Daily beer project

Catching up

Posted in American Craft Beer, Desert Edge, Epic Brewing, Not Beer, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on June 29, 2010

OK, so I sort of put posting on this thing on the back burner. Which means lots of catching up to do. Let’s get on with it.

Epic Brainless Belgian: This beer is a double gold medal winner, having taken top honors at a couple different beer festivals. You’d think it would be everybody’s favorite, right? Well it’s good, but it’s not my favorite. Not really sure why. Nothing wrong with it, per se, it’s just that there are other beers and other beers from Epic that I prefer. The fact that I’m not buying it doesn’t seem to make it any easier to find, as Epic is having trouble keeping this (like all their beers) in stock.

New Belgium Mighty Arrow: I was in Wyoming for a bike race a couple weeks ago. My wife bought some Fat Tire to have at the finish line, which was awesome. But it was a stage race, so the next day I decided to have something else from New Belgium at the finish line, their spring seasonal pale ale, Mighty Arrow.

They should call this beer “Mighty Awesome,” because that’s what it is. One of my new favorites. Less bitter than a lot of pale ales, smooth, easy drinking. Awesomeness in a bottle. I think I have one bottle left, which I will covet and horde and save for a very thirsty day. Either that, or I’ll go to Wyoming to get more.

New Belgium Ranger IPA: I’m not the only person who buys beer in Wyoming on occasion while visiting our neighboring state. When I was checking out at the liquor store there, I asked the clerk what percentage of their customers are from Utah. “99%. OK, not really. Actually 98%.” Good thing, too, because at a little sendoff barbecue for BradK yesterday, the host (who shall remain nameless to protect his identity given what I’m revealing and about to reveal) had a cooler full of deliciousness from New Belgium by way of Wyoming.

The first sampling from this cooler was Ranger IPA. I’m coming around to IPAs, having recently taken a liking to Full Sail’s. I liked this one, too. Very hoppy but still drinkable. Awesome beer for sipping on the back porch or chasing something stronger (more on this later). New Belgium beers seem to be a bit less hoppy than other craft brewers, but their malt is so perfectly dialed in, I think this is a good thing.

New Belgium 1554 Black Ale: The next thing I pulled from the cooler was 1554 Black Ale. This is a throwback beer, intended to mimick the dark ales common in Belgium 500 years ago. It’s roasty, toasty, strong, and good. It’s no secret I tend to prefer lighter beers, but as dark ones go, this one is a real winner. I don’t think New Belgium makes anything that isn’t delicious.

Moonshine: As we’re sitting on the porch sipping sparkling highland water, the hostess brings out a cake, made specially for Brad. It’s a rum cake, with moonshine–made by the host’s father–substituted for the rum. The presentation of the cake (which was splendid and fantastic and wonderful) got us talking about the moonshine, so the host brought out three bottles, one clear (in a plastic water bottle), one amber, and one a darker amber.

He also brought some shot glasses, and we started sampling. The amber was moonshine aged in oak barrels. The barrel aging mellows the flavor, and while it’s still mighty potent, it’s drinkable.

The clear stuff in the water bottle was less mellow, tasted more potent even though it probably wasn’t, and would doubtless make you go blind if you pounded it. It made me sputter and cough, but it was somehow still–not sure if this is the right word–pleasant?

The darker amber stuff is “fortified,” and what was in the cake. The hosts father, an immigrant from Central Europe says “eetz for da ladiez.” Or something like that. It was sweet, maybe a bit too sweet considering what it was.

All three were fun to try, with the added bonus that you could start your car with at least two of them were you to run out of gas.

Full Sail Pale Ale: I think I’ve mentioned that I like Full Sail beers. I love the amber, I dig the IPA, so the pale ale, between the two, was also spot on. Really, the differences between their amber, pale ale, and IPA are not nearly as significant as they are for other breweries. The pale ale is comparable to New Belgium’s, their amber is more hoppy than most ambers, and their IPA less so. All three are awesome, which is great if you like them. Only problem is if you’re looking for something more or less hoppy than these.

Desert Edge English Mild (on cask): Desert Edge is one of the local breweries I haven’t been to yet, but I’ve been anxious to try their beer. I’ve also been anxious to try a beer served on cask.

Cask ale is conditioned in the keg, including the second fermentation (carbonization), so no CO2 or Nitrogen is added to pressurize the cask and dispense the beer. It’s the traditional means of making and dispensing beer, but a method that nearly disappeared until consumer demand for a return to traditional methods prompted a renaissance.

The Desert Edge offering, which I had at the Bayou, was exquisite. It was very malty and rich. Bubbly enough to get a good head, but the body of the beer wasn’t overly carbonated. It was smooth-drinking and balanced. I had it with a plate of jambalaya, which is probably not a traditional pairing, but it worked really well. Awesome beer that has me looking forward to trying more from Desert Edge.

By contrast, I followed this English mild with a Bass Ale, a beer I quite like. The Bass, however, seemed a bit bland and boring by comparison. Which goes to show that even the lower ABV beers served on tap can be plenty flavorful and still taste better than bottled.

Coming up: My brother kindly gave me a bottle of the Smoked and Oaked from Epic. I’ll be sampling that this week and will hopefully get a review up shortly thereafter. I also won a gift card to Red Rock at a recent race, so I think next time I go out, I’ll have to use that and round out the offerings from that brewery.

Epic Pfeifferhorn Lager & Coors Light

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

Pfeifferhorn Lager: The Pfeifferhorn is one of the most iconic peaks in  the Wasatch range. It’s such a landmark that any beer named for it is worth trying on that basis alone. And while producing a beer, especially an American lager, as distinctive as the peak is pretty much an impossible task, this beer is still awesome for what it is.

It’s a straightforward lager, perfect for sitting on the porch on summer nights, which is how I enjoyed mine. DC from Epic told me when I bought it that “it’s a pretty basic beer.” Nothing wrong with that, provided that basic means good-quality and delicious without being fancy and creative. This one is basic in that sense but still way less boring than Budweiser.

Like all Epic beers, it comes in a 22 ounce bottle. At first I wasn’t sure about this bottle size, but I have come to love it. 22 ounces of 5-6% abv beer, which is most of Epic’s range, is just about perfect. I found myself daydreaming about popping open another one of these brown bombers on my way to work today.

Coors Light: Curiosity seems to be my most common reason for sampling a particular beer. And since I didn’t spend my college years drinking macrobrews on the weekends (my wasted youth), my interest extends even to stuff beer connoisseurs have little or no interest in. And since I hadn’t yet tried Coors Light, I grabbed one on my way home the other night.

With the exception of Sam Adams Light, which is frankly more of an in-between beer than a true “light” beer, I haven’t found a light beer worth getting excited about. And while excited would exaggerate the way I feel about Coors Light, it’s the best of the lot of mass-produced light beers available at the grocery store. Rarified company, right?

At 102 calories per 12 ounce serving, the calorie difference between this and Michelob Ultra is negligible. But the difference in taste is significant. Whereas Bud Light tastes like someone poured water in perfectly good Budweiser, and Michelob Ultra tastes like someone poured Budweiser in perfectly good water, Coors Light almost tastes like normal beer. Close enough that I’d drink it again.

Full Sail IPA & Sierra Nevada Summerfest

Posted in American Craft Beer by dailybeerproject on June 14, 2010

Full Sail IPA: Given how much I liked the Full Sail Amber as well as how reasonably priced Full Sail beers are in general, I was anxious to try their other offerings. That said, I’m always a little tentative around IPAs, as some of them are too harsh to be enjoyable to me.

Not so with the Full Sail. It’s hoppy, to be sure. It’s strong, as an IPA should be. But nothing about it is unpleasant. For whatever reason, I was looking forward to something really hoppy before I cracked this open, and it delivered at just the right level. Along with the Trader IPA from Uinta, this is one of my favorite IPAs I’ve had. Awesome beer–look forward to drinking more.

Sierra Nevada Summerfest: One of the best reasons to buy seasonal beer is that it’s almost certain to be fresh, which is not necessarily the case with other beers purchased from our wonderful state liquor store. Another good reason is that it’s no accident that certain styles are brewed as seasonals–they just seem to fit that time of year.

Sierra Nevada Summerfest is a Pilsner-style lager, but certainly not a typical one, at least not for those brewed in the United States. It’s smooth and easy drinking, but also has a prominent and floral hop flavor, which adds a lot of character and balance to the beer. It’s an awesome beer for a hot day, but too good of a beer to just pound as a thirst quencher. If you’re really thirsty, have a glass of water first so you can slow down and enjoy this one.

With as much as I enjoyed the Summerfest and the Glissade, I think I need to revisit Sierra Nevada’s flagship Pale Ale. I tried it early on in the project, and stronger beers (in hops and alcohol) were a little overwhelming. I seem to enjoy stronger beers more now and wonder if I’d also like this one. The Glissade is 42 IBUs, while the Pale Ale is 37, so it could be I just needed more time to get to where I’ve embraced the hops and bitterness. I’m still less than six months into this beer drinking thing, after all.

Singha, Pete’s Strawberry Blonde, and Henry Weinhard’s Blonde

Posted in American Craft Beer, Imports by dailybeerproject on June 10, 2010

I went camping over the weekend, and brought an assortment to sample. In order:

Singha: Tried this one because, well, I was curious. Expectations were low. Expected a somewhat boring, not-very-fresh-tasting-considering-it-came-from-Thailand lager, and that’s what I got. Not bad, not something I’d turn down. Just unlike some of the finer Belgians, not worth getting on a plane and traveling for. Or even driving to the liquor store for, for that matter.

Pete’s Wicked Strawberry Blonde Lager: I didn’t read the label before I tried this, and first thing I noticed was that it smelled, and tasted, like real strawberries. So I looked at the label. Duh. It’s called Strawberry Blonde not for its color, but because it’s flavored with actual strawberries. Seems kind of gimmicky, but it actually tasted pretty good. One of those like Raspberry Wheat from Wasatch that isn’t particularly manly, but if you drink beer for fun and not for what it says about you, this one is good once in a while. I’d get sick of it every day, but it was good.

Henry Weinhard’s Blonde Lager: Nothing spectacular about this beer, but nothing not to like either. Weinhard’s used to sort of be a regional craft brewer, but they couldn’t hold market share against the big brands and were eventually sold to SABMiller. The original Portland brewery remained in operation for a while, then was closed, with production moved to the Olympia brewer. Since its closure in 2003, Weinhard’s is now brewed under contract by Full Sail.

The thing I like about Weinhard’s (and Full Sail for that matter), is that they are quality beers at a great price. Weinhard’s sells for about a buck a bottle at the liquor store, a few cents less than Full Sail. They’re not knock-your-socks-off good like Epic’s Sour Apple Saison, but I can’t afford $7 a bottle beer every day, either.

As far as every day beers go, they taste great. There’s nothing spectacular about this blonde lager, it just goes down easy and has plenty of flavor. And the price is on par with Budweiser. That combination is hard to beat, and that makes this an awesome beer.

Epic Brown Rice Ale

Posted in American Craft Beer, Epic Brewing, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on June 4, 2010

Last night for dinner I grilled marinated chicken breasts and corn on the cob over charcoal, which we then sliced and put on a salad with homemade ranch dressing and a side of refried black beans and chipotle sour cream. This meal was begging for a beer to go with it. So I figured I’d have “beans and rice” and crack open the brown rice ale from Epic.

I don’t usually drink beer with meals unless we’re out at a restaurant, so my son asked me what I was drinking.

“Beer,” I told him.

“Oh. It looks like poison,” he responded.

I can assure you it was not poison. Many of the macrobrews use rice as an adjunct grain to mellow the flavor of the barley malt, so I was expecting a fairly mild beer, and it was. This beer was only lightly hopped, so the flavor of the brown rice was apparent but still subtle. It wasn’t as grainy as the Roadhouse Rye at Bohemian, nor should it be since rye has a much more distinctive flavor than rice. But it was still awesome. It’s a mild but tasty beer that goes well with food–flavorful enough that your food won’t overpower it, but not so strong to distract you from what you’re eating. An excellent choice for summer barbecues, particularly if you’re grilling chicken or fish.

Locals interested in sampling Epic beers are likely aware they’ve had trouble keeping them in stock. I stopped in yesterday and got a bottle of Pfeiferhorn Lager, but they had just sold out of Imperial Red that morning, so I’ll have to wait for the next batch. There was still some Sour Apple Saison, and they were planning to put more Cross Fever Amber in the cold case this morning.

Epic Brewing Sour Apple Saison

Posted in American Craft Beer, Epic Brewing, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on June 2, 2010

Before trying this beer, I didn’t know what a saison was. Or rather, I knew that “saison” is French for “season,” so I assumed it was some type of seasonal beer. But I didn’t know any details.

According to the lazy blogger’s source for all information about everything:

Saison (French, “season”) is the name originally given to refreshing, low-alcohol pale ales brewed seasonally in farmhouses in Wallonia, the French-speaking region of Belgium, to refresh farm workers during harvest season….Modern saisons brewed in the USA tend to copy the yeast used by Brasserie Dupont, which ferments better at blood warm temperatures (29 °C (84 °F) to 35 °C (95 °F)) than the standard 18 °C (64 °F) to 24 °C (75 °F) fermenting temperature used by other Belgian saison brewers.

Despite the spicy character of many Saisons, the use of actual spices is uncommon, though not unheard of. Any spice character in a traditional Saison is the result of esters during fermentation by the traditionally used strains of yeast. In America, brewers will often add orange zest, coriander, ginger, and crushed peppercorns to a Saison to simulate the ester spiciness.

Okay, so that’s what the beer is, but here’s the part that makes you want to be a farm worker: “these ales were traditionally brewed in the autumn or winter for consumption during the late summer harvest for farm workers who were entitled to up to five liters throughout the workday during harvest season.” Any job where I can consume five liters of saison during the workday sounds absolutely awesome.

Especially since this Sour Apple Saison from Epic is absolutely awesome. I bought it the day it was released, within hours of its release, and they were already selling through it like crazy. I bought a single bottle (dumb), but others were buying it by the box (smart).

I would describe this beer as mild and delicate without being weak. The sour apple is certainly the most prominent flavor, but the fruity esters from the yeast and the spice from the seasonings is subtle, delicious, and just right. A sipping beer to be certain, but one you could sip for hours at a time and not get sick of it. It doesn’t come cheap at $7 and change for a 22 ounce bomber, but I’ve paid twice that or more for the same amount of wine (sparkling or still) and not enjoyed it half as much.

I’m going to steer clear of applying superlatives, but this is among the best beers that I’ve ever consumed. In fact, it’s among the best beverages of any kind that I’ve ever consumed. Chapeau, Epic.

Boont Amber, Tiger, & Pete’s Wicked

Posted in American Craft Beer, Imports by dailybeerproject on June 2, 2010

A few more to add to the tally from the weekend. Thought I’d write some notes while I still remember.

Anderson Valley Brewing Company Boont Amber Ale: Seems as if American craft breweries are obligated to produce an amber and a pale ale if they’re going to make anything at all. Makes sense, given the popularity of both. But at the same time it makes it hard to stand out in a crowd. AVBC’s Boont amber is good but not exceptional. And while it’s easy enough to find at the liquor store, it’s not one I’d go out of my way to find. Not to mention Full Sail is cheaper and better. Happy to have tried it, but no hurry to find my next one.

Tiger Beer: This was sort of a bucket list sampling. Nothing I was dying to try but figured since I could get it, I should try it. For some reason I thought it was Malaysian, but it’s brewed in Singapore. After I spent a week there, I’ve not had any desire to return to Singapore. This beer didn’t change that. I was expecting something like Budweiser or maybe Heineken, and what I got was somewhere in between. Yet another lager that doesn’t do anything special but that’s good enough to drink. It had some of the sourness of Heineken and other euro macrobrews, but not to the degree and unpleasantness of Heineken. The best thing about it was the artwork on the bottle cap, which is actually really cool.

Pete’s Wicked Ale: This is described as a ruby brown ale, a description I’ve not heard before, but that I guess is a good marketing tack if you don’t want to be just plain brown. Even more important than the description is the quality of the product, and Pete’s has done well in that regard. It’s rich and smooth. The hops are subtle and just right to not distract you from the malt, which is what really shines with this beer. Awesome stuff–looking forward to trying the Pete’s Strawberry Blonde that’s sitting in my fridge.