Archive for January, 2009

Fish Mudshark Porter on Cask!

January 28, 2009

Just a quick FYI for you folks that we’ve got the Fish Mudshark Porter on cask today. I’ve been looking forward to revisiting this one in the winter. If my memory serves, this is an especially chewy, chocolatey porter, perfect for cloudy days and cool temps. Drop by today to get it fresh.

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The Sin of Mixing

January 27, 2009

Sometimes, when you’ve had a few drinks, you do something you really regret… something that will haunt you until your dying days. This happened to me yesterday when I… I… mixed beers!

Oh, God! What have I done!?

I wish I could say I was wasted beyond reason, totally incapacitated by alcohol when I perpetrated this crime against beerdom. But the ugly truth is that I had only had a sampler’s tray worth of beer and I just couldn’t help my curiosity.

You see… a couple came in Saturday night, and after I’d tapped the Six Rivers Raspberry Lambic, they started propagandizing heretical notions of taking said Raspberry Lambic and combining it with North Coast Old Rasputin on Nitro. I told them they were mad, evil, wrought from the Devil Himself.

How could one take the Best Nitro Imperial Stout Of All Time and defile its virtue with a far sweeter fruity beer? It was monstrous. It was wicked. It was… tempting.

The notion of a raspberry imperial stout, melding with coffee and chocolate, cinnamon and cream stoked my curiosity… my basest desires. But I withheld, reminding myself that it was evil to mix beers. Every beer snob worth their cirrhosed liver knows that you don’t take a masterpiece beer and dilute it with another. That’s the act of a vandal, a scourge, a… an Englishman.

But I did it. There’s no going back from that. And my actions influenced another at the bar, who promptly ordered an entire taster tray of Belgian-style beers– the North II, Vlad, and the beer that tastes like a Belgian-style, the Cascade Old Growth–and began combining them in a separate 10 oz glass with the lambic, like some modern-day Dr. Frankenstein. Only then did I realize the pure evil of my actions. I had opened a Pandora’s Tap of Evil that could not easily be shut off.

How long before some other madman starting asking for IPAs mixed together, or ambers and pilsners, brown ales and saisons? What other monstrosities might spawn from my one tiny indiscretion?

And the worst of it is that I had sold my soul for a fool’s bargain. The lambic and stout mixture was certainly not repulsive, but nowhere near as good as the beers by themselves. Even with only a third of the lambic to a 2/3 fill of the imperial stout, the stout flavors were almost invisible under the sugary punch of the lambic.

I beseech each and every one of you not to follow this dark path. There is no retribution, no return from this abyss. Once you have indulged in the sin of mixing, you are going straight to Beer Hell, where they serve only Bud Ice and Natty Lite in dirty paper cups out of warm cans for the whole of eternity.

Learn from my tragic mistake and remain virtuous, fellow beer lovers. Only through your salvation do I have any hope at all for redemption.

Wreck the Halls on Cask!

January 21, 2009

This week’s cask beer is the Full Sail Wreck the Halls, one of the better IPAs to come out this winter. I recently had a chance to revisit this beer and liked it even more than the first time we had it on. If you missed out on it before or share my fond memories of this hoppy masterpiece, be sure to come in today to give it a whirl on cask. Hops are just so much better when cask-conditioned.

Fresh Hop Black Flag on Cask!

January 14, 2009

We get a lot of great beer on cask, but this week’s choice is extra special. What makes it so, you ask? Everything you need to know is right in the name:

Cask-Conditioned,

Fresh Hopped,

Black Flag Imperial Stout.

I could go on, but I think this is definitely a case where I can let the name speak for itself. Come on in and try this rare treasure for yourself.

Sweet!

January 13, 2009

For anyone who likes their beers sweet, we’ve recently tapped a few beers that just might give you cavities. Hopheads need not apply.

  • Moylans Irish Red- This is one of the richest red ales I’ve ever had. It builds in caramel sweetness as toasted malts join in about halfway through the sip to temper that sugary burst. It mellows just a little from there, even getting a little sour in the finish. Aside from the mouthfeel effect, the hops in this one are practically unnoticeable.
  • Block 15 Belgian Brown- Is this a case of mistaken identity? As far as I can tell, this one tastes far too much of sweet banana flavors to be recognizable as your typically drier, more roasted and sour “Belgian Brown.” Rather, this is very much like a Dunkelweizen with the sweet banana flavors leading off and a lighter, more subtle roast and slight sourness peeking in at the end.
  • Caldera Old Growth ’04- What’s an Imperial Stout doing on this list? I have no idea. This beer is so crazy, it ought to be institutionalized. Technically a lager and brewed with black peppercorn, hemp seed, and a witch’s brew of other assorted ingredients, this “stout” tastes incredibly tart. Sour cherry hits you in the tongue to start, followed by a smoothing out of sweet and sour peaking and receding in turns, and a roasted, peppery finish that comes out of nowhere. Let this one warm up to get the full effect.

Headless Beers!

January 9, 2009

One thing I’ve never understood is why some people don’t like any head on their beer, or only just the tiniest sliver of it. Personally, I love beer foam. I love the taste of it, the look of it, and most of all, what it tells me about the beer I’m excited to taste.

It’s always a sign of a good beer, and a good beer system behind the bar, when you receive a pint that has a perfect inch to inch-a-half of foam and that foam is thick and resilient. While it’s rare that a beer will retain its head for the entirety of the drink, those that do also manage to retain their aroma and carbonation for longer.

So, what does it say if you don’t get a good beer head? There are a number of possibilities, but here are some of the more likely ones:

  1. The beer is flat. The keg didn’t get carbonated properly at the brewery, the bar isn’t supplying enough CO2, or the beer’s been on tap too long and has become oxidized.
  2. The glass or the lines are dirty. Nothing kills foam faster than grease or bacteria. If the bar isn’t cleaning their lines from the kegs to the taps regularly and/or if they are using soap and detergent to clean their glasses without removing all the residue, it can result in a headless beer with a lot of unpleasant off-flavors.
  3. The pour was lousy. Overfilling a glass can push out the foam, filling it to the brink with liquid instead. Also, a careless bartender may not realize that each beer comes out of the tap a little differently and that some require a more aggressive pour to release foam.
  4. It’s the glassware’s fault. While a regular 16 oz pint glass “works,” its design isn’t as good as the bubbled imperial pint glass at capturing foam and keeping it.
  5. The beer is supposed to be that way. This usually isn’t the case, but some breweries intentionally carbonate their beers less for some higher alcohol styles like barleywines because carbonation can conceal some flavor nuances.

Whatever you do, don’t end up with a headless beer. It’s not only an indication that your beer is going to go flat pretty soon (if it isn’t already); it probably means there are a number of other things wrong with it, too.

Cask’s Back and Caldera Old Growth Is On!

January 7, 2009

I had a lot of questions on Saturday about what happened to our cask ales. The only reason we didn’t have one on for you beer fans last week is because we only just reopened on Friday. Fortunately, we’re rectifying the cask-less situation today by tapping a brand new keg of the Hale’s Ales Mongoose IPA.

And if that’s not enough to get you to brave wind and rain to come on down tonight, we’ve also just put the Caldera Old Growth 2004 on tap. That’s right, skippy: 2004!

Beer Language

January 7, 2009

Part One: Light It Up

What people say and what they think they’re saying are sometimes two completely different things. I’ve noticed that this is especially true in the case of beer, where so many terms have multiple meanings and interpretations depending on the person. That’s why I’m starting this new section, to discuss a few of these words and maybe lock down some alternative word choices that will help me, the bartender, understand what you, the customer, really want to drink.

Today’s word is “light,” which is one of the more versatile and ambiguous words in the English language. It’s a verb, a noun, an adjective and throw an “ly” at the end of it and it’s an adverb, too. It can refer to illumination, color, weight, sparseness or force, just to name a few of the most obvious definitions, and it’s especially problematic when used to describe beer.

A “light” beer could be:

  1. A beer that is light in color or appearance
  2. A beer that is light in taste/flavor
  3. A beer that is light in alcohol
  4. A beer that is light in calories

Those four definitions aren’t always mutually exclusive, but in most cases, they aren’t related to one another. Macro lagers are probably the exception to that rule, as they do tend to be all of the above, and certain classic beer styles also tend to fit those four definitions pretty well, though not always; these styles include Kolsch, Blonde, Pilsner, Helles, and some American wheat beers.

But it’s a mistake to assume that if a beer is light in color, it must be light in the other three categories, too. Take yesterday’s example of the Saison style as a beer that is usually light in color, but not particularly light in flavor, alcohol, or calories. The same goes for a Belgian Strong Golden, trippels, a hoppy pilsner, Hefeweizens, and some lighter colored IPAs. There are plenty of darker colored beers like ambers, browns, or black ales that I’d argue were far lighter in flavor than their golden cousins.

So let’s talk alternatives to the word, “light.”

Usually what most people are looking for when they ask for a “light” beer is something that is clean, easy to drink, and features only a couple basic flavors. In other words, nothing that is too complex, strong, or bitter. If that sounds like you, try asking for something “clean,” “simple,” “thirst-quenching,” “refreshing,” or “sessionable,” meaning it’s the kind of beer you can guzzle instead of sip.

On the other hand, if you’ve got no problem with some complexity in your beer, but you just don’t like darker colored beers for their roasted coffee or chocolate flavors, specify that you don’t like those particular styles and specify whether you’re in the mood for something “strong” or “weak,” in alcohol, and “clean,” “fruity”, or “hoppy” in taste.

If you’re looking for a beer with less alcohol, check the ABV (Alcohol By Volume). Most low-alcohol beers are between 4-5% and there are plenty of darker colored beers that qualify.

And if you’re looking for a beer with fewer calories, you’re wasting your time. While alcohol does contain calories, it’s a myth that alcoholic drinks lead to weight gain. Don’t believe me?

Click here.

(That’s right. You no longer have any reason at all for drinking Amstel Light or Michelob Ultra.)

Now that you’ve got plenty of alternatives to the word “light,” I’m calling a ban on it. The next time you order a beer, see if you can avoid using the most ambiguous word in all of Beerdom. And be sure to give me hell if you catch me rolling it out again either.

Beer Styles Defined

January 6, 2009

Part Six: ‘Tis the Saison

Some people just love to ask impossible questions. Like, “if you were stranded on a desert island and could only drink one beer for the rest of your life, what would it be?” I usually love to inquire how this absurd scenario played out that I ended up stranded somewhere I don’t want to be, but somehow equipped with a lifetime supply of my favorite beverage in the world (and presumably, a means of refrigerating it and opening it). After much cajoling and creative back stories of how I landed in this predicament, I usually reward the questioner with this answer: Saison.

Before I get into the explanation behind that choice, it’s probably best to clear up a few of those wrinkles on many of the foreheads out there by explaining the meaning of this strange word, “Saison.” Pronounced “SAY-SAWN,” it means “Season” in France and was originally used to describe any low-alcohol pale ale being brewed for the farmers during harvest time. Because the water wasn’t safe to drink, Saisons were passed around instead, albeit at a far weaker alcohol content than anything you’d find today. They were around 3% ABV, which is even “lite”-r than a Miller Lite. Although, flavor-wise, they probably had a little bit more going on, having been strongly hopped to preserve them for the months of storage and often mixed with previous years’ batches or even with fruity, sour Belgian “lambics” (we’ll get to what those are in a future column…).

At some point, some genius came up with the idea of taking this traditional Belgian style and upping the alcohol level significantly. The brewery Brasserie DuPont in Belgian then popularized this higher alcohol Saison with its signature beer, Saison DuPont, which is largely considered the quintessential version of the style, as well as the most imitated by both Belgian and American brewers.

The best thing about the Saison as envisioned by Brasserie DuPont and tweaked by scores of other brewers is that it maintains the drinkability of the original “farmhouse” styles while delivering a spectacular level of nuanced flavors and complexity, thanks in large part to the type of yeast being used to ferment the beer.

A good Saison is many things, but usually, it tends to be fairly dry and clean, with a gentle sourness, earthiness and a peppery or spiced finish. Carbonation is a big factor, too, usually delivering champagne-style tiny bubbles that add to the effervescence and crispness of the beer. Not to be confused with the similarly colored Belgian Strong Golden, Saisons tend to be far drier, slightly lower in alcohol and usually more aggressively hopped, although by Hophead standards, the Saison style is not particularly bitter, grapefruity, piney, or rough. The hops tend to be milder and more flowery and adopt more of a supporting role by providing aroma and body complexity.

Most Saisons you’ll find today run around 5-8% ABV, with the majority falling right in the middle of that range. Some of the better versions found in America include the Ommegang Hennepin (which is on tap at Bailey’s right now), as well as the North Coast Le Merle, the Bruery Saison De Lente, the Smuttynose Farmhouse, and the Bison Farmhouse. Traditional Belgian examples include the previously mentioned Saison DuPont and the Fantome Saison.

Now that you know a little more about the style, I can explain my desert island choice a little better. Imagine the scenario with me. You’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, the sun’s beating down, and you’ve got nowhere to go. If you’re anything like me, you, first of all, want to drink something clean and refreshing that will quench your thirst. Secondly, if this is going to be the last beer for the rest of your life, it had better be pretty damn interesting, not only because you’re going to get bored of it pretty quickly otherwise, but because you’ve got nothing else to do but enjoy every blessed little nuance of every tiny little sip you take. And finally, to stave off sobering thoughts of dying alone out in the middle of nowhere, it better have a kick to it.

So, you tell me, what’s better than a Saison?

Happy New Beer!

January 2, 2009

Part Two: On to ’09

As many of you have probably discovered the hard way, we’ve been closed for the past two weeks, taking advantage of the holiday season to catch our breaths. Well, we’re opening back up again today and Geoff’s decided to kick off the return with five exciting new beers on tap.

Here’s just some of what you have to look forward to:

  • Hair of the Dog Fred
  • Cascade Dark Day IPA
  • Firestone Union Jack IPA
  • Walking Man Foot Fetish Brown
  • Ommegang Hennepin

Yes, you read that last one right. Geoff’s breaking one of his sacred rules and tapping an East Coast beer to kick off the new year right. If you’ve been missing good beer over the holidays, come on down today. We’ll see you there!