Black Butte Porter by Deschutes Brewery

In all my travels I have never drank a beer so … drinkable. It has an enviable pedigree, a spotless reputation, and a quotidian character.

B is for Black Butte Porter

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The Vitals
Brewer: Deschutes Brewery
ABV: 5.2%
Categorized as: porter

That Smell …
It smells like cream and orchards.

In Appearance …
Brown, like the edges of a Tiki flame or the bottle that contains it, with a head like the plateaus of the desert. It’s dirty white like my stucco after a monsoon rainfall.

But The Taste …
Caramel raisins. Browned toast with cinnamon. The wife’s kiss.

Join Me For A Plate Of …
Chipotle lime marinated steak and grilled fries with southwest seasoning.

The Conclusion of the Matter
This beer is a beer festival weekend, open and free. Or it’s late summer in ’88 with “Hysteria” cranked to 11. Yes, yes it’s Def Leppard in a bottle. Rock on. They haven’t hit the Adrenalize era yet, good thing. Black Butte is an erudite, worldly mentor speaking to you of all that can be.

Long live Black Butte Porter.

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Alpine Spring by Samuel Adams

Yard work beckons me. I laugh in its face. It’s henchman, the wind, blows detritus in my face. The Spring Games are on.

After recruiting teenage assistance weeds are slaughtered. Trash is discarded. Fences are erected. The rest shall have to wait for another weekend.  Seems like a good time to start the AlphaBeer Tour.

A is for Alpine Spring.

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The Vitals:

Brewer: Boston Beer (Samuel Adams)
ABV: 5.5%
Categorized as: seasonal/kellerbier

That Smell …
Flower blossom. Honey, buy not honeysuckle (which is, like, a standard spring smell, right?). I also imagine ginger and lemon.  Those sound like a good names for twins.  And I know just which ones.

In Appearance …
It resembles a wit – cloudy, milky, opalescent, yellow champagne.  It maintains a good mousse like head. Very white. It lingers.

But The Taste …
It has the circus character of a wit but the honey makes it sweet – overly so for my tastes. But I also like the juxtaposition, the contrast. I could discern no tartness or bitterness, no serious hops impact from Tettnang other than the flowery smell.

Join Me For A Plate Of …
Yeah, cuz I had something to eat while doing yard work …

The Conclusion of the Matter …
This is a spring beer but it is redolent of the homes of old people from my youth in the late seventies, early eighties. I received visions of yellow and green carpet. Or a casino replete with a cigary coating on tongue. Hmm. Weird.  Lingering is good descriptor. This is a drink that is … weird, yet not terrible. It’s drinkable, not necessarily repeatable. .

In Review- Beer Is Proof God Loves Us- Reaching For the Soul of Beer and Brewing by Charles W Bamforth

Charles Bamforth is a professor at UC Davis. He’s been involved in brewing and beer research for about thirty years. You can read about his career and research here.

Overview
Bamforth notes in the beginning that this book is autobiographical, a personal memoir. And so I applaud him for not lying. Be prepared for opinion, not always evidence, on many subjects. Be ready to wade through nostalgia and lengthy anecdotes (which are smartly included as endnotes).

That’s not to say the book is bad. It’s mediocre. He claims to seek the soul of beer. But, as noted, it is just his philosophy on the state of brewing and popular views of beer. You’ll have heard some of it before. You may agree with some of it. It’s better if read through a pint. Or a growler.

The Good And The Bad
The book is titled after a misquotation of Benjamin Franklin. Well that does not bode. Verily, Mr Bamforth explains this with a preface giving the beer lover’s interpretation of his words. Still, it’s a common quote that’s been explained for many years.

Another thing to consider is that Bamforth tells his story from a very British point of view. He discusses British politics, his experiences at Bass. I don’t mean that this is bad, just something to be aware of. The societal commentary still holds up.

Occasionally he seems sympathetic to large brewers such as Budweiser and its cronies. In his sympathies he mentions points the home brew and microbrew world has been talking about already; essentially the stability and consistency of the product. He says good things about the corporate goons who run these companies.

For example at the conclusion of his book he says:

“I would hope they [the craft beer types] would tolerate the skill devoted by the big brewers to making bland lagers so consistently well … Let us recognize that the self-same humanity resides in a president and panhandler, in a CEO and a janitor.”

I suppose I can accept that there is skill involved, though it’s not a particularly impressive skill. But when he tries to assert that there is some kind of latent humanity residing in a corporate brewery CEO? Nay, I must resist this. Corporations remove humanity. And, really, why must Bamforth search for the “soul of beer” to begin with? Because of the rise of corporate brewing.

The author laments the decline of the pub. He chants a dirge over legal issues that affected pubs. He writes a diatribe on the advent of that can widget that mimics draft texture in canned beer, thus reducing pub visits. The decline of pub visits mirrors the decline of social groups.

“And so off troop the shoppers back to their central-heated homes, with their 60-inch screen televisions to eat their pre-packaged fast food and overly cold canned beer as they watch wall-to-wall soccer (so much cozier and cheaper than visiting the stadiums with their extortionate ticket prices). No dropping into the pub at any time.”

Culture and Diet
Bamforth writes: “For someone so enchanted by and adherent to the notion of traditional values, with my adherence to cask ale, am I hypocritical in supporting the march of beers into cultures where it was not historically a norm?”

In other words (in my interpretation, at least) the Japanese have sake, the French have wine, etc. Are the evil corporations being evil by forcing beer into places where there was never beer, or very little beer? Pretty good question, really. I questioned myself on this and I think I am some kind of beer purist. Beer should be made by those who know beer. It does not need to become a global phenomena. Preserve culture. That’s enjoyment of diversity. Or as the Vulcans put it, “infinite diversity in beer and brewing.”

Of course, that sounds selfish and stuffy and is based on my perceptions. Perhaps I am totally off. Discuss.

I also appreciated this sentence about beer culture: “Beer is customarily a drink of moderation and to my mind remains a product that should be free from ludicrous displays of gung-ho excess such as outrageous alcohol content and foolish ingredients.”

Hear, hear. This is what beer should be viewed as, by drinkers and brewers alike – a drink of moderation. Foolish ingredients, indeed. Caffeine? Pshaw! Most fruits? (Insert raspberry, and not the fruit). Tea? I’m on the fence, there. High alcohol content is appropriate for some beer styles, of course (bbarley wines come to mind) but the recent obsessions with imperial wits and pales and everything, which include lots of alcohol by volume, is ridiculous.

One last note – as my age and weight continue to rise, I consider my diet. Many people mention silly things to control weight gain, such as eliminating beer consumption. I laugh. So I couldn’t help but love this sentence from Bamforth’s tome, and I shall conclude my review with it, both as a personal triumph and one last shot at corporate brewers who make light and low calorie beers so important.

“There is nothing peculiar about calories in beer; if they are counted among the daily calorie intake, provided the latter level is in balance with (or less than) the calories burned off,then there will be no body fat accumulation,in the belly or anywhere else for that matter.”

Check out the book here.

Mix It Up Friday

So I’m down to my last beer.  It’s a Lone Star, which gave me some grief a couple of weeks ago.  I have ingredients on hand to make an amber and I hope to get that done this weekend.  In a few more weeks I’ll have my own creation to write unadulterated about.  Until then, I need to do something different with Lone Star this week.

It just so happens that I also have some Seagram’s whiskey.  Now, I’m less of a whiskey enthusiast than I am beer.  So if I do any whiskey “reviews” they will be totally subjective and uninformed.  Please don’t hold it against me.  I’d like to include lots of different types of alcohol on this blog although my main focus shall always be beer.  Thus and so, here’s the crew I’ve assembled for this Friday’s post.

Seagram’s first:  the smell reminds me of a fishing tacklebox and crayola’s.  Is that weird or what?  The harsh, solvent aroma of alcohol is prevalent.  It’s got a, well, I want to say a piney taste, reminiscent of gin.  Although, I really don’t like gin.  I don’t mind this Seagram’s 7, though.  It also reminds me of the Black Velvet my dad had in the house and would never let me drink.

Let’s see how it interacts with Lone Star.

It didn’t seem to alter the color of the beer at all.  Nor the head, which is still diminutive.  The smell is now Heineken-ish.  It still has that cottony mouthfeel to it, but there’s a slight current of caramel present now.  The whiskey takes away that – well, it’s a taste that I can only say reminds me of old, stale beer that’s been strewn across an old pub.  That’s what the whiskey removes from Lone Star.

Okay, I just don’t like this combination.  I’ve had Boilermaker’s before and they weren’t bad, but they need a beer that can stand up to the whiskey and engage with it in a good debate about alcohol content and the flavor combinations of barley.  Seagram’s and Lone Star don’t mix for me.

Yes, you did see some Godiva in those pictures.  Yes, let’s see what happens.

I should have put it in my blender.

This looks gross and weird and all science – fiction – y.    And I’ll admit, it’s a little hard to drink for me because it’s lumpy.  I just don’t like lumpy in my liquid.  I can’t even drink orange juice if it has the little floaty things in it.  This beer is now like the protein shakes I drink in the morning.

But, the taste isn’t bad.  Godiva totally owns this drink now, she dominates and overpowers it.  The chocolate is omnipresent now.

My goodness.  This is not a drink for the weak.  No, not at all.  I may need to go take a nap now.  Notes for the future:  Godiva will mix with beer but use a blender.  And don’t add whiskey.

This week’s musical accompaniment:  Martin Moretto’s Quintet.

The Better Chlaus

I had heard much about this legendary beer, Samichlaus.  It is brewed once a year by Castle Brewery Eggenberg in Austria.  I’d never had one until a few months ago when I happened to find a four pack at Bevmo in Phoenix.

And it is a wonderful beer.  Once more it is a brown, tea colored liquid.  It is thinner in body than the Angel’s Share that was recently written about here.  It has the body of, say, an amber.  To my delight, hops are not that evident.  There’s no aroma and they only slightly make their bitterness apparent in the taste, and that would be only if you seek them out.  

This would be a good aperitif, as it is extremely sweet.  Brandy and caramel dance in the mouth after a swallow.  The alcohol content is 14% so it would be good to have a belly full of good food before consuming this brilliant piece of brewing.  It’s creamy and sweet and delicious.