Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Beers of 2008

Here are the best beers I had in 2008, in no particular order...

  • Sierra Nevada 12th Release Harvest Wet Hop Ale
  • Stone 08.08.08 Vertical Epic
  • Flying Dog Double Dog Double Pale Ale
  • Flying Dog Kerberos Tripel
  • Green Flash West Coast IPA
  • Avery Out of Bounds Stout
  • Mendocino Special Edition Imperial IPA
  • Anchor Summer Beer
  • Three Floyd's Alpha King Pale Ale
  • Abita 20th Anniversary Pilsner
  • Empire Brewing Company India Pale Ale
  • Rogue Smoke Ale
  • Troegs Rugged Trail Nut Brown
  • Anchor Christmas Ale 2008 (Our Special Ale #34)
  • Stoudt's Fat Dog Oatmal Stout
  • Sierra Nevada 2008 Anniversary Ale
  • Thomas Hooker Hop Meadow IPA
  • Berkshire Cabin Fever Ale
  • Shipyard Prelude (Special Ale)
  • Custom Brewcrafters Canandaigua Lake Ale
  • Gemini Imperial IPA
  • Middle Ages Boxing Day Bitter
To all our readers: may the best of your 2008 be the worst of your 2009. We look forward to reading all of what you all have to say in the coming year. We also will be announcing a change to our site, for both of you that are interested. We look forward to providing flawed insight and ill-informed opinions -- and lots more of it than ever -- in the next year.

Cheers! From BeerJanglin'

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Cans! My Antique Cans!

It wasn't long ago that drinking beer that came from cans was considered something far too gauche for the drinker of finer beers. But brewers such as Saranac, Sly Fox and Oskar Blues have been scoffed at such constraints. Now, rather than being ignoble, canned beer is considered just as acceptable as bottled beer. In some cases, it may even be better for transport and storage purposes.

Plus, we all pour them into a glass anyway, don't we?

Long gone is the metallic taste that used to creep into the Miller Lites and Coorses of our youth. Since the "can liner" was pioneered by Keystone*, we have not had to add aluminum to our tasting notes.
With this stigma now removed, I felt little guilt about purchasing a twelve pack of four canned beers by Butternuts Beer and Ale in Garrattsville, New York. Butternuts' website describes their mission thusly:

It's a place where common men brew approachable beers for other common men. Translation? No pretentious eight dollar a bottle Weenieweissers allowed. Here, the ingredients are simple and natural. The brewer's art is practiced with creativity and reverence to the old code. The beers are eminently drinkable.

And farting is funny.
(Believe it or not, none of us at BeerJanglin' added that last line.)

So there is a clear -- some might say belabored -- credo to appeal to the "just plain folks" demographic; in fact, the site often takes irreverent potshots at the classic English and German styles. But will they apply the same irreverent whimsy to their beers?

The first beer I tried from the four options was the Porkslap, a pale ale that is also curiously labeled a Farmhouse Ale. (I later realized that all four of the beers were misleadingly labeled "Farmhouse Ale," being that they are apparently brewed in a rustic area.)

Porkslap pours a big fluffy head. There is a massive amount of carbonation climbing up the yellow-orange-amber colors. There is a decent amount of haze in the glass, but still remains somewhat clear. The aroma is spicy, with some crystallish pale malts. There is a touch of some orange peel and citrus. The curious earthiness that I might expect in a hefeweizen. Is it really a farmhouse ale?

The taste is a pretty typical pale malt taste, but with almost zero hops. There is a slight citrus taste that could be attributed to a hop but little more. It's not bad, but it's crystal malts or bust. The feel is fizzy and bubbly. It's not a great beer but for the right price it's not a bad one.

My second selection was the traffic-light yellow Snapperhead IPA. It pours a nice finger of fluffy white head. Not exactly clear, but not what you would call cloudy either. It resembles a bright pilsner.

The aroma is of a pale ale, or an English pale ale; certainly not your typical American IPA. Some citrusy hops do come in, but they are sweet and very very mild. The smell is weak -- not bad, just weak. And another oddly earthy tobacco in the malt.

The taste is more heavily toasted malt than anything. It's a surprise. It ends up being bitter on the back of the tongue. The hops are citrusy but very sharp; tart, astringent, almost acidic. There are two bitters: the burnt kind and the grapefruity kind. It actually could use more of that earthy balance in the malt that it had in the aroma.

The beer feels fizzy on the tongue like ginger ale. It is a very sharp drink, lots of bitter flavors and not enough balance for my liking. It's average.

Third on the list was the thick and milky Moo Thunder Stout. It isn't the most impressive beer I've ever had because of the lack of head; instead it has a brown film that floats atop. It is a black color with a brown tinge at the edges. It's about average to look at.

But the rest of it gets a heckuva lot better.

The smell is sweet raisin and black licorice. Granted, I hate black licorice, but it fits here. It's not burnt or bitter. It's sweet, and even just a bit sour in a good way. The first sip is slighly roasted stout flavors. More of that sour raisin to balance the roasted malts, which are very nice. It's tart because of that sweet raisiny taste, and really pleasant because of it. Comes in as it warms with toffee, caramel and molasses. The feel is milky smooth --appropriately -- and just a tad bubbly. It's quite good.

The fourth beer in the pack, the Weissbier, really surprised me. It pours a cloudy-as-hell banana yellow. There is no head, but it doesn't seem to move. Appears slightly illuminated.

The Weissbier has a pungent and spicy Belgian-ish ale aroma. Also, it has the sweetness and wheat base of a hefeweizen. Mostly it's orange peel and a hint of banana. Very strong and very pleasant.

The taste is citrusy and orange. It has the flavor of Belgian spice, which is subdued but acts as a nice accent. Sweet in an appropriate way. It's puckery at the end. It feels milky and bubbly, dry at the swallow. This is a surprisingly nice wheat beer. It has the sweetness of a hefeweizen, with the wheaty mildness of a witbier.

In my ever-so-humble opinion, the Weissbier and the Moo Thunder are the class of the pack, although the Porkslap is their flagship beer. Here's hoping that if cans are truly the superior method of beer transport, that some of our finer breweries begin making the move so maybe our beers will stay out of the light, and last longer.
*I have no idea if this is actually true.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ithaca Excelsior! White Gold

With all the fast-moving happenings in the craft brewing world, we have been remiss in being slow to ignore some of the good things that the Ithaca Brewing Company has been doing lately. I first took notice on Thanksgiving weekend, when I noticed that their seasonal twelve-pack was absent the previously ubiquitous Apricot Wheat beer (a popular beer of which I am not particularly fond).

Instead, the twelver has four solid offerings: the decent Pale Ale, the gloriously hoppy Cascazilla, the surprisingly nice Oaked Nut Brown and my favorite winter offering, Gorges Porter.

Ithaca has also thrown their hat into the Big Beer movement, by offering 22-ounce bottles of new beers, in their Excelsior! series. They have just announced the release of their new αlpHαlpHα Double Honey Bitter and it has become clear that we are way behind in getting in on the Ithaca action.

[Note: It is going to be hard to find information about the Excelsior! series on Ithaca Beer's own website since it's not listed among their beers. They may want to get on that.]

Ithaca has released a beer in the series called White Gold, which is labelled as a "Strong Pale Wheat Ale." The label describes the beer thusly:

A Belgo-American Ale brewed with domestic barley and French wheat malts, the finest Continental and U.S. grown hops, and fermented with Belgian, English and Wild yeasts.

Here's what I thought about it:

The look is a very clear straw-yellow color. It has a massive puffy head when poured into a tulip glass. The liquid is anything but static; quite the contrary, it looks like champagne on the interior, with throngs of upfloating bubbles rushing to the surface. Other than that, it is very clear, appropriately so. With each sip, it leaves a thick and frothy lace.

The aroma is of the typical wheat vardiety, with only a mild spiciness that comes more from the mild hop than from any possible Belgian yeasts. There are fruit flavors that come through like a light accent, mostly lemon, orange peel and apple. The malts are estery and crystalline, a little spicy.

The flavor is primarily apples: the sweet red kind and the sour green kind. All this is balanced by a dry wheaty base. The beer is both sweet and spicy; you could call it Franco-Belgian. Surprising taste of pineapple, as well as a mild leafy hop. The pale malts mix well with that wheaty "twang" (as the kids are calling it these days). At the end of the sip, it turns slightly more sour, probably due to warmth. All these sweetish/spicy/sour flavors blend nicely with a frosty thickness on the tongue, lending themselves to a feel that is both bubbly and creamy.

White Gold is sweeter than most beers of its ilk, but it's balanced enough on the other ends of the spectrum to make it very drinkable. While there is a hint of sour and lots of other tree fruits that make it a good beer for girls and boys.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas From Beerjanglin'

NPR had a solid little story on Christmas beers yesterday. Solid mostly because it featured Don "Joe Sixpack" Russel and his considerable knowledge on the subject. You can give it a read or listen here. And check out Joe Sixpack's top 10 Christmas beers, it's about as sound a list as you'll find:

10 Christmas Beers, From Soup To Nuts

Mad Elf Beer Bottle and glass.

"Think fruitcake, but not the awful one made by your Aunt Bertha," Russell says of Troegs Mad Elf. "This beer tastes like it's been aged in an apple cider cask." Courtesy Don Russell

Samichlaus bottle and glass.

Advertised as "The Strongest Lager Beer In The World," Samichlaus has 14 percent alcohol — that's three times as strong as the average beer. Make sure you have a designated sleigh driver. Courtesy Don Russell

Smuttynose Winter Ale (New Hampshire), a sweet dark beer with notes of cherry and chocolate. Pair with snapper soup.

Stille Nacht (Belgium), a sweet, very strong pale ale. Pair with a washed-rind cheese such as Limburger.

Troegs Mad Elf (Pennsylvania), a strong dark ale brewed with cherries and honey. Pair with bacon quiche.

Mahr's Christmas Bock (Germany), a classic, malty Bavarian bock. Pair with a sausage plate.

Anchor Our Special Ale (California), a spiced winter warmer with a spruce aroma. Pair with cranberry salad.

Samuel Smith's Winter Welcome (England), a classic unspiced winter warmer with mellow roasted malt. Pair with roasted turkey.

Anderson Valley Winter Solstice (California), a spiced winter warmer with warming vanilla notes. Pair with pumpkin pie.

Baladin Noel (Italy), a Belgian-style strong dark ale with a vibrant, spicy yeast character. Pair with those red-and-green-wrapped Hershey kisses.

Samichlaus (Austria), a smooth, brandylike triple bock. Pair with a cigar next to the fireplace.

Gouden Carolus Noel (Belgium), a strong dark ale spiced with herbs. Pair with salted pecans.

Merry Christmas, whatever you're drinking.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


At the risk of eschewing actual content for cheapie YouTube posts, this one caught me during the first half of today's Bills-Broncos game.

We all know that the "Drinkability" concept/campaign is laughable at best and audience-insulting at worst. All beverages are drinkable. This would be akin to McDonald's starting a campaign proudly trumpeting that their food is "Edible." It's a silly campaign, although not as desperate as their "It's so clear you can't hide its flaws" campaign with The Daily Show's usually amusing Rob Riggle. [Note: I cannot find any of these Riggle-laden commercials anywhere. I'm wondering if Bud realized how insipid and ridiculous they were and removed them from all existence.]

What struck me about this commercial though -- and it might be harder to see on the YouTube clip than it is on TV -- is the James Spader lookalike to the right of the screen who has just taken a sip of his Bud Light and proclaims "Man, that's good." See below.

The look on his face tells me that the beer is actually anything BUT good. His face resembles that of a person who had to ingest barium sulfate before a medical test. If that isn't the textbook definition of "choking it down," I don't know what is.

I think Bud is losing it.

If your goal is to make a drink that's "easy to swallow," as the commercial would indicate, then maybe you should get out of the goddamn beer business and into the iced tea business. Is beer really that hard to swallow? Have beer drinkers been reporting this as a problem? Are we gagging on our ales?

Some might think that BeerJanglin' is anti-Budweiser. And some might not be completely wrong. But we are getting very tired of the trend of this Belgian-owned company spreading blatant falsehoods, especially while claiming themselves to be the "Great American Lager." Drinkability. Clarity. Patriotism. All reasons that you should shun the craft brewing industry and drink Bud.


[Update: I was searching for Beer Ad articles online, and came up with this 2004 NPR/Slate spot by Seth Stevenson that talked about the battle between Miller's "President of Beers" and Bud's "disproportionate response" (their words). Interestingly, it's notable that one of Bud's main contentions of its superiority over Miller was that Miller was bought about by "a South African company" and therefore were somehow less patriotic. Oops!]

Friday, December 19, 2008

ECP Approved

Wow, it's been over a year since I twice posted. No, I have not stopped drinking beer. And yes, I have moved from Schenectady. I just felt now was the time for us to catch up.

So here is a list of recently approved beers, breweries, or bars:

Chatham Brewing

Located in lovely Columbia County (my new home), they produce some quality beers. I really enjoy the Porter. Great place to enjoy one? Peint o Gwrw in Chatham.

Yuengling Black and Tan

The economy isn't good. But this beer is. $8.99 for a 12 pack? Yes, please!

Pittsfield Brew Works

A favorite of the Beerjanglin' staff. This a great staff, and the Sampler is awesome.

Southport Brewing Company

I don't remember much about my trip to Milford. It rained. A lot. I drank. A lot. But I do remember this spot. It had its own beer, which I am sure was good. But they had pitchers. Of Genny Cream. God bless 'em.

King Authur's Brewpub

This gem in Oswego is of course ECP approved. Try the Red Dragon ale.

Southern Tier Pumking

Is it the fall yet Yet?

Schultz and Dooley

In the ECP hall of fame!

I am glad we could catch up!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Beer Review - Southern Tier Cuvee: Series One

When stumbling upon what appeared to be a nondescript convenience store -- Stafford Convenience Store, corner of Stafford and Sunnycrest in Eastwood, Syracuse, NY -- I was surprised to see, for the first time, Series One of Southern Tier Cuvee.

Apparently, Southern Tier will be putting out three separate series of oak-aged beers. The first series, released in October, will be in French oak; the second series, released in February, will use American oak; the third series, available when the last of the snow will finally have melted in June, will likely be a combination of the two.

And spoiler alert, because the label gives away some of the beer's secrets:

ALE IMPRESSIONS: Light copper color, slight malt flavor with mild bitterness, dry finish with subtle hop aroma.
FRENCH OAK IMPRESSIONS: Qualities of toasted coconut, almond biscotti and toasted almonds with a taste of honeysuckle.
11.0% abv. • individually boxed, foil labeled 22 oz bottle
But more importantly, what did I think? I broke out a tulip glass and my notebook and took a crack at it.

This beer is very attractive, worthy of its provocative French moniker. The color is honey and copper. Though the head starts puffy (possibly due to a suspect pour), it disappears pretty quickly. It's not a clear beer, but puts out a hazy glow like a lava lamp. The carbonation is infinitesimal.

When hoisting this unwieldy glass toward the nasal cavity, the first smell -- naturally -- is of oak. The oak masks a second wave of heavy Belgian ale spice. The caramel malts come through to add both another level of flavor and another level of balance. It smells woody, roasted and dry.

The taste opens up a veritable pandora's box of flavor, a menagerie of disparate flavors. I was able to taste: oak, vanilla accents, Belgian ale spices, raisin, strong alcohol, caramel, molasses, a nutty malt and coconut. (To be fair, I'm not sure I would have detected the coconut if I hadn't read it on the label first. Ah the power of suggestion.)

The label mentions that there is creme brulee in the flavor, but to me that comes out much more like vanilla, caramel and molasses, and not the strong sense of Southern Tier's recent Creme Brulee Milk Stout. The beer is creamy and fizzy, and leaves a nice little remnant on the tongue.

It's a beer that's actually greater than the sum of it's parts. As far as drinkability goes, it's superior. At 11% alcohol by volume, there wasn't a moment at which I was choking it down. In fact, I was surprised to find it was gone before I was finished writing everything down about it. Which meant I had to pour another glass. And fast.

According to the Southern Tier website, Series Two will feature a more roasted, possibly more bitter, flavor. It should be more oaky, but with "a creamy intensity." Series Three will ... ah who the hell knows. I'm just glad I got to try this one.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Say It Ain't So, Governor

Now that we are "officially" in a recession, it is no secret that many state governments are in a bit of a negative cash flow situation. Given that New York State depends on Wall Street for roughly 20% of revenues, it shouldn't be shocking that we are in a bit more of a fiscal bind than most. Governor David Paterson today released his sure-to-be-popular proposed budget, which is designed to spread the pain around to, apparently, everyone who has ever lived in, visited, or heard of New York.** One unpleasant "revenue action" (how's that for a euphemism?) that happened to catch my eye: a more than 100% increase in the excise on beer.

Increase Beer and Wine Tax Rates. Increases the excise tax on wine and beer to approximately the average of surrounding states. The tax on wine would increase from 18.9 cents per gallon to 51 cents per gallon, and the beer tax would increase from 11 cents per gallon to 24 cents per gallon. Alcohol excise taxes were last increased in 1991.
Ouch. It's not as ugly as the excise increase on wine, but he is proposing allowing the sale of wine in grocery stores. Oh, yeah, there would also be an "obesity tax" on the sale of non-diet soda (or pop, depending on from whence in the state you hail). Times are tough all over.

** It should be noted that I think Governor Paterson is doing, to this point, a fairly credible job in a rather untenable situation.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Wine Snobs Become Bud Geeks!

A Hat Tip to Brookston Beer Bulletin for inspiration...

Let's break down this Budweiser commercial for a moment. Two wine snobs sit at an upscale tavern where the chesty Christine Scott Bennett is tending bar. They are debating as to where their wine comes from. One says, "It tastes like Sonoma Valley," to which the other rebukes, "These grapes are VERY Sierra foothills."

At which point, our dreamy tavern maid jumps in with, "Idaho!"

No, she is not saying that "She [is] da hoe," nor does she have Tourette's. Rather, she begins to explain where the hops in Budweiser -- the Belgian beer company -- are harvested. Idaho, as all beer aficianados can tell you, is the home of "fields of the finest hops known to man." This fact is irrefutable.

But what better way to empirically prove the superiority of Idaho hops than by pouring -- unsolicited, mind you -- two large pilsner glasses filled with Budweiser. (It's an American-style macro lager, for those of you unfamiliar with this Belgian company.)

So dumbstruck and embarrassed are these two pseudo-sommeliers, that they are shamed into purchasing Budweisers for everyone in the bar! Clearly, these men -- because of their appreciation for wine -- are men of class and taste, and probably have high-paying jobs in the private sector which would allow them to afford such an outrageous bar tab. Apparently, they took one look at this exotic yellow beer and decided that it was time to say "enough" to all this stuffy wine talk and get down to a real workingman's drink! (One question, however: why is it that these men would argue about the origins of the grapes in the wine they are drinking, when they could just as easily look on the bottle's label or Google the answer via their BlackBerries?)

A quick cut to the Budweiser logo, with the words "The Great American Lager (Please Drink Responsibly)" and the Rock and/or Roll sounds of Jet's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl?" This song represents that the buttoned-up world that these two stagnant males were living in has just been rocked! (Or possibly rolled.)

But just knowing that these men are going on to better drinking isn't enough. You have to watch ... the process. When we return to our wine connois-snores, they are practically obsessed with this stuff! Mr. Sierra Foothills asks Mr. Sonoma Valley if he's "feeling the hops?" Mr. Sonoma replies, "I'm SO-O-O feelin' the hops!" as he wafts the aroma of those bitter hops into his nasal cavity. You know, just like real beer geeks do. Oh, and suddenly there are two comely young blonde lasses who have just sidled up to them. Apparently buying $2.50 beers for the house make a woman swoon. Cut and print!

Thanks Budweiser, for capturing what it's like to be a real beer drinker.

Friday, December 12, 2008

21 Things About Prohibition

We would be remiss if we didn't give a quick shout to our man and FotB (Friend of the Blog) Lew Bryson for his really excellent breakdown of 21 points about prohibition and repeal. I can't even begin to do the piece justice so just check it out yourself.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Beer O' the Moment - Sierra Nevada Harvest

Sunday, October 15th 2006 was a watershed day for yours truly, for it was the first time I tried the 2006 version of the Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale. Our Albany bureau chief Bojangles had secured a large, fancy growler of it -- and not the screw-cap kind, mind you, but the kind with the rubber stopper flip-top and an ornate silver handle. I was visiting Bojangles for the weekend and on Sunday morning -- before the Bills lost to the previously-winless Detroit Lions -- he offered me a pour.

This was in the early years of beer geekdom, and to me, Sierra Nevada was far too mainstream a brewery for my liking. Basically, if I had heard of it, I didn't want to try it. And I was sure that a brewery like Sierra Nevada had sold out to the American populace and dumbed down its recipe. Don't try to sell it to me, cuz I'm not buyin', maaaaan.

In short, I was an asshole.

Suffice it to say that the 2006 version of the Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale was -- and I have repeated this many time since -- the single greatest pint of beer that I had ever had. It was my first experience with the "wet hops" of a harvest ale, and brought the idea of an IPA to a completely new place. It actually changed my life. I never doubted Sierra Nevada's brewing chops again. In fact, Mr. Bojangles once had a long and virulent discussion

The problem is, as with that first hit of heroin [secondhand knowledge], you are always chasing that high again. I had looked for the Sierra Nevada Harvest ale, and though it wasn't particularly hard to find, I had always ended up just missing it. I had had the Southern Hemisphere version -- which ostensibly was created to react to the hop shortage -- but it wasn't quite the same. I found the 2007 version at a local watering hole, but it didn't match up. This year, I called several local beer stores, all of whom said they would have it; they all lied.

Finally, on a fateful trip to Beers of the World on Thanksgiving weekend, I serendipitously found a twenty-two ounce bottle of the cumbersomely titled Sierra Nevada 12th Release Harvest Wet Hop Ale. Being that I already was spending an embarrassing amount of money on all the other beer I was lugging to the register, I gladly took a flier on this one.

And folks, I have finally caught the elusive dragon.

There is nothing I don't love about this beer. First -- and maybe I'm just biased or using revisionist history -- it looks amazing. It's a clear copper orange. Infinitesimal little bubbles shoot up like little glass elevators. The head is huge: three chunky fingers worth, fluffy and white, like an ice cream float. The rings of lace around the top of the glass resemble a redwood more than a red-ale.

Take one whiff and prepare to be hooked. The hops in the nose are simply magnificent. They are a complex blend of major oily citrus, and a hint of resiny pine. It's a sweet, flowery perfume. All that sweet-n-spicy is balanced out by what I can only describe is burnt firewood.

The sip was a reward for two years of patience. Again, a bitter perfume. It's sweet and citrusy, but with a real bite on the back end. Some crucial roasted malts come through in the taste, without which this beer would collapse under its own hoppy weight. It's nearly the perfect IPA, and I don't know that I've had a better one. That triumphant triumverate of sweet estery hops, bitter citrus/pine hops and roasted malts make this an all-timer.

Combine the strangely bubbly, fizzy feel with these strong flavors and you got yourself a drink right there! It's bitter, yes, but it's balanced. And it's superior.

It must be said that this beer is closest in style to Stone Ruination and Flying Dog Double Dog, at least as far as my humble palate was able to ascertain. I would give the ever-so-slight edge, however, to the Sierra, only because of those inimitable "wet" hops.

My beer-drinkin' buddies are glad that I finally found this beer so that I would stop talking about, and bitching about how I can't find it anywhere. Pound for pound it's probably my favorite beer in the world. So go grab some, email me your address and expect a self-addressed stamped box within three business days.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Brewing in Sudan

According to Reuters, SABMiller is creating the first brewery in Sudan in a quarter of a century. Alcohol was banned in the Islamic-run country in 1983, but beer has been allowed in the region since the south of the country achieved semi-autonomous rule three years ago. And though alcohol has been known to cause some problems in the region, here's hoping that the initial issues are simply a reaction to strict government restrictions and they will learn to "drink responsibly."

By creating a South Sudanese brand, Miller will hopefully help start the process of giving the people of that war-torn region some added regional pride -- hopefully in a "hometown spirit" sense, rather than more jingoism. Previously, the region had been importing all their beer from Uganda; Bell Beer is Uganda's most highly-regarded beer. (For an interesting read, check out this BBC article about the Ugandan tradition of communal drinking from a straw.)

According to the Reuters article, the new brewery will employ 250 workers, brewing beer and soft drinks. SABMiller is also reportedly interested in using the region's local cereal grains for the beer's barley.

In the wake of InBev laying off over 2000 workers, the Sudan story is a nice development.

What's In My Fridge?

You can tell a lot about someone by the items with which they surround themselves: a record collection, a DVD library, their wardrobe. I judge people by these things, and judge them harshly. Should I see a Hinder CD, a Uwe Boll movie or a trucker hat in anyone's residence, that person shall hear my very strong and very correct opinions.

But should I apply the same stringent and high-minded snobbery to what someone keeps in their refrigerator? Of course, I'm not referring to Hellman's mayonnaise, Diet Coca-Cola, Heinz's Extra Fancy Tomato catsup, or Hungry Man microwaveable dinners (I have one of these items in my fridge, can you guess which one?). Rather, I'm referring to the libations, spirits, lagers and ales of the world. Now that good beer is becoming easier and easier to get, there is no excuse -- save for dearth of funds or lack of taste buds -- to be slumming it on the beer front.

So what DO I have in my refrigerator, indeed! you ask. Nothing fancy, but here is a partial list:
22-ounce bottles of:

  1. Rogue Double Dead Guy
  2. Ithaca TEN (Excelsior! Series)
  3. Ithaca White Gold (Excelsior! Series)
  4. Rogue Smoke Ale
  5. Rogue Chipotle Ale
  6. Stone Arrogant Bastard
  7. Stone IPA
  8. Rogue Shakespeare Stout
  9. Green Flash Stout
Out of these, the only ones I have had before are the two Stone beers, half of the Double Dead Guy and the Chipotle Ale. Any suggestions where I should go next?

12-ounce bottles of:
  1. Sam Adams Boston Lager
  2. Sam Adams Winter Lager
  3. Sam Adams Cream Stout
  4. Sam Adams Old Fezziwig Ale
  5. Sam Adams Holiday Porter
  6. Sam Adams Cranberry Lambic
  7. Ithaca Cascazilla
  8. Mendocino Double IPA
  9. Magic Hat Roxy Rolles
  10. Magic Hat Jinx
  11. Great Lakes Commodore Perry IPA
  12. Victory Festbier
  13. Ithaca Pale Ale

Our good friend Willie Moe, Boston's favorite prodigal son, has chimed in with the contents of his icebox:

  1. Southampton Pumpkin
  2. Southern Tier Krampus
  3. New England Atlantic Amber
  4. Sam Adams Winter Lager
  5. Victory Festbier
  6. spoiled cheese*
  7. rotten tomatoes*
  8. Ipswitch Harvest
  9. mustard*
  10. mayo*
  11. spicy brown mustard*
  12. Shipyard Brewer's Special
(*not clever beer names)

I have more out on my enclosed porch but it's too goddamn cold to go look to see what they are. What you got?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

I Need To Visit Vermont

I grew up near Buffalo. We have never been shy about a little wintry weather, to say the least. Eight years of living in Syracuse, New York (aka the snowiest city in the world!) did little to dispel this notion. The discovery of the myriad seasonal ales that accompany this time of year only serves to further reinforce it.

Don't get me wrong - I don't enjoy skiing or snowmobiling. Or hunting, snow shoeing, sub-freezing temps, commuting in inclement weather, flu season, Ebeneezer Scrooge-types, wassailing, etc. You get the picture. I guess I like this time of year in spite of itself. I oddly romanticize it (at least until Ground Hog day or so) and that works for me.

All of that nonsense has little to do with this article in the Boston Globe:

There may or may not be a craft beer heaven, but this vibrant city wedged between Lake Champlain and the Green Mountains is close. Located at the epicenter of Vermont's microbrewery scene, Burlington is bustling with pubs and taprooms. Finding one that serves craft on draft is not only easy, it's the rule.

To prove it, we set out on our own pub crawl to see how many bars serving local brews on tap we could find before we ran out of steam. (Yeah, it's a tough job.)

The rules were simple. The crawl had to stay within walking distance of the intersection of Main and Church streets. Burlington beer aficionados readily provided a list of places to check out, but this crawl, as they so often do, progressed randomly.

This piece doesn't even begin give it justice, but just picture the scene with me: a snowy winter's night in Burlington. The wind is whipping in off of Lake Champlain, and fat flakes dance in the air. 'Tis not a fit night for man nor beast, but the cheery glow of the many pubs off the pedestrian mall in the city's downtown are calling. There are three brewpubs within walking distance and plenty of other likely destinations betwixt and between...

Monday, December 08, 2008

Brewpoint with Willie Moe

Its time for another edition of Brewpoint with Willie Moe! Yes folks its time for Willie Moe to dole out his opinions on something in the world of beer. Mmmmm, world of beer, aaaaaaggghh! In this edition we go into the seedy underbelly of Bud, dum, dum, dum, dah. But more specifically Bud Light and their "Drinkability" campaign.

It probably comes as no surprise that there is not one Beerjangler' who is an avid drinker of Bud or Bud Light. Yes, even Dunford, the self proclaimed huguenot (whatever that means), parted ways with the self proclaimed "King of Beers" after he could no longer readily find BudDry, the only beer to this day that matches his unique wit and style. Is it because we are, what the world outside Brewtopia commonly refers to as "Beer Snobs"? Well, maybe partially. But I can guarantee that every single Beerjangler' has, in the last year, partook of a Pabst Blue Ribbon (and we were drinkning it long before it was trendy), or a Strohs, or a Gennessee Cream Ale, or a Schaeffer's, or any number of other comparable beers. Well, alright, I realize there is nothing comparable to a sweet, sweet PBR, but you get the point. If you ever see us voluntarily forcing down one of Heir Wieser's mainstays, it's probably a good day for curling in "h-e-double hockey sticks", if you catch my draught. If you don't, it means Hell froze over, because us drinking Bud by choice is that far fetched. So, needless to say, we do not like Budweiser, as opposed to Bud Wiser, whom we love. But if there's one thing, and there probably is only one thing, I could always count on from the Bud Empire, was clever and funny commercials.

This makes sense because they certainly aren't putting all those thousands of dollars they make into making a better beer. From Spuds Mackenzie to the WAZZZZZZUP?! Guys to the Tree Frogs to any number of hilarious ads they have produced over the years, Bud has been the King of Advertising. Which is why I have been so distraught lately. These Drinkability ads are about as good as the product they are selling, which is to say they are not. The premise of these ads is to say that Bud Light has what all those other light beers are missing. Yep, you guessed it, "drinkability". "Drinkability"?! Are you effin kidding me?! There point is that all light beers are not the same, which is, I guess slightly true, but are they trying to imply that Bud Light goes down easier than say, Coors Light? Because I'm pretty sure that is untrue. What they are equating "drinkability" to is how easy it goes down by more or less saying beer is only drinkable if it goes down like water. Which may be true for Joe Nascar Fan, but not for this guy! This guys wants something called "flavorability"! Yes, the ability to have flavor in my mouth, whilst getting drunk. I know it's an "out there" concept, but it could just catch on! But the Budheads idea of "drinkability" is not even the thing making me the most mad! No, it isn't! Keep reading.

You see in these ads, someone will ask for any light beer because, "they all taste the same." This then cues the random dude who has the Zack Morris ability of freezing time to go over the inaccuracy of this statement. Now if this were actually Zack Morris, that would be funny! But I digress. Joe or Josephine Time Freezer proceeds to move through the backyard barbecue, asking us if eating ground beef is the same as eating beef off the ground, or if drinking regular water is the same as drinking birdbath water, or eating a carrot stick is the same as eating a stick, stick. My first question is how do these people get the ability to freeze time, when they clearly didn't even have the ability to do well on the analogy portion of their SATs? Even Zack Morris got a 1502 on his SATs. Okay, I suppose freezing time would be more indicative of their math portion, not their verbal, but anyways. The fact remains that not one of these comparisons is relevant or funny. I mean basically the comparisons would be more like Light Beer in a can is not like licking light beer off the ground. Maybe if they were like, "is eating a hamburger from McDonald's the same as a eating hamburger from Ruby Tuesday's? Is taking a dump at home the same as taking a dump at a gas station? Is poking a bear behind bars at the zoo, the same as poking a bear out in the woods, unprotected?" I don't know if they mean for these to be ironical or something, but what I do know is they do not make me laugh and that is about all I have ever got from the King of Beers. The commercial where there's a creepy hitchhiker with an axe and a twelver of Bud Light, and the guy in the car dismisses his lady friend's comment about not picking him up because he has an axe, with, '"but he's got Bud Light."? That's funny! But it even gets funnier than that. When asked what the axe is for, the stranger's reply is, "To open the Bud Light?" Come on?! You kidding me? I'm giggling just thinking about it! So please Anheuser-Busch, I implore you, stick to what you know, making crappy beer and funny commercials. It's all I ask. And this has been Willie Moe's Brewpoint!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Europeans Are Turning Into A Bunch Of Beer Guzzlers?

Say what? Europe is known as a continent full of enlightened sophisticates who enjoy socialized health care, responsible consumption of fine vintages of wine and long walks along the Seine and the Danube. Still mostly true, but part of that image may be due for a change, according to a survey commissioned by the Wall Street Journal:

Europeans are supposed to sip wine in sidewalk cafés, not guzzle beer like American college students.

But Europe's relationship with alcohol is changing. Countries like France and Italy, where good wine is considered a birthright, are seeing a surge in beer drinking among young people. In many countries, the traditional glass or two at mealtimes is giving way to a new culture of binge drinking.

To study the issue, the Wall Street Journal asked market-research firm GfK to poll Europeans about their drinking habits. In 13 European Union countries, plus the U.S., Russia, Turkey and Switzerland, GfK asked more than 17,000 people to describe how often they drink, what they drink and how alcohol affects their lives. Many of the results were surprising. (Read the rest here...)

While this seems like an incredibly silly, inaccurate survey in which many of the participants are obviously lying (53% of Italians don't drink at all, really?), it does make for an interesting read. A surprising trend of younger Euro's preferring beer over wine clearly emerges, and (coincidentally?) binge drinking seems to be becoming more prevalent among that set as well. I'm not sure what exactly can be gleaned from all this, but it's worth a quick look.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008


If you guessed Brahma, you'd be correct! That's right folks, I decided to grab the bull by the horns, not literally of course, and take in this Brazilian concoction. Now I know many Bud drinkers right now are wondering where they've heard that name before. No, not concoction, InBev. Well InBev, in your mind, added Budweiser into its brewing axis of evil. Now before you Budheads get all riled up and call me unpatriotistic, for drinking un-Americaned beer, hear me out. You're idiots, plain and simple. Okay, now that that's settled, onto the brew.

Brahma was created by Joseph Villager in 1888. Ever since has has flowed through Brasil, adding to the energy, passion and creative spirit called "Ginga". A Brasilian philosophy and approach to life fusing creativity and ingenuity,and living life with effortless flare.

Brahma has a nice curvaceous bottle, with no label, but rather its name raised up on the sides of the bottle. Not as eye-catching as say, Tiger, but then again what is? The curved script is displayed wonderfully, but it also gives you the feeling that you're getting a typical Brazilian macro. But enough about the bottle, we're not gonna drink out of there for crying out loud! Lets pour!

Now we try not to go into drinking any beer with preconceived notions, but to be honest we do it a lot. Is it fair to the beer? No. But life's not always fair, so deal with it! But I digress. Pouring it into my pint glass, it seemed to come out as expected. Oh, did you want to know what that was? Okay, fine! It poured a thin yellow color, with medium carbonation and a thin, quickly dissolving head with no trace of lace. Did not look atrocious, but also did not look to be packing too much in the way of, well, anything. But how does it smell?

Upon plunging your nose into this one you are not met with much. The smell is weak, with mild grains, and the ever so slight hint of fruit, possibly lemon. About what you would expect from your run of the mill macro. The smell is not necessarily bad, just bland. Your socks will remain on when you give it a whiff. Think Corona, but far weaker. But could the mildness pass over to the taste as well?

Yes and yes! Actually not half bad! It was all bad! Hahahaha! I kid, I kid. It really was not terrible, especially considering I heard from a very unreliable source, that the people of Brahma literally put their blood, sweat and tears into their product. Sounds gross, but what you don't know is that a Brazilian's sweat tastes like corn bread. And not that store bought crud, homemade cornbread! For those of you worried about it, the blood, sweat, and tears only make up about 23% of each bottle, rather than the rumored 72%. Hardly anything to get all up in arms about. I mean that sweet Brazilian sweat accounts for the slight grainy corn taste in every sip and the tears help give it just enough water to overpower both it and the alcohol. This is actually fairly refreshing. If I had been chased out of Uruguay with heavy gunfire, and had finally ended up in Brazil taking on odd jobs, possibly in the cane fields, there would be nothing better after a long day of working in that hot South American sun than an iced cold Brahma. And that's the truth!

If you want to get international and try something exciting and new, then I would wholeheartedly recommend an ice cold Brahma. Goes down as smooth and easy as a head cheerleader on prom night. In fact if you're ever in Sao Paolo, it would be an insult to order anything else! Is it a typical macro? Sure, but that's not always bad. Brahma scores slightly higher than Pacifico on the alcoholic water spectrum. So if you see it, give it a whirl, raise your glass to "Ginga" and enjoy!

Bottoms Up!
Willie 3:16

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Beer O' the Moment: Mendocino Imperial IPA

The first time I had the Mendocino Imperial IPA, it wasn't the Mendocino Imperial IPA. It was the 2005-2006 Mendocino Winter Ale, and my first sip of it took place at the Olde Saratoga Brewing Company, the East Coast home of the Mendocino family of beers.

'Twas a cold winter's night in early 2006, and the weather gods were angry that night, my friends. And though I am loathe to be sentimental, this was a watershed pint of draft beer. For on this dark and foreboding evening, I entered this brewpub a burgeoning beer enthusiast, and exited ... a hop-head.

This beer holds a special place in the hearts of the Beerjanglin' family (should you enter "Mendocino" in the search of this site, you will find numerous mentions of it), and when I found a full case of it for only $24.99 plus NYS sales tax and deposit, I simply had to have it.

The beer itself? Well it's so good that Mendocino decided to make it a permanent part of their line-up, instead of just a one-off. (And to think we thought we were going to have to say good-bye.) The beer itself is a veritable orgy of hops, but it's not extreme. It uses several different hops that bring different flavors; it's citrus and grapefruit, combined with some pine and woods. It's bitter to be sure, but it's not over the top, because it has some nice bready malts to balance it.

Mendocino Imperial IPA is a "Winter Seasonal," which means that this beer and the NFL playoffs are basically the only two things to look forward to in the winter months. Since I have about 22 of them left, I'm hoping to ration it until the sun comes out again some time in late May.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Quick Takes: Harpoon's Firth Of Forth Ale

As many an American across the country did, I spent the better part of yesterday in the kitchen, cooking up a feast for the family. On the menu? A non-traditional, but still excellent, rotation of Cranberry-Thyme Cornish Game Hen, marble-rye and sausage stuffing, and mashed sweet potatoes. A menu like this would, for normal folks, be accompanied with wine. Fortunately, I'm not a normal person.

To accompany my Thanksgiving feast, I cracked open a bomber of Harpoon's Firth Of Forth Ale. Guest-brewed by Scotsman craft-brewer Steve Stewart, the Firth Of Forth Ale was released by Harpoon as a part of their 100 Barrel Series of session beers. The bottle described the brew thusly: "a combination of Scottish malts and American hops give this dark Scotch style a malty, roasted character with caramel notes and a hint of chocolate."

My take? Most assuredly more malty than hoppy - the hops are barely there, to be honest. The malt and caramel are front and center with this brew, which lent itself nicely to an end-of-the-meal beverage. Didn't catch the chocolate, to be honest. The thing that I loved the most about this brew? The carbonation was minimal, to say the least. This was the closest I've ever seen to a cask-conditioned ale in a bottle.

If you want hops, this is not the beer for you. But otherwise? This was phenomenal. So, if you want hops, grab yourself a Caskazilla. This is a malty brew, through and through, and satisfied the palate all the way to the bottom.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Bud American Ale - A Weiser Choice?

If there's one word that just screams "Amer'can" (three-syllables), it's Budweiser. For decades, the name has defined not only beer, but a way of life. If you are a "Bud Man," chances are you are a patriotic, blue-collar guy, who likes to work hard and relax at the end of the day with a cold one. Chances are you drink it directly out of the can or bottle, and drink it partially because you want to support Amer'ca and Amer'can workers -- at least up until six months ago.

This is the stereotype, anyway. For most people, Bud is a shorthand for affordable, universally-accepted beer that you could bring to a party without risk. It is the Coca-Cola of American beer; it's a wonder they still even feel the need to advertise.

Because of this, the unveiling of Bud American Ale has been met with curiosity and skepticism. I'm not sure how long Bud had been planning on unveiling this product, but it has put its weight behind it. Skeptics would say that Bud is attempting to tap into the craft beer market by creating a beer with a reddish hue that will somehow crossover by luring in the frugal craft beer fan, as well as the loyal -- if curious -- Budweiser aficianado.

So is this a cynical attempt to tap into the burgeoning craft beer market? Or is it an earnest olive branch to the evolving American palate? I took a flier a 22-oz bottle to find out.

First, let's observe the appearance: yellow water it is not. Although it is see-through (I was able to watch a few scenes of "30 Rock" completely through the glass), it is a nice reddish-orange color. The head is relatively sturdy -- another surprise. At face value, the look is not bad at all.

The aroma is relatively inoffensive as well. The caramel malts to which they refer in the commercials are noticeable, in their slightly toasted smell. It is sweeter in the nose than I had expected it to be, mostly because I had expected an English pub ale by its appearance. There is a little bit of a tinny, metallic presence here, which is typical of a macro beer. Some mild grassy hops are a minor accent, and some extra sweetness comes through in some brown sugary notes.

Finally, time to take a sip. The first thing I notice is how sweet it is, with more of that brown sugar coming through, but more of a sweet toffee flavor. It's actually too sweet for me, only because there is not enough of a hop balance.

I know that America is not ready for a steady diet of hops in a macro beer, lager or ale. But it appears to me that if Bud is truly committed to making a craft beer -- as opposed to simply cracking into the craft beer market -- they need to start adding some hops for balance. Sure, it may hinder sales among the fratboy crowd, but it might actually convince craft beer drinkers to give it a chance when they are looking for a cheap, widely-available ale. As-is, it's like Bass with a more cloyingly sweet, unbalanced flavor.

It does feel creamier than any Bud product I've ever had, but that's not saying much. It's drinkable, but it's weak. Far too cloying in both its sugary sweetness and its overbearing alcohol, which should have been hidden by more richness.

It seems that Bud may have suffered from trying to straddle the line between wanting to make something that would entice ale-drinkers, but not offend their hardcore contingent (i.e. 50% of the American beer-drinking population). Unfortunately, I think they may have failed at both.

My hope is that the American Ale will find a way to infiltrate the masses, thereby allowing the populace's palate to change from bland macro lagers to something more rich and flavorful. (For all its flaws, American Ale is far more flavorful than any of it's Bud brethren.) This, in my utopia, would lead to more ale-drinkers, who would then branch out into other beers and breweries.

Of course, I'm sure the folks at Bud don't share this hope.

Budweiser American Ale is a below-average but inoffensive ale. It reminds me of a sports bar more than a pub. And whether Bud should be lauded for branching out or scolded for being opportunistic and exploitative, I'll leave that up to you.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Head to Head: Ithaca Cascazilla vs. Magic Hat Roxy Rolles

We tried a little experiment some three months ago pitting two similar beers against each other and determining which had the superior brew. We know, of course, that beer is not a competitive enterprise, and should be seen as an artisinal endeavor. But then again, films have the Academy Awards and beer has the Great American Brew Fest, so we might as well just go ahead and have some fun with it.


Today, we explore two very hoppy amber ales: Cascazilla from the Ithaca Brewing Company in Upstate New York, and Roxy Rolles from the Magic Hat brewery in Burlington, Vermont. We had always considered these two beers somewhat equitable, since they were two of a a kind; both are amber ales with an inordinate amount of hops, eschewing the idea that an amber/red beer should be malty, with a bitter, German-style edge to it.

When we tried them side-by-side, however, we found them to be a lot more different than we had anticipated.

  • The Look:

    There is a striking discrepancy between these two beers in their appearance. The Cascazilla has the color of cherry juice, and is clear and glassy; Roxy is a deep mahogany reddish brown, and is as cloudy as a dirty martini. The head on the Cascazilla is pure white, while the head on the Roxy is a rose-tinged off-white. The head on the Roxy sticks around longer and is thicker, and Roxy also has more lace.

    Advantage: Roxy Rolles

  • The Aroma:

    Again, these brews that we had heretofore considered fraternal twins show that they have deep differences. Roxy smolders in the nose, with the smells of oak and mahogany. Its hops are those of pine and cut grass. More of an "East Coast" hop aroma here. The hops on Cascazilla, on the other hand, are closer to a traditional West Coast variety, with sweeter citrus notes. Cascazilla's malt is more roasted, but also has some nice sharp crystal malt characteristics. Roxy's malts are more lightly toasted, in that bready English way. They are both very strong, bold aromas, but due to the balance between the bitter and the sweet, we have to say...

    Advantage: Cascazilla (by a nose-hair)

  • The Flavor:

    Here is where the proverbial rubber meets the hypothetical road, and where the character of each of these two brews comes out. We cheated a bit and looked up the types of hops that each of these beers use: Cascazilla uses Cascade, Chinook and Crystal (aka "The Three C's"); and Roxy uses Simcoe. The hop character is what really sets these two apart. Having had them in different settings, we had always considered them step-brothers of sorts due to their hop strength in the amber/red style. But upon further examination, the hop character really differs between them.

    Cascazilla is much more citrusy in the hop, but is also balanced by a wonderful roasted caramel malt quality. As it exhibited in the smell, Roxy continues its arboreal streak with a rich oak flavor over lightly toasted malts. Those grassy Simcoe hops pop right out at you. If this makes any sense, Cascazilla has more of a "bouncy" flavor, and Roxy has more of a "flat" flavor. Cascazilla is very American; Roxy is very English. And though the Roxy tempers and improves with warmth, the balancing act that Ithaca pulls off means...

    Advantage: Cascazilla (but just barley)

  • The Feel/Drinkability:

    These beers are really different on the palate, further proving that they are hardly relatives, but rather two sides of the same coin. The Roxy is dry, ashy, chewy and coarse. You almost have to have another drink to wash it down. Cascazilla is buttery and smooth, milky and fizzy. They are both very drinkable, but because of its substantial texture...

    Advantage: Roxy Rolles


    These are both two excellent brews. Cascazilla is bittersweet and balanced, smooth and highly quaffable. Roxy Rolles is deep, rich and woody, rough around the edges and a very rich session brew (only 5.1% compared to Cascazilla's surpising 7%).

    But we have to have a winner and so, we declare, by a split decision and one of the closest taste-tests we've ever had the pleasure of doing, the winner is....

    CASCAZILLA! Congratulations!

Now, this is to take absolutely nothing away from Roxy Rolles, which is also an excellent beer, and one that, maybe on another day, we might have given the slight advantage to. It's a choice between smooth and balanced, versus rich and coarse. There are no "losers" in this competition, except those of you still drinking Coors (all due respect).

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Dogfish Head in the New Yorker

Hat tip to my brother-in-law Scott to the New Yorker article about extreme beer in general, and Dogfish Head in particular. It explores the idea of so-called "extreme beer," it's definition, and at what point "extreme beer" blurs the line and becomes ... well, not beer at all.

Please click above to read the full article, but a couple points I found interesting that I didn't know previously:

  • Belgian brewing acts as a rebellion against the Reinheitsgebot (Germany's ancient beer purity law).
  • Brooklyn Brewery's -- and Beerjanglin' patron saint -- Garrett Oliver doesn't like DFH 120 Minute IPA and calls it "unbalanced and shrieking." (Great minds think alike.)
  • Palo Santo isn't just an outstanding Shearwater album, but also one of the hardest woods in the world. (It means, literally, "blessed wood.") The barrel made of this wood in which DFH's Palo Santo Marron is made cost $140,000 and was made in Buffalo.
  • Dogfish Head is the 38th largest brewery in the United States, and makes more beers with 10% alcohol or more than any other brewery in the country.
  • DFH founder Sam Calagione helped make wine as a kid and didn't graduate high school.
  • A craft brewery produces less than two million barrels a year, a microbrewery produces less than fifteen thousand, and a brewpub serves at least a quarter of its beer in house.
  • A lot of Calagione's inspiration was derived from Michael Jackson's "World Guide to Beer."
  • Dogfish Head was the first legal brewpub in the state of Delaware, and only became legal after Calagione petitioned for it.
  • The inimitable 60 Minute IPA was inspired by a tv chef making soup, and originally made using a vibrating "electric football" game.
  • "Mother nature makes wine; Brewers make beer."
  • Trappist monks like Budweiser ... sort of.
  • Wine finds its roots in aristocracy, due to the relative rarity in it's regional and seasonal limitations; beer trickled down to the working class once the technology needed to produce it was created.
  • Marketing to craft beer enthusiasts, and all the while chastising darker beers for their impurities is "beer racism"!

Of course, I left a lot of good stuff out, so make sure you read the article.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Update: Van Dyck's Brewing Equipment Sold

Remember how, a little over a month ago, in mentioning that the Van Dyck Restaurant had been sold, we were simultaneously lamenting how the brewpub's brewing equipment was to be sold separately at auction? And how that didn't look good for the future of Schenectady's only brewpub?

Well, today, the brewing equipment was sold, and guess what?

The family that bought the Van Dyck also successfully bid $70,000 for the brewing equipment.

What does this mean for the Van Dyck as a brewpub? We dunno. But this certainly seems like a good thing, dear readers, does it not?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Beer O' Three Months Ago the Moment: Stone Vertical Epic 08.08.08

Some might say that a beer that was ceremoniously released over three months ago is hardly "of the moment." However, when that beer isn't actually intended on being drunk until after the next presidential election (if that benchmark puts it into any perspective).

For those not familiar with Stone's Vertical Epic series, it's a series of a dozen beers released over a dozen years, with the intention that they be cellared and drunk at the same time tasting. To taste them "vertically" means to sample multiple vintages (to use wine parlance) from the same brewery, so as to compare different styles and recipes, rather than comparing breweries. (Sampling the same style from different breweries is considered "horizontal" tasting.)

Stone's version isn't quite a true vertical tasting, only because the beers they have been creating are not identical in style: 02.02.02 was a Witbier; 03.03.03 thru 06.06.06 were Belgian Strong ales (the lone exception being 04.04.04's Tripel); and the last two offerings have been Belgian Pale ales. However, if you have to trudge through a myriad of beers from the same brewery, you could do a lot worse than Stone. In fact, one might say you could only do worse.

Personally, I wasn't crazy about the 07.07.07 version, which was a decent, drinkable beer, but harsh and sour. It was a fine, decent beverage to be sure, but not quite up to what I had hoped.

Enter a new year and a brand new beer: the 08.08.08 version is the truth, and son, you better recognize.

Poured into a Belgian tulip glass, it is roughly the color of a lit candle: brightly yellow and glowing. The puffy white head takes a while to subside. Small bubbles float to the top, creating a seductive, tantalizing appearance.

The aroma is, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, magnificent. Rarely does a beer have a smell that could be called perfect, but this is one of them. Spices abound, both in the sweet, citrusy hops, and its fraternal twin, the Belgian malt. It wafts a symphony of woody, flowery hops, as well as a dry, spicy, champagne-like malt. It's a strong perfume, and absolutely superior.

The first sip is strong citrus on the front of the tongue. At the swallow, the spicy Belgian flavors come out on the back of the palate. The two flavors, while both sharp and strong, mesh beautifully. For me, the intense Belgian ale flavors can often be a bit off-putting due to their intense flavors, but they are actually made more palatable by adding those wonderfully citrusy hops. The fizzy champagne texture scrubs the tongue and exfoliates the taste buds.

Oh-Eight-Oh-Eight-Oh-Eight an outstanding assault on the spicy part of the tongue. It's both strong and refreshing, and at 8.4% alcohol, it'll make you feel good for a little while. And in these tough times, who could argue with that?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

On The Newsstand: Men's Journal Presents "America's Best Beers"

We were perusing a recent issue of Men's Journal on the subway the other night, and were pleasantly surprised to see (in their October 2008 issue) an article entitled "Best Beers 2008: American Brewmasters Take Over." Inside the issue was a number of beer recommendations - we'd like to summarize them here, as it's a genuine pleasure to see the liberal Mainstream media finally approach a topic like this without their bias and politics and geegaws and whatnot. Anyway.

Their article presented these beers in the following format: they'd list a "popular" beer and note that if you liked it, you should try their recommendations. All beers were described in detail (we won't list that here). Some blanche at this type of format; we like this - the world of craft brewing is a complicated one, and we're all in favor of trying to give newcomers a "way in," as it were, to help find what kinds of brew matches what they already like.


If you liked Sierra Nevada, they recommended Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale, Full Sail Pale Ale, and Stone IPA.
If you liked Guinness, they recommended Deschutes Black Butte Porter, Alesmith Speedway Stout, and Dieu Du Ciel Peche Mortel.
If you liked Pilsner Urquell, they recommended Stoudt's Pils, Trumer Pils, and Two Brothers Dog Days Dortmunder-Style Lager.
For Blue Moon drinkers, they recomended Ommegang Witte, Ramstein Blonde, and Penn Weizen.
Like Samuel Adams Boston Lager? Try Southampton Altbier, Lakefront Organic ESB, and Elysian The Wise ESB.

Also recommended? Seven American craft brews that "are setting a new standard for the next generation of beer." These include:
- Russian River Brewing Co's Beatification Lambic
- Allagash Hugh Malone
- Dogfish Head Palo Santo Marron
- Captain Lawrence Xtra Gold
- Jolly Pumpkin Luciernaga
- Lost Abbey Angel's Share
- Southern Tier Unearthly Ale

We're genuinely chuffed to see such thoughtful coverage of craft beer in a mainstream press.

Our hats are off to you, Men's Journal.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Beer and Politics

We here at Beerjanglin' prefer to remain apolitical -- at least as far as this here site is concerned -- and yet we were intrigued by an October 15, 2008, article on the free-market advocate called "How Your Beer Bought John McCain's $500 Loafers." (Hat tip to my brother-in-law Scott; the article has tons of helpful reference links.)

On one hand, it is a criticism of McCain and what the author perceives to be McCain's disproportionate wealth, but it's also a damnation of the antiquated distributor laws that are decades old, and that actually prevent free commerce between states for apparently no good reason.

According to the article, these "three-tier" laws are to the benefit of the wholesaler, but to the detriment of the customer. The wholesaler, the article asserts, simply marks up the price of each alcoholic beverage 18-25% for the trouble of distributing it. The distribution lobby apparently is trying to ban alcohol sales over the web so as to close a loophole in which they would not be the middle-man.

The article certainly paints the alcohol-distribution industry as one that is woefully out of date, especially in the wake of free trade and a global economy. (The article also accuses Anheuser-Busch of "distributors to drop the products produced by its competitors."

The article cites four main arguments by the wholesale industry:

  1. Wholesaling allows a bottleneck by which the government can collect all their alcohol taxes in one convenient location.

  2. Wholesalers act as a quality-control protection agency against poisoned and/or tainted beer.

  3. It creates 91,000 jobs and a $15 billion on the national economy (both claims the article questions)

  4. The wholesalers are a gatekeeper that regulate the distribution of alcohol from brewery/winery to consumer, since alcohol is, in fact, a drug.

On a micro level, it's clear that it doesn't make sense for states to create an alcohol bureaucracy that limits the free commerce of beer, wine and spirits. It's a Good Ol' Boy Network policy that does nothing for consumers other than make beer more expensive and harder to obtain.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Pump Station Wins Gold at GABF

Congratulations to the Albany Pump Station for winning the gold medal for American Style Brown at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Trust us, Kick Ass Brown is a well-named beer indeed. This is the third time this beer has won gold in Denver. Not too shabby.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Historic Van Dyck Restaurant Sold at Auction

The Van Dyck Restuarant and Brewery, at one time a landmark Schenectady jazz club, has been auctioned off to a pair of brothers who already run several successful restaurants in the city. The Van Dyck, which has been closed for roughly a year and a half, is located in Schenectady's historic Stockade district and had been the only brewpub in the city until its closing. While this place has incredible potential (and, it would seem, the right owners to finally realize it), the sad news is that the brewing equipment will be sold off separately in an auction on October 22.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Beer O' the Moment: Middle Ages XIII Anniversary

Around these parts, we are enormous fans of Middle Ages Brewing, an absolute local treasure located at 120 Wilkinson Street in Syracuse, NY. For thirteen years, the brewery has been English-style ales (and no lagers) to the region. Most of their beers having a very distinct ringwood yeast flavor.

Since their tenth year, they have been releasing "Anniversary" ales around this time. Their first of this series, the Tenth Anniversary -- now known as "Middle Ages Double India Pale Ale," but known as "The X" to my friends and me -- is a triumph of intense bitter hops and thick English malts. The Eleventh Anniversary, a double wheat, was not quite as successful commercially, but a fine, thick beverage nonetheless.

The Twelfth Anniversary is an outstanding, roasted porter with mocha and caramel notes that goes down almost in an almost unfairly smooth manner. And this year, they unveiled the Thirteenth Anniversary, which they bill as an Imperial Wheat. At 9.5%, it's certainly got some pop.

I have mixed feelings on this particular offering. First of all, what is it? It's not that I need every beer I drink to be precisely defined, but I do like to know what I'm getting into. The Beer's creators call it an imperial wheat. Beeradvocate calls it a "Herbed / Spiced beer." To me, it feels like an incredibly thick hefeweizen.

First let's discuss both the look and the beer's thickness. It's very very thick looking. Cloudy as all get-out, and dark orange, like a thick apple cider. Any head that was there disappears almost immediately, and it leaves no trace of its existence on the glass.

The feel of the beer is no small matter. I had this out of a half-growler. (Having had the sample at the Middle Ages tasting room, I wasn't so sure I could finish a full jug.) The beer is very thick and milky like a hefeweizen, but it also has some fizzy and bubbly qualities, like a typical Belgian ale. The issue here, however, is the beer's staying power. Hefeweizens are a dicey lot to begin with, since they can range from fresh and banana-y to overly thick and swampy.

I had good luck with this one. Since it is relatively fresh and not much-traveled, I was able to finish the entire 32 ounces with little incident or change to the viscosity of the beer itself. However, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that a friend of mine who bought the beer at the same time at me reported a bad turn of the beer into a syrupy, sap-like texture, which doesn't lend itself well to the beer. Take that for whatever it's worth.

As for the aroma, the banana/clove smell that we all associated with hefeweizens are all there. There is, however, a citrusy fragrance as well and the wheat comes out in a later sniff. The scent would tend to indicate a half-hef, half-wit concoction. (By that I mean half-witbier, not half-witted attempt at beermaking; the Middle Ages folks are as good as it gets.) But there is also a certain pungence to the smell. It's not bad, but it's tenuous.

The taste is where we get down to brass tacks: it vascillates between a strong hefeweizen and an extra thick witbier. The girl pouring at Middle Ages found it curious that I would say it was "sour," but I sense a certain Belgian ale sourness. There is, as the website says, plenty of orange and coriander, and the spices that come along with them. But I also detect a certain amount of cinnamon flavor. It's strength alone is impressive, if not thirst-obliterating.

From top to bottom, it's a solid beer, but not necessarily one I crave, nor one I would necessarily purchase again. This is certainly not an indictment of Middle Ages itself, as that particular company has taken thousands of dollars of my money, and I wouldn't take a penny back. (I've got a full growler of their Old Marcus sitting in the fridge right now.) But it's only fair to say that this beer isn't for everyone, especially those who are iffy on hefeweizen-style beers.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Reminiscing on Labor Day

How best to celebrate a day that marks the unofficial end of summer but was also created as "a day off for the working citizens"? Well, for starters, it should probably include outdoor activities, and it had better involve little to no work. Got it! The deck at Brown's brewpub should fill the prescription nicely (sometimes it's rough being the Hannibal of the family). A couple of great local beers, maybe some steamers - yup, that'll do. Now to convince the wife... How does a hike at Peebles Island State Park sound? Don't worry, I'll haul the baby around. We could stop at Brown's afterwards.

It was just that easy; she's pretty cool sometimes, the wife. We stopped on the way to take a gander at the majesty of Cohoes Falls. After a short hike at Peebles Island, we gazed at the scenic vistas created by the confluence of the mighty Mohawk and Hudson rivers. We watched a pair of feuding squirrels. We even saw a deer, although the little one was more interested in the girl with the light up sneakers if front of us. Sure, we had our fun. It was pretty great, actually. And then it was time to go to Brown's and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

We started off with an order of steamers and a couple of beers, fresh and spicy IPA for me, nice banana-y Hefe for the lady. The steamers are a dozen fresh Littleneck clams steamed in the brewery's own brown ale with butter and fresh garlic. By thunder, those little buggers are delicious! I have it on good authority that a bit of Italian bread dipped in the steamy juices ain't bad neither.

We followed it up with Troy's Pulled Pork Sandwich, tender pork coated with Brown's signature Cherry-Raspberry Ale based barbecue sauce, all piled on a kaiser roll and topped with melted cheddar jack cheese. I paired that tasty little number with a crisp, Saaz hopped, Tomhannock Pilsner, while the lady enjoyed her first Hefe enough to order up another. Simply delectable, scrumpshalicious. Brewer's fries dipped in Cherry-Raspberry barbecue sauce are also a taste sensation.

What's the point here? I'm not sure there is one, other than I had a kick ass Labor Day and Brown's is a wonderful place. We had a great time without even going inside! Sorry for all the personal tripe, suffice to say that nature is pretty sweet and Brown's is even better. My crazy little cutie of a baby girl even got at least eleven compliments for every time she vomited on the deck! Better than her old man's career ratio, I assure you.

Monday, September 01, 2008

River Horse 12 Pack

Every time I had ever bought River Horse Hop Hazard, it has been an older bottle, and has gone a bit soft. Although liquid butterscotch doesn't sound like all that horrible a beverage, the Hop Hazard incarnation is not exactly the best way to experience such a confectionary delight. I blame the distrubutors and stores from which I had picked it up rather than the brewer themselves.

So when Wegmans started carrying left-of-center beers, one of the surprising offerings was a twelver of River Horse, which I had not seen any specialty beer store in the area, let alone a grocery store.

The four beers in the twelve-pack are a Special Ale, Tripel Horse Belgian tripel, the aforementioned Hop Hazard and River Horse Lager. Each was given an interrogation by Officer Taste Bud, whose office is in my mouth. I apologize for that last sentence for several reasons.

First up to bat was the SPECIAL ALE, which they call and ESB but seems to be a bit more than that. The color is a light cranberry red. It's clear except for that hazy fog on the glass. A half-finger of foamy off-white head sits atop the bubbly brew. Nice to look at.

Though the label categorizes this beer as an ESB, it smells like a barleywine, with that strong aroma of alcohol, as well as lots of dark berry and raisin. It has that "leathery" quality that so many darker beers give out. In a blind sniff-test, I wouldn't have pegged this as an Extra Special Bitter.

The taste is strong barley malt, and also gives a puckery sour flavor. Some leathery malt in the flavor here as well, almost like a porter in how dark the malt is. There is some sweet-n-sour dark berry here as well, as well as hints of roasted caramel. The hops are of the English variety and very subdued. The malt is strong and thick, as is the consistency; it's full-bodied on the palate like a cream ale.

So far so good, this is a "special/select" ale with some bite, but it's quite drinkable. It's substantial for just one but okay if you feel like snagging another one.

The next one came up a little later in the evening, and in retrospect was probably not the beer to finish off with. It's not that it isn't a fine beer, it's just that the TRIPEL HORSE packs quite a wallop. I mean it's only 10%, so who wouldn't have thought it's the one to have right before nighty-night time.

Out of a tall weizen glass, this beer pours a massive puffy head. It's clear and glassy, but ... there are some wonderful chunks of yeast (I hope) floating about. The head goes down eventually, but the floating sediment and carbonation remain.

Ironically, the thick head hides some of the aroma by blocking it from escaping. What little I am able to extract from it nasally is that of a trademark spicy Belgian yeast and malt. There is a tad of chlorine in the aroma, but I'll pretend I didn't smell it.

The first sip gives some sharp crystal malts but that come handcuffed to some sharp crystal malts with some caramel. There is a strong alcohol bite that I probably should have expected. Otherwise, it's actually deceptively mild. It doesn't at all fetishize the spicy Belgian aspect of it, which also makes it easily drinkable. It's very smooth for a Belgian tripel, especially one that's 10% abv. The feel is butter and honey, rather than champagne or orange juice pulp.

This one surprised me, a really easy-drinkin' Belgian, and though it's strong, it's not at all extreme. Nice curve-ball.

Ugh! I'm only halfway through this difficult slog? I decided to save the remainder for a few days later. I finally decided to give a shot to the beer which I had always previously caught at a bad time -- HOP HAZARD. The look, to paraphrase the Talking Heads, is the same as it ever was: nice, very cloudy dark orange. The head does disappear almost immediately, which is a bit of a downer. It is the color of apple cider, and would be gorgeous if it could just retain a little bit of head.

The aroma gives off some decent woody hops, and with the dual hints of butterscotch (not overwhelming this time) and sour apple. This is how it's supposed to smell. The smell is actually pretty complex, because further down the line, we get some nutty, toasted malts, as well as alcohol-soaked raisin, and all under the woody pine hops.

As for the taste, the first sip gives a nutty bitter malt, similar to a dry amber ale. Hints of raisin and black licorice (I'm not usually a fan but it works here as an accent). It's a darker brew than expected. Some caramel comes out when it's about half gone, and warmer. And there is the most unusual aftertaste of peanut?

Hop Hazard feels dry and a little bit ashy, but the thickness is nice. It's a very nice, toasted and complex ale. Sure it could be considered a pale, but a dark one -- if that's even possible.

Last but ... well, least, is the RIVER HORSE LAGER. I don't mean to crap on this beer, but when are brewers going to realize that there is really only so much you can do with lagers.

I must say, it seems that a lot of brewers are trying to have it both ways, in that they load up their mixed 12-packs with nine solid offerings, and then add one for the "non-beer drinker" or commercial beer drinkier. Magic Hat does it with "#9," Ithaca Brewing does it with the (in my opinion) undrinkable "Apricot Wheat," and Dundee does it with "Honey Brown."

Well, it's here so I might as well pound it. It pours a decent sunny golden color with a mass exodus of carbonation bubbles. There is a thin layer of head that resembles Italian ice. It's very clear, as is typical for the so-called "lager" style.

The aroma is lagery, but clearly made with real barley and not adjuncts. It's a fresh, biscuity malt, with just a touch of that sour apple. It's middle of the road, but inoffensive as many lagers can often be.

The taste is a very solid lager flavor, and we all know what that entails. It does have a slightly citrusy taste, but not from the hops, oddly enough. The malt is slightly bready. The sour apple and butterscotch that were present in the Hop Hazard also make an appearance here. And there is a welcome, tangy bubblegum flavor toward the end. It's actually quite pleasant for a summer lager.

The consistency is pretty predictable, with a thin and watery body. It's not unpleasant but there's not much to say about it. All told, it's not a bad lager by any stretch, it's just kind of run-of-the-mill with some extra flavors thrown in. Highly drinkable but not a skirt blower-upper.

At any price below $15, this is a pretty decent twelve-pack, with two very good beers, and two other good ones. Do what I do and bring it to a party and give the lagers out first. But do see that you make sure to get it somewhat fresh as it seems to go bad quicker than most.