It turns out that beer hops contain a unique micronutrient that inhibits cancer-causing enzymes. Hops are plants used in beer to give it aroma, flavor and bitterness. The compound, xanthohumol, was first isolated by researchers with Oregon State University 10 years ago. Initial testing was promising, and now an increasing number of laboratories across the world have begun studying the compound, said Fred Stevens, an assistant professor of medicinal chemistry at Oregon State's College of Pharmacy. Earlier this year, a German research journal even devoted an entire issue to xanthohumol, he said. What Stevens and others are discovering is that xanthohumol has several unique effects. Along with inhibiting tumor growth and other enzymes that activate cancer cells, it also helps the body make unhealthy compounds more water-soluble, so they can be excreted.Other recent reviewed hopbombs include Mendocino White Hawk IPA, Wachusett IPA and Great Divide Titan IPA.
Last year I did a side by side of four wittes or wits, Belgian white beers. Here I repeat the inclusion of the elemental wit, Hoegaarden, as a benchmark for comparison with the white in the middle from Allagash, a micro from Maine focusing on Belgian beers, and Blue Moon, which is actually produced by the new now US mega macro called Molson Coors.
- Hoegaarden: My notes on the Hoegaarden from 17 months ago are not very helpful. I must have learned something about describing beer. It is cloudy and light lemon-straw coloured with a white rim. There is some carbonation but in the mouth there is a watery and flat aspect to the body that is moreish rather than dead. There is plenty of corriander that is more green than spicy. There is also a good measure of citrus which is orangy but not in the chewy way that goldings can make an IPA orangey. I am looking forward to pouring half a bottle in some Thai shrimp tonight. This is a standard as befits the fact that its revival in the 60s preserved the style.
- Blue Moon: Click on the picture to the right. As you can see Blue Moon on the right is much darker much more active and, when I opened it, I was struck by how much more floral or perfumey its aroma was. I am not intensely fond of this beer. There is an aspect to it that I find forced or even slightly chemical in nature. To be clear it is no way near as offensive as the Brussels White I tried in June 2004, one of the worst beers I have ever tried and Coors should be praised for keeping the style in its roster. But it is not an A-lister and, frankly, how long is your life going to be? It does share the watery aspect that I think is an important element of the style and also has a nice strongly orangey component. It is on the hops alone where I think this beer falls down. Belgian hops are often allowed to sit for a long time before use. This drives much of the green and acid sharpness from them leaving something of a shadow presence in the ale. If Blue Moon were to have this more recessive hop characteristic I think I would like it better.
- Allagash Wit: I brought a 750 ml wiretop of this back from our summer trip to Maine. Allagash in Portland is New England's only Belgian brewer as far as I can tell. It is slightly darker and bigger than Hoegaarden but very similar in style. It is cloudy a bit less carbonated and carries a big mousse head. There is a notch more richness and even a little creaminess in the glass. More orangely, too, with a nice green note in the middle that is not particularly corrianderish - maybe even passion fruit and nutmeg. There is also a dryness to the finish. Very attractive.
What can you say about a beer that says so much about itself. I picked this one out of the stash, $5.99 USD last time I was south. It is a one off brew made in August 2004 from Stone of a previous standard of theirs called Lee's Mild...which makes it more of a revival than a one off. At 7.8% I am wondering where I will find the mild in it but these things do happen sometimes.
Mild is generally the lightest of the dark ales - below porter, sub-dark and under brown. Big in, say, Wales circa 1910, milds are now rare. They also were a bit of an innovation when they came out as they were a break from stales or beers that had attractive sour tang to them. The idea of an actually sterile and fresh to the consumer beer was very 19th century industrial revolution. I think the only true one I have had - other than those I brewed myself - was at C'est What in Toronto last winter. The perfect session ale. But that one was only 3.3%...or 42% the strength of this one of Lee's. So what will this bottle provide when opened. The BAers give great hope. More in a moment when I get the danged thing open.
It pours a really attractive reddish mahogany with a rich and lace leaving tan head. Good and black rummy - sweetness worked through and dried. Masses of malt with notes of fig, date and pumpernickle with a good swath of green and twiggy hops cutting but not severing betwixt and between. It is just a notch below an old ale or something that might come out for Christmas but not by much. A long long finish. Another impressive big ale from one of the great US brewers.
I'm a fan of Halifax's Garrison Brewing Company and will often order their product when I'm at a restaurant or at the local beer seller. Garrison arrived on the Halifax brewing scene in 1997 which was really a watershed year for local breweryana, with Propeller Brewing Company and the Maritime Beer Company also coming onto the scene. I thought MBC quite ambitious at the time, launching with six new brands onto a crowded local market all at once. Their assets were bought by Sleeman in 2000. Garrison and Propeller, though, definitely had more of a 'craft' image and have appeared to have done well.
I'm drinking a Garrison Irish Red as I write, and the Raspberry Wheat and Barrack Street Brown are other ones I tend to go for. The Tall Ship Amber and Martello Stout are fine, as well, and I've yet to try the Khybeer Moka Ale or the Jalapeno Ale.
Created in conjunction with the Khyber Club, the hangout for students at Nova Scotia College of Art & Design, Khybeer Moka Ale has graduated into its' own special niche. Flavourful nut brown ale & fresh, locally roasted "Java Blend" Espresso, combine to deliver an exceptional taste experience. Just like good art, Khybeer challenges the senses and satisfies your soul.I met Garrison president Brian Titus at a Halifax bar one night years ago - not that he'd remember, given the thousands of people he's met during promotion nights, but I do recall impressing him with my knowledge that Barrack Street was the old Halifax name of present day Brunswick Street. As someone who is quite serious regarding Halifax History, I'm a sucker for both Garrison's company name and some of their brand names.
Unique in the Maritimes (& anywhere north of Santa Fe!), our Jalapeno Ale will cool you down and warm you up all at the same time. Our refreshing Tall Ship Amber Ale is loaded with Jalapeno, Habanero, Scotch Bonnet, & Jamaican Hot Peppers to create a truly unusual brew. This beer is great for lovers of all things hot & spicy, and a killer secret weapon in the kitchen and on the grill.
This maybe a bit of an odd ale. But not bad but at least maybe overly named in full as "McKinney's Triple Chin Irish Dark Ale". For me a dark ale ought to be malty like Neustadts 10W30. This example of MTCIDA is not malty but rather a bit cidery and even strawberryish. This is accentuated by a hop selection with an acidic green flavour as well as fruity yeast. If I was told this was a lager I might believe it. If I was told that it was a fruit wheat I might believe it, too. To be fair, I am wondering if I have a bad bottle when I read the brewer's description:
A mouthful in more ways than one! Our namesake Irish Ale is a very complex blend of exotic malts including Two Row, Carastan, Chocolate, Black and roasted barley. We chose Goldings as a bittering and aroma hop. The bold colour belies the eyes as your tastebuds soon discover that this dark ale won't really affect your overall mass.I really do not recognize it when checking reviews at RateBeer. I will check back on it when I have another opportunity.
Pump House Brewery is located in Moncton, New Brunswick, "the hub" of the Maritime provinces. But is it the brewing hub? This remains to be seen.
While I intend to sample more of their fare, their Scotch Ale was not for me. It may well be that scotch ales in general are not for me, as this one appears to be Award Winning. I even passed the remaining five-of-six pack on to my beer-swilling brother Clovis, er, Pete, and he couldn't handle it. So, scotch ales may indeed be an acquired, hard-won taste. Pump House describes its Scotch Ale as:
Deep amber color with a smoky aroma and reminscent of scotch. Flavors of caramel followed by chocolate. Slight bitter aftertaste of roasted malt.I enjoy whisky, but perhaps just not in beer form.
I am looking forward to sipping this one. The brewer's notes over at the Smuttynose website say this one has 120 IBU or international brewers units and here is why:
After being forced to smell the glove at last years' GABF by judges who declared the Big A just not big enough, Stash decided to see if he would like a true West Coast style Double IPA and went about reformulating. The first thing to change was the malt bill by losing the Belgian malts, which was felt to be too close to the Barleywine in character. The malt additions were just a mixture of Pilsner malt and British Pale Ale malts. The biggest change was jacking the hops up to 120 IBU's as well as increasing the flavoring additions, which was felt to be lacking in last years' version. We kept the Horizon hops for the flavoring addition but added Warrior to the bittering and Sterling in the aroma. We dry hopped with Columbus and Sterling at a rate close to 1 lb. per barrel, booyah!120 IBU!!! Stone Ruination boasts only 100+. I wonder of IBUs, the indicators of hoppiness, are like sound. Over a certain level only dogs can actually sense the presence. Well, not dogs around here. Just me. So the top shall be popped.
It pours a nice orangy-straw colour with a big bollowy white head. It is lovely with a good bit of heat - which there ought to be at 9.2% - but not too much. Some orangey-candycane to the hops. Not insanely hoppy in the spiced sense. There is a really nice heavy cream texture to the ale. That richness at this level is quite the thing. I can't think of another beer that is as big as a Belgian triple while being quaffable. This would be very dangerous on tap. At 3.99 USD for a 22 oz bottle it likely has the best price per alcohol per quaffability ratio in all of boozedom. I am now coining that as the PAQ ratio. Very very nice. Gary should be spending more time with this one.
Freising, Bavaria, Germany. A quiet little town dozing on a crisp Sunday morning, an excellent place for a stroll – and a few beers. Why Freising? For a beer lover, it has the obvious advantage of being the home of Weihenstephan, which claims to be the oldest brewery in the world, and that obviously makes it stand out from other Bavarian towns. Combine this with it being just off the runway of Munich international airport, and it really makes sense. So, if you have a few hours in transit, go straight for the arrivals hall and look for the sign pointing you to buses. Bus 635 takes you to the Freising railway station in 20 minutes, and it runs all day.
First a stroll through the largely empty streets. The cathedral dominates the highest hill, with views of the rural landscape surrounding you like those shown above. Click for a bigger version of the view. There is surprisingly little noise from the airport, more some from the church bells. Downhill again, zigzagging through the old town with picturesque homes and shops that look pricey, but, this being Germany, they are all closed on Sunday. I enter the main square, and the sun is warm enough to stop at a café with tables outside and where the sign tell me I can have a glass of Franziskaner Weisse. The waiter promptly bring me this, and I sip my beer enjoying the Sunday quietness. The beer, an unfiltered hefe, is a proper representative of its kind, no doubt about that, and it tastes good. Still, it lacks some bitterness and freshness that I seem to recall from the bottled version. It is one of Roger Protz 300 beers, but I don't know if it deserves such a rating. There is a church next to the main square, with the sounds of music from the organ and the congregation singing their hymns drifting out to me and a few other customers not attending the service. (I believe there are others inside the café having brunch, too.) A plaque on the church wall commemorates the heroes of Freising from World War I. (Well, Norway was neutral in WWI, so we don't have much to boast about!) I fish out my book (the new one by PD James, bought on the airport that morning), and order a Spaten Helles, also in the Protz book. I go for a small one, as I feel I should have some lunch soon. This beer is not a beer to die for, a rather flat and boring brew. It may be the victim of the 7 minute law, so I will try the bottled version if the occasion arises.
I ask for the bill (amazingly I've managed to get by using my rusty school German), and aim for the Weihestephan brewery, which is well signposted. This is a brisk walk uphill again, past a beer garden closed down for the winter and through parts of Weihestephan Technical College – the brewery is a part of this complex. On a Sunday, the brewery is closed, but I aim for the brewery tap, which is bustling at lunchtime. I find a seat in a vaulted cellar, and order a Hefe Weisse, which is much better than the one I had earlier. Properly served, and nice to sip while I study the old fashioned menu, heavy on roasted dishes. I go for the Brewer's Plate, which include sauerkraut, roast pork, smoked pork, potato dumplings, liver dumplings and deep fried onion rings. With beer gravy. I finish with a draft pils, which is the best beer of the day. A very aromatic beer, as far removed from Becks and its clones as possible. Lots of taste from both the malt and the hops. Lovely.
I have to get back, but not before buying a souvenir pack of 6 of their beers to take home. I even bought a bottle of beer liquor especially made for the restaurant. Have your tasted it, sir, enquires the barman when I ask for it. I tell him no, and he kindly pours me a shot. It does not taste of beer at all – a very sweet drink which reminds me of a coffee liquor. But now I have to hurry. A 15 minute walk back to the station, hop on the bus – and I am soon back in the crowd of Flughafen Franz-Josef-Strauss again. I doze off as soon as I sit down in my airplane seat.
Next stop: Bratislava
I never cease to be amazed by the odd little rules around the drink that are laying around waiting to trip people up:
A constitutional battle is brewing over a holiday beer that state officials are trying to ban because they say its label might entice children to drink. The state believes it would be really awful for kids to see the label on the British import Seriously Bad Elf. It shows a mean-looking elf with a slingshot firing Christmas ornaments at Santa's sleigh as it flies overhead. State liquor regulations bar alcohol advertising with images that might appeal to children. The regulations specifically mention Santa...Shelton has enlisted the help of the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut and demanded a hearing before the Liquor Control Commission. At that hearing this week, ACLU attorney Annette Lamoreaux argued that the regulation has serious constitutional flaws. Not only does it violate Shelton's free speech rights, she said, but protecting Santa Claus is a violation of the Constitution's establishment clause, which prohibits government endorsement or disapproval of religion.Errr...and exactly what "religion" is Santa part of? Maybe some sort of cult of an obscure Norwegian backwater. No never mind. Connecticut stands tall saving the youth of the state from the temptation of beer labelling and protecting their faith in Santa!
I did not see their Imperial Raspberry Stout - just the Old Heathen Imperial Stout and the Imperial Pumpkin Ale. You know, this use of the old "imperial" adjective is all the rage in the US craft brewing trade. It originally meant a honking big stout and was roughly to porter what barley wine was to pale ale. Not stout, you see, as stout was "stout porter" originally a second grade. So as light beers when from pale ale to ESB to IPA to barleywine, so too the dark beers progressed from porter to stout porter to extra stout to imperial stout with any stops in between. The kegs of lights were marked with a number of Xs and the dark with XPs, more Xs each according to strength. Nothing like a neat and tidy little system.
Then come along these brewers who think they can just break rules as if they made them and come up with any sort of combination using any sort of words to describe what they make. Imagine...the noyve. One of these is Weyerbacher Brewing Company of Easton, Pennsylvania - they like to mix good humour with good business. I first met them through met through Lew Bryson's Pennsylvania Breweries and I noticed these two at on the shelf when I was last at the Galeville Grocery. The quart of Imperial Pumpkin was $4.09 and the six of Old Heathen Imperial Stout was $10.60. They represent something about beer and the folks that buy beer that the good folks at Weyerbacher noticed:
It became clear that Weyerbacher's customers liked big beers. The Raspberry Imperial Stout had always been popular, a big raspberry truffle of a beer. Over the winter of 1998-99, Dan took the plunge and came up with three new big beers. The straight Imperial Stout was released alongside its raspberry brother. He introduced the dryish, herbal, Belgian style Triple, simplar to the famed triple of Westmalle, and blasted loose a huge, malty, 12 percent ABV barley-wine, whisically named Blithering Idiot.I like that attitude. I don't know if it comes from who they are or where they are in the world. Weyerbacher sits in the Lehigh Valley. I know very little about the Lehigh Valley except that when you bomb down I-81 from here seven hours or so you encounter a wall of a stone from horizon to horizon that you can't see how you are getting past until the last minute when you turn into the Lehigh Tunnel, shown above. That tells you nothing about beer but it is not like I run another website called A Good Automotive Tunnel Blog so I have to paste these gems prudently where I can.
The Old Heathen could have been called an Imperial Oatmeal Stout and I would have believed it. It's darkness is silky rather than stratified and shale-like like in Brooklyn Chocolate Stout or Mendocino Winter Ale. There is rich creaminess and minty hops perfectly balanced with an incongruously light and large ale. 8.0%, too, but you would never know it. There is a refreshing and moreish core of fresh water that you do not often find with a big ale or a big stout and this is good - this is nothing like, say, the sadly thin Strike Out Stout from Cooperstown. It is quite an interesting stout. BAers approve.
The Imperial Pumpkin is the best of this unique US style I have had. More and more US micros are making a pumpkin ale of some sort in the fall to celebrate Halloween as well as their colonial heritage when fruit ales were far more common. This beer pours a fine beige foam over red amber ale. The mouth is full of cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice - the traditional spices for pumpkin pie. They are far more prominent that the pumpkin which sits below as a rich butterly layer of fruit and which makes this version of a pumpkin ale (other than my old pumpkin porterhomebrew) the best going. Still, it is difficult given these strong flavours to distinguish the hops, malt and yeast except to note that they are all nicely in balance. 17% of BAers say no thank you but this is a tough style to rave about anyway so that maybe is to be expected. I think it is well done but don't know if I would buy one again.
So these two are a great introduction to a brewery with big ambitions. Next time I am south I will try to remember to get a few more for trying out.