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Don’t Give Up Craft Beer for Lent!

February 22, 2012 Leave a comment

I tried giving up beer once for Lent.

Once.

It was alcohol to be more specific, not just beer. I think I sustained for about a week, until a friend that I hadn’t seen in a very long time suggested meeting up for a drink. That was the end of my short-lived sacrifice. I suppose we could have gone out for a coffee or something like that, but the suggestion and reasoning seemed like a hassle to explain. I felt bad for awhile, like I had “failed”, but the more I thought about it, the more pointless it seemed to be giving it up in the first place and getting mad about it. The important thing was that I was able to catch-up with a good friend that I hadn’t seen in awhile. Life’s too short too to deny ourselves the opportunity to connect with each other everyday.

More importantly to give up something we truly enjoy simply just to deny ourselves of that one item. Giving up craft beer (and yes, the emphasis is on “craft”) for Lent is akin to deciding that you’re going to give up eating sandwiches for 40 Days. Or soup. Or fruit. Or bread. Or coffee. Beer truly is food and should be treated as such.

Even the monks didn’t give up “liquid sustenance” for 40 days when they fasted during Lent. Instead they brewed a doppelbock (double bock) beer that was even stronger to provide nutrition while fasting and named it “Saviour” or Salvator. Liquids weren’t banned while fasting so they would consume this.

If you’re looking for discipline and will-power or just something to work on for the next 40 Days try being a craft beer evangelist. Actually, I never liked the word evangelist, it kind of bugs me, so let’s go with Advocate instead. Be a Craft Beer Advocate for the next 40 Days.

The next time you’re out with your buddies buying rounds of pitchers and it’s your turn to buy, quit being a sheep and stop buying the macro shit. Grow some balls and pony up the couple of extra bucks and support your local craft brewery by purchasing a pitcher of their beer.

The vast majority of you out there cannot truly call a beer from St. Louis or Milwaukee your “local brewery”. Even if you do, there are other regional options out there if you local is somewhat lacking. I can say for a fact, that living in Milwaukee, we are fortunate to have an excellent selection of craft beer alternatives from the Brew City and Wisconsin that would appeal to almost anyone.

Trust me, no one’s going to be offended and turn down the free beer that you just bought. And if they are then they’ve got bigger problems and you may want to reconsider your “friends”. They probably like Wonder Bread too.

Perhaps that’s one of the best things you can do during this Lenten season. Take a journey and enlighten yourself or someone else about craft beer.

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New Glarus Chocolate Abbey

February 18, 2012 Leave a comment

New Glarus Chocolate Abbey

New Glarus Chocolate Abbey
Brewery: New Glarus Brewing Co.
Style: Dubbel
ABV: 7.0%
Availability: Limited; Thumbprint Series
Serving Type: 12 oz. bottle

Label: This decadent Chocolate Abbey Ale is a lovely trifle for your senses. Brewed with a proprietary Belgian yeast and English Maris Otter Malt it is smooth and rich. Inspired by a recent tour of Europe and brewed with chocolate we enjoyed there. Subtle Segal Ranch hops promote the rich dark chocolate flavors of this rather strong Dubbel. Best served at 48 °F. An elegant excuse to linger after dinner.

Beer Review: Chocolate Abbey pours dark brown with a thick, creamy khaki head. The nose consists of cocoa powder, chocolate syrup, along with a Belgian yeast character to it. Medium-bodied. The initial taste very much reflects what was revealed in the nose: chocolate malt, cocoa powder, and that unique Belgian yeast quality.  Midway there’s a roasted bitterness that helps to balance the sweetness and add even more depth. A touch of banana follows and leads into a dry finish that carries some sourness to it.

I’ve been holding on to this since last Fall and finally opened it up on Valentine’s Day. I think this is a great combination of the Belgian Dubbel style with the added bonus of chocolate in the flavor. If you’re a fan of either this is a must try- although it might be a tough find now. I can definitely recommend this as more of a dessert beer or to be enjoyed on its own due the the sweetness that the chocolate imparts.

Goose Island Mild Winter

February 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Goose Island Mild Winter

If there was a winter in the past couple of years that you could describe as “mild” this would have to be it. As I mentioned in a previous post we’ve had ourselves a pretty modest winter, so far. Maybe I should drink one of these in November every year.

Mild Winter is an American Mild Ale from Goose Island Brewery in Chicago. The beer pours dark brown in color, but when held to the light, it appears more of a clear dark brownish copper. The light khaki-colored head leaves a nice sticky lacing down the side of the glass. The nose has characteristics of a brown bread crust, along with rye and hints of chocolate. Medium-bodied with a soft airy carbonation.

This is a wonderfully malty beer that’s not overly sweet. In fact, it reminds me a lot of a great homemade loaf of freshly baked brown bread. If beer is truly liquid bread this goes along way in validating that statement. Flavors of roasted barley and chocolate malt create the backbone of this beer. The addition of rye really makes it shine by imparting a spiciness and layered depth to the taste. The beer has some dry bitterness in the finish, but it works perfectly to add balance to the malt.

I have to admit that this has been one of my “go-to” beers this winter. At 5.6% abv it isn’t going to overpower you and it’s just a great flavorful beer to have on hand. I’ve been drinking Mild Winter on and off since last Fall, and am thankful that for a winter seasonal it doesn’t rely on holiday spicing like the cinnamon, clove, or nutmeg, you see in a lot of Christmas beers. If you’re a fan of brown ales, you’ll probably enjoy this one quite a bit.

To learn more about Mild Winter watch the following video which was produced by Goose Island.

Beer Picks for the Big Game

February 4, 2012 Leave a comment

This Sunday, February 5th, the New York Giants take on the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI. Millions will gather to watch the game and enjoy great food. Sure, you’ll see plenty of ads from Budweiser peddling their fizzy yellow beer, but take a moment to reach for something that might actually have taste or even better, compliment the food you’re consuming during the Big Game.

I’ve decided to pick two breweries that have pretty good national distribution. Keep in mind that beer distribution varies greatly and depending on what state you live in, your major market will probably have other offerings from New York and Massachusetts.

Something from the Boston Beer Co. is the obvious choice to drink if you’re backing the Patriots. The harder choice is what though, since the brewery produces about 36 different rotating offerings, in addition to some specialty and limited release beers. Granted not all of these are going to be available since many of them are seasonal releases.

On Super Bowl Sunday I’m going with Samuel Adams Wee Heavy. This Scotch Ale is a big, bold, peat smoked malty beer. It’s not for the feint of heart but perfect for cold weather and the big game in February. Weighing in at 10% abv it definitely has a kick to it, so be careful.

If you’re looking for something a little lighter check out Sam Adams Boston Lager or even their latest Brewmaster’s Collection, which is a 12 pack sampler of various offerings. I believe the current mix pack contains three new beers: Alpine Spring, Might Oak Ale, and White River IPA. The other three are the Irish Red, Black Lager, and Boston Lager.

If you’re a Giants fan you might want to toast the G-men with something from Brewery Ommegang located in Cooperstown, NY. This brewery specializes in Belgian-style ales. Their flagship beer, Ommegang, is an abbey ale. One of my favorites, Hennepin, is a saison or farmhouse style ale. Light and golden with a fruit and spicy yeast character, Hennepin is a beer meant to be consumed with food. Ommegang also makes a Scottish Ale, Cup o Kindness. It might be interesting to compare that to Sam Adams Wee Heavy, although you may find that a Scottish Ale is not quite at big and bold as the Scotch Ale style.

Speaking of bold, I’m going to throw out my prediction and say that the Patriots are going to triumph over the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI. It’s a rematch of the Super Bowl from 5 years ago and I can’t see the Patriots losing again. I do think the game’s going to be close, but Tom Brady and company will find a way to win.

Besides, I still can’t forgive the Giants for knocking off my Green Bay Packers.

Sprecher Winter Brew

January 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Sprecher Winter Brew

Sprecher Winter Brew
Brewery: Sprecher Brewing Co.
Style: Munich Dunkel Bock
ABV: 5.75%
Availability: Winter Seasonal (Dec. – Mar.)
Serving Type: 16 oz. bottle

Label: The flavorful blend of a complex variety of dark roasted and caramel malts give this Munich-style dunkel-bock a smooth and robust character making it the perfect winter lager.

Beer Review:
Sprecher Winter Brew pours a deep, dark brown in color with a tan head. Aroma is malty, with caramel and toffee. As the beer warms dark fruit and cherry also appear in the nose. Smooth and medium-bodied with some soft carbonation around the edges.  Hearty roasted maltiness dominates the flavor profile of this beer. The smooth finish builds on that roasted malt flavor with subtle hints of cherry with a touch burnt malt toward the back. Hops help balance out the sweet maltiness of the beer.


Hinterland Winterland

January 29, 2012 Leave a comment

Hinterland Winterland

It was inevitable.

The weather may have been chilly at times in December, but it had been a mild winter. That is until January arrived and with it came the first major snow falls of the season. I was actually enjoying having a mild winter for a change. Not having to deal with shoveling and driving in slow traffic with slippery conditions was rather nice. Alas, I knew it was not meant to last.

Winter has finally arrived! One of the great things about living in Wisconsin, a state that has four definitive seasons, is also being able to truly appreciate seasonal beers meant for each type of weather.

Hinterland Winterland is an American Porter brewed with juniper berry. This is a 7.5% abv robust porter, that’s meant to be enjoyed during the cold winter months. The beer pours black in color with some slight amber highlights on the bottom and a tan head. The nose consists of cocoa, sweet chocolate powder, raisins, and juniper. The mouthfeel is full-bodied. Initial flavors of roasted malt and dark fruit appear on the first sips. A closer examination reveals the juniper berry midway and it leads into a long, dry finish. Burnt malt and dark chocolate are also tasted towards the back.

Hinterland Winterland is produced by the Green Bay Brewing Co. At the brewery there is an attached restaurant named Hinterland. A second Hinterland Gastropub is located in Milwaukee’s downtown Third Ward. Having eaten at the Milwaukee restaurant I can vouch that the food there is quite amazing and definitely worth a visit.

Likewise, if you’re a fan of porters, Winterland is certainly worth trying. The juniper berry is not overpowering and it adds a unique and unexpected twist to the flavor of a traditionally brewed porter.

 

Point 2012 Black Ale

January 24, 2012 1 comment

Point 2012 Black Ale

It’s fitting that my first review of 2012 is a beer called “2012”. More specifically 2012 Black Ale from Stevens Point Brewery. The inspiration for the name comes from the Mayan Calendar which stops recording on December 21, 2012, and as a result, is leaving some people with an ominous feeling that the world’s going to end this year.

Style-wise this kind of falls somewhere between a Schwartzbier (black lager) and an American brown ale, while weighing in at 5.2% alcohol by volume. The appearance is near black in color with a tan head. The nose is fairly light with a vinous aroma, along with that of soy, feint chocolate, and alcohol. The mouthfeel is medium in body with soft carbonation.

The taste starts off with a light, roasted maltiness. Caramel emerges midway, followed by some soy flavor toward the back. Very lightly hopped, with a low bitterness. In fact, according to the brewery’s website it’s only at 9 IBUs. 2012 Black Ale is pretty smooth drinking and very mild.

This is one of the more enjoyable beers I’ve had from the Point Brewery. I don’t mind their Cascade Pale Ale, but I find the flagship Point Special Lager somewhat lacking. I’ve been more impressed with their Whole Hog limited release series, than the line of regular offerings. I’d consider 2012 Black Ale worth a look, if you like malty beers, although it tends to remain on the mild side.

2012 Black Ale is available year round on draft and in 12 oz bottles and cans. The simple fact that you can purchase this in cans makes me happy. More and more craft brewers are releasing their beers in cans and this is something I’d definitely consider picking up again for that reason alone.

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