Daily beer project

New Benelux?

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

The wife recently returned from a trip to the midwest. Which meant she brought home beer that I can’t get here. Specifically, the folly pack from New Belgium (Fat Tire, Hoptober, Blue Paddle, and Ranger IPA) and a six pack of Mad Hatter IPA from New Holland. New Holland and New Belgium? We didn’t plan it, but it worked out to be a nice coincidence.

Hoptober: After the hit and miss with Oktoberfest beers tried previously, I was anxious to see what New Belgium’s offering was like. Frankly, I don’t think this brewery is capable of making a bad beer. Or maybe they are but wouldn’t. Either way, Hoptober is one of my favorite beers ever. It’s what I hoped Marzen beers would be like. Unbelievably awesome. I’m just disappointed that the folly pack only had three bottles of the stuff.

Blue Paddle: My disappointment didn’t last long, because I popped the top on a Blue Paddle lager and was totally stoked about it, too. This would be a great session beer–4.8% abv, highly drinkable, but plenty of character not to get bored with it. Tastes like a traditional Pilsner should, with a pleasantly sour malt balanced with a noticeable but not overpowering hop presence. Lovely stuff.

The other two offerings in the folly pack, Fat Tire and Ranger, I’ve reviewed before. Read about them here and here.

Mad Hatter: With the exception of Pete’s Wicked , Pete’s Strawberry Blonde, and Sam Adams, I can’t think of a domestic beer I’ve tried from anywhere East of Colorado. Which is not to say there aren’t good craft beers from East of Colorado, I just don’t have access to them.

Mad Hatter is well-regarded over at BeerAdvocate, and given that my beer journey is currently on its predictable detour through the IPAs, I was anxious to try this one. The anticipation was rewarded, as this is a fine beer. Interestingly, this was closer to the English IPA tradition than that of the Western United States in that the alcohol content was a mere 5.8%. The hops were noticeable but not overpowering and allowed more of the malt flavor to come through than in many other IPAs.

The delineation between pale ale and IPA is nebulous at best, with Dale’s Pale Ale being stronger and hoppier than Mad Hatter and various other IPAs. Of course for my purposes, I don’t particularly care what style a beer is (or calls itself), I just want it to taste good. And Mad Hatter certainly does.

Oktoberfest

Posted in Uncategorized by dailybeerproject on October 12, 2010

The other day I was looking at The Big Picture, which ran a series on Oktoberfest. And aside from prompting me to add attending Oktoberfest to my bucket list (I don’t actually have a bucket list, but I would still like to go to Oktoberfest some day), it reminded me that I haven’t sampled any Marzen or Oktoberfest beers.

But first, why are they called Marzen (March) beers if they’re consumed in October? Because back in the day, German brewers weren’t allowed to brew during the summer (shocking that industry would be so regulated in Germany, right?). So they brewed their beer in March and stored or lagered it in cool caves until fall when the kegs were tapped. In 1810, to commemorate the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese, these kegs were tapped in a huge party, and Oktoberfest was born.

Many brewers make a Marzen-style beer as a fall seasonal. I hadn’t had one, so I took a trip to the local liquor store and grabbed a couple.

Spaten Oktoberfest: First up was a German import, a beer actually served at the Oktoberfest in Munich. I wanted to get a feel for what the Germans and visiting tourists actually drink with their huge portions of chicken, beef, sausage, and pretzels. The beer is light to medium in body, similar in color to a lot of golden ales but lighter than a typical pale ale or amber. It’s moderately hopped, enough to be apparent, but with the malt being the dominant flavor. It’s awesome. Yes it comes from a big brewer, yes it comes in a green bottle and is probably light affected after a voyage across the ocean. It still tastes good. So I can only imagine what it’s like served on tap in a liter stein in a tent with thousands of my closest friends.

Samuel Adams Oktoberfest: While malt was prominent in the Spaten, it was all I tasted in the Sam Adams. In fact it was too malty. I didn’t care for it. It was good enough that I could put another one down if need be, but I definitely would not pay $1.85 for a bottle again. I’m sure it has its fans, I’m just not one.

Unfortunately, these two were the extent of the Oktoberfest beers available at the local store, so I decided to put together a sampler and try some other beers that were new to me.

Uinta Anniversary Barley Wine: This probably should have been part of phase two of the project. But it’s a barley wine, and there’s some question as to whether barley wine is beer or something else. Plus I was scared of it. With my early issues about strong beers being overpowering, I was certain I wouldn’t like it.

I wasn’t head over heels for it, but it was good enough. At 10.4% abv, it’s not the most drinkable beer. It’s just too strong. It’s a sipping beer, and somehow the brewers managed to make it that strong while still striking a decent balance. It’s fairly dark, similar to a brown or a red ale, but not as dark as a porter. The malt and alcohol is so strong that the hops, while evident, don’t dominate. It meets my standard definition of a good beer: I’d accept one if offered, but I may not spend my own money to buy it.

After reading this article in The Atlantic about an emerging American beer style that nobody can figure out how to name, I was interested in trying an American Black Ale/Cascadian Black Ale/American-Style India Black Ale/whatever you want to call it. Unfortunately, the local store didn’t have any. So I came as close as I could and got a Russian Imperial Stout.

North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin: This stuff is supposed to be 75 IBUs. That’s pretty bitter and a lot of hops. Except that the malt was so dark and so strong (it’s 9% abv) that the hops still weren’t all that apparent. The beer was just plain strong. Too strong. I had a hard time finishing it. It was just too much for me in every way. Not awesome.

Seagram’s 7

Posted in Not Beer by dailybeerproject on October 1, 2010

I like Jameson’s, I really like Maker’s Mark. Neither costs nearly as much as Booker’s or High West (a new local distillery), but neither is cheap. Seagram’s 7 is cheap, so I thought I’d try some. There’s a reason it’s cheap. It’s tolerable. It goes down almost as easy as Maker’s Mark, but then it comes back. It’s got fumes. It made me cough and sputter when I drank it too fast. I’m sure it makes a decent whiskey sour, and I imagine 7 and 7 is pretty tasty. But on ice, my preferred method, it’s just too harsh.