Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What To Serve at the Beer Summit...

Beer Intelligence Briefing
(There is no hidden meaning here, folks. I'm just not that deep.)

While I refuse to delve into the politics of tomorrow’s so-called “Beer Summit” at the White House I’d like to offer my suggestions on what Mr. Obama might serve, based on recent new tasting notes from this here beer notebook of mine.

Full Sail Brewing
Recipe Number 03 Limited Edition Lager
I think it would be nice to knock back a few of these while sitting at a picnic table outside the backdoor of the White Hose. This is a sweet grainy smelling lager with a sweet, very faintly citrus taste. Not too bad and it probably wouldn’t upset the sensibilities of those gathered, who might already be partial to lagers anyway. (I’m just guessing.)

Lost Coast Brewery
Raspberry Brown
This number has a nutty fruit syrup smell and tastes like a raspberry candy bar with a roasted nut component. Surprisingly, the raspberry flavor isn’t overpowering but I don’t know that our White House guests would want to pound a bunch of these during their “Beer Summit.” (Which might be a clever way to dose them up on a single beer and send them quickly on their way so as not to clutter up the Rose Garden and the East Lawn.)

St. Peter's Brewery
Cream Stout
If the host isn’t worried about creating an international incident (ahem, pouring a "foreign" beverage at a beer summit, really), he should consider pouring this beauty. It’s very malty smelling, pours nearly opaque with a beige head and has a nice toffee flavor up front with a faint hint of licorice. Arguably better than the Guinness 250 I sampled earlier this year.

Boulder Beer Company
MoJo Risin’ Double IPA
This distinctly bitter brew might serve as a metaphor for the bitter divide that seems to separate so much of our society but since I’m not looking for metaphors, we’ll skip all that. This beer has a surprisingly thick mouth feel, and while the citrus or pine accents aren’t there initially, the pine notes do begin to come forward as the beer warms in the glass.

I like all these beers enough to offer my unqualified recommendation. Mr. Obama, if you’re reading this (and I’m sure you are), go ahead and offer any one of these fine beers to your guests tomorrow.
End of briefing.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mentioned in dispatches...

I sent a note to the folks at Midwest & Rocky Mountain Microbrews to let them know about my neighbors at Old World Brewery and they very graciously replied with a thanks and a note that they’d added me to their “links” page. That’s nice. Go visit their pages and see what they’ve got to share.

Weather here continues to be over 100 degrees with monsoon type humidity levels. It’s nasty and I continue to pine for the 40 to 75 degree weather in Colorado. Had a couple Deschutes Obsidian Stouts and a Deschutes Inversion IPA this evening while grilling pork ribs outside in the yard. Life’s not all bad, is it?

Like it or not, I’ve got a date with a broken garbage disposal tomorrow. It doesn’t matter what nice things they may say about you one day because the next day you’ll have your head under the sink, fixing something, right? Probably ought to stop at three beers tonight, huh?

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend. Soon as I fix this disposal, I can have the grandkids over! (That’s my real reward.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hot Weather Ramblings

We had some fun at my nephew’s birthday party yesterday – he’s only a couple years younger than me, but he’s seen a lot more, I’ll wager. For the fun of it, I picked up some Boulder Brewing Never Summer Ale and some Deschutes Inversion IPA. Given that the room was filled with a bunch of displaced Coloradoans, I’m not surprised that the Never Summer Ale went over a bit bigger. Nevertheless, I’m left with a couple and I’m tossing them back as I jot this post.

I am surprised to see this is their version of a winter seasonal…wha’? It’s really good and I think I’ve blogged it before so I won’t go much into it except to say it’s malty, tastes like bread and finishes dry.

I just like the name – Never Summer Ale – because it conjures up images of a past life spent in Colorado, and a failed attempt at a second life there after military service. You can’t go back folks. But you can pine away, living off the false recollection of what a place was and will never be again. What I do know is that it’s hotter than hell here at Beer Rant HQ and it’s significantly cooler up in the high country in a little place called Clear Creek County, Colorado.

On the other hand, come December, some place with a name like “Winterhaven” will seem awfully nice, too. It brings to mind something that a very wise fellow told me when I was in the army: “As a rule, man’s a fool. When it’s hot, he wants it not, when it’s not, he wants it hot.” (That guy rose to the rank of major general. I think he’s pretty smart.)

Cut ‘em Some Slack
I think we give the macro brewers too much grief – they probably don’t notice anyway – but we’re a bit hypocritical when it comes to the standards we set for the Miller/Coors/Bud conglomerates versus what we let some of the small fry get away with. Budweiser was excoriated for calling one of their beers “drinkable” in a recent ad campaign. Well, since the advent of that little goof, and the resulting web explosion, I’ve begun paying more attention to what the so-called micro-and craft-brewers are printing on their labels. I see the same sort of inane glittering generalities on labels from craft brewers as well, including the likes of Dogfish Head, too, folks. They characterize their Indian Brown Ale as “clean,” which I take to mean it’s not brewed with water taken from the Ganges River. (C’mon folks. If we’re going to set a standard, let’s have it apply to everyone or just drop it.)

The Dating Game
Speaking of labels: the last issue of Beer magazine had a rather inept article explaining how to read a beer label. (Thank heaven those nice folks at Coors have come up with those temperature sensitive labels so we know when our beer is cold, and thank heaven for the editors of Beer magazine, who will help us decipher the mysterious world of beer labels.) One of the label characteristics covered in the piece was date stamping or freshness dating. Well, again, I’ve begun paying more attention to beer labels lately and I have to say that freshness dates only work if you (meaning the brewers) actually use them. I recently encountered a label (Lost Coast Brewing Raspberry Brown Ale) whereon none of the months of manufacture were “notched.” What am I to take this to mean? It’s a bit like buying a new car battery and not punching the month and year of sale. (Grease monkeys will know what I’m talking about.) Bottom line: Freshness dating is a joke, in both the macro and micro brewing worlds. If consistency isn’t the be all, end all of brewing and beer drinking, then why the hell do we even care when a beer was “born”? Likewise, if we’re going to have a dating system, then let’s stick to it.

Gosh. I didn’t really intend to go all Beer Jerk in this post. I’m really just cranky because of the heat. All the Never Summer Ale is gone. I’ve had a Deschutes Inversion IPA and a Michelob something-or-other and I’m feeling a little better now.

Happy Birthday Dane!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Beer Magazine: An Amateur’s Appraisal

I’m sort of in the market for a decent beer-related periodical. I want a decent value for my buck and I’m hoping to find something that I’ll enjoy reading – if not cover-to-cover, then nearly cover-to-cover. I pick up the odd copy of beer magazines when I see them. I’ve got the March 2009 issue of All About Beer and the July-August 2008 issue of Draft.

More recently, I picked up the July-August issue of Beer. This is actually my second copy of Beer magazine; I have the September-October 2008 issue sitting on the shelf, too. There may be a couple reasons why I’ve got two issues of Beer when I’ve only got one each of the others: Beer is more widely available and their magazines always sport some hot chick on the cover. (Yeah, I notice these things.)

But frankly, I’m still trying to decide where to send my subscription money and that’s a conversation for another time. Perhaps when I finally decide, I’ll make a post that spells out the reasoning behind my choice.

Meantime, I’d like to touch briefly on the good and the bad in the current issue of Beer magazine. No question, Beer magazine is aimed at a younger demographic that mine. The text is full of references to testicles, tits, and farts. The article format is an odd hybrid of the old USA Today, block section, microwave-cooking style aimed at busy folks with short attention spans. Okay, that’s fine. I’ve got a short attention span but as I’m getting older, I find that an organized, coherent format is always reassuring.

In the current (July-August) issue, I especially liked the Beer Anatomy segment dealing with Rauchbiers, that smoky style of beer that reportedly originated in Bamburg, Germany, centuries ago. I’ve enjoyed every smoked beer I’ve tried so far but my list is fairly short (Aecht Schlenkerla, Alaskan Smoked Porter and Stone Smoked Porter come to mind and the only three I remember trying to date). This article was informative, with really good tips on serving temperatures as well as terrific background on the variations of smoked beers. Noticeably absent from their list of common smoked beers was Alaskan Smoked Porter. I’d be curious to know if a brewer’s advertising history has anything to do with their odds of appearing on such a list.

Other highlights: I always enjoy the advertising because it gives me a notion of what to expect in the way of coming attractions. I really like the Taste Test section because, in addition to rating beers, they’ve gone the extra mile and included maps indicating what beers are available in what states. I like the beer models, too.

Now the downside. (Where I go all Beer Jerk.) I’m not a writer so I’m probably the least qualified person to be giving writing tips or criticisms. On the other hand, I am an experienced reader, which should qualify me to point out pointless dreck when I read it. The article entitled “Beer Worth Waiting For” is a hopeless hash of haphazard hooey. The piece is evidently about special release parties that brewers throw to bring out their limited release beers, but it’s too inside baseball to be of any use to me. I’m probably not hip enough to understand some of the references but I think I’m more in the loop listening to an hour of Howard Stern than I was trying to read this nonsensical piece. I’ll just end it there and assume the author was drunk when she wrote the article, the editor was drunk when he accepted the article and that, in order to preserve the natural order of things, I should have been drunk when I read the article.

That’s it folks. You didn’t ask for it, but there it is. Based on style, content and format, I’d have to say that Beer magazine is not high on the list of beer magazines for which I’d pay to have a subscription, but I’ve yet to fully explore the other options. I’m hoping to get something that’s monthly, inexpensive, reasonably educated but not snooty. I’ll keep looking.

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