Daily beer project

Epic Brewing Intermountain Wheat

Posted in American Craft Beer, Epic Brewing, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on May 30, 2010

Wheat beers are usually mild. But Epic doesn’t seem to be about business as usual, so aside from the typical cloudy appearance and golden color, this is not your typical wheat beer. It’s the hoppiest (is that even a word?) wheat beer I’ve had by a good margin, but the hoppiness works with this one. I’d also guess from the flavor that this is a bit lighter on the wheat and heavier on the barley malt than most wheat beers. It still has wheat obviously, but there’s much more to it than the typical Wonder bread flavor of so many beers of this style.

The hoppiness was surprising at first, but it added so much to the flavor that once I was past the initial surprise, I really enjoyed it. Probably not a lawnmower beer, but that doesn’t seem to be what Epic is about anyway. This would be a good one to pack in the picnic basket to pair with turkey and swiss and some fresh fruit or to serve alongside grilled chicken at a barbecue. It also does nicely on its own. A surprising yet awesome beer. It’s been one of the few Epic has been able to keep in stock, which is also surprising, since it’s been one of my favorites so far.

Epic Brewery: Captain Crompton’s Pale Ale and Cross Fever Amber Ale

Posted in American Craft Beer, Epic Brewing, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on May 28, 2010

There’s been a lot of local buzz about Epic Brewery. So much, in fact, that they’re sold out of almost everything. And they’ve only just opened last week. As soon as they restock their cooler, it gets emptied. I was lucky to get my hands on some of the sour apple saison, but it will probably be my only bottle from this first batch, as people were buying it by the case as soon as it was released.

Epic is unique amongst breweries in Utah in that they’re the first brewery since prohibition not to make any 4% abv beers. With a recent change in liquor laws, full-strength beers can be sold in bottles direct from the brewery as well as from state liquor stores, bars, and restaurants. Because they don’t make any 4% beer, they don’t sell anything on tap. They’ve also chosen to only sell 22 ounce bottles, which, given the strength of most of the beers, makes one plenty for drinking alone or enough to share if you’ve got company.

Fortunately when I stopped by last Friday night, they were only sold out of the Hopulent IPA, so I was able to pick up some Captain Crompton’s pale ale, Cross Fever amber, Intermountain Wheat, and Belgian-style golden. Yesterday I reloaded with the aforementioned Sour Apple Saison along with a Brown Rice Ale. So far I’ve tried the first two and can attest that the buzz is justifiable.

Pale ales aren’t my favorite style–the hops tend to be a bit strong for my taste, though I do appreciate the complexity of flavor. Captain Crompton’s is indeed strong, and while not something I’d seek out every day, is one of the best pale ales I’ve tried. It’s hoppy to be sure, with three hops in the boil, plus a dry hop during aging. But the hops plus the malt provide a broad spectrum of flavor that is immensely satisfying. An awesome pale ale.

Cross Fever amber is on the other end of the spectrum, with a very malty flavor and very little hops. The maltiness was really rich, but I thought it could have used just the slightest bit more hops to get the right balance. I’m sure the brewmaster was going for a really malty beer with this one, and if you love malt but not hops, you’ll love this. For me it was good but came short of awesome.

It’s a three day weekend, so I imagine the Brown Rice Ale, Brainless Belgian, Intermountain Wheat, and Sour Apple Saison will not make it to Tuesday in my fridge. Too bad I can’t get more. For DC and the rest of the crew at Epic, I’ve got to think selling through all your inventory in the first two weeks of business is a good problem to have. Unfortunately I don’t think we’ll be seeing DC out on the bike anytime soon.

Killian’s Irish Red

Posted in Macrobrews by dailybeerproject on May 23, 2010

The wife and I went to dinner Friday night at a restaurant we selected in large part because they had Booker’s on the drink menu, and I really wanted to try Booker’s without dropping $60 on a bottle. So we sit down and the waiter comes to get our drink order.

“I’ll have Booker’s.”

“We drank it all. Well not us, I mean customers. But I don’t think we have any more.”

I sulked for a moment. Then, since Killian’s was the only thing on the beer menu I hadn’t tried, I ordered some. I knew it was one of those macrobrews that had a name purchased from some historic-but-defunct brewery, but I didn’t know any details.

The details are that the Killian’s name was purchased by Coors from Pelforth brewery in France, who purchased it from Lett’s brewery in Ireland when they closed in 1956. Killian’s Irish Red was actually produced in Ireland from 1864 to 1956. Who’s to say whether they went under because the beer wasn’t that good or because of mismanagement. Killian’s Biere Rousse is still made and distributed in France by Pelforth.

Knowing as I did that this amber lager was a macrobrew with another name, I got about what I expected. My wife asked me how it was, and I said it was like Budweiser, only red. Which is not to say it was bad. Remember, I like Budweiser. It was just nothing to get excited about. Yet another “good” beer–wouldn’t turn it down, wouldn’t seek it out.

Full Sail Amber Ale

Posted in American Craft Beer by dailybeerproject on May 20, 2010

This might be the best amber I’ve had to date. Way good stuff, and I had serious regrets that I only had the one bottle. Of course, I downed it along with a plate of nachos after about 40 miles on the bike, so that may have affected my perception.

Ambers to me are all about balance. Balanced between dark and light. Balanced between hoppy and malty. Not too strong, but strong enough that you know you’ve had one. Goldilocks beers. Full Sail seems to capture that perfectly. Any twinges of regret that I can’t get Fat Tire locally have more or less gone away since trying this. Awesome through and through.

Spaten Premium, Anchor Steam, Sierra Nevada Glissade, Bohemian Roadhouse Rye, and skunked Tsingtao

Posted in American Craft Beer, Bohemian, Imports, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on May 18, 2010

I’ve been slacking a bit, so I’m going to try and get caught up all at once. I took a bit of a departure from the local beers and went to the liquor store for some domestic and imported brews I’ve been interested in sampling. I was also anxious to sample the seasonal rye beer at Bohemian since a) I had yet to try a rye beer, and b) everything Bohemian makes is good. So here you go.

Spaten Premium: this is a traditional light lager, the flagship beer of Germany’s Spaten brewery. I tried Spaten Optimator early on in the project and was pretty overwhelmed by how strong it was. I need to revisit that one, but I wanted to give this variety a go first.

Nothing spectacular about it, just a good but typical European lager. Not as plain as American lagers, with more noticeable hops and a more pronounced bitterness. Good but not awesome.

Anchor Steam: The only beer official allowed to be called “steam beer” since Anchor brewery trademarked the name, I was anxious to try this one after how much I enjoyed Park City Steamer. Turns out I’m quite fond of the steam or California Common style beers, as this one was awesome in its own right. Steam beers were originally considered of poor quality and were obviously a makeshift beer, but the modern iterations are some of my favorites. I would definitely buy this one again. Will be interesting to see, however, how the quality holds up over the years, as Anchor brewing has just been sold.

Sierra Nevada Glissade: Bock beers were originally created in Einbeck, Germany. They were strong beers, created by the monks to have higher food energy values to help them through lent, similar to the Trappist beers originating in Belgium. The style has evolved over the years to encompass a variety of flavors and strengths, ranging from quite strong at about 6% abv to exceptionally strong eisbock beers that are strengthened by freeze distilling the beer: the beer is frozen, and the chunks of water ice removed, leaving behind the alcohol and malt flavors. Eisbocks can be brewed to as strong as 40% abv (wow!).

Glissade is a golden bock, brewed with lighter malts. It’s on the weak side for the style at 6.4% abv. Between the lighter malt and the relatively weak alcohol, it wasn’t overpowering like the Spaten Optimator I mentioned previously (a doppelbock, on the strong end of the spectrum, excluding eisbocks). Not a session beer, but a good one and done beer. Strong enough to leave me feeling satisfied without being so strong to require some determination to finish. Awesome stuff when looking for a slightly stronger beer.

Bohemian Roadhouse Rye (Seasonal): Rye beer is any beer where rye (typically malted) is substituted for any portion of the barley. Almost never 100% rye, but typically at least 50%. Rye used to be commonly used for brewing beer, but in the 1500’s, after a series of bad harvests, rye was deemed only suitable for bread and not for beer, and the German Reinheitsgebot, or purity law, was enacted, stipulating that beer was to be produced from only four ingredients: water, barley, yeast, and hops. Only recently have rye beers reappeared in broad distribution.

Just as rye/pumpernickel breads have a hearty, grainy flavor, the same is true of rye beers. I love rye bread, in fact it’s my favorite kind. And as it happens, I love rye beer. Bohemian’s at least. It’s quite light in color for a rye beer, but that seems to fit with my preference for rye over pumpernickel and lighter beers over darker in general. Way awesome. I’ll need to go back for more.

Skunked Tsingtao: I kind of gave away my impression of this beer by telling you that it was skunked. Imported from China, comes in green bottles, stored in the open at room temperature at state liquor store. That’s a recipe for disaster, and it was. I could smell it when I opened it. I didn’t need to taste it, but I did. Then poured it down the drain. I’d like to give this beer a try, but I don’t trust that I can get it fresh.

Frankly, the state liquor stores have a huge problem with freshness. Many times, I’ve seen beers with bottled-on dates indicating they were more than a year old. Very few beers have that kind of shelf life, and even fewer at room temperature.

Thankfully, now that Epic Brewing is open for business, we have no excuse not to have fresh, refrigerated beer. Want beer stronger than 4% abv? Epic and the Beer Store both have it cold and in bottles, ready for you to take home. I’m looking forward to sampling some Epic beers soon.

Bass Ale & Baja Especial

Posted in Imports, Moab Brewery, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on May 11, 2010

Bass is an iconic beer brand, laying claim to being the original pale ale and also to being awarded England’s first trademark. It’s such an icon, in fact, that the Bass Brewery was acquired by Anheuser Busch (AB-InBev) in 2000. It is not what you would call a craft beer.

It is, however, a very good beer. In fact it’s an awesome beer. Quite likely my favorite pale ale I’ve tried so far. The malt has a very toasty, rich flavor to it, and the hops are just up to the very limit of what I like without being too hoppy or too bitter. It’s smooth and satisfying, a beer to be savored rather than pounded. It’s a great choice if I’m just going to have one beer to unwind at the end of the day.

Baja Especial is a local beer that I tried on tap Saturday night at Porcupine, bringing me one beer closer to wrapping up phase 2 of this project. Sort of. Baja Especial is brewed by Park City Brewing Company, which also makes Park City Steamer and is affiliated with Moab Brewery. I figured all the beers were coming from Moab Brewery. In Moab. They’re not. A look at the packaging for their bottled beers in stores reveals “Moab Brewery/Park City Brewing Company, Belgrade, MONTANA” A few minutes of google searching reveals that Madison River Brewing is also a contract brewer that makes beer for the Moab/Park City labels. They ship a truck of beer to Utah every two weeks. My objective with phase two was to sample every beer made in the state, not to sample every beer distributed in the state. So I’ll probably grab a six pack of Scorpion Amber Ale sometime, but I’m not going to worry about going to Moab Brewery so I can make sure and try every single beer they offer. Unless I happen to be in Moab, in which case I will probably still go sample every beer they offer.

Anyway, on to the review of this beer. It’s described as a Mexican-style lager, which suggests something like Tecate or Corona. Negra Modelo is also a Mexican lager, but it’s not a typical Mexican lager like its sister, Modelo Especial. I would think most brewers would set their sights a little higher than a typical Mexican lager, but those beers have their fans, so I can see the appeal from a marketing standpoint. Baja Especial does a good job of fitting the style while also making an excellent beer. It really is awesome stuff.

Typical of Mexican beers, it was served with a lime wedge on the edge of the glass. I didn’t squeeze the lime into the beer at first, wanting to see how it tasted on its own. It’s an easy-to-drink lager, smooth going down, with very little hops. It was served cold, and with this style, the colder the better. I found it better and more satisfying than the other Mexican lagers I’ve tried, so I guess style doesn’t need to constrain quality. For the last bit left in my glass, I squeezed in some lime, just to see how it tasted. It was better without it. I’m yet to have a really good beer that’s made better with the addition of citrus. If the brewer is doing his job, it’s totally unnecessary.

Wasatch Twilight Summer Seasonal

Posted in American Craft Beer, Utah Beer, Wasatch Beers by dailybeerproject on May 10, 2010

This was available on tap at a restaurant near the finish of my race Saturday afternoon. And since the other offerings on tap were beers I’d tried (Uinta Hefeweizen and Cutthroat Pale Ale), I figured I’d avoid doing what’s safe and give the Twilight a try.

Twilight is a Kolsch-style beer, which means that it’s top-fermented with an ale yeast but then cold conditioned like a lager. It’s a pale, golden color with relatively mild hoppiness. It’s one of my favorite styles, and this one did not disappoint in the least. It was smooth and refreshing with a mild, sweet flavor from the lightly roasted malt, balanced by just the right amount of hops. It’s a nearly perfect summer beer and one I expect to drink more of as the days get warmer. Absolutely awesome.

Michelob Ultra

Posted in Macrobrews by dailybeerproject on May 9, 2010

If you recall, a while back I promised I was going to try Michelob Ultra. And I promised I was going to try it with an open mind. Which I did. In fact, I was open-minded enough about it that I bought a six pack. Here’s how it went.

Let’s start with the pour. It felt like pouring water from a bottle. There just wasn’t much to it. It didn’t quite look like water, but it didn’t quite look like beer. It was somewhere in between. It managed to muster a thin head and was a very clear, very pale yellow. I knew about what to expect with the first sip, and that’s about what I got. Not much. Nothing bad, nothing objectionable, just nothing much.

My wife despises beer (I keep trying to convince her to embark on a project like this, but she remains loathe to do so), and I suggested she try some. She had a sip and said that while she didn’t like it, it was the least objectionable beer she’d tried. I thought it was very similar to the Kirin Light, which is not surprising since both are made by Anheuser Busch. The Kirin seemed to have a bit more sweet, rice-like flavor to it, whereas the ultra was more dry. Both are 95 calories, but the Ultra had less overall flavor and no discernible hop flavor at all.

I understand the appeal of a beer like this. If you like beer as a refreshing drink but want to save a few calories, I could see drinking this. If I’m going to have just one beer, I’d choose something with more flavor than this. If I’m going to drink multiple beers in one day, I’d rather drink half as many of something with a little more to it. Or have a Sam Adams Light, which is only 25 calories more but double the flavor. But if you prefer easy-drinking lagers and want something light, this isn’t bad, it just doesn’t stand out as being particularly good, either.

Red Rock Honey Wheat

Posted in American Craft Beer, Red Rock, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on May 4, 2010

Red Rock Honey Wheat is another offering I enjoyed as part of a $2 Tuesday at Porcupine Pub. At $2 a pint, it makes no sense to order samplers, so long as you don’t mind downing a few pints in an evening. And really, why would anyone complain about downing a few pints so long as you’ve got good company and can spread it out over a few hours?

Technically this beer is categorized as a kristallweizen, since it’s a filtered wheat beer. It has a light, clear appearance, whereas a typical unfiltered hefeweizen is quite cloudy.Filtering wheat beer removes the cloudiness of the yeast and at the same time some of the fruitiness and body from the flavor, making for a cleaner tasting beer.

Unfortunately, I quite like the body in wheat beers, as they can be a bit bland without it. Consequently, I wasn’t as happy with this as say the Uinta Hefeweizen. While honey wheat makes for a nice name that provokes thoughts of sweet, fresh-baked bread, I’m yet to try a honey-flavored beer that I was really crazy about. The flavor was a bit more sour and sharp than what I wanted, which would have been OK had there been more to it than that. Unfortunately there wasn’t. It was served with a slice of lemon, which I didn’t squeeze into the beer. Awesome beer does not rely on citrus juice for flavor.

It’s a good beer, not to be turned down. But not the best of what Red Rock has to offer, in my opinion. Especially considering how wonderful their Blonde and Nut Brown ales are.