Monday, June 29, 2009

May 21, 2009: Anchor Small Beer

Unless you've been sleeping under a rock for the past five years, it's been kind of hard to miss the wave of environmental consciousness that has been gaining steam not only in the U.S., but around the world. Almost anytime you switch the T.V. to one of the major networks, you're likely to see advertisements and public services announcements that encourage people to "go green". Even some of the worlds biggest corporations who were once notorious for the damage that they had caused to the environment have begun to embrace the "going green" movement. As the world at large is beginning to reexamine what it means to be socially and environmentally responsible, it seems only fitting that I should drink a beer that embraces some of the same concepts. Anchor Small Beer is a beer that is born from a resourceful brewing process that I have never had the pleasure of sampling in the past. Brewing two uniquely different beers from one mash is not a new concept, but it is a tradition that the brewers of Anchor Small Beer have embraced and reinvented. Anchor Small Beer is brewed from the leftover wort of another of Anchor Brewing Co.'s beers called Old Foghorn. Since Old Foghorn is barleywine style ale which is a strong ale made from an all malt mash, the leftover mash which is used to create Anchor Small Beer creates a much lighter and distinctly different beer. Two beer from one mash, it seems like a revolutionary marriage of brewing a recycling thought up in the 21st century, but the process actually dates back thousands of years. Anchor Small Beer is a visually appealing beer with its fluffy white head and golden straw color, but the other senses leave a bit to be desired. When judged by their own merits, the scent and flavor of this beer seem pretty decent. It's when you compare it to similar American pale ales however that Anchor Small Beer seems to lose a bit of it's lustre and seem a bit below average. All in all this beer is drinkable, enjoyable and environmentally sound. If you want to do mother nature a favor, grab an Anchor Small Beer and be sure to recycle the bottle.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

May 20, 2009: Okocim Porter

I don't get any pleasure from giving a beer a negative review. Some people get off on that kind of thing. They derive a sick sense of pleasure from tearing down others, but I've never really been able to fully comprehend that mindset. I understand how difficult it is for these breweries to break away from the pack and create a beer that is both high quality and distinctive. I'm always looking for the most positive things to say about each beer that I try, but sometimes there isn't much you can say in defense of a disappointing beer. I tried Okocim's standard lager a few months ago, and it was hard to contain my disappointment. The little slice of Polish blood that I have in me was praying for Okocim to deliver a taste that rivaled it's snooty German neighbors, but it fell fantastically short. So when I was cruising the aisles of my local market in search of new beers to try, I was excited to see Okocim Porter on the shelf. Even though the Okocim Lager didn't quite do it for me, I was willing to give the Poles another shot with the Okocim Porter.

I'm pleased to say that my trust in Okocim wasn't misplaced, because Okocim Porter was leaps and bounds better than Okocim Lager. I'm willing to concede that my preference for porters over lagers may have had something to with my love of Okocim Porter, but there was another intangible about this beer that really set apart in my mind. First of all, porters aren't commonly brewed in Europe outside of the UK, so Okocim Porter adds a new Polish twist on a British Classic. The sweet flavor of Okocim Porter belies it's classic chocolate brown color, making it a surprisingly refreshing example of how diverse a porter can be. Good news Poland, you're back in my good graces! Sure, you'll continue to be the butt of corny schoolyard jokes that nobody really thinks are all that funny anymore, but you can hold your heads up high knowing oyour country is able to produce an extraordinary beer like Okocim Porter.

Na Zdrowie!

May 19, 2009: Alleycat Amber Ale

There aren't many places on planet Earth that are quite like Humboldt County, CA. If you've ever been there before, then you're probably well aware of what I'm talking about. Pristine Redwood forests encircling suburbs dotted with Victorian era architecture, Old burnt out hippies and rig ht wing, red neck gun nuts living side by side, Enormously large marijuana growing operations almost out in the open; these are just some of the curiosities that you might come across on a visit to foggy coastline of far northern California. What might be less obvious to the casual observer is the burgeoning brewing culture that has spread south from the craftbrew mecca known as Portland, Oregon. There are a lot of different breweries popping up in the greater Eureka and Arcata area over the past decade, but Lost Coast Brewery is probably one the biggest and best to sprout up among the towering stands of Redwoods that surround the area. I've tried two other beers from Lost Coast so far, and both have been right about in the B+ to A- range on my personal grading scale.

Tonight's offering is another from Lost Coast's colorful lineup called Alleycat Amber Ale, and just like it's brethren Raspberry Brown and Downtown Brown, this one gets pretty high marks in my book. You can't miss Alleycat Amber Ale when you're walking down the aisle of your local market. Just like with the rest of their range of beers, the artwork on the label of Alleycat Amber Ale incorporates the colorful tones, disjointed angles and and awkward shapes that make is look like something painted by Pablo Picasso and Edvard Munch's lovechild. One of the things that the brewers at Lost Coast really nailed that a lot of other beers get wrong is the weight of the beer. When I say weight, I mean that it's not overly heavy or filling. More often than not, inexperienced brewers of amber ales tend to create a brew that feels heavy like a stout. Alleycat Amber Ale is one that really balances all of the complex flavors that you should expect from an amber, without making you feel like you've just eaten a three course meal after your first pint. Alleycat Amber Ale has a nice fluffy white head that gradually dissipates and gives way to ample the ample lacing that seems to be the standard for most of the Lost Coast beers that I've tried so far. If you're a fan of amber ales, be sure to give this one a try.


Monday, June 15, 2009

May 18, 2009: Sloeber

Roughly translated; in Flemish the word Sloeber translates to epicure. What's the hell does epicure mean? If someone is called an Epicurean, it means that they are a person of sophistication with a very refined taste for the finer things in life. So the name Sloeber is meant to represent the sophistication of this beer but the brewers have got a few problems, in my opinion. First of all, Sloeber reminds me a lot of the English word Slobber, and there is nothing elegant or refined about the act of slobbering like an idiot. (yeah, yeah... I realize that the name is Flemish and it's ridiculous to criticize the name Sloeber because it sounds and looks like Slobber, but I don't care). Secondly, a beer that considers itself to be gourmet should have artwork and presentation that gives off an air of elegance. The label of Sloeber features a warped cartoon version of a beer bottle wearing white gloves. Ummm.... I'm not really even sure where to begin with this one. I have a soft spot for beers that are kinda funky or kitschy, but the label of Sloeber was a little too strange even for me. If they're trying to attract young children to their product with a cute cartoony logo then I think that they've hit the nail on the head. I'm not so sure how many adults would be into the cartoon logo though. I can't quite explain it but there is just something kinda creepy about the logo. Thirdly, for a beer that has aligned itself with the term epicurean, this beer doesn't quite live up to the name. Sloeber didn't taste all that gourmet in my opinion. In fact, it was just a kinda regular tasting beer with very little distinctive characteristics. Ok.... Maybe that's being a little harsh because this beer was pretty decent, I just think that it wasn't quite epicurious enough for my liking. Sloeber pours a hazy golden grapefuit color, with a thick, slighly off-white head. Flavors of hops and apple dominate this beer in a not-so-remarkable fashion. Overall, I'd probably give Sloeber a B-. But if I was marketing it here in the USA I'd probably consider changing the name.

A vorte sante and Op uw Gezondheid!

May 17, 2009: Caguama

One of the less than favorable aspects of the 365brews project is the horrible dread that hangs around when you know you'll soon be forced to drink a beer that you've been avoiding. At some point, no matter how hard I've fought against it, it's inevitable that I will be forced by the factors of economics and convenience to swallow my pride and drink a beer like Caguama. As I'm writing this, I'm well aware of the snobbery that's coming across with this post, but frankly, I don't care. I am a self confessed, unabashed beer snob. I make no attempts to hide my beer snobbery, but instead wear it on my sleeve as a sort of badge of honor. My snobbery has led me to be a bit more selective than the average beer drinker, but tonight I've compromised my snobbish attitudes and lowered myself to drinking Caguama. Caguama is the one of the only beers that I have seen people routinely skip over at the market, even when it's being sold at thirty cans for $19.99. Thirty beers for $20? Sounds like the deal of the century! That is, of course, until you actually try Caguama and fully understand why they can sell their beer for so cheap. If a beer like Duvel is the Ferrari of beers, then Caguama is like the rusted out old Fiat parked behind the shed in your neighbor's backyard that hasn't been driven in a quarter of a century. Caguama is so bad that it's almost not even beer in my opinion. Sure, all of the ingredients that go into creating a pilsner are there (I don't know for a fact, but they must be, right?), but the end result is something less than beer. For only a $1.50 I had the displeasure of trying to finish a 32 oz. bottle of Caguama, but I failed miserably. I hardly drank even a quarter of this beer before my brother was gracious enough to spare my suffering and finish it off for me. If you are at the grocery store on a hot summer day and you see that case of Caguama going for only $20, resist the urge! You would be better off paying double for a beer like Budweiser than lowering yourself to settle for a cheap cerveza like Caguama.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

May 16, 2009: Metolius Golden Stone Amber Ale

On the journey of the 365brews project, I've certainly learned a lot of things about myself. I learned that drinking a beer every single day is a lot harder than it sounds. I learned that writing something interesting or thought provoking about beer every single day is infinitely harder. Perhaps the one most important, self-defining thing that I have discovered about myself over the past four and a half month is that my favorite kind of beer has changed dramatically. Although there are all different kinds of beer that I've grown to love over the years, I typically considered myself to be primarily an ale man until I discovered the new love of my life: free beer. A wise man once said that the sweetest beer is the one that you don't have to pay for, and those words have never rung truer for me. I have greatly underestimated the financial impact that embarking on the 365brews project would have on me, so I've learned to indulge in a free beer whenever I can get my hands on one. Tonight my friend Matt is having a birthday, and as luck would have it there is a bottle of Metolius Golden Stone Amber Ale in the fridge with my name on it. In a strange twist of fate, this bottle of Metolius in Matt's fridge was free for him as well, as my Brother somehow acquired a case of the stuff from one of his in-laws and decided to give a few bottles to Matt. So I'm drinking a free free beer, which makes it even sweeter in my opinion.

Metolius Golden Stone Amber Ale is a microbrewed beer, and sadly there's nothing to write home about with this one. Nothing particularly interesting or noteworthy about the taste, appearance or aroma. Metolius Golden Stone Amber Ale is just another on of the many beer that I've had in my lifetime, and forgotten about almost immediately after. Maybe the fact that my bottle of Metolious Golden Stone Amber Ale came well after the effects of alcohol had begun to impede the funtioning of my brain had something to do with my inability to accurately assess the merits of this particular beer. Inebriation aside, I'm usually able to garner at least one relevant bit of information from each beer that I drink, but Metolius Golden Stone Amber Ale might as well have a glass of air. I faintly remember a somewhat metallic, acrid flavor about this beer that I found somewhat unpleasant but not to the point of making it undrinkable. The only logical conclusion that I can make about Metolius Golden Stone Amber Ale is that if it wasn't memorable to penetrate the haze of drunkness and register something noteworthy in my mind, then it probably wasn't all that great of a beer. However, if I cross paths with this beer again in the future, I'll be sure to give it a second chance when my brain is operating under more lucid circumstances.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

May 15, 2009: Baltika 7

For those few loyal readers out there who are actually keeping up with this blog, we've almost reached the halfway point and interestingly enough, we're about half way through the entire range of Baltika beers. So far my opinion of the Baltika beers has been split, with the official count being three that I enjoyed, and two that I did not. Tonight's beer is Baltika 7 which is their "European Style Export Lager", and could tip the scales either into the direction of superiority or mediocrity. I found the concept of creating a "European Style Export Lager" to be pretty curious for a number of reasons. Essentially by aiming to create a "European Style Export Lager", the brewers at Baltika are admitting to attempting to try to emulate other popular European lagers like Heineken or Stella Artois. Baltika is by definition already a European export lager. Why create a lager and call it "European style export lager"? My guess is that after Baltika 6, they started runnning out of ideas for new kinds of beer to produce (just kidding). Another strange feature of Baltika 7 is the opening mechanism which is an odd sort of pull tab that peels back to reveal a plastic top that simply pops off. It's almost as if the concept of the bottle cap wasn't interesting enough for Baltika 7, so they tried to create something original like the swing top on a bottle of Grolsch. Again, this seemed like an attempt to copy conventions of a more popular export lager, but without the same results.

As far as the taste goes, Baltika 7 isn't half bad. As you would expect from a beer that seeks to imitate other popular european lagers, Baltika 7 is a very mild, evenly flavored beer that doesn't stray too far from the predictable formula of european lager. While Baltika 7 isn't doing anything groundbreaking, it is essentially an exact copy of a recipe that has proven to be wildly successful with beer drinkers alll around the world. Baltika 7 if a whitish gold color with a minimal head, scents of hops, flower and grain, and a light hoppy taste that tastes a bit more watered down than your typical "European Style Export Lager" but not really enough to take away from the taste. All in all, Baltika 7 gets a thumbs up from me despite it's lack of character or originality.

Budem Zdrovy!


May 14, 2009: Hurricane High Gravity

Tonight was one of those nights when I suddenly realized that it was almost midnight, I hadn't had my beer for the night yet, and my beer drawer was completely empty. D'oh! You'd think that I would be on top of things enough by this point to have created some sort of system by which I was never without a new beer when I need one, but no. It turns out that I still haven't learned my lesson, and I found myself sitting around with no beer and few options. Normally I prefer to buy my beers from specialty shops that carry a wide selection of quality beers and interesting microbrews, but tonight I'm heading down to Ralph's and I'm looking to buy whatever I can find quickly and on the cheap. As I'm walking down the beer aisle, my heart is beginning to sink. Newcastle? done. Tecate? done. Corona?, not tonight. Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit. That's all that is going through my mind at this point. I've either had most of the beers that they have to offer or I'm not willing to be overcharged for an inferior beer that I know I almost certainly not going to enjoy. Could I possibly miss a day because of my own pride and stupidity? Just as I'm about to give up hope, I see a shining silver beacon of hope glistening in the corner of my eye; Hurricane High Gravity Lager.
Hurricane High Gravity is perhaps the epitome of the last resort when it comes to beer. No one likes Hurricane High Gravity except for hopeless old drunks and cheap bastards. I like to think of myself as fitting more into the latter category, although this blog is probably evidence that I fit into the first category as well. Hurricane High Gravity is terrible. I mean aboslutely god awful, tastes like someone pissed in your beer can when you weren't looking, wouldn't even drink it if your wife had just left you and your dog just died. pours a sickly pale yellow, but no one pours this beer into a glass. This is the kind of beer that you slam straight from the can as you try to hold your breath and gulp it all down before your tastebuds realize what is going on. You know when your walking down the street in a place like downtown Los Angeles and you see a dirty old bum on the streets sipping on something from a paper bag? I'd be willing to bet you ten to one that it's Hurricane High Gravity Lager in that bag (or maybe Steel Reserve). This was my very first, and very last time drinking Hurricane High Gravity Lager. Consume at your own risk!


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

May 13, 2009: Strawberry Blonde Ale

Strawberries are without a doubt one of the most popular fruits in the world. Few other fruits are as universally celebrated as the strawberry, so here are some fun facts about everyone's favorite berry, the strawberry!

* Contrary to popular belief, strawberries are not actually fruit. Since it is derived not from the ovaries of the plant but from a structure called the hypanthium.

* Strawberries as we know them were first grown in the 18th century in Europe by accidentally crossing the species Fragaria Virginiana from America with Fragaria Chiloensis from Chile.

*Strawberries are equally as popular with the insect world as they are with the human world, with over 200 species (or pests) known to feast on this false fruit around the world.

*The United States is the leading producer of Strawberries annually, harvesting more than three times as much as the nearest competitor Russia.

* Many people exhibit an anaphylactic allergy to strawberries, which research suggests may be related to the brilliant red pigment of the fruit.

The overwhelming popularity of strawberries have led many people to combine it's sweet flavor with many foods and drinks. Strawberry jam is far and away the best selling of all jams in America. Strawberry Lemonade has become a popular summertime alternative to the standard lemonade that we've all grown so accustomed to. It only makes sense that someone would eventually come up with the idea to combine the popular flavor of strawberry, with the globally popular beverage of beer. Tonight I'm drinking Strawberry Blonde Ale which is a bold experiment that combines these two flavors in a very interesting way. Strawberry Blonde Ale is a play on words; strawberry blond being a common name for a reddish blond hair color, and the strawberry flavor being added to the classic blond ale to create, you guessed it, Strawberry Blonde Ale. I've gone on record in the past stating my dislike of fruity beers, but it's beers like Strawberry Blonde Ale that make me reconsider my position from time to time. The thing about Strawberry Blonde Ale that I really like was that I could tell the ale itself was well made. What I mean is if you took out the added strawberry flavor, you would still have a decent blond ale to enjoy. In the case of Strawberry Blonde Ale, the added fruity flavor is done just subtly enough to make this one interesting and refreshing. If you're looking for a beer with a little something extra to pique your interest then look no further than Strawberry Blonde Ale.


May 12, 2009: Foster's Premium Ale

The word premium is thrown around a lot these days. Often we see it in advertising taglines, which are meant to draw us in, to make us want to spend our hard earned money on a product. Webster's dictionary defines the word "premium" when used as an adjective as being "of exceptional quality or greater value than others of its kind". Logic dictates that labeling something as premium would mean that it is of superior quality, but the world of advertising and marketing is almost completely devoid of logic. After all, who would logically decide to spend their money on an item like beer that is not essential to human survival (For most people anyway. I think I would probably shrivel up and die in a world without beer)? Foster's Premium Ale is a great example of how marketing geniuses have bastardized a once perfectly acceptable adjective like "premium" and reduced it to a word of little to no value. There is nothing premium about Foster's Premium Ale. In fact, a more accurate adjective for Foster's Premium Ale would be something like disappointing, substandard, boring, bland, fetid, lazy, uninspired, cheap or simply pathetic. I've had worse beers than Foster's Premium Ale, but I can't remember a beer that used such a blatantly unappropriate adjective to describe their product. I don't necessarily blame Foster's for misusing the word premium. As I said earlier, the word premium is thrown around so often in adversting nowadays that most people simply skip over it as if it's not even there.

I think that it is time to bring some truth back to marketing and advertising. Since Foster's Premium Ale is not what I or any other beer enthusist would consider premium, I hereby nominate a new adjective to describe the taste and quality of this beer. I think Foster's Terrible Ale is a more appropriate name, and I recently sent an email to the good people at Foster's to inform them of my suggestion for the name change. No word yet from Foster's, but watch this space to check up on the official status of my suggestion (don't hold your breath).