Daily beer project

PBR Draft

Posted in Macrobrews by dailybeerproject on January 13, 2011

The Albion day lodge at Alta has PBR on tap. I got done skiing and gave it a try. It tasted better than PBR in cans. If you don’t know what that’s like, here’s Blackdog’s review: tastes like water, makes me pee. And yet, somehow, under the right circumstances, that is still awesome.

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.

Revisiting Stella

Posted in Imports, Macrobrews by dailybeerproject on September 5, 2010

With phase 2 wrapped up and my taste in beer having evolved somewhat in the process, I decided I’d go back and revisit some beers I tried early on to see if my opinion had changed. I already did this with Sierra Nevada, and considering that’s now one of my favorites, it seems worth doing with others.

Stella Artois was a beer I tried early on, and while I didn’t dislike it, I wasn’t crazy about it either. Considering it’s one of my brother’s favorites (may still be top of his list), I decided to revisit it. Glad I did. It’s very much a European, Pilsner-style lager. Belgium is famous for it’s ales, but like most of the rest of the world, lager beer is the majority of consumption. Outside Belgium, Stella is promoted as an international brand, but domestically it’s just another lager and lags behind its sister brand Jupiler in sales. It’s owned by AB Inbev (think Budweiser), so it’s a macrobrew if ever there was one. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t good.

Coming as it does from a big brewery, it’s not surprising that it’s less-hoppy than some other Pilsners. I like the hoppier versions better, but this is still awesome. With less hops, the sourness of the malt comes through a bit more. The sourness takes some getting used to (or at least it did for me), but it has a refreshing, thirst-quenching quality that I enjoy. The downside is that it’s nearly $2 for an 11.2 ounce bottle. Considering there are other beers I like just as well for less, it probably won’t become part of the regular rotation. But certainly something I’d reach for when in the mood for an import.

Beer Tasting Weekend

Posted in American Craft Beer, Desert Edge, Imports, Macrobrews, Uinta Brewing, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on August 17, 2010

Saturday night, my university alumni association held a beer tasting event. It’s the first alumni event I’ve attended pretty much effort, so now it’s apparent just what will motivate me to get out and meet people that went to the same school I did.

The event was held in a member’s home and was presented by Dave Watson, one of the brewers at Desert Edge Brewery. Dave is such a beer geek and so passionate about the craft that he spent a couple years in Germany to learn how to brew and then came back home to put his skills to work as a brewer. He walked us through the beer making process and then gave us samples of various different styles and explained their origins and how they were made. It was a great way to spend an evening.

This was followed up on Sunday with an informal tasting my brother and I did of a couple more Oregon brews and another one from Epic. In order of consumption (more or less):

Pilsner Urquell: This was presented to provide a quality benchmark of the most frequently  imitated beer style in the world. When American macrobrewed lagers claim to be Pilsner-style, they’re lying. They’re not made with all barley malt, they’re not triple decocted, and they’re not nearly hoppy enough. This one, thankfully, satisfied those requirements and was awesome.

Pinkus Munster Alt: Alt beer or “old” style beer is a German beer made in the old style, with an ale yeast, rather than the newer method of using lager yeast. Even though it’s made with an ale yeast, it’s stil lagered, or stored after fermentation, leading to a cleaner, crisper beer than typical English-style ales. This one was a bit lighter in color than most alt beers, but it still tasted awesome.

Spaten Optimator: An example of a bock, a style of strong beer developed by German monks to drink on days when they were fasting (makes fasting sound awesome, right?). I tried this very early in the project and didn’t care much for it then. I liked it a lot better this time around. It was good enough that I’d gladly drink another, if offered. Not ready to buy it for myself, though.

Anderson Valley ESB: The ESB stands for “extra special bitter,” a typical English-style beer that’s a bit stronger and hoppier (to balance the malt of the stronger beer) than ordinary (session) bitters or best bitters. This one was also awesome and left me pining for a trip to England to do some pub crawling. Even though this English-style ale was brewed in California.

Moab Brewery Tripel: Tripel is a Belgian style and tends to be pretty malty, with very light hops and quite high alcohol content. It’s a bit too malty for me–I like balanced beers. But I can see the appeal of the style and certainly wouldn’t turn it down.

Anderson Valley Tripel: This was a backup to the Moab Tripel, in case he ran out. Tasted quite similar, with same criticism that I’d prefer it to have more hops, even though that’s not consistent with the style.

Lambic Cuvee Renee: This is probably the one beer I was most excited to sample, especially sinc Etiberius’s admonition in the comments that I explore true beer geekdom by sampling an unfruited Lambic. I loved it. Super sour and tart. Tastes very different than beers fermented with cultivated yeast. The cool thing is that the same recipe brewed elsewhere would taste different due to different yeast strains. Perhaps not as good, either, since one of the reasons this style is popular around Brussels is that the yeast there is known to be good. Awesome stuff. Expensive enough to only be a special occasion beer, but worth trying for sure.

Detour Double IPA (Uinta): This is a sample from a new high-end label from Uinta that makes super-premium craft beer. Loved it. Really strong, but not so overwhelmingly hoppy as to be difficult to drink. It ain’t cheap, though, so again, even though it’s awesome, it will have to be a special occasion beer.

Samuel Smith Taddy Porter: The IPA and the Porter have us back to English styles. And while I tend to prefer medium to lighter-colored beers, this one was quite tasty. So I guess I claim to like the lighter-colored beers, but the reality is that I just like anything that’s good. And this one is.

Cutthroat Pale Ale: Hadn’t had a Cutthroat in a while, but after the formal presentation, Dave opened the cooler to reveal a bunch of Uinta’s regular beers. This one tasted better than I remember. But it could also have been that I’d had quite a lot of beer at this point in the evening, so everything just seemed enjoyable.

Ninkasi Believer Double Red Ale: Another of the big bombers of lovely craft beer brought home from Oregon. The first thing that struck me about this one was how dark it was. It’s called a red, but it was pretty brown. Almost as brown as the Red Rock Nut Brown Ale. As for the taste, well it was awesome. Balanced between malt and hops, with the malt being the star of the show but not so much that it gets stuck to the back of your throat. Great beer to have with food–we enjoyed ours with burgers on the grill.

Epic Imperial Red Ale: It was fun to try two red ales back to back and surprising that this one was darker and browner than the previous. So I guess “red” is a term used loosely to describe a beer. As with the Ninkasi, this beer was awesome. Seriously, these reds are like a big bold red wine that stands up well to rich food or red meat. But they weren’t so big as to be hard to drink on a hot day. Just awesome beer.

Full Sail Spotless IPA: This is a brewmaster special seasonal that I wish were available locally. Full Sail just doesn’t make a bad beer among those I’ve tried. This one was lovely and tasty. Slightly darker and a little less hoppy than a lot of IPAs I’ve tried, this one still had plenty of flavor and character to be considered a “real” IPA. Interestingly, when I asked Dave about 4% abv IPAs, he agreed with me that it’s impossible for it to be a true IPA. Desert Edge makes one they call Utah Pale Ale, because they won’t call it IPA if it’s not.

Amstel Light, Session Lager, and Revisiting Sierra Nevada Pale Ale

Posted in American Craft Beer, Imports, Macrobrews by dailybeerproject on July 21, 2010

Amstel Light: The Amstel Gold Race is one of the spring classics on the Pro Tour cycling calendar. The race takes its name from the title sponsor, Amstel Brewery. And any beer that sponsors a bike race is worth trying at least once.

Amstel was bought by Heineken in 1968, and Heineken offers four different beers under the Amstel brand. Amstel Light is the only one available locally, presumably because at 3.5% abv, it is the only one that meets our wacky local liquor laws regarding what can and cannot be purchased in the grocery store.

The low alcohol content also keeps the calorie content down, so Amstel Light has all of 95 calories per bottle. Michelob Ultra positions itself as a beer for the active, health-conscious crowd, but if I’m limiting myself to 95 calories, I’ll choose the Amstel Light 100% of the time. And while my beer-drinking philosophy is that I’d rather drink fewer good beers than a few more that are lacking in flavor, I still might be curious enough to do back-to-back taste tests with Amstel Light, Coors Light, and Sam Adams Light.

Session Lager: Given that I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve tried that’s come out of the Full Sail brewery, when I visited their website and discovered they also make Session Lager, I figured I needed to give it a go as well. Glad I did, because it’s awesome.

Session comes in short, squat, eleven ounce bottles that sell for about a buck a piece at the local liquor store. It’s an attempt at re-creating the pre-prohibition American lager, and according to the company, is neither micro, macro, nor import, but a little of each, and intended to appeal to drinkers of all three. I can’t imagine how it wouldn’t. Perfect beer for sipping on the porch when the temperature has finally started coming down on a hot summer day.

Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (revisited): This is a beer I wanted to like very early in this project but didn’t. I’m happy to report that I like it now. I was in Idaho for a bike race and had dinner after the race at a restaurant that had Sierra Nevada on tap. Wow. Beer on tap is oh-so-good, and had I not been racing again the next day, I would have ordered another. And perhaps another still.

I also had one in the fridge when I got home the next day, so I tried it to see how well the bottled version compared. Yum again. I’m really coming to embrace and love the hoppiness of pale ales, to the point that some really malty beers that are light on the hops have become less appealing. Glad there’s no shortage of craft brewers making pale ale. I think I’ll revisit some of the local >4% abv beers that I tried and wasn’t crazy about early in this project.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Miller High Life

Posted in Macrobrews by dailybeerproject on March 18, 2010

I’ve tried Coors. I’ve tried PBR. I’ve tried Budweiser. Figured I may as well round out the big macrobrews by sampling Miller.

If you pay attention to the advertising, Miller is positioning itself as a working man’s beer. The High Life man enters high-end establishments, removes the Miller, and redistributes it to places where working men and women go to drink it. Not that the high-end establishments tend to serve Miller, but you get the point.

The packaging of Miller also reflects the bang for the buck mentality. At the convenience store, where all the other macrobrews are sold in 24 ounce cans for about $2, Miller sells a 32 ounce can for that price.

Honestly, 32 ounces of Miller is too much. I’ll admit that I enjoy cheap macrobrews when thirst quenching ability is prioritized over taste, but life is too short to drink beer I don’t enjoy. PBR and Budweiser both taste better. Miller is nice if you want a 30 pack for $16.99, but I don’t. I don’t want a 30 pack of anything. Rating: not awesome.