Daily beer project

Park City Steamer

Posted in American Craft Beer, Moab Brewery, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on April 29, 2010

Park City Steamer is served at Porcupine, and is listed under the Moab Brewery/Park City Brewery heading on their beer menu. Confusingly, Park City Steamer doesn’t feature on the Moab Brewery website, but if you search for Park City Steamer on Beer Advocate, it indicates that the beer does in fact come from Moab Brewery. I’m guessing that the beers listed on Moab Brewery’s website may be out of date.

Regardless of its provenance, this beer is awesome. It’s a medium brown color, about the same as the Red Rock nut brown ale and it has a nice bite to it right from the outset. It’s got a typical one-finger head that leaves quite a bit of lacing on the glass, and the beer itself is perhaps a bit on the bubbly side, in a good way. One of my new favorites, and definitely something I’ll order again.

Steam beer originated in California in the mid 1800’s out of necessity more than anything else, and was originally considered poor quality. It’s fermented with lager yeast but at room temperature, like an ale, presumably because while lager yeast was readily available, refrigeration was not.

Modern steam beer is properly known as California common beer since Anchor Brewing Company trademarked the name steam beer for their Anchor Steam Beer. Interestingly, Uinta’s Gelande Amber Lager has received medals in the California common beer category at the North American Beer Awards in 2006, 2007, and 2009. Previously this same beer has been submitted and medaled as a Marzen and a Munich-style lager in 2000 and 2003, respectively. Whether this is because the recipe has changed such that the style of the beer has drifted or because there are no hard and fast rules as to what style a specific beer belongs in, I don’t know. I also don’t know whether Gelande is fermented at room temperature, since no mention is made on Uinta’s website.

Perhaps worth noting is that although I liked the Gelande, I liked the Park City Steamer quite a bit more. Given Gelande’s numerous accolades, I’m not sure what that says about my beer judging credentials, but again, as a beer drinker, your own preference is the only one that matters.

Uinta Gelande Amber Lager

Posted in American Craft Beer, Uinta Brewing, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on April 28, 2010

Gelande was the last of the Uinta offerings I needed to sample to round out that brewery, with the exception of the barley wine, which I may or may not include since it’s a barley wine and not a beer, and I’m already pretty sure I won’t like it (how’s that for a sentence, dug?). I’ve now tried 65 of 85 beers from the ten local breweries*. Once I go to Desert Edge (haven’t had anything there) and wrap up the last three at Red Rock, the easy ones (i.e. in the Salt Lake City area) will be done. A trip to Moab and samplers at the brewery there would then round things up.

*Seriously–we have ten microbreweries in the state (OK, Uinta has enough volume that they’re now a regional specialty brewer rather than a microbrewery), five in Salt Lake City proper with one more about to come online, four more in the metro area, and one way out in the desert. Guess how many there are in Los Angeles? One. Buffalo, NY? Also one, and it just got bought out by another brewery because it was failing financially. And most people here don’t even drink beer. The variety and quality of the beer almost makes up for the wacky liquor laws. And again, I have to wonder if we’d have this variety and quality were there not a need to produce 4% abv beer to satisfy the local laws.

I sampled a pint of this on tap at Ray’s Tavern in Green River, along with one of Ray’s famous cheeseburgers. It was a fabulous combination. Gelande has a nice malty taste with mild hops and goes well with food, as do most ambers. Most of the ambers I’ve tried have been ales, and while I quite like that style, the lager yeast adds just a bit of sourness that is a subtle complement that may not be noticed in a beer with more hops.

So how does this beer rate? Hard to decide between awesome and good here. Awesome beers are those I would gladly buy again, which I would with this one. However, given the choice between this and some of Uinta’s other offerings, notably their Hefeweizen and IPA, as well as WYLD and RYPE from their Four+ label, I would probably choose the others. But having to choose which of five awesome beers to drink at a given moment is a great problem to have.

Kirin Ichiban

Posted in Imports by dailybeerproject on April 21, 2010

Went out for sushi again last night with a colleague and a client. Since the Kirin Light I had last time wasn’t all that exciting, I decided to give the full-strength Kirin Ichiban a try.

Before I get into the review, though, if you’re anything like me, you’re wondering what a kirin is. According to the label, it’s a mythical beast that’s half deer and half dragon. Because when someone plays word association games and says “half deer, half dragon,” my first thought is “great beer.” Am I alone in this? Ichiban, incidentally, means “first” or “number one.”

My colleague (who also happens to be following this project) asked me how it was. I said “pretty good, but it sort of tastes like Budweiser.” Which makes sense, since both are brewed with barley, rice, hops, yeast, and water. It made even more sense when we looked closely at the label and noticed “brewed under direction of the Kirin brewmaster by Anheuser Busch Company.” Which makes these imports somehow seem a bit less exotic. Especially when they’re not even imported (though that would likely result in the beer being fresher).

Wanna know what other imports are brewed by Anheuser Busch? Bass, Becks, Czechvar, Hoegaarden, Leffe, and Stella Artois. Not only that, but MillerCoors is behind Aguila, Cristal, Cusquena, Molson Canadian, Peroni, Pilsner Urquell, and Tyskie. A number of bottled microbrews are distributed by these big breweries, often because the big boys have an equity stake. I rode my bike past the local Coors distributor a while back and noticed a Wasatch/Squatters truck parked at the dock, so I suspect the brewer’s cooperative is getting some distribution help from the silver bullet. It probably makes more financial sense than investing in distribution infrastructure, so if it keeps the cost of the beer lower, I don’t mind a bit.

Whether they taste like Budweiser or not, Japanese beers are awesome with sushi. But for the sake of science, it’s important to know which beer goes best. So I also ordered a bottle of Sapporo. Sapporo wins. Next time out, I’ll do a back-to-back shootout between Sapporo and Asahi Super Dry to determine the grand champion from the land of the rising sun.

Hopper’s Brewpub

Posted in American Craft Beer, Hoppers, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on April 20, 2010

Friday night I was in the mood for some post-movie* refreshment and was near enough Hopper’s Brewpub that heading there seemed like a good option. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect. Part of that has to do with their size–Hopper’s is just one location, and they don’t sell bottled beer outside of the brewpub. Most of the other local breweries either have more than one location (Red Rock, Squatters, Roosters), or they sell bottled beer at retail and/or distribute their kegged beer to other pubs (Wasatch, Bohemian, Uinta, Moab). If Hopper’s has good beer, why is there only one place to get it?

*Wondering what movie I saw? Date Night. Go see it if you haven’t. It’s hilarious. So many great lines from that movie. Tina Fey and Steve Carell are fabulous. I may go see it again.

And while I can’t answer the limited distribution question, I can say that Hopper’s has good beer. I got the sampler, which included Honey Wheat, Oh My Hefeweizen, Uno Mas, This is the Pilsener, Pale Morning Ale, McGee’s Red, Rockwell Porter, Madame X Stout, and two seasonals, an amber and another I don’t remember.

They were all at least good, but those that stood out as being awesome were the Honey Wheat, Uno Mas, McGee’s Red, and Madame X. The amber was just short of awesome, but with McGee’s red on the year-round menu, I wouldn’t order it unless I were sick of the red.

Honey Wheat and Uno Mas are both refreshing, hot weather beers. Both have a pleasant bit of sourness to them and are light and easy-drinking. Uno Mas is a Mexican-style lager, but I think it outdoes Tecate and Corona.

McGee’s Red is medium in color and flavor. It’s got a good balance of hops and malt with a nice bite to it. A very good beer to have with dinner. Madame X is quite toasty and dark and is served on Nitro, so the head is super foamy and creamy, but there are no dissolved bubbles in the beer itself. I quite like the taste of dark beers served on Nitro and would definitely order this one again.

King’s Peak Porter

Posted in American Craft Beer, Uinta Brewing, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on April 16, 2010

Another Uinta brew. All I lack is the Gelande Amber Lager to wrap up their year-round offerings. I wish I could have tried some of the seasonal Bristlecone Brown Ale before it went on summer hiatus, but it gives me something to look forward to in the fall I guess.

Anyway, the King’s Peak. I’d say it’s good. I’m picky about porters and stouts, and while this one tasted good, it didn’t blow me away. It’s got a really roasty, chocolatey flavor that’s like dark but not burnt toast, with very little hops. I think I may have liked it better with more hops, but maybe not. There’s no one thing I’d say I didn’t like about it. It just wasn’t a beer that made me smile uncontrollably and regret the moment I swallowed the last sip.

Bud Light and a revised opinion

Posted in American Craft Beer, Macrobrews, Tracks Brewing, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on April 15, 2010

I decided it wasn’t fair to make fun of Bud Light and the people who drink it without having actually tried the stuff. And because macrobrews are at their best when one is hot and thirsty, I figured an opportune moment to have a Bud Light was last weekend right after I finished a bike race.

I would have rather had a Budweiser. The Bud Light didn’t taste bad, it just tasted like someone had poured water in some Budweiser. I’d rather have the extra 30 calories and drink a Budweiser, but that’s just me. If it’s good enough and saving 30 calories is important to you, I won’t fault you for that. I’ll give it a rating of good, because if someone offered me one, I wouldn’t turn it down. But really, if you’re someplace that has an extensive offering of beers why would you choose this one?

I raced again the next day, and the race ended at Tracks Brewing Company. They were serving beer out on the patio and offered two choices: Tracks Amber Ale and Bud Light. I opted for the Amber Ale even though I had rated it not awesome. I wanted to see if my opinion of the beer had been tainted a bit by the inept service when I tried it the first time. I think it had, because choosing the amber over the Bud Light was the right call. It’s good–I wouldn’t turn it down in the future. But I wouldn’t drive out there just to try it, either.

Three from Four+

Posted in American Craft Beer, Uinta Brewing, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on April 9, 2010

Over the last several days, I’ve sampled three more of the Four+ label beers from Uinta brewery. Two I got from the brewery, the third (Monkshine) from the state liquor store. The Monkshine is >4% abv, so it’s available at the liquor store*. The others are readily available at grocery stores.

*If you get it there, check the dates. There were several six packs with a bottling date almost a year ago. Several more from back in September. Neither is ideal, but I chose one from September.

The Monkshine was the first I tried. Monkshine is described as a Belgian-style pale ale. I’m not really sure what this means beyond the fact that touting anything as being “Belgian” or “Belgian-style” seems to be a selling point for the marketers. Either way, it was a very good beer. In fact, it was nearly an awesome beer except for a bit of bitterness that was a bit much for me (likely from the higher alcohol content, though this hasn’t been an issue with other Belgians–wonder if it could be related to freshness?). Of the >4% abv local beers I’ve tried, this is probably my favorite.

WYLD is an organic extra pale ale. Color was a lot like a golden or blonde ale, and I think the differences between the three are really semantic. Anyway, my preference for this style of beer was again reinforced, as this one was awesome. It’s quite hoppy in the best possible way. It has a piney, floral aroma that’s pleasant and relaxing, and a taste to match. It pours a nice foamy head and leaves just a bit of lacing on the glass. I didn’t want to finish it because I didn’t have another and will no doubt buy it again. The fact that it’s an organic beer is just an added bonus.

RYPE is described as an orange tingled wheat beer. It says it’s brewed with orange peel and coriander. It’s filtered, so it probably doesn’t have the cloudy appearance characteristic of most wheat beers. I say probably because I drank this one straight from the bottle while I was in the garage working on my bike. I also didn’t want to finish this one because it was so tasty, so it likewise gets a rating of awesome.

My initial impressions of Uinta brewery were that it was a step behind Squatters, Wasatch, and Bohemian, but I’ve since backed off from that position. Based on the quality of these three beers as well as their hefeweizen and IPA, I’d say their overall lineup is on par with the other locals. It’s nice to know so many quality beers are available at the grocery store and the local pubs.

Pranqster, Chimay Blue, and Lambic

Posted in Imports by dailybeerproject on April 7, 2010

BradK told me Pranqster from North Coast Brewing is the best non-Belgian Belgian you can find. He was also kind enough to contribute some to our Belgian-themed Tour of Flanders gathering. Alex contributed Chimay Red and Chimay Blue, and we also had two flavors of Lambic beers. The actual Belgians all go for the equivalent of $5 or so per 12 ounce bottle. All the beers were awesome, but Pranqster was no less awesome than its imported counterparts at half or less the cost. It was the revelation of the party.

The amazing thing about Belgians is that they can make high alcohol content beer that has no bitterness from the alcohol whatsoever. Pranqster is the first domestic brew I’ve tried that has successfully matched the Belgians in this regard. At 7.6% abv, this is a beer that should have tasted bitter to me. It did not. It was just a glass full of awesome deliciousness.

In addition to the Pranqster, we also popped the corks on a couple bottles of Chimay, one Red, one Blue. And really, I don’t know which is more awesome. The Red is a little less expensive and a little lower in alcohol. But better? Hard to say. It’s like asking which of your feet you prefer–you’re pretty attached to both of them. Thankfully, both are readily available, so permanently choosing one over the other isn’t necessary.

Chimay beer wasn’t the only thing we sampled from this particular monastery–we also had some of their cheese. I know this is supposed to be a beer blog, but the cheese is soaked in beer before it ripens, so I think that’s close enough. The cheese is phenomenal. Like their beer, it’s rich and complex without being overpowering. The smell is strong, to be sure, but unlike many strong cheeses, there was no harshness to the flavor, just creamy, awesome deliciousness.

Finally, the Lambics: one peach, one raspberry. If you’ve never tried a Lambic, you should, because they are awesome. Completely different than drinking a regular beer for two reasons. First, they’re fermented with wild yeast native to the Brussels area where they are brewed. This lends a unique flavor unlike beer brewed with cultivated yeast. Second, they’re flavored with fruit juices and syrups, so they taste more like a fermented cider than a beer. Which is not a bad thing, because cider is tasty. I would just say that these Lambics are slightly more tasty and definitely more complex. Not a guzzling beer, to be sure, just something wonderfully awesome to sip, savor, and enjoy, sort of like a fine wine.

Someday I will drink a Belgian beer in Belgium. And watch the Tour of Flanders live. Until then, what we did was the next best thing.

Two more Uinta beers + one new brewery

Posted in American Craft Beer, Epic Brewing, Uinta Brewing, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on April 6, 2010

Thursday after work, I rolled over to the Uinta brewpub housed in the Uinta brewery facility. It’s sort of like the Squatters/Wasatch Beer Store, but sort of not. It’s like the beer store in that it’s smack in the middle of an industrial district, totally low-key, casual, and uncrowded (a far cry from the Squatters or Red Rock brewpubs, which are kind of fancy, trendy, crowded places downtown). It’s quite unlike the Beer Store in that the focus is on selling draft beer by the pint. I think you could get a growler filled there, and they have a fridge with a handful of their bottled beers that you can buy, but that’s certainly not the focus. At the beer store, you can only buy draft beer by the growler (can’t drink it there, nowhere to even sit) or bottled beers, of which they have a full selection.

My objective was to sample a couple more Uinta brews and get some bottles of beers that they didn’t have on tap. The first beer I sampled was the Blue Sky Pilsner. It tasted fine if unremarkable. As a relatively new drinker of beer, I’m still struggling to figure out the popularity of the Pilsner style. I mean, it’s OK, but with so much out there in the beer world, why would you choose that? And for people that drink, say, Bud Light* exclusively, I ask why would you do that to yourself? I expect a little more of a craft-brewed lager than I would from Budweiser, but they don’t always deliver. This one was good (in that I wouldn’t turn it down), but when compared to Bohemian’s Pilsner or Wasatch First Amendment, it’s a bit wanting.

*I confess, I have still never tried Bud Light, but that’s sort of my point. If it were that good, I would have had it by now.

Next I ordered a pint of Hive. Hive is made by Uinta under their Four+ label, which I don’t really understand from a branding standpoint unless it’s just a play for more shelf space at the retailer without looking like it’s just more beer from Uinta. The big breweries play this game, too, owning a lot of brands–such as Beck’s, Bass, Stella, Peroni, and Kirin–that you’d have no indication were owned by Anheuser Busch or Miller Coors.

Hive is described as a honey ale, which I guess means a honey-colored ale with a bit of actual honey flavor in it. For me this one was good, a lot like the Blue Sky–a decent, drinkable beer, but not my first choice when other options are available. And considering Uinta IPA and Hefeweizen are both available on tap at the brewery pub, I don’t see any reason to order the Hive again. Oh, and it claims to have had honey in it, but I really couldn’t taste it.

So in the title I also mentioned a new brewery. Just found out about this yesterday, and it’s not actually open yet, but Epic Brewing is about to open for business. What with the fairly recent change in local liquor laws such that breweries can sell bottled beers of >4% abv direct to the public, Epic Brewing is focusing on craft beers with greater than 4% abv. Obviously they won’t sell anything on tap, but if they put out quality stuff in a setting similar to the Beer Store, I won’t complain a bit.

Wasatch Bobsled Brown Ale

Posted in American Craft Beer, Utah Beer, Wasatch Beers by dailybeerproject on April 2, 2010

This one is a seasonal that’s not technically required for phase 2, but I happened to pick up a bottle last time I was at the beer store, so I figured I’d include it. After the wonderful experience I had with the Red Rock Nut Brown Ale, I was more excited about having this one.

It wasn’t knock-your-socks-off delicious like the Red Rock, but it was still a good beer. I imagine it would be better on tap, but I had it from a bottle. Incidentally, I’m not aware of anywhere that has it on tap, except perhaps the Wasatch Brewpub. It’s on the dark side, but not so dark as a porter or a stout, so it tastes more caramely than toasty. That can be a good thing, depending on your mood.

Speaking of mood, that’s another aspect of drinking beer that I’ve noticed–certain beers go better with certain moods and seasons and foods. Which I think is one of the beauties of beer. It’s nuanced enough that you may want something different when it’s hot or cold, rainy or dry. If you’re tired, one beer may be more appealing, and if you’re wound up and want to relax, another. Perhaps most telling is that there are circumstances, such as after a day of skiing or a really long bike ride, when a Budweiser or a PBR may hit the spot, even if so-called higher-quality options are available. Blackdog says Budweiser goes really well with greasy Chinese food. Who’d have thought of that (I happen to love an occasional plate of greasy Chinese food)?

Duke Ellington said about music, “if it sounds good, it is good.” The corollary for beer is that if tastes good, it is good. And the only person whose taste matters is yours. Budweiser sells a lot of beer by being consistent. PBR sells a lot of beer because it’s something similar that doesn’t say Budweiser on the can. Craft beers can be better than Budweiser, but they can also be worse.

I bring this up because a friend suggested I try Michelob Ultra. I asked him if he was serious. I asked that because I’d heard people make fun of this “beer” and that Lance A. is its pimp. But I’d never tried it. We both got a good laugh, because he was, in fact, serious. So I’m going to chase some down (maybe not a six pack) and give it a try with an open mind.