Monday, September 25, 2006

The Search for the Holy Grail

A friend of mine sent me a link to this last week, thinking that she had trumped me. “I bet you never had this beer!” Sorry, girlie, you can’t trump the beer girl. But really, I have to credit my youngest brother for introducing this one to me.

The label is all about Monty Python, stating that it is tempered over burning witches. If you are as dorky as me and most of my family, this is enough to make you buy it, regardless of taste.

BEDEVERE: What makes you think she is a witch?
VILLAGER #1:
Well, she turned me into a newt.
BEDEVERE: A newt?
VILLAGER #1: I got better.
VILLAGER #2: Burn her anyway!
VILLAGER #1:
Burn!
CROWD:
Burn her! Burn! Burn her!...

Thankfully, it tastes pretty darn good, no matter your opinion of Monty Python. This is solid example of an English style pale ale. The English pale ale can be traced back to the city of Burton-upon-Trent, a city with an abundance of rich hard water. This hard water helps with the clarity as well as enhancing the hop bitterness. This ale can be from golden to reddish amber in color with generally a good head retention. A mix of fruity, hoppy, earthy, buttery and malty aromas and flavors can be found. Typically all ingredients are English.

This is a very drinkable beer, with enough character to be interesting, but not so complex as to remind you to drink it slowly. It is a copper colored ale, that pours with a frothy white head. It is a very balanced malt/hop combo, in my opinion, and has a very welcome snap, almost peppery. My husband’s exact words after taking a sip were, “Ah, fall beer! It is almost October, isn’t it?”

If you don’t like it, you can just go cut down the largest tree in the forest. With a HERRING.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling

I am starting to love the beer podcast. Is it just me?

I saw an article yesterday, and it got me thinking about how Coors has a strange stable of beers. They produce all of the following:

Coors/Coors Light/Coors Extra Gold Lager
Molson Canadian
Keystone/Keystone Light/Keystone Ice
Killian's Irish Red
Zima (in 5 flavors)
Blue Moon (Belgian White & Pumpkin)
Winterfest (limited, seasonal)

So for the most part, they do cheap, light beer, targeted to the masses, who plan to drink a lot of beer, probably in a can, maybe while standing in a driveway. Right? Oh, and Zima for the girls who don't like beer. Because who drinks wine coolers these days, anyway?

The seasonal Winterfest is likely brewed to attempt to win awards and justify a handcrafted claim on anything they sell. And that's cool. But Killian's and Blue Moon are the odd balls, requiring completely flipped marketing and support. Coors Light or Keystone drinkers are not microbrew drinkers, but microbrew drinkers don't drink Blue Moon and Killian's. Which means they have to walk a fine line down the middle of the road. And the middle of the road is never a FUN! EXCITING! place to be.

Killian's has an identity crisis, being a dark beer brewed by a macro brewer domestically, but with a faux Irish heritage in the name. Coors will probably continue to postion it as a microbrew in order to justify higher price tags, but it could be a stand out at the lower end of the cooler.
BeerAdvocate reviewers were disappointed with it's super-filtered, clear appearance, quickly dissapating head and sweet aftertaste. Regardless of packaging or shelf positioning it may recieve, it is plain to the real beer snobs that this stuff is mass produced in the same way that Coors is done. My absolute favorite review comment was, “The 'exotic' beer you can find at your local dive bar when only other choices are Bud and Bud Light.” He followed this up with this, "Also, if being consumed at that same dive bar, be prepared to get crap from your macrobrew drinking pals or old college roommate about being a “Beer Yuppie”… (Don't feel bad for them, they have NO idea what real beer is.)"

You know I bounce back & forth from beer snob to crap-beer-lover, so some days this is fine for me, and others, not so much. It's kind of like everything else in life. Sometimes I like oatmeal, sometimes I don't. But fall is coming. The temperature is dropping, leaves are blowing, and I am remembering how much I love wearing hoodie sweatshirts. Thick dark beer happens to also represent my favorite season of all, so I suspect the reviews will get darker, as do the days.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Gallup Poll Notes from Big Shot Bob

Big Shot Bob posted this on his blog and I found it (and him) thru our trusty friend Google. I had to be a fan of anyone who names himself Big Shot, but really, it's all about the beer, and I like the info. Stolen directly from his blog...

10 reasons beer is better than wine

Wine's brief moment of glory in the sunshine of the Gallup Poll is done. After inexplicably tying beer last year as America's drink of choice and exciting the napkin-waving emotions of newspaper food editors across the nation, wine has slipped back into its proper subservient place.In the annual Gallup booze poll for 2006, beer reigns supreme once again – the first choice of 41 percent of Americans – and continues to be the biggest seller in volume and dollar sales, accounting for almost 60 percent of all booze sales. Anyone want to take bets on how fast the newspapers won't be to report this crisp, hoppy smack to the merlot-hole?In celebration, a list of reasons why beer is better than wine.

ONE
If you drink beer from the bottle instead of pouring it into a glass first, you’re just a guy. If you’re necking a bottle of wine – doesn’t matter how expensive it is, doesn’t matter how "exquisite" it is – you’re a drunk. Why do you think they call them “winos”?

TWO
Beer’s cheaper. Don’t tell me that’s not a good reason. You can’t pay much more than $25 for a single bottle of beer, maybe $40 in a good restaurant, and that’s going to be a big bottle of some rare Belgian specialty that’s so good your toes will curl. You can easily get two glasses of exceptional beer for under $15 anywhere. A $40 bottle of wine in a restaurant? At best it’s drinkable, but it will probably peel the paint off the walls when the waiter unscrews the cap. Wine is so stupid pricey it can even cost you your job.

THREE
Germans make beer; the French make wine.

FOUR
People know beer’s good without having to be convinced of it by some snot with a wine column. Easy to figure this one out: What do more people start on, beer or wine? Beer tastes like bread and spices and snappy citrus zest and a hundred other things, depending on how it’s made. Wine? On first taste, good wine tastes like fruit gone bad. You need someone to explain to you what it is about wine that’s actually pretty good. Because it is, I’ll admit it, but … it took me a while of wanting to like it before I did.

FIVE
Beer makes you sing AC/DC. Wine makes you sing opera.

SIX
Beer comes in smaller bottles; opening one is an easier decision. That seems like a trivial thing, but wine marketers are pushing smaller bottles lately. Smaller bottles cost less and there’s not as much in them, so people will make the decision to buy wine more easily. Beer’s already there. And we’ve got the whole draft thing, too. Point to beer.

SEVEN
Five percent of wine corks are undetectably bad and turn the wine in the bottle to crap. That’s why the waiter will give you the cork to sniff – or he did until too many ignorant people made fun of the practice. But that’s not the real reason that makes beer better than wine. That’s because even if a bottle of wine is corked, most people will drink it anyway, because they know wine’s not supposed to taste "good." Beer doesn’t usually go bad, but when it does, it turns skunky or sour or has floaters. This is nature’s way of letting you know that the beer is not good. Thanks, nature!

EIGHT
Wine drinkers always go on about vintages and great years and wines of the past. Hey, too bad for them. Vintages run out; the brewer can almost always make more beer that’s just as good as the one you loved.

NINE
Beer goes better with barbecue. And Thai. And ham. And cheese. And salads. And sausage. And bread. And crabs. And tomatoes. And waffles. And so on. In fact, if you read most wine books, there are a lot of foods an honest wine writer will admit just don't go well with any kind of wine. You can always tell when beer goes better with a food than wine does, because there’s an easy test. Ask a wine expert what wine goes best with the food. If they say “Riesling” or “Gew├╝rztraminer,” beer tastes better than wine with that dish.

TEN
Beer is a much more direct drink: When a brewer wants beer to taste like fruit … he adds fruit. If he wants it to taste like smoke, he smokes some malt – with real smoke – and he adds that. Winemakers get different flavors by adding suggestions, imagination and hints: “You’ll taste smoke and hints of fresh herbs, with a flinty, mineral backsplash of firmness.” And if you don’t, goes the unspoken subtext, you’re stupid. Surprise, surprise – everyone says, “Yeah, I can really taste the herbs! Fresh herbs, wow!”

I found this because I was trying to decide what beer I would be having with spicy Thai noodles tonight. I still haven't decided

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Once in a Blue Moon

I have a couple of friends who are obsessed with Blue Moon. It is one thing to always order the same thing where ever you go. (Ahem. Not unlike the total poser who writes this and orders a Miller Lite most of the time.) But to only go places that serve Blue Moon? That's a super fan.

Blue Moon is a Belgian White beer. What a Belgian White beer? BeerAdvocate says that it is:
A Belgian Style ale that's very pale and cloudy in appearance due it being unfiltered and the high level of wheat, and sometimes oats, that's used in the mash. Always spiced, generally with coriander, orange peel and other odd ball spices or herbs in the back ground. The crispness and slight twang comes from the wheat and the lively level of carbonation. This is one style that many brewers in the US have taken a liking to and have done a very good job of staying to style. Sometimes served with a lemon, but if you truly want to enjoy the untainted subtleties of this style you'll ask for yours without one.

It is manufactured by the macro-brewer, Coors. Beer snobs find this horrifying. The assumption is that anything mass produced by the big dudes must be watered down, middle of the road, boring stuff for the unwashed. I think it just comes down to your own personal beer snobbery. I love a good beer, but then again I love almost all beer, so I think this is pretty good. Does another, small brewery make a better, more interesting White Belgian? Absolutely! But that isn’t available everywhere, is it?

When you pour the beer into a pint glass, it shows maybe a ½ inch white head that dissipates quickly. There isn’t any of that fancy lacing sticking around the sides of the glass like you get with thicker beers. It appears cloudy, and has a light yellow color. It smells like citrus, oranges, maybe coriander? It is very mild, in both smell and taste. Everyone drinks this with a slice or orange, and it isn’t unlike the more common lemon/wheat beer combo. It just works. It is fruity, light, and often called a summer beer. Translate: chick beer.