Saturday, February 28, 2009

February 23, 2009: Kirin Ichiban

Everyday, the world is getting smaller. We have access to different people, places and cultures today that we didn't even know existed only 50 years ago. Take tonight for example; my friend Chris is going to visit his family in Ecuador, so we're going to dinner at a Japanese restaurant to see him off. The world has become so small that eating sushi in southern California with friends from South America no longer seems like such a strange thing. I was thinking about how much the world seems to be shrinking everyday, and it made me think about how brewing has changed over the last hundred years. In Europe, beer had been brewed regionally for thousands of years with little to no change in the recipes. However, as global demand for beer steadily increased in the twentieth century, so too did the variety of beers being produced. Suddenly you had American breweries producing German style lagers, or English breweries making Belgian ale as a common practice. I can think of few other industries in the world that have embraced the different customs of countries from every part of the world the way that the brewing industry has. Kirin Ichiban is my beer for tonight, and is perhaps the greatest example of cross-cultural success in the beer business.

In the 19th century, Japan was still a great mystrery to most westerners. For years it had resisted allowing outsiders to immigrate to their country, but finally relented in the latter part of the century. One adventurous young man who chose to try his luck in the east was a Norwegian man named William Copeland (A.K.A. Johan Martinius Thoresen). After living in America for a brief period and changing his name for Thoresen to Copeland, he set off for Yokohama in 1864 where he soon became a naturalized Japanese citizen. Copeland started up several business ventures with meager success, when one day he realized that there were no breweries in Japan. There was a great demand for exported beers, but for some reason there were no domestic Japanese beers at the time. Copeland founded Spring Valley Brewery in 1869 and while he did enjoy success in the Japanese market, a series of personal misfortunes and plain bad luck sent Copeland back to America in 1884, closing down the Spring Valley Brewery.

Spring Valley Brewery didn't sit vacant for long before two Englishmen, W.H. Talbot and E. Abbot took notice and found Japanese investors to partner up with them and found The Japan Brewing Company. Soon the company began to flourish under the guidance of the Europeans who had saved the brewery, but by 1907 the brewery had been purchased by the Mitsubishi company and all of the English, German, and American employees were soon replaced by Japanese workers. To this day, Kirin Ichiban is one of Japan's top beers and does particularly well as an export in America. It's absolutely fascinating to me to think about how the most sucessful Japanese beer of all time got it's start from Norwegian, English and American brewers. If there is a beer that's crossed more cultural lines than Kirin Ichiban has, I have yet to find it.

But how does it taste, you ask? As much as I love the story behind this beer and would love to report that it is an amazing drink, the truth is that Kirin Ichiban leaves a lot to be desired. There really isn't much to this beer; almost no head to speak of, pale straw color, thin and dry mouth feel, almost a grassy hay flavor to it. Kirin Ichiban has done nothing groundbreaking with their recipe, but that might be the key to their success. Surprisingly enough, some of the world's most successful beers are also the blandest and Kirin tops the list. If you want to impress your friends with a clever story about the origin of your beer however, the tale of Kirin Ichiban is sure to do the trick. You can find this beer in virtually every major grocery store in America and increasingly in many bars and restaurants, and not just Asian restaurants anymore. Try it for yourself.


Friday, February 27, 2009

February 22, 2009: Gulden Draak

Last night I decided to drink half a gallon of beer to see how my body would handle it. After 64 oz. of beer, a couple of seven and sevens, a couple of shots of Maker's Mark and a few hours of drunken rambling late into the morning, my body is definitely feeling the strain today. When I was a younger man I felt invincible. I was known to polish of entire bottles of alcohol and still roll out of bed at seven in the morning to make it to work on time. Now if I have a couple of strong drinks, I'm almost guaranteed to be feeling the effects of it in one way or another the next day. Right now I've got a raging headache that feels like it's on the brink of turning into an aneurysm. The absolute last thing that I want to do right now is drink a beer. But as we always say here at, the show must go on, no matter what. If I'm gonna force myself to choke down a beer right now, it's gotta be worth the effort. That's why I've chose Gulden Draak for my brew this evening.

The first, most distinctive feature of this beer is the white bottle that it comes in. It's rare to find a beer that is bottled in a non-transparent glass, and it makes the beer feel a bit classier because it's clearly more expensive. The white bottle makes Gulden Draak seem like more of a mystery. Is it light, is it dark...who knows? You won't find out what you've got inside until you crack this puppy open and see for yourself. To my great delight, Gulden Draak was a dark, full bodied Belgian ale that looked and smelled like absolute perfection. With a quality ale like Gulden Draak, the pictures don't lie. This beer had probably the most perfect and amazing head that I've across during my first two months of the 365brews project. I think what I liked most about this beer was the simple way that it balanced complex flavor, with a high volume of alcohol. Golden Draak combined the flavors of sweetness and malts to make a very smooth and mild ale that satisfied to the last drop. It's rare to find this brew on tap unless you're at some kind of Belgian pub but if you can find it, get out there and enjoy it.

A votre sante and Op uw gezondheid!

February 21, 2009: Dead Guy Ale

If you're in a serious relationship, every once in a while if you're lucky you'll hear three beautifully simple words: Girls night out. Wait, wait wait... don't you mean GUYS night out? No, I meant exactly what I typed....girls night out. Let me explain....

Most of the time when I go out on the weekend I'm with my girlfriend, and we have a great time. Given the choice I would definitely prefer to be in the company of my girlfriend over being alone on a Friday night. Every now and then though, she and her girlfriends will decide that they want to go for a night out without the boys. If she's out with her girls, then you can bet that I'm out with my boys. She is very much the voice of reason in my life, and her night out is my license to do all the things that I wouldn't normally with her by my side letting me know it's not a good idea. Tonight's bad idea: drink a gigantic jug of beer.

Tonight I'm drinking Dead Guy Ale for obvious reasons. I mean, look at the size of this freakin' jug! When I was walking the aisles of my local shop I found this behemoth hiding out on the bottom of a lonely shelf. They must have been hiding this thing, because there's no way that I would passed this one by before. There's a famous old saying that warns "Never eat anything bigger than your head." which seems like sensible advice, but what about drinking something bigger than your head? What happens when you consume half a gallon of beer in one sitting? I was about to slay this giant jug of Dead Guy ale to find out for sure.

I consider myself to be a realist, that's why I was sure to take notes about this beer right away because I new that when I was finished with the whole thing, I probably wasn't going to remember my own name, let alone what the beer actually tasted like. Here's what I wrote down:

  • Nice, medium weight ale
  • Slight soapy taste
  • Very hoppy, almost IPA hoppy
  • I like
  • Dark reddish brown color
  • good
Ok, so it's not the most comprehensive list in the world, but I'm sure most of my readers out there can appreciate the predicament I was in. As drunkenness slowly and steadily set in, I found it harder and harder concentrate on my beer, until finally I was simply chugging the final quarter of the jug when my buddies were ready to go out. In all seriousness though, Dead Guy Ale is a great dark ale from rogue breweries. Rogue is slowly starting to make a name for itself here on the west coast, and Dead Guy is in my opinion they're finest beer. If you're particular about the kind of aftertaste that your beer leaves behind, you might want to avoid Dead Guy because it is a strongly flavored brew. Most fans of India pale ales will adore this beer because of its hoppy taste and crisp bite. I highly recommend this beer to all my readers out there, but a word to the wise: don't attempt to buy Dead Guy Ale in jug form the first time you try it. It's a lot of beer to waste if you end up liking it, and let's face it, most of you wouldn't have the stones to tackle the jug anyway. Let's leave the big jobs to the pros.


P.S. I just realized that I hadn't yet commented on the name "Dead Guy Ale" which is probably the single greatest name for a beer on the face of the planet. Sheer Genius. It turns out that the beer was name in honor of the Mayan day of the dead and in fact has no relation to the Grateful Dead, although the beer has become popular among deadheads.

Monday, February 23, 2009

February 20, 2009: Red Stripe

One thing that I've noticed about human nature as I grown up is that every person has their weaknesses. It doesn't matter who you are, we all have certain strange things that somehow become near and dear to our hearts that we can't quite explain. Growing up, my father was like most dads except for his unrivaled collection of campy pig souvenirs and cheesy Elvis memorabilia. My best friend is very much into contemporary/street art and just designed his own vinyl toy which he is in the process of creating. Me, I like to think of myself as an open book of sorts, but there are a few things about me that only the closest of my friends know. For instance, I have an almost embarrasing love of reggae music, particularly the legendary work of Mr. Bob Marley. Not such a bad obsession to have on the face of it, but it's what reggae does to me when I listen to it that's almost humiliating. It doesn't really matter what the circumstance is, if I hear reggae I become entranced. Someone could have just scored with my girlfriend, punched my mother in the face and stolen my car, but if there was a reggae band playing in the room everything would suddenly seem right with the world. I know what you're thinking, and no, it's not because I smoke marijuana everytime I listen to reggae or anything like that. No, the music itself is enough entrance me and make me act like a complete idiot, closing me eyes, bobbing my head in time to the hypnotic rhythm, and retreating to the island paradise in my mind. There's just something about the entire vibe of reggae that I seem to get, which my friends can't seem to understand. My love for reggae music has understandably created a positive bias in my mind for all things Jamaican.

Tonight's beer Red Stripe is just as Jamaican as reggae music, but almost certainly appeals to a wider section of the population. On the sandy shores of Montego bay there are two beers that the locals will drink over any other. The first, rather inexplicably, is the famous Irish stout Guinness. The second is the one and only Red Stripe. I think for a lot of whitebread Americans, it's hard to comprehend the nuances of the island lifestyle. Jamaicans have a very different philosophy about life than your average American Joe, and it very apparent in this sunny lager. There a nice hoppiness to Red Stripe that feels altogether different from it's European couterparts, a lightness that is almost palpable. Is Red Stripe the most innovative and alluring lager I've ever had? I think it would be a big stretch to say so, but the fact that Red Stripe doesn't seem to care all too much about being the best beer in the world almost makes it more appealing. If you're looking for the perfect beer to enjoy while you kick your feet up on the table and enjoy life to the fullest, choose Red Stripe.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

February 19, 2009: Meteor

If you're a French Geography buff like me, then you're undoubtedly fascinated by the regions of France that border their neighboring countries. These areas along the borders uniquely incorporate elements of both French culture and the culture of their neighbors. In the south you have the famous Basque country, which has it's own language and very distinctive cultural practices. Historically, Corsica has been largely influenced by both French and Italian Culture. In my opinion however, the most interesting border region of France without a doubt is Alsace, also know as Alsace Lorraine. Bordering Germany to the east, the Alsace region is a strange melting pot of two very different countries. With town names like Hochfelden, Wilshausen, Schwindratzheim and Strasbourg, Alsace is a quirky little corner of France that is unlike any other place in the world. Today's beer Meteor hails from this region of France, and like the area of it's origin, this lager is a bit of an enigma.

The Alsace region has long been seen as an inferior producer of beers when compared to the regions of Northern France and Southern Germany. If these regions were family members, Germany would be the oldest brother who's the captain of the football team and is dating the most popular girl in school, northern France would be the gifted yougest child with an IQ of 150, and poor old Alsace would be the forgotten middle child that's never quite lived up to the standards set by it's more impressive siblings. Put quite simply, Alsace has never been known for it's brewing heritage despite the fact that it's surrounded by world renowned brewing meccas on all sides. Needless to say I'm not expecting much from Meteor tonight, but we'll give it a go either way. Meteor has a nice orange-gold tint that reminds me a lot of a lager like Stella Artois. I tried to track down the origin of the name Meteor, but had no luck. Some have suggested that the name Meteor was an attempt to link it to more establish English beers, but there's not much evidence to support this idea in my opinion. Meteor has a very even and mild flavor; not too much bite or blandness to speak of. In my opinion, Meteor is closer to American mega-brews like Budweiser and Coors in terms of flavor and weight than it is to it's European neighbors. Not bad at all, if you like your lagers by the book than Meteor is a good fit for you. If you're looking to be more adventurous, there's no need to bother with this one.

A Votre Sante!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

February 18, 2009: Sudwerk

Collegiate life in America is full of many tried and true traditions, some of which have lasted to well over three centuries. No matter how cliched they might be, there are certain icons of college life that you will undoubtedly experience on almost every campus in America. You're going to have your fraternity brothers and sorority sisters decked out in all of their Greek gear for about the first two weeks of school in an effort to recruit new members. You're going to have trouble finding parking for the first couple of weeks until all the slackers stop kidding themselves and just drop all of their classes and spend their student loan money on weed. And if you live in a college town, you're undoubtedly going to find a bar within a block of campus where the students and faculty alike congregate during the most stressful periods of the semester. In Davis, California, this hub of activity is Sudwerk Privatbrauerei Hübsch, a local family owned microbrewery with a penchant for hefeweizens.

A hefeweizen is a German style beer that is made with a high volume of wheat in the brewing process. Hefeweizens are typically top-fermented beers, and in fact German law mandates that all hefeweizens be top fermented. The result of the wheaty brewing process is a sturdy, cloudy beer that's heavier than a standard lager or pilsner. Sudwerk is an American take on a German classic, and the results are actually pretty decent. The first thing I noticed about Sudwerk was the standard golden yellow cloudiness that you typically expect from a hef. Visually speaking, this brew had everything in order, and it wasn't far behind on taste either. Hefeweizens usually have a bit of residue that rests on the bottom of your glass because it is not filtered the way that a traditional lager is. In America, the most popular brands of hefeweizen are Pyramid and Widmer Brothers, but in my opinion Surwerk stacks up quite nicely against the big boys. If you're a fan of the hef's, look for this one in your local specialty shop and don't forget to drop the customary wedge of lemon into the glass!

Cheers and Prost!

February 17, 2009: Full Sail Wassail

February is easily my least favorite month of the year. I mean, when you really think about it, what does the month of February have to offer anybody? My post from the other day made it pretty clear how I feel about the whole Valentines day thing. The holiday season by this point is officially dead and buried, but we still have the cold misery of winter to deal with. For those of us in the adult world, after president's day there is a serious drought in holidays for a good two months or so. And even when Easter does come around, it's on a Sunday so you don't even get to miss any work! Yes, that dark period on the calendar that I like to refer to as the doldrums is officially in full swing now, and we can all look forward to grinding out the next three months apathetically as we wait for the approach of summer. Staring into the dark abyss of the doldrums is enough to bring anyone down, so tonight I'm hoping that Full Sail Wassail can lift my spirits a bit and get my mind off of the looming calendar for a while.

What the heck is a wassail, you ask? Well you've come to the right place my friend because it just so happens that I am an expert in the field of wassailing. Wassailing is essentially Christmas caroling with a few minor differences. House-visiting wassailing is essentially the exact same idea as caroling, going door to door and filling your friends and neighbors with the holiday spirit. The orchard variety of wassailing is a bygone practice of 18th century England, where festive wassailers would visit apple orchards and sing to the trees themselves, in order to produce a more bountiful harvest.

As you've probably surmised by now, Full Sail Wassail is a winter ale that was meant to be as festive as the name implies. Winter brews are traditionally very rich, thick ales meant to warm the body and the spirits in the dead of a cold winter. Full Sail Wassail is a formidable medium-dark ale with some very fruity notes in its flavor. You need to be in the right frame of mind when you take on a heavy winter brew, but something about Full Sail Wassail was just so refreshing and drinkable. One of the earmarks of a quality brew is lacing, which are the rings of foam left behind on the glass as the head recedes. Full Sail Wassail had excellent lacing and there were many fruity notes in the taste, most notably apple and hints of cranberry. I was absolutely taken with this winter brew, and would recommend this beer for all ale lovers. If you're a lager person then you're probably not going to like Full Sail Wassail too much, but it's not a bad ale to try if you're looking for something to change your mind. Another enticing quality of this beer is the quirky brewery itself, which proudly boasts of having a "massive brewforce of 47" right on the label. This one get's a solid A from Mr. 365brews.


February 16, 2009: America's Original Pumpkin Ale

It is written, somewhere in the laws and codes of the universe that fathers are inherently full of invaluable wisdom. For whatever reason, be it experience, knowledge or maybe just dumb luck, once a child is born, a father's knowledge, understanding and intuition mysteriously increase tenfold. When we're kids we'll believe almost anything our dads tell us because in our minds, they're the smartest person in the world. When I was growing up, my dad was full of sagacious advise that I probably should have listened to a lot more. Some of the most important things I remember my dad telling me when I was just a wee lad were; 1. Measure twice, cut once. 2. Get your finger out of there. 3. It's a poor worker that blames his tools and perhaps most importantly.....4. If it ain't broke, don't fix it!

The advice sounds so simplistic that it's almost moronic. I understood what my dad meant when he used to say this, even if I didn't entirely agree with it. I mean, if I were to totally buy into my dad's logic, how would I convince him to buy me that new corvette (sidenote: I never did get a Corvette). If something is fine the way it is, why change it?

The simple answer to this question is that it is human nature to want to improve upon to things of the past. As an ever changing and evolving society, it is natural for us to look for ways to make the things that we love even better. In a field like art, medicine, technology or education, clearly it benefits humanity to embrace the idea of progress. But what about other things like baseball, chocolate cookies, or J.D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye? Aren't there certain things in life that are so classic that they couldn't possibly be made better?

So what about beer? Where does this ancient quaff fall on the spectrum on improvability? Certainly there have been significant improvements to beer over the last thousand years, but how much more can we tamper with it? In a world saturated with literally hundreds of varieties and brands of beer, how do you create a distinctive brew that sets itself apart from the pack? Many microbrewers have attempted to add unique flavors to their beers to make them more interesting or appealing to the beer drinking public at large. Cherry beer, chocolate beer, beer with a tomato twist; countless breweries have tried their hand at tweaking the flavor of the products with varying degrees of success.

My beer for tonight is America's Original Pumpkin Ale produced by Buffalo Bill's Brewery is the perfect example of how brewers are attempting to create a new twist on a very old beverage. Craft beers like the ones produced by Buffalo Bill's Brewery can be a crapshoot even if you're just tasting a stadard ale or lager, so the odds of being wowed by a pumpkin beer are already looking slim. I had some serious misgivings about this beer from the beginning, but I tried my absolute best to reserve judgement until I actually drank the beer for myself. From the first sip, the taste of pumpkin was omnipresent throughout the entire pint of America's Original Pumpkin Ale. There were many fruity notes in this ale that gave it an interesting taste, but the overpowering aftertaste of pumpkin dominated everything else. At first America's Original Pumpkin Ale wasn't all that bad and I actually didn't mind the overbearing pumpkiness of the beer, but by the end of the pint I was completely sick of it. For me the very idea of creating a pumpkin ale just seems so tired and gimmicky. This one example of a brewers attempt to create a unique and exciting beer, with less than stellar results, so I guess my dad was right after all. As you've probably guessed, America's Original Pumpkin Ale is a seasonal beer so if you're interested in trying this brew and all of it's pumpkinicity, you'd better get a move on before they shut down production for another year.


P.S. for the second time in the history of the 365brews pic, I failed to get a picture of the beer for some reason. To make up for it, I've posted some embarrassing pictures of myself to atone for my error. Enjoy!

February 15, 2009: Birra Moretti

Birra Moretti is a crisp lager hailing from that strange little boot that juts out into the Mediterranean sea that my ancestors came from; Italy. I'm a bit of a mutt when it comes to family heritage, as my forefathers came from very different parts of Europe but I'm mostly Italian when you break it all down. Italy is a wonderful country full of passionate people and rich traditions with one collosal flaw; their brewing heritage is about as exciting as trying to memorize the periodic table of elements. No one can dispute the extraordinary virtues of Italian wine and cuisine, but Italian beer is not quite as legendary to say the least. There are only two major Italian beers that come to mind when I think really think about it, and Birra Moretti is one of them.

Birra Moretti is a light European style lager that is owned and operated by their giant nieghbors to the north, Heineken International. There is an alarming trend in my opinion sweeping through Europe over the past 20 years of smaller brands being absorbed by the titans of the European beer market. We've even seen some of the heavy hitters of Europe infiltrate the American market, when InBev surprisingly purchased Budweiser in June of 2008. For me, there appears to be a clear danger of these smaller brands losing a bit of their quality and authenticiy once the become a part of these larger coporate machines whose chief concern is generating profit. As it stands, Birra Moretti is one of the most marketable brands operating under the Heineken flagship. For me, Birra Moretti is just sort of an average lager. Before I ever taste a beer, the first that I do is inhale the scent of the beer a few times to get a feel for the aroma. I've come to regard aroma as being almost important to the overall enjoyability of a beer as taste, and Birra Moretti had a rather bland smell about it that wasn't exactly enticing. The deep honey-amber color of this beer belied the taste, which wasn't nearly as exciting as it looked. The bottom line for me is that Birra Moretti is just another one of these beers that has so little to set it apart from any other European style lager. If you want a standard, run of the mill lager with little to no frills, pop one of these bad boys with your next plate of spaghetti.

One thing I will say for this beer however, is that it has a pretty kick ass label. I just recently watched the film "Donny Brasco" starring Johnny Depp and Al Pacino, so I'm kind of enamored with the idea of made men, organized crime, and whacking your enemies at the moment. The label of Birra Moretti has this really shifty looking dude in a green suit and fedora, who looks like he could have been an underboss or hitman for Lucky Luciano. It's a pretty cool image on the label, but something tells me that the when the mafiosos get together in New York, they're drinking dry martinis or vintage red wine, not Birra Moretti.


Monday, February 16, 2009

February 14, 2009: Great Scot Organic Ale

It's Valentines day today, the worlds worst excuse for a holiday ever. I know what you're probably thinking; this guys the typical single bitter asshole who gets all bent out of shape on Valentines day. Nothing could be further from the truth, I am very happily committed to same woman for three and a half years. No, what really gets my goat when it comes to Valentines day is the unrealistic expectations and insane pressure it puts on every living adult. Valentines day makes every man in a relationship feel like he has something to prove. You're supposed to come up with some sort of grand gesture to show your beloved how much you truly love her. I've never been a fan of forced gestures of romance, so I'm not exactly into the whole Valentines day thing. That being said, I understand why my girlfriend is, so I've decent to make a new meal for her at home tonight and just enjoy each other's company.

My beer for tonight is Great Scot Organic Ale, and I'm excited to try it. It's about medium lightness for an ale, and it tastse really natural. Caledonian breweries was smart to capitalize on the growing trend of "going green" but introducing this eco-friendly ale to the world. One really unique feature of the Great Scot Organic Ale was that the beer had the familiar bitterness you would expect from an ale, but none of the bite in the aftertaste. With each sip I was expecting my tastebuds to become overwhelmed with waves of bitterness that never came. I'm not a huge fan of aftertaste because it often ruins what would have otherwise been a good beer, so I'm really enjoying this Great Scot Organic Ale tonight. This Scottish ale started out strong, but tasted more and more watery toward the end, but it wasn't too bad. All in all, Great Scot Organic Ale is a great choice for the beer lover who is looking for an environmentally sound brew to enjoy.


February 13, 2009: Flying Horse

It's a Friday night and since I got the day off of work, I've decided to use my day to run various errands that I have been putting off for a long time. Anybody who has ever been to southern California on a rainy day knows that none of us can drive in any kind of precipitation. The second a drop of water falls from the sky and hits the pavement, people begin to lose their minds and drive into each other uncontrollably. As a result, my errands that would have taken me maybe an hour on a normal day have taken well over 5 hours today. By the time I get home, I'm beyond frustrated and all I really want to do is sit down with a book for a few hours and just chill.

But who am I kidding? It's Friday night I've got some drinking to do. My wanted to go check out a bar called Proof in Santa Ana, so I decided go along with them. This is the part of the story where I admit that I dropped the ball and committed a cardinal sin for the 365brews project. In all the hustle and bustle of getting ready for a night out on the town, I'd forgotten to plan a beer for the night. No problem, I'm going to a hip bar, so they'll sure have a decent selection of beers on tap to choose from. At this point I could have easily turned the car around, and picked a beer from my own fridge and been done with the whole thing. I decided against this option however, which proved to be a big mistake.

When we arrived at Proof Bar, I was immediately taken with the place. It was the kind of place that just seems to radiate cool, so much so that I wasn't sure if it was really the right place for me. They had a pretty good D.J., were projecting the beloved 80's class "Masters of the Universe" high on the walls, and there were throngs of hip, young beautiful people pouring into the bar by the minute. There are many advantages to living in Orange County, but the nightlife is not really one of them. It was refreshing to try out a cool new place for once, and I was in extremely high spirits until I took a good look at the bar. Proof Bar was one of those bars that inexplicably choose not to serve beer on tap. Why any bar would ever choose to serve beer exclusively in bottles doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but I had to make dues with my options that were starting to thin out before my very eyes.

I asked the barmaid what beers they served in bottle, to which she replied "Um......... I think Budweiser, Bud Light, Corona, Miller, Miller light, Coors, you know, the usual." Lord, what did I do to deserve this cruel fate? A night that seemed so full of unlimited promise was now reduced to a bland variety of domestic beers that I didn't really feel at all like drinking. Don't get me wrong, I don't mind drinking a Budweiser when the time is right, but when I'm in the middle of an ultra-cool, exotic bar, I want an ultra-cool, exotic beer! I walked away from the bar and pouted to myself in the corner for a few minutes, until I saw this young guy carrying a strangely unfamiliar bottle. "Whoa, whoa, whoa... what is that?" I asked the bartenders, and I was presented with my savior for the evening; Flying Horse Lager.

Hallelujah! I gained favor with the beer Gods once again and they've decided to drop an obscure Indian lager right into my lap! I wasn't too concerned with how this beer was going to taste to be honest. I was just excited that I had something a bit more interesting to write about than a domestic beer that everyone already knows about. This is the point of the night when I made my second mistake. I was so excited to the Flying Horse Lager that I forgot the age old art of pouring a beer, and I rather gracelessly dumped the contents of the bottle into my glass without giving it a moment's though. The predictable outcome was a foamy, white five inch head that sat obstinately on the top of my beer and refused to go away. Seeing as I'm the beer guy among my group of friends, they all had a bit of a laugh at my expense when I was forced to swallow my pride, and the foam, and rescue the beer that I almost ruined.
Flying Horse Lager was only decent at best. If there were any interesting flavors lying just below the surface of this beer, they were certainly to subtle to come out. On top of that, I didn't particularly care for the thin mouth feel of Flying Horse, which seemed pretty blah even for a lager. Flying Horse did have a crisp herby quality to it, but it wasn't anything to write home about. In short, I didn't exactly enjoy this particular beer, but I'm still grateful that I was saved from some of the less appealing alternatives.

A la sature!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

February 11, 2009: Bruegel

Ok, so it's been a busy week for me and I'm now like five days behind on the blog. did this happen? How have I not been able to find fifteen minutes out of the day the write about a beer? I guess it's not that important why I've gotten into this mess, but how I'm going to dig myself out of this five day hole that I've trapped myself in. As much as it pains me to come this conclusion, the only choice I have is to make a few abbreviated posts. To my loyal readers I am truly sorry, but I will make it up to you later I promise!

Today's beer comes from one of my favorite brewing countries in the world, Belgium. Belgium is know for producing both fine ales and lagers, and Bruegel is a nice reddish ale with a ton of flavor. Named after the famous Dutch painter Pieter Bruegel from the 16th century, and just like his classic paintings, Bruegel is a complex work of brewing art. There were so many different tastes jumping out at me in this ale that I'm not quite sure how to describe it other than simply saying that Bruegel is delicious. Even for those of you out there who don't consider yourselves to be beer lover, there is something for you to enjoy in the beer. It's rare for a beer to bridge to gap between different tastes, but Bruegel is one of those special brews that can appeal to a very wide range of people. Plus it comes in a funky little odd shaped bottle. Very Classy!

Op uw gezondheid and A Votre Sante!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

February 10, 2009: Mac's Blackwatch

Welcome to Portland, Oregon! Home of stoners, burnt out hippies, countless phish-esque jam bands and.... really great beer? Anyone who knows a thing or two about beer has a special soft spot in their heart for Portland, the brewing Mecca of the pacific northwest. Tonight's brew comes from the hazy holyland to the north, and I'm pretty excited after the lacklustre beer I had last night. Tonight's beer is called Mac's Blackwatch Creamy Porter, and It's hard to contain my excitement. Ales are pretty much the bread and butter of my beer diet, but porters have the distinction of being probably my favorite style of beer. Mac's Blackwatch sounds like it has all of the chops that I expect from a good porter, but I've learned to never judge a book by its cover or a beer by a label.
Mac's Blackwatch uses the word creamy to describe itself, but creamy doesn't even begin to cover it. This beer is so smooth coming out of the bottle that it's like liquid velvet. Mac's Blackwatch has maybe the smoothest mouth feel of any of the beers that I have tried so far. Another very distinct feature of this porter is the color of the head. Most beers have a head that comes out as a foamy white or cream color, but Mac's Blackwatch heads a nutty tan head. This brew isn 't an oatmeal stout, but there are strong flavors of oatmeal in both the aroma and taste. In short, Mac's Blackwatch absolutely lived up to the unrealistic expectations that I had created in my mind. Well done Mac's!


February 9, 2009: Tsingtao

When I think about China, certain definitive images come to mind right away. Crazy dragons, delicious food, over a billion people, origami; in my own little bizarre world that exists only in my mind these, are the things that make up China. When I conjure of these images in my mind, beer never enters the equation. Maybe I'm just being small minded by buying into the stereotypes of chinese culture and not really giving them a fair shake. Tonight I've decided to expand my mind a bit and try a Chinese beer called Tsingtao. Beers that come from non-prominent brewing nations present some interesting prospects from me with the 365brews project. I don't have any biases or expectations coming into the drinking of that beer. I'm a blank slate and the beer stands on its own its own merits or falls from its own shortcomings.

I've heard some good things about Tsingtao in the past, but this is my first time actually trying it. In my humble opinion, there's a lot more room for error with lagers than there is with ales. You can miss the mark a bit with a lager and still produce a decent beer, but if your off with an Ale, it's pretty obvious. Tsingtao is a golden pale lager, and it has a nice bright sparkle to it when poured in a proper glass. Other than that, there's not much visually to make this beer stand out from the rest of the pack. As far as taste goes, Tsingtao was just about average for as well. I didn't come into this one with very high hopes, but somehow I was still disappointed. If I hadn't been drinking beer everyday for the past month and a half, the brewers of Tsingtao might have been able to fool me with this blah lager. This brew is good enough in its own right, but when you stack it up against some of the great beers I've had in the last couple of weeks, it simply pales in comparison. That being said, I'm not exactly not endorsing Tsingtao because if you're the average consumer of beer then it will probably be fine for you. If you're okay with settling for something that's not great then this is not a bad beer. I guess I've just become a bit cynical with less than stellar beers lately, but try Tsingtao out for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

Kong Chien!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

February 8, 2009: Samuel Adams Triple Bock

In my short life, I've had the opportunity to sample dozens of different kinds of beer. If I were to guess a number, I'd say that I have tried at least fifty different kinds of beer(styles, not brands). At this point in my young adulthood, I feel like there are very few areas of uncharted beer country that I have not already explored. I'm longing to take a trip off the beaten path and experience a new kind of beer that I've never experienced before. I have bocks before. I've have double bocks before. But a Triple Bock? What on God's green earth is that? I'm excited to venture into open waters and try Samuel Adams Triple Bock.

Samuel Adams Triple Bock is completely unlike any beer that I've ever tasted before. It comes in a dark blue bottle that looks completely black before the beer is poured out. The neck is wrapped in foil, but underneath that foil you're not going to find a bottle cap; you're going to find a cork. Corked beer? It's the kind of thing that you only find in an ultra-premium beer, and that's exactly what Sam Adams Triple Bock is. Brewed in only three batches in 1994,1995 and 1997, this beer was aged for months in oak whiskey barrels before it was ever bottled. At the time of its first brewing, Sam Adams Triple Bock was considered to be the strongest beer in the world. Several other stronger beers have come around since then, including Sam Adam's own Utopia, but believe you me, the Triple Bock is plenty strong for my liking. This beer is a very deep and dark shade of blackish brown that looks remarkably like motor oil when poured into the glass. It both looks and smells like a port wine when it's poured into the glass, but the complex aromas of coffee, prunes, chocolate and even maple syrup give Sam Adams Triple Bock a very distinctive bouquet.

Ok, So I'm gonna come right out and say this even though some of you out there are going to think I'm crazy, but I HATE maple syrup. I consider myself an extraordinarily adventurous consumer of food and beverage and there are only four things that I refuse to eat. Egg nog, cilantro, pumpkin pie and of course, maple syrup. I know maple syrup is a strange food to have an aversion to, but nevertheless I cannot stand this disgusting tree sap that has somehow found it's way onto America's breakfast table. One of the unique qualities of Sam Adams Triple Bock is that copious amounts of maple syrup are added in the brewing process, giving a strong maple flavor to this brew. Had I been more careful in my selection process, I would have clearly read the bit about the maple syrup on the bottle and respectfully declined on this particular beer. However, I will say that while the aroma of maple is very strong, the maple flavor is much more subtle. In the end I decided to overlook the questionable addition of maple to the Sam Adams Triple Bock and judge it by its overall taste. There's almost no carbonation in this beer, and it feels much more like wine when it's going down your throat. The dark tint of this beer led me to anticipate the bitter shock of a stout like Guiness, but I was shocked by the not totally unpleasant fruity taste of the Triple Bock. It's really hard to describe to complex palate of this beer because there are so many different flavors competing against one another. At 17.5% alcohol, this is an extremely strong beer that is meant to be sipped very slowly. This is definitely not the beer you want to bring along to a party with your buddies for a game of beer pong, but it would be great for a night in with that special someone. Be forewarned, there is a very limited supply of Samuel Adams Triple Bock and it is very much an acquired taste, so keep that in mind if you're going to try and hunt this one down.