Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Twelve Pack Review: The Abita Party Pack

Maybe it's our white guilt, but we really enjoy supporting the breweries of New Orleans -- or at least the ones that are available where we live. Dixie Lager and Dixie Blackened Voodoo are fine examples of the lager and dark lager style, respectively.

I'm not sure how Hurricane Katrina affected the Abita Brewery; I know it took quite a toll on Dixie Brewing, but they are thankfully doing fine even though they sustained some damage.

Upon a Saturday sojourn to the Finger Lakes Beverage Company in Ithaca, NY, we saw the Abita Party Pack, two beers each of six different selections. We have not been able to secure twelve-packs of Abita in the Syracuse area, so we decided to give it a whirl.

The six selections are:
  • Turbo Dog Brown Ale
  • 20th Anniversary Pilsner
  • Abita Amber
  • Fall Fest Oktoberfest
  • Purple Haze Raspberry Wheat
  • Golden Lager

I decided to tackle them head on. Here are the results.

  1. ABITA AMBER. Rather than the amber color I expected, more of a dark orange. Not much head and is more clear and light-looking than a typical amber. The smell is a sweetened burnt malt. Lots of brown sugar. It almost has a mild Scotch ale smell, with nice toasted barley. It's both sweet and dry at once.

    The taste is a striking sharp malt with some sweet brown sugarcane and molasses. Some mild caramel in there as well. It tastes like a liquid "Sugar Daddy" candy bar. It's sweet, but thankfully not saccharine. The feel is thick and chunky and chewy. It's milky and smooth. Really a nice feel. Overall it's very sweet but not TOO sweet. Well crafted and delicious. A hell of a good start.

  2. FALL FEST. Has a light copper color. Decadent white foamy head. Light bubbly carbonation. It's sturdy and quite nice. The aroma is a rich bittersweet toasted malt with fresh English-smelling hops wafting above. Light caramel. Hints of mild liquid yeast as well.

    The taste is a rich toffee/molasses over a roasted (but not burnt) malt. The hops are a welcome bittering accent; they are mild and serve to balance that sweetness. Also a hint of pale malt.

    It feels creamy and thick. Stays on the tongue for a while; it's substantial. It's a sweet caramel/molasses beer with some mildly bitter hops. It's more like a roasted pale than anything, but a good Oktoberfest.

  3. GOLDEN LAGER. It's a cloudy yellow with a proud finger of head. Looks more thick and chunky than a normal lager, for sure. The smell is a dry pilsnery/lager malt. The aroma is light, but it's clearly all-malt. Bitter but mild Hallertauer-smelling hops. Malt is German-lagery.

    The sweetness in the taste is the bitter malt, with the nice bitter hop accent. The taste matches the smell almost exactly, with the right bitter notes all around. It's a nice lager, much better than the typical Bud/Miller/Coors pale lager fare.

    It feels light and bubbly, like the feel of a nice, slightly spiky Belgian ale. It's a light and easy-drinkin' lager with lots of strong flavor.

  4. TURBO DOG (Brown Ale). Well this is the beer that Stuff Magazine named the #1 beer in America back in 2005. Remind me to never listen to Stuff Magazine when it comes to beer. Not that Turbo Dog is bad, but it's average at best. It's dark brown like Coca-Cola with an off-brown cardboard colored head. It looks deep and murky.

    The smell is a strong whiff of alcohol with some darkly sweet roasted malt. It's got brown sugar practically wafting above the glass. It smells slightly darker than a normal brown.

    The taste again has that heavy blast of alcohol at first, with a sweet malt swooping in immediately afterward to apologize. Then it hits me that this beer is just too sweet and saccharine, without enough balance. This would have been a perfect example of adding some hops to a dark beer to give it a rich full flavor. Instead, we get heavy and sweet sugars. It's not awful, it's just unbalanced.

    It feels thick and milky, although not as smooth as typical browns. It's more of a choker-downer. Overall, not really balanced enough for me to recommend. It's got some of the flavors of a brown, but with more alcohol (which by the way, doesn't count as bitter enough to balance). It's decent, but Stuff Magazine should stick to putting ridiculously hot women on its magazine and get the #&$@ out of the beer game.

  5. PURPLE HAZE (Raspberry Wheat). I have heard mixed things about this one. really doesn't like it, and I've heard that it's a beer for chicks. Let's see for ourselves, shall we?

    The color is a peach-color with minimal head. It looks fruity all right, and it's hazy. Not a horrible sign. The smell, on the other hand, isn't what I'd call incredible. It's far too sweet for sure, with a sugary raspberry flavor with some mild wheat to dry it out. This could use a bitter malt balance, such as a chocolate or caramel malt to even the score.

    It is very sweet in the taste, but the wheat does a much better job of balancing everything. It's still too far on the sweet side of the spectrum, but decent. It's a little tart and puckery. It does get better as it warms up, but a nice toasted malt would have done wonders for this beer.

    It feels creamy, with some dry yeast on the tongue to remind you of the good old days. It is clearly too one-sided for me to drink it all night, but all-told it's a decent "guilty pleasure" beer.

  6. 20th ANNIVERSARY PILSNER. A fine bookend to the first beer, this is one of the better pilsners I have had in quite a while. It's a hazy bright golden color, and a half-finger of foamy head. Classic pilsner look.

    Before I go on, I have to say I'm not a huge fan of pilsners in general, and that's because they are all so similar, they are like bitter pale ales (yes, I know pilsners are actually lagers) with a smidgen of mandatory bitter hops. And there is very little deviation from this tried and true formula. (If I have my head up my ass on this, please give me some examples to prove me wrong. I'm all ears.)

    Ok, so, the smell of this pils is really good. It's got a pleasant flowery aroma, with bitter Euro-German style hops. Doesn't have the too-bitter chlorine smell to which so many lesser pilsners fall victim. Really crisp aroma.

    Now the flavor took me completely by surprise. It's got such a nicely diverse hop flavor. Not only does it have the bittering pilsner hops, but also a flowery, estery hop with a burst of citrus. But it's not an IPA or overly hoppy; it's just well balanced. The pale-ish malt steps aside for a second to be the Stockton to the hops' Malone. The finish is pure grapefruit (Javen!).

    It feels fizzy and bubbly like champagne. Really nicely crafted, and the bubbles help evangelize the good word of the effervescent flavors. It's a superior pils, bursing with diverse flavors. It's got a wonderful finish. It is to what all pilsners should aspire.

As far as the 12er goes as a whole, I would say the 20th Anniversary Pilsner and the Amber are the two best, and both worth picking up a popularly-priced sixpack. The Fall Fest and the Golden lager are a good addition to mix up the 12-pack. And the Turbo Dog and Purple Haze -- ironically the most widely available of the twelver -- are just okay.


Beerman said...

> I'm not sure how Hurricane Katrina affected the Abita Brewery

They were without power for a little while but I believe they didn't lose any beer.

And I agree on the Pilsner -- the best Abita beer I've ever had. The Restoration Ale is not bad either.

Bill said...

How shallow am I that I'm even concerned if any beer got damaged in Katrina. I should probably reevaluate my entire value system.

That Pilsner is really fantastic. I will get right on the Restoration because I haven't had it. Nice blog too.