Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Display Shelf: When to Drink the Good Stuff

So in this month's "The Session", the topic is When to Drink the Good Stuff.

To me, I enjoy the good stuff more when I can share it. But giving good beer to people who haven't developed their palate can be somewhat disappointing. While those who have never tasted a rare Russian Imperial Stout can respect what it is from what you tell them, unless they've had several, pulling out that 2-year old bottle of Dark Lord might disappoint you. They might say, "Yeah, that's pretty good," but not really understand why it is good. I'll admit there is some beer douchebaggery going on when I sit there and look at the beer, smell it, and then describe all the flavors I'm taking from the beer. But then, I really like beer.

So, personally, I tend to save these for occasions when 1) I know the people will appreciate the beer, and 2) Where I can share it with a lot of people. Could be a holiday party, could be one of our family's Margarita Fridays. Just depend when the mood strikes.

Oh, and a tip I heard from a pretty great homebrewer the other day: If you're aging stuff, try to keep the temperature steady, and store it cool.

Friday, February 12, 2010

New Beers Resolution - The Session

I did one of these last year, and I'm going to try and keep up with these, and perhaps go back to the list over the past 3 years and pick out ones that can be of interest to me.

I thought I'd work on the "New Year's Resolution" one since I still am within 2 months of the new year's beginning. The Session in question is:

So we want to know what was your best and worst of beer for 2009? What beer mistakes did you make? What beer resolutions do you have for 2010? What are your beer regrets and embarrassing moments? What are you hoping to change about your beer experience in 2010?

I'm going to go through these methodically, so the first question is, "What was your best and worst beer for 2009?"

I probably didn't do as good of a job rating beers in 2009, and of course, I tried a few new ones on New Years Eve, and those definitely didn't get rated on, so I'll try to be concise with this, based on the beers I did rate.

The Worst: Hillas pale lager, brewed in Greece. They were selling these along with Bud products at the Greek Fest in New Buffalo that we went to late summer last year. Basically, I paid $4 for a Budweiser knockoff. I also gave Sam Adam's Coastal Wheat a shitty rating, but really, it's a good beer for the style. It just sort of pisses me off that 1) This, along with the Cranberry Lambic was shoveled in with the other Winter Sampler beers, which are pretty good. If you wanted a lighter ale to throw in there, why not just go with the Sam Adams Light, which I think is pretty great, and 2)You already have a kickass seller in the Summer Ale, so what are you gonna do now when you've already replaced the poor-selling White Ale with the Noble Pils? Huh? Is Coastal Wheat going to stand on its own?

The Best: My top rated beers were Boulevard's Double-Wide IPA, which, despite the confusing name, is not a double IPA. I think I enjoyed the one I had earlier in the year more than the couple I had later in the year. It was a total hop bomb in the spring. I had the New Holland Night Tripper at Three Floyd's Dark Lord Day in April. The catch was, that it was last year's Night Tripper, so it had aged a year. I thought it tasted great, but then, it could have been just the atmosphere of DLD. I got another bottle in May and aged it about 2 months, and it was pretty good, but not how I remembered it.

Two other beers worth mentioning that I tried in 2009 were Lazy Magnolia's Southern Pecan, a brown ale brewed with pecans. This is by far, in my opinion, the best brown ale brewed in America. It was just wonderful. Nutty, and sweet, but not annoyingly sweet. Stone's Levitation ale was another first-try at DLD, and at 4.4% ABV, it had a surprisingly awesome hop nose, without being overly bitter.

What Beer Mistakes did you make?

Probably not brewing enough beer. There were shortages between my buddy and I, but we both had busy summers, so we just didn't buckle down and brew a lot. Also, I should have exercised more to counter all the beer I drank. I've been going strong for 4 weeks now and I feel a ton better. There were also a ton of beer brewing mistakes that I made, but as for the pairings discussed in the root article for this session, meh. I didn't get crazy with food pairings so much.

I'm just going to combine the last questions of What beer resolutions do you have for 2010? What are your beer regrets and embarrassing moments? What are you hoping to change about your beer experience in 2010?

First of all, I don't have any beer regrets or embarrassing moments. 2009 will be noted as the year I stopped drinking the American Lagers produced by Bud, Miller and Coors. There were several times I went without a beer when all that was available were these products. Luckily, though, the craft beer industry seems to be infiltrating places not usually associated with what I would call "good beer". I never went to a NASCAR race, though, so I'm sure I'd go without at that event.

Resolutions and changes for 2010?

1) Enter at least one beer into a contest this year.
Ideally, I'd like to enter 3. Some dude out there has already entered an amount in the teens, and it's still January as I write this. Yeah, I guess I won't worry about being "Homebrewer of the Year" in 2010.

2) Get a local homebrewing group going.
Seems like a lot of people want this, but no one is leading the effort. I don't think it will be too hard, and I enjoy throwing a soiree every now and then. I need goals, though. But not anything that will scare people who just want to scratch the surface.

3) Improve my homebrewing techniques.
This is a continuous improvement process

4) Make the 2nd version of the Black Sabbath Imperial Stout
This is my annual big beer, but probably not my only one, since I've got plans for another Belgian as well as an American Strong ale.

5) Be more consistent with my beer blogging.
I was thinking about posting something every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but if I can just make every Friday for the rest of the year, I think that is good enough.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Brewdog Punk IPA

Around December, I received an issue of Brew Your Own magazine that had an article about the Brewdog Brewery in Scotland. It even included some recipes for 3 of their beers. I had seen this brand in my favorite local liquor store, but the label suggested to me that they were pushing an attitude, and for an IPA, I thought the price was a little too high for me.

I caved, though, when I read the recipes and the ingredients that they used. That being they use only one malt, Marris Otter, to make this beer. Bear with my brewing knowledge for just a second; some of the time pale ales or India Pale Ales use a base malt, such as 2-Row Barley, Marris Otter or some other malt that when converted to sugar, will completely ferment. If your yeast does it's job (and gets good attenuation) 75% of those sugars will convert to alcohol. Thus, the beer is not very sweet. Crystal, or Caramel malt, with varying degrees of colors (measured in Lovibond), will give the beer a darker color, and the sugars this malt imparts are not converted to alcohols. These malts usually make up less than 10% of the grain used in the beer.

So what this means, in the case of the Brewdog Punk IPA, is that the malt base is going to be lighter in color, and not have much head retention (wheat malt is one type of malt that can be used for head retention, but there are others, such as Caramunich), as you can see in the photo.

The hop profile is interesting, because they use hops from New Zealand called Nelson Sauvin hops, as well as Chinook, a high alpha acid American hop, and also Ahtanum, another American hop, that has some Cascade and Amarillo qualities, and is usually on the lower end of the alpha acid scale. All the hops used are citrusy. The Chinook has more of a grapefruit quality, while the Ahtanum and Nelson Sauvin are more on the lemon or orange zesty side of things.

Overall, what you're getting is a beer that is not dry, but it's not necessarily sweet, with a big shot of bitter, citrusy hops. I'll let the guys at Brewdog explain it, since they do justice to the description way better than I ever could:

Here's where IPAs become interesting to me, because this is a nice, extreme example of the style, and when I say "extreme", I mean that it's on one end of the IPA spectrum. The other end would be a sweeter malt base with hops that provide the bitterness, but not the citrus sting. My favorite kinds meet somewhere in the middle - I like a sweeter base with stinging hops.

This is definitely worth trying just to get a base of what kind of beers IPAs can be. However, it is nowhere near anything you should suggest to someone who wants to try IPAs for the first time, because the flavor can be overwhelming.