Daily beer project

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.

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Bah Humbug

Posted in American Craft Beer by dailybeerproject on December 3, 2010

I’ve loaded up on every winter/Christmas beer I can get from the liquor store, so I’ll post reviews as I sample them.

Anderson Valley Winter Solstice: pours a beautiful garner color but with a really thin head that dissipated almost immediately. Aroma is hops with an undisclosed blend of spices, probably coriander and clove among them. Flavor is good but a little too heavily weighted towards the spices. I’m not generally a fan of flavored beers, but spiced winter beers are good so long as the spices are subtle. These spices come on just barely top strong, but still a tasty beer.

McTarnahan’s Bah Humbug’r: Says right on the label that it’s a porter. Pours dark black like a porter. Tastes like a porter but probably the best one I’ve ever had. Smooth, caramel, toasted flavor. Rich but not overwhelming. Not sure if I’m growing more fond of porters or if this is just an exceptionally good one. Perhaps some of each. Either way, an awesome beer.

Porters and more

Posted in American Craft Beer, Imports, Squatters, Utah Beer by dailybeerproject on December 1, 2010

While my London-based colleauge was in town, we went to the Bayou. He had the Galloway Porter from Epic. He mentioned it didn’t taste like a traditional English porter. Which prompted me to wonder what a traditional English porter tastes like (and how it’s different from the American porters). Porters aren’t my favorite style, but I’ll admit I haven’t put much effort into appreciating them, either. So I decided to make some inroads into appreciating porters. The Meantime porter my colleague recommended wasn’t available at the Bayou (and as of last weekend still isn’t), but I found a couple of others I thought I might like.

The original English porter is a blend of an old (stale or sour) ale, a new brown or pale ale, and a mild ale. If you blended these, you’d end up with something no darker than Newcastle Brown Ale. If you’ve drunk a porter lately, you know it wasn’t that color. 

Modern porters are brewed as porters rather than made as a blend of other beers. They typically use some black and or chocolate or smoked brown malt. And according to Dave from Desert Edge, it doesn’t take much in the way of a dark malt to color a beer. Hence the deep, dark, opaque color of most porters.

Porters tend to have a little less burnt flavor than stouts, and perhaps this is because porters rarely use roasted (unmalted) barley, whereas this is a mainstay of stouts. Unmalted barley will have very little sweetness, as malting converts starch to sugar, which is why stouts have such a dry flavor. A black malt will still have the sweetness from the malting process while still bringing out dark color and rich flavor. Nevertheless, I still struggle a bit to distinguish a porter from a stout, and indeed the origins of the two styles are quite intertwined.

Samuel Smith’s Taddy Porter: Samuel Smith’s isn’t the Anheuser Busch of England, but it might be the Samuel Adams (or perhaps Sam Adams is the Sam Smith of America). According to my colleague, it’s ubiquitous and cheap. In England, at least. Here it’s ubiquitous and expensive. North of $2 for a 12 ounce bottle expensive. But for the sake of science, I bought a bottle.

It poured a dark, coffee color, deep brown and opaque. It smell very toasty, with very little hopping. Flavor was rich and dark, as you’d expect. And what my colleague said notwithstanding, I couldn’t tell any difference between this English porter and it’s American cousins. But it was good, something I’d likely come to appreciate if I paid it more attention.

Deschutes Black Butte Porter: This, along with Mirror Pond Pale Ale, is one of Deschutes brewery’s signature beers. With good reason. I can’t imagine someone who likes porters not liking this beer. Like the Samuel Smith’s, it was toasty with very little hops. It had a hint of sweetness to it that provided a nice balance to the dark flavors, sort of like dark chocolate. I liked it, enough that I’d buy it again.

Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale: While shopping for the Black Butte, I realized I’d never reviewed Mirror Pond. According to the Deschutes website, it’s got 40 IBUs. But it tastes hoppier than that. Their Inversion IPA is 80 IBUs, and while it’s more bitter, it didn’t taste twice as bitter. Mirror Pond is also 5.0% abv, on the low end for American pale ales. I wonder if that affects the perceived bitterness. Either way, I’d rate this a good beer, but not awesome. Considering  it costs more than Sierra Nevada or Full Sail but to me isn’t any better, it’s probably not something I’ll regularly buy at the local store, but I wouldn’t refuse it, either.

Deschutes Jubelale: I’m a sucker for seasonals. It’s not like I’ve tried every beer in the world, but I think knowing that a particular beer is a limited time engagement increases the sense of urgency to give it a try. This is a winter ale. I don’t know what that means, but it’s good. It’s deep and dark in color, similar to Epic’s Imperial Red. It took some getting used to, but by the end of the bottle, I was wishing for another. It’s got a rich malt flavor, a cloudy color, and a noticeable hop presence, clocking 60 IBUs, though the hop bitterness is offset quite a bit by the richness of the malt. Really just a perfect winter beer, ideal for when you come in out of the cold after skiing, and one I will definitely have again.

Skinner’s Betty Stoggs Bitter: Another English import, this one had been named best bitter in the Great Britain Beer Festival of 2008, so my expectations were high. Frankly I liked the St. Peters better. This beer is quite a lot like Full Suspension, which is a delightful beer, and which is also quite convenient since I can get Full Suspension at pretty much any grocery store or gas station in the state.

Traquair Jacobite Scottish Ale: I had this at the Bayou on the recommendation of our server. I’d never had a Scottish ale before and figured if I was going to have one, it ought to actually come from Scotland, not from a non-Scottish brewery mimicking the style (after all, if it’s not Scottish, it’s crap). It was surprising and different, a dark beer flavored with coriander. It was also delicious. At 8% abv, it was a knee wobbler, too. I was feeling it by the time the bottle was done. It wasn’t cheap, either. The 330 ml bottle ran $9 at the Bayou, a mere 40% markup from the retail price at the state store where it’s $5.11. Is it worth it? Believe it or not, yes. Definitely not every day, but as a special occasion beer, absolutely. And while it’s not a seasonal, it’s one I’d save for winter or cooler weather. It’s just too much for a summertime beer.

Squatter’s Nut Brown Ale: This is Squatter’s current seasonal offering at the brewpub. It’s tasty. Mostly malt in the flavor profile, with a very bready flavor and just enough hops to make it interesting, I look forward to having this one again. Another awesome choice for the season, it would be a good beer to fill a growler and take to a holiday party.

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.

New Benelux?

Posted in American Craft Beer by dailybeerproject on October 20, 2010

The wife recently returned from a trip to the midwest. Which meant she brought home beer that I can’t get here. Specifically, the folly pack from New Belgium (Fat Tire, Hoptober, Blue Paddle, and Ranger IPA) and a six pack of Mad Hatter IPA from New Holland. New Holland and New Belgium? We didn’t plan it, but it worked out to be a nice coincidence.

Hoptober: After the hit and miss with Oktoberfest beers tried previously, I was anxious to see what New Belgium’s offering was like. Frankly, I don’t think this brewery is capable of making a bad beer. Or maybe they are but wouldn’t. Either way, Hoptober is one of my favorite beers ever. It’s what I hoped Marzen beers would be like. Unbelievably awesome. I’m just disappointed that the folly pack only had three bottles of the stuff.

Blue Paddle: My disappointment didn’t last long, because I popped the top on a Blue Paddle lager and was totally stoked about it, too. This would be a great session beer–4.8% abv, highly drinkable, but plenty of character not to get bored with it. Tastes like a traditional Pilsner should, with a pleasantly sour malt balanced with a noticeable but not overpowering hop presence. Lovely stuff.

The other two offerings in the folly pack, Fat Tire and Ranger, I’ve reviewed before. Read about them here and here.

Mad Hatter: With the exception of Pete’s Wicked , Pete’s Strawberry Blonde, and Sam Adams, I can’t think of a domestic beer I’ve tried from anywhere East of Colorado. Which is not to say there aren’t good craft beers from East of Colorado, I just don’t have access to them.

Mad Hatter is well-regarded over at BeerAdvocate, and given that my beer journey is currently on its predictable detour through the IPAs, I was anxious to try this one. The anticipation was rewarded, as this is a fine beer. Interestingly, this was closer to the English IPA tradition than that of the Western United States in that the alcohol content was a mere 5.8%. The hops were noticeable but not overpowering and allowed more of the malt flavor to come through than in many other IPAs.

The delineation between pale ale and IPA is nebulous at best, with Dale’s Pale Ale being stronger and hoppier than Mad Hatter and various other IPAs. Of course for my purposes, I don’t particularly care what style a beer is (or calls itself), I just want it to taste good. And Mad Hatter certainly does.

Oktoberfest

Posted in Uncategorized by dailybeerproject on October 12, 2010

The other day I was looking at The Big Picture, which ran a series on Oktoberfest. And aside from prompting me to add attending Oktoberfest to my bucket list (I don’t actually have a bucket list, but I would still like to go to Oktoberfest some day), it reminded me that I haven’t sampled any Marzen or Oktoberfest beers.

But first, why are they called Marzen (March) beers if they’re consumed in October? Because back in the day, German brewers weren’t allowed to brew during the summer (shocking that industry would be so regulated in Germany, right?). So they brewed their beer in March and stored or lagered it in cool caves until fall when the kegs were tapped. In 1810, to commemorate the wedding of Crown Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese, these kegs were tapped in a huge party, and Oktoberfest was born.

Many brewers make a Marzen-style beer as a fall seasonal. I hadn’t had one, so I took a trip to the local liquor store and grabbed a couple.

Spaten Oktoberfest: First up was a German import, a beer actually served at the Oktoberfest in Munich. I wanted to get a feel for what the Germans and visiting tourists actually drink with their huge portions of chicken, beef, sausage, and pretzels. The beer is light to medium in body, similar in color to a lot of golden ales but lighter than a typical pale ale or amber. It’s moderately hopped, enough to be apparent, but with the malt being the dominant flavor. It’s awesome. Yes it comes from a big brewer, yes it comes in a green bottle and is probably light affected after a voyage across the ocean. It still tastes good. So I can only imagine what it’s like served on tap in a liter stein in a tent with thousands of my closest friends.

Samuel Adams Oktoberfest: While malt was prominent in the Spaten, it was all I tasted in the Sam Adams. In fact it was too malty. I didn’t care for it. It was good enough that I could put another one down if need be, but I definitely would not pay $1.85 for a bottle again. I’m sure it has its fans, I’m just not one.

Unfortunately, these two were the extent of the Oktoberfest beers available at the local store, so I decided to put together a sampler and try some other beers that were new to me.

Uinta Anniversary Barley Wine: This probably should have been part of phase two of the project. But it’s a barley wine, and there’s some question as to whether barley wine is beer or something else. Plus I was scared of it. With my early issues about strong beers being overpowering, I was certain I wouldn’t like it.

I wasn’t head over heels for it, but it was good enough. At 10.4% abv, it’s not the most drinkable beer. It’s just too strong. It’s a sipping beer, and somehow the brewers managed to make it that strong while still striking a decent balance. It’s fairly dark, similar to a brown or a red ale, but not as dark as a porter. The malt and alcohol is so strong that the hops, while evident, don’t dominate. It meets my standard definition of a good beer: I’d accept one if offered, but I may not spend my own money to buy it.

After reading this article in The Atlantic about an emerging American beer style that nobody can figure out how to name, I was interested in trying an American Black Ale/Cascadian Black Ale/American-Style India Black Ale/whatever you want to call it. Unfortunately, the local store didn’t have any. So I came as close as I could and got a Russian Imperial Stout.

North Coast Brewing Old Rasputin: This stuff is supposed to be 75 IBUs. That’s pretty bitter and a lot of hops. Except that the malt was so dark and so strong (it’s 9% abv) that the hops still weren’t all that apparent. The beer was just plain strong. Too strong. I had a hard time finishing it. It was just too much for me in every way. Not awesome.

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.

Peter’s brand lager

Posted in Imports by dailybeerproject on September 28, 2010

This is labeled a Dutch-style Pilsner lager, and it comes in a pint can. It’s on the malty side, similar to a Belgian ale. The malt is caramel and rich for its golden color, with less sour than other imported lagers. I wasn’t blown away by it, but it was good enough that I’d gladly have it again.

Just for grins, I poured some over vanilla ice cream for a float. The Bayou serves floats made with Guiness, which I think would be a little better. But this was still tasty, albeit more as a novelty than a legitimate dessert.

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.

Revisiting Stella

Posted in Imports, Macrobrews by dailybeerproject on September 5, 2010

With phase 2 wrapped up and my taste in beer having evolved somewhat in the process, I decided I’d go back and revisit some beers I tried early on to see if my opinion had changed. I already did this with Sierra Nevada, and considering that’s now one of my favorites, it seems worth doing with others.

Stella Artois was a beer I tried early on, and while I didn’t dislike it, I wasn’t crazy about it either. Considering it’s one of my brother’s favorites (may still be top of his list), I decided to revisit it. Glad I did. It’s very much a European, Pilsner-style lager. Belgium is famous for it’s ales, but like most of the rest of the world, lager beer is the majority of consumption. Outside Belgium, Stella is promoted as an international brand, but domestically it’s just another lager and lags behind its sister brand Jupiler in sales. It’s owned by AB Inbev (think Budweiser), so it’s a macrobrew if ever there was one. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t good.

Coming as it does from a big brewery, it’s not surprising that it’s less-hoppy than some other Pilsners. I like the hoppier versions better, but this is still awesome. With less hops, the sourness of the malt comes through a bit more. The sourness takes some getting used to (or at least it did for me), but it has a refreshing, thirst-quenching quality that I enjoy. The downside is that it’s nearly $2 for an 11.2 ounce bottle. Considering there are other beers I like just as well for less, it probably won’t become part of the regular rotation. But certainly something I’d reach for when in the mood for an import.