Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bell's Oberon Ale

If you think about it, craft beer and indie rock are practically the same thing. One’s for the ears, and the other’s for the taste buds. But the principle is the same: an alternative to the mainstream, crafted not for the masses but rather the select few who can’t abide mediocrity. I am one of those select few. Sure, I like the classics as much as the next guy. I grew up on the Stones and The Who. I’ve seen them both in concert. But if you’re talking “contemporary” artists on my iPod, you’ve probably never heard of any of them. Something Fierce? Missing Monuments? Miss Chain and the Broken Heels? Yeah, like I was saying. Even most of the “old” music I own (Replacements, Clash) was the micro-brew rock of its time. It may be every eastern Pennsylvanian’s birthright to drink Yuengling, and I do from time-to-time. But to be totally honest (and risk deportation from the commonwealth), I gotta say I’ve lost my taste for Yuengling Lager. It’s not that I’m a snob. But having inundated myself with premium hops and malts on a daily basis for several years now, I’ve reached the point where beers that are made mostly from water and corn adjuncts just taste gross. Honestly, I want to like Miller High Life. I like the idea of the classic American beer. But the major corporate brewers, for financial reasons, chose to water down their product at some point in the 1970s. If you want a true classic beer, you probably have to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

If Samuel Adams is The Stooges of craft beer - the true progenitor of all that’s good - then Bell’s Brewery out of Kalamazoo and Comstock, Michigan might be micro-brewing’s Dictators or even Devo. Bell’s goes way back to 1985 - almost prehistoric times in craft beer terms! Literally thousands of American craft breweries have come along over the past 25 years or so and revolutionized beer drinking in this country. But Bell’s, one of the founding fathers, remains one of the very best. I love their porter, and I love the Hopslam. And come summertime, I love the Oberon. A wheat ale fermented with Bell’s “signature house ale yeast”, this is the last summer seasonal I’ll review this year. And it just might be the best! While many popular summer beers boast of “crisp” and “refreshing” qualities, Oberon is all about quality and flavor. It’s considerably hoppier than the typical wheat beer, which helps balance the citrus twang and yeasty sweetness that define this ale’s easy-drinking character. The wheat malts smooth everything out and make this perhaps the most quaffable beer you’ll taste all summer. Mmmmm! This is one of the few summer seasonals I’d drink year-round. If you don’t mind a summer beer that’s more “flavor-forward” than most, the Oberon is a must-buy. And if you do mind, go ahead and drink Bud Light Lime. I won’t think any less of you- so long as you don’t make me drink any!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Great Lakes Holy Moses White Ale

It’s hard to believe that summer beer season is almost over (current temperature outside right now: 97). The fall seasonals will begin rolling out within the next few weeks, and a lot of your summer standbys will soon disappear from the shelves. Better stock up now! I’ll be in Great Lakes country in early August, and I’m praying that the Holy Moses White Ale won’t be gone for the year! We’ve probably got another 7 weeks of hot weather left to enjoy (or detest, if you’re my wife). I plan on keeping my fridge stocked with summer beers well into September. And out of all the summer beers I drink, Holy Moses is one of my most favorite. A Belgian-style witbier with orange peel, chamomile, and coriander, it’s crisp and refreshing but also has quite a kick to it. Upfront the spices are really strong - and not in a bad way. This is not your grandfather’s summer beer! It’s fruity and peppery and really snaps your tongue. Mmmm! Going down it’s got a yeasty malt character that seems appropriate for the style and the season. Drinkable enough to quench your summer thirst but full-flavored enough to still taste great when you find that odd bottle in the back of the fridge come November, Holy Moses is just one of many fine brews made by Great Lakes. Cleveland may have the worst pro sports team of any large American city, but it’s damn well got one of the best breweries going!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Abita Turbodog

Sigmund in Sandusky wants to know if I, on the eve of my second wedding anniversary, have any advice on how to identify true love. Well, Sigmund, on matters such as these I try to keep it simple. I can tell you that when I met my wife, I knew straight off that she was The One. I knew this largely because from the moment we met, I was able to be myself. It just felt right. I didn’t have to mentally rehearse how I’d act around her. I didn’t worry about trying to be the man I thought she wanted. I let her see the real me, right off the bat. There really was an instant connection. And it was easy. That’s how it should be. If it’s not easy, if you have to try too hard to make it work, is it really meant to be?

Sigmund, you might agree that it’s the same thing with beer. You might hear about all kinds of beers that you’re supposed to like. A beer might boast 25 gold medal prizes and an A+ rating on Beer Advocate, but if you drink it a few times and you’re stilll like, “Eh”, at some point you realize that you don’t have to always agree with the “experts”. Me, I’ll take a love-at-first-sip beer over an “acquired taste” any day of the week. Abita’s Turbodog (out of Louisiana) floored me the very first time I had it, and it’s quickly rising to near the top of my favorite beer list. It’s everything I love in a beer. It’s dark and malty, with just enough hops for balance. It’s ridiculously smooth. A dark brown ale brewed with Willamette hops and a blend of pale, caramel, and chocolate malts, Turbodog is rich, medium-bodied, and out-of-this-world delicious. It’s got a predominantly chocolate and toffee like flavor with a touch of fruit and sweet bready grains to finish. I’m crazy about English brown ales, but this Americanized version is better than any of ‘em. You could almost say it’s porter-like, yet still very much a brown ale. Whatever it is, I just love it. I could drink it every day and never get tired of it. This beer and I - we were meant to be.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Brooklyn Summer Ale

Out of all the summer beers out there, Brooklyn Summer Ale might be my absolute favorite. Like any good summer beer, it’s light and thirst-quenching. But it’s got more flavor than most, and like anything off the Brooklyn line that I’ve tasted, it’s simply an awesome beer. A modern rendition of the “light dinner ales” they used to brew in England in the 1800s and early 1900s, Brooklyn Summer Ale uses premium English barley malt for a bready malt-forward flavor. German and American hops add crispness and floral, lemony notes. All told this is a supremely delicious warm weather beer. You can suck it down fast after a hard day of laboring in the summer sun, or just as easily sip it as you relax on the deck with your pals. It will obliterate your thirst but still bring a ton of flavor. Some summer beers are glorified water, and others are just too fancy for their humble purpose. Brooklyn Summer Ale gets it just right. I hate to say this, since I love Samuel Adams beer. But Brooklyn Summer Ale beats the pants off of Sam’s Summer Ale. I think I’m gonna buy an entire case!