Friday, December 7, 2012

The Session #70- Beating the Hype

This month’s edition of The Session is brought to us by thefine makers of Good Morning…  TheQuestion at hand deals with Hype that surrounds a beer:

How much does hype have an effect? Are we much better off knowing nothing about a beer, or is it better to have the knowledge as to what the best beers are?

Which beers do you think have been overhyped? How do you feel when a beerdoesn’t live up to its hype.
Is hype a good or bad thing for beer? Tell me what you think. I’m lookingforward to seeing what the general consensus is. 

This question came to their mind after partaking inWestvleteren 12 (otherwise known as Westy 12, one of the top rated beers in the world- which also is one of the hardest beers to get ahold of).

When looking back at the beers that I have drank, I feel fortunate to be able to say that I have had some beers that are hard to come by: Westy 8 and 12, Brewdog Abstrakt series, Troegs Splinter series, rare Belgians at Max’sBelgian Fest, etc. Before drinking the beer, I try to eliminate all possible expectations and premonitions. I want to taste the beer for what it is.  But I find that hard to do.

At times, I have been fooled, spent way too much on a beer,and didn’t enjoy it.  Other times, the beer lived up to its billing and made me glad to pay the price. But what I have found was more often than not, the beer would be good, not blow my socks off, but worthy of a drink, but maybe priced slightly higher than I would have thought. (I feel pricing of beer is probably the hardest thing do it,especially since palates and preferences change from person to person. And the vast variety of factors that can increase the price.)

Hype is a powerful motivating factor. Every year, around February, Troeg’s Nugget Nectar gets hyped up. I feel Nugget Nectar fulfills every need and want for hops in an amber ale, but to each their own. I have no problem shipping some down to Florida (get trade in exchange for some CigarCity), because I know the recipient will not be disappointed.  This is where hype can be a good thing.

There is a time when I think hype becomes a villain.  When Dogfish Head was featured on Discovery Channel’s Brew Masters tv show, I felt they were deserving of the recognition. I liked almost all of their beers, and would always recommend their beers to others.  People started  buying up 60 Minute IPA like crazy, because they saw it on the show (which is normally good). But to the non-IPA drinker, this microbrew was “undrinkable”. And I specifically remember that word being used many times from friends who still bought cases of Miller Lite. They thought that since Miller was triple hopped, they would like DFH too. I urged them to try a different beer later, but they refused due to the last experience. I blame it on my inability to educate them on styles, but in their head , they had one everlasting thought of “expensive stuff”.

Below is a list of beers that I have let myself hype up, and then be disappointed, followed by a list that was hyped up, and lived up to its billing:

Over Hyped:

He’Brew Jewbilation 13 Bar Mitzvah- While not a overhyped beer in the beer community, I thought it was going to be unique, and would be a great beer. My beer guy said he loved it and so I began hyping it up in my head. I was wrong. I felt it was way too overspiced and I struggled to finish it.

Bell’s Hopslam- I really like this beer. It is delicious,but such a pain to get a bottle of. And when I do, I prefer Nugget Nectar(which is also easy to get- for me).  The bars place Hopslam on a pedestal, price it high and it turns into an overpriced good beer.

Dogfish Head World Wide Stout and 120 Minute IPA- the hypetrain on these exploded with Brew Masters. People saw the ABV and though, this is the best thing ever. Again a beer that was hard to find for a year, but won’t blow your mind. It is good, yes. Am I going to go bonkers when I see it, no. I will take a Brewdog Tokyo if I want a super high ABV stout, or a Sierra Nevada Bigfoot barleywine if I want a big IPA.

Lived up to its billing:

Troegs Nugget Nectar- I was beginning to really get intoIPAs  when this beer showed up on tap. I seemed to always order Troegs, and when it was placed in front of me, I could already smell it. It drew me in and I cannot get enough. It is the best.
Sierra Nevada Bigfoot- While this beer is a good beer fresh, I was told to hold on to a couple, so I stored them in my basement. It was a year of anticipation, building the hype in my head day after day. Finally, when I popped one open, I could see why I was told to wait. The beer transforms in to one of the most drinkable beers at 9% abv. It is so dangerously drinkable, I make sure to warn my friends.

Brewdog Tokyo*- I was told this beer was delicious, and that I would want more. I didn’t believe them. It was handed to me, and I was unaware of what it was. I drank the 10 oz pour in 10 minutes or so. Not chugging, but definitely faster than I ever drink. This beer tastes like it is 6%. It was not. (It was 18.2%.) Needless to say, I only had one, and then a glass of water or two.

Westy 8/12- My brother didn’t know of the hype on these beers. He is a huge Belgian fan (of the beers he can actually buy) and was blown away (he liked the 8 more than the 12). I too was taken back. I know St. Bernardus might be “just as good”, but they each have their own nuances that puts Westy over the top. So glad I was able to apprehend some without having to swim the Atlantic.

I would like to reiterate that lists like this are completely personal preference, as you may hate Nugget Nectar and love HopSlam.That is a great tradeoff, you drink my HS, I’ll drink your NN. 

There are a few breweries that I am setting myself up for disappointment. My early acknowledgement of this may help me enjoy the beers more, or I will succome to disappointment and only drink BMC afterwards.  These breweries that I have not been able to drink yet are Russian River, New Glarius, Ninkasi , Jester King, and Hill Farmstead. I look forward to one day drinking their beers, but worry that my anticipation will hype me out of getting a clear read on the beer.

Friday, October 5, 2012

The Session #68

This month’s issue of The Session is produced by Tiffany over at 99 Pours.  Her topic of choice is Novelty Beers:
With the onslaught of even weirder beards…erm…beers…than before, I can’t help but wonder if novelty beers are going too far. Or maybe not far enough? LOL! As a merchant of beer, I can see the place for novelty beers, as I am choosing for some customers who say, “I want the strangest beer you have.

The novelty beer can sometimes drive me nuts. I shouldn’t see 10 pumpkin beers on the taplist in July. It just shouldn’t happen. I want to drink Oktoberfest beers in September and October, not July. A maibock is a spring beer, I don’t want to see it in January.  Heck, sometimes the seasonal Summer ales are called “Summer Ale”, and they show up in April.  Come on people. Anywho…

I love looking at a taplist to decide what I am drinking. I am not afraid to go off kilter and order something that I have never heard of (actually, I prefer that), something that I am scared of (hot peppers), or something that is using ingredients to play to the season (pumpkin). 

Thinking back to the brews that I have sampled, there are some that people would think were weird: Right Brain Little Italy Honey Basil, DuClaw HERO (2011- chocolate peanut butter porter), A billion different pumpkin and barrel aged beers (I don’t even like most of them), etc.

If I had to choose a beer that I enjoyed the most that included a unique or different ingredient, I might have to go with the DuClaw HERO (chocolate peanut butter porter). It was an easy beer to order, as I had heard that it was good, and I was in a dark beer mood at the time.  But my first reaction to the sip will be memorable. The first taste drew me into the beer. The chocolate and subtle yet appealing peanut butter tastes weren’t sickly sweet (kind of what I imagined), but rather they stood balanced with the malt and hops, like a perfect little triangle.  

I had tasted winners and losers when ordering novelty beers, but this was one winner that I could drink most days.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Coming into Autumn

As the temperature outside starts to dip (in the 50s last night), it makes me start to think about the great beers that are a coming. I have posted before saying that I love a huge hop hit after a summer of light drinking brews. 

One beer that I don’t feel the need to drink is the plethora of “pumpkin” beers that flood the market, and yes, I too will rant on why the hell are pumpkin beers showing up in August. I have pumpkin fields less than a mile from my house, there has not been enough time for a brewery to use the pumpkin in the beer.  Finally, I have seen some labels that describe it with pumpkin spices, instead of claiming to use pumpkins.  One that I will recommend is Oliver Ales pumpkin beer (Freddy's Revenge), as he has documented the roasting of the pumpkins online, and the flavor is pretty good (even though I am not a huge pumpkin person myself).

But I do love Oktoberfest style beers, whether they are ales or lagers, they always seem to be easy drinking, balanced beers that work well for anyone.  You can add a second dose of hops to give it something different if you are making a homebrew. 

As for commercial breweries, everyone should have had Sam Adams Oktoberfest by now, if not, they released it this year in July, so go out and grab one. Spaten, Ayinger and Paulander seem to be the default German beers that people drink, and I fully support those decisions. I like to grab a Flying Dog Dogtoberfest, one of the reasons being the awesome name and artwork. Victory does what Victory does and hops up their Festbier.  Great Lakes also makes one of the easiest drinking Oktoberfests, so that is always a recommendations.

Whether you like the dark warming beers that are on the horizon, the spiced up pumpkin beers that are taking over the shelf or the balanced Oktoberfest beers, enjoy what you like with friends and always be responsible.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Session #66- My Frankenstein Beer

For this version of The Session, Craig over at drinkdrank ponders:
We all have our favorite brews—even if you say you don't; deep,deep down we all do. From IPAs to Pilsners, Steam Beers to Steinbiers, something out there floats your boat. What if we look that to another level? What if you were to design the perfect brew—a Tolkien-esque One Beer to Rule Them All. The perfect beer for you, personally. Would it be hoppy and dark or strong and light? Is it augmented with exotic ingredients or traditionally crafted? Would your One Beer be a historic recreation or something never before dreamt of? The sky is the limit on this one...

I'd suspect that most of you out there probably have a good understanding about the brewing process—but if you don't, no sweat, just wing it. This exercise isn't about making sure you've checked all the right boxes for the BJCP or some homebrew competition. This Session is all about imagining the possibilities—no matter how ridiculous! Feel free to create a recipe, right down to the aplha acid in your hops or conjure up a review just like you'd do for any other beer. However you want to come at this, it's your ultimate beer, your One Beer to Rule Them All!

When I start to think about my favorite beers, what I want from a beer, and what characteristics I love most about beers, my mind just about explodes. Anywhere from Troegs Nugget Nectar, Saison Dupont, Orval, Flying Dog Raging Bitch, Victory Prima Pils, Anchor Steam, Great Divide Yeti... the list goes on and on. There are different characteristics in each beer that I love and respect. So to craft my "prefect brew" would and will be hard, but I can do it.

First off, the number one thing that I love about beer is the aroma. And I am in heaven when it comes to Nugget Nectar. The hops just up from the bottle and smack you in the face. (Sure, some people can put Bell's Hopslam here, but I prefer Nugget Nectar.) Next, when you go to pour the bottle, you need to have a beautiful looking glass, and nothing is more pleasent than the Duvel tulip. While I love the look of crystal clear pilsners (Prima Pils), I would choose the appearance of North Coast Old Rasputin. Jet black means business. No one messes around with that beer.

When it comes to bitterness, I love a enamel erasing hop bomb, but that would not be ideal. I want something that I can enjoy over and over. So the mildly bitter, yet still there, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale would do. It has too much bitterness for BMC drinkers, yet is balanced enough for hopheads.  I would want the malt to give a slightly roasted, yet sweet taste that works well with typical citrus hops. Very similar to a Ithaca Cascazilla mixed with a touch of Yuengling Porter.

When the beer hits your mouth, I want it to be smooth, with a little body to make sure you know it is there. That is how I feel Anchor Steam is. It doesn't make you chew, rather it is a nice smooth brew. I would choose a session strength (lower than 4.5% in my book) to help round out the drinkability. I want to be able to be responsible, while still enjoying multiple in a setting.

Finally, what I want most out of the beer, is for it to be able to create memories, and that is the most important.  I want it to be enjoyed by my friends, family and anyone else who has one.  I want the night to be remembered for the great times and conversation, and for us to remember those times with every sip of the beer.  For that I would call my beer:

Memories Ale.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Finding Good Beer in your Travels

Zeno's in State College
I love going to new and different places. I love finding a neat little beer bar. Sometimes you get lucky and walk into a place that has 8 awesome taps, other times it is all BMC. For me, I have started preparing before I get to my destination to know where I might want to go. But for those times when you show up, what can you do?

1. Think Local. Is there a local brewery or brewpub? Stop in and have a drink. Chat up the staff. Most will know the local beer bars and where their beer is located. 

2. Stay away from chain restaurants. I always try to stay local when eating, and I have yet to find a chain that has a good selection of quality craft brews. The big boys pay for this spot on the taps.

3. It’s all in the Apps.
  • Untappd- If you aren’t a part of it, it is a beer social network that allows you to log your beers, where you drank them and view what others are drinking. This becomes useful when you use the “Nearby” feature. You can see what other users are drinking near you, and many times where (the bar)- showing what is on tap at the places.
  • RateBeer Places app- RateBeer is a website that allows users to rate and review beer. Its app allows for you to search for a bar/brewery/brewpub using the GPS on your phone. Very convenient, and since it is a beer ratings app they bars have a star rating.
  • BeerCloud- BeerCloud is another app that allows for user input on bars and become “fans” of the bar. I don’t think this is as good of a resource as Untappd or Ratebeer Places, but it is another that could be useful.
  • Foursquare- This is good for letting you know that people are there, but it not being a beer app, there isn’t much of a filter on whether it is a good or bad beer place.
Overall, I like to preplan for my trips, but when you are there, you never know what info you want or need. Hopefully these tips can help direct you to good beer in the future.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Session 65- Go it alone

While I was not ready and prepared for The Session #65, I decided to go ahead and post late anyhow.

The Session was hosted by Nate over at Booze, Beats & Bites.  He mused:

How do you feel about going to the pub alone? Do you feelit’s necessary to be around friends to spend time in a pub?
If you have ever talked to me, or read a couple of my older posts from when I lived in Baltimore, you would know that I would have no problem going to the pub alone. Every Thursday, I would head down to McGoverns, but there I knew a bunch of friends lie within.

For a couple of years, I would meet a friend at Max's Taphouse every Wednesday (take the pint night). After he left the city, I continued to go. I met some others who went most weeks, and they became friends.

But mostly, I was there alone. And 90% of the time, I loved it.  It gave me 1-2 hours of peace after work. Time to drink pints of some of the best beer on earth, time to catch up on the sports that were on TV,  and also a bit of time to think about blog posts or how to review different beers.

The acquisition of an iPhone lead to a whole new function. Directly posting from the pub became fun. Looking up facts on the different beers or breweries became habit (it was before untappd became an app).

But most of all, I loved meeting new people. The simple question, "So, what's in your glass?", would lead to either a recommendation or a conversation. Both things I would accept. Social interaction and beer, hand in hand.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Homebrew in the Neighborhood

I have always felt that my brother was as fortunate as he could be when he was in Ann Arbor. He has a group of 4 other guys that would schedule brewdays. Sometimes it would only be one of them brewing, other days it would be all. This same group of families would organize the community picnics and other fun activities as well.

When I bought a house, and finally got settled, I purchased my homebrew kit. After a bunch of my personal batches, and sharing whenever I could with the neighbors, I finally finished up bottling the batch brewed for a neighbor. He was interested in the hobby as a way to save a little cash on beer, and it turned into a great way for him to drink good beer (his wife is a Miller 64 person).

Tonight, we bottled his amber/oktoberfest ale. It was a very simple recipe, putting more emphasis being a bit malty at (6%), than having a strong bitterness to it.  Bottling has been delayed multiple times since we brewed, but not having a huge hop load to it, plus having the airlock on the entire time with a pretty constant temperature, I have no fear that when this beer is fully conditioned, it will be fantastic. 

We enjoy going over to his house to use his pool, and I cannot wait to enjoy this beer in the near future.  Now we just need to get a couple more people involved, get a pig roaster and an inflatable bounce house for the kids, and we will be in business.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

The Pale Ale- Session #64

For this issue of The Session #64, The Beer Babe decided it was time to focus on a over-utilized, yet under-appreciated style, the Pale Ale:
What is the one beer style usually makes up the first position in the sample flight, but yet is usually the one that we never get really excited about? The Pale Ale.

While this style serves as the foundation to its big-hoppy-brother the India Pale Ale, lately “Pale Ale” has become a throwaway term. I hear bartenders and servers using it to describe everything from Pilsners to unfiltered wheat beers (I wish I was kidding). 

While I am not taking her advice to sample and do a comparison review of two pale ales, I will chip in my feelings.

First, a brewpub needs to have a pale ale. It is a simple base beer, that can be embraced by almost any drinker. I love to promote my idea of Base Beers. These are beers that set that baseline on whether or not another beer is bad, ok, good, or great. For me, when I walk into a brewpub/brewery/bar and order a pale ale, I like to put it up against Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Is it the best? No, but I don't think there is one person on earth that can say that is it bad.

For our Memorial Day cabin weekend, we always make sure to bring some selection of pale ales. This year, a friend picked up some Sierra Nevada cans (yes, we were in the woods, so cans were very appropriate) to go along with all the other good stuff (including another friend's beer of the month club selections, my Founder's variety case, and multiple homebrews). What is amazing about a quality pale ale is that it can cross the boundaries.  One friend who was at the cabin drinks whatever is basically the cheapest. Another enjoys the Shocktop variety, while two more, would rather an enamel stripping IPA. But the common theme was that everyone was enjoying the pale ale.

Finally, what I think I enjoy the most about the basic pale ale is the drinkability. Many are in the 4-6% abv range. And that is where I like to be. My homebrews are (for the most part) 5.5-6%.  I know that in that range, I can have a few and still be fully coherent.  Most people would be ok. Sure it is no "pure session" beer (under 4%), but for a group of people not leaving the cabin for the day it is perfect.

So if I walk into a place that has their own pale ale, I look for them to make a good one. It might not be the absolutely best beer I ever had, but it should be a beer that many people can enjoy.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The A-B-Cs

A month or so ago, I saw the Sam Adam's commercial on television that talks about their ABCs of Great Beer. While I do like their ABCs:

I just got thinking about what would be the ABCs of my perfect beer. First off, I would have to find out what I liked in beer, next I would have to figure out what words I can use to fulfill the A, B and C.

So here is my list:

Attitude is what the beer say to you. I want a beer that once that sip hits your lips it says HI. It lingers in your thoughts. When you think of it, your mouth waters a little bit. Each beer has an attitude, the great ones develop their own.

Bitterness is not only for super hopped up beers. Sometimes it is the mild bitterness that can make the biggest difference in a beer. Just because it has 120 IBUs does not make it great. What can make it great is the way the bitterness is used to hide some of the alcohol, break up the sweetness, or give it another layer.
Conversation has nothing to do with the pour, color or head retention. What it is about is how well the beer goes with friends. I love sharing conversation over a pint, starting a conversation with a stranger over what is in their glass, or just having a conversation with myself (yeah, I am kind of crazy) in my head about the beer.

These three things give me joy when it comes to drinking good craft beer. If I have a beer with attitude, the right bitterness, and hit helps create a conversation, I will consider it a great beer.

What are your ABCs?

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Moment- Session #63

This month's issue of the The Session is brought to you by the number 63 Pete Brown's Beer Blog:
So in that spirit, my choice of topic is this: simply, the Beer Moment.

What is it?

Well, what is it to you?  What does that phrase evoke for you?

That's the most important thing here.  Switch off and float downstream, what comes to mind?  Don't analyse it - what are the feelings, the emotions?

My beer moment comes way before that first pint is drawn. Before the bottle or can is opened. It comes with a phone call, text or email checking to see if a friend wants to grab a beer.  That is the one of the best moments available.

I travel from my house to my hometown way too often in my eyes (sometimes every other week). It is a short trip, around 2 hours. While we usually have a list of things that we want to do while home, one of the things we try to make time for is a drink with friends. Sometimes it is to grab a quick lunch, other times it is to get to the brewpub 30 minutes before last call (their last call is at midnight). But either way, it usually starts with that call, text or email.

That moment continues to expand. No matter what the subject of the conversation is (usually beer, baseball, work or our houses), the genuine feeling of camaraderie is what makes us have a pint poured over and over (thank goodness for Session beers).

So I guess that would have to be my moment.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Session #62- Why Blog

This month's issue of The Session is being held by Brewpublic, and the question is, What Drives Beer Bloggers?

Your mission as a craft beverage blogger reading this post, should you choose to accept it, is to compose a post on the topic of “What Drives Beer Bloggers.” There are no rigid guidelines about how to write about this topic but we’d certainly love to hear about the history behind your blog, your purpose in creating it, its evolution, and/or what your goals in keeping it going.

Way back on March 5, 2009, I started this thing, and posted "What this is". It was my first post, explaining that I was going to basically do beer reviews:
I am going to post about the beer I try. I am not a beer geek, or a beer snob. I know what I like, and hope others can like some of the same beers. Most of the time, I am a IPA, or another super hopped up beer type of person, but I do enjoy most styles (other than the american light beers).If you do read this, please post your own favorite beer.Gracias.  

Let me take a second and deconstruct that first statement to what I feel I have become.
  • "I am going to post about the beer I try."- Sure I post a lot of reviews, but I also try to mix it up a bit with some newsy type items, homebrewing, or just random thoughts. I try not to have controversial topics, but I do think I have an open mind when it comes to those items.
  • "I am not a beer geek, or a beer snob."- I think I have become a beer geek, and have one thing about me that could make me a snob (I ask for a glass to pour my bottled beer in, although I will occasionally drink it without one). I am a beer knowledge junkie and want to soak up as much as possible.
  • "I know what I like, and hope others can like some of the same beers."- I have found that I did not know what I liked, but was willing to try multiple styles and my tastes are starting to develop. I am not an expert taster, or judge, but I can pick out certain flavors. Three years ago, I was just starting to branch out and try crazier beers, now I get excited to drink them.
  • "Most of the time, I am a IPA, or another super hopped up beer type of person"- I still love IPAs, but I also love sours, saisons, belgian dubbels, porters, pale ales, wheats, etc.  I don't have a dominant style that I drink (well, compared to only drinking IPAs).
  • "but I do enjoy most styles (other than the american light beers)"- I can appreciate almost any style. There are some that I don't like as much as others (darn you Scotch ales), but I can put them into perspective, and I just don't order them often. I still hate American light beers.
  • "If you do read this, please post your own favorite beer"- I do want to know what others are drinking and enjoying. That was a huge part of me joining Twitter and becoming more involved with social media. I like to know what else is out there.

Basically that is what this blog is to me.  It is a place where I can post my beer reviews, share my thoughts and let everyone know what I like.  It also helps me continue my drive of beer geekery, and of course, the Beer Bracket. I have gone from a strict hophead to a lover of all fine crafted ales.  I hope you can start your own journey, or continue this journey with me .

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Beer People are Good People- Cigar City for me

When a beer lover on Twitter (@Skurnie) mentioned that he had never had a taste of Troegs Nugget Nectar, I felt the need to share with him the goodness (I am fortunate enough to have my fair share of draft, bottle and cask Nugget Nectar), as well as a bottle of this past years Mad Elf.

He replied that he would then send me some good Florida brews- Cigar City. Cigar City is sometimes found around (mostly in the Philly area), but I haven't had the pleasure of trying any.  When I opened up the box from him, I was instantly excited. Seven bottles of goodness. 

The first that I knew I was going to drink was the Jai Alai. A beer that is probably the most known (maybe second, as Hunahpu has gained a bit of a cult status with their Dark Lord Day style release party.

Jai Alia poured a beautiful golden orange color, while citrusy aromas wafted from the glass. A bit of pineyness came from the head, but only on second sniff.  I couldn't resist the beer.  The intense grapefruit hops taste is the dominant feature, although the malt does not get lost.  A sweetness breaks through, giving it a touch of depth. The bitterness lingers throughout the beer, continually holding on though the moderate carbonation and mouthfeel.

Overall, this is a great IPA. Exactly what I look for in a bitter beer.  Delicious.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Final Four- 2012 Beer Bracket

It comes down to these four teams. The best of the best from the East (Troeg's Nugget Nectar), West (Green Flash West Coast IPA), World (O'Hara's Stout), and Big Beers (North Coast Old Rasputin). Next weekend we will have our 2012 champion.  Fortunately, many people will have the ability to drink the winner, as all four beers are available in many places.

It will be an IPA vs Stout final (if you consider Nugget Nectar an IPA). There is the possibility of having an All-California final- with both Green Flash (San Diego) and North Coast (Fort Bragg) located in the Golden State. So much excitement.

And the Full Bracket: