Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Flying to the Hive and Quick Riffs

Gosh, where have the days gone? It’s still blazing hot here at Beer Rant HQ and the monsoons have brought us nothing save a bit more humidity that throws the whole “dry heat” chestnut on its head. Anyway.

I’m doing more beer drinking and not so much blogging. Beers sampled since the last post include Shiner’s Smokhaus, Breckenridge Summer Bright Ale, and Lagunita’s Lucky 13. I liked them all well enough and I suppose I’ll get ‘round to some notes at some point.

Big news right now is next week’s impending jaunt up to Utah and the area north of Salt Lake City proper. Now of course the purpose is to visit in-laws and kinfolk and to especially get a chance to see my oldest daughter and her daughter (who is grandchild number 3 out of a total of 4). However, there’s always the chance that I’ll break away from the crowd and have an opportunity to sample local beers. I never make hard and fast plans in this regard, because I’ve usually been disappointed with the outcome. Nevertheless, I’ve allowed myself the luxury of looking up the names and addresses of the various microbrew and craft brew outlets in the greater SLC area. One indispensable resource has been Mike Riedel’s terrific blog Utah Beer. Mike’s up on the latest local haps for sure, so I’ve used his list of promising beer purveyors to create a short list of places to visit if “setting and circumstance” permit. (Yeah, I worked in my catch phrase again. I’m done!)

What do I anticipate doing if the beer tour doesn’t pan out? My in-laws have a lovely finished basement with a large TV. I’ve got a stack of great books to read and I’ll take a few of them just in case. (I’m currently reading American Gunfight, which is about an attempt to assassinate President Truman in the 1950s. It’s good. I’ll probably wind up the trip reading Eisenhower’s Lieutenants. Life’s good, if the books are good, even if you can’t find great local beer.)

Okay. A quick riff or two, for old time’s sake, okay?

Shiner Smokehaus Helles Style Lager
Sampled on August 16, 2009

I’d been looking for this thing since it was released back in June. Mrs. Beer Rant tracked it down for me and heaven bless her for it. Pours slightly darker than a Bud/Miller/Coors lager. Smells like liquid smoke – somewhat chemical smelling and tasting. Initially does not taste like beer. Tastes a bit like flavored fruit beers that I’ve had – the added taste just seems a bit strange. I can see how beer drinkers might easily love or hate this. I like it just fine and was glad the missus picked up two six packs. (But just last weekend, I grabbed a six-pack of this, then reluctantly placed it back on the shelf of the local Total Wine outlet. I like it, but not enough to buy it in favor of some other new beer!)

Lagunita’s Lucky 13
Sampled on August 9, 2009

I like this company’s style, though I’m probably not hip enough to run with their kind. This beer labels itself as “a mondo large red ale.” It does pour a dark red color with a robust beige-orange head. This one’s sweet tasting without the alcohol bite I expected, though it has a medium to heavy mouth feel. The sweetness and a high abv percentage preclude this as a good session beer but it’s definitely a flavorful beer. The label includes a phone number (707-769-4495) to call the company. Go ahead, I dare you.

Next post will likely come after we get back from the Beehive State.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Kitchen Chemists: Samuel Adams 2008 LongShot Winners!

Boston Beer (the Sam Adams folks, of course) do some terrific stuff to promote craft beer and entrepreneurship in the U.S., which is reason enough to plunk down your bucks now and then to support them. It’s even better when you plunk down your bucks and get some pretty tasty beer! A good example of Samuel Adams’ stewardship of craft brewing excellence is their annual Longshot American Homebrew Contest. The 2009 winners have recently been announced, but before they draw all the oxygen out of the room, let’s spare a moment for the 2008 winners.

The 2008 Longshot American Homebrew Contest winners have hit the market in a nicely packaged boxed six-pack. I snagged one at the local Total Wine last week and just finished the last one this evening. It’s a testament to my recent beer experiences that these three winners are in styles that a year or so ago, I knew absolutely nothing about – least of all if I even like an IPA or a Bock or a Wit. (I’m still not always sure, but I’ve generally figured out that I’m not a huge fan of wits, I like bocks if the alcohol content isn’t too high, and IPA’s are pretty darned good if done right.)

So, in a nutshell, here’s the dope on the 2008 Longshot winners.

Longshot Double IPA (9.0% abv)
Created by Mike McDole of California
From the label: Mike’s Double IPA showcases his appreciation for hops. In fact, he included seven different varieties of American hops, totaling over six pounds of hops per barrel. The hops add an intense floral and citrus aroma to this brew.
Quick, how many times does the word “hops” appear in that blurb?
Here’s how my beer notebook reads: Bottle one. Strong scent of pine/grapefruit. Robust head, golden orange color. Surprisingly roasted taste but extremely bitter. Bottle two. Almost a chemical or medicinal smell. Cloudy bronze-orange color. Thick mouthfeel with a noticeable alcohol bite. More orange tasting than grapefruit.
Here’s some interesting dope from a beer guru at Beer Advocate, regarding why the release of this beer (and it’s winning companions) was delayed.

Longshot Traditional Bock (6.8% abv)
Created by Alex Drobshoff of California
From the label: Alex’s brew is a bright copper colored German inspired bock with a complex, full-bodied mouthfeel. Hints of rich plum and cherry aromas pared with its toasty malt flavor make this a great beer to linger over on a cool evening.

“To linger over on a cool evening?” Really? Rules out most of Arizona this time of year.
Here’s how my beer notebook reads: Bottle one. Nice color – reddish bronze color. Thin head, medium lacing. Malty smelling. Strong malt flavor. Bottle two. Very malty smell after an aggressive pour. Dark bronze. Gives the impression of a higher abv than 6.8%.
Wanna visit Mike's FaceBook page?

Longshot Cranberry Wit (abv not listed)
Created by Carissa Sweigart of Massachusetts
From the label: Inspired by hometown ingredients, Carissa’s Cranberry Wit is spiced with a blend of cinnamon, orange peel, coriander and grains of paradise, and finished with a touch of cranberry.

Cinnamon, orange peel and coriander, oh my. I remember the last time I brewed with cinnamon and orange peel – oh do I remember. It wah nath-tee.
Here’s how my beer notebook reads: Bottle one. Only a faint smell of berry. Cloudy orange color. Medium thick lacing, rather thick mouthfeel. Berry taste is only a mild hinting compliment to this beer’s character. The finish can’t be described. Bottle two. Taste here is very subtle, nearly non-existent, which tends to make this a good hot weather session beer. Surprisingly dry and typically thick like Hoegaarden. Oddly this is the only one of the three that does not have an abv listed anywhere on the packaging.

Click HERE! to vote for Carissa in St. Louis Alive Magazine’s 2009 Sexy and Successful Contest. (You’ll have to scroll down to find Carissa’s entry.) She’s an attractive, successful woman who also knows how to fashion a tasty beer. C’mon, people!

I have a personal philosophy about judging the efforts of others, which can best be summed up in my attitude toward most renditions of the National Anthem (except those done by the odd Hollywood numbskull who intentionally sings it wrong and badly). I figure there’s no way I could ever do a very good job of singing the national anthem so I’m usually very forgiving when it comes to a missed note or a forgotten word now and then. I’ve got a tiny bit more experience in brewing than I do in singing the National Anthem – having brewed two batches of beer at home. One was a red ale that turned out okay and the other was a cinnamon monstrosity that took on the consistency of sewer pipe sludge and didn’t taste much better. So, I’m inclined to give all three of the 2008 winners a rousing hoo-rah. I liked all their beers well enough but I’d say I preferred the Cranberry Wit, perhaps simply because it was the lightest of the three and currently the temperature here is over 110. The Traditional Bock came in second and the Double IPA rated third. The DIPA was just a bit too jazzed up in the abv percentage for my tastes.

Now go out and find one of these nifty little six-packs before they’re all gone – the packaging says “enjoy before September 2009” so hurry…or expect to pick them up at a discount if the Sam Adams folks don’t collect up the past due stock!

And thanks to the folks at Samuel Adams, too!

Longshot? Long post! Gee whiz!

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