Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Arbor Brewing Company Red Snapper Roasted Pale Ale

I’ve never in my life opened a beer review by talking about head. But there’s a first time for everything! Arbor Brewing’s Red Snapper Roasted Pale Ale (formerly known as Red Snapper Amber Ale) has got head out the wazoo! Seriously, the thing is volcanic! Pour this stuff out of the bottle into a glass, and you’ll have two inches of liquid and a veritable mountain of head! If you try drinking straight out of the bottle, you’re gonna get a face full of foam. Holy carbonation, Batman! But be patient with the Red Snapper, for it’s actually quite the decent beer once it settles. Part English bitter, part American pale ale, and part amber ale, this “roasted pale ale” combines a pine/citrus hop bite with a roasty & sweet malt character. Perhaps the bitterness wins out a little, creating a more assertive hop presence than you’d generally expect from an amber ale. But that’s part of what makes the Red Snapper different. It’s an amber ale, and then again it’s not. Think of it as an Americanized version of an English pale ale, or perhaps an Anglicized version of American pale ale. All in all, the flavor is nice. It’s not quite as “roasted” tasting as advertised, but the caramel and biscuit-like malt notes rise pleasantly to the forefront after that initial hop sting. The mouthfeel is on the thin side, and a nice dry finish makes this one ideal for quenching a monster thirst. Just be careful with the pour – you don’t want all that head overflowing onto your kitchen counter!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pabst Blue Ribbon

It’s been a really long time since I’ve reviewed a swill beer. With football season upon us, I will be drinking my fair share of swill. Of course I’m a craft beer aficionado. But I’m no snob. I like a good cheap beer as much as the next guy. Notice I said good cheap beer. I would sooner imbibe my own urine than drink a can of Natural Light. Even swill beer should taste good (at least in comparison to other swill beers!). Say what you will about the venerable PBR, but in terms of taste it’s pretty much at the head of the swill class. This beer’s level of credibility has risen and fallen so many times that I’ve lost track of whether or not I’m “supposed” to like it. First it was considered rotgut garbage suitable for only angry old men with dulled taste buds. Then it was adopted by hipsters and quickly became “cool”. Then, precisely because it had been adopted by hipsters, it became “un-cool” again. This back-and-forth will continue until the end of time, and ultimately a man has to take a stand. I’ll say it: for what it is, PBR is a perfectly fine product. It’s not, as some bearded indie rockers in ironic trucker hats would lead you to believe, a “secret” craft-quality beer. Nor is it, as many beer snobs maintain, completely interchangeable with Coors and Bud. What it is, really, is a solid “American style” lager and a great value for its cost. Like any beer of its style, it’s got corn adjuncts out the wazoo. But relatively speaking, PBR isn’t a terribly skunky macro lager. And the corn funkiness is far less an issue when it’s served cold. The flavor, for a swill, is pretty much ideal: clean and crisp with a teeny-tiny peck kiss of grassy hops going down. “Paired” with pizza, subs, or nachos, it’s tasty and refreshing. It’s easy to take pot-shots at PBR and knock it because it’s contract-brewed or because people buy it for the label. Hmmm: funny how no one thinks any less of Coca-Cola for having an iconic label. When push comes to shove, PBR is far more than just good branding. It’s good beer as well. I’d say it’s earned that blue ribbon fair and square.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sierra Nevada Tumbler

“As the nights grow cool, the leaves on the valley oaks begin to turn and fall. In honor of this yearly dance, we bring you Tumbler Autumn Brown Ale and invite you to enjoy the show. We use malt within days of roasting at the peak of its flavor to give Tumbler a gracefully smooth malt character. So pour a glass, and grab a window seat to watch as the leaves come tumbling down.”

Never in my life have I actually spent a fall day sitting by the window and watching the leaves drop. Inspired by Tumbler, perhaps this year I will. Autumn days are beautiful, and so is this ale! Smooth, dark, and malty, Tumbler has “Josh Rutledge beer” written all over it. Like any good fall seasonal, it’s heartier than the light summer beers but way more easy-drinking than those big ales of winter. As advertised, Tumbler is all about the malts. Crystal, chocolate, and two-row pale malts are the starring players, while Challenger hops play an understated supporting role. Sometimes a “malty” beer means a sweet beer, but in this case the prevailing notes are of the nutty, toasty variety. Mmmm! Technically this is a brown ale, but don’t go thinking this is just another mild-mannered and totally “blah” American brown. It’s a cut above. The hops kick back real nice on the finish, giving Tumbler more bite and complexity compared to the average brown ale. And all in all, you just can’t beat this beer when it comes to pure roasty deliciousness. If winter is my favorite beer season of them all, then fall is a close second. Maybe I won’t be sitting by the window watching the leaves fall. But I’ll be sitting in my recliner, watching college football, and savoring this splendid season one sip at a time. A+!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Magic Hat Hex Ourtoberfest

You can’t beat early September! Football is back, and so are the fall beers. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for the Oktoberfests! Magic Hat’s Hex Ourtoberfest is far and away one of my favorite fall seasonals. Technically, it’s not an Oktoberfest beer (it’s an ale, not a lager). But in many ways it’s like an Oktoberfest beer. It has many of the same qualities. So we’ll call it an alternative Oktoberfest. This amber ale is typical of the kind of beer I love best: it’s super-malty... and smooth as all get-out. The flavor profile is heavy on toffee and caramel sweetness, which is balanced by toasty bread notes and a soft kiss of hop bitterness. It’s got a smoky, almost burnt cherry finish to it that mixes nicely with the hops on the back end. All in all, it’s sweeter than normal for an Oktoberfest. But like any good malt-forward ale, it manages to not be too sweet. This beer is precisely what it purports to be – a unique twist on the Oktoberfest style that is in many ways the same and in many ways different. Most importantly, it’s freakin’ delicious. I’m half-tempted to shell out $40 for a case of this stuff – that’s how much I like it! Bonus points for the label and its Halloween-ish motif. If you drink Ayinger Oktoberfest-Marzen while downing brats and kraut, you can switch to Hex when the time comes to don your zombie costume and terrify trick-or-treaters. Yay, fall!