Wednesday, April 29, 2009
If you're at all familiar with the greater San Diego area, then you're probably already well aware of the little town of Coronado that lies just south of downtown. Contrary to popular belief, Coronado is in fact a peninsula and not actually an island, although it is connected to the mainland by an enormous blue bridge that has become a somewhat notorious spot for suicidal people to take the plunge. If you've ever seen the movie Anchorman, it's the massive bridge from which Ron Burgundy's beloved dog Baxter is punted, sending Ron into a violent tailspin toward demise. Connected to the mainland by only a small strip of land called the strand, Coronado can sometimes feel a world away from the hustle and bustle of San Diego only a few minutes drive away. Coronado used to be a popular resort destination, and the beautiful Hotel Del Coronado still welcomes visitors to this quirky little town, despite the well documented haunting of the hotel, allegedly from the spirit of a young woman named Kate Morgan. Whether or not the Hotel Del Coronado is truly haunted, it's undeniable that there is a kind of magic about Coronado that separates it from the other towns on the mainland. It's no surprise that someone eventually created a brewpub on this pseudo-island and decided to tap into some of that unnamed magic. Unfortunately, Mermaid's Red Ale didn't quite live up to the mystique of the town for which it's brewery was named. I'll admit that since I'm really fond of red ales that I'm actually pretty critical of most that I try. It takes a lot for a red ale to wow me, and Mermaid's Red Ale just lacked that certain wow factor that I look for in a beer. A brewpub like Coronado Brewing Company has a lot more to prove than a more well established brewery does in my book, but the only thing that Mermaid's Red Ale proved was that I overpaid for this beer. In the end, this beer just didn't offer enough to make me want to come back for more. A worthy effort, but in the end Mermaid's Red Ale just didn't make the cut.
When people think of Irish beer, Guinness is really the only brand that comes to mind. Guinness has become a national symbol of Ireland, so much so that some people think that stouts are the only kind of beer that you can find on the emerald isle. What these people don't realize is that like almost every modern country in the western world, Ireland is know for brewing a wide variety of beers. Tonight's beer isn't actually from Ireland, but it's an American take on an Irish classic; Irish Lager. Kells Irish Style Lager is one of the many brews to come from the Rogue brewery, which is an up and coming brewery from the beer hotbed of Oregon. Irish style lagers are similar to English lagers, mainly because they typically are brewed with the same variety of hops. Kells Irish Style Lager is remarkably crisp and has an exceptionally dry finish. I didn't sense much floral or fruity smells when I poured Kells Irish Style Lager into a glass, mostly sweet grains and grasses. I have yet to try a beer from Rogue that I didn't like, and Kells Irish Style Lager was no exception; this is a pretty damn good beer. It's not there was one single thing about Kells Irish Style Lager that swept me off my feet, but rather the combination of several little things done very well. If you like an easy to drink, medium bodied beer that's rich with malty sweetness, be sure to give Kells Irish Style Lager a try. Just don't expect to find a bottle of this beer for under $5.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
If you've grown up in America, you've undoubtedly heard the phrase "Don't mess with Texas". There's just something about the huge, hot state that commands respect. Maybe it's the twangy accent. Maybe it's the almost maniacal obsession with small town high school football. Maybe it's the fact that there are more rodeos than hospitals in Texas. Whatever it is, Texas commands a level of respect that only California and New York share. I mean, who has ever said "Don't mess with Vermont?" or "Everything's bigger in Utah"? There is something special about that that dusty red state, and you better believe that Texans are well aware of it. Few citizens of other states have the pride that Texans have, and they're absolutely uncompromising. They demand only the best, and Shiner Bock is a great example of the unyielding spirit of Texas.
Shiner Bock as the name implies, is indeed a bock. If you can't remember what a bock it, allow me to refresh your memory. Bock is simply a term for a strong German style lager that was originally brewed by monks during the season of lent. Because they were required to fast during lent, the monks created bocks which were much higher in terms of calories and food energy that lighter pilsners or lagers. Essentially a meal in a bottle, bocks were brewed to satiate the hungry monks, and are still popular today. Since bocks were traditionally brewed during the lent season, it was hard to find any during the rest of the year, and this was also true when Shiner Bock was first brewed here in the states. Shiner Bock proved to be so popular however that it was soon produced year round to meet customer demand. Today, 80% of the beers brewed at Shiner are bocks, and this brand helped tremendously in raising the popularity of bocks here in the states. Shiner Bock has the typical rich and almost smoky flavor that one can expect from a bock. This beer can be a little on the heavy side, so don't plan on consuming a lot of it if your stomach can't take it. Shiner Bock is currently sold in 41 of the 50 U.S. states, and I'd be willing to wager that it won't be long before the remaining 9 states follow suit.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Anyone who knows me will tell you that the besides beer, the greatest passion in my life is football(soccer). In fact, I'm actually quite obsessed with it. I use the word obsessed because I willingly acknowledge that my love of soccer is neither sane or even healthy. I do things for soccer that I wouldn't even do for some of my closest friends. I wake up early every weekend to watch a game being played half way around the world. Sometimes I have to watch satellite streams from countries like China, Serbia or Iran if the game I'm watching is being televised here in the states. Last year, I used the bulk of my student loan money to fund a trip to England to see my beloved Liverpool FC play during my spring break. Yes, it seems that I have an ugly obsession with the beautiful game.
Today my friend Ritchie invited me to board a charter bus with a bunch of drunken, unruly quasi-hooligans headed to Oakland to watch the rivalry match between the Los Angeles Galaxy and the hated San Jose Earthquakes. Normally the thought of being crammed into a reeking, sweltering bus with 50 strangers wouldn't appeal much to me, but when you throw in the combination of beer and football, well then I'd probably travel to the ends of the earth. We departed from Los Angeles around 7:00 a.m., and the booze started flowing shortly after. After about 6 hours on the raod, and about fifteen beers, I was pretty much good and tanked when we got to the stadium in Oakland. By this time I had consumed enough alcohol to sedate a small elephant, but in the spirit of soccer fandom, to booze train kept a-rolling.
After we'd finished our case of beer and pilfered a few more from our unsuspecting travelling companions, we we're getting ready to head into the stadium when we were confronted by a group of about ten San Jose Earthquakes fans who came looking for a fight. This is the inevitably ugly result of combining alcohol with American soccer fans who want to play hooligans and act like the British "fans" they've seen on T.V. by picking fights and raising hell. Violence and soccer have always had a stange and intimate relationship, and before I knew what was happening, some bald headed neanderthal from the 1906 Ultras (The name of the S.J. Eathquakes supporters club, which is basically a front for assholes who want to an excuse for a fight.). People began pushing, posturing and generally acting like imbiciles until the police arrived quickly and diffused the situation before it turned into anything serious. To be honest, I was drunk enough at this point to have possibly thrown a punch. I could have easily gotten swept into the senseless violence, and I nearly did before the police arrived knocking people to the ground and apprehending the main instigators.
By this point I had consumed so much alcohol that the game had become somewhat of an afterthought. We snuck a couple of extra beers into the stadium, continued to drink heavily, and watch out team limp their way to a one all draw. It was a long match, and as my drunkeness eventually ebbed away, I felt exhausted and frankly wanted nothing to do with piling back onto a crowded bus with 50 other people who looked as miserable as I felt. It wasn't until I was about to board the bus that I realized I had not had my "beer of the day" yet. Sure, I'd been drinking beer for over 12 hours straight, but I hadn't had any different beers yet. I frantically dug through a couple of coolers that were stacked by the bus and found a can of Tecate, which I drank just about as fast as was humanly possible. Given the choice, Tecate would have been some like 5,300,234 on the list of beers that I felt like drinking at that moment. I've made it pretty clear how I feel about Cervezas, and Tecate is pretty much the worst of the bunch. For me, it's Mexico's version of Coors Light, which is one beer that I refuse to ever drink out of prinicple. There was nothing remotely enjoyable or satisfying about this beer, but when I heard an earth shattering boom only hundreds of feet away from where I was standing, I was able to put this horrible beer out of my mind at least for a little while and just watch the fireworks. This of course was an emergency. I don't not recommend every drinking Tecate unless you are in absolute dire need of a beer, which I was. I don't know if I'll ever take the bus to San Jose again, but if I ever do, you can bet that I will be prepared so I won't end up drinking a Tecate again.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Tonight's post is going to be a short one, because it's yet another Hefeweizen for me and honestly that's not what I really want to spend my time writing about. However, this is nothing against Paulaner(my beer for tonight); I'm just kind of grumpy and don't feel like writing much. Paulaner is a fine example of what a Hef should taste like. Like many of it's German counterparts, Paulaner has been brewed for almost 500 years. In the heart of Munich, the monks who were members of the order of Saint Francis of Paola began brewing in 1634, and it's still brewed there to this day. Excellent bouquet of floral hops and sweet grain unfold when you pour it in a glass, and the sweetness continues in the taste of this beer. A lot of people are tempted to put little slices of citrus fruit in their hefs, but to my readers out there I say don't do it if you're drinking Paulaner. This is a fine example of a traditional German hefeweizen, and adding fruit to the drink would take away from the greatness of the beer. There's a sort of intangible quality about authentic German hefeweizens that make them taste better to me than their American counterparts. Maybe it's the hops. Maybe it's just all in my head. All I know is that for my money, a traditional German hefeweizen like Paulaner trumps the upstart American brands anyday.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Earlier this week during on of my semi-regular trips to my local specialty beverage shop, I was feeling restless and irritable. When I first started the 365brews project, I was full of optimism and the options seemed endless. Back in the early days of the year, the liquor store was my playground and I relished the opportunity to kill some time picking out the perfect beers for the project. Now that I'm about a quarter of the way done with the project, my enthusiasm for the beverage shop has been curtailed significantly. I no longer look forward to these weekly trips, in fact, I quite dread them. It's not that the prospect of trying new beers has become boring for me; it's just that it's such a busy part of the year for me that trying to squeeze in time to pick up new beers has become more of a hassle than a pleasure. I was particularly grumpy and ornery walking the aisles alone tonight, and when some stranger offered his unsolicited advice about which beers I should try, I almost went incredible hulk and started knocking displays over and ripping my shirt in half. There wasn't much that anyone could do to snap me out of my funk, and just as it looked like I might strike out, I turned my head and saw a beer called Reuben and the Jets staring me straight in the face. Just like that, my demeanor went from sheer boredom and crankiness to pure delight.
Reuben and the Jets. Sounds like an epic name for a beer if I ever heard one before. Still the name sounded oddly familiar; where could I have heard Reuben and the Jets before? Was it an old band? Some forgotten old television show? A character from the beloved musical "West Side Story"? I pondered the possibilities for a minute and then it hit me; Cruising with Reuben and the Jets by Frank Zappa. I don't claim to be a big Zappa fan, because frankly I always thought he was a major weirdo and I couldn't quite grasp why it was that he was so popular. But my Dad's always been a pretty keen music fan, and I grew up listening to the likes of Frank Zappa blaring from my father's stereo every Saturday morning as he rocked out while attending to his various weekly chores that come hand in hand with having a wife and three young boys. The label of this beer is a replication of the original album cover of Cruising with Reuben and the Jets from the year 1968, and this beer was in fact released as a tribute to the album some 40 years after it was first produced. Why the brewers at Lagunitas chose Reuben and the Jets as the album that they chose to honor with the naming of their beer is beyond me, but clearly the head honcho at the brewery must be a big Zappa geek.
This beer is considered an American Imperial, 8.6% alcohol by volume and plenty strong. The scent is the highly alcoholic, almost medical aroma of a strong Belgian tripel, but the taste isn't quite as strong. This is a thick, heavy and hearty beer; not for you lager purists out there. It pours a dark brown/chestnut color with an ample head, and the carbonation was pretty mild and even. Reuben and the Jets was really a great beer, which made me kind of sad that the Lagunitas brewery decided to tie this brew to something gimmicky like making it a tribute to a 40 year old album. Reuben and the Jets is a beer that I feel would sell on the basis of it's own merits, rather than relying on it's whimsical association with a Zappa album. Granted, I wouldn't have been as excited to drink this beer if it was called something like Lagunitas American Imperial, but still I think I would take Reuben and the Jets a lot more serious if it wasn't named Reuben and the Jets. If you can find this beer, be sure to dust off your Dad's old Zappa records, kick off your shoes, and just enjoy the beer named after the album, Reuben and the Jets.
P.S. Be careful when pouring your beer, or this might happen to you.
Okay ladies and gentlemen, I hope you've all sharpened your pencils because it's time for a German quiz!
Beer in German is:
B. Von Beerenstein
Black in German is:
C. Von Blackenstein
If you answered D on question #1 and A on question #2.... congratulations! You've earned an A+. If you somehow managed to fail this quiz, please refer back to your textbook and email me about scheduling a make up quiz. In case you haven't guessed it yet, tonight's beer Kostritzer is a Schwarzbier, or a black German beer. Despite the almost midnight black color of this beer when you pour it into a glass, it is indeed considered a lager and not an ale, because they are bottom fermented. Schwarzbier is a German specialty, and Kostritzer is one of the oldest examples of a schwarzbier still available on the market today. First brewed in the Thuringia region of east-central Germany around 1543, Kostritzer is still one of the most popular schwarzbiers in the world and after drinking it for myself, the reasons are clear. In terms of taste, Kostritzer is comparable in many way to English bitters and stouts. Specifically to rich flavors of toasted malts and strong wheat come across from the first sip of Kostritzer. For a beer that almost solid black in color, Kotritzer was surprisingly light bodied and drinkable. This beer defies conventional wisdom about a German lager should look like, taste like, smell like, and even feel like. I really appreciate Kostritzer because believe it or not I had never tried a schwarzbier in the past and I still haven't tried anything quite like it. If you're a fan of dark, bitter beers, be sure to give Kostritzer a go.
Sometimes we all just have one of those days. You know, one of those days where nothing goes your way and you wonder why you even got out of bed in the first place. One of those days where you just feel too tired to do anything when you get home from work. A day where you've sweated your ass off, busted your hump, and have to come home and look forward to repeating the process all over again the next day. Yes sir, I think we've all been there before, and that's how I feel tonight. I don't want to drink a beer. I don't want to do my homework. I don't want to think about getting a new job. I just want to dissolve into the couch for a few hours and forget about my life for a while.
It's not that my life is all that bad and I'm looking for some kind of escape, it's just one of those days. There's a dirty little secret about me that only my family and closest friends know about me; I'm a closet bubblebather. It may be hard to imagine a man of my size and general oafishness indulging in a bubble bath, but for me it's the perfect remedy for a long and weary day. I just set that water to come out piping hot, dust off one of the various novels that I'm undoubtedly reading at any given time, and forget my troubles for a little while. Tonight, I'm combining the therapeutic benefits of a bubble bath with the intoxicating benefits of alcohol, by drinking a bottle of Stiegl in the bath.
I know, it sounds and looks extremely odd to many of you out there, but this is the best way that I know of to unwind after a long day. Stiegl is an Austrian ale, but it might be more accurate to say that Stiegl is The Austrian beer. Brewed in the city of Salzburg, this beer is about as Austrian as it gets, so don't make the mistake of calling it a German beer. Between you and I however, there's really not much difference between Stiegl and the litany of other German/Austrian/Bavarian style ales out there. For me, Stiegl is just another one of the growing list of beers that land somewhere between pretty good and pretty bad. Stiegl pours a clean golden yellow and has the familiar floral scent that can be expected from most beers brewed with Bavarian or Czech hops. Nothing groundbreaking about this beer, but when you've had a hard day and your relaxing in the bath with a good book, Stiegl hits the spot as well as any other beer could have hoped to.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Who doesn't like chocolate? I mean, it's pretty much the world's most perfect treat. I've never been one to have much of a sweet tooth, but even I can pass up chocolate in most situations. Even bad chocolate is better than no chocolate when you're craving something rich and sweet. It makes a lot of sense then why breweries across the world have long been seeking to emulate the natural flavors and scents of chocolate in their beers. Most of these beers that claim to be "chocolate" ales spend a lot of time and energy trying to convince their customers that their beer resembles chocolate in some way, which is usually a great stretch of the truth. Tonight's beer is Young's Double Chocolate Stout, and they make no secret about the remarkable chocolaty flavor of their beer. In fact, it's called Young's Double Chocolate Stout because they've added extra chocolate flavoring to their brew. I know that the idea of a beer with added chocolate flavor sounds pretty questionable, but by God, the folks at Young's are the first that I've come across that have actually delivered a beer that tastes and somewhat like chocolate. Is it like biting into a Ghiradelli bar? Not quite, but you can definitely tell that this beer has strong hints of cocoa throughout. The taste of Young's Double Chocolate Ale is among the most unique that I've come across during the 365brews project. I guess the best way to describe the taste of Young's Double Chocolate Stout would be to compare it the ever popular "Irish Carbomb", the colorfully named drink that combines Guinness stout, a shot a Bailey's Irish creme liquor, and a half shot of Irish whiskey (usually Jameson, but not always). While that doesn't sound very appetizing to most people, those who are brave enough to slam a carbomb will tell you that it taste a lot like chocolate milk. Young's Double Chocolate Stout taste almost identical to an Irish carbomb, but without the strong knockout punch of Irish whiskey at the end. This isn't the kind of beer that I could see myself drinking on a regular basis, but it's definitely a fun take on a classic like stout.
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Ok, so I'll admit that so far the beers that I've tried from the Baltika brewery so far have surpassed my expectations. To be honest, coming from an enormous macrobrewery in Russia, I wasn't expecting much from this company, but I've been somewhat impressed with the quality of their different beers. Tonight I'm drinking another offering from Baltika, Baltika 2 this time which is their version of a good old fashioned European style lager. Unfortunately, Baltika 2 doesn't even come close to the other Baltikas (3 and 4) that I've tried so far. I can't remember the last time that I had a beer that was so bland, lacking in character and downright boring.Baltika 2 seemed to copy the same exact, predictable old formula that so many of the world's boring lagers have used in years past. There wasn't anyone one special thing about Baltika 2 that stood out to me as being noteworthy or memorable. I have a bad habit of drinking beers that I enjoy way to fast because I just can't get enough, but I chug Baltika 2 for the exact opposite reason. I was so disappointed by Baltika 2 that I just wanted the whole experience to be over, as sad as that sounds.
So for those of you keeping score at home, let the record show: Good Baltika Beers:2 Bad Baltika Beers: 1.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Tonight's beer is another to come from one Belgium which is easily one of my favorite brewing nations in all of planet earth. Coming from the rural stretches of western Flanders, St. Bernardus is a Belgian trappist abbey ale, a style of beer that has become exceedingly popular in Belgium over that last couple of centuries. Trappist beers are named after an order of monks that originated to the Cistercian monastery of La Trappe, France. Trappist monks held themselves to extremely high standards of living, and one of their most imporant ideals was that they should remain almost entirely self sufficient. Originally the trappists brewed beer solely for their own consumption, but today most trappist breweries sell their beer to fund various charitable causes. Because of the stringent standards by which trappist beers are brewed, there are only seven offical trappist breweries today, and St. Bernardus is no longer considered to be a true trappist beer. While I don't exacly understand the criteria of what makes a trappist beer, St. Bernardus is definitely a great example of what a Belgian style ale should taste like. St. Bernardus pours a rich, golden color and has a supple white head. Some of the trappist or trappist-esque Belgian beers that I've tried in the past have had up to a 10% alcohol volume which makes them especially bitter and sometimes unpleasant. St. Bernardus lacked the strong sting of alcohol found in many top fermented Belgian beers, and I found it pretty smooth and easy to drink. St. Bernardus reminded me a lot of a beer that I had only a few weeks ago called Maredsous 10 in terms of taste, but for my money St. Bernardus is the superior brew. It's probably a good thing that they don't offer St. Bernardus on tap at my local Belgian themed bar Brussels, because I could see myself spending a lot of my hard earned money on this one. Check it out for yourself if you can find it somewhere near you.
Op uw gezondheid and A votre sante!
As you can probably tell from the archives of photos of me on this website, I'm not exactly a skinny dude. To be quite honest, I've been a hulking beast of a man since my senior year of high school several years ago. Moderation hasn't been a part of my vocabulary for a long time, and I've always had a taste for most of the things that doctors warn you to stay away from. Call me simple or old fashioned, but I'm perfectly happy eating pizza and drinking a nice beer. Tonight's beer is called Torrey Pines IPA and it comes from Left Coast Brewery, which is the brewing operation of the locally famous Oggi's Pizza here in Southern California. A few weeks back I tried their Belgian style tripel ale which I was less than fond of, so I had some reservations about the Torrey IPines PA right from the start. I'm happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised by the Torrey Pines IPA, which in my opinion was better than it's label mate Asylum by leaps and bounds. The most important part of a quality IPA is an excessive amount of hops to create an intensely bitter beer. Torrey Pines IPA was so strongly bitter that I found myself salvating involutarily after each sip, almost as if my taste buds were working overtime, and didn't know how to react to this beer. If you're a fan of the popular IPA's like Sierra Nevada, I recommend that you find you closest Oggi's pizza, order their delicious "Heavyweight" pizza, and a pitcher of Torrey Pines IPA. If you like your beer extra bitter, crisp with carbonation and a dry finish, then Torrey Pines IPA is the right beer for you.
P.S. Drunk driving kills. Sometimes it takes that loss of someone special to remember the simple fact that alcohol and driving don't mix. Last night major league baseball lost one of it's brightest young stars, Nick Adenhart of the Los Angeles Angels in a tragic car accident with a drunk driver. While the loss of such a promising young talent always seems hard to understand, the fact that his life was forfeited at the hands of someone who abused alcohol and decided to drive seems downright senseless. We all know when we've had too much to drink, and it's our responsibility to never put the lives of others at risk when we decide to do something idiotic like drinking and driving. An expensive cab fare is nothing compared to a life that will be lost forever. Please, think before you drink and drive!
R.I.P. Nick Adenhart 8/24/86- 4/9/09
Culturally speaking, the United States and France couldn't be much farther apart. In France, it's customary to greet your friends(even those of the same sex) with a kiss; in America we're obsessed with the notion of personal space. It seems like 98% of the French population are cigarette smokers, but the anti-smoking crusade here in the states makes smoking in public nearly impossible and highly frowned upon. We watch shows like "Wife Swap", "Toddlers in Tiaras" and "Hole in the wall" on T.V. while they watch shows like "La Traviata" and "La Boheme" at the theater. Obviously all of these statements are generalizations, and there are plenty of Americans and Frenchmen who don't fit the mold of this stereotype, but it's pretty safe to say that middle America and French high society don't see eye to eye on many things. Strangely enough however, brewing culture can sometimes transcend the confines of one's national identity, and there's at least one thing that is sure to bring Billy Bob and Jean Luc together; amber ale.
Amber ales are technically a variation of pale ale, with a deep reddish or amber hue about them. Most amber ales have been brewed almost exclusively in the United States for decades. You'll be hardpressed to find a locally brewed red ale anywhere else in the world except for in....you guessed it; France. (Ok, so the Aussie's have developed a taste for amber ales as well, but tonight we'll stick with talkin about the frenchies). I've never really found a satisfactory answer as to why amber ale could be so popular in the states and France, but go relatively unnoticed in other fine beer producing nations. Maybe it will always be a mystery, but tonight's beer is called Fischer Amber Ale and it hails from the Alsace -Lorraine region of northeastern France.
One of the most obvious features that stands out with Fischer Amber Ale is it's fun little swing top opening system that is reminicsent of the much more popular beer Grolsch. I must admit that I have a strange fondness for the swing top design, partly because it gives you the option to "re-cork" your beer and save it for later (which might sound a little wussy to many of my readers out there, but when you drink as much beer as I do, it's nice to have the option of saving some for later), but most importantly, I just think that the swing top looks cool. It's a surefire way to make you beer at least visually distinctive, and it was definitely the swing top that drew me to this beer. So how does Fischer Amber Ale taste? In my opinion this beer was just mediocre. The French take on amber ale is a bit different from what we're used to here in the states, and the formula used in Fischer Amber Ale was noticeably less hoppy than your average American amber. I was underwhelmed when I took my first sip, and I kept waiting for some little tiny thing to come along and wow me, but Fischer kept me disappointed throughout. This beer was a light transparent brown color and had the enticing nutty aroma that has become characteristic of so many English beers, but the taste of Fischer just didn't really come close to any of those English beers. Fischer Amber Ale is just another example of an okay beer that uses some kind of gimmick like the swing top to appeal to gullible beer drinkers. This beer is the equivalent of a movie that you wait for to come out on netflix or blockbuster, because it's just not quite good enough to spend the money to see it in the theaters(if that makes sense). If you just like the swing top like I do, stick to the Grolsch.
A Votre Sante!
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
The story of Samuel Smith's brewery is one of the most interesting and bizarre tales to come from the annals of brewing history. Today, Samuel Smith's is a well respected brand among the brewing community, but few people are aware of this brewery's humble and improbable beginning in 19th century Yorkshire, England. The Smith family were prominent butchers in area, and the patriarch John Smith took it upon himself to relieve the Hartley family from Tadcaster of their struggling brewery. Joined by his brother William, John Smith was able to create a thriving family business, which he eventually left to his nephew Samuel (not the son of William, but another brother. Try to keep up with me please). Samuel's uncle William eventually bought out his share of the brewery, and moved the brewery operation next door, where the famous John Smith brand was created. The old brewery sat disused until Samuel Smith's son (Samuel Jr.) used it to create the brand known today as Samuel Smith's. It's strange but true, both brands today exist independently of each other and have enjoyed great success in their own right. Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale is a classic english brown ale, with a bold nutty flavor that is suggested by the name. This brew has a full, creamy body with very little carbonation that goes down very smoothly. The measure of a decent beer in my book is when I find myself wanting more, and I definitely couldn't get enough of Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale. I could hardly put this beer down because I enjoyed it so much, and it was long gone before I knew it. You can't find Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale just anywhere, but it's worth a taste if you're able to track it down in a specialty shop.
Tonight's beer is another offering from the blossoming New Belgium brewery called Mothership Wit. If the New Belgium name sounds somewhat familiar to you, it's probably because these are the same guys that brew the increasingly popular Fat Tire Ale that has taken the west coast by storm in recent years. Jeff Lebesch, the founder of the New Belgium Brewing Company found his muse while riding an old bike through the villages of Belgium in 1989. Jeff soon brought his inspiration stateside, founding the first brewery in America to produce Belgian style ales exclusively. It's no surprise why Fat Tire has gained such an avid following here in the states, but for me it's a bit of a mystery why Mothership Wit hasn't shared the same kind of overwhelimg success. Granted, The New Belgium Brewing Co. is only 20 years old, but it's still surprising that this exceptional beer hasn't blown up like it's sister beer Fat Tire.
If you're a socially conscious consumer of fine beverages, then Mothership Wit is the beer that you've been looking for. There's a lot of organic beers out there on the market today, but Mothership Wit takes the whole going green think to a entirely new level. Not only is Mothership Wit USDA certified organic, it takes great. I've tried my fair share of organic beers, and for the most part have always been left wanting. Mothership Wit has a very palatable and spicy flavor, with strong notes of coriander and citrus throughout. I absolutely fell in love with this beer, and I'm confident that most of my readers will too. Get your hands on this beer asap.
P.S. The name comes from the nickname that the employees at the New Belgium Brewing Co. have given to their central brewing operation in Fort Collins, Colorado; a place that they call, "The Mothership".
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Coming to you from beautiful Paso Robles, California, from the brewers of last night's beer Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale, I present Red Nectar Ale for all of my faithful reader's humble consideration. Red Nectar Ale is brewed by Humboldt Brewing Co. which also made April 3rd's beer Hemp Ale, and is now owned by the Firestone Walker Brewery. Red Nectar is another fine example of an American style Amber Ale, and the taste is a fine balance of bitter floral hops and sweet malt. I don't have much to say about Red Nectar because today I'm pressed for time, and I don't feel like sitting around trying to conjure up something either positive or negative to say about this beer. Everything about Red Nectar from the taste, scent, mouthfeel, head and lacing is pretty much middle of the road. There's nothing revolutionary about this beer, but there's also no huge flaws to speak of. Whether you decide to try this beer or pass on it, it ultimately makes little difference because I'm willing to wager that like me, you'll forget about it almost as soon as you wash out the glass.
Yesterday I sample Red Trolley, which has quickly become a west coast classic and today I'm following it up with a beer that's rapidly gaining it's legendary status here in California, Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale. Although the Firestone Walker brand is barely a decade old, the unique process by which their Double Barrel ale is brewed has quickly made a name for this independent brewery. The brewers at Firestone Walker adopted and tweaked an old brewing method called the "Burton Union" method. The method isn't some sort of big secret; in fact the name Double Barrel Ale is a clue about the brewing process, which uses aged oak barrels to give this beer it's distinct flavor. Oak barrel brewing isn't exactly feasible or cost effective for a macro-brewery where the chief concern is turning a tidy profit, but for a craft brewery is an excellent way to create a brew with a rich and distinctive flavor.
When poured into a glass, the aroma of buttered brain and sweet malts are instantly noticeable, but not exactly overwhelming. There is a strong honey flavor to Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale which comes as a result of the oak barrel brewing process. Some other floral and hoppy notes are present in this beer, but they're fairly understated when compared to the sweet malt and honey flavors that dominate. Moderate carbonation and a medium bodied mouthfeel make Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale very drinkable, if you ask me (which I'm assuming you are, if you're reading my blog). All in all, is a great example of what a craft brewery can accomplish when everything is done right, and no corners are cut. Today Firestone Walker is extremely popular out here on the west coast, and it could hardly be considered a fledgling little microbrewery anymore, but I give them the fullest props for still brewing their Double Barrel Ale to the same exacting standards by which it was first brewed.