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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pilsnerbock redux and the joys of cellared pilsner

We are nearing the end of pilsner month and we have covered a lot of ground. The original plan for this week was to look at a few pilsners outside of the traditional strongholds and compare them but I must admit I wasn't prepared for that. But I feel I have come up with a suitable alternative; we are going to take a look at a perfect example of pilsnerbock and then look at a cool niche of the pilsner style. All okay with that? Good,  then read on!

Our first candidate tonight is Heavy Seas Small CraftWarning Über Pils which comes out of Baltimore, Maryland. We have looked at a Heavy Seas beer before here and it was a winner in my book. The Small Craft Warning pours with a fluffy white head and has a nice floral nose. Right away you can tell it is different from a traditional pilsner as it fills the glass with a rich, clear, darker golden liquid.

On the taste it has a nice crispness to it but mixed with a maltier bock-like sweetness.  That is well balanced by a hops and the high carbonation. It has the bitter aftertaste of traditional pilsner but it moves off the palette quickly leaving only a mild sweetness in the back of the mouth. It is a refreshing lager which is rather surprising considering it comes in at 7.0% ABV.

This is the standard for what a pilsnerbock should be. You could drink a good pilsner then follow up with this and understand how it sits in the pilsner spectrum. One informs the other and you can chart the influence of the original style. Simply put, this is how “imperialization” should work, as a modification of an original style to amplify distinguishing characteristics. (Otherwise you are in business of creating something new.)

The script on the bottle seems to back this up:
Unofficially the original American Über Pils, Small Craft Warning is a rich, golden bock lager with big malt flavor and a crisp hop finish.

Our other candidate tonight, Tuppers' Keller Pils, takes a slight deviation with the pilsner style; instead of the normal process it remains unfiltered. We haven’t really dived into keller (cellar) beer yet on this blog, but in a nutshell they are left to age out a bit in wooden casks with active yeasts. (Follow this link for more info) This particular model takes a slight twist on that and goes the bottle conditioned route instead.

What we have is a beer that pours a hazy, golden straw color, with a white fluffy head, and an elegant floral nose. On the drink you get a lot of hop right up front, a crisp bite that isn’t overpowering. It yields to a fine bubbly smoothness that ends with a flat, mildly bitter aftertaste that lingers on top of the mouth for a bit before finishing dry.  It is a solid 5% ABV.

With the amount of carbonation in this it is more reminiscent of a Zwickel beer than a true keller beer. The Tuppers’ Keller Pils hedges its bet a bit by combining the two styles by increasing the alcohol and taking the bottle-conditioned option allowing it to maintain the high carbonation. Overall this is an excellent beer and the perfect high note to end our pilsner reviews on.

If you have had either of these let us know in the comments!

Monday, May 28, 2012

A taste of fizzy history

"The great point is to bring 
them the real facts, and beer.
Beer has been an integral part of society since before civilization, it may have been a key facet in why we settled down in the first place. In many places it has been the social lubricant of choice and New York City is no different. Beer has been involved with NYC since the beginning and continues to play an active part today. The Beer Here: Brewing New York's History exhibition by the New York Historical Society reveals that history and showcases beers contributions and impact on the city's development over the centuries. Through eight sections starting from colonial times to the present, the exhibition weaves its way through New York's multi-faceted beer history while stopping along the way for a closer look at various elements of the history such as commodities, immigration, temperance, and hometown brewers to name a few. 

Debra Schmidt Bach, one of the curators of the exhibit, explains, "When you have something that a lot of us take for granted, like beer, or water, or ice,  when you scratch the surface even a tiny bit you find it has a really long and rich history; beer has a long and rich history in New York."

Several highlights of the exhibition include a collection of radio and television advertisements from Schaefers, Piels, and Rheingold Breweries, record books from colonial breweries, and a variety or breweriana from the 19th and early 20th century. Everything wraps up in a beer hall,
The exhibition starts in colonial times.
where current New York City and State brewers get to show their ongoing contributions to the evolving story of New York beer history. I'll be honest, this is a clever tie from past to present.  One of the disconnects of history presentation is when people can't make the jump from the past events and how it impacts the present and the future. By showing the 300 year continuum of New York brewing this exhibition builds an understanding of how the past relates to the current brewing scene both in the City and State of New York thereby building greater understanding on future potential and also showing viewers what has been lost over time. Add in the fact that the focus is very much on the New York City beer scene, which while limited in breadth does allow for a lot of depth, you can end up with a comprehensive overview of beer's role in New York City both yesterday and today.

Bert explains to Harry why
you need to check this out!
The beer hall ties past to to a 
tasty present.
Overall the presentation is neat, well organized in a lose chronological order, and includes some artifacts that would probably never see the light of day otherwise. There will be tastings and the beer hall will be open throughout the event but check the schedule first for pouring hours. Big days of the exhibition include Beer Appreciation Night on Tuesday, July 10 at 6:30 pm and special tastings on the Saturdays throughout the event from 2 to 4 pm.  More information on these events can be found on the New York Historical Society Web site. The exhibition is now open and will be on view till September 2, 2012. 

In my view the coolest souvenir of the
exhibition is the Beer Here growlers.
If you are up in New York City or heading that way during the summer, love beer and have a fondness for history then this is well worth the stop. For beer lovers this will help build a greater appreciation of your beverage of choice, for history buffs this is another viewpoint to understand how commodities interact and impact societies. The New York Historical Society has set up a cool exhibit that serves up a rich slice of New York history and there is beer at the end of it! 

Miss Rheingold 1956 may not be present
 at the exhibition but her dress is!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Imperial Pilsners: A Beer Paradox

This week in Pilsner month we tackle Imperial Pilsners. You have to hand it to American craft brewers for their tendency to take a style and then bulk it up. Bigger, stronger, hoppier, etc., imperializing or "doubling" a style has come to mean taking a style of beer and "roiding" it up. Starting with IPAs it has progressed into other styles. It only gets weird when it encounters a style where imperializing obfuscates the original intent. Don't read this as a screed against imperial styles, far from it, I appreciate the effort and willingness of craft brewers to push the boundaries and to create challenging new brews. I enjoy drinking them even more, but we do have to recognize the problems that arise when we mislabel or confuse. Today we are looking at two different imperial pilsners with a closer view of what they are trying to do and whether they promote or defeat the pilsner style. 

Our candidates:
Dogfish Head My Antonia
The first noticeable thing is that this beer is more creamy and smoother than a standard pilsner. There is a bite but not as crisp or sharp. Since this is a Dogfish Head beer there are hops, noticeable in the floral nose, and in the earthy taste, but it is not as pronounced. There is more body to the beer, it's heavier on the tongue and it is not as effervescent on the palette even though it is highly carbonated. While the aftertaste isn’t as bitter it does stick around forever, it was still present a good fifteen minutes after my final drink. Describing the traits of this beer is difficult compared to the other pilsners we have encountered. Mature is an apt word to describe this. My Antonia has taken all the characteristics of a pilsner and refined them, forced then to grow up. You could say this is subdued, but that misses the point, it is an easy drinking beer with more refinement and complexity in the glass. Take the basics and square them but mute them also. If that makes any sense to you then you have cracked the code on this brew. It has a bigger 7.5% ABV. The final verdict is this is a richer, more full bodied pilsner beer but still recognizable as a member that style. 

Uinta Crooked Line Tilted Smile Imperial Pilsner

Immediately you are confronted with the fact that none of the pilsner characteristics are present. Even the golden color is darker that you would find normally. It does not have a clear, but hazy appearance, the only shred of pilsner identity overtly present is the fluffy white head but even that disappears rapidly. This reminds me of a baryled version of a chardonney. It has that same butteriness that your would find in that particular style of wine only blended with a hoppy character. It has a good carbonation but not the bite you would expect, the aftertaste on this is rather grassy and barnyard-like, and it clears off the palette very quickly. We have some cool things going on in the glass and interestingly enough they become more and more apparent as this beer warms up/ once again opposite what you would want out of a traditional pilsner. A more floral taste becomes evident as the temp rises. This is different and I'll admit a slightly confusing beer to me, it's not what I would expect out of an imperial pilsner so once I threw out all my pilsner-centric expectations I started to enjoy this beer a whole lot more. It is a big puncher at 9% ABV. I enjoyed the whole bottle, and Uinta Brewing has brewed a fine beer that is worth seeking out.

Out of both of these the Dogfish Head My Antonia is the better representation of a pumped up pilsner but neither of these beers are ones that you are going to session with or have on a hot summer afternoon as refreshment. In the end while I appreciate what the brewers are doing and the willingness to stretch the boundaries they are a representation of the problem. Imperial Pilsners are a conundrum, and I think it is twofold. One part comes from actually comes from using Imperial in the name. Doing that means it gets associated with the likes of Imperial IPAs and Stouts, both styles that have characteristics that can easily amplified and are now well established in the craft beer world. Pilsners rely on subtly and nuance which makes "imperializing" a much more challenging prospect. In other words it is an unfavorable comparison. The description ends up confusing beer drinkers and could lead to some disappointment with what they are actually drinking thereby defeating the purpose of what the brewer is trying to accomplish here.

The second problem with imperial pilsners is pilsner itself. Pilsner beers have distinct characteristics and their primary purpose is to be refreshing. Imperial pilsners have not become more refreshing, quite the contrary, the are creeping towards heaviness. The fact is both of these beers are stepping beyond the bounds of pilsner's definition. They are using standard pilsner ingredients but we aren't getting the expected result. Are we accurately calling them what they really are? I would argue the answer is no, instead I propose a different name, both of the beers we looked at today I would hold up and say, "Welcome to pilsnerbock!" Appending bock to the end provides a better expectation of the brewer's intent and what the beer drinker is about to enjoy. Looking at the Tilted Smile from this perspective definitely increases my appreciation for it. The end result is here beers,even with all the confusion they cause, are to applauded are providing another path of appreciation for a style of beer that has been dragged down in mediocrity. The bonus is both of them are worth tracking down and enjoying.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Teaser for Tomorrow!

This upcoming weekend is the start of the Beer Here exhibition at the New York Historical Society.

Jolly Good Fellows received an invite to get an early view of it so tomorrow I'm getting on a train and heading up to NYC. The Historical Society sent along a press package so here is a sampling of the press release. 
 NEW YORK, NY – The fascinating yet largely unknown legacy of the cultural history of beer in New York is uncovered in Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History at the New-York Historical Society. The exhibition traces 350 years of the production and consumption of beer in the city—from colonial New York, when beer was a vital source of nourishment and tax revenues, to the current artisanal revolution occurring in microbreweries throughout the state. This exhibition is on view at New-York Historical through September 2, 2012.
Want to read the whole release? Then go here.
Stay tuned for a larger preview later this week!

Courtesy of the New York Historical Society.

Courtesy of the New York Historical Society.

Courtesy of the New York Historical Society.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Beer links for the week of May 21st!

Big week this week so let's dive in!

In the News!
So many awesome options on this list though I think a stop at Kalamazoo is in order the next time I head to Wisconsin. 
My sentiments exactly.
(Original here)

I do like these old repeal Prohibition stories, but beer drinkers, let this serve as a reminder to never happen again!

Preakness always makes me think of this

If I was a cop this is where I would camp out after midnight and watch bad decisions live. 

Missing out on Funky Buddha is my biggest regret from this year's Brewvival

For our friends in Goodhead Brewery! If you folks get up that way let us know your thoughts! 

Someday I am going to drink beer in India and it is going to rock. 

Remember beer is subjective, but it's sure fun to argue about. On a more interesting note I would like to know the impact of personal beer reviews on purchasing. I admit that I use them. 

10 Facts About Beer (Huffington Post)
Fun little video...though the goat produced mead, not beer, both tasty though. 

Good public relations strategy here...hey if you are reading this and you haven't started following the JGF fan page then click here!

I'm so confused, but I'd be willing to try it!

In Site News!
As mentioned above it is a big week. On Wednesday I'll be in New York City at the New York Historical Society press preview for their Beer Here exhibition. Look for a sneak peak later this week. We also will be reviewing imperial pilsners and if I am lucky sitting down with a brewer from NYC. So stay tuned!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Power of Pilsner: Chapter 1, the Problem of Pilsner

Over the course of this month we are focusing on Pilsner beer. Why pilsners? There are several compelling reasons; the first and most important whether it is realized or not is pilsner beer changed everything. If there ever was a beer at the right time, right place then pilsner is on the short list. Second, it deserves a redemptive reading (or drinking.) One of the biggest issues facing pilsners today is getting over the stereotype of what a majority of beer drinkers think it is. Finally summer is literally right around the corner which means hot days and here true pilsner reveals itself and revels in the fact that it is one of most refreshing beers in the world.
Want another reason for pilsners?
Cool glassware.
(Original here)

Pilsner’s good name has been thoroughly dragged through the mud and many have forgotten what makes a true pilsner beer special. This isn’t the fault of the beer drinker; they have been led down a path of mistrust and apprehension where pilsner style means uneventful, uninspired, tasteless swill. The biggest threat to pilsner beer has been through American macrobreweries. The villains in this story are the Millers, Budweisers, and Coors of the world and if we really want to get down to brass tacks the fault lies with a lot of the breweries that prospered and boomed after prohibition. 

In the beginning these breweries, rich in German heritage brewed true pilsner beers in America. Much like other places in the world the beer caught on and became incredibly popular. One can imagine that these beers were very tasty. As time went on though and cost savings became a priority, concessions were made, the biggest being the step away from barley to cheaper adjuncts like rice and corn. This cheap derivative of the original still sold like gangbusters and encouraged other copycats. The problem was that neither corn nor rice can bring the good malt taste of barley, and for a beer like pilsner that uses very few ingredients that is a death sentence. While this is a very simplistic look at it, the end result was the reputation of pilsner beer slowly slipping into mediocrity.

Now though, things are changing, the craft beer revolution has spurred brewers to recover and reclaim styles of beer. There are craft brewers that have risen to the challenge of brewing true pilsners. Combined with European brewing stalwarts both parties are working hard to dispel the bland image that pilsner has become in the minds of beer drinkers.

Pilsners today coming from crafts have several common traits with their traditional European counterpart: the crystal clear golden color, the white fluffy head, the crisp, light on the palette and refreshing taste. As always, American craft brewers continue to refine and tweak and while the results vary a majority are worth seeking out. For the beer drinker the excellence of pilsner is found in the details and the subtlety.

I argue a great chilled pilsner is one of the most refreshing beers a person can enjoy on a hot summer day. For me it was a Mama’s Little Yella Pils by Oskar Blues that got me interested in pilsners after being turned off of them by the willy-nilly use of “pilsner” by macrobrewers. The golden liquid in that golden can forced me to reconsider my previous notions of what pilsner really was and it opened up a cool part of the beer world. 

We’ll talk a bit more about the history of pilsner in part 2. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pennsylvania Pilsner Face-off!

We have looked at the Czech, we've looked at the German, now let's look at the American pilsner...what? Actually allow me to rephrase that. Since it is American Craft Beer Week, let's look at the pilsners being brewed by American craft breweries.

Ignore the tools and the Windex and just
focus  on the  beautiful golden color
Our first candidate is Stoudt’s Pils brewed by Stoudt’s Brewing Company. This is one of their standard year round beers. It checks of the pilsner basics easily, a crystal clear light golden straw color, nice fluffy white head with the lacing clinging tightly to the side of the glass. The nose on this beer is very flowery.

This is brewed in the German style of pilsners which means it has a very earthy taste to it. There is a lot of carbonation on the tongue and you end up with a dry mouth but also a mild and long lingering bitter aftertaste. There is a nice hoppiness to this beer as suggested by the nose that makes for a refreshing beverage. It charts at a very drinkable 4.7% ABV. This is a fine pilsner that strides well between elegance and complexity. I like it and recommend it. 

Our other candidate tonight is another German style pilsner, Prima Pils by Victory Brewing Company. This too is a year round standard. As usual we have the prerequisite pilsner qualities: The clear golden color, the white fluffy head, and the floral nose though unlike the Stoudt’s, the Prima Pils has less of a nose than I would have expected.

What happened to the head?
It disappeared so quickly.
There is a sharp crisp bite on the front of the drink that leads into a long earthy but light bodied taste. The hops are restrained in the beginning but gives way to a lingering bitterness that is more overt than other pilsners tasted during the course of the month. The overall finish is bitter and very dry. It is a nice 5.3% ABV. The Victory Prima Pils is a solid beer and worth trying but not as subtle or deft as the Stoudt’s Pils.

One other thing worth mentioning about these brews; both are out of Pennsylvania which may have a bit to do with why they taste good. Both of these tasted better than the European pilsners I have tried this month, and truth be told most of the American craft pilsners have been “better.” There is a big reason for this. Pilsners are tastier the fresher they are. These hit the shelves faster than their European counterparts; they didn’t have to travel across the ocean to get here, and had less chance of being subjected to any temperature extremes that could potentially skunk out the beer. That said both of these pilsners are good representations of American craft brew skill.

Here are the “party lines” for these brews:

Pils is reflective of a traditional German-style Pilsener. It is delicately dry with firm bitterness. A brilliant straw color with medium body, and noble hop aroma. A terrific thirst quencher, crisp from the Saaz hops with a dry malt finish.

Heaps of hops give this pale lager a bracing, herbal bite over layers of soft and smooth malt flavor. This refreshing combination of tastes makes Prima a classy quencher in the tradition of the great pilsners of Europe. 

Want another opinion?
The Beer Observer takes a look at Stoudt's Pils
Fermentedly Challenged has a write-up of the Victory Prima Pils

Monday, May 14, 2012

Beer Links for American Craft Beer Week

It is American Craft Beer Week this week, so grab a delicious craft brew and enjoy. If you are on Untappd you can check into a fine craft brew and unlock the ACBW badge. I just unlocked mine! A lot has happened in the beer world the last few days so expect a super edition of Beer Links!

In the News!
(Original here)
Time to raise your pints high for the deliciousness that is American craft beer! 

Website Helps Customers Find Best Beer Prices (Convenience Store Decisions)
I played around with it and it works okay for larger municipalities. Don't expect to find any obscure crafts though. Still a helpful tool.

We Wanted Beer (The New Yorker)
A little bit of Prohibition history for you. 

That is what I like to see in my brewing, history and science working together for awesomeness. 

King of Craft Beers (Wall Street Journal)
I know Sam Adams is mainstream now, but you can't deny that Jim Koch continues to support the craft beer movement and make an impact. I have a sixer of the 2012 Longshot brews in the basement right now. Expect a write up in June. 

Sometimes I think brewers and beer lovers are one of the largest untapped resources for water conservation. Can't have delicious beer without quality water. 

This is the kind of thing I would drive a couple hundred miles out of my way to be a customer at. 

Beer mash fattening Colorado cows (Western Farm Press)
A clever way for brewers to reduce their solid waste stream and benefit local ranchers and farmers. 

Another interesting little market for craft brewers to exploit in our customization focused society. 

Slightly misleading title, but the interesting fact to me is the willingness to pay more for better quality and taste. 

Next time I go back I have to track this down. I love that they have their own yeast strain too!


Burnside delays release, will rename Kali-Ma after name raises concerns among some Hindus ( After I read this all I could think of the rest of the day was the chant and heart scene. 

If I had one I would use it to promote delicious craft goodness. 

This is genuinely exciting for beer drinkers, can't wait for my brother to be stationed in Italy and we can tour Italian beer country. 

Dual beer holes brilliant or guzzling gimmick? (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)
While the crafts are looking at localization and customization, the bigs are trying to find ways so you can drink faster and avoid tasting their swill. 

In Site News
The big news is that I will be traveling to Iceland at the beginning of June and am open to suggestions on what I should do beer-wise while I am over there. I'll try to have a basic itinerary put together by the end of the month and what you the awesome readership and commentariat can expect while I am gone. 

As always you can find us on a variety of social media places (Click on widget in top right corner) and we love to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Czech to German by way of Austria and Brooklyn

Last week we looked at the original, Pilsner Urquell,  our baseline for Czech pilsners. Now we will look at the German style of pilsner, though truth be told our first candidate is actually from Vorchdorf, Austria. The finer points in the various styles of pilsner are going to wait till this Friday when I write a more comprehensive overview of the pilsner style and it's impacts on modern brewing. Let's get to the beer!

Our first candidate is Schloss Eggenberg Hopfenkönig. We have all the pilsner characteristics here, the golden color, high carbonation, crystal clear appearance, the white fluffy head, and lacing down the side of the glass.

This had less bite than expected and while there is some bitterness in the aftertaste it is mixed with a some biscuitiness.  While light on the palette and refreshing, the hop effect is muted and that takes away from the crispness. Truth be told this is not actually a good representation of the German Pilsner style despite what the bottle says. It has more in common with its Czech counterparts to the north. It comes in at a drinkable 5.1% ABV. This is a decent beer for someone getting into the style but you will want to move on to others soon.

Here is the “party line” on Hopfenkönig:
"Is an excellent pils brewed with the world-famous Saazer hops. Hopfenkönig has a crisp, clean dry, hoppy nose and aromatic flavours. It is a perfect aperitif beer with 5,1% alc./vol." 
Our other candidate tonight is an American attempt at the German style, Brooklyn Brewery's Brooklyn Pilsner.

A nice floral nose on the pour, setting up with a darker golden color and crystal clear appearance with the requisite fluffy white head.  It has a crisp bite, and a bolder hop character up front, but it does not have much of a lingering bitter aftertaste. This is more in line with the German style of pilsners with an earthy taste to it.  It is a refreshing beer with a bit more body than expected. It comes in at a drinkable 5.1% ABV. I would say that it is worth enjoying a few on a nice summer afternoon. It would do well at summer picnics and with food on the grill.

Here is the “party line” on Brooklyn Pilsner.
 Brooklyn Pilsner is a refreshing golden lager beer, brewed in the style favored by New York’s pre-prohibition brewers. In the 1840’s, the pilsner style emerged from central Europe to become the world’s most popular style of beer. Like its ancestors, Brooklyn Pilsner is traditionally brewed from the finest German two-row barley malts. Germangrown Perle and Hallertauer hops provide a crisp, snappy bitterness and fresh, floral aroma. The flavor of the malt comes through in the finish. We ferment Brooklyn Pilsner at cool temperatures, and then give it a long, gentle maturation (lagering), which results in a beer of superior complexity and smoothness. We believe that you will find there to be none finer. Unlike mass-marketed so-called pilsners, Brooklyn Pilsner does not contain cheap fillers such as corn or rice, nor does it contain any preservatives or stabilizers. Brooklyn Pilsner is the real thing.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Beer links for May!

Beer links is back! So let's dive in!

(Original here)
In the News!
Northern Virginia is a beer drinker's paradise (Washington Post)
It is hard to argue against this. The whole DC metro area is pretty rocking for beer.

Bubble has not burst on craft beer market (Washington Post)
Double WaPo! On topic though I would argue that the craft beer market has even begun to get saturated.

Responsible NASCAR Fans Rewarded at Talladega Speedway (Globe Newswire)
It is a small start but a step in the right direction. More can be done though.

Can beer save America? (Salon)
If you read one article on this link page then this should be the one!

New Brewers Speak as Part of American Craft Beer Week (
The revolution will be brewed with diversity and that makes me incredibly happy.

World Beer Cup Announces Winners At Craft Brewers Conference (Huffington Post)
There is a slide show with a few of the winners, also check out this one for the winners of the Canny's

The Haitian Beer Prestige won Gold at World Beer Cup 2012 (Haiti Libre)
I think I need to get media credentials for the World Beer Cup 2013.

Oregon father drunk on Clamato, beer allegedly lets 10-year-old drive (KWCH Channel 12 - CBS)
Here is your weekly dose of beer crime.

Mac Power Adapter + Beer Bottle = Apple's Secret Church Key (
It is good to know I have a backup always in my bag now.

In Site News!
We will be recording a new episode of the Beercast this week, expect some reviews on some crisp and tasty pilsners, and a more thorough write up on why we are focusing on Pilsners this fine month of May. If we can cram anything else in we will! As always you can find us on Facebook, Untappd, Twitter, and Google+. Just click on the widget in the top right corner. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Stone Brewing Company - Tavern, not Pub?

Remember when taverns were all about the beer? Beer created onsite, and drank there while in the company of good friends? A place to plot the overthrow of the British? Okay, so maybe that is during the Colonial era of United States history. However, historically taverns were places where the local community gathered to exchange news while travelers could stop along their routes to eat food, drink beer (brewed onsite), and lodge.

Modern society has strayed from this concept, for gone are the days where we stop at the tavern because it is along our traveling route. Instead, we stay at the generic hotel chain that is off the interstate. We eat at fast food restaurants, or maybe the chain restaurant with Bud Light on tap.

The microbrewery has shifted this concept, but only slightly. Now we can enjoy beer freshly brewed onsite, and pair it will great food. But the lodging is still missing, as is the laid back take a seat and sit back, relax, and enjoy drinking a beer or two. They still feel like places you should have a beer, and then head out. Yes, there are some places that still cover it all, and I will be writing about places such as McMenamins Edgefield in the near future (and, if you have suggestions, please send them to me).

One place that is creating a modern day tavern is Stone Brewing Company in Escondido, California (northern San Diego). The brewery is located in what seems like an abandoned industrial district - we almost missed it because there was no descriptive indicators we were there (other than our GPS saying we were there). Even though we almost missed it, we were happy to find it, as it has great atmosphere, great beer, and great reasons to go back again and again.

Why don't we have more taverns around? With the "Go Local" movement happening all around us, one would think there would be a resurgence of the tavern over the brewpub. Maybe you know of ones that exist? If so, let us know so we can explore more about them.

Here are some images of our time spent there. To note, I was drinking the Oaked Arrogant Bastard, and it was effing delicious. Prost!


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Welcome to the beer that changed the world

It is pilsner month. For the next thirty days we are diving into a style of beer that changed everything, but more on that on Friday. First we need to quench our thirst and look at our baseline for pilsner beers. 

That means we are starting with a look at the original pilsner, Pilsner Urquell, which loosely translated means "from the original source." The original source being Plzen, Czech Republic which is the home of pilsner beer, as stated earlier, more on this on Friday. This is the beer that altered how we perceive and drink beer. In a way the brewing and success of this beer is responsible for the resulting craft beer revolution we are currently undergoing. 

Not only does it look delicious,
it was delicious. 
So let us get to the enjoyment phase of this. It poured with a rich golden color that was crystal clear. This beer has a higher carbonation than most with the bubbles streaming up from the bottom making for a pleasant looking glass. It had a white fluffy head that slowly dissipated with lacing clinging to the side. It just screams, "Beer!" 

It tastes light, crisp, with some slight fruitiness and grassy aspects. It has a distinct smell to it which stems from the Saaz hops. It has a relatively mild bite, not sharp but spicy, and a lingering but light bitter aftertaste also a result of the Saaz hop. It finishes very clean. This is a very drinkable beer coming in at a session like 4.4% ABV. 

This is beer for pure refreshment which should be the most common theme throughout the month. At the time this beer was introduced it would have been the crispest, cleanest, and lightest tasting beer in the world. The question that has to be asked though is how close is this beer to the original brewed in the 1840s? One thing to understand about pilsners is that they tend to be better the fresher they are. They aren't for keeping, they are for drinking. We know this beer has already put some mileage under it, in addition Pilsner Urquell these days now falls under SABMiller, one of the goliaths of the beer world, and while they claim the recipe has been unaltered I would like to know how this tasted before it was being produced on an industrial scale. 

That said this is a good way to kick off pilsner month. Your thoughts in the comments!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Witbiers: Our segue into Pilsners...what?

So it is not a perfect segue by any means but witbiers do have one thing in common with the pilsners we are about to look at during this month of May. They make great refreshing summer beers. 

A brewing saint who resurrected an entire style of beer.
(Original here)
So what is a witbier? For starters it was almost a style of beer that went extinct until the intervention of a man named Pierre Celis came along and single-handedly revived it back in the late 1960s. If I was doing this right I would have grabbed a Hoegaarden, that was the beer Celis brewed that reintroduced the world to the joys of witbier. It is an InBev product now and has been for twenty plus years so I can't say how accurate it is to Celis's original brew. It is still a tasty brew though. Another peculiarity of this style of beer is it is not exactly the easiest of beers to brew, we are dealing with unmalted wheat and that requires some more effort from the brewer to become a workable brewing substance. On a side note witbiers were also an early favorite of mine as I started my beer journey. 

Gussie is intrigued. 
Our classic style from Belgium is the St. Bernardus Wit that comes in at a very drinkable 5.5% ABV. (This is part of the Pierre Celis Signature Selection so there is that.) Since we aren't really dealing with hops here the gruit is more subtle than other wits I have had. The spices, coriander / cloves/ orange are there but they are background scenery, and not trying to hog the spotlight. It poured a hazy light yellow with a small head and it drank very smoothly. It has a pleasant fruity taste with the spices coming more to the front as you swallow the beer. They do stick around and take a curtain call in the aftertaste. Overall this is an excellent refreshing, light on the palette and rewarding beer. I wholeheartedly recommend this. This is a perfect beer to convert drinkers into the craft beer world. 

Here is the party line on St. Bernardus Witbier
This traditional Witbier (Wheat beer) has been developed in cooperation with Master Brewer Pierre Celis, the Godfather of Hoegaarden and Celis White. This beer as well has a second fermentation in the bottle, giving this beer its specific taste (5.5% alcohol content). 
I was going to do a review of my local's version of a witbier, Port City Optimal Wit, but a different bottle was calling my name and Optimal Wit will have to wait for its day in the sun. (It is a solid beer in my opinion.) Our "nouveau" witbier is actually from Japan. It is the Hitachino Nest White Ale. We've had Hitachino Nest beer before around these parts with good results. One caveat going into this. I have had this bottle since October 2011 stashed away in my cellar. That said let's dive in. 
Something is wrong
in the picture

This poured a clear straw gold color with a big spicy nose. This should have been an indicator that something was amiss, but I didn't pick up on it right away. On the drink this is smooth on the tongue but loaded with spice up front. It does clear off the palette very quickly with minimal aftertaste which is opposite to the St. Bernardus Wit.  It was the lack of body that had me puzzled though. I expected more. Then a light bulb went off and I realized that since I had stored this for the last 8 months everything has settled. Sure enough there was a big layer of sediment at the bottom of the bottle. Here is where beer purists may wish to stop reading for a moment. I shook the hell out of it for a few seconds and voila, a beer with body that was much closer to what I expected. This is a very drinkable 5% ABV. If you can find a bottle of this I would encourage you to pick it up. It is a refreshing and enjoyable witbier. 
That's much better!

Here is the party line on Hitachino Nest White Ale:
A refreshing mildly hopped Belgian styled beer with a complex flavor of coriander, orange peel, nutmeg. White Ale has won gold medals at several beer competition in U.K. and U.S. 
So after a weird month of Belgian beer I think we can walk away knowing we barely scratched the surface of the ridiculous awesomeness that is Belgium's contribution to beer. There is an  exoticism to these beers but that does not take away from the fact that many of them are very approachable and can be rewarding to a beer drinker. These top tier beers have had a huge impact for the better of the craft beer world.