Thursday, January 31, 2013

1/31: Milwaukee Brewing's Booyah Farmhouse Ale

So my "Year of Beer" ends month number one with Booyah, a farmhouse ale from the Milwaukee Brewing Company.  (My first beer from the city of Milwaukee.)  Farmhouse ales are also known as "saisons."  These beers, which originated in the southern Belgian countryside, were typically brewed in the spring.  According to MJ, they "had to be sturdy enough to last for some months, but not too strong to be a summer and harvest thirst quencher." (Companion, p. 125)  But Booyah is year-round beer for Milwaukee Brewing

MJ describes the style as... "refreshingly crisp, tart beers" and "the flavor was heightened by a generous dose of hops, and perhaps spices." (p. 125)  To me, it tastes somewhere in between a summer wheat/white beer and a hoppy ale.  According to the brewery's website, one of the owners explains that Booyah was named after a soup/gathering-centered-around-eating-the-soup.  He said that the soup is made with a long list of ingredients, and their farmhouse ale is too. 

It is a fine beer.  The spices (if there are any) are subtle.  It starts out slightly fruity and ends on a hoppy note.  As I have said before "hoppy" is not my favorite taste in beer, but it might be yours.  It rates a 3.

-Jim from Milwaukee

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

1/30: Potosi Fiddler Oatmeal Stout

I am drinking differently now, and differently than I thought I would.  Tonight, among the thoughts about the taste of the beer (is that toasted cherry?), I am thinking "how is this stout any different than a porter?"  Luckily, I have MJ to help me on my journey.  In Companion, he says that in the heyday of porters, brewers would make several different strengths of porters, and the fuller-bodied ones became known as stouts.(p. 170)  Fiddler has 8% abv, so I suppose it qualifies as a stout, even if it is the only porter/stout that the brewery makes.  But this one isn't just a stout, it is an oatmeal stout.  And oatmeal stouts are considered to be a more nutritious than "regular" stouts.

MJ claims that a comment he wrote in a  1977 book resurrected the oatmeal stout style.  According to MJ, "Brewers with vague recollections of having made the style in the 1950s maintain that they used up to 15% oats." (p. 187)  But because oats gelatinize and make mashing difficult - and because "oats in the lower single figures" influence the taste, MJ doesn't think an oatmeal stout needs that high a percentage of oats. (p. 187)  Potosi Brewery in Potosi, Wisconsin agrees with him, they use 10% oats in this seasonal beer. 

It was good.  A 3 on my scale.  There is nothing wrong with this beer.  It had the dark roasted caramel, coffee, chocolate, toasted fruit flavors that are typically found in a porter or stout, but if the oats imparted a "firm, smooth, silky body" to the beer (p. 187), I missed that.  (It is much subtler than the rye beers.)  But if they snuck healthy oatmeal into my beer without me noticing, then these brewers from the southwest corner of my state are to be commended.

As I approach the end of my first month of my year of beers, I am contemplating changes.  I can find time to drink a beer every day, but finding the time to write about them has been more difficult.  It often takes an hour to write a post.  I am losing sleep on some nights.  Maybe I will cut back on my posts.  Of course, things like illness, coaching or international travel may interfere with my ability to drink a beer everyday.  We will see how it goes, but I guarantee that I will post tomorrow with my 31st beer of January, 2013.  Or my name isn't...

-Jim from Milwaukee

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

1/29: Redd's Apple Ale

Redd's Apple Ale
Well I knew it would be different, and since the weather was unseasonably warm, I figured that I would drink a beer out of season too.  Today's beer is Redd's Apple Ale.  (If you have seen the movie "Rock of Ages," let me say "Double the "d," Double the "p" - Double the flava.")   The bottle says it is made by Redd's Brewing Company, Albany, Georgia.  Their website says nothing.  The only content is a "store locator" that doesn't currently work. 

I did some digging and discovered that SAB Miller acquired this Polish label and decided to bring it to America.  It was first rolled out primarily in the south, and is now becoming available in the midwest.  In fact these markets are going to see this 15 second commercial during the Super Bowl.  I guess this is my week to be timely with MillerCoors products.

So in paragraph three, I suppose I should start discussing the actual beverage.  In a press release they said, "The beer is 'Crisp like an Apple. Brewed like an ale.' This is no cider, it’s a golden ale with red apple hints."  I poured it in my glass, it fizzed like soda, there was no head.  I tasted it and I detected no ale taste.  I beg to differ with you marketing copywriter person; this is a cider.  Don't get me wrong - I like cider and I'll give it a 3 - but it really doesn't belong in my year of beers.

-Jim from Milwaukee

Limited Bibliography

Monday, January 28, 2013

1/28: Goose Island Mild Winter

After yesterday's tasty beer made with rye, I thought I'd try another today in Goose Island's Mild Winter.  The label describes it as "American mild ale brewed with rye," and that is what it is.  This is an ale with some rye bread-y notes.  It isn't bad, but it doesn't create the same magic with the rye that Canoe Paddler did.  But still, a solid 3. 

But the label that so clearly described the beer also confused me.  Was this the same Goose Island Brewing Company that made 312 Urban Wheat Ale?  "312" is Chicago's area code, and Goose Island is a Chicago beer... but this Goose Island says "Brewed and Bottled... in Baldwinsville, New York."  The Chicago Tribune set me straight; Goose Island was purchased by Anheuser-Busch a few years back and starting in the second half of 2012, Chicago's Goose Island is going nationwide - being brewed at A-B plants from Colorado to New Hampshire, including their facility in Baldwinsville, NY. 

I prefer this truth in labeling to just printing the address of the home office.  The consumer has the information, and can decide if they care that Chicago's beer is now being brewed elsewhere.  And they can also judge if quality control is up to their personal standards.  Does NY's Goose Island taste the same as CO's, and taste the same as the original.  Granted a bunch of long-time fans are likely to come to the knee-jerk conclusion that only Chicago's Goose Island (or Chippewa Falls' Leinie's, etc.) is the real deal and the others are impostors, so I understand why a brewery might not be as revealing.  But at the end of day, beer is a food product and I want to know both where and when it was brewed.  Kudos to Goose Island for clearly labeling the bottled date of this beer as 11/10/12, as well as saying it is "brewery fresh" for 180 days after that date.  I much prefer that than giving an expiration date, or worse yet a coded bottled date.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

1/27: Leinenkugel's Canoe Paddler

imageThis beer is so new that - as of this writing - it does not appear on Leinie's website, and this beer doesn't have enough ratings at ratebeer to qualify for a score.  This is a new seasonal (spring - summer) beer for Leinie's.  

That aside, it is a Kolsch-style beer, brewed with rye.  That description led me back to my periodic chart of beers and to MJ's Companion.  Kolsch is a golden ale popularized in Cologne, Germany.  The beer's name comes from the name of its city (Koln, in German).  The beer is "as pale as a pilsner, but with the fruitiness of an ale, Cologne's beer has its own teasing delicacy." (Companion, p. 153)  It is listed as an mixed style, in column XIV, in the chart - a type of Alt beer, but Wikipedia says that Altbier is from Dusseldorf, and while it tastes very similar the rivalry between the two cities probably means that in Cologne they view Altbier and a type of Kolsch.  Regardless, MJ calls it "clean tasting, remarkably light-bodied, soft and drinkable, only faintly fruity..." (p. 154)  This is not a sipping winter beer. I could see drinking a couple at a a ball game.

MJ says that in Cologne, brewers might use up to 15% wheat to get a little more fruitiness, but that this is a "delicate style" without many "dramatic differences" across breweries. (p. 154)  The rye in Canoe Paddler might be dramatic by Cologne standards, but it works.  The rye comes through in the finish, and it lends the beer an added depth of flavor.  I suppose if you don't like rye, you won't like this beer.  To my taste buds, it tastes like a light rye bread.  It would also pair well with a fish fry or a corned-beef sandwich. 

I give it a high "3."  No.  I take that back.  I am craving one right now.  This is a "4."

Jim from Milwaukee

Saturday, January 26, 2013

1/26: Alaskan Brewery's Winter

Here is another beer with a gimmick; Alaskan Brewery's Winter - an ale brewed with spruce tips.  They claim that this is a old ale, like Rocky's Revenge - "Style: English Olde Ale. Traditionally malty with the warming sensation of alcohol."

I am not tasting the alcohol, or any warming sensation.  But I am tasting the spruce.  Ironically, it has more alcohol by volume that Rocky's Revenge has (6.4% vs. 6.0%), but it doesn't taste like liquor, instead it tastes like a pine-y ale.  Obnoxious, but not too obnoxious that I want to pour it down the drain.  I will be able to finish this one, but it is not a favorite.  I'll give it a low three.

They say that brewing with spruce tips is an Alaskan tradition that goes back to the late 1700s.  There is something to be said for using traditional local ingredients, but this strikes me as a gimmick.

-Jim from Milwaukee

Friday, January 25, 2013

1/25: Shiner Bock

We moseyed out to a Texas smokehouse barbecue this evening, so I thought I'd have a Texas beer.  They had Shiner Bock on tap, so that is what I ordered.  It came out even flatter than the picture. 

They say that everything is bigger in Texas, but apparently they overlooked "flavor."  Their website describes the beer as having, "a mellow taste free of the bitter aftertaste found in many micro, specialty and imported beers."  I think they wanted a comma between "taste" and "free," but those two words are appropriate.  It was an attractive dark amber color, that somehow came across as cold, beer-flavored water.  There would have to be no other beer alternatives for me to drink this way again, but it didn't taste bad - it just didn't taste like much.

-Jim from Milwaukee

Thursday, January 24, 2013

1/24: Tyranena Brewery's Rocky's Revenge

Rocky's Revenge is a dark brown ale that I could feel warming my throat as I drank it.  Since the name Rocky's Revenge doesn't give a clue as to its variety, my senses - honed by research and 24 days of experience drinking new beers - told me this was a porter.  It was dark, caramel-y, and warming like a porter.  It actually tasted like a hard alcohol, which was not like any porter I had tasted to this point.  A quick trip to the internet led me to a site that called it Bourbon Brown Ale.  The fine print on the label said it's "an American brown ale with a portion aged in bourbon barrels."  So that explains the liquor notes I tasted. 

In Ultimate, MJ, (you remember "the King of Hop(s)"), classifies some porters, stouts and ales as "Sociable Beers" while others are classified  as "Winter Warmers."  He says of these ales "...often dark brown ales, usually malt-accented, sweet, and relatively full-bodied but only medium-to-strong in alcohol are typically regarded as winter warmers." (p.110)  This beer has a 6.0% abv which is in the range of his highlighted "Old Ales" in his "Winter Warmers" chapter.  But this beer is not seasonal. Tyranena makes only six beers year round and this and Chief BlackHawk Porter are among these year-round beers, with a scotch ale and an oatmeal stout among their six seasonal brews.

I like this beer.  It is different in a subtle and good direction.  I'm still giving it a 3, but I am looking forward to trying more from Tyranena.

Jim from Milwaukee

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

1/23: Samuel Adams' Winter Lager

So here is one of those beers that Bell's Winter White Ale is countering; Sam Adams' Winter Lager.  It is a reddish, roasted malt beer brewed with spices.  They say "The cinnamon, ginger, and hint of citrus from the orange peel blend with the roasty sweetness of the malts to deliver a warming, spicy flavor."  I am glad they told me what spices because I couldn't have named them.

It tastes like a medium-bodied brown ale.  It drinks like a medium-bodied brown ale.  It is good.  A three in my rating system. 

Readers, I am starting to run out of beer in the house, so I am looking for suggestions.  What should I drink next?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

1/22: Bell's Winter White Ale

As I mentioned yesterday, most winter beers that I have come across tend to be dark in color.  With roasted malts that give the beer coffee and toasted caramel notes to warm a drinker on a cold winter's night.  Yesterday's winter beer was orange, today's - Bell's Winter White Ale - is a more typical amber color.  The difference is intentional.  According to their site; it was designed to be "a lighter yet abundantly flavorful alternative to the traditional heavy winter warmers." 

In other words... "if you are tired of the porters and stouts, we brew a summer wheat ale - but only in the winter time."  And because it is a Belgian-styled wheat/white beer, we call it Winter White and put a picture of a white snow-covered forest on the label.  Aren't we clever!

In general, I like wheat beers, but this one - not so much.  The overwhelming sweetness that I couldn't stand in Shakparo is hinted at here.'s readers gave it an 86, gave it a B, but noted a "grape bubblegum" flavor and I suppose others might like that.  It is ok enough to earn a 3, but just barely.

Jim from Milwaukee

Monday, January 21, 2013

1/21: Capitol Brewing's Winter Skal

While there was celebrating at the capitol in DC today, I drank my second beer from Capitol Brewing in my state capitol of Madison: Winter Skal.  (I apologize for not being able to replicate the little circle over the "a" in Skal.) 

I expected a "winter beer" to be darker, but as their website says, the beer has "a warm amber hue."  Personally, I thought it was orange.  Skal, from what I can find on the internet, is not a style of beer, only a Scandinavian toast to good fortune and good health. 

So how did they discribe this beer?  "A full bodied beer with a warm amber hue showing off its rich malt heritage. Mildly bittered featuring a hop presence that compliments and rounds out the malt overtones."  They say the used 4 types of malts in this brew, Brewers, Munich, Caramel and Honey.  I didn't taste full-bodiness or complex flavors.  I am not sure if it is an ale or a lager.  (Though my money is on "ale.")  For me the brew was kind of boring.  It had one taste, and it was a hoppy taste. 

It didn't do much for me.  It was just another beer.  (That is a "3" for those of you scoring at home.)  It wasn't bad, but it didn't make much of an impression at all... except for the fact that it was orange.

Jim from Milwaukee

Sunday, January 20, 2013

1/20: Capitol Brewing's Weizen

Yesterday's sheepshead party, spilled into this morning.  So I am counting my last beer of the party as today's beer.  It was Weizen by Madison, WI's Capitol Brewing Company.

It is a seasonal beer, with the season being summer, so this beer was likely 6 months old. I found it refreshingly light and fruity after the dark lagers, but it was a bit sweeter than I like. Their website says "a unique yeast provides spicy bubblegum, banana, clove flavor notes." Maybe it was the bubblegum notes that pushed it into the "not a preferred beer" range.  Still a 3, just a less preferred version of a favorite style of mine. 

I will be having a fresher example of a Capitol beer soon when I drink a Winter Skal that I acquired in a Christmas 9 pack of winter beers.

-Jim from Milwaukee

Saturday, January 19, 2013

1/19: Guinness Black Lager

Smithwick's (I hear it pronounced like "Smith-icks") is a red ale and Ireland's oldest ale.   If past sheepshead parties at the McCauley's are any indication, I will be enjoying one or two of these fine beers tonight.

When I spend the night socializing late in to the evening, what else can I do but write my post earlier in the day? I suppose I could be having a beer now, at 3 in the afternoon. But I actually don't drink a lot of beer, and don't want to start now. One (or occasionally two) per day is enough. I'd rather have one quality beer than many inferior beers. I propose a toast - To moderation!

I'll come back tomorrow with my tasting notes and my rating (odds are it will be a "3".)

1/20: Update: When I entered the party, the first person I saw drinking a beer was drinking out of a Smithwick's glass, but alas there was no Smithwick's on hand.  But the McCauley's represented Irish beers well with two Guinness selections: cans of their famous stout, and bottles of their black lager.  I chose the lager because I couldn't recall having had it before.

It was good.  Roasted malted barley imparting the usual caramel/coffee flavors in a smooth tasting lager.  A definite 3.

I was at the party for 6 hours and had three beers in that time; two of the Black Lagers and a Weizen by Madison, WI's Capitol Brewing Company.  As for the sheepshead, after 4 rounds I was in 7th place out of 16, so I just missed the money table (top 6).  A fun night.

-Jim from Milwaukee

Friday, January 18, 2013

1/18: Howe Sound Rail Ale Nut Brown

Today's beer is my first Canadian beer of the year. Howe Sound Brewery is located in Squamish, BC, a 45 minute drive north of Vancouver on Howe Sound, the southern-most fjord in North America. Besides the brewery, they have a brew pub and a 20 room inn. I don't know how comfortable their beds are, but they make a good brown ale. The brown in the ale comes from roasting the malted barley, and they want people to know that this beer's malt is 100% barley. The roasting imparts a coffee and caramel flavors to the beer. The label mentions hints of chocolate and licorice as well, but I guess I didn't take the hint. I did find it smooth, creamy and flavorful. A 3 in my book.

British Columbia and the American Pacific Northwest is a prime hops growing region and with good mountain water, local hops and barley the brewery strives to have "zero effect on the environment."  As part of their Eco Push initiative they get their spent grain to local farms for animal feed and composting, but what the beer buyer will notice is their 1 liter sized resealable and reusable bottles.  It is big enough to share, but resealable so you don't have to share.  All of their beers seem to come in this type of brown bottle.  Speaking of their other beers - they make 17 - 7 year round, and 10 seasonals.  The Nut Brown ale is a year-round variety.  I need to look for their King Heffy Imperial Hefeweizen this summer, because their description of it mentions banana. 

Another thing to like about this brewery is that the tout their relationship with John Mitchell, a man they call "the grandfather of micro-brewing in Canada."  They say that Mitchell was one of the initiators of the craft brewing renaissance in 1980.  A chart I was sent yesterday by a reader, shows that 1980 was indeed the start of this trend.  In the late 1970s their were only 89 breweries in the entire United States, and now there are over 2,100.

Jim from Milwaukee

Thursday, January 17, 2013

1/17: Blue Moon Winter Abbey Ale

See my post from the 9th to learn about "Abbey Style Ales." This particular variety is a "single" and is really good. Its alcohol content is only 5.6% abv, compared to last week's triple's 8.4% abv., as you would expect since single, double and triple refer to alcohol content.

This beer is a golden brown and red color, and poured with a better head than is pictured, but the foam quickly dissipated. The flavor was smooth and carmel-y without being overly sweet. The bottle says it is brewed "with roasted malts, Belgian sugar and a touch of wheat." That would explain the carmel and the smoothness. The label says there is "a smooth toffee finish." I didn't pick up on that, but you might. It is definately one would have again, so a 3.

Now I want to talk about the brewery, Blue Moon. It is part of the Tenth and Blake Beer Company - a craft brewing division of what is now MillerCoors.

What do I think about multi-national conglomerates making craft beers? If you make a good beer, I don't care how big you are. They use their distribution networks to get in to bars and grocery stores across the country, and good for them... as long as the local breweries also get to represent at these establishments. And in my town the true little guys get to compete in the marketplace. In some ways, the Blue Moons of the world can serve as a gateway to true Belgians or other small craft beers. It is a good time to drink beer. Craft beers are gaining marketshare (at the expense of the mega-lagers) and consumers like me are learning to appreciate different styles of beer. Blue Moon and Leinenkugel are brands that can help MillerCoors hold overall marketshare when High-Life and Coors Light take a dip. It is good business. And as long as it is good beer and alongside true micro-brews, I believe it is good for beer drinkers.

Jim from Milwaukee

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

1/16: Sprecher's Shakparo

Shakparo is a gluten-free beer. Instead of wheat or barley, the grains used are sorghum and millet. It looks like the ales and lagers that I am used to, with a bright golden color. It smells like beer too. But the taste... I'll let Sprecher tell it...

"An unfiltered, light, crisp ale with a cider or fruit profile and a dry vinous aftertaste..."

"Vinous" means "related to wine" or "wine-like," but if it meant vine-like or grass-y, then they would have described what I tasted. In every mouthful I had three distinct flavors; at first ale, then apple juice-y sweetness, and lastly the lingering taste of dry grass. The grass-y aftertaste was not pleasant, but much preferred over the overly sweet apple juice flavor. The only part of the flavor that I liked - the ale stage, was the one that lasted the briefest. 

It is a West African style of beer - a region of the world where wheat and barley don't readily grow.  It was first brewed for Milwaukee's African World Fest, but being glutten-free meant people on certain restictive diets could drink beer again.  That audience buys enough of this beer to keep Sprecher brewing it year round.

I am glad that they make beers for people with celiac disease, or other gluten issues, but since I do not have these afflictions, I do not think I will ever have another of these.  I give it a 2.  But God help me, Sprecher makes another gluten-free beer made with bananas, sorghum and millet.  It is called Mbege, and I am thinking that I should try it sometime.  Maybe I am a gluten for punishment.  (Sorry about that.)

-Jim from Milwaukee

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

1/15: Sprecher's Russian Imperial Stout

In Ultimate, (p. 118), MJ calls porters and stouts "winter warmers" and "the most wintry beers of all."  Describing them as "extra-strong, almost tarlike."  In Companion, (p. 189), he defines stouts as "strong porters,"  "brewed strong to travel."  Much of this style when to North Sea ports, where it was popular among Scandinavians and Czarist Russian court, and this is why the variety became known "as Russian Stout and Imperial Stout,"  Ultimate, (p. 118).

"Tar" was the first word that came to my mind when it hit the back of my throat.  Its blackness coated my mouth with a warmness that lingered in my mouth.  As for flavor, I agree with MJ, "tar-like notes with 'burnt' fruitiness and alcoholic warmth," (Companion, p.189).  I like his description, "the fruitiness is reminiscent of the burnt currants on the edge of a cake that has just been removed from the oven."  In my head it was somewhere between cherry and raisin, and I think currant fits the bill.  There is a hint of sweetness, but I wouldn't call it sweet.

When it comes to the alcoholic part of the equation, MJ describes  one variety as "whiskey-ish," another as "rummy" and yet another as "sherry-ish."  I fear I don't have enough experience with these beverages to classify Sprecher's variety.  Its alcohol content is high; 7.9% abv, but it is lower that that of the two imperials that MJ spotlights in Ultimate; one being 8.9, and the other 10.0 abv.

Yes, I'd gladly have another (3) on a cold winter's day (or night.)

Jim from Milwaukee

Monday, January 14, 2013

1/14: Sapporo Premium Beer

Tonight we ate at a Japanese restaurant, so I took the opportunity to have a Japanese beer.  I had options but I chose the brand that I was most familiar with; Sapporo - and I was served a Sapporo Premium.  Sometimes known as Sapporo Black Label.

The Japanese drink a lot of beer and happoshu - a lower malt beverage (grain less than 67% malt).  My guess is that this beer (which may have been brewed at their brewery in Guelph, Ontario, Canada) contained some rice.  According to Wikipedia, Europeans in the 17th Century started making beer in Japan to supply European sailors and the locals found that they liked it.  This isn't to surprising since sake - coming from a grain - is a variant of beer. (Ultimate, p. 11)  Sapporo was started in 1876 by a Japanese brewer who was trained in Germany.

It is an imported lager, but it doesn't have that skunky taste I found in last week's Peroni.  It starts with a hoppy bouquet that quickly gives way to a crisp, dry finish.  It's solid if unspectacular.  And if you have been following this blog, (Hi Mary), my next sentence should not surprise you.  I rate it a 3 - I'd have another.  While I expected "3" to be my most common rating, I didn't expect 80% or more of the beers to earn a three.  I guess when I choose a beer, style is a much more important factor than brand.  Different styles are appropriate in different settings, and keeping that in mind - almost every beer I have tried I feel has a context where I might like another.

Speaking of context, Sapporo is a taste of Japan, but it is firmly in the European tradition.  So I can see why you might order one in a Japanese restaurant, but in a liquor store or grocery store or even a cooler at a tailgate... whenever you are looking for a "beer" - instead of a "Japanese beer" - I am not sure why you'd want to choose a Sapporo Premium.  Unless you really like Budweiser, but you are trying to appear more worldly.

-Jim from Milwaukee

Sunday, January 13, 2013

1/13: Chameleon's Witty

WWitty, a wheat ale brewed with spices.  Like yesterday's 312 wheat ale, this one looks like lager.  But I would never confuse these two due to the spices.

These spices are right up front and in your face.  But what spices are they?  I could identify a lemon-y back end due to the yeast, but I couldn't identify the overpowering spiciness.  Maybe ginger, maybe rosemary, something sharp and bold.  So off to the internet I went.  The answer was "grains of paradise, coriander and orange peel."  I have had "Belgian White" beers with coriander and orange peel before, so the "different" thing must be "grains of paradise." 

Wikipedia (the previous link) says grains of paradise is an African spice in the ginger family that is rarely used in America except in some beers.  Also the article says that it can be used as a substitute for black pepper.  I can see that now.  An hour after I finished the beer, I can now identify a peppery tingle in my mouth.

Okay, so now that I know what that taste is, what do I think of it?  I think others might like this beer, but it isn't for me.  So that is a 2 on my rating scale.

Now on to "Chameleon Brewing Company, Glendale, Wisconsin."  I bought this beer at the gift shop at Sprecher in Glendale when I purchased the another non-Sprecher brew brewed in Glendale, Bucky Blonde. Bucky was attributed to Lithia Brewing, so I figured it was brewed under contract by Sprecher.  Maybe that isn't the case, because that is not true of Chameleon.  According to their website, Chameleon was founded by Randy Sprecher.  So Sprecher Brewery is making and selling Chameleon for Randy Sprecher.  Maybe these off labels are trying to be bold and be loved by a few, and that is a noble effort, but they don't connect with me.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

1/12: Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Ale

Tonight I spent the evening in a sports bar to watch a football playoff game.  I knew I was going to be there for a few hours and a few beers, so I chose a beer variety that wasn't too heavy.  Besides their usual selections, they were featuring Goose Island's 312 Urban Wheat Ale and Milwaukee Brewing's Polish Moon Porter.  I had a Polish Moon at the end of last year - and it is a good beer - but the wheat ale seemed like the better choice.  It was a good choice.

When I made my choice, but before my first taste, I joked about the name.  What makes it an URBAN wheat ale, bits of asphalt?  Goose Island says it has "densely populated flavor."  I don't know about that, but is was good.

As you can see in the picture, this beer looks like a lager - and it goes down just as smooth.  There was no hoppy after taste.  It finished very citrus-y/lemon-y.  It was a good beer for the occasion.  I give it a 3.  Although it is a very high 3.

Part of me wonders if my choice of a Chicago beer over a Milwaukee beer, somehow affected the Packers.  But I had already had a couple by the time the Packers tied the game in the 3rd quarter, so I think the Packer defensive struggles were not beer choice related.

- Jim from Milwaukee

Friday, January 11, 2013

1/11: Big Bay Portside Porter

We had my company holiday party tonight at a pizza place just south of downtown.  Being day 11 in MYoB, I wasn't worried about finding a beer there that I hadn't had yet.  But thinking ahead to day 327, I decided to find something off the beaten path.  Their seasonal tap beer was Big Bay Portside.  I had never even heard of the Big Bay Brewery, so I found my beer.  I took out my tasting notebook and a sniffed, sipped and gulped my beer, trying to come up with something to say about it, and I came up with nothing.  No that isn't exactly true.  I wrote "sweet note" and "coffee."  I swear I tasted cherry in one sip, but I couldn't find it again, so maybe I imagined it.  So "hint of cherry" became "sweet note."  And "coffee," well it was a porter, don't they all taste a bit like coffee since the malt is roasted the same way that coffee beans are roasted? (Companion, p. 173)   It was ok, I'd have another, so it rates a 3.  Day 11 and I have nothing to say about a perfectly competent beer.  Maybe that is the problem, I have written about Porters before and since this one didn't suck or wow me what else can I say? 

I don't want to drink "extreme beers" just to have something to say... "The habanero peppers worked well with the marshmallow in this Equadorian ale..."  So what can I write about?  Thanks to the internet I now know that Big Bay is a craft brewer with a tasting room and store located on Oakland Avenue in Shorewood (Milwaukee County.)  I was not able to find a website, but did read a press release.  I also read that they don't have a location to brew their own beers, so they contract out their production. 

Jim from Milwaukee

Thursday, January 10, 2013

1/10: Point St. Benedict's Winter Ale

The marketing for St. Benedict's Winter Ale says nothing about Belgium or Abbeys.  It does say, it uses "generous amounts of dark roasted malts and the finest noble hops for a robust warming flavor."  The website was designed for serious foodies.  Besides having sections for food and cheese pairings, they even suggest wines that you might want to substitute with their beers.  (Drink this instead of a Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Port.)  They also reveal their malts (2-row, 6-row, Pilsen, Roasted, Aromatic, 2-row Chocolate) and hops (cluster).  I do taste the hops and malts. I am reminded of caramel and a hearty whole-grain bread.

The words "dark" and "chocolate" were used in the previous paragraph - and in a recent post about a porter.  But this beer isn't black like a porter, it is very red - like a 50/50 mix of cherry and apple juices. 
Is it any good?  I give it a 3. I'd have another.  It won a silver medal at the 2012 World Beer Championships.  I just looked up what Beer Advocate had to say, they call it an Abbey-style beer and their official taste testers rate it a 90 (exceptional).  I am glad to say that they use the phrases, "burnt sugar" and "toasted bread flavor" which isn't far from my "caramel" and "whole-grain bread."  So I guess my taste buds work.  They also talk about plums and pears, so I guess my taste buds need more excercise.  I now have 355 days left to go in My Year of Beer, so more exercise they will receive.

-Jim from Milwaukee

p.s.  6.2 abv, so not as much alcohol as yesterday's triple.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

1/9: Sprecher's Abbey Triple

Welcome to Belgium. 

OK, this beer was brewed here in Milwaukee County, but this is the first Belgian style ale that I have had in My Year of Beer.  In Companion, MJ lists six types of Belgian ales - one of which is "Trappist."  The Trappist religious order maintains six different monasteries - five in Belgium and one in the Netherlands.  They make about 20 different beers, and only these beers can be called "Trappist."  But if you want to brew a beer in that style - relatively strong, bottle-conditioned, plenty of yeast, fruity and aromatic - you can use the word "Abbey" instead. (pp. 131-133) The "fruit" that I taste is apple, and it has a crispness like an apple cider.  It even looked a bit like apple cider. While with yesterday's red ale, I felt that the malt kept the hops balanced, with this beer, I feel the yeast is accomplishing that task.  So what does "relatively strong" mean?  Well in Ultimate, MJ lists the alcohol content of American Ale, Redhook ESB at 5.4 alcohol by volume (abv), Goose Island's Honker's Ale at 3.8 abv, Franziskaner Kristallklar Weissebier st 5.0 abv... and this Abbey Triple tips the scales at 8.4 abv.    Four of the five Abbey Beers he details in Ultimate are between 8.0 and 9.0 abv.  The other, Orval, is "only" 6.2 abv.  According to MJ, single, double and triple correspond to the strength of the beer.  I'm feeling the triple.

MJ and other beer aficionados take their Belgians very seriously.  In Ultimate, he calls abbey beers aperitifs - a beverage to whet the appetite.   Elsewhere he says, "some of the abbey beers are excellent, characterful brews, but none is a classic." (Companion, p. 133)  Maybe not, but I'd have another of these - so it rates a 3. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

1/8: Berghoff's Reppin Red Ale

The last variety of my Berghoff 12 pack is Reppin Red Ale.  A search for an image to accompany this post found labels for "Famous Red Ale" and "Rock River Red Ale."  It is my guess that all of these Berghoff Red Ales are the same beer.

It is a good beer.  It earns a three.  It was hoppy and malty.  The label here says "a perfect balance of malt and hops."  Marketing speak - but the point is valid that the malt and the hops are both upfront creating loads of flavor, with neither overpowering the other.  I tend to like yeasty and malty beers, more than I do hoppy beers, and for me the hops were kept in check enough that I found it enjoyable.  I am looking forward to tasting other red ales.

-Jim from Milwaukee

Monday, January 7, 2013

1/7: Peroni Nastro Azzurro

I found myself with a few other beer drinkers at an Italian establishment tonight, so I asked the bartender for a Peroni.  The Peroni Brewery is in Rome, and is now owned by SAB Miller.   Wikipedia says that it is the most recognizable beer brand in Italy, and that their Nastro Azzurro (Blue Ribbon) brand is their "premium pale lager."  Mine was served to me in the green bottle without a glass, so I really never got to see it's true color.  But I did get to taste it.


Being a lager, it is light and refreshing when it first hits your taste buds.  It was thirst quenching.  Then comes the aftertaste.  This is where the flavor is located.  I am not sure if it from the hops or the water, but the aftertaste reminds me of many other imports that I have had; I immediately thought of Heiniken and another said it reminded him of Moosehead.  The aftertaste is somewhat "skunky" but not in a totally unpleasant way.  If you've had a few import lagers, I think you know what I am talking about. 

It was ok.  I'd have another.  So that rates it a "3" on my scale.  

Jim from Milwaukee

Sunday, January 6, 2013

1/6: Berghoff's Straight-Up Hefeweizen

I continue my way through the sampler 12 pack.  Berghoff makes a version of my favorite style of beer - the hefeweiss.  As I have mentioned, the yeast (hefe) usually gives this style of beer a lemon-y/citrus-y flavor.  Berghoffs version does have that flavor, but not enough of it to rate it above a 3.  It is a pleasant enough version of a hefeweiss.  Pleasant; but not special.  There is no "wow-factor."

Three Bergoff's rated and three "3"s awarded.  I don't foresee a pilgrimage to their brewery in Monroe in my immediate future. 

Wikipedia said this about the 2006 sale of the Joseph Huber Brewing Company...

"Berghoff beer, Huber's most popular label, will be produced by a new company called Berghoff Brewing Co., which will contract with Mountain Crest to brew the beer at the Monroe plant. The brewery was renamed Minhas Craft Brewery."

The Minhas Craft Brewery's website doesn't mention Berghoff.  But the label still says made in Monroe.  I can't find a website for a Berghoff Brewery, either.  Apparently this is a brand that does little to no marketing and inspires little enthusiasm.  The "Berghoff Brewery" page on facebook is pathetic, with only 104 likes.  In contrast, Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee has over 33,000 likes, and Sprecher in Glendale has over 8,000. 
I bought my 12 pack out of a need to supply beer to my New Year's Eve party guests.  It was a mix of interesting sounding flavors at a good price.  The price was kept low in part by limiting marketing.  And while no one wants to pay for marketing campaigns, a total lack of a marketing campaign (no website in 2013?) might lead one to guess the manufacturer has a total lack of enthusiasm for their product.  I believe I am tasting their lack of passion in every glass.
Jim from Milwaukee

Saturday, January 5, 2013

1/5: Berghoff's Sir Dunkle Dark Lager

Yesterday's Dormunder came in a mixed 12 pack of beers from Berghoff.  Today I enjoyed the Sir Dunkle Dark Lager.  The beer was medium bodied, not too heavy, it had coffee and creamy caramel notes. 

Referring to yesterday' periodic table graphic, Munich Dunkles is one square below Dormunders.  And while the color and flavor are different, there are similarities.  These two could be every day drinking choices, and a drinker might want to follow one with another.  These aren't beers that you need to sip like the the porter. 

According  to MJ, in Companion, dark lagers are associated with Munich and Bohemia.  "This style combines the dryish coffee and licorice notes of dark malts with the roundness and cleanness imparted by a lager yeast."   He goes on to list 5 producers of dark lagers.  Two German, one Czech, and the last two are from... Milwaukee County.  Apparently you don't have to go all the way to Monroe to get a dark lager.  Sprecher's Black Bavarian and Lakefront's East Side Dark Lager are two more examples of this type of beer. 

I liked Berghoff's Sir Dunkle.  I'd have another, so I'd rate it a 3.  Which is good because I have one or two more of these in my 12 pack.

-Jim from Milwaukee

Friday, January 4, 2013

1/4: Berghoff's Dortwunder Lager

One of my readers pointed out that I erred yesterday when I classified porters as being distinct from Ales.  Ales are top fermenting beers, while bottom fermenting beers are lagers.  The table above does make this distinction; I-IX are Ales,  X-XIII are Lagers, the bottom varieties are Mixed.  And as you can see porters (VIII) are a subset of ales.

While I will find this classification helpful from here out, my main source of beer knowledge to this point - the King of Hops: Michael Jackson - breaks things down in groups like the roman numerals above do.  There are Wheat Beers, Lambics, Belgian Ales...Scottish Ales, Brown Ales, Porters, Stouts, etc.   I encourage comments on the blog.  Thanks Dan.  Also thanks to Gene for sending me the link to the above "periodic table of beer."

Today's beer is a Dortmunder Styled Lager - #25 on the chart above in column XII; European Lager.  To me it tastes like a Standard American Lager (#24, XI).  So let me compare it to some Milwaukee Lagers you might have tried.  To me Miller High Life is much lighter, less full-bodied than Pabst Blue Ribbon - and this Dortmunder is somewhere in between - probably a little closer to the Pabst end of the spectrum.  MJ says of the style "less fragrant than a true Pilsner , but still dry; firmer in its maltiness than a Munich lager." (Companion, 1993)  He goes on to say that the style was popular in Dortmund, Germany with the men who worked in the coal and steel industries, but when those industries waned, their beer fell out of style.  It became "your parents beer" - totally uncool in the eyes of the younger generation.  It has caught on in the U.S. and Japan.

I grew up with PBR.  Berghoff's Dortwunder Lager tastes to me like "beer."  I like beer.  I'll rate it a 3.

* - Correction: I see now that the call the beer "Dortwunder."  Due to the font used on the bottle I couldn't tell.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

1/3: Leinenkugel's Snowdrift Vanilla Porter

Just like there is no fruit in fruity tasting hefeweisses, there is no chocolate in porters.  The flavor of chocolate comes from the malt. According to MJ in Ultimate, chocolate malts are "kilned at high temperatures without being burned." 

The label of this porter declares it to be "a perfect beer to celebrate the winter season.  Complex malt character reveals layers of coffee and cocoa."  So it looks like chocolate, and it tastes a bit like dark chocolate, but it contains no chocolate. Beer is magic.

MJ classified porters (and dry stouts) as sociable beers - meant to be lingered over in a pub.  I found it to be a good beer to accompany my dinner on a cold winter's night.  Not sweet, but full of flavor.  I will rate it a "3" - I'd have another.  It is a good tasting beer.

Since this is my first "dark" beer, I should pass on MJ's note on darker beers; they "are not necessarily fuller in body or stronger in alcohol.  There is no connection between color, fullness and potency.  Color derives from the malt used."  (Ultimate, p. 13)

Jim from Milwaukee

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

1/2: Franziskaner Weissbier

After not liking yesterday's ale, I selected a favorite of mine for day two: a Hefeweiss.  In German, "Hefe" means yeast and "weiss" means white.  According to Ultimate, this style of southern German beer is also known as hefeweizen. "Weizen" is German for wheat.  MJ says, "This type of beer is often served with a morning snack of bread and veal sausages.  Bavarians call it a 'breakfast beer' because it is light, cleansing and digestible." Which reminds me of the line, "you can't drink beer all day, if you don't start in the morning."

As you can tell from the picture, this "white" beer is not white in color, but it a cloudy golden brown.  It is only called white, because it is much lighter in color than traditional Munich brown beers.  The cloudiness comes from the fact that the yeast is not filtered out after the brewing is completed. 

Where yesterday's ale was hoppy, today's hefeweiss is yeasty.  And the yeast is the star here.  Hefeweisses are some of my favorite beers, and to me most of them taste of lemon or other citrus fruits - because of the yeast, there is no fruit in these beers.  But Franziskaner's leaves a distinct banana taste in my mouth.  The combination of wheat and banana brings banana bread to mind.  Maybe it is not for everyone, but that just means more for me.  I rate it a 4; "I'd seek this out."  I have.  And I would gladly do it again.  If other Spaten Brewery selections are equally interesting and tasty, I could consider a pilgrimage to Munich.

Jim from Milwaukee

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

1/1: Bucky Blonde Ale

Beer #1:  Bucky Blonde Ale by West Bend Lithia Beer, brewed in Glendale, WI by Sprecher Brewing.
I chose this one to celebrate the Badger's playing in today's Rose Bowl.  One Bucky didn't have a great game in Pasadena, and the other Bucky didn't have a great showing in my glass.  The label mentions that this is a pre-prohibition recipe of West Bend Lithia Beer, "brewed with the finest mineral containing water."  Whatever. 
I picked this one up at Sprecher Brewery in Glendale.  At first I thought that Sprecher was highlighting some local micro-microbrews, but in small print on the side it says, "Brewed in Glendale, WI."  So this is brewed under contract by Sprecher.  It has a nice golden color, with a good head.  It was hoppy and crisp and dry on my palate... but I don't like ales. I give it a 2; "I can understand why others drink it."  Ale is just not my cup of beer.