Monday, 4 November 2013

Not Another Pumpkin Beer....

Lets not harp on about who's owned by who, two of the finest breweries in the world I've encountered are owned by large multinationals, those are Goose Island (AB-Inbev) out of Chicago and Franciscan Well (Molsen Coors) out of Cork, Ireland. If you want to talk about the definition of 'craft' here is certainly not the place to do it. 'Craft' to me is quality and flavour and nothing else. There is no mention of production volume or financial backing in the definition of the word 'craft', therefore theres no reason for the efforts of any brewer to be diminished over something so meaningless and trivial. A series of seasonals currently available from Granville Island are a great example of this, the Black Notebook Series, a great collection of small batch one offs that have deserved some attention on this blog for a while but have yet to receive it. As Autumn fades to Winter, Granville Island's Pumpkining Pumpkin Ale. 

The pour shows a darker beer than expected, a transparent dark amber with a fluffy white head. The aroma is practically non-existent, light all-spice and a simple maltiness are faint, very similar to some English bitters.

The body is thinner then expected, light and fizzy with an immediate noticeable booziness, strange considering the relatively low 6% tag on the bottle. The flavour is similar to fruit cake, Christmassy when combined with the obvious cinnamon and nutmeg, almost like banana with some sweetness. Slightly disappointing this time (and not really proving my earlier point) but not wholly bad. It seems to bear more resemblence to a spiced winter ale than a pumpkin beer.

No recommendation here, we win some and lose some, as craft beer lovers this is the price we pay.

Thirsty and Miserable.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Schoolday's Over

On our final morning in Seattle we needed to shower, pack, check out and make it to a liquor store so I could pick up some bottles to bring home. It was a mad dash but totally worth it. Most of my choices were beers that are common in the States that I had heard of previously but had never had the chance to try, except for one, this one was recommended to me by the local beer geek sitting behind the counter of Downtown Spirits on 7th Ave. Its Old Schoolhouse Fresh Hop IPA.

I requested something from Washington State that leaned towards the piney, citrusy side rather then the funky, dusty side that seemed so popular in places like Elysian Brewery. The range of Fresh Hop beers they had was extensive and we had little time to discuss the ins and outs of each, so after a brief conversation this was shoved in with the rest and off we went (getting in 0.1kg over the baggage weight but getting away with it). The pour is smooth, releasing a dark straw beer that supports a thin(ish) fluffy white head and wafting beautiful resinous pine aromas up towards my nose.

Up close the aroma is even more pronounced, so piney it almost reminds me of brand new rubber. It also carries a little sweet lemon citrus and almost no malt, the hops seem to be stealing the show. First sip and the rubbery hops are still at play, and in abundance. Its a drawn out rounded dose of strong piney hops, warming on the palette, a little off putting at first but heaven for a hophead. The bitterness isn't too dominating, but its definitely present, letting the flavours do some work before cutting in at the finish. Its got a medium, slightly sticky body with hints of honey like sweetness.This beer really works, its a great mix of a solid malt bill and beautifully fresh hops that makes for a really pleasant experience.

For me it ticks all the boxes of a great IPA, plenty of hop flavouring, not to harsh on the bitterness and a solid malt body underneath to balance the equation. Some of the beer I drank in Seattle really blew my mind, theres fantastic stuff happening there, especially in Elysian where they deserve an honourable mention for Kama Citra Wet Hop Ale, a fantastic mix of malt and citrus hops to make one of the greatest beers I've ever drank. This is a great little reminder of only one of the reasons I can't wait to go back to Seattle, and its only been three weeks since my trip. Top marks for effort and a full recommendation for Old Schoolhouse.

Thirsty and Miserable.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Dogfish Fellatio?

It would be unfair to deny Dogfish Head their place in the 'craft beer scene'. They are, in my mind, one of the leading brewers in the world for innovation, whether that is a good thing or not is up to you. My experience of Dogfish Head is limited, about five years ago, as I first started trying craft beers I picked up a Palo Santo Marron which I have no recollection of apart from hating it. Since then I've had the 90 Minute and 120 Minute IPAs, both solid but underwhelming considering the hassle involved in getting them. Lastly I am lucky enough to have a bottle of their Life and Limb ageing at home in Ireland, to be cracked open on an undetermined date. Nonetheless, when my thirsty eyes fell across a small display of Dogfish Head Punkin Ale in a small boutique deli/fine wines store in Pike Place Market, Seattle there was no doubt in my mind that this little puppy was coming home with me.

Its claims of brown ale grandeur are false, the pour shows it to be amber with a thick white tuft on top. Aroma is more subtle then expected considering the 7% ABV tag, the all spice and cinnamon pop for me, with the warmer nutmeg sitting in the back somewhere. Theres a little dark fruit, like sweet spiced Christmas pudding. This isn't promising for the beer I've heard many claim to be the best Autumn seasonal in the US.

First mouth full is less then overwhelming, the body is light which is to be expected considering the use of sugar, the first flavours are easy pumpkin spices, but lack the warm soothing quality of most other pumpkin beers I've had. Otherwise it seems like a fairly standard beer, it lacks any defining malt character and has just a pinch of bitterness leaving nothing but some alcohol heat to dance on the back of the palate.

Its hard to say but I'm disappointed in this one, I wanted it to be a full bodied rich brown ale with tons of warm nutmeg making it a dessert in a glass, with maybe just a pinch of some citrus hop flavouring because its an American beer and that's what they do. Although a Dogfish Head beer has never blown me away I hold them in high regard, reading about their new beers is always refreshing and any interview with Sam Calagione is well worth watching, undoubtedly contributing to their success. Unfortunately I can't recommend this, the label is a lie and the beer sub par considering its coming from a leading member of the American beer scene. Won't stop me trying more Dogfish Head beers though...

Thirsty and Miserable.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

By Weird I Mean Good

Another beer I've been looking forward to is this, Maui Brewing CoCoNut PorTeR. It's 6%, comes in a beautifully designed little can and is brewed with natural toasted coconut. Only a week ago I had my first experience with a coconut beer, using a Dogfish Head Randell to infuse Deschutes Obsidian Stout with cocoa nibs and fresh coconut shavings. It was a roaring success, removing the harsher bitter characteristics of the beer and adding just enough sweetness and subtle flavours of chocolate and coconut. It also had an unexpected effect on the body, making it a lot fuller and velvety. It was fantastic.

An awkward pour (on my part) threw up a half glass of foam which cascaded down the side of the glass on to the coffee table. On settling, the tan head stayed a stubborn half inch thick and refused to budge. It's jet black, with just a touch of red on the edges. All beer should look this good.

The aroma is surprisingly chocolaty, theres a little roast, loads of dry malts and a hint of brown coconut. It smells amazing and reassuringly not sweet. The flavour is big upfront, plenty of burnt malt, that dry dark chocolate tang and then it gets a little weird. Just as the bitter flavours build, a cutting toasted coconut sweetness brings it back down, not balancing it as such, but giving it contrast. It makes for a great drinking experience.

This avoided many pitfalls, the fact that its mostly a dry beer is hugely in its favour, not being sweet or cloying. There is just enough coconut in there for it to be legitimate and just enough good solid stout characteristics for it to be a solid beer. This is excellent and I give it full marks for creativity and a full recommendation. I'd murder to be drinking these in a tiki bar on a breezy night in Maui.

Surfs Up
Thirsty and Miserable.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Heres A Napkin...

On a recent trip to Seattle (post to come) I couldn't help but bring a few beers back. Strict orders were laid out prior to entering the liquor store, enforced by my girlfriend, to avoid excess airline baggage fees. Although it is fresh hop season in the Pacific Northwest I really couldn't help picking up one or two widely available beers I have heard a lot about. The first, Big Sky Brewing's Moose Drool.

Oddly this isn't my first encounter with this beer. About three years ago I was making the move from brewing pre-hopped beer kits to extract brewing methods or steeping small quantities of malts with un-hopped malt extracts and boiling for full hop schedules. A copy of Brew Your Own magazine fell into my hands and in it was a clone recipe for this quirky American brown ale, a style I had never encountered before except for possibly Sierra Nevada Tumbler, one of my personal favourites. So I brewed it. Strangely I have no recollection of how it turned out.

Cracking it open the beer pours dark mahogany, the off white head is thick, creamy and sticks around. The aroma is dry and biscuity with subtle touches of toast and chocolate.

First sips are dry, browned bread crust is there in abundance, theres some dark chocolate, a little caramel sweetness and a short lived easy bitterness. The body is on the lighter side, making the whole thing very easy going and not giving the drinker too much to think about.

This is a beer I could settle into a six pack of. Its clean and easy to drink but has enough flavour to be worth drinking. While its not as good as Tumbler, its not a bad beer and is definitely worth a shot, even if it, like my home brewed version is forgettable.

Thirsty and Miserable

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Welcome To The Gunshow

Smithwicks Superior Irish ale is my tipple of choice when in an Irish pub and faced with the uniform row of macro taps that the majority flaunt. It's red, flavoursome enough to not be completely offensive and only 3.8% meaning its great for a session and not bad in the case of over indulgence. My time in Canada has failed to replace that as my regular 'theres nothing better' choice, here I tend to hop from beer to beer invariably ending up on Guinness causing me to die a little inside each time. A recent trip to a nearby liquor store turned up this little gem, a brewery I'm familiar with mostly by reputation, Adnams Gunhill 'full flavoured beer' hailing from Southwold, England at 4% ABV.

The pour shows a slightly darker then ruby, rich, red ale that supports a beautiful off white head that sticks around. The aroma is of toasted bread, caramel malts and a little toffee. Subtle and promising.

Apoligies for the sub-standard photography.

The carbonation is low, first flavours are dry, bready malts with a lingering vegetal earthiness from some English hops. As my taste buds adjust softer, sweeter flavours come through, mostly toffee and a little dark roast that just bites at the end. It's a nice little sipper and one I'd be more then happy to drink a few of over the course of the evening.

It is my belief that the Americans are currently producing most of the best beer in the world. However, where they simply can't compete is in the lower ABV end, especially when you remove the hops from the equation. 'Session beers' as they are called, seem to be so foreign among so many of the Americans I talk beer with that it is no wonder the concept seems to have been missed completely. So as it stands, at least on this blog, the medal for 'Best Big Beers' is safely in Americans hands, the second prize, 'Best Sessionable Beers' is with the Europeans.

Thirsty and Miserable.

Monday, 7 October 2013

A Pint Of Whores Please

Strangely this is one of the first beers I ever heard there was any hype around, I'll spare you the details but long story short I've heard many different people from many different sources driving hundreds of miles to stock up on large quantities of this stuff. To quote the salesman that sold me this six pack, 'Its just a great macro lager', whatever that means. So here it is, Coors Original, Coors Banquet or just plain Coors.

The beer chugs out of the old style can and produces a stubborn pearl white rocky head. This truly is one of the palest beers I've seen, a very light straw. The aroma is mostly of, sorry about this, sweet grainy beer. It smells syrupy, generic and almost sweetcorny.

The first thing that pops is how clean it is. Light and crisp and goes down with nothing except a slight fizzy sting. There isn't much flavour, the main one being a banana like sweetness, similar to a hefe but a lot more understated. While this isn't screaming 'I'm a beer, taste my flavour' it is refreshing, I'll give it that.

This kind of thing has to be put into perspective, I don't expect much from this beer, therefore I wasn't disappointed, regardless of 'the hype', speaking of which I can only put down to exaggeration and perhaps a little stupidity. None the less, I won't call this a bad beer nor will I give it a recommendation. It is simply something I wanted to tick of my list while in North America and lets face it, its miles ahead of a Bud.

Heady Topper is safe, for now.

Thirsty and Miserable