn’t much of an aroma here at all, really. It’s lightly metallic, and there is a bit of a grainy aroma here. Overall, though, it’s very subdued thus far. When it enters the mouth, there is an initial carbonation burn. After this, it’s mostly grain. Normally, I’d refer to a malty flavor, but this is really more reminiscent of grain… on a stalk… in a field. That being said, it is very fresh, quite dry, and reminiscent of a summer day. There is a light sweetness here, with some subdued metallic flavoring. There is also an interesting spicy shock to this that blazes down the tongue very quickly and sticks around for the aftertaste. This spiciness also wreaks of the fresh grain flavor, but adds a twang that is inexplicable to my mediocre palate. What I can say about this is that it’s a good summertime beer. It goes down quickly and it quenches thirst very well. It has a light mouthfeel and washes clean out of the mouth, leaving a fairly light aftertaste and requesting that you take another sip asap. This is one of those beers that I would drink during a game of bocce or horseshoes on the beach. It’s quenching and low enough in alcohol to make it a decent beach session beer. However, if I were sitting on the porch on a summer afternoon, I’d sooner reach for a hefeweizen or a light tripel instead.
After my debacle a couple of nights ago with a lackluster saison ale, I decided to give it another go with this offering from the folks at Clipper City. This is from their “High Seas” series which, as far as I can tell, is as consistent a collection of American craft ‘big’ beers as you can find on shelves lately – every single offering has been good or better, according to my palate.
The Red Sky pours a slightly cloudy dark golden color with a white head that quickly dissipates to nothing. The nose of this beer is richer and maltier than I usually expect from a saison – very little of the tangy sourness that often earmarks this variety of beer. In the mouth, this beer is equally rich. From the front to the back of the mouth, this beer is full of rich malt. The beer is warming and tastes of sweet bread, with a very full mouthfeel. Frankly, there isn’t a whole lot of the saison sourness that I like. You can taste it peak its head out around the middle of the tongue. It’s a welcome taste, and complements the malt well. However, it quickly tucks back in and disappears for the duration of this beer. What we end up with is a very rich and malty beer with just a light sourness and some hints of spice. Honestly, this is a very tasty beer – very tasty. I like it a lot, and I would drink it again. However, it isn’t REALLY a saison, in the traditional sense. It isn’t very refreshing – rather, it’s rich and leaves a coating around the mouth that wouldn’t help out much at all when you’re thirsty. So, frankly, this is one of the last beers I would reach for after a tough day in the fields, which is the origin of the saison (or French farmhouse) ale. So, I can’t hate on Clipper City, because they’ve made a great beer. However, calling it a saison is a bit of a reach. There are some saison characteristics here – not sure what else I would call it – but it’s certainly a divergence from the traditional take.
I’ll tell you what – I was REALLY excited about this beer. I’ve been craving some craziness on my beer palate lately, and I haven’t really found it. So, when I saw this Avery anniversary saison brewed with figs, hibiscus, white pepper, and brettanomyces, I thought for sure I was in for a flavor explosion. I was expecting something light, sharp, super tangy, and with some fruity sweet notes from the figs – I had it all figured out – I was tasting it even before I cracked open the bottle. But, sadly, this beer isn’t giving me near what I had in mind. Here’s what I am seeing:
This pours a hazy dark golden color with a thin white head that floats around in islands on the surface of the beer. The aroma is mildly tangy with some sourness and a noticeable presence of pepper. In the mouth, there is an initial light burn from the spice and carbonation. This burn lasts only a moment before a slight farmhouse sourness comes along, carrying some lemon rind hints with it. This flavor washes over the tongue, soon giving way to a soft sweetness that I would call lavender if I didn’t know better – I assume that this is, in fact, the hibiscus doing its work. As this washes down the throat, there is some remaining flavor from the hibiscus, but the most interesting characteristic is a lingering spicy burn around the middle of the tongue, as though you sprinkled a tad of pepper out of the shaker into your mouth. And, that’s really about it. The fruit never really rears its head – I think it wants to try on one occasion, but it is tempered by the sourness and the flavor just comes across a little distasteful.
Matty really tried to convince me to let this warm up to room temperature before writing a full review – he thinks that’s where this beer will really shine. However, I just can’t see it happening. I started this review when the beer was cold, and it has surely warmed several degrees in my chalice since pouring. However, though the flavors have become a bit more pronounced, the fact is that they are flavors that just don’t really play well together, in my humble opinion – no amount of warmth is going to help that. So, I’m let down. This is a mildly interesting beer, but not near as interesting as you would expect from a Brett beer with such interesting ingredients. I certainly would not buy this again, although I’m not going to hold it against Avery as this is a very rare blemish on an otherwise stellar record of making great brews… I guess you gotta take some risks to keep things interesting, and I respect Avery for doing that – this gamble just didn’t pay out.
Shiner is another one of those breweries who, while never really blowing my hair back, always make reasonably tasty beers at reasonable prices. This particular beer, the Helles Lager, was a gift from Linda, who recently took a trip to Texas. She’s been doing a pretty killer job of bringing us out-of-state beers lately. Keep up the good work!
This lager pours a lightish golden color with a thin white head. The aroma of this beer is rather pleasant – it includes a lot of sweet malt with a notable tart sourness almost reminiscent of a saison ale. In the mouth, this is a flavorful but subdued beer. My first sensation is of a bright malt sweetness. This flavor seems to serve as the backbone for the beer throughout the mouth. However, there is also a nice wild sourness that hits around the middle of the mouth. This sourness is unique and difficult to describe, but it adds a sourness and a wildness that make the beer a bit crazier and much more refreshing. This tart flavor shocks the tongue, which reawakens the tastebuds for more of the light malt sweetness towards the back of the mouth. This washes down the throat, leaving us with a clean palate and just some residual sweetness around the back and sides of the mouth. Overall, this is a rather good beer. Lots of flavor here, but not overwhelming. It is refreshing in a way that is reminiscent of a farmhouse ale, but there is a residual lager ‘meatiness’ here that fills it out well. This would be an especially fitting beer for a humid summer day, and one I’d love to drink again.
Sorry but this is another post about the InBev / Bud merger. I know I am getting repetitive, and yes I have been sampling beers recently (good beers by the way), but those reviews will have to wait.
It seems Warren Buffet has put his OK on the InBev takeover of AB. Now Mr. Buffet does not own a majority of AB stock (more like 5%), but many investors take his advice (he seems to be “pretty good” at the whole investing thing) as close to gospel as it comes, which could mean the shareholders will approve the deal (even with the “Hell no, Bud won’t go” protests in St. Louis). AB might still be able to throw a screw ball to the deal, but in the end it could just be a sweep.
Today we’re doing part II of the Hefeweizen tasting – this time a Bavarian take on the genre. Personally, I’m much more into the Bavarian. So, even though this is an American-brewed beer, I expect I’ll be more satisfied by this than I was yesterday’s brew.
The Flying Dog pours a hazy dark golden color with a very meager wispy white head. The aroma of this has a mild level of citrus but is mostly concerned with a heavy yeasty scent. I’ve tried my damndest to describe this yeasty scent to people in the past, but I really don’t think you can get it until you’ve tried a good Bavarian-style hefeweizen. It’s a unique aroma – sweet and full and it can have some banana hints – but it has characteristics that I just can’t attach to anything else, so I’ll quit trying. Anyway, this beer has that. In the mouth, this beer is immediately bigger and ‘warmer’ than it’s American counterpart, and I don’t mean temperature wise. To me, there is an interesting fullness and hearty mouthfeel to these Bavarian versions that beats out the crisper and more metallic Americans. The first flavor is just a mild sweet malt. Soon thereafter, we’re hit with a big dose of that malty flavor, including a decent dose of banana-like sweetness. The banana here isn’t too heavy, which is generally good. This flavor can be the result of a too-warm fermentation and can occasionally be overwhelming. However, in a small dose like we have here, it adds a lot to the beer. On through the mouth, we get a slight bit of citrus before the beer disappears, leaving a sweet and lightly syrupy flavor at the back of the throat. This beer doesn’t have near the citrus levels of yesterday’s Sam Adams version. I consider this a good attribute, as I like my Hefeweizens with a slice of orange (or lemon), and I think a citrusy beer plus a citrus fruit can be a bit much – I prefer to let the fruit handle that by itself. This is a pretty decent take on the genre, although a bit darker and a bit more syrupy than some versions I’ve tried. Nevertheless, I must admit to liking this much better than the Sam Adams Hefeweizen yesterday. But, as I’ve said, this is less about the quality of the beer and more about a style preference. Both good beers, but I’ll always reach for the Bavarian…
Just a couple of days ago, Matty alluded to the fact that I may have a good grasp on the difference between an American and Bavarian style Hefeweizen. Well, I don’t know that I’m such a grand judge on this topic. But, I was just at the beer store and bought a sixer of each style, which I’ll be reviewing tonight and tomorrow night. Soooo, if you’re interested, these may indicate a couple of those differences, from the point of view of some kid who pretends to know a thing or two about beer.
This Sam Adams brew is from the ever-changing “Brewmaster’s Collection”, and it pours a hazy unfiltered golden color with a resilient thin white head. The aroma of this brew is sweet with light malts and has a pronounced lemon zest aroma – overall very crisp and pleasing. In the mouth, this beer has a medium level of carbonation. It immediately gives us a tart lemon flavor on the tongue that makes me want to pucker up just a bit. However, the lemon zest is almost immediately met by a soft and sweet malty flavor that brings this down to a medium level of sweetness that is a little reminiscent of a sweet lemon candy. Around the back of the mouth, we do get a dose of hop – it’s not a big serving, but it’s enough to toss a bit of metallic bitterness into the blend, making this fairly complex for a hefeweizen. Down the throat, the lemon essentially disappears, leaving only the flavor of a sweet nickel, or put otherwise, a metallic flavor that rides on top of the remaining bready sweetness. Overall, this is a pretty decent beer. It’s not really my cup of tea, but I’ve always been an advocate of the Bavarian style. For an American, though, it’s complex and crisp and refreshing, but it also has a rather full mouthfeel and enough substance to give it some punch.
Up next from the Summer Vacation Mix is the UFO Raspberry Hefeweizen. Anyone wanna take a guess at how this was made? Hmmm…let’s see, take the original UFO, throw some raspberries in the pot and voila’, you have an unfiltered fruit beer.
This beer is the same color as a grapefruit. The head on this pour was much less pronounced and didn’t add to the aesthetics of the glass. It smells like raspberries; nothing more, nothing less. The taste is bitter, sweet and carbonated. If you’ve ever had raspberry flavored seltzer water you’ve had this beer. I generally don’t mind fruit beers but for some reason this one is just not sitting well. It’s not refreshing, and I certainly couldn’t drink more than one at a time. If you don’t like the taste of beer then you hate America and you could possibly get into this brew and enjoy it. But I’m having a hard time finding any beer qualities, other than alcohol content, and thus can’t recommend this to any true beer lover or anyone that has testicles. I don’t mean to be sexist but any man that brings a sixer of this to a party should be forced to put on a skirt immediately.
So Ben’s not the only one that can buy a variety pack. This “Summer Vacation Mix” is compiled of the Harpoon IPA, the UFO Hefeweizen (aka Unfiltered Offering), the Raspberry Hefeweizen, and the Summer Ale. Harpoon has quite an eclectic production, from their “grocery store” offerings to their more unique microbrew-style beers such as their 100 barrel series. I guess it’s important to establish a solid foundation for revenue purposes and then branch out and entice the more critical, beer-snobbish crowd. I believe this is what Sam Calagione set out to do with Dogfish Head but now everything they make is so off the wall that it is almost cliche’ and to be honest I would be more surprised if he made something simple than if he made beer out of old tires and jolly ranchers. That being said Harpoon generally makes a good product and thus I think it’s appropriate to delve into their more common selections.
I would have bet my life that we had already reviewed the IPA, I thought during an IPA challenge, so I didn’t save one for the purposes of critiquing it. But alas I didn’t check the site before drinking the last one so you’ll just have to wait for my opinion on that one for a little while longer.
Thus that brings us to the UFO hefe. When we visited the brewery during our beercation last year I believe the hosts told us this was one, if not, the most purchased of all Harpoon beers. It’s an unfiltered wheat beer and as such pours a hazy golden yellow. The head is frothy and quite significant although I can’t say the same for the color. It does has the characteristics of an unfiltered brew but the hue isn’t nearly as deep as I have seen from similar hefeweizens. It’d more of a pale gold than I would have imagine. The smell is critrusy but not overly sweet, with lemon taking precedence over the orange peel and corriander. The taste is riddled with malty sweetness that mellows as it moves through the mouth. In the end you are left with a zesty and bitter lemon flavor complimented by the underlying hop additives. It is sharp, light and easily drinkable. I’m not as in tune to the difference between the Bavarian and American hefe as my blogging counterpart but I’m going to go out on a limb and say this is of the American variety. I may be totally off base but it doesn’t have the bold, rich flavoring that I like in, say, a Franziskaner or Ayinger. This beer is pleasing to the palate and would be very appropriate for social gathering but you could certainly go elsewhere for a better interpretation.
SweetWater is a brewery I’m rather fond of. Not many of their beers absolutely blow me away. But, they make good beers rather consistently. Furthermore, I’m a fan of their marketing – there are a lot of fish and nature scenes involved, and good colors. Call me a sucker, but I’ll fall for some good label art, and SweetWater has it going on. On a different note, I’m surprised we haven’t reviewed the 420 yet. I’ve been drinking this beer for years, and I’ve always found it a great pale ale – somehow, though, it just stayed in the recreational drinking list and never made it to review status. Today that all changes!
The 420 pours a clear deep golden color with a rocky white head that eventually subsides leaving only a faint whispy residue. The aroma here is an interesting mix of light malt and floral hops. The hop isn’t too powerful, which gives the malt the upper hand. However, there is also a light berry sweetness here that is unexpected and rounds out the aroma nicely. The flavor of this beer is, honestly, not too far off from the aroma. There is this berry-tinted flavor that starts on the tip of the tongue and never quite disappears. In addition to this, there is a layer of a cakey light malt flavor, which makes this practically a blueberry shortcake of a beer. However, there is also this great floral hop that’s wreaking of Northwestern hops, which are my favorite. The hop is fairly light, but strong enough to cut through that sweetness and give this beer a decent complexity. Down the throat, the hop sticks around the longest, with the sweetness dissipating fairly quickly. This is, technically, an American pale ale. However, it’s not quite like the Sierra Nevada’s of the world. The fruity sweetness that rides the top of this beer sets this apart. Personally, I think it’s a great beer, and it’s one that I often find myself ordering at local bars by default. And, frankly, I think this is a hard beer to not like. It’s totally inoffensive, has a fruitiness for the ladies, and some hoppiness for the dudes. Not sure what it has for the kids, but I’m sure they’d like it, too…
In a follow up to my “InBev to bid for Anheuser-Busch?” post, Anheuser-Busch received the formal bid from InBev on Wednesday. The offering was for $65 per share of Anheuser stock. Anheuser-Busch does not seem all that keen to sell however, because there are reports that AB has opened talks with Grupo Modelo (Corona) to buy Modelo for roughly $13bn (AB already owns 50% of Modelo). If this were to go through, it would make AB more expensive to purchase. There are some questions however about the “shareholder value” created by a AB/Modelo union when compared to an InBev purchase.
Howdy y’all. Sadly, I’m back in Georgia now, which means a severe lack of quality beers to pick up. Given that situation, I’ve been trying to pick up a few of the more common American craft brews that we’ve sadly neglected here on SevenPack. That’s what brings me to the Old Scratch. This’ll nearly round out our selection of year-round Flying Dog beers, with the exception of the In-Heat Wheat – I’ll try to pick that one up soon, as it IS summertime and it’d be a good beer for the occasion.
The Old Scratch pours a crisp, clear medium amber color with a quickly dissipating off-white head that completely disappears within a few seconds. The aroma here is very full of dark malt. It also has a nice spiciness to it with some light butterscotch hints and maybe even a bit of cinnamon. In the mouth, this is a fairly typical amber. Initially, there is some sweetbread sweetness. This sweetness goes from light to quite rich by the center of the tongue, as the bready flavors coat the tongue and some flavors of caramel and spice give this a much fuller taste. By the back of the mouth, sweet maltiness covers the entirety of the mouth, and there comes a quick tangy blast at the back of the throat before the beer disappears, leaving only the sweetbread aftertaste that lasts for probably 10-15 seconds. Again, this is a pretty typical amber, although I must say that it’s a bit richer. It’s surprisingly rich for something in a small bottle that you can find on the shelves of most any supermarket. For this pricepoint, I’d say it’s a decent bargain, although I also find Killians to be a pretty decent beer for considerably cheaper. However, to be honest, this is really in a different league when it comes to robustness, so go ahead and spend a couple more bucks if you’re in a decadent mood.
I love Unibroue beers. There, I said it. I know they’re all French-Canadian and their name is spelled suspiciously like ‘unibrow’, but I still love these beers. In all my years and bottles, I’ve never had a Unibroue beer that I didn’t like, and it’s rare that I find one that I don’t consider exceptional. So, I always look forward to the yearly anniversary offerings from Unibroue. This year is no different.
The 17th Anniversary Ale pours a dark and verrrry murky brownish purple – tons of debris in this stuff. There is also a rocky caramel colored head that meets with a semi-sweet grapish aroma with hints of licorice and maybe just a bit of caramel. In the mouth, this beer is a delight. The initial flavor is a sharper sweetness that has a lot to do with dark grape – it’s light and refreshing and not too heavy. However, about midway down the tongue, this beer brings up a much richer sweetness reminiscent of caramel with some bits of anise and dark chocolate. Combining with this new flavor is an explosion in the mouthfeel – the beer seems to suddenly fill the mouth and cling to the tongue and sides of the mouth. On through the mouth, the beer seems to maintain this fullness, but the light grape flavors also linger on the sidelines, giving this a very odd combination of those flavors that I really really like. The aftertaste here leaves us with a slightly cloying sweetness that is both rich and light. It lingers with the primary taste of dark grape at the back of the throat and sticks around for many seconds after the beer is gone. Furthermore, it feels as though the beer gives a slight burn down the gullet to make sure you remember it – perhaps this is a side effect of the beefy 10% abv. Altogether, this is one of the best beers I’ve had this year. I’ve had a hard time finding new Belgian style classical brews to enjoy, and this is more along those lines. I highly recommend you all pick up a bottle – it’s especially good on these warm summer nights.
I’ve managed to exit North Dakota without trying all of the Summit beers that I hoped to drink. However, I couldn’t cross state lines without having a taste of their Belgian witbier. So, on my last night there, I loaded up a six-pack of the good stuff in my checked baggage and brought it on back. So, here I sit back in NC, having a taste of my smuggled goods.
This beer pours a light golden color that is full of dense debris. There is also quite a lot of carbonation here, enough that a thin white head maintains for the entirety of the drink, and there are perpetual streams of festive bubbles rising to the surface. The aroma of this beer is mostly citrus, although there is also a sweet wheaty aroma and that trademark yeast scent that comes with any good witbier. The flavor of this beer begins with a carbonation burn early on the tongue that quickly segues into a sharp and sweet lemon zest. This citrus flavor blends with a sweet yeast flavor and then merges into something that is more akin to an orange and coriander than any lemon. This new flavor sticks around and lasts all the way into the aftertaste where that citrus burn sticks around in the throat in a good way. Altogether, it’s a pretty simple but accurate Belgian witbier. There is a lot of citrus here, and I like the way it transitions from the lemon zest to an orange and coriander flavor. There is also a lot of that characteristic yeast flavor and enough sweet wheat to even everything out. I like this beer, and I’d say it’s a good score for Summit – I’m glad I smuggled five more back with me…