Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 6 (7/30/2011): Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier

This will be another quick one. I'm off to a beer event in an hour. Don't worry, I'll tell you all about it later this week.

Yesterday, I decided I needed a season appropriate beer. Something refreshing, but still substantial. Luckily I had grabbed a bottle of hefeweizen earlier in the week. When I think hefeweizen, Weihenstephaner is what I think of. Despite this, strangely enough, I've never actually tried it. Part of that is that I'm not a huge hefeweizen fan and part of that is that I just don't drink enough beer imported from outside the United States.

Pouring from this bottle, the first thing I noticed is how nice it looks. It is a pale, cloudy honey color, with a brilliant, billowing white head. It took me a while to pour the bottle since the head was so large, and the picture below was after I had got most of the bottle into the cup.

The smell is great; tons of bananas and cloves, with pale malts. This is definitely the classic smell I look for in a hefeweizen.

The taste is an explosion of the different smells, with the bananas and slight spiciness of the cloves from the Belgian yeast taking over. It's a substantial taste without being overpowering. I'm sure it opens up even more as it warms, but I enjoyed it so much that there was no danger of it getting warm. It was gone well before then.

Medium carbonation that somehow seems low. A really smooth drinking beer. I wouldn't mind drinking this all day (or night).

This is probably the perfect summer beer. The crispness, great taste, and  relatively low ABV makes this an amazing choice. It is great tasting and, at the same time, accessible for those new craft beer drinkers who don't want a 100 IBU hop bomb or a 15% imperial stout. The next time you're out grilling, pass your buddy a bottle of this instead of a Bud Light. They might not care for it, but then again, they might. And if not, you can always finish the bottle for them. The brewery which makes this beer has been operated for almost 1,000 (!!!) years, so they have the recipe pretty much perfected by now.

I give Weihenstephaner Hefeweissbier an A rating. It is probably the best Hefeweizen in the world (or at least the best I've tried). A great beer  which is cheap, widely available, and seasonally appropriate. I need to find this on draft.

Style: Hefeweizen
ABV: 5.4%
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: A/A+
Ratebeer: Source: 99/100

Purchased from Party Source for $2.00 a single. Six packs also available for just under $10 apiece. This is a pretty common import, so you should be able to find it in most places.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day 5 (7/29/2011): Dirty Bastard by Founders Brewing Company

I've always been partial to Founders. Being a Michigan boy who went to undergrad in Grand Rapids, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for both them and Bells. Though I didn't appreciate them enough when I lived there, they both have been mainstays in my beer rotation.

I've never been partial to Scotch ales, though. In fact, I rarely buy them and can probably count the number of them that I've tried on one hand. The sweetness always seems a bit cloying and the strange metallic scent/flavor present in many of them always seemed strange to me. I figured I would give this one a chance, though.

This one pours a relatively translucent brown-red with a white head that dissipates quickly. Looks about how I would expect for the style. It smells of caramel and butterscotch, and leads me to believe that this is going to be a sweet one. There is no hop smell at all, all malts here. The typical metallic smell, which has been present in every other Scotch ale I've tried before, is here. Can anyone tell me what in the brewing process makes it smell/taste this way?

The taste is definitely the caramel and butterscotch in the smell, along with molasses and dark fruits (raisins, prunes). The metallic (iron?) taste is present in the background. It's not unpleasant, just different. This is definitely a sweet beer, but is never cloying. The sweetness is countered with a slight hop bite on the finish. The contrast between the sweetness up front and the hoppy, dry finish is really nice.

The mouth feel is really nice and smooth, medium-low carbonation with a somewhat thick body. The alcohol is almost entirely hidden, only the smallest burn.

This is a solid beer from one of my favorite breweries. I'm still not a huge fan of the style, but Founders definitely brewed this one right. If I was in the mood for something on the sweeter side, I'd definitely consider picking one of these up.

I give Dirty Bastard by Founders Brewing Company a B+.

Style: Scotch ale
ABV: 8.5%
IBU: 50
Beer Advocate: A-
Ratebeer: 98/97

Picked up a single bottle from Party Source for $1.89. You can also get a six pack there for a little under ten bucks plus tax. You can find this pretty much anywhere that sells Founders beer. It is available year round.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 4 (7/28/2011): Péché Mortel by Brasserie Dieu Du Cel

I'm going to keep this one short because, hey, it's Friday and I really don't want to be sitting in front of my computer. I've been meaning to try this one for quite some time and as a Ratebeer top 100 beer, I had hopes. It was actually just as good, if not better, than I had hoped it would be.

It poured your typical imperial stout black as night, with about a half inch of tannish foamy head. The smells were largely chocolate, charred grains (without smelling burnt), and as you expect from a coffee stout, very, very strong scents of good, freshly ground coffee beans. It's actually brewed with fair trade coffee, which will please those of you with soft hearts. I was more so interested in the beer, but it's a nice addition.

The taste is espresso, but not overwhelmingly so. It's just the perfect amount and it melds great with the sweetness and chocolate taste of the beer. The hops are there, but don't take over, only providing a slight bitteering finish. I like my stouts on the sweeter side, so all of this is the perfect combination.

It is definitely low carbonation and somewhat thick, but it's not the sipper that you would expect. The 9.5% ABV is pretty much completely hidden, with no burn at all.

This is a great beer and it deserves every bit of the acclaim it receives. Every bit of the flavor is perfectly balanced, but if are more of a fan of drier stouts, you might not like this as much as I did. Overall, I don't think I could ask any more of this beer. It's a bit pricy for a little less than twelve ounce bottle, but you're paying for quality.

I give Péché Mortel by Brasserie Dieu Du Cel an A rating. Unlike the last beer reviewed, this one is available in the Cincinnati area, so you don't have an excuse not to try it.

With that, I am signing out an picking out a beer to drink. I'll see you tomorrow with a review of it!

Style: Imperial stout
ABV: 9.5%
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: A/A+
Ratebeer: 100/98

Acquired via a trade from a Beer Advocate in California. Thanks! I've seen this available in Cincinnati, I believe at Dutch's. I'm sure you can find it elsewhere, though.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 3 (7/27/2011): Blind Pig IPA by Russian River Brewing Company

So after a rough start to the reviewing, I decided I needed to drink something I knew I would enjoy. After a good beer haul I received from California earlier in the week, I knew exactly what I wanted to try. Blind Pig is the little brother of Pliny the Elder, the world class double IPA from Russian River. I've tried the latter on a couple occasions, but never the former. Does Blind Pig live up to the hype built up from Russian River's other beers? I hoped so.

Cracking the bottle, I could smell the citrus pungency of the hops before I even pour it into my glass. Into the glass, the smell gets even more complex with scents of tropical fruits and pine. It definitely smells like a hop bomb. The color is a pale orange, crystal clear, with a little under an inch of bright white head.

The taste surprises me, but this time in a good way. The complex hop scent is here in the taste, but balanced perfectly with a solid pale malt profile. It's got all the hoppiness you could want without being bitter at all; I'm impressed. Hops up front and the malts finish the show with a pleasant slight sweetness. Carbonation isn't as intense as I'm used to, but between that and the medium body, this makes for one of the smoothest IPAs I've ever had the pleasure of drinking.

So does Blind Pig live up to the rest of the Russian River family of beers, the ratings on both beer sites, and its annual inclusion on the Ratebeer Top 100 list? That answer is a unequivocal 'Yes'. This is easily one of the best IPAs I have ever drank before. It manages to achieve the difficult task of being complex enough for the serious craft beer drinker, while at the same time not being too intense for those just getting into this wonderful world.

A beer doesn't always have to be expensive, >10% ABV, super hoppy, or barrel aged to be good. Some of the best beer is the stuff you wouldn't mind drinking every day. If Blind Pig was distributed here, I would probably always have a few bottles of it in my fridge. In fact, as an everyday beer (in my opinion), it easily surpasses Pliny the Elder. It's just that solid.

So, for the first time, A Beer a Day has success. I give Blind Pig IPA by Russian River Brewing Company an A. If you are ever in California or anywhere else this is distributed, you owe it to yourself to grab a few bottles.

Style: American IPA
ABV: 6.0%
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: A
Ratebeer: 100/100

Acquired via a trade from a very generous Beer Advocate from California.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 2 (7/26/2011): Solitude by Brewery Vivant

A couple weeks ago I was in Grand Rapids for a couple of friends' wedding. I actually went to undergrad there, but this was before my beer (or at least good beer) drinking days. Now whenever I go back, I am amazed at what the city has going for it in the beer scene and a little jealous that my much larger city doesn't have anything that approaches the likes of Founders Brewing or a bar like HopCat. Not to mention, it's is a hop, skip, and a jump from Bells Brewery in Kalamazoo and a few hour drive to other notable standouts like Dark Horse and Kuhnhenn.

Before I left to head home on Sunday I headed to the store to pick up some singles from small Michigan breweries. I was able to find a number of selections and settled on six of them. One of them is Solitude from the Grand Rapids-based Brewery Vivant. Brewery Vivant focuses heavily on Belgian beers, so this Abbey style ale seemed like a good choice to judge them on. I'm not entirely certain when they opened for business, but I believe it was after I graduated and moved away so it must have been within the last four years or so.

Enough about the brewery; what did I think about the beer? All of Brewery Vivant's retail offerings are available only in pint-size cans, which seems to be the direction a lot of breweries are going. It's strange having a Belgian-style ale out of a can, though. Definitely a first for me.

The first impression is a good one. It pours a dark brown, almost Tootsie Roll, color with about an inch of cream-colored head. The smell is your typical Belgian yeast spiciness and banana esters, with a slight scent of roastiness. The smell isn't blowing me away, but so far so good.

The taste - oh, the taste. It starts off well, tasting just about how is smelled: a good sweetness coupled with cloves, bananas, and the tiniest bit of roasted malts. Not bad at all. The finish has strong notes of - wait for it - stale cigarette smoke. Yuck. This is not the pleasant, clean smoke flavor found in a good smoked porter or a rauchbier; this is a bowling alley with no fans, just before opening smoke. Not understanding why an abbey style ale would have smoke characteristics, I visited Brewery Vivant's website, which has no mention of smoked malts or any other reason why it would taste that way.

Just as salt in the wound, the body and carbonation were pretty much spot on for the style. This would be a very good representation of an abbey ale from a very new brewery if is wasn't for the terribleness of the nasty smoke flavor. I thought it might just be my palette, but other reviews on Beer Advocate mention the same thing. I ended up pouring about half of the can down the sink, which is very, very rare for me. Luckily I only bought one of this.

Despite being solid in pretty much every other aspect of the beer, the weird taste just ruins it for me. I give Solitude by Brewery Vivant a C- and I think I'm being very generous doing so. If anyone else has tried this beer before and had a different experience or would know why it tasted that way, let me know. I'm bamboozled.

Style: Abbey style ale
ABV: 6%
IBU: ?
Beer Advocate: B-
Ratebeer: (Not enough reviews for a rating)

Purchased a single can from Siciliano's Market (Grand Rapids, MI) for $2-something. Widely available in Grand Rapids in four-packs of cans.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 1 (7/25/2011): Palo Santo Marron by Dogfish Head

So, after a relatively false start, a trip out of town for a wedding, followed by nasty cold, I'm finally ready to get this show on the road. I still have the sniffles, but I don't think they'll greatly affect my ability to taste beer.

As some of you know, I recently got married AND bought a house. Why not take care of all the big stuff in one month, right? Anyways, yesterday evening's bit of backbreaking manual labor was tearing down an old compost bin and bagging all of the compost to be hauled away. This would theoretically be a simple task, but whatever Einstein built the bin constructed the walls out of wood lattice. This is roughly the equivalent of building a dam out of attached screen doors; it just doesn't work. What this means is that roughly half of the compost is no longer in the bin, but has slowly eroded and is now surrounding it. Fun!

The purpose of that story is to get across that after an hour or so of that nonsense in 90+ degree heat, I was ready for a beer. After a shower, I opened the fridge and gave the selection a look over. Any reasonable person would, of course, pick something crisp and refreshing like a hefeweizen or IPA (both of which I have in my fridge). What grabbed my eye, of all things, was a brown ale. And not just a brown ale, but one that is 12% abv. Sometimes I wonder about those hamsters running on their wheels making my brain work.

I popped the bottle, poured it into one of my favorite tulip glasses and simultaneously saw and smelled that I was not dealing with your average brown ale. I suppose I should have expected that from a Dogfish Head beer and one which is 12% and has been aged on wood.

It pours a dark, dark brown bordering on black, with about a half inch of tan-brown head.The wood aging is immediately evident in the smell, but after that, in descending order, the scent is booze, roasted malts, dark fruit, and a bit of vanilla. The booze is right up front there with the wood, though, and dominates pretty much everything else.

The same is true of the taste. The primary thing here is the 12% abv, with the wood, roastiness, coffee, and raisins/dates taking a back seat. It has a good amount of sweetness to it, but finishes with some hop bitterness. The 50 IBU is there, but not too pronounced. In terms of body and carbonation, I'd say it is roughly medium for both. It drinks more like a thin imperial stout than a brown ale.

Overall, I thought this beer was a boozy, hot mess. I probably wouldn't even consider it a brown ale; it's better thrown into the catch all category of  American strong ale. At the 12% showing considerably, it definitely is a candidate for cellaring. Hold onto a bottle of this for a few years and my guess is that the flavors would even out and the alcohol in it would cool down a bit. If you want to try it fresh, though, consider it a sipper and let it warm a bit before you dig in. The flavors became quite a bit more complex as it warmed.

I would like to try this cellared, but fresh I give Palo Santo Marron by Dogfish Head a B-. The booziness just overwhelms anything else good it has going for it.

Style: American Brown Ale
ABV: 12%
IBU: 50
Beer Advocate: A-
Ratebeer: 99/98

Purchased from Party Town (Florence) for $4'ish a bottle. Pretty readily available where Dogfish Head is distributed.

Friday, July 8, 2011

So, what's the deal?

Hey folks.

If you're reading this, you probably know me, read my other blog, like beer, or some combination of the three. I'm starting this blog for a few reasons, none of which is that the internet needs another beer blog. God knows we have enough of those already (see links on sidebar for great examples).

I'm starting this blog because:

a) the beer posts were starting to clog up A Boy and His Books and draw away from the primary purpose of that blog.

b) as I've dove deeply into the craft beer world, I've tried so many great beers that I would never had been able to try without the kindness and generosity of some wonderful people. At the same time, though, I feel like I have self-directed myself towards styles, breweries, and specific beers that I know I like while ignoring those styles, breweries, and specific beers that I have either never heard of or are uncertain about trying out.

c.) in my opinion, the best part about the beer drinking experience is sharing. Whether it's sharing your first homebrew, an extremely rare bottle, or just a usual suspect with your friends, drinking beer should be a social experience. With that in mind, I'd like to share with you what I think about a specific beer. You may agree with me or not, but at least you will know where I stand and why. In the spirit of sharing, if anyone would every like to join me for a tasting or a joint review, I'd be ecstatic about it. Just contact me and we'll set something up.

So, I suppose the big question is "what does this blog entail?" The goal here is to taste and document a different beer that I have never tried before every single day. How long will I be able to do this every day? Who knows; maybe a week, maybe a month, maybe a year. What beers will I be drinking? Pretty much anything I can get my hands on that I've never tried before. Some will be local, some won't be distributed here, some you'll be able to skip down to Kroger and buy a sixer of, and some might be exclusively on tap. That's the fun of it: there are so many beers available to the average consumer that there's really no reason to run out of material.

As for the reviewing criteria, see the bar above, but in short, it will be a combination of the beer meeting the brewer's intent and what I think of the beer subjectively. I really like imperial IPAs and I do not care for pretty much any lagers, so the scores for a pretty decent IIPA will probably be on par with a perfectly crafted lager. Just keep that in mind when looking at the grades.

That's the general concept of the blog. I'm sure it will, like pretty much all other blogs, evolve and change over time. If anyone has any questions or comments in the meantime, feel free to contact me via Facebook or Twitter. I think I'll be starting sometime in the near future, so follow on Twitter, 'Like' on Facebook, subscribe to the RSS and keep an eye out for reviews!