This beer is from the Michigan Brewing Company but formerly was brewed in Austin Texas by Pierre Celis who had immigrated there after played a key role in the restoration of the entire Belgian white beer style. The brewery has a Flash time-line on all that history and here are three beer blog reviews of white beer and here are four more.
This ale is an example of a high-end white at 8% rather than the roughly 5% you would get with, say, your basic Hoegaarden. It pours fairly still, golden with a snow white head that disipates to foam and rim. The initial effect is definitely Duval mixed with Hoegaarden. There is the thickness and lipstickiness of the Belgian candi sugar and the heat of a Belgian golden strong beer like Duval as well as the corrianger-orange of a white. There is also pale ale grain, as opposed to just round maltiness, as well as balance from the cloy-cutting by the bitter if recessed hops. It would be interesting to compare this ale with others of this small style. I would buy again. BAers give it a 98% thumbs-up rating.
IPAs (India pale ales) have been a source of perturbation for me ever since I started learning about beer. In my youth – which is to say, up until I was about 40 – I was quite happy to simply drink the stuff (beer) without making any inquiries. Sure, I was one of the first to embrace the microbrewing movement when it started in the late 80s, and for a while there I even brewed my own. But my tastes were dictated by brand more than by style. I liked McAusalan's beers better than Brasserie du Nord's, for example, because they were less sweet. I'd happily glug any exotic or craft brew, and appreciate it in my blissfully ignorant way. It either made me smile or it made me frown (and very few made me frown).
But in all those years of drinking Keith's, neither I nor anyone I knew ever though to ask "why is it called 'India pale ale'?" It was only much later in life, when I developed a taste for wine and more refined beers, that I even began to wonder how a pilsner differed from a lager or how an ale differed from a beer. And of course, what makes an IPA an IPA.
In case you're wondering, the short answer is this: back in the old days of British colonial India, beer was sent all the way from the British Isles to the subcontinent by ship, which could take up to five months. By the time it got there, it was usually spoiled (or, as they would have said, "spoilt"). Someone realized that if they brewed the beer with an extra dose of hops, that it stood a better chance of withstanding the long voyage. They were right, and India pale ales were born. (Note: this is also how port and sherry were invented, except they were going in the other direction; from Portugal and Spain to the British Isles.)
The primary characteristic of an IPA, then, is a strong and bitter hop flavour. So much for Alexander Keith's – it is no more distinctive than any other big Canadian domestic brew. Such beers are differentiated only by marketing. In fact, our own Good Beer Blog host Alan has rightly called Keith's "The IPA that isn't an IPA."
Happily, there has been resurgence in interest in IPAs lately, which is evidenced by some of the recent product launches from various smaller breweries. I recently tried two, side by side. One from Sleeman Brewing in Ontario (arguably, not really a small brewery) and one from the tiny Quebec brewery L'Alchimiste.
St. Bernardus: Pater 6, Prior 8, Abbot 12, St Bernardus Triple and Watou Triple. This set is on sale at the LCBO as a Christmas Gift pack.Click for the big picture. Realistically this represents five sessions with company. It also does not include my Belgian and French Christmas ale collection, the US winter ale collection and number of English vintage ales. The stash has never looked finer. Reviews to follow over the next few weeks.
Brewery Ommegang: Ommegang Dubbel and Hennepin Saison. From Cooperstown, NY.
Abbey Affligem: Blond, Dubbel and Triple. Abbey ales but not Trappist.
Westmalle: Dubbel and Triple. Genuine Trappist ales.
Four Trappists: Orval, Achel Brown, Rochefort 8 and Chimay Triple.
Two Saisons: Saison Dupont and Foret Organic
Other US: Stoudt's Abbey Double and Celis Grand Cru.
Well, not exactly the nation but a big chunk of the the nationalised brewing infrastructure by name of the Fujian Sedrin Brewery. This is interesting as our reports from the ground in China indicate the beer is poor but the increasing demand - at least from certain expats - is enough to justify a boost in product by players like InBev. Interestingly, the New York Times reports:
Marianne Amssoms, a spokeswoman for InBev declined to comment on the negotiations for Fujian Sedrin. Officials at Fujian Sedrin could not be reached for comment, the newspaper said.Fascinating reportage.
You guys are getting busy so, as I sip a Westmalle triple from the winter release at the LCBO, my first in fact, I dip into the mailbag.
- This week I received an email from Joe in Winnipeg about a beer he had to tell me about:
Hey Alan. Here is the review of Fort Garry dark ale. An easy drinking dark with a slight nutty aftertaste, but thats only when you have a pint from the pub. From the bottle it tends to be more suttle. Nice sweetness to it with just the right amount of hops. Good maltiness to it too. To look at this beer you would think it was coffee, thats how dark this beer is.One of the things I would like to encourage each of you to take on to yourselves is the right to notice taste and like what you like. Jim likes this one and now I want to try it, too. Sadly, the LCBO does not stock a lot of beers despite being the biggest buyer of product on this planet.
- In the snailmail department, Knut of Norway, sent me an envelope stuffed with paraphernalia ale-kind from London, England. Some may think that this sort of ephemeral print matter is the stuff of waste paper baskets but for me it is gold. I especially like the 18 page 3 inch by 12 inch menu entiled "the taste of wetherspoon" (all low caps in a very Wallpapery way). Wetherspoon is a UK pub chain and offers 50-ish real ales with rather natty descriptions such as:
ringwood fortyniner 4.9% abv Also available in Scotland and N. IrelandExcept for that unexpected comma, a natty bit of prose. Feel free to send me other packets bound in string with the coasters and menus you find here and there.
ringwood brewery ltd. ringwood. hampshire. est. 1978
A supurb, moreish beer, with a well-balanced blend of malt and hops leading to a refreshing and distinctive fruity finish and aroma.
Hops used: Challenger, Goldings and Progress
- Last but not least, the citizenry of the nation grows by leaps and bounds, now numbering 39 souls. Please feel free to become one with us as, of course, there are no material benefits befitting the lack of any real obligations.
Joshua Day of Old Snowmass in Colorado wrote a letter to the editor of the Aspen Daily News about his personal relationship with and love of beer:
I recently read a story written by Mark Twain in 1917 wherein he states the similar situation cigar smokers face: "Each man's own preference is the only standard for him, the only one which he can accept, the only one which can command him." Of course this line applies to much more than just the hedonistic rituals of beer drinking and tobacco consumption (of those that come most readily to mind are religion, music, make of truck, politics, sports teams, women and best breed of canine) but also provides a healthy/reconstructive path of thought for the individual who always purports to know the most out of a crowded room of people. And it fits the beer-drinking problem as well, to a tee.It is a great essay on a little discussed topic.
The beer pours the colour of varnished pine. This is a good thing. I often say straw and amber and need to mix it up when I describe colours. It is a fairly active brew in terns of carbonation but leaves only a white rim. There is a funkiness to this ale that makes me think of a Legion Hall in rural Pictou County, Nova Scotia and the smell of Moosehead's Ten Penny Ale or maybe even a boilermaker. This, too, is a good thing as real ale-y pale ales are the resort of such gents. The whisky funkiness is born of the bread crusty graininess of the pale malt, the tangy yeast of choice as well as a hop selection that is perhaps not noble. This is a modern take on the model of Canadian aleness that existed before macro-ales took over. It is excellent. Beer your great-uncle would have approved of after a day out hunting. The brewer acknowledges that this is where he is going with the ale:
Our original brew, in fact some just call it "Church-Key". This Stock Ale was designed to be a throw back to the tavern ales of the 40s and 50s...I am simply stunned at the poor reviews at the Beer Advocate. As I have determined that there is a style of Canadian pale ale - though the efforts and investigations made under the banner of the National Six-Pack - it may be that these few commentators do not understand the intention here. It also appears that some pubs have called it a brown ale adding to the confusion. They have a problem with fruitiness in the malt, the presence of a grainy taste and tangy yeast. To many who like beer these things are called flavour.
Sad. If I were you I would drive to Campbellford, go north-east a bit and find the church. Expect something bigger and tastier and you'll have started off on the right foot. Wear a rat jacket and a hat and you'll like it even better.
I am happy to report that 27 folks have signed up as members without privileges (MWPs) with the North American Branch of the National Good Beer Blog Mapping Service, GIS Division. But I am a bit confused as to the meaning of the great wasteland of membership that is the Prairies. It is true that here in the near north, I do not have much access to the ales of Saskatchewan, Wyoming or Oklahoma and so can't write about them. But surely there are readers out there who can fill in the gaps. Have a look below and see what is out there that you can add to the unfolding story hereabouts. You can send any tips and stories to this blog's gmail account.
A few weeks ago I received a free review copy of Alcoholica Esoterica by Ian Lender sent to me by Yen Cheong of Penguin Books in New York. I must say one of the unexpected up sides of blogging has been the wee free gifties that come along and this one is no different.
This book is not the sort I might run out and buy for myself. I tend towards the weighter tomes but the fact that my article for the Journal of Culture and Brewing [ISSN 1715-7811] entitled "One Beer Lover's Library" remains unfinished is some testamony to the state of the collection. So I was quite happy to find this lighter entertaining sort of book come in the mail to see what it might be like.
In one sense it is like a 264 page Hallmark card celebrating dypsomania - all drink stories are good for a laugh. And in the cause of entertainment, some liberty is taken with detail. Organized largely according to category of drink, we get a brief history of beer or rum or champaign at the outset of each chapter. Beer's history is covered in just over a dozen shortish pages so leaps abound and lines are drawn like the one at around 1100 AD between the age of the alewife and the monk as brewer even though household brewing by women really was only stopped by the advent of commercial brewing some 500 years later. But no never mind. The point is that there have been eras and that there have been shifts. What else can you expect in 13 pages? Other than the histories, all is quip and anecdote and quip - like the fact that ten percent of all US rice production goes to beer. No never mind is made by the author that beer should not have a grain of rice in it because this is not a book aimed at the real ale nerd market.
But this is the kind of book you can pick up for 15 seconds or 15 minutes and put down again. No need for a book mark. Pleasantness. It is meant as a companion for a drink or two in company as its plasticized cover might suggest. It would find a good spot next to any bartenders guide in a quieter sort of bar or basement. It would make a good basis for a more wordy Trivial Pursuit challenge or a quiz night in a pub. So if you are looking for a stocking stuffer for someone who has a cocktail shaker and knows how to use it, this might be a good idea. If you are looking for a book for someone who said that they liked the accuracy of detail in Martyn Cornell's last work Beer: The Story of the Pint, maybe not so much.