This ale is the partner to Lake Placid's 46'er reviewed last month. It is a fine ale but hard to pin-point for style. At 7%, it is like a low-hopped strong US brown or even a weak Belgian dark strong beer. At its heart it is a big malty brew with some definite notes of chocolate and even a bit of a plum note in the middle. Dandy. $7.99 US or so at upstate NY grocery stores for a six.
I am on the road this week in New England, gathering some information and ales for future postings so I have been pleased to receive a few emails that can spark some activity around here - including the offer of a Norwegian columnist! That would be excellent.
In one email, I received this cry for help from Roger in California who is a new blogger and who has just returned from a trip to England. He writes:
We were amazed at the variety and quality of the English ales. Over the course of the entire trip I don't believe we had a single bad glass of beer, and there were some truly amazing ones...Unfortunately, what I've found upon returning to the US is that I can't drink American beers. I haven't tried everything, obviously, but out of both the local brewery in Fort Bragg, who's beer I liked, and several types of bottled beers, everything I've had has tasted nasty, skunky and BITTER.This is a "Beer Abby" moment if ever I saw one and I am glad to report to Roger that he is in the heartland of one of the great brewing regions of the world. The entire US west coast is home to many fine brewers whose brews will blow your mind, Roger. Find beers by Rogue from Oregon and Stone from California and start there. You may have to learn a bit about hops, how to avoid the cheap, dreaded but pervasive Mt. Hood variety and how to embrace US varietals like Willamette and Cascade.
One word of caution. English ales are among the lightest in alcohol content of any in the world due to decades of taxation based on strength. Conversely, Californians are the kings of the big beer. Make sure you know your milds from your imperial double IPAs. But enjoy as you edjificate yourself and feel free to post here or send a link as you explore your region's great ales.
A pal brought a 12 of this back from the States the other week. If one skips the border fees - as HE did - it was under 15 CND for the case. It is a well-made brew with a good measure of pale malt graininess but, compared to other north-eastern pale ales I might choose, like Shipyard Export Ale from Portland Maine, it is a bit too, well, "regular" - good body, slightly sweet, moderately hopped and . It is not really assertive one way or the other - but it is an American pale ale and not a IPA so that is to be expected. It likes being pulled icy from the fridge or warm from the case. There is a little dirtiness to the bitterness that makes me fear the presence of Mt. Hood hops. No good ever came of Mt. Hood. It would be interesting to compare to a Sam Adams Boston Ale which I think would not withstand the test. Well made but a little less adventurous than I like. A great choice to put in the fridge to introduce friends to good pal ales.
You may see at the right in "other links" a post on very own correspondent Ale-Fan's new beer named after an Albanian prince from the Middle Ages. He's made the press in Albania, too. Here is a clip from the website Albanian Mail:
NÃ«se birra tÃ« tilla si "Fosters", "Kronenbourg", "Stella", etj. nuk janÃ« aq tÃ« forta pÃ«r ty, atÃ«herÃ« porosit njÃ« "Skenderbeg"! Provo njÃ« birrÃ« tÃ« fortÃ« pÃ«r burra tÃ« fortÃ«! "Skenderbeg" sapo ka filluar tÃ« dalÃ« nga fermentimi nÃ« njÃ« nga fabrikat angleze tÃ« birrÃ«s, por nuk Ã«shtÃ« Ã§udi qÃ« ajo sÃ« shpejti tÃ« pushtojÃ« tregun vendas. TÃ« paktÃ«n kÃ«shtu shpresojnÃ« autorÃ«t e kÃ«tij projekti. "Skenderbeg" nuk Ã«shtÃ« thjeshtÃ« njÃ« emÃ«r i ri, por Ã«shtÃ« njÃ« birrÃ« e veÃ§antÃ«, e zezÃ« dhe e fortÃ« (5,5% alkool). Ajo ka njÃ« shije qÃ« mund tÃ« pÃ«rngjajÃ« me birrÃ«n e zezÃ« belge "De Koninck". Kompania "Beer2go" ka nxjerrÃ« nÃ« shitje shishet e para me emrin e ri, fillimisht nÃ« dyqanin e kompanisÃ«, nÃ« Suffolk, nÃ« AnglinÃ« lindore.You got that, right? I put the bits I got in bold lettering. While I was once big in Japan, I was never big in Albania.
The Real Beer Blog has caught my eye this morning. It appears to have been brought into this world of woe on 23 March 2005. A mere pup but a great start.
So, I am sent to the LCBO the other day in search of a flask o' plonk and I am thinking how useless the organizations' beer policies are as they appear to have stopped even providing their quarterly new seasonal selections. The last time new beers showed up was in late November. Sad state of affairs for the biggest procurer of drinks in the world.
Happy was the lad, then, who came across these two examples of the Belgian style gueuze, which has been described as follows:
Gueuze - a word derived from gueux, or begger - is a blend of lambics of different ages, bottled with a champaign-type cork to undergo a second fermentation. It ages well.Miachael Jackson in the first edition of his World Guide to Beer describes lambics as follows:"Beers of the World" by G. Delos (pub: CLB, 1994) at page 82
These spontaneously fermenting beers are produced by traditional methods in only a very limited area...called Payottenland, and its atmosphere is held to contain micro-organisms which promote the fermentation of beer without the assistance of the brewer. (at p.117)So they are rightly called "wild beers". I have never had a gueuze before though I have had a fair number of the fruit lambics like the little raspberry number I reviewed a couple of weeks ago as well as the cherry version called kriek... including one instance with the brew 19 years ago leading one Parisian barkeep to suggest that we Nova Scotians and the lads from Gascony ought to take out discussions out into the street. But I digress.
So a little pitter-patter of excitement welled up when I saw there on the LCBO shelf not one but two examples of gueuze. Apparently not as much excitement as the guy ahead of me who I was told bought 30 or 40 - which, pushing 4 bucks per 375 ml, was a sure sign of dedication. I was familiar with the line Mort Subite by Brouwerij De Keersmaeker to the west of Brussels so I popped it first. It smelled like a late harvest Riesling or Gewurztraminer white wine as I poured. Fresh, light and only 4.5%. It is brightly acidic but not tannic. I expected more of a sparkling beer but it still effervescent. It is like fruit juce without all aspects of the fruitiness - or perhaps sort of a cross between apple juice and orange juice but not in any forefront manner. Despite this fruity zing, the water is quite soft leaving a very moreish mouthfeel. There is a light bit of the oak cask in the finish, some green antiqued hops as well as the barley, wheat and corn. It is incredibily tasty stuff and quite unlike an ale or a lager. Beyond lovery. Beer advocates have trouble with this one but I think you have to consider that Belgians do challenge. Recently, commenting on someone who gave obvious offence taking the defence that they were merely being "ironic" - despite the implication of cynicism that word connotes - I suggested that such a use of irony was not unlike the defence of a brewer of a bad batch claiming "it's not off...it's Belgian!" You have to expect the new and strange from the Belgians and when you do it is wonderful.
So on to the St. Louis by Brouwerij Van Honsebrouck N.V. - the maker of Kasteel quadruple reviewed here last year. It is slightly cloudy and a little bit of an orange tint to the light butterscotch hue. In the mouth it is also fresh but bigger, perhaps sweeter with a drier oaker finish. I could not do better than to repeat the words of Naerhu, a contributor at the beer advocate's reviews on this beer from Osaka Japan:
White fluffy head on any amazing amber body. Light aroma of red fruit, maybe rasberries. Very lightly sour and pretty sweet. I can hardly imagine this to be a gueuze as sweet and friendly as this is. Where as gueuze normally tastes like how a unclean barnyard smells, this is bright and cheerful, zesty and clean. Very enjoyable.That being the case, perhaps these two examples of gueuze do not exemplify the style at all. Any input on this point would be very useful for its own sake as well as comment on the LCBO itself. Have they picked only two easy beers rather than great examples or the ur-gueuze? Are they treating us like gueuze mooks or possible future connoisseurs? Neither had any sediment which does raise questions when it comes to Belgian brews.
Gueuze. We can add more examples as the days turn to months and the months to years.
Some scientific studies just seem more interesting than others:
...new research in the April 2005 issue of Current Anthropology suggests that the story of how the food and drink arrived to the table is just as critical to our understanding of the past as the social behaviors at the table. Since alcoholic beverages were liberally consumed at many of these feasts (often occurring over several days), a sponsor often faced the daunting problem of assembling prodigious amounts of alcohol in the weeks preceding a feast. In this paper, researchers from the University of California at Santa Barbara, consider certain traditional methods for making maize beer, barley and emmer wheat beer, rice beer, agave wine, and grape wine from a variety of regions around the world. By exploring the recipes used to make each of these beverages, they demonstrate how details of each drink's manufacture, such as shelf life, plant maturation, and labor crunches, offered challenges and opportunities to sponsors who attempted to organize their mass-production. They argue that "differences in the operational chains of food and beverages helped to shape feasting strategies by presenting both diverse processing challenges and unusual opportunities."I think its about line dancing, shooter bars and the mid-80s but I am not sure.
This is clearly the second worst witte beer I have ever had after the craptacular but generically, expansively called Belgian Witte - the yellow lollipop beer - reviewed last year and available under that link above. Sam Adams White Beer is not so bad that it is foul - it is bad because it barely resembles a witte. No bright citrusy tang of Hoegaarden, no light cloudy colour of Ommegand Witte, no lees upon which it sat or whipped egg head under which it sat like Blanch de Chamblay. It is something like a muddled fruit beer with far too much hop in the profile for a witte. If it is orange in colour, like some beer advocates allege, it is an orange found in an mid-August junior high locker clean out. Yet it is not foul and I never thought of pouring out the bottle.
Beer teaches. At least in the sense that you learn a few things when hunting for beer stories. Consider this latest decree from Vlad Putin:
A ban on consumption of beer in public places came into effect in Russia this month, but no one knows how effectively it can be enforced. President Vladimir Putin ordered the ban following months of parliamentary debates. Supporters of the ban, coming shortly before World Health Day Apr. 7, argue it could help rising alcoholism and indiscipline, particularly among the young. The new law bans consumption of beer in places like recreational parks, sports buildings, educational establishments, medical institutions and public transport. The fine for violation would be the equivalent of 3.50 dollars. Legislation passed in August last year had banned advertisement of beer. But consumption of beer, considered by many to be a soft drink, continues to soar.Compare that to a 110 year old prohibition that continues in part of Green Bay, Wisconsin:
In a city with an image of pubs full of Packer fans enjoying a pint while watching the game, one neighborhood has firmly stayed dry. Not an ounce of alcohol has been legally served in public anywhere in a three mile-by-two mile area on the city's west side where a 110-year-old law still bans the stuff out of fear that saloons might degrade the neighborhood. But area business leaders say the ban has crimped development. They hope voters opt to scratch the booze ban in a referendum Tuesday, when more than 20,000 residents will be asked whether to let restaurants and hotels serve alcohol.Obviously there is a lot of middle ground but it would be interesting to see 50 people from each land dropped into the other.