Weekend Beer Picks

There are still remnants of a Blue Moon sampler in my refrigerator.  They must not be allowed to survive the weekend.  Aside from that, what do I want?  What do you want?

It’s still warm in these parts, though the evenings are cooling off.  I need a mild and refreshing libation.  Something brewed with elan and bursting with verve.  Perhaps I’ll seek a well done pilsner.

Any suggestions?


Dark Penance by Founders Brewing

That word, penance, it intrigued me.  So I did what an intrigued person would do.  I visited OneLook.com and perused the definitions of the word.  Here was the first one displayed: “punishment or suffering that you accept, especially because of your religious beliefs, to show that you are sorry for something bad that you have done.”  The rest were all variations on that.  So, is Founders saying they are sorry for making this black IPA?  Are they saying they are sorry that there are black IPA’s?

I shrug and move on.


That Smell …
It smells of lemon and lime and Chanel Number 5 and all that implies.  Yes, those fruity hops were dancing a dance in the nose.

In Appearance …IMG_0805
For a moment I thought I was pouring a cola.  Or perhaps a really dark tea.  That really created some dissonance in my cranial area.  It smelled like Sprite and looked like Coke.  But it’s a beer, man, a beer … .  Head retention was superb and the collar itself was a stoutish cream color.  Hmmm, this beer is all about deceit.

But the Taste …
If hops madness is your bag, baby, this is your beer.  If I’d not had the bottle with the label containing the name of the brewery right there in front of me I’d swear this was a Sierra Nevada or Stone libation.  I think I’ll lean more towards Stone for the hops artistry did not seem as refined as Sierra Nevada’s.  Yes, the hops are prominent, but what did I expect?  This is an IPA.  It’s dry and bitter, like the desert.  The bitterness lays like a blanket upon the tongue right away.  It lingers then stands and dances.  There is some slight malt character that bursts out as the beer gets warm, but it’s not very strong and lasts about as long as a rainstorm here in Kingman.

Join Me For A Plate Of …
Scalloped potatoes.

The Conclusion Of The Matter Is …
It reminded me of late summer, just as the weather is getting ready to change.  It made me think of late 80’s girl pop bands that are fine to look at and are occasionally in vogue, but, really, just hard to listen to.  This beer is similarly hard to finish.  It’s a harsh glass of achromatic despair, which is exactly what it’s supposed to be.  Yes, this is an IPA worthy of the moniker.  It’s hits all the right hops notes and malt chords.  As I drank I read the BJCP Guidelines for American IPA’s and this was a Goldilocks of the style.  I did find myself wishing that the roasted malts had leant some body and not just color to this black IPA.  However, I seek no penance for having this beer.

My First Belgian: The Session Number Ninety-One


The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic.

The topic that Elisa and I have chosen for this month’s Session is ‘My First Belgian.’

My first Belgian home brew I named Clawed. Herein lies the recipe:

2 lbs Belgian Pale malt
7 lbs 6 row
2 oz Sterling hops (boil)
1 lb candi sugar
Wyeast 1214

I do not recall any of the mash particulars. It was a five gallon batch. This was about five years ago.

It was a good beer, close to what I supposed a Belgian beer should be – orange and mysterious. There are two beers that I want to brew again – this one and a barley wine I made fifteen years ago. Maybe some day …

Clawed was well received, by me and those to whom I gave a bottle or two. I don’t think this beer was terribly Belgiany otherwise many of the beer recipients would have been terrified by it. However, it had just the right amount of citrusy spice to make it appealing. It was made during a summer, so it was refreshing, too.

The Belgian beers I’ve had possess an intangible quality that appeals to me yet is hard to convey. Certainly there’s the spice, the earthiness, the venerable moth-eaten pall of long storage; but there’s also the tastual juxtaposition of this libation. It’s a beer, but it’s not a beer. These Belgian creations are never what you expect. That sense of discovery, experimentation and surprise.

I do not think I crafted that essence. But, it was a shadowy homage to the beer legends. At some point, I shall go forth and attempt it once more.

In Review – Tasting Beer: An Insider’s Guide To The World’s Greatest Drink by Randy Mosher

Let it now be said, straight up (coincidentally or not, that’s the way I like my whiskey) – I reveled in the digi-pages of Randy Mosher’s book, Tasting Beer: An Insiders Guide to the World’s Greatest Drink. Just wanted to get that out there right away, you know, for those who have no interest in reading the rest of this review; or those who lack the attention span to do so, sufferers of Internet ADHD.

It’s brilliant, well written, not condescending so as to turn away initiates, not so bland as to trouble the cognoscenti. You want to be a beer critic or evaluator? Well, read this here book. (All the bored people can leave now).

After reading the following quote from the book, I instantly understood why I needed it. “If you take the time to develop an approach and a vocabulary,” states Mosher, “even casually tasted beers may reveal themselves in greater depth, meaning, and eventually, pleasure.”  This book should be required reading for anyone who reviews beers, whether a professional or a simple blogger.

I have heard Mosher’s name oft mentioned in the beer world.  However, this is the first time I’ve read him.  He has a fatherly, mentor-like voice.  It’s authoritative and assuring.

Beer History
The first chapter covers some of beer’s backstory and the author was succinct without leaving gaps; his synopsis leaves the reader filling fulfilled and enlightened.  Plus, he touches on some cool subjects right away.  For example, he discusses technology’s impact on brewing.  After reviewing the dramatic increase of production in the early 1800s, he notes that the “new industrial scale is important, because it increased pressure on brewers to find efficiencies that had been insignificant in a smaller setting.”  Ah, the demon seed of corporate brewing!  Efficiency, distribution, pressure – to the dark side do these lead.

Adroitly does Mosher explain how this country really had no culture when it began.  Culture was brought to it via immigration.  He writes:  “Those flooding in had a strong affinity for beer … a world without the joys of a few lagers in the garden on a Sunday afternoon was just unthinkable, and … they set about rebuilding their beer culture.”  Mosher goes on to explain why their reconstruction efforts eventually led to the fizzy mainstream dishwater we are so familiar with now.

Drinking Beer
After providing the cultural context, Mosher moves on to the important part:  drinking the beer.

Chapters 2 through 6 focus on understanding and analyzing beer.  Mosher provides a vocabulary for the beer judge, explains how beer should be presented, consumed, written about.  I discovered that an easy way to increase your vocabulary of descriptors for beer is to append a ’y’ on another word. Thus, a beer can be “yogurty” or perhaps “bubble gummy” or “diesel exhausty”.   My shiner black lager tastes steaky. Think I likey.  Well, you get the idea. So, if you see a -y copiously in the notes below, it’s because I’m trying to apply.

I was able to read this book via Inkling (more about the Inkling format below) and the file comes with tasting records that can be completed right there in the book, on your iPad.  Cool.  One of the beers suggested as a ‘beer to try’ was Brasserie Dupont Saison Dupont, a Belgian saison (as you could tell from it’s fancy name).  Let’s see what I came up with.

In chapter five we are told to first smell the beer.  I wrote that this one smelled “solventy, dirt tinged with worm.  The dirt came from a citrus orchard, to be sure.  Musty, skunky, Heinekeny.”  Then we take a look at the beer.  It is “pale yellow.  Witty, Budweisery.  Pours a frothy white head.”  Next, take a sip.  This saison is “light, somewhat slick body.  Fizzy.  Lemony.  Acidic base under that fizz.”  It was supposed to have a slight tang, which I think I indicated in my sparse notes.  Whiffs of orange are appropriate.  I missed the peppery-ness of it, but I did need to take Nyquil later that night.

One humorous note on beer presentation:  I have always fancied the shaker pint glass, thinking it symbolic of the modern quaffer of craft beer. Mosher denounces it, to a degree, and now I find myself shamed to own so many. Oh, what a rube I am for possessing them!  I must procure some English pub glasses with the fancy pop out rim. At least I have two elegant English mugs that properly display the play of light through the body of the beer.

Truly, reading about the origins of the beers and what certain tastes and smells arise from was a boon.  I look forward to using some of this material in my own brewing and writing.

Beer and Food and Styles
Several years ago a good friend purchased one of Stone Brewing‘s Vertical Epics.  Since I had this book and that beer and the time was right, I tried to follow the guidelines in chapter 7 of the book to make a memorable dinner paired with a memorable beer.   We had stew with Shiner Black Lager (roasted grains with roasted meat) and consumed the 06-06-06 Vertical Epic with brownies after dinner.  It wasn’t complicated but it was great.  The chocolate and the Epic were a perfect match.

After talking a little about how to host beer dinners and pairing food and beer, Mosher then moves on to the various beer styles.  He tells us where they came from, what they used to be, what they should be; it’s a glorious ride through the beer world.  Granted, some of us feel beer is art and should be unfettered by these silly styles; Mosher addresses this and the reality of beer styles.  As you may have guessed from comments and notes above, I loved the “Suggested Beers to Try” lists.  I have not had enough of the beers he lists.  Now I have crucial additions to my own Beers I Want List.  Thanks!

Unfortunately, some of the histories and the suggested beers leads to some bad feelings on my part.  For example, I remember trying Sam Adams Cream Stout many, many years ago.  It had “chocolate malt” in it.  I discovered that wasn’t what I thought it was, but, whatever!  It did make me look into beer.  Mosher writes regarding cream stouts:  “[It] devolved into a rather feeble, soft, sweet, and roasty style … By the beginning of the twentieth century, it was positioned as a drink for invalids.”  Feeble?  Invalids?  I don’t know how to feel about this beer that I enjoyed.  Feeble, I suppose.

Last Call
I can’t say enough good things about this book.  It is well researched, evenly presented, crisply written and eternally motivating.  Let me allow Mosher to sum it up best:  “Uncap something special and pour it into a treasured glass. Give it the time it needs to settle into perfection. Ahh, beer! Raise the glass, as have countless others before you, and toast someone special. Pause for a sniff, and then drink deep. Grain, water, hops — and yet so much more. Use your head, your heart, and your soul, and you can taste the whole world in it.”

Beautiful book, beautiful drink.

Inkling Format
Now a word about the Inkling book format.  This was the first time I’ve used this app at all.  I enjoyed it.  Book pages scroll up just like a website, which is different than other readers which mimic the page turns of paper books. The sidebars and pictures in the text are separate embedded items.  In other words, on page ninety-eight there is a banner titled “Forms of Bottled Beer” with an arrow on the right side.  Tap it  and another page scrolls out displaying what’s in the box on that page, or a picture, etc.  Swipe to the right and you are back on the main page.  Keep swiping right and you uncover navigation for each chapter and navigation for the entire book.  Pages just pile on top of each other, like on a desktop, waiting to be swiped and read.   The left side of the screen shows your progress through chapter.

It’s also social media wrapped up in an e-reader.  You can highlight portions of the text and leave comments on it.  These comments can be viewed by others with Inkling accounts and you can follow them or they can follow you.  The notes are a fun way to keep track of your thoughts of a book or a theme.  It’s all very interactive, which is exactly what the company is seeking – bravo!

The Session #68 – Strange, New, Unusual, Different Beers

The theme: Novelty Beers
99 Pours gives us this theme:  “With the onslaught of even weirder beards…erm…beers…than before, I can’t help but wonder if novelty beers are going too far. Or maybe not far enough? LOL! As a merchant of beer, I can see the place for novelty beers, as I am choosing for some customers who say, “I want the strangest beer you have.”

So, novelty.  I had to tell myself what this was.  What follows is the odd debate/investigation/whatever that went on in my head regarding this subject.  Novelty is “something that is novel.” And not the literary kind. No, novel is a thing that is “strikingly new, unusual, or different.”  In the announcement above there is also the added qualifier “strange.”

Thus, I am presented with discussing beers that are strange, new, unusual, different.  It’s the “strange” connotation that is troubling me.  I suppose the argument could be made that if something is strange it is strikingly different.  But strange isn’t necessarily strikingly new.  New and unusual is usually innovative, imagination-capturing, cool, the first time you fall in love, iPads, lightsabers.  Different can be good or bad.  But strange throws me off.  It’s like there should be a distinction here between a thing that is new and a thing that is strange.  Strange, for me, wants to be a thing that is just, well, not right.

Then there is the temporal aspect that the word novelty engenders.  It almost imbues an object with a transitory existence.  Or, at least, a short life that ends in dusty nostalgia – you know, that “novel” coffee mug that is taking up space in your cabinet.

Within those boundaries I must fit beer.  A new and unusual beer, for me, was wit beers.  They were brilliant, cloudy, spicy things.  Yet, they are anything but transitory.  They are different, but not strange.  Same with lambics, which were my first thoughts for novelty beers.  Sour, fruity … weird.  Yeah, maybe those are the beers that fit here.  They are unusual.  Even avid beer lovers will sometimes shy away from these face-curdlers.  Or some may turn up their nose because of the fruity nature.  But they intrigue me and many others.  Raspberry and cherry and other stuff.  I don’t like fruit in my beer,  but it seems so appropriate in a lambic.  Truly, I have only had a couple of easily imported or domestic made lambics.  Not the real things.  They are unusual, I want more.  Are they strange?

One beer style that stretches for a place on the strange list is chili beers.  I had a Crazy Ed’s Chili beer once, long ago.  There was an actual chili in the bottle.  It was the most horrid thing I’ve ever had.  It was, without doubt, strange.  I didn’t want to give up on them, though.  I tried Ring of Fire from Dragonmead Brewery.  It was like drinking a bowl of nachos.  That’s weird.  It was a good beer.  But definitely … different.  I might drink it again.  I love peppers, but apparently not in my beer.

At times, I think the brewing scene on the west coast of the US is all novelty, what with the idiotic amount of hops brewers will put into any style.  Ridiculous.  Does all this cover “novelty?” I just don’t know.  My experience is limited.   Other, better, brewers and bloggers will be weighing in on this subject.  Look to them for guidance!