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.
NYCO, my correspondent in Syracuse, alerted me to this Syracuse Post-Standard story about Polish beer. Written by Quill and Tankard award-winning writer, Don Cazentre, a staff writer with the paper, it notes what is new in the local market.
What a radical idea. Certainly in Canada, we are still so overwhelmed with the fear of beer - social ill, health hazard, harbinger of economic disaster - that such a simple report would be somewhat taboo or at least a bit of a visual shock. We are just not used to such things. Even the national Globe and Mail hides its wine column at the very back of the Style section while leaving that unimaginably bad page 3 of the section on...page 3.
Now that the Yankees are out of the playoffs, I can admit again to my enjoyment of things New York...more upstate than anything but, as the City and upstate have a mutually vestigal relationship, there is much of the City to be found upstate. One great thing is the New York Times, another is the effect of the Brooklyn Brewery and its range on intellegent challenging beers. I reviewed the Brooklyn Brown in August and, when last in Syracuse, I picked up a six each of the two fall specials, Octoberfest marzen and Post Road Pumpkin Ale. Such is the integrity of the head brewer of Brooklyn, Garrett Oliver, that he has started a line of historic beers of the US. One is Post Road Light Dinner Ale, a remembrance of a late 1800s middle class urban style. The other is Post Road Pumpkin Ale, a tribute to earlier colonial pioneer brewers.
The aroma is pumpkin patch, autumn frost. The taste, pumpkin pie spices. Its light body makes it an easy drink but the nutmeg backed with cinnamon makes it a bit dry for a quaffable, sipping or session beer, compared to say a rich spicy thang like a Belgian dubble say Unibroue's Maudite. Brooklyn's web site says:
Post Road Pumpkin Ale is a revival of a beer brewed by the early American colonists. Pumpkins were plentiful, flavorful and nutritious and they blended nicely with barley malt. Hundreds of pumpkins are blended into each batch of Post Road Pumpkin Ale, creating a beer with an orange amber color, warm pumpkin aroma, biscuity malt center and crisp finish. Post Road Pumpkin Ale is spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg.The other day I roasted a lamb's leg and basted it with half dark maple syrup and half this ale. It was good, candied up over 4 1/2 hours. I used to make a roasted pumpkin porter with Ringwood yeast. While this is a much lighter take, the idea is there - the summer's work saved in the celler. Advocatonians have their say.
- Old Brown Dog Ale: Like Rogue, this brewery displays the smarts to know we, the consumers, also have smarts on things brewing. This info is included on the website:
VITAL STATISTICSI can read this and think - umm. This gives enough to start the homebrewer off to replicate their product. Why? I'd bet it's because they can figure it out anyway so why not make a pal?
OG: 1060, TG: 1016
Grain Bill: Pale Brewers, Munich, Crystal 60°L, Chocolate
Hops: Cascade, Willamette
IBU's: 15, ABV: 5.7%
Color/Number: Deep brown-amber, 25°
So what to make of the beer? I'd call it a lighter version of the American brown but still nicely balanced, a notch more than a mild ale. Nice fruity notes, too, almost cherry pie between the bisuity thing and the nutty notes. Nice pale tan head. I talked up the first one I popped over here. I would be very interested to compare it with the Brooklyn Brown, side-by-side, contemporaneously as it were. By gumbo, someday I will.
Smuttynose IPA: This is a good beer, definitely a north-east IPA with the big body and hop complexity that the style requires. Where west coasters may be classified as go big or go home, nor'easters like these are more like go to the sofa and have a good think. Vegetative hops as opposed to herbal. Maybe a bit of lime or lime skin as well which meshes well with the fruity pale malt. Advocatonians say grapefruit, which I can buy as well. It would be great with a plate of Sophat Vann's sweaty hair inducing Western Style from Cambodiana - sweet potato and hot hot chili. The water is a bit hard, salty under it all rather than soft. Last May, the New York Times named the Imperial IPA by Smuttynose the best of the 18 big bombs tasted. This is the little brother, but if I was going to sit and have a few rather than to try out what is new in extreme brewing, this one is for me. The label alone is worth it with the two old guys in lawn chairs: "finest kind" one says. I notice it is not listed on the brewery's web site so maybe it is a seasonal or maybe delisted.
- Shoals Pale Ale: A shoal is a place of danger and plenty, the shallow grounds off shore where you can find fish or you hull can meet rocks. I do not know how that relates to the beer. Temptation and danger? If so, what do the two old guys in old lawn chairs mean? Deliverence? Anyway, the brewery describes the beer as follows:
Our interpretation of a classic English beer style is copper-colored, medium-bodied and highly hopped. Its flavor is delightfully complex: tangy fruit at the start, with an assertive hop crispness and a long malty palate that one well-known beer writer has compared to the flavor of freshly-baked bread.A lighter version of the IPA reviewed above, this beer has much of the body with the hops dialled back. The hops, both North American varieties, and fruity pale malt combine again to give a nice citrus effect, but in this one more in the way of orange than the more assertive lime rind, zest and pith, found in the IPA. This is an every day beer of character. If you want less flavour your might go lighter but it's not the beer pushing you that way...its you. But you knew that. This yeast is nice, like pie pastry, but it is only when you back off the hops that it comes out. It is also a little cloudy with the yeast not being filtered out. The IPA had this as well. So it depends if you are a yeast scardy-cat if this is going to be a plus or a minus. I put trub on toast so that tells you where I am. You can find the BA reviews here.
OG: 1050, TG: 1012
Grain Bill: Pale Brewers, Crystal 60°L, Carastan, Wheat
Hop Selections: Cascade, Chinook
IBU's: 30, ABV: 5.0%
Color/Number: Copper, 10.5°
Portsmouth Lager: Pretty ok. I find lagers boring unless they are Czech. I have just played an hour and a half of soccer at 10° C and do not like coming home to less than interesting. This is less than interesting. I even put it in the fridge. I am a 20° C ale kind of guy and I expect flavour. Lager is stored and cold-fermented to keep down the flavours. That is why lager is a wee bit boring in my mind. But the good guys at Smuttynose brewed it and I ought to review it. The brewery says:
Named in honor of our hometown's 375th anniversary, Smuttynose Portsmouth Lager is a full-flavored, medium bodied continental-style beer - deep golden in color, featuring a mouth-pleasing maltiness subtly balanced with spicy imported Saaz hops. One taste of this fine lager tells you this is no ordinary beer: From its mellow, velvety body to its lingering, fresh hop finish, Portsmouth Lager is smooth, complex and satisfying.It needs another few pounds of hops to be a Continental lager...unless of course the continent you are referring to is Asia. Don't get me wrong. There is nothing bad about the brew. Just not enough of the good stuff. The beer advocatonians call it a Vienna lager but, as we learned yesterday, the marzen/Vienna/Octoberfest triad is a malty red-brown thing that is moving towards big. This is not big. It is not thin. This is the micro you give someone who as never had a micro. If they do not like it, you are not out anything. If they like it and drink all you have, you are not out anything. Here is a beer advocate who is pro-lager:
OG: 1.048, TG: 1.014
Malt: Two-row US pale malt, carastan, special "B."
Hop Selections: Czech Saaz
IBU's: 15, ABV: 4.5%
Color/Number: Deep golden to pale amber
For a lager, this beer struck me as pretty complex. Basically an orange amber in color, with a little head on top, but that vanishes pretty quickly and leaves no lacing. Sweet smells abound. Toasted malt and buttery biscuits come to mind. Very appetizing. Taste is the same, nice and malty, nice and biscuity. Mmmmm. Feels smooth and creamy in the mouth and is very easy to drink, I think I'll have another. Very fun lager. Cheers."Easy to drink!?!? People magazine is easy to read. I guess I like to drink Dostoyevsky when I can find it.
Who can resist when one reviewer says: " Very possibly the darkest beer in the world." Well...I suppose lots of people who do not like dark or black beer. But for people who understand that Guinness is actually red, this kind of line makes an ale very attractive.
Freeminer Brewery is one of the small brewers in the Wessex Craft Brewers Co-operative, a shadowy group that appears to make - or perhaps only bottle - fine traditional West Country English ales through some sort of equipment sharing. RCH Brewery, Ash Vine Brewery, Hand Brewed Beers and Freeminer Brewery all appear to have been part of the co-op. Ash Vine, makers of the excellent Hop and Glory pale ale which the LCBO carried in the spring of 2001, went under a couple of years ago. RCH started in a Hotel serving only the clientele. Small timers.
But small is good. The advocatonians rate it 4.31 out of 5 which is the only stout ahead of Guinness at 4.27. Which is all very nice but I have yet even to open the bottle, so verklempt I am over the Sox and Yanks going into the 10th inning as I type. The head is mocha and below, inky. The stout fan I married...yet did not buy a second of these for...equates a good stout with a good chocolate and that is there, fine graininess like espresso or dark chocolate. Raisins from dark crystal malt. Like Shipyard IPA, it only uses the woodsy Fuggles hop, so less minty than Guinness which uses Northern Brewer. The brewer says:
Guardian Bottle Conditioned beer of 1996. Not for wimps! Everything a BCB should be. Packed solid with malt, hops, and oats. Possibly the darkest stout of all time, a single varietal beer, made only with Fuggles hops, packed with bitterness, and brimming with aroma hopping, a deep and complex beer, worth taking some time over, and exploring the Hampton Court like maze of complex flavours. Initially, the dry, biscuit flavour of roast barley attacks the palate, soon to be replaced by the soothing Fuggles balm of rich smokiness, and then layer upon layer of malted oats, rich dark malts, and an unidentifiable eutectic¹ finish of pure stout character. The definitive stout for the discerning drinker, dive in and explore!!Expensive at 4.99 USD for a single pint but this is pretty much the premier grand cru classé of stouts. If you were to look for a more available comparable stout you could try Royal Extra from Trinidad but you have to remove its sweetness and replace it with about 27 other layers of flavour. And that is impossible.
¹Loverly word. "The lowest temperature at which a mix of two materials will melt. Often the temperature is an anomaly, that is, it is much lower than the melting temperatures of only slightly different mixtures. Lead-tin solder is an example. Lead melts at 327C, tin at 231C. The lowest melting combination is 67 lead, 33 tin (180C). Non-eutectic mixtures have a melting or softening range. Such mixtures do not flow well until thoroughly heated past the softening range. This softening phenomenon is what makes glazes hang onto the ware."
India Pale Ale did not originate in from Scotland, though the Scots brewers were early adopters of most English styles as a matter of survival. This very light ale for an IPA has something of the Scots roast barley bite and a slight smokey yeast there as well as a very nice bright orangy flavour, likely a combination of some challenger hops and the very fruity standard Scottish pale malt, Golden Promise. As you would expect from a Scottish beer, it is soft, made of low acid water. As the brewer's site quotes from the formidable author on ales Roger Protz: "above all a drink with enormous drinkability." OK...sometime beer writers are a wee bit at a loss for words.
Low and behold, it was the Champion Beer of Britian in 2002. That is a pretty snazzy claim to fame. This is an award given out by the Campaign for Real Ale or CAMRA annually. CAMRA has a rather involved history well documented at its excellent web site. Deuchars IPA also has a rather involved history is terms of its name which is all explained at the brewery's web site. This beer advocatonian review is spot on:
A golden blond color, a little pale for an IPA. The head was small and patchy like most cask ales and left excellent sheets of lace. Carbonation was sparse with two distince sizes of bubbles, enormous ones and very tiny ones that form tight beads. This combo looked awesome. The aroma was of sweet malts with some citrusy hops. I also detected a sourness, maybe the cask was a little old. The taste was of bread, honey and subtle floral hops. There was also a solid bitter base and some pleasant fruity esters. The mouthfeel was crisp and light.As a brew from Scotland, it will not particularly introduce you to the ales of Scotland. As an IPA, it will not particulatly introduce you to India Pale Ales. But is it a very nice soft pint, a leaver of very lovely laces and one that Ben can actually find in his local shop because it is at the LCBO. Well worth a look.