I've mentioned a few previous editions of Harpoon's 100 barrel series: their Union Street Revival Ale as well as the Maibock. The idea is a great one and I wish more brewers would take up the challenge of periodic signiture brews. Turns out this latest one, released last month but only seen by me a few weeks ago, is a lambic. This is what the brewery tells us about this ale:
Brewer: Scott ShirleyWow - the BAers really did not like this one. Great. I have yet to open it and my expectations are already dashed. One guy at the low end writes:
Style: Belgian-style fruit lambic
Alcohol by Volume: 5.3%
Original Gravity: 14
Framboise, French for "raspberry", is a Belgian-style fruit lambic. Made with more than 4,600 pounds of raspberries, 50% wheat at a gravity of 14°p it has all the makings of a great summer time beer. Highly carbonated, it produces a wonderfully pink, lacey head. The burgundy color foretells of intense raspberry aromas. A nice, sweet start finishing with a tart and acidic finish that is light and refreshing.
This beer is deliciously god-awful. Honestly though, I find this one very unappealing - to me, at least, it tastes like someone combined some non-descript unripe-berry juice with an under-carbonated macro-brewed light beer, and made it really, really sour...Dear God. That really sounds unattractive...
[Ed.: moments of suspense are passing...(suspense music plays)...]
Later: Wow again. The "wow" of how disappointing as in "wow, I could have had tea instead." How unlambic. The sour is not as far as I can tell from the souring of the beer so much as acid addition and maybe steely hops - not tangy so much as sharp. Thin and much like a pink under-carbonated macro-brewed light beer. Where'd I hear that before?
Here is a story bound to reinforce a stereotype or two:
As residents of Picayune struggled to cope with the after effects of hurricane Katrina, coupled with boredom, they found themselves in the midst of a ban on beer and ammunition. The only thing keeping some citizens of Picayune occupied or pacified was now banned. As of Thursday the ban on beer has been lifted, but the ban on ammunition will continue until Picayune has 100 percent electricity, said Deputy Chief Tom Milar, of the Picayune Police Department. "It will probably be lifted this week," said Milar. The ban was put into effect on Sunday, which restricted the sale of all beer until Thursday when it was lifted, said Gina Jordan, an employee at Mickey's No. 2. In spite of the ban, access to beer could still be gained outside of Picayune. "They were going to Caston's (in Hancock County) and getting it anyway," said Milar.
A Sunday afternoon on a balcony overlooking the St.Lawrence and Lake Ontario and these three fine examples of American brewing. On the radio, the Yankees and Red Soxs in the rubber game of the weekend's series. Perfection.
- Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale: From Delaware. I picked up a few of this ale last weekend in Syracuse and am glad I did. It poured white foam over fairly still orangey amber ale with a relatively soft mouthfeel. The hops are not overwhelming with their green profile. The beer is minerally even salty. There is lots of toasty bread crust graininess to the malt. Also, a sort of shadow of unsweetened chocolate lingers - maybe not from the use of chocolate malt so much as the combination of pale malt fruit, bitter hops and a modest but rish yeast strain. The finish is dry with a little white pepper heat. A very well balanced pale ale that satisfied even though it is not juicey moreish.
- Stoudt's American Pale Ale: From Pennsylvania. A rocky half-inch of white head resovles to foam and rim leaving lace. The ale is deep golden straw. Its aroma is floral as is the first sip. It is a far hoppier take on the pale ale compared to the Shelter Pale Ale. Again, it is minerally with green weediness to the floral hops. The strength of the hops overwhelms the pale malt, exposed and lightly braced as it is by a small addition of crystal malt. There is some toffee but less than you would expect from an English pale ale or a US IPA. The finish has some pear juiciness and accordingly a bit of moreishness. If this were any other brewer this might be their IPA but given Stoudt's dedication to the big as well as their Double IPA this is a relative pip squeek.
- Stone IPA: From California. Again a similar white rim over orangey amber ale, though lighter on the red notes, halfway to deep golden straw. Similar to the Stoudts but softer with less weedy green in the hops, more grapefruit rind and green herb. They are chewy without being bombastic - as Stone can well be. A bit hot in the mddle, it has less of the salty mineral feel of the Stoudts. The yeast is creamy but quite subdued, just a rich note behind it all. Really nice if you like a hoppy ale and perfect with ballpark peanuts in the shell for the game - even if the Yanks beat the Sox 1-0.
Lew Bryson has sent out notice of a couple of events you may want to get to if you are a little closer than I am, sitting here ten hours too far north:
Opportunity Number One: Next Tuesday, September 13, please consider attending the Greatest Beers of The World, a benefit for the American Red Cross at the Village Hall, in Spread Eagle Shopping Center, Wayne, PA. From 5:30 to 9:30, you'll learn about beer and Red Cross relief efforts from keynote speaker and Anchor Brewing president FRITZ MAYTAG - that's right, Mr. Microbrewery himself, the single most thoughtful and articulate spokesperson for the craft brewing movement (and believe me, I've heard plenty of them; Fritz rules). If you've never heard Fritz Maytag talk about beer, that alone would be worth the $100 per person donation. But you also get a smorgasbord of great food and BEER from some excellent microbrewers: Anchor, Victory, Sierra Nevada, Harpoon, Stoudt's, Magic Hat; imports like Duvel, Hacker-Pschorr, Newcastle, and the broad portfolios of InBev USA and Merchant du Vin; even Anheuser-Busch is backing this with their Michelob line. And you should back it too, because it all benefits the Red Cross. Advanced tickets (which are the way to go) are available: call Olivia Whitt at 215-299-4022 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don't overdo the eating and drinking: if you head over to Georges' (503 W. Lancaster Ave.) for dinner after, they'll donate 10% of your tab to the Red Cross. They're making a real effort on their beer selection there, too: time to show 'em a little love.I often am very jealous of the life of Lew, the man who has carved a career from knowing and loving beer from the consumer's point of view. It is also great to see how that interest of his and others can be used for a great cause. For another take on doing good while enjoying beer, check out Beer Church, a group that combines the social enjoyment of beer with charitable works and civic responsibility. I have been wondering how I might add a virtual congregation of this interesting sect to what we are doing here at A Good Beer Blog.
Opportunity Number Two: If you're a serious beer geek and you want to help out, I've got just thing for you: a rare beer benefit auction. On September 24, from 1-5 in the afternoon, Sean Bolan's (1236 Light St.) will host a charity beer silent auction at their bar on Federal Hill in Baltimore. This is a chance to score some seriously heavy collector's beers: verticals of Thomas Hardy's Ale, Samichlaus from the early 1990's and even 1980s, early Anchor OSA, some big 750s of Belgians, breweriana, and some truly rare bottlings, including one I contributed: what is probably the last bottle of an excellent pseudo-lambic done by the long-defunct Blue-N-Gold brewpub in Clarendon, Virginia. Whiskey-lovers, don't pass it up: I'm also contributing a bottle of Evan Williams Single Barrel 1994 Vintage, signed by both Parker Beam and his son Craig, the two master distillers at Heaven Hill. I've got some of this stuff (and the ever-changing details; this is coming together on the fly, although the participation and donation ends are solid) up on a webpage at http://www.lewbryson.com/baltimore%20auction.htm. Admission is free (a donation is encouraged; why not make it $10?), Sean Bolan's is contributing the proceeds of beer sales from the afternoon (and THANKS to the breweries that are donating draft beer), and EVERY dollar from the auction goes to hurricane relief, split evenly between the Red Cross and the Salvation Army. Come on by...there's a good chance that some of the winners of the auctions will pull a "Year of the Comet" and crack open what they've bought for immediate shared consumption. If you'd like to donate some great rare beers or breweriana for the auction, contact Sandy Mitchell (Mid-Atlantic Brewing News Baltimore correspondent, who's putting all this together) immediately at LNER4472@bcpl.net.
By the way - buy the new book by Lew, too!
I got this note from my man Gary in New Hampshire this morning:
Long Trail Ale and the brewery's family of choices is well known in northern New England. The Long Trail in Vermont is for hikers, and includes part of the Appalachian Trail. Basically, it is a walk from north to south, 200 miles more or less, with the Appalachian trail branching off to the east midway. There is a certain type of youngish, healthy and rugged person you meet at the top of a mountain who unslings his pack and pulls out a six pack of this brew (hopefully to share). I happened to be working on a couple of them the other day, saying to my unsophisticated, untutored self, 'wow, this reminds me of Bass Ale'. My mother-in-law was in town, and she is really the best of mother-in-laws, and she was buying dinner and picking up the tab, so I got a Bass Ale and did a comparison. They do not taste alike, Bass has more ooomph, with tangy hops or something. BUT, Long Trail Ale is an excellent day to day beer, thick and delicious and flavorful. If I had a party tonight I would fill the fridge and the bathtub with Long Trail. I think it would please just about everyone. I have also enjoyed their Double Bag ale, which is also thick and delicious, but has a higher alcohol content and can sneak up on you.I mentioned to Gary that I drove past this brewery on a mad dash to the sea and clams. I didn't stop but I did think to myself that I can't think of a lovelier spot to make real ale, a creekside spot in a green Vermont valley.
Don't wait for your mother-in-law to take you out: if you can find it, Long Trail Ale and the others from these guys will make you happy.
Canadians bought more beer, wine and spirits last year, but the growth in alcohol sales slowed slightly, Statistics Canada reported Thursday. In total, Canada's beer and liquor stores and agencies sold more than $16.1 billion worth of alcoholic beverages during the fiscal year ending March 31, 2004, up 4.9 per cent from the year before.There are only two reasons Canadians drink more - things are getting better or things are getting worse. Beer remains king with 50.7 per cent of the total alcohol trade by price. The report says that Canadians bought 86.3 litres of beer, 13.3 litres of wine and 7.6 litres of spirits during the year. Their total per capita purchases of alcoholic beverages amounted to $623.60. Keeping in mind there are two adults in this family...that's a lot. 86.3 litres of beer is 20 12-pack cases per person per year. That seems a heck of a lot especially as that is in addition to 10 quarts of spirits and 18 bottles of wine for every adult person.
Apparently beer is still big...and I just realized that booze collectively is bigger than the military.
I picked up these four mid-summer down in Ithaca and I really did not know much at all about the brewer. Blame the cost of transportation. Now I know that they have been around since 1993 and have a close to over-snazzied web site with lots of stuff blinking and cloinging away. Tabernash appears to be their German-style line. These four are all ales - an ESB, porter, APA and milk stout respectively.
- Sawtooth Ale: Oh goodie. An ESB. It poured a loose white head dissipating quickly to a rim over an orangey beer - more copper than amber. It is not a lot like other ESBs I have had as it has a big round sweetish caramel maltiness right in the middle, like a balloon in a shoebox pushing other things aside. There is not a lot of other flavours, some citrus fruitiness, a bit of an edgy hop that is not competing well and a bit of heat at the back of the throat even though it is only 4.75%. The brewery says there is some black malt in it which I think is sitting in the edginess adding not a smokey or a roasty note so much as a burnt black toastiness - reminding me of breakfasts delayed past. There is a bit of stickiness in the mouth that I equate with brewing sugar, a feeling I do not think I have ever had with a microbrew. Maybe its the failed toast thing as well in there. A relatively watery finish. I am with the low end of beer advocates on this one...I think. I don't like being this unhappy with a beer. I don't know what to make of this.
- Jackman's Pale Ale: Now I am scar't. Scar't of what the next bottle will bring. The pale ale has much less of that overstuffed bland malt heart compared to the ESB-like object above. It also pours to a quickly forming white rim over orangey ale. There is also less aroma - quite neutral. In the mouth there is more graininess, maybe some of that black malt and hop edge as well and a heart that is candied orange, maybe a slight bit of ginger hot again at the end. It is sort of like the one above but actually balanced. Still not a beer to go out and hunt down but not one to keep for unsuspecting visitors either. Oddly, a pale ale that is higher at 5.2% than the brewer's ESB. The beer advocates are a little bored with 95% giving it a pass but still giving it only 3.76/5 averaged.
- Black Jack Porter: Good News! These guys can do the interesting. This porter pours a beige rim over light mahogany with a treacle date aroma. The mouth is treacle, dried fruit, nut and cocoa. The quality is way better than the two previous pale ales. Like a fruit nut bar or Christmas cake framed by an arc of hops. Creamy rich yeast. Unlike the ESB or pale, this beer is bright and clean, not cloy, a softer feel - though perhaps there still is the high sulfate level. The finish even has a slight tinge of green hops. Beefy at 6.4% helping the black rummy feel. BAers at the upper end agree with me.
- Milk Stout: Cadbury. Pours a mocha rim over mahogany, the aroma is chocolate cream. A full rich blast of chocolate smoothed with lactose, cut by a convenient line of hops giving structure. There is some fresh fruit, like pear juice giving a nice feel. I really like this beer. Richer than Mackeson, US version. I don't understand the low end BAers unless there is bottle variation. No milk sop at 5.2%.
I mentioned Roger Protz's new book 300 Beers To Try Before You Die! the other day and what did Knut, our man in Norway, do? He got a copy and has reviewed it for us - even sending a very snazzy cover shot, too. Here's the review:
British beer writer veteran Roger Protz has a new book out, published through CAMRA called 300 beers to try before you die! It is well worth investing in for anyone with an interest in quality beer. Protz draws on his vast knowledge to give a different type of beer guide, which I think will be of use, both to newly converted ale disciples and to more seasoned drinkers who want to test out beers beyond their usual staples.
The concept is fairly simple: Set up a list of 300 good beers, representing the major categories around the world. Focus on high quality beers from small and medium sized brewers. This could be done by just about anybody, but the author makes the most of this format. Each beer is presented with colour illustrations, most of them of excellent quality. We get a potted history of the beer and the brewery, tasting notes and anecdotes. The web sites of the breweries are also include – very useful if you want to seek out more elusive beers. While this concept naturally focuses on brews worth praising, Protz is not hesitant to criticize producers who are taking short cuts compared to the traditional ways of brewing. He includes Pilzner Urquell as a recommended beer, but points out that the beer was even better 20 years ago, before the recent rise in exports and change of production methods. He similarly draws on his decades of experience and makes this a good read as well as a reference book to dip into.
The book is divided in chapters presenting the various beer types – bitter, pale ales, pilsners, Trappist beers etc. This is a British publication, and the focus is on beers available in Britain. A few of the beers are only available on tap in remote villages (something for the most experienced CAMRA drinkers, too), but most of us will find a number of beers either available in a friendly well-assorted beer shop or when travelling in North America or Western Europe. It is no surprise that a majority of the beers are from Germany, Belgium, England and the US, but other countries are also represented.
One minor item: Some of these beers are available in both draft and bottled/canned versions. Some more details about this, maybe with some words on how the different versions may vary in taste, would have been welcome. One can always argue about such a selection. Is there too much emphasis on stouts and porters? Any beer lover has his top ten or top hundred, often based on what is locally available. Personally, I find that my favourite brewers are well covered, and from what Protz writes about the beers I know I like, I can set up a list of beers I will try at the first opportunity. As for my score, I have to admit that I have tried less than a third of these beers. But, on the other hand, I have no intention to roll over and die just yet!