Sunday, February 28, 2010

Episode 7 - Warsteiner's Premium Dunkel

As I’d said, this is a beer rich with flavor
Let’s review: The Dunkel has a good scent to it, with plenty of esters and malt coming to the fore of the nose. The smell of banana was surprisingly not prophetic in taste, but still very nice as a part of the total package.

Appearance itself yielded no head, but from what I could tell of the foam rising off of the carbonation, any head would have been a clean sharp white. The color is a dark red dipping into brown almost glowing at the edges.

The taste yielded malts as predicted but no banana. Oh, it was pleasantly sweet – just a little sweetness balanced out by very little bitterness. I easily could taste caramel among the multiple flavors, but there was much here that I could taste, but wasn’t able to discern. I’m still working out my palate.

Mouth feel was crisp and sharp, with a good dose of carbonation. Swallowing held a different sensation, though – just a little stickiness as one could expect from a bottle of soda.

This is a highly recommended beer, especially if you’re starting to move into the darker range of drinks. It’s a good medium taste and body, and really just a great all around package. I really feel like this drink would to the best work when paired with a food, particularly something charred. It tastes like it would be well suited to hanging out with a beef dish and a starch side.

Really, though, a very good drink. Thanks for watching, and remember to keep the cap!

Postscript: Hah! So, I managed to get a head on this bastard. Don't screw around with tilting the glass when pouring. Just hold updright and turn the bottle in. This produces a light creamy head that dissipates quickly leaving a white rim of bubbles.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Shilling Showdown (It's tame)

Today I will shell out for you the concept behind the shilling category. This is a Scottish system dating back to an older currency and an older time in ye olde empire. First off, we need to look at sizes. This was implemented around the time the imperial system of measurements had been brought out. The Scots had a friendly term for a lot of beer called a “Hogshead” which was roughly 54 imperial gallons of beer – I told you it was a lot.

From here, the price break down would go in to quality or strength of the beer, with sixty shillings (or bobs) charged for a hogshead of light beer, and on the other spectrum 90 bobs representing what we call a “wee heavy” (only a wee bit, really). The ABV in a Wee Heavy is supposed to be above 6%. Technically, Odell’s was an American Red Ale with about 5.5% abv, so it wouldn’t really classify as a 90 shilling. More appropriately it would be an 80 shilling which was charged on simple heavy beers. Between the heavies and the lights was – you guessed it – 70 shillings for a medium.

Whether or not you’re getting your money’s worth when you pick up that fifty-four gallons of Odell’s for 90 shilling, it was still a very good beer, if just a “over priced.”

Happy drinking! Keep the cap.

- JP

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Episode 6 - Odell Brewing's 90 Shilling Ale

So! Odell's 90 Shilling Ale. I've been mulling over this drink while the video compresses for upload, and actually this is a very appealing drink. The ABV is 5.3%, so it's still within range to be a good session beer. The coloring, which I've found you can't really see in the video, is a kind of cherry crimson color with a pleasant creamy off-white head. The lacing sticks around pretty well, too. The drink's head has been persistent as I've been drinking it, constantly keeping a couple centimeters of creamy goodness on the top there.

The smell was smoky and malty, a few different scents mingling together beyond what I could pick up (I've got a bit of a cold today). Overall, it had a good nose to it, really. Taste was, as I said, very malty but there is actually a good dark smoke flavor to it and – to my surprise – a nuttiness to it like you'd find in Britain's brown ales.

The mouth-feel was creamy and crisp all at once, moderately carbonated. This was not a thick drink, but it was definitely not thin by any means either.

Honestly, this is a very good drink, and I'd be eager to try what else Odell has to offer. I think I'll have to take a trip up to Fort Collins the next time I go out there to see family!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Craft Brewers open

Like the title said, this new website has been opened up by the Brewers Association in order to advise and inform the public about craft beers. The website includes advice on which beer styles go best with which foods, and what glasses to drink your brews from. There's a lot of interesting articles on there about the personalities of craft brewing (And anyone who thinks we don't have our personalities hasn't seen an interview with Dog Fish Head's Sam Calagione), styles of beer you might enjoy, and general industry news. This is a cool looking website, and one I'm definitely going to keep tabs on. Hope you enjoy it!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

When Good Beer Goes Bad: The Science of Skunk

This is the city. St. Louis, Missouri. I work here... I carry a beer. It was Sunday, February 7th. Sunny, cold. We were filming for my blog. The story you are about to see is true. Not even the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

The review for today was filming, everything set up. New lights, my old Laptop back to filming duties, beer in hand. “Thank you for watching the February 7th edition of The Year of Beer... Today I'll be reviewing Flying Dog's Classic Pale Ale.” I cracked it open, poured it. Finger of head, lovely amber color, the smell didn't strike me terribly, but I didn't think anything of it. I should have. The taste cued me instantly. Sour, bitter, but not in a hop-laden way. This was the work of a beer skunk.

What exactly happens when your beer goes bad? It could be age, but generally the factor that goes into it is light. The isohumulones, which come from hops, collapse due to the UV coming through the bottle and some of the remainders bind with sulfur particles in the bottle to create that skunky sensation. The only fool proof method for preventing your beer from skunking is to have it 'bottled' in something that lets absolutely no light in. Most breweries use brown bottles (such as today's poor fallen soldier) which block out most light, but not all. You'll see other breweries like Delirium use totally opaque bottles reminiscent of the old stoneware bottles of the past – or you can use a can.

Yeah, yeah, say what you will but the can is really very efficient. Drop your preconceived notions of good ole boys sitting on their back porch popping natty-lights or whatever; or of popped collar frat boys screaming at each other and cracking keg-cans of Heiny. Think of it this way – aluminum blocks all light, it's cheaper to produce, and you get just as much of a return on recycling. In fact, there are already several craft brewers making use of cans instead of the classic bottles. One of the biggest names in this new movement is Surly Brewing (who, by the way, has probably the coolest names for their beers. Ever).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Birthday Writeup

Did it get quiet in here or is it just me? Oh, right, it was just me.

So, you were probably anticipating some exciting birthday videos full of excitement, drama, and romance weren’t you? I’m sorry to report the lighting in the Schlafly Taproom was not bright enough to allow for filming with our equipment. Alas, t’was not meant to be.

What did you miss out on? Well, we arrived just in time to see Tom Schlafly and Jim Koch getting in an all-out fistfight with August A Busch returned from the dead. They almost had him on the run when suddenly Frederick Miller arrived in a portal of hellfire and joined the brawl. When the dust settled, the four realized they had nothing to fight about since they all made decent beer and decided to vent their anger on the prohibition movement.

When they managed to get all the tables and the dining room back into place my friends and family and I were seated. The ladies present each had one of the samplers just to try a little bit of everything, but after reading a review of hefty praise from a fellow Missouri beer nut I tried out the No. 15.

Appearance: Kind of a thin head, maybe about a finger or two, which faded to a thin coating for the rest of the drink. It laced well, though, and had a rich color around a deep reddish tint.

Smell: A wheat background and fruity.

Taste: Very very sweet. The canvas was wheat, but there was a fruitiness I had a hard time placing. After having a roundtable consensus with my friends and family we agreed it was something like pears or cinamon apples, but I’ve heard a lot of people say it tasted like apricot which I would wholly believe. Very tasty, and it didn't take much for me to polish the whole thing off. If you're more of a fan of bitters, you might not find much satisfaction here, as the hops were very downplayed in favor of the fruits working around.

Mouthfeel: It was smooth, felt kind of medium, but was neither very carbonated, nor was it terribly creamy. Honestly, the flavor of the drink was king over all the other traits one typically looks at in a beer.

Drinkability: I'd rate this as high. I, and everyone trying the beer with me, held it in high regard. This is something I could see easily becoming a staple in my fridge for when I'm just relaxing, though with the strong sweetness to it, it would be easy to become over-exposed if this were the only thing you were drinking. Definitely one I'm keeping in mind for my session of choice, though!

The tally for birthday presents was incredibly beer-related. I wonder what kind of message I’ve been spreading amongst my friends! Not that I’m complaining at all… I have no shortage of drinks to try right now. I got a Schlafly shaker pint glass, as well as a tee from the taproom proudly proclaiming that beer is “Not just for breakfast anymore!” My wife gave me two novels I was wanting to read very much (neither of them beer related thankfully) as well as a new battery for the laptop I write on (again, no beer relation unless you count this article). I picked up Randy Mosher’s Tasting Beer and Michael Jackson’s (No, not that one, this one) Great Beer Guide. Two of my loyal readers (A couple who both use the screen name Sqrt(D)) provided me with several weeks worth of beer to work on reviews, so just you wait! I also received a giant 24 case of Leinenkeugals assorted. Right now I’ve settled down to read this with my new pint glass full of their Red Ale, which I have to say I’m really liking.

Since this weekend is always a shared birthday weekend between me and Kaiser Crowbar (a close and personal friend, as well as world conquering maniac) we spent the days out and about. In the last week I’ve discovered a second beer that I really like: Samuel Adam’s Boston Lager. Now, I had decided when laying out this blog that I wouldn’t do a review on it on the simple basis that the idea is to try new stuff. But wait! You said you just found out you loved it! Yeah… Just found out about that last part. I’d had it a few years back before I’d really developed a tasted and it left me wanting. Of course, I had no idea what I was drinking back then.

Between that and the Number 15, I’ve found two very solid session beers. Although obviously the Sam Adams is going to be a lot easier to find when bar jumping.

Anyway, have a great weekend and I’ll see you again Sunday!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Looking at Foam

So, one of my regulars planted an interesting question in this week’s review’s comments. The gist of it was, “What is the big deal about a beer’s head?” I was two seconds away from shooting out a reply when it occurred to me that I didn’t actually know! I mean everyone has been talking about it, so it seemed like something I should observe as well. Why should I care about head retention and size?

The head of the beer, along with it’s traits, will be determined by the malt used in brewing, as well as any additives such as honey or fruit flavorings. The beers that are going to have the largest, longest lasting heads use wheat malts, so you’ll find that pilsners (such as this week’s Old School), Hefeweizens, and their relatives will be more known for their head than, say, a good porter.

Looking around I came up with a couple answers. First off is an obvious one: Appearance. Frankly the head of a beer adds to its appearance. It adds to the aesthetic value, giving a nice contrasting color and texture, plus it’s just nice to look at.

Secondly, and this is more important, is the smell. The head is formed by all the trapped gasses rising and releasing at the surface of the beer. Your taste buds are heavily influenced by what smell you’re taking in, so you could be missing out on half the experience. You should always smell the beer to get everything out of it.