Daily beer project

Revisiting Epic Captain Crompton’s Pale Ale

Posted in Epic Brewing, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on January 19, 2011

When I stopped in at Epic a few weeks ago to grab the Mid Mountain Mild, I couldn’t leave with just one beer. So I got a bottle of the Captain Crompton’s Pale Ale, something I tried fairly early on in the project when I was still getting used to hoppy beers. At the time, I said “pale ales aren’t my favorite style…” What a difference a few months make. Even if I hadn’t yet embraced the hops, I still appreciated the quality, commenting “It’s hoppy to be sure, with three hops in the boil, plus a dry hop during aging. But the hops plus the malt provide a broad spectrum of flavor that is immensely satisfying. An awesome pale ale.”

And I can’t think of anything to say now that would disagree with what I said then, I just enjoyed it that much more than I did then. Really a fantastic beer, medium amber in color, appears to be unfiltered, and a nice, fruity, complex bitter from the hops. One thing I would be curious about, though, is where this beer stands by the numbers. I can guess based on what I know about other beers, but it would be nice if Epic published some of the brewing stats beyond abv on their website, such as IBUs, beginning gravity, and ending gravity, the way Sierra Nevada does. Since I’m pretty sure Dave from Epic reads this blog from time to time, what do you say, Dave?

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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.

Epic Mid-Mountain Mild

Posted in American Craft Beer, Epic Brewing, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on January 4, 2011

My English colleague describes mild ale as “old man beer.” He says that in England, old men are the only people who drink them. It’s just not a style that’s in vogue with younger beer drinkers.

It’s not the most exciting style, and certainly won’t tickle the fancy of a hop head, but that’s not to say Epic’s version isn’t well-executed. It’s got a very mild, fruity malt and minimal hops. Super easy to drink, with nothing objectionable. Seems like a beer that would be a good alternative for the hefeweizen crowd, as it’s easy to drink like a hefeweizen but with a little more character. It’s not my favorite beer, but for what it is, it’s well done and worthy of an awesome rating.

For a brand-new brewery, Epic has produced a remarkable array of beers. This is the 17th beer I’ve sampled from that brewery. They haven’t all been winners for me, but I’ve enjoyed most of them. And I love that they are all sold as single 22 ounce bombers, which makes sampling easy but still leaves you with enough to share.

More Oktoberfest

Posted in American Craft Beer, Epic Brewing, Imports, Roosters, Uinta Brewing, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on November 19, 2010

I’ve had a chance to sample a few more Oktoberfest beers lately. And even some not Oktoberfest seasonals. Here they are:

Roosters Oktoberfest: Had this on tap at Porcupine. It’s a very typical Marzen/Oktoberfest beer, with the malt more prominent than the hops and the malt being mostly sweet and caramel rather than roasty or sour. Really tasty, enjoyable beer and versatile enough that you could pair it with a wide variety of foods. I had it again a week or two later and wasn’t as crazy about it as I was the first time, but it could have been the circumstances, drinking it from a plastic cup at an outdoor event. Still awesome.

Epic Marzen: Another one that’s heavy on the malt, actually quite similar to the Rooster’s but maybe had a bit more sourness. I enjoyed this one thoroughly.

Ayinger Oktoberfest: This is a German import from a Munich brewery, so they should know what they are doing. They do. At 5.8% abv, it was similar to the Epic in strength, though, interestingly, the Rooster’s at 4% didn’t taste weak by comparison. Just another solid offering that I imagine would be better still enjoyed on tap in Munich rather than bottled and served after a long ocean voyage.

St. Peters Ordinary Bitters: Another illegal import from my London-based colleague, this (along with another bottle I haven’t tried yet) is an example of a typical pub beer in England. I would like drinking beer in England. I know lots of beer drinkers have a fondness for Belgium or even Germany or Czech Republic. But the English beers seem to suit my preferences best. They favor hops over malt, which I enjoy. And they’re brewed to be session beers to be enjoyed in a pub. If only these local pub offerings weren’t so hard to get.

Uinta Bristlecone Brown Ale: This is a fall seasonal, and I’ll admit I wasn’t crazy about it. Just didn’t taste like there was much to it. Very little hops, and the malt was just sort of flat and one-dimensional.

Uinta/Four+ Punk’n: Another fall seasonal, pumpkin-flavored ale. It sounds like a good idea–pumpkin bread, right?–until you think about it. And then you realize that flavoring beer with things other than malt and hops is not likely to end well. For me, this one didn’t. But it has its fans, which is also fine. Drinking beer is about enjoyment, and there’s enough diversity in the beer universe to make almost anyone happy.

Epic Galloway Porter

Posted in American Craft Beer, Epic Brewing, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on August 22, 2010

Galloway Porter was the last remaining beer from Epic (15 total) that I hadn’t sampled. With this, I round out another brewery, leaving me just a couple of beers from Desert Edge (that I’m hoping to get to this week) to complete phase 2 of this project.

I’ve been drinking a lot of Epic beer lately for reasons of sampling what they have as it becomes available, the convenience of having everything available in bottles, and the geographic proximity of their brewery to my office. Not to mention, they make good beer. But with phase 2 wrapping up, I’m looking forward to revisiting some of my Utah favorites, such as Chasing Tail, First Amendment, and Viennese. I’m also looking forward to trying more of what’s available at the state liquor store, their problems with freshness notwithstanding. In other words, finishing phase 2 is a milestone rather than a destination. Especially because I’ve found that the range of what I like has broadened, and the sweet spot of what I like best seems to have shifted.

Which brings us back to the Galloway Porter. I think of Porters as fall or cool weather beers, and I had this one at the end of a hot day. It seemed a little weird at first, but it worked in the end. The flavor was chocolaty and rich. The malt was toasty and caramel like when you toast bread to a dark brown with just the edges starting to get a hint of black. It has only the faintest of hopping to make sure that the malt stands out.

I drank it while eating Mexican food for dinner, which seemed an odd pairing at first, but it actually worked really well. The Mexican was quite spicy, and the malt of this beer seemed to contrast nicely with that, while the dark, rich flavor stood up well to the pungency of the peppers and cilantro. Which I guess makes sense since Negra Modelo, another dark beer, is my Mexican beer of choice.

As Porters go, this is a good one. Porters aren’t my favorite style, so I’ll leave the rating as good rather than awesome. People who favor dark beers should check this one out for sure.

Epic Spiral Jetty IPA

Posted in American Craft Beer, Epic Brewing, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on August 18, 2010

One more from Epic. With this, all I need is the Galloway Porter to have tried all they have to offer, which is a lot. This one is awesome. Hoppy and strong. Pours with a thick, foamy head and has a cloudy, amber body. Substantial mouthfeel without being gummy. This beer would go great with food, as there’s plenty to it to stand up to even strong flavors without being overwhelming. Would be especially nice with burgers or barbecue, but I can also see it as a nice beer to have with pizza. It’s also great on its own, sipped from a pint glass, sitting on your front porch on a pleasant summer evening.

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.