Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Traveling Sabbatical

I won’t be posting for the next ten days or so. I’m heading to Colorado, then to Virginia. Though the ultimate purpose of my trip is unrelated to beer, I hope to visit some brewpubs, breweries and the like and perhaps relate tales of my travels when I return home near the end of the month.

I’ve got some definite notions of what I’d like to see and what beers I’d like to try while I’m gone, but given the vagaries of travel, weather, the economy and so forth, who knows what I’ll actually accomplish. I may wind up with my feet propped on a coffee table with some over the counter store bought beers, but rest assured, I’ll seek out the new and unusual – not so much for your reading pleasure as for my drinking pleasure! Remember, this is a beer diary after all!

In the meantime, I hope you’ll visit the folks whose blogs are listed here and check in later for an update from me.
God Bless You.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Packaging Oddity

At the risk of dredging up memories best forgotten, I’ll relate something odd that happened as I contemplated an empty Samuel Adams Irish Red bottle. (I do this a lot lately, meticulously pouring over beer bottles, labels and six-pack cartons. Makes for interesting reading and once in awhile I stumble on some interesting nugget of information…or something worth blogging about.)

As I turned the bottle around to peruse the label I noticed an ever-so-slight imperfection in what would likely be called the shoulder of the bottle – where the side of the bottle slopes up to meet the neck of the bottle. A divot or minor indentation caught the light and was even more noticeable to the touch. I immediately remembered Internet talk of a voluntary bottle recall that Sam Adams conducted earlier this year.

Here’s a piece about the recall posted at Boston.Com.

Click here to see a clarification from the folks at Harpoon Brewery.

I’m sure that a ding in the side of a bottle needn’t gin up the same level of concern as bits of glass in the bottle, but this certainly has me wondering about the bottling and packaging industry. I suppose I’ll save this slightly misshapen bottle; maybe it’ll bring a fortune on eBay. (I’m thinking not.)
I think the most important lesson to take away from the whole "glass chips in the bottle" episode is the fact that the Boston Brewing people were way out front on the whole issue; they announced the voluntary recall before any public concern was raised and in the end, the problem really wasn't a problem at least for consumers. No doubt it cost Boston Brewing and their bottle supplier time and money but the short term cost was worth it when you consider the potential long-term impact this might have had on their product image. If anything, the beer drinking public should feel more confident in their belief that Boston Brewing puts out a safe, quality product.

And what of the Irish Red that was in the bottle?

Irish Red was malty smelling and slightly sweet smelling in the glass. While the taste is sweet, I didn’t detect the caramel taste advertised on the neck label. Taste becomes more malty as the beer warms in the glass. There is a very slight alcohol bite in the finish that isn’t unpleasant. Samuel Adams Irish Red is definitely better than the last bottle of Killian’s Red I tried.

How about another from Boston Brewing?

Samuel Adams Black Lager has become something of a staple for me. I’ve even had folks tell me that they’ve used it to make beer floats. (Brenda at Brenda's Beer Art told me about the Black Lager floats and I’ve put it on my list of beer floats to try.) I last sampled Black Lager back in late July when Johnny Southside brought some over for us to enjoy the day we started our batch of Mr. Beer Red Ale.

Black Lager pours a dark coffee color as you’d expect. The head characteristic varies dramatically depending on how you pour it, but it looks great if poured well. It has a distinct coffee taste but not as much alcohol bite as you’d expect in a beer this black. I’ve been a long time Black Lager drinker (when I can find it) and I’ll continue to do so.

Anybody interested in an empty Irish Red bottle with a slight Salvidor Dali look to it?

Sunday, September 7, 2008

New Belgium 1554 Beer Bread

Giving new meaning to the term "liquid bread."

Recently, my daughter brought home Cooking With Beer, a beer recipe book that she’d found on sale at the local chain bookstore (Barnes & Waldorf, Noblebooks, I forget which one). I pride myself on knowing my way around the kitchen a little bit, though I’m no gourmet chef. I like to think that my strongest cooking attribute is my work on the grill, but I gamely browsed through the recipe book and immediately lit on what looked like a nice, simple bread recipe that used beer as a principle ingredient. (Duh.)

I picked up a single bottle of New Belgium Brewing’s 1554 to use in the recipe and I must admit, I’m reasonably pleased with the outcome, though I’d probably tweak the process a bit in the future.

Here’s the recipe for Texas Beer Bread as it is listed in Cooking With Beer:
3 Cups self-rising flour
1/4/cup sugar
1 Twelve-ounce can of beer, room temperature
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine flour, sugar and beer mixing until blended well.
Spoon into a 9x3 inch loaf pan
To give bread a glaze, combine egg and 1 tablespoon water and brush the mixture on the top of the loaf
Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and brush top with melted butter.

The results using the 1554 were entirely satisfactory with one exception. In the future I believe I will refrain from brushing melted butter on the loaf after removing it from the oven. Additionally, I think that, depending upon the type of beer I use, I may up the sugar slightly to make a sweeter bread. (For example, I’m tempted to use a chocolate stout, add a tad more sugar than the recipe calls for, throw in just a very small amount of chocolate chips and perhaps walnuts and raisins for a holiday bread. What do you think?)

In any event, my 1554 Texas Beer Bread was gone in about three days and I’ll be baking another loaf once the temperature here cools off a bit. For now, it’s back to the grill!

You can purchase Sheryn R. Jones’ Cooking With Beer over at Beer Books. By the way, Beer Books is an awesome site, just to browse around for anything beer-related. Have a look!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Birthday Sink Toss and Not So Peachy

I celebrated a birthday last week. I popped open a “vintage” beer in honor of the occasion. I drank a little less than half the contents, then unceremoniously poured the remaining beer down the sink. C’mon Dogfish Head, get your act together!

I purchased a single bottle of Dogfish Head Brewing’s Raison d’ Extra several months ago – for an ungodly sum that I will not divulge here. I’ve coddled and babied that bottle all this time, waiting for the right opportunity and figured the occasion of my birthday ought to be as good a time as any. The bottling date on this thing was September 2006 and despite the fact that I wasn’t wild about their 90 Minute IPA, I hoped for the best.

Raison Ejecta

This stuff has a fruity, malty smell in the bottle and an alcohol bite even in the aroma. It pours a dark red color that’s appealing to the eye but the weak head is a disappointment. The taste is completely liquor or wine like and tingles in your mouth like mouthwash or perhaps like alka-seltzer tablets. Maybe a single 12-ounce bottle could be split (along with the price) between 3 or four drinkers for slow sipping. Given that I did not have anyone with me who was willing to help me, I poured a good deal of this down the sink.

Peachy Cabron!”

A few days later, keeping an open mind, I purchased a single bottle of Dogfish Head’s Festina Peche, a self-described “malt beverage brewed with peach concentrate.” All I can say is that it’s better than the Raison d’Extra, which is to say I didn’t pour it down the sink. Surprisingly, this one has only a slight fruit smell in the bottle and pours with no head and no beading. Looks like fruit juice in the glass and the notes in my beer notebook include “weird,” and “tastes like watered down juice.”

Maybe I’m just not hip or "off-centered," but frankly, I’m beginning to think that quirky advertisements are about all that Dogfish Head has to offer. I’ve sampled three beers produced by Dogfish Head (90 Minute Imperial IPA, Raison D’Extra and Festina Peche). I’ve also sampled one beer that I brewed at home using the Mr. Beer home brewing kit. So far Dogfish Head, I like what I brew better than what you brew.

Colorado Beer Facts

Denver Colorado Beer Facts