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.
Was there ever a cheerier vision planned to met your eye upon the opening of your first case? Congratulations Cooperstown Brewing Company of Milford, New York.
Nothing but an ale most masterful could claim this name. 7.7%. Light wine. It smells like opening a bag of hops pellets and tastes like licking one out. This is a BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEG brew and meant to be. If you do not like hops this is not the beer for you. If you can not contemplate beauty in the idea of having hops petals sprinkled upon your salad of leafy spring greens, this may not be the brew for you. If you like beer that hits your mouth like Tabasco with no pepper in sight, you may want to try it out. The bottle says:
Stone Ruination IPA. So called because of the immediate ruinous effect on your palate. The moment after the first swallow, all other food and drink items suddenly become substantially more bland than they were seconds before.The same could be said for spraying your mouth with aerosol Pledge or Minwax...and for the same reason. This is BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEG. Have I said that already? It is like distilling blue cheese down to a syrup and sucking down a pint of that. Intensity. Supersaturation of the hop acid. 100+ International bittering units. Right there. In my mouth. Here is what others say. Here is what the brewery says.
A week off and I wanted to do another run into Syracuse for some important research. My inquiries with the Homebrewers Digest had let me know that the two spots to check out for micro-brew selection were the Galeville Grocery and Party Source. Both are located on decent strips, the Old Liverpool Road and Erie Blvd Easy respectively, which should not pose as a drag for anyone if you were just running in while others waited in the car. Both have a good but somewhat different selection, Galeville having perhaps more US and NY micros while Party Source has a better Belgians section. Both have decent prices for US micros running at 7 bucks USD a six-pack and twelves for 13.49 USD. Even with the currency exchange, US tax, US deposit, Canadian Federal sales tax, Canadian duty, Canadian Provincial sale tax and LCBO mark-up, a six ends up at around 12 bucks Canadian which is what you would pay for a US micro if the LCBO would sell it to you...which it won't. I focused on Smuttynose from New Hampshire as well as New York's Brooklyn and Cooperstown. On thing that Party Source does that is nice is that it breaks up cases so you can mix your own 12-pack from any number of brewerys' products. Maybe next time. Ontario's amazingly accurately named Beer Store actually had this service ten years ago in a separate serve yourself cooler called the mixed six or so but ditched it soon after. The Galeville Grocery, on the other hand will cut and sell you a steak. Gotta like that.
Expect reviews. The last review of Labatt 50 has put me in a bad frame of mind so hopefully a Smuttynose Old Dog will put me back in shape.
50. portland asked me to. And worst of all, this is actually a case...which I can never remember what they call in Ontario where a case is really a two-four. In Halifax, a case was 12. I don't know what I will do with the other eleven. A slice of lime won't even make it a Molrona as this is from Labatts.
50 was exotic in the early 80s Maritimes. You paid a premium under the category "western beer". Why? Twelve years ago I might have had a few quarts of 50 on Friday night at the Lockmaster in Ottawa listening to bands. Having brewed my own beer for a long time, a beer like this stands out for its cheap ingredients - rough hops, sourish yeast and that funny coated feeling on your lips brewer's sugar leaves behind. Here is one Minnesotan beer advocatonian's take:
This is pretty much a bizzarro world beer. Answers the question "What would an ale taste like if it was made by a macro brewer?" And it's just as bad as a macro lager, maybe even worse. Flavor smells grainy, musty, and only faintly of the hops that a Pale Ale should have. Barely any hops at all, tastes pretty much labatt blue. It is crap. Since only respectable brewers pretty much make PA's, against the style this is the bottom of the barrel. I feel bad that I could have gotten a 6 pack of summit, schell, flying dog, goose island, or many other far superior pale ales for the price. If ever offered one, just say "no."Twenty years ago Harpers magazine ran an article on the Seattle micro-brewing scene which ended with the reaction of one beer lover having a mass produced beer after a number of micros. He said "did I miss my mouth?". This sets the benchmark for the low end of the Canadian pale ale scale...but you know I bet it doesn't, if you really hunted them out. I won't be bothering. I have my eye on Kawartha Lakes Pale Ale or Big Rock Traditional for the next examination of our national pale ale heritage.
I think I remember that 50 goes well as a red eye with V-8. It'll be ok.