By: Chasse Gunter
I know it could be in poor taste to write an excuse into a beer review, but I have excuses fit for print (and ten fingers to point with). You know how big of a pain it is to move, right? It’s a universally shared annoyance un-equaled by even the ringing ears that follow a good slap to the face or being hungover and working at the same time. Though moving is as annoying as I said, if you’ve never moved you have bigger issues my friend and should stop reading now to pack your bags: the world’s much bigger than [your street here] of [your home here] , [your state here]. Anyways, multiply the single amass-able ass pain of one big move by six and you got my situation. For a more accurate ass-pain equation, add in a car engine explosion, a break up and several unexpected deaths.
Alchemists wasted hundreds of years trying to turn lead into gold and my only dream is to meld excuses into high numbers with plus and dollar signs sandwiching them. Bottom line here is a glass half full approach—which, upon further digging, is a uniquely First World metaphor: we have glasses and water to put in them. Frankly, most of the world does not have either, so all are glasses are half full. I have places to pack all my luxuries in and move into, albeit annoyingly often. And, I had a car and loved ones to lose in the first place. I’ve been trying to bring you close to my point of anguish so that we may raise fists to the sky at an affliction that effects all the planets inhabitants, in various degrees (literally) and calender dates (geographically). Lets pour one out and sit in a moment of angry silence in observance of summer time’s untimely death. The only thing I’ve been putting off more than unpacking and selling my car for scrap is reviewing a fall beer. I wish I had bigger problems so this one wouldn’t crush me so—actually, I don’t.
Though reluctant, I’ll admit, there are some downright amazing autumn craft beers—especially in Washington (the state, not the one with the white building in it). Looking though my diamond plated first-world beer goggles: at least I have something tasty to drink indoors while the stupid leaves outside fall to the cold ground and turn stupider colors than they started out as. I guess I’ll drink to that.
First Impression: For the first time ever, I bought a single beer from a six-pack to see if I could. And you can. Also, I’m not allowed to drink at my current housing location, and a single beer is much easier to sneak in and out (as they have nothing to clank against). I turn the sink on to cover the sound of bottle opening and shove my nose to the top of the freshly opened bottle and sniff in hard, attempting to smell though my congested nose. Nothing. I clear my nose and and try again. I finally catch the scent—it smells of the wafting odor the escapes the flesh wound of a freshly sliced Jack-o-Lantern to be. The best of the worst times is approaching. There is also a hint of caramel and nutmeg.
Pour: I dump some out on a plate for some idea of the color. A beautiful amber-orange color. I swish a wallop in my mouth, sensing an immediate toasted pumpkin flavor and lingering hints of nutmeg and clove. I was pleased that this beer did not have either the pure pumpkin puree-like flavor or the artificial taste (I haven’t actually ran into anything fake tasting this year). I can taste the highly boasted of seven pumpkins per barrel.
Final impression: (while shaking fist at sky) I express contentedness loud enough out of my mouth to probably be heard over the running sink. This is the alcoholic liquid version of pumpkin pie. I ask the beer god of summer what he has even close to that. I take the absence of a reply as nada with a capital N. By the last sip it did leave something to be desired—another five bottles. Sorry, I get corny during the harvest season.
By: Benjamin Welton
Martin Luther probably felt like this in Wittenberg when he was nailing that cultural bomb to the cathedral doors. The father of Protestant Christianity knew deeply in his bones that his Ninety-Five Theses would make him an outcast – a despised icon. At the very least, Luther, a man who firmly believed that he was rightfully going against the grain of Catholic thought and practice in order to reclaim Christianity’s original soul, knew that he was destined to be unpopular.
By: Yelena Keselman
For those of you who have been to the original Oktoberfest in Munich, you understand the amplitude of rich culture and pride this festival provides. And lets not forget the amazing food, music, and countless men in lederhosen. It’s only right to share the magic of this celebration with the city of San Francisco, equally eager to bear tight shorts with ambitions to consume ridiculous amounts of delicious beer. Thus, Oktoberfest by the Bay was born! Recently rounding it’s 14th year the event was held at Pier 48 with breathtaking views of the newly renovated Bay Bridge and AT&T Ballpark (GO GIANTS!)
As I entered the “Biergarten”, taps were flowing with a few of Germany’s finest brews, including the Spaten Muncher Helles Lager and their amber counterpart The Oktoberfest. A notable disappointment, I only noticed three beer varieties throughout the entire festival. I was hoping to do a bit more “tasting” but to their redemption they did manage to win me over by providing my all time favorite the Paulaner Hefe-Weissbier (ABV 5%). Descending from Munich this beer is nothing short of a mouthful yet well worth the perplexing pronunciation. The brew has a thick consistency with a golden tint and goes down flawlessly. This Hef gives you a nice combination of grain and subtle banana fruit.
While the GIANT PREZTALS and sauerkraut wienerschnitzel
Now where it really got real was the dance floor. Forget the alcohol (not really!), but what better way to get a party started then a 20 person Bavarian Band! They strummed and blew the night away, playing traditional folk music and adapting some newer classics into the mix with impressive precision. The music line up included the Chico Bavarian band, The Internationals, and Deutscher Musikverein of San Francisco. The entertainment didn’t stop there; I was pleasantly surprised by multiple dance performances and guest appearances on the mic.
I was also pleased to find that this progressively growing Bay Area tradition has a following that surpasses the local population. In fact I met a number of people who came to town solely to partake in the celebration, a few even traveling from as far as Europe. I chatted with one guy from Ireland who says he’s been coming for years. From my personal standpoint I would categorize this event a little on the pricier side with a $22 entry fee plus the cost of drinks and food. San Francisco is infamous for providing the community with free and affordable leisure so for those who aren’t willing to fork up a pretty penny to participate I wouldn’t recommend this particular affair. Overall though, Oktoberfest by the Bay was well organized and I had a great time. Oktoberfest is certainly a unique experience that is difficult to replicate and I enjoyed San Francisco’s version of the celebration and wouldn’t mind doing it again next year.
By: Katie Schroepfer
Left Hand Brewing Co. has been busy celebrating their 20 years of brewing this entire year, coming out with new and old beer for their anniversary. Many people know Left Hand for their smooth and creamy Milk Stout Nitro, Sawtooth Ale and IPA. I recently visited the brewery searching for a good 20th anniversary brew. The bartender had plenty of suggestions for different beers I should try, but I went with their Deep Cover Brown Ale, a beer brewed just for their anniversary.
First Impression: I’m not a huge brown ale fan, so I was a little skeptical about this beer, however the bartender talked it up and it’s one of their older brews. I figured it was worth a try.
Pour: The beer pours with a dark amber color that you can slightly see through. The head is a cream color that dissipates slowly.
Taste: This is one of the smoothest brown ale’s that I have ever tried. The beer has a nutty, clean flavor to it with a little bit of sweetness. It’s a tasty fall beer. The hops are basically nonexistent. As an English style brown ale, the Deep Cover Brown Ale has a lot of flavor to it and I can see why it is one of their 20th anniversary beers.
By: Benjamin Welton
Seasons are magical, and no season has more mystery than autumn. Up here in New England, fall comes like a long awaited saint. New Englanders not only worship the colorful leaves like the pagans their ancestors tried to eradicate, but they also deeply understand that fall is one of the few reasons why outsiders care at all about the six states on the tip of America’s Atlantic wall. “Leaf peepers” from across the U.S. and Canada flock to places like Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine in order to see foliage in action. For the rest of us (and yes I am speaking as a New England transplant who has plenty of bad things to say about his adoptive region), the fall mostly means more people in the way and more cars on the road.
Just south of Vermont is Massachusetts – a state that gets its fair share of October tourists. Some of those tourists come for the leaves, but some of them come for the witches. As with descending bits of orange and red palmate-veined botany, New England is also synonymous with haunted houses, witch hunts, ghosts and goblins. From the Pyncheon house that leaked blood to family-friendly hocus pocus, New England is decorated with spooky destinations. Most people know about Salem, but few know about Woodstock, Vermont – the sight of a “real” vampire case from the nineteenth century. The brewers at Magic Hat, a South Burlington-based company, know better than most Vermont’s spectral legacy, and their latests concoction reflects this. The Séance Saison from Magic Hat reeks of wraithlike charm, and its inky black presentation is perfect for the Halloween season or the witching hour.
First Impression: There’s a lot going on with this label. From the artwork, which presents a collage of folkloric images (an owl, a corpse’s hand rising from out of the earth, candles, and a chalice) done in earth tones to the catchphrase of “A liquid dance through life’s trance,” the Séance Saison is like the Haunted Mansion of beers. The Séance Saison comes in your basic 12 fl. oz. bottle with amber glass. Overall, the Séance Saison delineates itself immediately as a seasonal craft brew, which means that its aesthetic presentation took more time to produce than the usual year-round batch.
Pour: This beer is one that comes to (un)life immediately. Its head, which is foamy and thick, sits splendidly atop a pitch black body. Like engine oil, sludge, molasses, and dark chocolate, this beer does not allow too much light to pass through when it is held beside a lamp or a flashlight. Given this beer’s packaging, the pour reminds one of Raymond Chandler’s quote about “dark with something more then night.”
Taste: Tart and smokey, the Séance Saison is a beer for those who like rich, arid wines. If you don’t like wine, then the Séance Saison can be best compared to a cigar, especially one with a madoro wrapper. As such, this beer should be enjoyed in slow sips by the fire, whether indoors or out of them. Going light on the food would also be suggested, for this beer is filling. Its combination of Golding and Hallertaur hops, cherry wood smoke, and victory, carafa, and flaked oats make this beer feel Central European, possibly even Scandinavian. Speaking of the Nordland, the owl centerpiece of this beer’s label makes me think that Kvelertak, that hard rocking band from Stavanger, Norway who have as their official mascot a menacing owl, would be the perfect background music for a night’s festivities spent with Magic Hat’s Séance Saison. Drink up, ya ghouls!
ABV: 4.4 %
By: Benjamin Welton
Autumn in New England is a special place. Most people realize that, and that is why our roads are now beginning to clog up with those obnoxious “leaf peepers.” Now, I realize that I have lived most of my life in two places that have amazing autumns (West Virginia and Vermont), so maybe I am just too used to seeing natural splendor, but I cannot fathom the idea of driving out of one’s way just to see colored leaves. Sure, northern New England’s foliage is gorgeous and all, but all of your slow driving and incessant picture taking is annoying. Most Vermonters would rather have you back at home in New York, Quebec, or Connecticut.
Now, after I have just insulted a pastime and plenty of people, I will readily admit that I am just as big of a sucker for fall as any “leaf peeper.” For me, autumn means horror movies and good beer. There’s nothing like putting on House of the Devil and kicking back with a Märzen pint or two. A lot of people share these interests, and that’s why the Oktoberfest-style of beer is so popular with the American consumer. Pretty much every brewery worth its salt has an Oktoberfest beer, and Middlebury, Vermont’s Otter Creek is no exception.
First Impression: Frankly, this beer is far from eye-catching. The simple, bucolic label is okay, but a little pedestrian. The people at Otter Creek decided to go minimalist with the packaging for Oktoberfest, and that’s a pity. After all, as much we would not like to admit it times, a striking label is usually what draws us to beers in the first place. Don’t expect to be “drawn” to Otter Creek’s Oktoberfest at all.
Pour: As with the label, this beer’s pour is also unexciting. After opening my 12 fl. oz. bottle and unleashing it into a pint glass, I was at first worried that I had purchased a bad batch. The beer looked flat after the first few seconds, then the head began to appear. Surprisingly, this beer’s head lingers for a while, and don’t be surprised if you’re still wading through foam near your final swallow.
Taste: Most Oktoberfest pale ales are known for their full-bodied and bitter taste, as well their dry finish. Otter Creek’s Oktoberfest is thin all around, and watery to boot. Far from a robust beer, Otter Creek’s Oktoberfest is a tasteless dud that should be a lot better than it is. On the bright side, maybe I could give my six pack to an RV full of “leaf peepers” as a subtle act of revenge.
By: Beer Baron PA
It’s the start to an easy day just hanging out on some neighbors’ tractor and watching the trees put on their fall colors. The mountain fields cast their shade in the distance and nearby the dew spills over the ground, setting the stage to enjoy The Shed brew- ‘Mountain Ale.’ The Shed Brewery operated also as a restaurant in Stowe, VT which closed, but the brewery was bought by Otter Creek Brewing Co. back in 2011. In the meantime, Crop Bistro (a local bistro/brewery) started their business on the same property where it still operates today. Where the seed falls, another will beer. Uh- I mean grow.
Here comes the fun part. Grab a brew and lean in. In 2010 Long Trail Brewing Co. acquired Otter Creek Brewing Co. Then a year later, Otter Creek Brewing Co. acquired Shed Brewery. The acquisition allowed Long Trail to own 7.5% of all Vermont beer sales. Smart move. The great thing is, the brewing equipment was allowed to be relocated to Middlebury where the signature ‘Mountain Ale’ is still being brewed.
The Breweries complement each other. For example, Long Trail doesn’t have a lager, whereas Otter Creek does. Here’s a bonus. Otter Creek has another branch of beers under the Wolaver’s name. These are certified organic by the USDA and appeal to the organics movement consumer.
It’s all very interesting. Without the research do you really know if your beer is really produced by said brewery? Rumor has it, a local Vermont brewer is contracting out beer from Paper City Brewing Co. (based in Holyoke Massachusetts -mind you) yet labeling their beer as Vermont made. How does that make you feel?
First Impression: The Label is very attractive. My eyes first go to the name of the beer with its bold black letters against the creamy-gold, white-yellow label. With the winter trees cutout against the background it brings nostalgia of the end of autumn. In between the trees sits a… I don’t know exactly. It looks like a bucket for collecting sap? Anyways, I’m fond of the artwork. It’s simple, eye-catchy, and not too much is going on. Short and sweet. The label does say that the brewery moved from Stowe, VT to Middlebury VT without telling us why. But that’s ok right? One thing I do agree with on the label are the words “a rugged brown ale.” I would say so. It’s enjoyable.
Pour: ‘Mountain Ale’ pours an auburn/copper color with a creamy beige head. After the pour it becomes a darker brown. At last the murky beer settles into a foreboding color of autumn. The head stays around for a while and takes its time to settle back down. A nice 12 oz. of brown ale.
Taste: Malty overtones dominate the aroma, and a sour ester is somehow caught along with it. There are some light fruity notes, prune-like. A few moments later, a twig-ness becomes evident. Ever so slightly a burnt nutty will come out. Caramel mingles with the taste. Each flavor is distinct from the other. The taste is not bad, something to try and enjoy with some satisfaction.
By: Beer Baron PA
The first beer I have decided to review from Kingdom Brewing is their Staggering Angus. Kingdom Brewing has a very interesting story surrounding their farm, (that’s right- farm,) and visiting their brewery was quite the adventure. Be sure to check back to read about it. In any case, In front of me now is a K.B. Growler that I intend to finish off in a couple of minutes. We sampled several beers from their warm and cozy tasting room and all of their beers were quite eclectic, this one the most unique. My experience there will surely be unparalleled for years to come. Their Staggering Angus was influenced by the Black Angus cattle they keep on their farm. Guess what they feed them- spent grains, yeast and hops. Way to keep things green Kingdom Brewery! Jennifer Cook, co-owner, introduced me to the beer this way, “After you’ve enjoyed a pint of it, it’s very sneaky, so it feels like you’ve been kicked by a black angus. It catches up with you.” With that being said, this is a spruce beer, so among some of the spruce I’ve had… It sure beats many.
First Impression: So this beer is a double black spruce IPA and it is very dark. It sports a soft head that foams with the pour and quickly squints back into the beer. The aroma immediately tells you this is a very different sort of brew. In fact, the spruce is very evident. Pine wafts up with an aroma of freshly grated orange peel. What I smell is the spruce harvested on location at +700 ft in elevation. After a growler full… it sure caught up with me.
Pour: The pour is very dark with a hue of deep garnet. A full glass is almost ebony. The head comes up and quickly comes down into the beer with a coast of foam that hugs along the edges of the glass. Strong orange and pine lift from the glass as soon as it settles.
Taste: Imagine a pile of oranges. Bitter spruce complements some of the sweet and tart of the orange taste. Roasted malts are definitely distinct in the brew, bringing everything together in a creamy light to medium bodied beer. There is a little bit of astringency that comes with the orange peel taste. The alcohol is masked with some sweetness and the esoteric beer comes together in an unforgettably quirky combination.
By: Benjamin Welton
All the great detectives are drunks. No, I am not talking about real life police officials. I am here arguing that the best fictional sleuths—those men who exist only as black letters stuck inside of paper pages that are held together by glue and binding—are all wet. American icons like Philip Marlowe and The Continental Op mirror the hardcore drinking habits of their creators (Raymond Chandler for the former, Dashiell Hammett for the latter), whilst their international counterparts are as likely to ponder a case in a pub as they are in private.
During an evening out at an upscale French restaurant, I drank a beer and immediately felt like one such literary lush— Inspector Jules Maigret. With a tobacco pipe in one hand and a beer in the other, the laconic commissaire never fails to exude all things Gallic. Maigret’s creator, Georges Simenon, was Belgian, not French. A Walloon from Liège, Simenon was a morally complicated man who often found himself longing to be more like his upstanding creation. Despite their profound differences, both creator and creation shared a passion for beer, which is easy to understand given their Belgian heritage (one in actuality and the other in spirit). Brasserie Lefebvre’s Blanche De Bruxelles White Beer is emblematic of that rich heritage, and this bright, crisp beer is the perfect accompaniment to a night spent amongst the canals, whether they be in Paris or Brussels.
First Impression: I was served the Blanche De Bruxelles White Beer from an aluminum can, which, to be frank, did not impress me. Other than that, the can’s aesthetic, which primarily revolves around the Manneken Pis or le Petit Julien, the landmark bronze fountain in Brussels which depicts a young lad urinating. The good folks at Brasserie Lefebvre make sure that you can’t mistake their Belgian White Beer for anything other than what it is—a uniquely European product.
Pour: This beer pours fast and with a bright, light body that caps off with a surprisingly strong white head. As with other wheat beers, the Blanche De Bruxelles does not contain a lot of movement once it has been successfully poured, and yet to call this beer stagnant would be a mistake. The Blanche De Bruxelles should sit in your glass with calm, reassuring reserve.
Taste: The typically Belgian tastes of coriander and orange peel are immediate, and so too is a rich and creamy aftertaste. Rather than being bitter like its Germanic counterparts from Germany or the United Kingdom, the Blanche De Bruxelles is a cloudy beer that tastes refreshing, crisp, and clean. If enjoyed in a long pokal, this beer will slide down your throat, reaching the back of your spinal column even before you are ready for your second sip. The one drawback here is that this beer doesn’t sit well if left unattended. For instance, if you are engaged in a dinner conversation, then your best bet is to drink with some giddy-up. Also, this beer is somewhat seasonal, with its best time being late summer/early autumn.
IBU: Unknown, but somewhere between 10 and 20