I began my summer of craft beers with a stop at the City Tavern on Caroline Street in Saratoga, NY. The tavern is 4 stories high and it has a selection of over 100 draft beers that includes a pretty large craft beer selection. This is not my first time with craft beers that involves visas and Brazil and lots of wrong lines and mistaken identities…definitely a story for another time.
I like things in three’s, so I figure a trio of beers for the tasting is just my style. Because I like to eat when I drink, and for the scientific integrity of this grand craft beer experiment, due to the fact that meatloaf burgers weren’t ringing my bell, I’ll be trying everything with nachos.
So of course I start with the girliest beer available, you know it, Leinenkugel Summer Shandy (fruit beer, 4.2% ABV). Delicious, fun, light, and unexpectedly not sweet. It is cloudy beer because it doesn’t really settle out so it looks like pulpy lemonade. I think I would most prefer drinking this beer while tubing on the Hudson River with a cooler tied and floating behind me. Not good with nachos.
I knew that I would like the shandy but this is not a summer of the “same old same old”, so for my next beer I go with the bartender’s pick: Bronx Pale Ale (American Pale Ale, 6.3% ABV). Now I know that the bartender suggested it to give me shock and himself a giggle because it is obviously a far cry from the girlie beer that I just finished. I know this and I slam down my first swig anyway. Shocking, bitter, but smooth. It literally felt like a shot of Patron and I liked that about it. It left me looking for salt and a lime. (Either that or the 40 of Bud light lime I am drinking from a juice glass has clouded my thinking)…But seriously, I liked the shock of it. I wouldn’t drink a pint of it but definitely and juice glass full. Good with nachos.
For the last of my first trio, the Adirondack fat Scotsman (Brown, 10% ABV) had caught my eye earlier and the bartender Derrick mentioned it while I was thinking of it. Although he tried to scud me with his beer version of the Bronx cheer, I was undaunted and ordered up a pint. It was borderline brown in color, red-headed and tasty, with a little bitter all the way through. Tastes like ex-boyfriend just like I knew it would. I’ll think about ordering it sometimes, but I won’t. And not surprisingly, both beer and ex-boyfriend… Bad with nachos.
Often associated with another popular recreational remedy, Humboldt County is a beautiful area in Northern California enclosed by Redwood trees neighboring the shores of the Pacific, about 2 hours south of the Oregon border. Lost Coast Brewery, situated in the city of Eureka has steadily made this area a bit less elusive with its continuously growing craft beer. A long time advocate of their Great White I decided to try something new this time.
First Impression: The Downtown Brown, an English style Light Brown Ale, struck me with its Picasso inspired logo and vibrant color scheme. As the saying goes “you can’t judge a book by its cover” the same applies for beer but fortunately for Lost Coast a great label is often the deciding factor when wandering through unknown beer territory. The bottle also proudly points out that Lost Coast brews all beer naturally with “Two Row Barley” which is indigenous to the North American and differs from flavors found in Europe.
Pour: The beer poured beautifully with a rich reddish brown tint. It has a thin head that never fully dissolves, radiating a crystal like luster on the crown.
Taste: The initial flavor is strong and carbonated yet it leaves a pleasant taste of roasted nut and delicate chocolate on the palate. Despite the dark appearance it’s a light bodied beer and goes down with ease. It has a slight malty texture that is far from overbearing. This is a great beer to relax to and is definitely not one that will leave you utterly comatose when paired with food. I recommend it to anyone who has not acquired an appreciation for heavy stouts and wants to experiment with a lighter “dark” ale.
Brewdog, a Scottish craft beer company, has been a brewery that I’ve been wanting to try for some time now. I’ve heard about their great Punk IPA, and Tokyo, which is the UK’s strongest beer ever, and it was time for me to take a stab at one of their beers. Finally. I was going to go with their traditional Punk IPA, when I saw Dogma, and the description on the label sold me.
First Impression: The label fits all the other labels of Brewdog’s. It is dark with bold red writing (although if you go to their website it’s orange and the alcohol percentage is different…not sure what’s up with that). Their labels have always been pretty fun to me, and they aren’t overwhelming or too bland. Really just a perfect blend of information necessary to knowing whether you’ll enjoy it or not. The description is, “hops brewed with honey, kola nuts, poppy seed and guarana.”
Pour: Just the color and amount of head I was expecting for this ale, a light amber beer.
Taste: Pretty awesome, to say the least. It tasted very carbonated, but in a good way, and you could really taste the honey. It wasn’t a boring ale, and you could taste the nuts and poppy seed all in all. I was really happy that I chose to go with this beer as opposed to the (what I think to be) boring IPA. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to try the Punk IPA at some point.
ABV: 7.8% (although the website says 7.4%…am I missing something here?!)
First Impression: As with all beers from Oskar Blues, this Imperial Red comes in a can. The name, not the design, is what caught my attention and led me to purchase this beer from Longmont, CO.
Pour: G’Knight pours a reddish-burgundy, a color that is eerily similar to the Redskins burgundy logo. The head was pretty thick and it stuck around for awhile. A sweet and hoppy aroma accompanied the pour.
Taste: G’Knight would fall somewhere between a Red Ale and an IPA. This beer definitely hides its high alcohol and hop content very well with a nice balance of sweet, malty tastes. If you generally shy away from “knockout”, bitter IPA’s, but are looking for something equally strong, grab a G’Knight Imperial Red and enjoy it with pizza or a burger!
This week I tried the Strawberry Wit, a Belgian Style White Ale from Ass Kisser Ales. AKA is a small family owned brewery in San Jose, California established in 2010 and just beginning to make a name for itself in the craft beer industry.
First Impression: From the looks of the brightly colored bottle I got a sense that this was going to be a very sweet brew with an ambitious kick to it.
Pour: As the beer poured it emitted a glassy gold color and was surprisingly less dense than the brewer suggests. The head was a thin ring of white encompassing a sweet berry aroma.
Taste: I was pleasantly surprised to find that the beer didn’t scream of overwhelming fruit flavor. On the other hand it was almost difficult to pinpoint any fruit at all. There is an instant sensation of bitter wheat yet smooth after taste. My overall impression of the brew was that it could be easily compared to a Pilsner, light in taste and definitely easy to drink, but this one was a bit misleading in terms of the bottle. Although there will not be too much brown nosing coming from me for the Strawberry Wit I do have faith in Ass Kisser Ales and look forward to trying some of their other 4 flavors like the Vanilla Pale ale and the Smoke porter.
Usually when you find something on a clearance rack, there is something wrong with it – maybe the style is from last season or the “sell by date” has passed. However, we all end up meandering on over to the clearance rack to find a hidden treasure. Believe it or not, my local grocery store (Giant) actually has a clearance shelf in their beer aisle. Instant red flag? Usually, yes. Yet, the other day, I noticed something that was worth picking up. I had spotted about a dozen cans of Leinenkugel’s seasonal Shandy – they call it Summer Shandy. Now, I have never tried a Shandy before, but the price was right; at just $1 for a can I couldn’t afford not to try it. Here is my review of Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy:
First Impression: I’m a big fan of the look of Leinenkugel’s labels, and the Summer Shandy was no exception. The lemons on the label almost turned me away, but at the $1 price tag it was worth a shot.
Pour: This beer has a unique lemony wheat smell that was surprisingly pleasant. The head on the beer was nothing special, and didn’t seem to last long. Additionally, the unfiltered beer had a nice yellow color.
Taste: Another surprise. The lemonade flavor was overpowering, yet subdued at the same time. Confused? I was too. I think they nailed the perfect balance of sweet lemonade while maintaining a nice wheat flavor (the Summer Shandy wasn’t too sweet like a Sam Adams Cherry Wheat).
Overall, Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy was pleasantly surprising and would be extremely refreshing on a hot summer day!
IBU: The Leinenkugel’s website lists the hoppiness as a 2/10
Recent commercials and fads have begun to lead me towards disgust. This disgust is referring to the fixation and obsession with low calorie light beers. I mean folks let’s be honest if you’re worried about your weight then beer is just not for you. There is no such thing as “great tasting light low calorie” beer, even if you say it with a really deep voice. This past summer a bunch of my friends and I went to upstate New York to have us some good brews and some fishin. We were watching a movie on Saturday night when all the sudden we ran out of beer. The local beer store with “actual” beer was closed, so Wal-Mart was our next best bet. Unfortunately for me and my friends at that point, the only sober man in the room was, yes you guessed it, on a DIET! So us being a little out of it, told him to use his best judgment. That was a mistake I’ll soon never forget. He came back with a 24 pack of CRAP (notice how the brand name doesn’t make a difference because all light beers suck!).
The next morning a bunch of guys bounced and it was just two of my friends (who know what an actual beer taste like) and me. Fishing hadn’t really been going well for us so we decided to do the next best thing. That’s right, we bought ourselves a sniper BB Gun with a scope. And wouldn’t ya know it we didn’t have to buy targets because they were already sitting at home. Yes that 24 pack of crap had a mission in life, and it’s mission was to be staring down the barrel of a Wal-Mart BB Gun. We had ourselves the time of our life (plus we were doing so whilst drinking actual beer).
So if you are on a diet, or interested in light low calorie beers, please excuse yourself from the table and do so in your own private area, as doing so is very disrespectful to those of us in the world who know what beer really is. And that my friends, is anything that isn’t light.
There really aren’t too many things that can surpass spending a day in Santa Barbara with the Pacific Ocean within footsteps and the picturesque peaks of the Santa Ynez Mountains as the backdrop. Now, add live music, great food, and some of the country’s best craft brewers and you’ve got yourself one Spectacular Saturday. “Brews at the Beach” brought together over 30 local and national breweries for a celebration of the flourishing art of craft beer. Local favorites included Figueroa Mountain Brewery from the Santa Ynez Valley and Telegraph Brewing Company located in the heart of the rapidly expanding “funk zone” of Santa Barbara, an industrial area slowly growing into the Mecca for urban wine and beer tasting. The goal of the event was to not only pay tribute to the love of great beer but to bring the community together and raise money for the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation.
The demonstration of beer variety was beyond impressive. Each of the 30 breweries had at least 2 varieties of kegs flowing at a time. Brews ranged from favorites such as Sierra Nevada’s torpedo to seasonal crafts such as Firestone’s Solace. With my 4 oz. glass in hand I attempted to conquer as many as humanly possible.
From advice of a fellow beer drinker my friends and I stumbled upon a great IPA made by Karl Strauss Brewing Company, located in La Jolla, California (near San Diego). They recently launched a limited release series titled “ Karl’s Reserves” which features the Big Barrel Double IPA, a brew that definitely lives up to its oversized name in taste. A strong IPA with an ABV of 9% and an IBU of 90, it’s a great choice for any IPA lover as it goes down surprisingly smooth with a residual hint of citrus fruit taste and medium bitterness. The hops for this particular brew are imported from New Zealand and are notorious for emitting tropical aromas.
Another very notable beer was the River Ale hailing from Deschutes brewery in Portland Oregon. It’s a fun, easy to drink beer with an ABV of 4% and an IBU of 28. A medium bodied blonde Ale that immediately struck me with the smell of honey. It goes down incredibly smooth and was the perfect refreshment on a warm day like this one. Deschutes distributes this one year round.
In Summary, this was a great event for beer lovers of all preferences. A presentation of the friendly yet competitive nature of the craft beer industry. Each brewery exhibited creations with a great deal of individual pride yet promoted a sense of fellowship between one another. One last thing I’d like to note is the host did a great job at welcoming designated drivers to the event with discounted tickets for D.D.’s and a booth with non alcoholic beverages They also promoted alternative means of transportation such as walking and biking and encouraged the use of their free bike valet. Overall a delightfully intoxicating way to spend the day celebrating the beauty of craft beer.
I would like to start this review with a short story about craft beer, Colorado and Dogfish Head. On a recent trip to Colorado, I happened upon Falling Rock Tap House, which happens to be an excellent place to grab a craft brew. A man wearing an old school Mookie Blaylock jersey approached me at the bar and struck up conversation. He was a fairly knowledgeable craft beer snob and the conversation quickly shifted toward our favorite IPA’s. When I mentioned Dogfish Head 90 Minute, he shot me a confused look. Here was a man who claimed to know the IBU’s of every IPA ever brewed, yet he had never heard of Dogfish Head Brewery? Just shows you how many amazing breweries are in Colorado. The dude probably never drank a beer that wasn’t brewed in the Centennial State. Now to the review…
First Impression: The standard looking Dogfish Head label. I really enjoy the concise description that accompanies the label of each Dogfish brew. I am also really into the feel of the Dogfish Head labels. Alright, enough label talk.
Pour: This beer has an overpowering aroma of caramel. A quite impressive head showed up when this brew was poured and its thickness caused it to hang around for awhile.
Taste: A near perfect balance of sweet brown maltiness, and bitter hoppiness. This brew is so smooth, and even more tasty. A must try!
I’ve got a confession to make, and I hope it doesn’t rub too many people the wrong way. I drank a Blue Moon today….and I actually enjoyed it. Ya, that “craft brewery” that is really a product of Coors. Let the hater parade come out in full force. Blue Moon’s seasonal collection is bursting with flavor and tastes nothing like its macro-brew relatives. If you’ve made it this far into this post without shouting obscenities at your computer (or smart phone) and bouncing out of the site, read my review of Agave Nectar Ale below.
First Impression: I, The Craft Beer Deer, am a beer snob. Therefore, when offered a Blue Moon this afternoon, I turned my nose and pretended it didnt exist. After I realized that was the only beer available, I figured I would give it a try. The only thing remotely interesting about the bottle was the name. Something about “Agave Nectar” sounds pretty nifty.
Pour: I didnt pour this beer, I drank it straight from the bottle (I know, I apologize). Due to my lack of sophistication when enjoying this brew, I saw or smelled no head on this beer.
Taste: This beer is agave-sweet and goes down extremely smooth and easy. There were very subtle citrusy notes, but this beer was overpowered with the sweet, wheaty flavor that Blue Moon has become known for.