30 August 2008

Rogue Younger's Special Bitter (ORE)

Rogue produces not one but two bitters: Brutal and Younger's Special. The former is their imperial version and thus receives most of the attention. I supose most US breweries would simply have called them pale ales. The bottle claims Younger's as 12 degrees Plato, 75 AA and 35 IBUs. It doesn't list the ABV, but I calculate about 1.048 OG and 1.012 FG (75% attenuation), which is just below 5%, which is what it says online.

Younger's is a nice looker, coppery with a pillowy head that sustains pretty well. It's not adventurous or anything, just nicely balanced between caramel malts and bitter hops (Willamette and East Kent Goldings, according to the bottle). I detect slight citrus and floral, slightly American I think. It has a pretty good hop bite to it, but not by American standards. The finish is dry. Drinking on a warm afternoon, it is very refreshing.

The problem is that, at my beer shop at least, this costs as much as the rest of the Rogue line ($6+ a bomber). That feels like too much for a sessions beer, even if a nice one at that.

28 August 2008

Ratebeer's Adolescence

Beernews.org has a neat post about ratebeer eight years ago. An old screenshot shows Orval as the third highest rated beer, but with only three ratings. Now it has more than 1,800.

The post is interesting to me not so much as it pertains to ratebeer, but as it relates to the internet as a whole: how young it is, how old it seems. We're right in the midst of our first presidential election with Youtube, which didn't even exist in '04. It seems like it's been around forever. Then again, this campaign season seems like it's been going on forever as well.

26 August 2008

Schwelmer Weizen (GER)

This is most likely my last hefeweizen for about eight months. The brewer says, in somewhat stilted English, "Schwelmer Hefe-Weizen features a fresh taste, for not only the hot days of the year." For me, however, there are plenty of other styles that take precedence as the weather cools.

I bought this because I've always liked Schwelmer's pilsner. The weizen looks like it should, with an extra craggy white head. It smells of banana bubblegum. Taste-wise, I'd like to think I could pick it out of a hefeweizen lineup. It pushes forth a prominent clovey spiciness and finishes on the dry side. There isn't much, if any, lemony citrus here. If you want to drink something you've never tasted before, don't order a hefe. Still, Schwelmer isn't just like all others. No guarantee you'll like it, but I did.

23 August 2008

Baltika Zhigulevskoe (RUS)

For some reason I couldn't pass this up: a light (4%) Russian lager in a 1.5 liter ("1 qt., 1 pint, 3 fl. oz.") plastic bottle with a name in cyrillic lettering. It cost $2.99, which comes to about 75 cents per 12 ounces. Shaming so many microbreweries who don't do the same, Baltika provides both a production date (05.03.08) and a best before date (05.09.08). I'm assuming these are given in "little endian" date format, used in most places outside North America. If not, this beer has a very short shelf-life.

The body is more light brown than yellow, which is a good sign, and is nicely clear. However, there's not much aroma, and not much taste. This is more of a flavorless pale lager than an offensively tasting one. There's a slight corn sweetness that becomes cloying if you drink too much of it, or if you let the bottle warm up. Slight hops, slightly grainy malts. No real hop bite, though, and no rich maltiness. Still, I didn't think it was all that terrible, but it really needs accompanying food and maybe hot weather to make it worthwhile. The plastic bottle allows you to drink half, then put the cap back on and squeeze the bottle so as to reduce surface area and retain carbonation. That's a plus.

19 August 2008

Lowering age and weight

The movement to lower the US drinking age has broken out in the last day or two, with news organizations reporting on the Amethyst Initiative. University presidents are not yet openly advocating for change, but calling for the issue to be discussed. Mothers Against Drunk Driving is, um, mad.

In the beer blogosphere, Fermentally Challenge is hosting a contest for those too old to handle college levels of binge drinking. They're now trying to lose weight while still drinking craft beer. If I were to play, I'd have to cut off an arm to win. Lucky metabolism, perhaps, although I'm pretty good about diet and exercise. Good luck to them. Just stay away from the three S's: soft drinks, Starbucks, and salty snacks. (Stone and Sam Adams are okay.)

18 August 2008

Ommegang Witte (NY)

Witte is one of five Ommegang regulars, along with the eponymous abbey ale, Rare Vos, Three Philosophers and (my favorite) Hennepin. I don't think they sell Witte in anything smaller than the corked 750ml bottle.

As per instructions on the label, I poured slowly to keep the yeast sediment in the bottle (the opposite of what, say, Hoegaarden recommends). Thus, the body is only slightly hazy underneath its puffy, lacy head. On the tongue, it's cleaner for the lack of yeast (and possibly less complex). Instead, its mostly sweet citrus and coriander spice. Tastes a little like orange marmalade, and for some reason made me think of ice cream (!?). Witte isn't cloying though. The body is light and spritzy. Just for kicks, I poured in some yeast at the end, and it really changed the taste, adding some tangy and earthy aspects.

This seems to have a reputation as being the least of Ommegang's offerings, but I thought it really hit the spot on a summer's day. I've been drinking Hoegaarden recently as well, and might say I prefer Witte overall, but it depends on what you want. Hoegaarden admittedly does have more going on.

16 August 2008

Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA/Road Dog Porter (COL)

The last two from the Flying Dog mixed pack are the two heaviest.

Snake Dog IPA: The label text plays on a "crazy, stalking EX" theme. Note that it never refers to the ex- in question as female, although there are hints ("it slaps you in the face"...if that's a guy slapping a woman, it sounds pretty bad). Apparently Snake Dog has been reformulated recently, as ratebeer gives it a separate entry for 2008 on onward (now 7.1% vs. 5.75%). It's a looker: clear copper with sustaining white head. Dry-hopping with Columbus gives it a citrusy aroma. the hops are used more for flavor -- citrus, floral, and spice, I think -- than pure bitterness. Without being competitive about its bitterness, Snake Dog is in fact an exemplar of the American IPA style. Well done.

Road Dog Porter: Used to be called "Scottish," but they seemed to have dropped that. This is the first beer I've had which refers to itself as shit (e.g., "this shit is some dark, rich and malty shit."). Do traditional German breweries do that? It pours dark brown and ruby but still translucent. Again, a nice head. It's a smooth one, with a medium body, light carbonation and somewhat sweet flavor. Chocolate malts come through, but it isn't highly roasted or burnt (not that it should be). I tend to drink seasonally and would just as soon skip porters all summer. Still, this is quite good and easy drinking at 6% ABV.

I'd say these are the two best of the mixed pack, but the hefeweizen is really nice as well.

13 August 2008

Rogue Dad's Little Helper (ORE)

Dad's Little Helper reminds me a bit of posh restaurants that charge you $12 for a fancy version of a BLT. This is a malt liquor, after all. Five or six bucks for a bomber of a glorified Mickey's big mouth?

It pours a not very clear yellow/gold with a nice white head. It doesn't look like much, but the mouthfeel is fabulous. Rich and creamy, not too much fizz (just as I like it). This is made with plenty of flaked corn and you can taste it. And, yes, it's sweet. But it's also really tasty. There aren't any musty or boozy flavors, although those might appear if you let it warm up.

Rogue doesn't list an ABV, but it says it's 17 degrees Plato, which is about 1.07 OG, which could be 6.5-8% ABV depending on the attenuation. Dad's Little Helper isn't exactly well-attenuated. Still, this doesn't come across as being very alcoholic, and thus is potentially dangerous. On a warm day, I could drink this all afternoon.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that this beer isn't well regarded. It currently scores a miserable sub-2.6 at ratebeer. Maybe they're fools, maybe I'm an idiot, maybe I just drank it at the right time and place. Maybe it's all an expectations game, but I really thought this was really good.

12 August 2008

Flour City Brewers' Fest

For those in Western New York, the Flour City Brewers' Fest is this Friday evening. The Flour City (a.k.a. Flower City) is Rochester. The list of participating breweries is here. I plan to be there but, sorry beer blogger that I am, don't know if I'll post anything on it. I never really feel comfortable "reporting" on events, feeling that taking pictures, notes, etc. interferes with my enjoyment of the experience. Regardless, if you're in the area, it should be fun.

10 August 2008

Trappistes Rochefort 6 (BEL)

I understand that there was a time a couple years ago ago when Rochefort 6 wasn't easy to find in the US. Now it's probably sold everywhere 8 and 10 are. My red-capped bottle of 6 is a year and a half old, but still 3 1/2 years away from its "drink by date." I paid close to $7 for it at my local beer store, and then Googled to find this was a good $1-2 higher than most others pay, so maybe I'm grumpy going in.

According to this old post by Stan Hieronymus, 6 isn't just a lighter version of the others, but has some other recipe differences as well. I've only ever had 8. (one of my favorites), not 10.

Rochefort 6 pours dark brown, not completely opaque, with some red or orange tones when held to the light. Nice head...but not up to the level of 8, which I recall sticking around until nearly the last sip. The aroma promises malty sweetness and dark fruits (no surprise). It isn't a really heavy-bodied beer, but it sticks to the tongue. Lots of tight, fine bubble carbonation.

The taste is of caramel or maybe toffee sweetness, raisins and cherries (but not sour). It's hard for me to describe all that is going on, but on the whole, it isn't as rich and complex as its older brother. This isn't surprising, but I think the size of the step down is greater than I'd wished. I have to say, I was mildly disappointed in Rochefort 6 but only because my hopes were so high and I paid a lot for it.

07 August 2008

Cooper's vs. the Monarchists

From The Guardian, it appears that Cooper's brewery in Australia -- these are the same guys who make the homebrew kits -- have created a ruckus over a billboard with the words "Forget the monarchy, support the publicans." Far be it from me to wade into the waters of anitpodean politics, but "prominent monarchist" Philip Benwell seems to be a bit of a noodge:

"Why couldn't the advertisement have begun 'forget the republic'?" asked Benwell, chairman of the Australian Monarchist League.

"To put up in large letters 'forget the monarchy' is something that we had to protest about because it is a political statement, particularly at a time when the primeminister has said that its government will pursue a republic at some time in the near future."

Cooper's has removed the offending billboards.

05 August 2008

Flying Dog Doggie Style Pale Ale (COL)

A third one from the Flying Dog variety pack. The brewery's beer information sheet says this is dry-hopped with a "shitload of Cascade hops." Ah, there's that American craft brewery in-your-face attitude.

Indeed, the Casacde's citrusy aroma comes through clearly. This is also a very pretty pale ale, with its clear amber body and lasting head. Flavor wise, I have to say, it isn't anything exceptional. The malts are fairly sweet with a touch of caramel, and there's some hop bite, but not as much as I was expecting. Possibly my bottle wasn't fresh enough (I can't decipher the label date). It's 35 IBUs (the dry hopping doesn't boost this), which is about the same as Sierra Nevada's. I don't really like the malt flavor as much as Sierra Nevada (a beer I'm crazy about).

I don't want to sound too negative, as this is a good pale ale. It's not something I'm likely to seek out.

03 August 2008

Flying Dog In-Heat Wheat/Tire Bite Golden Ale (COL)

Two beers from a Flying Dog 12-pack I bought for over $16. This is a six-by-two 12-pack, which is nice for tasting purposes. Old Scratch Amber Lager was the lone lager in the pack.

Flying Dog is known for label artwork produced by Ralph Steadman of Hunter S. Thompson book jacket fame. He also has done photography and DVD artwork for Withnail & I, and apparently has several wine books.

In-Heat Wheat: An unfiltered hefeweizen at 4.7%. A bit orange in color and in taste. Its citrus aspect are more smooth orange sweetness than lemon tartness. There also isn't much wheat twang (or whatever it's called). The last hefe I tried was highly tart, so this really works in the opposite direction. Much clove, but no banana. It's a bit thin but still tastes good. Not a textbook German, but better than most American wheats.

Tire Bite Golden Ale: This isn't the type of beer to impress many beer raters. Light color, 5% ABV, only 16 IBUs. It says "it goes down so easy" right on the label. It's light, mostly of grainy malts at first and some herbal hops at the end. Dry, but never bitter. Both ratebeer and Beer Advocate have this listed as a Kolsch, and in fact the brewery won a medal for it at GABF in that category. Whether it's authentic to the style, I don't know. It is moderately tasty and refreshing, at least when well chilled, but it's the sort of beer that should run $6 a sixer.

01 August 2008

He'Brew Jewbelation Eleven (NY)

So The Session decides to focus on anniversaries just as I reach my one year blogging anniversary. If ever there's an anniversary to celebrate with a beer, it's this. I pity the beer blogger who decided to shoe-horn his wedding anniversary into a beer blog post. "Honey, guess what I have planned for Friday..."

For the most part, I celebrate special occasions (e.g., Christmas, New Year's Eve) with wine or champagne rather than beer. It isn't always my choice, but I drink enough beer that it takes another beverage for it to feel like a special occasion. Also, one thing I like about beer, is you don't have to save up to afford the pricier ones. Really, there shouldn't be any 'special occasion' beers.

BarleyBlog asks:

Why is it a beer you may only drink once a year? Why is that brewery’s annual release the one you selected?

Well, this isn't a beer I drink once a year. I've never had it before. I chose it because I'm currently running through much of He'Brew's product line. Also, when at the beer store, I couldn't tell whether Victory 12 was an anniversary beer or not, so I passed on that.

Jewbelation Eleven is made with 11 malts and 11 hops and clocks in at 11% ABV to mark the brewery's 11th anniversary. How long can they keep this up? Until 13 or 14? On top of this, they actually use the same malts/hops as last year, but add one each per year (Spelt and Amarillo in this case). I haven't tried any previous He'Brew anniversary ales, but I'm guessing they don't simply keep the same recipe and add to it; instead they re-work it. Possibly the 11 count is a bit of a put on: some malts and hops may appear as much for the tally as for the taste.

This monster pours very dark brown. I didn't get a full head, but I'll take the blame for that. Eleven is more malt than hops, tasting primarily of roasted chocolate and then of dark fruits and maybe some spice. It's vaguely reminiscent to me of the reverse of a strong Belgian, which I think of as dark fruits first (plums, prunes, figs...) with chocolate cake underneath. But Belgians also lack the moderately bitter hop finish of Jewbelation Eleven. This pulls it back dry. As it warms, the hops become more prominent. Maybe some alcohol warmth comes through then as well. Jewb11 is full-bodied and low fizzed (as I like it), and is hard to do anything but share and/or sip.

I mentioned above that the 11 counts may be merely for show. If that's the case, then it's a good thing, as it doesn't come across as a haphazard blend of too many ingredients. Still, you have to get into the spirit of American big beers to enjoy Jebwelation Eleven. I'm not a size snob, but I will say that this is one of the top beers I've reviewed so far. It's a decent bargain too at just over $5 a bomber. Happy Anniversary to me!