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.

Advertisements

Wreck the Halls

Posted in American Craft Beer, Utah Beer, Wasatch Beers by dailybeerproject on December 7, 2010

More winter seasonals:

Full Sail Wassail: Deep brown, rich, balanced. Notable, toasty malt presence, balanced perfectly with the substantial but not overpowering hops. $1.28 per bottle at the local store. 7% abv. Reasonably priced and delicious. What more could you possibly want?

Pyramid Snow Cap: Dark but not quite as dark as a porter. Hops are also more significant than a porter. This is a fine beer, but given a choice, there are other winter beers I’d choose first.

Wasatch Winterfest: Wasatch beers describes winterfest as a rich amber. If it is, it’s the darkest amber I’ve ever tried. It’s at least as dark as a nut brown, with plenty of hops. It’s very similar in flavor to the Wassail, except that it has some extra coffee bitterness in the finish. Good beer.

Full Sail Wreck the Halls: This is one of Full Sail’s brewmaster reserve beers, and it comes in a 22 ounce bomber. It’s described as a hybrid between an IPA and a winter warmer. It comes down closer to the IPA side of the equation, with a lot of similarities to Full Sail’s IPA. Hops are strong, registering 68 IBUs, drowning out some of the malt in the process. It’s good and certain to please the hop heads, I just don’t think it’s as good as the Wassail (which is my favorite winter seasonal so far) and really doesn’t distinguish itself enough from Full Sail’s IPA.

Wyoming

Posted in American Craft Beer, Utah Beer, Wasatch Beers by dailybeerproject on September 17, 2010

Recently found myself sitting at the Mangy Moose in Teton Village with a good deal of thirst from a little bicycle ride. Nothing like a couple of brews served in 20 ounce glasses to take care of that problem.

Snake River Brewing OB-1: This is an organic brown ale, and a good but not awesome one. I liked it well enough, but all the made-in-Wyoming beer I’ve tried so far has left me a little wanting in the hops department. Maybe cowboys don’t like hoppy beers, I don’t know. It’s reasonably balanced with a pleasant-tasting malt, I just would have liked a little more to it.

Deschutes Brewing Bachelor ESB: Had this right after the OB-1, and it righted everything that was wrong with the previous beer. Granted they’re different styles, I just like this style and this beer better. Nice medium malt with a substantial but not overpowering hop presence, this is just awesome beer. Versatile, too. It was great when I was just really thirsty, but there’s enough to it that it would go well with a meal.

After cooling off from the bike ride, I had a nice steak with two more beers accompanying it.

Snake River Pale Ale: With the OB-1 being good but not great, I decided to try Snake River’s pale ale to see if a style of beer I like better would be more to my liking. Unfortunately, it was not. Very much on the weak end of pale ales in terms of both malt flavor and especially hop presence, this is a beer I had no trouble drinking, I would just have trouble convincing myself to pay for another one.

Deschutes Inversion IPA: Again I followed the Snake River offering with one from Deschutes. And again, I came away impressed with Deschutes. Their Inversion IPA is awesome. It’s fairly potent at 6.8% abv, but it’s in no way overpowering. They’ve really dialed in the hops on this one, and I’m hopeful that, like the Mirror Pond, it’s available at the local liquor store. Thoroughly enjoyed this beer–a great finish to a great day.

In addition to the beers I drank while there, I was also able to stock up on Dale’s Pale Ale in Wyoming. All beer should come in cans, and all beer should be this good. I’ve also sampled a few more since that I’ll mention while I’m at it.

Wasatch Summerbrau Lager: This is a beer whose brand manager can’t seem to decide how to describe it and therefore didn’t. From the Wasatch Beers website: “Wasatch Summerbrau Lager is a…Czech-style pilsner-lager. Our German style lager…” Is it Czech, or is it German? I’ll go with German just because a good Czech Pilsner has more hops than this. It’s got a pleasantly sour malt, which is great for summer, as it’s reminiscent of lemonade. Hops are noticeable but not particularly strong. Overall a good summer beer that would be nice with chips and salsa while you wait for the coals to be ready to barbecue.

Session Black Lager: I’ve said this before, but I don’t think the Full Sail brewery makes a bad beer. Session lagers are intended to satisfy everyone, which when the marketers are doing conjoint analysis may seem like a good idea, but could easily turn out to be a disaster. Making everyone happy is a tough proposition. And while I wouldn’t say Session beers are my favorites, they’re good, they’re cheap, and for some reason the distinctive squat bottle shape is appealing. This dark lager would be a great accompaniment to Mexican food. It’s very similar to Negra Modelo, but about half the cost at the local store, so an appealing choice if you’re hosting a party. It’s not something I’ll likely keep in the fridge, but it is something I’ll keep in mind for the right occasions.

Wasatch Twilight Summer Seasonal

Posted in American Craft Beer, Utah Beer, Wasatch Beers by dailybeerproject on May 10, 2010

This was available on tap at a restaurant near the finish of my race Saturday afternoon. And since the other offerings on tap were beers I’d tried (Uinta Hefeweizen and Cutthroat Pale Ale), I figured I’d avoid doing what’s safe and give the Twilight a try.

Twilight is a Kolsch-style beer, which means that it’s top-fermented with an ale yeast but then cold conditioned like a lager. It’s a pale, golden color with relatively mild hoppiness. It’s one of my favorite styles, and this one did not disappoint in the least. It was smooth and refreshing with a mild, sweet flavor from the lightly roasted malt, balanced by just the right amount of hops. It’s a nearly perfect summer beer and one I expect to drink more of as the days get warmer. Absolutely awesome.

Wasatch Bobsled Brown Ale

Posted in American Craft Beer, Utah Beer, Wasatch Beers by dailybeerproject on April 2, 2010

This one is a seasonal that’s not technically required for phase 2, but I happened to pick up a bottle last time I was at the beer store, so I figured I’d include it. After the wonderful experience I had with the Red Rock Nut Brown Ale, I was more excited about having this one.

It wasn’t knock-your-socks-off delicious like the Red Rock, but it was still a good beer. I imagine it would be better on tap, but I had it from a bottle. Incidentally, I’m not aware of anywhere that has it on tap, except perhaps the Wasatch Brewpub. It’s on the dark side, but not so dark as a porter or a stout, so it tastes more caramely than toasty. That can be a good thing, depending on your mood.

Speaking of mood, that’s another aspect of drinking beer that I’ve noticed–certain beers go better with certain moods and seasons and foods. Which I think is one of the beauties of beer. It’s nuanced enough that you may want something different when it’s hot or cold, rainy or dry. If you’re tired, one beer may be more appealing, and if you’re wound up and want to relax, another. Perhaps most telling is that there are circumstances, such as after a day of skiing or a really long bike ride, when a Budweiser or a PBR may hit the spot, even if so-called higher-quality options are available. Blackdog says Budweiser goes really well with greasy Chinese food. Who’d have thought of that (I happen to love an occasional plate of greasy Chinese food)?

Duke Ellington said about music, “if it sounds good, it is good.” The corollary for beer is that if tastes good, it is good. And the only person whose taste matters is yours. Budweiser sells a lot of beer by being consistent. PBR sells a lot of beer because it’s something similar that doesn’t say Budweiser on the can. Craft beers can be better than Budweiser, but they can also be worse.

I bring this up because a friend suggested I try Michelob Ultra. I asked him if he was serious. I asked that because I’d heard people make fun of this “beer” and that Lance A. is its pimp. But I’d never tried it. We both got a good laugh, because he was, in fact, serious. So I’m going to chase some down (maybe not a six pack) and give it a try with an open mind.

Wasatch Devastator Double Bock

Posted in American Craft Beer, Utah Beer, Wasatch Beers by dailybeerproject on March 25, 2010

Some people really like the taste of high gravity beers because they like the strong ethanol and other flavors. Unless this is the first post you’ve read, you probably know that I like the higher alcohol content Belgians, but it’s unusual for anyone else to pull it off without it tasting overly bitter to me. It should come as no surprise, then, that I didn’t even expect to like this 8% abv brew.

It was extremely bitter. In fact, I couldn’t taste much besides the bitter. I tried to find some maltiness and only found a little. I tried to find some hoppiness, but it was similarly sparse. All I could taste was bitter and harsh. My wife tried to convince me that I didn’t need to finish it, but I did.

The next day I asked my brother if he’d tried it. He said he can’t stand it either. He had one once and couldn’t finish it. So he gave it to another brother who quite liked it. Glad someone does.

Rating: Not awesome.

Beers #29 & #30: Evolution Amber Ale and Budweiser

Posted in American Craft Beer, Macrobrews, Utah Beer, Wasatch Beers by dailybeerproject on February 16, 2010

First off, I know that Orval was supposed to be beer #29, but frankly I’ve been looking forward to finishing this “project” and getting on with drinking beer for fun. Today while I was skiing, Wasatch Brewery Evolution Amber Ale was available on tap, so I figured I’d call that beer #29, have the Budweiser when I got home, and drink the Orval later.

I’d read a review of Evolution before I tried it, and the reviews weren’t super favorable. It wasn’t a spectacular beer. In fact, it wasn’t even the best amber ale I’ve had in the last few days, but it was still quite good. Good enough that I would order it again. I’ve discovered that I quite like ambers, and while there may be better amber ales available, I’d take this beer on tap over quite a few of the bottled beers I’ve tried. Next time I go to the beer store, I’ll probably grab a few bottles to see what the bottled version is like.

After I got home from skiing, I popped open the double can of Budweiser. I was thirsty and tired, and I figured if ever there was a time beer would taste good, it would be then. So the verdict? I like Budweiser. I’m almost embarrassed to say how much I liked it. It’s not my favorite beer. It’s not even top ten. It’s not even something I would seek out. But I wouldn’t turn one down either. Like the PBR, it’s a quantity over quality beer, and it goes down really easy, probably because there’s not much to it. I definitely liked it better than Heineken. I can see why it’s so popular, too. While there’s nothing compelling about it, there’s not really anything not to like either.

Summary thoughts: the project has been an unequivocal success. I like beer. Not all of them, but I know which beers I like. And which varieties of beer I’ll probably like. Not only could I drink beer in social settings, I would choose beer over alternatives in a number of situations. Going out for Mexican? Negra Modelo. Need something to put in the cooler for after skiing? Chasing Tail. Out for a casual dinner? Dead Horse Amber Ale. Meeting friends on a Friday after work? Bohemian Vienna Lager. Relaxing in front of the TV? Sam Adams Light. Of course these are just some of the many choices, but you get the idea.

So where does this project go from here? Well as I mentioned, I’m looking forward to drinking beer for fun. I’ve got an Orval waiting for me to drink it, so I’ll probably do a writeup of that. I still want to give Chimay a try. I also want to revisit the Sam Adams Boston Ale and Boston Lager since those were the first two beers I tried, and I’d like to see how my attitude towards them has changed, as I’m sure it has. Wine is yummy too, and so I’ll write about those wines I consider worth mentioning. So stay tuned. Those five or six of you that have stuck with it, add me to your reader. It won’t be a daily thing, but I’m not going away either.

Beers #18 & 19: Wasatch White Label and Polygamy Porter

Posted in American Craft Beer, Utah Beer, Wasatch Beers by dailybeerproject on February 1, 2010

I had these beers on different days, but I’d had the Polygamy Porter before I wrote about the White Label and didn’t want to write separate posts. I don’t imagine it makes any difference if you were going to read both anyway.

Anyhow, the Wasatch White Label once and for all confirmed that my bitterness sensitivity is to the alcohol. Although darker beers can exacerbate the bitterness, the alcohol is what’s most unpleasant. I’ve never noticed much if any bitterness in any of the other white beers I’ve had until this one. All the other white beers, though, had alcohol levels of 4-5%. This one is 6% abv and was a bit on the bitter side.

It did, however, give me hope that I’ll come to embrace the bitterness, as BradK suggested, because while it was bitter, I didn’t dislike it. It wasn’t nearly as pleasant as a strong wine, but I can see myself coming to like the stronger alcohol flavor in beer (I quite like it in wine) at some point. Until then, I’m happy to have our “non-intoxicating” local beers.

If the White Label didn’t confirm that the alcohol is behind the bitterness, the Polygamy Porter did. Like the Cherney Bock at Bohemian, it was dark and rich and would be described by non-supertasters as a bitter beer. To me, however, it was bitter but not in an unpleasant way–just the malty bitterness of dark-roasted grain. The first few sips seemed a bit much, but as I progressed, I enjoyed it more and more. Like the higher-alcohol content beers, I can also see myself coming to like darker beers over time. You’ll know I’ve come full circle when I’m drinking Spaten Optimator for fun.

Summary thoughts: I feel like I’m coming to a point not where I do and don’t like certain beers, but where I like them all to some degree, just some more than others. If I didn’t have the no repeat rule, I’d go back and try some I’ve liked previously as well as some I didn’t (I’m especially anxious to give Sam Adams another try). Never fear, eleven days hence when the project officially ends, I’m not going to discontinue the blog entirely. I’m planning to keep it going, but not with the same formula (and likely not the same frequency). I’ll post reviews of beers I do and don’t like, redo reviews of beers I tried as part of this project, and likely also mention wines or whatever else I try and have a strong enough opinion of to write a post about.

As an aside, I had a friend mention that he liked the idea of this project, but if he were to do it, he’d do wine rather than beer. I told him that I could see why, but the point was to try to come to like beer, and I already liked wine (I’ve only had one wine that I genuinely disliked–a riesling–which is not to say that I like them all equally). Not to mention, a new bottle of wine every day would get expensive fast.

I’m finished with local beer week, going one day longer than the six planned after my detour to Bohemian on Friday. For the next set, I’m going to try a couple regional selections as well as some beers that are readily available at the grocery store. I’ll get lagers back into the rotation, I’m going north and south of the border, and also trying a “light beer” for the first time. Here’s the lineup, which may get bumped if I try to work in more opportunities to try local beers on tap.

  1. Mexican night: Corona and Tecate (I’m forgoing the no accoutrements rule to add lime wedges to these.)
  2. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
  3. Sam Adams Light
  4. Big Sky Powder Hound Winter Ale
  5. Kokanee

Beer #15: Wasatch Winter Ale

Posted in American Craft Beer, Utah Beer, Wasatch Beers by dailybeerproject on January 28, 2010

Since this project has everything to do with science and my own enjoyment of the beer is only a secondary consideration, I decided to further my efforts to determine whether my bitterness sensitivity was to hops or to alcohol with tonight’s selection. I chose the Wasatch Winter Ale because it’s a fairly potent, 7% abv beer that has a lower hop content than the IPA I had last night.

It was more bitter than the IPA, which leads me to believe that the sensitivity is to the alcohol in beer more than it is to the hops. The thing I don’t understand is how the alcohol in beer can taste so bitter when the alcohol in fruit-based beverages is not even slightly bitter. Perhaps I’m wrong and it is the hops.

More likely though, (and I’m really speculating here, so take this “more likely” assertion with a grain of salt) is that I’m sensitive to something in grain-derived alcohol. Actually, I think it could be barley-derived alcohol since I haven’t noticed much if any bitterness in wheat-based beers. I’m going to try the Wasatch Belgian White, which is 6% abv, either tomorrow or Friday to make sure. But past forays into wheat-based beers have not yielded the bitterness that seems to plague me with their barley-based counterparts.

Further efforts, again for the sake of science, to figure out what was going on and how to cope with it led me to drop a few grains of salt into the last 3-4 ounces of beer. This diminished the bitterness to the point of making the beer palatable, but I have no idea why this works. Of note with this beer is that the head was so thick, initially the salt was trapped therein, and I had to swirl it around in the pint glass to get it to settle into the liquid so it could dissolve.

Summary thoughts: BradK commented that I’m going to come to embrace the bitterness by the time this is through. I certainly hope that’s the case. Even if it’s not, I’ve found enough beers that I can enjoy as a result of this endeavor that I feel like it’s at least been a small victory, and I’m only half way through.

If the stars align tomorrow as I hope they will, I’m planning to head to Squatters after work (5:30ish) to give the Nitro Cream Ale a try. If you’re in the neighborhood and want to join me, leave a comment. Given the low traffic lately, I’ll even buy the first round.

Beer #13: Wasatch Apricot Hefeweizen

Posted in American Craft Beer, Utah Beer, Wasatch Beers by dailybeerproject on January 26, 2010

Hefeweizen is kind of like the white bread of beer. There’s not much to dislike, but there’s not much to get excited about either. If Hefeweizen is white bread, then apricot hefeweizen is white bread and jam. The fruitiness of the apricot just added an extra dimension of flavor.

That being said, it felt kind of like riding a moped. Riding a moped is fun until someone sees you on it. I couldn’t get over the feeling that what I was drinking was the beer equivalent of a cosmopolitan. I wouldn’t be confident buying this beer and drinking it in front of friends. I may accept one if offered, but only if it were just the two of us, he opened his first, and I were otherwise certain it were not a trap.

It’s still a tasty beer, though. Can’t help but think this was sort of like mixing hefeweizen and lemonade–the fruitiness was a nice complement and added another dimension to the experience.

Obviously this was beer #1 in my local beer lineup. The next five will be (not necessarily in order):

  1. Polygamy Porter
  2. Wasatch Winterfest Ale
  3. Wasatch Belgian White Ale
  4. Squatters Nitro Cream Ale (only available on tap, so I’ll have this at the brewpub)
  5. Squatters IPA

I also have Full Suspension and Chasing Tail in bottles, but I’m not counting them in the lineup because I’ve already tried them on tap (OK, I also had a Chasing Tail today, and it was just as good from the bottle as on tap), and I’m trying for 30 beers with no repeats (plus I get more beer that way, even if it violates my one per day, no more no less rule). I mentioned that I’d like to try something from Uinta Brewery as well, which I’d still like to get to, but the Wasatch and Squatters beers are sold directly from their brewing cooperative in singles, so it was really easy to mix and match. Perhaps I’ll do more local or at least regional beers for my next six and work Uinta in then.

Summary thoughts: so far I’ve preferred the local beers to the non-locals, both domestic and imported. I don’t know the reason for this. It could be because they’re fresher. Or, it could be because of the lower alcohol content. They’re 3.2% alcohol by weight or 4% alcohol by volume. It’s possible that there’s something in the alcohol in beer that’s causing the bitterness sensitivity. I don’t notice it in fruit-based beverages like hard cider or wine with up to 15% abv, but I’ve noticed the bitterness less in the local beers I’ve had than in the non-local varieties.

The Winterfest and IPA are both higher alcohol local beers, so when I try them, it will hopefully help me better identify where the bitterness I’m tasting is coming from. If it turns out that 4% abv is my limit for bitterness, I’d probably be the only beer drinker in the world who’s happy with our wacky local liquor laws and the low potency of the stuff available on tap and at grocery stores.