30 December 2008

Drunken Dogs a Bad Idea

In an article that reminds you that you're not reading the New York Times, the Boulder, Colorado Daily Camera informs us that it's not good to get your dog drunk. Apparently, you don't have to worry about cats though: 

"Cats don't usually overindulge out of their own volition," [Veterinarian Dr. Lee] Woods said. "But dogs want to join the party."
So score one for dogs. Also:
All the intoxicated dogs Woods has treated this season drank beer, except for one that had too much of a mixed drink and another that was given marijuana.
Apparently, college students are to blame for much of the wasted dog phenomenon. The piece quotes a 38 year-old former University of Colorado student:
"They used to blow bongs into their (dogs') ears," he said, referring to the irresponsible partiers of his youth. "I'm sure dogs got plenty of second-hand smoke in this neighborhood."
I'd love to now how the reporter tracked down this guy for the quote. He just pops into the article out of nowhere. Random man-on-the-street interview? Is he in her rolodex?

The whole piece strikes me as really funny.

28 December 2008

Orval (BEL)

I'm a neophyte when it comes to sour beers, so Orval has to take one for the team here. This was bottled in February of this year, and what a bottle it is! I always liked the distinctive shape, but never knew it was of such skull-cracking heft.

The beer's head is world class, with its stiff peaks and longevity (it was still there after I finished drinking). Nice fruity smell and light-ish texture. The first sip is all tartness (green apple jolly rancher?), and it took me a bit to look past this and notice other flavors. It isn't an awful sourness to me, but I felt as though I was enduring it more than enjoying it. I think I'd appreciate it a bit more in warmer weather. I didn't really detect any horseblanket or leather or anything like that, although there was some fruitiness and a nice dry finish. 

Does the brett increase with age, or decrease? I've read both; maybe it peaks at some point. Either way, I'll give you another shot someday, Orval.

26 December 2008

Chimay Bleue (BEL)

2008 is apparently Chimay's 25th anniversary in the U.S. So how many people drank this here back in 1983? Nowadays, Blue (aka Grande Reserve) is available even in high end supermarkets. I'll leave it to others to debate whether the increase in distribution has come at the expense of quality.

The cork on 750 ml says 11/07, but I couldn't know that until I popped it. Elsewhere on the label it says "L07-726," which I hope hints at the bottling date. You shouldn't have to uncork this to know how old it is. Blue pours amber/brown which is slightly hazy, even though I was careful to keep the yeast at the bottom of the bottle. The fruit aroma is striking. It's not dark fruits; more like tangerine and apple. This fruitiness comes through initially on the tongue, but then plums, raisins and brown sugar take over. It's a neat effect though: a big beer with a fruity lightness to it.

What I'm less enthused about is the effervescence of it all. This is a pretty highly fizzed beer, which is something I personally don't favor. The head doesn't last long enough to be photoed. I suppose it does help create the perception of lightness though. The 9% ABV doesn't come through until you're already buzzed.

So I think this is very good, but not earth-shattering. Still, if you haven't already tried this, you pretty much have to eventually.

21 December 2008

Victory Baltic Thunder (PA)

I found bombers of this on sale with a drink by date 12/31/08. I figured it's a big enough beer (8.5%) so as not to show signs of wear. The brewer says it combines the "enticing, toffee roast of the British porter" with the "soothing, subtle fruit nuance of contemporary brews that flourish from Helsinki to Vilnius." It also comes right out and says it's a lager. My understanding is that's often, but not always, the case with this style.

It pours a lovely clear dark ruby with a nice tan head. The texture is very smooth. The taste is faintly roasty and fruity, but not as doppelbock-ish as other Baltic porters I've had. Alas, it also comes off as a touch watery despite it's heft, although it improves as it warms. The finish dries out and has some German-tasting hop presence. I didn't sense the 8.5% ABV, at least not until I was done.

Maybe the bottle could have been fresher after all. It's still a nice beer, but not something I am going to make to hunt down next year.

20 December 2008

Blithering Idiot/Old Horizontal Barelywines

Two more barleywines, both from Pennsylvania.

Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot: This is the first beer I've tried from this brewery. It's a whopping 11.1% ABV; I cannot find a 'drink by' fate on the bottle. Compared with the others, it's very cloudy, and slightly orange. The aroma is very fruity in an almost candy-ish manner Maybe it's fruit Bubble Yum or Orange Flower Water. The taste isn't that sweet, although it indeed skews malt > hops. Tummy warming comes alcohol after the fact. Good, but doesn't top Anchor's entry, IMO.

Victory Old Horizontal: I didn't realize at the time that I picked out four English-style barleywines. This one isn't like the others: it tastes American, i.e., more hops. The bottle is dated October 31, 2013, so I'm guessing it's pretty new and maybe could have benfitted from some aging. Citrus hops hit right away in the nose. It's clear, dark amber in color, and the only barleywine that yielded a great head (though this may be my fault in pouring). Fairly sharp carbonation, which is a strike against it I suppose. Overall, though, it's a tasty combination of plummy sweet malts and citrus/floral hop bitterness.

I drank Sierra Nevada Bigfoot some time ago, and I don't think I was ready for it. Even now, I have to say I prefer the malty barleywines to the hopped up ones. So this means Old Foghorn is my favorite, but if you demand hops, Old Horizontal is a better choice, though even then not the ideal.

17 December 2008

Beer in New York Supermarkets?

There's been a bit of talk about Governor David Paterson's proposed increase in beer (and other) taxes in New York to try to fix the budgetary problems, but lost in the mix is his proposal to permit wine sales in grocery stores. In New York, you can't buy wine in supermarkets. Liquor stores fight to retain these protectionist laws, and supposedly local wineries do so as well, worrying that broader sales could drag more California wines into the state and hurt their sales.

I can't defend the protectionism, but I do believe that these laws have allowed great beer stores like Beers of the World and Finger Lakes Beverage to flourish. A corollary to the laws is that liquor stores can only sell wine and spirits, not beer, so beer retailers have a bit of space carved out for them. Then again, if supermarket giants like Wegmans could sell bottled wine, they might swap valuable store space from craft/imported beer to wine.

Two interesting (?) side notes. First, you can't buy bottled wine at Wegmans, but you can sit and drink a glass or two at the food counter nestled in between the bakery and fish department. Second, frustrated by their inability to sell wine, one member of the Wegman fanily recently bought out a local wine retailer and built a 45,000 square foot behemoth down the street from their flagship supermarket. I'm not sure if they would have done that if they had been able to sell wine in their stores all along.

13 December 2008

Old Foghorn/Horn Dog/Below Decks Barleywines

For whatever reason barleywine is a style I'v barely explored. I haven't reviewed one yet on this site, and I think the only one I've ever tasted was Sierra Nevada's. So I picked up five barleywines -- or as they're all American, "barleywine style ales" - to help me survive the cold. Three now, two later.

Anchor Old Foghorn: From the US perspective, this is the original, so I figured I'd start with it. The bottle is dated 7SG, i.e, 2007, September 7th (G is the 7th letter). Nice clear, mahogany colored brew. Quite viscous in texture and delightfully low on carbonation. Kind of a pruney/raisiny maltiness to it, but also some citrusy hops. Caramel and/or toffee as well. By today's standards, this is fairly low in alcohol (under 9%), but it's still a sipper all the way, due largely to it's thick texture and rich taste. I thought it was fabulous.

Flying Dog Horn Dog: This is a bit higher in ABV at 10.2%, and pours hazier out of the bottle, but it has a similar aroma (Cascade hops again) and similar viscosity to Anchor. Again, it's from 2007. It claims 45 IBUs, which really isn't a lot given the malt level. Nonetheless, I found this to be hoppier than others, with sort of a citrus rind hit to it. Some dark cherries come through as well. Also a very good beer, but maybe not quite as great as Anchor.

Clipper City Below Decks: Another Maryland brewery (Flying Dog having moved from Colorado). The bottle is dated 2006. Retailers must love barleywines, as you don't have to worry much about old bottles. I think all three of these are considered English-style barleywines, but Below Decks actually uses English hops (Fuggles, Goldings). Thus, a different non-Cascade aroma. The beer also has some yeast floaties in it (my fault because of an aggressive pour?). It's sweeter than the others and a bit less thick. Also, at 10%, the alcohol comes through a little more than for the others. Licorice, molasses and fruit flavors abound. This seems to have a lesser reputation than Anchor and Flying Dog, but I don't really see why. They're all pretty close.

High Falls Wins European Beer Star Awards

High Falls Brewing of Rochester, NY won three medals at the European Beer Star Awards in Germany. As you can see, US breweries did well; Deschutes, Stone and Firestone Walker were among the winners. High Falls won golds for Genesee and Dundee Honey Brown, and a bronze Dundee Porter. For some reason this reminds me that there are five teams from the MAC playing in bowl games this year.

Genny won for "Bottom Fermented beer with alternative cereals or field crops." More respectably or New York brewers, Ommegang won a medal for their eponymous ale, and Saranac won for their very nice Pale Ale (as the yanks swept the English Pale Ale category). Also, a Namibian brewery won a gold for a Mild Ale, while South American breweries won medals in the Dry Stout, Sweet Stout and Porter categories.

10 December 2008

Corsendonk Christmas Ale (BEL)

I'm not quite in the Christmas mood yet, but figured I'd write this one up well in advance. I actually bought the bottle last year in an post-Christmas sale ($2.97). It was one of the few times my local retailer had a sale that didn't involve beer beyond its sell by date. At 8.5%, Corsendonk Christmas Ale is big enough to cellar, and I drank it a year before its best before date.

Liquid bread? This is more like liquid cake. It pours dark brown, but when held to light proves to be translucent and red-tinged. Great head. On the tongue, its a very rich beer, although it still has a fair amount of carbonation to cut through the body. The taste is chocolate cake, toffee and anise, among other spices. Yeah, it's sweet, but not over the top. The alcohol doesn't come through, but I couldn't drink more than one because of the rich dessert-ness of it. All told, a very good beer for this time of year. 

06 December 2008

Efes Pilsener/Bare Knuckle Stout (TUR/NH)

Efes Beverage is a swaggering international corporation based in Turkey. They apparently sponsor a basketball club where Mehmet Okur and Hidayet Turkoglu used to play (and where former Syracuse Orangeman Preston Shumpert currently plays, but I digress).

Their pilsener isn't all that bad. I think this a beer that our European cousins have seen around a lot, but it's new to me. It tastes like a second tier Euro pils, with grainy malts and light, grassy hops. Not much kick, but nothing off about it either, and it's reasonably crisp and refreshing. I liked it with a spicy stew.

Bare Knuckle Stout is A-B's attempt at a Guinness clone. I'd never heard of it before and ordered it in an out of town hotel bar thinking it might be a local beer. A-B only sells it on tap I think. It certainly has the look down, complete with cascading foam, and the nitrogen texture, for better or worse. Taste-wise, it comes across as a somewhat watery version of Guinness (which isn't the stoutest stout to begin with). Still, it wasn't bad, and I'd order it again in an A-B exclusive location (or maybe I'd order American Ale).

But who's going to drink it? This isn't Anheuser-Busch trying to overhwelm tiny microbreweries. Guinness has formidable marketing and distribution of their own. Also, I can't imagine the Guinness fanboys switching even if BK Stout were superior. Is Bare Knuckle destined to be the stout of choice in unlikely places (e.g., hotel and airport bars)? Or does A-B plan on doing some serious arm-twisting to take taps away from Guinness?

03 December 2008

Over-Priced Beer at Sporting Event!

Shocking news out of England. Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion are being accused of over-charging their fans for a pint. Liberal Dem MPs are raising a fuss.

The figure is based on the difference between the price of a pint at the Villa ground and the national average for a pint of lager, which is £2.76. They say both clubs charge £3.20 for a pint.
That's like $4.75, which is, what, half the price you'd pay at Fenway? It's very quaint to see British politicians taking up such a pressing issue as beer prices at sports stadiums. US pols have more important issues to tend to, like college football playoffs

02 December 2008

Young's Oatmeal Stout (ENG)

If you think Young's stout, you first think chocolate. Apparently the brewery produces their oatmeal stout primarily for the North American market. I'm not sure why that would be. It was the American importer Merchant du Vin that commissioned Samuel Smith's to revive of the style in the '70s, so maybe Americans have a special connection.  

Sam Smith's is my favorite oatmeal stout. Comparatively, Young's take is more heavily carbonated than the flattish SS, though it's is still rich and smooth. Young's also strikes me as a bit drier, with a charred bitterness that adds character. The bottle label reviews itself and claims a "short but distinctive finish reminiscent of toast."  Burnt toast, perhaps. 

I don't know if I like Young's as much as Sam Smith's, but I like it a lot. Pricey at more than $4 for 16.9 ounces. Cool bottle.