28 June 2008

Rogue Hazelnut Brown Nectar (ORE)

This has been rated well over 1,000 times at ratebeer, so I don't think there's anything new to be said. Still, I'd never had it until now. Ratebeer lists this as a winter seasonal -- is that true? I assumed it was year-round.

The nose suggests that this might be a hopped up American brown ale, but after tasting, I see that it's really the roastiness that sets it apart. It's almost chocolatey, which gibes well with hazelnut. Not too sweet though: the 33 IBU is used just to keep it in check. Very tasty, but the body seems a bit lighter than I might have wanted (not that it's watery). It's less rich and, I think, less good than Dogfish Head's Indian Brown, which I currently rate as my favorite brown. Still, the two beers are not trying to do the same thing, and I understand why this is so highly regarded.

27 June 2008

University Battles Sports Bar

Scranton University is giving a hard time to a guy who wants to expand his nearby sports bar. Apparently, the school went to court to try to prevent "Goodfellas" from opening in 2005, and is now fighting its expansion.

I'm not unsympathetic to attempts to limit college drinking. After all, that is where most Americans develop irresponsible drinking habits. And if there were a zoning ordinance to force the owner to give his bar a less clichéd name, I'd be all for it. But of the 4,000 students at Scranton U., there must be, what, 1,000+ who are of legal age? Plus, it's not like college kids are the only people around.

Hashem [the bar's owner] said the school is being hypocritical because it serves alcohol at on-campus events.

Goodfellas has an elaborate security system to keep out underage drinkers, trains employees in responsible alcohol service, and offers free food to patrons who appear to have overindulged, said Hashem, who figures his battle with the university will end up costing him around $650,000.

$650,000! Given the controversy, I bet the place will do a great job keeping underage kids out, but that doesn't even seem to be the issue.

26 June 2008

Santa Fe Pale Ale/Nut Brown Ale (NM)

New Mexico! I don't know if I've ever seen beers from there. Santa Fe Brewing is the state's oldest microbrewery. I'm guessing they just started distributing to my side of the country. In fact, their website claims availability only in the Southwest. Anyone else see this in the Northeast? I paid $2.25 for singles, but I'm guessing about 50 cents of that is travel costs.

Pale Ale: Their flagship ale claims it is "anything but a typical American Pale" that is "as full bodied as its most robust English counterparts." It is English in its restrained use of hops. This isn't an IPA wannabe. I don't know if it's quite full-bodied though. Biscuity malts with a slight apricot undercurrent, but this isn't Magic Hat #9. Maybe four parts Sierra Nevada and one part Magic Hat. Anyway, it's a fine pale ale for non-hop heads.

Nut Brown Ale: This too is more England than America. Alas, it's disappointing. I like the nuttiness and don't mind the lack of hop bitterness, but this comes across as too light to me. The hops do pull it back from finishing too sweet, but I would have like to see some richness here, and more complexity. Maybe it's better freshly poured.

These are both basic brews from Santa Fe. More highly regarded appears to be their Chicken Killer Barley Wine, a year-round concoction that I saw in the store in bombers. I didn't buy it because I'm not in the mood for barley wine when it's warm. I suppose in New Mexico, you can't think like that. But this reminds me that The Session for June is drinking anti-seasonally.

22 June 2008

Rogue Half-E-Weizen (ORE)

This appears to be one Rogue ale that hasn't been tried by everyone yet. Despite the name, it's not clear it is supposed to be a hefeweizen. Beer Advocate has this categorized as a witbier; ratebeer goes more accurately for the simple "wheat ale."

Straw colored, wonderfully lacy white head. This is in unfiltered wheat beer, although I struggled to distribute the yeast from a bomber that's larger than my biggest glass. Half-E-Weizen lacks the banana creaminess of many of its German counterparts. It does have spiciness -- ginger which I can't quite pick out, and coriander which I can. At the end, a very American hop bite appears, but Rogue uses Saaz hops rather than a Northwestern US variety, so this has a slight pilsener touch to it. (Southern Tier's Hop Sun uses Centennial hops and tastes more Northwestern). Overall, Half-E-Weizen comes across as light, crisp and refreshing. Not wrong for the summer.

It's pretty good, but I personally prefer my unfiltered wheat beers with more lemon and/or banana creaminess (that being said, I like Hop Sun a lot). For those who don't generally like hefes, do the hops make this worthwhile? Or are they too little, too late?

19 June 2008

New Look from JW Dundee's

JW Dundee's -- now apparently just known as Dundee -- has a new bottle design. I'd be surprised if there are many American beer drinkers who haven't had their Honey Brown Lager. High Falls Brewing, makers of Genesee, is trying to position Dundee as something akin to Saranac. Not a top notch craft beer, but something to appeal to the in-between crowd. Will the new bottle do the trick?

17 June 2008

Zötler Bier Korbinian Dunkel (GER)

From what I gather, Privat Brauerei Zötler -- which has been around for more than 500 years -- has only recently begun exporting to the US. It's part of Craft Brewers of Bavaria, an "an export consortium of five of Bavaria’s top craft breweries," from which I recall seeing one or two other products (Lammsbrau Organic) at my local retailer. It's nice to see the website brag about its Cold-Track system, promising to protect the beer from heat and light during the long journey from Germany. At less than $7 a four-pack, Zötler is still reasonably priced for an import.

Korbinian Dunkel is pretty straightforward for the style. Toffee-like malts, a handful of hops, with some roasted coffee in the finish. It's a very smooth drinking beer, a bit on the light side for the style, but that's not a problem for me during the summer. Nice dunkel.

14 June 2008

Southern Tier Cherry Saison (NY)

The Southern Tier fruit beers I've had -- Pumking and Raspberry Porter -- aren't shy about allowing the fruitiness to come through. I might have expected the same thing from Cherry Saison, but that's not the case at all. If you fed this to me blind, I might not have guessed either cherry or saison (although the only saison I've ever tried is Ommegang Hennepin, so who knows?).

This pours a thick honey-color with no sign of cherry redness. No cherry aroma either, and ultimately, only a faint cherry taste. The bottle says it was aged with oak, and even here, I have to strain to sense this. Possibly the oak adds to what I perceive as bitterness that runs trhough it. The alcohol is noticeable. It claims to be Imperial, and although its 8% isn't much higher than Hennepin, it feels iy. Is that what you want in a saison? I don't know. ST Cherry Saison isn't dull, but it doesn't seem Belgian to me. It doesn't have the yeastiness, spiciness or tartness I might have expected. Earthy? Maybe. Funky? Not really. Sweet? Not so much. Still, fidelity to style isn't everything, and this doesn't taste bad at all. I do love the creamy body.

Southern Tier recommends drinking this at 40 degrees in a chilled glass. I went a little warmer, but am not sure whether I should have taken their advice to mute the booze or gone warmer still to bring out more flavors. Overall, I'd say this is a minor disappointment from Southern Tier (@ $7.50 a bomber).

12 June 2008

Veto Every Beer?

Much consternation on the campaign trail as John McCain vowed to "veto every single beer." Was this a gaffe, as defined by Michael Kinsley as when politician accidentally tells the truth? Was it a disturbing Freudian slip from a man whose wife has lots of Anheuser-Busch money?

Or was this simply the case that McCain, like so many other guys, is pretty much always thinking about beer. Who among us hasn't accidentally dropped words like "hops" and "oatmeal stout" into our PowerPoint presentations?

Nonetheless, some people aren't taking any chances.

11 June 2008

Wolaver's Wit Bier (VT)

"White beer with orange peel & coriander," it says on the front label. None of Wolaver's other beers feature a similar description, so apparently they concluded many of their target customers wouldn't know what a wit bier is. They may be right.

This is a fairly weak example of the style. The color is very pale, there isn't much aroma (some orange) or taste (again orange, plus some spice and wheat beer twang). The body is light too, with zippy carbonation. The finish is very dry.

This is sold a summer seasonal, and I wouldn't refuse one on a steamy afternoon. But to me, it stands aside a lot of other too light American wheats, such as Widmer Hefeweizen and Wagner Valley Grace House Wheat. Meh.

09 June 2008

New NY Beers

This article at Syracuse.com is a couple weeks old, but it mentions a few new beer releases from New York breweries. Ithaca Brute is a "version of a Belgian sour golden ale." Additionally:

Syracuse's Landmark Beer Co. has a summer seasonal: Sunrise Amber. It'll be available on tap and in bottles from June through August, says Landmark chief Kiernan May. Landmark is a contract brewer whose beers are made at Flying Bison Brewing Co. in Buffalo.

Brewery Ommegang has a new beer called Biere de Mars. It will only be available at the brewery store in Cooperstown, as it is a small batch of just 2,000 bottles in the 750-milliliter size. Biere de Mars is an amber ale that starts off from the Belgian-style brewery's Rare Vos recipe and is then dosed with brettamyeces yeast - which gives it a sour flavor - and then dry-hopped. It finishes at 6.5 percent alcohol.

Southern Tier Brewing Co. near Jamestown, has a new Cherry Saison, which will hit the market in early June. It's 8 percent alcohol and is brewed with cherries and aged in French oak.

Also, the Ithaca brewer's blog mentions that they'll very soon be selling in the Philadelphia area. For those in the region, I'd recommend starting with Cascazilla, stylistic preferences notwithstanding.

08 June 2008

Jever Pilsener (GER)

I have a bottle of Southern Tier's new Cherry Saison I was planning of reviewing, but the vicious weekend heat has made an Imperial anything seem like too much. Instead, a classic North German pilsener seemed like it would hit the spot. And it did.

A green bottle and an all too close "best before" date make Jever a bit of a risk. Indeed, the smell is skunked up a bit. However, the sustaining white head on top of a straw body work in the beer's favor, and the taste doesn't seem off at all (but possibly muted over time). There's some initial malty sweetness -- more than I expected given this style of pils -- but from there on it's herbal hops, bitterness and a very dry finish. Jever is something like 44 IBUs, and the relatively light malt profile make it seem like more. So it largely comes down to whether you like German noble hops. I do.

Jever is a nice beer for the right occasion. Still, it doesn't quite match up to my favorite US pilseners (e.g., Victory), and the vagaries of green bottles and travel make it a tough buy.

06 June 2008

Euro 2008: the Beer Version

Kind of a fun piece in The Guardian about a Euro Championship of beer, mirroring this summer's soccer tournament. Understandably, they began at the final 16, so no Belgium or Engerlund are involved, or Scotland or Norway for that matter.

The Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell topped Germany's Schneider Weisse Hefe-Weizen in the semis, only to lose to Holland's Grolsch Weizen in the finals. This doesn't really prove anything, except to remind me that I don't have access to the full lines for a lot of big European brewers (Grolsch, Amstel, Carlsberg, etc.).

05 June 2008

Barons Black Wattle Superior (AUS)

We don't get much Australian beer around these parts. There's Foster's of course, and my beer shop carries the Cooper's line. Barons runs between the two in price ($9-10 a six-pack). I think this has been available in the US for only about a year now. No bottle date on mine (the label says "Best Before: See Bottle," but I can't find anything on the bottle).

I've never tried wattle seeds before, but googling tells me they bring tastes of coffee, chocolate and hazelnuts. Some of that comes through in this clear, dark amber ale. Barons' brew is more malt than hops, more sweet than bitter. It comes across a bit as a roasty brown ale with something extra: molasses or buckwheat honey, maybe some black licorice. It's unusual and distinctive, but not unpleasant. "A truly robust yet provocative ale," says the neck label, but I wouldn't say robust. Rather, it's a fairly easy drinker, smooth, the body on the lighter side of medium, and an ABV (at 5.8%) that doesn't get in the way. This is a sessions beer, although I wonder whether the strange taste would get to me after a couple.

You might not love it, but you probably won't hate it. Worth a try.

Beer Blogger for the Examiner

Last week, I mentioned that the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle was looking for a beer writer. Meanwhile in Denver, the Examiner has recently hired Chipper Dave of Fermantally Challenged as their beer writer for Northern Colorado. You can read him here.

These aren't the same things, of course. The Examiner doesn't have a print edition. Instead, they bring in bloggers to write on various subjects. Payment is, I believe, strictly on a pay-per-page-view basis. (See here for a discussion; the Examiner is specifcally mentioned about half way down.)

02 June 2008

Saranac Hefeweizen (NY)

In the wake of the F.X. Matt brewery fire, I decided to pick up one of their seasonal offerings. I'm not going to pretend as though I love the Saranac line. They do some things well, some not so well. Hefeweizen is one I was not confident they'd do well; I don't think many US brewery's get it right. It turns out, this was better than I'd expected.

Off to a good start: Saranac Hefeweizen is unfiltered and has a proper banana aroma. The flavor brings a bit of spice (coriander, clove) and, near the end, a lemony tartness. The finish is a bit messier than I'd wish, with spice and tart and maybe some slightly off flavors. Still, the whole thing is pretty good. The body isn't too light and it has a nice active but not obtrusive carbonation (a lot of other Saranac's are over-fizzed, IMO).

I'd rank this above the American "classic" Widmer Hefeweizen, which I admit I don't much like. Saranac's attempt at the style isn't up to the standards of top German breweries, but you'll pay barely half as much for a bottle. It's sold as part of the brewery's summer 12-pack if you can't find it in singles or sixes.