Sunday, November 21, 2010

Category 8: English Pale Ale

Beer: Tetley's English Ale
Category: English Pale Ale
Ordinary Bitter

I love a good English pale ale. The first beer that I ever brewed was a special bitter, so I am certainly a fan of the style. Ordinary Bitter (as opposed to special) implies that the beer is lower in gravity, therefore lower in alcohol.

Appearance: Beautiful amber color with a pretty, creamy white nitro head. Brilliant clarity. Definitely a pretty beer.

Aroma: Nice malt profile with some fresh, clean graininess and minor sweetness. Small amount of grassy, earthy hops in the background.

Flavor: Nice flavor exuding from the crystal malt-rich profile, with some definite caramel and cereal grain character. Definitely a buttery diacetyl flavor. A small amount of English hop flavor floats in, but there is a nice pronounced hop bitterness on the back of my tongue. Really nice taste overall.

Mouthfeel: Creamy, smooth nitro feel. Medium body, very pleasant. I appreciate a good nitro English bitter, especially when all one usually sees in the US is nitro stout.

Overall: Great beer. Totally drinkable, but still plenty of complexity in this guy. I always find myself wishing that this were the style of beer that one could find on tap in every American bar, instead of Bud Light. At 3.6% ABV, this is a wonderful session beer that I could just drink all night. Definitely a style that I want to try my hand at brewing once I start up again.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Category 7: Amber Hybrid Beers

Beer: Anchor Steam Beer
Category: Amber Hybrid Beers
Subcategory: California Common

Love me some amber hybrids. Funny how certain styles can be born out of necessity. California Common, or steam beer as it is most commonly (lol) known, is fermented with lager yeasts on the lower range of ale temperatures, reaching back to the days when refrigeration was hard to come by. Anchor Steam Beer is the classic example of this style, and they only remaining brand of the original California Common beers, thus making it the golden standard for this subcategory. I've already had it, but I love it and I've never reviewed it, plus you can find it at most any decent beer store. Flying Dog Old Scratch is another great, more recent example of this subcategory.

Appearance: Pours a beautiful amber color with nice clarity and beautiful, visible bubbles sparkling through. Small but persistent white head. Some lacing. Overall very pretty. Not all that different from a nice IPA.

Aroma: Sweetness in the aroma, with the fruitiness of raisins up front. A little bit tropical pineapple as well. Very west coast. A little grassiness from the hops but overall lots of malt character.

Flavor: A nice toasty malt background with some cereal graininess and a little hint of sweetness. Definite detectable Germanic lager character with some sulfites present. Great west coast hop flavor, nice and floral but also a bit spicy and citrusy...definitely Northern Brewer hops. This beer is at once totally California and totally Germany, if that makes any sense. Completely balanced and totally satisfying.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied, medium-high carbonation. Crisp like an IPA but with a lager finish.

Overall: Drinking this beer is always a pleasure. It is very balanced and very drinkable, with enough complexity to stand out over other "drinkable" beers. The fact that it is a lager but is fermented at ale temps and aged/conditioned in interesting ways definitely adds to the complexity. This is one of the few American styles of beer that doesn't just shove a mouthful of hops down your throat. That can be enjoyable, and there is a time and a place for it, but Anchor Steam is a very balanced beer that could stand up to any type of food and be enjoyed any time of year. Definitely just a great session beer.

Personal: I will always remember this beer for being one of the first beers that I thought of as my favorite. A little while after turning 21, I had this guy on tap (it is especially good on tap) at the Flying Saucer in Nashville, and I loved it. Though I have moved on and just love adventuring through all sorts of beers, I do love coming back to this one. It never fails me.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Category 6: Light Hybrid Beers

Category: Light Hybrid Beers
Subcategory: American Wheat/Rye Beer
Beer: Boulevard Brewing Co. Unfiltered Wheat

This is an interesting category that has required a bit of searching, as a lot of these beer tend to emerge around summertime. They tend to be very refreshing, fresh tasting beers meant to be drunk cold, and they tend to be tamer in flavor and thus are good "gateway" beers for people that are used to drinking the mass produced, flavorless junk of BMC (BudMillerCoors). These beers are *generally* fermented on the cooler side of ale temps (low 60°s) and then aged cold (34-50°). Other beers in this category include American Blonde Ale, Cream Ale, and Kölsch (I saw a bomber of French Broad Brewing Co of Ashville, NC's "Gateway Kolsch" in Fido this afternoon and was VERY tempted). American wheat beers tend to be cloudy like German hefeweizens, but without the phenolic/estery banana/clove character. They tend to have more hop flavor and a different yeast character. Harpoon UFO Hefeweizen is a really good example of this style, and a good one from my homeland. Well, here goes!

Appearance: Highly effervescent, hazy golden, very "wheaty" in appearance, small but very foamy brilliant white head. Very much like a German hefeweizen.

Aroma: Light, fresh lemony aroma with perhaps a little hop grassiness. Some definite malty wheat character. A little tangy zip, perhaps?

Flavor: Ooh surprising! Very fresh in flavor...this is actually very much like a German hefeweizen without the banana and clove esters. Definitely a light, tangy, lemony zip as the aroma would suggest. Great wheaty malt profile. Very low bitterness but some definite detectable hop character that certainly enhances the character. I am trying to pick up on the yeast character...there definitely is some, and it adds a nice touch to the beer (stuff is obviously unfiltered for a reason) but it is a really mellow yeast. I probably am just expecting the big character of a German weizen yeast. Stuff is certainly not "neutral," though. Overall, there are a lot of surprising, nice things going on in this beer! Lots to pick up upon but nothing overwhelming--very accessible "gateway" flavor.

Mouthfeel: High, fine-bubbled carbonation. Definitely effervescent. Not overdone, though. Body is on the higher side of "light bodied," and nicely smooth. Probably some oats in the grist. Very weizen-y.

Overall: I am very glad to have some of these early categories, some of which I am less familiar with, surprise me for the better. I have had some versions of kölsch and American hefeweizens, but I guess I didn't know much of what to look for in them, and maybe the ones I had weren't as enjoyable as this one, which I thought was actually quite good. Sam Adams Summer Ale is the same style, and I think that the Boulevard is a much better, more appealing beer that still satisfies that refreshing factor--pretty cool since people tend to really like Sam Summer! I see no reason to while away a hot summer day with a Bud Light when you could have one of these guys...they're pretty tasty and very refreshing.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Category 5: Bock

Category: Bock
Beer: Ayinger Celebrator

Mmmm, bock. Translated into English the word "bock" actually means "goat" in German, thus one will often see goats on bottles of bock, or dopplebock. Bocks are big German lagers, and dopplebocks are REALLY big German lagers. Bocks can be light (Helles/Mai bock) or dark (dunkel). The history of dopplebock is even more specific than bock beer, and it goes back to the Paulaner brewery when it used to be a monastery. The monks of Paulaner brewed the first known dopplebock, called "Salvator" so that they could maintain some level of nutrients in their system during their fasting seasons, particularly lent. Ever since then, this beer has been brewed by other breweries as well, often still with the "-ator" suffix to pay homage to the original. Thus, if you encounter a beer called Terminator, Alligator, Masturb-'ve probably got a dopplebock. Ayinger Celebrator is one of the highest regarded versions of the style.

Appearance: SUPER dark. Almost opaque until you hold it directly up to a light, at which point you see some red and brown tones buried deep within. Small but beautiful and perfect tan head. Sticky lacing. Generally a beautiful beer.

Aroma: Brown sugar, molasses, and warm alcohol deepened with beautiful tones of dark fruit; figs, dates, plum, and raisins. A little spice on the nose as well.

Flavor: BIG complex flavor: raisins, figs, and dates accompanied by dark, natural sugars. Very similar to the aroma. Strangely enough, less alcohol in the flavor than in the aroma. Really balanced sweetness, not cloying. A definite perceptible roasty bitterness that is more like the crust on a good loaf of dark bread than like coffee or chocolate. Delicious bready malts round out the flavor (give us this day our daily bread...).

Beautifully smooth, with a medium-full body. Not quite as "chewy" as I was expecting from such a high gravity, malty beer, but I think that the real mouthfeel is much more pleasant than a giant, thick one that just bogs the drinker down. Matches up perfectly with the flavors.

Overall: What a wonderful beer. I have tried other dopplebocks, and this is almost definitely the one that I have enjoyed the most. The complexity of it is incredibly exciting to the palate and begs me to come back for more. Very drinkable for a big beer, because the whole thing is really very balanced. This is definitely not a beer that you would reach for on your average trip to the beer store, but it is a wonderful treat for a special occasion and definitely a great warming winter beer. Would be a perfect beer to sip by the fire on Christmas Eve while watching the snow fall. Ahhhhhhh...