Picked one up for $1.95 CND for 375 ml at the LCBO today. I would guess that this is what Canadian ales used to be - grainy more than malty, a rough edge to the hops but not cheap hops. Not flowery like an English pale ale and no corn or sweetness like in US versions. Balance as well with more body than today's mass produced beer. If you are in Ontario or can find one elsewhere is it a good benchmark for what this sort of pale ale should be.
A dedicated stand alone lager review. I am pretty much an ale man and most lagers I try are the last two or three bottles in one of those handy US variety 12-packs. Now that the Red Sox have won, however, I can once again let the new New Yorkness of my inner me come out and tell the world, I like pretty much anything Brooklyn Brewery puts out, including this lager, Brooklyn Brewery Oktoberfest.
Octoberfest is a style that can be traced to a man and a party: Gabriel Sedlmayr III at the 1872 Octoberfest in Munich. Due to a few previous stages of development, it can also be called marzen, after the month of March in which it is brewed, or Vienna after the city whose style it mimicks. But it was at the 1872 that the style took off - at least for the best part of a century. It is not the fuzzy pale straw stuff you get there now - that's the liebfraumilch of brew - but rather the original, a bright rich brown / brick red (think second year of circulation penny) malty brew that bridges the seasons of IPAs after lawn mowing to that of dubbles and stouts after shovelling snow. Autumnal. Keatsean.
In a cold glass, the brew is malty with a great nutmeggy spicy hop edge, big enough not to die off in the cold, a lager with flavour. Advocatonians approve. One unhappy lad giving it a 3.05/5 writes:
Weird smell, more like an IPA than a Marzen, didn't really like the smell. Looked like the color of pine sap (a really cool, translucent amber.) Good carbonation, decent head. Taste was also kind of bizzare ("smell is a big part of taste" is proven here.) Tastes like a spiced ale with pine nuts, filtered through a grassy knoll. Has a snappy hoppiness but kind of a thin, watery mouthfeel. Has the body of a summer beer, just too weird for me really to give it a thumbs-up, will have to go back for a second one to confirm.Filtered though a grassy knoll? That part could only be weirder if he wrote "gnome" instead of "knoll".
Anyway, it is a creamy beer. Cream ale is a slightly different thing, a beer traditionally brewed at a warmer temperature using lager yeast and ale grains and hops, a compromise of technology and culture coming out of the anglo-german areas such as central New York. But if you like cream ale, it is a good step towards this one which, in turn, would introduce you to the maltier German marzens.
I never knew. I never knew that, on one hand, there was no beer hall of fame or, on the other, that we needed one. The good folk of Frenkenmuth, Michigan didn't make it. Duluth bailed. The ever useful realbeer.com tells the story:
In a press release, Beer Hall of Fame Project Manager, Joe Gardenghi, of Leisure Technician stated, "We are excited to be in negotiations with Randall (Herbst) to bring the Beer Hall of Fame to Cincinnati. Vision Implementation Group's proposal and vision is compelling as well as passionate. Herbst plans to put the hall of Fame in the struggling Tower Place Mall. Herbst declined to say how much money Vision and Leisure have raised to pay for the proposed Beer Hall of Fame to be designed by Cincinnati's FRCH Worldwide Design. But he did say he expects the entire project will cost $22.5 million, including a purchase of Fourth Street's Tower Place Mall.Vision Implementation Group, eh? Apparently :"[t]he Beer Hall of Fame, U.S. Beer Drinking Team (USBDT) and Beer Radio are trademarks and subsidiaries of Leisure Technician, LLC, of Severna Park, Maryland." Hmmm...You would think that a beer hall of fame might rather be developed by, say, a brewers association rather than the guys who brought you the United States Beer Drinking Team, which says of itself:
We started out as just a group of guys and gals sitting around a campfire and enjoying some great American beer, food and cigars, wondering why there was no place for passionate beer drinkers like us to gather.Umm...how about bars?
You may guess that I do not get this, that I doubt. If anyone gets this please advise.
I don't normally go for the spiced pumpkin-based ales that come out at this time each year (I'm an old-fashioned malt & hops kind of guy), but Dogfish Head's offering caught my attention. First, it's Dogfish Head, which is practically synonymous with a quality beer experience. And second...it was 7.0% ABV. That appealed to me not just because of the alcohol content, but alcohol content is frequently related to body. Indeed, the label describes the beer as "A full-bodied brown ale brewed with real pumpkin, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon & nutmeg." The addition of the brown sugar might have cut the body some, but I trusted the full-bodied description.
I was not disappointed. The beer has a lovely orange-copper color. The nose is mostly allspice. The body is indeed full, and the palate is sweet, with the spice coming through stronger (but not overpowering) shortly after. Allspice again is the most notable of the spices, followed by the nutmeg. The cinnamon comes through more in the finish.
Overall, the spice does not dominate the beer. As a result, I enjoyed this beer more than I typically enjoy spice beers. I believe it would make an excellent complement to a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.
This here blog ain't the only place in the internets where folk can get into some yappetry about ales and lagers. Here is a brief survey of some of my favorites:
- The Beer Church says it has over 100,000 registered members from 26 different countries around the world and sponsors charitable events for the beer lover who likes to give.
- The Home Brew Digest is primarily geared and those who make their own but the HBD also caters to newbies and the occassional poster who needs some travelling advice like the name of the best pub in, say, Helsinski. You can get the digest delivered to your email daily.
- Robin Garr's site is one of the best in the world for sharing wine knowledge but is also includes bulletin board style forum on beers and spirits.
- The Oakland Tribune maintains a "beer blog" which is really a series of interesting articles by Bill Brand - though, a bit oddly, they are posted by "John".
- The Beer Advocate is a massive site based in the US with forums, articles and an amazingly deep set of reviews on every beer I have ever thought of. It is a great resource to check out what others think of what you drink.
- The Oxford Bottled Beer Database from England is a little more focused than the Beer Advocate but it does cover the north-eastern side of the Atlantic a little more thoroughly. I like to check both if I can.
- The Beer Blog: a Moblog about beer allows you to post cell phone photos of you and/or your favorite beer creating a happy gallery of a sort. Right now there are 612 images of that joy.
He is also fairly prudent in his reviews. If a beer is not the best, he lets you know without running the place down. His two books and, I trust, the pending third, Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Breweries, take a comprehensive approach rather than just telling you about his favorites. As a result, it tracks the state of the industry while also letting you know the highlights, right down to facts like the one on page 13 of Pennsylvania Breweries, Vol. 2 about the Eternal Tap at the Straub in St. Mary's, a family operation since the 1870s. Anyone can got to the keg washing room and pour a couple of beers. No asking. Free.
Lew also runs a web site which adds dimension to his paperbacks. First, he posts updates to the books. When doing this, he adds updates rather than replaces them so that if a brewery has notes needing adding every few months they are all still there. Breweries which closed are not deleted. Again, we get a sense of the industry as it grows and changes. Next, he gives you a sense of his upcoming work with excerpts on his mid-Atlantic breweries page - he knows that the book that is scheduled for May 2005 is one that people want to know about now. [I am hoping he goes north for the Breweries of New England next.] Then, he maintains both a monthly web column and links to some of his published work in magazines and newspapers. Have a look around, there's lots more there.
All in all, a comprehensive vision of one man's relationship with malt, hops and yeast. Friendly, positive and well researched. And he answers emails.
Interesting audio visual presentation from the New York Times some India Pale Ales. Follow the links as directed.
I have been collecting a few bottles here and there to consider the style of some brewers we do not have ready at hand here in Ontario. One such brewer is Anchor of San Fransisco, Ca. - one of the cornerstone breweries in the micro revival. Here I have together the Libery Ale, an IPA regularly available at the LCBO, with the Anchor Porter and its version of Small Beer which I picked up a few weeks ago at the Party Source in Syracuse, NY. The LCBO had the flagship Anchor Steam but never restocked that shelf this fall. Boggles the mind how that is possible given the scale of the Anchor operations now and the consistency that Liberty is available...but there you go, its the LCBO.
First, a few words about Anchor Brewing. Their web site lays out its history over seven pages which I will not cut and paste here but the key moment was in 1965 when the brewery was about to fold and one fan, a member of the Maytag appliance clan, refused to let it die. He found a "bank balance (as of December 31, 1964) of $128" but bought 51% of the operation—for a few thousand dollars—rescuing Anchor from imminent bankruptcy. Smart move as the mid-1960s was likely the lowest ebb in the North American brewing economy. Buy low, sell high. That's what I say. It's not what I do, just what I say. What he was saving was the steam beer which, like cream ale, is a perhaps original US style or at least a venerable name for a way of brewing from the early days of the US West Coast.
- Anchor Small Beer: Traditionally, a small beer is beer made from a second run of hot water (liquor) through the mashed grains to create the sweet fuild (wort) to which the yeast will be added. As with olive oil and multiple pressings, the first run of liquor is the best - the most sugars are wash into the wort as are the best characteristics of the grain. Later runs are weaker and begin to get more harsh. Small beer, however, was used as table beer, a safe source of water for the family without unhealthiness of untested water as well the goodness of the food value of the carbs. Think pre-temperence Ovaltine.
Anchor's version is like a lighter version of their Liberty Ale, though it is the second run off the barley wine, Old Foghorn. Crystal bright and actually amber coloured (confirmed by holding it up to a nice piece of amber we have sitting around the house). It's mouthfeel is very light and refreshing, clean malty flavour without the body. Fresh. Assertively hopped for the lightness of the body with a real quality hop. At 3.3%, it is not going to get you into any problems...well, unless you are a problem waiting to happen. The beer advocatonians are somewhat troubled by the brew - wishing the mash sugars were better spent in a barleywine. As, however, the Bible tells us, there is a time for barleywine and a time for small beer...or something like that.
One of the nice things about small beers when you look at old price guides from breweries is that it was dramatically cheaper as it was effectively a bonus gained from reuse of the grains required for the full strength beer and as it would have been more lightly taxed due to lower alcohol content. If this brew were on the shelf for 60% to 70% of others, it would be in every fridge and cellar. But we lack the good sense of our great-grandparents in these troubled times. Why pay less for less when you can pay more when you call it Bud Draft Dry Ice Lite?
Anchor Porter: This was one of the great porters I have tried so far in my half-span of life. A deep tan head leads to an aroma of pumperknickle, you know, those small dark slices you buy in a block with German writing all over the package, the one that the guy in Spinal Tap finds too small. Black and deep rather than condensed nutty malt. Unlike a lot of porters and stouts these days, and despite what the brewery says, it is not really reminiscent of chocolate, not coffee - just barley malt. Rich like homemade baked beers, roast beer or roasted walnut in balsamic. Big mouthfeel. It leaves no advocatonian unhappy. One writes:
A silky smooth experience on the palate that rides out with a prickly carbonation feel. Medium-bodied. Complex, yet subtle, malt flavours consist of an even dextrin sweetness, date/fig, ripe fruitiness, molasses bite, hint of unsweetened/dry chocolate, burnt edges and an astringent roasted malt flavour that peaks with a near puckering bitter citric edge. Lip smacking! Hops also lend a gentle herbal spice to the flavour. Finish is dry with residual burnt malt flavours.Remember that beers were traditionally brewed in gradations. Stout was originally stout porter and extra stout effectively a double stout porter - so where bottle guinness is quite rough with burnt toast flavours and draft Guinness is softer balancing the roast with the cream, any porter should be more mellow but still big, the edge provided by the hops rather than the blackened grains.
Notes: Hands down one of the best porters in the US. I'd even go so far as saying one of the best in the world. This is what a modern day porter should be. If you've yet to try this beer, go buy some now.
- Anchor Liberty: This is the US IPA the LCBO allows us as a year round listing. At around three bucks for a 650 ml bottle, it is a good deal - even though I would be just as happy to see a few fewer on the shelf if they were partnered with the Porter. In terms of body, this IPA is a notch lighter than some of the nor'easters I supped this year. It is, however, like them, big on the hops. Here is what Anchor says about Liberty:
A special top-fermenting ale yeast is used during fermentation and is responsible for many of Liberty Ale's subtle flavors and characteristics. Carbonation is produced by an entirely natural process called "bunging," which produces champagne-like bubbles. Dry-hopping (adding fresh hops to the brew during aging), imparts a unique aroma to the ale. It is a process rarely used in this country today.That is a good desciption. In the mouth the yeast is forward compared to, say, crystal malt or other body-making adjuncts like rolled unmalted barley (a big part of Guinness). This gives the brew a bready - rather than biscuity - quality. Biscuitiness comes from pale malt selection. The breadiness it is subtle, not heavy. The hops taste and smell are both grapefruity. Between the big hop and the subtle bread there is some honey, a tie. The beer is not so much balanced due to the hops as well organized, highlighting the elements of the ale while still being a strong hoppy glassful. Beer advocators say yea.
This is a hot beer. Boozy. Good boozy.
But what would you expect from a beer who has its own URL at www.arrogantbastard.com and has "You Are Not Worthy" on the cap. Stone Brewing Company has a satanic theme going with its branding, too, that probably ensures that it will never be sold in the Liquor Commissions of Atlantic Canada. [Come to think of it, not unlike the third wave California ska band Mephiskaphelese, they of the skanking version of "Bumblebee Tuna".] The webpage also includes personal oaths that you have to accept before it will let you in, including:
I acknowledge that the material contained herein may be contrary to the multi-million dollar ad campaigns conducted by large brewing companies I may or may not have been fool enough to believe in the past.Attitude. Expected from a beer that also comes in double and oaked versions in 3 litre bottles with padlocks. I did not notice them being described as family sized.
The beer is loverly, ruby mahogany with none of the unbalanced hoppy excess of Stone's Ruination IRA. No, this is pure balanced excess. Concentrate of ale. The hops are herbal and vegetative rather than floral, the water soft. It is a real showpiece of malt, big and rich but nothing tricky, no thread of chocolate or smoke. This is umami beer - not utterly dissimilar from miso if you think about it. If the Ruinator is raw garlic, Arrogant Bastard is it slow roasted. All the advocatonians, but for 2%, like it. One did not like the heat of the alcohol, one thought it was unfortunate that you could only have one or two. Deary me. The departed brewers of Belgium are rolling over in their graves.
$3.99 USD for one 22 oz bomber at the Party Source. With all the top ups at the border, probably something like $7.50 CND to get it to my sofa.
I have spent the last day transferring posts from our sister-station Gen X at 40 and I think I have most of the reviews, pub photos and book reviews. I am hoping I can attract a few other beer writers to join me here but for now it will be mainly me. Rumours are rife that my Server Lords over at silverorange are planning some kind of beery redesign here which, given the magnitude of their recent work, is quite an honour. Stay tuned.
Requests, comments and offers to write most welcome.