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Monday, July 30, 2012

Beer Events for August!


Virginia is for lovers... BEER lovers that is. Virginia kicks off its Craft Beer Month this Wednesday. Celebrate with Blue Mountain Brewery's "Steal a Glass" night. Pay five bucks for a beer and keep the pint glass. Or you can go to Wild Wolf Brewing Company for their new beer release, the Wit Wolf and Ginger Lager. Both events are Wednesday, August 1st.

If you are looking for something a bit more verbose, join the Devils Backbone Brewing Company on August 9th for their Farm to Table Dinner. It's described as:

A four course dinner featuring fruits, vegetables, and beef produced by Saunders Brothers in Piney River including Gala apples, Asian pears, ribeye steaks, green beans, tomatoes, peaches, and sweet corn. All farm products for the dinner have traveled only 15 miles to the restaurant.

You can book tickets at the Devils Backbone website HERE.

Can't make it to the Farm to Table Dinner? Well at least mark your calendars for the August 25th Craft Brewers Fest, located at the Devils Backbone concert grounds. To learn more about this event, please visit the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest website

Speaking of craft beer week - it may have already started, but you still have time to join St. Louis Craft Beer Week. Their calendar of events page is filled with things to do all week long. If it were up to me (which it isn't, since I don't live in St. Louis), I would check out Bigelo's Bistro "Sharing and Pairing" event. According to the St. Louis beer week website:

Sharing and Pairing Beer Dinner - Bigelo’s Bistro – 6PM
Price – $20 – Reservations are required (618) 655-1471
This is a four course beer dinner, with a twist. All of the beers will be provided by you! Mark at Bigelos has put together four courses and asks that you bring four beers that you think pair best with the meal. This is a great way to share and pair. Here’s the menu:
1st – Huitlacoche tamale w/ poblano creme
2nd – Pale ale and cheddar polenta fries w/ house bbq sauce
3rd – Korean bbq short rib tacos w/ sriracha slaw
4th – White chocolate bread pudding w/ carmel sauce

PORTLAND BEER NEWS highlights on my favorite neighborhood breweries - Breakside Brewery here in Portland, Oregon. As Emily Engdahl of #PDXBeerGeeks says:
One needn’t look further than the desk in the existing brewery, where a silver medal from the 2011 Great American Beer Festival resides happily amongst brew notes for a clear indicator of Breakside's trajectory. The silver (and a newly won bronze medal from the 2012 World Beer Cup) for Breakside's Dry Irish Stout have also recently been added to the brewery's accolades.
Read the full article HERE


Congratulations to Almanac Beer CompanyPacific Brewing LaboratoryPizza Orgasmica & Brewing CompanyShmaltz Brewing Company, and Triple Voodoo Brewing for becoming the newest members of San Francisco's Brewers Guild. Although one would think Scmaltz already knew it was a Chosen One...

That's all for now - but really there is so much more out there. So get out there, enjoy the summer time, and go drink a beer that matches your mood!

{ prost! }

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

In the home stretch! Our last two summer seasonals

It is our last week of summer seasonals and I'm going to go a bit of the beaten track for the first. My first candidate is only available in Iceland and then only in small batches though if all goes well larger batches soon. Sumarliði Hveitibjor Nr.11 is brewed by Borg BrugghúsThe good brewmasters at Borg gave me this bottle when I stopped in and visited them last month in Reykjavik. 

Pours darker than you would expect, a hazy golden almost amber color with some sediment settling at the bottom of the glass. It doesn't have the big banana nose like some German variants, it is more subtle. On the drink it has a nice yeasty hoppiness mixed in with some wheat and banana finishing out with little bitterness and some wheat lingering around in the aftertaste. This is a good hefeweizen and it hits all the notes, but it does have a bit of peculiarity. This is like your cousin from a different part of the country. Same family, but different point of view on things. This isn't a German hefeweizen, it is an Icelandic hefeweizen that speaks German and has some extended family living over there. 
I did a sausage test on it, enjoying the beer with bratwurst and spaetzle, (ideally it would have been weisswurst but it can't always be perfect) and here the beer worked very well complimenting the spice and flavor of the meat. For this brew that is the ideal situation, to be a natural accompaniment to the grill or a picnic. I enjoyed Sumarliði a lot and only hope that eventually Borg will import to the States sooner rather than later. This comes in at an enjoyable 6.0% ABV.

Here is the party line on 
"Sumarliði is the first German wheat beer produced and sold in Iceland. This prestigious and enjoyable beer style can be traced back to Bavaria, where beer like this is called Hefeweizen and enjoys immense popularity."
Want another opinion on Sumarliði, then go read a local's point of view.

Our other candidate tonight is out of Michigan, Cerise, brewed by Founders Brewing Company.

This is delicious. Cherry, cherry, and more cherry. It poured a clear scarlet red with minimal head. On the drink you get cherry. It is has some tartness, but it is interwoven with more sweetness than you would expect. It is a rich beer, but it isn't heavy or cloying, with intense flavors up but clearing of the palette very quickly with just a hint of tart funkiness in the aftertaste. It was a very smooth drinker with decent carbonation.

This is a great example of beer as dessert. It would work amazing with cheesecake, decent with chocolate, and fine as a digestif alone. It comes in at a surprising but very well masked 6.5% ABV. If you wanted a beer to convert diehard wine drinkers to the joys of the grain then this may very well be your ticket. 

Here is the "party line" on Cerise:
You’ll have a soft spot for this one. Using only fresh Michigan tart cherries, this beauty tantalizes with intense flavors combined with a no-hesitation malt bill. Adding fresh cherries at five separate stages of fermentation achieves the ultimate balance between tartness and sweetness.
We have barely scratched the surface of what is available during the summer season and for the most part stuck by traditional summers like pale wheats. There are many others sitting on the shelves waiting for you to discover them so get out there and explore! Let us know in the comments what a few of your favorite summer brews were this year.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Beer links for the week of July 23rd!

Let's get right to it!

In the News!
Narragansett Releases a Throwback 1975 Can, Asks ‘Jaws’ Fans to #CrushItLikeQuint (  I may have to track down a can of Narragansett just to crush it.

ThaiBev move forces Heineken hand (Financial Times)
The Asian market like the African market is quickly being gobbled up. 

“Make beer, not war,” brewers urge prime ministers (Copenhagen Post)
Another opportunity for beer diplomacy.

Oktoberfest beer guide: Seasonal lager best by the liter (
Can't believe fall seasonals are right around the corner. 

The Breastfest Beer Festival for charity in San Francisco (Washington Times)
Great cause with great beer!

Want A Beer? Pass A Pregnancy Test First (
This is a little ridiculous

Five Points World of Beer scheduled for October opening ( /Birmingham News)
Birmingham residents rejoice!

This man is on a crusade. (Original here)
Mututho seeks beer ban in the election week (Standard Media News)
Fascinating article on Kenyan politics and beer.

As It Loses to Spirits, Brewing Industry Aims to Revive Brand Beer (Advertising Age)
This is the big guys trying to recover. Craft beer is like Pandora's box to them. They can't shut it down. 

Farm-to-glass beer-making: Rouben’s farm-fresh beers (The Republic / Chicago Tribune)
Very cool idea. Has anybody tried the various results? How were they?

Top 10 summer beers (Fox News)
More choices for your summer refreshment.

Brewers predict heady times if state eases limits (Houston Chronicle)
In the end it will be the increased tax revenue that the craft industry brings in that will ease limits.

Deputies: 1,300 Cases of Corona Beer Stolen (
That's a lot of dimp.

New Glarus Brewing bottles love for Wisconsin (
I'm happy to say that I'll have my New Glarus resupply this coming weekend!

In Site News!
I'll be down in Nashville this coming weekend, more on that later, but before we get there look for another round of summer seasonal reviews and wine store recommendations for growing your beer selection. 

Remember to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Untappd. We made it easy, just click on the widget in the top right corner. We always love to hear from you!

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Flying Fish in the Shipyard! A look at two northeastern summer seasonals.

We are still battling the heat out here, though a respite comes tomorrow. I have to admit I really don't like the heat, once it gets above 85 degrees I would prefer to shut down and do a whole lot of nothing. There is an exception to this, if I am on a nice sandy beach, breeze blowing off the ocean, resting in a chair with an umbrella, a beer in one hand, and a gin and tonic chaser in the other then it can be 90, 100, 105 degrees, I'll be just fine, otherwise give me cold day any day. That said, the real reason we are here tonight is to continue looking at a few summer seasonals. 

Our first candidate is Farmhouse Summer Ale by Flying Fish Brewery out of Cherry Hill, New Jersey. It poured a hazy golden color with a big, fluffy, white head that slowly settled. There was a lot of particulate swirling about, finally coming to rest at the bottom of the glass. This had a nice crisp bite up front with good carbonation. It was effervescent, fruity, and light on the tongue with some mild bitterness and faint grassiness in the aftertaste wrapping up with a dry finish. Overall it reminded me of a lighter version of a comes of as a lighter version of a saison, which isn't a bad thing particularly on a hot day. This beer is a decent summer drinker that I would use for a more "formal" summer party. I think this has the potential to be a really good cheese beer. It comes in at a refreshing 4.6% ABV. For my first Flying Fish experience it sets a pretty solid standard. I'm pretty happy with the result.

Here is the "party line" on Farmhouse Summer Ale:
A tribute to the highly drinkable "every day" beers from French-speaking Belgium. Contains Belgian two-row pale malt and 7% wheat. This beer is lightly filtered with an earthy, spicy hop character from imported Styrian Goldings hops and a beautiful rich creamy head from the wheat.
Our other candidate for the night is Shipyard Brewery's Summer Ale from Portland, Maine. This is a pale wheat ale, the American craft brewers' go to style when brewing up a summer seasonal. This poured a clear dark golden color with little head that quickly disappeared.

This is bigger in taste than other summer seasonals I have had. It reminds me almost of a lager in the way that it has a larger body. It clearly is punching above its weight class here. There is some faint fruitiness and a flat taste of wheat, fair carbonation, with a lingering but small bitterness in the aftertaste which hovers in the background for a good while after then drink. It is an all right brew but doesn't really do anything to standout from the crowd other than be more filling and bigger bodied than other summer seasonals. That isn't necessarily a good thing on a hot summer day. It comes in at a smooth 5.1% ABV.

Here is the party line on Shipyard's Summer Ale:
Shipyard Summer Ale is a traditional American wheat beer. With its inviting golden color, mellow malted wheat flavor and less hoppy characteristics, it’s sure to please those looking for a clean, cool taste sensation on long, hot summer days.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Beer links to fight off the return of the heat

Make it through the next 36 hours and we get another respite from the relentless heat and humidity. Here is your safety tip. Enjoy your beer but make sure you stay hydrated with plenty of water too.

In the News!

(Original found here)

What’s on Tap: Debunking beer slogans (
A fun little article with some nice little facts.

Touchdown! Local craft beer to be served at Houston Texans games – and that’s just the start. (CultureMap Houston) I may have to find out when the Packers are playing the Texans and make a trip to Houston. Who is in?

Czech Republic Makes Beer with Gold + Encourages Beer Bathing (
I knew about the bathing from a Michael Palin travel documentary.

Brewing Issue: What Beer Should the President Drink? (CNBC)
Which ever one the President wants. Rule #3 Beer is personal, drink what you like.

Biz: A Beer Tax Cut? (5280)
It probably wouldn't hurt too much to give a tax break to the part of the economy that is booming.

Great Lakes releases Sumeria beer details (
Folks, I love a historical brew. I think this would be awesome to try.

Beer documentary to premiere this month (
Someone in "the Queen City" review this!

Proposed tax might curb UK beer imports (Financial Times)
A shame for the UK market.

Stay At Petra Guest House, Drink A Beer At The World’s Oldest Bar (
Your travel opportunity of the week. I would so like to do this.

Sip this world-class beer straight from the tallboy (
Can aficionados unite! I'm going to have to track this down and try it right from the can.

AB InBev fights Belgian idea of beer packaging ‘monopoly’ on colour blue (
I'm surprised AB InBev hasn't done this tactic to someone else first.

How far does Texas beer reach? (
Texas is almost uniquely suited to be the recipient of a lot of craft brews from around the country. Not enough of them make it out of the state though.

Beer has legally become an alcoholic beverage in Russia (The Voice of Russia)
The lottery ticket thing made me laugh.

Vendors cash in on legalized higher alcohol-content beers (Natchez Democrat)
Your latest Mississippi beer update.

In Site News!

The big news is that Jolly Good Fellows is going to the 2012 Great American Beer Festival. We received our media credentials late yesterday afternoon. That gives us about three months to plan, coordinate, stress out, and create outlandish expectations! If any of you are going to be there let us know so we can meet up, drink a pint, and share stories.

Remember to follow us on a variety of social media platforms by clicking on the four way widget in the top right corner. Thanks as always for stopping in! 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The anatomy of a well run festival: NoVa Summer Brewfest photo catalog

A few weekends ago the 5th Annual Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest had a craft beer celebration out at Morvern Park in Leesburg. Most of the festivals I've attended over the last few years have done a great job with the beer so now I have started to look at other factors, the intangibles that make a festival a great experience or a fiasco. We have all been to festivals that are too crowded, no parking, beer ran out early, and frankly just annoying. My intent is to use the NoVa Summer Brewfest as a case study of how to run a festival.

There was only one real hiccup and that was actually finding it which was entirely my fault for not reading thoroughly on the website.  I know a little due diligence on my part would have prevented me from running all over northern Virginia. I do know I was not the only one that had issues with directions. Now that we have gotten my stupidity out of the way,  let's take a closer look at the Brewfest itself and what they did well.To do this we are going to break it down with a photo collection. 

The location was excellent, on the outskirts of Leesburg adjacent to Morvern Park. Parking was plentiful and free and to keep things interesting Civil War re-enactors had encamped nearby. Musketry occasionally rang out throughout the summer day.

Safety first! This was actually a reoccurring theme throughout the event. Here is a prime example, the festival had organized a shuttle service of several coach busses that could transport people to and fro from the Vienna metro. You paid a little more for your tickets but didn't have to worry about all the hassle.

Another example of safety first. Local law enforcement was on the scene, very courteous, and making the rounds.

Kids had an area all for themselves with not just two bouncy houses...

...but also other fun activities including balloon animals...and seriously, who doesn't love balloon animals. Seriously, this was a nice inclusion and promoted a family friendly atmosphere.

The designated driver tent was manned and providing complimentary beverages for those responsible heroes.

Law enforcement officers made the rounds throughout the festival grounds.

Organized and plentiful spaces for people to relax, talk, and eat their foods. In the background, a decent amount of facilities for people to relieve themselves also.

Speaking of foods, there were a wide variety of foods for peoples enjoyment. Not only the usual assortment of beer festival food like sausages and pretzels, but also Thai, paninis, and other various sundries.

Plenty of open space between the tents...Brewvival take note. I can't stress how important this element is. Nobody likes to be packed in like sardines. In the center row were a variety of vendors and artisans adding to the festival atmosphere.

There was live music, always a nice addition to any festival. Rebelicious entertains the crowd during their set. Overall there were 8 bands throughout the two day event.

All these above elements form a nice solid foundation so people can enjoy their time at the festival, but they came here for a reason. So let's actually take a look at the beer. Before we dive to far in though...

...a word of thanks to the volunteers. They did a great job. All the tasting booths were manned by a motivated and fun volunteer corps that was friendly, courteous, and hard-working. This allowed the brewers a chance to talk with folks.

As for beer, a majority served up by the breweries were refreshing summer seasonals which was to be expected. As we have discussed earlier, summer seasonals can be defined in all sorts away so the diversity of beer meant there was something for everyone.

Local up and comers were represented. Port City Brewing brought their summer seasonal Downright Pilsner. They were joined...

by their colleagues across the river, DC Brau...

....and the fine folks from Lost Rhino along with others.

Your regional breweries are represented. Here is Starr Hill out of Charlottesville, but DuClaw, Weyerbacher, Williamsburg Alewerks, and others had turned out.

Big names in the craft world were present too! Oskar Blues represents here but other big craft brewers included Bell's, Abita, St. Louis Brewing (Schlafly), and Great Lakes to name a few.

New kids are encouraged to share their hard work for the enjoyment of the masses. Three Heads Brewing came down from Rochester, New York. Other new breweries to the event included Blue Mountain and Climax Brewing.

Your major sponsor, Vintage 50, is present and serving up their own quality brews...

...with head brewster Kristi Griner showing off her hard working kicks.

So to wrap this up. What makes a good beer festival? I think you can break it down to these seven basic points: (in no particular order)

  • Entertainment for all ages
  • A diverse selection of quality brews
  • Ample food selection!
  • Space and plenty of parking/ accessibility.
  • Safety!
  • Motivated staff and volunteers.
  • A proper amount of facilities for folks to relieve themselves.

I'm sure there are other things I have missed, but all in all the NoVa Summer Brewfest hit all those marks and then some. I applaud their efforts on pulling off a great festival and I look forward to the NoVa Fall Brewfest this October.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Cherry and Ginger: Two summer brews

Last week we looked and ranked seven non-alcoholic brews. One of our slight changes of pace. Some of you may have felt shortchanged, since these weren't particularly summer seasonals. This week we get back on track but make another slight deviation,  getting away from the standard pale wheat ales that make up a majority of summer brews and instead look at two other options.

Our first candidate is Sour Cherry Ale by Flying Dog BreweryThis is a Berliner Weisse, a style of beer that we really haven't looked at too closely yet here on JGF. The style is acidic, effervescent and tart. Reminiscent to champagne in some ways. Back at the height of their popularity in the 19th century they were often drank mixed with syrups like woodruff or raspberry. 

With that in mind the Sour Cherry Ale comes well prepared and hits the right marks. It pours a clear red color with a pinkish head that vanishes almost as soon as it sets up. It does have a big sour cherry smell. On the drink it has decent acidity, a pleasant tartness, and nice carbonation. It is light on the tongue finishing off fairly dry. No need for a syrup with this one, the sour cherry flavor holds strong throughout the drink into the aftertaste but doesn't overstay its welcome. It comes in at a sessionable 4.6% ABV.

This was a good cheese beer. I enjoyed it with gruyere, aged gouda, and some sharp English cheddar. Decent brew overall that can punch above its weight in a variety of summer social settings.

Here is the "party line" on the Sour Cherry Ale:
Brewed in the traditional style of a Berliner Weisse, this beer has a delicate malt base that is enhanced through natural acidification in the brewhouse*. The result is a distinctive tartness complemented by the sweetness of real cherries added during fermentation. 
The other candidate for tonight is Good Juju by Left Hand Brewing
I have a confession to make, ginger as a flavoring makes me nervous. It can be overwhelming when not used prudently and ruin perfectly good food and drinks. I have had a few bad experiences in my time. Suffice it to say, I approached this beer with some caution. 

There is a faint ginger smell on the pour, and it sets up in the glass with a clear golden amber color with a minimal head that left right after it arrived. The ginger is there in the drink but as a whole it was rather uneventful. There is no real character to speak of on the drink, a faint teasing a ginger at best and the carbonation was a bit low. The aftertaste is a flat bitterness mixed with a hint of ginger. Other than the novelty of the ginger in the beer there was nothing that stood out about this brew. Remove the ginger and you are left with a meh beer. 

I expected a bit more zing to this and I'm left wondering what this beer is trying to accomplish. I would argue that here is a case where the brewer never figured out what the speciality ingredient, in this case ginger, is supposed to do. Is it a subtle, nuanced background item amplifying a good beer, or is it up front on center stage with the beer enhancing it? In this case it doesn't do either of these with any sure-footedness. It comes in at 4.5% ABV.

I applaud the effort by Left Hand but in this case I wouldn't recommend this brew other than as a one off novelty. 

Here is the "party line" on Good Juju:
Fresh ginger kisses the lithe malty body, copulating with the hop in this pale ale ancestor.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Beer links that beat the heat

The heat wave has broken here in Virginia. While we enjoy the cooler weather for a few days, it is time to get caught up on the latest beer news.

In the news!
Original and more info found here at the Herald Sun

A new beer a day? You bet (Sydney Morning Herald)
This article should make you appreciate what we have in the States.

Beer output flattens (Fond du Lac Reporter)
The craft beer bubble gets a mention, though I don't think it bursts yet for awhile. 

Beer canning goes mobile (San Mateo Daily Journal)
Now this is a clever business. 

Brewing a New Beer Scene in London (New York Times)
It is time to pack our bags and head over to London. 

Start-up unable to find a place to brew beer in D.C. (Washington Post)
A sign of a problem for the District beer scene? I wonder why he didn't look outside of the beltway.

Local beermaker brews derecho-inspired beverage (WTOP 103.5 FM)
Now that I have power back I am very excited about this. 

From craft beer to crafting new laws (Minneapolis Star Tribune)
This is one way of effecting positive change for beer.

Calling all beer professionals: MBAA brings Beer Steward Seminar to Portland (
We may have to come up with a strategy to cover the World Beer Congresss

Maybe against the giants, but the little guys may eventually slay then with a death of a thousand cuts. 

This deal was huge and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. 

I wonder what the ideal weight is...

In site news!

Expect a return of summer brew reviews on Wednesday. As for the rest of the week well we will figure that out when we get there! 

Thanks for stopping in!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Welcome to your weekend - Maps and Charts Edition

We are going to nerd out a little bit for this one. First off I love maps and charts. Second I love seeing information cleverly presented. Places like Griff's Graphs, Indexed, and Comments on the Social Graph are all cool sites to visit to see ways to present information in interesting context. (There are many, many more out there.)

But we are here about beer. So here are a couple of cool maps and charts with interesting beer information.  

Relative Number of Tweets containing the terms "church" or "beer" 
aggregated to the county level, June 22-28, 2012
Original on
Bars vs. Grocery Stores
Original on
2009 vs. 1970

Original found on
Original found on
The Very, Very Many Varieties of Beer
Find and buy the original on Pop Chart Lab
Have a great rest of the weekend!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Independence Day Safety: 7 Non-Alcoholic Beers

This is soda masking as beer.
Skye: Every so often we step away from the craft scene and look into the smaller niches and crevices to explore spaces the might not be looked at. Last time Rudy and I looked at gluten-free beers, this time we take a gander at those misjudged, unloved children: non-alcoholic beer.

Rudy: For the longest time in my drinking career those two words made about as much sense to me as decaffeinated coffee….What? Most of us see them daily or at least every time we pass the beer isle in the back of the store, hidden from view. If you happen to be in one of the bigger grocery stores with a large liquor selection they will segregate the Non-alcohol from the alcoholic beverages. You might be asking why…well the first thought is that demand for non-alcoholic beer is obviously less than the main stream high octane craft brews and commercialized beers that we have come to know, love and consume. One might think that, but actually there is a strong surge in non-alcohol beers and you might be surprised at the brewery’s that are making very good, (I hate to say it), beers.

I chose three beers to taste, from the high to the low end of non-alcoholic beers. First up was:
Clausthaler Premium
Imported from Germany.
This beer comes in two distinctive varieties “Premium” and “Golden Amber”, both of these beers are very good. They have distinctive color and taste, a bit skunky, [ed. note: skunkiness may be attributed to the time of import, agitation in transit or light pollution from sitting on the shelf] but full bodied and very smooth.

St Pauli N.A. Malt Beverage
Imported from Germany.

Yes, another German malt…I loved this beer in my youth, one of the all time go to beers in the fridge. I have to say, at first taste it was the same and then after a couple more swigs I began to feel like something was missing. It was very distinct in contrast and flavor, but it was like drinking your favorite pop, (soda) and it only has some of the syrup. It is good and you can drink it, but you could also wait until they fix it.

If you want a beer that tasted the same without the alcohol this one nailed it!

Kaliber, Malt beer
Imported from Ireland.

Guinness is a great brewery and this beer has a great color and mild caramelized overtones. I think it is a little muted and watery, but not bad. I am not saying that I would trade this for a real Guinness, but if I was the designated driver and all they had from the brewery were Guinness and the non Guinness…I would still hold one in my hand and be jealous all night long.

Skye: I choose four different brews. Three of them I found in my local Total Wine and the last I stumbled across in a small English Tea Shop here in Virginia. In my view the point of a non-alcoholic brew is to be a decent simulacrum to it's alcohol-based brother. It needs to look like beer, smell like beer, act like beer, and most importantly taste like beer. One thing to note, if you want good NA beer you are going to pay a bit of money.

Shandy Bass:
Imported from England.

Looks like beer - Yes, dark on the pour
Smells like beer - No, very little smell actually
Acts like beer - No, way to fizzy and noisy on the pour
Tastes like beer - No, definitely not

The can tells me that this is made with real Bass beer, so at least it has that going for it. It poured like soda, a lot of fizziness and noise. The head disappeared very quickly. It's sweet, slightly flat, a clear amber color. It's a refreshing beverage something you could drink in place of a soda if you wanted to.
Drink your Beck's NA while enjoying
a bratwurst and you won't be
Verdict: This is a soda version of a shandy with some beer flavoring. Enjoyable but definitely not beer-like at all.

Beck's Non-Alcoholic

Imported from Germany.

Looks like beer - Yes, nice golden color
Smells like beer - Yes, smells like a cheaper Euro lager
Acts like beer - Yes, pours with a fizzy head that dissipates but never
Tastes like beer - Yes, tastes fairly malty but there is a bit of hops to balance things out.

I had this with bratwurst and spaetzel and it stood up very well. It does a lot of things fairly right for a lager, it's hopped fairly well, decent carbonation. The hops are there in the nose and on the taste, but it doesn't have the crisp bite. I found that body wise something was not quite right, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. The malt extract is big enough to provide some cover.

Verdict: Overall this is a decent simulacrum of beer, easily drinkable and was surprising decent with the bratwurst. 

Paulaner ThomasBrau
Imported from Germany.

Looks like beer - Yes, nice golden color
Smells like beer - No, smells like a malt extract bomb
Acts like beer - Yes, but the head disappears really fast
Tastes like beer - No, tastes like light malty water…that is not a good thing.
When I purchased these I had high hopes for this since Paulaner tends to brew decent, quality brews. Needless to say I am sorely letdown. This is not very good at all. There is no body to it, it doesn't taste at all like beer instead going for an overwhelming but weak malt taste. There is little hop presence and what is there makes no impression. The aftertaste is a faint blah of malt extract. The only thing it has going for it is decent carbonation but it made me burp which only served to remind me how poor this was. It is a constant reminder that you are not drinking a real beer.

Verdict: Avoid. If this is the only thing in the cooler drink a soda instead. If you are dying of thirst in Death Valley and this is all that is left then yes drink it, but it will still taste like disappointment.
Imported from Holland.

Looks like beer - Yes, nice golden straw color,
Smells like beer - Yes, but it is more faint, with a mild hoppy smell
Acts like beer - Yes, great fizzy head on the pour
Tastes like beer - Yes, but it is lighter on the taste

This is a light beer equivalent for NAs. It is does have a decent bite on the drink, but not much body to it at all. A decent hop presence and good carbonation, there is some maltiness but it is more background noise, no real aftertaste to speak of other than a very faint bitterness. This is decent if unremarkable, but it is a refreshing brew and would go well on a hot summer picnic.

Verdict: If you want a lighter tasting NA then go get the Buckler.

Rudy: I am happy to say that, although Skye has once again given me a challenge that I was not too sure I was going to enjoy… I did have fun finding out about the new beers that are out there on the back shelves hidden from the lime light, but are still useful and desired by those who can not participate in the consumption of real honest to goodness alcoholic brews. Today’s brewers have found new and inventive ways to give us the full bodied taste, smell and color that embodies the alcoholic beverage without the alcoholic substance.

Skye: If you need to take one for the team you don't have to be miserable while you do it. Hopefully these recommendations help point you in the right direction when choosing a non-alcoholic brew. This shows that you don't have to sacrifice taste and enjoyment. Happy Independence Day and remember to be responsible and safe out there!

Want a different point of view? Then check out this huge 11 NA beer taste test!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Iceland Beer Saga: Borg Brugghus Interview Part 3 - Updated

Before we dive into the final part of the interview I want to take another moment to say thanks to Stulli and Valli for taking the time out of their busy schedules to talk to me and share some of their tasty beer. It was a privilege. Now onto the thrilling conclusion!

Part 1
Part 2

Part 3

What particular beer do you feel best represents what you are doing here at Borg? What has been your best success to date?

Valli: I think it is no question that it is Úlfur, the IPA, it put Borg on the map. 

Stulli: Yes, it is definitely best all around sales. It really surprised the marketing department. 

Valli: Ulfar is the first IPA in Iceland much to my dislike because I wanted to be the first one to bring it at Ölvisholt

Stulli: I had this goal, this dream for many years to produce the first IPA in Iceland. I had told you a couple of years before that I was going to bring it. (laughs)

Valli: It is the first IPA and it came out in 2010.

Stulli: Early 2010

Valli: It is the first American style IPA on the market in Iceland. We had a couple of imported English IPAs, more like bitter ales.

Stulli: And really beat up Liberty Ale

Valli: Yes, just a couple months ago some guys started importing BrewDog and Mikkeller and you can now get those down at Micro Bar

We talked a little bit about how you are walking that fine line between craft brewing and that you have an industrial brewery backing you. How do manage that and still be able to produce these diverse, for Iceland, brews? 
Valli: It has been a process really. 

Stulli: It has been a steep uphill battle and getting the right people in the right places has really helped. 

Valli: We have managed to build up a reputation and people have finally realized that it is best to allow us to do what we want. 

Stulli: What we want is to introduce consumers to the wonders of beer and what the top floor sees is that we are increasing the positive reputation of the company.

Valli: We are building up the name Egils and that is one of the many roles of Borg. For example we came out with a 12% imperial stout and it sold out in one day. 

Stulli: The beer culture being the state that it is, it is a prime opportunity to introduce to the people fresh beer in the style it is being approached in American and Europe. The small breweries, interesting styles, high gravity beers, and doing that in the best way possible so that the consumers get the best quality product as possible. 

How collegial is the craft beer community around here or are you all still just a small band of rebels?

Stulli: Uh, I don't know (laughs).
Valli: For example Einstok is actually not intended for the Icelandic market. It is actually a brand owned by Americans. So it is basically just contract brewed up north in Iceland...

Stulli: …and we are lucky enough to get some of it in the market here because it is brewed here.

Valli: There are four types of Einstok being made and we can't get one of them on a regular basis. 

Stulli: Yes, it is a contract brewing gig, Americans approached the people at Viking about contract brewing for them. 

Valli: But this actually also shows the quality of the brewmaster they have. He is working a very big system, well in comparison, and manages to pull out these beers with no experience producing anything like this before, so they can do it domestically if they want it. 

Stulli: Well they just marketed it in cans as their summer ale. 

Valli: Right, the white ale, he apparently made two different types of batches of it and the one that the Americans didn't pick Viking sold as their summer beer. 
This is where the magic happens!

What do you want people to know about Borg?

Valli: Basically that we are making different types of beer.

Stulli: We are trying to brew the best beer we can make, trying to make honest products, having fun.

Valli: The big goal is to introduce different types of flavors. Get people to try new stuff. Essentially the easiest thing in Iceland is to be on the forefront of this movement because no one has done anything.

Stulli: So it sort of makes it easy for us to introduce a lot of things because people just don't know any better, so when I say make things as honest as possible I mean we are trying to make proper styles, proper beers, proper flavors, and not necessarily to style but make interesting things and be honest about them. It's about quality.