Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Beer O' the Moment : QPC Edition - #4

Amazingly, Saratoga racing season starts tomorrow, and that means it's time to wrap up our Quixotic quest for the perfect canned beer to occupy our cooler on our day(s) with the ponies. Our fourth challenger is something of a wild card, Ballantine XXX Ale. Legend has it that Ballantine was quite the tasty pale ale in its day, though those days are now long since past. In its current incarnation, Ballantine is owned by Pabst (though the label reads Falstaff), which itself is really nothing more than a corporate entity with a veritable who's who of formerly big name beers in its stable, most of which are now contract brewed for them by Miller. Pabst's impressive line of beers (not linkable, but seriously, check out these names) and lack of actual breweries is probably worthy of a post in itself, but we'll concentrate on the beer in hand for now.

Ballantine was founded in Newark, New Jersey in 1840 by Scottish immigrant Peter Ballantine, who had previously worked at a brewery in Albany prior to relocating to be closer to the New York City beer market. By 1877, it was the fourth largest brewery in the United States, and the largest that produced exclusively ales. The company struggled a bit and was sold out of the Ballantine family following Prohibition, but by 1950 had become popular enough to rank number three among U.S. breweries. The decline was fairly swift after that, as the brand was acquired first by Falstaff, which in turn was acquired by Heilman, which was soon acquired by Pabst. Pabst closed their last actual brewery in 2001, but the beers remain.

The very now "America's Largest Selling Ale". From the can, it pours a pale golden straw colour, with a finger-thick head that quickly dissipates to faint ring canned version that we purchased comes in an eye catching bright green aluminum ensemble decorated with an ovular logo bearing the famous Ballantine XXX Ale name, along with the interlocking three ring symbol (purity, body, flavor) and this dubious phrase: around the edge of the glass. The scent is a not unpleasant cross between faint hops and faint skunk, with a bit of sweetness underneath. That sweetness carries through to the flavour. It tastes not unlike a Genny Cream to be honest, which is certainly not a bad thing. This one is available at popular prices, proved to be surprisingly drinkable, even somewhat enjoyable, and it would certainly not be out of the question to quaff a couple while watching incredibly expensive horses race around in circles only to finish in the wrong order.

Contender: Ballantine XXX Ale
Style: American Pale Ale
Price: $3.99 for six 12 oz. cans

Verdict: Room for a couple in our cooler

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