- Pitchfork Bitter: White merenge stiff whipped head over medium straw ale with a light floral and grainy nose. The mouth feel is light, full of pale malt graininess, bright with pear and unripened peach fruit from the malt. Dryish with significant but not overwhelming hopped. Well balanced and refreshingly clean. A very attractive lighter pale ale. Here is what the brewery says. Here is what the BAers say.
- Thomas Paine Original: white foam and rim over amber. Black china tea hops plus fruity malt with caramel and a hinty molasses note. The fruit is raisin and fall apple. Heavier again, clearly an ESB, some way to Chas. Wells Bombardier but just one wee step down that path. Yes, here is what the brewery says and, yes, here is what the BAers say.
- Burton Bridge Empire India Pale Ale: Woah, Nelly! I had a Burton Bridge Porter in 2001 and this is its somewhat nicer twin cousin. White whipped egg white head over cloudy deep straw. Unique Burton Bridge hops along with that Burton Bridge unique tang. The hops are sharp, green and like a marigold-based drink from the blender. The only brewery's hop profile which is beyond my descriptor of the smell and taste of driving a lawn mower into a patch of weeds in June. Tangier than that. So tangy it is tongy, like licking a cast iron pot coated with plain yogurt. [Not really but no other ale I have had could plausibly have that image in the review.] Yet underneath is grainy malt and creamy yeast. Black pepper at the dry finish. Again, here is what the brewery says and here is what the BAers say.
- Duchy Originals Organic English Ale: Light tan foam over orange ale with no notable aroma. Soft water, quite flavourful watery water. Some sweetness but not yet up to raisiny. Some thought of orange marmalade but nowhere near Special London Ale. Hints - all hints. A tiny notch heavier than Pitchfork above, more tangy white grapefruit hoppy. This beer is brewed by Wychwood for Prince Charles:
When the Prince of Wales created Duchy Originals in 1990 it was because of his belief in the clear advantages of organic farming: the production of natural and healthy foods and sound husbandry which helps to regenerate and protect the countryside. Profits from sales of Duchy Originals products are donated to The Prince of Wales's Charitable Foundation, which has to date raised more than £1.7 million.Imagine that! It reminded me a bit of St. Peter's organic. Finalissimo and once again, here is what this brewery says. Here is what the BAers say.
Can these guys make a bad beer?
This ale pours a light tan foam and rim over bright cherry-amber ale. You pick up heat from the first whiff. Check the bottle. Yikes 11%. I thought it was a Double IPA - but no...it's an Imperial IPA. Good thing the Mets and Braves went to 14 innings. Another sniff adds rich greens and stone-fruit malt. Sip. Spicy hops over big body heat. It is creamy yet hot saucey. And a pile of weedy greens. And, yes, its 11%. Wow. Lots of graininess and fruit-juiciness even with the hot hot heat.
This last week was unusual in that I made it to three of Long Island's four brewpubs. Last Friday at lunch I ran over to the Black Forest Brew Haus in Farmingdale to sample Joe Hayes's Hefeweizen and his delicious Chocolate Doppelbock. After lunch I stopped off at Kedco to visit Brews Brothers. The friendly and attentive staff assisted me with procuring approximately 75 pounds of grain for my cottage brewing efforts. The liquid yeast selection at Kedco was limited. I brought home 5 Wyeast smack packs. On top of that I grabbed about 30 oz of various hops.
I decided to brew a batch of beer on Sunday. My intention was to brew 10 gallons of mild, but instead I ended up with 5 gallons of Double Mild. This beer will be served at the grand opening of my cottage brewpub on May 13th.
Don't forget that May 6th is National Homebrew Day and the day of the Big Brew (look on The Spirit World for my short article on the subject; the article should appear sometime on the 5th). I emailed Mike Deinhardt, president of B.E.E.R., to see if any of the homebrewers on Long Island would be celebrating National Homebrew Day and he informed me that nothing had been planned by the club. So I'm staging an impromptu celebration at my house. I'll be trying to brew that double batch of mild again. I'll start the brew early Saturday morning. Anyone who wants to help with the brew can show up around 8 am, otherwise if you just want a preview of what will be on tap at my cottage brewpub, then drop by at noon. We'll be toasting the hobby of homebrewing at 1 o'clock with pints of a wheat beer I brewed in early April.
My friend Daniel and I organize informal Wednesday evening beer outings. The destination last Wednesday was John Harvard's Brew House in Lake Grove. Both Daniel and I are on the short list to join the Mug Club. We paid our $50 membership fee and on June 1st we will have our very own stoneware mugs hanging in John Harvard's. If you weren't on the waiting list already, you can join on a first-come-first-served basis after June 1st. The bar maid estimated that only about 10 of the 100 slots would still be available on June 1st.
I had a couple of beers at John Harvard's. The Barbarian Bock was excellent. I followed that with the Strong Scotch Ale. Other beers on tap include: Bohemian Pils, West Coast IPA, JH's Pale Ale, Altbier, and Pinstripe Porter. I did a quick inventory of what's in the fermenters and saw that Mad Tom's Old Ale is bubbling away. I didn't see the bourbon barrel in the glass brewing case. I'll have to ask DJ Swanson, the brewmaster at John Harvard's, if he's going to bourbon cask condition the Mad Tom's again. I had a glass on of the bourbon conditioned Mad Tom's on New Year's Day and have been dreaming about it since.
When my wife announced last night that she wanted to eat out, I floated the proposal that we drive out to the Southampton Publick House. She agreed immediately. The food is always excellent and the beers superb. The service is a little slow, so we always plan to take our time.
In addition to the regular beer lineup, there were four special beers: Extra Stout, Extra Special Bitter, May Bock, and Abbey Double. I started with the May Bock and finished with the Abbey Double. I brought home a bottle of the Abbot 12 (quadruple) to put in the cellar.
We had the dining room to ourselves so I wandered around with my son looking at the stuff hanging on the walls. I read a news story from November 2000 that said Long Island once had 10 brewpubs. This was back in the late 90s. According to the article, four of those ten went out of business during the same year because of "mismanagement." That's too bad. The four that did survive though are all top quality brewpubs.
Hanging on a pillar near the brewery end of the dining room was a recipe for Phil Markowski's Abbey Single. I had a couple of pints of the Abbey Single at the end of March (see the Long Island Brewsletter #1). The recipe and the beer is based on Westmalle Extra (a beer I've never had). Now I know how to make an Abbey Single, I'll have to brew it and serve it in my cottage brewpub. I'll post the recipe on my web site in the near future once I transcribe it from my notes.
Garrett Oliver, Brewmaster of the Brooklyn Brewery will speak about the co-evolution of the new American beer and food cultures from 7:30- 8:00 and Phil Markowski, Brewmaster of Southampton [Publick House] will speak from 8:30 - 9:00 on the history of modern farmhouse ales compared to those of 100 years ago.
A mahogany ale under beige head that resolves to an edge. Soft water semi-moreish. This beer cross-references both the Chocolate Stout and Morimoto Black Obi Soba Ale from Rogue. There is the dusky dry chocolate of the stout as well as the limey citrus and lighter body of the soba ale. The effect is very pleasant with some graininess and a decent finish of twig along with a moderate not overly sweet nut syrup in the middle.
I had the occassion to share a partnership of this ale with Drambuie - first one then the other - and was not disappointed. BAers approve.
In the area of Poperinge, which is a little town in the west of Belgium, harvesting hops is a main industry and art. In the local dialect hommel means hop and therefore we have used the dialect to give our product a name: Poperings hommelbier.I had to clean up their English a bit but you get the point. This is a fairly small operation paying respect to the local hop crop. The beer pours a merengue off-white head that collapses into the amber cloudy ale that reminds me (with its floaties) of that line on the Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA 2-4 box: "New Chunky Style!" The aroma is lightly hopped but not hopped in either the English or German sense. A lighter version of what you would find hovering above a dubbel, say - antique lace comes to mind. Unlike Duval, there is much between you and the heat in this 7.5% brew. There is milky yeast, green grass and green apple notes and a slight bit of salt as well as a bright vegetative lemony salad greens aspect, too.
In order to brew this beer, we use a blend of 3 types of hops. In addition, the presence of hops in the beer are strong, enhancing its flavour and refreshing, slightly bitter taste. Hommelbier is a beer with secondary fermentation in the bottle. Therefore,a layer of ferment is still present at the bottom of the bottle. This beer has a unique distinction of being a completely natural beer.
The BAers are all pretty positive on this one. I am, too. This would go with a pot of steamed asparagus as well as sauvignon blanc and a fair bit better if they were steamed over as much of this as you could give up. Oysters and other shellfish, too. Good thing I know where to find this in Maine.
In other news, I am having a little difficulty figuring out the jobs assigned to different members of the cabinet in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia:
Georgian defense minister, Iraklii Okruashvili spoke in support to Russian beer imports.Georgia's Defence Minister is no stranger to the diplomatic language of beverages. More from Russia's Pravda which you know you can trust...and now J. Lo is apparently taking sides."Russian beer makes up 15% of all beer at Georgian market. Personally I would have supported the decision to ban Russian beers imports to Georgia, as it could bring more profits to Georgian companies, who produce beer of no lower quality," Okruashvili said. The defense minister was put in charge of Georgian wine exports abroad.However, agricultural ministry officials denied any possibility of banning Russian beer exports to Georgia. "Decision to ban Russian beer will only be made in case if it will be found harmful for health," the structural and economic reforms minister, Kahi Bendukidze told, Vzglyad reports.
This beer blog usually caters to the refined palate, but occasionally one finds oneself stranded on a desert island with little to choose from in the beer fridge. For that reason we occasionally "go slumming" and review mass produced brews. Or so says I, because it sounds like a good way to start this review of Alexander Keith's Red Amber Ale.
Full disclosure: I grew up in Nova Scotia, the home of Alexander Keith's Ale, and until recently the only place where it was available. According to the brewery, they've been making their IPA the same way since 1820, and their marketing centers around the idea that it is an old tradition and "those who like it, like it a lot." That was certainly true in my day -- Keith's was by far the most popular beer in Nova Scotia when I was growing up, but we only had about a dozen brands to choose from, and craft beers were unheard of except for stinky "kit" beers that people made in their basements to save money.
Keith's India Pale Ale, which our Good Beer Blog host Alan has famously referred to as "The IPA that isn't an IPA" has been marketed across Canada for the past eight years or so, and apparently the extra-Nova Scotia launch has been quite successful. The marketing wizards have transformed it into a high-end "specialty" beer, when in fact it is just another mass produced domestic along the lines of Labatt Blue and Molson Export.
In recent years, the Alexander Keith line has expanded, which is rather curious considering Mr. Keith has been dead for something like 150 years. This is particularly curious considering the appeal of Keith's is supposed to be its long tradition. So how are we supposed to interpret Keith's Light Ale, and Keith's Honey Brown Ale? Those are brand-spanking new, with no history. Yet the image persists, to the extent that Keith's official Web page refers to these brews as "his finest work."
The latest invented tradition in the house of Keith rides the red bandwagon in the form of a "red amber" ale. Is it red, or is it amber? Those marketing perverts will do anything to turn a buck.
I had to try it, out of a sense of loyalty to my roots. My expectations were not high, although I tried to keep an open mind. So today, in the yellow light of a spring afternoon, I pulled a cold Alexander Keith's Red Amber Ale out of the fridge, cracked it open, and poured it into a hefty ale glass.
Initial impressions were reasonably good. The head did not flare up too fast, so it isn't overly gassy. However, the head didn't really develop at all -- it turned into one of those loose and lazy heads like you get on any mass produced domestic beer.
The color is a bold dark orangey-red, fully transparent. A sniff revealed very little. A sip revealed little else. Regular domestic beer flavor but with an extra hint of caramel. Virtually no aftertaste, which is a bonus for people who don't actually like beer, but a disappointment for those of us who do.
In brief, as a mass produced domestic, it's actually pretty decent. The color, and the slightly developed amberness put it a knotch above many many standard yellow beers, but no better than any of the other mass produced so-called red ales that have hit the market in the past few years.
As a craft or specialty beer, it fails. It's just too safe and uninteresting. It has very little character for a beer with such a lovely color. It doesn't taste bad, it just doesn't taste particularly good.
That blandness means it will, with the right marketing, be a huge success. But for the rest of us, as long as we're not stuck on that desert island, there are many better beers to choose from.
"...L'ultima creazione di Renzo..."
The city of Parma is quite sleepy on this spring afternoon. Actually, so am I, I got up at half past in the morning to get there, but that is not the point. The bus stop in front of the train station is largely deserted, too, but a young man from Ghana helps me to find the right platform. The 02:12 bus is not appearing, and not the 02:20, either. I give up and walk across to the taxi stand, and a taxi driver quotes a rate that is quite acceptable for a 20 minute ride, so I get in.
My destination is the Panil Brewery, located in the countryside to the south of Parma, where the flat landscape of the Po plain gives way to small hills. It is a pleasant drive. The poppies are already in bloom at the roadside, and the leaves are a dozen shades of green. The fields smells of manure from the cows and sheep that produce the Parmesan and Parma ham. It turns out that this is a holiday, so that is the reason for the bus not turning up. On Liberation day most things shut down (and a fair portion of the population had turned out to heckle the mayor, according to reports). And I will not go into who they were liberated from. The Italians?
The brewery is in the countryside within view of the picturesque castle of Torrechiara. It sits in an idyllic setting with a few tables outside the shop, a dozen hens of various colours walking feely around the premises. The place is quite deserted when I arrive, although the doors are open. In addition to the brewing, they also make wine from grapes from the area, which I take note of trying out another time.
After some time spent walking around calling out for assistance, I get help from Aba, a lady fluent in English. She tells me that the brewery is run by her sister and her husband, but that they are not around at the moment. She presents the range of beers they have - very much inspired by Belgian styles. There is a pilsener, a blonde ale and a brown ale, and there is a stout in the making which is not bottled yet. The most interesting beers in the range, however, are two ales aged in oak barrels and then again fermented in the bottle – triple fermented. One of them is a sour version of their Barriquée ale, which I have tasted before, the other is the September ale, which is brewed with grape juice blended in - a sort of beer/wine hybrid. She tells me that these beers are mainly for export and sale directly from the brewery, the locals tend to find them too extreme!
I buy as many bottles I manage to carry with me, and I really look forward to trying them out. While I wait for my transport back to town I notice a small restaurant around the corner. The next time I will probably make a day trip out of it and make some time to see the castle, too!
[Ed.: Check here for the Beer Advocate's take on these brews. Check here for more of Knut's travels. Click here for Knut's own blog.]