Daily beer project

Retrospective

About a year ago, I began this project in an attempt to learn to like beer. It was a new year’s resolution of sorts. I had no idea at the time how far this would go. What began as 30 beers in 30 days led to a total of 229 beers, including 113 Utah-made beers, 67 non-Utah domestic brews, 47 imports, and 2 home-brews.

If you read some of my early posts, you can see just how far I’ve come. No question, my tastes have evolved–beers I didn’t like early, I love now. Beers I liked early aren’t as exciting now. The journey, though, has been amazing.

My experience with beer has been an inch deep and a mile wide–very few are the beers I’ve tried more than once. That said, a few stand out as favorites. Here they are:

Go-to Utah Beer: Bohemian Czech Pilsner. This was a tough decision, as there are a lot of good beers made in Utah, Full Suspension, Chasing Tail, First Amendment, and WYLD among them. But ultimately I chose Bohemian because 1) it’s good; 2) it’s readily available, both on tap, and at the grocery store; 3) it comes in cans–cans are a better way to store and transport beer than bottles.

Favorite Utah Beer: Epic Sour Apple Saison. This is the Utah-made beer I most enjoyed drinking. It’s expensive, so it’s more of a special occasion beer, but in terms of highlighting the skill of Utah brewers, this may be the best example.

Favorite Import: Traquair Jacobite Scottish Ale. And to think, I may have not sampled this one had my first choice been available. It’s one of the most expensive beers at the liquor store, but well worth it for a special occasion.

Favorite Domestics: This is hard. The unintended outcome of this project has been a real passion for American Craft Beer. It would be hard if I just had to name my favorite beer from Oregon, which in my mind is the epicenter of craft beer. Dale’s Pale Ale is worthy of a nod because it’s way good and comes in cans. But I can’t get it locally. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is always good and is readily available, but it doesn’t stand above the crowd in any regard. Deschutes ESB is one of the best beers I’ve had on tap, but finding it is a huge challenge–they didn’t even offer it on tap out of Woody. McTarnahan’s Bah Humbug’r is my favorite porter, but it’s a seasonal offering, and I don’t think I’d want to drink it in the summer. Ninkasi Believer Double Red Ale, Deschutes Jubelale, Rogue Dead Guy Ale, and Full Sail Wassail are all among the tastiest beers I’ve ever tried.

But if there’s one beer I’d want to have on hand at all times, one beer I don’t think I’d ever tire of drinking, with a nice balance of flavorful malt and hop bitterness, one beer that is as refreshing on a hot day as it is soothing on a cold one, that tastes great with pizza but doesn’t feel out of place with a fine meal, that’s readily available and priced reasonably enough to drink every day, that’s approachable and easy to share with people who aren’t beer geeks, that one beer is Full Sail Amber Ale. It’s not the most notable beer in any one regard, it’s just a solid beer that does everything well.

Thankfully, I don’t have to limit myself to just one beer. Here’s to 2011 and hopefully many more.

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Desert Edge: completing phase 2

Posted in American Craft Beer, Desert Edge, The Project, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on September 4, 2010

I spent the evening at Desert Edge Brewery to wrap up the last of the Utah-made beers I am yet to try. Or at least those I am committed to trying as part of this project. I gave myself an exemption from seasonals and special releases just because of limited availability. So I’m “finished” with phase 2 at this point, but there are still a lot of seasonals and special releases I’d like to try. In fact, there were two seasonals at Desert Edge (a cream ale and an ESB) that I wanted to try last night but couldn’t. Not to mention, I like cataloging the beers that I’ve tried, so I’ll continue to post. Just not sure if there will be a phase 3 or what it would be.

Happy Valley Hefeweizen: I noticed a lot of pitchers of this being served, which to me suggests that many beer drinkers aren’t very adventurous. Or that a lot of tables were compromising with something everybody would like. Super smooth and easy to drink, with a malt/wheat profile that was creamy and slightly sour and barely any discernible hops. I usually prefer to keep citrus away from my beer, but about halfway through this pint, I squeezed the lemon wedge in and considered it an improvement. This would be a great beer to grab a growler of for a summer barbecue, as I can’t imagine anyone disliking it. Not terribly exciting, but nothing not to like, either. We’ll call it awesome just because I think the brewers did well at making a quality beer of this style, and I’d order it again if I were in the mood for a hefeweizen.

Pub Pils: I’ve grown quite fond of true Pilsner beers of late. I’m not talking about adjunct macrobrews that claim to be Pilsners, but real, golden-colored, well-hopped Pilsners in the vein of Pilsner Urquell. This one really hit the spot. The malt was spot-on. It was hopped just-so. Everything came together in a delicious brew. Definitely an awesome rating for this one. It’s a testament to the quality of our local breweries that both Bohemian and Desert Edge make such excellent Pilsners.

Alt on Cask: One of the things that really impresses me about Desert Edge is the breadth of their seasonal offerings. And indeed, this is one of the reasons that even though phase 2 was “officially” complete with Pub Pils, I’ll keep sampling local seasonals–some of the best beer isn’t available year-round. The only other alt beer I’ve tried was at the beer tasting event that Dave, one of the Desert Edge brewmasters, hosted. The only other cask beer I’ve tried was another Desert Edge offering, English Mild. So it makes sense that the two would come together at this brewery.

Dave mentioned when we tried the Pinkus Munster alt that it was lighter in color than a typical alt. The Desert Edge alt was a deep brown color, a bit darker than a red, but not as dark as a porter. Although I liked the lighter alt a bit better, this one was still excellent with a rich, toasty body and hardly any sourness. It was lightly hopped, and without knowing, I’d guess most of the hopping was in the boil with little if any dry hopping afterward. Overall a very good beer indicative of the breadth of skill of the Desert Edge brew staff.

Summary thoughts on phase 2: I’ve now sampled nearly 100 beers made in the state of Utah. For a state with a population this small, only a fraction of whom actually drink beer, it’s pretty amazing to have this much quality available to us. And we have our quirky liquor laws to thank for it. Without them, it would be easy for restaurants and bars to bring in kegs of Fat Tire, Sierra Nevada, and Rogue. But since nothing over 4% abv can be served on tap, and these out-of-state breweries aren’t interested in making a 4% version of their beers, it’s created a niche that some very capable brewers have stepped in to fill.

With a recent change to the laws allowing “full-strength” beer to be sold (cold even) in bottles directly from the brewery and by restaurants, Epic has stepped in to fill another, even smaller niche by offering bottled beer above 4% abv. The end result of all this is a vibrant market for craft beer that’s on par with Oregon or Colorado or California and exceeds in breadth and quality the craft beer offerings of any other neighboring states.

Critics would be quick to point out “yes, but it’s 4%….” To which I would respond that that’s the same as what you would find in English pubs, and nobody seems to think it’s a problem there. I guess if you’re looking to get drunk and trying to get as much as you can as fast as you can, stronger beer is better. But if you’re interested in sharing a few pints with friends and still being able to walk when you’re done, 4% beer is just fine. The fact that we have so many places offering such good quality beer just makes things that much better.

My objective when I began this project was to come to like beer, any beer, so I could enjoy it socially. My expectation was that I would find one or two that I liked or even tolerated, and that there would be a whole lot of beer I didn’t care for. As I began the project, this was certainly the case. I wasn’t accustomed to the flavors and found much of it overwhelming. BradK predicted I would come to embrace the bitterness, and he was right. I’ve come to appreciate beer and now appreciate virtually every beer style. Which is not to say that I like every beer, but I understand their appeal. I have my favorites, but even then, my preferences have shifted over the last few months. The journey has been remarkable, and both what is available locally as well as what I’ve come to enjoy have exceeded my expectations.

Red Rock Blonde Ale & Phase 2 of this Project

Posted in American Craft Beer, Red Rock, The Project, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on March 10, 2010

This project has introduced me to a number of fine local beers. In fact, I’ve become fascinated enough with the local offerings that I’ve tried to sample new ones whenever possible. Ironically, one of the local brewpubs I had not yet tried a beer from, Red Rock, was what motivated me to start the project to begin with. You see Red Rock is in a convenient location for the end of a bike ride. And beer goes with bike rides like cleavage goes with the Oscars–you can have the latter without the former, but it just isn’t the same. It was these post bike ride visits to Red Rock with friends that were enjoying their beers that motivated me to do this project. Yet for whatever reason, I never got around to trying anything from Red Rock until now.

That changed recently when I stopped by one of my favorite watering holes after skiing. They had Red Rock Blonde Ale on tap, so I ordered a pint. It is an eminently agreeable and delicious beer. No surprise given my affinity for golden ales, but I’m certainly pleased to find yet another of local provenance that I enjoy. Especially since it’s available at places I frequent. It goes without saying that this beer gets a rating of awesome.

So I mentioned when I finished the official “project” that I’d keep posting as occasion permitted, I was just departing from the daily ritual. And I wasn’t going to limit myself to beer.

Well, I plan to continue doing that, but being as I am a bit on the thorough and systematic side of the spectrum, I decided to launch another phase of this project: I intend to sample every locally-produced beer in the state.

This is a big undertaking, so I’m not giving myself a deadline, and it won’t include all the seasonal varieties (one of the smaller brewpubs has dozens of seasonals but only five year-round offerings). I’ve identified 75 beers from ten breweries that I’ll get to before I’m done.

Of the ten breweries, I’ve sampled at least one beer from seven of them for a total of 26 beers already. I’ve sampled every beer Bohemian offers. Which is not to say I won’t be going back to Bohemian, because Bohemian is awesome. Squatters has the largest selection, and because of proximity and convenience, I’ve already sampled nine of 12 beers and could easily be done with Squatters and Wasatch within a week. And of course, I’ll write about every one, so stay tuned.

The lineup

Posted in The Project by dailybeerproject on January 13, 2010

Batting order will be as follows:

  1. Samuel Adams Boston Ale: widely available, quality ale that’s a good standard to begin with.
  2. Samuel Adams Boston Lager: same reason as above, per the alternating styles rule.
  3. Henry Weinhard’s Hefeweizen: I like their root beer and wanted to try a hefeweizen early on.
  4. Staropramen: I chose this Czech lager because that’s where the style originated.
  5. Guinness: Iconic stout beer, further broadening my range of samples.
  6. Carlsberg: Because Liverpool football club can use all the help it can get.

We’ll get started tomorrow.

The ground rules

Posted in The Project by dailybeerproject on January 12, 2010

I don’t like beer. So much so, in fact, that I have never actually finished a beer. But for the sake of not being the prissy guy who can’t enjoy a beer with his friends, I would like to like beer. For the next thirty days, I am going to attempt to acquire a taste for beer by having one every day.

Here are the ground rules:

  1. I will drink one single serving container of beer per day–no more, no less.
  2. I will drink a different beer each day with no repeats.
  3. I will alternate between lagers and ales each day.
  4. I will consume at least one each of home-brewed beer, brewpub beer, and grocery store beer (in this state 3.2% abv).
  5. The beer I drink on the 30th day will be a Budweiser–if I like Budweiser, I think it’s safe to say I have come to like beer.
  6. I reserve the right to amend the ground rules such that the 30 days are not consecutive.
  7. My wife, who also does not like beer, has the right to veto the project at any point if she decides either of us has had enough.

If I happen to have any readers as a result of this project, I welcome your input regarding beers I should try. Helpful friends have provided a good list to help me get through the first week. We’ll see where things go from there.