Sunday, February 26, 2012

Stoudts Gold Lager

I’ve never really preferred blondes, but sometimes an exception has to be made. And it is coming up on spring! It’s time to start thinking about warm days and clean, thirst-quenching brews! Stoudts Gold Lager is pretty close to the best light-colored beer I’ve ever tasted. It’s absolutely phenomenal. A Munich style Helles lager with sweet malts and crisp hops, Stoudts Gold is a legendarily quaffable beer. I would recommend it to both the most discriminating beer snob I know and the Coors light drinker next door. It’s truly a beer for anyone who loves beer. And while a number of craft breweries like to offer up some kind of “better” version of corporate swill as a concession to the mainstream, that’s not what Stoudts Gold is. It’s A+ drinkability should not be confused for a lack of flavor or character. At Stoudts they take pride in their German heritage, and for sure their version of the Helles lager is in the classic style and of the highest quality. It’s clean and refreshing but not “watery”. And what balance! The malts blend biscuit/cracker notes with a fruity sweetness, and the floral hops cut straight through for a refreshing tinge of bitterness. This beer is great with German food - or any food for that matter! I will probably spend all spring and summer seeking out more craft-brewed “light” beers, and none of them will compare to this. It’s been years since I’ve purchased any beer by the case, but come spring I will indeed buy an entire case of Stoudts Gold. I could drink this stuff all day, any day.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Appalachian Brewing Company Pennypacker Porter

With just six weeks left until we depart for tropical vacation 2012, my wife and I have been dieting hard in preparation for the beaches of Riviera Maya. Operation Beach Body has not been fun. But one day a week, we do partake of a cheat meal. Yesterday’s cheat meal, at the Appalachian Brewing Company pub in Camp Hill, was one of our most rewarding yet. Buffalo bleu cheese balls and Canadian poutine for starters, followed by cheddar ale, burgers, and onion rings. Zeppole for dessert. We had been anticipating this meal for several days, and it did not disappoint. But perhaps the most pleasant surprise for me was my choice in beverage. I’ve been going to ABC for six or seven years, and I’m sure I’ve had the porter before. But it wasn’t until yesterday that I realized how good it was!

I like to think of myself as a connoisseur of porters. I might not be an authority on IPAs or Belgian dubels, but I know a good porter when I taste one. And while some of the more highly rated porters in the craft beer world are among my personal favorites, I tend to favor a more subtle, “classic” taste. I don’t need a porter to be unusual or daring or extraordinary. I just need it to taste good. ABC’s porter, named after one of our commonwealth’s former governors, gets it totally right. Brewed in the classic English style, this medium bodied black ale has a subtle toasted flavor with a modest hop bitterness at the finish. Compared to stouts, which are generally dryer and more bitter, porters ideally mix a roasty flavor with a touch of sweetness. ABC’s version does exactly that. The malt profile blends sweet notes of caramel with hints of chocolate and coffee, and all in all it’s as drinkable as any dark beer I’ve had in a long time. While not a year-round offering at ABC, it’s a beer I will hereon order every time it’s available. I compare it favorably to Bell’s Porter, which is my #1 favorite porter in the world. If you live in south central Pennsylvania and you haven’t had the Pennypacker Porter on draught, you definitely ought to give it a chance. I might go back and get a whole growler of the stuff. Or maybe two growlers!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Arcadia Brewing Company Big Dick’s Olde Ale

Don’t let the junior high humor of the beer name fool you – Big Dick’s Olde Ale is no joke! It’s the latest in a long line of Michigan beers to hold an honored position on my fridge’s beer shelf, and it’s exactly the kind of thing I like to drink this time of the year. An olde ale in the classic English style, but in a lot of ways reminiscent of a Belgian, Big Dick’s is impossibly smooth for a beer that’s nine percent alcohol. Like any good olde ale, it’s full-on, over-the-top malty with a nice influx of boozy flavor. But overall, it’s also one of the most nicely balanced olde ales I’ve had. Caramel, brown sugar, and dark fruit notes mix for a pleasantly prevailing sweetness, while a mild hop bitterness and a substantial alcoholic bite add nice touches of complexity. By all means, this is a big beer. But it’s not a scary kind of big. It’s an easy-drinking ale – almost too easy drinking considering the ABV! I’ve had a few olde ales in my day, and this one is in the B+/A- range for the style. If you’re not quite ready for a barleywine but want to try something like a barleywine, give Big Dick’s a chance.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dogfish Head Chicory Stout

I’m the kind of guy who studies the calendar a couple times a week, marking the days until the winter is over. I am not a fan of the cold. I hate almost everything about the winter. The only exception is the beer. There are certain beers that you can only get this time of the year, and they tend to be some of my favorites. Case in point: Dogfish Head’s Chicory Stout. Notoriously, I’m a stout guy, and this one is in my top ten. It’s a terrific beer, and I have a sentimental attachment to it as well since it was the first true “craft” beer I ever had (Rehoboth Beach, 2005). Made from roasted chicory, organic Mexican coffee, St. John’s wort, and licorice root, this is far from your run-of-the-mill stout. It’s one of Dogfish’s oldest beers, and it’s hardly a stretch to call it a craft beer “classic”. Even with the use of Cascade and Fuggle hops, it’s not bitter at all (21 IBUs). Dogfish describes its tasting notes as “creamy, roasty, peppery, dry, and chocolatey”, and I could not agree more. The coffee component, while noticeable, is far from dominant. It mixes nicely with woody chicory notes, a bit of dark chocolate, toasted malts, and a touch of black licorice. For whatever reason, this stout doesn’t get as much love from beer geeks as a lot of Dogfish’s other beers. It’s not a “big” beer. It’s not boldly conceived or particularly high in alcohol (ABV 5.2 percent). But you know me: I like simple, balanced beers just as much or even more than “edgy” concoctions. And having consumed a ton of stouts over the years, I’m certain that Chicory Stout is one of the best out there. Like any good stout, it’s roasty with subtle flavors of coffee and chocolate. On a drinkability scale, it’s pretty much unsurpassed on the Dogfish roster. A solid, delicious stout: what’s wrong with that? Not a thing! Buy it if you can still find it!