Daily beer project

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.

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Latter-day Stout, Hopulent IPA, Maker’s Mark, & Drifter Pale Ale

Posted in American Craft Beer, Desert Edge, Epic Brewing, Not Beer, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on August 11, 2010

Another catch-up post, including a couple I tried a few weeks ago and forgot to write about, another bourbon, and one I brought home from Oregon.

Desert Edge Latter-day Stout: This is served on Nitro at the Beerhive, which, by the way, is a nice little pub for some evening refreshment. Honestly, nothing spectacular about this beer, but nothing to complain about, either. Just a good stout, served on nitro, so it has a nice, creamy head with no dissolved bubbles in the beer. Also, I love the name. Utah beer names with wordplay on mormonism never get old.

Epic Brewing Hopulent IPA: Lives up to its name, and is perhaps the hoppiest beer I’ve had. A bit too hoppy for my taste, but still good. They somehow managed to brew it with that much hops without making it taste like Pine Sol. Epic beers seem to run the gamut of hardly any hops to as much hops as anyone could possibly tolerate. How many beer drinkers enjoy that full spectrum, I wonder?

Maker’s Mark: Enjoyed some of this on the rocks before dinner at the wonderful Laurelhurst Market in Portland. Smoother and easier-drinking than Jameson’s, in my opinion, without the hefty price tag of Booker’s. Something I’ll probably keep in the house going forward.

Widmer Brothers Drifter Pale Ale: I bought a bottle of this in Oregon and just got around to drinking it last night. Glad I didn’t love it, since it’s not available locally. The interesting thing about beer styles, is that there are no clear-cut lines. Pale ales are generally medium-colored beers with a fairly generous amount of hops. Ambers tend to be similar in color to pale ales, but less hoppy. This pale ale, however, seemed hardly hopped at all and was less hoppy than a number of ambers I’ve tried, notably Full Sail and Squatter’s Emigration. I’d rate this on the low end of good–I wouldn’t turn it down if offered, but I’d certainly look at the other options if it weren’t the only beer available.

Epic 825 State Stout & The Vesper

Posted in American Craft Beer, Epic Brewing, Not Beer, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on July 27, 2010

825 State Stout: Another bottle of Epic down the hatch. And it’s a good one. Awesome, even. One of the best bottled stouts I’ve had. Malt is dark without tasting burnt, with just enough hops to balance things out. I don’t think of summer as stout season, but in this case worth making an exception.

The Vesper Martini: I realize Alex has poured a line in the sand with regard to ice and martinis. I also realize that, according to Alex and pretty much all martinophiles, vodka is not an ingredient in a martini. But the other night the wife and I were watching From Russia with Love, so I decided to mix up 007’s signature drink. Or at least the closest I could come with the ingredients I had on hand.

3 measures Gordon’s (I used Boodle’s)

1 measure vodka

1/2 measure Kina Lillet (I didn’t have Kina Lillet, so I used dry vermouth. Grand Marnier may have been a better substitute. May have tasted better, too.)

Shook it very well and poured into a frosted martini glass with a large, thin slice of lemon peel.

Let me just say that I understand why Alex says no ice and no vodka in martinis. His rationale is that if you go to the trouble of getting a good-quality gin like Boodle’s, you don’t want to dillute the flavor. But let me counter that I can see why people add ice and vodka to martinis. Because to the uninitiated, gin can taste as potent as jet fuel, and the vodka and water from the ice mellow things out just enough to keep the gin from being overwhelming.

And while I like martinis both ways–even if purists don’t consider the Vesper a true martini–I have a definite preference for the lemon peel over the olive. In the future, I’ll drink true martinis when I’m with Alex, but I’ll continue to mix Vespers when I’m watching James Bond movies.

Three more from Epic + Torpedo IPA + Two more from Desert Edge + Bookers

Posted in American Craft Beer, Desert Edge, Epic Brewing, Not Beer, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on July 7, 2010

Seems as if I’ve completely departed from the daily format and now just update weekly. Or every-other-weekly. But better a bunch at once than not at all, I guess. Since my last post, I’ve sampled three more beers from Epic, another from Sierra Nevada, two from Desert Edge, and Bookers Bourbon. In that order:

Epic Smoked and Oaked: I was really excited about this one just because it sounded so unique and exotic. The beer is smoked and then fermented in oak barrels. Unfortunately, the smoke was overwhelming. So much so as to garner a not awesome rating. Sorry Epic. I feel guilty dealing you a not awesome rating, but I’d turn this beer down, even if offered for free. The good news, though, is that what was left in the bottle that I didn’t drink made a great brazing liquid for a pot roast. The pot roast was seriously awesome. Not worth buying a bottle of this beer just for brazing purposes awesome, but awesome nonetheless.

Epic Belgian-style Wit: Another one I was excited about only to be disappointed after drinking it. It was just too malty for me. Needed some hops to balance things out a bit, but as it was, the malt sort of stuck in the back of my throat. I’ll rate it good, as if it were offered, I wouldn’t turn it down. But not one I’ll rush over to buy as soon as it’s in the cooler. After sampling this I came away wondering if the really lightly-hopped Belgians just aren’t for me. Am I becoming a hop head?

Epic Copper Cone Pale Ale: I got the second-last bottle they had of this in the cooler the Friday before 4th of July weekend. Glad I did. Unequivocally awesome. And I think indicative of the gradual shift in my palate that I was excited about the Belgian Wit but nervous about this one. I loved this beer. Very hoppy, but very, very good. Shared this with Alex over some awesome appetizers his wife made, and it was a delight. I’ll grab more of the next batch for certain.

Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPA: I bought this one by accident. I was interested in revisiting the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Both have green labels, both were adjacent one another at the liquor store, and I just grabbed the wrong one. And I’m glad I did. I was nervous to try it, since I wasn’t crazy about the Pale Ale first go around. This one should have made me very nervous, what with 65 IBUs versus 37 in the Pale Ale. But you know what, I liked loved it. Which maybe does confirm that I’m becoming a hop head. We’ll see.

Desert Edge Utah Pale Ale: Had this as a sampler at Stella Grill, which is an affiliate of Desert Edge Brewery. It’s somewhere in between the Trader IPA from Uinta and Full Suspension from Squatters in flavor. Medium in color and on the hoppy side, but well-balanced and refreshing. Good but maybe short of awesome, but I’d have no qualms drinking it again. Or going to Stella again, for that matter.

Desert Edge Road Range Rye: I guess I have a weakness for rye beers. I had the bartender at Bohemian tell me that he and most of the staff didn’t care for theirs, but I love it. Same for Desert Edge. Very good stuff, and a good beer to have with food. I started with a sampler of this and the UPA, and I chose this for the full pint. But it was a tough call because I liked both. Awesome beer, though Desert Edge and Bohemian should get together to disambiguate the names of their respective rye beers.

Bookers bourbon: Since my first foray into whiskey, my tastes have really come around. To the point that I now keep a bottle of Jameson’s in the house. Jameson’s on the rocks can be just the ticket to help unwind at the end of a stressful day. I’ve been looking forward to seeing how Booker’s compares. Is it as good? And if it is better, is it worth paying twice as much?

So when I recently found myself watching a World Cup match at a bar that serves Bookers, I gave it a go. And it’s good. Very smooth and mellow without being in any way weak or unpleasant. Something I would indulge in if it weren’t so expensive. But as good as it is, it’s not twice as good as my favorite alternative, Jameson’s. So I’ll stick with the Irish whiskey when I’m in the mood for whiskey. For now.

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.

Tracks Brewing & Captain Bastard’s

Posted in American Craft Beer, Not Beer, Squatters, Tracks Brewing, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on March 13, 2010

Continuing phase two of the project, I needed to head a bit off the beaten path to visit Tracks Brewing Company. And since I have a friend who works at an army base out in the desert and Tracks is somewhere in between, we agreed to meet there Friday after work.

Neither of us had been there before, so we both started with the sampler. The first thing we sampled was the Light Rail, which the brewery describes as “lightly hopped, light bodied, American Light Lager with a nice malty finish, smooth going down and comparable to other light beers.” Which in real life means it tastes like Budweiser. Except Budweiser is better. We should have known we were dealing with an incompetent brewery when on the website, this lager is called Light Rail Ale. Other clues to the incompetence should have been that the place was empty at 5:30 on a Friday and that there were advertisements on the walls for Bud Light and Corona.

It didn’t get better from there. The Incinerator Pale Ale, which is described as “a very hoppy beer, emulating the traditional IPA” had almost no discernible flavor of hops to it. It was like a not-very-hoppy amber. The Tooele Tar stout just tasted like burnt malt. And the hefeweizen tasted like Country Time lemonade from a mix that had had a piece of toast dipped in it. They talked up the Agent Amber Ale, but it was just as disappointing as everything else. To top it off, they didn’t even have a drink menu, and the waitress was wholly unable to even describe anything about the beers, in one case not even remembering the full name or style of what she was serving to us.

I ended up ordering a pint of the IPA just to have something to drink. And in order to keep the night from being a total waste, I thought I’d follow SYJ’s advice from my whiskey post and try Jameson’s. Since I hadn’t finished my beer, I’m pretty sure the waitress violated one of our whacky state liquor laws by serving me more than one drink at a time.

The Jameson’s was actually much, much better than the Jack or that Canadian crap I tried a while ago. Not sure it’s something I’d ever really get into, but I could see myself ordering it again in the future. Much more pleasant going down without the volatile aftertaste I had previously.

All six beers I tried at Tracks were pretty much not awesome. Had I not been so disappointed with everything else, I may have rated the IPA as good, but since I’d hardly call it an IPA, and I’d never go all the way out there just to have it, I’ll leave the not awesome tag on all of them. They just hired a new brewmaster about a month ago. I hope he’s got some skill and can get that place turned around.

When I got back home, I didn’t want to end the evening with such a lousy beer drinking experience, so I opened a bottle of Captain Bastard’s oatmeal stout from Squatters. I wish I would have liked it more than I did. Although it was better than the Tooele Tar, it was still not something I’d ever buy again, so I guess it also gets a rating of not awesome.

Here’s hoping that the worst of phase two is now behind me.

Whiskey

Posted in Not Beer by dailybeerproject on March 4, 2010

[etiberius corrected my nomenclature, so I’m updating the post accordingly. Sincere apologies for my ignorance.]

Some things taste better than they smell (can I get an amen here?). Other things smell better than they taste. Whiskey is most definitely in the smells better than it tastes camp.

While I was out of town, I picked up a couple mini bottles (we can’t get mini bottles where I live) of whiskey with the intention of doing a back-to-back taste test. One bottle was Jack Daniels, the other some Canadian brand I don’t remember but that was cheaper.

I poured each bottle into a glass over ice. I tried the Jack Daniels first. The initial taste was reasonably pleasant, but the aftertaste was like gasoline. So I had a sip of whatever the hell the other was. The initial taste was less pleasant, and the aftertaste was like higher-octane gasoline.

I will not be doing a daily whiskey project.

Two Buck Chuck

Posted in Not Beer by dailybeerproject on March 3, 2010

Trader Joe’s is a popular and well-known health food store on the West coast. But it’s at least as popular for its wine as for any of its other offerings. And the wine for which it’s perhaps most famous is Charles Shaw, affectionately known as “two buck chuck” because of its exceptionally low price of $2.99 a bottle.

I’ve had $4 a bottle wine and thought I was going to gag. I’ve had $6 a bottle wine and only barely been able to swallow it. I’ve also had $15 or $20 a bottle wine that was so good I wondered if I could ever get myself to pay more than that.

The Charles Shaw shiraz we had last night drinks like a $15 or $20 a bottle wine. It’s amazing stuff. Fruity and full-bodied, without the off taste that you usually have to try and ignore in a cheap wine. Fred Franzia, the owner of Charles Shaw’s parent company, doesn’t see why people would pay $35 a bottle for wine. After tasting Charles Shaw, I don’t either.

We bought a case of it to bring home, and my only regret is that we didn’t buy more.