The first presidential debate of 2016 is tonight and could have upwards of 100 million people tuning in. What they’re hoping to see I’m not sure, but I do know that these crap options for president drive many of us to drink. So here’s five beers for you to drink during tonight’s debate!
With Bockfest happening this weekend, a celebration of amber and dark lagers, it’s time for me to finish this post that I’ve stewed on for a few months now. Last June I wrote a plea for fellow craft beer enthusiasts to embrace the Love of Lagers. I realized then that far too many folks think lager = pilsner = Budweiser and nothing else.
Lager just means that the wort ferments into beer with a yeast that prefers cooler temperatures around 35° – 40° Fahrenheit over weeks or months. To contrast that, ale yeast likes to ferment around 64 – 70 degrees for a week or two. On top of that, there seems to be a pervasive idea that lagers have to be a pale yellow color. Today we’re going to dispel the notion that all lager style beers are flavorless yellow fizz by highlighting a few different darker lager styles.
I avoid reviewing rare beers on the site as I don’t want to tease people with what I’m drinking, that’s what Untappd and Twitter are for. However, I’m making two exceptions this week since both Founders CBS and Sam Adam’s Utopias are mind blowingly expensive, hard to get, and highly hyped. I also wanted to get more value out of these beers and help people know what to expect and whether they should pull the trigger and buy it.
If you’ve hung around craft beer nerds for a while you may have heard whispers about this or seen empty bottles around. If you’ve never heard of it’s a 28% ABV monster “beer” by Sam Adams. I say “beer” because at 28% it’s a beer in the loosest sense of being made from barley, hops, water, and yeast. The other thing you may have heard about this alcoholic beverage is its hefty price tag. Ever feel like $15 for a bomber is too high? How about $188 (including tax) for 22 ounces? Yeah, and that’s just this years cost, I’ve seen it as high as $220 in the past. When it came out this year (it’s always in the fall of odd-numbered years) I gathered a group of 5 friends to split the cost and the Utopias. Between 5 people it was still $36 for 4.4 ounces each. Enough background, on to the beer! But first here is Sam Adam’s long-winded blurbs about this beast of a “beer”:
THE TOOLS Truly the epitome of brewing’s two thousand year evolution, Utopias® is a blend of batches, some having been aged up to 19 years in our Boston Brewery, in a variety of barrels. For this brew, the barrels are quite literally an ingredient, with different barrels producing intense layers of flavor that continue to unfold with each sip. We began by using Jack Daniels barrels, but have continued to add to the array with Port pipes, bourbon barrels, congnac casks, sherry barrels, and most recently rum barrels.
THE TRADE Samuel Adams® Utopias® is brewed in small limited batches, each their own blend of different vintages. We brew Utopias® at a very high gravity using a wide variety of malted barley and a touch of maple syrup. It is then aged in a blend of scotch, bourbon, port and cognac casks from the award-winning Buffalo Trace Distillery.
THE LEGACY Samuel Adams® Utopias® actually began with our first experiments with aging and blending in barrels with the creation of Triple Bock® followed by Millenium®. It was with these brews that we began testing aging beer in barrels from various origins like bourbon, port, and cognac to discover each of their flavor contributions. Inspired by whiskey makers, we took the barrel aging process for Utopias® to another level by utilizing a variety of barrels and blending different vintages to create a truly unique taste experience.
Hard ciders have been growing in popularity along with craft beer during this recent boom, though at a much smaller percentage. Years ago your selection was limited to old English brands then Woodchuck came on the scene and started to dominate. Now there are a plethora of companies making cider and 2 “local” ones that I’ll be trying tonight. My wife has been a cider lover for a long time now and I’ve been meaning to steal one of hers to review and that day has finally come.
The main difference between beer and cider is the source of the alcohol. Beer uses the sugar from malted barley while hard ciders rely on the sugar in apple juice. Don’t think this means hard ciders are light, or low alcohol, in fact the Oliver Original cider I’ll be trying tonight is 8%!
I have come to believe that there is a general perception that hard ciders are for women or something like that. Please note, I am not saying this is my perception nor am I trying to start any kind of sexist war, just stating something I’ve observed. Honestly, I think it’s nonsense and according to some facts from Angry Orchard it is equally consumed by men and women. Anything can be for anyone it’s just all about what their personal preference is. My hope is that this post will bring info about hard cider to our readers and encourage them to give it a go. That said, on to the reviews!
Brewery: Oliver Winery
Beer Cider: Beanblossom Hard Cider Original
Fantastically clear and very pale yellow/gold color that honestly looks a lot like Bud Light. No head what so ever, though I’m not super sure if cider’s should have a head on them. It does look a lot like apple juice though.
Very fruity aroma with lots of sugary action and a noticeable amount of alcohol.
Pleasantly sweet taste that screams apple. I was concerned that this was going to be sickening sweet, like Georgia sweet tea, but am glad to find that’s not the case though It is certainly sweeter than most beers.
Very light body with an extremely crisp and refreshing mouth feel. This is probably my favorite part of this drink.
I digg this and can see myself drinking more of them after mowing the lawn on hot summer days, a spot usually reserved for a Rivertown Helles. Though the 8% this thing packs could make for an interesting afternoon, I’m about half way through and definitely feeling it.A few words on packaging before moving on to Angry Orchard. This is a very interesting can, bottle, canottle, cabottle? bottan? It’s a tall aluminum can, I dig the convergence of cans and bottles in this format and would like to see some beers packaged this way as well.
Brewery: Angry Orchard (Boston Beer Company)
Cider: Crisp Apple
Much richer golden yellow hue then the Oliver had. Also packs noticeably more “head” then Oliver did, it’s not really a normal head as much as just a ring of bubbles around the top rim.
Very strong apple smell with loads of sweet apples, but not much else.
Overly sweet apple flavor that is over done in my opinion. Like the aroma there is nothing else happening here except for the apples.
Nicely crisp, smooth, and light body feel.
Between these two the Oliver is the clear winner in my opinion. It’s got a much better overall experience and more alcohol, on the upside for this beer is that it’s cheaper, session-worthy, and massively available wherever any beer is sold.
I mentioned earlier how both of these ciders were “local”. I’m using “local” because Bloomington, Indiana isn’t in the greater Cincinnati area but is only 2 1/2 hours off. Angry Orchard claims to be from Cincinnati, Ohio. This threw me for a great loop when my wife first spotted it in Asheville, North Carolina of all places. I knew that no place making cider in Cincinnati could have popped up completely under my nose without me knowing at all. After doing a little digging online I quickly discovered that Angry Orchard is a Sam Adam’s product. So yes, it is “local” as it is brewed at Sam Adam’s facility in Over-The-Rhine.
Attention all brewers please take note: April is not summer, it is spring. March (when I first spotted this beer as well as Bell’s Oberon) is also not summer, May is kinda summer, June is officially summer. Summer ales belong in summer… However it was over 70 degrees yesterday, and I spent all day doing yard work followed by beer & grilling out… So it’s close enough to summer.
There was a time a few years back when Sam Adam’s Summer Ale was pretty much the only beer I’d drink whenever it was available. I enjoyed a few craft beers but had no “true” idea of what was out there. Like I said that was a few years back, last year I only had one of these and it was at a bar where the other options were less than “optimal”.
The following is the Sam Adam’s blurb about this brew:
Samuel Adams® Summer Ale is an American wheat ale. This summer seasonal uses malted wheat, lemon zest and Grains of Paradise, a rare pepper from Africa first used as a brewing spice in the 13th century, to create a crisp taste, spicy flavor and medium body. The ale fermentation imparts a background tropical fruit note reminiscent of mangos and peaches. All of these flavors come together to create a thirst quenching, clean finishing beer perfect for those warm summer days.
To me that sounds like a bunch of PR hype. “Grains of Paradise” and “a rare pepper from Africa” seriously??
Brewery: Sam Adams
Beer: Summer Ale
Style: Wheat Ale
A very attractive wheat beer with a nice cloudy orange/yellow color and pure white head.
Smells of lemon and a bit of grass… really not the most appetizing aroma.
Decent, though very light, flavor of mostly lemon mixed with the sweet wheat and some orange-citrus hops. Nothing to get excited about but also nothing to complain about. And there is an intangible taste that just “feels” like “summer”… though this may be part of my memory of this beer more than anything else.
Very light bodied mouth feel with plenty of carbonation.
As I said initially before I truly knew of the world of craft beer I loved this beer and it was “summer” to me. Now I know a good deal better, that doesn’t make it a bad beer it just puts this into perspective a bit. I still enjoy this in warm weather but there are superior summer wheat beers out there like Bell’s Oberon. Though I have come to prefer a nice sessionable IPA or a high quality Helles lager (by Rivertown) over one of these wheat beers… But that’s just me.
Cincinnati’s Beer Week officially kicks off this Wednesday with a party on Fountain square and a special taping of this years Cincinnati Beer Week collaboration beer, Embree’s Northern Dark Baltic Porter. Starting last year all the brewers in Cincinnati got together to create a special collaboration beer. This year’s list of contributors includes; Blank Slate, Christian Moerlein, 50 West, Great Crescent, Listermann, Moerlein Lager House, Mt. Carmel, Rivertown, Rock Bottom, Sam Adams, and Tripel Digit. Kind of an odd list if you think about it, Moerlein is on there twice, Great Crescent comes in from Aurora, In but not Quaff Brothers (Bellevue, Ky) or Cellar Dweller(Morrow, Oh)? But I digress, regardless of who got in and out this is an awesome list of Cincinnati’s breweries. They all got together to decide what to make and it was eventually made at Rivertown. In case you’re curious where the name came from, it’s a history lesson in itself. David Embree opened the first brewery in Cincinnati in the long ago of 1812 so this beer is a tribute to him.
Before we get to the review I want to introduce everyone, including myself, to the Baltic Porter style. The Baltic States are in between England and Russia and in turn the Baltic porter is in between an English porter and a Russian imperial stout. The malt profile and flavor is that of a English porter but with a kicked up alcohol content from the Russian Imperial Stout. Having never had one before I’m excited to try this style as it appeases one of the complaints I’ve made regarding other porters, that I wished they were a bit stronger.
August is gone, September has begun and somehow it’s time for Oktoberfest already. Tonight I’m going to review two Marzen beers, Cincinnati’s own Christian Moerlein Fifth & Vine (
brewed in PA) and Sam Adam’s Oktoberfest (brewed in Cincinnati). First off Marzen and Oktoberfest styles are the same thing, I plan to stick to using Marzen in general just to differentiate the style from the Oktoberfest events held around the world.