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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Spaten Premium, Anchor Steam, Sierra Nevada Glissade, Bohemian Roadhouse Rye, and skunked Tsingtao

Posted in American Craft Beer, Bohemian, Imports, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on May 18, 2010

I’ve been slacking a bit, so I’m going to try and get caught up all at once. I took a bit of a departure from the local beers and went to the liquor store for some domestic and imported brews I’ve been interested in sampling. I was also anxious to sample the seasonal rye beer at Bohemian since a) I had yet to try a rye beer, and b) everything Bohemian makes is good. So here you go.

Spaten Premium: this is a traditional light lager, the flagship beer of Germany’s Spaten brewery. I tried Spaten Optimator early on in the project and was pretty overwhelmed by how strong it was. I need to revisit that one, but I wanted to give this variety a go first.

Nothing spectacular about it, just a good but typical European lager. Not as plain as American lagers, with more noticeable hops and a more pronounced bitterness. Good but not awesome.

Anchor Steam: The only beer official allowed to be called “steam beer” since Anchor brewery trademarked the name, I was anxious to try this one after how much I enjoyed Park City Steamer. Turns out I’m quite fond of the steam or California Common style beers, as this one was awesome in its own right. Steam beers were originally considered of poor quality and were obviously a makeshift beer, but the modern iterations are some of my favorites. I would definitely buy this one again. Will be interesting to see, however, how the quality holds up over the years, as Anchor brewing has just been sold.

Sierra Nevada Glissade: Bock beers were originally created in Einbeck, Germany. They were strong beers, created by the monks to have higher food energy values to help them through lent, similar to the Trappist beers originating in Belgium. The style has evolved over the years to encompass a variety of flavors and strengths, ranging from quite strong at about 6% abv to exceptionally strong eisbock beers that are strengthened by freeze distilling the beer: the beer is frozen, and the chunks of water ice removed, leaving behind the alcohol and malt flavors. Eisbocks can be brewed to as strong as 40% abv (wow!).

Glissade is a golden bock, brewed with lighter malts. It’s on the weak side for the style at 6.4% abv. Between the lighter malt and the relatively weak alcohol, it wasn’t overpowering like the Spaten Optimator I mentioned previously (a doppelbock, on the strong end of the spectrum, excluding eisbocks). Not a session beer, but a good one and done beer. Strong enough to leave me feeling satisfied without being so strong to require some determination to finish. Awesome stuff when looking for a slightly stronger beer.

Bohemian Roadhouse Rye (Seasonal): Rye beer is any beer where rye (typically malted) is substituted for any portion of the barley. Almost never 100% rye, but typically at least 50%. Rye used to be commonly used for brewing beer, but in the 1500’s, after a series of bad harvests, rye was deemed only suitable for bread and not for beer, and the German Reinheitsgebot, or purity law, was enacted, stipulating that beer was to be produced from only four ingredients: water, barley, yeast, and hops. Only recently have rye beers reappeared in broad distribution.

Just as rye/pumpernickel breads have a hearty, grainy flavor, the same is true of rye beers. I love rye bread, in fact it’s my favorite kind. And as it happens, I love rye beer. Bohemian’s at least. It’s quite light in color for a rye beer, but that seems to fit with my preference for rye over pumpernickel and lighter beers over darker in general. Way awesome. I’ll need to go back for more.

Skunked Tsingtao: I kind of gave away my impression of this beer by telling you that it was skunked. Imported from China, comes in green bottles, stored in the open at room temperature at state liquor store. That’s a recipe for disaster, and it was. I could smell it when I opened it. I didn’t need to taste it, but I did. Then poured it down the drain. I’d like to give this beer a try, but I don’t trust that I can get it fresh.

Frankly, the state liquor stores have a huge problem with freshness. Many times, I’ve seen beers with bottled-on dates indicating they were more than a year old. Very few beers have that kind of shelf life, and even fewer at room temperature.

Thankfully, now that Epic Brewing is open for business, we have no excuse not to have fresh, refrigerated beer. Want beer stronger than 4% abv? Epic and the Beer Store both have it cold and in bottles, ready for you to take home. I’m looking forward to sampling some Epic beers soon.

Beer #17: Bohemian Viennese Lager

Posted in American Craft Beer, Bohemian, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on January 30, 2010

Frequent commenter BradK suggested that I check out Bohemian Brewery, a local operation that I didn’t know existed until yesterday.* Turned out to be a good tip. They’re a bit of a smaller operation and keep four beers on tap plus a seasonal selection. Their signature Pilsner is available locally in cans as well.

*OK, I knew they existed–I’d seen their canned beer in the stores–but I didn’t realize they were local.

Brad suggested I get samples of all four and then order a pint of what I liked best. When I ordered the four samples, they actually brought me five beers: pilsner, Viennese lager, Bavarian white, cherny bock, as well as their bonus seasonal selection, a black wheat (schwenkelweiss) nitro.

If you’ve been following this project, you may recall that some of the darker beers have been overwhelmingly bitter. In fact all of them have. Moreover, the Bohemian Viennese lager is very hoppy. So if my bitterness sensitivity is to the darker beers or to the hops, it would have been evident when sampling from Bohemian. I think I can safely say the bitterness is coming from the alcohol, because these were all 4% abv beers, and none of them were unpleasantly bitter. In fact, they were all very good.

The Bavarian white was my favorite wheat beer I’ve had so far, but the black wheat was probably my second favorite wheat. Both were delightful. And the Pilsner and Viennese were the two best lagers I’ve had so far. I did not expect to like the cherney bock, but even that was enjoyable and something I’d consider ordering. More than anything, this suggests to me that I prefer the lower alcohol content beers available locally (referred to amusingly as non-intoxicating beer if you’re in Missouri), and I also prefer beer served on tap over beer served in bottles.

After sampling all five, I ordered a pint of Brad’s favorite, the Viennese lager. As I mentioned, it was hoppy, enough so to have some bite, but in a pleasant way. It had just a slight hint of sourness at first, followed by the bite of the hops and the carbonation, with a smooth finish, and little if any aftertaste. I was just about ready to dismiss lagers altogether, but this one changed my mind.

As an added bonus, while out with my wife last night, I had occasion to order a Uinta Solstice Kolsch-style Ale. So I’ve now sampled from four of the seven local brewers I’m aware of. I think I’ll continue sampling local and regional beers for the next six just to get more exposure. The Solstice was a pleasant golden ale that I selected specifically because of its similarity to my favorite beer so far, Squatters Chasing Tail. The Solstice was good and a good option when that’s what’s available on tap, but I prefer Chasing Tail. Can’t put my finger on any one thing other than there just seems to be more to Chasing Tail than to Solstice.

Summary thoughts: I’m glad to have found a lager I like–I won’t give up on that style. Also pleased that I’m enjoying local beers so well. Just over half way through and I’m pretty much ready to call the project a success based on the fact that I can now order a beer on social occasions and be confident I’ll end up with something I like.