So a couple weeks ago, I'm fixing my lawnmower, and the neighbor kid comes over and offers me a six-pack of beer if I put drive belts on his tractor. Turned out to be a huge pain in the ass, took about an hour. He gave me a twelve-pack. While I'm doing THAT, the other neighbor comes over with his busted compressor, and says I can have it. So that sat in the garage for a couple weeks, until I got around to taking it apart.
Couldn't find a damn thing wrong with it. Put it back together, and it works fine. Kinda felt guilty about keeping it, so I brought it back to him. "There you go. All fixed." Didn't think anything of it.
Another week passes, and I'm riding around on the tractor, and he runs over with a twelve-pack of beer. "Got this in Baltimore. Can't get it around here", he says. "I think you'll like it", and hands me National Bohemian.
Never heard of him.
Tastes familiar, very macro-brew, vaguely Budweiserish. And then I look at the label: G. Heileman Brewing Company, Milwaukee Wisconsin. It's familiar because it's Old Style, the beer of my youth.
Couple years back, my brother called me very distressed, and showed me a newspaper article about how Old Style's new brand strategy was going to be to go upscale - be an ironic hipster beer like PBR has positioned itself. And as a part of this strategy, they were raising their prices. It wasn't going to be the official beer of construction workers anymore, it was going to be the beer of weedy-looking iPad-wielding fuckwads.
I dunno if "National Bohemian" is a part of this branding strategy, and if it is, I dunno if this is the ironic hipster beer or the cheap mass-market construction-worker beer. But I do know that this is fucking Old Style, and apparently it's available in Baltimore.
I hope it ain't the ironic hipster beer, because then it'll cost fifteen bucks a twelve-pack. I hope it's the construction-worker beer. Because then, it'll be six bucks a twelve-pack, and it'll be economical for me to drive up to Baltimore and fill up the truck bed with it.
My least favorite things to do are those that are both very difficult and also that I'm not very good at. I'm about halfway through the process of remodeling my kitchen, and my least favorite thing so far is the process of plastering and sanding the hole in the ceiling where a wall once was. This is further complicated by about a quarter-inch difference between the height of the ceiling on either side of where this wall once was, so the plastering job has some added difficulty.
I work on it for a while, and after I get down off of the ladder and I'm surveying my work so far, as the hard rain continues to fall, Penn State scores on Michigan again, and I'm despairing of the futility of life, it occurs to me what I want just now: a really good beer.
Going out to the beer fridge and looking at the dozen-odd flavors of beer, the obvious choice is the Dogfish Head 90-minute. It's familiar, and tasty, and most beer snobs would identify it as probably the best thing I have. But instead, I tried the Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted Ale (Harviestoun Brewery, Hillfoot's Village, Alva, Scotland) something I'd bought some time ago for a special occasion and never gotten around to trying. Well, I'm covered in plaster dust and everything sucks, so I hereby declare this a special occasion.
Boy, does this beer ever rise to it. It's a beautiful color - a light but cloudy caramel, makes a nice head, smells wonderful, and tastes pretty close to the platonic ideal of an ale. The girl says "almost tastes like it has lemon in it", and checking the label "a superb hop profile combining aromatic Hallertau Hersbrucker with spicy Challenger finished by late hopping with Styrian Goldings giving a sharpness like the twist of lemon". Just the right combination of smoothness and tang, with an aftertaste of 'hey, gimme some more of that'.
This beer is exactly what I wanted
. At seven bucks a pint, I probably won't be drinking it all that often, but this is an ideal ale for special occasions.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have more plastering to do.[ETA:]
So, after some more plastering, some more rain, and Penn State scoring on Michigan again, I decided that a) I wanted another good beer, and b) what a beer this good needs is clearly a reference beer that everybody is familiar with, so I had the Dogfish Head 90-minute IPA. The girl tries a taste of this and says "lemony again. ...I think I liked the last one better".
And, y'know, I think I do too. It isn't that the dogfish head is any more hoppy (although the dogfish aftertaste is a lot more "HELLO, HOPS") because they're both pretty complex beers. The Harviestoun is just a little bit lighter and a little bit smoother.
Don't get me wrong: they're both really good ales. But I think the Bitter & Twisted, although slightly less bitter & twisted than the Dogfish Head 90 minute, is just slightly better.
I admit is have been negligent with regard to posting but I have also been negligent in my beer drinking.
and I have been doing a lot of exploring in the realm of the spirits and have found some stuff that we think is wonderful enough to share.
If you are strictly a beer drinker than please forgive me for
"11th Anniversary Ale, brewed with 11 malts and 11 hops. 11% alcohol".
This is the Osi Umenyiora of jewish beers, by which I mean that it weighs 275lbs and will crush your quarterback with hops. It may be a mistake to call this an ale, as it's darker and richer than Guinness. This is the opposite of tractor beer. This is a sipping beer that threatened to overpower the hoisin chicken I had it with. If you like dark and hops, this is der thingy.
Blue and Gray Fred Red Ale
Unlike the previous two beers from Blue and Gray, this one appeared to be properly capped; it actually had a minimal head. This is a standard Red Ale. It is medium amber with a hint of red from the roasted barley. Malt is slightly stronger than hops, with the distinct thick mouthfeel from the unfermentable sugars provided by the roasted barley -- possibly a bit too thick. It is probably a bit too thick for a session beer; a pint of Fred Red is fairly filling. However, it is a tasty variation on the theme of the chosen session beer. If you're looking for an approximation of a loaf of bread in a glass, but dislike black beers, this is a good candidate. It will probably do well with basic meat-and-potatoes fare -- stews, shepherd's pies, and heavier Indian or Chinese food. 3.5/5
Blue and Gray Classic Lager
I am beginning to suspect that Blue and Gray may have a capping problem. This beer was nearly flat when poured. In comparison, the brewery sample was distinctly carbonated. The next two Blue and Gray bottles will tell. Classic Lager is pale amber in the glass. It is distinctly hoppy, with the malt taking a back seat. However, there is none of the citrus aroma that I associate with west coast beers. The hoppiness is roughly that of a Pale Ale, but without the malt to support it. There is also the characteristic lager bite, a product of the yeast and aging. This beer would go well with highly spiced food, such as Indian or Thai curries. It would also stand well with strong cheeses. It would serve well as a session beer for hop heads. 3.5/5Tröeg's Rugged Trail Nut Brown Ale
This beer was dark amber in the glass, with minimal head. The malt is distinctly stronger than the hops, but the hops are more noticeable than in a Porter. In short, this is a fairly standard Brown Ale. My one complaint about it is that it is a bit thin for the style: the malt did not provide the somewhat thick mouthfeel I expect from a Brown Ale. While not to quite the same degree, drinking Rugged Trail was similar to the disconnect of seeing a Vienna Black Lager and tasting it; the beer is not as heavy as the color would indicate, nor as heavy as I would expect from a Brown Ale. Rugged Trail might do well as a session beer in a pinch, but there are better selections -- Brown Ale or otherwise -- for the task. This beer would go well with most food, especially something hearty enough to cover for the deficiency in the beer. 3/5
Dogfish Head Shelter Pale Ale
A classic Pale Ale, medium amber in the glass, moderate head, and a good balance of hops and malt -- both are clearly evident, yet neither overpowers the other. It works well with food or by itself. Shelter would do well as a session beer. 4/5Winter's Bourbon Ale (Anheuser-Busch)
Visually a medium amber (but darker than the Shelter Pale Ale) with little head; by malt and hop content probably somewhere between a Pale Ale and a Brown Ale. This beer claims to have been aged on vanilla beans in bourbon wood. I could not pick out the bourbon flavor; the overwhelming flavors are sweet and vanilla. The aftertaste of this beer is like sucking on vanilla hard candy or eating vanilla-flavored caramel. There is a taste of the malt and hops underneath, but only while drinking the beer; they vanish into the aftertaste after swallowing. The overpowering sweet vanilla flavor is too strong to have this beer with any sort of food other than a dessert, and the dessert would need to tolerate vanilla well. I doubt I could drink more than one of these in a sitting -- but it would be a lot more tolerable if that sitting was indoors, near a fire, while watching it snow outside. 2/5Flying Dog K-9 Cruiser Winter Ale
This beer is essentially a Brown Ale -- it is about the same color as the Winter's Bourbon Ale, with a similarly minimal head. The malt is distinctly stronger than the hops -- the hops are barely noticeable. While Cruiser is a winter ale, it appears to have no extra flavorings (whether fruit or spice) in it. It is malty and sweet, with a roasted syrupy note in the nose. Cruiser will do well with relatively strong food or desserts; its sweetness will overpower subtle foods. This is not a session beer, but it can be an interesting variation on the chosen session beer. Cruiser is clearly intended for winter. 3/5
( Bison Organic IPA, Bison Brewing Company, Berkeley CACollapse )( Vixen, Fox Creek Vineyards, McLaren Vale, South Australia Collapse )( Dogfish Head 120 minute IPA, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton DECollapse )
At this point, we realized the obvious mistake of having had the Dogfish Head so early on in the beer-tasting, figuring that it would prejudice the remainder of the results. Then, while discussing the effects of prejudice, I put forth my theory that the reason so many heavy, dark beers score so well at beer-tastings was that people tend to taste beer from lightest to heaviest, and by the time you get to the thick dark beers, you're completely plowed and you don't give a shit, so your judgement is comparatively suspect. Mike pointed out that having the dogfish head third obviously precludes any bias from being plowed. ( Samuel Adams Black LagerCollapse )( Red Tail Lager, Mendocino Brewing Company, Saratoga Springs NY. Collapse )( Tosti Pino Grigio Vino Spumante Brut, Tosti SpA, Canelli, ItalyCollapse )( St. Peter's English Ale, St Peter's Brewery, Suffolk, UKCollapse ) ( Delerium Nocturne, Huyghe Brewery, Melle/Ghent, BelgiumCollapse )( Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Brut, Nicolas Feuillatte, Chauilly Epernay, FranceCollapse )
Happy new year. Champagne and beer for everyone!