Thursday, May 29, 2008

Weighing In. Weighing Anchor.

I’ve been on something of a tear with the new beers the past couple of weeks. I’ve racked up quite a slush pile of beer notes and comments. Here’s one for a beer I sampled back on May 6th: Liberty Ale, which is put out by the Anchor Brewing Company in California.

This beer is listed in Michael Jackson’s Great Beer Guide: 500 Classic Brews and I’m pleased to be able to add it to my list of “bagged” beers. You’ve all got a beer list, right? My list is basically anything from Jackson’s book and while I’ll never add all the beers in this book to my list of beers tried (since some of those listed are evidently unavailable now) I’m having a fun time tracking down those that I can find.

I’ve struggled with acquiring this beer for a year or more. Seems I never have the book when I see an Anchor Brewing product in the store and I could never remember which Anchor products are listed in the Great Beer Guide (Liberty, Old Foghorn and “Our Special Holiday Ale” are the beers listed in the book). I got lucky during a recent scouting trip and found six packs of Liberty at the local Trader Joes and the Old Foghorn at AJ’s Fine Food. Needless to say, I bought examples of both – life’s short friends.

I like beers with history and beers dedicated to history and while Liberty Ale only dates back to 1975, it came about in commemoration of Paul Revere’s famous ride in 1775. That’s pretty cool. I wonder what sort of drinking fellow Paul was.

The Tasting

Heavy smell of hops in the bottle, yielding a medium head from an under aggressive pour with light beading. Appears amber to dark orange in color with light lacing on the glass. A very dry beer with a simple beer taste (my novice taste buds fail me here). This beer just tastes like you’d think a beer would taste! I’ll be a customer again.

Don’t take my word for it

Anchor Brewing’s Liberty Ale page is here:

Here’s the listing on Rate Beer:

The Disgruntled Chemist rates it 8 out of 10 here:

Finally, the group at Beer Advocate

(I'm off for Grand Canyon tomorrow and will be gone a couple days - don't know what beer stories I'll pick up while I'm gone, but I'm hoping for the best.)

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A Tale of Two Stouts

Since I’m going to be away from the computer in a couple of days and not able to post anything, I thought I might double up a bit here and try a pair of oatmeal stouts, one from Nimbus Brewing in Tucson, Arizona and the other from Breckenridge Brewing in Colorado.

First up was the Nimbus Oatmeal Stout. I’ve tried the Nimbus Nut Brown Ale and put it about mid-pack for quality. I still struggle with the whole chimpanzee motif on their labels, but as I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve decided the monkey thing won’t prevent me from trying their other beers. Their Oatmeal Stout has a rich smell in the bottle, smelling of nuts and toffee or maybe caramel. In the glass more of a vegetable scent is evident. Pours very dark as you would expect with a nice tan head. Taste is oaky with a strong hint of burnt grain, which surprisingly isn’t unpleasant. Decidedly better than the Brown Ale.

The second oatmeal stout of the day Breckenridge Brewing’s Oatmeal Stout. This one had an insignificant smell in the bottle and some vegetable smell in the glass. Frankly, the taste seems as insignificant as the smell to me. It’s possible I didn’t cleanse my palate sufficiently between pours, however I believe I did and would have to say that of the two oatmeal stouts, I prefer the Nimbus offering to the Breckenridge oatmeal stout.

Will I try the Nimbus Oatmeal Stout again? Sure. Will I try the Breckenridge Oatmeal Stout again? Probably.

I can't find any hard and fast ratings for the Nimbus Oatmeal Stout. Here’s a link to the Nimbus Site:
So, in fairness, here's the Breckenridge site:
Okay, I've tried a few other beers over the past couple of days and my notebook is filling up even as I neglect to make new postings. Sad part is, I won't be able to make postings for a few days after tomorrow, so maybe tomorrow I'll post an omnibus beer tasting post to catch things up a bit. Hold on to your hat!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Buy A Veteran A Beer

We sure do have a lot of award ceremony programs on television these days, don’t you think? We’ve got the Academy Awards, the Grammy Awards, the Country Music Association Awards, the Emmy Awards; the list seems to be endless.

What I’ve never seen on network TV is a military award ceremony. We’d do well to spare a thought to the folks who really keep this country safe and protected, the people who produce something meaningful every day through the sweat of the brow and literally through the blood they shed. More importantly for today, we’d do well to remember the men and women who gave their lives in often unseen, anonymous sacrifice, often far from home so that we could continue to enjoy the benefits of living in this wonderful country of ours.

Placed against the effort and sacrifice of our fighting men and women, sniffing and tasting beer seems a silly pursuit really. Placed against the effort and sacrifice of our fighting men and women, much of what we do here in the country seems silly, but they serve and protect our country to preserve all pursuits, noble and silly.
You may never see a military award ceremony on television. Perhaps you’ll never know the honor and the privilege of serving as part of an honor guard at a military funeral, but each of us can let our veterans know that we care and that their effort is appreciated in ways great and small. If you are able this week, I hope that you’ll buy a beer for a veteran or active duty service member. God Bless Them.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

90 Minute IPA, Meatloaf and Mamacita's

I don’t drink much hard liquor for a reason: I’m not fond of it. Frankly, this beer is something like hard liquor to me and working my way slowly though a pint glass of the stuff reminds me of a little place in Juarez, Mexico.

You wouldn’t know it to look at me today, but I served four years as a Cavalry Scout in the United States army. Most of my duty was spent in peaceable pursuits on the Texas/Mexico border. One evening, another 3rd Cavalry trooper and I made a reconnaissance of Juarez, Mexico and landed smack dab in the middle of a dark little place called Mamacita’s (to be honest, my companion had already reconnoitered the joint and I suppose I was simply along on the second mission to provide cover fire). At any rate, the trick at this place is to order a rum and Coke. When you ordered a rum and Coke at Mamacita’s in those days, they brought you a bottle of room temperature coca-cola and one of those tall plastic Tupperware glasses filled to the rim with rum and ice. Now, obviously this drink doesn’t start out as a rum and Coke; you have to drink down a good deal of the rum in order to begin adding the Coke. Well shucks, by then you’re so far along it hardly matters.

So, drinking a pint glass of Dogfish Head 90 Minute Imperial IPA strikes me a bit like trying to drink down that Tupperware tumbler of rum so I could have some of that precious Coca-Cola!

The Tasting

Strong smell of grass in the bottle. Smells mildly fruity and very hoppy in the glass. Pours a nice color with a medium head. Bitter, acidic taste, most liquor-like. Definitely a sipping beer. Taste and mouth feel improve as the beer warms in the bottom of the glass.

The Dogfish Head web page for 90 Minute is here:
Funny, they list some swanky food pairings for this beer, like escargot, frites, focaccia and Silton cheese. I wonder if the frozen meatloaf dinner I had with mine falls into the category of suitable food pairing. I also see that again, I used the “wrong” type of glass to drink this one. Shucks.

The fraternity at Beer Advocate rated this one a strong “A.” (Almost 1,500 people have rated this one folks!)

I think as a representative of a certain style of beer, this beer warrants high marks, however if that particular style of beer isn’t one of your favorites (in this case an Imperial IPA) then it won’t matter how well the beer “represents,” indeed that may work against the beer in some cases). I probably won’t get this one again, except perhaps if I see it available on draft and know I’m not the one driving home!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Fuller's ESB

I suppose the title says it all. The reputation precedes the product, so to speak. This beer is in Michael Jackson’s “beer book” and is thus this one’s on my life’s list of beers to experience and this time I’m glad for the trip.

I don’t know how folks in England feel about this beer, but in my mind’s eye I see Brits pulling proudly on pints of Fuller’s ESB, perhaps defiantly as German bombs rain down during the Blitz. (My minds eye seems to have gotten stuck somewhere in mid, to late-1940. Want to read a great book about the Battle of Britain? “The Hardest Day.”)

Pours handsome amber orange with a light colored medium head. Smells hoppy and of malt both in the bottle and in the glass and also slightly of caramel in the glass. Will cop you a pretty notable buzz even at just under 6% abv. You probably won’t be ready to scramble in your Spitfire to fight Messerschmitts after you knock back a few of these, okay?

Here’s the link to Fuller’s website: especially like the section “Run Your Own Pub.” Yep, they have a list of pub properties in England that you can sign on to lease and run! Oh, my mind’s eye is working again! I rather fancy this locale myself……The Butchers Arms!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

American Craft Beer Week Day 5: Green Flash Nut Brown Ale

Uggggggh. Imagine the pain and sickness of a hangover without the lingering pleasant memory of a night of overindulgence.

I’d planned to make a post on all 7 days of American Craft Beer Week, each day sampling a different American Craft Beer – well, sure I did.

On Friday (Day 5) I enjoyed a light lunch with a glass of Green Flash Brewing Nut Brown Ale. All well and good until about a half hour later.

For dessert I came down with the stomach flu and pretty much slept through Day 6 and Day 7 of American Craft Beer Week and the better part of Day 1 of the unnamed week that typically follows American Craft Beer Week. (I think I’ll suggest that the week after American Craft Beer Week be called American Hangover Recovery Week for those who might have enjoyed ACBW too much, or American Groggy Emergence From the Stomach Flu Week, for poor saps like me who didn’t get to enjoy the entire Craft Beer experience for its full 7 days of glory.)

At any rate, I was eating lunch but paying attention and taking notes when I sampled the Green Flash Nut Brown Ale. A bit of a disclaimer here: unlike the other beers I sampled on Day 1 through 4, I have actually had a six-pack or so of the Green Flash Nut Brown.

Here are the highlights from my notebook:

Smells of hops in the bottle and grass and hops in the glass. Dark tea color. Head thin. Tastes of bread. Flavor gone quickly. Not too heavy.

This isn’t a bad beer. Obviously I’ve purchased this beer before and would probably do so again. I will not seek this particular beer out in the near future because thoughts of it currently evoke strange flu like symptoms that are all in my head.

To your health, and mine!

Friday, May 16, 2008

American Craft Beer Week Day Four: New Belgium Brewing Springboard

Quick and to the point today friends.

Tried New Belgium Brewing’s Springboard. It’s something of a summer ale with strong suggestions of citrus – almost an orange juice sort of taste, really. Smells of yeast in the bottle and citrus in the glass. Pours a very light, wheat color in a pint glass – New Belgium recommends a snifter type glass that I don’t own (sorry).

This beer tastes really good – when it's labeled Blue Moon. I don’t know that I’ll track this one down again. It’s too light and the citrus taste is too noticeable for my tastes. Perhaps if I acquire the “correct” type of glass, I’ll pour another one to give Springboard another shot. I will say that I’ve liked everything else from New Belgium that I’ve tried in the past – my personal favorite of the others right now is 2 Below.

Here’s a link to the New Belgium Brewing website:

Since I don’t have time to expound at length today, here’s the Wikipedia definition of “craft beer” (glad to see New Belgium is on the list, otherwise I just wasted an afternoon).
(Disclaimer: Yes, in case someone is actually out there reading these posts, and assuming they're actually paying attention, the review for this beer should have been posted yesterday. Rest assured, this beer was sampled on day four of American Craft Beer Week, even if your host was too busy to actually post the results the same day.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

American Craft Beer Week Day Three: Nimbus Brewing Company Brown Ale

In the past I’ve seen this beer in the store and consciously chosen not to buy it because of the spooky artwork on the label. I didn’t realize until yesterday that it’s a beer from Tucson. So, in honor of American Craft Beer Week, I’ve sampled Nimbus Brewing Company’s Brown Ale.

I’m sorry the label graphics kept me away for so long, but I just can’t cozy up to a chimpanzee head pasted onto the upper torso of an Italianesque statue. I’m funny that way. But reasonably open-minded I suppose. I jogged by their website and found that they are claiming to be “Arizona’s Largest Microbrewery.” Strikes me as an odd point of pride and it begs the question: Should they grow any more will they still be considered a microbrewery? Geez! All this ruminating is giving me a headache! (Did I mention that I’m trying to limit my caloric intake to 2,000 calories a day, including beer? It’s working but man am I irritable. Reminds me of a cool tacker sign I saw someplace.

The Tasting

Nimbus Brown Ale smells faintly of roasted nut and chocolate in the bottle and of cardboard and chocolate in the glass. Pours dark brown with a light colored head. It tastes faintly of coffee and has no finish to it. This beer is very light for such a dark beer and at just 5% abv you could sit around all night and drum on these babies without losing your mind completely – just don’t drive, stupid.

Though definitely a mid-pack runner, still a worthwhile local beer, worthy of a try. Oddly enough the page that is supposed to discuss the monkey on their company website is still under construction. Could it be that they haven’t figured out how this creepy apparition fits in to their corporate model? Tucson isn’t that far away, perhaps I need to motor on down there – in August – and ask them myself. One thing’s certain: I won’t let the label scare me off any more.

Meantime, here’s the Nimbus website:

Here’s what the Beer Advocate crowd had to say about Brown Ale in particular:

Okay, since I’ve burned through my remaining allotment of calories by drinking this beer, guess I’ll curl up with a book and try to stay away from the pantry the rest of the evening – talk about suffering for your art.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

American Craft Beer Week Day Two: Jail Bait

Day two of American Craft Beer Week and I’ve selected a nifty little porter out of Santa Fe, New Mexico as the subject of today’s review. I won’t lie and say I picked this one because I’m a huge fan of porters – there’s still too much of the old binge drinker in me to really get excited about the porters since they are far too heavy for the guzzlin’, but as I get older and hopefully a bit smarter, I’ve begun to warm to the porters. No, I picked this one solely because the name is really, really cool. (Yeah, I’m a sucker for a slick name and usually it bites me in the arse, but not this time.) I give you State Pen Porter.

I’ve not spent a single day in jail, though there have been times in my life when I looked like I’d stepped out of a mugshot. However, if they served this in the New Mexico State lock-up, I might be enticed to serve a stint.

This gangster of a beer smells of malt or bread in the bottle and has a fruity malt smell in the glass. Very dark, coffee colored with a medium head that’s cocoa colored and appealing to the eye.

Tastes of wine or liquor with a dry finish. This is a good beer, but understandably heavy since it is a porter. This beer isn’t one to be trifled with. It’s not a so-called session beer at 6.4% abv. If I can find this one again, I’ll buy it. If I have to break into the big house to liberate another bottle or two, then so be it.

Don’t take my word for it.

Beer Advocate has 21 reviews here:

The Santa Fe Brewing website is here:

That's it for today. If I make bail, I'll pop the top off another craft beer tomorrow!

Monday, May 12, 2008

American Craft Beer Week and Other Stuff

Today begins American Craft Beer Week and I feel a bit like a minor league ballplayer trying to work his way up into the majors – perhaps trying too hard.

I selected a local beer to taste and review for this the first day of American Craft Beer Week, but let’s wait and get to that last. First some of the other stuff I’ve crammed into the last few days.

I’ve been hearing about a beer bar called Yard House, which has two locations in the greater Phoenix area. My son-in-law and I visited the one in north Phoenix this past Friday. I took the opportunity to carry – for the first time – my beer tasting notebook. First I ordered a pint of Old Speckled Hen. A rich cream ale, our server compared it to Boddington’s, which I’ve had in a can. Wow! This is a great beer. Smells of milk and fruit in the glass, with a thick head that leaves very heavy lacing.

We’d told ourselves that we’d have a pint apiece and be on our way. So, for the second round, I ordered a Left Hand Milk Stout, partly because I tend to like stouts and partly because it has a cool name. It wasn’t until later that I learned that this beer is brewed in Colorado. The beer arrived with a thick head of nearly two fingers, and smelling of chocolate. The beer tasted mildly of a chocolate milkshake or malt.

Both beers were outstanding, but of the two I preferred (by a narrow margin) the Old Speckled Hen. I dutifully jotted notes in my tasting notebook; we finished an order of onion rings, paid the tab and headed for home. (For the record, my son-in-law had something from Kona Brewing and a Killian’s Red.)

On Saturday the 10th, I tried a bottle of Four Peaks Brewing 8th Street Ale. It smells of grass and hops in the bottle. Light orange in color with a small but steady amount of beading. 8th Street Ale tastes slightly of caramel and has a weak finish. While nothing would please me more than to rave about this local beer, frankly it’s nothing to write home about. It’s a middle of the road beer that I might buy again if I were entertaining guests from out-of-town. I’ll try to get over to their brewpub and have a glass of this on tap to see if it’s better.

Mother’s Day dawned bright and hot. To save my bride the hassle of working in a hot kitchen I agreed to grill some chicken outside. I like a bit of a beer companion when I’m out there alone slaving under the ash tree. For this special Sunday, I selected a Liberty Ale from Anchor Brewing. I haven’t actually taken any tasting notes for this one yet – I’ve still got 3 or 4 saved for that. Suffice it to say this is a nice beer for a hot day and it complimented the grilled chicken nicely.

Which brings us to today, Monday, May 12, 2008, the first day of American Craft Beer Week. For the occasion, I selected a bottle of Oak Creek Brewing’s Nut Brown Ale. This is brewed in Sedona, Arizona. It smells of wheat bread and roasted nuts, pours a dark tea or coffee color with a thin, tan head and a little lacing. It tastes of nuts and coffee and finishes a bit dry with a coffee flavor that’s quickly gone. I’m glad to be able to give this local beer a definite thumb’s up – I’ll buy this again and I think this beer may be the excuse I need to finally visit Sedona after over 30 years in Arizona!

Don't take my word for it.

Here's a link to American Craft Beer

Here's how to find out more about Yard House:

Old Speckled Hen got pretty good grades at Beer Advocate:

Left Hand Milk Stout, likewise at Beer Advocate:

Here's the Left Hand Brewing site:

Here's the Beer Advocate dope on 8th Steet Ale (looks like I'll have to try it as a draft product):

Here's the page for Oak Creek Brewing's Nut Brown Ale over at (yes, again) Beer Advocate:

Happy American Craft Beer Week! More in a day or so.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Beer Moment

I’m getting old enough to see trouble before it’s fully brewed….

For the past couple of weeks I’ve had a bottle of Four Peaks Kiltlifter Scottish Style Ale parked in the refrigerator waiting for the tasting, but I happened to bump into it on tap beforehand. Consequently, you won’t be reading a review of Kiltlifter here at Beer Rant any time soon.

I’m in a two day training session at the Arizona National Guard armory on McDowell Road – no, I’m not a soldier (not any more – that’s a young man’s business). Anyhow, they cut us loose a bit early today and I’d spied a promising watering hole on the morning drive in, so I cajoled Johnny Southside to follow me there after class for a glass of something on draft.

The place turned out to be J Heads, a punk bar. Just as well. I haven’t actually had a real draft beer since, well, maybe since I visited the Coors Brewery in Golden several years ago. We stepped from the bright afternoon sun into the dimly lit interior to find ourselves the only patrons. J Heads is a lot like my prototypical favorite bar: low ceiling, pool table that was carried out on the last chopper to escape Saigon in the early 1970s, and all manner of stuff pinned, stuck, pasted and otherwise attached to the walls and ceiling.

Tap handles showed a couple of worthwhile prospects including Top Down Ale and Kiltlifter. I opted for Kiltlifter, Johnny Southside choosing likewise. A few quarters for the pool table and we were all set.

J Heads (formerly Jugheads – voted Best of Phoenix punk bar in 2007) is the sort of place that used to cause me a lot of trouble and I walked a fine line between finishing my single glass of beer and going home on the one hand and, on the other hand, hanging around until 9 pm, only to wander home covered in glitter and smelling of smoke and strange perfume.

We shot two racks of pool – Johnny Southside won both – and we drank our beers. I chatted with the barkeep, mentioned my blog, and asked him some questions about J Heads, and then Southside and I stepped back out into the afternoon sunlight to head home. I’ve no recollection of the Kiltlifter except that I liked it and thought about it all the way home. The visit to J Heads wasn’t a tasting, but a beer moment.

Once home, I popped the top off of that bottle of Kiltlifter that’s been hiding in the refrigerator and sat quietly in my backyard, enjoying the beer, not covered in glitter, not smelling of smoke and strange perfume and not thinking about the tasting, but instead, watching my two year old granddaughter laughing and playing. This wasn’t a tasting either, but yet another beer moment. Wow, two in one day.

Think I might go back to J Heads tomorrow.
Did I mention that Johnny Southside won both rounds of pool? Geez, I’m slipping.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Setting and Circumstance

The first beer’s for tasting, the second beer’s for drinking.
---Ian Postlewaite-Smythe

I suppose professional beer tasters, and beer critics don’t need to consider their surroundings when they taste a new beer. I figure the professionals have a beer laboratory they work in, or they get invited to the tap rooms of the breweries where they sit, tasting notebook in hand to taste and rate the newest creations. Novices, posers and wannabes like me don’t have the luxury of working in a sterile, quiet, unhurried setting, consequently we should consider adding information about the setting and circumstance when we taste and rate or review a new beer.

What do I mean by “setting and circumstance”?

I’ve coined the term “setting and circumstance” and used it here a few times in the past. I’ve included it in many of my reviews in an effort to impart a degree of honesty to what I’m writing. There are so many variables that can alter or impact a beers performance or taste from one sitting to the next. (Indeed, from one setting to the next as well.) As geeky as it sounds, the way a beer is poured can have a marked effect on the way it looks and tastes. Thus, the pour is a feature of setting and circumstance.

Location and atmosphere are part of what I call setting and circumstance, for sure. Was the room crowded and noisy as you worked through the tasting process? Did you actually taste the beer? It’s obvious that there is a difference between drinking and tasting beer. Postlewaite-Smythe said it succinctly enough when he noted that the first beer is tasted, while the rest go a’ drinking. In a crowded room, I’m sometimes too self-conscious to take the beer tasting seriously, fearing that someone will think I’m a beer snob. I try to taste new beers when I have the house, or at least the kitchen, to myself. Sometimes, I’ll buy just a couple bottles of a particular beer solely for the purpose of tasting the stuff and offering comment. Other times I might have the beer laying around and simply be enjoying it – drinking it. Sometimes I like to quickly down a cold one right after mowing the lawn – if I do that, it’s not a beer tasting, but there may be some aspect of the experience that warrants a blog posting here. In some cases, I’ll refer to that setting as a “beer moment” that stands not as a review so much as a remembrance of the beer and the occasion.

To date, all my reviews (I’m refraining from actually rating beers on Beer Rant.) have been done at home but I suppose there will come a day when I’ll venture to a local tavern to sample something and write about it. In that case, my posting will reflect that fact. I have tried thus far to also indicate how a particular beer was poured and if it was poured and tasted twice with different or similar results. I’ll continue to stick to this method since the exercise is as much for my satisfaction as anyone’s.

Will “setting and circumstance” become a standard part of the beer tasting process in the future? Beats me. I think it would be cool if that happened, but in the meantime, I’ll use those criteria when they are appropriate and when they offer something for the reader or for my own personal future reference. Furthermore, if necessary, I’ll explain it all again when I understand it myself.

Thought you ought to know.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Stink-O De Mayo

Don't you just hate how commercialized our holidays have become these days? Shoot, they don't even celebrate Cinco de Mayo down in old Mexico, so I'm told. Well, in an effort to keep the holiday fires burning bright here in Aztlan, I decided to pop the top off a bottle of Black Mountain Brewing Chili Beer and toss back a few soft tacos from that most authentic of Mexican cuisine purveyors, Taco Bell. The beer touts itself as a premium lager beer with chili pepper added. In this regard they are not bluffing; there is an actual chili pepper floating in the bottle.

Uggh. What a waste. This stuff is vile. It smells mildly of vinegar or pickles in the bottle and in the glass. It tastes nothing of beer and completely like I imagine it would taste if one drank the juice from a jar of jalapenos. I didn't finish the bottle. (Understand, I'll put jalapenos on just about anything.)

This beer is a gimmick, pure and simple. I think it might work nicely for boiling brats or sausage before slapping them on the grill and I might consider buying it again for that purpose, but for drinking? Never. This stuff is marketed by a Cave Creek, Arizona brewery but it's actually made in Tecate, Mexico these days. I have not traveled up the road to see if they actually serve any other decent beers at the brewpub in Cave Creek - maybe some time before summer is over, but I won't be ordering Chili Beer.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Wheat Beer on the Dark Side

Joseph Brau Dunkelweizen

By golly, I think I found a wheat beer I can call my friend! (I’d begun to wonder after that fiasco with Hoegaarden.) Little wonder this one’s a “dunkel.” I gravitate to the darker brews, I guess. Picked up a couple of bottles of this at the Trader Joe’s in Sun City, Arizona…you know, where all the retirees live.

I’ll echo one online comment I saw regarding the retail availability of this nameplate. Seems Trader Joe’s is the only outlet that handles the brand. Fact is, I believe this is actually one of Trader Joe’s store brands. Thank you Trader Joe’s but a word of caution: If a single bottle of beer is labeled with a specific price, you should honor that price and not add the recent mark up. Honor still means something to a few of us. (Okay, ass-chewing over.)

The Tasting

In the bottle has a roasted smell but once poured there is a scent reminiscent of caramel and bananas.

Pours with a fairly thin head that leads to little or no lacing but the fizz, the carbonation, is amazing. The most carbonation I think I’ve ever seen in a beer! (But I’m something of a novice.) A second bottle, poured less aggressively, produced less carbonation and allowed me to see the real sediment that is in the bottle. (Naturally, I gave it the old Hoegaarden swirl with just a little left in the bottle, to stir up the last of that sedimentary goodness.)

Presents rich brown in the glass with medium to light beading that can be difficult to find given the darkness of the product. Dry, slightly bitter to the taste initially, builds to a distinct banana flavor that is altogether likable.

Like Captain Kirk (or maybe more like Scotty) I will seek out and buy this beer again.

Don’t take my word for it.
(For the record, I conducted my tasting and note taking before visiting these sites.)

Here’s what the masses at Beer Advocate had to say about this one:

A blogger named Brewnette reviewed the dunkel along with 5 other Trader Joe’s beers. Here’s her review:

For the straight dope on dunkelweizen visit the German Beer Institute:

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Moe Redeems Himself

Moe Shows Up For Work and Proves His Worth

In hindsight, I may have been a bit harsh on Moe and his Backroom Lager. No doubt this beer falls into the realm of the so-called “session” beers or a throw away beer as I like to call them.

After tasting and reviewing Backroom Lager I’ve had occasion to sample the remaining members of that particular six pack and, when employing a slightly more aggressive pour, I wind up with a better looking beer and, if you believe some of what you read on the more upscale beer sites, a different tasting beer. Perhaps more important than pouring and sampling was what I’ll refer to as setting and circumstance.

Here's the skinny: Pulling out of the driveway this morning I realized that we had a pipe leak somewhere in our front yard, between the utility meter box and the house. Not good. I spent the better part of the morning – with the assistance of my son-in-law – digging a trench in the yard attempting to locate the pipe and its leak. I’d placed a call to my plumbing company of choice Parker & Sons (Yeah, I like them, they do great work. Here’s a link to their website: ) and when their technician arrived he rather sheepishly explained that they have a system of replacing pipes that doesn’t require trenching. Bottom line: I’d just spent the better part of three hours digging holes that didn’t need to be dug! Whatever.

Good, honest physical labor should earn a fellow a decent lunch. I boiled up a few hot Italian sausages in beer (Miller High Life), with some chopped green pepper and some onion, then transferred the whole lot to the grill for a second bit of cooking. Then, as my son-in-law and I were plating our lunches, I had the difficult task of deciding what beer to have with my sausages. I’ve got little bits of several previously sampled beers stored in the fridge, along with a bottle of Duvel and some Hazed and Infused. In my quest through the fridge, I spied, way in the back, laying on its side, the last bottle of the maligned Moe’s Backroom Lager. Frankly, it looked like forlorn flotsam, washed up at the back of the shelf, dropped in the wake of a double-hulled Depression-era booze running boat. Fine!

Under the circumstances, Moe’s Backroom Lager held up pretty nicely. It was a nice compliment to the sausages and it tasted pretty darned good as a simple thirst quencher. The price is right – still about a buck a bottle on sale. I think I might even be conned into trying Moe’s Amber.

But you’re still not off the hook Moe! I think there’s something of a pretense to you, something unseen and hidden. Your website ( ) touts you as an American craft beer born from the ashes of prohibition. Yet that very same website has but a single page, with little more than a set of links for grocery stores that carry your product. Your label carries the phrase Certified Genuine. Genuine what?!

I’m going to say it, Moe. I don’t think you’re a craft beer. Until I hear otherwise, Moe, you’re a session beer on par with maybe Natural Light or perhaps Miller High Life on a good day. But that’s okay, Moe. Be what you are. Own it. Don’t try to be something you’re not. After all, pour, presentation and mouth feel are only parts of an equation that herein will now also include setting and circumstance.

Colorado Beer Facts

Denver Colorado Beer Facts