Daily beer project

Black and tan

Posted in Imports, Macrobrews by dailybeerproject on December 31, 2010

Trite. Really what’s the point of a beer cocktail? Nevertheless, curiosity got the best of me, so I ordered a black and tan made from Guiness and Tetley’s. I like Guiness served on tap. Hadn’t had Tetley’s, but I imagine I’d like it straight up. Interestingly, although the beers were poured into the same glass and were more or less blended, the flavor of each was somewhat distinct and identifiable. It was as though the flavors were alternating in my mouth. Which was kind of cool.

I probably won’t order one again, but it was fun to try. I will, however, try a Tetley’s on its own. Probably next time I go to Piper Down for the pub quiz, in fact.

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Red Rock Harvest Ale

Posted in American Craft Beer, Red Rock, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on December 29, 2010

I stopped by the Beerhive in downtown SLC before meeting the wife and kids and my brother and his family at Temple Square to see the lights (Brother Brigham would be proud, especially since the Beerhive is decorated with a variety of old photos of Utah’s first brewing heyday in Brigham’s time when there was a brewery at the mouth of every canyon).

First thing I ask whenever I visit a local beer bar is what seasonals they have on tap. On this occasion, they had Red Rock’s Harvest Ale. I would characterize this beer as a hoppy amber ale or perhaps a not-quite-so-pale pale ale. It’s only brewed once a year from fresh hops less than a week after they are harvested in Washington’s Yakima Valley.

The result is a bright, flavorful beer where the hops are the star and the malt plays a supporting role. The fresh hops yield a difference in flavor that’s hard to describe but is best compared to the added zing of fresh-squeezed citrus or freshly-ground pepper. The resulting hoppiness is strong but in a pleasant way. I just had time for the one pint but would gladly have another of this awesome beer.

Santa’s Little Helper

Posted in American Craft Beer, Imports by dailybeerproject on December 15, 2010

Cascade Lakes Brewery Santa’s Little Helper: Prior to visiting Bend, I had not heard of Cascade Lakes Brewery. It was located near where I was staying, and I drove past every day, stopping one evening for dinner. I ordered the Santa’s Little Helper, their winter seasonal. It’s a wonderful beer. 6.4% abv and 50 IBU make for a nicely balanced beer, and crystal, chocolate, and honey on the grain bill make for a rich, complex malt.

Cascade Lakes Brewery Paulina Lake Pilsner: Very different than the Santa’s Little Helper, this would make a good transition beer for the Bud Light drinker looking to explore the world of craft beer. The hops are more noticeable and the flavor more sour than in an American lager, enough so to keep it interesting to a beer snob without putting off someone used to stuff that is best summed up with a quote on the menu at the Bayou “Light beer is for people who don’t like the flavor of beer and who like to pee a lot.” It’s a lot like Session lager and something I wouldn’t hesitate to buy again.

Deschutes Brewery Green Lakes Organic Ale: This Deschutes beer isn’t available locally, but I wish it were. It’s a lovely beer, described as an amber, though oddly, comes in a little higher in IBU (45) than Mirror Pond (40). Not that I’m complaining. Had this on tap from Woody, and it was great. It’s a highly versatile beer, as ambers tend to be, and I can’t imagine a beer drinker that wouldn’t like it.

Samuel Smith Winter Welcome Ale: I’ve enjoyed exploring the range of winter seasonals and seeing how different breweries interpret the style. This one is very similar to an ESB, with a noticeable hop presence typical of an English IPA (not an American IPA, which tends to be much hoppier), but with a richer, more robust malt flavor. I wasn’t crazy about it at first, thought I had served it too warm (it was probably around 50 degrees). Interestingly, as I sipped it and it warmed further, I liked it more and more. By the end, I didn’t want to be done. And if it were priced locally the way it is in England, I’d solve that problem by purchasing more. But since Full Sail Wassail can be had for less than $8 for a six pack, it’s hard to spend nearly twice that for something I like about the same.

Sierra Nevada Celebration: Sierra Nevada’s take on a winter seasonal is similar to that of Full Sail’s Wreck the Halls. They describe it as an IPA right on the label, and that’s what it tastes like. But the thing I like about many of these winter seasonals is that they’re not IPAs or ambers or really anything else you can get year-round. They’re a unique offering that just tastes like what you should be drinking in cold weather. Which is not to say you shouldn’t be drinking Celebration if you have a chance.

Wreck the Halls

Posted in American Craft Beer, Utah Beer, Wasatch Beers by dailybeerproject on December 7, 2010

More winter seasonals:

Full Sail Wassail: Deep brown, rich, balanced. Notable, toasty malt presence, balanced perfectly with the substantial but not overpowering hops. $1.28 per bottle at the local store. 7% abv. Reasonably priced and delicious. What more could you possibly want?

Pyramid Snow Cap: Dark but not quite as dark as a porter. Hops are also more significant than a porter. This is a fine beer, but given a choice, there are other winter beers I’d choose first.

Wasatch Winterfest: Wasatch beers describes winterfest as a rich amber. If it is, it’s the darkest amber I’ve ever tried. It’s at least as dark as a nut brown, with plenty of hops. It’s very similar in flavor to the Wassail, except that it has some extra coffee bitterness in the finish. Good beer.

Full Sail Wreck the Halls: This is one of Full Sail’s brewmaster reserve beers, and it comes in a 22 ounce bomber. It’s described as a hybrid between an IPA and a winter warmer. It comes down closer to the IPA side of the equation, with a lot of similarities to Full Sail’s IPA. Hops are strong, registering 68 IBUs, drowning out some of the malt in the process. It’s good and certain to please the hop heads, I just don’t think it’s as good as the Wassail (which is my favorite winter seasonal so far) and really doesn’t distinguish itself enough from Full Sail’s IPA.

Bah Humbug

Posted in American Craft Beer by dailybeerproject on December 3, 2010

I’ve loaded up on every winter/Christmas beer I can get from the liquor store, so I’ll post reviews as I sample them.

Anderson Valley Winter Solstice: pours a beautiful garner color but with a really thin head that dissipated almost immediately. Aroma is hops with an undisclosed blend of spices, probably coriander and clove among them. Flavor is good but a little too heavily weighted towards the spices. I’m not generally a fan of flavored beers, but spiced winter beers are good so long as the spices are subtle. These spices come on just barely top strong, but still a tasty beer.

McTarnahan’s Bah Humbug’r: Says right on the label that it’s a porter. Pours dark black like a porter. Tastes like a porter but probably the best one I’ve ever had. Smooth, caramel, toasted flavor. Rich but not overwhelming. Not sure if I’m growing more fond of porters or if this is just an exceptionally good one. Perhaps some of each. Either way, an awesome beer.

Porters and more

Posted in American Craft Beer, Imports, Squatters, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on December 1, 2010

While my London-based colleauge was in town, we went to the Bayou. He had the Galloway Porter from Epic. He mentioned it didn’t taste like a traditional English porter. Which prompted me to wonder what a traditional English porter tastes like (and how it’s different from the American porters). Porters aren’t my favorite style, but I’ll admit I haven’t put much effort into appreciating them, either. So I decided to make some inroads into appreciating porters. The Meantime porter my colleague recommended wasn’t available at the Bayou (and as of last weekend still isn’t), but I found a couple of others I thought I might like.

The original English porter is a blend of an old (stale or sour) ale, a new brown or pale ale, and a mild ale. If you blended these, you’d end up with something no darker than Newcastle Brown Ale. If you’ve drunk a porter lately, you know it wasn’t that color. 

Modern porters are brewed as porters rather than made as a blend of other beers. They typically use some black and or chocolate or smoked brown malt. And according to Dave from Desert Edge, it doesn’t take much in the way of a dark malt to color a beer. Hence the deep, dark, opaque color of most porters.

Porters tend to have a little less burnt flavor than stouts, and perhaps this is because porters rarely use roasted (unmalted) barley, whereas this is a mainstay of stouts. Unmalted barley will have very little sweetness, as malting converts starch to sugar, which is why stouts have such a dry flavor. A black malt will still have the sweetness from the malting process while still bringing out dark color and rich flavor. Nevertheless, I still struggle a bit to distinguish a porter from a stout, and indeed the origins of the two styles are quite intertwined.

Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter: Samuel Smith’s isn’t the Anheuser Busch of England, but it might be the Samuel Adams (or perhaps Sam Adams is the Sam Smith of America). According to my colleague, it’s ubiquitous and cheap. In England, at least. Here it’s ubiquitous and expensive. North of $2 for a 12 ounce bottle expensive. But for the sake of science, I bought a bottle.

It poured a dark, coffee color, deep brown and opaque. It smell very toasty, with very little hopping. Flavor was rich and dark, as you’d expect. And what my colleague said notwithstanding, I couldn’t tell any difference between this English porter and it’s American cousins. But it was good, something I’d likely come to appreciate if I paid it more attention.

Deschutes Black Butte Porter: This, along with Mirror Pond Pale Ale, is one of Deschutes brewery’s signature beers. With good reason. I can’t imagine someone who likes porters not liking this beer. Like the Samuel Smith’s, it was toasty with very little hops. It had a hint of sweetness to it that provided a nice balance to the dark flavors, sort of like dark chocolate. I liked it, enough that I’d buy it again.

Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale: While shopping for the Black Butte, I realized I’d never reviewed Mirror Pond. According to the Deschutes website, it’s got 40 IBUs. But it tastes hoppier than that. Their Inversion IPA is 80 IBUs, and while it’s more bitter, it didn’t taste twice as bitter. Mirror Pond is also 5.0% abv, on the low end for American pale ales. I wonder if that affects the perceived bitterness. Either way, I’d rate this a good beer, but not awesome. Considering  it costs more than Sierra Nevada or Full Sail but to me isn’t any better, it’s probably not something I’ll regularly buy at the local store, but I wouldn’t refuse it, either.

Deschutes Jubelale: I’m a sucker for seasonals. It’s not like I’ve tried every beer in the world, but I think knowing that a particular beer is a limited time engagement increases the sense of urgency to give it a try. This is a winter ale. I don’t know what that means, but it’s good. It’s deep and dark in color, similar to Epic’s Imperial Red. It took some getting used to, but by the end of the bottle, I was wishing for another. It’s got a rich malt flavor, a cloudy color, and a noticeable hop presence, clocking 60 IBUs, though the hop bitterness is offset quite a bit by the richness of the malt. Really just a perfect winter beer, ideal for when you come in out of the cold after skiing, and one I will definitely have again.

Skinner’s Betty Stoggs Bitter: Another English import, this one had been named best bitter in the Great Britain Beer Festival of 2008, so my expectations were high. Frankly I liked the St. Peters better. This beer is quite a lot like Full Suspension, which is a delightful beer, and which is also quite convenient since I can get Full Suspension at pretty much any grocery store or gas station in the state.

Traquair Jacobite Scottish Ale: I had this at the Bayou on the recommendation of our server. I’d never had a Scottish ale before and figured if I was going to have one, it ought to actually come from Scotland, not from a non-Scottish brewery mimicking the style (after all, if it’s not Scottish, it’s crap). It was surprising and different, a dark beer flavored with coriander. It was also delicious. At 8% abv, it was a knee wobbler, too. I was feeling it by the time the bottle was done. It wasn’t cheap, either. The 330 ml bottle ran $9 at the Bayou, a mere 40% markup from the retail price at the state store where it’s $5.11. Is it worth it? Believe it or not, yes. Definitely not every day, but as a special occasion beer, absolutely. And while it’s not a seasonal, it’s one I’d save for winter or cooler weather. It’s just too much for a summertime beer.

Squatter’s Nut Brown Ale: This is Squatter’s current seasonal offering at the brewpub. It’s tasty. Mostly malt in the flavor profile, with a very bready flavor and just enough hops to make it interesting, I look forward to having this one again. Another awesome choice for the season, it would be a good beer to fill a growler and take to a holiday party.