31 October 2008

Halloween Beers from MJ

It may be a bit late to run out and buy beer for Halloween, but I found this old Michael Jackson article for "if you don't fancy pumpkin beers." Recommended: Unibroue Maudite and Beelzebub/Belzebuth, with further mention of Hobgoblin, Old Nick and several others.

This was written back in 2001. Today, it really isn't hard to find beers with ghoulish or devilish themes, particularly in the US. For me personally, the packaging doesn't mean as much, so I'll probably be drinking Pumking tonight.

26 October 2008

Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale (JP)

Two years ago, Hitachio Nest Red Rice Ale was featured (along with Rogue Morimoto Soba Ale) in a New York Times article. It seems to be a pretty fashionable beer, at least in New York. As explained, the rice isn't just used as cheap filler: in addition to using ale yeast, the brewery uses sake yeast to ferment the rice.

The result is a slightly foggy beer colored on the orange side of amber. The aroma reminds me of the sourness you get occasionally from packaged sliced salami (your perceptions may vary). Taste wise, it's somewhere in among beer, sake and wine spritzer, but mostly beer. Fruity and slightly tangy with a grainy undertone. All told, it's crisp without being too light. Red Rice Ale packs pretty big alcohol at 7% and sports a hefty price tag ($4+ per 330 ml bottle). Definitely a good beer for bloggers and raters who think they've tasted it all.

23 October 2008

Three More from Saranac

The other three from Saranac's Adirondack Trail Mix:

Brown Ale: Clear brown with a red/orange tinge. The label boasts of "Pacific Northwest hops," and I think I can smell them. So this isn't a British Brown. To it's credit, it isn't a bland one either. A touch of chocolate malt, a decent hop presence, and a dry finish. But also an over-carbonated body and kind of a rough taste. Eh.

Black & Tan: I've often had the suspicion that Saranac produces some of their myriad beers by mixing existing ones. No secret about the Black & Tan, a mixture of their Amber Lager and seasonal Irish Stout (which, as Wikipedia explains, would technically make this a Half and Half). From a bottle, you don't get the cool layered effect as with a true Black and Tan. So what do you get? A lighter stout, I suppose. It's roastiness is cut by caramel sweetness from the lager. Overall, the malts and hops don't really blend, and it tastes like the sort of experimental beer mix you'd create at home with the remnants of various six packs. Still, it's pretty intersting and worth a try.

Black Forest: "Bavarian Style Beer." It never comes out and says it's a schwarzbier on the label, but I think that's what it is, more or less. I don't think it strives for German authenticity though (the Black Forest isn't even in Bavaria) . It's very dark brown and ruby colored. Even accepting that this is a lager, the body is too light. In fact, the entire initial taste is too light and mineral water-ish for me, more treble than bass. At the end, a light roasted flavor comes through, which is great, but overall I don't like this as much as some others do. Sam Adams makes a better American black lager, while Sprecher makes one that is much richer and roastier.

So the Pale Ale is the star of this sixer for me, and probably the only one I'd seek out again.

20 October 2008

No More Zima

Miller Coors is going to stop making Zima, so fans of the drink should stock up while you can. The rest of us need to find another drink to mock. Evidence of the drink's decline? The Late Show archives show that Zima appeared in eight Letterman Top Ten Lists in 1994-95, but only once since then.

18 October 2008

Schloss Eggenberg Doppelbock Dunkel (AUT)

Aren't all doppelbocks dark? Well, Schloss Eggenberg makes Urbock 23 which is a light colored doppelbock, so the beer I'm writing about becomes the dunkel. I love the black and white label.

The beer is indeed dark brown, but not impenetrable to light and showing some red tones. Nice white head too. This is nice and rich, but also soft in a way. Some of this is the low carbonation against a very creamy body. Some of it is the absence of alcohol burn (despite the 8.5% ABV). Instead, it delivers on the "toffeelike malty sweetness" claimed on the label. There's a touch of roastiness as well, but it isn't super-complex. It is very tasty, though. The hops make it somewhat dry at the end, but this is closer to liquid cake than liquid bread.

I'm in a doppelbock mood right now and was very happy with this. The problem is it cost me over $5 for a bottle, but I think a lot of you would pay $3-4, which is reasonable.

16 October 2008

Wagner Valley Sled Dog Doppelbock (NY)

A spell of unseasonal warmth has passed, so I can pull out my fall/winter brews again. I've had this one before, and it might be my favorite of the brewery (although I've yet to try their Trippelbock).

This is a clear tawny-colored brew, syrupy looking, with a dying tan head. Pretty sweet up front: caramel and molasses and maybe raisins. Very slight roastiness as well. I like the soft carbonation and smooth palate, though it's maybe not quite as rich as the best doppelbocks. The finish isn't quite as long as I'd like either, but this is quibbling. It's 8.5% ABV, but that doesn't really come through until it warms my gut afterwords.

Nice doppelbock, if not a great one.

13 October 2008

Great American Beer Festval Winners 2008

The GABF was held in Colorado this weekend, and the winners have been announced. New York breweries won only 10 medals. In comparison, California won 39 and Colorado won 34, but they probably had more entries given the location of the event. Ithaca Brewing won two silvers for Cascazilla and for their new sour ale Brute. Ommegang won bronze for Rare Vos (the same color medal Keystone Light won). Whatever the gripes, remember, they taste blind we usually don't.

Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant in Delware won six medals. Anybody know this place?

12 October 2008

Three from Saranac (NY)

Saranac really makes a lot of styles, so many that I can buy their variety six-pack and find no beers that I've reviewed (though I've had a couple of these before).

Adirondack Lager: The good news is that this isn't a bland lager. The bad news is it doesn't taste quite right (at least not to me). Clear, light amber color, light hop aroma. It's made with both Hallertau and Cascades, and you can kind of taste both of them battling it out. However, some of the taste gets buried beneath heavy carbonation (not uncommon for this brewery). There are also somewhat sour, metallic elements appearing. Maybe just a bad one-off for me, but this wasn't good.

Pale Ale: Much better. This might be considered their signature beer, and it's all over the place around these parts. "Classic English Style," it says on the label, and it uses Fuggles and EKG hops to prove it. I think I sense some US-style citrusy hops in the nose, but those don't really appear. In stead, it's a good balance of malts and fruity, herbal hops. Softly carbonated. Great sessions brew.

India Pale Ale: The label says "American I.P.A." and boasts of "generous amounts of Cascade hops." This is a tough style to crack for a place like Saranac. Do you try to appease the hop-crazed elements of the craft beer community? Or do you tone it down a notch to appeal to a larger crowd? A bit more of the latter, I'd say. The citrusy hops come through against the malt background, but neither is huge. A bit light in both body and bitterness. The last IPA I had was Great Lakes, to which Saranac can't hold a candle. Still, if you forget about others of the style, you'll find a fairly tasty beer, and maybe a good first IPA.

Not a bad half a six pack (you only get one of each). Their Pale Ale may be my favorite of the brewery, but sometimes I think its more fun to drink things like Caramel Porter and Mountain Berry Ale and Chocolate Amber Lager, even if they don't all work. That's what Saranac does best: crank out the styles.

08 October 2008

Cheaper than Water

There's always someone in the world in a snit about alcohol. Currently it's British MPs Nigel Evans (Conservative) and John Grogan (Labour) complaining that Skol beer is being sold for less than Evian water as Asda supermarkets. I'm not entirely opposed to the idea of regulating alcohol promotions (such as free drinks specials in bars), given that alcohol can cause social problems. However, I'm not sure of I buy this basic syllogism:

Water is really cheap
This beer is cheaper than water,
Therefore, this beer must be really, really cheap

And maybe it is, but Evian is stupidly over-priced, so why compare to it? Also, given that Britain has what I assume are pretty stiff taxes on beer, how cheaply made is Skol? Still, I'd rather buy cheap beer than expensive water.

Mr. Evans isn't a teetotaler, though:

We are living in a time when 36 pubs are closing each week because they simply cannot compete with the prices charged in the large supermarkets.
Well, that's a different argument entirely.

Budweiser American Ale (MO)

Curiosity must be accounting for a lot of sales for A-B, but probably not enough to pay that massive advertising bill. They need repeat sales for that, and probably won't be getting them from me.

Not that it's a bad beer. The bottle itself is very attractive with its bulging shoulders and classy color scheme. The beer looks great too: clear amber, impressive head. There's a slight citrus hop aroma (those dry-hopped Cascades we've heard so much about). Not a lot of hoppy flavor or much bitterness, though. It's a decent balance of caramel malts and hops, I suppose, but not a lot of bite. The body is too thin and there's a hollow finish.

American Ale isn't a bad attempt, though. I paid only $5.99 a sixer, which is less than even the cheapie micros like Saranac. I can't help but wonder how it will taste to BMC loyalists not used to a bit of flavor. You have to work your way up to hop-bombs, and maybe this is a first step.

04 October 2008

He'brew Origin Pomegranate Ale (NY)

Do a search at ratebeer and you'll find only a handful of pomegranate beers, and just four with at least 100 ratings. Most fruit beers use a wheat beer base, but this is an "imperial amber ale" with pomegranate juice added. Why pomegranate? It fits in with the brewery's Old Testament theme ("In some parts of the world, it's believed that Eve tempted Adam with a pomegranate," says the website).

This pours a very hazy copper/amber color with only a thin head, although the foam that's there lasted for me. Medium bodied, tight fizz. It has a pretty solid malt backbone. The pomegranate is added with a light touch. Fruit juice comes through, but I wouldn't necessarily have guessed the source if I didn't know (cherries? berries?). Any fruitiness is out manned by the hops, however: definite West Coast accent, with citrus/pine and a somewhat bitter grapefruit aftertaste. The alcohol -- 8% -- isn't obvious.

I'm not sure if it meshes completely, the hops and the pomegranate, but Origin is still a tasty beer from a brewery that has tried to do something different.

02 October 2008

Great Lakes Commodore Perry (OH)

Great Lakes beers were available in western New York just long enough for me to buy a variety 12-pack, but then they disappeared. Now they're back in a style, even with a display in the supermarket.

I liked all four beers from the variety pack, and Commodore Perry (India Pale Ale) doesn't disappoint. "Don't give up the sip" is the punning motto. It pours a thick-looking gold body with a lacy head. The Commodore creates that explosive mouthful of flavor you want from an IPA. It's probably a little sweeter than others upfront, and slightly fruity and spicy. The bitterness and grapefruit aftertaste come through at the end. The label requests that you drink it at 45 degrees, cooler than I'd have thought, but mellows it out a bit for non-hop heads.

One of the better IPAs, IMO. What next for me from this brewery? I think Burning River Pale Ale is the only one I can get here that I haven't tried.